A Clash of Kings-Chapter 21
|A Clash of Kings chapter|
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Bran Stark rides his horse Dancer into the crowded Great Hall of Winterfell. He would have liked to have Summer with him but Ser Rodrik Cassel had been unyielding. As he passes the men call “Stark!” and “Winterfell! Winterfell!” for the harvest and Robb Stark’s victories. Osha and Hodor help him out of his harness and carry him to the high seat. Ser Rodrik is seated to his lift with his daughter Beth Cassel beside him, and Maester Luwin beyond Beth. Rickon is to his right, his hair uncut since Catelyn had left because he bit the last girl that tried to cut it. Rickon tells Bran that he rides better. After Ser Rodrik bellows for quiet Bran bids them welcome and thanks, and a toast to the old gods for the feast and Robb’s victories. This brings cheers and Ser Rodrik tells Bran he did well.
They feasted course after course, much of it brought by Lord Wyman Manderly from White Harbor, who had also brought the musicians that played. Hodor gleefully listens to the music, and Osha serves while Ser Rodrik and Luwin talk over Beth’s head, and Rickon screams happily with Little Walder and Big Walder; Bran did not want the Walders at the high table but was overruled by Luwin, who told him that Robb would soon marry a Frey as would his sister Arya (he tells Luwin that Arya never would). Bran always gets the first of a dish, and soon he is full, and had to nod approval. He also sent particularly dishes to specific lords as he had been told by Maester Luwin he must: the sad Lady Donella Hornwood, Umbers, Cley Cerwyn, Joseth the master of horse who had trained Dancer, sweets to Hodor and Old Nan, and, at Rickon’s insistence, the Walders.
Bran watches as one of Leobald Tallhart’s men puts a hand under Osha’s skirts and she break a flagon over his head. Mikken has a hand in a woman’s bodice but she does not seem to mind. He also sees Farlen makes his red bitch beg, Old Nan plucking at the crust of a hot pie, and Lord Wyman in a special wide chair attacking a plate full of Lampreys, and at the other end of the hall Hothen and Mors playing drinking games. It was getting too hot and noisy. He remembers the welcoming feast when King Robert arrives, and now all the faces were new; he liked Hayhead, Poxy Tym, Skittrick and the others well enough but missed his old friends: Jory Cassel, Tomard, and Porther, Alyn, Desmond, Hullen, Septa Mordane and Vayon Poole. He might have cried but he was the Stark in Winterfell.
The doors to the hall open and Alebelly leads in two new guests: Meera and Jojen Reed of House Reed from Greywater Watch. Big Walder mutters “frogeaters” and when Richon asks who they are Little Walder calls them “Mudmen,” continuing with “They’re thieves and cravens, and they have green teeth from eating frogs.” Ser Rodrik welcomes them as places are hurriedly prepared for them. Bran knows them as Crannogmen, from the Neck. Ser Rodrik tells Bran that Howland Reed was a great friend of his father and these are probably his children. Both are near Robb’s age, small and slender, and dressed all in green. The girl is armed with a woven net and long bronze knife with a shield on her back. They both kneel and the girl tells them that their father had sent them there to again say the words of fealty to the King of the North. Bran tells them that Robb is not there, so they say the words to him. Bran looks for words to repond and finally decides on “May your winters be short and your summers bountiful.” They ten tell Bran they had brought gifts of food, and Bran offers meat and mead of Winterfell to the children of his Father’s staunchest companions during the war for King Robert’s crown.
Jojen immediately asks where the direwolves are and Bran tells them that they are in the Godswood; Rickon adds that Shaggydog was bad. Little Walder warns them that they will bite, but Bran calms them by saying Summer will not and he will keep Shaggydog away; this is the first time the crannogmen had ever called on Winterfell, and he wanted to talk more.
The singers in the Great Hall sing of "The Night That Ended", where the Night's Watch rode forth to fight the Others in the Battle for the Dawn. Mors Umber is the first to start dancing after grabbing a serving girl, Hodor starts to dance by himself while Lord Wyman asked Beth Cassel to dance with him. Ser Rodrik approaches Lady Hornwood but she refuses. Bran watches for while, and when he thought he had waited long enough to be polite, called to Hodor to carry him out.
As they are leaving the hall, they come upon Joseth with a woman who was giggling with her skirts above her waist. She screams when she sees Hodor, who had stopped to watch. Bran tells Hodor to leave them and take him back to his chambers. After helping him with his boots and breeches, he tells Hodor he can go back to the feast. As he was in his bed in the darkness he remembers asking his father if the Kingsguard were the finest knights in the realm, and Eddard had replied, "No longer. But once they were a marvel, a shining example to the world." Bran asked who the best of them was, and Ned replied, "The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who would have killed me but for Howland Reed." His father had become sad then and would not speak any further. Later, Bran dreams through the eyes of Summer, and sees Meera and Jojen enter the godswood. When Jojen reaches out his hand to touch Summer, Bran loses contact and feels like he is falling again.