Alright. So as some of you might also see, I've taken up Whispers of Light and Darkness once more. My other AARs I won't be updating, except to add pictures for the actors from the series, but I'll leave them up so people can enjoy if they wish. However I'll be focusing on this and WoLaD. I intend this to be my most extensive AAR. I'll keep to the story of the books quite closely, which might surprise you, but with my own twist on it. For example, Sansa, Petyr, Catelyn, and other characters that don't really figure into the very combat oriented Medieval Total War 2 engine will be featured here, thus there will be some fabrication. Enjoy.
Chapter 1: The North Remembers
What was a King? A man who sits on a throne? If that were true any wealthy man could be a king, for they could build thrones with their riches. A man who wears a crown? Any man can smelt a crown for himself, and any man can wear one. A man who commands other men? No, if that were the case every Lord in Westeros could be named King. Yet he did all these things, and they named him King in the North. The blood of the First Men ran through his veins, and, indeed, the blood of kings as well, but he still knew not what a King truly was.
Robb Stark, the rightful Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, stood with his right hand resting on Grey Wind's back as he surveyed the River-lands. The roaring of the night before still rang in his ears. "The King in the North!" they had cried. "The King in the North!" they had called him. A title that was borne on the tide of vengeance and rage that had arisen with his father's death. Eddard Stark. And Joffrey Baratheon, the boy who had killed him. Joffrey had not wielded the sword that took Eddard's head, but he might as well have. And any man who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is, as Robb learned from Eddard before the latter was shortened by a head. And the Iron Throne bade him bend the knee. But he would not bend the knee, nor would he lay down his sword or his crown. House Lannister would pay dearly for their mistake.
He heard the tramping of feet behind him and knew it for what it was, the approach of his Lords Bannermen. Lord Roose Bolton of the Dreadfort and Lord Rickard Karstark of Karhold they were, and Greatjon Umber of Last Hearth, and Lord Galbart Glover of Deepwood Motte, and also they were Wylis Manderly, son and heir of Lord Wyman Manderly of White Harbor and Lady Maege Mormont of Bear Island. There were others, but these were the principal of them.
Roose Bolton, as Robb suspected, was the first to speak. "Your Grace. The Siege of Riverrun continues, and Lord Edmure is trapped within the Tully fortress," he reported, his voice little more than a whisper. The man was cold and calculating, and Robb was fairly cynical of the man's loyalty.
"We must break the siege, but victory does not simply lie in destroying Jaime Lannister's force at Riverrun. Lord Bolton, you must lead a chunk of the host to the Harrenhal region and hunt down Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch. Ensure that Harrenhal does not fall to House Lannister and strike down any Lannister forces you meet. Avoid Tywin Lannister's host, his numbers are too great for the force I am assigning to you," Robb commanded, turning to his Lords Bannermen and not letting any hesitation show in his commands. "I will lead the rest of our forces south to break the Siege of Riverrun and slay or capture the Kingslayer," the King added, Grey Wind watching the High Lords of the North with seemingly unshakable calm.
Lord Bolton nodded in understanding. "As you will, your Grace," he whispered in reply, but, as usual, Robb couldn't tell if it was respect or derision in his quiet tone. They continued talking after that, mostly of troop movements and supply lines, for the details of such a campaign needed to be ironed out. But Robb's mind soon strayed to King's Landing, far to the south east... And to the King who sat enthroned there.
For the North remembered, and House Lannister were not the only ones who always paid their debts.
Chapter 2: Claws of a Lion, Claws of a Wolf
The Lannisters were far too comfortable for Robb's liking. Jaime Lannister had encamped his force before the Tully fortress of Riverrun, maintaining a siege that threatened to destroy House Tully entirely. Brynden Tully, named the Blackfish, was part of Robb's force, but he was old and stubbornly refused to marry. Thus the continuation of House Tully fell to Ser Edmure, son of the near-death Lord Hoster, both of whom were now trapped in the beleaguered fortress.
This would be the first battle of this war, where the claws of lion and wolf would be measured against each other. Which would slash faster? Which could bite harder? Soon these things would be discovered. Robb motioned his force forward, the Northmen marching at the command of their King. The Lannister host, seeing that battle would soon be joined arrayed themselves into battle lines. The Lannisters retreated somewhat from Riverrun, as Jaime was no fool and knew that the Tullys would undoubtedly sally forth to aid in the breaking of this siege. True to everyone's expectations many banners bearing trout issued forth from the gate of Riverrun, with Edmure Tully in direct command.
The lines of Stark and Lannister crashed together only a few moments later, with Robb's heavy infantry charging the Lannister lines, supported by the lighter infantry. The Northern archers began to fire a deadly arrow hail into the Lannister ranks, their long days of hunting now proving profitable. The Stark cavalry swung to both sides, half supporting the Tully advance as the River-lands soldiers struck the Lannister flank, which had reformed into a line to halt the Tully attack. The other half moved east and struck the archers of the lion, the screams of the dead and dying filling the air from the whole battle-field. Robb surveyed the battle, his eyes flicking to every aspect of the melee, which currently was the center of the action. But then, there! The Lannister cavalry struck the Stark infantry where some Lannister infantry had just fled. The Stark line weakened and then buckled, and Robb knew what he had to do. He motioned his personal guard forward, the charge of the Northern noble knights proving a sight to behold.
The Northern noble-men slammed into the Lannister cavalry with devastating force, lances, and then swords, biting through armor and flesh. Robb himself struck down enemy after enemy, the battle becoming all he would, or could, think about. Even the grief at his father's death, which had been there ever since it occurred, faded away, replaced by the trance of combat. A brief lull in the melee allowed Robb to take stock of the battle's progression. The Lannister host had been reduced to half it's size with the Stark army only taking quarter casualties. Not the odds Robb would prefer, but better then he expected. The Tully army, not being the main focus of the Lannisters, had only lost a tenth of it's soldiers. Then the first Lannister battalion routed in truth. And, as many things do, what started as a trickle quickly became a flood. The Lannisters fled the field, their golden banners now seeming somehow forlorn. But Jaime Lannister, White Knight of the Kingsguard, one of the greatest swordsmen to ever live, and named by many the Kingslayer, would not quit the field this day. His shining armor shone no more, for it was covered with blood and dirt. His Lannister blond hair was filthy now, and his green eyes stared upward, yet they saw nothing, for he was slain. Slain at the hands of an anonymous Northern spearman. An ignoble end for an ignoble man.
A few minutes later, in Riverrun,
"I am deeply grateful, your Grace, as are all those who would have seen shorter lives had this siege not been cut short," Edmure bowed to the King in the North, his Tully auburn hair duller than usual with the grime of battle. "I have news of the rest of my River-lands, if you would hear it," he added respectfully.
Robb nodded and motioned for Edmure to rise. "You have done well, uncle," Robb replied, grasping Edmure's arm. "What news from the River-lords?" he asked, turning to the map of the River-lands spread onto the table near them.
"Many of my Lords Bannermen have already seen combat. You know of the Battle of the Golden Tooth, which was a deeply shameful failure for me. After that we retreated to Riverrun, but two men sworn to House Lannister, Amory Lorch, some knight, and Gregor Clegane, the Mountain-That-Rides, began to raid the Riverlands. Pinkmaiden, Raventree Hall, and Harrenhal were immediately threatened, so I sent Tytos Blackwood, Marq Piper, and Jason Mallister to secure these fortresses lest the Lannisters wrest them from us. Fairmarket, Seagard, and the Twins have been spared the fighting so far, but the aid of the Freys, especially Black Walder, has been invaluable," Edmure reported, jabbing at each location on the map as he mentioned it.
Robb nodded thoughtfully, his gaze intent on the map. "Joffrey must be ousted from the Iron Throne, but I cannot send my army to besiege King's Landing with Tywin Lannister's host still looming over our heads. And the army we just defeated is not destroyed by any means. I believe Tywin will assign Kevan Lannister to the leadership of that host while it recuperates in the Golden Tooth. We have reports that Tyrion Lannister crossed the River-lands not long ago, it is not impossible that Tywin would assign him a host as well," he guessed, putting both hands on the table and leaning into it slightly. "This all points to one thing," Robb concluded.
Robb turned to the lords of the North and the River-lands alike, his gray eyes as hard as iron, "Tywin Lannister's army must be destroyed."
Meanwhile, in the capital city of King's Landing,
Sansa Stark gazed out the window at the city, briefly distracted by the view. She could only imagine the number of people down there among the streets and homes, shops and whore-houses. Maybe only the Seven knew the exact number. But despite how amazing this city was, it was her dearest wish in all the world to leave it forever.
"Are you listening to me, sweetling?" a voice interrupted Sansa's thoughts. She turned to stare at the woman who had spoken those words.
"Of course, your Majesty," Sansa replied politely, her gaze now not wavering from the Queen's.
Cersei Lannister, Queen Regent of Westeros, gazed back, a tiny hint of amusement crossing her features for a moment before vanishing. "Good, because I am discussing your wedding to Joff," she said gently, her green eyes showing just a hint of menace. The Queen was no stranger to hiding emotion, and to showing just the right amount when necessary.
Sansa resisted the urge to wince. She was engaged to Joffrey Baratheon, the so-called King of Westeros. How she hated him. She had loved him once... Or at least she had believed she was in love with him. But now she knew him for what he was... A monster in the form of a boy. "And when will the wedding occur? I want nothing more then to be wed to him," Sansa inquired, her fear at a specific answer filling her.
Cersei laughed, a sweet, amused sound, and shook her head slightly, her golden hair shimmering in the light. "We cannot decide that yet, Sansa dear. We must await your flowering," she reminded the Stark girl. Yes, the flowering. Unfortunately for Cersei, Sansa had proven rather good at hiding the fact that her flowering had already occured. And she had to hide it for as long as possible.
Because if the Queen knew she had flowered? She would be wed to Joffrey, and everything she feared would come to pass.
Chapter 3: A Golden Tooth Chips Easily
The Greatjon roared with laughter at the Lannister emissary, whose face seemed as red as the tunic he wore. "Tyrek Lannister commands us to withdraw?" Umber clarified for the seventh time, and then burst into uproarious merriment for the eighth. "Who is this Tyrek to command the armies of the North? Tell the boy I take orders from only one man, and his hair is auburn, not golden!" Umber bid the emissary go with a gruff wave of his hand. "The King in the North!" he roared as the man rode away. The Stark and Tully army responded in the same, and the Lannister soldiers upon the walls of the Golden Tooth heard it clear as day.
The Greatjon chuckled a bit more as he drank deeply from his water-skin. Normally he would be stone-drunk right now, but he had a castle to take. The Young Wolf had commanded him take the Lannister stronghold so that he may open the way into the West. Roose Bolton had been sent to Rosby with the same mission, save that it was meant to open the way to the Landing. Splitting his forces like that was dangerous, but Robb Stark knew what he was about, of that Umber was certain.
Rickard Karstark had rode to Hornvale to besiege the castle in the name of King Robb. Word had arrived just recently that Tytos Brax, the Lord of Hornvale, had fallen during an attempt to sally forth and relieve his seat. A brave man, but ultimately a foolish one.
Of the King in the North little word was to be had. Upon the parting of the Northern host at Riverrun Robb had declared his intention to take the majority of their forces and meet Lord Tywin Lannister on the field, but whether he had been victorious or had been crushed was not yet known, no raven or rider had so far arrived. Word had come, however, that Tyrion Lannister had attacked Galbart Glover and Helman Tallhart on the shores of the God's Eye as the two Northern lords marched to reinforce Roose Bolton at Rosby. The Imp had been thrown back, but Helman Tallhart had been butchered by a mountain clansmen, one of the Imp's personal soldiers.
This siege would be a long, arduous affair, the Greatjon knew, unless he stormed the castle, which carried dangers of it's own. Ah, well, these Lannister swine would soon taste Northern steel.
In the city of King's Landing,
"All rise for Joffrey Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm!" the herald cried as Joffrey ascended to the dais and sat the Iron Throne. He smiled at Sansa, and the Stark girl forced herself to smile back. How it hurt her cheeks, now... She was no longer used to smiling.
"What business does the Small Council have with the Iron Throne?" Joffrey asked as the Council Members approached and bowed low. Lord Varys, Master of Whisperers, smiled his ingratiating smile and bowed lower than the rest. Lord Baelish, the Master of Coin, seemed mousy and suspicious, so nothing was amiss with him. The next Small Council Member present, Grand Maester Pycelle, seemed so frail that a passing breeze should take his life and give it up to the Seven.
Queen Cersei, also a Council Member, sat beside her son Joffrey. Ser Jaime Lannister, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, was slain, brought low by a Northman in the Whispering Wood. Cersei's beautiful face was stone-cold, as it had been since her twin brother's death. No Master of Laws or Master of Ships had been named... The last men to hold those positions had been Renly and Stannis Baratheon, both of whom now laid claim to the Iron Throne and had named themselves Kings.
"Victory in the Riverlands seems... Unlikely, your Grace, as I am grievous sad to inform you. Your noble grandfather, Lord Tywin, has commanded that men be raised from the Crownlands to face the Northern threat," Varys spoke, his bald head shining slightly in the light of the throne room.
"Let him, then," Joffrey replied, leaning forward, his green eyes both laughing and angry. "Robb Stark has defied me long enough. But I want to do something grandfather doesn't expect... I will lead the host myself, my Lords. Rosby will be reclaimed from the Leech Lord before the month is out!" the King rose to the applause of the folk in the hall... And Sansa was one of the few who did not miss the look between Varys, Littlefinger, which was a nickname for Lord Petyr Baelish, and Cersei.
"That is deeply noble of you, your Grace, but is it truly wise?" Littlefinger asked, coming forward a step. Joffrey's gaze switched to him, but Baelish did not flinch.
"Why wouldn't it be? Do you doubt that I can crush my enemies, my Lord?" he asked coolly in reply, his face sullen, looking every inch the boy he was and looking nothing like the King he was meant to be.
"Of course not, your Grace, but what if some ill should befall you? I do not doubt either the prowess of the Kingsguard, of Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Boros Blount and the rest, but the realm needs you, your Grace," Petyr pointed out with another bow. Blatant lies, all of them, Sansa thought bitterly. Lord Baelish could not be trusted. None of them could. But she could see Joffrey swelling with pride like some demented pig who had eaten too much and now grew fat.
The King was silent a few moments, considering, before he nodded reluctantly. "Very well. Dog, come here!" he commanded. Sandor Clegane stepped forward, his dog's-head helm held in the crook of his arm.
"Your Grace, what is your command?" he asked, his gravelly voice chilling Sansa as it always did. The Hound's face was half hideously burned, half hideous period. They said his own brother, Gregor Clegane, had forced his head into the fire when they were but boys. Sansa didn't know if she believed that, but she believed the scars that were clear as sunshine.
"You will lead the Goldcloaks and levies to Rosby to reclaim it in my name. Then you will go to Rook's Rest, that which has been taken by my traitorous uncle Stannis, and return it to my peace. Do you understand, dog?" Joffrey asked, though it was more a rhetorical question than anything else.
"I do, sire. I will ride out as soon as I am able," Sandor replied, bowing his head and striding from the hall to make arrangements for the march. Roose Bolton had always scared Sansa... But at that moment she found herself praying for him with all her heart.
"My Lady Sansa, If you would meet me in my chambers in a few minutes," Joffrey said near here, almost making her jump from equal parts surprise and fear. She turned to him and curtsied, saying only "Of course, your Grace."
Arya had once said to her that fear cuts deeper than swords. For the first time Sansa realized what her little sister had meant.
Chapter 4: The Four Fires
The First Flame
Four fires burned that night. Of course many thousands burned else-where, but these four had special significance. The first burned in the city of King's Landing, capital of Westeros. In King Joffrey's hearth it raged, hungry for air and licking at that which it hungered for.
Joffrey Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm turned as Sansa entered, a bright smile on his large, pouty lips that Sansa had once liked so well. Ser Mandon Moore closed the door behind Sansa, and she was left with the King. She knew that Ser Mandon and Ser Arys Oakheart where both right outside, but neither would be of any aid should Joffrey prove less than gentle in whatever he desired.
"My lady, please, sit," Joffrey gestured, pulling out a chair for her. The table had been laid with many fine foods, though Sansa was fairly certain she would be able to stomach none of them. At least he was playing the gallant prince... For now.
"As you wish, Your Grace," the Stark girl replied and took the seat offered her.
"My mother will be joining us soon, I hope you don't mind," Joffrey revealed, at which Sansa had to resist breathing a sigh of relief. She loved the Queen no more than Joffrey, but at least Joffrey would not try anything with Cersei there. Joffrey spoke of several things, with Sansa doing her best to reply as normally as she could, and then Queen Cersei entered. Her golden hair was bound with a net of tiny rubys, her gown deep scarlet and gold.
"I do hope you've been enjoying yourself, sweetling," Cersei directed at Sansa.
"Of course, Your Grace. The meal is delicious," Sansa replied automatically. Cersei took a seat and the three ate and talked, though Sansa knew that whatever she had been called here for would come up sooner or later. She looked past Joffrey, into the fire raging in the hearth. A small part of her envisioned leaping into that fire, but the rest of the Stark girl quickly squashed that.
"Your Grace, might I say what a wise decision sending Ser Sandor to reclaim Rosby was," Sansa said to Joffrey, resolving to start a conversation, not simply reply to one. Ah, but how she wished Joffrey had gone himself and had then been flayed by Roose Bolton.
"What do you know of war-fare? I don't need your praise, you're just a silly girl," Joffrey snapped, but he subsided at Cersei's admonishing look.
The Queen of Westeros turned to Sansa with a smile. "Thank you, sweetling. Ser Sandor is a loyal and capable servant, he should not take long to retake Rosby and set Lord Gyles back into his seat," she agreed. "But that is not why we came here. Sansa, sweetling, there is ill news from the Riverlands," the Queen began gravely.
It's Robb, it must be. He's won some battle, or taken some castle. Maybe he's close to the Landing, then we'll see how Cersei and Joffrey look without heads, Sansa though to herself, but was then shocked by the callous thoughts. She wanted them both dead, but she didn't want to imagine what they would look like while beheaded.
"Your traitorous brother has defeated my father Lord Tywin Lannister's host in the field," Cersei revealed, and Sansa once again had to exercise her self-restraint, this time to stop herself from jumping for joy, "The Hand has escaped, however, to raise another force in the West and reclaim what he has lost."
"I am sorry to hear that, Your Grace. It is my dearest wish that my brother repent of his crimes and bow before my beloved Joffrey," Sansa told her solemnly. A lady's armor is her courtesy.
Cersei offered her a small, knowing smile, a smile that said, You don't fool me, sweetling, but she nodded and approved of Sansa as a good young girl. But Sansa heard the word that replaced girl in truth.
A good young hostage.
The Second Flame
The island fortress of Dragonstone loomed above the heaving, crashing sea, the facades of stone dragons with wings unfurled watching all approaches with pitiless stone eyes. Many fires burned in this fortress of R'hllor, but one in particular burned brightest. Melisandre of Asshai, the Red Priestess of R'hllor, gazed deeply into the hearth of the Chapter of the Painted Table, seeing what passed through those flames and knowing what would pass.
Upon the throne that sat where Dragonstone would sit in relation to the Painted Table, a map of Westeros as it was during the time of Aegon the Conqueror, sat Stannis Baratheon, the King on the Narrow Sea. He was deep in discussion with his Lords Bannermen, such as they were, on his next move.
"We must strike at the Stormlands and reclaim them. Lord Renly's power is too much, we must find some way to smash his hosts one by one," Lord Ardrian Celtigar argued, his surcoat, three red crabs on a gray field, already slightly stained by the ever-present smoke in Dragonstone.
Lord Monford Velaryon smiled slightly, a contemptuous expression. "Do you think Renly will simply march his troops single-file into our forces? He will gather all his strength and smash us utterly. No, I say move to take Tarth and strike at Storm's End using the harborage at the Sapphire Isle when Renly moves North to take the Landing. If Renly loses Storm's End some of the Stormlords will lose faith in their green king, and they will renounce him in favor of the rightful Lord of Storm's End, and King of all Westeros," the silver-haired lord predicted, jabbing a finger at Storm's End on the map table.
Those two were the only capable Lords Bannerman Stannis had. Lord Guncer Sunglass had been burned by Melisandre some days past, and Lord Duram Bar Emmon was a weak-willed youth.
"What of allies, then? Lysa Arryn may be made to see reason, and making common cause with Robb Stark could end with victory. I hear tales of his victory over Lord Tywin Lannister in Stoney Sept, they say it was an even greater triumph for the Young Wolf than it was for his father at the Battle of the Bells," Celtigar suggested, looking up at Stannis.
"I will not accept a broken realm," The King of Dragonstone replied shortly, his blue eyes cold as they gazed down upon Westeros. "Robb Stark will bend the knee or he will be destroyed. Ser Davos, I have a task for you," Stannis turned to the other man in the room.
Davos Seaworth was not a remarkable man in appearance. He was slight and rather short, his hair and beard were brown, though the latter had peppering of gray in it, and his eyes were brown as well. Yet those who had met him knew that he was Stannis' most loyal supporter and vassal. "Of course, Your Grace, what would you have me do?" Seaworth asked, moving his hand up to brush against the leather bag that held his finger bones. All but the thumb on his left had been shorted by a joint by Stannis himself, as punishment for Davos' days as a smuggler.
"I would have you sail for the Vale and speak to Lysa Arryn. You may not be noble-born, but I believe you will have the best odds of success. Return with Lysa's answer as soon as you have, there is little time to waste," Stannis Baratheon commanded, gesturing the Vale on the Painted Table.
"It will be as you wish, Your Grace," Davos replied with a bow. The other men in the room took this as their hint and all left. But the woman stayed. Melisandre turned to Stannis and climbed to the dais his throne was set on.
"This Lysa Arryn will not join you, my king. You know what must be done to ensure victory," Melisandre reminded him, her rich, melodic, almost hypnotizing voice filling the Chamber.
"Aye, you say this thing will grant me all the power to take King's Landing. But how can you know? How can you know?" Stannis asked her, his jaw working, teeth grinding.
Melisandre smiled slightly at her king, at her liege, at her champion... At Azor Ahai reborn.
"Because R'hllor has shown it to me."
The Third Fire
The third fire burned brightly and merrily at the castle of Rosby, despite the cold detachment of the man standing before it. Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort and Hand of the King stared at the men before him, his cold gray eyes, so like chips of ice, filled with nothing cool neutrality. "So the Hound marches with a force from the Landing to reclaim this castle I have taken," Roose all but whispered, his voice soft and low.
"The Hound will find more than he can chew here, I think. I have no intention of giving up this place. Lord Galbart Glover is on his way here, but he will not arrive in time. It matters not, I think, we will smash this Hound, and, soon enough, his master," Roose predicted, turning to stare into flames. Glover had already nearly lost one battle, and that had been against Tyrion Lannister of all people. Bolton had little faith in the Lord of Deepwood Motte's abilities.
"My lord! My lord Bolton!" a man burst into the room suddenly. Normally Roose would execute the fool who interrupted meetings like this, but if his message was what Roose suddenly suspected... "Sandor Clegane is at the walls with a force five-thousand strong! He has laid siege to the castle!"
Roose had to give a small amount of grudging respect to Clegane. The Lord of the Dreadfort had not expected Clegane's host to reach Rosby for another two days. "Prepare for a siege. Ensure that the stores are kept under guard, I will have no traitors stealing supplies," Bolton instructed in a whisper. One of his men answered with "As you wish, my Lord,", before leaving to see it done.
It was good fortune that Roose had already laid in enough supplies to last several months of siege, though he doubted it would come to that. Sandor Clegane would not be content to siege the castle, he would assault it's walls. And Roose Bolton would be waiting for him.
The Fourth Fire
A fourth fire burned in the hands of a grief-stricken woman, fighting to protect her children and avenge her husband. A cold wind whistled through the mountains around, and the woman almost thought she heard the echoes of screams as men plunged to their death.
Catelyn Stark, the Lady of Winterfell, widow of the late Lord Eddard Stark, watched the lands below as she rode the basket up into the Eyrie proper. She had been here not a year past with Tyrion Lannister, but now she returned to negotiate with her sister, Lysa Arryn. Cat doubted the productivity of such a venture as this, however. Lysa would never agree to send her armies to the aid of the Starks and Tullys, despite her birth name, Lysa Tully.
The torch in her hands burned brightly, illuminating the basket, though the torch was becoming more unnecessary as the Eyrie grew closer. The ancient fortress of House Arryn was night impenetrable, with the only way to take it being protracted siege.
The basket came to a creaking, rustling stop at the entrance it connected to, and Catelyn was quickly greeted by Maester Coleman. "It is good to see you again, my Lady Stark," the Maester greeted, taking her hand and kissing it warmly. "The Lady Lysa will see you at suppertime, she will then meet with you in a more private setting afterward."
"I thank you, Maester Coleman, a warm welcome is appreciated after that climb," Cat replied with a gracious nod. She was a diplomat here, after all.
She could not say if her sister was glad to see her. Oh, she went through the motions. Embracing and kissing of the cheeks and spending most of the meal talking to Cat about this and that, but Lysa Arryn's eyes revealed nothing. Cat grew ever more despairing as she watched her sister inconspicuously, seeing little things, odd little habits and strange gestures that were alien to Cat. As she had suspected on her previous visit to the Eyrie with Tyrion Lannister in tow, Lysa Arryn was no longer the sister Catelyn had known and loved. Lysa had sent no word in reply to Cat's pleas that Lysa come to Riverrun to see their father on his death-bed. Cat was not like to forget that, but she would put it aside for now. For Robb's sake.
Chapter 5: The Direwolf's Grin
The King in the North's gray eyes, both cold and warm with a strange mix of anger and satisfaction, surveyed the battlefield once more, for the last time. His army had camped her a fortnight after their victory against Lord Tywin Lannister, recuperating and preparing to march. The Lion ran with his tail betwixt his legs, and I couldn't blame him. The smell had been terrible, Robb thought to himself with grim amusement. Grey Wind rubbed up against him lightly, and Robb stroked the huge creatures flank absently.
"We are ready to march, Your Grace," his squire, Olyvar Frey, told him respectfully. Robb turned and nodded at the boy, turning back once more to watch the army begin it's march. He spurred his horse onward, along with the guards that never left him, with Grey Wind at his side. King's Landing would not wait forever.
A few moments later, in Harrenhal,
I hope you get eaten by a wolf. I never would, I am a wolf, Arya thought to herself as she scampered away from the guard shouting insults and death threats at her. All she had done was spill a little wine, and that was because the stupid oaf had bumped into her.
"Lord Kevan will hear o' this, you mark my words boy!" the guard roared as a parting shot. That did scare Arya slightly, due to the risk of Kevan somehow recognizing her, but then she realized that he had never even seen her before. Ser Kevan Lannister had remained behind in Harrenhal after Tywin Lannister had left it. Jason Mallister, one of her uncle Edmure's bannermen, had tried and failed to reach the gloomy castle before Tywin, and had unsuccessfully besieged it once his first hopes were dashed. A sally by the Lannisters had ended the second plan as well.
But now her great-uncle, Brynden Blackfish, had the fortress under siege. The Lannister garrison was considerably weaker with Tywin and his army long gone, and she had overheard one of the officers say that they were doomed. But Ser Kevan himself had entered at that moment, and he had told the officer that food they had aplenty, and that the walls of Harrenhal were un-assailable. Arya had to agree with him. I've never seen such high walls, not even at Winterfell, Arya reflected, looking up at the vast structures.
And that was why Arya was doing what she was doing. Quick as a shadow, calm as still water, she recited to herself as she ghosted toward one of the huge outer gates of Harrenhal. If Gendry had sold her out...
"This is crazy," the blacksmith's apprentice's voice came from the darkness, and Arya turned to him, proud of herself for not even jumping. "If we're caught, we're dead," Gendry reminded her, blue eyes shifting around nervously.
"We won't get caught, stupid, now hurry up," Arya replied impatiently, and the two of them made their way into the gatehouse. As monstrous an affair as Harrenhal was, at least the gatehouses were fairly simple to find your way in. But at the door leading the winch room, there was a guard, as Arya had suspected. She removed a bottle of wine and a cup from a pouch she had and made a "Stay here" gesture to Gendry, who nodded understanding.
"Ser Kevan told us to bring wine to all the outer wall guards," Arya stated, coming out from behind the corner with wine and cup in hand. The guard gazed at her suspiciously for a few moments, but Kevan Lannister was known to make kind gestures like this from time to time, and the lure of good wine was too strong for him to resist.
"A'ight then, bring it 'ere," he ordered gruffly, a command Arya obeyed. She poured wine out for him and handed him the cup, gray eyes innocent and pure. The guard gave a "Heh", reminiscent of a certain Riverlands lord, and tilted his head back to drink.
The dagger took him at the throat, carving a red smile into him. The guard choked on the wine and blood in his throat, both of which came flowing out of the wound in copious quantities, and he collapsed like a sack of flower with it's rope cut.
"Come on, stupid," Arya gestured to the boy behind the corner, at which the blacksmith's apprentice came quickly.
"You... Killed him," Gendry stated, shocked, but he shook it off quickly. "Okay, let's do this fast," he suggested, a notion with Arya definitely agreed with. They entered the winch room, and took note of the slumbering guard. A few moments later he was bleeding out as well, and Arya and Gendry had taken their positions at the winch. "What are you doing? You'll hardly help at all," Gendry told her irritably.
"Shut up, I'm stronger than you think," Arya snapped back, and Gendry just shrugged and shook his head. The two of them braced themselves... And began to raise the gate. It wasn't long before they heard surprised shouts from both within and without Harren's folly, but it was too late for the Lannisters to do much else than try to stem the sudden tide of, admittedly, rather sleepy Northmen and Riverlands men who poured in through the opened gate.
Soon Harrenhal was awash with blood and battle, and in the chaos no one noticed a girl, a blacksmith's apprentice, and a plump boy escape from a postern gate. Nor could the Northmen make anything of the slain guards once the fortress was theirs and Kevan Lannister dead. Not even from the Direwolf's smile in their throats.