Chapter 115: Vampire – The Masquerade
"I do not understand why Father is sending us to the Riverlands," said Jaime. "More importantly, I do not understand why he is coming with us. Does he not trust me with leading his armies?" The way Tyrion and Caroline exchanged glances in response to this question did not please him one bit.
"I would point out the obvious, brother, but your pride is bruised enough as it is," said Tyrion. "I shall leave the cruelty to Lady Rebekah."
"She is no lady," said Jaime."And she isn't here."
"Who says she isn't?" All three of them looked up.
"You made it," said Tyrion.
"Well, since Caroline asked so nicely…" said Rebekah, but she wasn't looking at the baby vampire. Her gaze was for Jaime alone. He smirked at her. He looked good and he knew it. Marriage to Sansa had been kind to him. Why, she even coiffed his hair carefully each morning without complaint and she was good at it.
"Why are you here?" The obvious question had to be asked. "My father has exiled you."
"I thought you'd need her," said Tyrion. "And Caroline had avenues."
"If Father ever finds out…" Jaime warned.
"He won't," said Tyrion. He grinned his lopsided grin. "He has no idea what his favourites are capable of. I just thought that, perhaps, you might need one of her kind with you rather than simply face Katherine Stark alone."
"I don't need a nanny," growled Jaime.
"Good, because I'm not being one," said Rebekah.
"Jaime, be reasonable," said Tyrion. "We don't know what Katherine Stark is capable of. And Damon Salvatore. Rebekah knows them both. I suppose Stefan would too but Father wants him with me and I agree with Father's judgement."
"You're the one who's scared of vampires. Not me."
"You're such an arse," said Rebekah."Why do I always like the arses?"
"Come, now, Rebekah, you have seen my arse, haven't you?"
"Stop that now," said Tyrion."I've seen your arse before, Jaime, when Father was belting it."
Jaime felt his face heat up. "That only happened once. Once."
"What did you do?" asked Rebekah. She suppressed a snigger.
"Not important," growled Jaime.
"He jumped off a cliff," Tyrion informed her. "Now is not the most appropriate time to talk about arses of any kind." He gave them a look as if he were the elder brother admonishing his younger and less serious siblings. Why was he so serious? It wasn't as if the Starks could ambush them here. There were no dark woods for them to hide in, no craggy rocks and cliffs, nothing. Robb Stark would have to have found a spell of invisibility if he wanted to ambush them here. Actually… 'No,' he told himself. That just made no sense. Still, one ought to be careful since witches were real. He had never heard of any present in Westeros, however, apart from Stannis' red witch.
Behind them, his father would march with the rest of the army. They carried most of the supplies and were weighed down by them, making them slower. It looked like they were here for a long campaign or a short and sharp one that required as much force as a year long campaign concentrated into just one or two days. Jaime guessed that it had something to do with the wedding at the Twins which Robb Stark was attending with all of his army. It seemed like a foolish idea to engage them across the river. The Starks and Freys could slaughter them as they crossed the bridge. Four horses abreast was wide for a bridge. It was a narrow pass that a small number of men could easily stopper.
This girl was going to die. In fact, she would be the first to die. Walder forced himself to smile. He would like to fuck her first before she died just to hear her scream. But Bolton had said something about making a match for his son.
Fuck the Boltons.
Her gaze swept over his hall and found it lacking, just as it had swept over him and found him wanting. "This place is…how shall I put this politely? A little…" She paused and stared directly into his eyes. "…dingy."
Walder Frey's smile stretched very thinly across his teeth. He wished he could see her cut open, her blood staining the floor, her mouth opened in a scream of utmost terror and agony while she watched her beloved Robb Stark's head cut off and placed on a golden platter for the Lannisters.
"Then what would you suggest, Your Grace?" he said. He had to stop himself from spitting it out.
"Why not have the wedding outside, on the roof, beneath the vaults of the heavens, with the gods gazing down upon us and a million stars to illuminate the joining of our two families?" asked Katherine Stark sweetly. "The open air is pleasant this time of year and the surrounding views are so beautiful."
"I would like that, Lord Frey," butted in Edmure Fucking Tully. "It would be very pleasant indeed to have a wedding beneath the stars." He forgot to say that the dim light would soften the expectedly ugly features of his bride. Walder was almost of a mind to pull Roslin out of the marriage and put Rosmin in the wedding gown instead. There was a one letter difference in their names. The difference in looks, however, could not be bigger. But they would both serve the purpose so long as they were capable of opening their legs for Tully.
Imagine, holding the wedding on the rooftop, where it was harder to hide men, not to mention the vantage points of the bowmen would be all incorrect! He had not arranged everything so perfectly just to let a girl and a limp fish ruin it!
But he had no choice. He had to be gracious to his guests, blind them, make them feel comfortable. Katherine Stark was said to be a dangerously clever girl, something that made her lose a little of her attractiveness. What use did a woman have for brains? He narrowed his eyes. Katherine's hand was hovering near her stomach. She had pretended to be with child once. What if she hadn't been pretending as much as she had let on? How satisfying it would be to rip that little wolf spawn out of her. Yes, yes…
"Very well," he said. "The wedding shall be held on the rooftop. There will be some delay, I am afraid, Your Graces, for we have not made the preparations for it."
"That is no trouble at all, Lord Walder," said Robb Stark. He sounded polite now, but he looked down upon him just like all the rest. He just let his wife and uncle do the disrespecting in his stead. Well, they would see who would be laughing at the last.
Elijah brushed past Katherine as he went on his way to make the preparations. As he did so, he bumped into her deliberately and their heads came very close. "Forgive me, Your Grace," he said out loud. In a much lower whisper, for her vampire ears only, he said, in Bulgarian, "The chapel, five o'clock. Bring Elena and Damon." What, no Jon? Did Elijah not trust Jon? Although, she supposed it would be too suspicious if they brought Robb Stark's brother. Damon could pass himself off as a guardsman and Elena was her sister. It was reasonable that they should go to the chapel with her. Sept, rather.
She nodded and accepted his apology for his clumsiness. Another of the Freys immediately engaged him in conversation, making lewd jokes about her and none too quietly. Elijah murmured something non-committal, being his usual boring self, about how she wasn't his type. Biggest lie ever!
"What was that, Katherine?" demanded Robb as soon as they were outside and the Freys could no longer hear them. They had a few hours to waste and she needed to find a way to distract Robb so she could sneak off to the mini-sept to see Elijah. It was almost like having a clandestine affair behind her husband's back. Exciting stuff, this. "You know fully well I need the Freys on my side. They are odious people, yes, especially Walder Frey, but we must tolerate them. What happened? You are usually so controlled." He took her hands. He was angry and confused and worried. It was so sweet that it almost gave her a physical toothache. If vampires ever got toothache.
"Forgive me, my love," said Katherine. "I have not been feeling myself lately." She bit her lip, held her hand to her stomach and looked downwards like she had a secret she could not bear to keep to herself but didn't really know how to tell. "I…I have not had my menses recently."
Robb did not comprehend; at least not for a few seconds. He looked at her face, then down at her hand, which was still resting on her perfectly flat stomach. "Katherine…" he whispered. "Oh, Katherine!" He placed his hand over hers. "I love you so much. You know that, right? I love you!"
He brought his mouth down to hers and kissed her deeply, putting into that one kiss all the things he could not say. She felt his emotions coursing through him. Was she being just a little bit cruel to lie to him about this when he wanted a child so much? His paternal instincts were certainly stronger than her maternal ones ever had been, even back when she had had them.
As he pulled away, she caught a glimpse of Catelyn's face. She stared at Katherine as if not knowing what to think. She gave the poor human a brief smile. When would they ever learn, these Starks? She wouldn't be at all sorry to disappoint Catelyn. And the last thing Robb needed in his life was a baby to smother his style. Catelyn looked away from Katherine almost as soon as the vampire gazed directly at her. What, hadn't she even the courage to meet her gaze? Elena was frowning in her direction and Damon smirked. They must have overheard. One was amused and one was disapproving. Did they ever come up with anything new? They'd better not ruin it for her, though.
The servants showed her and Robb to the chambers they would be staying in. They were, she supposed, the best that the Twins had to offer but the best was sorely lacking. She could easily imagine a gothic novel being set here, with the dim light and the smoky torches and the ancient canopy bed. All they needed was a skeleton in the closet which she was sure they had; metaphorically, at least.
She sat down on the bed and gave the mattress a few experimental bounces. It sagged. Robb flopped onto the bed beside her, less king-like than boy-like. "Imagine, Katherine, we are going to have a little prince or a princess."
"I'm afraid," she said.
He sat up. "Why?" he asked.
Instead of answering him directly, Katherine chose to play with a corner of the covers that had seen better days. "I can face armies, battles, that is nothing," she said. "I can use my wits to give me advantages where there were none before. But childbirth…it's so easy for women to die in childbirth. I almost died the last time." Not true. "There is nothing I can do that can help me. I hate being weak, helpless even. If the gods decide that it's my time, how can I fight them?"
Robb took her in his arms. "I'm here," he said. "I will never let anything happen to you. I promise you that."
"You can't promise this," said Katherine. "It's out of our hands. Maybe it's nothing. After all, your mother birthed five children and she is in perfect health. I'm just uneasy." She extracted herself from his arms. "I think…I would like to pray for a little while."
"Will the gods listen after what we have done?" asked Robb.
"They were your gods," said Katherine, "not mine. I have my own god." Just one, actually, and her name was Katherine, but that would not convince Robb at all. "He will listen to me, for His is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory, now and forever." All those years of religious upbringing and living in medieval Europe had not been for nought. The Church had ingeniously plagiarized so many aspects of classical Roman religion and with such success that she had taken to copying them.
She had not been wrong to do so.
Robb watched her go, her steps solemn and thoughtful. She knew he wanted to follow her but was exercising as much control as he had to not do it. At the door, she beckoned for Damon to follow her before going off to find Elena, who was in her room with Jon. The two of them looked to be in the middle of a deep conversation. Jon's look was just a few watts short of hostile when she came in. "Elena, dear sister, would you accompany me, please?" she asked.
"Where are you going?" asked Elena.
"I feel a great need of solace from the Divine," said Katherine. There was no need to put on the pregnancy act for Jon because he knew the truth about vampires. It was most inconvenient for now he thought her the cruellest of mistresses when she only meant to be kind. Elena gave Jon's hand a squeeze as if begging him to trust her, even if he didn't trust Katherine. What was there not to trust? Although, it felt more like he was judging her for lying to his brother rather than the fact that he didn't trust her. If he didn't trust her, he would have told Robb the truth a long time ago. What an odd boy he was, to trust someone that he not-so-secretly judged for being…something. She didn't have the time or patience to study the mores of being a Stark.
It would have been hard to spot the little sept if it were not for the worn away reliefs on the frieze depicting the seven. Their noses had been eroded away and dirt and moss had gathered in the cracks. Coloured glass lamps burned within at the feet of the statues of the seven. Elijah was already kneeling there in front of the Warrior.
Katherine knelt before the Mother and bowed her head over her clasped hands, pretending to pray.
"Speak, Elijah, and quickly," she murmured in French. Elena had studied it in school, hadn't she? She remembered coming across a pile of vocabulary sheets and marvelling over the horribly crafted sentences that no one in France would use, mostly about going to shops on bikes.
"Walder Frey means to kill you first. As a message," said Elijah. "The crossbows will come from the orchestra." Katherine smiled. It must have annoyed Walder Frey immensely to have to rearrange the crossbowmen now that the venue had been shifted. "They plan on playing the Rains of Castamere before the attack, if rehearsal goes well. Edmure's men are in place in the orchestra and on the walls. Some of them will be servers but most of them are guardsmen. Damon, you will remain outside, yes?"
"But of course," said Damon. "I am a guard."
Elena scrunched up her forehead and tried to follow the rapid conversation in a language that she was only rudimentarily familiar with.
"I will give two signals. The first one is for Damon to get into place. There are guards placed outside the doors and around the hall, ready to rush in if all should fail. Damon, you will need to take Edmure's men and finish these before the massacre starts. You will begin at the second signal."
"What are these signals?" asked Damon.
A brief smile flitted across Elijah's face as he marvelled at his own artistic genius. "You will know them," said Elijah. "They are musical bastions in popular culture."
"Not Bieber, please."
Elijah looked insulted that the thought had even crossed Damon's mind.
"Justin Bieber is not music," he said.
"Why are we talking about Justin Bieber?" asked Elena in English. Was she a fan? She probably would be, knowing her taste. Which was zilch.
"No reason," said Katherine, changing to English. "We just felt like it." She switched back to French. "No Beyoncé either, I hope."
"Nothing so garish," Elijah promised. It had better not be.
"So what are we doing?" whispered Elena.
"Just do what I'm doing, dear little sister, and all will be well," said Katherine, condescending to lapse into English just so Elena wouldn't bumble around and mess everything up. She hadn't done it yet (Petrova blood counted for a lot) but sooner or later, her incompetent nature was bound to rear its ugly and impractical head. She might grow a conscience about murdering Freys. Quel horreur.
Elena didn't look convinced but her lack of language skills was her problem, not anyone else's, and to complain was not only useless; it was a bad look. Besides, she didn't really need to know. Coups and scheming were not really her thing, even if she did ambush Kol and kill him (a fact that Elijah seemed to have forgotten far too easily). She wisely kept her mouth shut and actually resigned herself to Katherine's command. Perhaps there was hope for the little doppelganger yet.
Few people eyed them as they made their way out of the sept, separately, of course. Damon escorted Katherine and Elena out. The latter two had linked arms and were leaning close to each other, pretending to be whispering about secret womanly things while Katherine patted her flat stomach and stuck out her hips a little the way a pregnant woman would. Robb needed to believe the lie as much as anyone else. Elijah would leave via a backdoor. No one would even know he'd been there.
"So what are we going to do?" Elena whispered, all the while pasting on a smile worthy of a Teen Choice award. It would do for these Freys who thought them merely women.
"It's all sorted, like I said," said Katherine. "And if you want to survive in my world, you really need to brush up on your languages. It's useful to know more than one. I would teach you, but I fear I don't have the time. Damon, though, would be more than happy to do it, I'm sure."
She felt Elena's arm tighten about hers in frustration and anger. In fact, she could just about smell it. Dear little descendant. She just didn't know how to lie and to hide her feelings. Such things could get her killed. Not that Katherine would cry, but it could also get Jon killed and that was not tolerable.
"Fine," said Elena. "Let's talk about the baby, then."
"Oh, darling, it's bad luck to talk about the baby in the first trimester when anything can happen," said Katherine with an angelic smile.
"I don't understand why you two need to talk at all, not that I'm not enjoying it," Damon whispered in a barely audible tone. He even managed not to smirk.
"I just hope you know what you're doing, Katherine," said Elena.
"Relax, little sister," said Katherine. She patted Elena's hand. "I have it all in hand."
"No, no, no, no," said Elijah firmly, dropping the baton. He had never heard such a horrifying rendition of Strauss! If a herd of deranged elephants had played the opening theme of Space Odyssey 2001, it couldn't have sounded worse.
"It's too hard!" complained one of the crossbow-trumpeters.
"This is the wedding of a king's uncle," said Elijah. "You can't just play a bawdy ballad and expect Katherine Stark the Bard Queen not to realize that you are not musicians."
"The northerners like the Bear and the Maiden Fair," grumbled the trumpeter.
"What about the Rains of Castamere?" suggested a 'violinist'.
"And give it all away?" said an hautboy. "Clever."
"We're playing it last," said Elijah. He needed something recognizable for Damon and Katherine. The brass fanfare of Odyssey was certainly memorable but he had to at least try and make them sound like a musical ensemble so Walder Frey wouldn't suspect him of deliberately sabotaging the performance (even though he hadn't even thought of it like that). Being a music director was much harder than he had thought. Half his musicians couldn't read music.
"Let's not play that again, shall we?" said Elijah. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb. They'd tried so many popular pieces already. William Tell Overture had been recognizable and sounded like the announcement for blind, deaf and lame mules racing to the glue factory. Hall of the Mountain King had also been recognizable but that was the only compliment he could grant that rendition. Flight of the Bumblebee had not been much of a flight.
"How about this?" He struck two notes on his new 'Stradivarius'.
The musicians copied him eagerly upon hearing something that they could play. "Lean on the first note and come off lightly on the second one," Elijah instructed them. He played along with them until they memorized the entire piece (which was two minutes long). As the sound filled the room, he realized how fitting this piece was. Much better than massacred Strauss.
The rooftop had been decorated to look like the great hall that the Freys should have had. There were vases of fresh flowers –horribly arranged, of course, but at least there were flowers– long trestle tables covered with embroidered table cloths, candles in copper holders with reliefs at the bases depicting bridges. And more bridges.
Katherine carefully smoothed out her white skirts. She had kept her dress plain, for no one was supposed to outshine the bride. That, and this new frock was plenty wide enough to hide the knives strapped to her thighs. She had convinced Robb, at least, to wear armour. He had given in, possibly because he had not wanted his pregnant wife to fretrather than because he thought the Freys would be up to no good. Even now, poor dear Robb still believed in the noblesse of men. He would soon be dispossessed of that notion.
The women continued to stare at Katherine's dress while the men just stared at her. To go with the white silk and lace overlay which made her look the part of the bride, she wore a simple gold choker and there was delicate gold threading along the cuffs and collar of the dress. The sleeves were sheer lace and one could see hints of honeyed skin beneath. Offering the men a tantalizing glimpse was better than letting them see everything. They always wanted more that way.
Elena followed behind in a much plainer dress, but still white and with a golden girdle that looked suspiciously like one that had been living in Katherine's coffers. She decided to overlook that for now. After all, sisters shared, didn't they?
It was easy to spot Director Elijah Mikaelson as he conducted the musicians. He had somehow procured a white military jacket with gold buttons and gold epaulets. Epaulets. All around him, the Freys were dressed in garish pseudo tuxes that would not have looked out of place in the 1970s. She loathed the seventies with the decade's paisley prints, flare jeans and peasant tops. Who wanted to dress like peasants or upholstery?
The music struck up when she and Robb came up the steps, with her hand on his arm to 'steady' herself. Her eyes widened and she swore strings of obscenities inside her head when she heard the first two notes. They were only two notes, lasting two bars, just a semitone apart and played repeatedly, with the second, shorter note higher than the first one. No two other notes had ever been as famous, just as there had never been a more famous shark.
"That sounds…ominous," said her unmusical husband after the first four bars.
Katherine smiled thinly. Elijah was going to get a talk in subtlety after this. He was supposed to give a signal for Damon to quietly begin his covert operations, not to create a soundtrack for the slaughter! Sometimes, she hated boys. One could never trust them fully to do things right.
She exchanged glances with Elena, who seemed as surprised as she was by Elijah's choice of repertoire. She clutched Jon's arm like an affected damsel, looking all around her. Katherine had to give her some credit for her acting abilities. Jon looked even dourer than he usually did although he was lucky that he was just Robb Stark's bastard brother and was beneath anyone's notice.
At least she could not hear any screaming yet. She and Robb sat down at the table closest to the front. Edmure was already there, dressed in his finest. The bride was nowhere to be seen. Edmure craned his neck to try and catch a glimpse of her without any result. She could just about see the thoughts going through his head. Which one was it going to be?
Walder Frey sat back, satisfied, if not perfectly happy, with the arrangements. A servant filled his cup and he downed the wine as if he were still a virile young man. Then he coughed as some of it went down the wrong way. If he dropped dead tonight after choking on a fishbone or something of that sort, she would be terribly disappointed.
The music faded away. The herald came up and slammed his staff three times on the floor. The bride, veiled and dressed in her house colours, was led up by the hand by her various sisters of all ages. The Frey family seemed to have more spinsters than the usual noble house, not that it was a surprise.
A hushed silence fell. Only the footsteps of the women could be heard as the bride made her short journey up to her new husband, past the man who had been meant to be her husband. As she passed their table, the girl turned to glance at Robb and Katherine. Katherine gave her a small nod; not a friendly one, but a triumphant one. Perhaps Katherine would keep her around after the wedding as a reminder to all that if anyone crossed her, they would simply be crossed out. Gregor Clegane was getting stale and the story was too well-known. She needed something new, something to titillate and shock and horrify. Keeping Edmure's bride as a pet would do the trick.
She wondered briefly about Damon and what he was doing now. Could he deal with so many Frey men all at once? Did she trust him to? Even with the help of Edmure's men? Actually, it was worse with Edmure's men involved. They were even more incompetent than Damon. Why hadn't she insisted that Elena stay outside with them to temper their foolishness? Ah, yes, because it would not be appropriate for Queen Katherine's sister to be left out of the massacre. They would have to wing it and pray that her faith in Damon had not been misplaced.
She placed her hands in her lap and stroked the spines of her fan. Elena kept fluttering hers in front of her face nervously. She, too, had been required to wear a crinoline as a repository for weapons. No one had bothered to pat them down. It would have been entirely suspicious to do so. On either side of them, Robb and his bannermen whispered to each other and gave Edmure and the bride lewd and pointed glances.
Edmure lifted the veil of his bride.
"Perhaps I might have made a mistake," declared Robb. The men laughed. Katherine gave his thigh a violent pinch under the table which made him jerk in response. She smiled sweetly at him while the men laughed even harder. Edmure was not listening to any of it. All his attention was on his bride. His stunned expression would have made her laugh except she was a little too on edge to do so. Imagine, her on edge! Only Klaus had ever managed that. Props to Walder Frey for reaching that level of villainy. But, then again, this was the first time she had worried about anyone other than herself. She really would be very unhappy if anything happened to Robb. That, in itself, was enough to make her uneasy, not to mention the very real prospect of losing him to some stray crossbow bolt.
The septon recited the required words about gods and men. Edmure and his lovely milky-skinned bride (was she really a Frey?) said their part about Mother, Father, Hag, Virgin, Whore, whatever. Edmure never took his eyes off Roslin Frey. She, on the other hand, blushed prettily and looked down at her feet. All that young blood, pulsing just beneath that almost translucent skin. She could smell her nervousness, her fear. The girl would be quite tasty, no doubt. Perhaps she should have a sip as a toast to Edmure's new-found happiness.
Robb raised his cup along with the others as the newlyweds were toasted. One look from her, however, reminded him that he was not supposed to be drinking all that much. He took a sip and put the cup down. His hand crept over onto her side and gently took her hand to give it a squeeze. It was then that she realized she had been clutching her fan very tightly beneath the table. She forced herself to relax and pretend to be enjoying herself. He would become suspicious if she behaved too strangely, even for her pregnant self.
The feasting began. Platters of roasted meats and fish and flagon after flagon of wine was brought out. Robb continued to hold her hand beneath the table as he ate and talked and laughed. Edmure and his bride were already feeding each other food. It was sickening.
Katherine picked at her food and sipped at her wine. What she really wanted was blood, the salty, metallic taste of life flooding her with warmth and vigour like an orgasm in the mouth. Soon. She would get it very soon.
The look of surprise on his uncle's face would have made him laugh except Robb was too nervous about not offending the Freys to do anything except sit stiffly and make the corners of his mouth turn up in a smile. But, as the septon, an old man with shaking hands and lips, declared that the lovely fair-skinned Roslin Frey and Edmure Tully were now joined in the sight of the gods, he became more easy. Now that the wedding was done, they could begin to discuss the deployment of troops westward.
Still, he refrained from drinking too much, upon his wife's advice. Katherine had become very fretful now that she was with child. Not only had she insisted that he refrain from drinking, but that his men were also to be put under a liquor ban. They had not been happy at all, but he was the king and they had to obey his orders. He had ordered them the very best of meats as compensation. Surely that was enough. The wine wasn't that good anyway.
Elijah conducted his musicians to strike up a lively and steady beat. Robb knew nothing about music but, even so, he could see how talented a musician his former squire was. He supposed he had never said anything about it because music was considered to be a woman's amusement in the north. But why did he choose tonight, of all nights, to reveal his secret?
And then, much to the amusement of all below, Elijah took up his strange and beautiful fiddle with the resonant sound. The Freys began clapping in time. Two shorter claps followed by one long clap worth the entire length of the claps that came before it. Was it part of the music? It didn't sound like any applause he knew. Katherine smiled and joined in the clapping and stamping with gentle taps of her fan on her knee. Elijah started playing. Robb's eyes widened. Elijah was very good. He could pull two notes at once out of that instrument and the very sound of the music made him want to stand up and dance. Not a civilized dance like the ones his dancing master had taught him, but something wild and free and aggressive. Elijah's fingers flew over the strings, teasing sounds out of them known before to no mortal man. He had never seen anything quite like it. Why had he never played for Robb before? A duet between him and Katherine would sound excellent, even to his ear. Now that they were family, he might ask Walder Frey for Elijah back. He missed his old squire and the calmness that always surrounded him.
Everyone applauded when the song was over. Elijah took a bow and set down his instrument with a fond pat like one would give to a favourite horse, but kept the bow in his hand. It hung loosely.
Walder Frey stood with the help of his young wife. He raised his hand, signalling that he wanted to speak. "A wedding must have a bedding!" he declared gleefully.
"Oh, lookie, he can rhyme," whispered Katherine.
"Not as well as you can," Robb whispered back. It was vulgar, yes, but he would sit through ten thousand verses of bad Frey poetry if it was going to get him ten thousand men. The Frey men hoisted Roslin Frey - Tully, now, he supposed, into the air and began to strip her of her wedding gown while the women were doing the same to Edmure. He, of course, wore no wedding gown. The bridal pair protested. Roslin's face was pink and she looked frightened. Her father (grandfather? Great-grandfather?) glared at her and she fell silent. Edmure protested against such treatment of his bride but he was grinning. His uncle, hapless as he was, ought to have some happiness. It was no secret that he had been quite enamoured of Katherine. It must have stung to see her with Robb every time he saw her.
"We should have a better wedding when this is all over," Robb said to Katherine as the new husband and wife were carried off to the bedchambers to consummate their union. "You deserved a better one."
"I don't care about weddings," said Katherine. "I care about the man I'm wedded to."
She pulled him towards her for a kiss.
"My mother is watching," he protested as he tried, in vain, to resist her multitude of attractions.
"Let her watch," said Katherine.
"She does not need yet another reason to not like you."
"Good thing I didn't marry her." She kissed him one final time on the lips and let him go. He straightened his tunic and stood. Now, to complete the ritual. He put on a smile and tried to remind himself that he was happy about all of this; the wedding, the army – especially the army. He pulled Katherine to her feet as well. It would be better for them to do this together, to seem more sincere. "I must confess, Lord Frey, that this has been a most delightful evening. I had not expected such welcome hospitality after the insult that I – we – have dealt to you and your house. I made a promise and I broke it. I assure you, it will not happen again."
"I should hope not," said Frey. He raised his cup. "A toast, and a song!"
The musicians started playing again. At first, it was just one fiddle. The tune was mournful, but Robb paid it no heed. It was just another song. Robb and Katherine retreated to the side. He felt relieved, deflated, humiliated, eager to put this all behind him and get on with the real business of the war. Only the presence of his wife ameliorated the pulsing indignity in his heart. He placed a hand on her still flat belly and thought of his child instead. His little prince, or princess. It wouldn't matter. He would love him, or her, all the same. He already loved him. Her. Maybe there could be one of each.
One of the Frey men – whose name he had forgotten yet again – approached them. "Your Graces," he said with a courtly bow. Robb pasted on his smile. This farce would be over soon and he and Katherine could have some time to themselves. That moment could not come quickly enough, however. There were still several hours of 'merrymaking' to go. "Please, allow me to extend my greatest joy in seeing the joining of our two houses."
Too late he saw the flash of the blade. His mind could not wrap itself around what he was seeing. He barely had time to suck in a breath before it pierced Katherine's belly. She fell backwards into her chair. He opened his mouth. No sound came out. Red blossomed on the front of her bodice. Katherine looked down slowly, seeming unsure as to what had happened. He wanted to go to her, to hold her, to pull out that fucking knife! He saw his future flash before his eyes. A future without her, without their children.
When she looked up, she smiled, all beatification and no malice, which only made the smile more terrifying. She plucked the knife out of her stomach. It came out with a soft squelch. Blood dribbled out and ceased. She tossed the bloody knife on the table. The boy who had stabbed her began to back away, blood draining from his face. The entire hall had fallen silent, all eyes turning to watch her, Katherine Stark…what…
Katherine grabbed the man's sleeve and yanked him back towards her, tsking as she did so. "Little boys should not play with knives," she admonished him as a mother would a wayward child, with a kind smile and a gentle voice. "They're dangerous." She flipped a fork into her hand, the very one that she'd been using to eat cabbage, and slammed the boy's hand onto the table. Plates jumped. Red wine sloshed out of goblets. She thrust downwards with the fork. The boy screamed as the prongs pierced skin, tendon, and muscle, going all the way through to pin his hand to the wooden surface.
Katherine looked down at her bloodied dress and sighed against the backdrop of the boy's whimpering and begging. Robb could not comprehend. He was glad she wasn't dead but shouldn't she be dead or at least dying? And why had the boy tried to kill her? He looked around. The musicians had stopped playing. They slowly reached down towards something at their feet.
"This dress was new," Katherine complained with a pout. "I'd send you the cleaning bill, Lord Frey, but I'm afraid you won't live to pay it."
"Now!" screeched Frey. Fear had made his voice as high as a boy's. "Now!"
Crossbow bolts flew from the musicians' loft, but instead of being aimed solely at the northerners, they flew in every direction as panic set in. One came straight at Robb. He watched the shining bolt come ever closer towards him, unable to move, unable to avoid it. A dainty hand snatched it out of the air right before his nose. Katherine. He tried to say her name. She pushed him down onto the flagstones and threw the arrow back at the same time. The bolt went through the skull of one of the servers who was not a server at all, but a soldier. The Freys…but they had guest rights!
The musicians' loft dripped with bodies. Headless corpses hung over the bannister, raining blood onto people below. Elijah dropped his broken and bloodied fiddle bow. In his other hand, he held what looked suspiciously like a heart. He let it drop and approached the lone remaining crossbowman. "You're all right," he said. He clapped the man's cheek once, twice… Before the bowman could pull the trigger, he'd struck the man's face. The head flew off with a spray of blood, flying towards the guests below. It bounced a few times before rolling and coming to a stop at Katherine's feet.
The door burst open.
Robb didn't know what he had been expecting, but it wasn't…this.
Damon sauntered in, covered from head to boots in blood. More men filed in behind him, their faces pale beneath masks of gore, but determined. The last ones closed the door and bolted it. Damon lifted his weapon – no, not a weapon. An arm. Not his arm. A severed arm.
"Sorry I'm late," he said with a grin. "Did I miss it? I heard the music. How does the song go again?" Something was really wrong with him. "Duh-dun, duh-dun, duh-dun-dun-dun, my teeth are long and sharp."
Teeth. That was what was wrong! Damon's teeth were indeed very long and very sharp. He grinned to show them off to their full effect. Blood was smeared around his mouth and some more of it dripped down his chin onto his white tunic. No, it couldn't be…
"Damon, you really should know the lyrics by now," said Katherine. She turned slowly, a grim smile on her face, to address the shocked Freys (and Tullys and Starks). "Now, I don't want to mar this festive event with bloodshed. If you surrender, I will show mercy." Her voice echoed and rang out in the night, clear and authoritative, a queen in truth if not fully in name.
"Shoot!" shouted Walder Frey. He stood up more quickly than Robb had ever seen him move and scrambled backwards. Too late he noticed his musicians. Or what was left of them. "Elijah!" He must not have seen what Robb had seen. Robb wasn't sure what he had seen. He looked to his mother, cowering beneath a table with Elena and Jon standing over her, weapons in hand. Weapons?
Elijah leapt down from the loft and landed softly on his feet. He slowly approached Walder Frey. That was when Frey noticed the blood on his beautifully cut white jacket with its golden shoulder brushes and the blood on his hands.
"I took you in, Elijah. I gave you a name." said Frey. "Where's your loyalty?!"
"Where was yours?" asked Elijah.
"Kill them!" He flung down his cup. It clattered onto the flagstones and spilled dark red wine everywhere.
Soldiers charged through, swords brandished. Chainmail glinted under Bolton's tunic. Katherine's fan flashed and a red grin appeared in man's throat. He fell, clutching his neck. Coldness gripped Robb's heart and his insides, freezing him where he was. Katherine, Damon, Elijah; it seemed as if he had known them for a very long time, but did he truly know anything at all?
'Move, Robb, move,' he told himself. He scrambled to his feet. His mind was growing numb. The smell of blood was everywhere, hot and metallic. It mingled with the aromas of roasted meats and spilled wine. One could not tell whether the red on the floor was wine or blood.
The women were screaming, the men were screaming. What was Katherine? What was Elijah? What was Damon? Robb might have the answer. He was afraid of it. Monsters were real.
The men who had come in with Damon formed a tight circle around Catelyn and Arya, their shields facing outwards against the randomly flying arrows. Arya ducked under the shields and got out, leaving their mother within the sheltered confines of the shield wall, shouting their names.
"Arya, what are you doing?" demanded Robb.
"Shoot them! Kill them! Kill them!" shouted Walder Frey.
"Robb, down!" shouted Arya. A crossbow bolt flew over his head. He dropped and rolled, only to find himself face to face with a Frey soldier.
Katherine tore off her skirt, hoop frame and all, and rammed it over one of the men, pinning his arms to his side and rendering him useless. Metal glinted on her legs. She unsheathed one of the daggers tied to her thighs and tossed it to Robb. He caught it. It was not a long weapon, but it was better than nothing.
"Katherine, behind you!" Robb shouted as one of the men leapt at her, thinking that she would be an easy target from behind. Katherine whipped around and thrust her hand inside the man's chest. The man stiffened and jerked as her fingers plunged deep inside. She yanked it out. Robb saw the white of broken ribs against the red mess of blood. Katherine gripped his heart in her hand.
She took one of the ripped blood vessels and sucked on it. "Best drink I've had all night."
Pain slammed into him. Katherine dropped the heart then, the veins on her face stark against her pale skin. The veins faded away. The blackness in her eyes became normal again. Only it was growing darker and he couldn't breathe. Fire burned in his chest. His hand wrapped around the crossbow bolt as he sank to one knee. It had pierced even the chainmail he had worn under his tunic.
Katherine caught him before he could fall. He could not see very clearly now. Perhaps he was dreaming it, but was she biting her wrist?
She shoved her wrist against his mouth. He wanted to protest and resist but as he opened his mouth to do so, the smooth velvety liquid slipped down his throat. His first instinct was to spit, but it tasted so good. Like…life. "Drink," she said, nursing him as she would a child, in a very perverted way. As he did, she broke off the shaft of the arrow, causing him to stiffen and convulse with agony. He bit down hard on her skin, forcing more blood into his mouth. She pushed the arrow out the other way. His blood mingled with hers in his mouth but even as that happened, he felt the pain lessening until it went away completely. He stared at her and then down at himself. His tunic was soaked with blood but he felt whole.
He started to open his mouth to speak, but she didn't wait for him. She practically flew away to engage with three men who had been staring at the bizarre scene that they must have made. He could not see her movements as she ripped off their heads and drank from their necks.
Next to him, Damon sank his teeth into a man's neck. Thick red lines appeared and blood sprayed out in time with the heartbeat. The sell-sword ripped off the man's head and let the body drop. "Pardon my manners, your Grace," he said with a little bow, and then he was gone again, off to kill some more.
"You've got dinner all over your front, Damon," Elijah called across the room as he calmly ripped out a Frey spine. He struck another man across the face with it. The man fell in a spray of blood and marrow and the spine broke. Elijah tossed it aside and continued on his calm, deathly march towards the cowering Walder.
Robb threw all the questions into the back of his mind. They could wait. If he wanted answers, he would have to live first. Another figure dressed in white rushed by him. Elena. There was an air of unpractised savagery as she tore into the Frey man who was trying wildly to stab her. She ripped chunks of flesh out of his neck before letting him drop. Her breathing was harsh and she turned wild black eyes on him. He backed away instinctively.
"Robb!" Jon shouted his name like a battle cry. "Catch!"
Robb forced himself to act as Jon tossed him a sword. He could think about everything later, ask questions later. He wouldn't get any answers if he were dead. He caught the sword by the sheath and immediately drew it. The weapon was plain castle-forged steel but it was sharp and it was well-balanced. He gripped the hilt with both hands and swung, just missing the stomach of the Frey who had thought that he could end the war with a thrust of his dagger.
Robb lunged forward and feinted to one side at the last minute. The man fell for it and charged. It was too late for the man to stop. As he fell, Robb's sword came down, severing head from neck. Around him, his men were fighting and dying, but so were the Freys.
Robb felt like shouting, he felt like screaming. Instead, he pushed his thoughts to one side and let his training take over. He had to protect what he held most dear. Failure was not a notion he could entertain.
A/N: The music:
Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra (main theme of Space Odyssey 2001) To see how the Freys played it, check out Portsmouth Sinfonia's version of the piece.
The main theme from Jaws, by John Williams
We Will Rock You by Queen, arranged and performed by David Garrett.