I rose to my feet and embraced Robb in a hug. The other Lords toasted to my health and well wishes, before we were all dismissed. I was told there would be a feast in the evening, where I would be expected to tell my tales for the rest of the army.
When I was asked about Tyrion, I told Robb that he was very cooperative throughout the journey, and that he would probably be more useful if he was treated with dignity. The other Lords weren’t sure about that, but Lady Catelyn assured them that Tyrion had nothing to do with Ned’s outcome, and she was almost certain it was the other Tywin children that caused Bran’s injuries.
That came as a surprise. Not just the plea for mercy from a former captor, but the news that Jaime and Cersei were responsible for Bran’s near-death experience. From the lack of shock from the other Lords, this appears to be common knowledge. It seems between the time at sea and in hiding, I have missed a lot from the rumour mill.
Robb decided that for now, provided he continues to cooperate, Tyrion Lannister will be treated as a guest/hostage rather than a prisoner. He will be given his own tent and a squire will be assigned to him, but he will be kept under guard at all times. No-one is to see him without permission, and he will not be allowed to touch a pen or paper. This is to reduce the chance of any secret messages being sent.
When everyone left the room, Robb asked me to return before the feast, in about 4 hours. This was to give me some time to rest and sort my accommodations. I thanked him before turning to Arya.
“Well, princess it seems this is where our journey ends. I hope you don’t take offense when I say it is a relief not having to worry about babysitting a spoiled noble brat.” I tease her, which she reacts as I expect, by kicking me in the shins. At least she tries to. I have never been one to encourage poor manners, or poor fighting skills. After I trip her legs, sending her to the ground, I offer my hand.
“Remember what Syrio said about moving according to your emotions. Emotions are used to encourage and initiate actions. It is alright to strike out because of anger, but never in anger. Your moves should be controlled.” I say as I pick her up.
Unlike other teachers, Syrio doesn’t think you should train skills and then refrain from using them. Only striking when your opponent strikes first is bull-shit. There are plenty of ways a person can hurt you without ever attacking you personally, or hurt the ones you love taking the high road is a good thing, but not when it means bad people can hurt you without repercussions. When you do attack however, it should always be controlled, so that the only one that ends up hurt is the enemy.
I’m not just trying to tease her, or give her a lesson. I am actually doing her a favour by mentioning Syrio in front of Robb. Syrio has proven himself a capable friend, guard and teacher to Arya. In the days after leaving Kings Landing her skills have improved immensely. She is still held back by her small size and lack of experience, but when fighting with several of the smaller crew members, with sticks, she would often get ahead of them.
After the first time she beat one of the crew members, that man got a lot of mockery from the other crew. He passed it off as going easy on her, but I knew the truth. For 2 days no-one would spar with her anymore, making her sad. I then ordered the crew that if Arya wanted them to spar, without any other important task, they had to. The advantage of being the owner. I didn’t want them to just fake fight though, as that would not make good practice. So, I offered a small incentive. 1 stag for round won, 5 stags for every 3 wins in a row.
The reason I mentioned Syrio is that I want him to keep being trained. Despite the teary reunion, I have little doubt that Arya will be sent back to Winterfell soon. A war I no place for a child as young as her. I am hoping that with the reminder, either Robb will ask about him or Arya will try to bring him with her. The likelihood of success is higher if she asks her understanding brother rather than protective mother.
I probably should have mentioned this to Arya before we entered, but we were both understandably distracted. Her with seeing her family, and me with seeing death.
Since I will unlikely see her again, if ever, I want to give her one last gift. This war will take me to the south while it will take her North. After the war, I plan to get the fuck out of Westeros and away from the Starks for a while.
I love them, but they have a habit of making me do stupid things, and I don’t want to put my plans for travel on hold anymore.
As I head back to my group, I start to think about what I need to do short term. First is go to the quarter-master and ask about getting some supplies for long term encampments. Food is not a problem as that will be taken of, but camping spots need to be allocated. Finding the stables to look after our horses is needed as well.
I will need to send a raven to Gulltown to tell Ed and Elsa what has happened. They will definitely be relieved. I left instructions in the event my meeting with Robb didn’t end well. I said that if I perished then they will be the owners of the ship and crew, as well as my accounts. They would sail to White Harbour when the ship is repaired and transfer the money to Braavos, where they would then sail to. If they cancel the contract with the crew, and sell the ships contract to another, even if at a discount, then they would still have over 23,000 dragons. Enough to live out their lives in comfort, or whatever they want. Honestly, I will be dead and not really care anymore. They could waste the money on sex and drugs for all I cared, but I needed to do the last obligation to my family.
Since I didn’t end up dead, that plan can be mostly scrapped. I need to send a raven to update them on the new plan. They will still go to White Harbour when the ship is finished, but instead they will stay there until the war is over. I added that Nathan needed to ride south to meet me. Not because I want a servant or to send him into battle, but as my squire it would be a black mark on his name if he remained home while I went to war.
So long as he attends to me, then even if he never kills a single opponent, he can still claim a battle record. Even if he needs to fight, I have trained him in archery, and he is capable to match most veteran archers despite his age. That will keep him from being called a coward and keep him from the worst of the fighting.
As I walk between the tents, I feel a pinch in my boots, causing me to wince. I completely forgot about my ‘back-up’ plan. After hiding behind a tent, out of sight, I retrieve the knife in my boots. This knife was hidden there to be used in the event Robb had decided to kill me.
If he did, I was planning to use my kneeling position to retrieve the blade, then slice or pierce Robb’s throat with a cut or throw, depending on his distance from me, then run. In the chaos of the camp I could rely on my superior speed to outrun my pursuers. Signaling Brutus with qi, we would both run to the river, about 500 metres from the war tent. I could be there before anyone can organise a professional chase, while Brutus is just a battering ram with legs. No-one is going to stop him when they were caught off-guard.
The Green Fork is wide, deep, and has strong currents. Only the best of swimmers could avoid drowning. Once me and Brutus are across, we would be home free.
I know this sounds insane, talking about killing Robb, a person I treated like a brother for years. But I have an actual brother and sister to look after. If Robb had killed me, I wouldn’t be able to look after them. Worse, if Robb had gone crazy with grief, he might have tried to kill my family as well.
If Robb died it would take several days to realise that they can’t catch me. Then they have to deal with the fact their army, one gathered to declare war on the crown, is now without leadership, and the only reason for fighting just died. There will be deserters, betrayals, then the entire army will dissolve. Then comes weeks of negotiations with the Lannisters to spare their lives after committing treason, if they are smart enough to give up the war.
In that time, I will have already returned to Gulltown. Brutus is the size of and possesses the speed of a horse, faster if travelling forests and mountains rather than plains. Without escorting anyone and hunting as we travel for food, we could reach there in about 5 days. If the ship still wasn’t fixed, which was unlikely, I would just book passage on another ship to Essos to lay low. I can always smuggle myself into White Harbour when I have time to retrieve my gold, if I don’t just abandon it.
If the Starks survived the coming days, I wouldn’t fear them. The North is considered isolated from the rest of Westeros, let alone another other continent. The war will have drained their coffers and political clout. The crown surely isn’t going to increase their pursuit of me for killing Robb. They already want me for dead for Joffrey, if they weren't putting their full effort into me, then killing Robb surely wouldn't increase it.
If I get to Essos with my family, I will keep travelling East till I feel we are safe from an armed pursuit. There are thousands of men and women in Essos that have fled persecution in Westeros, my family wouldn’t be any different.
I felt terrible thinking about such a possibility, and would feel worse after the deed. Whenever I looked at Arya, my only comfort is that I would never have to see her again after I destroyed her family. But I kept telling myself that it was something that had to be done. If the choice was between me and my family, vs the Starks who I just like, I would choose the former.
When I saw the Starks reunited however, I just couldn’t do it. Even when Robb held Ice over me, the perfect position to strike, I just couldn’t do it. I figured even without me, Ed and Elsa are grown adults, smart and capable. They would survive without me. But I would not survive the guilt of killing my friend and dooming the others.
As I held the knife in my hand while walking, I lifted my head to look at the Green Fork. My supposed escape route. With a smile I threw the knife into the river, thanking the Old Gods for staying my hands.