Holy balls, she's updated. In the words of my good friend Munchieees, this must be what victory feels like. What has it been? Five, six months?
Let's see. I finished my second year of university and the second season ended, now started my third year and gagging for series three. Didn't fail my exams, yay. Have a stack of books as high as my hip to get through. I did read Game of Thrones in the meantime, while I was camping. It made up for -and was partly the reason behind- the comedy sunburn I suffered while out there. However, since its been a while, I've rather forgotten the character points I picked up about Arya. Then I was bogged down with my SanSan feels (to the extent that I started reading ahead for the pair of them - [subtle spoiler alert] I'm a Quiet Isle kind of girl). I ship it, what can you do? And I did my customary fandom hopping -Avengers! Loki! Holy fuck!- but realizing I couldn't write another fic without finishing this one first I came back and got my arse in gear. Are you still as up for this as you once were?
Also if you're interested in style and form and what-not, I ramble about a bit at the end. Just explaining a few things.
This is unbeta'd because I do not have one. Also, if I leave it, it may never see the light of day. Have fun.
Edit: Shit, fucking colossal mistake. I've accidentally written the same event twice. Fixed it now. Or I bloody hope I have. That's what I get for writing two halves so far apart. Also came back and changed a few teenie details so sorry for the spam if anyone gets this twice.
They had expected to find an inn by now. Or be caught and returned to Harrenhal, or any manner of other possibilities brought on by paranoia and cold. But the occupation of the dragon smote castle and the influx of questionable characters it brought with it had encouraged the local villagers to scarper. Even at the expense of everything they owned. They'd seen what had happened to those that didn't.
Instead they squelched for miles between high reaching rock teeth, hiding under overhangs at night, usually just big enough for three. Or two and a half; Hot Pie often being the extra half. Once in a while it was Gendry if he was feeling generous. Arya always, always slept with her back to the wall. Nestled into the crevice, she often looked like she would sink into the rock mouth itself.
Gendry had taken to observing her. It was as if she had developed a fear of being looked at for too long. Just looked at. And she had given up meeting his eyes, or even facing him head on. When they spoke she was turned half or completely away from him, back the way they had come. It could have been her looking out for them if ever she reacted with fear. Once a small red fox had dashed across a cut in the rocks, down one side of the canyon and up the other, Hot Pie almost shat himself. Arya just followed its progress and stared at the trees where it vanished for a long while afterwards, rain dripping down her face and getting in her eyes without it bothering her.
Gendry wasn't stupid, it had begun at the castle. She visited less often, not that he would worry beyond the norm if he went a while without seeing her. That was what he told himself at least. Sometimes it was like she would let herself be seen. A glance was thrown his way, a wave, a rude gesture at Hot Pie if he was there, and then she would vanish again. Apart from the times he saw her running to that guard, he of stupid hair and slightly exotic eyes, there came a point where he would barely see her at all. He was a big boy he didn't need to be noticed or acknowledged, he left a mark in other ways. Half his apprenticeship had relied on staying out of sight, but he wasn't hiding. He made himself visible if not loudly heard, in the hope that if she needed to she would see him.
Out here, there wasn't much to do but walk and get drizzled on. They sat under a particularly low overhang one night, water dripping from the lip and into their shoes when Hot Pie finally broke the silence they had maintained for safety. It had been strange to be silent in the company of friends, but Gendry was used to it.
"I'm hungry," Hot Pie declared.
"Send out the ravens."
Hot Pie shot her a look before apparently forgetting the jibe or the hurt it had caused and leaned back onto a sharp bit of stone. "I'm serious," he said, "we've run out of food, unless someone can hunt –"
"Only because you ate it all!" Arya shouted, voice bouncing around their rock. And it was true, but it had been Gendry giving him the food just to stop him whining. When Arya was climbing the less steep rock spires, like a spider on a castle wall, to make sure they weren't being followed or to see if there was an inn anywhere, Hot Pie would stand behind Gendry making comments. He would remark on Arya's technique – one he could never hope to match – or he would say he was hungry and ask for food.
This morning Gendry realised he'd run out of dry rye bread and the cheese was green. He'd scraped off the mould and eeked it out between them. But that was it. Now they all huddled hungry and cold and more than a bit annoyed at each other. Arya more than any of them, was sat seething wrapped up in herself, she had quickly fallen into that sneaky spiral of rage that comes with days of frustration and monotony.
"It's not like you couldn't have done without it," said Arya darkly, lowering her voice and not looking at Hot Pie.
"Fat jokes. Suppose you think you're so clever," he paused, "Lannister cup-bearer too good for the likes."
"Shut up!" she shrieked, "I'm not a Lannister anything! I kill Lannisters like the dogs they are! I'll hunt them and rip out their throats especially Joffrey, the whiny little cunt. Proves nothing good ever came out of Tywin Lannister's COCK!"
Hot Pie and Gendry both stared at her, it was the first time in days her big dark eyes had met either of theirs and it wasn't a particularly pretty picture. Her eyes had aged, with both big grey smudges undeneath, and lines around them, scary on her baby face.
"Alright," said Gendry, he had found 'peacemaker' was the least fractious role while they travelled. They wanted to survive the road even if Gendry's own nerves were fraying. As long as he could blame the weather, and sore feet he could pretend that he wasn't failing. When they had left Kings' Landing she had been a child. She was changing, and not just going beyond womanhood, which...squicked Gendry just a bit to think about it. She was already older than Hot Pie older than him. Soon she would be as old as the seven kingdoms itself, for she had seen all the pain in it. Counting back in his head he tried to come up with the day it had started, or the day he had first noticed, because he sure as hell hadn't realised it was happening as it did.
It had to have been back in the open forge, what he had thought to be a haven had been a stop-over.
Good weather was sporadic in Harrenhal. Often Arya had felt like she had been walled into a great stone bowl with her personal storm set above it, screaming down at her all her failures so far. Her clothes were forever damp and clingy, enough to make her long for something dry, even a dress, perhaps for a second. Then she caught a leery glance from a big man, not a soldier. Arya Stark will run you through with Needle –when she gets it back – if you call her a coward but that look was like a cold hand on the back of her neck, and a deep warning whisper in her ear. She took a cautionary step backwards, then another, then whirled and ran back to the forge from whence she had just come. She tore through the flap and into the body of the forge which was blissfully empty. No one being there, she peered out from behind the sacking curtain to make sure she wasn't being followed. Syrio's voice floated through her head reminding her to watch her back. It was right, she couldn't think of anything worse than being followed out of sight. Her breathing came hard, and she bit her cheek for being scared. Instead she dug her hands into the skin of her thigh and squeezed until negative spots of black light popped in front of her eyes. Where in the hell was Gendry when she...certainly did not need him.
The forge was dark in comparison to the light outside, everything was cast in a blue-ish gloom. She hadn't known colours since Kings Landing, everything was muted here even the red and gold in the crafted Lannister uniforms were not as bright or impressive as they would have been, or as Arya imagined they would have been, elsewhere. But Gods forbid her from thinking that anything Lannister was impressive, no matter how shiny it was. She was not distracted by baubles like Sansa.
Sansa's hair. A lighter, a hotter shade with much more orange in it than the Lannister red, which was more to the colour of blood than anything else. And didn't it shine like a sun rise? Arya realised that for once this thought was not in jealousy but in longing. Gods be good, did Arya just admit to missing Sansa? How horrible, how...girly. She was no baby longing for her sister's slender arms, arms that couldn't lift a dagger in defence, let alone a sword. And longing for her hair was just plain ridiculous. There was no Tully-red hair in the world of Arry the kitchen girl. The cup bearer to Tywin Lannister did not have a sister, Sansa didn't exsist. Nor did Catelyn Stark. Her father certainly no longer existed. She had no brothers but those she'd taken on –out of charity of course. She refused to think of those people, the family of a girl who she would kill before she let be taken by anyone. They had never been born. You might need colours to live but you didn't need them to survive.
Arya peeked out again, letting a shaft of light play on her face, then dropped the curtain. Stepping back from the door way, back and back again until she was closer to the back room, she slipped inside it like a shade. She became the walls, she let herself fade, became the ghost of Harrenhal. A girl with no sister, no parents, no brothers. She slid towards the cot at the rear wall. She slipped under the blanket, just for a second, she told herself and tucked it up around her chin. No sister, no parents, no brothers. But a smelly blacksmith, and a fat boy. And an assassin.
That was where Gendry found her, a few hours later.
Gendry hadn't minded finding Arya in his bed. He'd rather that than her cupboard. And she nearly looked cute – underneath the layer of filth - babyish, which she would undoubtedly kick him for if she knew he was thinking it. Hiding wasn't her style but he knew the need to get away for a little while. That is, until the boss came looking. Or at least Hot Pie with the news that the Lion's dinner was ready. He came barrelling into the forge where Gendry was taking his hammer to a raw bit of metal. Amazingly Arya was sleeping through it. She had rolled over and scowled in her sleep but thrown an arm over her head and slept on.
"Gendry have you seen Arry?" He stopped talked when he saw Arya in the bed. "His lordship wants his dinner," he said to Gendry.
Gendry threw him a look. "Well wake her up and tell her then!"
Hot Pie glanced at her, she'd removed her arm from her face, turned towards the wall, still peaceful with her eyes moving a little under pearly lids. "But...she'll hit me," he said. Gendry rolled his eyes as he let the hammer fall.
Finally Hot Pie sidled up to her and leaned down, jerkily pulling back a few inches when he felt he was too close.
"Arry?...Arr- Arya?" Arya stirred. Gendry hammered, down, down, down. "Arya!"
A short arm flung out and struck Hot Pie across the face. His round face all flew to one side, some spit flying out of the corner of his mouth. Once everything was back in place before he screwed his face up and clutched his nose. "Ow. Ooooooow!"
Gendry was smiling hard at his sword and hammer. Arya rolled over and pillowed her head on her hands. Hot Pie lowered his hands and scowled again, this time in anger. He reached down and shook her by the shoulder. "Arya! Wake up, you have to work."
"Don't call her Arya too loud you tit. Call her Nan. Or erm...Nymeria? Yeah, Nym."
Hot Pie looked at him like he was crazy then shook his head and went back to shaking Arya who was looking more and more irritated by the moment. He actually lifted her up a little and dropped her back on the bed. It creaked and swayed to one side.
"Oi!" shouted Gendry. "I'd like to still have a bed at the end of this."
Arya groaned and lifted one leg above the blanket revealing a grubby ankle and half a dirty leg.
"No," she murmured, "I'm warm. Five more minutes." Then she raised her exposed leg and kicked Hot Pie in the stomach. He landed heavily on his arse as Gendry laughed hard, dropping his arm to watch Hot Pie roll around. Arya rolled over and opened her eyes. They slid to Gendry, his eyes met hers and he smiled. She was sleepy enough to half smile back, then looked back at Hot Pie contemptuous as it was possible to be when one was semi-conscious.
"What do you want Pie?"
"It's dinner time. Cooks want you for the dinners."
"Oh," she said, and it became a groan as she stretched out under the blanket, adding a hands width of tummy the amount of flesh on show. She really did look like a little child.
"Arya," Gendry said sharply and she cracked one eye open and looked at him. He had pinned back the curtain flap and sunlight was streaming in lighting his front. He had his long sleeved leather lashed around his middle over a coarse vest he must have lifted from somewhere. The light shafted over him shining on his sweat soaked arms. Gleaming on his face as he grinned across at her.
"Look at that." She said. "Sun."
Lazy afternoons were well and good but they didn't last -the weather or the lazy- and yet the latter kept coming back to her while she walked the upper reaches of the castle. Post dinner or mid-day meal she would take Tywin's plates and tuck them somewhere, then just walk about the castle. She'd carry a small plate or goblet around sometimes, just to look like she was doing something, but it was rare to run into someone. At Winterfell it had been difficult to get Nan to stop telling stories but when Harrenhal was mentioned it was harder to get her to go back to that than anything else. In the end she had given up and run to Jory, he had told her about Harrenhal and how its gatehouse was bigger than the great hall in Winterfell and its own great hall had a thousand fireplaces and five spires melted with dragon fire. How Harren the Black had been roasted alive with his sons in the Kingspyre, like sparrows by a sparrowhawk. Aegon the first and Balerion, his black dragon, had then melted the stones of Harrenhal and no one had ever held the keep since, all of them soon to lose it in war or die horrible grisly deaths. At that point Jory had always roared and chased her around the yard, laughing madly. Winterfell had seemed huge, and when she was that old she was sure this mighty keep would have seemed like the whole world.
She followed the bridge between the Kingspyre and the Widow's Tower not really becoming nervous until she was half way across and the wind tearing through the windows began tugging at her hair. Slate tiles rattled above her occasionally small holes appearing. If not for the screaming wind she might have been fine but the occasional sharp blast and the whole thing shook. Maybe it was too much to hope that Balerion's fire had smelted the rock in place. She picked up her pace three quarters of the way across and sprinted the last hundred yards. It felt like a league. She reached the Widow's tower panting and clutched a wall. A brief giggle escaped her but she clamped her mouth down on it, straightening up and becoming a picture of collectedness. Her mother would have been proud. Then she trotted down the wide spiral staircase, except it was barely a spiral yet. The girth of the tower was twice the size of the throne room in Kings Landing. The upper reaches of the two twinned towers were actually wreathed in misty clouds, the last three tumble down and built lower on the ground escaped but were no less impressive.
The Widow, right now, housed a group of sell-swords. She had seen one, dressed ostentatiously in a violet tabard with a black goat on the front, but they were from the free cities. They were foreign and frightening –for others not for her – and if Arya were still the hardy daughter of the North she might have asked for the stories but she'd heard the whispers even amongst the Lannister soldiers. Baby-killers, they hissed between them, when one or the other of the men passed by. It was a rare occasion that they were seen but when they did the talk followed. There was a huge Dothraki among them and a man with a wide stained smile, his teeth large, square and blue tinged. He had winked at Arya and offered a tiny blue flower, when she backed off he shrugged and popped it in his mouth, then licked his lips.
As she ran down the stairs she heard the sound of a door opening then talk. Seeing nowhere to run she darted into a doorway and concealed herself on the shadowy side. Boots on the stairs, the sound grew louder and louder as they came closer, all heavy male steps. The conversation rose too, one voice deep and well nourished, a soft note, one voice deep also but scratchy like metal scraped down stone. And one was soft, quite high for a man and slightly musical but like a song wavered out of tune every so often, sounding discordant and a bit...well, mad. Three passed her, violet on them in one form or another. The high voiced one she recognised as the blue toothed flower man. He wore a violet hat that looked like it had been sewn out of offcuts, with little sea shells sewn to the points. One was tall, and dramatically scarred, blade marks slicing diagonally across his neck and part of his face, he croaked some barely intelligible words to the third. The soft spoken, soothing one.
"I'll speak with Vargo soon," said the last. The croaker made more noises in his throat and the other laughed. "Missing your days in the sept Utt? I hear they have a very fine one here,"
Utt let out a sound that sounded more like a growl than anything else.
"I don't think he finds the food paletable," breathed the blue mouthed man, tongue flicking out to taste the air. "Can't say I do myself."
"But what do you mean by food my friend?"
Blue-mouth smiled, "What do you imply, Qyburn? I resist your tone, ser. And by your leave, I meant food for the body. Food for the soul, it has plenty. Not enough kiddies for Utt to drink from, but plenty for Shagwell. I'll pick those flowers, all the pretty flowers." His voice drifted high and became wistful. "Shagwell picks, Shagwell keeps, Shagwell EATS!" And he whirled around on the spot knashing his mighty teeth at Arya, grey spit flying at her. She screamed and jerked away from his hand which had come searching for her arm and threw herself down the stairs. For what was one of the tensest moments of her life she heard 'Shagwell' start to follow, cackling at the top of his lungs before the voice of Qyburn called him back. Arya clattered on, not willing to stop for a moment. She had to run for a full five minutes before reaching the ground floor where she dashed out of the nearest outside door and straight into that chubby blonde with the red cheeks who had brought Gendry his dinner the other night. The basket in her arms tumbled to the floor and wet cloth spread all over the muddy stone.
"I'm sorry!" cried Arya lunging after the sheets. The girl was scrabbling after her cargo as well. Together they collected it and heaped it back into the basket, kneeling across from each other on the stone. They looked up at the same time only for the girl to give Arya a gap toothed smile before going back to the laundry.
"Aren't you Veleth?" Arya asked, "Sorry about your sheets."
"Oh no don't worry, they were being washed anyway. Oh and yes I am Veleth. You were with the blacksmith weren't you?"
Arya flushed darkly and nodded. Veleth dropped her head too and whispered, "Ser Gendry," then she added a little too casually, "Is he your brother?"
Arya shook her head this time. For no, she certainly wasn't Gendry's sister. Veleth for her part didn't seem to notice but re-folded the top sheets and stood, tightening her woolly shawl one handed around her shoulders. "I have to get the laundry, I'll see you about, I hope," and she made to turn into the Tower of the Widow. Arya had a sudden flash, as to what 'pretty flowers' were and seized Veleth by the back of the shawl then grabbed her elbow.
"Don't go up there," she said urgently.
"What?" she asked, eyes quivering and wide, "but I have to get the laundry, I'll get in trouble."
"Trust me, no. Get someone else to do it or take someone with you. Lots of people, with...daggers. But don't go up there by yourself."
"No!" Arya snapped, then dragged Veleth away from the arch-way by the elbow. "Look, I'll walk you up to the Kingspyre, I left something up there anyway, but promise me you won't go back into there even if they whip you." The intensity of Arya's gaze, and the pain of her grip must have meant something to Veleth because she stared back and nodded once, lip trembling and eyes glossy. Arya sighed, feeling the weight of this girl's safety leave her and dropped her arm. Turning she trotted down the steps towards the front entrance to the Kingspyre. More people, less worry about witnesses. "Come on then!" she called and watched Veleth turn and run towards her, basket under her arm.
They walked over the uneven rock beside the curtain wall passing through side buildings and ducking amongst people who were carrying things to and fro. Arya stayed a few steps in front of the girl most of the way, that is until someone grabbed Veleth by the scruff and hauled her back. A portly man with a moustache and a large ring of keys on his belt shook her roughly.
"Girl!" he growled, "What are you doing you were meant to be collecting from the Brave Companions!"
"I was Ser, I swear, but Lord Lannister's cup bearer caught me. His lordship wants some things collected Ser. I couldn't say no. I'll get it afterwards Ser."
He snuffled through his moustache, masticating on the thought and puffing like a sea mammal. "No!" he suddenly shouted, "Are you a fool, don't keep his lordship waiting!" He almost threw her through the door where Arya waited. The two of them ran down the hall, Veleth letting little bursts of laughter escape every so often.
"Wow," said Arya as they slowed to a steadier pace, "that was a good lie."
"That's just Weese. He's horrible but its best to keep him happy because he's an under-steward. Especially with that nasty dog he keeps around. Trained it to bite, you see, by hitting it."
"That's awful!" cried Arya, "What a nasty little man. If I still had-" but she stopped because she didn't have Needle. Together they dashed through the halls, Arya eventually always trotting ahead while Veleth ran behind giggling and catching up between the door ways she peeked into. At last they reached the Kingspyre and ran all the way up the stairs to where Arya had left Tywin Lannister's plate and cups. She gathered them while Veleth kept an unsolicited watch, peeking around the inset window's corner stones to look up and down the corridor. It was empty so they dashed off again down the tower's western staircase rather than the one they had come up. Arya reached the bottom first as usual, a little out of breath, but Veleth was panting when she reached the floor. She stumbled over her hem when she took a few steps on wobbly legs.
"That's why skirts are rubbish," said Arya with a smile. Veleth on the other hand, flushed from her normal rosy complexion until the red crossed her nose, neck, forehead and ears. Arya had never seen a blush so spectacular. Veleth's mouth had got very small, a disinclination to speak if ever there was one, so Arya filled in, "Are the kitchens close?" Veleth dropped her eyes and nodded, "Well come on then."
Smiling like a fool Arya strode off again. Veleth quickly caught up and walked by her side where they traded glances every so often. They reached the laundry room soon after and Veleth dumped the basket and its contents in to a large steamy vat. The room itself was vast with both women and men leaning over the mighty cauldrons stirring the contents with long poles or dropping great chunks of a fatty looking substance into the water. It was swealtering, warm enough to make Arya pull off her thick leather jerkin. She struggled out of it, left in a dirty vest.
"Should we help..." she asked, holding her clothing in front of her tentatively and taking a step or two towards the nearest vat. On the other side of it, three red faced women were rubbing material up and down the wash boards. The sound of their knuckles rapping along the ridges came in a strange rhythm while they chattered and laughed with each other. She reached towards the water only to have Veleth grab her wrist.
"No!" she said, "Don't touch, the lye will burn your hand right off. They'll be bright red and all itchy before you've time to blink." Arya looked at her and the girl released her, "That's what my aunt says."
"She works here. Kitchen mostly, she's a cook. And my grandfather is the master smith your Gendry works under."
Veleth turned and walked between the vats. Arya followed, her jerkin trailing along the floor. "He's not my Gendry," she muttered, but Veleth didn't seem to hear. Her bright head bobbed away amongst a plethora of red-tinged, matronly arms and sweaty faces. Arya, who took the brief time to look around her, had to run to catch up. They wound their way through the room, once or twice servants would call to Veleth and she would smile but otherwise look apologetic and gesture that she had to go. She is the small-folks Sansa, thought Arya. Then, no, not Sansa, there is no Sansa. But it was possible to see where Veleth and a possible politically minded high-born lady could have walked along side her. Veleth was an eye-catcher. Still a baby, with her round face and baby-fat, but she promised a kind of beauty that lit up this dingy place.
Arya kicked herself. What good was beauty here? Beauty only gets you killed. But Veleth, more to the point was nice. She was helpful and obedient. She kept you happy without being subservient. Arya could see herself liking this girl, despite her clearly not knowing what to do with herself when it came to a sword or to Gendry. Arya snorted, anyone being struck by Gendry was just about the daftest thing she could think of in a place like this.
Veleth waited for her at the base of the stairwell, one shoulder and hand pressed against the stone gave her an urgent look, as if she was going somewhere. Arya caught up and Veleth pushed herself away from the wall. They both just stood there for a moment, Veleth rocking on her feet towards Arya and looking at the floor. The tension shifted, Arya was confused, it seemed inexplicably awkward.
"Come on," she was nothing if not a master of just powering through, "We need to drop of his lordship's silver." The last word was said with scorn as she grabbed Veleth's arm and pulled her around the doorway. Soft flesh gave way under her rangy fingers, "how are you so well fed?" she asked, prodding Veleth's arm again. Veleth pinked a little and shrugged, lightly.
"My aunt is large, my mother is too. Grand-father is rather gristly beside us, but having Aunt Beril in the kitchen is helpful. Sometimes we just get the fatty off-cuts but its meat. Maybe...maybe I could get you some," she plucked at a hole in her apron. "Andyourfriendstoo."
Arya supposed Gendry may like that. But she wouldn't tell Hot Pie, he certainly didn't need fatty off-cuts. He was a fatty off-cut. Grinning to herself at this she jammed her hands in her pockets and strolled with an almost Greyjoy spring in her step through the next corridor, Veleth trotting afterwards.
They walked. Arya caught Veleth's eye and winked as she pulled out the the decorated goblet that they had retrieved from the too-high balistraria. The goblet had tipped out of the arrow slit and into Arya's hands with only a minor fumble. But Veleth gasped with delight as if Arya was juggling fire. Behold Thoros of Myr and his flaming sword. She tossed the cup into the air and caught it by its stem. Veleth's eyes grew saucer wide and she rushed forward to take them. Arya stood still for a few moments. She had forgotten what it was like to have servants. Arry took care of himself, and the ghost of Harrenhal had never had a servant in her life. She had forgotten what it was to be Arya, but Veleth was talking and Arya made herself pay attention. Arya didn't ignore her friends – well unless they were acting like a wet behind the ears son of a pie-maker.
She was prattling a little, about the honour of being a cup-bearer. Arya couldn't say she agreed. She couldn't agree with anything that painted these highborn like they were carved of Dornish marble and shit gold dust. These highborn, like she wasn't one of them. But without being acknowledged, what was she? Except a Stark. Always that.
"And he brought a retinue of soldiers and commanders and servants. You were the only one he got into his employ after he arrived."
Really? Well that was interesting. Arya couldn't help but wonder then, if there had been an ulterior motive behind Tywin Lannister's appointment of her, other than his approval of her brazenness. But no, he was no raper and she was certain he didn't know who she was but then, why would he tell her if he did. Still, it seemed ridiculous to think of it. He did not scare her, not in that way. She was always just left with an uneasy feeling of awe. This was where Jaime and Cersei and the imp came from. This was the source. He was not smug or vicious but just ruthlessly clever. The kind of clever Arya wished she could be.
"Maybe we ought to get you something. You did tell Weese that you were fetching laundry." Arya said taking a few steps down, ahead of Veleth.
"Oh no," Veleth replied, "Lord Tywin has his own men to do that. It would look like we were stealing. If Weese asks I'll say you were playing a trick on me. Leading me about the castle for a jape. He won't think twice on-"
"But then I'll be in trouble!"
"Yes, but I thought you could stay out of sight easier. There's always someone looking for me. Besides Weese is so big he'd never catch you."
"He's got his dog though." Seven hells, Arya missed Nymeria sometimes.
"I bet you're faster though. I've seen you run the yard and dodge the guardsman, you're quick enough."
"Yeah, but I'd rather not spend my time dodging an over-weight popinjay and his blood thirsty familiar." Veleth looked down, contrite. "I don't know why he'd care, anyway."
"Oh he looks down on servants running around together," she said, then flushed again. They came out at the bottom of the stairs, making their way back through the laundry room, steam beading on their faces. Arya swept it off while Veleth couldn't touch hers, her hands burdened with the plate and cup. Arya dragged one sleeve over her wrist and smudged the sweat away from her companion's face. Veleth beamed her face still rosy but that was probably due to heat. Arya liked having this someone to talk to. It wasn't like an older sister who looked down on everything you did. More like a younger one. One that looked up to everything you did. Bran never looked up to Arya, they were of too equal a disposition for Bran to be in awe of her, and besides his awe was saved for John and Robb. Rickon was too young to be in awe of anything much at all. Veleth was like having a charge, but she was a good liar and not slow or pathetic. Despite a lamentable embarrassment about being around Gendry, Arya liked her.
"Um, Nym..." began Veleth nervously, looking down at the fine silver in her hands, "are we friends?"
Arya grinned, "Of course we are, stupid. If we weren't, you'd be the one running from Weese."
Arya pushed the door flap aside and walked in to the forge. Gendry was sat at the table whittling something. It was a lump with two stubbier lumps on top of it. She wrinkled her nose disdainfully. "What is that?" she asked. Gendry looked up at her and raised an eyebrow.
"It's a bull, m'lady. It isn't finished yet."
"Well obviously, looks like a turd right now."
He scoffed, "when in your life have you seen a turd look like that? High-borns must shit very strangely."
She flattened him with her gaze. Or at least tried to, he was already back on his carving.
She looked again at the lump of wood. I could be a bull, if one looked at it a certain way. And squinted. But like he said, it wasn't finished. Arya should learn to be more charitable. She wandered across the room, picking up a little dagger that lay on the work bench and using it to pick her nails. Even though she didn't care one whit if they were clean or not, her mother would have clipped her at the sight of them now. She studied one stubby half-moon as Gendry whittled away. Scraping the dirt from beneath revealed a surprisingly sharp looking white. She eagerly scraped back the rest and pushed all her cuticles down for good measure. Smiling, she flexed her claws. Then there was a sharp intake of breath from the table though and she looked up to see Gendry dropping the knife and looking closely at his thumb. The bull lump was caged loosely in his hand as her squeezed his thumb pad. Blood welled there.
"Spit on it," she commanded casually. He narrowed his eyes, a little curious, a little suspicious. "Oh you superstitious-" she rolled her eyes and hopped off the table, making for him but he jammed his thumb in his mouth.
"Why um uy thitting on i'?" he asked through the digit.
"Maester Luwin said your spit has healing agents. You're body fights off fevers and infection because of your blood and spit and things like that." Gendry looked a bit sceptical. She continued, undeterred. "He had this book but it was really rare. And quite old. Where this maester had the idea that where the followers of the seven thought there were spirits, there are tiny parts of you that attack illness when it's in you. Sansa liked it when she was younger, and Bran was interested too. He showed it to me when I would cut myself or fall over. The way that blood dries on the skin and the skin underneath heals itself."
She had so loved that book. It was useful and she liked useful things, plus the idea of little beasts inside her fighting off any illness had been most thrilling. The blood of the wolves. She used to lie under Maester Luwin's table –at times when she had hurt herself too badly to go out, or wasn't trusted to stay in alone, and she would read it by candle light. She had never been a fantastic reader but that book had been one of her encouragements. She could almost feel the flag stones under her ribs and smell the dewy smell of the pages. Gendry scoffed, and said it sounded like the stupidest thing he'd ever heard. "Fine," she spat, giving him the haughtiest evil eye she could muster. "I hope your thumb goes yellow as a lemon and then drops off."
They sat in silence for a few minutes more before Arya walked over to the table and picked up the bull which Gendry had set down. I looked like a blob with horns. "Why a bull?" she asked. Gendry shrugged.
"Dunno," he said, sounding for all the world as if he didn't, "all the houses have their animals. Thought I'd have my own. The only thing I ever got compared to was a bull because I was stubborn. Stubborn about the way I made my work. I got called bull-headed, so I made a helm to match." Arya thought about asking for a wolf helm, the idea of matching him and the image of him charging into battle was briefly pleasing, but then she thought about how she would look in it and it struck her as suddenly silly. Plus, she felt that a wolf helm put her in mind of the Hound. And she wouldn't look like the Hound for anything. He was evil. And a water dancer didn't need a helm anyway. If you saw a sword coming you got out of the way. That was obvious to anyone.
"I'm sorry you lost it, your helm," she twisted the bull between her fingers. "If you get any better at this will you make me a wolf?" she finally asked.
"If I can do it without sticking myself, yeah. And thanks."
She pushed the wood hunk away from herself, in his direction or what it was approximately. She wasn't actually looking. She rose instead, and crossed the room to his pallet, toeing off her shoes and climbing in, curling up under the thin blankets into the smallest ball she could make. A set of small toes poked out from beneath the covers while the blanket was tucked around her head, flattening her hair.
"Don't get comfortable," Gendry called, a warning tone but it sounded amused.
"Won't do," she called back. But there was already a yawn in the voice.
Under the rocks Gendry looked over at a now sleeping Arya and knew it must have been after that she stopped visiting, you simply didn't fall asleep in the presence of those you didn't trust. Especially if you were on the run, and especially if you were Arya. He rolled over and laid his head on the slope, scraping his ear on an onion skin layer of stone. He stared out into the misty rain and dark, illuminated only a tiny bit by the stars now. Feeling around he pulled his pack up to his chest and undid the strings. Digging around for a moment he found it. A chunk of wood with what looked like a shaggy tail and a muzzle protruding from it, it was striped with blood, almost forgotten.
Lost all my page breaks. Damn it.
When I first abandoned this to the dusty depths of my hard-drive I have a strong feeling it was only half finished. It was about 4500 words long at the time. I was exhausted from writing it and a little depressed at the prospect of having to carry on. But in the time away I've actually changed a few plot points and ideas that this fic revolves around, so its probably best I didn't just power through. This one sits pretty at about six and a half thousand. It feels a little fillerish but you need the veg to make the stew taste good.
I'm making my best attempt to stay canonical to the telly rather than the books, despite now having slightly conflicting knowledge. I am still not happy though. I hate what I did to the creepy brotherhood who are extractees -lit refugees nearly- from the pages of a Storm of Swords (is that the second one?). They were tacky and it bugs me. Also, is Veleth being dull. I feel like she's boring right now. I got ninety nine problems and this bitch is one. Its also come to light that she probably would have been raped in Harrenhal being female and young but for now my theory is that her family protects her. She will have more of a role than just being the slightly annoying companion, though. I promise. Not just a foil as someone aptly said, and not just a girl.
A reviewer commented last chapter that it was a little cliche and tbh, she's probably right but I soldier on. This is the place for improvement. That's what your eyes are for.
This also may be set to end fairly quickly because I don't want to drag it out. Plus you never know what's happening with this show. Canon is my shackle. Well, I kind of know already where this is going and that's another pain. Also I left it so long that I felt it necessary to tell in flash-back just so we didn't feel too behind the times.
There were fluffy moments that I just wanted to put in that were probably unnecessary but I'm resigned to nothing but some brother/sisterly affection, a little mistrust and some Arya sided crushing. Because you know you can pinpoint the exact moment she started going through puberty last series. Umf, hello abs.