A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire 5) - Page 138

Holly smiled. "Six women go in, six come out. Who looks at serving girls? We'll dress the Stark girl up as Squirrel."

Theon glanced at Squirrel. They are almost of a size. It might work.

"And how does Squirrel get out?"

Squirrel answered for herself. "Out a window, and straight down to the godswood. I was twelve the first time my brother took me raiding south o' your Wall. That's where I got my name. My brother said I looked like a squirrel running up a tree. I've done that Wall six times since, over and back again. I think I can climb down some stone tower."

"Happy, turncloak?" Rowan asked. "Let's be about it."

Winterfell's cavernous kitchen occupied a building all its own, set well apart from the castle's main halls and keeps in case of fire. Inside, the smells changed hour by hour - an ever-changing perfume of roast meats, leeks and onions, fresh-baked bread. Roose Bolton had posted guards at the kitchen door. With so many mouths to feed, every scrap of food was precious. Even the cooks and potboys were watched constantly. But the guards knew Reek. They liked to taunt him when he came to fetch hot water for Lady Arya'

s bath. None of them dared go further than that, though. Reek was known to be Lord Ramsay's pet.

"The Prince of Stink is come for some hot water," one guard announced when Theon and his serving girls appeared before him. He pushed the door open for them. "Quick now, before all that sweet warm air escapes."

Within, Theon grabbed a passing potboy by the arm. "Hot water for m'lady, boy," he commanded. "Six pails full, and see that it's good and hot. Lord Ramsay wants her pink and clean."

"Aye, m'lord," the boy said. "At once, m'lord."

"At once" took longer than Theon would have liked. None of the big kettles was clean, so the potboy had to scrub one out before filling it with water. Then it seemed to take forever to come to a rolling boil and twice forever to fill six wooden pails. All the while Abel's women waited, their faces shadowed by their cowls. They are doing it all wrong. Real serving girls were always teasing the potboys, flirting with the cooks, wheedling a taste of this, a bite of that. Rowan and her scheming sisters did not want to attract notice, but their sullen silence soon had the guards giving them queer looks. "Where's Maisie and Jez and t'other girls?" one asked Theon. "The usual ones."

"Lady Arya was displeased with them," he lied. "Her water was cold before it reached the tub last time."

The hot water filled the air with clouds of steam, melting the snowflakes as they came drifting down. Back through the maze of ice-walled trenches went the procession. With every sloshing step the water cooled. The passages were clogged with troops: armored knights in woolen surcoats and fur cloaks, men-at-arms with spears across their shoulders, archers carrying unstrung bows and sheaves of arrows, freeriders, grooms leading warhorses. The Frey men wore the badge of the two towers, those from White Harbor displayed merman and trident. They shouldered through the storm in opposite directions and eyed each other warily as they passed, but no swords were drawn. Not here. It may be different out there in the woods.

Half a dozen seasoned Dreadfort men guarded the doors of the Great Keep. "Another bloody bath?" said their serjeant when he saw the pails of steaming water. He had his hands tucked up into his armpits against the cold.

"She had a bath last night. How dirty can one woman get in her own bed?"

Dirtier than you know, when you share that bed with Ramsay, Theon thought, remembering the wedding night and the things that he and Jeyne had been made to do. "Lord Ramsay's command."

"Get in there, then, before the water freezes," the serjeant said. Two of the guards pushed open the double doors.

The entryway was nigh as cold as the air outside. Holly kicked snow from her boots and lowered the hood of her cloak. "I thought that would be harder." Her breath frosted the air.

"There are more guards upstairs at m'lord's bedchamber," Theon warned her. "Ramsay's men." He dare not call them the Bastard's Boys, not here. You never knew who might be listening. "Keep your heads down and your hoods up."

"Do as he says, Holly," Rowan said. "There's some will know your face. We don't need that trouble."

Theon led the way up the stairs. I have climbed these steps a thousand times before. As a boy he would run up; descending, he would take the steps three at a time, leaping. Once he leapt right into Old Nan and knocked her to the floor. That earned him the worst thrashing he ever had at Winterfell, though it was almost tender compared to the beatings his brothers used to give him back on Pyke. He and Robb had fought many a heroic battle on these steps, slashing at one another with wooden swords. Good training, that; it brought home how hard it was to fight your way up a spiral stair against determined opposition. Ser Rodrik liked to say that one good man could hold a hundred, fighting down.

That was long ago, though. They were all dead now. Jory, old Ser Rodrik, Lord Eddard, Harwin and Hullen, Cayn and Desmond and Fat Tom, Alyn with his dreams of knighthood, Mikken who had given him his first real sword. Even Old Nan, like as not.

And Robb. Robb who had been more a brother to Theon than any son born of Balon Greyjoy's loins. Murdered at the Red Wedding, butchered by the Freys. I should have been with him. Where was I? I should have died with him.

Theon stopped so suddenly that Willow almost plowed into his back. The door to Ramsay's bedchamber was before him. And guarding it were two of the Bastard's Boys, Sour Alyn and Grunt.

The old gods must wish us well. Grunt had no tongue and Sour Alyn had no wits, Lord Ramsay liked to say. One was brutal, the other mean, but both had spent most of their lives in service at the Dreadfort. They did as they were told.

"I have hot water for the Lady Arya," Theon told them. "Try a wash yourself, Reek," said Sour Alyn. "You smell like horse piss." Grunt grunted in agreement. Or perhaps that noise was meant to be a laugh. But Alyn unlocked the door to the bedchamber, and Theon waved the women through.

No day had dawned inside this room. Shadows covered all. One last log crackled feebly amongst the dying embers in the hearth, and a candle flickered on the table beside a rumpled, empty bed. The girl is gone, Theon thought. She has thrown herself out a window in despair. But the windows here were shuttered against the storm, sealed up by crusts of blown snow and frost. "Where is she?" Holly asked. Her sisters emptied their pails into the big round wooden tub. Frenya shut the chamber door and put her back against it. "Where is she? " Holly said again. Outside a horn was blowing. A trumpet. The Freys, assembling for battle. Theon could feel an itching in his missing fingers.

Then he saw her. She was huddled in the darkest corner of the bed-chamber, on the floor, curled up in a ball beneath a pile of wolfskins. Theon might never have spotted her but for the way she trembled. Jeyne had pulled the furs up over herself to hide. From us? Or was she expecting her lord husband? The thought that Ramsay might be coming made him want to scream. "My lady." Theon could not bring himself to call her Arya and dare not call her Jeyne. "No need to hide. These are friends."

The furs stirred. An eye peered out, shining with tears. Dark, too dark. A brown eye. "Theon?"

"Lady Arya." Rowan moved closer. "You must come with us, and quickly. We've come to take you to your brother."

"Brother?" The girl's face emerged from underneath the wolfskins.

"I ... I have no brothers."

She has forgotten who she is. She has forgotten her name. "That's so," said Theon, "but you had brothers once. Three of them. Robb and Bran and Rickon."

"They're dead. I have no brothers now."

"You have a half-brother," Rowan said. "Lord Crow, he is."

"Jon Snow?"

"We'll take you to him, but you must come at once."

Jeyne pulled her wolfskins up to her chin. "No. This is some trick. It'

s him, it's my ... my lord, my sweet lord, he sent you, this is just some test to make sure that I love him. I do, I do, I love him more than anything." A tear ran down her cheek. "Tell him, you tell him. I'll do what he wants ...

whatever he wants ... with him or ... or with the dog or ... please ... he doesn't need to cut my feet off, I won't try to run away, not ever, I'll give him sons, I swear it, I swear it ..."

Rowan whistled softly. "Gods curse the man."

"I'm a good girl," Jeyne whimpered. "They trained me."

Willow scowled. "Someone stop her crying. That guard was mute, not deaf. They're going to hear."

"Get her up, turncloak." Holly had her knife in hand. "Get her up or I will. We have to go. Get the little cunt up on her feet and shake some courage into her."

"And if she screams?" said Rowan.

We are all dead, Theon thought. I told them this was folly, but none of them would listen. Abel had doomed them. All singers were half-mad. In songs, the hero always saved the maiden from the monster's castle, but life was not a song, no more than Jeyne was Arya Stark. Her eyes are the wrong color. And there are no heroes here, only whores. Even so, he knelt beside her, pulled down the furs, touched her cheek. "You know me. I'm Theon, you remember. I know you too. I know your name."

"My name?" She shook her head. "My name ... it's ..."

He put a finger to her lips. "We can talk about that later. You need to be quiet now. Come with us. With me. We will take you away from here. Away from him."

Her eyes widened. "Please," she whispered. "Oh, please."

Theon slipped his hand through hers. The stumps of his lost fingers tingled as he drew the girl to her feet. The wolfskins fell away from her. Underneath them she was naked, her small pale br**sts covered with teeth marks. He heard one of the women suck in her breath. Rowan thrust a bundle of clothes into his hands. "Get her dressed. It's cold outside."

Squirrel had stripped down to her smallclothes, and was rooting through a carved cedar chest in search of something warmer. In the end she settled for one of Lord Ramsay's quilted doublets and a well-worn pair of breeches that flapped about her legs like a ship's sails in a storm. With Rowan's help, Theon got Jeyne Poole into Squirrel's clothes. If the gods are good and the guards are blind, she may pass. "Now we are going out and down the steps," Theon told the girl. "Keep your head down and your hood up. Follow Holly. Don't run, don't cry, don't speak, don'

t look anyone in the eye."

"Stay close to me," Jeyne said. "Don't leave me."

"I will be right beside you," Theon promised as Squirrel slipped into Lady Arya's bed and pulled the blanket up.

Frenya opened the bedchamber door. "You give her a good wash, Reek?" asked Sour Alyn as they emerged. Grunt gave Willow's breast a squeeze as she went by. They were fortunate in his choice. If the man had touched Jeyne, she might have screamed. Then Holly would have opened his throat for him with the knife hidden up her sleeve. Willow simply twisted away and past him.

For a moment Theon felt almost giddy. They never looked. They never saw. We walked the girl right by them!

Source: www.NovelCorner.com