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Corryn bowed his head in resignation, "As much as I'm certain it will pain you Godwyn, her Ladyship is correct. You've been riding and the day is warm. There is little doubt an infection is pending. You should be attended to immediately, lest you be bedridden for weeks. Or worse yet."

He left the other possibilities hang in the air, not needing to explain further. "I attend you once our business is complete here. I have caused enough worry for one day. There will be no further complicity of woes."

"Aye, then," Godwyn answered with a frown. "If you think it best." Mindful of the proprieties, he nodded his head in the general direction of Ser Anders. "Ser," he said. And then with a nod only vaguely in the direction of Lady Celia. "Madame."

He turned and left the chamber, and went in search of the maester.

He found him in the tower room that was Maester's Sewell's study, laboratory and refuge.

Whereas, on lower floors, the rooms were bulit in segments around the central screw of the spiral stairs, this top level was flat and open - indeed, there was a trapdoor that could be lowered over the staircase, sealing it off and creating one vast room.

Within there was a desk, and several long tables, two of which were covered with charts. Near one window was a curious device, wihich seemed to be circles of glass arranged at irregular intervals in a framework of delicate wrought iron that presented the form of a large open cylinder. Two more of the long tables also held an assortment of glasswork - beakers and alembics and curious devices of copper. On one of the glasswork tables it appeared a second device was being built, akin to the one by the window.

Against the wall a bookcase held more than twenty books - some of which were in the style of one which was open by the charts, its pages half-filled with small, neat handwriting.

Near the bookcase were open shelves on which were arranged a vast variety of phials and small wooden boxes. Pinned to the top were drying herbs.

And there were windows, all with heavy shutters , now open to catch the daylight, while Sewell was carefully measuring a powdered grey glass on a small set of scales. He looked up at Godwn's entrance.

"How now, Master Godwyn! You don't usually seek me out - I presume you're not in search of instruction, eh?"

Godwyn grinned at him, his earlier anger at Lady Celia and Ser Anders already passed away. "Nay, Maester," he said, "No need to try to force the secrets of the world into my head this day." He indicated the bandage about his thigh. "I debated with a bandit. He wanted me dead, and I disagreed. We compromised on a wound."

"Ah," said Sewell, setting down the powder. "Only the one? You were in haste, I must conclude, if you left no other wound behind you." He gestured at the boy. "Well, part those bloody rags you are claiming as breeches and let me see the damage. I see some neat-fingered healer has already supplied you with a bandage. Syndra, was it?"

"Aye. She'll make some lucky man an excellent nurse someday." Godwyn sat so that Sewell could examine the wound.

Sewell was carefully unrolling the bandage to examine the wound.

"Hmm," he said. "It looks to me as though she's made an excellent nurse to one lucky man today already. Without her ministrations, you could have lost a lot of blood - have you been walking or riding? Riding, I'd guess by the way the stitches have pulled. No more riding - or indeed, exercise using that leg for three days - at the end of which time, if no fever has set in, I might relent in my orders. And if you take the preparation I shall prepare for you, avoiding the fever should be not too much of a problem."

Godwyn sighed. "Yes, Maester," he said dutifully.

He was rebandaging the wound as he concluded, and then he moved away to his rack of herbs and bottles, selecting several, and then reaching down a mortar and pestle.

"So," he said. "Name three of the ingredients I have just selected, and tell me the properties of each." He smiled suddenly. "All standard battlefield medicines, Godwyn. You'll improve your chances of survival if you know how to physic yourself, as I've told you before."

Godwyn grinned back at him. "Let's see," he said. "You have nettle and mustard seed, which when made into a poultice will draw off the evil influences and prevent a wound from going bad. In addition, you have selected some of that mouldy bread you swear by." He shook his head. "How bread going bad will prevent flesh from going bad still escapes me." He thinks for a moment. "You also pulled down a bottle that appears to contain firemilk, but you have said that the making of such is beyond my abilities and I should not worry myself over it, although having a bottle about me when I go into battle would be a wise precaution. You have not chosen Myrish Fire, for which I am properly thankful."

Sewell chuckled. "The exigencies of your wound do not call for such drastic measures. But ... yes. You're correct in your ingredients - and a bottle of firemilk in my special glass shall go with you when you ride off to war or tournaments.

"Now, sit you there while I mix this poultice, and tell me what you say of the bandit who attacked you - and the location where he attacked you. Exact, mind you - as I taught you."

Godwyn closed his eyes and leaned back, thinking. "I was heading through the woods towards the village," he said. Couldn't have been more than a quarter hour in at the most. I think I could find the place again. Then a man in black leather came out of nowhere, he has good forestry skills, I didn't know he was there till he grabbed for the bridle. He shouted for aid from someone, I think the name he called was 'Forge.' Something very like that, in any wise. There was someone else moving in the woods, I didn't get a look at him. He pulled a dagger and slashed at me."

Godwyn opened his eyes and gestured at his thigh. "That's when I took this. I choose discretion, and did not stay to argue the matter with him further. So you see, Maester, I am not as hopeless as some say." He grinned again. "Let me see. Then I road directly towards the carriage track. It was not too far before reaching it that I passed their camp. Well concealed, I do not think I would have seen it had my horse not leapt directly over it. This may explain why Anders' men reported not being able to find it. There was bedding, weapons, and a map. Not a map of the forest, it was open country, with water. A lake perhaps."

He frowned, trying to bring back any further details from the momentary glimpse he had had.

"Hmmmm," said Sewell, considering this. "Perhaps ... if you cannot reproduce the map in words ... could you draw it?"

"As when you try to get me to improve my memory by drawing out the battle plans for Robert's Rebellion or the Wars of Conquest? Is this another lesson?" Godwyn asked, and then laughed. "Answer not, I know the reply already. 'All life is a lesson.' I think those must be the Words of the Maesters." He thought for a moment. "I can try drawing it. I do not remember it clearly, but perhaps drawing it will help me recall."

Sewell nodded his approval, and broke off from poultice-making to hand Godwyn a sheet of parchment, an ink well and a quill with a sharpened nib.

"Do your best," he said. "And try to avoid blotches - I might mistake them for features of the landscape."

Godwyn laughed again, and with an intent expression bent over the parchment and began to sketch in what he could remember. He began with light strokes at first, barely visible lines tracing broad outlines of what he could remember, and then moved to filling in the parts that he could clearly remember. He kept Maester Sewell's lessons well in mind - "When trying to recall something do not be misled by what you want to remember. It is better that something is forgotten than that something is falsely remembered."

"Hmm," said Sewell coming over to look. It has a look to me of ... yes."

He walked to the shelves where he kept his impressive collection of books. He paused for a moment, then drew one down and carried it across to the table, then opened it carefully.

"Do you think the map might have been similar to this?"

It was a map of the east of Holdfast - the area around the Long Lake. And yet some of the village names were missing - one was different - and they were written in an old-fashioned hand. The shape of the lake was different too - especially the southern end, where the configuration of the marshes was quite unlike that which Godwyn remembered from his geography lessons ("You need to know the lie of the land if you're to ride out after Wildings, my boy!").

Quite unlike those marshes .... but very like the representation that Godwyn had just drawn on the parchment.

Godwyn nodded slowly. "I think you are right, Maester," he said. "An old map, then. Why would bandits have something like that?"

"A puzzle," agreed Sewell. "Admittedly a well-drawn map is not easy to come by, and - the land changing so little - many might get by with an old map. But this ... is almost an antiquity." He smiled suddenly. "And I do not envy your bandits, Godwyn, if they try to negotiate the marshes of the Long Lake with that!"

"Good riddance to them if they are sucked down in the bogs," Godwyn said. "Maester, what do you make of the fact that the man I saw wore black leather? Few bandits in the North would risk being taken for a deserter from the Wall."

Sewell considered. "I can think of three possible reasons," he said presently. "How would you account for their choice?"

Godwyn considered the question carefully. "Most likely is that he truly was a deserter from the Wall," he said. "He would want to change out of his blacks as soon as he might, but he might well not have had any chance yet. Anyone he approached would know that he was a deserter, and report him. So until he could find and kill someone of his own size who wore clothes he wanted, he would have to stay in his blacks. Another possibility is that he _wants_ anyone who sees him to think he is a deserter from the Wall, although I cannot think why he would want such a thing."

He frowned. "A third reason, you said? What could that be? That he is so far gone from common sense that he does not care what anyone would believe of him, perhaps?"

"Or that he is ignorant," said Sewell. "As one might expect of men who carried such an ancient map.

"Well, here are two more to ponder. One - perhaps they were not hoping to avoid the identification, but to encourage it. What 's the usual response when the Black Watch recruiters come to call on a village?

"And finally, a more prosaic one ... could you, in the darkness of the forest, have been mistaken in the colour of the leather/ Could it have been dark brown?"

Godwyn considered it carefully. "It is possible," he admitted. "But I do not think so. While there are always shadows in the deep forest there were beams of light making their way through the leaves. I would wager a large sum that he wore black."

"Then we can rule out that possibility," said Sewell, showing a gratfying reliance on Godwyn's powers of observation. "What of my other idea? That to move uninterruptedly through the North, the disguise of recruiters might be helpful?"

"It would be a risky thing to try," Godwyn said thoughtfully. "If he did not actively try to recruit it would lead to questions, and if he did recruit what would he do with the men who agreed to join, and wished to follow along with him. I suppose he might say that he was going to be moving further south to recruit more me, and they should go on along North without him... but that would raise questions, too, would it not?"

"Going North maybe," said Sewell thoughtfully. "But travelling South ... they could claim they were looking to recruit in the South ... "

He shook his head. "But who would come from the North?" he said. "There not that much between us and the Wall to nmmake such a disguise necessary ... "

"Lord Umber's men, perhaps? That makes no sense. Or some of the mountain folk. Or..." Godwyn's eyes grew wide. "Wildlings, wearing clothes they took from defeated foes?"

Sewell turned and looked at his student, as though what he had said had suddenly made sense to the Maester too, and then he nodded slowly.

"It might explain why they had such an old map, don't you think? Describe again the man who attacked you, Godwyn. Could he have been a Wilding?"

Godwyn closed his eyes and thought carefully, as the Maester had taught him. "I was riding through the woods. I was somewhat concerned, it had finally occurred to me that I was doing a very foolish thing just to show off." He chuckled slightly. "So you see, Maester, your teaching has not all been in vain. I am capable of realizing when I'm behaving foolishly. Just not in time to avoid doing it." His voice grows serious again. "There were birds singing in the distance, but none nearby. I heard a sound off to one side. I glanced over, and at that moment the man stood on the other side. He was fast, and he moved quietly. He grabbed for the bridle. He was not short, tall enough that it was easy for him to make the try for the bridle, but not quite so tall as Anders. Dark hair, a badly cut beard, looks like he just hacked some of it off with a dagger. Something on his cheek just above the beard, a scar perhaps? Or a birthmark. I'm not sure. Rough skin, he's a man who spends most of his time outdoors. His clothes - there's something about them. Sewn rips, I think, they've been cut or torn and then repaired."

Godwyn opened his eyes. "He could be a Wildling. I think he could."

Sewell looked at him keenly. "Did anyone check the woods afterwards? Were there any signs of your bandits?"

"Anders sent Crastow and some of his men to look for them. They said they couldn't find the camp, nor any sign of bandits."

Sewell nodded. "Which again fits with the notion of their being Wildings," he said. "I doubt if ordinary bandits would be so practised at woodcraft as to leave no traces of their presence." He frowned, looking down at Godwyn's map. "Not unless they had something very important to hide ...

"But what would have drawn them to Holdfast at all? What secrets are we keeping?"

"Oh!" Godwyn says. "Has anyone yet told you of the man that attempted to kill Ser Corryn? That is why I was riding to the village, I had heard that Ser Corryn had been slain. He hadn't, someone had killed another man who was sleeping in his bed. It seems a great coincidence that a murderer is about just as there are bandits in the woods, don't you think?"

"Yes," said Sewell. "A great co-incidence."

The hand that had been working the mortar to crush the poultice ingredients slowed momentarily. "Godwyn - do you know the name of the man who was killed?"

Godwyn thinks back to the conversation in the inn and then in the hall with Lady Celia. "I don't think I ever heard it," he says. "It didn't even occur to me to ask. I'm sorry, Maester."

"No matter," said Sewell. "I daresay we'll be able to learn it easily enough now. It seems possible, I must agree, that your bandit and the murderer were one and the same - or at least of the same company.

"Does Ser Corryn know any more?"

Godwyn grinned. "I'm sure he does," he said. "Doesn't he always know more than he says? I can run ask him to attend you, if you'd like." Godwyn seemed blissfully unaware that running was exactly what the maester had only recently forbid him from doing.

But Sewell hadn't. He regarded Godwyn sternly. "You can hop to the window - on your good leg, mind! - and shout down for a page. Then you can come back and sit still while I apply this poultice to your wound."

Godwyn rose and moved to the window with exaggeratedly careful hops and looked out. "Ho!" he shouted. "Yes, you. Find Ser Corryn and tell him the Maester would have words with him at his convenience." Then he turned, and waving his arms wildly as though struggling to maintain his balance he hopped back to Sewell.

Who was admirably grave as his young student approached.

"Sit down," he instructed. "Now that the poultice is ready, I shall have to unwrap the bandage again."

He suited the action to the words saying, as he did so, "So Syndra rode to the village with you, eh? What did she make of these bandits?"

"Ummm..." Godwyn said. Then he sighed. "Aye, Maester. She and Edlyn both. Though I was being foolish and showing off and I told them to take the carriage trail while I road ahead through the woods. So I was alone when I was attacked. Better, all things considered." He frowned. "Edlyn lied to Anders and told him she and Syndra were with me, and that she was the one who insisted we go through the woods. I do no understand her."

"She is a woman," said Sewell. "Old beyond her years, perhaps, with all the subtlety and guile of her sex. Most women, Godwyn, do not fight with sword and bow. They are not trained to it. But that does not mean they are weaponless. But I shall learn more, of her, no doubt. Her mother tells me that she must join my classes. Do you think she will prove a willing student?"

Godwyn snorted at the idea of Edlyn studying.

He finished the unrapping of the wound and began to apply the poultice. "And why do you think she lied to Ser Anders?"

Godwyn frowns. He's been trying to answer that very question all day. "She says she wants to be sent back to the Vale. She hates it here. Perhaps she thinks that if her mother and uncle think she is too reckless then they will decide she is in too much danger here?"

"That's possible," agreed Sewell. "And doubtless you'll be eager to assist her departure in any way you can, eh?"

There was a slight twinkle in his eye as he looked at Godwyn.

Godwyn flushed. "She is not nearly so bad as I thought she would be," he muttered, looking down and paying close attention to the work Sewell was doing on his wound.

"No," said Sewell. "I suspect she's infinitely worse." Then he smiled. "I'm joking, my boy. From the very little I've seen, I suspect she's a dainty rogue in porcelain. Have a care lest she work her own witchcraft on you."

Godwyn looked confused.

He began to apply the poultice. "This should sting a little, but will then feel warming as it draws any ill humours from the would. Not that I suspect the dagger was poisoned. You'd be more adversely affected already if it had been - a bandit would choose a swift-acting poison. Why do I think that?"

Coversations with Sewell had a tendency to turn instructive.

Godwyn considered the question. "A bandit wants to strike, steal, and flee," he ventured. "A poison that takes a long time to affect his victim will do him no good. By then the bandit will either be dead or captured, or else will have prevailed and already be off with his loot."

"Indeed," said Sewell. "However, although I do not think we have any need to fear poison, I think we should treat this wound gained in battle as a battlefield wound and make sure ill humours have no chance to set in. But I shall leave you to treat it yourself once the bandaging is finished. When you are a proper Squire and, perhaps, as a Knight, you will have to put my lessons into effect - so perhaps you should begin now."

He began to wrap the bandage back in place carefully.

"Have you seen your Lord Father this past sevenday?"

Godwyn shook his head. "No, Maester," he said quietly. "Father has not been dining in the Great Hall, and he does not send for me very often these days." His words implied that once his father had sent for him more frequently, but Sewell knew perfectly well that had never been the case.

Sewell nodded, without commenting on Godwyn's words.

"I believe he misses your brother," he said quietly. "He thinks of him more than he does of ... the child who will be among us shortly."

"Good," Godwyn said shortly.

The page, bristling with self-importance, hurried across the courtyard and held open the door of the Tower for Ser Corryn.

"They're on the top floor," he said.

The top floor was where Maester Sewell kept his workroom, accessible only by a trapdoor in the floor. The room was open, with circular stone walls and a wooden floor. Windows were spaced evenly all around, all with heavy shutters which could be closed against the cold night air.

Near one window was a curious device, circles of glass arranged at irregular intervals in a framework of delicate wrought iron that presented the form of a large open cylinder.

Most of the room was occupied by a desk and several long tables, two of which were covered with charts. Two more of the long tables held an assortment of glasswork - beakers and alembics and curious devices of copper. On one of the glasswork tables it appeared a second far-eyes was being built, akin to the one by the window.

Against the wall a curving bookcase held more than twenty books - some of which were in the style of one which was open on the table, its pages half-filled with small, neat handwriting. Near the bookcase were open shelves containing a vast variety of phials and small wooden boxes. Pinned to the top of the shelves were drying herbs.

At the moment, Maester Sewell was engaged in completing a bandage around Godwyn's injured leg. When he head Corryn's arrival, he straightened and turned towards him.

"Ah, thank you for joining us, Ser Corryn. And very much alive, I see. Perhaps you are to be congratulated?"

Corryn maneuvered his way through the tower’s cramped collection, pausing occasionally when his curiosity got the best of him. “I don’t know if congratulations are in order, but I appreciate the sentiment.”

He picked up a fragile test-tube and examined it closely, “It’s not often that you call upon me, Maester Sewell. Indeed, I was quite shocked to get your summons. The boy was quite adamant about the whole thing.”

He set the test-tube down and nodded to Godwyn, “You’ll live I presume, m’lord?”

Godwyn grinned at him, "For the moment, Ser. I would not dare to die after Maester Sewell has spent good time and effort on me."

Corryn grinned back, finding a place to sit. “And impugn the good Maester’s skills by doing so? No, I think that a poor idea. Sewell would undoubtedly raise thee from the darkness only to throttle you once more. But jesting aside, I am glad to see you hale and hardy, my young lord.”

"My student had disturbing news about an attack on you," said Sewell. "And he said that another man was killed in your stead - although he did not know the name."

There was a faint note of interrogation in the Maester's voice.

Corryn flipped the test-tube into the air again and idlely caught it. “Godwyn was correct. The knight in question was a Ser Fouchon. Although he did not have long to live to begin with, someone shortened his life considerably. They also attempted to do the same with mine when I went to the murder scene, which also happened to be my bedroom.”

The glass spun into the air once more, coming down in Corryn’s other hand- only just, it would seem. “They were hired assassins, but not as skilled as I would have assumed from my gentle chat with one of them.”

His eyes drifted around the room, scanning the shadows before returning to the pair before him. “Can I trust my words shall never leave this room?”

Godwyn frowned. "I cannot promise that I will not tell my brother anything that affects the security of Holdfast or the Hardy family, Ser Corryn," he said. "With that one reservation, I swear silence."

“I would not dream of asking otherwise, Godwyn,” Corryn said honestly. “It is not the true Hardys that worry me.” He did not have to explain his words further.

"You have my promise," said Maester Sewell. "And none have ever said that I have broken my word."

There was a pride in the way he spoke.

“I thank you good Maester and believe your oath as if it were my own,” Corryn said, pulling his chair over to them. With one final look at the shadows, he withdrew the ragged parchment hidden inside his sleeve. When he opened the parchment, three gold coins slid onto the table. A roaring lion was plainly visible on each, despite a freckling of dried blood.

“You will hear a rumor throughout the castle and lands that my would-be assassin had been paid with Tollet coin,” Corryn began. “I suggest for all our purposes would be best served if that rumor continued, if not blossomed.” His eyes met Godwyn, “I suspect you would again in this? The more weapons you have in the near future, the better served you will be.”

Godwyn nodded.

He touched one of the coins, spinning it around to face Sewell, “But as you can see, it was the Lion’s gold that paid for blood this day. And I do not believe it was mine they sought. Ser Fouchon had hired me to take me north, using this map as a guide. And this, I believe, is what the assassins sought.”

Corryn carefully flattened the map out for them to peruse. “If you would be so kind Maester Sewell, I would like to review some of your maps of the Long Lake; the Ghost Fens, in particular. I know them well enough to piece this all together once I have the correct reference points.”

It was only the corner of a map. But it bore an unmistakable resemblance to the one that Godwyn had just drawn for Maester Sewell.

"It's the bandits' map!" Godwyn exclaimed. "Maester, isn't that the same map? Or one very similar?" He looked up at Corryn. "The bandits in the woods, they had a map in their camp. It was a very old map of Long Lake and the marshes."

Sewell shot a somewhat pained look at his student, gave a little sigh - and then nodded his confirmation.

Corryn raised an eyebrow and nodded. “I suspected as much. Ser Fouchon acted very nervous when I inquired as to his purpose in the Ghost Fens. He probably stole this map or a copy from the bandits’ employer. And I use the term ‘bandit’ loosely. They are more likely to be hirelings of the Lannisters traveling in disguise”

He leaned back in the chair, eyes glittering with excitement. “Take a good look, my son. Do you think theirs was a copy of this? And how complete was it? I know you weren’t thinking straightly at the time, but a man died for this.”

Sewell was frowning.

"Do you believe the Lion coin belonged to the brigand? My experience of such matters is not wide, but if I were out to kill a man, I would not be carrying gold with me - still less my employer's gold. Is it not more likely the villain you killed was not bringing the gold, but taking it away?"

Corryn worried his lip for a moment, considering this. The day had been filled with so many lies that he was beginning to get them interwoven with truths. He chuckled brightly, “And that good sir is why you are the Maester and I am the bubbling knight. I had never considered the gold to be Fouchon’s. It would make far more sense, I must admit.”

He lightly poked Godwyn in the ribs, “This is the reason you should read more often, my boy.”

Sewell smiled faintly. "Not all my lessons are to be found between the pages of a book, as Godwyn knows well, I think."

[Corryn] leaned forward again, examining the coins more closely. “Well, I suspect this was to be my payment for services rendered then. Now I don’t feel so bad relieving my attacker of them.

“But this returns to the question, why would Fouchon want to go to the Ghost Fens? Doubly so, considering his lackluster condition. Lannister gold, assassins, strange maps. An adventure is brewing, if I do say so myself.”

"The man I saw was wearing black," Godwyn said. "The Maester and I were trying to decide why a bandit in the North would wear black, which could make someone mistake him for a deserter from the Wall. We thought that they might have been Wildlings." His brow creases in confusion. "So Ser Fouchon had the map and the Lannister gold, and then the bandits killed him and stole the map? Except for one who stayed behind, or else came back, to kill you? Why?"

“A good question, Godwyn,” Corryn said. “I suspect that the assassin may have been hurried, or even interrupted, in his grim work. Fouchon held onto this part of the map with a death grip. I needed to pry it from his cold fingers. Part of the map, as you can see, is torn. Probably the work of a hurried attacker.

"I didn’t find the remainder on him, which may mean he returned. Perhaps he realized his mistake and returned to retrieve the remainder of the map and I simply got in the way. Or he wished to silence me, lest Fouchon had imparted me with more information than his crew wished known. Or he had an accomplice. It usually takes two to hold a man down.”

He reached into his cloak and withdrew a heavy seal and set it down. “This, however, is what truly perplexes me. The man was carrying the official seal of the Lions. When I prodded him for his employer’s name, he pointed to the bag containing this. If Fouchon was a hedge knight as he said, perhaps he stole the map from the Lannisters and they sent some men-at-arms to retrieve it. Or whatever it refers to.”

"The map," said Sewell. "Now ... the map is interesting. It's old, and no longer accurate. I pity the man who uses it to follow the paths of the Ghost Fens. But Lannister gold could buy a good map that would give a more accurate portrayal of the Fens as they are now. Or, better than a map, a good guide." He looked meaningfully at Ser Corryn. "So ... the map was not meant to guide Ser Fouchon into the Fens. It was meant to guide him to something else - with your help."

He stiffened suddenly - there was the sound of eager footsteps on the stairs. And then a voice ... from beneath the closed trapdoor.

"We have to go up there?" asked Edlyn plaintively.

"Yes. We do," Syndra's voice answered stubbornly from below the trap door. Then there came a firm rap on the door. "Maester Sewell? We'd like to check on Godwyn, if we may. Is he decent?" Syndra called.

Down below, Syndra looked back at Edlyn and shrugged sheepishly. She felt strange just barging in and that was the only excuse she could think of.

Godwyn rolled his eyes. "Girls!" he muttered.

Maester Sewell sighed. "I am with you on that, Godwyn," he said ruefully. Then he looked across at Ser Corryn, to see what the Riverwolf wanted to do.

Corryn immediately gathered up his contributions to the conversation, gesturing for Sewell to conceal Godwyn’s notes. “Syndra I trust with my life,” he explained. “The other girl, I wouldn’t trust as far as I can comfortably spit a rat. So not a word of this to them.”

He sighed faintly, “And best grow accustomed to it now, Godwyn. Girls become women. There is no escaping them. And we love them for it.”

He nodded to Sewell to allow the girls up.

"Godwyn," said Sewell, surveying the depradations to the young Hardy's breeches, "my spare robe is over there, hanging on the hook by the herbs. I suggest you put it on."

Then he strode forward and threw back the trapdoor.

"Come on up, girls. Godwyn is repaired - although he needs to be persuaded to rest his leg for a few days."

Syndra scampered up the remaining stairs to enter the room. "I think we can manage that," she grinned as she turned back to offer a hand to Edlyn.

Edlyn rose gracefully until she reached the top step, and then through onto the floor. Leaving the work of putting the trapdoor back into place to other more mundane (and probably male) hands, she looked around with fascination, until her eye fell on Godwyn.

"Godwyn!" she said, and took a step towards him. "Why are you dressed like ... what has happened?"

Corryn made way for the concerned girls, allowing them to fawn over the wounded knight. His lupine smile grew with mischievous intent. “Brace yourself, dear Edlyn, for the wound was far more serious than we first surmised. This day has given our young Hardy a taste of his own mortality. As such, Godwyn has decided to take the robe and don the collar. There’s no dissuading him. I fear. I have already tried, but he appears quite adamant on the subject.

“But perhaps your feminine charms might dissuade him still, Lady Edlyn?”

Syndra snorted in amusement.

"I don't think Godwyn listens to women at =all=," said Edlyn tartly, and her glance at Godwyn suggested that while she was not going to bring up in front of adults the real truth of who had and who hadn't ridden through the woods, she was still exercising her right to say, "I told you so". "In fact," she added, " I am sure that nothing would so discourage him from such vows as the knowledge that I thought he should take them."

She was close enough to Godwyn now to add in an undertone, "Unless it was my mother or Uncle Anders urging you on."

Godwyn snorted a laugh that sounded amazingly like the sound Syndra had just made, then tried to look innocent.

Chuckling under his breath, Corryn gave Godwyn a playful wink and turned to go. If anything, he appeared to be trying to avoid Syndra and making a poor attempt at hiding his discomfort. He briefly looked over his shoulder at Sewell, “If I may, I would like to speak with you again in morning.”

"Wait," Syndra said to Corryn impatiently, wondering to herself what his problem was today. "I wanted to ask you... Odette said you..." she winced, "killed that man at the inn. The one that tried to kill you. Do you think he was with the men that attacked Godwyn?" She turned to the rest of the group as well, "And did the forester see anything? Did anyone ask him?"

Corryn paused, dutifully following the girl’s instructions as if he would someone beyond her years. He sighed lightly, looking to the door and then back to her. He blushed at her reaction to the thought of him killing someone. Little did she know the true extent of the man’s demise and his hand in it. He wondered if she would consider him her Old Wolf still if she knew that truth.

“Yes, we believe he was,” he said lightly. He knelt down in front of her, taking her hand in his. His smile weakened, almost pained. “But just now isn’t the time to discuss this, Little Bear. I can’t go into why, but I beg your trust in this.”

Edlyn had turned and was listening to this - when her eyes suddenly widened. She looked at Godwyn, as though about to say something ... and then she lowered her eyes to become the very model of a polite demure young lady.

Syndra glanced around at the other silent men in the room, then back at Corryn. She was secretive enough herself to recognize when people were keeping secrets. She didn't like it. "As you wish," she said tautly, her blue eyes becoming like ice as she pulled her hand away.

Corryn flinched under her gaze and then sighed deeply. She may as well have slapped him for the pained expression he gave her. With his back to the rest of the group, he tried to gesture toward Edlyn with his eyes. He mouthed a singular word to her, “Celia.” He didn’t know if she understood or care, but either way he let her go.

"Godwyn, I'm glad to see you're all right," she said as she started down the stairs. "If you'll all excuse me, I'm going to see that the forester returned safely."

Godwyn shook his head. "Girls," he muttered.

Edlyn shot a swift look at him, a half smile, and then she said aloud, "If you will excuse me," and she hurried to follow Syndra.

Sewell was watching both the girls thoughtfully.

Syndra paused on the stairs with only her head and shoulders above the level of the trap door and glared at Godwyn. "Yes, that is what it's about, isn't it?" she shot back icily. Then she continued down out of sight.

Continued in Girls Together

“Bollocks and damnation,” Corryn muttered, throwing up his hands. He turned to Godwyn for a moment and gave him an exasperated look. “We’ll talk more on the morrow. Get some rest. I think we’ll all need it.

“Now I need to find Odette before Anders does something I’ll have to make him regret.”

And he too descended from the tower, right on the girl’s heels. He tried to catch Syndra’s eye, started to say something, and then muttered a curse to himself again. This was not how he’d hoped this night and reunion would transpire. But did they ever?

Continued in Corryn in the Courtyard

"And there," said Sewell, "you see the true problem with women, Godwyn. Their power to disrupt even the simplest of occasions is quite extraordinary.

Godwyn nodded, still staring at the trap door in confusion.

"And what did you think of what Ser Corryn told us, before he yielded to his eternal weakness for the ladies?"

Godwyn considered the question, feeling oddly maesterly in his borrowed robe. "Well," he said. "It sounds as though perhaps this hedge night had some dealings with the Lannisters, but we don't know what they may have been. Then these Wildlings killed him and stole his gold and the map. But how did the Wildlings know he had the map in the first place? It's all very confusing."

Sewell nodded. "And we may never have the right of it. But I wonder ... did the map start with the Lannisters? This hedge knight - would he have been their tool of choice?" He shrugged. "We may never know. And your rendition of the map - while good for indentification purposes - will not be sufficienmt to guide us. But a creditable effort nonetheless."

Godwyn nodded complacently. "I'm no mapmaker, Maester, I know that well. And anyone who ventures into the marshland without a native guide is a fool, in any case."

"Quite," said Sewell. "But whether, if we wished to follow this map, Ser Corryn would be our best guide, I am undecided. He is, after all, a Manderley, not a Hardy."

His words carried a wealth of meanings.

Godwyn looked at him silently for a few moments, thinking over his comments. "Not a Hardy," he says finally, "But not a Tollet, either."

"Not a Tollet," agreed Sewell. "And that's in his favour. But remember, Godwyn - there may be worse things than Tollets in the world."

Categories: WinterChillsGameLogs, CastleHoldfast

Page last modified on January 07, 2007, at 01:29 PM