The Dividing Line
The day of rest had passed and a couple more. The men had brought down their tents, pavilions were struck down and tucked away with care, and camps and camp followers packed away their possessions large and small, many and few.
Gendry was sullen and quiet his constant companions had noted. He had not spoken to Arya since their disagreement. He had seen her briefly after her wolf returned to her, but mostly in passing. She was always surrounded by her brothers now, or attempting to lose her maid as usual.
His men had fallen back. They were travelling slower. He had a larger retinue than the Starks and their banners. On the road, Arya rode with her brothers. Gendry rode alongside the carriage where Hot Pie sat on the back of a wagon on a pile of crates. The advisors were behind, leaving their lord some space. Lem and Tom rode forth next to Gendry with Lem on a horse of his own, and Tom next to Hot Pie on the wagon. He cleared his throat loudly and abruptly and burst forth into song as he strummed a few notes on his stringed instrument.
The wolf maid came strolling, strolling along…
All was put right where there was wrong.
Her beauty was much; our bond was strong.
Wolf maid , oh, wolf maid…
where did it go wrong?
Gendry ignored him and kept his eyes on the road. Hot Pie noted that he gripped the reins of his horse tighter in his large hands. Hot Pie shrugged and continued munching on his breakfast of bread and cheese. They had left quite early before the sun even arose, but the sky grew lighter as they travelled onward.
Tom seemed not to notice and continued on with his new song.
Wolf maid, wolf maid…
to you I belong.
Come be with me as we stroll along.
Through woods and mountains …
through war and strife…
you are my lady, you are my life
Lem let out a guffaw as Hot Pie smacked a pudgy hand, crumbly with bread to his mouth. Gendry turned his deep blue eyes and they settled on Tom. The lines of Lem's mouth slackened for a moment. The same hard-eyed look as the father, King Robert, when he was in a temper, he thought, but he pressed on.
"Ah, now, come on then, what is to you, my lord? With all due respect, there are bloody wolves all over the place. It could be any girl. Could have been the one Tom was with last night," Lem smiled devilishly.
"Or the night before….or the night before that, "sing-songed Tom, as he twanged his instrument more quickly.
"Oh…. Wolf, maid wolf maid…come be my wife.
Tom gave a dramatic strum of his lute .
Gendry cut him off and snarled. "I…you presume too much…"
"Do we? And so what if we do? We are yours to command. And have been true friends to you too."
"And still are, even though you are a knight an all,' called out Hot Pie as he finished his breakfast.
"And a lord and heir and all…." Continued Lem
"I was going to say that…..grumbled Hot Pie.
Tom strummed again.
Wolf maid, oh, wolf maid….
right from the start…
wolf maid, wolf maid…
you had my heart….
I am gloomy and doomy since we did part…" Joked Tom
"Damn miserable too…"scoffed Lem as he sang off key.
Oh, wolf maid, wold maid…
"I think I love you," sang Hot Pie, in a high-pitched and warbly tone. And he gaped at Gendry and could kick himself, but it rhymed and it just came out.
Gendry was not amused and pointed in turn. "You will stick to making pies, you, to guarding me, and well, you're playing and singing is nice, I would sing something else if you don't mind. The ones you compose are getting worse by the minute." He ran a hand through his thick black hair and wished the gods would strike him down. They were only making it worse. He missed her. And he had to stop. He was going into battle and a lot lay ahead of him. He had to think things through. He had to remain clear-headed. He was leading men to fight for him and maybe die. He had to get over it.
"Sure, but later you can tell us why the wolf maid ain't speaking to you," cajoled Lem.
"Or you are not talking to her," offered Tom, scratching his head.
"Which is it anyway?" said Lem, as he turned to look at Tome. "I bet you a bag of coins, she cut him off. Prettier now as she's grow, but still hard-headed and flighty that one." He lowered his voice. "All the Starks, well, they are different. And you…handsome young lad…better off, maybe."
Gendry was going to tell him he didn't know what he was talking about, for some reason, but he couldn't. He was an honest boy. He was never a good liar, and didn't like it anyway.
"Tell her that and she will punch you in the nose. Happened to me….almost cut me once. When she was 'Arry, she scared the piss out of me."
"You did far worse to her when you met her," the words to defend her came out before he was even aware of it.
"What? How would I know we'd be friends? That she was a girl? Lommy and I were scared to death. Had to make a name for ourselves with that lot that we weren't going to take anything from no robbers or murderers."
"A lady." Gendry inclined his head to remind Hot Pie. "And a little boy, who was an orphan, and lonely and alone, or so we all thought at first, was nowhere near the lot we had to travel with. She was a foot or so shorter than anyone there and skinny too."
"I told you she yelled Winterfell. Never believed me….and she hit you too."
"Several times in fact." He gave a soft smile. "And I don't wish to speak about a lady without her present. And we are all fighting with this Starks. It is not right."
"Lady, my arse. She'd tell you off right good now if you were speaking. She broke my nose!"
"I don't want to talk about it." Gendry gave him a look.
"Oh, so you're not speaking then. I was right. Hand me the bag…now. I intend to spend it at the next inn, if you please." He looked at Gendry and held out a hand to Tom.
"Hold on. Who started it?" gawked Hot Pie. "Did you say something to her? Sorry, but you are mad to try and start with her in a temper."
"Yes, but…she didn't like what I had to say. She wasn't angry at all before that. And was there…were you three wagering?" Gendry's eyebrows rose and his blue eyes seemed to grow darker. His face was steel.
"Not me. I ain't got anything to wager with and you know that," squealed Hot Pie.
"I win then. What was it about anyway?"
"Stop. Or I will banish you from the trip and I mean it." Gendry roared out and then looked around as people turned to them.
They all stopped.
Tom strummed his lute.
"Fine. I will sing about you, our lord, Gendry Baratheon then."
I will not lie
I swear to the sky
I sit with the ale
I've hit hard the rye
"Talk to me or I'll die"….sang Lem and the three had to laugh.
Gendry was not amused and was about to correct them again when…
"Look, they are riding closer now. There she is. We're friends. I'll talk to her," Hot Pie rolled up his sleeves and hoped she was in good spirits that day. "Do I look presentable for a lady?" He wiped crumbs and licked his finger and attacked a grease spot on his tunic.
"No , don't…." Gendry held out an arm to halt him.
Arya and her brothers rode past. They smiled at Gendry and called out a morning greeting. Gendry noted that her brother Jon gave her a meaningful look, but Arya did not budge. She nodded at the men and Gendry, but her eyes darted away quickly. Her brothers rode off and she sped off in front of them, her direwolf running proudly by her side.
"She is so damned stubborn," he growled, shaking his head.
"The beautiful ones always are. I know. I've known many."
"Nevermind, and keep singing if you must, but enough with the girl…. wolf…girl song uh, songs or whatever you call it."
"And now we will pause and stop the ballad of the lovely, yet more likely to run someone through with her sword, wolf maid. Let us sing of others great and mighty… or they were."
Gendry thought of her with Needle and knew it to be true. He just hoped nobody heard these fools carrying on so.
Tom cleared his throat and burst into a jovial and quicker tune.
There was a king named Joffrey
ater Robert had passed.
Most in secret would say
that he is an ass.
Lord Tywin was so grim.
His wife they say was prim.
Queen Cersei is a beast.
Perhaps she will go east?
Or better yet, will join him.
King Robert's son …
"Which one? " Tom and Lem shouted.
Lem started counting in confusion on his fingers and ran out. He grabbed a wineskin from his side as if the effort to count hurt.
Why, the true heir to the throne.
And as I drone…
I ponder as we roam…
How were Joffrey's curls prettier than a girls?
Tom had sung louder and the men riding in front of them grabbed their sides and laughed very loudly.
"You are too much."
"We have been fairly enjoying ourselves."
" Made the time pass quick…."
Gendry rode some more in silence. He noted talking and laughing and joking. And then the banners stopped.
"Water, wine, and a piss! A short rest until we stop for camp for the night. Don't rest too comfortably. The maester says we still have hours to ride before dark.. Give it one half hour or so…"
The banners edged off the road to a forest. Men ran to piss near trees. Some gulped down water and uncorked wineskins. A group of ladies with low cut and worn dresses giggled as they raced to bushes to empty their water.
Gendry was tired and weary and sore. He knew it was from thinking too much. He dismounted his horse and threw the reins to his squire. He asked the boy if he had water and he nodded silently. He rumpled his hair and gave him a rough pat on the back.
"Are you coming?" He was tired, and even more tired of the songs.
"Yes, my lord." Gendry saw Lem leap off his horse and Tom gingerly step down from the wagon clutching his lute. Hot Pie almost fell off the wagon.
"The Stranger's arse….my leg fell asleep. And I feel a bit sick."
"You filled your face the whole way, what do you expect?"
They found a brook with tree stumps nearby and they sat.
Lem threw rocks into the water while Hot pie aired his intestinal complaints. Tom strummed his lute lost in thought.
Hot Pie decided to lie down in the grass. He put his arms behind his head and squiggled around to get comfortable. The next thing he knew he rolled his eyes back. He saw too large paws. He yelled and jumped up.
"Don't….let it bite me. I don't want it to eat me…."
"She won't hurt you. Nymeria back away…now," ordered Arya.
The wolf did as she was bade. "She will not leave my side since she returned. I think she is afraid I would have to leave her again."
Gendry didn't speak. He wasn't sure he should. She didn't even address him. She just spoke to Hot Pie anyway. He noted that the wolf looked through him. Even her wolf was bloody pissed at him.
"Yes, my lady."
"There was a lot of joking amongst the men between the Baratheon banners and the men at the front of the Stark. It seems there are some new and amusing songs you were singing"
"What were they about? I mean, which ones, my lady…"
Gendry cringed inwardly and hoped he wasn't blushing. He was fair, but thank the seven he was out in the sun nearly everyday since they started off.
"A girl…a maid, really…and her wolf. Or she had a wolf so she is referred to as the wolf maid. Would I know her?"
"You might, my lady. It is about you. I meant no disrespect. And they were not funny ones by any means. Sorrowful. Sad. Er, a little love and romance….the funny ones were about Cersei and Joffrey. "
"Oh, I don't mind those so much. But songs of love?" She made a face
And Gendry realized what she was doing and smiled.
"Really, Lord Baratheon how ridiculous is that?" She eyed Gendry pointedly.
"Very. Lady Arya." He looked down at his riding boots to hide his grin.
"That is why they are songs in which to entertain. You inspired me with your wolf, but alas, I won't sing them again," said Tom, with regret.
"Oh, you can. Just not in front of the men. We shouldn't be too silly now. We are going to war in maybe weeks. No good to get carried away."
Gendry realized that if she had heard most of Tom's words she would never have said that.
"Right my lady. I see that now."
"Tom. I would like to add to the song."
"Really, what….my lady." He raised his lute.
Arya cleared her throat and recited in an unenthusiastic and unsure voice. She wished she had a sweet, clear voice like Sansa but she never had, and it was not to be.
Tom, Tom said the wolf maid
I hope my wolf eats you
But first I will be paid
No matter of course
Dead, your pockets I will raid
None will come to your aid
My wolf will be help me too
I am the wolf maid. She sprung into a bow and Needle scratched the forst floor.
Tom had to smile and Lem and Hot Pie laughed loudly and heartily. Gendry smiled and turned away so she didn't see him laugh. He knew she was being funny but maybe she didn't want to see him think it was funny.
Arya tried to not smile but she couldn't help it. She patted Nymeria's head.
" Lord Baratheon, my brothers wish to speak to you this evening when we make camp."
"Yes, I will have my advisors make the arrangements.. We will go to you this time. I think it is our turn. Will you be at the council too?"
"Not this time. Perhaps next." And he saw it. He saw her change again. She was still angry at him.
"Arya…Lady Arya." His voice was low and pleading.
"Good night, Lord Baratheon." She averted his eyes and turned to go with Nymeria loping away also at her feet. But he could see she looked troubled, unsure of herself, and that was not her way either.
Lem, spit. "You are a lord. Don't ask…never ask. Ah, you are young, but you'll learn. "