Prologue:

"Who would pass the Bloody Gate?"

The challenge rang out sharply and the Hound sent his answer back as strongly. "The bloody Hound! Sandor Clegane and his…" He looked down at Arya and she raised her eyebrows at him. What was she to him at this moment? He hesitated, then finished, "...traveling companion, Arya Stark, niece to your Lady Lysa Arryn."

The guard bowed his head for a moment. "Then I offer my condolences. Lady Arryn died three days ago."

The Hound froze, all his expectations so dashed that he couldn't react. Not so Arya. She burst out laughing, cackling really, and the guards all traded glances as she looked up at the big man by her side and then bent over, her laughter echoing around the pass. It was the looks on the guard's faces that brought the Hound out of his shock-their mingled disapproval and mounting anger at Arya's behavior caused him concern and he hissed at her, "Shut the fuck up." She gulped and put her hands over her mouth, still giggling, and he shook his head at her, then called up to the guards, "In that case we'll be on our way."

"That you will not," the head guard called back. "Lady Arryn is dead but her husband, Petyr Baelish, is Lord Protector of the Vale and will wish to see his wife's niece."

The Hound blanched and Arya, seeing his reaction, clenched her fists and yelled, "I don't wish to see him!" She pulled out Needle and brandished it, scowling up at the men on top of the gate.

The guard motioned with his hand and the archers along the road bent their bows. "I don't care what becomes of your companion, Lady Stark, but come up to the Eyrie you must and will."

"Now you've done it," the Hound muttered. "Put that thing away."

"I'm not afraid of them!" said Arya defiantly.

"Put it away, I tell you! We can't fight our way out of here-they'll shoot me and take you before we get ten feet." The Hound looked up at the guards as Arya reluctantly sheathed her sword. "We will come up." They started forward and he spoke with a quiet urgency that held the girl's full attention. "Littlefinger has no love for me and he has always craved money. He'll probably sell me to the Lannisters."

"Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?" she asked bitterly.

"Keep your voice down!" The Hound looked apprehensively at the men opening the gate. "I don't expect you to feel anything for me but if he sells me, I want you to get away. Stick somebody with your pretty blade if you have to, but run as far and as fast as you can."

"Why?" His fear had communicated itself to Arya and she moved closer to him as they passed through the gate and it shut behind them.

"Because he's not to be trusted. I know things about him...things I don't have time to tell you now. I've never lied to you, Arya. I want you to promise you'll leave if I'm not there to watch over you."

It was the use of her name that brought home to her the seriousness of the situation and she touched his hand briefly. "I promise, Sandor." Their eyes met, this first use of their names sealing the promise, and he nodded, then pulled on his collar, wincing. The wound on his neck was badly inflamed and Arya said sourly, "At least in the Eyrie there'll be a healer for your fleabite. If Littlefinger expects to sell anything but your corpse, he'll have to have that seen to."

The Hound shot the girl a black look but there was no time for further conversation as the personal guards of the Eyrie came forward and surrounded them.