The next few days were an emotional rollercoaster. The earrings showed no sign of poison, to her relief, but the maester was quick to point out that many poisons were untraceable. The rest of the news, however, was all bad. Desmond had gone on some no doubt noble-seeming but typically rash mission to get himself killed and was now being held in the Skyreach dungeons, & poor Henred was dead, another innocent victim of senseless political violence. She had spent many days with Henred and Ria, working with the horses or just preferring to ride as far away from the Keep as she could, the distance and their simple company being a most welcome respite. She would definitely miss him. As for her wayward cousin, she was told that Lady Farra had taken to her rooms but there was no answer when she went there to inquire; no sound at all, in fact. She finally went back to Maester Llewellyn seeking an update on Desmond, only to be told not to worry, everything was being taken care of, all while being gently but firmly ushered out of the room.
She was sick of politics and she was sick to death of death. With nothing else to do, she spent some time with Ria in Lonetree, sharing their loss. Ria told her of the offer she’d received to go to King’s Landing from the knight, Bennyn. She was very excited and Charlotte found herself drawn again to the idea of getting away. The rest of her time she spent in the kitchens. Her mother was a fantastic cook and although she followed her recipes to the letter, she could never quite capture the caliber of her mother’s dishes. At least she was being productive and she preferred the simple honesty and wisdom of the cooks to the convoluted politics of her own life. For a few days, Ingvar would stop in each morning to pick up breakfast for himself and the prisoner, Perrin. She still found it hard to believe that one of their own had massacred all those villagers and, even if he hadn’t done it himself, been involved with the people who had killed Henred. Ingvar would share no information, of course, but it made no difference to her-innocent people were dead and she hoped everyone involved was soon parted from their head.
She also noticed her sister-in-law’s lady-in-waiting requesting a very specific breakfast for her mistress of weak broth, tea and toasted bread. After several days of the same breakfast, she carried the tray to Gwendolyn’s rooms herself to check on her. The weak invitation when she knocked matched the haggard young woman inside. She was greeted warmly enough, until the tray was close enough for her to smell the food-then she clapped one hand over her mouth, the other over her stomach and disappeared into the next room. Charlotte placed the tray across the room and after a few minutes Gwendolyn reappeared, looking another shade paler and mumbling apologies.
“No need for apologies,” Charlotte said, once they were both seated. “I just wanted to make sure you were well. How long have you been ill? Have you summoned the maester?”
Gwendolyn was studiously folding and unfolding a handkerchief. She glanced at Charlotte. “I am not ill,” she finally answered.
“I see,” Charlotte replied, as understanding dawned. “I suppose congratulations are in order.” In truth, given her own misgivings about having children, she wasn’t sure what she was feeling the news.
“Yes,” Gwendolyn answered weakly, “I suppose.”
“How long have you known?”
“Not long, a few weeks.”
“And the maester says you are well?”“I am tired often but otherwise well, yes, aside from the mornings but maester Llewellyn says that will pass soon.”
Charlotte nodded. “That’s good.” It was clear that something besides morning sickness was troubling her sister-in-law, as she kept her eyes on the floor and continued to unfold and refold her handkerchief.
“Do you think….” Gwendolyn glanced at her again. Charlotte met her eyes and motioned for her to continue. “Do you think my Lord will be pleased?”
She knew what Gwendolyn was asking and tried to answer her as gently but honestly as she could. “I think Andros will be pleased, yes. But there are no easy answers in our world, Gwendolyn. Decisions were made, for you and Andros both, just as one day you will make decisions for your child. Choice is a luxury we are not often afforded; we do our duty and hope for the best. But even when reality doesn’t perfectly match our dream, we can still find joy, and friendship, and can still appreciate the safety and satability of your position in which to raise your heir. You’ll make fine parents to my little niece or nephew, you’ll see.” She wasn’t sure if her words helped at all but Gwendolyn smiled and nodded. Charlotte left her to try to eat and rest, grateful that it wasn’t yet her time to face this reality.