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While Aerin and Niko went out to hunt with Shade, Ranulf went down to the stream where they would collect water for supper. Tyek and Eron had gone with him; they would see no harm came to the boy.

Now, at last, the Septa came out onto the step of the wagon and stood for a moment, her face tilted up to catch the last few rays if the setting sun. It was the first time Derron had seen her since they had left Clearwater.

Derron was brushing his horse down while it had some oats from its feedbag. He did his best to smile at her and said, "I hope the journey is not too uncomfortable for you."

She glanced at him, and then spoke, a little drily, "I could have made a shorter and a worse journey if my Lord had so chosen. I can bear bouncing inside a wagon for a few days. Besides ... by non tomorrow, we'll be far enough from Clearwater that it surely won't matter if I show my face - will it?"

"I should not think so. And it will make the journey that much more enjoyable," replied the smith. "Is there anything I can get for you at this time?"

Her face softened a little. The Septa was not a young woman, but she was still handsome.

"No," she said. "Nothing at the moment. At least ... nothing that you can get me." She hesitated and then asked softly, "How is the boy?"

Derron shrugged and said, "Fine, so far as I can tell." He finished brushing down his horse and asked, "And you? Prepared for the rigors ahead?"

"Rigors?" There was a ugly little laugh in her voice. "Dealing with the Lannisters in King's Landing during the Sack - that was rigorous. Marshend ... dullness can be merciful, you know."

"Always a bright side to things with you, eh?" Derron actually smiled and said, "I'm sorry how things are turning out. But I'll do my best to see you all have everything you might need."

"Thank you," she said, turning to face him fully. "There's one thing I would ask of you. Help Lord Draupaud not to think too harshly of his son."

Derron forwned and said, "I'm afraid there is little more I can do. We are fortunate things are not worse for the lad." He reddened. "I'm sorry. I did not mean to make light of your situation. I should say he is lucky you made the claim you did, else it would have gone much worse for him."

The Septa nodded. "I know. I believe ... he is not a bad man. The gods dealt him a cruel hand and bade him play." She sighed. "In Marshend ... how shall we live? As smallfolk? Our entry will suggest something more."

Derron winced. This was the one area he was completely prepared. "His Lordship said something about holdings nearby. I think you shall be overseeing them." He paused, then said, "Now if I can just recall what those holdings are..."

"I daresay someone will tell us," said the Septa. She sounded amused now. Then she raised an arm in greeting. "Ah ... here comes supper."

It was Niko, striding across the meadow with rabbits at his belt - and the two guards, returning from the river with water and with Ranulf too.

Page last modified on June 21, 2006, at 04:48 PM