The litter smoothly made its way along the King's Road, effortlessly like the paddling of a swan through calm waters, it swept past wide-eyed mongrels who all watched captivated, the sprawling splendour of the King's Court as they passed them by. Jaime Lannister rode proudly on a horse that was the colour of honey, his hair too gleamed like polished gold; a knight of the King's own guard, he wore his years lightly; contrasting his sister, the Queen, whose beauty had been slightly spoiled by the mistreatment of her husband, the King.
Eira's green eyes danced as she peeked out from behind the bright curtains of her litter, drinking in the sights of King's Landing. The sun bore heavily down on her delicate eyes, her fair skin had already been burned and her fiery hair lightened by the golden globe's intense rays. A smile curved along her lips; this would be where she made her fortune, where she would forge her name and destiny and it filled her with an intense pleasure. She sat back and enjoyed the jostling of the litter, happy to be nearing their destination and caught a glimpse of Lord Stark, his gruff face moody and stern and his eyes squinting underneath the southern sun; he looked ill-placed among these glittering, jewelled courtiers; like a rag of rough fustian woven into a tapestry of luxurious silk. Eira's eyelids closed, the heat was indeed powerful for northerners such as her and him so she could not blame Lord Eddard's temperament, and she let out a sigh and hoped they would be pulling into King's Landing soon.
She had a mind to see the Iron Throne. How fascinating a throne it was; forged by the flames of dragons and polished by the rumps of the greatest, maddest and most treacherous men of the Seven Kingdoms. Its history was long and storied, stewed in blood and garnished with a good measure of glory and grief, Eira was always interested in the very best, so naturally she would be captivated by a king's chair. Now was the hour of her fortune, her star was on the ascent and soon she would be known to everybody who lived. She would be praised for her cutting-edge fashion sense and good looks, like that of Lord Renly. Honoured for the many sons she bore whoever her husband may be; a Tyrell, a Lannister or maybe a cousin from the Eyrie. She knew not but was so gladdened to be away from the grim, humdrum of the north she could have squealed in delight.
Except she was not.
No, indeed she was not. Instead, the daughter of the esteemed Lord Medger Cerwyn was being cast aside by her oh-so esteemed said father; off to the even more-so esteemed hovel that was Mole's Town, north of anywhere she may have wished with all her soul to be and not a ten minute hike from the Wall where the valiant men of the Night's Watch froze their arses off day in and day out. Instead of her, her witless brother, Cley was accompanying Lord Stark down to King's Landing so the Lord of Winterfell could be ennobled as the King's own Hand.
Eira sighed deeply, shivering on her steady palfrey which was the colour of snow after a rain, grey and listless just like the north as a whole. There was no vibrancy to be found north of the Twins; and anybody who was anybody who had brightened up the confounded place was heading south. Now, with only a manservant and an irritable septa; Eira found herself wishing for death on their cold journey towards the end of the world. Well, near enough, the Wall was actually the end of the Earth; for what was there beyond it? Eira knew not and she did not much care; all she had a mind for was her own foolishness, her thoughts always returning to the splendour and lavishness she was denied because of her father's own integrity...and her own lack of for that matter.
Her thoughts again returned to the child that sat beneath her heart; all her father's plans for her were tossed to the winds, replaced with a hurried scheme, he licked his dry lips and ruled; leave and do not return.
A steep price and one which Eira could understand, but was at a loath to pay. So on the day of the King's arrival to Winterfell she had to watch her father and brother gallop off and leave her behind. Within half a day of their departure a man from the Night's Watch had came to their home, seeking refuge for the night. Within a night and half a day, a raven from her father; go from our home, take whatever coin needed but do not be there when I return for you shame us all. There was no sentiment, no joy or sadness in his words but an explanation for why and one which, again, Eira understood and so; she packed her belongings, taking only what she needed, gold, clothes and a looking glass which had belonged to her dear mother and met Septa Brynhild – a stubborn old battleaxe – outside in the courtyard, hiring the man from the Watch to escort them to Mole's Town, and they were off. Not a glamorous living, Eira thought she'd be living in Mole's Town; she had only ever heard rumours of the place and all of them rather...sordid.
Their journey was slow-moving and dull; the constant drone of Septa Brynhild's voice was like the buzz of an old bee; moan, scold, complain and sniff. She took an immediate dislike to their escort, a man named Yoren; her proud eagle's nose was always curled whenever he came near, her weather beaten old leather crinkling between her brows whenever he spoke. Also, Eira was assured every mile of their nine day journey that she had brought all of this upon herself,
"Well, you ruined it, young miss."
"If you had only the sense to keep that mouth and those legs shut – you'd be married off to one of the Lannisters by now! Raising legitimate children and running your husband's household."
The girl nodded, concurring with the old bat's words and hearing Yoren's hearty chuckle for the recycled reprimand which had been rapped across the young woman's knuckles on more than one occasion during their journey. Eira pulled her purple cloak closer and her heart sank; was this all she really had now? The clothes on her back, the coin in her pocket and the child in her belly?
Yes, it most certainly seemed so.
"How long have you been in the Night's Watch, Master Yoren?"
Eira asked quietly over the crackling fire; the Septa Brynhild was sleeping soundly in her tent; her snuffling snores had been loud enough to make Yoren's brow furrow and make Eira smother a giggle. The black-clad man peered over at her from his chore; running a whet stone down the tang of his battered, well-used blade.
"Nearing two decades, miss."
He answered shortly and added, "Not my choice but it's better than getting your hands lopped off."
"I take it you committed some crime, then?" Eira asked smartly and the man chuckled, "Aye – you could say that."
"What was your crime if you don't mind my asking?"
"Murder." His answer was swift, followed by a sharp intake of breath from Eira and he smiled, his rugged face creasing everywhere; "Don't worry, miss. I'm not about to slit your throat and steal your coin."
"I should hope not," Eira said stoutly, "You're getting paid rather handsomely to take me to Mole's Town."
His bark of laughter was hushed when the septa's snore became drawn out and loud; Eira's eyes watched her for a few moments before they returned to the black brother, her fair brow was quirked as Yoren nodded,
"You'll be safe enough in Mole's Town – it has good folk. Small, but good." Eira bobbed her head dourly,
"Not my choice – but it is better than being whipped at the arse of a cart by your father."
"Aye, I get that." He quipped; his eyes peered down instantly to her belly as the girl wriggled under her fur mantle,
"You also understand that if any of your brothers on the Wall ask about the coin..."
The man held up a hand and ducked his head, "The coin'll be getting spent in Mole's Town anyway, miss."
Eira's brow puckered in a frown and the man said with a wicked glint in his dull eyes,
"I'm stopping off there to dig for treasure."
A moment passed were Eira was uncomprehending, then like a pail of water had just been sloshed over her head she blushed and grinned, clearing her throat she responded rather reserved,
"I'll not enquire as to the nature of your treasure, I'm sure you'll find enough to keep you satisfied and have enough gold there to acquire enough ale to make the search easier and your silence more resolute."
Yoren's face was crinkled in a grin at her words and he nodded and said very solemnly, "I couldn't have put it better myself, my lord commander has a way with words not unlike yourself." Eira's interest piqued, she asked,
"Who is your leader?"
"Jeor Mormont," Yoren said and Eira frowned, mouth downturned she shook her head, "I do not know of him."
"He's a good man, bigger than most; he's a bloody bear but he keeps things in order."
"And what do you do?"
The man's attention was back on his blade and he answered vaguely and absently, "Me? I pluck the riffraff from the dungeons all over Westeros and haul their carcases back north. Next time I head out, I'll be goin' south to fetch the letches, rapers, robbers and urchins from King's Landing."
"So you're a recruiter? What about Ned Stark's brother? What does he do?" She asked, her voice trembled on a shiver. "Benjen?" Yoren said and she nodded, "He's First Ranger. Goes out beyond the Wall scouting for wildlings and things like that; usually he's out there for a good month or two, he'll be headin' back once the King sets out south."
"My father told me of one of your men who was beheaded by Lord Stark," Eira said and Yoren looked at her;
"Aye. Young Will. He was a good lad, had a good eye for tracking, he was a Ranger too – like Benjen." The man sighed deeply and placed his sword aside, leaning back; he looked like a man who was for all intents and purposes, settling down for sleep, "But he deserted, that's a crime and crime is punished by death."
Eira shuddered at the heaviness in his tone as he added darkly,
"If you're already in the Watch."
They set out the next morning after a simple breakfast of bread and cheese, washed down with some ale – which Septa Brynhild obviously chastised Eira for. Ignoring the stout woman, Eira pointed out that she was only in her first month and that a little cup of ale to take the edge off the morning was not going to kill her. The septa huffed and puffed out her bosom and denounced Eira to the Hells and mentioned that she would pray for Eira's sinful soul; this incited a sharp cackle of laughter from Yoren as he helped the portly septa onto her pudgy pony while Eira nimbly swung herself up onto the saddle of her palfrey.
"Enough bellyaching, girls. Let's head out."
Eira had never once been this far north before and the chill which clung to the very air hurt her lungs; Yoren noticed her laboured breath and informed her that it was better to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, "The air hurts your throat, miss." Taking his advice, Eira did as he said and her throat did not ache as much. Their progress was slow and lumbering, mostly due to Septa Brynhild's pace; Eira found she resented the old woman's slow moving march but knew she'd need her before the end so she let it slide – grudgingly. The septa's voice carried however, and no matter how far she fell behind Yoren and Eira she still managed to squawk out questions for Eira to answer,
"Just because you've forwent your soul does not give you leave to be a fool, Eira! Well, any more a fool than you already are that is; now, who built the Wall?"
Eira's green eyes rolled at the septa's easily inflamed temper; Yoren grinned as he caught her doing so, his mirth only deepening as Eira replied blandly; "Brandon the Builder..."
"How tall?!" Septa Brynhild snapped irritably.
"Seven hundred feet." Eira droned.
It went on like that for several days; the further north they got, the more northern-themed the septa's questions became, she had Eira rattle off all the names of the castles which lined the Wall, how long was the Wall and how long had the Night's Watch been active; Eira managed to answer the septa's questions with relative ease, apart from the names of all the castles; Yoren had to whisper a few to her.
One of the many advantages of the range the septa was barking these questions at Eira.
Finally after what seemed like an age of dull travelling and even duller sights; Eira's breath caught on a sharp gasp as her eyes roved over a sight which almost...almost made the travel worth it; the Wall was the most breath taking sight she had ever had the privilege to see. The sheer mass of the structure awed and terrified her; Septa Brynhild was actually silenced upon witnessing it whilst Yoren could only peer from the gaping women back to the Wall and wait for their stunned silence to play out.
"Welcome to the Gift. Mole's Town isn't far from here now; we should be there for sundown."
"Very well, crow; lead on." Septa Brynhild ordered and Eira threw him an apologetic look.
Their party pressed on at a surprisingly good pace but Eira was not looking forward to seeing her new home, in fact; now that they were upon Mole's Town she was beginning to grow homesick; this was where she'd play out the rest of her days; a shanty town nestled down beneath the shadow of the Wall. Panic struck the girl as she eyed the town, "This..." She began disbelievingly,
"...Is Mole's Town?"
Yoren let out a laugh, "No, miss. its bigger'n what it seems; here, let me get y' down."
He helped her down and she got her bearings shakily as Septa Brynhild joined her side, the septa was considerably shorter than the redheaded girl; "What shall we do with the horses, I see no stables?" The septa queried and Yoren nodded, gathering up all three of the beast's reigns,
"Follow me, you'll see."
They followed the man silently frozen; Eira couldn't wait for their journey to be at an end so she could fall into bed and sleep away her sadness, she was so absorbed in her thoughts she didn't even notice that Yoren had led them downwards into the bowels of the earth. She gasped, blinking in the perpetual darkness she would need to get accustomed to for the rest of her days.
So this was why it was named Mole's Town. Fitting.