A Clash of Kings-Chapter 14
From A Wiki of Ice and Fire
|A Clash of Kings chapter|
|Place||On the shore of the God's Eye|
|Page||156 UK HC (Other versions)|
|Chapter chronology (All)|
Yoren’s group arrives at a river which they cannot cross with the wagons. They head towards a town Yorren remembers. Along the way, all houses and fields have been abandoned. They find the whole town deserted as well, but spend the night in the holdfast of the town. That night, Lannister soldiers arrive and demand that Yoren opens the gate. He refuses, and fighting breaks out. Yoren, seeing they are lost, orders Arya to get the survivors out through a flight tunnel in a barn. The barn is on fire and the wagon with the three criminals is standing in it. Before she leaves, Arya throws an axe into the wagon.
Yoren’s group arrives at a river one morning. It seems a peaceful place to Arya, until Koss finds a decomposing soldier in the reeds. Yoren orders Dobber to search the body for valuables. He also rides his horse into the water and realizes that they can't cross the river at this point, so he and Koss go upriver to find a ford while Woth and Gerren go downriver. While Yoren is gone, Lommy and Tarber strip and go wading, at one point throwing mud at Hot Pie. Rorge shouts to be unchained from the wagon while Yoren is gone, but nobody pays him any attention. Arya observes how Kurz catches a fish with his bare hands, thinking that it can’t be as hard as catching cats. The scouts return at midday, having only found a burned bridge. Drawing a rough map in the mud, Yoren explains that the river is fed by the Gods Eye, coming south from there. As they have no means to cross the river with their wagons, he has to abandon his original plan of passing the lake along its western shore, as going along the eastern shore would bring them back towards the Kingsroad, which he is trying to avoid. So he decides that the best way to proceed is going north to the shore of the Gods Eye and rent a boat in a town he knows is situated there, with a holdfast and the towerhouse of a lordling. He intends to sail across the lake towards Harrentown where they can get new mounts or take refuge at Harrenhal, the seat of Lady Whent, who is a known friend of the Night’s Watch. They should arrive at the town before dark.
Hot Pie protests that there are ghosts in Harrenhal, to which Yoren just spits. Arya thinks of Old Nan’s stories about Harrenhal: ”Evil King Harren had walled himself up inside, so Aegon unleashed his dragons and turned the castle into a pyre.” Old Nan told that fiery spirits still haunted the castle and that some men who slept there were found in the morning burnt alive. However, Arya considers this story silly. There would be knights in Harrenhal, not ghosts. She could reveal herself to Lady Whent and maybe be escorted home.
An hour before evenfall, they come across a cottage. Yoren, Reysen and Dobber investigate the place but it is deserted with apparently nothing worth taking left behind. It appears that the people have run, taking their animals with them. Tarber finds a garden behind the cottage and they pick some vegetables. They pass fields with ripening wheat, corn and barley and more houses, but see nobody.
When they reach the town, they find it deserted as well. Yoren, getting more apprehensive, thinks some people might be hiding, so they carefully search the town. He leaves ten men to guard the wagons and splits the rest of the band up in search parties of four or five. Yoren himself will ride to the towerhouse to see whether the lordling or his guards are still there. Woth pulled a galley oar once, so Yoren makes him leader of a group with Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie and Lommy and orders them to search for boats at the lakefront. The town's emptiness frightens Arya—what scared people so much to flee? They come to the biggest lake Arya has ever seen, with no hint of the far shore. However, except for a rowboat with a rotten bottom, the docks are empty, and she realizes the people have taken them all when they fled. Lommy, supported by Hot Pie, suggests to search a nearby inn for food and ale, but is reprimanded by Woth to stick to Yoren's orders. Arya is despondent, kneeling at the lake, plunging her face into it, thinking that maybe she could swim all the way north to Winterfell. Woth rouses her from her musings, telling her to help the others with the search. However, they can't find a boat, only some sails and nails.
It is already dark when Yoren returns, telling the rest of the band that the towerhouse is abandoned and that the lordling has probably joined the fighting or escorted his people in their flight. However, he has seen a goose and some chicken and there are fish in the lake, so the group won't starve. There are suggestions on how to cross the lake. Koss thinks they could fix the rowboat, but that would only be big enough for four men, Yoren points out. Lommy wants to build boats, using the nails and sails they found, but he falls silent when Yoren asks him whether he knows anything about building a boat. Yoren is most intrigued by Gendry's idea of constructing a raft, although it would mean leaving the wagons behind and poles would only work in the shallow water along the lakeshore. He is going to sleep on it. Lommy suggests they spend the night at the inn, but Yoren decides that they'll go to the holdfast instead, where they can bar the gates, as he likes the feel of walls around him when he sleeps. Arya says it's wrong to stay in the town at all, pointing out that there has to be a reason why everyone has left, causing Lommy to mock her for being scared. Yoren says Arya's reasoning is correct, except for the fact that they are of the Night’s Watch, so they take no part in the war and nobody is their enemy. Arya thinks that nobody is their friend either, but she remains silent as she doesn't want to appear craven.
They arrive at the holdfast and start to explore it. It is surrounded by a ten-foot-high wall of rough-cut unmortared stones with a wooden catwalk inside. There is a front gate, which can be closed with iron bars, as well as a postern. It's no Red Keep, but it will do for a night, announces Yoren. The holdfast also has a large haven, a kitchen and a big ramshackle barn, where Gerren discovers a trap door hidden in the floor, leading to a narrow tunnel that goes all the way to the lakeshore. Yoren has them roll a wagon on the entrance to make sure nobody enters that way. He assigns three watches for within the holdfast and sends Tarber, Kurz, and Cutjack off to the towerhouse where they can keep an eye out from up high, telling Kurz to use his hunting horn if danger threatens. They drive all their wagons and animals in and close the main gate behind them. Dobber, Gendry and Arya draw kitchen duty and Dobber orders a resentful Arya to pluck the goose and two chicken that Koss has brought in, while Gendry splits wood and Yoren sharpens his dirk. The meal is mostly spent in silence with not even Lommy talking.
Arya has drawn second watch, so she tries to sleep first but can't. She borrows Yoren's whetstone and hones Needle instead. Hot Pie asks her how she got such a good sword and she admits that her brother gave it to her. Hot Pie is surprised, as Arya has never mentioned any brothers. Arya replies that she has lots of brothers, but when Hot Pie asks whether they are older or younger than her, she cautiously lies to him, saying they are all older and have longswords and taught her how to kill people who bother her. Hot Pie insists he wasn't bothering her, just talking, but then leaves her alone. Arya, curling up in her pallet in the haven, is annoyed by the little girl they have taken along because she is crying, as always.
Arya suddenly hears a wolf howling, making a terrible sound. It might have been a dream, although she doesn't remember sleeping. She wakes those around her, asking them whether they noticed the sound, too, while pulling on her boots. Nobody heard anything and when she informs them there was a wolf howling, Lommy mocks her for having wolves in her head, while Woth and Gerren tell her the wolves are outside, where they can't hurt anyone. Arya insists, shouting at them that there was a wolf howling and that something's wrong. Before they can silence her, they hear Kurz’s horn. Everyone in the haven gets up now, clutching clothes and weapons, while Arya already runs out towards the gate. As she dashes by the barn, she hears Jaqen H'ghar calling out, asking her to free the criminals, as they can fight, but she ignores him. She climbs up the catwalk, hearing horses and shouting beyond the wall. When she glimpses over the parapet, she sees men with torches galloping through the streets of the town, setting houses on fire. Gendry arrives next to her, wearing his helmet, and asks how many men are out there. Arya replies it might be one or two hundred, as it is difficult to count them when they are moving so fast. She predicts that they'll come to the holdfast soon.
She is right. A column of riders approaches their refuge. Arya tries to make out their banners and thinks they are red, but it is hard to tell, as the spreading fires turn everything red, orange and black. Everyone in the holdfast is awake now, manning the catwalk or trying to calm the panicking animals. Yoren is giving commands. The little girl is pulling at Arya's leg, but she pushes her away, telling her to hide somewhere. The riders rein up to the gate and a knight with a spiked helm demands, in the name of the king, that they open it. Reysen asks which king, earning him a cuff by Woth. Yoren tells the riders that the townfolk are gone and that those inside the holdfast are part of the Watch. The knight suggests that Yoren might be one of Beric Dondarrion's men and that Thoros of Myr could be hiding with them. When Yoren shows him his black cloak as evidence, the knight insists it could be the black of House Dondarrion. Arya, spotting a Lannister banner now, suddenly realizes that the Dondarrion he is talking about is the man Jeyne Poole fell in love with at the Tourney of the Hand and the man her father sent out to behead Gregor Clegane. To Arya it seems that those things happened a thousand years ago.
Yoren demands to know who's in command of the knights, prompting a stout man with a manticore on his shield to ride forward, announcing himself to be Ser Amory Lorch, bannerman to Lord Tywin Lannister. He orders Yoren to open the holdfast in the name of King Joffrey. Yoren says that the men can burn the town, it doesn't matter to him, but that his band are not their foes and should be left alone. Arya is bewildered that the men can't see that they are neither lords nor knights. They simply don't care, is Gedry's reply. Checking out Lorch's face the way Syrio Forel has taught her, Arya realizes he is right. There is some back and forth between Yoren and Lorch, with some of the riders mocking the old recruiter. Lorch commands, for the last time, to open the gate and, when Yoren refuses after some hesitation, declares them rebels, be they black brothers or not. Yoren informs Lorch that he has some young boys with him, but Lorch announces that everyone in the holdfast will die. He makes a sign and a spear comes hurtling up the wall, probably intended for Yoren, but killing Woth instead. More spears are thrown into the holdfast, followed by torches.
Yoren organizes the defense, sending Koss and Urreg to hold the postern and telling Lommy to grab the spear that killed Woth and take his place. Arya finds herself next to Hot Pie on the catwalk. He informs her that he doesn't know how to use a sword and she tries to give him courage. The rough stones make it easy to climb the wall of the holdfast and soon men are coming up where Arya and Hot Pie stand. Arya, while shouting "Winterfell!", uses Needle to cut the fingers of one man, making him fall, then, warned by Hot Pie, points her sword at the eyes of another, causing the attacker to reel backwards and plunge down as well. Admonished by Arya, Hot Pie follows her example, also hacking at hands grabbing the parapets. However, for each man they beat back, a new one appears. Yoren struggles with the knight with the spiked helm, then kills him by driving his dirk through the amor. Arya again sees a golden lion on a red banner, making her think of Joffrey and wish he was present so that she could drive Needle through his sneering face. Four men attack the gate with axes, but they are shot down by Koss with bow and arrow. Dobber wrestles with a man whose head Lommy then smashes with a rock, yet Lommy's celebration is cut short when he notices that Dobber has drawn a knife in his belly and is dead. Qyle begs a knight with a wasp on his shield for mercy, only to get his face smashed in by a spiked mace. Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry wrestle down a skinny man who has managed to climb over the wall. Gendry's sword shatters the man's helmet, revealing the anguished face and grey beard beneath. Arya feels sorry for the enemy even while, again shouting "Winterfell!", she kills him, assisted by Hot Pie. Gendry takes the man's sword and jumps down from the catwalk, looking for other enemies to engage. Arya, who can see that more knights have invaded the holdfast, follows him, but then hesitates, not knowing what to do next. Death is all around her.
Yoren is suddenly shaking her, still calling her "Boy!". He screams that the battle is lost, ordering her to gather, together with Gendry, as many survivors as they can and try to escape. When Arya asks how, he directs her towards the tunnel they found earlier. Yoren storms away to fight more foes. Arya addresses Gendry and he assents to the plan. However, the only ones they can gather are Hot Pie, whom they call down from the catwalk, Lommy, whom they find wounded from a spear thrust into his calf, and the little girl, whom Arya spots sitting in the middle of the chaos. They also come across Gerren, but leave him behind, as he is too seriously wounded to move. Arya has to drag the girl as she won't come along, even when slapped, and the others run ahead. When Arya comes near the barn, she realizes it is on fire, the animals screaming within. Hot Pie steps out, informing her that Lommy has already fled and asking her to just leave the girl behind. He abandons them when Arya won't listen, stubbornly dragging the girl. However, Gendry comes back for her, hoisting the girl on his shoulder, telling Arya to run.
The barn feels like a furnace, its back wall all ablaze and the animals kicking and screaming. Inside their wagon, Biter and Rorge struggle frantically to get free, with Rorge throwing his usual curses. Jaqen H'ghar is again calling out to Arya. She is just a few feet away from the trap, but the fire spreading all around her makes her recall the Hound's terribly burned face and, while Gendry is wondering how to get the little girl through the tunnel, Arya asks him where he left the axe when he was chopping wood for dinner, telling him to go ahead with the girl after he replies. Arya runs out of the barn and towards the woodpile near the haven where Gendry left the axe. On her way, she observes how Koss yields to enemies and is killed on the spot, but she doesn't see Yoren. Just as she clutches the axe, a mailed hand grabs her. Turning around, she thrusts the axe between the man's legs, then dashes back to the barn. With heavy smoke pouring out and the animals screaming within, going back in is the hardest thing Arya has ever had to do, yet she chews her lip and darts through the doors. Inside, the roof has caught fire as well and fiery pieces of wood and straw are raining down. There is the smell of burning hair. The smoke is so thick that Arya can't see anything and, hand over mouth and nose, just moves blindly towards Biter's screams. She arrives at the wagon and throws the axe in. It is caught by Rorge, who immediately starts to labor the floor of the wagon with the axe. Arya hears the bottom of the wagon splinter even before she reaches the entrance to the tunnel. She plunges in head first, dropping five feet deep and getting some mud in the mouth when she lands. She begins to crawl and has moved a dozen feet down the tunnel when the barn crashes, sending a cloud of hot smoke and black dust after her. It smells like hell. She holds her breath and kisses the mud on the floor of the tunnel. Then she cries, but she does not know for whom.