Mountain - Part 2 - Arrival

The rider was a short man, stocky, fair of hair and ruddy complected. “My Lord Tomard” he called out. “Welcome to Harrenhal. I am Wat, and I am in command here. My Lord had to ride out two days ago. There was word of the Brotherhood Without Banners near Acorn Hall. My Lord hopes to return late tonight or in the morning.” He had a rough look about him and he did not smile. “Please follow me my Lord.” He turned his horse and rode toward the gates.

As they passed through the gate,
Melicent could not help but notice how thick the wall was, and she recalled the tales she’d heard of how Harren the Black had blood mixed into the mortar for the stonework. She shuddered involuntarily. “Are you cold?” Nella whispered. “A little.” Melicent said, not wanting her sister to know that she was afraid. But even Nella was strangely quiet and looked about her with wide eyes.

Once inside the walls, they dismounted and
Melicent looked up at the castle. The five towers were so tall as to make her dizzy. They leaned at odd angles and she realized that parts of the castle were in ruins. This place is so big, you could wander lost for days before anyone found you. You could die here, all alone…no one might ever know…”

“My Lord Karstark, Lady Karstark, welcome…” said a small grey man, bowing. “I am Ronel, Steward of Harrenhal. My apologies that my Lord has not yet returned, however, we received your raven and all has been prepared for your arrival. You must be hungry and tired after your long journey. Your men will be housed in the Barracks, and be fed in the Barracks hall tonight. You and your party may follow me. There is a meal prepared for you in the Hall of the Hundred Hearths. Afterward, there are chambers prepared for your party in the Kings Pyre Tower.”

“Thank you Ronel, a meal would be most welcome. We are weary, it is true.” Lord and Lady Karstark followed Ronel into the castle, the girls fell in behind them, and 20 of Lord Tomard’s personal guard brought up the rear. They passed through several high ceilinged, dark passages lit at intervals with torches, up and down several staircases, and finally they emerged into the biggest hall any of them had ever seen.

Melicent  had heard of the Hall of the Hundred Hearths, but nothing could have prepared her for the massive space they entered. While the hall really only had thirty four or thirty five hearths, (no one could ever come out with the same number) the stories that it could house an army seemed to actually be true. The hall contained many long trestle tables with benches. Ronel led them to the head of the hall. On the dais was a long table with 13 chairs all facing the hall. The center chair was massive and dwarfed all the others. Below the dais were two tables on which had been set out roasted chickens, wheels of cheese, loaves of bread, apples, bowls of pease, and apple cakes. It was a simple meal, but all was satisfying and plentiful. They ate with little talk, weariness and hunger setting in now that they were safely inside the castle walls.

After their meal the women and their maids were escorted to the Bathhouse. It too, was huge and dim, and it contained several large stone tubs. They were all grateful for the chance to bathe and change out of their travel stained clothes. Then they were shown to their chambers so that the men could bathe. The chamber that
Melicent and Nella were to share was another huge room. “It’s as though the whole castle were built for giants!” Melicent said, peering into the dark corners.

Nella laughed “You and your songs. There’s no such thing as giants…unless you count the Lord of Harrenhal. It’s fitting this place came to him, I guess.”

“Don’t Nella! Don’t joke…not now…not tonight..” Suddenly she felt she couldn't breathe.
Melicent rushed to the window and wrestled with the bar and Nella came to help her. They opened the shutters and looked out into the night. Nella put a hand on her arm, but she shrugged it off. Below them was what must be the Godswood. “Septa says the Godswood here covers twenty acres. At least there is a Godswood, I can take comfort in that.”

Nella sighed, “There is no need for either of us to worry about the amenities of Harrenhal. Father will make things right. You’ll see, it’ll all work out.” but she somehow sounded like she was trying to convince herself. “Come on, let’s go to bed. I’m exhausted. We’ve had a long trip. You’ll sleep tonight.” They left the shutters open and climbed into the huge bed. Nella blew out the candle and the light from the moon filled the room.
Melicent tried to clear her mind, but sleep would not come. When Nella was asleep, she climbed out of bed and went to the window. The moon was full and it shone so brightly that it seemed to be almost daylight in the Godswood below.

Suddenly she knew what she must do. She pulled on her overdress and, being careful not to wake Nella, she opened the huge door and slipped into the hall. She turned to her left and began to try to retrace her steps. She rounded a corner and ran right into Luthor, a member of her father’s guard. “Little Lady!” He exclaimed “What are you doing wandering the halls at night?” Luthor was a kindly man, tall & bald, close in age to her father. He had known
Melicent all her life.

“Oh, I’m sorry Luthor, I didn’t mean to startle you! I can’t sleep. I need to find the Godswood. I want to pray…please don’t send me back to bed!” She was afraid he would prevent her from going. If her father had given orders…

As if he’d read her mind he said…”Well, your father never said you weren’t to leave yer room. But he never said t'were alright, neither my lady…” His face softened…”I don’t suppose there’s no harm in ye prayin' in the Godswood…I’m sure ye got things yer wantin' ter pray about…” He smiled at her sadly.
He knows…they all know, and they pity me. I don’t want their pity. 

“Alright my Lady. Better call a servant to accompany ye, so ye can find th' way.”
 They walked to the end of the hall and down a spiral staircase. At the bottom, Luthor called out and after a few moments a small girl came scurrying out of another passage. “This is the Lady Melicent. Show her to th' Godswood and wait for her. When she's done, ye bring her back, ye hear?”

The girl nodded and turned back the way she had come. “Be careful my lady,” Luthor said “This place is full of ghosts.”

“This place is full of Knights.” she smiled. “I’ll be safe enough”. Luthor smiled at her sadly again as she turned to follow the girl.

 List of Chapters

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