Author's Note: Thanks to ejthepinoy (Stannis was the easy one. He's the one who only fights for honor. Renly is going to be the hard one), dirk (Wow, long and very thought out review. I'll do my best to address everything. Asha does love Theon and I think he loves her in his own way even though he is jealous of her so he'll have to deal with the repercussions of killing her. Stannis is the only one not thinking of himself but he's not a well liked man. Robb does fail at diplomacy but he's young yet. Melisandre isn't my favorite character but she has my respect for trying to do something about the Others and does admit she's wrong. As for Tywin I don't like him but I respect what he's done. You will see Jaime and Brienne and Tyrion when we get to King's Landing.), and MANDERS21 (Melisandre is not one of my favorite characters) for reviewing the last chapter! I own nothing of ASOIF.
The wolf started howling when the sun set. It's eerie melody sent shivers down the spine, the mournful wail sounding like the cry of a lost child. It's familiarity was not lost on Grey Wind who whined at his master's side, begging to be allowed to reply. Robb Stark sat beside his mother facing one of the fires. To his left Theon Greyjoy kept a hand on his bow, his normal boasts vanishing in the face of exhaustion. Theon had joined them just this morning, traveling through an entire day and night to reach them at the appointed time. Other men were spread around this fire and the twelve others that were part of Rhaegar Targaryen's extensive camp. They were bound for Winterfell, to break the siege and set Robb's brothers free, and tonight would be the last night they could light fires. After that they would be too near the besieging army to risk any kind of light after dark.
Grey Wind whined again, nudging Robb's arm impatiently. "Go on," Robb said with a sigh, knowing the massive direwolf would not give up until he was given a chance to challenge the crying wolf. Instantly the massive grey direwolf sat on his haunches, tilted his head back, and howled. Several men around Robb swore. Theon's fingers tightened around his bow and Catelyn shot her son a look of mild disapproval. Across the fire Oberyn Martell almost dropped his wineskin and sent Robb a dark glare. The other wolf howled back.
This howl was much closer than the previous one had been, almost as if Grey Wind's cry had called the second wolf nearer instead of driving it off. Men reached for crossbows, longbows, or swords but Robb felt a painful leap of hope in his chest. His blue eyes strained the darkness, searching for a shape in the darkness.
Grey Wind's tail thumped twice on the ground as the men stood. Robb could see nothing in the blackness behind the fire. Now matter how much he strained, all he saw were vague shadows. Then a part of his mind awoke and he was Grey Wind. Massive and powerful, his eyes piercing the darkness to see what lay behind. The shock of the sight threw Robb back into his own mind and he stood as a second direwolf slunk into camp.
Men swore and prayed in turned and Oberyn tossed aside the wineskin with a sigh of exasperation, drawing his sword. The dark colored direwolf snarled, hackles going up. Grey Wind whined and nudged his master. Robb's legs were shaking but he forced his voice to come out anyway. "Nymeria?"
Instantly the dark she wolf's hackles fell and her tail swished tenatively. Grey Wind stood, tail swishing as well, and pranced over to meet his sister. Beside Robb Catelyn let out a little gasp. She too had stood when the wolf entered the camp and now she sank back down to the ground. Theon let out a little laugh.
"We should have known Arya's wolf would thrive in the wilderness," Theon said and Robb couldn't help the smile forming on his face.
"Arya will be pleased," was all he said though, sinking back down on the ground next to his mother.
"If she is even still alive," Catelyn said, her voice barely a whisper.
"She is," Robb replied, his voice as soft as her. "We'll find her and bring her home. I promise." Catelyn simply turned her eyes to the flames, staring into them as if they held the answers to her deepest questions. Perhaps they did. Melisandre, the Red Woman as some called her, was traveling with them and she claimed that the fire spoke to her, telling her of what was happening and what was to come.
"This wolf is one of yours Stark?" Oberyn asked, sounding none too pleased.
"My sister Arya's," Robb replied. "She will be most displeased if killed Nymeria." And she has a sword. Robb did not utter that part aloud. It would sound absurd despite the truth to it. Jon had given Arya the sword only after convincing Robb to swear that it was his and Arya was just carrying it for him if it was found. Arya had never found out about the arrangement and if they couldn't find her she never would.
"Nymeria?" This question came from Ser Arthur Dayne. The knight had wandered over to find what all the fuss was being made over, Rhaegar on his heels.
"She was a warrior queen," Robb replied with a shrug. "Arya wishes to be a warrior. Therefore she named the wolf after the warrior queen of Dorne."
"Do not presume to give me history lessons," Oberyn snapped, sitting back down. Robb bit back his temper, but only barely. Grey Wind, as if sensing his master's anger, made his way over to Robb, pausing to growl at Oberyn as he went. Nymeria followed behind, not bothering to snarl at the Red Viper. Oberyn glared at the grey wolf and Robb resisted the urged to sigh in exasperation, sinking his finger's in Grey Wind's thick pelt and burying his head in the fur on his flank.
Nymeria nudged him moments later, begging for attention. Robb stroked Arya's direwolf, pulling dead leaves and chunks of mud from her fur as he went. She lay down in front of him with a contented sigh and Grey Wind wagged his tail twice again, lying down next to his sister.
"We'll have to cross through the Twins tomorrow," Brynden spoke up, his eyes meeting his nephew's. Robb nodded, knowing what that meant. Lord Walder Frey would want him to make good on his promise and chose on of his daughters to marry.
"We'll be forced to negotiate with Lord Walder Frey for passage," Ser Arthur Dayne pointed out.
"The Late Lord Frey should not be a problem," Catelyn said from Robb's side. "Not if my son honors his agreement."
"What agreement?" Dayne questioned.
"Mother," Robb complained out of habit and he saw Catelyn's lips quirk up in a smile.
"Come now," Theon said in a chiding tone. "It won't be that bad." Robb tossed a handful of pebbles at his friend, a few of them making contact. Theon smirked at him and Robb nudged Grey Wind. The direwolf glanced up and then growled half-heartedly at Theon, not even bothering to curl his lip. Theon's smirk widened and Robb couldn't help his answering smile.
"What agreement?" Dayne asked again, ever patient.
"My son is to marry one of Lord Walder's daughters or granddaughters," Catelyn explained.
"Arya's to marry one of the boys," Robb added. "You can't forget that."
"Of course not," Catelyn said.
"That's how you gained the Twins?" Oberyn Martell asked.
"Yes," Robb replied. "With a couple other concessions. It was the only way."
"I'm not criticizing," the Red Viper of Dorne said easily. "I would have attacked."
"The Twins?" Robb asked incredulously. "You'd have an easier time taking Moat Cailin."
"I didn't say it would have been a wise move," Oberyn said, taking a swig from his retrieved wineskin. "Just that it's what I would have done."
"Negotiation was simpler," Robb admitted. "Attacking one of my own bannermen would have won me the enmity of my supporters and I couldn't risk losing men in a battle that wasn't against the Lannisters."
To Robb's absolute confusion Oberyn then proceeded to glance at Rhaegar and say, "See" as if Robb had just proven some point of contention between them. Robb glanced at Theon who shrugged, just as mystified as his friend.