A Clash of Kings-Chapter 9
|A Clash of Kings chapter|
|Place||South of the Gods Eye|
|Page||101 UK HC (Other versions)|
|Chapter chronology (All)|
Arya and the others have abandoned the kingsroad to avoid the gold cloaks. As they travel west they come upon a burned village. When Arya goes to make water in the forest, she runs into a wolf pack, which scares her. She reports this to Yoren, who laments they should have taken a ship instead.
The road Arya and the other travel is now little more than two ruts through the weeds and the human flood has slowed to a trickle, so there is no one to say which way they go. However, the road wanders back and forth, tangles with other trails, and sometimes vanishes entirely. Arya hates it. The terrain is gentle enough, but even so the path is narrow enough that the wagons slow their pace to a crawl. A dozen times a day they must stop to free a wheel or double up the teams to climb a muddy slope.
Arya constantly looks over her shoulder, wondering when the gold cloaks will catch them. She does not trust their sentries, especially the orphan boys, who seem lost out in the woods. Arya can sneak past any of them when she goes off in the night to make water alone. Once she snuck right up to Lommy Greenhands and considered jumping on him, but changed her mind at the thought of Yoren punishing her again.
The orphans all treat Gendry like someone special because the queen wants his head. Gendry will have none of it, though. He insists he was only an apprentice armorer until Master Tobho Mott told him he was to join the Night's Watch. Then he goes off to polish his bull helm, but never wears it. Lommy guesses Gendry is the "wolf lord's" bastard, which angers Arya, who knows Jon Snow is her father's only bastard. She wishes she could ride home alone, but she knows that would mean no one to scout ahead, watch behind, stand guard while she sleeps, and help her fight off the gold cloaks.
Yoren decides the kingsroad will not be safe until they cross the Trident, so they intend to travel around the west (far) side of Gods Eye. Settlements and farmland gives way to forest and the terrain grows rougher. Their provisions soon run out, so Yoren turns to the poachers Koss and Kurz to range ahead to hunt, and the younger boys are set to pick berries and plunder orchards along the road. Arya is a skilled climber and a fast picker, and one day she comes across a rabbit, which Yoren stews. Everyone else gets a spoonful, but Arya gets a whole leg and shares it with Gendry.
At Briarwhite, some fieldhands force them to pay for the sweetcorn they have taken. Yoren gives them some coppers, but complains that brothers of the Night's Watch used to be feasted throughout the realm, even by high lords. That night, Yoren is too angry to eat and only paces around the camp, muttering to himself. After that they find men guarding the fields more and more.
The next day, Koss reports a camp of twenty or thirty men in mail and halfhelms armed with spears. Some of the men are wounded or dying and they have only one horse, which is lame. The soldiers carry a banner of a spotted treecat, which Yoren cannot identify. They go wide around the camp, since the men might be desperate enough to take their horses or worse. The detour costs them two days at least, but Yoren insists they will spend the rest of their lives at the Wall, so there is no rush to get there.
One evening, Dobber spies a fire on the northern horizon. As night falls the fire seems to grow brighter until it looks as if the whole north is ablaze. From time to time they can smell the smoke, but the wind holds steady and the flames never get any closer. By morning the fire has burned out, but no one has slept very well.
It is midday when they come upon the remains of a village. The fields are scorched for miles around and there are burnt bodies everywhere. Leaving the rest to guard the wagons, Yoren takes Murch and Cutjack to investigate the ruined holdfast. When Arya turns to Gendry he has his helmet on. After a long time, Yoren returns with a little girl and a woman whose right forearm is missing. The girl only cries and the woman only whimpers, "Please," over and over again. Rorge thinks this is funny and he and Biter laugh until Murch curses them and tells them to shut up.
They fix the woman a place in a wagon. Hot Pie murmurs that he is scared and Arya admits she is too. Hot Pie admits he never actually kicked a boy to death, he just sold his mother's pies. Arya rides as far ahead of the wagons as she dares to get away from the little girl crying and the woman whispering. The one-armed woman dies at evenfall, and Gendry and Cutjack bury her on a hillside beneath a weeping willow. When the wind blows, Arya thinks she can hear the tree's branches whispering, "Please," over and over, which frightens her badly.
That night, Yoren orders no fire, so supper is sparse and Arya fills her belly with water instead. When she wakes it is pitch-black and her bladder is full to bursting. As she is leaving to make water, Hot Pie is on guard and insists Yoren ordered everyone to stay close. When Arya explains her need, Hot Pie tells her to use a nearby tree and explains that he heard wolves earlier. Rather than fight with him, Arya acts afraid and pretends to go back to sleep until Hot Pie leaves, then sneaks into the woods on the other side of the camp. Just to make sure, she goes out twice as far as usual. As she is doing her business, Arya hears a rustling and sees the eyes shining out from the wood. She grabs for Needle and counts the eyes of a whole pack. One wolf comes forward and bares his teeth, but then retreats into the darkness and the wolves leave.
She follows the sound of Yoren sharpening his knife back to camp. She climbs into the back of a wagon with him and tells him there are wolves in the woods. Yoren is unperturbed, and comments that he thought Arya's kind were fond of wolves. Arya tells him about her direwolf Nymeria and how she was forced to drive her off. Yoren comments that the only wolves they have to fear are the human kind, like the ones who burned that village. He wonders aloud if he should have left them all back in the city where it seems safer. Arya insists that she wants to go home. Yoren replies that he has been bringing men to the Wall for nearly thirty years and only lost three, but this time he should have taken a ship.
Yoren tells Arya to get some sleep, and she tries, but she can hear the wolves howling, and fainter than that she hears what might be screams.