Three Months Later
The morning sun was gleaming through the cracks in the soft, sheer drapes of the opened glass doors of the Tower of The Hand. Its warming golden rays illuminated the king sized bed, situated to catch the light and breeze of the Black Water. The warm caress of light tickled the pale, bare skin of the back of a sleeping woman.
Cersei Lannister sighed comfortably into the feather pillow. The mornings in Kings Landing had been getting crisper and crisper of late, with the cold weather lasting longer and longer into the day. The pale sun of autumn whispered the coming of winter. But, despite the heavy chill, the warmth of the sun on her back was still heavenly.
The woman sighed and turned over, her naked chest on full display for a moment, hands rubbing against her bare stomach, trying to rub the warmth on her as if it were lotion. She stretched with a slight smile and turned over to her other side, reaching for the warmth of the body next to her, lifting her golden head off the pillow to deposit it on a chest.
But there was no one there.
The drop of and leveling back of her head woke her from her half-asleep state. Sleepy green eyes flicked open and found the spot that had been occupied half the night empty. She sat up and looked around the chambers. Maps and documents littered the floor; a bundle of soiled clothing lay on the floor.
"My lord?" She called to out to the back room. There was no answer, no movement what so ever. Running a hand through her golden waves, she uncovered herself, eyes flicking back and forth through the room again.
She had the room memorized; she had been a prisoner in the tower for over three months. The Starks hadn't mistreated her, hadn't locked her in the dungeons as she was sure Robert would've. They had let her roam the tower freely, her every request most of the time was met in a timely manner. For years she had thought the Northmen savages, as wild as the animals they took as their sigils, but these last three months she found that they had more honor and hospitality in them then many southern lords. She thought how exploitable and weak it made them … and how lucky she was to be their prisoner.
Finding a discarded robe on a side table, the queen wrapped it around her. It smelled of a strange, earthy scent. It smelled like her host, and it brought a smile to her face. Wrapping The Hand's robe tightly around her, she walked to the door burying her nose into the shoulder to take in the scent. She pulled the chamber door open to reveal a lit corridor. She wasn't taken by surprise to find two guards wearing boiled leather surcoats, and helmets posted outside.
"Your Grace …" one of the older men addressed her with a curt nod. She smiled lightly. Cersei Lannister figured that in most places she wouldn't be called by her title, a woman convicted of adultery, and treason. Once again she was surprised by the Northmen and their courtesy toward her.
"I'm acquiring after the Lord Hand?" She asked looking down the corridor. It had large open windows with the sweet smell of late summer roses wafting down the halls.
"Lord Eddard had pressing business with several of his Bannermen, Lord Cerwyn and Tolbert, Your Grace. He expected to be back before you woke … he instructed us to inform you if that was not the case, that if you were in need of company to find Lady Sansa, who has taken to Lord Robb's chambers currently." He motioned down the hall.
Cersei gave another light smile. "No, that won't be needed … thank you." She closed the door.
The queen thought of poor, naïve, insipid, Sansa. They said that the girl, upon learning of their beloved Joffery's death, had locked herself in her room. Cersei had been grateful that her child's death was mourned by someone. Everyone else acknowledged that it was a dishonorable way to be dispatched, and the murder of prisoners was not kingly behavior. But as to her boy's death, no one shed a tear. Not even Tommen or Myrcella. Cersei was glad that someone else in this world cared for her boy, but rather than do something about it, to help avenge him, Sansa Stark melted into her brother's arms.
Robb Stark had hated Joffery and Joffery him. It had been whispered that their comforts to her was simply "He wasn't worth it." Cersei had been outraged, was he not her boy, blood of the lions of the rock, a prince, shouldn't there be an outcry for justice? She sent letters to her father, the lion of the rock, the most powerful man in the realm, he did not return them. Did he not care? Did no one care for her son but her? Was she the only one who looked to avenge him? If Sansa Stark was going to wither in sorrow in her brother's chambers rather than use it to avenge a boy she claimed to love, then she truly was not worthy of his time, heart, or seed … her seed.
But then could she blame her? Cersei thought walking the cluttered chamber of a battle commander. Cersei had spent much of her time since Joffery's murder in this chamber. Those first terrible weeks she had sat in this room watching the walls, watching Eddard scribble notes and look over maps. If he minded her there he did not say.
But the gilded queen had one advantage over Sansa … Cersei Lannister had learned to live with sorrow so close to each other , to not need a mother to help her, since she was four … Sansa would have to start at fourteen.
Looking at the tangle of sheets in the bed she shared, she knew there was no way Eddard Stark would've let her between these sheets, had Catelyn Stark, his wife, been alive.
She had been at Eddard's throat, her grief turned to anger. She wanted revenge she wanted someone to do something about the death of her son. Ned had offered nothing to her but his sympathy and protection to the rest of her children. He was more concerned for her than her son; a cup had been flung at him when the door opened. At first she had thought it was guards come to drag her to a cell. But amongst them were men with the trout sigil of Tully, and the twin towers of Frey. They all had a look of pain in their eyes, all but the Frey that is.
Cersei was sent to chambers at the urging of the men, it was a deeply private matter. Hours and hours went by and she had waited in Eddard's room instead of her own. They weren't done, someone had to do something for Joffery. Outside there were curses and yells, for a moment she thought that Robert had finally come for her. She believed truly that the city watch was storming the tower, despite a Stark army in Rusby. But there was no clashing of swords or battle cries. She opened the chamber door slightly, and saw Sansa. She was on the floor, her sobs loud and painful. For a moment Cersei felt the need to rush to her. But before she could the handsome heir of house Stark walked to her, big and strong, eyes filled with tears, despite the beard and hard veteran soldier look, he looked so much of a boy. He bent down and scooped up the girl.
Seeing two of them she found herself missing Jaime. He had been ransomed back to their father for nine million dragons and a waiver of debt that the crown had owed. But that was all anyone knew since he was walked like an animal back west. But it was the way Robb Stark held his sister, she was precious to him, she was his princess. Cersei had always seen herself as an equal to Jaime, a force to be reckoned with, a lioness of great ferocity. But when she was at her most sorrowful, vulnerable, when she felt there was no one she could turn to, she knew how much love and safety it brought to know how precious to someone you were, to be held by strong arms of pure love and know you were someone's princess.
That night Eddard Stark came to his chambers to find her waiting. He looked haunted and disconnected, as if he wasn't sure where he was. Cersei had been ready to pounce on him, to continue what she started in his office. But when he looked that way, she was compelled to go to him. She wrapped her arms around his waist, his arm draped around her shoulder as she helped him to a seat. She poured him wine, it never caught her notice till now, but she was more of a wife to Ned at that moment than she had ever been to Robert.
He didn't talk, didn't drink, he barely blinked. He looked at the wall for a long time. Cersei felt frightened, and she wasn't sure why. What had happened that brought so much sorrow to the Lord Hand that he was unable to express emotion or even function? She sat next to him, watching him as he rotated his jaw.
"What happened my lord?" She whispered. She wasn't sure why she whispered, but it didn't seem proper to talk in a normal voice. His jaw trembled for a moment, before he covered it with his large hand, stroking his stubble in thought.
"She's gone …" His voice had been muffled by his hand.
"Who … who is gone?" She felt nervous, cautious. She was a prisoner, stranded by her father, at the mercy of men she did not know or trust. Her children and her safety were at the edge of a knife.
"Cat … Cat is gone." He said, a hard blink. "She's dead." He turned to Cersei as if he couldn't comprehend what he was saying.
Cersei swallowed and turned to the wine in her own hand. She didn't hate Catelyn Stark; she was a good loyal woman … a well taught sheep at her worst. She thought of her sometimes as she had watched the Stark girls when they first came to the city. Did she miss them? Had she been in Lady Stark's place would she allow Myrcella, her little princess and love, to be separated from her, to let her leave with Jaime to some strange place? That was till she had to make that choice herself, then she understood the pain of it all. She had no choice but let Syrio Forell and Rodrick Cassel to take Myrcella and Tommen with Arya Stark back to Winterfell for their own safety. She remembered standing on Eddard's balcony watching their ship leave the harbor. She had melted into Eddard's chair in tears, then had screamed and flung things at Eddard when he returned from the docks. When she was through she clung to him; she was alone and naked. Her father would not come for her, Jaime was missing since he returned to the Rock, and now her children were taken from her. She had found a new respect for Catelyn Stark … and now she was dead.
The Lord of Winterfell's eyes were filled with guilt and confusion, as if he was the one who plunged the knife into his wife's heart … worst yet, he looked at Cersei as if she had held her down while he did it. There was something that he wasn't telling her.
"What is it, Ned?" She dispensed with the formalities.
He blinked hard again. "She was killed in a tavern fight …" He said, looking at the wine in his hand with a new horror.
"Tavern fight … how?" She asked.
He shook his head. "It was at the Inn at the Crossroads. She was heading to Riverrun with her brother Edmure." He sounded disconnected. "They came across your brother ..." He said.
"Jaime?" the name came out before she had time to process.
"No … Tryion." He shook his head.
"The imp …" She acknowledged.
Eddard nodded. "He was meeting a party there, Cat … she, she tried to arrest them. They resisted, the Frey's came to her side … Your brother's party killed them all … she was run through with a sword, her and her brother." He shook her head.
Cersei hated Tryion, but there was a small part of her that felt enraged that the self-righteous little fish wife tried to lay hands on her brother again. There was a part of her, a human part of her that felt true sympathy for Ned and his children, all fine decent lordlings and ladies. But a Lannister part of her was smug, a Lannister always paid his debts and one ill turn deserved another. A Lion doesn't fall for the same trap twice.
"I … I don't believe it." He continued.
Cersei took a draft of her wine. "The Imp maybe small, but he's clever." She started.
"It wasn't Tryion who killed her." He replied. "It was … the leader of the group he was meeting." He tried to sound composed, but he sounded so broken and shocked.
"Who was it?" She pressed, her hand found his forearm. He looked to her hand, and then to her as if she was co-conspirator to their murder.
"It was Jon …" He said with a haunted look and broken voice. "Tryion was meeting Jon and several companions at the Inn at the Crossroads. Catelyn tried to arrest him for desertion and … Willem Frey said that he killed her, that he and his companions killed all of the Frey's and Tully men in the inn." He covered his mouth and sunk back in the chair.
"Jon?" She gasped, her grip tightened on his forearm. "Jon did this?" She couldn't fathom it, she couldn't imagine it. Not Jon … not her Jon … not the sweet little babe in her arms who smiled before he cried, who reached for her in those first moments of life. "No" She denied.
Eddard didn't hear her, his face was cover by shadow. "Why?" his voice was empty. "Why did Cat come after him? Why did he resist … and what was he doing so far south, away from the Wall?" his voice sounded weary and his heart soaked with sorrow, like a heavy wet cloth. Cersei had set her cup aside and climbed into his lap.
"It doesn't matter." She whispered again. "Save those questions for later …" She wrapped her arms around his head and placed it against her bosom. He buried his face against her chest and she laid her head against his. In the back of her mind she tried not to think of the answers to his questions … for her own safety.
Blinking, Cersei returned to her and Eddard's room and sat in the chair. For a moment she was back in her old chambers, before Eddard had told Robert of her and Jaime's love. A piece of parchment scribbled with her hand writing, meant for the Wall.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when the doors opened. Handmaids in simple blue and grey dresses entered the chamber. They were older women, professionals of a lower birth than Cersei was used to. Her handmaids had been young, beautiful, and of high birth. But like most things, the Starks were different. They expected their lords and ladies to do most things themselves, they didn't find honor in their ladies being maids to higher birthed women.
"I'm sorry for the startle, Your Grace." The head maid apologized without stopping her setting up. She was a brisk old lady, hard talking, hard getting along with. "But we have to measure you for the dress you will be wearing at the Tournament." She said.
Cersei had forgotten about Robert's damned tourney. Eddard had set up her trial for adultery and treason. Her judges were to be Brydon Tully, Barristan Selmy, and Dornan Martell, but Robert had told Eddard, trial or no trial, she would be found guilty. From what she could understand things between Eddard and Robert were breaking down, and it was spreading between the Stark Bannermen and some of the southern lords such as Tyrells and Baratheons. The strain of dishonor and means justifying the ends of Robert's reign had clashed with the Northmen and their honorable code. While the murder of Catelyn and Edmure Tully had brought the wrath of the River Lords against Robert, the belief was that the Lannisters had murdered them in retaliation for Joffery.
It would be trial by combat that would settle Cersei's fate. But Robert had yet to choose a champion, so he was to hold a large melee in order to find his champion. Like the blusterous fool he is, he had made it the second coming of the Tournament at Harrenhal. Every lord and lady in the Seven Kingdoms, except the Lannisters, was required to attend with their oldest son and daughter. Everyone had come, even those as far as Volantis, to enjoy and celebrate Cersei's humiliation. Humiliation in that Cersei had no champion, for no man in the Seven Kingdoms would come forward to defend her honor. Whether it was because they knew it wasn't a just cause, or because they feared Robert's retribution for protecting her.
The bath the maids drew for her was a pleasant kind of warm when she stepped inside it. They left Cersei her scrubbing brush, soaps, and lotions, stepping out of the room. She let herself absorb the comforting warmth of the soapy water. Slumping lower in the ivory tub, looking out the open window above, her mind wandered away from her.
She wasn't sure how much time had passed, but eventually she had washed good and hard, scrubbing herself pink, her maids dried her, but rather than pulling on her own silk robe, she preferred the Hand's. This made the maids uncomfortable it seemed, they were northern women from Winterfell. Cersei was sure that they served Catelyn Tully. It was strange, but Cersei had started calling her Tully again in her mind. For some weeks now, Cersei began feeling herself become more and more the mistress of Winterfell. Sometimes in bed Eddard would turn over, and pull the queen close to him and Cersei would wonder if he ever did this with Catelyn, ever smelled her hair and caressed her belly. Cersei was no Stark, but in the dark of the night, when truths were the only language spoken, she was the wolf's true mate.
She was surprised to find soft boiled eggs, encompassed by bread, buttered and fried. It came with a side of bacon. Across from her seat she found Eddard Stark waiting for her, but not noticing her. He was a thousand leagues away, looking out the window, a sliver of her bacon in hand, half eaten. He looked grim and melancholy as always. It seemed rather against the queen's personality, but she found more to love about that serious face than any other she's loved. All her life she was bedded by men who didn't care for seriousness. Jaime and Robert wanted to have fun, to tell a jest, and for everyone to love them for it. Eddard Stark was dark, serious, and thoughtful. Some of his own men have said he had no sense of humor. Being raised by Tywin Lannister, a serious man himself, Cersei knew that this man was a true lord, a man who respected serious situations, and respected her.
"I take it, you haven't eaten …" She said, his robe swirling at her ankles. Ned blinked and found Cersei, he observed his robe on her and found a slight smile. It was sorrowful, yet genuine, smile that it seemed only Cersei could pry out of him in these private moments.
"I was with Maester Pycelle …" He rubbed his eyes.
Cersei gracefully slid into her seat. "No more is needed to be said … the man does talk well." She smirked.
"He does tend to prattle on, doesn't he?" He chuckled tiredly.
Cutting into the fried bread she lifted her eyes to parchment in his hand. "What was it you were speaking to him of?" She downcast her eyes back to her food, taking a generous bite, with regal lady like manners.
The Hand's face seemed confused. "I'm not sure what we were talking of … I believe I stopped paying attention, somewhere along Myrish scopes." He seemed a little guilty, a true man of chivalry.
Cersei smiled, while she chewed. Eddard looked down at the parchment and back at her, and twitched an eyebrow. He saw through her question and what she really wanted to know. What was he up to?
There was an uneasy feeling amongst some of the Northern Bannermen about how much Eddard shared with Cersei. Like the handmaids, many of them were used to Catelyn being the mother of the north. She had earned their trust since she was barely flowered, betrothed to only Starks, destined to be the Lady of Winterfell. Cersei was a Lannister, a treasonous queen, with a hypnotizing beauty and body. She heard Roose Bolton talk of the Night King at a feast fortnight ago, when Cersei took Lady Catelyn's seat next to Eddard on the dais. Great Jon Umber challenged him, saying that a Bannermen with no faith in his liege lord was no loyal man. Bolton apologized to Eddard after a tense silence, but spared her no words.
Robb Stark was of the same mindset. She ate supper every night with the remaining Starks in Kings Landing. Robb and Sansa sat together, Sansa never being too far from Robb Stark's strong comforting arms. Those were long nights, Robb Stark staring daggers at her from across the table, while Sansa told her of the entire goings on in the court.
"There's word from Winterfell." Ned's voice was serious, sliding out of his chair and walking toward the window.
This was what she had been waiting for since they got word that the children had arrived a month ago. She turned everything in her being toward Ned who was slowly undressing out of his formal wear.
"Yes?" She tried to sound calm.
Eddard turned and nodded to her in reassurance. But she didn't want his damned reassurance; she wanted news of her children. "What of Myrcella?" There was a pain in Cersei's chest. Her girl, alone in the Stark stronghold, guarded by a cripple boy, a balding maester, and an old master-at-arms who braids his facial hair.
But when she looked up, Ned Stark had a small private smile. "She's doing well." He trailed off.
Something about the rare smile made her give a quirk to her lips. "What?" She showed her teeth in the coy grin.
"Luwin writes that she's enjoying herself quite a bit. She likes staring at the stars through his Myrish scope, and she enjoys listening to Arya's dance instructor's stories at supper." He sat.
"Forell?" Was all the golden haired beauty could conjure from memory, distracted by Myrcella's smiles, playing with Tommen, at her feet when they were babes.
"Yes, but …" He got another smile.
The "but" gave her alarming pause. "But what?" She slipped to the edge of her seat.
The Hand's pin clinked as he set it on the night stand. "According to Luwin … her favorite part of the day is reading with Bran." He gave her a knowing look.
She remembered the Stark's young boy, the handsome face, the easy smiles … "Good …" She trailed off in thought, before she smiled a private smile of her own. Brandon Stark was no Robert Baratheon. She will be happier than Cersei, and it was all she ever wanted for her from the moment she held her in her arms.
Eddard seemed pensive a moment. "There was word from Riverrun as well … Holster Tully seems to have died." He said. She wasn't sure why he chose to tell her this, but sometimes Eddard just need to talk and Cersei found that, like when she was little watching her father plan and govern, she enjoyed to listen.
"He was well thought of." She supplied.
Ned glared. "He was an opportunist piece of scum." He replied hotly. The harsh aggression in his voice cause Cersei to jump back, and for a moment she would've liked nothing more than for him to take her roughly and spill his seed inside her without remorse. After blushing quietly, she cleared her throat.
"He used his daughters as bargaining chips to further his power." He continued. Cersei ate quietly for a long moment as Ned sighed, letting old wounds bleed out the bad blood, before scabbing.
"The Riverlands are important. They're the key food provider in the realm." Cersei added.
Ned nodded. "And with winter coming, no one will profit from chaos." He agreed.
"Ser Brydon would be the logical choice." She advised.
He sighed. "Ser Brydon refuses to marry … thus he has no heirs. But it's worse. Lysa Arryn has sent word for the River Lords to swear fealty to her son." He rubbed his stubble.
"Robert Arryn, Lord of the Riverlands and the east?" She tried not to laugh. "He's still at his mother's breast, and he's Tommen's age." She protested.
"Littlefinger is backing her claim in the small council." He glared.
Of course Littlefinger would, Cersei saw through it. She saw the way Baelish and Lysa were always tittering in private before she fled the capitol. Baelish has something up his sleeve, a ploy of some sort.
"What does Brydon say?" She asked.
Eddard got pensive a moment. "He had a proposal. He asked to take Bran as his ward, and name him his heir when it was time. He says he looks the most like Cat amongst our boys." He turned back to Cersei as if he was asking for her opinion.
She just stared at him almost in shock. She couldn't believe he was asking her for her opinion. Every time she had given Robert, or even her father, her own thoughts all she had gotten was a cold stare or, in case of Robert, a comment about the gold purse in between her legs being what he wanted from her.
"My lady?" Eddard brought her back.
"I …" She trailed off. She cleared her head and thought hard. But all she could hear was how happy Myrcella was with Brandon Stark. The last thing she wanted was to separate her the way their father did with her and Jaime.
"What of your youngest son …?" She trailed off, not sure what his name actually was. "He's a babe still. If taken to Riverrun now, he might be raised amongst some of the younger sons of the Riverlands. To make friendships that a Lord of the Trident might need when Walder Frey or Littlefinger and Lysa decide to make a move." She said hopefully.
There was a pause for a moment. He was actually thinking of her proposal, it made her sit a little taller, made her feel powerful. He turned back to her and sighed.
"I'll think on it …" He said quietly. He seemed almost emotional. The further he thought of the situation the more it became clear to Cersei that he was thinking of separating his family further. She felt a twinge in her belly, a twinge of sorrow she knew well.
"Is there news of Tommen?" She asked hopefully.
For a long moment he stared at her, before he turned away. His reaction was enough to stop her heart, something had happened. She stood, her fork clattering on the plate, she strode after him.
"Lord Stark … if something has happened to my boy, I'll have you tell me." She commanded. Eddard sighed placing his hands behind his back wandering toward the balcony overlooking the river.
"I don't know what's become of Tommen." He said worriedly.
Cersei's chest began to sink. Did she lose another one of her babes? Gods, not another one, not her little boy, her baby. "Did he not make it to Winterfell?" Her voice broke.
Eddard nodded. "He was there … for a time." He sounded unsure how to continue.
"Where is my boy?" She snapped in helpless anger.
"He rode off with a passing company that Bran armed and supplied …" He turned to face her.
"Who's company!" She pushed
A cold wind shuddered through the trees of the open dirt road, it's frigid fingers groping with arms of a nameless fear from the north, it's sinister secrets shaking the last of the leaves of autumn off its branches. The air was moist and damp, carrying with it a chill that could get into a weaker man and stay with him till his dying breath.
There was nothing in the Crownlands anymore, except warfare and reckless regard for man and land by westerners and northerners. The death and destruction smelled of dead loyalties and the treason of selfish love between two lion cubs with no understanding of the consequence of the heart. The pale sun of late autumn told the news that it would soon retire. The darkness in the hour before it should grace the torn land was a preview of what would come for all of them when the world forgot happiness and the looming threat came for them all. The emotionless, heavy clouds hung over the setting like an unkept oath on a man of honor's conscious.
In the breeze, a boy sat on a horse watching several bodies sway to the music of nature from their spots on tree branches, attached by the neck to a noose. The boy was small and young, some might say too young to see such things, but in a land ravished by war and injustice, it was better for him to understand now than when he shared a rope and tree branch of his own. His pony snorted and whickered from under him, backing away nervously.
"It's okay, Nuncle …" He said gently to the shaggy animal, patting its thick neck, scratching out a tangle out of its gray mane of long hair.
A standard issue Lannister cloak, weather worn and faded, draped the boy shoulders. Its dark cowl covered wind swept curls of beaten gold. A tall man's white and brown duster embraced him snuggly under the cloak, protecting him from the cold. A knight's sword was hung on his saddle. It had a gold and wood handle, with a matching twisting cross guard. It was a lord's weapon, a man's weapons, and a Kingslayer's weapon. Equipment entrust to him by his younger uncle at the Inn at the Crossroads. Equipment given to him at the request of the boy, by the man who they belonged to.
The bodies on display were not Lannister soldiers like in the Riverlands, those he could forage from like he had at the Green Fork. They were women; he could tell because they didn't have what he had between his legs. They had they're privy parts inside them, like he saw when mother would bath in front of him. He took a moment not to stare at the bodies, like Ser told him not too, but to pay respect to them. Ser told him that if he could, they would stop and bury everybody they came across and say some words, like they had for his friends who fell in the Riverlands. But their companions were the last graves they had dug. They had to be at the Summer Islander mistress's brothel in Kings Landing in a fortnight from this morning, to meet up with his uncle again.
The reason the young squire stopped was because he knew the ladies hanging nakedly from the tree. Their garments had been taken from them before death, or ripped from their bodies by travelers or scavengers looking to sell silk small clothes. The boy knew they had to be silk, because they used to wear the same matching clothing as his mother and sister. The women hanging from the tree weren't just any women; they had been ladies of the highest birth, with one of the highest honors.
They had been the Queen's handmaidens once.
He couldn't remember their names. They had never told him and, truth be told, his mother never wanted them in the first place. The one on the right, with the pecked out eyeball and missing nipples, used to read to him when his mother was called away. The big one, with sliced open belly, used to eat his beets for him, when his mother was scowling at his fath … his … her husband. The last one, the one on the left, she was a good girl. She was his sister's friend. They had played games and laughed. They had played with his kittens together.
"LANNISTER WHORES" The sign nailed to her chest said.
He didn't believe it, or maybe he should? The boy didn't know the real truths, or who or what he was anymore. He was only eight and went from a palace and castles, playing with his kittens, to being cold and hungry, unsure where home was or if he ever had one in the first place. Wearing a jacket and sword that belonged to a man who wasn't who he thought he was.
It was a tiny little noise that caught his attention, the blond youth turned back and saw a furry little head, nuzzle its way out of his saddle bag. Its ears were white and it's impossibly fluffy, coal black face was looking around. He tightened his cheek.
"Ser Hodor … "He chastised quietly. If Ser found out he brought another animal with him on their trek, he wouldn't be happy. "You're not supposed to come out yet … it's too cold." He said reaching inside his too big white and brown leather coat, stuffing some dried corn inside his saddle bag and gently placing his new kitten back inside. "Go back to sleep." He whispered
A crow flapped above the boy's head, perching on a creaking tree branch. Its black feathers looked purple in the dim light of coming day. Its beady eyes looked mean and yet wise, it's nose greedily pointing to the boy's breast.
Green eyes glared. "Ser, already fed you! You're always so greedy … Ser Hodor hasn't eaten this morning!" He said defiantly.
The Crow perched back and suddenly went silent, the two trading wordless glares of confrontation.
It fluttered away at the sound of snapping twigs. The young boy rounded on the origin of the sound and found why his pony was uneasy. Hidden in the branches of the dying trees, wild red eyes watched the boy emotionlessly. They belonged to a silent hunter with snow white fur and a height that seemed unnatural. The boy felt uneasy, he had liked the wolf well enough, but that was till the fight at the inn back in the Riverlands. He had never seen an animal tear a knight's throat open, or bite that Frey boy who had stabbed lady Catelyn's head right off. The young squire loved all sorts of animals, but this one was one he had to get to know better.
The boy wheeled his pony around toward the voices. They belonged to two figures. The first was on a matching grey charger, cloaked in black. His cowl was pulled over his head, rendering his face unrecognizable. Strapped to the side of a pack across his back was a sword of great worth, with a black leather handle and a white wolf's head with ruby eyes for a pummel. The crow from earlier sat perched on his shoulder as he passed. He seemed like a dark figure, frightening to look upon sometimes. He hadn't been the same since the fight at the Inn at the Crossroads. He seemed to be darkened since they lost most of the companions that had set out with them from Winterfell … Grenn, Pip, Dolourus, Ser Rodrick … but amongst all of them it seemed it was Ygritte he mourned the most.
The figure behind Ser looked out of place in contrast to the intimidating and brooding figure in front of him. He was a fat boy on a horse that seemed a bit too small for him. He wore a big thick fur lined cloak that made him look even bigger. His attitude was cheery, a needed contrast to what remained of their company. He was smiling and staring at a thimble in hand.
"You know another thing about Gilly that's fascinating?"
"Her teeth, they're not as bad as her sister's … our old cook at Horn Hill used to say that a lass with good teeth was a keeper."
"I'm sure he could write a book of wisdom."
"I'm not sure he could read …"
"With advice like that … I couldn't tell."
"Maybe I'll teach Gilly how to read once we get back to Winterfell … if we get out of this tourney alive that is."
"You'll see her and the baby again … one way or the other."
"I'd prefer one way, rather than the other."
"Not today, says this water dancer."
The boy watched them for a moment as they passed, then he turned back, but the wolf was gone, leaving nothing behind to show he was ever there.
The Knight in black called after the boy as they went down the road. The boy looked around once more for the wolf, before looking up at the sky, feeling the wind kick up. He closed his father's leather coat around him, and with a kick he trotted his pony after the two, falling in line.
Above a light snow began to fall.
This Chapter's song is "Man's Road" by "America"
Sorry if this feels like filler. This chapter originally started out with Cersei's trial, but I got a better idea to write a Tourney ... but then I decided to add a little background intrigue ... so I guess you could say this chapter's title should be set up.
Read & Review as always.