What's the worst place you've ever woken up?

Pub toilet? End of the train line? Ex's place? All those are pretty bad. But hey, at least you know there's probably a story there. Let me tell you about my rude awakening – and buddy, there's not a night before that was worth this.

The first thing I noticed was the hard floor. Not a great start. Usually I'm pretty good about at least getting myself into bed or at least a sofa before I crash out. If I was bad enough to just fall asleep where I stood I was due for one hell of a hangover – and I wasn't as young as I used to be, so my hangovers tended to last all day. Except…

I hadn't been drinking, had I? Even on the worst nights I almost never blacked out to the point where I didn't remember drinking at all. And though I felt decidedly weird, there wasn't the headache, nausea or sense of impending doom I usually associated with a bad day. What there was, was a really bad smell.

No, not so much a bad smell, but a strong one. Lots of strong smells, all fighting for dominance. I took a shallow breath, and they all blossomed into clarity. Mud, manure, beer, a particularly dense smell that I recognised as horse… and something a bit sharper, almost cloying. I was unfortunately familiar with what fox smelled like, because my dog loved nothing more than to roll in fox shit, and this was kind of similar but not quite the same. Where the hell was I? I opened my eyes, and saw bars.

And paws.

Big grey doggy paws, on a pair of long grey doggy legs. My head was lying directly on them – and as I started in surprise, one twitched. I shot to my feet and looked around.

Shot to all four of my feet, and looked around.

I'd assumed I'd fallen asleep on top of some dog. I'd been wrong. When I looked frantically around the cage I was in, there was no-one else there. What I did see, as I turned on the spot, was a long fluffy tail shooting out of my field of vision. But it didn't matter what I saw. I wasn't that slow on the uptake. I could feel just how different my body was, how being on four legs felt like the most natural thing in the world, how my spine felt the weight of gravity on the horizontal not the vertical.

Somehow – incredibly, impossibly, but somehow – I was now a wolf.

It got worse.

I was in a cage – not a cell, an actual cage. Outside, there was what looked like a castle courtyard, the night lit up only by torches which cast everything in a weird flickering orange light. People milled back and forth, drinking, eating, dancing, celebrating. I recognised it – I knew this scene, I knew those costumes everyone was wearing. Game of Thrones. I was in Game of Thrones.

That was about the moment when I realised just how much trouble I was in. Because I could think of only one moment in that show's history where a wolf had been caged during a celebration.

I was Grey Wind. I was at the Red Wedding. And I had only hours to live.


How had this even happened? I remembered what I'd been doing, now. I'd actually been watching the final episode of Season Eight of the show, the grand finale, with my friends. Like a lot of people, we hadn't been entirely happy with where the show had gone, but it had given us some good times over the years, so it was important to be there and witness the end, you know?

We hadn't managed to quite watch it on the Monday it came out, because one or other of us had had conflicting schedules. That was fine though, it was almost better to wait and see it all properly. We'd made a bit of an occasion of it – snacks, drinks, takeaway, the works. Literally The Works, in my case, because Papa John's doesn't make a better pizza and you won't convince me otherwise.

We'd watched, we'd laughed, we'd rolled our eyes – like, a lot – and then it was done. I'd said my goodbyes, they'd left, and I'd taken myself to bed.

That was it. No dramatic portal to fall through, no runaway truck, no divine being plucking me from my world and hurling me across the cosmos. Just one moment, in my bed as a human, the next, in a cage as a direwolf.

Goddammit. A random slide, to a random point in time. This was the worst. At least if I'd been truck-kun'd I've have been reincarnated properly, and have some time to work with. I was familiar with the conventions of self-inserts, I'd read what felt like a hundred of the things. You were supposed to have years and years to build a power base, influence events, try and save your favourite characters from whatever horrific fate GRRM had in store.

Instead, I was stuck in probably the worst situation imaginable, and I didn't even get a useless goddess out of the deal.

Okay, not the worst. Game of Thrones was a pretty shitty setting to land in, but it was nowhere near the bottom of the list. It wasn't like I'd woken up in Warhammer 40K or Berserk or something. That would truly suck. Game of Thrones at least wasn't actively trying to kill me, you could find a little bit of happiness if you tried, and the very worst case scenario was that you died. Or maybe turned into stone while still alive. Or… did the White Walkers do anything fate-worse-than-death-y? I couldn't remember. Anyway – I didn't have to worry about an eternity of torment, probably.

On the other hand, my situation was still pretty goddamn grim. I get isekai'd and my starting position is locked naked and alone in a cage, in a castle belonging to enemies who definitely plan to kill me before the end of the night, with a body not my own that can't speak? Fucking hell, there was hard mode and then there was just unfair.

I was beginning to panic, as the full weight of the situation started to sink in. I was going to die, shitting fuck. I'd been in mortal peril before, but only ever in the immediate sense. The closest I ever came to death was having a brick archway fall on me as I climbed over it – the whole damn thing broke off and split in two. One piece landed on my calf, one on my fingertips, and though I couldn't walk for a couple of days I got out of it without a single broken bone. If that arch had fallen an inch to the left I wouldn't be walking today. A foot higher, I'd be dead.

But that had been over before I knew it. The closest thing I could compare this to was waiting, in the middle of the night, off the coast of a volatile nation, to find out if my ship was going to be fired on. The tension was impossible to understand for anyone that hasn't been to war. And back then, we hadn't known if we were going to be attacked or not, and if we were I'd have had a billion pounds of engineering and weapon systems between me and danger.

Now, I knew the Freys wanted me dead, and I was more alone than I'd ever been. Except… no, no I wasn't.

Grey Wind's mind was present. Tiny, weak in comparison to mine, just a terrified, animalistic ball of impulses that didn't understand why its body wasn't listening to it, and hated the cage it had been forced into. It wasn't helping me deal with my sense of panic, not at all, so I tried my best to soothe Grey Wind, calm him down.

First I tried just sending waves of calm feelings towards his mind. It had the opposite effect, as Grey Wind seemed to become aware of me for the first time, and the fear and alarm he felt was reflected back onto me in a torrent that sent my – well, his – heart to racing. Next, I tried talking to him directly.

Hey, boy. You're OK. I'm going to get us out of this, alright?

I didn't get any response, and felt a bit stupid. Grey Wind was, after all, a wolf, not a fucking parrot. Why was I talking to him? But his initial terror had eased to a general unease mixed with curiosity, so I took it as a win. And in trying to calm Grey Wind, I'd managed to distract myself long enough that I could now look at things in a bit of a different light, and try to work out just how the hell I was going to get out of this one. Because I could still hear the sounds of celebrating. How long did I have left?

… yeah, I was stumped. This would be a nightmare to deal with. Not a literal nightmare, unfortunately – you can tell when you're sleeping and when you're not, and I wasn't. All that 'this must be a dream' bollocks you see people doing in stories? Doesn't happen. Being awake doesn't feel like anything else.

That said… there was precedent for sleeping minds to wander into other bodies. Not in my world, but in this. Was I some kind of super-warg, capable of throwing my mind into not just distant places but distant realities? It sounded silly, but then here I was in the shape of a wolf, so what did I know.

Option one: could I force open Grey Wind's connection with Robb from the other side? Warn him somehow?


Could I fuck. I tried, but how in the hell was I going to use a skill I didn't even know for sure I even had? If I was a warg, that didn't help me at all, because I had no idea how being a warg worked. Maybe there was something in Bran's sections of the books about how he actually went about, um, warging, but I didn't remember and it wasn't like I could check now. I tried anyway, thinking about Robb, imagining an invisible wire between his head and Grey Wind's and trying to send thoughts down it, but I might as well have been talking to myself.

Option two: I had a vague idea that the Stark direwolves were all slightly connected in some way, and had some weird pack hive mind-y thing going on. The show hadn't really gone into it, but I was sure I remembered that each of them had at least a vague sense of where the others were and what they were doing. Summoning Nymeria and her apocalyptic wolf-pack would certainly help my situation.

Except that while the idea might work in theory, Nymeria wasn't here, and I needed help now. I, and Grey Wind and Robb and Catelyn and all the rest, were all running out of time.

I was running down a mental list of things to do – trying each one then moving immediately on to the next. If I couldn't summon help through psychic powers, how about the old-fashioned way?

Option three, then: Direwolves, apparently, can make a lot of noise when they want. When I barked, everyone within earshot flinched as though a gunshot had rang out – though of course none of these men would know what a gunshot was. The Northmen – I could smell which had come from elsewhere and which were local, not just from their dress but also their smell – looked over at where they knew I was imprisoned, and the Freys just looked confused. I barked again, louder. When I was sure I had everyone's attention, I whined and scratched at the lock and generally made a fuss. Puppy-dog eyes probably wouldn't look very effective on a gigantic shaggy wolf, but I gave it a go anyway.

A couple of the Northmen got up, and made to come over. I fell quiet, and watched them, unwilling to push my luck. Instead, I was planning out my next moves for after I was released. Which way was the main hall? What could I do on the way? Who would I have to kill first to make sure Robb was safe?


The Northmen drew near. Both were unarmed and unarmoured – obviously, this being a party – but wore distinctive furs that Grey Wind's memories told me were deerskin, left loosely open rather than fastened. I supposed it was quite warm for them this far south. Both Northmen were bearded, but one was bareheaded, showing off hair shorn close to the skull, while the other wore one of those caps that came down to cover the ears. Both of their breaths smelt of alcohol. I whined, once, and looked pointedly at the lock.

"Looks like it hates it in there," the one with the cap said.

"It's a direwolf, in't it?" the bareheaded one replied. "'Course it hates being caged. Probably wondering what the fuck's going on and why there's so many people around."

"Doesn't seem fair. There's dogs around, hundreds of the fuckers – what's one more direwolf in all that? And it's the King's own, as well. It's not right."

"It's not right keeping a direwolf caged in the first place, you ask me," mused the bareheaded one. "The King in the North's house sigil, kept locked up like some prisoner? Fucking disgraceful, is what it is."

"I think – should we let it out? I seen it running around at every feast before now, it never even looked at anyone funny… it's not going to hurt anyone." Oh? This seemed promising. I laid on the ol' puppy dog eyes even harder and tried to look as non-threatening as I could.

"Not unless your name's Jon Umber, at any rate. Yeah, fuck it, let's let the King's direwolf out." The two men stepped closer to the cage, and started searching around for the key-

"Oi! What the fuck are you two doing!" A small, weaselly Frey man – a steward, by the look of him – was storming over, looking furious. The Northmen spun round, looking like guilty schoolboys.

"Nothing-"

"Don't give me that shit. That's a wild animal, and you want it running round here?"

The bareheaded Northman squared up to the steward, and poked him in the chest with a meaty finger. "That's our King's own personal direwolf, you southern twat. Keeps it by him night and day, never had no trouble except when trouble finds the King. Seven hells, it's killed more Lannisters than you ever will." He loomed over the Frey steward, puffing out his chest and balling his fists.

The Frey man sneered, apparently unconcerned. "Yeah? Well, in the North you barbarians can do what you like, but down here we try and keep dangerous beasts away from our livestock. By order of Lord Walder, that wolf's to stay exactly where it is until you lot fuck off over the river and leave us in peace. What are you going to do if that thing decides it wants to snack on a horse or two while it's running around? You gonna pay for it? Huh?"

His voice had been building throughout his rant, and more Frey men had made their way over. Unlike the Northmen and the steward, these were armed with short spears and wearing leather armour. Guards, probably.

"There a problem?"

The bareheaded Northman looked like they wanted to make an issue of it, but the man in the cap evidently thought better of it and laid a hand on his comrade's shoulder. "Nah. Nothing."

"Good," said the steward. He grabbed a couple of drinks from a passing serving girl and thrust them into the hands of the Northmen. "Sit down, shut up, and drink up. And stay away from that wolf!"

Grumbling, disgruntled, the Northmen left. Dammit. So close. This was my best chance yet, and I wasn't going to give up that easily.

Option four: using instincts gratefully received from Grey Wind, I threw back my head and howled. I thought I'd been making a lot of noise before, but this was something else. Everyone in the courtyard flinched, and there was a storm of barking as the dogs reacted in terror to the presence of a true direwolf.

I tried to convey a sense of desperation and sadness rather than anger – to get the message through to these men that I did not want to be in there. I hoped they'd be motivated to get me out despite the Freys – or even that the noise would be noticed in the main hall where Robb was. If he heard me in distress, surely, surely he'd want to come and check on me. My howl went on and on for long seconds, and when it started to fail I drew in breath to continue-

-and it whuffed out of me in a rush and a yelp as I felt an impact in my ribs. The Frey men had hit me – hit me! – with the butt of their spears, right in the flank. I snarled unthinkingly – or maybe that was Grey Wind, I couldn't even tell – and they backed off, this time levelling the spear heads at me.

"Shut up," one hissed. "Got enough to worry about without your fucking racket…"

"Easy, easy," another said, voice a bit calmer. "No point getting angry with it, it's just an animal. Not like it'll matter in the morning."

"Yeah, well, if it howls like that again I'm putting it down, I'll tell you that right now. Damn near made me shit my breeches…"

"You stab the King in the North's direwolf now and these Northern fuckers will tear you apart, and me right after," the calm one said. "Just wait…"

Damn it. All my options were being closed off, one after the other. I wasn't about to risk another howl – all it took was one Frey spearman getting jumpy and I'd be dead. There was no way for me to dodge, confined as I was. I couldn't let them even consider it.

Option five, and I really hadn't wanted to have to do this: I'd have to break myself out. The floor and ceiling were hard wood, no way for me to tunnel under, and the bars were thick iron, but even so the cage wasn't exactly Fort Knox – it was designed for animals, after all.

It wasn't quite as simple as just sliding a bolt across, but it wasn't much harder. There was one bolt to keep the door of the cage shut, and that was secured with a simple lock, the kind that needed a skeleton key to open. There was nothing I could do about the lock, but the bolt was relatively thin – thin compared to the bars of the cage, at least.

I'd have to chew through it, and I expected it to suck. I knew hyenas could bite through steel, but I was pretty sure that wolves couldn't. Then again, I was a direwolf… and I had no other option.

But, frustratingly, I couldn't just start immediately. I didn't regret making a fuss, because it had almost worked, but unfortunately it also meant that the Frey guards were paying attention to me. If I started my escape attempt now, they'd notice and kill me. I had to wait. Even though every second I wasted brought me closer to what was looking like an unavoidable death, I couldn't act right now.

I lay down, and put my head on my paws, exactly as I had been when I woke up. My tail curled around me – and then swished away. My paws scrabbled against the wooden floor almost of their own accord. My ears twitched wildly as I took in every new sound. My hackles stayed up.

Damn. I didn't look relaxed and boring, I looked tense and nervous. I was tense and nervous. But I needed to not look it, and I knew the problem.

While I was in charge of Grey Wind's body, making all the decisions, it was still his and all the instinctual reactions were coming from the remnants of his mind, back in that lizard brain that handled fight-or-flight. Animorphs rules, I supposed – in return for being able to control a wolf body like it was my own, I got wolf instincts, and since I knew there was a threat coming it was almost impossible to convince them to relax even though that was the only way to shift the guards' attention off me.

Once again, I tried to calm Grey Wind down as I had before. He didn't understand, of course – to him, he'd been locked up, humiliated and now injured, and wanted to rage against those that had done. He didn't understand why I was telling him to calm down. But eventually, he subsided, and my body visibly relaxed.

I didn't dare wait long. I was pretty sure I'd be safe after two – watching a wolf doing nothing at all was going to get boring quickly when there were rowdy Northmen about – but I wasn't going to jump the gun and fuck this up, or I really was dead. I'd only get one shot at this. So, five minutes, no more, no less.

I began counting to three hundred.


While I waited, I was thinking through my next steps. Not in an immediate sense, but more medium-term. What were my priorities? What did I want to change? What did I actually want to achieve here? Because if I couldn't answer those questions, I may as well not even bother escaping.

Well, no, not quite true. I didn't want to die yet, or really ever if at all possible, which made my first priority very clear to me – my own life. (And by extension Grey Wind's – if it somehow came down to a choice between letting Grey Wind's body die and my mind living on elsewhere or me dying with it, I'd pick the first one, but practically speaking my job was to keep Grey Wind alive.) Everyone else was secondary to that goal of survival.

However, Robb was priority number two – precisely because he was the best chance of my staying alive, since he was both emotionally invested in Grey Wind and therefore would try his best to protect us, and had the political and military power to make sure that happened. (Current circumstances notwithstanding.) It felt a little bit callous to think of him that way, but while Grey Wind was certainly fond of his master I couldn't give two shits about whether he lived or died except inasmuch as how that affected me.

It couldn't be helped – I'd never met the man. Or kid, depending on whether this was the show or the books. It was still unclear, but I supposed I'd find out when I actually saw Robb. If he didn't look like whatshisname, his actor, then that was a pretty good indication we weren't in the show. I couldn't assume it the other way round, though…

Anyway. Catelyn… was not so high on my list of priorities. I mean, I didn't hate her or anything, and even if I disliked her character that wouldn't extend to wishing her dead, but between Robb and Cat I'd save Robb every time. That said, I certainly would make the effort to keep her alive if at all possible, because I had no idea how Robb would react if his mother was killed in front of him. As far as I remembered, he was strategically overstretched as it was – the last thing he needed was to lead his armies in a berserk push southwards seeking revenge.

Cat being alive also gave the North a skilled administrator while Robb was away on campaign… except Theon had probably already taken Winterfell, right? Whatever – we could think about that later, and it was probably safe to assume that Theon would just continue failing at everything like usual until Robb showed up to take back control. I was going to have to think about the Boltons, though…

What else could I achieve here? If it all went well, Arya could reunite with her family here, rather than waiting who knew how long. It would certainly be nice for her… but being whisked away by the Hound here was what ultimately led her on the path to Braavos and the House of Black and White. And without that training, would she be able to kill the Night King if necessary?

Again, I was assuming I was in the show, but it was safe to say that GRRM needed Arya for something. My reuniting the family here could have massive repercussions down the line, because there was no way in hell Cat would let Arya out of her sight as long as she lived once they got back together.

Okay, maybe one of my top priorities should be finding out which universe I was in, because knowing what was or wasn't coming down the line was going to be all-important. Especially since I had very limited capacity to prepare for any of it, because whatever capricious-ass being had done to me had stuck me in a body without speech.

What could I even do to change things, long-term? Basically nothing, unless I managed to figure out those super-warg powers I may or may not have. I could kill people that needed killing, if and when they got near me, and that was basically it. If I wanted to stay safe, that limited me to people that interacted with Robb. If I wanted to give up the protection of the King in the North and run away, that gave me a little more freedom to change things, but still limited me to killing people that ventured outside. I was a wolf, not an assassin: I couldn't climb into, say, Littlefinger's window and savage him in his sleep.

Gah. Maybe if I met up with Bran I could actually start communicating stuff? It'd be a long shot, and by this point I'd need to cross the Wall to do it, but it was the only way I could think of to actually make use of my 'future' knowledge. Either way – it could wait until after I'd made it through the night alive.


In the end, I lasted about three minutes before losing my nerve – but the guards had gotten bored after about a minute, so it all balanced out. There was no-one watching me, no-one paying attention. It was time.

Slowly, without any sudden movements that could draw the eye, I padded over to the bolt and started gnawing away at it. I had to twist my head at a weird angle to get the greatest amount of force, and Grey Wind's mouth and dental structure weren't anything like my old human ones had been.

It was hard – obviously, I was chewing on iron. I felt teeth chip and winced, but carried on. Grey Wind didn't put up too much of a fuss, fortunately for me. If I'd had to deal with his reluctance to keep on hurting myself as well as my own, I don't think I could have forced myself to do it, but it looked like Grey Wind understood what I was trying to do.

I could feel the bolt giving ever so slightly with every bite, even as blood filled my mouth from the effort. Luckily, it didn't seem to be made out of quality metal, which made sense – again, it was an animal pen, why waste good iron, let alone proper steel? Given time, I could do this. I could chew through.

But I could hear the celebrations and revelry around me, and knew that my time was running out. I remembered that the signal to begin the slaughter was Edmure's bedding – but as I was, you know, outside, I had no idea how far along the wedding ceremony might be. The Northmen I could see, hear and smell were pretty far gone, though, ready for the Freys to sweep in and murder them while too drunk to fight back.

Come on, I urged the bolt. Snap, damn you. Just a bit more…

There was a groove worn into it, and I redoubled my efforts. It was tantalisingly slow going, wearing down less than a millimetre with each bite… but it was going.

A Northman fell off his seat, to raucous laughter, and I growled in frustration. Almost there…

"Hey!"

I didn't stop chewing, but looked over. Three Frey men were running over, spears in hand. Fuck.

"Stupid beast – stop it, dammit!"

Fuck, fuck, fuck. They were all worked up at the prospect of the coming battle, no matter how one-sided it might be. They were nervous, tense and jittery. They meant to kill me.

Nothing else for it. I stopped chewing at the bolt, and hurled myself against the cage door. Snap, damn you!

It held. I hurled myself at it again. It held.

I retreated as far back into the cage as I could, and rushed the door, throwing my shoulder directly at the weakened bolt.

It held.

I whined involuntarily, a sound of pure frustration. The Frey spearmen were almost on me.

I tried one last time, one last ditch effort before I was spitted and killed and decapitated and burned-

The lock broke.

A hundred and fifty pounds of wolf threw itself at some apes with pointed sticks.

I was loose.


Despite everything, despite every one of Grey Wind's instincts on fire telling me to rip and tear and savage, I didn't kill them.

Well, not immediately.

They levelled their spears at me, but I was a direwolf, and a direwolf with a human's understanding of tactics at that. I'd always loved martial arts – and while my body was no longer built for punching and kicking, some things were universal.

Basic defensive tactics, for instance.

I faked to my left, then lunged right, ducking under the rightmost spear and getting in close. The men were wearing armour – but they weren't knights, and it sure wasn't full plate. My jaws closed around the man on the right's knee, and crunched tight. I felt bone crack, and the man stiffened in pain. With him between me and his friends, I'd be safe for the moment – so I manoeuvred round the side to make that happen. I didn't let go of his leg, and wrenched it sideways in a motion that had him shouting in agony.

But I wasn't watching the man I was savaging. I was watching his friends. As soon as they made to move round their comrade, I shoved forward, pushing him into the first. While they were distracted, quick as thought I rushed round to the other, again breaking a leg and moving to keep them in a line. This one actually fell, almost crushing me – but I dodged, and shook his leg some more for good measure. I was rewarded with a satisfying crunch as the already broken leg shattered.

The last disentangled himself from his friend. More careful or just a quick learner, he held his spear low, guarding his legs.

So I leapt for his head.

Turns out it's pretty hard to keep your balance with a direwolf snapping its jaws an inch from your face. He flinched, his head jerking back. My paws found his shoulders and pushed, and his back hit the dirt with a thud.

I didn't kill him. I didn't want him dead.

But I did want him screaming, and Grey Wind was going almost berserk with the taste of blood. I left him half his face and called it good.

I stood over the three men I'd mauled in as many seconds, and howled my victory to the sky over Westeros.

Pain. Fear. Chaos. I didn't want to silently and efficiently murder everyone between me and Robb – why do all the work myself? All I had to do was rouse the army already within the castle. Make a fuss. Make a noise. Make a mess, and hope to whichever gods actually existed in this world that the ruckus would warn who I needed warned. Before it was too late.

Those Northmen who hadn't noticed our little scuffle were certainly noticing now. There were shouts of confusion, of anger, as even the drunkest began to realise that something was up.

Not a moment too soon, either. All around the courtyard, Frey men began to emerge, weapons in hand. Clearly I was only just in time… or only just too late. Enough fucking around in this courtyard. I needed to find Robb.

I didn't know my way around this place. There was never a description of the Twins in the books, I don't think. Certainly we didn't get a schematic in the show. Maybe in some extra material somewhere, it wouldn't surprise me, but if so I hadn't seen it. It didn't matter. I could hear music. I could smell fine food. And maybe it was my imagination, maybe it was something held over from Grey Wind, but I swore I could smell Robb too. I didn't know my way around… but I knew where to go.

I raced towards the castle. No idiot with a sword or spear was going to stop me, but I wasn't faster than arrows. Fortunately, I knew what bows and crossbows looked like – and more importantly, I knew how to zigzag as I approached the archers. They never stood a chance at hitting me, and when I was upon them they never stood a chance at all.

Behind me, around me, I could see the Northmen starting to get a clue. They were drunk to the point of falling over, almost to a man – but even a drunk man will notice a rampaging direwolf barking fit to wake the dead. And once alert, even a drunk man will notice men approaching him with weapons, and murder in their eyes.

They had no weapons… but even a drunk man can brawl. And all it took was one spear to be wrenched out of a nervous hand, one sword picked up where its owner had dropped it and ran from the snarling beast mauling his friends… and suddenly the fight wasn't as one-sided as the Freys had hoped.

By escaping, by raising the alarm, I may have just saved Robb's army. Now I just needed to save him.


On I charged – into the castle itself. My claws scrabbled for purchase on the stone floor, but I pressed on.

In these tight quarters my speed and manoeuvrability counted for less. If I met a packed group of Frey soldiers I'd be in trouble. But I didn't, only various cooks, stewards, maids, and a couple of what I assumed were the Frey children – sons and grandsons of Walder Frey himself. I was tempted to carve my way through these as well – and certainly Grey Wind was so bloodthirsty at this point it was hard to hold back – but in the end I managed to restrain myself. I snarled and barked, and they got out of my way.

I ran on.

I guessed all the fighting men were all busy with the Northmen, because I could still hear the sounds of battle outside. Battle, not slaughter. Good. Louder than that, though, I could hear music, and I knew that those at the wedding itself had no idea of what was happening. On the other hand, I was close.

Some instinct took me up a flight of stairs – the smell was stronger, the music louder up that way. I bounded upwards and emerged onto a small gallery over what must have been the main hall – a huge vaulted thing, lit with a dull orange glow from fireplaces and torches set into the walls. The gallery itself was a long wooden balcony, hung with various tapestries.

Ahead of me, the band played. Well, half the band played. I could see crossbows at their feet, hidden from the hall by the wooden bannister that prevented accidental falls.

The other half had their instruments slung across their backs, and were aiming their own crossbows. At Robb.

I recognised him instantly – and would have done even if he hadn't had the face I remembered from the show. The crown on his head would have done it, as would the distinctive red hair. But I didn't need that either. The surge of joy and fierce protectiveness I felt from Grey Wind was more than enough.

No barking, this time. No howls. I fell on the musicians like a hurricane of fur and fang and claw, and this time I didn't hold back. I crunched bone, I tore flesh, I ripped out throats with my teeth and it still wasn't enough, would never be enough until they lay in bloody shreds at my feet for daring to hurt-

I wrenched back control from Grey Wind's instincts with difficulty. In the scant seconds I'd lost it, every one of the Frey assassins had been ripped apart, and my mouth was heavy with scraps of meat stuck between my fangs. That had been… intense. Apparently Grey Wind's protective instincts towards his master were strong enough to override me.

That could be a problem going forward – but it had helped me now. I didn't think I was capable of unleashing such a storm of violence just yet. Score one for natural direwolf instincts, I supposed. I panted, blood dripping from my jaws – and one of the musicians moved.

His eyes wide with terror, he pulled himself up into a standing position against the bannister, and struggled to lift a crossbow with an arm half chewed off. I tilted my head. This was… lucky, actually. I hadn't planned on it, but it would certainly make my life easier.

I charged, planting my paws firmly against his chest and pushing. The bannister, not designed to take the weight of a full-grown man and a half-grown direwolf, collapsed, and we fell onto the floor below. I landed on all fours on a table. He didn't.

For a second the hall was silent. It sounded obvious given that, you know, I'd killed all the musicians, but people had still been talking, so no-one had really noticed. Now, everyone was staring at the man bleeding out on the floor – a musician with a crossbow still clenched in one hand.

In the silence, the noise of battle was faintly audible outside.


Robb seemed to be briefly speechless. In the moment of shock before (I knew) everything would turn to chaos, I padded over to his side, tail wagging. I butted his hand with my head, and he petted it absent-mindedly. His wife – Jeyne, I think? Or was that just the books? – looked at my gore-soaked muzzle, and looked sick.

"Grey Wind…" Robb murmured. In his eyes, I could see the pieces coming together – and the moment when the realisation sunk in. The assassin, the noise of battle, my own bloody jaws, the suspiciously well-armed Frey guards. He stood up and addressed the head table.

"My Lord Walder," he said, loudly. "Care to explain this?"

Lord Walder – again, looking exactly the same as the show's – shrugged. "Clearly a Lannister assassin. Ever so sorry that my security isn't up to scratch, but we're a little busy preparing for your war. Of course, it doesn't help that your beast seems to have eaten half my musicians along with him…"

The Freys laughed, although it sounded a little nervous.

"Do sit down, your Grace," Walder sneered. "In deference to your station, I'll not demand that your animal be put down, but I won't have it here at my daughter's wedding, you hear?"

Robb faltered, and I growled. Dammit, he-said-she-said was a much harder game when you couldn't talk. I bristled, and prepared to just do whatever I needed to to survive-

The main double doors at the back of the hall burst open, and a Northman staggered in. He spotted Robb and made to say something – but a spear tip spouted from his chest and he collapsed. The Frey man behind him wrenched it out with a smile – a smile that quickly slid off his face as he realised he was bit early to this particular party.

In the silence, Lord Walder put a hand to his head.

Robb's expression turned to ice, and the King in the North, the Young Wolf, drew a deep breath. "Treachery!" he boomed. "Men of the North, to me! We are betrayed!"

Northmen all around the room surged to their feet, upending tables and sending drink flying. Freys, and the more alert Northmen, grabbed knives off the table. From doors all around the hall, men from both sides rushed in. Battle was joined.

For my part, I stayed near Catelyn. She was staying out of the fighting, but had picked up what looked like a candlestick to defend herself with. That was good, because I needed her on her game for a few more minutes. I had one more job to do here today.

I'd been keeping an eye on Roose Bolton ever since I'd made my dynamic entry into the hall. I couldn't remember exactly when he stabbed Cat and passed on the Lannisters' regards – only that it happened, and sometime after the attack began. It wasn't hard to recognise him. Once again, I couldn't remember the name of his actor, but he looked identical – and the sigil of the flayed man was distinctive.

Roose had frozen just like anyone else when the assassin had fallen, but his eyes had been calculating. I'd half-expected him to attempt to backstab Robb and Catelyn when everyone's attention was elsewhere, but he hadn't. Instead, he'd taken a moment to assess the situation when the fighting started, and was now methodically murdering Freys.

Clever. I didn't remember a lot about Roose, but I remembered that he was much smarter than his bastard son. He could always betray Robb later – and until then he'd have 'proven his loyalty' by defending his king from the treacherous Freys. Proving him a traitor would be nearly impossible through the proper channels, simply because he hadn't done anything yet and he made sure to keep his worst excesses hidden in the Dreadfort, away from anyone who might object.

Fortunately, what did I know about proper channels? I was a direwolf. I was the King's direwolf. What were they going to do, kill me? If I wanted to tear out a lord's throat with my teeth, well, gee, guess I made a mistake, nothing to be done about it, in the confusion he must have made a mistake. Heh heh heh.

But I didn't have to be super obvious about it.

Roose had gotten hold of a table knife – I didn't know if it was the same as he'd used to stab Catelyn in canon or not. At the moment he was using it to, very calmly and methodically, stab Freys in the chest, one by one. As he pulled back for his next blow, I leapt at the same man he was attacking – and wouldn't you know it, my teeth accidentally got caught round his wrist.

Cloth ripped, revealing chainmail. I growled, and barked – and Catelyn saw it.

"You…" she breathed. She did catch on quick – even in the show and book. Well, maybe part of that was just her incredible talent for jumping to conclusions, but in this case it all worked out.

Roose met her eyes. I don't think he even tried to convey denial, or innocence. The man just didn't have it in him. He knew the game was up, Catelyn knew the game was up, and that was simply that.

Her eyes every bit as cold and hard as her son's, Catelyn said, "Grey Wind-"

And that was enough for me. I surged forward.

Roose was a powerful, dangerous man, and would cause massive problems for the North if left unchecked. But here, now? He was just another ape dressed in metal, and I was a direwolf.

When it was done, I looked up at Catelyn and gave her a big doggy grin, bits of Roose still hanging from my teeth. She hesitated, then reached out and patted my head. "Well done," she said. "Go and help Robb now, go on."

I barked cheerfully, and scampered off.


It was over.

The North had won the day, but it was hard fought. They were the more experienced fighters, having followed Robb throughout his campaign while the Freys hid inside their castle and did mostly nothing, and there were slightly more of them too. But the Freys were prepared, and they were sober, and they were fighting on their home ground.

There were a lot of bodies to bury.

Robb, Catelyn and I stood on a hill overlooking the Twins. Well, they were standing, I was lying by Robb's feet. The army was hard at work clearing up the mess, but the King in the North and his mother couldn't be expected to have to get involved. I could smell the reek of corpses, shit and shit-covered corpses all the way from here.

There weren't a whole lot of Freys left, either – as in, the Frey family itself, which given its size just yesterday said a lot about how catastrophic the casualties were on both sides. Most of them had been in the feast hall, and cut down by Robb's personal guard, once they'd gathered themselves together.

No-one was entirely sure who ruled the Twins now, so in the end Robb washed his hands of the whole thing and dumped it all on a very hungover Edmure Tully to deal with. Probably it would end up being one of the children, if Edmure wanted to keep the Twins in Frey hands at all after their mass treachery.

Arya was nowhere to be seen. I guessed the Hound had heard the sounds of fighting and taken her away, just as he was meant to. It was probably for the best – and besides, what was I going to do, tell someone?

I still hadn't decided what I was going to do, long-term. Probably I'd wait and see just how all this would play out first. The effects on the politics of Westeros – or, from my perspective, on the plot – were going to be huge. The King in the North still alive and still a challenger to the Iron Throne – and with total control over the river crossing and an heir to Winterfell on the way to boot. Edmure Tully free and not a hostage. The more dangerous if less unpredictable Bolton removed as a threat.

Interesting times indeed.

A breeze rolled over where we were standing, rustling the trees and blowing away the stench of death. Robb sighed.

"That's better."

"It is," Catelyn said. "It's a North wind, Robb."

"Mm."

"It's time to go home. Theon must die for what he's done to Bran and Rickon. Our last obstacle is gone – there's nothing stopping us taking our army back and reclaiming Winterfell."

Robb smiled grimly. "You're right. It galls me that I must go, and leave Tywin Lannister to regroup and prepare for the next campaign… but you're right all the same. Winterfell first, Theon first – avenge my brothers, and start again. This time without traitors, hopefully."

"Hopefully." Catelyn laughed, though it sounded bitter. "And Robb… my advice, if you want it?"

"Always, mother."

"Never let anyone take Grey Wind from your side again." My ears pricked up, automatically.

Robb sighed in exasperation. "Not this again, mother-"

"Yes, this again. I've told you, these direwolves are more than wolves. Do you doubt me now, even when he saved us all from the Frey's treachery? And Roose Bolton's? I shudder to think what might have happened if he hadn't exposed Roose last night – how long would he have been a poisoned thorn in our back?"

I didn't really have anything to add, so I just lay there and looked proud of myself.

Robb looked conflicted, but nodded. "I suppose you're right. As usual."

"It comes with being a mother," Catelyn said primly. "I was right about Theon, I was right about Grey Wind. And if the Seven are willing, I'll turn out to have been right about Jaime Lannister as well."

There was a silence on the hilltop. The breeze stopped, and the stench from down below crept back in. Robb and Catelyn fell silent. I didn't know what they were thinking, but I could guess. Family, duty, honour. All that stuff.

It was going to be difficult, for me. In a lot of ways it would be easier to let Grey Wind take over most of the time, trust to his instincts, and let the chips fall as they may. But… I could do better. I'd have to, if Westeros was to survive what was coming. I'd make it work. Somehow.

Without another word, Robb set off down the hill towards the army camp. I followed at his heels, troubled but content.