Chapter Four

.*oOo*.

Eira's eyes were hooded as she scanned the note in her hand; her fingers trembling, but not from the cold which was ever-present in the Long Barrow. She shivered as she read her father's neat script; his elegant hand was unbroken, not scrawled in a fit of anger or disappointment but written with the collection and tranquillity which she had come to expect from Lord Medger. This hurt Eira beyond imagining, the note which had been sent from Winterfell bore the seal of her father and of her House; a black war axe on a field of silver, there was no mistaking that this note was from her father. She had kept it for some reason unbeknownst to herself; a small slither of sentimentality on her part the girl reckoned, but it was his lack of sentimentality which cut her deep.

Go from our home, for you shame us all...

A tear reluctantly escaped her eye which she hurriedly swept away with numb fingers, dashing her pain from her mind; she crumpled up the note in a burst of anger; how could he do this to her? His only daughter forsaken to him for one mistake...One misdemeanour. Eira sighed, there was no point pinning blame for it was pinned as prominently on her chest as the badge of the King's Hand was on Ned Stark's. Sooner or later he would come around and Eira would just need to endure. Endure the cold, the estrangement and the loneliness...Her heart was breaking but she had to remain vigilant if she was to survive. She rubbed her belly and thought; I must survive for you too, don't I?

"Eira?" The voice was Septa Brynhild and without turning, Eira acknowledged the septa's presence.

"What is that?" The old woman enquired softly, a shudder rattled her voice and Eira pressed the note into the folds of her cloak, hiding it and said, "Nothing. Have you drawn water so that I may bathe?"

The septa's face cracked into a patronizing smile, "I haven't." She answered and Eira felt her temper spike, "Why?" she demanded sharply and Septa Brynhild chuckled in her throat and stepped past the girl, stoking their small fire; which had to remain minute so that they could carry on lodging in the Long Barrow incognito without drawing suspicion from the Men of the Watch. "It is too cold to bathe, little Lady."

"But I want to!" She snapped, she felt horribly dirty and thought she smelled but the septa only chortled, "Well if you truly wish to bathe, might I suggest you get a rag, warm some water and wash as they do in Dorne."

Eira was appalled and she all but stamped her little foot, her face reddening at the septa's words.

"I am not from Dorne! And I will not squat over a basin and wash myself like a barbarian."

"There really is nothing else I can propose," The septa said, spreading her hands as if it had very little to do with her; Eira's face was positively raging, "I want to wash, Septa!"

"You know where the basin is, Eira!"

"But I don't want to wash that way!"

"Well then you will just have to reek then, shan't you?" The septa's temper frayed at the girl's petulant insolence and she indicated to the girl with a rag in her hand and nodded for her to go through to the freezing garderobe. Snatching the rag, Eira eyed it disgustedly and flicked her eyes over the septa who smiled pleasantly and softly before adding gently,

"Your supper shall be ready for when you're done. Now, off with you."

"Yes, Septa. Thank you, Septa." Eira sneered through gritted teeth and trudged into the garderobe to wash; shivering and cursing the vile old woman all the time as she did so.

Eira's thoughts were focused solely on washing herself but as she disrobed, the note from her father fluttered unceremoniously to the cold floor. Eira stopped dead and eyed the inconsequential bit of parchment, afraid to pluck it from the floor a moment but then she sighed and picked it up, crumpled and unremarkable, for some unknown reason Eira smoothed it out and folded it over before stowing it safely in the pocket of her mantle before she got on with the chore of washing herself awkwardly and quickly. The fog of tedium fell over Eira as she soaked the rag in warm lavender scented water; her consideration drifted back to her father and the last thing he had said to her before he left for Winterfell;

She had been sewing in her room when her father had entered her little solar, his eyes aflame and his breathing irregular. His nostrils flared, he jerked his head at her companions like they were dogs for them to get out and Eira watched them all flit out like an innocent flock of doves, leaving behind the one deceitful crow.

"You will not come to Winterfell." He stipulated, reserved almost; his head bowed.

Eira expected as much and nodded setting aside her sewing, taking a breath she got up and he shot her a look which told her to stay exactly where she was and she did; she sank back into her high-backed chair and waited for him to speak; but he merely paced around the room like an agitated lion, running a gnarled hand down his red beard; his blue eyes flinty,

"You will stay here until I decide what I will do with you..." He stopped; his voice fading.

It was so quiet, all they could hear was the rustle of the leaves on the trees outside; her window was thrown open to let in the crisp northern air and Eira felt a chill run down her spine locking eyes with her father whose wayward daughter had dishonoured him. Suddenly his explosive temper erupted, like that of a baited bear; he flung a jug of wine at the wall shattering the glass and spilling wine everywhere. Eira did not flinch, she knew her father would never hurt her but his rage was frightening nonetheless. It was as if he could not even look at her, his pale blue eyes always blazed and rested on her stomacher and she saw him gnash his teeth and growl,

"If your mother...If she..." Eira's spine stiffened. He looked at her and spat,

"You are a whore." With that he spun on his heel and left her alone, trembling after the swirl of his travelling cape.

It felt like ages before Eira stood up after hearing the Master of Horse saddle her father's gelding and her brother's roan. She went to the window, watching after them as they rode off with most of the household in their wake towards Winterfell which was half a mile ride away.

All that remained with her were the servants, the scullions and the stable lads; Eira felt the same rage which gripped her father, blood of her blood, they shared the same temper and she gripped the sides of the window embrasure until her fingers turned white and muttered to herself in the empty echoing chamber of her own loneliness, shaking with fury,

"I'm not a whore..."

She felt her face flush, her fingers hurt with the pressure she was applying to the wood of the window frame and she felt her blood rise in her anguished rage as she bellowed after them; mere specks in the distance, there was no way for her father to hear the hatred in her voice over the beat of his train's hooves,

"I am not a whore!"

Eira was brought back from her memory by a sharp rap on the door and Septa Brynhild's voice bidding her to hurry up before the girl froze to death; Eira rolled her eyes and opened the door to the garderobe a crack and asked if the septa could bring her a warm garment – which the old woman did, grudgingly.

"There was a visitor while you were washing."

"Oh?" Eira said as she smoothed back her hair and sat down at the table, her breath plumed out before her in a white cloud and she held her mantle closer, Septa Brynhild nodded, "Lord Stark's brother brought up a food parcel, he advises us to keep indoors and out of sight, keep fires doused unless necessary and he gave you this," Eira cocked an eyebrow as the septa held up a cage with an ugly black raven trapped within,

"A raven?" She said incredulous,

"So you can contact him. He says to use it only if it's urgent."

"Right." Eira nodded blandly.

The septa frowned slightly as she passed the girl a steaming bowl of soup, "Is everything alright?"

"Don't pretend that you care." Eira said quietly, not nastily but the septa's chest puffed at her words.

"Eira." She began harshly enough to make the girl look, "I do care. If there is anything I can do..."

"There isn't."

She said curtly and got up, scraping her chair's legs against the floor and left the septa to sup by herself.

.*oOo*.

When Benjen Stark had stated that life would be 'colder' on the Wall as opposed to Mole's Town, Eira had not realised the gravity of which he had meant. She realised now. Her teeth chattered constantly and her hands were always white with the cold; Septa Brynhild on the other hand seemed to take to the wintry bitterness like a gyrfalcon; completely unabashed by the temperature which nipped at Eira's toes and nose.

"I hate this cold." Eira complained as they sat sewing.

Endless sewing. Eira's sluggish fingers could barely thread a needle and she became frustrated easily with the finicky activity, throwing it aside she swore, "Seven Hells! I won't sew any more damnable garments!"

"And what will your child wear?" The septa pondered as she pulled the thread through easily. Eira glared.

"Ah, yes; nothing. You must make your child clothes; if you can't even do that you may as well leave it at the door of some shrine and hope for the best."

"That's vile!" Eira exclaimed, caressing her slightly bulging belly. "I would never..."

The septa's face was slightly amused as she placed her sewing to one side and eyed the girl up and down; "What say you, we abandon the sewing for the night and you can read to me?"

"Why would I read to you?" Eira said bitterly and the septa sighed, "You used to love reading to me."

The old woman's eyes became wistful as she recalled plaintively, "You used to read me stories of your own imagining when you were little. I remember when you were just a little girl, no more than five or six and you told me a story about a girl who went on a great journey; she fought dragons and married a beautiful golden king."

"Fanciful ramblings..." Eira snapped, but then softened. "I must have looked foolish, I fear."

"No, you never seemed foolish." The septa sighed sadly, "Just full of ambition for adventure and love; isn't that what every little girl is? It was when you grew older did you become foolish."

Eira ignored the woman, grateful for the septa's sentiments but hurt by them all the same; she peeped over and Septa Brynhild was appraising her quietly; Eira rolled her eyes and bit, "What story do you want to hear?" The septa brightened and sat back; "Hm, anything; something pleasant to warm the heart."

"Alright," Eira began, wracking her brains before her voice became mellow;

"Once upon a time, there was young woman – a girl of good birth and noble parentage. She was happy and had everything she could have ever wanted. The girl was denied nothing and became spoilt. She flirted with men and smiled, danced with them until they were near blinded with lust. Her father was equally as blinded by affection for her and did not realise that one of his knights had grown infatuated with the girl. The knight grew jealous of the attention she showered on the other men, and so he killed half a dozen of her father's best and most skilled knights. One night, the girl sat and wept, for her beloved was among the dead at the hands of the treacherous one; the knight sought her hand in marriage. She refused and he killed her father too, and so, the girl; with nothing more to lose, agreed to wed him and took the knight to her bed and knifed him in his sleep. Sleeping on the bloodstained sheets with a smile on her face, she kept his titles and houses, his castles and his gold. The child sired from the union wanted for nothing and she eventually found a good man to replace the one she had been robbed of. They lived happily ever after until the end of days..."

The septa's face was stoic listening to the tale and when Eira was finished her own expression was stony and her voice had become maudlin, "Is that pleasant enough for you, Septa?"

"Sweet child..." The septa breathed; there were tears in her eyes. "You have changed."

.*oOo*.

The nights were fleeting on the Wall, the days long. First light always woke Eira from her fur-nest of a bed; it was old, creaky and dusty but warm at least and she was at loath to leave it each day; it was only through Septa Brynhild's badgering did the girl drag herself from it. It was another cold day and Eira shivered bitterly cursing her whereabouts. I could have been in King's Landing right now she thought wistfully; then jealousy spiked an ugly little green-eyed worm in the core of the apple; I should be there! Her horrible thought process was stemmed by the septa's anxious chattering and Eira peeped round from where she had been sitting lamenting, absently running a hand over her small bump,

"What is it?"

"We're running low on food..." The septa fretted and Eira shrugged idly,

"Shall I write Benjen Stark? See what he can spare?"

Septa Brynhild nodded her head, "Yes, I think you should."

"It's strange, we haven't seen him in a se'nnight."

Eira sent the raven no more than ten minutes later; her eyes widening as she gazed out over the Wall and past it; what lay beyond the Wall? Forests, forests in abundance! Eira gasped, she was up so high and the cold air stole her breath, "Septa!" She hissed in the gale; "Look! Look down there, look how high we are!" The septa peered over the side and clutched her breast, "God's Bones! Come away from the edge, Eira!" The girl giggled at the septa's cowardice and closed her eyes enjoying the perilous heights and whooshing air.

"I could stay up here forever..." The girl whispered and Septa Brynhild pulled her away.

"You will if you freeze to death. Come away."

They waited the whole day and still there was no raven returned from Benjen Stark to say he would bring the women supplies; Septa Brynhild was quiet, a groove between her brows, she was anxious which made Eira constantly look out of the window. "D'you think he'll come soon? You don't think we've been discovered..."

Panic surged, "Oh, Septa! What if he's been caught and they've thrown him off the Wall!"

"He'll be here, don't worry." The septa soothed but she did not sound convincing even to herself.

There was a bang, like the sound of boots connecting with wood and the septa stood nimbly and drew a small glass dagger from the pockets in her sleeves; the one she used to cut roots. "Go. Hide in the garderobe!" She pushed Eira back and the girl's eyes were wide with fear; shaking her head she whispered, "No! I won't leave you! It might be Benjen-"

"Eira! For the love of the Gods, Old and New; do as I say!"

The girl didn't get a chance to hide as the door to their little chamber swung open and in the threshold stood a massive man with a fair beard, a pair of piercing blue eyes; he stood two feet taller than the boys at his flanks. Eira stepped back as the septa held up the knife but the big man looked past her and glared directly at Eira and held up a note in his gloved hand; the red-headed girl recognised her scrawl which read 'Stark'. Eira swallowed and stepped past the septa, holding her swelling tummy gingerly; she curtsied demurely and looked up at the crow. There was a pause and a small yelp; Eira's eyes darted down and sniffing at her skirts was a huge stark-white wolfhound, the beast looked up at her like a juicy bone with blood-red eyes and Eira felt her stomach tighten.

This was bad.