As Edmure and his bride were carried from the Hall, Catelyn felt relieved that the musicians had finally stopped playing. Thank the gods, Catelyn thought, as her head was still throbbing from the terrible music.
Catelyn noted that Robb still remained, speaking with the Smalljon and Lucas Blackwood. She saw Edwyn Frey was departing the hall as well, while Dacey Mormont came over to sit with her as one of the few remaining women in the Hall.
The feast was over, and some of the feasters had begun to take their leave. Catelyn noted Roose Bolton and Walder Frey whispering something at the High Table, and both men left with looks of frustration on their faces.
Catelyn and Dacey spoke for a few minutes, before a knight came in from outside. Many men at arms had been coming and going of late, and most spoke with Lord Walder before returning back outside but this one unlike the rest had come rushing into the hall, and did not seem to have any business with Lord Walder.
"Your grace," he called out. "There is a man outside, he claims to have your sister, Princess Arya."
Robb looked over at her, and the two exchanged a look before turning back to the man who had come. Had Brienne found Arya on her travels with the Kingslayer, Catelyn asked herself.
"Lead me to them," Robb told him, and when he rose, so did the protectors who remained in the Hall after the bedding. Robb, the Smalljon, Lucas Blackwood, Donnel Locke, Robin Flint, and Owen Norrey began to follow the man. Catelyn also got up, and saw Dacey next to her was doing the same. Please, let this be her, Catelyn hoped.
"Who is the man that she is with, the Kingslayer?" Catelyn asked. Mayhaps he had kept his word and when he and Brienne found her on the road, they returned to her. But then where was Brienne?
"No, she's with the Hound." The man replied. Catelyn shuddered at that. Gods be good, please don't let Arya have come to harm at his hands. They had heard tales that the Hound had turned craven at the Blackwater and fled, yet somewhere along the way he must have found his courage again, else he was not like to be here.
They exited out of the Eastern Tower, into the camp that had been made outside the castle.
The three great feasting tents were still full of life, with few of the pavilions for when the soldiers sleep being filled. Eight thousand men would be departing on the morrow, going North, to reclaim the North.
They walked through the rowdy camp, until they came upon four men who were encircling a 5th, taller than each of them. Catelyn saw the terrible burned left side of his face, and knew that he was for true the Hound. Next to him stood a short child with brown hair.
"Robb!" Arya exclaimed, having seen him first, and she jumped into him for a hug. Robb grabbed onto her and held her for a few moments before setting her down, and then Arya came towards her. Catelyn could see her grey eyes and long face. Her hair was short, cut as though she were a boy, and her face and clothes were all covered in dirt and grim.
Catelyn embraced her daughter and planted a kiss upon her dirty forehead. She was ready to return to the castle, to be able to speak and be with her daughter who she had felt was lost to her, but she saw Robb was now beginning to speak to the Hound.
"What am I to do with you Ser?" Robb mused.
"I'm no knight." The Hound replied.
Robb began to look up and down the man. "I shall see to it that he has a ransom. I am also willing to offer you the ability to take up service with me." Robb said.
Catelyn saw the others gave Robb somewhat confused looks. Catelyn was a little puzzled as well, but she tried to mask her face, afterall, Robb needed someone who wasn't questioning him.
"Piss on you, I'll take my gold and leave." The Hound retorted.
"And how well did that work for you last time?" Arya said, which was all the proof Catelyn needed to know that the girl who stood before her was indeed her daughter. The Hound glared at Arya in response.
"I have no lack for enemies that you can fight against. You can remain here as a protector to my sister, and help guard the crossing. To the south, your brother is marching, and to the North lies the Ironborn. If you take up service with me, you will be able to do something with yourself. If not, while I will not send men after you, the Lannisters will look for you, and the outlaws who call themselves the Brotherhood Without Banners remain as well." Robb offered. Catelyn noted that Robb said Arya would remain here. Scarcely even a minute after being back with her and Robb has already decided what to do with her.
"Fine, but don't be looking for me to be calling you your grace and kneeling before you." The Hound replied.
Robb nodded, then looked to the men at arms who had been waiting with him. "See to it that he is fed if he so wishes, and see to it that he is given some place to rest for the night."
"At once your grace." One of them responded, before Robb turned back to the castle.
When they returned to the hall where the feast had been going on before, Robb called for some food, and told some servants to begin preparing chambers for Arya.
"Heh, so this is the Princess my son is to marry?" Lord Walder Frey asked. He then called on one of his sons to fetch Elmar.
Not long after, Elmar entered the Hall. The twenty-second and youngest trueborn son of Lord Walder was a short boy of only ten years. When he saw Arya, Catelyn saw a look of recognition, disgust and shame all go across the young boys face in a matter of seconds. When Arya first saw him, she began to laugh.
"She is the princess I am to marry?" He said confused.
"Well is there something wrong with her?" Lord Walder asked.
"No father, it's just that, this is some serving girl that I met at Harrenhal. Her name is Nan." He told his father, before he knelt in front of Arya. "I am sorry, My Princess, for my poor treatment of you, I pray that you can forgive me."
Thankfully, Arya was able to act the proper lady just this once, and told him that there was nothing to forgive, and bid him to rise.
"Lord Walder, I'm sure that you would be willing to play host to my sister when we depart on the morrow." Robb said. Catelyn noted he had not added her as well. He still means to spread out his treasures, and send me to Seagard, she thought.
"Yes, yes, that will do sire." Lord Walder replied. Catelyn noticed in the corner that Roose Bolton's face for once was showing emotion, and he seemed a little angry.
After Arya was finished eating, some serving girls took her to some chambers they had prepared for her, and told Catelyn they would bathe her and see to it that she was dressed as befits a Princess. She won't like that, Catelyn had half a mind to tell them.
Not long after, Robb came over to be seated next to her, though it was Ser Wendel Manderly who was seated across from him that he began to speak to.
"Ser Wendel, I fear that we have fewer men that we had previously hoped for when we assault Moat Cailin. I need you to send word to your father at White Harbor about raising more levies to join our forces that will assault the Moat from the North. However many men he can spare would be greatly appreciated." Robb told him.
"I shall see to it tonight, your grace." The fat man replied. Not long afterwards, Catelyn decided to take her leave of the feasting hall, that was even quieter than it had been shortly after the bedding ceremony despite some of those who had gone to the bedding ceremony having returned.
Catelyn found that Arya's chambers were not far from her own, and not long after she had retired to her chambers she heard a knock on her door. "Mother," a small voice called in.
"Yes, Arya, you can come in." Catelyn replied.
When Arya walked in, she seemed to be a different person entirely. She wore a grey dress that was only a little too big on her, her hair had been combed, and her face had been completely washed. Save for her hair still being too short, and the fact that Arya's face had a few scabs on it, and she might have been mistaken for a proper lady.
Arya hugged her mother before sitting down next to her on the bed. "Should I tell you how I ended up here?" Arya asked.
"No, save it for another time, when you are ready to tell me." Catelyn said.
"Is Robb going to make me marry him?"
Catelyn thought for a moment about how to respond. "Not for a few years at least." Catelyn tried to reassure her.
"But will I have to marry him?" Arya asked again.
Catelyn looked sadly at her daughter. "I'm afraid so. Robb has already broken his word to Lord Walder, when he took Lady Jeyne Westerling to wife while he was promised to one of Lord Walder's daughters, that's why your Uncle married Roslin tonight. Lord Walder is a man who takes everything as a slight, and the last thing Robb needs is to slight him again." She told Arya. "But for the nonce, Robb only is going to leave you here so that you are safe. Perhaps when Moat Cailin is fallen, and Robb has been able to have men rebuild Winterfell you can return home."
"But what about Sansa?"
Catelyn silently hoped that Brienne would be successful. Lord Bolton had told her that Brienne and Ser Jaime had been taken by the Bloody Mummers, who lopped off Jaime's Hand. He had sent them on their way to King's Landing before he departed with a Handful of men at arms to see to it that they could make the rest of the journey unmolested. He had also queerly told Robb that Jaime Lannister gave him his regards, though Catelyn remained unsure why he would follow through with that. "I hope that she will be returning soon."
Catelyn held Arya close to her for a time, before she realized that Arya had fallen asleep in her arms. She gently took Arya's dress off, and put her night clothes on her, and set her on the bed. She took off her own dress, leaving only the thin shift she wore underneath, and fell asleep.
She had terrible dreams, of ravens pecking at her face, of Robb lying dead before her with crossbow bolts jutting out of him, of men hanging before her and a river running red with blood. The only relief came the next morning when she awoke, to remember it was all a dream.
So why did Roose and Walder not do the Red Wedding? Well, I personally am a subscriber to the theory that the Jeyne Westerling Jaime saw in Feast was a fake, and that the real Jeyne escaped with the Blackfish and is about 6 months pregnant. Obviously, it's not confirmed in the books, but it is possible. In this alternate universe though, when Robb leaves Riverrun, he knows that Jeyne is pregnant with his child, and when he tells Roose and Walder about it they call off the whole Red part of the Wedding. Why? Well, it's pretty simple. The Red Wedding wasn't effective because it decimated the Stark armies, because it actually only took out a few thousand men in total, and there are plenty of forces in the North and Riverlands that could be called on for more men (like the Manderlys who rule White Harbor yet only sent 1.5k men at the start of the war, and the navy they have, the 400 old men that Whoresbane is commanding, the 3k Hillclansmen, and thousands more old men who would take the call to go south now that Winter is closer, and there isn't a harvest imminent, choosing to throw away their lives in service to their lords, rather than just dying in the cold. It was effective because Robb was really the only Stark left who could lead them. With Robb dead, there was no one to rally behind. But with Jeyne pregnant, Roose and Walder would call it off since it's an exceptionally dumb move to do a Red Wedding when there are Starks that you can't directly threaten or kill. Then Arya turns up as well, showing that Tywin wasn't exactly being genuine in his offers as well.
The other major question I am like to face is why am I releasing this and not another chapter for the Return of Dragons. And to that I say, I am allowed to have multiple projects going on at once, and also because the next few chapters have proven to be a bit difficult to write, and this idea popped into my head, and I started writing this. Well, actually, this story is very toned down from the story I originally thought of, but here we are.
This story follows strict book cannon. I almost never pull anything from the show when writing these (it's actually been a few years since I even saw anything pre-season 7 anyways, so I likely won't write in pieces of show cannon by accident).
I generally try to follow GRRM's writing style to some extent with this, and so no, Robb will not be a POV character in this story since Kings don't get POVs. For now, Catelyn is off to Seagard, and Arya is remaining at the Twins.
The title here, A Time For Wolves, was the original title for A Dream of Spring.
Please be sure to leave reviews to let me know how you feel about this, and if you are enjoying this, please favorite and follow to you heart's content.
Just a friendly reminder that I do not, and probably never will, own ASOIAF.