26.8.11

Mountain - Part 1 - Journey

The journey South had been long and dangerous. After leaving Karhold, they made for Winterfell, giving the Dreadfort a wide berth, however, their outriders returned with news that Winterfell had been sacked. Their numbers already badly depleted, they had been ambushed several times by outlaws, twice before and once after they left the Twins. Many Knights and men had been lost and two serving girls had been carried off in the confusion of the second ambush. Since the castle had fallen, the survivors had split into two groups and journeyed to the west and to the south in search of help. Her brother Hugh, Uncle Robert and Edrick, their Master at Arms led 300 men to White Harbor to beg for Lord Manderly’s assistance. Her Lord Father led 600 to the South, making for Harrenhal. He and the Lord of Harrenhal had been Squires together. He hoped that this would move him to come to their aid.
The Southern journey was the more dangerous road. Both forces were slowed by the old men, women and children who straggled along behind them, however neither her father or her brother would abandon their people. The journey had taken its toll and many had died along the road. They were exhausted and their food supply was running short. They had been denied help at the Twins, but Lord Walder Frey had allowed them to pass, however two of her female cousins had been left behind to buy their passage. Parting with her cousins had been terribly sad, yet she could not pity them, she had not shed a tear. She knew what was coming for her would be much, much worse.
Her mother wanted Melicent and her sister to stay in the litter with her all the time, but it was boring and stifling in there, so she rode as much as she could. She was riding today, lost in her own thoughts, when she heard a cry. The Outriders had returned. She kicked her mare into a trot and rode up the column to where her father and his Captain of the Guard were conferring with the Outriders. “Less than a day my Lord”, one of the men was saying. “If we push on we’ll arrive before nightfall. They are expecting you my Lord.”
Her father looked thoughtful. “Good, good. The women, children and small folk will not be able to keep up the pace we’ll need to set. We will leave them to camp with 200 men to guard them. They can rest here and set out in the morning. The rest will accompany myself and my family to Harrenhal. I wish to arrive there today, and I want my family with me.” He looked up then and saw his oldest daughter watching him. 

“Melicent. You heard, then?” She nodded. “You needn't worry, I’ll figure out a way.” he said. She nodded again, but she knew there was no other way. He looked at her for a long time, rather sadly she thought. Then he rode of to give the orders and make the arrangements for the small folk, women, children, and the baggage train.
While she waited, she let her mare wander off the road to nibble some grass. Her younger sister Nella climbed out of the litter, spoke to one of the riders, then made her way toward Melicent . “I think I’ll ride the rest of the way with you.” She called. ” Lewys is going to find me a horse.”
Nella was smiling, but her smile seemed wrong somehow, forced. She was slightly taller than Melicent and always, she felt, Nella was braver than she was. Nella rode better, could shoot a straight arrow, hold her own in a fight with their brother or their male cousins. She was never afraid to say what she thought, no matter what kind of trouble it brought her. Melicent was shy, quieter. Often Nella would step in to defend her as they were growing up. Melicent sewed well, danced well and always remembered to say the things their Septa taught them. They could not have been more different, but they were as close as sisters can be.

“Yes, I hoped you might” Melicent answered. “It’s been awfully boring riding alone today. But I can’t face another minute in the litter. I don’t know how Mother, and the others can stand it." Today Mother had been accompanied in the litter by Nella and their Septa. Their younger sister Jeyne and their remaining cousins Sarra and Emma were riding in a wagon behind the litter. “I know, I prefer to ride myself, but it had been several days since I’d ridden with Mother. I thought I’d better take my turn.” Nella smiled fondly as she said it. Their Mother was a sweet, kind woman, but when the castle fell, it had shaken her. She was a Redwyne, from the Arbor, and she was not as strong as Northern women tended to be. Her heart was broken when she had to leave two of her nieces behind at the Twins, and her fears grew with each ambush. She had remained in the litter for most of the journey.

They set out again at mid-day. The day seemed perfect. The sun was high in the sky, the countryside seemed peaceful, birds chirped happily in the trees. When they were between villages, you almost wouldn’t know they were at war. The sisters rode beside their cousins in the wagon and the girls talked of trivial things. For a while Melicent was almost able to let herself forget what was to come. Soon, there would be no escaping it. 

As the sun began to sink in the sky, they passed through a the ruins of a town which Melicent assumed had been Lord Harroway’s town. It had been deserted, partly washed out by the overflowing of the Trident. The road opened up on the South side of the town and the five massive towers of Harrenhal loomed on the horizon. 

When they drew closer, they could see that the immense curtain wall was topped with hideous scorpions. It was the biggest fortress that the girls had ever seen, the biggest that had ever been built. The castle was surrounded by lush green fields, as far as the eye could see. They knew that the Lord of this castle must be a very rich man, indeed, as the holdings were said to be among the richest and most fertile in Westeros. In addition, Melicent knew he was the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands and all the River Lords paid fealty to him. 

As they approached the gates, they could see the banners flying from the towers, three black dogs on a field  the yellow of autumn grass.  A rider rode out to meet them. He wore the yellow and black as well. “My Lord Karstark” the rider called out, “we have been expecting you”.

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