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A Song of Ice and Fire 05. Storm of Swords

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Book The Seven Kingdoms are in a bloody civil war for supremacy. One of the contenders for the throne is already dead, another has fallen from grace, but the bloody power struggle in Westeros is raging more bitter than ever. Robb Stark, Lord of Winterfell, stubbornly resists the tyrannical House of Lannister, although his sister is held hostage at the court of the child king Joffrey. But suddenly the Winterfell fighters are faced with a new danger: an army of barbarians is pushing into the kingdoms from the north, and as the vanguard, apparently unstoppable hordes of supernatural creatures break out from behind the great wall that shields the haunted forest, murdering and pillaging. Meanwhile, the exiled Queen Daenerys is expanding her power on the distant southern continents with the help of the three last dragons and a fearsome army. She prepares to intervene in the battle for the crown that she feels betrayed. Author George R. R. Martin worked for a long time as a dramaturge on the TV series "The Twilight Zone". The "Song of Ice and Fire" is his first work in the field of fantasy. It was enthusiastically received by the critics and unencumberedly recognized as a masterpiece by established colleagues. Marion Zimmer Bradley described the cycle as "perhaps the best epic fantasy ever." George R. R. Martin lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Already published by George R. R. Martin: THE SONG OF ICE AND FIRE:

1. The Lords of Winterfell (24,729), 2. The Legacy of Winterfell (24,730), 3. The Throne of the Seven Kingdoms (24,923), 4. The Seed of the Golden Lion (24,934), 5. Storm of Swords (24,733) Coming soon: 6. The Queen of Dragons (24.734) Further volumes are in preparation.

George R. R. Martin

Storm of Swords A song of ice and fire 5 From the American by Andreas Helweg

BLANVALET

The original American edition was published under the title "A Storm of Swords" (Pages 1-438) by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. New York

Environmental note: All printed materials in this pocket book are chlorine-free and environmentally friendly. Blanvalet paperbacks are published by Goldmann Verlag, a company of the Random House GmbH publishing group.

German first publication 11/2001 Copyright © of the original edition 2000 by George R. R. Martin Copyright © of the German language edition 2001 by Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, Munich, in the publishing group Random House GmbH Published in agreement with the author c / o Ralph Vidnanza, Ltd. All rights reserved Cover design: Design Team Munich Cover illustration: Agt. Schlück / Kukalis Typesetting: DTP Service Apel, Hanover Printing: GGP Media, Pößneck Publishing number: 24.733 Editing: Marie-Luise Bezzenberger V B. • Production: Peter Papenbrok Printed in Germany ISBN 3 -442-24733-0

A Note on Chronology The Song of Ice and Fire is told from the perspective of characters who are often hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. Some chapters stretch over a day, others just over an hour; some may span two weeks, a month, or half a year. With such a structure, the narrative cannot be kept strictly chronological; At the time of an occurrence, other important events are occurring a thousand miles away. For the purposes of this volume, the reader should know that the first chapters of Storm of Swords do not follow the final chapters of The Seed of the Golden Lion, but rather overlap with them. I'll start here by looking at the incidents that happened on the First Human Fist, Riverrun, Harrenhal, and Trident, while King’s Landing was hosting the Battle of Blackwater ... George R. R. Martin

For Phyllis, who convinced me to bring the dragons into play.

PROLOGUE The day was gray and bitterly cold, and the dogs refused to take in the weather. The big black bitch sniffed the bear track once, backed away and crept back to the pack with her tail pinched. The dogs huddled miserably on the bank while a gust passed between them. Chett fared no better as the wind cut itself through several layers of black wool and hardened leather. It was damned too cold for humans and animals, and yet they stood here. He screwed up his mouth and could literally feel the boils turning red on his cheeks and neck. I should be at home by the wall, safe, tending to the cursed ravens and lighting a fire for old maester Aemon. That bastard Jon Snow had driven him from his place, along with his fat friend Sam Tarly. It was her fault that he was walking around here with the pack in the Haunted Forest and froze off his eggs. "By the Seven Hells." He yanked the leashes hard to get the dogs to turn their attention to him. “Look, you bloody mutt. That's a bear's trail. Do you want some meat or not? Addiction! ”But the dogs just huddled closer together and whined. Chett cracked his short whip over their heads and the black bitch growled at him. "Dog meat would taste just as good as bear ham," he warned her, his breath freezing at every word. Lark from the Sisters stood with his arms crossed and put his hands in his armpits. He wore black wool gloves, but he kept complaining that his fingers were cold. "It's just too damn cold to hunt," he said. "Fuck the bear, he's not worth freezing to death."

"We can't go back empty-handed either, Lark," growled Little Paul through the brown beard that covered most of his face. "The Lord Commander wouldn't like that." Frozen snot hung under the man's plump nose. His paw, which was tucked into a thick fur glove, clutched the shaft of a spear. "You can give a shit about the Old Bear as well," said the Sisters man, a thin fellow with sharp features and nervously twitching eyes. “Mormont will be dead before daybreak, remember? Who cares what suits him? ”Little Paul blinked his black pig's eyes. Maybe he really forgot, thought Chett; he was stupid enough to forget almost everything. “Why do we have to kill Old Bear? We could just run away and leave him alone. ”“ Do you think he'd leave us alone? ”Said Lark. “He would chase us. Do you want to be chased, you giant sheep? ”“ No, ”said Little Paul. "I dont want that. I don't. ”“ So you're going to kill him? ”Lark asked. "Yes." The big man thrust the end of his spear on the frozen bank of the river. "I'll do it. Don't let him chase us. ”The Sisters man pulled his hands from his armpits and turned to Chett. "We have to kill all the officers, I mean." Chett was fed up with hearing this. “We've discussed this enough times. Old Bear has to die, and so does Blane from the Shadow Tower. Plus Grubbs and Aethan because they're unlucky enough to be assigned to this watch, Dywen and Bannen because they're the best trackers, and Ser Piggy because of the ravens. These are all. We'll quietly kill them while they sleep. One scream and we are food for the worms, each and every 13

from us. ”His boils glowed red. “Just do your job and make sure your cousins ​​do theirs. And Paul, don't forget: the third watch, not the second. ”“ Third watch, ”repeated the tall man from under the frozen snot. “Me and Leisefuss. I'll keep it in mind, Chett. ”There would be a new moon tonight, and they had switched guards so that eight of them were on duty and two more were guarding the horses. They would hardly succeed in making it even better. In addition, the wildlings could appear at any time. Before that happened, Chett intended to be far away. After all, he didn't want to die. Three hundred sworn brothers of the Night's Watch had ridden north, two hundred from Castle Black and another hundred from the Shadow Tower. This was the largest border force in living memory, almost a third of the entire night watch. They were looking for Ben Stark, Ser Waymar Royce and the other border guards who were missing, and they wanted to find out why the wildlings were leaving their settlements. Well, they knew no more about Stark and Royce than they did when they left the wall, but where the wildlings hid, they had learned very well - up into the icy heights of the Frostfangs, forgotten by the gods. If they should sit there until the end of time, it wasn't going to hurt Chett's boils. But no! They came down. Along the Milkwater. Chett looked up to see the river before him. The stony bank was covered with ice, the light, milky water streamed endlessly from the frost traps. And now Mance Rayder and his wildlings came the same way. Thoren Smallwood had come back in sweat three days ago. While telling the Old Bear what his scouts had seen, Kedge Whiteye told the others. "They're still in the foothills at the moment, but they're on their way," Kedge said, warming 14

Meanwhile, hands over the fire. “Harma Hundekopf leads the vanguard, that pockmarked piece of dirt. Goady sneaked up to her bed and saw her sitting open by the fire. Tumberjon, that fool, wanted to give her an arrow, but Smallwood had more sense. ”Chett spat. “How many were there, could you count them?” “Many, far too many. Twenty, thirty thousand, we didn't count them one by one. Harma had five hundred in the vanguard, all mounted. ”The men sitting around the fire exchanged uncomfortable looks. Rarely have a dozen wildlings been seen on horseback, and five hundred ... "Smallwood sent Bannen and me to bypass the vanguard and take a look at the main force," Kedge continued. “There was no end to it. They move slowly like a frozen river, four or five miles a day, but they don't look like they want to go back to their villages. Over half were women and children who drove the cattle in front of them, goats, sheep, even aurochs, who pull sleds. They are laden with balls of fur and meat, with chicken cages, butter churns and spinning wheels, with all their belongings. The mules and small horses were so heavily loaded that I thought their backs were about to break. And so are the women. ”“ And they followed the Milkwater? ”Asked Lark of the Sisters. "Didn't I say that?" The Milkwater would lead her past the fist of the First Men, the ancient round festival where the Night Watch camped. Any man with a spark of sense had to realize that it was time to break up the tents and retreat to the wall. The old bear had his fist reinforced with stakes, pits and tackles, but that was pointless against such an army. 15th

If the border guards stayed here, they would be surrounded and wiped out. And Thoren Smallwood even wanted to attack. Sweet Donnel Hill was Ser Mallador Locke's squire, and Smallwood had come to Locke's tent the night before. Ser Mallador agreed with old Ser Ottyn Wythers and pushed for a retreat to the wall, while Smallwood wanted to convince him otherwise. "That king-beyond-the-wall will never look for us that far north," he had said, as Sweet Donnel reported. “And this huge army is just a staggering horde of loudmouths who don't know which end to hold a sword at. One blow, and the desire to fight is ruined, and with loud howls they disappear into their poor huts for the next fifty years. "Three hundred against thirty thousand. Chett called it madness, and it was even crazier that Ser Mallador would let himself be persuaded to be mad, and they, in turn, would convince the Old Bear. "If we wait too long, we might miss this opportunity, and who knows if we will have a second," Smallwood told everyone who listened. Ser Ottyn Wythers countered: “We are the shield that protects the human realms. Thoren Smallwood replied, "The best way to defend yourself in a sword fight is to kill the enemy with one swift blow, not by crawling behind your shield." However, neither Smallwood nor Wythers were in command. That was what Lord Mormont had, waiting for his other scouts, Jarman Buckwell and the men who had climbed the giant's stairs, and Qhorin Halfhand and Jon Snow who had ventured into the Complainant Pass. Buckwell and the Half-Hand, however, were long overdue. Most likely dead. Chett turned 16

like Jon Snow lying blue and frozen on a bare mountain peak and how a wildling's spear protruded from his bastard's buttocks. He had to smile at the thought. Hopefully they killed his bloody wolf right away. "There is no bear here," he decided suddenly. “It's just an old track. Back to the fist. ”The dogs almost tore him off his feet, as eager to return as he was. Maybe they thought there was food. Chett had to laugh. He hadn't fed them in three days to make them hungry and aggressive. Tonight, before he slipped away into the darkness, he would let her go between the horses after the cute Donnel Hill and Clubfoot Karl cut the lines. Then they have to deal with growling dogs and panicked horses running through the fires, jumping over the circular wall and trampling down tents. In this mess it would probably not be noticed until hours later that fourteen brothers were missing. Lark had wanted to take twice that number with him, but what could you expect from a stupid, fish-smelling man from the Sisters? Whisper a word in the wrong ear and before you know it, you'll be a head shorter. No, fourteen was a good number, enough to get all that needed to be done and not so many that the secret couldn't be kept. Chett had chosen most of them himself. Little Paul, for example; he was the strongest man on the wall, even if he moved more slowly than a dead snail. Once he broke the back of a wildling by just hugging it and hugging it tightly. They also had a dagger on their side, named after his favorite weapon, and that little gray guy the brothers called Leisefuss, who raped a hundred women in his youth and who still boasted today that none of them had seen or heard of him before he penetrated her. 17th

The plan itself was Chett's. After all, he was the thinker; by the time that bastard Jon Snow had ousted him from this post so his fat pig of a friend could take it, he had served Maester Aemon as a lad for four years. If he was going to kill Sam Tarly tonight, he intended to whisper in his ear, "Sincerely, Lord Snow," before slitting Ser Piggy's throat and letting the blood gush out through the thick layers of fat. Chett knew the ravens, he wouldn't have any trouble with them, any more than with Tarly. All you had to do was hold the knife in front of his nose and that coward would piss his pants and whimper for his life. If he is to beg quietly, it will not help him. After cutting his throat, he would open the cages and chase the birds away so that no one on the wall could be notified. Meanwhile, Leisefuss and Little Paul would finish off the Old Bear, Dagger would take care of Blane, and Lark and his cousins ​​would silence Bannen and old Dywen so they wouldn't chase them. For a fortnight they had been gathering food supplies in secret, and Sweet Donnel and Clubfoot Karl would have the horses ready. After Mormont died, command would pass to Ser Ottyn Wythers, an old man who had passed through his prime. Before sunset he will flee to the wall and he will not waste men chasing us.The dogs tugged on the leash as they returned through the woods. Chett saw the fist sticking out of the green. The day was gloomy, and the Old Bear had lit torches that burned in a great circle around the curtain wall that crowned the steep, rocky hill. The three waded through a stream. The water was freezing and ice was already spreading on the surface. "I'll make my way to the coast," said Lark of the Sisters. “Me and my cousins. We'll build a boat and sail back to 18

The Sisters. ”And at home they'll take you deserters and chop your heads off, Chett thought. Once you had sworn your oath, you couldn't leave the night watch. They would be captured and killed anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms. Ollo Lophand, for example, was talking about sailing back to Tyrosh, where, as he claimed, a man would not lose his hand for a little honest theft or be banished to the cold for being caught in the bed of a knight's wife. Chett had considered joining him, but he couldn't speak a single word of that damp, effeminate language. And what should he do in Tyrosh? He had not learned a significant trade in Hexensumpf, where he had grown up. His father had spent his life digging other men in fields or gathering leeches. Clad only in a leather loincloth, he stepped into the murky water. When it came out it was covered from chest to ankles. Sometimes he would let Chett help him remove the leeches. Once someone had sucked himself into the palm of his hand and Chett had hit him against the wall in disgust. His father had beaten him bloody for this. The maesters paid well for the little animals. Lark should go home if he wanted, and so should damn Tyroshi, but Chett shouldn't. If he ever saw Witches' Swamp again, at least not in the near future. He had liked Craster's keep, on the other hand. Craster lived there like a high lord, so why shouldn't he do the same? Wasn't that laughable? Chett, the son of a leech collector, a lord with his own castle. His banner would show a dozen leeches in a pink field. But why only one lord? Maybe he would even become king. Mance Rayder also started out as a crow. Like him, I too could become king and have a couple of wives. Craster had nineteen, the younger daughters he was not yet 19

in his bed didn't count. Half of the women were as old and ugly as Craster himself, but what did that matter? The old Chett would cook and clean, pick carrots and slaughter pigs, while the young would warm his bed and bear his children. Craster wasn't going to complain about that once Little Paul gave him a warm hug. The only women Chett had ever met were the whores in Mole’s Town. When he was younger, the village girls had only glanced at his boil-faced face and the bag of groats and turned away in disgust. The worst was that whore Bessa. She'd spread her legs for every boy in Witches' Swamp, so he'd thought she'd do it for him too. He'd been picking wild flowers for a whole morning after hearing that she liked them, but in the end she'd just laughed at him and said she'd rather crawl under his father's leeches than him. She hadn't stopped laughing until he stabbed her with his knife. That was cute, the look on her face, so he withdrew the knife and stabbed again. After they caught him near Siebenbach, old Lord Walder Frey did not even bother to judge him himself. He'd sent one of his bastards, these Walder Rivers, and before Chett knew it he was on his way to the wall with that stinking black devil Yoren. He had to pay with his whole life for one beautiful moment. But now he would get it back, and Craster's women too. That strange old wildling is right. If you want a woman, take her, and there's no point giving her flowers so she might not notice your bloody boils. Chett did not intend to make this mistake a second time. It would be all right, he told himself for the hundredth time. As long as we just escape. Ser Ottyn would be in Rich20

Then head south to the Shadow Tower, taking the shortest route to the wall. He won't be with us, not Wythers, he just wants to go home safe. Thoren Smallwood, he would want to continue the attack, but Ser Ottyn was too cautious and he held the higher rank. Is indifferent anyway. After we're gone, Smallwood can attack whoever he wants. Who cares? If they don't all return to the wall, nobody will look for us because they think we died with the others. The thought occurred to him for the first time, and for a moment it seemed tempting. Only that would have to kill Ser Ottyn and Ser Mallador Locke for Smallwood to be in command, and both were surrounded by men day and night ... no, the risk was too great. "Chett," said Little Paul as they trudged along a rocky deer path between guard trees and soldier pines. “What about the bird?” “What damned bird?” The last thing he could do with that sheep's head rubbing a bird was the last thing he needed. "The raven from the Old Bear," replied Little Paul. "If we kill Old Bear, who'll feed his bird?" Kill the bird if you like. ”“ I don't want to harm any bird, ”said the big man. “Well, he can speak. What if he tell them what we did? ”Lark of the Sisters laughed. "Little Paul, so fat and lazy like a castle," he mocked. "Stop it," snapped little Paul menacingly. "Paul," said Chett, before the big man got really angry, "if you find the old guy in a pool of blood and his throat slit, you won't need the bird to see someone killed him." Little Paul sank into 21 for a moment

deep brooding. "That's true," he finally agreed. “Can I keep the bird then? I like him. ”“ It's yours, ”Chett said, so he just kept his mouth shut. "If we get hungry, we can still eat it," said Lark. Little Paul's expression clouded over again. “I'm warning you, Lark, you'd better not try to eat my bird. Better not. ”Chett heard voices through the trees. “Both of you shut up damned mouths. We almost reached Faust. ”They stepped out of the forest near the western slope and circled the hill to the south, where the slope was not so steep. A dozen men practiced archery at the edge of the forest. They had drawn the outlines of people on tree trunks with charcoal and shot their arrows at them. "Look," Lark said, "a pig with a bow." Indeed, the foremost archer was Ser Piggy himself, the fat boy who had contested his place with Maester Aemon. The very sight of Samwell Tarly made him angry. Serving Maester Aemon had been the best life he had ever enjoyed. The old blind man didn't ask much, and Clydas had taken care of most of it anyway. Chett's duties were limited to clearing out the raven, lighting a fire, fetching food ... and Aemon hadn't beaten him once. This fat man thinks he just needs to arrive and can drive me away because he's a highborn and can read. Maybe I should ask him if he can read what's on the knife before I cut his throat with it. "Go on," he said to the others, "I'll watch a little." The dogs tugged on the leashes and wanted to get their food, which they believed was waiting for them upstairs. Chett kicked the bitch with his boot and they calmed down a little. From under the trees he watched the fat boy struggle with a longbow the same size as he was 22

self; the red moon face was tense with concentration. Three arrows were stuck in the ground in front of him. Tarly put one on and pulled the string through, held it for a moment as he tried to aim, and let go. The arrow disappeared in the green. Chett laughed out loud and snorted in sweet disgust. "We'll never find him again, and I'll be to blame," complained Edd Tollett, the sombre gray-haired squire everyone called the melancholy Edd. “Ever since I lost my horse, they always look at me when something is missing. As if I could have done something for it. The horse was white and it was snowing. What did they expect? ”“ The wind drove him away, ”said Grenn, another friend of Lord Snow's. "Try to keep the bow straight, Sam." "It's so heavy," the fat boy wailed, but still put on the second arrow and cocked it. This flew high in the air and sailed three meters above the target through the branches. "I think you shot a leaf off the tree," said the melancholy Edd. "Autumn is coming soon enough, you don't have to help out." He sighed. “And we all know what follows autumn. By the gods, I'm already cold. Shoot your last arrow, Samwell, I think my tongue is freezing to the roof of my mouth. ”Ser Piggy lowered his bow and Chett thought he was about to cry. "It's so hard." "Hang up, cock, shoot," said Grenn. "Come on." Obediently, the fat boy pulled the last arrow out of the ground, put it on, pulled the string and let go. He did it quickly, without carefully blinking at the arrow as he had done the first two times. The arrow struck the charcoal outline deep down in the chest and stopped trembling. "I met him." Ser Piggy sounded shocked. “Grenn, did you see? Edd, look, I met him! ”“ Right between the ribs, I would say, ”said 23

Grenn. "Did I kill him?" Asked the fat man. Tollett shrugged. “Maybe you would have pierced his lungs if he had one. Most trees don't usually have any. ”He took the bow from Sam's hand. “I've seen worse shots, though. Aye, and worse aimed myself. ”Ser Piggy beamed. If you looked at him like that, you might think he had actually achieved something. But when he saw Chett and the dogs, the smile died away. "You hit a tree," Chett said. “Let's see you shoot if it's Mance Rayder's guys. They won't stand with outstretched arms and rustling leaves. They'll run up to you and scream in your face, and I bet you'll piss your pants then. One of them will plant his ax for you in the middle of your little pig's eyes. The last thing you hear in your life will be the flop that pops your skull. ”The fat man trembled. Mournful Edd put a hand on his shoulder. "Brother," he said solemnly, "just because it happened to you doesn't have to happen to Samwell." "What are you talking about, Tollett?" Is it true that you lost half your mind and that your dogs ate it? ”That big booby Grenn laughed, and even Samwell Tarly managed a shy grin. Just grin all you want, Ser Piggy. We'll see who has the last laugh tonight. If only there was time to kill Tollett too. A gloomy, stupid horse face, that's exactly what he is. The climb was steep, even on the flattest side of the fist. Halfway up, the dogs began to bark and tug at the leashes, believing that they would be getting food soon. Instead he had a foot24

kick over for her and a whip for the big ugly bitch who snapped at him. After they were tied up, he went to make a report. "The tracks were there, as Riese said, but the dogs didn't want to pick up any scent," he reported to Mormont in front of his large black tent. "It was the same down by the river, they could be old prints." "What a shame." Lord Commander Mormont was bald, with a shaggy gray beard, and sounded as tired as he looked. “We could all have used a bite of fresh meat.” The raven on his shoulder nodded his head and repeated, “Meat. Flesh. Meat. ”We could cook the damn dogs, Chett thought, but kept our mouth shut until the Old Bear let him go. And this was the last time I had to bow my head in front of him, he thought with satisfaction. It seemed like it was going to get colder, which he wouldn't have thought possible. The dogs huddled together miserably on the hard, frozen mud, and Chett was almost tempted to lie down with them. Instead, he wrapped the black wool scarf around the lower half of his face, leaving a slit for his mouth. If he kept moving it was warmer, he thought, and so he walked slowly around the camp, shared a little bitter leaf with the black brothers on watch and listened to what they had to say. None of the men on duty during the day belonged to his group; still, it couldn't hurt to know what they were thinking. Most of all, they thought it was bloody cold. The wind increased in strength as the shadows lengthened. He made a high, thin whimper when he whistled through the stones of the curtain wall. "I hate that sound," said the Little Giant. "It sounds like a baby screaming for milk in the bushes." When Chett finished his round and returned to the dogs, Lark was waiting for him there. “The officers have gathered again in the Old Bear's tent and have un25

They talk pretty heatedly. ”“ They always do, ”Chett said. "They are born high, after all, all but Blane, and they get drunk on words instead of wine." Lark pushed closer to him. "Our curd-head is still chatting about that bird," he warned, looking around to see if anyone was nearby. "Now he's asking if we put any grains on the side for the damned cattle." "It's a raven," Chett said. "It eats corpses." Lark grinned. "Maybe Little Paul's one?" Or yours, Chett thought. They might need the big man more than Lark. “Don't worry about Little Paul. You do your part and he does his. ”It was already getting dark in the forest when he finally got rid of the Sisters man and sat down to sharpen his sword. It was damn difficult work with gloves on, but there was no way he was going to take them off. In this cold, any fool who touched steel with his bare hands would lose a scrap of skin. The dogs whined at sunset. He gave them water and cursed them. "Another half a night, then you can find your own food." By now he could smell dinner. Dywen crouched by the fire while Chett got his edging of bread and his bowl of bean soup and bacon from Hake, the cook. "The forest is too quiet," said the old ranger. “No frogs by the river, no owls in the dark. I've never seen a more dead forest. ”“ Your teeth sound pretty dead, too, ”Hake replied. Dywen clicked his wooden teeth. “And there aren't any wolves either. There were some before, not anymore. Where do you think they went? ”“ Somewhere warm, ”Chett said. Of the dozen brothers who sat by the fire, twenty-six were

four to him. As he ate, he looked closely at each one with narrowed eyes to see if there were any signs that they were trying to pinch. Dagger looked calm, crouched in silence and sharpened his knife as he did every evening. And sweet Donnel Hill was happy. He had white teeth, plump red lips, and blond curly hair that hung artfully to his shoulders, and he claimed to be some Lannister's bastard. Maybe that was even true. Chett had no use for pretty boys or effeminate bastards, but Sweet Donnel didn't seem to want to pinch. He wasn't so sure about the ranger the brothers called sawwood because of his snoring rather than anything to do with trees. Right now he looked so restless you thought he'd never snore again. And Maslyn looked worse. Chett noticed the sweat running down his face in spite of the cold wind.The droplets sparkled in the light of the fire like many small gems. Maslyn didn't eat either, just stared into his soup as if the smell of it made him sick. I have to take care of him, Chett reminded himself. "Collect!" The call came suddenly from a dozen throats and quickly spread throughout the camp on the hill. “Men of the Night Watch! Gather around the great fire! ”With a frown, Chett gulped down the rest of his soup and followed the others. The Old Bear stood in front of the fire, Smallwood, Locke, Wythers, and Blane behind him. Mormont wore a cloak of thick black fur, and his raven perched on his shoulder, preening its black plumage. That can't mean anything good. Chett huddled between the Brown Bernarr and a few men from the Shadow Tower. After everyone except the post in the forest and the guards on the Ring27

wall, Mormont cleared his throat and spat. The saliva froze to ice before landing on the floor. "Brothers," he began, "men of the night watch." "Men!" Croaked the raven. "Men! Men! "" The wildlings are on the march here, following the course of the Milkwater down from the mountains. Thoren believes their vanguard will reach us in ten days from today. And the most experienced fighters will be with Harma Hundekopf, who leads them. The rest will probably bring up the rear or ride with Mance Rayder. There will also be warriors everywhere in their long column. They have oxen, mules, and horses ... but few. Most will walk, poorly armed, and poorly trained. The weapons they carry are probably made of stone and bone rather than steel. They have their wives and children, herds of sheep and goats and all their belongings with them. In short, despite their number, they are vulnerable ... and they do not know that we are here. Anyway, we should pray it is. ”You know, Chett thought. You bloody old pus bag, they know, it's as certain as the next sunrise. Qhorin Halfhand hasn't returned, has it? And neither is Jarman Buckwell. If they got one of them, the wildlings will surely have got them to sing a pretty song, and you should understand that too. Smallwood stepped forward. “Mance Rayder intends to break the wall and wage a bloody war on the Seven Kingdoms. Well, this game takes two. Tomorrow we will bring the war to him. ”“ We leave at sunrise, ”said the Old Bear, while the gathering was murmuring. “We ride north and then curve west. By the time we turn, Harma's vanguard will long be past his fist. There are a number of narrow, winding valleys in the foothills of the Frostfangs that are perfect for an ambush. Your column will travel many miles 28

extend. We raid them in several places at once to make them think we are three thousand, not three hundred. ”“ Before their cavalry can form, we'll hit them hard, ”added Thoren Smallwood. “If they're chasing us, we'll run them around merrily and attack the column again below. We set the wagons on fire, scatter the cattle, and butcher as many of them as possible. Especially Mance Rayder if we find him. If they give up and go back to their huts, we'll win. If not, we'll hit them all the way to the wall and make sure they leave a trail of corpses. ”“ There are thousands, ”someone called from behind Chett. "We're going to die." It was Maslyn, his voice trembling with fear. "Dying," shrieked Mormont's raven, flapping its black wings. "Die, die, die." "Many of us," admitted the Old Bear. “Maybe all of them. But, as another Lord Commander put it a thousand years ago, that's why they put us in the black. Remember your oath, brothers. Because we are the swords in the darkness, the guards on the walls… ”“ The fire that burns against the cold. ”Ser Mallador Lokke drew his long sword. "The light that brings morning," others replied, and more swords were drawn. Suddenly they all drew their weapons; almost three hundred blades were raised and the same number of voices shouted: "The horn that wakes the sleepers!" The shield that protects the human realms! ”Chett had no choice but to come in and join his voice with the rest. Breath hung in the air like mist, and the firelight glittered on the steel. With satisfaction, Chett saw Lark and Leisefuss and Sweet Donnel Hill joining in as if they were as big fools as the rest. That was good. It would be stupid 29

been to attract attention when her hour was approaching. After the calls had ceased, he heard the whistling of the wind again, which tugged at the curtain wall. The flames flickered as if they were cold, and in the sudden silence the Old Bear's raven croaked aloud, "Dying." Smart bird, Chett thought, as the officers dismissed them and warned them to eat well tonight and go to bed early to go. Chett crawled under his fur near the dogs, his head full of things that could go wrong. What if that accursed oath caused a change of heart in one of them? Or what if Little Paul forgot everything and tried to kill Mormont during the second watch instead of the third? When Maslyn became discouraged, or someone became a traitor, or ... He found himself listening into the night. The wind sounded like a crying child, and from time to time he could hear men's voices, the neighing of a horse, the crackling of a log in the fire. Then nothing. So quiet. In front of him he saw Bessa's face. It wasn't the knife I wanted to use to get into you, he wanted to tell her. I've picked flowers for you, wild roses and tansy and gold poppies all morning long. His heart pounded like a drum, so loud that he feared it might wake the camp. Ice caked his beard around his mouth. Where do these thoughts of Bessa suddenly come from? Whenever he remembered her, all he saw was the look in her eyes when she had died. What was wrong with him? He could barely breathe. Did he fall asleep? He rose to his knees and something cold touched his nose. Chett looked up. Snow fell. He felt the freezing tears on his cheeks. That's not fair, he wanted to scream. The snow ruined everything he had toiled for, his entire plan. Heavy, thick white flakes went all around him 30

low. How were they supposed to find their supply store in the snow, or the game trail they were going to follow east? Now they don't need dywen or wards to hunt us down, not when they have the fresh tracks in the snow. Snow also covered the unevenness of the ground, especially at night. A horse could easily trip over a root or break its leg on a stone. We're done, he thought. Done before we even started. We are lost. No life as lord for the son of a leech collector, no keep to call his own, no women and no crowns. Just a wildling's sword in the belly and a grave without a stone. The snow took everything from me ... the cursed snow ... the snow had ruined it once before. The Starks' snow. Jon Snow and his favorite pig. Chett rose. His legs were stiff and the snowflakes turned the distant torches into a vague reddish glow. It felt like they were being attacked by a cloud of bright, cold beetles. They dropped on his shoulders and head and flew into his nose and eyes. Cursing, he wiped it off. Samwell Tarly, he remembered. I can still settle accounts with Ser Piggy. He wrapped his scarf around his head, turned up his hood, and strode across the camp to the place where the coward slept. The snow fell so hard that he got lost between the tents, but finally he spotted the little windbreak that the fat boy had built for himself between a rock and the raven cages. Tarly was buried under a mountain of black wool and shaggy furs. The snow was just beginning to cover him. The fat one looked like a rounded mountain. Steel whispered hopefully over leather as Chett drew his dagger from its sheath. One of the ravens croaked. "Snow," muttered another, peering through the bars with black eyes. The first answered with "Snow". Chett pushed past them, carefully putting his feet down with each step. He would give the fat 31

put his left hand over his mouth to stifle his screams, and then ... Uuuuuuuhuuuuuuuuuu. In the middle of his step he paused and suppressed a curse as the horn rang through the camp, distant and cautious, yet unmistakable. Not now. May the gods be damned not NOW! The Old Bear had posted guards in the trees around Faust to warn the camp as soon as anyone approached. Jarman Buckwell is back from the giant's stairs, Chett mused, or Qhorin Halfhand from Complainant Pass. A single blow in the horn announced the return of the brothers. It was the half-hand, and Jon Snow might be alive with him. Sam Tarly sat up with sleepy eyes and stared confusedly into the snow. The ravens croaked in excitement and Chett heard his dogs bark. Half the cursed camp is awake. The gloved fingers clutched the hilt of the dagger as he waited for the horn to stop. But as soon as that was done, it rang again, louder now and longer. Uuuuuuuuuuuuhuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. "By the gods," he heard Sam Tarly whine. The fat boy quickly got to his knees, feet caught in his coat and blankets. He pushed her away and grabbed the mail shirt he had hung on the rock. As he pulled the tent-like piece over his head and wriggled into it, he noticed Chett. "Was it two?" He asked. "I dreamed I heard two horns?" "Not a dream," Chett replied. “Two blows of the horn to call the guard to arms. Two blows of the horn because enemies are approaching. There's an ax out there that says Piggy, fat bastard. Two blows of the horn mean wildlings. ”He would have loved to laugh at the fear on the giant moon face. “Let them all go to the seven hells 32

drive. Harma, Mance Rayder, Smallwood, who said we still had - «Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuhuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. The sound went on longer and longer until it seemed it would never fall silent. The ravens fluttered and screeched, flew around in their cages and struck the bars, and all over the camp the brothers of the Night Watch rose, put on armor, buckled their sword belts, and reached for a battle ax or bow. Samwell Tarly stood shivering, his face the color of the snow around them. “Three,” he squeaked, “that was three, I heard three. They never blow three times. Not for hundreds and thousands of years - "" - Others. "Chett made a sound, half laugh, half sob, and suddenly his underwear got damp, he felt the piss run down his legs and saw the steam, rising from his pants.

33

JAIME The east wind blew through his tousled hair, soft and delicate like Cersei's fingers. He heard the birds sing, felt the movement of the river beneath the boat as the oars drove them back toward the bright pink twilight. I'm alive and I'm drunk with sunlight. Laughter broke from his lips, as suddenly as a quail out of the undergrowth. "Quiet," the girl growled, pulling a sullen expression. The sullen fit went better with her unprepossessing face than a smile. Not that Jaime had ever seen her smile. He amused himself by introducing herself in one of Cersei's silk dresses in place of her studded leather doublet. You might as well dress a cow in silk. At least the cow could row. Her calves protruded like wood from under the coarse brown breeches, and the long muscles of her arms stretched and tensed with every stroke of the row. Even after rowing half the night, she showed no signs of exhaustion, which he couldn't say of his cousin Ser Cleos on the other oar. A tall peasant girl, when you look at her, and yet she speaks like a highborn woman and wears a long sword and dagger. Ah, but does she know how to handle it? Jaime intended to find out as soon as he was released from his bonds. He wore iron cuffs on his wrists and ankles, which were connected by a chain barely a foot long. "My word as Lannister is not enough for you," he sneered while the two tied him up. Thanks to Catelyn Stark, he had been downright drunk at the time. He had only seen fragments of the escape from Riverrun. There had been trouble with the jailer, but the tall girl had overwhelmed him. After that 34

they had climbed an endless spiral staircase. His legs were as weak as blades of grass, and two or three times he had stumbled until the girl offered him an arm to lean on. At some point he was wrapped in a traveling coat and put on the bottom of a rowboat. He remembered Lady Catelyn ordering someone to open the portcullis to the water gate. She sent Ser Cleos Frey back to King’s Landing with new terms for a truce, announced in a tone that brooked no contradiction. He must have dozed off. The wine had made him sleepy and it felt good to stretch out, a luxury the chains in the dungeon hadn't allowed him. Jaime had learned long ago to sleep in the saddle on the way. It wasn't harder for him here. Tyrion will laugh himself to death when he hears that I slept on my own run. Nevertheless he was awake now and found the handcuffs and ankle cuffs very annoying. "My lady," he cried, "if you take these chains off me, I'll take your oar off." She looked at him morosely, and her whole face was marked by her horse's teeth and a dark suspicion. “You will keep your chains on, regicide.” “So you want to row all the way to King’s Landing, girl?” “Call me Brienne, not girl.” “My name is Ser Jaime. Not regicide. "" Do you deny having slain a king? "" No. Do you want to deny your gender? If so, untie your pants and show yourself to me. ”He gave her an innocent smile. "I would ask you to open the bodice, just that, it doesn't seem to me, would prove much." Ser Cleos interfered, alarmed. "Cousin, you forget your manners." The Lannister blood flows thinly in him. Cleos was the son of his aunt Genna and that fool Emmon Frey, who had been in fear of Lord 35 since the day of his marriage

Tywin Lannister had lived. When Lord Walder Frey had led the Twins on Riverrun's side to war, Ser Emmon had put loyalty to his wife above loyalty to his father. Casterly Rock didn't win anything on this deal, on the contrary, Jaime recalled. Ser Cleos looked like a weasel, fought like a goose, and possessed the courage of a particularly brave ewe. Lady Stark had promised him freedom if he relayed a message to Tyrion, and Ser Cleos had solemnly vowed to do so. In that cell, they'd all sworn a lot, and Jaime most of all. That was the price Lady Catelyn asked for his freedom. She had pressed the tip of this girl's long sword to his chest and said, “Swear you'll never take up arms against Stark and Tully again. Swear that you will compel your brother to keep his pledge to send my daughters back safe and sound. Swear this on your honor as a knight, on your honor as Lannister, as a brother of the Kingsguard. Swear by the life of your sister and your father and your son, by the old gods and the new, and I will send you to your sister. Refuse and I'll let your blood flow. ”He remembered how the steel had pierced his skin through his rags as she turned the tip of the sword.I wonder what the High Septon would say about the sanctity of oaths taken in drunkenness while a sword slowly digs its way into your chest? Of course, he wasn't really worried about this fat con man, or about the gods the guy claimed to be serving. He remembered the bucket that Lady Catelyn had tipped over in his cell. A strange woman who entrusted her daughters to a man who, with all due respect, gave a damn about honor. Although she trusted him as little as possible. She puts her hope in Tyrion, not me. "Maybe she's not that stupid after all," he said aloud. His guard got it wrong. "I'm not stupid. 36

And just as little deaf. ”He treated her kindly; mocking her was so easy it wasn't fun. “I spoke to myself and not about you. It's very easy to get used to in the dungeon. ”She frowned, pushed her oar forward, pulled it back, pushed it forward, said nothing. With the tongue as nimble as it is pretty to the face. "According to your language, you are of high birth." "My father is Selwyn of Tarth, by the favor of the gods, Lord of Evenfall." She was reluctant to reveal even that. "Tarth," repeated Jaime. “A shabby rock in the strait, if I remember correctly. And Evenfall is loyal to Storm’s End. Why do you serve Robb von Winterfell? "" I serve Lady Catelyn. And she ordered me to deliver you safely to your brother Tyrion in King’s Landing, not to talk to you. Silence. ”“ I'm fed up with silence, woman. ”“ Then speak to Ser Cleos. I have no words for monsters. ”Jaime chuckled. “Are there any monsters in this area? Are they hiding in the water? Or in the willow thicket there? And I don't have a sword! ”“ A man who ravages his own sister, slays his king, and puts an innocent child to death deserves no other name. ”Innocent? That pathetic boy spied on us. All Jaime wanted was just an hour alone with Cersei. Their trip north had been a long ordeal for him; he saw her every day, but he wasn’t allowed to touch her, because every night Robert stumbled drunk into her bed in this squeaky house on wheels. Tyrion had done his best to keep him in a good mood, but that hadn't been enough. "You will be polite when it comes to Cersei, lass," he warned her. "My name is Brienne, not girl."

"Why do you care what name a monster gives you?" "My name is Brienne," she repeated as stubbornly as a dog. "Lady Brienne?" She was obviously uncomfortable. Jaime had finally found a weakness in her. "Or would Ser Brienne be more to your liking?" He laughed. “No, I'm not afraid. You can tuck a cow into your forehead shield, horse's head, and flank plate and hang a silk saddlecloth over it, and still I wouldn't ride it into battle. ”“ Cousin Jaime, please don't speak so roughly. ”Ser Cleos wore one under his cloak Throw with the twin towers of the House of Frey and the golden lion of the Lannisters. “We still have a long way to go and we shouldn't argue.” “If I argue, it is with sword in hand, cousin. I spoke to the lady. Tell me, lass, are all women on Tarth as pretty as you? If so, I feel sorry for the men there. Maybe they don't even know what real women look like because they live on this desolate mountain in the sea. ”“ Tarth is beautiful, ”grunted the girl between two strokes of the oar. “It's called the sapphire island. Be quiet, monster, if you don't want me to gag you. ”“ She's rude too, cousin, isn't she? ”Jaime said to Ser Cleos. “Though she has a steel backbone, I admit that. Not many men dare to throw the word 'monster' in my face. ”Though they call me that behind my back no doubt. Ser Cleos coughed nervously. “Lady Brienne must have heard these lies from Catelyn Stark. The Starks can't hope to defeat you with their swords, so they try poisoned words. "They hit me with swords, you mindless fool. Jaime smiled meaningfully. Men read all sorts of things into an eloquent smile when you see it 38

allowed. Did cousin Cleos actually eat this crap, or is he just trying to ingratiate himself? What do we have here, an honest mutton or a saliva licker? Ser Cleos continued to babble carefree. "Any man who thinks a brother in the Kingsguard would harm a child doesn't know the meaning of the word honor." To tell the truth, Jaime regretted knocking Brandon Stark out the window. Cersei had bothered him badly afterwards because the boy refused to die. "He was seven, Jaime," she scolded him. “Even if he'd understood what he saw, we could still have scared him enough to keep him silent.” “I didn't think you'd—” “You never think. When the boy wakes up and tells his father what he saw… ”“ If, if, if. ”He had pulled her onto his lap. "When he wakes up, let's say he must have dreamed, call him a liar, and if the going gets tough I'll kill Ned Stark." "And what do you imagine Robert will do?" Robert should do what he pleases. I will go to war with him if necessary. The singers will call it the war for Cersei's cunt. ”“ Let go of me, Jaime! ”She hissed and started to get up. Instead he kissed her. She struggled for a moment, then her mouth opened. He remembered the taste of wine and cloves on her tongue. She shivered. His hand went to her bodice, tugged and tore the silk so that her breasts popped out, and for a while the Stark boy was forgotten. Had Cersei remembered him later and hired the man Lady Catelyn had spoken of to make sure the boy would never wake up? Had she been concerned about his death, she would have sent me. 39

And it doesn't look like her at all to choose a henchman who botches the murder in a grandiose way. Further downstream, the rising sun shone on the wind-ruffled surface of the water. The south bank was made of red clay and was as smooth as a road. Smaller streams flowed into the great river, and rotting trunks of drowned trees clung to the banks. The north bank was wilder. Rocky steep walls rose up to seven meters in height and were crowned by oaks, beeches and chestnuts. Jaime spotted a watchtower on a hill in front of them, which grew larger with every stroke of the oar. Long before they had reached him, he could tell by the weathered stones overgrown with climbing roses that the building was deserted. When the wind turned, Ser Cleos helped the tall girl set sail, a stiff triangle of red-and-blue-striped canvas. The colors of the Tullys, which would surely give them trouble if they encountered Lannister troops on the river, but it was the only sail they had. Brienne took the wheel. Jaime lowered the sword into the water, its chains rattling with every movement. After that, they made faster progress because the wind and currents favored their escape. "We could save ourselves a long way if you hand me over to my father instead of my brother," he suggested. “Lady Catelyn's daughters are in King’s Landing. I'll be back with the girls or not at all. ”Jaime turned to Ser Cleos. "Cousin, lend me your knife." "No." The woman straightened. "You will not carry weapons." Her voice was as unyielding as stone. She fears me, even still in chains. “Cleos, it seems I have to ask you to shave me. Let your beard stand, but the head needs to be shaved. ”“ You wish to be shaved? ”Cleos asked Frcy. 40

“The Empire knows Jaime Lannister as a beardless knight with long golden hair. A bald man with a shaggy, blond beard may go unnoticed. As long as I wear chains, I'd rather not be recognized. ”The dagger wasn't as sharp as it should have been. Cleos manly pecked at the hair, sabered and tore it off, and tossed it overboard. The golden curls floated on the water and lagged behind them. After the felt was removed, a louse crawled down his neck. Jaime caught her and crushed her with his thumbnail. Ser Cleos gathered more from his skull and flicked them into the water. Jaime poured water over his head and warned Ser Cleos to sharpen the blade before shearing the last inch of yellow stubble. After that happened, they trimmed his beard. The reflection in the water showed a man he did not know. Not only because of his bald head, but also because he looked like he'd aged five years in his dungeon; his face was thinner, his eyes were sunken, and he saw wrinkles he couldn't remember. Now I don't look so much like Cersei anymore. She won't like that at all. By noon Ser Cleos fell asleep. His snoring sounded like ducks willing to mate. Jaime stretched out and watched the world slide by; after the dark cell every stone and every tree seemed like a miracle. A few small huts appeared and stayed behind; they stood on high posts so that they looked like cranes. He saw no trace of the people who lived here. Birds flew overhead, others screamed on the bank, and Jaime watched a silvery fish plow through the water. A Tully trout, a bad omen, he thought, until he saw an even worse one - one of the drifting tree trunks turned out to be an anemic, bloated corpse. The dead man's coat had fallen over in the roots of one

caught in a tree, and the color was unmistakably the scarlet of the Lannisters. He wondered if he had known the dead man. The Trident's arms were the best way to transport goods or men across the river lands. In peacetime they would have met fishermen in their boats, barges of grain steered downstream with poles, traders selling needles and bales of cloth from their floating shops, and perhaps even the cheerfully painted boat of a showmen's troop whose sails, made of patches, were in fifty different colors shone and moved upriver from village to village and from castle to castle. But the war had taken its toll. They sailed past villages, but could not see their inhabitants. An empty, torn net hung between trees and was the only sign of the fishing people. A young girl watered his horse and ran away as soon as she noticed the sail. Later they passed a dozen farmers digging in a field next to a burned-out defensive tower. The men frowned at the passers-by and went back to work after deciding that the little boat posed no threat to them. The Red Arm was wide and slowly flowed in loops and turns, small islands kept appearing, and sandbanks often narrowed the course of the river or lurked just below the surface. Brienne seemed to have a keen eye for these dangers, and she always found a passage. When Jaime congratulated her on her knowledge of the river, she looked at him suspiciously and said, “I don't know the river. Tarth is an island. I learned rowing and sailing before I could ride a horse. ”Ser Cleos straightened up and rubbed his eyes. “By the gods, my arms ache. I hope the wind stays that way. ”He sniffed. "I smell rain." 42

Jaime would appreciate a decent chill too. The Riverrun dungeon wasn't exactly the cleanest place in the Seven Kingdoms. It probably smelled like overripe cheese by now. Cleos looked down the river, blinking. "Smoke." A thin gray thread drew her attention. To the south, several miles away, it rose twisted and twisted. Beneath it, Jaime could make out the smoldering remains of a large building and a live oak from which some women had been hung. The crows had only just pounced on the corpses. The thin ropes cut deep into the soft flesh of the throats, and the dead swayed and twisted in the wind. "It was not a chivalrous act," said Brienne when they got close enough to see details. "No true knight would approve of such an outrage." "True knights see much worse things when they go to war, lass," Jaime replied. "And they do worse things, yes." Brienne made for the bank. "I don't leave the innocent to the crows." Crows need to eat too. Stay on the river and leave the dead to their own devices, woman. ”They landed upstream where the great oak leaned far out over the water. While Brienne was hauling in the sail, Jaime got awkwardly out of the boat because of the chains. The water from the Red Arm filled his boots and soaked his ragged pants. Laughing, he fell to his knees, dipped his head and straightened up again, dripping. His hands were thickly caked with dirt, and after he'd scrubbed them clean in the stream, they seemed thinner and paler than he remembered. His legs were stiff and his knees went weak as he shifted his weight on them. Damn it, I've been in Hoster Tulli's dungeon for too long. Brienne and Cleos pulled the boat ashore. The corpses 43

hung over their heads and ripened in death like rotten fruit. "One of us will have to cut it off," said the girl. "I'm going up." Jaime clanked ashore. "Just take these chains off me." The girl stared at one of the dead women. Jaime shuffled closer with short strides, the anklecuffs didn't allow him any longer. A crude sign hung around the neck of the topmost corpse. He smiled. "They did it with lions," he read. “Oh, yes, woman, most unknightly ... but from your side, not mine. I wonder who these women were. ”“ Bar girls, ”said Ser Cleos Frey. “That was an inn, I remember now. Some of the men in my escort spent the night here the last time we returned to Riverrun. ”Nothing remained of the building but the stone foundation and a collapsed, charred beam structure. Black smoke still rose from the ashes. Jaime left brothels and whores to his brother Tyrion; Cersei was the only woman he had ever wanted. “It seems that the girls gave my lord father's soldiers amusement. Maybe they just brought them food and drink. That's how they earned the traitor's necktie, with a kiss and a mug of beer. ”He looked up and down the river to make sure they were really alone. “This land belongs to Brakken. Lord Jonos may have ordered the death of the women. My father burned his castle, so I'm afraid he won't love us very much. ”“ It might as well be Marq Piper's work, ”said Ser Cleos. “Or that shadow of the woods, Beric Dondarrion, though I've heard it only kill soldiers. Maybe a gang of Roose Bolton's Northmen? ”“ Bolton was defeated by my father on the Green Arm. ”“ But not devastating, ”said Ser Cleos. “He's 44 again

moved south after Lord Tywin marched to the fords. Riverrun said he had taken Ser Armory Lorch Harrenhal from him. ”Jaime didn't like such news at all. "Brienne," he said, granting her the courtesy to call her by name so that she would hopefully hear him, "when Lord Bolton Harrenhal stops, both the Trident and Kingsroad will be watched." to see blue eyes flicker. “You are under my protection. They have to kill me first. ”“ I don't think that will worry them very much. ”“ I fight as well as you do, ”she defended herself. “After all, I was one of King Renly's Chosen Seven.He put the striped silk of the Rainbow Guard on me with his own hands. "" Rainbow Guard? You and six other girls, right? A singer once said that all maids are pretty in silk ... but he never met you, did he? ”The woman blushed. "We have to dig the graves." She climbed into the tree. The oak's lower branches were strong enough for it to stand on after climbing up the trunk. She walked around in the leaves, holding the dagger in her hand, and cutting off the corpses. Flies swarmed around the dead when they fell, and the stench increased with each one. "That's a lot of work for a couple of whores," Ser Cleos complained. “What should we dig with? We have no spades, and I won't use my sword for that, I— ”Brienne let out a scream. She jumped from the tree more than climbed down. “Get on the boat, quickly. A sail. ”As quickly as they could they got up, Jaime barely able to run and having to be pulled aboard by his cousin. Brienne pushed her off with an oar and quickly set sail. "Ser Cleos, you should row too." He did what she asked. The boat was now sliding faster 45

through the water; Current, wind and rudder worked hand in hand. Jaime sat in chains, looking up the river. Only the tip of the other sail could be seen. The loops of the Red Arm made it look like it was across the fields, moving north behind a wall of trees as they drove south, but he knew it was an illusion. He shaded his eyes with both hands. "Mud red and water blue," he announced. Brienne's big mouth moved silently, making her look like a cow ruminating. "Faster, Ser." Soon the inn disappeared behind them, and so did the sail, but that meant nothing. After the pursuers were around the next bend, they would reappear. "We may hope the noble Tullys stop to bury the dead whores, I suppose." Jaime didn't particularly like the prospect of returning to his cell. Tyrion would probably have come up with something smarter by now, but the only thing I can think of is to attack her with the sword. For most of the next hour they played cat and mouse with their pursuers, circling bends and rowing between small, wooded islands. Whenever they hoped the distant sail would be gone, it reappeared. Ser Cleos stopped rowing. "Let the others fetch her." He wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Row!" Said Brienne. "There's a river galley behind us," Jaime announced after watching the boat for a while. With every stroke of the oar it seemed to get a little bigger. “Nine oars on each side, so eighteen men. More if they don't just have rowers on board. And the sails are bigger than ours. We can't escape them. ”Ser Cleos froze. “Eighteen, did you say?” “Six for each of us. I'd ask for eight, but the chains are kind of getting in the way. ”Jaime held the 46

Handcuffs up. "As long as Lady Brienne is not kind enough to take it from me?" She ignored him and rowed on with all her might. "We were ahead of them all night," Jaime said. “They've been rowing since dusk, and probably two have always rested. So they must be exhausted. Only the sight of our sail has spurred her strength again, but that will not take long. We could kill a lot of them. ”Ser Cleos caught his breath. “But… they're eighteen.” “At least. Probably twenty or twenty-five. ”His cousin groaned. “We can't even hope to beat eighteen.” “Is that what I said? The best we can hope for is to die sword in hand. ”He meant that very seriously. Jaime Lannister had never feared death. Brienne stopped rowing. The sweat stuck her flax-colored hair to her forehead, and the grimace she made made her look even less attractive than before. "You are under my protection," she said, and the anger made her voice almost growl. He laughed at her violence. She's the bloodhound with breasts, he thought. Or it would be if she had breasts worth mentioning. “Then protect me, girl. Or set me free so I can protect myself. ”The galley slid downstream like a great dragonfly. The water around them boiled from the violent blows of the oars. She was visibly catching up and the men on deck gathered at the bow. Metal flashed in her hands and Jaime could see arches. Archers. He hated archers. In the front of the approaching galley stood a stocky man with a bald head, bushy gray eyebrows and muscular arms. He wore a white shirt over his chain mail

He had a throw on which a weeping willow was embroidered in light green, while his cloak was held up by a silver trout. Riverruns Captain of the Guard. Ser Robin Ryger had been considered a particularly tough fighter in his prime, but those were long gone; he was as many years old as Hoster Tully, and along with his lord he had grown old. When the boats were still fifty meters apart, Jaime put his hands in the shape of a funnel to his mouth and shouted across the water, "Have you come to wish me a happy voyage, Ser Robin?" Kingslayer, ”Ser Robin Ryger yelled. “How did you lose your golden hair?” “I was hoping to dazzle my enemies with the shine of my skull. It seems to have been enough for you. ”Ser Robin was not amused. The distance between the boat and the galley had shrunk to forty yards. "Throw your oars and weapons in the river and no one will be harmed." Ser Cleos turned. "Jaime, tell him we were freed by Lady Catelyn ... in exchange of prisoners, as the law requires ..." Jaime explained this to the captain of the guard, whether it worked or not. "Catelyn Stark doesn't rule Riverrun!" Ser Robin yelled back. Four archers took up positions next to him, two stood and two kneeled. "Throw your swords in the water." "I have no sword," he replied, "and if I did, I would pierce your stomach and cut the eggs of these four cowards." A volley of arrows was the answer. One hit the mast, two pierced the sail, and the fourth missed Jaime by a foot. In front of them lay another wide loop of the Red Arm. Brienne steered the boat across the bend. The tree 48

swung around, the sail clattering as it filled with wind. There was a large island in the middle of the stream. The main channel flowed on the right. On the left, the second channel ran between the island and the high slopes of the north bank. Brienne threw the oar and the boat slid over to the left, the sail curling. Jaime looked at her eyes. Nice eyes, he thought, and calm. He knew what could be read in a man's eyes, knew what fear looked like. She is determined, not desperate. The galley rounded the bend thirty yards behind them. "Ser Cleos, take the wheel," the girl ordered. "Kingslayer, grab an oar and keep us off the rocks." "As my lady wishes." An oar wasn't a sword, but it could smash a man's face with it if you hit properly, and the bar was good for parrying . Ser Cleos put an oar in Jaime's hand and hurried backwards. They crossed the tip of the island and turned sharply into the side channel, the water splashing all the way up the wall as the boat turned on its side. The island was thickly overgrown with willows, oaks and tall pines, which cast their shadows over the flowing water, so that driftwood and tree trunks were difficult to see. To their left the steep bank loomed bare and rocky, and at its foot the river foamed around rocks and rubble. They drove from the sunlight into the shadows and disappeared between the green wall of trees and the stone-gray cliff. Take refuge from the arrows for a moment at least, Jaime thought, and pushed the boat off a half-submerged rock. The boat rocked. He heard a faint splash, and when he turned around, Brienne was gone. A moment later he saw her pulling herself out of the river at the foot of the steep bank. She waded through a shallow pool, stepped over some large rocks, and began climbing. Ser Cleos 49

gawked after her with open mouth. Fool, thought Jaime. "Don't pay attention to the girl," he snapped at his cousin. “Steers.” Behind the trees they saw the movement of the sail. The galley appeared at the beginning of the side channel, twenty-five yards behind them. Her bow rocked violently as she came around, and half a dozen arrows were fired, but all of them missed their target. The movement of the two boats made it difficult for the riflemen, but Jaime knew they would soon be able to make up for it. Brienne had reached the middle of the bluff and was pulling on and on up. Ryger will surely spot them, and then he will let the archers finish them off. Jaime decided to see if the old man's pride would lead him to do something stupid. "Ser Robin," he called, "listen to me for a moment." Ser Robin raised his hand and the riflemen lowered their bows. “Say what you want, regicide, just hurry up.” The boat drifted through the rubble while Jaime shouted, “I know a better way of handling this matter-hand-to-hand combat. Just you and me. ”“ I wasn't born this morning, Lannister. ”“ No, only you probably will today. Die afternoon. ”Jaime held up his hands so his handcuffs could be seen. “I face you in chains. What do you have to fear? "" Not you, Ser. If the choice was mine, I would have preferred nothing, but I have been ordered to bring you back alive if possible. Archers. ”He motioned to them. “Hang up the arrow. Tense. And shoot— ”The distance was less than twenty meters. The archers would hardly have missed their target, but as they drew their bows, a hail of pebbles fell on them. Small stones pattered on the deck, bounced off the helmets, and splashed into the water on either side of the bow. Those who had enough sense raised their 50s

View as a rock the size of a cow detached itself from the top of the steep bank. Ser Robin cried out in horror. The stone tumbled through the air, hit the cliff, broke in two, and fell on top of her. The larger piece smashed the mast, tore the sail, threw two archers into the river, and crushed a rower in the leg. The speed at which the galley filled with water suggested that the smaller fragment had perforated the hull. The oarsman's screams echoed off the cliff as the archers flapped their arms around wildly. Neither of them could swim the way they were splashing around. Jaime laughed. As they exited the side channel and trundled the galley through pools and ditches, Jaime Lannister decided the gods meant well with him, Ser Robin and his three-cursed archers would get wet and on foot back to Riverrun, and besides, he was from this one too unsightly girls freed. I couldn't have planned it better myself. Once I'm rid of those irons ... Ser Cleos let out a scream. Jaime looked up and saw Brienne well ahead of them, having cut off the overland route while they had followed the course of the river. She threw herself off the rock and looked almost graceful as she stretched to plunge. It wouldn't be decent at all to hope that she would smash her head on a stone. Ser Cleos turned the boat in their direction. Fortunately, Jaime still had his oar. One good blow when it swims up and I'll get rid of it. Instead, he found himself holding the helm towards her. Brienne grabbed it and Jaime pulled her into the boat. As he helped her, water trickled from her hair, dripped from her soaked clothes, and formed a puddle on the bottom of the boat. It's even uglier when wet. Who would have thought that possible? "You are a bloody stupid girl," he said to her. “We could have sailed on without you. I suppose you expect thanks from me? ”51

“I don't want any thanks from you, regicide. I just swore an oath to take you to King’s Landing. ”“ And do you really want to keep it? ”Jaime gave her his brightest smile. "Well, that's a real miracle."

52

CATELYN Ser Desmond Grell had served the Tully house all his life. He had been a squire when Catelyn was born, a knight when she learned to walk, ride, and swim, and an armorer the day she married. He had watched Lord Hoster's little Cat become a young woman, and then the lady of a great lord and the mother of a king. And now she seems to have become a traitor as well. Her brother Edmure had made Ser Desmond castellan of Riverrun while he was going into battle, so it fell to him to negotiate her crime. To ease his discomfort a little, he brought with him her father's steward, the somber Utherydes Wayn. The two men stood and looked at her; Ser Desmond stout, red-faced, embarrassed, Utherydes serious, careworn, sad. Each waited for the other to speak. They have lived their lives in the service of my father, and I pay them back with this shame, Catelyn thought wearily. "Your sons," said Ser Desmond at last. “Maester Vyman reported it to us. The poor boys. Dreadful. Dreadful. But… ”“ We share your pain, my lady, ”said Utherydes Wayn. “All of Riverrun mourns with you, only…” “The news must have driven you mad,” Ser Desmond interrupted, “the madness of grief, the madness of a mother, men can understand that too. You didn't know… ”“ Yes, ”Catelyn replied firmly. “I knew very well what I was doing and knew it was treason. If you don't punish me properly, it will be believed that we have conspired to free Jaime Lannister. However, it was my deed and mine alone, and I alone have to do it 53

justify. Put the Kingslayer's empty chains on me and I'll wear them with pride if I have to. ”“ Chains? ”The very word seemed to shock poor Ser Desmond. “For the king's mother, for my lord's daughter? Impossible. "" Perhaps, "suggested the steward Utherydes Wayn," my lady would agree to remain in her chambers until Ser Edmure returned. So she would be alone for a while and pray for her murdered sons? ”“ Locked up, yes, ”said Ser Desmond. "Locked up in a tower cell, that would be enough." "If I'm going to be locked up, it will be to my father, so that I can comfort him in his last days." Ser Desmond considered this. "Very well. You should not lack comfort or adequate courtesy, but you are not allowed to move freely in the castle. Visit the sept if you wish, but stay in Lord Hoster's chambers until Lord Edmure returns. ”“ As you wish. ”Her brother was not a lord as long as her father lived, but Catelyn did not correct him. "Put a guard if you have to, but I give you my word that I will not try to escape." Ser Desmond nodded, clearly glad to have done this unpleasant task, but the sad Utherydes Wayn lingered a moment after the castellan had already said goodbye. “It was a grave offense, my lady, and a pointless one at that. Ser Desmond sent Ser Robin Ryger after them to bring the Kingslayer back ... or, if that doesn't work, his head. ”Catelyn had expected nothing else. May the warrior give strength to your sword arm, Brienne, she prayed. What was in her power she had done; now all she could do was hope. Her belongings were taken to her father's bedroom, which was dominated by the large four-poster bed, at 54