A Clash of Kings-Chapter 14
|A Clash of Kings chapter|
|Place||River and town south of the Gods Eye|
|Page||156 UK HC (Other versions)|
|Chapter chronology (All)|
Arya and the others decide to spend the night in the holdfast of an abandoned town on the southern shores of the Gods Eye. That night, Lannister raiders led by Ser Amory Lorch arrive to demand they open the gate. When Yoren refuses, a fight breaks out. As the battle turns against them, Yoren orders Arya to get the survivors out through an escape tunnel in the burning barn. Before escaping Arya throws an axe to the three criminals trapped in their wagon.
The river seems a peaceful place to Arya until Koss finds a soldier decomposing in the reeds. Yoren sends Dobber to search the body for valuables and, finding they cannot cross, he takes Koss upriver and sends Woth and Gerren downriver to look for a ford. While they wait, Lommy and Tarber go wading and throw mud at Hot Pie while Arya watches Kurz catch a fish with his hands, thinking it must be easier than catching cats.
The scouts return at midday to report only a burnt bridge. Drawing a map in the mud, Yoren explains that the river flows south from the Gods Eye. With no way to cross the river without abandoning the wagons, they cannot pass along the lake's western shore as planned, and going east will bring them back to the kingsroad. Yoren decides to go north to where the river meets the lake, sell all they have to hire a boat in the town there, and sail across the lake to Harrentown. There they can buy new mounts or take refuge at Harrenhal, the seat of Lady Shella Whent, a known friend of the Night's Watch.
Hot Pie worries about ghosts at Harrenhal, but Yoren only spits. Arya recalls Old Nan's stories about Evil King Harren and how Aegon unleashed his dragons to turn the castle into a pyre. Old Nan told that fiery spirits still haunt the castle and sometimes men who sleep there are found burnt alive in the morning, but Arya does not believe the stories. It will be knights at Harrenhal, not ghosts, and she can reveal herself to Lady Whent and maybe be escorted home.
They pass abandoned cottages and untended fields to find the town deserted as well, which frightens Arya when she wonders what scared the people away. Growing apprehensive, Yoren leaves ten recruits to guard the wagons and splits the rest up to search the town while he investigates the towerhouse. Woth once pulled an oar on a galley, so Yoren orders him to take Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy to search for boats.
The docks are empty except for a rotten rowboat, and Arya realizes the people took all the boats when they fled. Lommy and Hot Pie suggest they search a nearby inn for food and ale, but Woth insists on sticking to Yoren's orders. Despondent, Arya washes her face in the lake and wonders if she could swim all the way to Winterfell. Woth shouts at her to help search, so she does, but they only find some sails and nails.
It is dark when Yoren returns to report the towerhouse empty. He dismisses suggestions of patching the rowboat or building a new one, but he is intrigued by Gendry's idea of a raft. However, a raft would mean leaving the wagons and staying close to shore, so Yoren decides to sleep on it. Lommy asks if they can stay at the inn, but Yoren chooses the holdfast for its protective wall. Arya argues they should not stay at all since even the lord ran away. Lommy mocks her as scared, but Yoren declares her reasoning smart, except the Night's Watch takes no part and nobody is their enemy. Arya thinks that nobody is their friend either, but she remains silent to avoid seeming craven.
The holdfast is surrounded by a ten-foot wall of rough-cut stone with iron bars to brace the front gate. Besides the main gate, there is a postern to the north and a narrow tunnel that leads to the lakeshore hidden under the barn. Yoren has them park a wagon on the trap door to make sure nobody enters that way. He also assigns three watches and sends Tarber, Kurz, and Cutjack to keep watch from the towerhouse, telling Kurz to use his hunting horn if danger threatens. They drive their wagons and animals inside and bar the main gate. Dobber, Gendry, and Arya draw cook duty and Arya is set to pluck the goose and two chickens Koss brings in, while Gendry splits wood and Yoren sharpens his dirk. Everyone is quiet during the meal, even Lommy.
Arya draws second watch, but when sleep proves difficult she borrows Yoren's whetstone and hones Needle instead. Hot Pie asks where she got such a good sword, more politely than before and she admits 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 lies that they are all older, with longswords, and they taught her how to kill people who bother her. Hot Pie insists he was just talking, but then leaves her alone. Curling up on her pallet, Arya is annoyed by the crying girl, who is crying as usual.
Arya dreams of a wolf howling and wakes at once. Pulling on her boots, she asks if anyone else heard anything. Lommy mocks her for having wolves in her head, and Woth and Gerren assure her the wolves are safely outside. Arya insists there was a wolf, and before the others can shout her down they hear Kurz' hunting horn. In a heartbeat, everyone is dressing and arming themselves, while Arya rushes to the gate. As she passes the barn, Jaqen H'ghar calls out for her to free the criminals so they can fight, but she ignores him.
Climbing the parapet, Arya glimpses hundreds of men with torches setting fire to the town. Gendry asks how many there are, but they are moving too fast to count. Soon a column of riders approaches the holdfast. Arya thinks their banner might be red, but the fires turn everything red, orange, or black. Reining up before the gates, a knight in a spiked helm demands they open it in the name of the king. Reysen sarcastically asks which king, earning him a cuff from Woth.
When Yoren explains that the townsfolk are gone, the knight suggests Yoren might be one of Beric Dondarrion's men and Thoros of Myr could be hiding with them. Yoren insists he only has some lads for the Night's Watch and shows his black cloak as evidence, but the knight's banner-bearer insists it could be House Dondarrion's purple lighting bolt on black. Arya now recognizes the Lannister banner and remembers that Beric Dondarrion was the man her father sent out to behead Ser Gregor Clegane.
The knight demands they open the gate or be known as outlaws, but Yoren demands to know who is in command. A stout man with a manticore on his shield rides forward to introduce himself as Ser Amory Lorch, bannerman to Lord Tywin Lannister, and repeat the order to open the holdfast in the name of the true king, Joffrey Baratheon. Yoren says it does not matter to him if they burn the town, but his band are not their foes and should be left alone. Arya is bewildered that the raiders cannot see they are neither lords nor knights, but Gendry opines that they simply do not care. Looking at Ser Amory's face the way Syrio Forel taught her, Arya realizes Gendry is right.
Ser Amory insists his men be allowed to verify Yoren's story, but Yoren senses a trick and refuses again. Lorch's men mock the old recruiter, and Lorch commands a final time to open the gate. Yoren considers for a long moment before refusing again. Lorch declares them rebels, be they black brothers or not. Yoren informs Lorch that he has some young boys with him, but Lorch declares they will die just the same. He gives a languid signal and a spear hurtles toward Yoren, but kills Woth instead. Lorch orders his men to storm the walls and kill everyone. More spears fly, followed by torches.
Yoren commands them to spread out and hold the walls. Arya finds herself next to Hot Pie, who panics and says he does not know how to fight. Arya lies that it is easy and pushes aside a sudden terror to scream, "Winterfell!" and hack at the first hand to appear on the parapet. Warned by Hot Pie, Arya forces the next climber back off the wall. Following her example, Hot Pie hacks the hand of a third. Ser Amory and his men have no ladders, but the walls are rough enough to climb, so there is no end to the foes, and each man they defeat is immediately replaced.
Arya sees Yoren drive his dirk into the knight in the spiked helm, and watches Koss shoot down four axemen attacking the gate. She sees the Lannister banner again and wishes Joffrey was present for her to stab. Dobber wrestles a man of the walk and Lommy smashes his head, yet Lommy's celebration is cut short when he sees Dobber's body with the man's knife in his belly. She hears Qyle beg for mercy until a knight with a wasp sigil smashes his face with a spiked mace.
The smells of blood, smoke, iron, and piss blur together. Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie wrestle a skinny man to the ground. Gendry breaks his sword on the man's helm, which falls off to reveal an old, frightened face. Arya feels sorry for the man, even as she and Hot Pie are killing him. Gendry takes the man's sword and leaps down into the yard, looking for foes. Arya notices more enemies have invaded the holdfast and follows Gendry, but then she is uncertain which way to go, since death is all around her.
Suddenly, Yoren is shaking her. He declares that the battle is lost, and orders her to gather as many survivors as she can and escape through the tunnel under the barn. Quick as that, he storms off again to rejoin the fighting. Arya grabs Gendry and explains the plan. They call Hot Pie down from the walk and find Lommy bleeding from a spear wound in his calf. They find Gerren too, but he is too seriously wounded. The crying girl will not walk, even when slapped, so Arya has to drag her while the others race ahead.
The barn is on fire when she arrives, and Hot Pie urges her to just leave the girl behind, but Arya stubbornly continues to drag her. Hot Pie abandons them and scuttles back inside, but Gendry comes back to hoist the girl over his shoulder. The barn feels like a furnace. The back wall is ablaze and the animals are kicking and screaming. Inside their wagon, Biter and Rorge struggle frantically to get free while Jaqen H'ghar calls out to Arya in his friendly voice. The trap door is only a few feet ahead and the fire is spreading fast, which reminds Arya of the Hound's horrible burned face. Gendry wonders how to get the little girl through the narrow tunnel. Arya tells him to push her and asks where he left the axe. Eying the prisoners, Gendry says it is by the haven but he would save the animals first. Arya tells him to go ahead with the girl and goes to get the axe.
Outside, she sees Koss killed on the spot after he yields. There is no sign of Yoren, but the axe is where Gendry left it. As she wrenches it loose, a mailed hand grabs her arm. Spinning, she drives the axe up between the man's legs, then dashes back to the barn. With heavy smoke pouring out and the animals screaming within, going back into the barn is the hardest thing she has ever done. Inside, the roof has caught fire as well, and flaming bits of wood and straw are raining down. The smoke is so thick she cannot see the wagon, so she crawls toward Biter's screams.
Finding the wagon, she throws the axe in and runs for the tunnel. Rorge catches it and starts hacking at the wagon. Arya hears the wagon splinter just before she rolls headfirst into the tunnel. She drops five feet and gets dirt in her mouth, but she does not care. She has crawled only a dozen feet when she hears the barn crash, sending a cloud of hot smoke and black dust billowing up behind her, smelling of hell. She holds her breath and kisses the mud on the floor. Then she cries, but she does not know for whom.
References and Notes
- A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 7 Analyses and summary of the chapter by Leigh Butler.