“Watch out!” Curt screamed to me. Thanks to that warning I manage to duck underneath the pulley before it took my head off. The man previously in charge of securing that was not so lucky. It had caught his wrist when it was torn from the side, dislocating his shoulder and leaving him screaming on the deck, no one free to help him.
The winds are roaring and the rain strikes the deck like arrows. Several huge waves reached our deck and knocked 2 men overboard, no time or capability to save them. Everyone is running everywhere, trying to keep the ship together while we outlast the storm. Below deck isn’t much better. Several barrels became untied and started bucking everywhere, breaking one of the men’s back, killing him immediately. Crates and personal chests spilled over the floor, ruining the food and damaging the other items.
I did my best to help, my greater strength and speed letting me help where I could, even stopped one of the men from going overboard when he slipped and rolled past me. But this is not something that can be dealt with by pure muscle. I can’t cut down the wind, or shoot the eye of the storm. This requires training and experience, and in that case, I am hopefully outmatched by the other crew. The other landlovers, Brutus included, are all inside my cabin which is the safest place for now. They can barely stand up straight in this weather, they would only add to the casualty count if the tried to help.
Just when the wind seemed like it was finally letting up, disaster, and lightning, struck. There were 2 masts on the ship, the primary and tallest one was just struck by lightning. The man in the crows nest was a lost cause, as were the sails that caught fire. They were quickly put out by the rain, but the damage was already done. I suppose we should thank our lucky stars that the mast didn’t split or collapse, though the fraying of the wood leads me to believe it will be soon. We kept struggling for another hour, but eventually the storm passed and we entered a period of calm. While Curt went to check on the ship I went to cabin.
In there I found my family and the Ravens, all huddled together, pale and frightened. None of them,except for Syrio who looks fine, had ever been on a ship before this trip, and between their sea sickness the past couple days and the recent events has put them into precarious positions. Me andBrutus each have much stronger constitutions and sense of balance. Other than the first day where I was getting my sea legs, I have been fine for the rest of the journey. I look around the room, asking after everyone, but other than a few bruises they all were in a fit state. “Elsa, Arya are you two alright?” I ask the youngest and only 2 girls on the ship. They were currently sitting on the bed surrounded by the combined fluff of Brutus and Nymeria.
“I’m fine.” “I’m alright Ben. How is the rest of the crew?” Arya and Elsa answer respectively, Arya more terse than usual. Our relationship hasn’t been quite the same since the night of her father’s death 5 days ago. She asked me where Ned was why we were leaving without him. Despite saying I would tell her later, I was busy organising our departure, and exhausted from several miles of running and swimming, she kept pestering me. In the end I told Brutus to take her to the room and keep her there. Elsa went with to try and calm down the irrate she-wolf.
When we were finally in the clear I found Arya in the cabin, stroking Nymeria and calmed down. She looked at me expectantly, and after clearing the room, I told her what happened. Starting from the night before Ned’s death, how it was too great a risk, to the mockery of a trial, she was calm and engrossed in the story. She became distraught when I got to the part of Joffrey calling for his death, she started to deny it, the thought he was dead too much. I waited for her to calm down, and told her that Ned died to my arrow.
I debated for a while whether to tell her about that part or not. I was the only one at the plaza so I would be the only one to know the truth on this ship. But thinking of future events I think I may need to. The fact I killed Ned is true, no matter my own thoughts on the matter,I did kill my liege lord and the father of Robb, the now heir to Winterfell. I need to bring Arya home and that means appearing before Robb.
I have known Robb since he was just a boy, he has similar tendencies to his father so he should be understanding of the circumstances. ‘Should’ sort of goes out the window when anger meets grief meets man who put an arrow through your father’s chest. The smart thing to do would probably be to drop Arya off with Ethel and the Ravens and have them deliver Arya home. Ethel is a knight under House Moss, Robb can’t touch him unless he committed a crime, which he hasn’t. I would take the ship to Essos where I can lay low. I have enough money to rest the ship and crew in a small port for 2 months or so, when hopefully Robb will be too busy to mind me. I can then return to White Harbour, retrieve my gold, sail away with my family and never come back to Westeros. I have assassinated 2 of the most powerful people in a single day, if I run, I will be a wanted man by everyone.
That is the smart thing, and once again I find myself cursing Ned. I made a promise to look after his family, and that means Robb as well. Robb will march south to save Sansa, someone I alsoneed to save, and that means fighting in a war. I don’t know the current strength divisions in Westeros, but I do know the Lannisters aren’t paper tigers, they are golden lions. It will be a tough fight. One Robb may lose, with or without me, but I know he will have an easier time winning with me. I swear only the Starks could make honour feel contagious.
That doesn’t mean I have inherited Ned’s suicidal tendencies, I like to make preparations, which brings me to telling Arya about my part. I may be the only one on the ship that knows the truth, but I can be certain Robb knows, and probably most of the North. They will have gotten a raven the day it happened. So, if Robb feels like getting revenge on the man who ‘murdered’ his father, Arya will be very helpful in keeping me healthy. Both the fact that I returned his sister home and if she speaks on my behalf will go along way.
With that thought you might be wondering why tell Arya about killing her dad? If I want her to speak to Robb, she is going to know what I did anyway. Better to find out now when she has about a week of sailing together to forgive me, than wait till we are before Robb and think I hid the truth from her. Feelings of betrayal do not make for convincing arguments for mercy. Even if she doesn’t forgive me completely and we go back to before this, it will still be better than the alternative. Beside she is still a child, and I have found in my experience kids have trouble remembering anything for too long, even grudges.
Two aspects helped in this case. The first are the furballs on the bed. Nymeria and Brutus know when their owners are feeling down and made an effort to cheer us up. Brutus in particular could feel my guilt towards Arya, so he would pick her up by the scruff of her neck and bring her to me. The sight of her trying to free herself would bring a smile to myself and the rest of the crew. Even she herself would cheer up and stop moping for a while.
Syrio was also extremely helpful. Arya would train with him whenever it was convenient, the distraction helpful in making her forget her troubles. The exercise and new environment of the ocean adventure cheered her up and let her relieve some stress. Makes me feel bad for nearly killing him when we first met.
In any case, she has gotten a lot better than the start where she would barely talk to me. She might not be asking me to play with her like in the past, but she still plays with Brutus and Elsa. When I am sure everyone is okay, I return to the deck to find Curt. I wasn’t expecting the news to be good, but it was worse than I thought.
“We lost 5 men over all. 3 overboard, 1 who broke his back and another got struck by lightning in the crows nest. There is another 4 with fractures, so the crew is down by nearly a fifth.” He tells me in a somber tone. 9 out of the original 60 men we started with, sailors not including the people in the cabin, were lost. “That was one of the worst storms I have ever seen, especially outside the Stepstones and Shipbreaker Bay.”
“What were the damages?” I ask him.
“Several of the ropes and boards were snapped and below deck we lost a barrel of water and some of our supplies to spillages, nothing major. The biggest damage was to the main mast.” As he mentions the mast, we both look to the charred logs. “Heard of ships being struck by lightning before, never experienced it. *sigh* Poor Tom, he never knew what hit him. The mast it barely standing. Even if we had sails, I would not dare to use them. Even without them I am just waiting for the wind to blow it down.”
“So, what do you recommend? Can we still make it to White Harbour?” There I can leave Ed and Elsa with the ship and let them become the holders of my account. If Robb has gone completely mad with grief, and this is a long shot, I want them to at least be able to survive if I don’t.
“Not a chance. With one sail, a damaged one at that, it would take us too long to reach the White Harbour and would either have to go on half rations or stop somewhere for supplies. That would take another week or 2. And that is only if we can make it to The North without the main mast collapsing. If it does, then we will likely lose more men and the potential damage is way too risky.” He and I look to the mast and listen to the creak in the light wind. “Right now we are just about to pass the Bay of Crabs in the Vale. I suggest we head to Gulltown. It is one of the largest ports in Westeros, we can find some good shipwrights to replace the mast, or repair it enough to sail if you want to rush. I warn you, replacing the mast will not be quick and repairing the mast will only stop it falling off, I still wouldn’t use a sail on it.”
I think over the options. “We will go to Gulltown, we can’t risk the mast breaking and leaving us stranded at sea. How long will it take?” We are in no rush now that we are clear of the Crownlands. The Vale is more inclined to the Starks than the Lannisters. Though I am sure they have spies, it will take time for them to get messages to the capital and back. Sending armed forces would be more likely to cause another war, and rushed assassinations are of little threat to me so long as we are careful.