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The Calm Before the Storm

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After gardening, Rhys went looking for his great-uncle. He didn't come back to the Tower last night, which suggests he spent the night in Lord Hardy's presence, so Rhys starts his search there.

Another of the elderly women that the Castle uses as servants admits him to the Lord's room. Rhys finds Lord Hardy asleep - and snoring - while Sewell (who, as Rhys knows, seems to need less and less sleep as he ages), is reading a fat black-bound volume in a well-cushioned chair by the fire. He looks up with a smile as Rhys enters, but his eyes are searching.

"What news from the world beyond this chamber?" he asked quietly.

Rhys pulled up a chair and sat by Sewell, making sure he was near the fire. His hands were still cold from gardening that morning and he spread them gratefully in front of the blaze.

"There is a lot to tell," Rhys began. He told his great-uncle about the search yesterday afternoon for Merivel, finding Dobbin and hearing his story, finding Cleeve, meeting back up with Kenrith's group and learning of the attack on them, and returning home disappointed and worried. He told him of his talk with Anders, their suspicions as to what the current day might bring, their talk with Godfrey.

Rhys paused there, poured himself water from a sideboard, and took a long drink to ease his throat thirsty from all the telling. Despite the grim stories and grisly details, Rhys seemed cheerful--even more so than usual. He sat back down and continued with the tale of Tovis and his death, examining the body with Godwyn, and Godwyn's tale of another killing two years ago.

"Godwyn told me there was more to what happened and that I should ask you about it," Rhys finished, looking at Sewell expectantly.

"There were raiders in the woods, two years back, as Godwyn said," Sewell replied. "But they may have been tracking the murderer rather than part of the murder's band - we never determined that. But it was a far-reaching scheme - inndeed, it reach some of the highest in the Seven Kingdoms, or their emissaries ... "

Kenrith set down his armor outside his father's room, then knocked softly on the door.

"Hold that thought," Rhys told his great-uncle. He stood and crossed the room to answer the door. "Kenrith, come in..." he said to the person in the hallway as he opened the door further.

Kenrith was dressed simply, in a tunic and breaches with boots suitable for riding. He had tossed his arm's harness over his right shoulder, and nodded to Rhys as he entered. Judging by the pile on the floor outside the door, he intended to don armor soon.

"I wanted to give you a chance to examine my arm. I haven't consciously been putting it off... but," Kenrith said, then shrugged.

Rhys's eyebrows raised as he shut the door. "Certainly. Is it bothering you?" he asked, not knowing about the previous arrangement Kenrith had made with Sewell.

Kenrith shook his head, then indicated Sewell with his eyes. "Your uncle expressed an interest in examining it. It is stunted, and I haven't felt it since that day, though I tried for years to get it to so much as twist," he said quietly, so that he didn't upset his father.

Rhys's expression turned from surprise to clinical interest as he indicated for Kenrith to take his previously occupied chair near his great-uncle.

Kenrith nodded his quick affirmative bob, which in this case was meant to indicate his thanks. He seddled into the chair, and watched Sewell look over his father as he waited.

"Rhys, is it true... or just my imagination... that the day is longer in the North, than in the South? Some in Riverrun say that it is, and it seems to be that way to me... but it is hard to recon time well without water clocks and bells and the like."

Rhys grinned at the abrupt change of subject. "Do you want the long answer or the short answer?"

"I'm afraid I'll have to settle for the short answer for today. After you've had a chance to look at my arm while it is in one piece, I'm afraid there is some business I must see to," Kenrith said as he touched his sword's hilt.

"The short answer is yes, for now," Rhys replied.

"Rhys - I need to give Lord Hardy his draught," said Sewell, who had roused himself from his chair. "Could you carry out the preliminary investigation?"

"As you wish," Rhys replied. His gaze turned to Kenrith. "Is that all right with you?"

"Of course," Kenrith said.

"Would you remove your shirt, then?" Rhys requested. He made no move to help.

"Ah, of course," Kenrith said a little startled as he stood. He had only half been paying attention, and thought Rhys would be helping his uncle with his father's examination and he would be forced to wait.

He lowered his belt, sword and all, to the floor and then removed his tunic. It was clear he had recently scrubbed his stunted arm, as the otherwise pale flesh was traced with pink grooves from his fingertips. Much of the loose skin had been sloughed off, and there was only a faint trace of body odor.

The limb was that of a much younger man, or boy, and seemed to not be attached in the conventional location. The peculiar developments of the other muscles of his body, as well as perpetual binding to hide it away, had caused it to grow in a twisted fashion. As pale as the full moon, or a maggot, with muscles that hung from the bone like porriage from an upturned bowl. There were a few faint yellow bruises from where Kenrith had battered it with some load across his chest. Sores along his left shoulder showed where the straps had worn through their padding to cause welts, although these had clearly been cleaned and bandaged in the past. Judging from the breadth of the area affected, and the old scars in the area, Kenrith made a practice of shifting where his sling lay over time to not cause undue irritation. The wrist was twisted around, so that the palm faced up with a twisted mass of baby fingers half-curled inwards in an oblong snarl. Each had its own kind of crookedness, although they clearly could be nested together into an unobtrusive ball when external force was applied. The nails were clean, of course, but also mishapen. The length of the arm, too, as well as its breadth, were much less than his healthy limb.

The rest of his body, on the other hand, was a study in contrast. He was well muscled, and while he bore scars from long training and the rest of his body was not especially tan, all of the proportions were appropriate. If anything, his right arm was unusually well developed.

The expression on his face was grim. His jaw was set, and he looked straight ahead. One might almost think he were afraid Rhys was going to amputate it... or worse, that he would be told he must keep the offending limb.

If Rhys felt any repulsion to the limb or any pity for Kenrith, he kept both from showing on his face and in his manner. He softly touched Kenrith's left arm and paused to listen for the Gods before continuing the examination.

"Do you have any feeling in your arm?" Rhys asked as gently pulled Kenrith's left hand away from his chest and staightened the limb.

It fell to his side with a wet slapping sound.

"No. As you can see, the bicep is slightly crooked... I fell on it and broke it several years ago, and didn't notice until the evening. After the swelling reduced somewhat, I splinted it to try to keep the bits from grinding... it healed quite slowly, but seems to have finished knitting," Kenrith said as he indicated the location of the break with his index finger.

Rhys frowned and re-extended the limp arm. He carefully felt the limb, starting with the fingers and hand and working his way up the arm, looking to determine the placement of muscle--what was left of the muscle, anyway--tendon, ligament, and bone. He felt the break gingerly, noting that it had healed but not in the best configuration.

"Tell me when you feel sensation," he told Kenrith as he worked his way up to the shoulder.

Kenrith nodded, and then, in case Rhys wasn't looking at his face, he said "yes." He still looked straight forward, but forced his muscles to relax one at a time.

As Rhys looked over his forearm, Kenrith probed with the edge of his thumb for a moment, then took the nail of his thumb and pressed it down to inscribe a pink line on the pale flesh of his shoulder near where the collarbone met the shoulder, and again moved his hand below his arm pit.

Once Rhys reached these places, he said "I can feel that now," and "yes" when he moved around below.

It seemed he had no feeling up to his deltoid, but could feel his Trapezius, Pectorals, and upper oblique abdominals.

"For about a thumb's width near the edge, I only have partial sensation... and sometimes the whole arm feels cold. I believe I'm imagining that... it only happens when I'm upset," Kenrith said, the last bit half to himself.

"Really? Hmmm..." Rhys gently lowered the stunted arm and stood back a pace or two. He gazed at Kenrith pensively, fingers stroking his chin. "One good thing is that you still have a working blood supply to the arm.

"If you're interested in possibly regaining some use of the arm, then you need to be able to feel sensation in the limb.

"Your mention of the limb feeling cold in certain situations is something I'd like to explore, if you're willing. Perhaps we can find some way of restoring more sensation to the limb, and with it, hopefully your ability to move it."

Rhys turned to regard Sewell. "Uncle, what do you think?"

Kenrith grabbed his arm with thumb and forefinger, and rotated it at the bicep so that it was upside down. He revealed a round scar on the underside of his forearm.

"It isn't actually cold that I was feeling... that scar is from a candle, years ago. The cold did not leave, even as I smelled it starting to burn," Kenrith said with a sigh. He closed his jaw and clenched his teeth together, then lowered it and rotated his jaw until Rhys could hear a faint popping sound.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, Maester Sewell," he added a moment later.

Sewell had come back from the bed of Lord Hardy, and was now looking thoughtfully at the wirthered limb.

"I think it could be inproved," he said, "by a course of exercise. But there would be considerable pain - and even more pain if you then attempted to strap it back up again. And the bone is badly set. It might be necessary to rebreak it and set it again. How long ago did the injury occur?"

Kenrith looked hopeful, then doubtful, then contemplative all in the space of a few moments. The rise-fall-rise of his features, so often concealed behind a lordface even in private, was unusual for him.

"I should like to be able to clap once again, and all of the other things I've learned I once took for granted," Kenrith said with a very slow rendition of his bobbing nod of affirmation.

"I broke my arm... I believe it was three years ago, but it may have been three. It took about six months to become completely healed, or at least, that is how long I wore the splints for," Kenrith replied evenly.

"If you believe there is a good chance I will regain partial use of my arm, I will forgo the use of the sling except when I don armor. As Rhys observed, my arm can still bleed. I understand the exersise and treatment will be painful... such is my experience with things that work," he said as he smiled faintly. He didn't sound exactly hopeful at the prospect, but he wasn't disregarding it either.

Rhys smiled. Kenrith reacted to Sewell's suggestion more positively than he expected. "Let's start the course of exercise in the next few days--after the events of today have transpired. That will give my uncle and me some time to talk and work out what's to be done for your arm."

Sewell nodded agreement with this plan.

"Do you want to speak with your father?" he asked.

"Yes... how is he doing?" Kenrith asked quietly. He glanced from the bed to Sewell, and then back to Sewell's face.

"He was more confused yesterday," said Sewell gravely. "I hope that when he awakens now, he will be more rational, and more composed. But to make as full a recovery as he can ... it will be a long and difficult road, Ser Kenrith. And his mind may never perfectly recover - or his body."

Kenrith nodded his understanding, then looked away from Sewell to his father as he moved to his bedside and gently took his hand with his own and held it.

For a long time, his father's face was still and the sound of his rasping breath seemed to drown out all other sounds in the room. And then, very slowly, his right eye started to open and he looked at Kenrith with seeming bewilderment, as though he failed to recognise him.

At first, Kenrith just wanted to scream and throttle him. He had traveled the full length of the continent in traveling to Riverrun and home, and when he finally gets here his father can't speak a word to him or recognize his face. This, he managed to hide under his lordface.

His impulse to assault a feeble old man, his father no less, quickly turned his feelings inwards. He was ashamed, and when he allowed his facial muscles to relax somewhat, it was (apparent) sadness which was revealed.

"It is me, father... your son. Kenrith," he tried, swallowing down his feelings when they caught on 'father'.

His father's lips moved - a whispering breath came out.

Kenrith manuvered his ear closer to his father's lips.

"Find ... him. Find ... "

Kenrith turned his head to reply, and spoke softly. "I will, father," Kenrith said. To himself, he continued within his own head. ~Right after I have honored the wishes of our Lord Stark and insured that the forest is safe of Wildings.~

"You need to rest, now," he added.

"Not him," said Lord Hardy irritably. "Not now. Jonas. Bring Jonas. They've been keeping him from me."

Kenrith nodded. "I'm glad you're feeling somewhat better," Kenrith said genuinely. He had feared he would never have a real conversation with his father ever again, but it seemed that might still be possible.

To Sewell, he explained "I'm going to bring Jonas. He is most likely at breakfast?"

(assuming yes, possibly with a revised instruction)

He left his armor where he had dropped it, and planned to return for it with Jonas. His other clothes suggested he would be donning armor soon, but he was presentable enough for breakfast. Kenrith made quick strides to breakfast, his strong arm folded against his chest to keep his left limb from swinging into things as he walked.

When he entered the Great Hall, he saw that most of the male members of the family were gathered: his brothers, both Godwyn and - at one end of the table, Jonas; his uncle Godfrey, Ser Anders and Ser Herys Bolton - the latter two in somewhat stilted conversation.

Kenrith gave one of his bobbing salute-like-nods to the group as he made his way to Jonas.

Kenrith knelt beside the small boy in fine clothing in Hardy colors and said, "Jonas? I'm sorry I haven't made time to speak with you before now. Our father is feeling somewhat better, although he is still tired from being ill. He would like to see you. Will you come with me?" Kenrith asked as gently as he could manage.

Jonas shot his a doubtful look. It was clear that awe of his eldest brother was warring with something else. But he said, "An't please you, Ser," and slipped at once from his seat to accompany Kenrith.

Kenrith's first thought was that his younger brother feared he meant to drown him or push him down a flight of stairs to insure his own succession. Fear that his father meant to make Jonas his heir had crossed his mind more than once, but he hadn't asked to see Celia. Even if he had meant to make Jonas his heir, he was not about to lift a hand against his own blood.

Ser Anders frowned as he looked up and saw them.

Kenrith looked up as he turned to leave with his brother and saw Ser Anders' look. "I'll be ready soon. I'm bringing Jonas to see Father," he explained. He had half a mind that Ser Anders concerns ran along different lines, but not the time to address them now.

Once they were both out in the hall, Kenrith asked him, "What is wrong, Jonas?"

"N... nothing, Ser," said the boy. Then there was a long pause and he said quietly, "Mother said he was too ill to see me, and that my being there could make him iller."

"He is still ill, and needs his rest, but he is well enough to ask to see you, which is better than he was when your mother said that... Should she grow cross, I am sorry... If the maester feels he is becoming too tired, then you may need to leave early... And please, call me Kenrith," he said as they rounded corners, passed through doorways, and climbed stairs. He closed with a faint smile as they were nearing the door to his father's room.

"Yes, Ser," said Jonas obediently. "I ... I mean ... Kenrith." He managed a slightly crooked grin for his older brother.

His feet seemed to drag as they got closer to the door.

"Is there something else, Jonas?" Kenrith asked as he half-turned towards the young man to provide a little privacy from the guard further up the hall by the door to his father's room.

"Excuse me, but I must prepare for the upcoming fight." [Rhys] bowed and turned to leave.

The conversation continued on behind him as Ser Corryn answered Celia, but Rhys didn't hear it, his thoughts already on other matters. He hoped fervently that Limosa would be found soon, and as he walked Rhys offered up a prayer to the Maiden on her behalf to keep her safe.

He strode back the Maester's Tower quickly and picked up supplies to take with him out onto the field. Someone was going to get injured today and he hoped he could prevent anyone from actually dying.

He would be glad when this day was over.

After choosing supplies and stuffing them into a satchel, Rhys walked back to Lord Hardy's rooms and walked in after knocking gently. He looked for his uncle.

One glance told him that Lord Hardy was significantly worse. Sewell was mixing a preparation over by the fire, but he looked up and nodded when he saw his great nephew enter.

"Will you attend the joust?" he asked. "I dare not leave my station here."

"Yes," Rhys nodded, "I will. They're getting ready now." He walked over to Lord Hardy's bed and looked down at him, brow furrowed in concern. "How fares he?" he asked as he felt for his pulse.

The pulse was tumultuous, but the flesh was clammy and cold.

"Badly," said Sewell. "After the tournament - I'd welcome your aid. There's no immediate danger but ... " He shrugged.

Rhys nodded grimly. "Of course. I'll be back. Take care." He clapped Sewell on the shoulder, smiled encouragingly at him, then left to return to Godfrey in the field.

When Rhys returned towards the room where he had left Ser Godfrey, he saw him still deep in conversation with Ser Corryn. But they were also being observed by a figure standing half-hidden in the shadows ...

Rhys turned that way. Who?

A slight movement in the shadow - a pale face turned towards him - and Rhys realised.

It was Eryk Bolton.

"Eryk Bolton," Rhys said loudly enough for Godfrey and Corryn to hear. "What a surprise to see you here skulking in the shadows. Can I help you with something?"

Eryk turned his head slightly and looked at Rhys - and then stepped forward.

"I was looking for my father," he said. "I gather the tournament is about to begin."

"How long did it take you to figure out he wasn't here?" Rhys asked, rather unkindly. Then he lowered his voice conspiratorially. "Let me help you. If you want to hear what they're saying, you need to get closer. You can't make out the words this far away." Rhys narrowed his eyes as a thought occurred to him. "Or are you just waiting for them to part ways so you can talk to Ser Corryn?"

Eryk flushed. "I've spoken to him already," he said. "And what I need to tell him can wait till after the tournament. He turned to push past Rhys - an oddly assertive gesture from the diffident Eryk Bolton.

Perhaps Rhys had struck a raw nerve.

He let Eryk push past him, then thoughtfully watched him leave. Rhys was just blindly fishing, but perhaps he managed to catch something regardless. He turned his attention back to Corryn and Godfrey in the distance.

They were beginning to move away, towards the stableyard.

Page last modified on November 16, 2006, at 09:31 PM