In the room they shared, Edlyn was shaking Syndra, her golden hair tumbling about her face.
"Syndra - what happened to you last night?"
Syndra merely groaned and pulled the covers up over her head.
"Syndra - people are stirring, and your father will be back from his vigil soon. What were you doing? Rhys came here, you know, looking for you! Doesn't he realise how dangerous that might be?"
"Huh? Oh..." Edlyn's mention of Ser Godfrey seemed to rouse Syndra... a little. She rolled over, groaning again, and peeked out at Edlyn from under the quilt. Her eyes were groggy and her hair hung in a bedraggled mass over her face. She pushed it away with a rake of her long fingers as she struggled for consciousness.
"Rhys? Oh. Yeah. I saw him. He found me." With effort, Syndra pushed herself up on her elbow, then raised her body to sitting, still not quite able to speak in coherent sentences. "Did you find your mother?"
Edlyn shook her head. "No - she might have been with Lord Hardy. I didn't like to knock there. But she'll probably be angry with me ... that's if she's not too upset about all the things that ... "
There was a knock at the door. Edlyn, casting a look at Syndra, went to answer it, for she was dressed already.
She turned from the door, holding it ajar.
"Syndra - it's Eryk," she said. "He wants to escort us to the hall."
Syndra pulled the quilt around to cover herself in case anyone could see from the door. Her face fell when Edlyn announced who it was. "Tell him I'm not ready," she said crisply. "I'll meet him down there. I want to check in on my father first."
Edlyn looked at her for a second, and there was suddenly something in her eyes - perhaps hurt, perhaps anger.
"As my Lady pleases," she said, and then she turned and marched from the room, closing the door in what could only be called a pointed manner.
Syndra heard her voice outside, speaking to Eryk ... and then both of their voices growing quieter as they moved away.
Syndra sighed heavily. She hadn't meant to be snippy with Edlyn, but she was just so tired and Eryk was the last person she wanted to see. She'd apologize to Edlyn later.
With a huge yawn and stretch, Syndra heaved herself out of bed, shivering as her feet touched the cold stone floor. She washed and dressed in a hurry, choosing a woolen dress in Hardy colors that was nice enough for court, but not too elaborate. She did not want Eryk thinking she was going out of her way on his account.
In fact, she did not want Eryk thinking anything at all. He had started to get to her, to melt her heart, last night at dinner. She could not allow that to happen again. She was still determined to do everything she could to avoid this marriage. At least, after last night, she now had a strategy.
She brushed her hair thoroughly and started to put it up in a bun. With a determined set of her chin, though, she changed her mind. Instead, she pulled the front strands back into a small silver clasp, brushing the ends into the mass of soft honey-brown curls that cascaded down her back. She would not allow these Boltons to rule her life. If Herys touched her again, she'd knife him herself.
After buckling on the wrist sheath and practicing her draw a few times, Syndra walked briskly to her father's rooms. He might not be back from his vigil yet, but if he was, she wanted to walk with him to breakfast.
Her father's room was deserted - but the maid who was changing the fragrant rushes on the floor told Syndra that he had sent a message that he would be coming to the Great Hall to break his fast.
When she left his room, she saw Eryk Bolton propped against the wall. When he saw her, he raised his hands in a gesture of wary defence.
"I know you don't want to see me, but your father wanted you escorted - and Godwyn's not around - he went to the woods with Kenrith, I think. So if you don't want to talk to me, I'll just follow at a respectful distance, like a bodyguard."
Syndra smiled, her face a mask of innocence. "I'm sorry. It wasn't that I didn't want to see you. I overslept, so I wasn't ready yet." She started walking toward the Great Hall, gesturing for Eryk to walk beside her if he wished, though not too close. "Did you and Godwyn manage to see the sellswords last night?" she asked, keeping her voice suitably light so as not to seem too interested.
He glanced at her.
"We did. Have you spoken to your cousin yet about it? Or did he send you a message?"
"No, I haven't seen him yet. What did you find out?" she asked.
He shook his head. "I fear ... the leader of these sellswords is known to me. Well - more than known. He's my half-brother."
"Really," Syndra said, turning to look at him and acting surprised. "I had hoped you might recognize him but I certainly didn't expect that."
"I should have realised," said Eryk. "I should ... he has always resented me, you see. As he resented our brother. He saw how Ramsey Snow was in my Uncle's favour - that's Lord Bolton and his son. He couldn't see why our father could not treat him similarly. He ran away when he was twelve ... I suppose I should be more sympathetic. But he had a vicious streak when he was a boy; he made me hate him and fear him then."
He was silent for a moment and then said, "Last night ... I realised he hadn't changed. And neither have I . I ... I fear him still. Too many dark memories come with him."
"Yes, I'm sure," Syndra said with some sympathy, though in her heart, she reminded herself not to tread too far down that path. It was likely all a lie. Or was Evan the one who was lying? She did her best to keep their stories separate and distinct. She wanted to hear both to look for discrepancies.
Mostly, though, she wanted her father. Her pace picked up slightly.
"I wonder why he came back now," Syndra mused out loud, to see if Eryk had any answers.
"I would say to torment me," said Eryk grimly, "but that would be a little too convenient. It might be no more than co-incidence that brought him here - and then, when he found Grunter, he lashed out. He does that, you see. Well, he used to. When we were children, the Septa was scared of his rages."
"He lived with you? You had the same septa?" Syndra asked. It was unusual, though not unheard of, for bastard children to be raised in the same household with trueborn ones. Syndra had another reason for asking, though. It was a discrepancy.
"He visited," said Eryk abruptly. "My dear old Septa ... I wonder where she is now? She used to dread his coming almost as much as I did."
As they walked down the corridor, they saw Godwyn approaching.
"Godwyn!" Syndra greeted him. Though she tried, she was unable to completely hide the relief in her voice. "Have you seen my father yet this morning?"
"He's down at breakfast," Godwyn answered as he joined them, Volf following quietly behind him. "Along with your father," he nodded at Eryk. It wasn't quite a greeting, but it wasn't overtly hostile, either.
Syndra turned to look behind her. "Volf, what are you doing here? How did you get out of the dungeon?" she asked, pleasantly surprised.
Volf shuffled his feet, clearly embarrassed, and looked at Godwyn.
"After you came," he said, "Master Godwyn here came to visit us too - and he accepted my parole. I'm under his guard."
Sensing Volf's discomfort, she smiled encouragingly. "Better him than Anders," she said.
Eryk turned and looked at Syndra. "You visited the dungeons?" he said slowly. "But that was ... dangerous!"
He frowned suddenly. "Did you speak with my brother too?" he asked.
Syndra started to answer, but Godwyn spoke up first.
Godwyn gave Volf the look he'd give a puppy who'd just had an accident on a prized rug. "Aren't you supposed to keep quiet?" he asked.
Volf turned bright crimson and stared down hard at the ground, the bread he held drooping in his hand.
Then Godwyn turned back to Syndra, "And just what were you doing in the dungeons, anyway?" he demanded. "Haven't you gotten in enough trouble?" Then he looked puzzled. "Rhys is downstairs," he said slowly. "Not in his tower at all."
Syndra glared at Godwyn sharply, but held her temper. "Edlyn insisted that she had to see the sellsword," she explained curtly. "She had spoken with Tamm earlier in the evening and wondered if it was the same man. Somehow she had some fool idea that it was all her fault. I couldn't stop her - you know how she gets - and I couldn't let her go alone. She did most of the talking."
"Where is she, anyway?" she asked Eryk, completely avoiding the subject of Rhys. "Didn't she go down with you?"
Eryk shook his head. "She came out and said that you were going to see your father - and then she excused herself. She seemed a little upset about something ... " He shrugged. "My brother has that effect on people. Did he tell you who he was?"
"I don't think that was what she was upset about," Syndra said with certainty. "And no, he didn't say who he was."
"Ah well," said Eryk. "He could hardly have hoped to avoid being recognised by someone, eventually. Did you say the young Maester is out of his Tower, Godwyn? I'm glad to hear it - has my father shown an uncommon degree of mercy?"
Godwyn shrugged. "I didn't ask about the reasons," he confessed. "I didn't even realize it was odd until just now. I was eager to... uhhh..." he glanced at Syndra, then back at Eryk, and did not finish the thought.
Syndra looked at Godwyn pointedly. "Go on...," she prompted.
Godwyn shrugged. "I wanted to be certain you were all right," he said. "And that no one was bothering you." He glanced at Eryk again.
Syndra's expression softened and she smiled slightly. "I appreciate your concern, cousin," she said sincerly. "So far, Master Bolton here has been a perfect gentleman. And Rhys is a trusted friend. There's naught to fear from him."
Eryk smiled faintly. "So," he said. "If you've satisfied yourself that I'm not about to ravish your cousin, shall we all go and have something to eat? Or do you want us all to start hunting for your stepsister?"
Godwyn shrugged. "She's probably being yelled at by her mother for something or other," he said. "I say we go eat."
Syndra had already started off without them. "I agree. And Edlyn might even be there by now," she said over her shoulder. With Syndra's long strides, anyone who aspired to bodyguard duty had to hustle to keep up.
A few more minutes brought them to the Great Hall, where various people were seated at or gathered by the High Table. Lady Celia was speaking with Merivel and Rhys, Kenrith was eating, and Ser Herys and Ser Godfrey were seated together. Ser Godfrey looked up when Syndra entered and smiled at her with some weariness.
Of Edlyn there was no sign.
Syndra thanked Eryk and Godwyn, a clear dismissal, and approached the high table, her own weary smile belying her quick step. She circled the table on the side opposite Ser Herys to come to Godfrey's elbow, then placed her hands lovingly on his lean shoulders from behind and kissed his cheek. She didn't care if Lady Celia or the Boltons thought such a display of affection unseemly. She simply wanted to.
Godwyn chuckled, and headed back to his abandoned plate. He sat down and picked up his plate, holding it out to Volf to take what he wanted before Godwyn resumed eating.
Volf took some more meat and then retreated to gnaw it. Godwyn's favourite dog, jealous that Godwyn should be feeding someone else first, nudged insistently at his master's knee. The others were waiting their turn - which earned a disapproving look from Lady Celia.
"Good morrow, Father," Syndra greeted Ser Godfrey as she took the chair next to him. She smiled and nodded greetings to the others at the table, except Ser Herys. To him, she simply nodded. Syndra was dressed in a simple woolen gown in Hardy colors, tastefully embroidered with silver vines at the sleeves and hem. It was nice enough for court, but not ostentatious. The frontmost locks of her honey-brown hair were pulled back to blend with the cascade that streamed down her back. They were fastened there with a silver clasp - one that probably only Godfrey would recognize as having once belonged to her mother.
Kenrith nodded to his cousin as she first looked in his direction as she fixed her plate.
Godfrey smiled warmly at her and pulled across a flagon of yppocras towards her. "Here. We're almost done - but if you will excuse me," and he glanced around the gentlemen gathered at the table, "I would like to spend a few minutes with my daughter. It's a long time since we broke our fast together."
Ser Herys rose with a nod. "Come, Eryk," he said. Eryk Bolton cast a regretful look at the table, snatched a chunk of beef, and followed him.
Syndra cast a grateful glance at the Boltons as they departed. She poured a cup of yppocras and began serving herself some ham.
Kenrith nodded as others left the table, and rose as well. He carried his cup with him as he moved down to where Mal and Jayne sat. Mal had something to tell him, he could tell, and he had questions as well... he hoped that they matched.