The Return of Lord and Lady Hardy
"Uncle Oswain," Syndra breathed, her face paling. She turned and bolted down the stairs. She did not stop until she reached the Maester.
Godwyn stood stock still, the blood draining from his face.
Rhys watched Syndra turn and run, noted her pale face, and rose from the floor to look out the window himself.
He turned back to Merivel. "Shall we go pay our respects?" he asked calmly, though there was a note of worry and concern present in his tone.
"We should." Merivel nodded. "It would be impolite not to do so." He regarded Rhys, noting the tone in his voice but not commenting overtly at it.
With a stiff bow to the two scholars Godwyn said, "Your pardon, but I must see to my father. My thanks for an interesting evening, and my deepest apologies for the accident."
Rhys nodded to Godwyn. "We'll follow you down. Edlyn, are you coming?"
He turned and walked down the stairs with a measured pace.
Rhys motioned for Merivel and Edlyn to precede him, then followed them, pulling the trapdoor shut behind him.
Syndra reached the courtyard first ... and Maester Sewell.
"Syndra," he said immediately, "go to Lady Hardy - she needs you. I must see to the Lord - he's had some sort of fit at Winterfell - and insisted on being brought home." He saw his great nephew and beckoned him and Merivel closer. "We must get the Lord to his rooms," he told them. Rhys - organise some way to convey him - the litter will never be brought within doors ... Then we can examine him."
Lady Hardy, meanwhile, had dismounted, and was giving orders to various grooms and underlings. But when she saw Syndra, she gave a nod.
"Lady Celia," Syndra said with a hasty curtsey, "The Maester said you needed me?"
"Ah ... good. There is much to do, mistress, and we must all work together. We are expecting people ... you must prepare rooms, Edlyn will help you ... "
Edlyn, who had by now reached them, dropped her demure curtsey and said, "Yes, Mother."
"Nothing would content my Lord but that a raven must be sent to summon Kenrith home," said Lady Hardy with irritation. "And now your father has been released - for the moment - from his vows to Lord Stark so he will be here too, Syndra. You must see his rooms are ready. And we shall need the major guest rooms prepared too ... And it is also your task to keep Godwyn from getting under everyone's feet and being in the way, as is his usual wont ... "
Syndra's emotions ran the gamut from pleasure at Kenrith's summoning to sheer joy at her father's release to bristling anger at the jab at Godwyn. She held her face steady through all of them, though. "Yes, Lady Aunt," she responded, then asked, "How... how many guests are we expecting?" The real question, of course, was 'What's the occasion,' but she hesitated to ask at the risk of appearing impertinent. Celia could be prickly that way.
Lady Hardy raised a hand to her pale head.
"I don't know ... ten ... twenty ... there'll be half a dozen nobles, and their retainers - I don't =know=, Syndra! Just ... do the best you can."
"Yes, Mother," said Edlyn. She pulled at Syndra's sleeve.
"Come on," she said in a low voice. "When Mother's tired and cross, she'll just be worse if we question her. Afterwards, she might be cross if we've overseen too much - but she'll be too busy with guests coming to do more than scold. Let's find the Steward."
Syndra bobbed a curtsey to Lady Celia and departed with Edlyn. As they walked away, Syndra said in an undertone, "So I wonder if she's planning a funeral... or something else."
"I hope not," said Edlyn. She failed to sound convinced.
Godwyn ignored Lady Celia, heading directly towards the litter and Maester Sewell.
Rhys called for a chair to be brought and two men to carry the chair with Lord Hardy on it up to his rooms.
Merivel moved up alongside Rhys.
Maester Sewell had now drawn the curtain aside and was examining Lord Hardy in the litter.
The Lord of Holdfast was lying on his back, staring upwards with seemingly sightless eyes. His face was reddened even more than usual and each breath he drew was stentorian - almost as though he was asleep and snoring.
"Can you hear me, my Lord?" asked Sewell.
There was no response.
Rhys peered in over Sewell's shoulder. "I called for a chair for his dignity...but looks like we'll have to forgo it. I didn't realize he wasn't conscious. The two men here can carry him up, one on either side."
"That would be best," agreed Sewell. "We should get him to his room as soon as possible ... "
Without a word Godwyn pushed past Sewell and Rhys and gathered his father up in his arms. He straightened up, holding the unconscious man gently against his chest, turned, and carried him unaided into Holdfast.