The Difference Between Living and Dying
(Continued from In Quarantine at Holdfast)
[In the dream, Godwyn] was in the weirwood, and the heart tree was watching him.
It was as though they were on a chain of light ... a light that burned and scorched them all as they hung there. But to let go of the chain, to drop into the cool darkness of the wood below ... that was death.
And suddenly, he knew that unless he did ... something ... Kenrith was going to fall.
Godwyn grasped the burning light tightly to himself, ignoring the pain, accepting it as he had been taught when learning to fight. He held it, and reached out to Kenrith. "Hold Fast, brother," he said. "Hold Fast to the light, Hold Fast to me." Tears came to his eyes. "Donít leave me, Kenrith, please donít leave me."
The chain seemed to groan and shake. Another of the lights was fading ... it was like watching a big, fat raindrop hanging from a chain, watching it swell, waiting to fall - but a raindrop of fire. Not Kenrith ... If Godwyn could stretch out his hand, perhaps he could keep this one from falling ... but it would mean releasing his hold on Kenrith's burning light, and then Kenrith might fall and be lost too.
Kenrith needed his strength ...
Godwyn watched the other light and whispered, "I cannot save you. If I try, I will lose my brother. I cannot lose him. Forgive me."
The light flickered and fell into the darkness of the long grass, and was lost.
But the light Godwyn held continued to glow, even though it scorched his hands until it was hard not to cry with the pain of it.
Godwyn held it despite the pain. "Hold Fast," he said under his breath. "Hold fast. Hold fast. Holdfast. Holdfast.
He seemed to feel suddenly not just that he was holding fast, but that something was holding him fast in its turn, as though he was held in warm, comforting arms. Not his brother, not his cousins ... but something or someone he had never known, who held him safe and soothed him.
Godwyn didn't have words to express his feelings at the comforting presence he felt, but he seized it gratefully, and tried to lend the support it gave him to his brother.
Held in the unseen secure arms, Godwyn felt the light held held in turn flicker - and then grow stronger, as though someone - or something - was feeding the flames. It hurt ... oh how it hurt. But if he let go ...
He ground his teeth together in his sleep, tossing restlessly. In his dream, he clenched his arms together more tightly. He would let the flames consume him before he let go of his brother.
Suddenly he seemed to be outside - in the godswood, standing frozen into immobility. The protective arms were still around him, as though someone stood behind him and watched.
Kenrith was lying on the litter, and Rhys was there too - looking as though he was taking some huge effort - Godwyn had seen people look like that - well, boys, anyway, as they tried to fight with a broadsword. And as Godwyn watched, he saw Kenrith move his hand - very, very slightly.
"Come on, Kenrith," Godwyn urged. "Don't give up. You can do it. I know you can."
It was an agonisingly long time - and yet Godwyn wasn't cold - the searing heat ogf the light he was cradling was scorching his hands, but surely the rest of him should have been feeling the chill of the night air?
And then Godwyn saw Kenrith slowly struggling to his feet, with Rhys beside him, supporting him, helping him.
"I have to help him," Godwyn said. "I have to." He bit his lip. "What do I do? Do I give him this?" He held the burning light tighter, and twisted his head, trying to see the figure holding him.
"No," said the voice behind him. "You must hold fast to the light, my Godwyn, and give him your strength."
It was a woman's voice - one that he seemed to recall from very long ago - and it must be a woman's arms who held him, as no woman had ever held him since the Septa who had cared for him when he was a baby.
"Mama?" Godwyn asked in a small voice, clutching the light tight to his chest. Tears formed in his eyes.
"Hold fast for your brother, my Godwyn," said the voice again, and the arms tightened on him a little, warm and secure. "He will need you now, more than ever."
"I will, Mama,"Godwyn said. "I promise."
The sense of being held seemed to fade, although Godwyn felt a faint pressure on the two of his head, as though a kiss had been planted there.
Then he was waking up in his own bed, feeling as weak as a kitten but no longer ill. And there was an arm around him ... but a young arm, unlike the warm protective arms that had held him in the godswood. When he opened his eyes he saw it was Syndra - asleep next to him.
Continued from In Quarantine at Holdfast
As preparations were made to move Kenrith, Syndra lifted her head and tucked one of the blankets up under Trey's chin. She wrapped the other one around herself and stood up.
"I want to go sit by the fire," she said firmly. She refused to be that close when Old Sally started working on Trey.
She sat down next to the hearth with her back resting against the wall and the blanket wrapped tightly around her. She asked Gavrin to get her more barley water, and when he returned with it, she sat quietly and sipped. Her eyes wandered around the room, but she didn't appear to be watching anything in particular. Gavrin had seen this look before. She was thinking about something.
Finally, she looked Gavrin straight in the eye. "Something's wrong," she said quietly. "Mama promised me she would come if we got sick. She wouldn't break her promise. Something's happened. More than just the babe." Her voice was dead calm, the Hardy "Hold Fast" ringing in her ears. If something had happened to Mama, it was just the two of them now, at least until Father could get here. If he could. They had to be strong for each other.
Gavrin nodded. His face looked pinched with tiredness and worry.
She gave him a supportive smile and rubbed his shoulder.
"Once they've taken Kenrith away, I could go and find out," he said in a low voice, glancing at Rhys to make sure he couldn't hear. "Shall I do that, Synnie? And you stay here by the fire for Trey and Godwyn?"
"I don't know," she sighed. In truth, she was loathe to relinquish his company. "I don't think I'd be much help for Godwyn right now. Maybe you'd best wait 'til they get back."
She looked back up at her brother again and the mother-hen took over. "On second thought, have you slept? You should sleep. I don't want you getting sick too."
Gavrin looked as though he was about to protest as the others left the room with Kenrith, but then suddenly he nodded.
"Yes, I think I should. I'll see if Godwyn needs anything first ..."
He padded across the room to the big bed and climbed onto it, looking down at his cousin and friend. Suddenly he bent down and put his ear close to Godwyn's mouth, listened for a moment, and then straightened.
"Holdfast," he said. "Yes, hold fast, Godwyn."
He turned and gave a tired smile at Syndra. "You should come here and sleep too, Synnie."
This time it was Syndra's turn to almost protest. She'd been sleeping for hours, it seemed. But then she noticed her anxiety level was increasing the farther he was from her side. She nodded wearily and climbed into bed between the boys, throwing her own blanket over herself and Gavrin. She snuggled close to her brother much like Trey had done with her not so long ago. She also reached out a comforting hand and laid it on Godwyn's shoulder.
"Hold fast, Godwyn. Hold fast, Gav," she murmured to them, the Hardy words taking the place of "Good night."
Gavrin smiled wearily at her, and then his eyes closed.
It seemed a long time, and it was very dark when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
Syndra rolled over, surprised that she had fallen asleep. She thought she was just laying there thinking. "Gav?" she asked quietly.
He was leaning over the bed and gave a grin when she spoke. But the grin faded - and suddenly he had the intent looks he wore when he was doing a really difficult drawing, or preparing to fight one of the older pages.
"Synnie, I have to go now," he said. "Will you come and say goodbye?"
And then she noticed - he was wearing his outdoor clothes.
She sat bolt upright in the bed, threw off the covers and bounded after him. "Where are you going?" she asked worriedly. Gavrin could hear the fear in her voice. The last time Gav asked her to say goodbye to someone, Trey died.
He didn't answer her, but turned again at the door and held out his hand to her.
"Come and say goodbye, Synnie," he said coaxingly.
There was no sign of old Sally - and the little bed that had held Trey was empty now. The room was quiet and dark - the only sound seemed to be Godwyn's even breathing.
And Gavrin was waiting for her.
Syndra chewed her lip. She was frightened, but she was not sure whether she was more frightened to follow him - or not to.
She followed him.
It must have been very late, for the castle around them was silent, and there were no people to be seen anywhere. Syndra would have expected it to be dark, but instead it was lit by a dim, radiant light. It was only as the reached the door of the tower and went out into the courtyard beyond that she realised what it was - snow had fallen, and that was casting its strange glow all around.
Strange, though, that snow had fallen in summer. Strange that snow had fallen so deeply in the courtyard, and she had not been aware of it.
Her first thought was that it was like her nightmare. But it wasn't, really. There were no bodies, no heads on pikes. It was rather peaceful. Her second thought was that she was barefoot. The snow would be cold. *You can warm up later* something inside her said. She was drawn to follow her brother and tentatively stepped into the snow.
There were footsteps in the snow, all heading towards the main gate. There were no guards there, for a wonder, but Gavrin set off confidently towards the gate, then turned and smiled at his sister.
"Come on, Synnie," he said.
"Gav, I'm scared," she told him as unbidden tears started to roll down her cheeks. But still she followed.
The gate was a little open - and she could see that beyond it, the woods were wreathed in white mist. But in the half open gate, a familiar figure was standing - Mama. She was holding something in her arms ... the baby? And it was all right, it must be all right ... because Trey was holding her skirts.
She drew up short at the sight of Trey. She had suspected, but this confirmed her fears. She didn't want to go any further. Some part of her screamed to stop, to turn, to run away. Yet she couldn't.
Gavrin stretched out his hand to his sister.
"She wants to say goodbye too," he said.
She reached for his hand as a drowning person reaches for a thrown rope. Trey. Mama. The babe. But not Gavrin. Not Gavrin too. He wasn't even sick! Oh, please, gods, please..., her brain screamed.
"But why?" Syndra asked desperately, looking from Gavrin to Mama and back again. "I don't wanna say goodbye. I wanna go too."
"No,Syndra," said her mother. "Someone must stay behind to look after you your father. Men always need looking after, you know." She smiled, a sweet, melancholy smile - and it was hard to tell whether it was regret to be leaving Ser Godfrey, or Syndra ... or a regret at the way life had ordained these things.
"But he's not..." Her protests withered and died on her lips. Syndra wasn't sure why. Perhaps it was Mama's sweet smile, trusting her to look after the man she loved. Or Kenrith's words - that the fates have already decided what is to happen and the gods give men the strength to face it. Whatever it was, a feeling of peace settled over her and it just didn't seem right to argue.
She bent forward a little, toward her daughter.
"Here, Syndra. I promised you should be the first to hold him."
"It's a boy then?" she smiled as she reached for the babe. She'd have to remember to tell Papa.
"It's a boy," her mother said.
She turned back a corner of the robe that wrapped him - it was like the long robe they had wrapped Trey in the day they had taken him to the godswood to speak him name first to the old gods. But now Trey was old enough to stand on his toes to try to peer over Mother's arm to look as she passed the baby to Syndra.
Trey had been littler - but Trey had been newborn ... and this baby looked as though he was already two or even three weeks old. He had the same perplexed expression Trey had wore, though, but when he saw Syndra, his face lit up in a proper smile, not a windy baby smile, as though seeing his big sister had answered all his problems. He gave a gurgle of pleasure and held out his arms to her, something Trey had not done till he was a far bigger boy. And as she took him, she felt his small baby fists clutch at her hair, the only part of her small enough for him to clutch. He smelled of baby, of fresh wellwater and the softly scented herbs that the Septa used in the nursery. He felt so right in her arms.
Syndra sighed with complete contentment. She felt warm and safe and loved. It felt so...so... perfect to hold her new brother, with her mother and brothers looking on. She forgot that she was outside, that it should've been cold, that she had been so frightened a moment - or was it a lifetime - ago. Perhaps this was the real thing. Perhaps it was Trey's death that was the dream. She hoped so.
She felt Gavrin's arm slide around her, of Trey pressing against her side so all three of them could look together at their baby brother.
She nestled against Gavrin's arm and adjusted the baby so Trey could see without standing on tiptoe. A question came to her mind and she asked, somewhat dreamily, "How'd he get so big, Mama? You just had him."
There was no answer, and she suddenly felt that the shape she was holding was wrong, and she seemed to be holding the baby now with only one arm ... She was lying down too when she should be standing ...
She opened her eyes and realised that she was back in the boys' bed in the Tower, and in her sleep she had turned towards Godwyn, her arm holding him close.
"No," Syndra whimpered as her tears started anew. "No, no, no..."
She rolled over to look at her brother, afraid of what she would see.
Godwyn sat up, looking first over at Kenrith's empty bed, then back at Syndra and Gavrin.
Gavrin was lying still in the bed, curled up as though he was asleep. One hand was supporting his cheek and he seemed to be smiling a little.
And then they heard the heavy tread of feet upon the stairs - the guards were bringing Kenrith back from the weirwood, where he had been taken to die.
"Wake up, Gavrin," Godwyn said. "Kenrith is coming back. He's all right. He didn't die. We should all be awake to welcome him home, he will be Lord one day. Syndra, wake him up." He reached across Syndra to shake Gavrin awake.
Syndra didn't move. She merely stared at Gavrin with silent tears streaming down her face. "It's no use. He's already gone," she said vacantly, barely above a whisper.
Godwyn looked at her blankly, as though the words made no sense. "No," he said. "He's not even sick." He shook Gavrin harder. "Wake up!" he shouted.
"STOP IT!" Syndra shrieked shrilly. She was shaking uncontrollably now. Her breathing was ragged. Her tangled hair hung in her face and her eyes were wild.
"He isn't sick," Godwyn insisted. "It was Trey that was sick. And Kenrith, but I held the light, like Mama said, and he got better. And you and me, we were sick, too, but we got better, just like Kenrith. Gavrin wasn't sick. He's just asleep."
But Gavrin was limp in his arms, neither resisting nor responding to Godwyn's shaking. His head flopped limply to one side, and his skin was notably cool - and cooling. The blankets had held warmth in him ... but that was fading now.
And the steps on the stairs were getting closer.
Syndra didn't answer. She shoved Godwyn's arm aside and reached down roughly to pull the covers up, tucking them under Gavrin's chin obsessively. Then she planted herself between Godwyn and her beloved brother. She had to protect him, she believed. Protect him from this brute who hadn't been there, who didn't understand. Until someone could come to take care of them. Because everyone was dead. And Godwyn couldn't understand. And she couldn't explain.
The litter appeared at the top of the stairs and the men conveyed it into the room and back near Kenrith's bed. Rhys followed behind, exuberant. "He's going to live! Kenrith's going to live!" he said to Syndra and Gavrin and Godwyn.
Syndra's tearful eyes met Rhys's beseechingly through her bedraggled hair. She said not a word but "Help me" was the clear message.
Rhys stopped and stared at her as the men lowered the litter. "Syndra? What's wrong?" His eyes slid from her, to Gavrin laying still in bed with his eyes closed, to Godwyn awake and staring back at him. "Gavrin..." he said, quietly. Then his voiced raised considerably. "What happened to Gavrin?!"
He jumped onto the bed over Godwyn and put his hand on Gavrin's forehead.
Kenrith stirred in his sleep, but in the end did not wake.
Godwyn slid off the bed, watching with wide eyes. "He wasn't even sick," he whispered.
Gavrin's forehead was cold and slightly clammy. Rhys had heard about the death dew that was sometimes found ...
"Oh, gods..." Rhys moaned.
Perhaps Gavrin had been feeling ill earlier and had masked it, wanting to help Rhys as best he could. Perhaps the disease had overtaken him with frightening speed once he had fallen into an exhausted sleep. Perhaps ...
But speculation was no use now. Gavrin Hardy, Ser Godfrey's bright heir and Lady Morna's joy, was dead.
"Why?" Rhys shouted. "Kenrith was saved, your gods showed me what needed to be done, I went through it with him...and now Gavrin is dead, with no warning? I never knew! How could I know what to do for Kenrith and not even know Gavrin was sick? It makes no sense!"
Sitting cross-legged on the bed, Syndra watched stone-faced as Rhys examined Gavrin. "Mama's dead, too. I saw," she said flatly.
Godwyn sat down suddenly on the floor of the chamber. Tears came to his eyes. "I didn't know it was him dying," he said quietly. "I didn't know that."
There were slow steps on the stairs, and a voice.
He turned to look, his expression despondent.
It was Sewell, and he stood for a moment, framed in the doorway.
"I heard you brought Kenrith back alive from the godswood," he began, and then he saw Gavrin stretched out on the bed. "Ah," he said, and it was a cry of pain. "Ah ... my poor Ser Godfrey! Loss upon loss ... "
He reached out a hand towards Syndra. "My poor child ... your Father is coming. But too late ... too late."
Syndra looked up at him blankly. A small part of her wanted to ask about her mother, but the larger part crushed it. What was the point? She knew the answer.
He sank down on the edge of the bed, and Rhys could see from the greyish colour of his skin and his slow, painful movements that Sewell was exhausted, even as he reached to take Syndra into his arms.
Syndra allowed herself to be held, but drew her arms and legs tight into her body. She did not want comfort from any of these people. She wanted to go away...far away. She wanted her father to come and take her out of this hateful castle. She wanted to ride the rapids of the White Knife with Ser Corryn. She didn't care. She just wanted to be away from *here.*
Rhys moved off the bed and out of the way, retreating to the wall of the room.
"Godwyn," he said, "your brother is saved ... and will need you now. If what I heard is true ... " He looked at Rhys for confirmation.
The boy nodded numbly.
"Kenrith will need you to give two good arms to supply the strength of the one that will be weakened."
Godwyn looked up at the maester, tears on his face. "I know," he said quietly. "Mama said so,"
That got Syndra's attention. Her head jerked around to look at Godwyn intensely. Had he seen something too?
"Your Mama, Godwyn?" asked Sewell. "When did she speak to you?"
He glanced at Rhys, as though telling him to listen to this ... and his arms still held Syndra with the slight awkwardness of an old man who wasn't really used to physical proximity to children.
"In the Godswood, Maester. She held me and told me to hold onto the light for Kenrith. We watched Rhys help him. I know it was her." Godwyn lifted his face to look into the maester's eyes.
"So," said Sewell gently, "you were in the Godswood too? What did you see there, Godwyn?"
"I didn't _go_ to the Godswood," Godwyn explained. "I was just there, all of a sudden. There were lights, and I was holding Kenrith's light, and someone was with me, and said not to let go." He looked down, not willing to mention the light he had watched fall. "And then I was in the Godswood, and Kenrith and Rhys were there. Kenrith was lying down, and Rhys was watching him, and then Kenrith started to move, and Rhys helped him stand up, and Mama, 'cause I knew it was her that was holding me, she said I had to give Kenrith my strength." He looked back up. "It wasn't a dream, it was real. I know it was."
As the boy spoke, Sewell looked at Rhys for confirmation, still holding Syndra steadily.
During Godwyn's explanation, Rhys slid down the wall until he was sitting and pulled his knees in to his chest. He nodded when the Maester looked at him.
Syndra listened to Godwyn's tale intently, still curled in her tight ball in Sewell's lap. When he was finished, she said, "I saw my Mama, too. And the boys." Her voice was tiny, as if it might break at any moment. And sure enough, as she spoke, her eyes started to well up again.
Kenrith had awoken when Rhys had raised his voice, but his eyes had remained pressed closed. He still shivered with fatigue, rather than fever, and as he took in the exchange, he wept. Somehow, he feared his cousin's life had been exchanged for his own. A hard world this was.
Eventually, he had recovered enough strength to sit up and put his arm around Syndra's shoulder. He wished he could reach out to Godwyn with his other arm, but it hung from his side like meat in a butchers shop... dead meat.
Syndra had not wanted comfort here, but Kenrith's gesture touched her through the shell she had erected around herself. He had never paid her much mind before - she was little and he was big, after all. But he was strong and he had spoken to her of the gods that give strength. Perhaps...
She moved from Sewell's lap to her cousin's and nestled her head against his chest with her eyes closed. There, she just breathed. It did indeed make her feel stronger.
"That sounds like your mother," said Sewell gently. "Your father and I were with her when she died - and her last words were of you ... she told us that we would see you grow up to be fine young men ... I'm not surprised she keeps watch over you still, Godwyn."
His arms tightened a little on Syndra. "And you saw your Mother too, did you? With your brothers? Can you tell me?"
Over Syndra's head, he was looking at Rhys with loving concern.
Rhys mustered a weak smile for his great-uncle, who looked like he'd had a terrible few days himself.
Syndra looked up at him from her perch in Kenrith's lap. "Gavrin woke me up and wanted me to come say goodbye," she began in a little voice. "I was afraid to follow him... but it felt like I should, so I did. We went outside by the gate. There was snow on the ground, but it wasn't cold on my feet. And it was quiet. Real quiet. There were no guards."
She paused and breathed some more, obviously trying to hold onto her composure. "Mama was there at the gate, with Trey and the baby. I said I wanted to come too, where they were going, but Mama said no. She said I had to look after Papa, 'cause he needed to be looked after." Silent tears started rolling again. "She let me hold the baby. And then... they weren't... there..." She turned her face away to sob into Kenrith's chest.
Perplexed, Rhys stared at them from his spot against the wall. Ghosts? A dream? What had Syndra and Godwyn seen? What had happened in the weirwood?
It was too much to think about. He closed his eyes.
"The gods decided," said Sewell sombrely. "But they did not leave you without all comfort.
"Think of this, little Syndra. The gods let your brother die when he did that he might make his next journey with your mother and Trey - and the baby. He will be there to protect them, as he would have wanted. And they will be with him, so his journey will not be a lonely one. But had you gone with them, your father would have been left all alone and comfortless - would you have wished that, my child?"
"Papa's not here," Syndra said forlornly from her spot against her cousin's chest.
"He is coming," said Sewell. "He will be here with you, today or tomorrow."
And he looked troubled - for the news that would greet Ser Godfrey would be devastating - his entire family, save his daughter, swept away from him.
Kenrith's eyes remained open, but he felt a different kind of numbness. He had to know... so he asked. "Rhys... did Gavrin... can you tell if it he died from summer fever?"
Godwyn wrapped his arms around himself as he sat on the floor and listened. He knew why Gavrin had died. It was because he had sat by and watched his light fall from the tree while he held onto Kenrith. He had failed his best friend, because he had been too frightened to try to save him.
Rhys opened his eyes to look at Kenrith. "I don't know," he answered honestly. "Perhaps the Maester does."
"I believe he did," said Sewell, and then he sighed.
"My training - which was undertaken a long time ago - tells me that the summer fever comes in three forms. One is like a very bad fever - I believe that Godwyn and Syndra suffered from that form. A second takes the form of a slow, creeping paralysis. Sometimes - as it did with Trey, and with young Jonas Bolton - that form of the disease kills. Sometimes it leaves its victims ... injured." He did not look at Kenrith as he spoke - perhaps because he was already aware that Kenrith was one of those who had been so marked.
"But there is a third form, more deadly than this, which comes on very swiftly. It kills in a matter of hours - and there is no cure. The victim falls alseep - there is no time to feel the paralysis even. And there is no cure. That form took Gavrin - and none of us could have saved him."
He sighed. "My knowledge is rusty, I fear, but such matters are discussed by raven whenever a new outbreak occurs. Little progress has been made in treating the scourge, even at the Citadel."
"Is it over?" Rhys asked quietly.
Godwyn still sat huddled up on the floor. It was impossible to tell if he was listening to the conversation going on around him or not.
"Over?" echoed Sewell. "For you, yes, I believe it is. Kenrith, Godwyn and Syndra will be immune to further attacks. You, Rhys ... " He hesitated and then said, "There must be some danger, but the fact that you have been so close here to the most virulent attack and yet have taken no infection suggests that you stand in little danger. It may be that you had a mild attack when you were very young, or are in some way we don't understand protected from it. Or it might just be that you were lucky - although I know you don't feel so at the moment."
He stood up now, slowly, as though his bones creaked, and moved over to Godwyn, laying his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Godwyn," he said gently, "you must be brother to Syndra now, as well as brother to Kenrith. For she will need you, now that Gavrin and Trey and the little one have taken the way to the woods. Gavrin would want that, wouldn't he?"
Godwyn looked up at the maester, tears in his eyes. "I saw his light fall off the chain," he whispered. "But I didn't know it was him."
Despite the effort it cost him, Sewell crouched down, to that his head was more on a level with Godwyn's.
"I doubt whether the gods would have permitted you to catch that light, Godwyn," he said, with the same gentleness. "I think they intended you for another service - didn't they? Were you holding the chain in place, Godwyn?"
"I had to hold onto Kenrith," Godwyn explained earnestly. "I had to."
"Of course you did," said Sewell. "You did the right thing, Godwyn. You did what had to be done, no matter how hard it was for you. And your father will be... I am very proud of you."
The correction was swiftly made as Sewell laid emphasis on the last part and, with a gentle pat to Gidwyn's shoulder, Sewell began to straighten - even as the sound of horses were heard in the yard.
Rhys, who was closest to the window, rolled to his knees and looked out down into the courtyard.
Ser Godfrey was dismounting in the courtyard, his face pale and strained. But beside him was another figure, rather bulkier but upright and proud.
Lord Hardy himself had returned to his Castle.
"It's Lord Hardy," Rhys announced. "Another man is with him but I don't recognize him."
Curiosity got the better of Syndra. She scooted off the bed and dragged a stool to the window so she could see. Then she froze. "Papa," she breathed. She bolted for the door suddenly, completely forgetting that she wasn't supposed to leave the tower.
Godwyn rose slowly to his feet, and looked over to Kenrith, clearly wondering what he should do.
"Rhys," said Sewell, "go down and escort Lord Hardy here. Try to prevent Syndra from ... from telling her father all too ... abruptly. Ser Godfrey ... should go to the Sept. I will have Gavrin taken there.
"Godwyn, you must help your brother to a chair so he may greet your father."
Sewell signalled to Old Sally to fetch someone to take Gavrin's body, and she hobbled off.
Rhys stood up from the floor like an old man. After a slow start he jogged after Syndra, across the room and down the stairs.
Continued in Godfrey Returns
Kenrith nodded, and moved to the chair with Godwyn's help.
Godwyn took a place standing besides Kenrith's chair, and waited.
Around them, arrangements were being made. Maester Sewell had departed and four tall, burly men at arms had come to bear Gavrin away. They took the whole little box bed away - in a strange way, it looked as though Gavrin was being borne off to a warrior's funeral - as though he had, indeed, become the warrior he had dreamed of being.
With their departure, Kenrith and Godwyn were left alone to await their father - the first time thay had been alone together since the morning of the Summer Fair.
After a long moment Godwyn said in a quiet voice, almost a whisper, "She really was there, Kenrith. Mama. She was there."
"I believe you, Godwyn... but if others don't, you mustn't press the point. Fools might think you mad. But I felt it, in the grove. I know Rhys did too... was she... content?" Kenrith asked carefully. He had heard tales of the restless dead, and would hate to think some bitter memory shackled their mother to this earth. And if not, it meant she watched over them because of love... but tonight was a night of fears as much as it was of hope, and he had to ask.
"Oh, Kenrith," Godwyn breathed, his eyes growing wide with the remembered wonder. "She was so strong, and so warm. She loves us so much. And she's proud of us, Kenrith, she really is." Tears came to his eyes once more, but there was as much joy as sorrow in them.
Kenrith placed his arm up on Godwyn's shoulder and quietly wept along, for much the same reasons. His, however, were tinged with a hint of bitterness that Father hadn't been there.
Godwyn hugged Kenrith tightly, burying his face in his brother's chest.
How long they wept together, they could not tell. But when they looked up, their father was standing in the doorway, watching them both, and they saw his own eyes were filled with tears.
Godwyn took a halting step toward his father, yearning to throw himself into the man's arms. But a lifetime of being pushed away and ignored was too much to overcome, and he stopped, waiting by his brother's side.
"Kenrith," said Lord Hardy. "Kenrith ... my son." He seemed to find it hard to say any more, but then waved his hand. "No ... no ... stay where you are, boy. You have ahd a brush with death they tell me and came through ... " He broke off, and in three strides had crossed the room to take Kenrith in his arms, drawing him into a great embrace. Over his shoulder, he nodded a little awkwardly at Godwyn.
"And how goes it with you, my boy? They said ... you were less affected. That's good. Good news."
Godwyn started to answer, but before he could even form the words his father had turned away once more.
And then he was pressing Kenrith closer, and his tears were flowing freely. "My poor boy," he said. "My son."
Kenrith awkwardly tried to wrap one arm around his father's back while the other remained carefully folded in his lap. He felt such a mixture of emotions... he was happy that his father was here, and sad because he feared he would never be whole again. He was angry that his father had left him to die, but sorry for his father's lack of composure. The overall effect, when coupled with what he had just been through, was a melancholy sort of emotional numbness.
Godwyn stood there for a moment, watching them. He had no more tears. Then he turned and quietly walked out the door and down the stairs, alone.
He found himself in the courtyard of the castle. Early as it was, the castle was bustling with morning busyness; whatever effects the fever had, it seemed to have impacted little on daily life. Perhaps some families were nursing a grevious loss, perhaps others were facing lives that had been wrenched from the paths they had intended as they contemplated the futrure for their crippled child, perhaps some were rejoicing in their child's recovery. But, for the most, daily life went on - and that was the strangest thing of all.
In the distance, Godwyn could see the Maester and Syndra emerging from the Sept, hand in hand.