Rightio, I am sorry that I just stopped the sequel, to start to first. But hopfully this situation is better;
I own nothing
Robb Stark was no stranger to the cold; he grew up feeling the chill of the north on his skin, seeing the snow fall, feeling the frozen earth beneath his boots. It was the unfamiliar feeling of southern summer heat that set him on edge.
Still as he and his army moved further south the cold of the north fallowed them, even here on the southern border. Their words were true. Winter had come.
Subconsciously Robb bundled a little further into his warm leathers and wools and furs. White fog escaped his nose and mouth as he walked his horse onward. The wood in which they trekked though was so dense the sun barely made it past the canopy of snow above them, held up by the bare branches.
Robb wasn't the only one curling deeper into his garments for warmth. The noble lords that acted as his generals, their own guards, and the men they governed from their keeps in the north, all shook from the cold. Them, grown men who had spent all their lives in the frozen north of Westeros. The absence of the sunlight added to the cold coming down from the north.
Of course it was not his first choice to enter the sunless thicket in the first place, but it was the only reasonable choice offered, it was the only choice that offered them the element of surprise while cutting off retreat. But now, he could not see any city abandoning their homes for this cold and unforgiving forest.
Through the trees and shrubbery, there was a rather large, southern town, the holdfast of Pinkmaiden. Pinkmaiden was a Riverland outpost, the seat of House Piper who had once sworn themselves to House Tully. But at hearing of the destruction Tywin Lannister's host had caused and knowing a great many riches would come his way, Lord Piper was quick to bend his knee to the Lannister troops that appeared at the doors to his keep one day. Now Pinkmaiden was one of the Lannister's leading outposts for supplies.
Robb marched south to reclaim Pinkmaiden as a Northern supporter and to deal out the correct punishment for an oath breaker like Lord Piper. From rumours heard, Piper and his family were like prisoners in their own castle, as Lannister's occupied their inns and guarded the holdfast they'd taken.
The choice was obvious, albeit difficult to swallow. So Robb marched twelve-hundred men though this monster of tall trees while the rest of his host went around. Catelyn Stark had vigorously voiced her opinions on the matter. She felt it was a useless effort to get through the forest, wasted time and energy. Robb believed otherwise and now he himself led his soldiers, mother and Lord Umber through the forest.
The locals nearest to the edge of the forest claimed vigorously that it was haunted by the spirits of the settlers that had attempted to travel through the forest hundreds of years past. The men had a good laugh about their silly superstitions the first night, but now, with the wind whistling through the trees, shadows dancing across them night and day and strange noises slicing through the air all the time, the idea of ghosts didn't seem so foolish at all. Even the horses were on edge.
Currently, Robb and the others walked their horses through a fairly wide stream that was surprisingly un-frozen. Truthfully, none of the men (or Lady Stark) had been able to ride their horses through their march inside the maze of trees. It was simply too difficult to maneuver the animals from above. As for the wagons and carts, soldiers took shifts in cutting down the small shrubs that blocked their path.
This has to be done, Robb reminded himself as he reached the other side of the stream. Did it really have to be done though?
Suddenly, a loud cry fallowed by a bark broke through the air, making a few, including Robb, draw their swords in defence. Robb's grey stallion snorted and shifted nervously. Robb knew immediately what that sound was: Grey Wind. Inwardly, Robb made a note to reward Grey Wind with a full rabbit at catching any potential spies, or supper for later in the night.
As they fallowed the loud growls up the stream and through large clusters of trees, Theon Greyjoy, and the few knights that fallowed the King of the North were rendered wordless at the scene that greeted them. For a moment, they wondered if their time in the wood had driven them to near madness. For it was just too unlikely that the sight before them was anything but a hallucination.
There, pinned by Grey Wind's mighty paws, was a small girl, clad in a cloak trimmed with fur and under her cloak was a thick green dress. Staring, bewildered at the scene, Robb realized she couldn't have been more than ten, as young as his own sister, Arya and his brother, Bran. His heart filled with pity for the frightened looking child.
"Grey Wind," Robb called, snapping the other men from their wonder. "To me." the dire wolf obediently moved off the trembling girl and trotted toward Robb, nuzzling his hand affectionately.
Without wasting any time, the girl scrambled to her feet and started to run. She stumbled her first few steps before regaining balance.
Greyjoy never took his eyes off the girl, watching her as a vulture eyes a carcass. So he was the first to react to her running. His legs were longer and stronger than hers and he caught her easily, pulling his sharp dagger under her throat. His iron hand bit into her arm painfully, meaning bruises.
Feeling the cold steel against her throat she stopped struggling. Many times, her father had told her to show no fear. Now, facing an enemy for the first time, she could no longer hear her father's comforting voice. She whimpered, tears stinging her eyes. She did not resist as the man with the blade turned her around to face the others. Her dark eyes clenched shut, waiting for the order that would mean her death when an angry voice boomed out:
"Greyjoy put away your blade!" The Northern king's blue eyes flashed dangerously.
"She ran once, m'lord. Best keep her restrained lest she runs off and brings back trouble." Robb remained persistent. She was just a girl, a scared one. Her eyes were clenched shut and tears leaked out from the corners of her eyes.
"Remove. Your. Blade." Robb ordered coldly. Slowly, Greyjoy pulled his knife away from the girl's neck, still holding her arm tightly.
Her eyes snapped open, tears of terror blinding her a moment, before they adjusted and her brown eyes darted fearfully around the small group of men. She winced as the man—Greyjoy—squeezed her arm and tugged her forward to the other men. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears and sweat sheeting over her forehead. The little mouse she'd been chasing was probably back in his den, safe and warm with his family. How she wished she were that little mouse at that moment.
She could not hear the words exchanged and the words spoken to her, asking if she was alright. Her eyes kept darting back to each of the men, her mind racing.
Robb watched her tense, her jaw clenching and unclenching, the fog coming from her mouth in sharp pants. She was too scared to speak, that was clear enough. But he and his men had to be on their way if they were to capture the southern town by the end of the next moon.
Ignoring Theon's silent admonition, Robb ordered him to release her. The little thing trembled like a leaf in the breeze, meeting his eyes only once before looking down at the forest floor, not looking up again. After another failed bout of brief questioning, this time inquiring as to where her family was, they set off.
Subtly, she tried to slip to the back of the group, only to be stopped by that great grey beast of a dog. She jumped and ran forward to the middle of the barrier of men, away from the beast. It was...huge! Bigger than any hound she had ever seen, bigger than the baby deer she had taken back home that time...It had to be a monster. It had to!
Despite her love of animals, she could not find it in her to want to study the creature, it was a monster. Its paws had all but crushed her, and it left her chest feeling bruised and dirty with mud. It was big enough to eat her up, just like the beasts in Samyella's stories. She didn't want to look at it, fearing her scrutiny would infuriate it and lead to her being eaten.
And the man... the red haired man, he'd ordered it off her, she realized with a start. Was he some evil sorcerer to have control over such a big, toothy animal? The ridiculous thought would've made her smile.
As they weaved around the trees, the girl's anxiety grew when she realised the familiar weight of Natalya was gone from her neck. Tears began to leak from her eyes again, only to be hastily brushed away.
Her heart leapt when they finally made it out of the thick growth and into the reasonably clear acre where the army waited.
She silently prayed for her siblings to find her as they brought her to a red haired lady, and shyly averted her eyes from the highborn woman. From her brief glances at the lady, she knew right off that she and the beast-master-man were somehow related. They had similar hair and the same eyes. Mother and son most likely.
She had his colouring, as one of her elder sisters would say. Admittedly, the woman was pretty, but her mouth was arranged into a taught line and her eyes were cold. This was enough to make her even more timid, preferring to look at her feet rather than Lady Stark.
Lady Stark looked down at the little girl standing in front of two armed guards, as if she were a prisoner. After Robb explained the situation, he placed her in charge of minding the girl and Catelyn did so without protest. A little girl thrown to the soldiers of Robb's army would have been heartlessly cruel and would hang heavy on their conscience forever if they had.
The girl stayed close to Lady Stark for the next few hours, choosing her silent company to a horde of burly men. Lady Stark kept a firm hold of her hand, never speaking to her as she sensed the girl would not speak back.
They moved past the river, Lady Stark and the nameless girl perched on the elder's horse and then once again snaked through the trees. Then, by a stroke of luck, one of the scouts came back to Robb and told him of a clearing not too far ahead that was perfect for a camp.
Soon after Robb's own tent was set, Lady Stark walked in with the little girl in tow, her eyes glassy with unshed tears and her shoulders visibly trembling at seeing the group of men waiting.
Gently, Lady Stark guided her to a chair that sat adjacent to Robb's and sat her down. For a few long seconds nothing was said, the little girl slouching in her chair, her hands twisting her cloak nervously. She didn't look at him either, finding her hands more interesting. He could tell she was intimidated by all the big, hulking men with sharp swords around her, especially with Grey Wind and Theon Greyjoy, who had both previously attacked her.
"Leave us." He ordered, his eyes shifted to his mother, silently asking her to stay. "Go." he nodded to Grey Wind who lay by his feet. The girl flinched as the wolf brushed past her.
"No harm will come to you." Robb said softy to the girl when the men had left. She didn't move her eyes away from her hands. "I swear to you. What's your name?"
"Where's your family?"
"We can return you to them if you tell us where they are." this time she shifted nervously, her brown eyes flashing to him before she looked away again, gnawing on her lip.
She was a brave little thing, he gave her that. In spite of her tiny appearance, and wide, frightened eyes, like a doe caught in a snare and cornered with no means of escape, she did not bawl or resist violently in a way that would have earned her pain. She was silent with an air of fear that increased when someone attempted to touch her, flinching back as though she expected a blow. Under his care, no one would lay a hand on her, Robb vowed.
Despite their attempts at making her more comfortable, the little dark haired girl remained tight lipped. For over an hour they questioned her with no answer, until supper was served. Robb sat with his men and his mother sat not too far off with the child.
The girl ate small portions, despite the ache in her belly for more. Father said to be careful around strangers, she remembered. They could poison you and you'd be dead before you knew you were dying.
Later in the night, Robb sat around a large fire with his fellow nobles. It was relatively silent, a few waves of laughter here and there, but the strange noises—the phantom growling, the yelps, the clicks, the snapping twigs and rustling of the leaves by either wind or creature—killed any merriment.
Curious eyes kept glancing to the girl next to Lady Stark.
What was she doing here? Where had she come from? Where was her family? The last question stuck in Robb Stark's mind through the evening. She was too little to have come all this way from the last village they had left without being noticed, she was too well cared for to not have family. But really, after that puzzling question, came another: If she had family, were they friends or enemies?
"Robb, do you think it wise to keep the girl?" Theon asked quietly from beside him. "If she has family, it would be better to return their girl and not provoke 'em."
"If she has family it's too late and cold to send her back; she'd freeze if the animals don't get her first." Robb replied.
"I don't like this. What the hell is a girl like her doing out here, in the middle of the coldest, darkest piece of hell south of the Wall?" Theon wondered.
With a bit of effort, Robb replied, "I don't know."
Across the fire, the girl on topic sat beside Catelyn, her knees curled up to her chest.
Lady Stark almost flinched at the child's soft voice. "They're coming for me." She turned her head to Lady Stark, who watched her curiously. "You should have let me go." That was the only thing she said for the rest of the night, despite Catelyn and Robb's gentle prodding, Theon Grey joy's intimidating form or Grey Wind's watchful yellow eyes.
K, I wanna give a shout out to thePatient07, for her fantastic pointers and tips!
please don't write off this story because of QOTS