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Tending to the Sick

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It had been a hard three weeks.

Lord Hardy had been taken to his room and was still there, with the three Maesters to attend him. His fit - only Maester Sewell called it a stroke - had, it seemed, paralysed him down one side of his body, rendering him helpless and virtually unable to speak - although he seemed to recognise Sewell and even Rhys. He did not know Merivel, although he acknowledged his status by struggling to obey the Clearwater Maester's injunctions. But even the simplest of tasks was enough to exhaust him.

His words were more a groaning drone than clearly articulated speech. But by question and answer they established what he wanted. Most usually it was for his wife, who came at once at his summons and would sit for long hours beside his bedside, holding his hand. But several times it was for his eldest son - and he seemed a little relieved, but still anxious, when they told him Kenrith was coming. A couple of times he asked for his brother - and once for Ser Anders Tollet, although this visit did more harm than good, for Lord Oswain desperately tried to ask questions and discover information - but lacked the words to do it, until at last he lay in exhausted despair, still, slow tears oozing from his half-shut eyes.

He never asked for Godwyn, no matter how many hours his younger son patiently waited outside his door, going without food and sleep. Indeed, when Maester Sewell mentioned his name, Lord Oswain turned his head away.

Nor did he see his younger children. When Maester Sewell broached the idea, Lady Celia returned a firm negative. It would distress Jonas and little Katina, she said firmly, to see their father in this condition - which was undeniably true.

It was early one afternoon when visitors arrived. Maester Sewell was summoned away and Rhys and Merivel were left together with the desperately ill Lord of Holdfast.

It was some while before the door opened, and when it did, Lady Celia entered, accompanied by a man that neither Rhys nor Merivel knew - although he had a look of Lord Oswain and Godwyn that suggested that this was Ser Godfrey Hardy - something confirmed when he moved to his brother and knelt beside the bed, staring intently at his face.

"Oswain - I'm home now," he said, taking the older man's hand. "Kenrith is on his way - all will be well."

His brother stared at him, and tried to speak - and Godfrey clearly tried not to flinch at the terrible groaning sound. Then Oswain raised his hand and slowly pointed at Lady Celia who stood watching at the end of the bed, her face a model of concern. The hand was lowered and Oswain closed his eyes, exhausted, the slow tears oozing out once more.

Godfrey knelt for a little longer then rose, gently disengaging his hand from his brother's before turning to the Maesters and indicating that they should withdraw out of hearing distance.

"How is he, truly?" he asked in a low voice.

"We believe Lord Hardy has suffered a stroke," Rhys replied gravely. "One of the blood vessels in his brain was obstructed, cutting off blood flow and causing the surrounding brain tissue to die. This paralyzed one side of his body and also affected how well he talks."

Rhys paused, letting Godrey work through that, before continuing, "It is doubtful he will regain use of that side of his body or that his speech will improve."

Merivel nodded, his manner grave. He waited a moment for Rhys' last words to sink in before continuing.

"His condition may improve somewhat, given time and care." Merivel said. "But he will not be what he once was, in the opinion of the senior Maester, Rhys and I. His condition will be more...fragile." Merivel finished, to allow Godrey to consider that.

Godwyn stood quietly in the hallway next to the doorway with his back to the wall, listening to the voices from inside the room.

"I see," said Godfrey heavily. He turned, to look at his helpless brother once more. "Then the affairs of Holdfast ... he will no longer be well enough to oversee ... " He shook his head. "And Kenrith is young ... untrained ... and ... "

He broke off and moved to the bed, then looked at the two young Maesters.

"He will understand all I say? Is he well enough, do you judge, to give instructions, if properly framed?"

"It appears his faculties are still intact," Rhys replied, "and he can communicate well enough to answer 'yes' and 'no' questions."

Godfrey nodded. "Very well then," he said. "We must make ... arrangements."

He looked across at Lady Celia who was standing, cool and composed, on the far side of Lord Oswain's bed. "Is it acceptable to you, my Lady?"

She had been gazing down at her husband, but now she lifted her head and looked fully at Godfrey. "I want the Septon here. He should witness what happens."

Godfrey hesitated, and then nodded. "My brother follows the old gods but yes. He took his vows of knighthood in the Sept, as I did, when he was young. The Seven Gods ... their representative can serve as witness."

He turned to to Rhys and Merivel. "I will want both of you to act as independent witnesses to this. Will you do that?"

Rhys glanced at Merivel, then back. "Certainly, Ser Godfrey."

Merivel barely saw the glance from Rhys, but he nodded a fraction to his fellow Maester and then faced Godfrey fully. "Without hesitation, Ser Godfrey." he said quietly.

"Thank you," said Ser Godfrey. His voice was heavy; he sounded exhausted, as he probably was after his long ride. "Somone should fetch the Septon ... "

"The boy can do that," said Lady Celia. "He always lurking outside - I fall over him every time I want to see Oswain." The note of contempt in her voice was palpable.

Rhys cultivated a carefully neutral expression at Lady Celia's words. He started to focus his attention on both Lady Celia and Ser Godfrey, paying close regard to facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.

"The boy ... " echoed Ser Godfrey, seemingly puzzled. Then his face cleared. "Godwyn! Yes, of course."

He walked to the door and opened, looking out and seeing Godwyn with Maester Sewell.

"Godwyn - can you fetch the Septon for me? No, your father's no worse. But we need him to act as witness here."

Behind him in the room, Lady Celia spoke to the two young Maesters. "Have you anything that might help my husband through this? We need him to be able to concentrate?" As she spoke, she looked down at her husband, then reached and took his hand. "All shall be as you wish, my dearest."

Lord Oswain gave an inarticulate groan.

Rhys raised his eyebrows, then turned to consult with Merivel. "Black tea as a mental stimulant? Perhaps also an infusion of rosemary?"

Merivel nodded in agreement. "Black tea, with rosemary. Its too bad Wort probably doesn't grow anywhere near here, that would help too." Merivel looked thoughtful and then his eyes brightened. "I do have some lavender in my kit, that would be good steeped into the tea."

Rhys nodded agreement. "I'll go take care of it. Would you stay here with Lord Hardy in case he needs attention?" he asked Merivel.

"I have my own kit with me," said a fresh voice - Sewell. "I trust that will suffice."

Lady Celia looked at him, seeming unsure of whether to be pleased or irritated by his appearance. "We have sent for the Septon," she said. "Ser Godfrey wants to have things properly arranged."

Rhys smiled slightly, though whether in response to Lady Celia's apparent discomfiture or Sewell's appearance was unclear. Perhaps it was both.

Ser Godfrey moved back to his brother's bed and sank to one knee beside it, watching Oswain with concern.

"I know," said Sewell. "Godwyn has gone for the Sept."

"About time he made himself useful," said Lady Celia. "The sooner he goes to the Wall ... "

Godfrey looked up, startled. "The Wall? But ... we don't know ... "

He broke off as though he was concerned he might say too much. For her part, Lady Celia had coloured, and she said hastily, "Those remedies ... will you prepare them, Maesters?"

"As you wish, milady," Rhys replied as he bowed his head. He glanced at Merivel to see if the other wanted to stay or accompany him.

"If you wish privacy for some moments, I can certainly depart with my colleague to help prepare them." Merivel said. He paused and then continued.

"On the other hand, from a medicinal point of view, unless you do wish that privacy, it would be better for one of us to stay here with him, so that aid is immediately at hand. Rhys could use my help, but he does not *require* it, to prepare the remedies. "

"There is no need for privacy," said Ser Godfrey, and he looked across the bed at his sister-in-law. "Anything we need to say to each other can be heard by all the world ... can it not?"

She half-smiled. "As you say." Then she turned to the two Maesters. "Prepare your remedies as swiftly as you can, Maesters.

"Milady," Rhys acknowledged. He nodded again and left.

"I will remain here for the nonce, the better to watch over his condition." Merivel said with a nod to the departing Rhys. He drew up a chair so that he could sit next to the bed where Lord Oswain lay.

Godwyn stood quietly in the hallway next to the doorway with his back to the wall, listening to the voices from inside the room.

A step, a quiet rustle of robes. "Godwyn? How do you, lad?"

It was Maester Sewell.

"Well enough, Maester," Godwyn replied quietly, wishing the old man would leave him alone to listen. Kenrith untrained? What could their uncle mean. And what 'arrangements' could Ser Godfrey be considering. Godwyn did not like the way this was going.

"You need to rest, my boy ... " Sewell began, when the door opened, and Ser Godfrey stepped out - a tired smile when he saw Godwyn. He had always made time for Gavrin's friend and hero on his visits to the castle, patiently showing him the tricks of blade and bow he taught Syndra - that he might once have dreamed of teaching Gavrin and Trey.

"Godwyn - can you fetch the Septon for me? No, your father's no worse. But we need him to act as witness here."

"Aye, ser," Godwyn said. He sprinted down the corridor towards the main hall, assuming the Septon was most likely to be found there, waiting to see if there was going to be a feast laid on for the guests that were expected.

The Septon was not there, but one of the servants thought he would be in the Sept, making sure all the crystals were gleaming in case any of the guests should want to avail themselves of its comfort.

Godwyn nodded his thanks and ran from the hall. He was focused on the task at hand, finding the Septon and getting back to his fatherís room as quickly as possible, and he barely even noticed the unusual number of horses being taken to the stables. When he reached the Sept, he paused at the doorway, an expression of distaste crossing his face. He pushed open the doors of oak and stepped just inside the large seven-sided room. "Septon," he called out. "Ser Godfrey has need of you."

Septon Abert turned from directing two young serving boys who were placing candles around the Sept at his direction. "Ah, young Godwyn," the gray-haired man said, "The Seven bless you."

"Aye," said Godwyn shortly. "Ser Godfrey calls for you in Fatherís room."

The Septon nodded, his face set in an expression intended to show his longstanding patience in the face of Northern rudeness, an expression he had long worn since coming to Holdfast in Lady Celiaís service. It was an expression assumed only with his superiors, it was well known that the Septon did not put up with any rudeness at all from his inferiors.

Godwyn turned at the door and walked out, trusting that the Septon would follow him as he set a quick pace back towards his fatherís chambers.

But as he hurried back he heard Ser Anders slightly nasal voice, speaking to someone in the Great Hall.

"My brother-in-law's indisposition will, of course, be a hindrance. But I do believe that the arrangements will go ahead smoothly, despite all, Indeed, having Ser Godfrey here, in the castle, will be an undoubted advantage for you - if not, I fear, for other reasons."

Godwyn shook his head in exasperation, here was someone else discussing "arrangements." What was going on? He paused, briefly considering entering the Great Hall to see what was going on. Then he looked back at the Septon, walking with a dignified but determined pace. The Septon wouldn't wait for him, and he was determined to be there when the Septon arrived at his father's room. With a wordless growl he turned from the Great Hall and continued towards his father.

As Rhys reached the door, it opened of its own volition, or rather, by Godwyn's hand.

Without pausing Godwyn walked inside, announced, "The Septon's here," then stepped off to one side, still inside the room.

Lady Celia looked across at him, clearly irritated by his behaviour, but before she could say anything, the Septon entered, settling his robes about himself a little fussily.

"Godwyn said my presence was required here. Is his Lordship worse?"

"No," said Ser Godfrey, rising to his feet. "We need to establish what my brother's wishes are as regards the governance of Holdfast."

The Septon looked worriedly at the man stretched out on the bed.

"Ser Godfrey - is he in any state to decide?"

"I believe so," said Ser Godfrey slowly, "if the questions are properly framed."

He looked towards Merivel for his opinion, while Lady Celia continued to hold her husband's hand and smile down at him reassuringly.

"Lord Hardy should not be unduly pressed in such a questioning." Merivel said firmly, looking to Ser Godfrey. "To be bold, milord, I would be happier if we waited until Rhys returns with the tea."

"Very well," Godfrey said. Lady celia nodded in agreement.

Godwyn, convinced Lady Celia would try to have him removed from the room if he drew attention to himself, and unsure where Ser Godfrey would come down in the case of a dispute over his presence, remained standing against the wall of the room, watching his father's face.

"No." It was a growl - low and rumbling - and it came from Lord Hardy.

Ser Godfrey glanced at Merivel, and then at Godwyn, as though he was concerned that Lord Hardy might be reacting to the sight of his son. But Oswain's eyes were fixed on his brother, and he was scowling ferociously as he fought to hold his concentration.

"What should I do?" asked Godfrey. Unseen by his brother, he signalled Godwyn to stay where he was for the moment. But it was clearly not a gesture of dismissal. Nor did Lady Celia say anything that might disrupt her husband's sudden lucidity - although she frowned.

It wasn't clear whether Godwyn had seen Ser Godfrey's gesture or not, he appeared to have eyes only for his father. But he said nothing, and remained stock still against the wall, watching and listening.

"Lord Hardy?" Merivel said in response, turning his head so that he could hear Lord Hardy, and understand his response.

"Sort ... things. Arrange," croaked Lord Hardy. He nodded his head definitely. "Heir. Find ... boy."

"Kenrith is coming, Oswain," said Ser Godfrey. "He'll be here soon."

Ser Oswain shook his head. "Rushes. Rushes!"

There was something urgent in his voice. Ser Godfrey looked at him, bewildered.

"You think Kenrith is hasty? Perhaps he is ... but we don't know. He was only a boy when he went away. He's crippled, it's true ... but there's Godwyn ... steady, patient ... "

Lord Hardy shook his head more vigorously.


Ser Godfrey looked up, baffled. "Do you know what he means?"

Merivel shook his head a fraction.

"Perhaps he means Jonas," said Lady Celia swiftly. "Perhaps he means Jonas to be his heir." She leaned forward and spoke in her most honeyed tones. "Is that it, dearest? Do you wish to name Jonas as your heir?"

He pulled his hand from her grasp.

Godwyn, still standing far back from everyone else, grinned at this.


"Ser Godfrey, Lady Cleia, you are tasking him beyond his strength," said Sewell from the end of the bed with a glance at Merivel. "let him rest and recover a little before you question him again."

Merivel nodded in agreement with the elder Maester.

Ser Godfrey frowned, but Lady Celia nodded. "Yes ... when his mind is clearer."

"Other things need to be settled," said Ser Godfrey firmly, and he bent over the bed. "Oswain ... while you are ill ... shall I stand in your place?"

Lady Celia drew in a sharp breath. "You take too much on yourself, brother!"

Lord Oswain was, however, responding. He lifted his hand and, with infinite slowness, with infinite effort, pointed at his brother. Then, waveringly, his hand moved to point at his wife, before it dropped back on the bed.

"I think you have your answer," said Sewell drily. "He wants you to work together."

Lady Celia and Ser Godfrey eyed each other across the bed with hostility.

But Lord Hardy was speaking again, with a severe effort.

"Made ... made a good marriage."

Indeed we did," said Lady Celia warmly. "I have never ceased to praise the gods for their gift of you to me."

He shook his head slowly, and turned it to look at his brother.

"I? Yes," said Godfrey. "I made a good marriage. No man could have been happier than I." He smiled. "When Father told me he'd arranged the matches for us both - do you remember? We plotted to run for the Wall. But we found happiness, didn't we?"

Again the weary head shake - and a groaning sound came from Lord Hardy. "Syn ... made a goo' match f' Syn."

The grin left Godwyn's face as he heard this.

Then his eyes closed, leaving Ser Godfrey to raise his head and stare at Lady Celia who was gazing down at her husband, emotionless.

"What does he mean?" said Ser Godfrey.

"My Lord," said Sewell, "I think these matters should be discussed elsewhere." He looked at Merivel for support.

"We task him too much." Merivel said in agreement with Sewell, turning to look at Godfrey and Celia. "If you need to discuss these matters immediately, then perhaps away from here would be best." Merivel said, fixing his gaze on Godfrey.

Ser Godfrey nodded. "And Maesters, Septon, I call upon you to witness what was decided here. That Lord Hardy places the power of Holdfast in my hands ... "

"And mine," put in Lady Celia.

He inclined his head, although he did not look as though he much liked it. "And Lady Celia's."

Sewell nodded gravely.

"I witness this," said the Septon sonorously.

"I so witness." Merivel added gravely.

"Perhaps now you should leave Lord Hardy to rest," said Sewell.

Ser Godfrey nodded. "Lady Celia," he said. "After you."

He moved to hold open the door, and nodded to Godwyn to accompany them.

All three of them left the room.

"Shall I say a few prayers?" asked the Septon.

"If you wish," said Sewell, as though it was a matter of indifference to him. "Maester Merivel, if you would assist ... " He moved toward the bench where they prepared herbs for Lord Hardy's treatment. The room was quiet apart from the spluttering popping of the fire and the quiet voice of the Septon, praying.

"Certainly." Merivel said quietly.

Sewell shook some purple powder from a small linen bag, and began to measure it with a marked knife.

"Where is Rhys with that water?" he said testily. He needs not go to the well to ensure its purity - any water boiling on the kitchen fire will do!"

Then they heard the sound of raised voices, somewhere outside the room. Only the odd word could be distinguished.

Godwyn's voice: " ... WHAT? .... Bolton .... dared .... WHERE?"

And then Ser Godfrey: "WAIT!"

A long pause ... and then the sound of armed feet hurrying. The Septon had risen to his feet, all prayers forgotten, looking worriedly towards the door. Lord Hardy was twisting and moaning on the bed.

"Guard the door," said Sewell to Merivel, his voice steady.

"Sir." Merivel moved from the bench to the doorway, standing and listening intently.

Rhys slipped into the room, almost bumping into Merivel. "Sorry..." he said to Merivel, distracted. His expression was upset.

He rushed over to Sewell with the now lukewarm water. "Sorry," he repeated to his great-uncle.

"What happened?" Merivel said over his shoulder to Rhys, but he still kept his main focus and intent on the door and the commotion that lay beyond it.

Continued in Tending Room

Categories: WinterChillsGameLogs, CastleHoldfast

Page last modified on February 27, 2006, at 01:36 PM