?

Log in

onborrowedwings
15 April 2013 @ 10:57 pm
I've been meaning to do this for ages, so here it finally is!

Oneshots

Flight and Before the Dawn Light Breaks (Cut it out and then Restart AUs)
1. Flight - In which Sansa agrees to marry a Frey for the sake of her brother's alliance
2. Before the Dawn Light Breaks - In which they are late arriving to Riverrun.

The Truest Name She Ever Had
Inspired by GRRM's statement: ""Why, the Hound is dead, and Sansa may be dead as well. There’s only Alayne Stone."

A Time for Wolves
"It had started a week ago, a single voice raised at the moon."

Antigonish
"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away..."


Targaryen, they call him now
Jon, after the war.

Longer Works

All the Things She Never Said (and those she did)
She rides behind him on his big, badly tempered horse and wonders whether she made the right decision or not.

Cut it out and then Restart
Sansa leaves with Sandor Clegane the night of the Battle of the Blackwater and together they make their way to Riverrun to join her family. The road to redemption is never a simple one, and nor is it an easy thing to change one's fate.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27a
Chapter 27b
Chapter 28a
Chapter 28b
Chapter 29a
Chapter 29b
Chapter 30
Epilogue

When We Were Young
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved lemon cakes and fairytales, a girl who believed in true love and happy endings. This is not that girls story.

A modern AU set post A Dance with Dragons.

Prologue
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
 
 
onborrowedwings
07 February 2014 @ 10:38 pm
*peers around the corner and waves sheepishly*

I've been missing rather a long time, which is mainly due to some real life things that are going on, but I think I am finally ready to make my (triumphant?) return!

now to catch up on everything I have missed for.... Months?
 
 
onborrowedwings
18 November 2013 @ 10:02 pm

Part Seven

The next day, Arya takes leave of Lady Brienne's party.

"Won't you allow me to come with you?" Brienne asks her, "I will protect you, I swear it on my sword. I swore to serve your lady mother, and now I will make the same promise to you."

"And what about Ser Jaime and your promise to him?" Arya asks, "Shouldn't he know that you've fulfilled your quest?"

Brienne shakes her head sadly. "In the end I didn't do anything, it was you that saved me."

Arya shakes her head then, and smiles at the woman, the first time that she has really smiled in years. "You did more than you think," she tells Lady Brienne. "I plan to take a ship North to Eastwatch by the Sea to see my brother, Jon, and find out if he can help me. Then I'm going to go and take Winterfell back. If you truly wish to join me then meet me at Saltpans and we'll go together."

The swordswoman nods, and they part ways. Watching as the others gallop away, Arya is certain that when she arrives to Saltpans they will be there and waiting for her.

//

She heads towards the Inn at the Crossroads, stopping for the night when she's only a few miles away. Arya is excited to see Gendry, to finally be able to tell him that she's free, that they both are, but there is something that she needs to do first.

She settles herself down in a clearing and lights a small file, her horse tethered to a tree. Arya waits, as the fire crackles, and the moon rises, and an owl hoots softly overhead. The stars come out, the wind rustles through the trees, and Arya waits.

She is not surprised at all when she finally hears what she has been waiting for, the soft pad of paws upon the forest floor, the slight crunch of snow beneath them.

Nymeria steps into the light, walks towards Arya and sniffs her, the direwolf's soft muzzle nudging Arya's shoulder. Satisfied, she lies down, her head in Arya's lap.

Arya bends forward, winding her arms around Nymeria's massive shoulders, and kissing her head.

"It's time now," she tells Nymeria, "It's time for us wolves to go home."

//

When Arya rides into the yard of the Inn at the Crossroads the next day, Nymeria following a little way behind, the children scream and run into the house. They've never seen a wolf this size before, and all Arya can hope is that when Gendry sees Nymeria he won't react the same way.

The screams bring him running from the forge, a sword in hand, only to stop abruptly when he sees her. He stares at both her and the direwolf, but it is Arya that his eyes fix on at last, a fragile hope settling within them.

"You're here," Gendry says a little dumbly. "You're… you've left her. Is anyone coming after you?"

"I've left her." Arya confirms, dismounting and leading her horse forward, as Nymeria remains by the gate. "It's a long story, but I'm finally free. We're free. It's time to head North, to go home. I thought we could catch a ship from Saltpans up to Eastwatch by the Sea, to see my brother Jon. That's if… if you still want to come with me."

She is suddenly uncertain and awkward. Gendry was willing to go with her when she needed escape and protection, but now that she's once again in control of her destiny will he still agree, will he still want to remain with her?

He looks at her then, reaching towards her, as if to take her hand, before he abruptly drops it. "Of course," he says, and his voice chokes just a little. "Of course I'll come with you, Arya."

Hesitating, he finally reaches out for her, taking her hand in his lightly.

That he'd follow her anywhere remains unsaid.

She throws her arms around him then, allowing herself to feel relief at an anxiety she hadn't wanted to admit. The last remaining member of her pack, and Arya knows now that he'll be with her until the end, that they'll survive the long winter together. It feels good to know that she'll never have to be alone again, that there's someone who is hers.

She doesn't know if that's love, but it feels an awful lot like she thinks it should.

//

They ride fast for the coast, Nymeria running alongside.

They had not left the Inn at the Crossroads until almost the afternoon, as Gendry packed his things and they gathered provisions, discussing plans for the protection of the children. The refuge has been left in Jeyne Heddle's capable hands, though Arya hopes that the Brotherhood will send someone else to guard it in Gendry's place soon.

Every step their horses take sees them further away from the Brotherhood and Lady Stoneheart, and with every step the shadow upon her falls further away.

At night they take it in turns to guard the campsite, though Arya isn't sure why they bother now that Nymeria is with them. The direwolf has taken well to Gendry, though he remains slightly wary of the large beast. Arya had known that Nymeria would like him, direwolves can always tell when a person is trustworthy.

After his initial relief, Gendry is now strangely awkward with her as they make the journey towards the coast, sometimes reaching out to touch her only to seemingly change his mind. They don't talk much after Arya has explained how she came to leave Lady Stoneheart; their pace doesn't allow them to. There isn't time and it isn't the place, to ask him why he looks at her so longingly during the day but doesn't try to kiss her at night.

They arrive at Saltpans and Arya asks Nymeria to wait at the edge of the town until they have found Lady Brienne and secured a ship.

The first task does not take long, Lady Brienne and her squire have arrived the day before them though Ser Hyle is no longer part of their company, the swordwoman's distinctive figure ensuring that she is easily found.

Arya is surprised at the look that Brienne gives Gendry, a haunted expression in her eyes, but she welcomes him anyway, and orders another room at the Inn. Arya is to share with her, while Gendry and Pod will take the other.

The matter of a ship is more difficult, first to find one that is departing to Eastwatch by the Sea, and then to ensure that it will agree to carry a Direwolf. Eventually they secure passage on a ship headed to White Harbour, the Captain agreeing after Brienne has handed over a number of gold Dragons.

It is not Eastwatch by the Sea, and it is not all the way to Jon, but it is a start to the journey home.

"Wait until you see the North, Gendry," Arya tells him excitedly, "You've never seen snow like it, and the land, stretching on and on as far as you can see. We'll get to see the Wall too, where my brother Jon is the Lord Commander."

"I'd never seen snow at all until recently." Gendry replies. "There certainly wasn't any snow when I was growing up in Flea Bottom. Are we going to freeze to death up there?"

"Of course not, would my brother let us freeze?" Arya laughs her reply, "We'll both need warmer clothes though. Once we're back in Winterfell you'll be warm all year round, there's water piped through the walls from the hot springs."

"Of course," Gendry murmurs, staring stubbornly out at the ocean. "What would I know about the North anyway?"

He leaves abruptly, and Arya stares after him, wondering why he's behaving so stupidly.

Lady Brienne watches him go, before she comes to join Arya where she stands over the rail. "Does Gendry know who his father was?" Brienne asks, and Arya shakes her head.

"His mother worked in a tavern, and died when he was young. He never knew his father."

The swordswoman nods, takes a deep breath, and begins to speak.

//

When they arrive at White Harbour they are greeted warmly by the Manderly sisters, on behalf of their Lord Grandfather. Brienne is the one to perform the introductions, but once Nymeria has been revealed there is no doubt as to Arya's identity.

They send them on their way the same day, in the fastest ship that their fleet controls, promising to send a Raven to the Lord Commander on the Wall ahead of their arrival. It will only be a matter of days now before Arya finally sees her brother again, she can barely stay still at the thought of it, constantly fidgeting as she thinks about what she will say. All those years of waiting and longing without any hope at all, and soon almost everything that she had wished for will be granted. She thinks of Lady Stoneheart in the Riverlands then, and hopes that her vengeance will soon be fulfilled, that she may go to rest with her beloved husband. Perhaps when Arya has helped to win back the north she could raise an army to take South, to defeat the Freys once and for all.

Gendry has become more sullen and silent as the journey has progressed; even finally finding out who his father was has failed to improve his mood. Arya thinks she's figured out what's wrong, and it's time to make it right. He's always been a bit of an idiot about certain things, and she's just going to have to talk some sense into him.

She makes her move the night before they're due to land, sneaking out of the cabin that she shares with Lady Brienne, who is tossing fitfully in her sleep, once again murmuring the name that she says most often while dreaming. Arya knocks on the door opposite theirs only to have it opened by a sleepy Pod, who stares at her wide eyed when he sees who it is.

"Go and watch over Lady Brienne," Arya tells him, "I need to speak with Gendry."

"I don't think…" Pod starts to say, his eyes darting around, but one glare from Arya and he's quickly on his way.

She bars the door behind her and makes her way over to Gendry's bunk, where he's turned towards the wall, having slumbered through her appearance.

There is one lantern lit in the cabin, and the light it throws shudders as the ship rocks with the waves, shadows moving in patterns across his face. Seeing the set of his brow, Arya almost laughs, Gendry is stubborn even when he sleeps.

She lifts the covers and crawls into bed with him, hugging his back and slipping her small feet in between his to warm them.

He wakes suddenly, turning towards her quickly, their foreheads almost colliding before he sits up with a start, his head hitting the wall.

Gendry curses and Arya winces, this has certainly not started off the way she wanted it to.

"What are you doing here?" he hisses at her, rubbing the back of his head with his hand. "What if somebody sees you?"

"So what?" Arya replies nonchalantly, "Worried that someone will tell my brother?"

He glares at her then, shaking his head. "And if someone finds out that I've been found in bed with m'lady, then what? They'll string me up or force me to join the Night's Watch."

"Is that why you've been behaving like such an idiot?" Arya asks him, though she has suspected it for some time now. "You haven't talked to me properly since I came to find you at the Inn, you won't touch me unless you have to. You've been acting even more strangely ever since we reached Saltpans."

"You don't get it, do you?" Gendry shakes his head again, his hair falling into his eyes. He looks at her then and she sees the longing there, longing that he's tried hard to hide over the last few weeks. "Everything has changed. You're free and you're going back to your family, to your brother. You'll win back Winterfell and you'll be the Lady there and lords will be competing for your hand. Me? I'm still just the same bastard blacksmith that's not fit for anything more than forging your steel."

He looks away angrily then, his hurt apparent before he does, and Arya reaches out to touch him, her hand on his shoulder. He tries to shrug her off so she grabs him instead, her hand on his jaw to force him to turn to look at her.

"You stupid." Arya tells him, and leans forward to kiss him hard upon the lips. He tries to pull away but she keeps her hand to the back of his head to stop him, and tightens her grip upon his arm. It doesn't take Gendry long to forget his objections; he kisses her back frantically once he has started, his arms around her back, his kisses hot upon her skin once he leaves her lips. Arya has missed this, she's missed the closeness, she's missed being held and feeling that she is cared for.

"And what if you change your mind?" Gendry asks her, panting slightly as he breaks away from her. "What if they won't let you stay with me?"

"I'd like to see anyone stop me." Arya snorts, "Jon wouldn't dare, he knows what I'm like once I've decided something. If anyone else tries, then I'll simply tell them that we've shared a bed, then they'll have no choice except to marry us."

Gendry's face softens then as he looks at her, and he leans forward to kiss her once more upon the lips. "And would you like that?" he asks her, "To be my wife? Would you… would you want that?"

"Maybe," Arya admits, biting her lip. It's something that she hasn't thought about until now - marriage and maybe a family. They're still young, she's still young, but it doesn't seem like such a terrible thing if it should happen with Gendry. He would never try to rule over her or tell her what to do, they could get married and still be themselves. They could spend their lives together and he would always be hers. Maybe, Arya thinks, maybe someday soon.

"And what about our children?" Gendry asks then, a bitterness seeping into his voice. "Will their House name be Snow or Waters?"

"Maybe it can be Stark." Arya replies with a shrug, "Maybe we'll make that your name too. Maybe we'll call them Baratheon after your stupid drunk father."

"Just because Robert Baratheon was my father, doesn't give me a right to his name. Doesn't make me a prince or a lord. I'm still just a bastard, like I always was. Think about it Arya, think about it properly before you make a choice."

"I've made my choice," Arya tells him sincerely, "and it's you, you big stupid bull. You're my family, don't you see? You're my pack. You stood by me through everything that happened, and now we'll stand together always."

She doesn't know how to be any more romantic than that. Sansa would know the right words if she was here, but Arya doesn't. All she can hope is that Gendry understands what she means, that he'll know what she's trying to tell him.

"I love you, you know that?" he reaches his hands out to cup her face, then settles them on her shoulders. "I never had anyone of my own before, not since my mother died, and I barely remember her. I don't really know what it is that I should do to make you happy or how to be a husband, but I promise that I won't let you down."

Arya has known it, known it for many months now without ever putting a name to it. She finds that now that Gendry has finally said it, it is not so very difficult to call it by its proper name.

"And I love you, you idiot." she tells him, and her voice trembles only a little to say it. It is right, at this moment, and Arya has made her choice.

She made it a long time ago, though she never knew it until this moment.

//

When their boat arrives at Eastwatch by the Sea, Arya has to stop herself from jumping onto the dock before the plank has been put in place.

She restrains herself and waits until everything is in place, giving Gendry a significant look before they depart to ensure that he stays by her side, Lady Brienne and Pod following them.

As she steps onto the dock, Arya scans it desperately, looking for the one face that she has longed to see. There, striding towards her with Ghost by his side is Jon, such a look of joy on his face that she cannot help herself. Laughing, Arya begins to run, launching herself at him as he staggers back, catching her and hugging her tightly.

"I couldn't believe it when I read the message from White Harbour," Jon tells her when he has finally taken a step back to look at her. "All these years I feared you dead, and then that they had wed you to Ramsey Bolton, though we found out later that that was a lie. All these years and finally you're back with me again, my little sister." He reaches down, and ruffles her hair, just as he used to, just as she'd longed for him to, and Arya cannot control herself any longer as she breaks down in tears.

"There is so much to tell you," Arya says at last, "I wanted so badly to make my way back to you, but it was so very hard and it took me such a long time."

"And I have a great deal to tell you," Jon answers, a serious look upon his face. "But first there is something that you need to know, they would not have known yet at White Harbour when you left there. A week ago…"

"Arya!" The shout pulls Arya away from Jon, and she knows she must be dreaming, because it could not possibly be the voice that she thinks she's heard. She steps back, looking up the length of the dock, and almost falls over in shock.

Running towards her, her skirts gathered up in her hands to keep from tripping on them, is Sansa. Arya barely has time to process it before her sister barrels into her, throwing her arms around Arya, crying and babbling incoherently. Arya hugs her back, still in shock and wondering how this could ever be. Her sister, who had been taken from King's Landing by the Hound, missing for years now, and whom Arya had feared dead.

It is almost too much for Arya to cope with when another smaller figure throws themselves at her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

"Sansa? Rickon?" Arya exclaims, "But how? When? Sansa, I thought that the Hound had you, and Rickon, you were dead, Theon killed you!"

"I imagine that there will be many long stories to be told today." Jon remarks then, "But you're home now and we're all together and that's all that matters. That's all that matters."

Standing there on the dock, holding on tightly to the siblings whom she had feared forever lost to her, Arya finds that even after everything that has happened, that is truly all that does matter.

//

It takes hours for all the stories to be told, and it is late in the night before they all retire to sleep.

Gendry had stood tall beside her as he was introduced to her family, and Arya knows that he won't back down now, that when the right time comes he will press his claim for her. She feels a strange sort of pride in it, that one day soon they'll be each other's in the sight of all. Let any lords or kings try to stop her, Arya won't allow them to.

She had not known quite what to think when she was introduced to her new goodbrother, Sandor Clegane - The Hound, but no, he isn't that anymore. She had hated him once, hoped to kill him, and she still cannot quite believe that he is her sister's husband, the father of little Robb. Yet as Arya had listened to Sansa's story, she found that she could understand a little about how it had happened, that maybe Sandor Clegane is not the man that she used to think he was.

She has learned, after all, that people do not always get to choose for themselves whether they become killers.

Her own story had been difficult to tell, and Arya had faltered at times, particularly when she had to speak about Lady Stoneheart. In the end with only a few omissions the story was told, Gendry and Lady Brienne added to it when they were able, though Pod remained quiet, still uncomfortable to speak in a crowd.

Gendry sits by Arya's side, close enough to prompt questions, though nobody actually asks. It feels right, to sit here like this with her family around her and Gendry by her side. When Arya had begun her journey North she had never imagined that it could happen, that she could have not only Jon back, but Sansa and Rickon too. Bran is out there somewhere as well, the only one missing now, and Arya hopes that soon he will make his own journey home. It is more than she hoped for, more than she could ever have dreamt of.

When it comes time to sleep, Sansa speaks softly with her husband before handing baby Robb to him, standing on tiptoe to place a gentle kiss upon his cheek. Arya watches them and sees the unscarred side of Sandor Clegane's face soften, the way that he looks at her elder sister. Arya knows then, that while they may never be friends, she can accept him as her goodbrother, that in some strange way he makes Sansa happy.

"Arya and I will share a chamber tonight," Sansa announces, "Just as we used to."

It has been years since they last did so, back when they were little girls, when every member of their family was still alive. Arya finds that she likes the idea, and with a quick grin at Gendry, she follows her sister to the chamber chosen for her.

They settle under the covers, both silent for a moment as they struggle to decide what to speak of all that lies in their hearts.

"Our mother…" Sansa finally begins, "Is she… is there anything of her in Lady Stoneheart?"

"Very little," Arya whispers, "Though she has her memories, she is not our mother. I hope that the rest of her, all the good parts, are with Father. That's what she would've wanted."

Sansa suddenly grasps Arya's hand tightly with both of hers, a catch in her voice when she speaks.

"I'm so sorry, Arya. I'm so sorry about everything that happened, I'm so sorry that you were alone all these years. I had Sandor, no matter what happened, though it took some time for me to truly know it. You've had to deal with everything alone, had to see and do so many terrible things, and our mother…"

Arya squeezes her sister's hand and shakes her head. "I wasn't alone, there was always Gendry with me. He tried to look after me, always did whatever he could. There were only those last months near the end when I was truly alone."

Sansa is thoughtful then, still holding onto Arya's hand lightly. "Gendry… do you love him, Arya?"

"Yes." Arya admits, and Sansa smiles, a joyful smile. It is a sign of how much they have both changed, once Sansa would never have smiled at the idea of Arya loving a bastard blacksmith except perhaps to mock her, now she has no problem with the notion.

"Good," Sansa replies, "I'll speak to Jon about it. We'll get you married before anyone can object."

Arya finds that she quite likes that idea. She is certain, as certain of this as she has ever been of anything. It is the right decision, it is what she wants.

She nods, and yawns, wanting to keep speaking to her sister but desperately tired after all the excitement of the day. Arya is almost ready to fall asleep when she hears Sansa speak again, her voice quiet now, thoughtful.

"You and I, we have taken such different paths and made such different choices, but in the end they have brought us back here, together again."

"They were the right choices then," Arya says sleepily, "We're family, a pack. Father told me once that while the lone wolf dies in Winter, the pack survives, and now we will survive together. We were always making our way back to each other, even when we didn't know it."

It is not only chance that have brought them back here, arriving within a week of each other. As Sansa had said, it was the choices they each made that brought them together once more, and Arya senses that a time of change is coming, a new era for her family.

She closes her eyes then, shifting closer to her sister as she prepares to sleep, still holding her hand. There is still much to say and many decisions to be made, but they have time now, now that they are together once more.

In her short life she has been given many names, her identity almost lost at times as she struggled to survive, the pull of death and vengeance nearly consuming her. Here, surrounded by the remaining members of her family, Gendry close by and promised as hers, Arya feels the shadows upon her slowly receding as she shakes them off one by one.

Here and now she is only Arya, her true self reclaimed once more, her future in front of her. She is no more simply a daughter of death, a vengeful spirit. She is flesh and blood and love and dreams and strength.

Arya places one hand upon her chest, feeling the steady beat of her heart beneath her fingers, and allows its rhythm to lull her to sleep.

There is much to do, and a long road ahead of her, and she must rest in order to walk it.

There is time for rest now, time to recover herself, to bring back all the scattered pieces and put them into a new order.

Now it is time now to live, and Arya shall not be left behind.

****

Author's Note: And there it is. I know I promised to post this quickly and I apologise for the delays in between – real life got the best of me at times, as did my tendency to over-edit. I would like to give heartfelt thanks to my beta reader kimberlite8, without whom this story would be a bit of a mess, and to kylathelurker, who believed in this story when I was doubtful if it would ever see the light of day.

This story does take place in the same universe as All The Things She Never Said (and those she did), taking place in parallel and ending roughly a week after the first story. The idea for Carved From Stone was first born while I was writing All the Things, I couldn't help wondering what would happen to Arya in a world where a Blackwater AU takes place and Sandor Clegane is never captured by the Brotherhood? She was heading back to them when the Hound had found her, what then would have been her fate? I don't pretend that this is canon compliant but it was a fascinating idea to explore. That said, they can each be read in isolation.

Thank you to everyone who's been along for the ride or left reviews on the story, it has meant a great deal to me and I hope you enjoyed it!
 
 
onborrowedwings
09 November 2013 @ 08:14 pm

Fic: Carved From Stone 6/7
Pairing: Arya/Gendry



Part Six

Somehow it is different now.

Arya cannot say quite how, but she feels as if some of Lady Stoneheart's power over her is now gone, as if she has finally let go of the last ties that connected her to her mother's ghost.

She remains with the Brotherhood without Banners, and accompanies them on their missions, but now Arya chooses what she does and does not do, chooses which battles she fights in. They do not realise it yet, but she chooses all the same.

Arya knows that Lady Stoneheart's vengeance will never end unless somebody stops her, but Arya now believes that she cannot simply wait for that day. She doesn't want to grow old killing Freys. Her list will remain, her vengeance will remain, but that doesn't mean that life should stop until her work is completed. The North is waiting for her, Jon is waiting for her, perhaps somewhere out there even Sansa is waiting for her.

Gendry is certainly waiting for her, and for his sake as much as for her own, Arya has to try.

Almost as if they have sensed the change in her, that she is ready for them once more, the wolf dreams begin again.

For the longest time there has simply been darkness when she closed her eyes and the first time that she dreams of them, Arya wakes crying for joy.

Nymeria, she wants to call out, but the camp sleeps and Arya does not wish to wake them.

Nymeria, Nymeria, Nymeria, she chants within her head the next day, another secret for her to keep that nobody else will know. She waits until night falls, until the hour when she may sleep, to once again close her eyes and dream of running in the woods beneath the sliver of a moon.

In the dream, she tugs at her direwolf's consciousness, urging her to run, to run as fast as possible, towards the girl who loves her so. In the dream, Arya feels Nymeria respond, feels her turn under the light of the moon, her face lifted to sniff out Arya's scent.

Arya wakes again, and knows that it will not be long now. She understands that Nymeria never forgot her, never blamed her for the rocks. Her direwolf has been waiting for this day, just as Arya has.

It will not be long now, and when Nymeria arrives then Arya knows that nobody will be able to stop her from leaving, that it will finally be time for her to return North. Together they will reclaim her family's home and defeat the Boltons, whether with an army of men or with an army of wolves called by Nymeria's, they will have their justice there.

It is enough for Arya to be able to start in this way. She hopes that it will be enough for Lady Stoneheart too.

/

Arya has just returned from foraging for firewood when she hears excited shouts coming from the direction of the camp. Gripping her bundle with one arm, she places the other on Needle's hilt, ready to fight if it is necessary.

It is not necessary though; the shouts are from their own men, jeering as prisoners are led into the camp. Arya watches as they are led past, a man and a boy who make their way on foot and another man who is draped over the back of a horse, clearly injured and apparently unconscious. Jeyne Heddle walks next to the horse, glancing now and again at the prisoner.

Placing her bundle down, Arya steps closer to inspect the newcomers, wondering which House they belong to. At first glance, none of them appear to be Frey, or Bolton, or Lannister men by the colours they wear. Moving closer, Arya hears the man on foot trying to cajole the Brotherhood members into letting him go, promising all types of riches to them if they do. The boy is silent, his head down and his gaze directed at the ground. To Arya's eyes, he seems to be around the same age that she is, and she is surprised by how well he holds himself, by how little fear he shows.

He reminds her of another boy, who didn't deserve to die.

The figure on the horse groans, clearly in pain, and the boy suddenly looks up. "Ser? My lady?" He starts to move towards the injured prisoner only to be shoved back by one of the Brotherhood.

Surprised by his exclamation, Arya moves forward with steady purpose, now seeing with clear eyes. She walks up to the horse and leans down to peer into the face of the body that hangs limply over its back, realising with a start that it really is a woman, the largest she's ever seen.

The woman groans again, her eyes suddenly opening, vague and unfocused. "Jaime…" she calls out, and then "My sword! Please give me my sword!"

Arya looks up, turning towards Jeyne. "Who is she? What did she do?"

"She saved us." Jeyne answers, her voice serious, "Two of the Mountain's men came to the Inn, they would have killed us for sure had she not intervened. She was asking about the Hound and your sister when they arrived. She fought bravely, and killed one, the other nearly did for her until Gendry finished him off."

"Gendry, is he…"

"He's fine, it is only the lady who was wounded. I have tried to tend her, for all the good it will do her now."

Arya looks into Jeyne's face and sees that they share the same thought, that all the care given to the prisoner will mean nothing if Lady Stoneheart wishes to hang her.

"But why have they been brought here? What has she done wrong?"

"Hear her calling out, the name she says? That's the Kingslayer she calls for. She's a Lion this one, or at the very least a Lion's whore."

A Lion, and Arya knows that soon this lion will also hang upon a tree.

/

Jeyne returns to the Inn at the Crossroads, and the prisoners are left with the Brotherhood without Banners, to stand trial once the swordswoman has recovered.

Arya discovers the names of the prisoners from the boy – the man is Ser Hyle Hunt, while the boy is Podrick Payne, squire to the lady who wavers in and out of consciousness, Brienne of Tarth.

The large swordswoman fascinates Arya, she is the first woman that Arya has encountered who has openly pursued a path of swordsmanship. She reminds Arya of the life that she used to dream of, a life of adventure and heroism. This woman had saved the lives of all those at the Inn and defeated two of the Mountain's men, surely a heroic act. Yet Arya listens as the men call Lady Brienne the Kingslayer's whore, and a traitor besides, and wonders where the truth lies.

"Are you Lions?" Arya asks Podrick Payne, "Do you serve the Lannisters?"

The boy gets a stubborn look on his face, his lips pressed firmly together. "I serve my lady," he announces, "I served Tyrion Lannister once, as his squire. But he left and never took me with him. I serve my lady now."

Arya gets the story out of him in bits and pieces as he stutters and starts. Of how Tyrion Lannister was accused of killing Joffrey, only to disappear before his execution could take place. Of how Podrick Payne had seen Ser Jaime Lannister send Lady Brienne on a quest, and followed her to see if she would lead him to his old master.

"But my lady wasn't looking for him, it was the girls she sought."

"What girls?" Arya asks him, frowning.

"The Stark girls. My lady had made a promise to Lady Catelyn, to return her daughters; only they were gone when she arrived to King's Landing. Ser Jaime made a promise too. We were searching for them, to save them if we could, only nobody had seen them. My lady isn't a Lion, she isn't. She never forgot her vows."

Arya has become still, her face a mask as she listens to him. Could it be true, that Lady Brienne was on a quest to save her and Sansa, or is it a Lannister trick? According to Podrick, Lady Brienne had once served her lady mother and promised to bring her daughters back to her.

Arya finds it funny that now when Lady Brienne has actually found her, it's she herself that needs saving.

/

For two days, Lady Brienne wavers between life and death. Arya wonders if it might not be kinder if she was to die now in her sleep. No matter what the truth of her quest is, it is likely she will be killed anyway, strung up to hang from a tree, and Arya thinks that it is a sad end for such a lady. There is nobody here who can help her.

Nobody except Arya, and she doesn't know if she wants to. She doesn't know if she can.

Yet Arya remembers Olyvar Frey, who never betrayed her family but died anyway. She remembers watching him kicking at the end of his rope, and wonders if she could watch it happen again, to this lady warrior and her companions.

Arya had promised herself that she would no longer turn away.

On the third day, Lady Brienne wakes gasping, her gaze darting around the cavern in which she's been placed to recover. Her eyes fix upon Thoros first, where he sits near her pallet, missing Arya where she crouches in the shadows.

Arya watches as they converse, as the woman asks for her sword once more, as she has a dozen times a day since she was brought there. She waits and watches and listens, trying to judge the truth in Lady Brienne's words before she speaks to her herself. Arya waits until Thoros goes to fetch some food, and then she steps forward into the light, padding forward on soft feet.

"Lady Brienne." Arya says, coming to stand near where the woman sits upon the pallet, obviously light headed from her injuries and lack of food.

"You are young to be part of a band of outlaws," the woman comments, "Is it possible that there may be more honour in you than the others? If there is, then convince them to spare the boy at least, he has done no wrong."

"And have you?" Arya asks her, "Did you betray Lady Catelyn Stark as they say you did?"

"Never," Lady Brienne responds vehemently, "I swear it upon my sword. I set out to take Ser Jaime to King's Landing, to exchange for her daughters, but by the time we arrived they were both gone, the youngest possibly long dead. Ser Jaime had made her a promise and even after we heard that Lady Catelyn was dead he sent me to fulfil it and gave me my sword, Oathkeeper. I swore I would find them and take them to safety."

"But the Kingslayer is a Lannister, an enemy of the Starks."

"He is not what he once was. He is changed, I swear it! He saved me when they would have raped me, and he came back for me, even when there was no need. He swore that he would never again raise arms against Stark or Tully. He is not Lady Catelyn's enemy."

Arya thinks about it, there is truth in the woman's words. She looks into that wide, honest face and has a difficult time believing that Lady Brienne would lie. But that is not enough, and Arya needs to know the entire truth before she can judge whether Lady Brienne is guilty of betrayal or not.

"Tell me." Arya commands her, "Tell me everything that happened, from the time you left Lady Catelyn at Riverrun. If you're telling the truth then I will try to help you. If you lie to me though, I will help them to string you up."

And so Lady Brienne begins to speak, pausing only when Thoros returns with some food, speaking around bites and gulps, seemingly as aware as Arya is that her time may be growing short. Thoros leaves them, a thoughtful look on his face as he watches Arya listen to the woman's tale. When it has all finally been told, Lady Brienne takes a deep breath, seemingly exhausted by the effort, and Arya is silent for a long moment, mulling her decision.

It may be the wrong one, perhaps she will never be sure, but she thinks she knows now what it is that she needs to do.

"You have been successful in your quest." Arya tells the swordswoman quietly, stepping forward into the lamplight. "At least in one part of it."

Lady Brienne opens her mouth to respond, her face contorted in confusion, before she stops and really looks at Arya. A sharp intake of breath, and Arya knows that she has understood.

"The younger girl? Arya Stark? Everyone believes you dead. I never thought to find you, it was your sister whose trail I followed. But how do you come to be here, with these outlaws?"

Arya ignores Lady Brienne's question, pressing on with her own. "And did you find Sansa? Did you find out where the Hound took her?"

Lady Brienne shakes her head sadly, "The trail has long since gone cold, it has been far too long since they left King's Landing. I heard that they were seen riding towards Saltpans, perhaps towards a ship there. I had hoped to go there next, to ask if any remembered them. But you, my lady, at least I have found you." Brienne's face crumples then, ashen beneath the bandage on her cheek. "Though I find that now that I have, I have no way of saving you."

It has been a long time since Arya has seen justice, or loyalty, or honour. She has had little enough experience of friendship or love or courage lately either. Yet as she looks at this woman, she feels as if the light is slowly coming back to her, as if suddenly a chance has come to make it all alright. Lady Brienne is everything that Arya once dreamed of being, and Arya cannot let her die.

"It's alright," Arya says simply, feeling a strange sense of calm. "I've got a lot of experience in saving myself."

/

It does not take long for the Brotherhood to bring Lady Brienne and her companions to trial. As soon as they realise that she has awoken and eaten, she is summoned to face Lady Stoneheart, Ser Hyle and Podrick Payne with her.

"They will hang me," Lady Brienne whispers frantically to Arya as she walks alongside, "But I am glad to have seen you alive before they do. Please, convince them to spare Pod if you can. He is just a boy, he does not deserve this."

"I will do what I can." Arya promises, and she knows that it will be more than she has ever tried to do before.

Arya waits until the right moment. Until Lady Stoneheart has spoken, and accused Brienne and her companions, until Lady Brienne has spoken her piece, until the verdict has been pronounced and an ultimatum given.

Arya wonders at Lady Brienne's refusal to kill Ser Jaime even under threat of death. Despite having heard the story of the changes in him she still can't believe that he would inspire such loyalty. But loyalty won't save Lady Brienne or Ser Hyle, or the boy. Arya looks towards Thoros for support, but he stands towards the back of the crowd, sadness written across his face, already distancing himself from the outcome.

No, if anyone is to save Lady Brienne then it will have to be Arya.

Arya waits until Lady Stoneheart has spoken the sentence and then steps forward.

"She's innocent," Arya announces, "And I won't let you hang her."

"Hush milady, your mother has decided their fate." Harwin says, taking a warning step towards her.

Arya looks around at all of them, accusation clearly written in her gaze as she meets theirs, one by one. "I remember when the Brotherhood believed in justice, when we had real trials, not these mock ones. I remember when a prisoner was allowed trial by combat."

"That was before." Lem says, "We follow Lady Stoneheart's justice now."

"It's not justice, and you're not a Brotherhood." Arya spits out, "Just worms, hiding in the ground and living off corpses. If any of you are man enough, then come and face me. I'll fight you, and I'll kill all of you if I have to but you're not hanging her."

"Arya," Lady Stoneheart hisses, "You would betray me, as this traitor did? She has embraced our greatest enemies and forgotten her vows."

"No, I am not betraying you. I've heard her story and I believe her, she never betrayed you, she was trying to fulfil her promise to you and save your daughters even now, that's what brought her here. She doesn't deserve to die, none of them do. It's us who have forgotten our vows, everyone here has forgotten what they promised to uphold. Even you, Mother."

It is the last time that Arya will ever call her that, but today she hopes that it rings true. "Except you're not my mother, because Lady Catelyn Stark would've made certain there was a proper trial before pronouncing a sentence. This is wrong, just like it was wrong to kill Olyvar Frey when he hadn't harmed us. I won't let you do this, I won't let you spoil my mother's name with this death. Kill Freys and Boltons and Lannisters all you want, but Lady Brienne is under my protection."

Lem laughs mockingly at that, "And how are you going to stop all of us, when we go to string up the big ugly wench? You think you can take us all on?"

"No," Arya replies challengingly, "Only one of you, in single combat. I'll be her champion, if I win then you let them go. If I fail then at least I won't be alive to see you all lose whatever honour you have left. If any of you have any courage, then come and challenge me."

She pulls out Needle, moving into a water dancer stance.

It has been a long time, a very long time, since Arya has fought for anything worthwhile. As she stands there, staring Lem in the face, she feels more alive than she has in years. This is what she was made for, this is how she should be living.

"My lady, no, you don't have to…" Brienne starts to say, but Arya silences her with a look.

"Yes. I do."

The Brotherhood looks towards Lady Stoneheart, as it has ever since her resurrection. It is a long moment before their leader finally speaks.

"We will deal with this once and for all. Thoros, you will fight my daughter, but she is not to be harmed."

Arya's eyes turn towards Thoros where he stands at the very edge of the circle of light the torches create, his robes hanging loosely around him, a shadow of his former self.

Thoros looks at her, then back at Lady Stoneheart, and finally shakes his head. "No." he says, and turning around, walks off into the night.

There is silence among the Brotherhood as they look at each other in discomfort.

"I'll do it then." Lem announces, pulling his sword roughly from its sheath and glaring down at Arya. "I'll try not to hurt you, since it's Lady Stoneheart's orders, but I hope you're prepared to bleed a little for the Kingslayer's whore."

Arya smiles. She's never been afraid of a little blood.

A circle is cleared around them, the Brotherhood's members forming the edges, and Arya shifts from foot to foot, ensuring that she is ready. She has not had a chance to dance properly in so very long.

Lem is the first to move, lunging at her, putting far too much of his strength into it, and Arya sidesteps it easily. She allows him to chase her, dancing out of his reach easily, as he chases and swears, growing more tired with every move.

Arya knows how to wait for the right opportunity, she hasn't forgotten anything that Syrio Forel taught her no matter how many years have passed. She waits and watches, and anticipates his moves.

Seizing the right moment, she slashes at Lem, cutting him across the right thigh, and jumping back as he curses foully and tries to reach for her.

"I'll get you for that you little bitch!" he howls, seeming to have forgotten his promise to Lady Stoneheart.

Arya continues the dance, ducking in when she's able to make shallow cuts across Lem's body as he becomes more and more enraged, his own attempts increasingly clumsy. She can hear shouts in the background but she blocks them out, unwilling to allow her attention to be diverted.

"I should've killed you when you broke my nose." Lem threatens her, and Arya waits until he's just distracted enough to make a deeper cut to his abdomen.

He doubles over, screaming, holding the flesh together in an attempt to stop the blood and falling to his knees.

"Kill me then," he spits out at her, "Be done with it."

"No," Arya replies. "I won't."

She cleans Needle on her tunic before sheathing it, even as two of the Brotherhood members step forward to help Lem.

"I won. They're free to go." Arya announces to the crowd. There is silence as everyone waits, even Lady Brienne and her companions, to see if anybody will challenge her.

Arya looks towards Lady Stoneheart and waits, her eyes fixed on the dead woman's face until slowly, she gives one firm nod.

"Let them go," the sound whistles through Lady Stoneheart's throat. "You have challenged me today, daughter. You have stopped my revenge. You will not do so again in future."

"No, I won't." Arya confirms, her eyes darting to the remaining brotherhood members then back to Lady Stoneheart. "Because I'm leaving, and nobody here is going to stop me."

"No." Lady Stoneheart hisses, "My daughter…"

"I was Lady Catelyn Stark's daughter, and Lady Catelyn Stark is dead." Arya interrupts her. "You want revenge for our family and I pray that we will have it one day, I promise you that I will not rest until they are avenged. But I want to live as well, I want to go back to Winterfell, I want to see Jon and to try and find Sansa. I'm going to reclaim our home from the Boltons who have taken it and I'm going to make them pay for their treachery. I'll carry out our revenge there, Lady Stoneheart, I will have vengeance from the Boltons. I'll make them pay, but I'll do it on my own terms."

It seems to take an eternity for Lady Stoneheart to respond, the seconds ticking by like hours before she gives a nod of assent, a long sigh whistling through the wound in her throat. "Go then, my daughter. Go and make them pay."

Arya steps forward, one step in front of the other, until she has reached her goal. She thinks of all those many months ago, when she had wished to be back with her mother. She thinks of standing on the bank of the Trident River and looking down at the body that had washed up, and wanting only to bring her to life once more.

She leans forward and kisses Lady Stoneheart's dry, papery cheek.

"I will make you proud, Mother," she whispers into one ear.

Arya hopes that somewhere it may bring Lady Catelyn Stark's soul some peace.

 
 
onborrowedwings
14 October 2013 @ 09:13 pm

Part Five

The boy’s name had been Olyvar.

Arya learns it three days after his death, from Thoros of Myr. He had been her brother’s squire and when the Freys had broken with the Stark’s after Robb’s marriage he had begged to be allowed to stay.

“She shouldn’t have killed him,” Arya needs to say it out loud to somebody, but there is less bite in it than there should be, and more tiredness. How can she fight, when there is nothing left to fight for?

“It is not for us to judge her, not when the Red God has given life to her once more. It is His will that occurs.” Thoros replies quietly, his eyes sadder than Arya remembers ever seeing before.

“I don’t like your God,” Arya tells Thoros. “Our Old Gods, they wouldn’t have done this. They know that what’s dead should stay that way. They wouldn’t make someone like this. Your Red God can go to the Seven Hells and burn there with his fires.”

She stalks away angrily from him, and they do not speak again for a week. It isn't too much of a change, Arya does not speak to anybody much anymore, and nobody talks to her.

He was just a boy after all, and he had loved her brother. Perhaps Robb had loved him a little too.

This might have been revenge, but it certainly wasn’t justice, it wasn’t the vengeance that Arya had once hungered so desperately for. She is convinced that Robb would not have wanted Olyvar killed, that he would have been horrified at what they have done. A boy that would have served her brother to the very end and they strung him up and let him die because of the House he was born into.

Arya finds that she has a hard time eating, that she wants to sleep all the time, that when she opens her eyes in the morning it seems like there is no reason to get up at all. She begins refusing food, begins refusing to go on any expeditions, refusing to do anything besides lying on her side under the Hollow Hill, staring out towards where the entrance lies.

Two weeks pass like this, with little reason to even try anymore, when Arya is suddenly roughly hauled to her feet by Thoros, who pulls her along towards a nearby stream, largely unresisting.

“Wash yourself,” he tells her, “And change your clothes. I’ll be waiting for you closer to the cave.”

Arya does as he says, more because there is no point to resistance than for any other reason. She finds as the water washes over her that she does feel a little better, a little more alive.

Bathed and dressed, she walks back towards the Hollow Hill, turning onto the path only to find Thoros holding a horse, packs laden to its back.

“Are you…” Arya begins to say, a faint spark in her chest as she begins to think of escape.

“Go to the Inn at the Crossroads for a few days,” Thoros tells her, “Spend some time with Gendry and the orphans. I’ve gotten Lady Stoneheart’s permission for you to take them supplies. Don’t think about escaping though, she won’t be so merciful this time towards anyone that helps you.”

Arya nods. It was too much to expect, too much to hope for, but she’ll take whatever she can get. She’ll be able to see Gendry again, to spend a few days with him, to be able to remember for just a little while who she really is.

She doesn’t thank Thoros. One right thing doesn’t make up for all the wrong he’s stood aside and allowed to happen.

//

It is evening by the time Arya arrives at the Inn at the Crossroads. The light is fading and there is a red tinge to the sky as she jumps off her horse, leading it forward and handing over the reins to one of the older orphan girls, Willow.

The children here remember her even though she doesn’t come often, and don’t seem to mind her as much as adults do. Maybe they haven’t heard the stories. Maybe they all just got used to death at a much younger age than usual, and what’s she’s done doesn’t seem that important to them.

Arya can hear the ring of hammer on steel coming from the forge and it makes her own self hum a little in preparation. It has been months now… she can’t remember how long exactly, three months at least since she’s seen him.

It is a long time to be without a friend.

For a moment Arya pauses in the doorway, watching him as he works. He has stripped down to breeches and his apron in order to work and she can see how strong he is, by the muscles in his back as he strikes the steel. He would protect her if Arya would let him, even if he had to die trying.

Arya knows that, but she’ll never ask him to. She can protect herself after all.

Quiet as a mouse, she tip toes into the forge, almost reaching him before some instinct warns him and he turns around to face her.

Gendry stares at her, as if he can’t believe she’s really there.

“Arya, you’re…” he begins to say, and reaches out a hand, touching her arm as if to check she’s real. His fingers catch on her sleeve and he holds it, between thumb and forefinger, as if reluctant to let go.

For a long moment he just looks at her, as if taking in the sight of her, and then his gaze flicks outside to the yard.

“Where are the others?” he asks, “They never let you… have you escaped? We can go quickly if we need to, we can leave right now.”

Arya realizes that maybe he’s been waiting since the day they sent him away, waiting for a moment when she might run and come here, holding himself ready for it.

Arya shakes her head slowly, twists her wrist around so that her hand comes up to cover his, without pulling her sleeve from his grasp.

“Thoros sent me with supplies. He got permission, he knew that I needed to come. It’s been… it’s been hard.”

Those words are difficult enough for Arya to say, after months upon months of nobody to talk to. She doesn’t know how she’ll say the rest to him, about everything that has happened, about how she’s been sinking slowly.

Gendry reaches out with his other hand and grips her shoulder, his fingers digging into the flesh there, hard and bruising.

Arya doesn’t mind, it’s been a long time since she’s been touched at all.

“I’ll get us some food,” he tells her. “We can eat in the stables and talk. There’s so many children in the house, I sleep there usually just to get some peace.”

Arya nods, and they walk together from the forge, one of his hands hovering just behind her back, as if to guide her.

//

In a dark loft in the stables, he holds her.

The hay is clean, and down below the horses are whickering softly, almost ready to sleep, as a light rain falls upon the roof. Arya can’t remember the last time she felt so peaceful, maybe not since Winterfell.

They had eaten first, and he had told her about his work at the Inn, about the orphans, about the steel that he forged. He had spoken measuredly, watching her, speaking just enough until she was ready to begin her own story.

Finally when the food was done and when silence had fallen between them, she had begun to speak. She had told him everything, the words spilling out of her one by one, unable to be stopped. She had even told him things that she hadn’t meant to, about how alone she had been, about how recently she had lost all hope, about her fear that much like her dead lady mother, her heart too was turning to stone.

At the end, when she couldn’t speak anymore he had reached out and pulled her to him, holding her closely as she placed her head against his chest and listened to his heartbeat.

He had lowered them both into the straw, her body against his as he kept one hand clutching her arm, another on her hair. It has grown in recent months, and Arya wonders idly if he’s noticed. It’s been so long since Yoren first cut off her hair now that she’d almost forgotten what it was like to have it so long.

They are silent for a long time, and Arya has almost begun to drift off to sleep before he speaks.

“Run from here,” Gendry whispers to her, lifting a hand from where it grips her shoulder to push her hair back from her face. “I’ll stay here, try to delay them. I can give you a horse, whatever coin there is. Go as far away as you can, across the Narrow Sea, and don’t ever come back.”

She’s thought about it, thought about the coin that Jaqen gave her, about the promise of help in Braavos. Arya has thought about it over and over again and tried to imagine a future in which it could work, in which nobody dies from trying to help her, in which they can both get away.

But what would she do in Braavos after all? Arya no longer needs any help in learning how to kill, the ghost of her mother has taught her everything she might ever wish to know.

And Gendry… if she was to leave then Lady Stoneheart wouldn’t spare him this time, he would be killed for sure.

“I won’t let them kill you too,” she whispers fiercely, clutching him. “You’re the only one I have left, Gendry. She won’t take you from me.”

“They’ll be coming for you in a couple of days, by then you could be miles away if you wanted to be,” he protests. “I’ll be fine, I can protect myself.”

Maybe that’s true, but without him… Arya feels a pang at that. She doesn’t want to be the lone wolf anymore, doesn’t want to spend her whole life on the run with nobody she can trust. She has learned what loneliness really is in these long, dark months as she lived without trust or friendship.

“No,” she says with a sudden finality. “I can’t run. I’ll go back to her again, but I have tonight here, and maybe one or two more days too.”

It’s more than she’s dared hope for, in these last hopeless months.

Arya remembers a time when she was fearless, except that she never really was. There had been times that she was afraid even when her father was alive, though she had tried to pretend otherwise.

But the time to pretend is over. She’s not that little girl anymore, and Arya knows that these days what she fears most of all is becoming like Lady Stoneheart, with only hatred and revenge to live for, empty in her heart.

If there’s anything left for her to fight for now, it’s to stop that happening.

She lifts her face and presses her lips against Gendry's awkwardly.

Once upon a time, Septa Mordane had given her and Sansa lessons on such things, on not allowing men liberties, but Arya expects that Septa Mordane is long dead along with all the rest of them, all those stupid lessons for nothing.

Arya isn’t sure exactly what she’s doing, but she’s seen innkeeper’s daughters and whores do it to men in the inns they sometimes stay at upon the road. She knows what it is that happens between men and women, though she might not know exactly how it occurs. She’s seen enough to know.  She knows far more than she ever wanted to due to what she witnessed at Harrenhall.

But this wouldn't be like that, this is Gendry, and he would never hurt her.

She is tired, and cold, and there is a hole in her chest where her heart used to be; and Gendry is the only one she has left, the only one that still treats her like she’s alive, and that there’s some part of her left that’s not just hate and grief and killing.

She doesn’t know what that feeling is or what it's called, doesn’t know what she wants from him, but she wants to kiss him, wants to lie with him in the loft and hear the rain on the thatch of the roof and pretend that she won’t have to go back to Lady Stoneheart soon, for another round of vengeance and death.

He is stunned for a moment, still, and then he reacts, pressing his lips to hers and pulling her closer to him, one hand on her back and the other moving to tangle in her hair, kissing her eagerly.

Their noses bump and their teeth clash and neither of them are sure where they should put their hands but it is nice to be touched and Arya finds the sensation warm and comforting, and for the first time in a very long time, she feels as if she’s alive, as if she's a girl like any other.

He breaks off from her suddenly, separating his body from hers and panting heavily and Arya thinks she knows why he’s done so.

“Do you want to…” she starts to say, reaching out to touch him and he curses, sitting up abruptly and placing his head in his hands; she can see it in the low light, her eyes having adjusted. “Gendry…” she says quietly, unsure exactly what it is that he’s so unhappy about. “Lady Stoneheart, she won’t know.”

“It’s not that,” he turns back to her, reaches out with his hand and finds hers in the dark. “You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re a highborn, and me, I’m just a bastard. You aren’t meant to… you were never meant for me. Lady Stoneheart, she can’t last forever. You’ll be free and then when everything is back to normal you’ll be married to some high lord. We can’t, Arya, I should never have… I'm not good enough for you.”

Arya shakes her head, even though he can’t see it in the dark. “It’s never mattered to me, you should know that. And I might be high born but I’ve never been a lady. Do you think I could become one now? Marry some lord when this is all over?” she laughs darkly, “I’d like to see them try to make me. I’ve never wanted that. I'd like to know which stupid lord would want to marry me anyway."

He is still, and his grip tightens on her hand where he still holds it. Arya wonders if he's accepted what she said. It's been so long since she's thought of herself as a lady or highborn at all, that she's surprised that he still remembers or cares about it after all they've been through.

“Do you really want to do this though?” he asks her suddenly, turning back to her, and she moves quickly to pull him down again.

Arya doesn’t know if she does want this, not really. All she wants is to forget, to feel as if she’s more than her dead mother’s weapon, to feel as if she’s worth something to someone, as if she’s cared about.

“No,” she admits in a tiny voice, “No, I… but will you stay with me anyway?”

Without a word, Gendry lies back down and wraps his arms around her.

In the dark, Arya listens to his heart beat.

//

The next day, Arya spends with the orphans. She doesn't know how many there are, they won't stay still long enough for her to be able to count them.

From the depths of long ago memory, Arya recalls games that she used to play with her sister and brothers, in a time which now seems like a lifetime ago.

She calls the children to the yard, giving them instructions and then watching as they play, running and laughing, chasing and catching each other or calling out commands. Arya mostly stands aside, sometimes participating when one of the children calls out to her. She wishes that she could laugh along with them, but there is something tight in her chest as their play brings back long forgotten memories... Jon and Robb and Sansa and Bran and Rickon. When her brothers had first brought the direwolves home they had played like this, laughing as the pups had chased them around the Keep.

That had been the last of the truly happy times.

Gendry watches her when he is able to take time out from his work, the shadow of a smile on his face. Even that is sad. Arya knows that just like her, he realises that this cannot last, that they only have a day or so left before someone will come to take her back.

That evening they eat in the Inn along with the children, as Jeyne Heddle calls out orders and smacks reaching hands with her wooden spoon. The room is warm and noisy, full of life and chatter. Arya thinks of feasts in the Great Hall of Winterfell, of throwing food at Sansa, and Nymeria snuffling around her heels in the rushes for scraps of food.

She had needed this, to see that life still goes on. She had needed to see that if one day she is able to leave that there are places like this, that happiness is possible.

When she and Gendry return to the loft to sleep, there is a strange awkwardness. Should she kiss him again, would he like her to? Arya thinks that she would like it, but she's not sure if it's a good idea.

Gendry settles her confusion by kissing her before she can decide; slightly clumsy in his first attempt, his lips landing on the corner of her mouth. Arya doesn't mind, it's not as if she knows any better about what they should be doing. He kisses her gently, as if she's something precious that he has to be careful with, and Arya finds that she likes that. It is dark, too dark to see him properly, but she can imagine his stubborn face in the dark, the way his blue eyes might look at her.

"Why do you want to kiss me?" Arya blurts out, unable to help herself. "I'm not..."

Arya Horseface, Arya Underfoot, Weasel and mouse. Arya has never been the pretty one, that was always Sansa. Her face was too long, her body too skinny, all knees and elbows and sharp angles.

"Why wouldn't I want to?" Gendry responds, his voice sounding confused from where he speaks, close to her ear. "You're beautiful, Arya, and you're... I've never known a girl like you."

Arya snorts at that, "Don't talk rubbish, you stupid. I'm not beautiful, I know I'm not. Why do you want me? Why do you..."

"Because you're you." Gendry responds. "And you are beautiful. You're my lady, and I wish... I wish I could do more for you."

Arya silences him with a kiss then, before he can say anything dangerous. Let him forget that they only have one more day, let him forget and kiss her tonight, and hold her until tomorrow.

**

The next morning, once the sun has risen and the children are about their chores, Gendry takes her into the Inn and leads her upstairs, taking her purposefully to one of the rooms. He motions her to sit on one of the pallets and the turns to the chest of drawers, opening the top one and pulling out a covered object. He unwraps it before handing it to her, and Arya sees that it is a hand mirror.

"Go on and look," Gendry tells her, "It's been too long since you've seen yourself properly."

It has been. Arya hasn't used a mirror properly since she left King's Landing. Since then she hasn't had much use for one, not with the life that she's led.

Now as she looks down at the mirror's surface, she finds that she almost can't recognise the girl who looks back at her. How many years has it been since she left King's Landing? About three now, Arya thinks. She has grown into her long face, and where once she had believed it made her awkward, now she finds that it suits her. The face of a Stark, grey eyes and dark hair, and Arya is suddenly reminded of her father telling her that she would one day look like her aunt Lyanna. Arya will never look like Sansa or like their lady mother, but that does not matter anymore. It is not bad at all to look like only herself. As different as the sun and the moon, her father had described them once, and Arya knows from long nights spent watching the sky above that even the moon has its own beauty.

Arya finds that now, perhaps for the first time ever, she truly does see herself properly. No matter how many other names she might have been known by, she is Arya Stark. Daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark, daughter of Winterfell.

She is Arya Stark, she is more than Lady Stoneheart has tried to make her into, and somehow she will make her way back to the North, back to where she belongs.

//

They come for her the next day, shortly after she has breakfasted with the children, and Arya feels her gut clench as soon as she sees them in the yard.

“It will be alright.” Arya whispers to Gendry as he stands beside her, fists clenched at his side. “I’ll be back soon, you’ll see.”

She waits as one of the orphans brings her horse forward, and mounts by herself, glaring at Lem when he tries to offer her his hand.

She doesn’t look back at Gendry until all of the others have already left the yard, and then Arya turns back, for just a few seconds.

He smiles at her then, though it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. She almost smiles back, her lips quirking just enough that at a distance it might seem like she had.

It is enough for Arya, here and now, to be able to carry a secret back with her, something that Lady Stoneheart will never know.

It is enough until she makes her escape.

 
 
 
onborrowedwings
09 October 2013 @ 10:19 pm
Fic: Carved From Stone 4/7
Characters: Arya, Gendry, Lady Stoneheart
Summary: Sandor Clegane is never captured by the Brotherhood without Banners, and Arya's journey takes a divergent path

Part Four

Arya had once known what it was to love, and to be loved in return. Love was Jon Snow mussing her hair and calling her little sister, love was teasing Sansa and laughing as they threw snowballs at each other, it was games with her little brothers, mock swordplay and archery with Robb, a proud look from her father, or a warm embrace from her mother.

All of that is gone now, the emotion taken from her piece by piece until she can no longer entirely remember how it feels. There is a hole where her heart used to be, a dark pit that can't be filled.

Sometimes when Gendry looks at her, it reminds Arya a little of that feeling. There is a warmth inside her then. For a few moments at least, the hole inside her becomes a little less.

Arya thinks that she must be wrong, she can't think of any reason why he would want to love her. She's not quite certain what there is that anybody could love in her anymore, after everything she's done.

Even Lady Stoneheart...

Whatever affection Lady Stoneheart may have once shown for Arya has slowly faded, as she becomes more and more fixated upon the vengeance that she hungers for. There are times when Arya sees a spark, a hint of the woman her mother was, but as time passes this in turn also fades away. Just as Lady Stoneheart is a shadow of Lady Catelyn, so is any love she might have had for her only remaining child now only a shadow too.

But Arya finds that Gendry looks at her a certain way and tries to look after her too, staying by her side whenever he can – always there, always waiting for when her mother might release her for the day.

Arya does not think that that is love, but it does remind her a little of the feeling.

It is a year since her mother's resurrection, and Lady Stoneheart is on one of her periodic journeys, to visit the Brotherhood members whose base is located near Saltpans. It is the middle of the night when Gendry crawls quietly over to her, tapping her on the shoulder and gesturing for her to be silent when she opens her eyes.

Arya has made her bed a little away from the others, she prefers it that way and the Brotherhood members seem to as well - it makes them uneasy to have her too close by. The nearest men are all sleeping and the sentry's attention is elsewhere.

"We could leave," Gendry whispers to her, his hand still clamped on her shoulder, heavy upon her. "Right now. She's not here, we could take some horses and run and maybe get far enough away that they won't be able to find us."

Arya knows it's a risk, knows that Lady Stoneheart doesn't take betrayal easily, and in her eyes this would be a betrayal. In Arya's eyes it is also a betrayal and she struggles with it; she had promised her mother that she would stay and help her to carry out her justice. Yet it is only rarely now that the Brotherhood without Banners carries out anything that could be counted as real justice, and Arya wonders sometimes if Lady Stoneheart will ever be able to achieve what she really desires, if they will ever be able to kill all the people on her list.

It might be a betrayal on Arya's part, but she has come to realize that she will never willingly be allowed to leave. She feels guilty to want to, to try and run from her mother, but Arya sees no other way to save herself from the fate that she most fears, that she will one day become exactly like Lady Stoneheart, with nothing else left inside her except hate, a girl entirely made of stone. She feels it happening already, a numbness inside her, an emptiness that continues to grow. It scares her, that she is losing herself, that she is becoming nothing more than Death's daughter.

Arya wants revenge for her family, for the Northmen who were slaughtered, but she also, so very desperately, wants to go home.

She would not be abandoning her family's cause, not really. Should they reach the North then there would be enemies enough to fight with the Boltons there; Roose Bolton also had a hand in the Red Wedding, he is as great a traitor as the rest of them. Arya thinks of the pale leeches that sucked his blood and thinks that they must have sucked out all the loyalty too.

With Jon's help maybe she could even raise an army to drive their enemies out of the North. Arya is the last Stark known to be alive, and she remembers her father's words, that there should always be a Stark in Winterfell. Winter is coming, and there is nobody left now but her.

Arya has tried to speak to Lady Stoneheart about it, to ask if she might go North to find her brother and reclaim their home, but the Hangwoman will not listen. She tells Arya to speak of it no more, that until their vengeance is done here, she may not go anywhere.

It has been a year since Lady Stoneheart was resurrected, and they are no closer to justice or vengeance now than they were when they began.

But death… oh they are all a lot closer to death. Arya thinks of Jaqen sometimes, and wonders if his Red God is pleased with all the souls she's given, more than enough to make up for those she may have saved.

Gendry's expression is so sincere that Arya almost believes that they could make it. He is more at risk than she is if they try - Lady Stoneheart will never kill the last of her children - but despite that risk he's willing to do it. For her.

Arya thinks that maybe that is something like love. It warms her, in a way that she has not felt in months, a warmth that she had believed lost to her forever. She seizes upon that feeling and finds that she cannot let it go. The call of duty and death is strong, but life… life is what Arya has come to long for.

So she nods, and as quick as a cat she is crouched beside him, one hand on Needle's hilt as they stand and move towards the horses.

/

They do not get far in the end, the others finding them only two days later. They had ridden through the night, only snatching a little sleep here and there, eager to be as far away as possible as they made their way towards the coast. Arya had been convinced that if they could just find a ship willing to carry them, then they would be able to escape. They could have gone across the Narrow Sea first if they needed to, before finding a ship that would take them to Jon at the Wall.

Arya should have known better, she should have known that Lady Stoneheart would never let her go.

Their hands are both bound, though they are allowed to ride their own horses.

"Please don't do this, Harwin," Arya begs him, "You can pretend that you didn't find us, just send us on our way."

"Sorry milady, but Lady Stoneheart commands that you're to be brought back. I can't refuse her. You should've known better than to try to leave your mother."

"But you know, Harwin, you know…" Arya starts to say, despairing. "She's not really my mother, not anymore. Would my father have wanted you to do this? Would he have wanted me to be here?"

Harwin has no reply to give her. He is silent for the rest of the journey home, staying as far from her as possible so that there is no opportunity to speak. Arya hopes that he's at least a little ashamed.

"It'll be alright," Gendry tries to reassure her, "She won't hurt you, you're her daughter."

Arya doesn't bother to correct him, especially now when she hopes he's right. She is more scared for him than she is for herself, if Lady Stoneheart kills him then Arya will never forgive herself for agreeing to go with him. Her last friend in this world and he might lose his life for helping her.

When they are finally brought beneath the Hollow Hill, Thoros is with Lady Stoneheart, whispering to her, a tension on his face.

Arya looks at Lady Stoneheart and wishes that she could read her expression, that she could know what she was thinking. She holds herself ready to run, to try to protect Gendry, perhaps even to charge…

And then Lady Stoneheart speaks.

"You will not run again." she wheezes out, "You will be watched. My daughter, how could you have left when our revenge is unfinished?"

"I want to go North, I want to go home," Arya pleads, her voice breaking. "I was always trying to get there, ever since Father died. I can't…"

She can't say the rest. Can't admit to the Hangwoman that the life is being slowly choked out of her, turning her to stone. Perhaps alone Arya could've found the courage to say it, but not in front of all these people.

"You will stay by my side. You will stay and you will obey me until our work is done."

Arya nods mutely, all her strength for defiance leaving her, any courage that she might have had suddenly gone at the hopelessness of it all. There is no use in arguing with a dead woman, especially not with one as stubborn as Lady Stoneheart.

"And now for the bastard," Lady Stoneheart gasps, the sound whistling through the hole in her neck like a death rattle. "Send him to the Inn at the Crossroads. Despite his betrayal we will not waste him, he will forge our steel and mind the orphans."

"Yes milady." Harwin assents, bending the knee. He does not look at Arya.

Gendry turns towards her then, and there is a thought clear in his eye, an emotion, a fear of leaving her here alone, and Arya's breath catches in her throat.

"Please," she whispers, "Please don't."

Her only friend, the only one she has left. Arya will have nobody now, nobody except her mother's corpse, without any love left within her. She should have known, should have known that Lady Stoneheart would send away anyone who hampered her quest for revenge.

Her pleas go unheard.

There is no time for goodbyes. Gendry is taken away as quickly as possible by Tom, and Arya finds herself brought forward, to sit by her mother's side. She will sleep in their midst now, rather than on the edge, there will be a guard to watch her at all times.

Arya thinks that it's for the best that Gendry goes away from here. Eventually everybody that she loves ends up dying, and even if she doesn't love him, maybe one day she would and then that would be the end of him.

Arya remembers the words that the old dwarf woman from High Heart had called her, spoken months ago now, more than a year now – wolf child, blood child, dark heart. She had thought that the woman was mad at the time, but now Arya knows that she really did see the future.

There is no escape from here now, and no going back. Arya's fate has been decided and she can feel death creeping up upon her, slowly taking over everything that she is.

/

As lonely as Arya has been over the past two years, as many secrets as she has kept and as many people as she has left behind, she has never felt more alone than she does now.

She has no friends now, and the rest of the Brotherhood try their best not to speak to her unless they need to, all except Thoros and he can hardly be counted as a friend.

Thoros at least seems to understand, and Arya thinks that sometimes she sees a sort of shame on his face, at what the Brotherhood has turned into.

On the rest of the faces she sees only mistrust and a reluctance to be near her. She betrayed their leader, her own mother (not her mother, not any more) and fled from their cause. In all of their eyes she is now doubly cursed.

In the past months, Arya has seen Gendry only once and only briefly, when they had stopped at the Inn while on one of their expeditions. There had been no time to talk, the men with her had not allowed it. She is not allowed to do anything except what Lady Stoneheart commands these days. They had looked at each other, and he had given her one short nod, and for a moment she had felt a little better.

Most days are spent either in the dark, hiding; or in the forest, carrying water or firewood to their campsite or hunting and foraging for food. Arya prefers the days in the forest. At least for a little while she can allow herself to pretend that she's still with Yoren on the road to Winterfell, the rest of the recruits for the Night's Watch just out of sight.

She has heard that her brother Jon has become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, and the news had given her some hope, for just a moment. If she could just get to him then he would protect her, he wouldn't let anything happen to her again. He would muss her hair and call her little sister, and they would finish each other's sentences just like they used to, and Arya would feel alive once more. He would help her to raise the armies of their bannermen and she would give the North its justice, a true justice. It is just a dream though after all, and one that will never come true.

Jon is so very far away after all and there is no way now that Arya can see to reach him.

/

It has been some time since they have killed any Freys, when Lem brings them a boy that he found upon the road to the Twins.

He is a boy, though he might think of himself as a man, Arya can see that. He's probably a little older than Robb – than Robb would be, if he was still alive.

Arya can see the fear in his eyes as he's brought forward, but the boy (perhaps a man after all) holds himself tall without blubbering or pleading. He has more strength of will than some of the men that they've killed who were older than him by decades.

Lady Stoneheart steps forward, Arya at her side, and lowers her hood. Arya watches as the captive reacts, first starting in terror and then in powerful, painful recognition.

"Lady Stark, I heard you were dead." The young man exclaims, clearly shocked by the sight in front of him.

Lady Stoneheart opens her mouth to speak, but Arya beats her to it.

"She is dead." Arya tells him matter-of-factly.

"Dead," Lady Stonheart speaks, a hissing wheeze. "Killed by your family, along with my son, whom you swore to serve."

The young man has turned pale, all blood drained from his face as he realizes the truth of her words. "Believe me, Lady Stark, I never knew. They didn't tell me, they found an excuse and sent me away because they knew I was loyal to him. I never knew until after, I didn't have any part in it."

"But my son died anyway, his friends as well. And now so will you."

"Please!" The young man cries out, "I served him truly, you know that I loved him, that I never wanted to leave him even after our families became estranged!"

It is obvious that he means it, obvious by the earnestness in his face, the fervor in his eyes.

It won't save him though.

Lady Stoneheart seems to consider it for a moment, her gaze heavy upon the young man, and then she lifts one bony finger, pointing towards the nearest tree. "You served him. You should have died for him."

She lowers her hand, stands and watches while the Brotherhood move towards him, ready with the rope.

"No!" Arya is unable to help herself this time, she steps forward and grabs Lem's arm as he drags the boy away. "He's telling the truth, I know he is. Don't do this, Robb wouldn't have wanted us to kill him. Please, you know he wouldn't have!"

There is a moment, when Arya thinks that Lady Stoneheart might listen. Then the Hangwoman nods her head once at Lem before turning and walking away, knowing that her commands will be carried out without needing to watch.

Arya won't let herself turn away though, she won't turn away so easily anymore.

She watches until there is nothing left to see, until the body hangs limply from the tree.

That same night, while the rest of them sleep, she cuts him down and buries him.

 
 
onborrowedwings
06 October 2013 @ 07:24 pm
Fic: Carved From Stone 3/7
Characters: Arya, Gendry, Lady Stoneheart
Summary: Sandor Clegane is never captured by the Brotherhood without Banners, and Arya's journey takes a divergent path

Part Three

When Lady Stoneheart finds out about Sansa's disappearance, it sends her into a rage such as Arya has never seen. She demands that the Brotherhood do whatever is possible to find Sansa and The Hound wherever they might be hiding, that they bring her daughter back to her again and sends search parties out across the country to find them. They are tracked as far as the Saltpans and there the trail is lost; it seems that wherever Arya's sister has gone that she has taken a ship to get there.

Arya does not believe that they'll find her now, and as much as she longs to see Sansa again, she's not sure that it's a good idea that they do.

Her sister, her gentle ladylike sister, who used to make fun of Arya's stitches but who would also sneak lemoncakes from the kitchen to share with her. Sansa shouldn't have to see what their mother has become, or to live like the members of the Brotherhood do, she wouldn't be able to survive here in this place. Arya hopes that Sansa really is alive and safe somewhere, that she's managed to escape from the Hound, or that as impossible as it seems that he's really saved her and is protecting her now.

Arya knows that a happy ending for Sansa is as unlikely as it would be for her. Mostly she tries not to think about what might have happened to Sansa at all, it is far easier that way.

Lady Stoneheart has established an orphanage at the Inn at the Crossroads, and sends the Brotherhood men to look after it by turns. It is something that Arya's mother would have done, and when it is announced there is a strange hope in Arya's chest, that more of Lady Catelyn had survived than she had previously thought. There must be something of her mother that is more than simply memories remaining within Lady Stoneheart, no matter how little.

The search parties find no sign of her sister, but they have far more success in bringing back Frey men and straggling Lannister and Bolton forces. Arya has lost count of how many they've killed now - she knows that there are paths through the forest where almost every tree has at least one body hanging from it. Some have been their enemies, and some have been the type of desperate men who are enemies to all.

Days turn into weeks, turn into months, while they hide in their hole in the ground, occasionally leaving for ambushes or sorties. There is little sign now of the proud brotherhood that once existed to help the smallfolk. They kill bandits that pray upon the people just as they kill Boltons and Freys, but they also take food and coin from those same smallfolk in the name of protection when they need it. Arya isn't sure there's much difference when it's unwillingly given.

Arya wonders if most of the men in the Brotherhood without Banners even remember what they're fighting for or who their enemy is. It is not the same as when Beric Donadarrion had led them, and every day the principles that they once held slip a little further away.

It is to be Lannister men today, foot soldiers who had wandered away from their commander and were found by the Brotherhood while robbing an orchard. The men they've captured tonight are pleading, blubbering, adamant that they don't deserve to die for such a small thing as taking a few apples.

Arya hates it when they do that, she wishes that they'd just die quietly and be done with it. She doesn't know if these men truly do deserve to die or not, but they've been sentenced now and their fate is inescapable, they should at least try to die well. Arya is tempted to leave rather than staying to watch, the killing will bring her no joy. She has partaken of so much death by now that she feels as if she is filled to the brim, unable to hold anymore.

If they should manage to capture the men who killed her brother and his bannermen, Arya would gladly do the deed herself, but these soldiers… Tonight, Arya would prefer to turn away.

It is to be done by the sword today, rather than by the rope. The men are already bound and ready to receive their justice though they continue to cry out. While Arya waits to see who her mother will call upon, she looks towards Gendry where he stands slightly back within the crowd, meeting his eyes. He gives her a slight nod, as if to reassure her, and she feels her spirits rise a little.

It will be over soon, just as it always is. Over until the next time.

It is then that Lady Stoneheart stands and points one bony, pale finger straight at Arya.

"My daughter will do it." she announces, the words oozing out of the wound in her throat. "She will take vengeance for her brother."

Arya's breath sticks in her throat, choking her. She had not expected this, had not wanted it.

She has killed before, but never like this. Before it was always because her life depended upon it, or a named enemy, someone who she knew deserved to die. Never like this, never men who were bound and powerless to resist. While Arya serves the Brotherhood gladly as a fighter, she has never had to be an executioner before, has never wanted to be. Arya doesn't even know if these men should die, even if they have served the Lannisters. They're just common soldiers after all, poor men with a lion on their chests rather than a wolf. It gnaws at her, it doesn't seem entirely right.

"I.." she begins to say, "Lady St… Mother…"

Her mother would never have asked, would never have wanted her daughter to do such a thing. Her mother… her mother is dead. Lady Stoneheart may have a shadow of love for Arya remaining within her heart, but the thirst for vengeance is what drives her most of all. Once it had been all that drove Arya too, but now, now…

"Let me do it for her," A voice rings out, and Gendry makes his way through the crowd, pushing his way to the front. "I would be honoured to serve Lady Stoneheart in this matter." He looks down at Arya, a quick flick of the eyes and then away. Nobody else speaks, nobody else tries to resist her mother's dictate.

Arya feels a warm rush of blood to her chest. Even after everything that has occurred he still wants to spare her. She forgives him everything in that instant, except that she is certain that she forgave him long ago.

"No," Lady Stoneheart hisses, "My own daughter will carry out my justice. For her family, for her brother who was slaughtered, by Lannister trickery as much as Frey. She will avenge her blood, she will do it for me."

"But m'lady…" Gendry begins to say, desperation apparent in his tone. Arya stills him with a touch of her hand to his arm. She removes it just as quickly, and steps forward into the circle formed around the Lannister men.

"I will do it," she whispers, and holds out a hand, her eyes fixed upon her mother's decayed face.

Somebody places a hilt into it and she is relieved, she wouldn't want to use Needle for this work.

You are a sword, that is all. Syrio Forel had once told her, what now seems like a lifetime ago. It is easier if Arya thinks of herself as a sword, as Lady Stoneheart's sword. It is easier, but it is not what Arya wants, it is not what Arya should be.

It is all that she may be, here and now.

Arya takes a deep breath and steels herself. You are a sword, that is all, she tells herself once again. She steps forward, the sword raised.

Lady Stoneheart nods her approval.

//

He finds her afterwards, in the woods, and Arya almost wishes that he hadn't. She will have to talk about it now, she will have to think about her mother and what she has become, and about what Arya herself is becoming.

The only light is that of a waning moon, and Gendry stands above her as she sits on an old log, scuffing her boots backwards and forwards in the dirt.

"Do you want to leave?"

The question takes her aback at first and for a moment Arya can't think, can't respond. If she could leave, if she could run away with him…

"I can't leave her, how could I? I'm all she has left now, I couldn't leave her. She wouldn't let me go anyway, not ever. She won't let me out of her sight, she needs me..." Arya shakes her head, glad that he can't see her eyes in the dark. "Needs me to help her carry out our revenge at least."

"Arya…" His eyes glint in the moonlight and he reaches a hand out to take hers but she pulls it away. "Arya, I… I'm sorry."

She's not sure what he's apologizing for; he tried at least, when nobody else did. He's always tried to look out for her, to keep her safe, and now he has to stand aside, to watch as Lady Stoneheart seeks her vengeance, always with Arya by her side.

"Your mother…" he starts to say, but Arya cuts him off with a quick shake of her head.

"My mother is dead. She's not my mother, she's… I don't know. But my mother was kind and honest and true and she loved us all, more than anything. She would never have wanted this, she…" Arya is shaking with the effort of suppressing her tears by now, and she lets it out suddenly, lets it out in one large sob. "My mother loved me, and Lady Stoneheart is not my mother."

She has thought it many times over the last months, in quiet moments of doubt which she has quickly stifled within herself. Arya had wished for so very long to be back with her family, to have her mother with her once more, that it has been hard for her to admit it. There is very little of love left in Lady Stoneheart, only the memory of it, and Arya worries that day by day even that is fading.

Lady Catelyn Stark may have been resurrected but Arya is still motherless, still so very alone.

Gendry pulls her up then, gathers her to him, hugs her tightly and she resists for only a moment, pushing at him only to have him hold her tighter.

Arya cries then, for the first time in… she can't remember. She cries for her father, for her little brothers, for Robb, all lost now. She cries for Sansa, who might be dead and who she might never see again, even if she's not. She cries for Jon, so very far away, so very far out of her reach. She cries for her mother, for her mother as she was, and for what she's now become. She cries lastly for herself, because after all, there is nobody else left to cry for her now.

Arya wants to ask Gendry if he would take her away from there, if they could leave, just the two of them, on the road again, but she knows that it's impossible. Lady Stoneheart may not truly be her mother anymore, but Arya does not know if she can bring herself to leave her, to betray her in that way. Even if they were to run away, Arya is sure that Lady Stoneheart would ensure that they were brought back.

Finally she pushes him away.

"We'd better go back, before she misses us." Arya announces quietly, and turns back towards the camp.

Gendry follows, a step behind.

//

On a cold day near the end of autumn, Arya becomes a woman.

She had woken to see blood on her thighs and for a moment it had terrified her, she had wondered if somebody had attacked her, if she was even now dying. She had glanced around and seen that the others were still asleep, and suddenly realized what had happened.

She is no longer a child. She has not been one for the longest time, but in the eyes of society the true change has finally come.

Had she been still in Winterfell, with her family around her, Arya has no doubt that her mother would have comforted her and explained the meaning of it. Sansa would have sat with her, and teased her about it but brought her hot bricks and cakes anyway. It might have been the occasion on which her father would have started searching for some stupid lord to be her betrothed. None of that will happen now.

In the end, Arya doesn't see what difference a little more blood makes.

She takes herself down to the river and washes the blood off her thighs, cuts up strips of cloth with her dagger so that she may use them like the women in Harrenhall did.

In Winterfell, Arya's mother would have been the first person that she would have told, the first one that she would have sought comfort from, but she will find no comfort there now.

Arya prepares to keep it a secret, she doesn't want anybody to know.

Least of all Lady Stoneheart.

//

The months pass and there is no change, no escape, only an ever increasing list of men that she has killed. Arya can feel herself growing older and wearier, colder and harder, her fate bound up with the ever approaching march of Winter. She can feel the life leaving her as death continues to creep slowly in. There is not much left in her life now, apart from death.

Once she had wished for an escape from the life she knew, the chance to be more than the wife of some high lord and mother to his children. She had dreamed of being a mighty warrior and fighting in battles, of being an outlaw like Wenda the White Fawn. Never, in all her dreams, did she imagine a life like this. Whatever principles the Brotherhoood without Banners once might have lived by are long gone, dead along with Beric Dondarrion. Now they live like rats, hiding in the dark.

Sometimes when she's able to, Arya sneaks into the forest to practice with Needle. She loves the way it feels in her hand, how the balance is just perfect for her, the way the light glints off the blade. Needle makes Arya remember happier times – laughing with Jon after he had given it to her, water dancing lessons with Syrio Forel. Those times might be gone now, never to return, but Needle is a reminder of them, a symbol, evidence that they once existed.

Arya prefers not to use Needle to kill for Lady Stoneheart.

In battle, whenever it comes to that, it does not matter. Needle is there to protect her when need be. But executions, the times when Arya is not sure… she will not use Needle for those.

Arya looks at the blade and thinks of Jon Snow and what he would've wanted for her. If he could see her now, and the life she leads… He's the only family that she has left anymore, the only one she still knows to be alive, and Arya wishes desperately that she could make her way to him somehow.

Maybe he wouldn't know her anymore, wouldn't recognize the younger sister that he once loved so dearly. Maybe he would know her on sight, and hug her to him, and never let her go. Maybe it would feel like home.

One thing is for certain. Jon would not want her to stay here, or to have to do the things that she has to in order to survive. Jon would not approve of the work that Arya carries out on behalf of Lady Stoneheart. Jon would see the way that the life is slowly being stifled out of her, the shadows overtaking her, and ask her why she stays.

Arya thinks about what Jon would want for her and what he would tell her to do, and she knows that he would ask her to leave. As the days pass and the darkness slowly overtakes her, Arya finds it more and more difficult to justify why she doesn't.

Whenever she begins to forget who she really is, Arya puts her hand on Needle's hilt, feels the perfectly made steel under her fingers, and remembers. She stays awake during long nights, staring up at the moon, remembering, and begins to dream of escape, of a life other than this one.

You are a sword, that is all, Syrio Forel had told her once to make her focus, but Arya knows he never intended for her to be only that. It is the true seeing that makes the greatest swordsmen, and she is beginning to see truly now.

Arya is more than this, more than death and hate and bloody vengeance, she was once life and love as well.

Arya knows that, she just needs to work out how to make her way back there again.

 
 
onborrowedwings
29 September 2013 @ 08:41 pm
Title: Carved From Stone 2/7
Words: Around 4000
Characters: Arya, Gendry, Lady Stoneheart
Summary: Sandor Clegane is never captured by the Brotherhood without Banners, and Arya's journey takes a divergent path.
A/N: Once again a huge thank you to my beta kimberlite8

Part Two

They rename the former Lady Stark, calling her Lady Stoneheart, and Arya thinks that it is fitting. There is no mercy left in her mother now, and very little of love. It seems to Arya that she is only a shadow of Lady Catelyn, that only part of her mother has been brought back from the dead.

Lady Stoneheart scares Arya a little, though she tries her best to overcome it and to see her mother inside. She remembers Lord Beric's words, of all the pieces of himself he lost each time Thoros brought him back to life, and wonders if that has happened to her mother too. Does Lady Stoneheart know what is missing from her now? Does she remember the happy times, when they were all still at Winterfell? Does she ever think about all the good memories as well as the bad ones? Arya is not sure, as protective as Lady Stoneheart is of her, the only words she ever speaks to Arya now are about vengeance and justice, rather than those a mother would.

As different as Lady Stoneheart might be from Lady Catelyn, Arya has realised that her resurrected mother is not so very different from herself.

They are both filled with rage, grief, and a desire for revenge. It is simply that the truth of her mother's nature is seen on her face, while Arya's is hidden within her heart. Lady Stoneheart might be as different from Catelyn Stark as night and day, but Arya finds that she recognises the emotions that compel her mother all too well.

Each night, Arya repeats her list, wondering how many names need to be added to the end of it. She has not added the Freys to it as yet because she doesn't know their names, there are so very many of them after all.

While she may not speak it aloud as Arya does, Lady Stoneheart also has her own list, and Arya knows that she won't stop until she has crossed off all the names.

It is difficult to understand Lady Stoneheart when she speaks; she croaks, gasps, and wheezes like a death rattle, the sound of a dead woman. Arya is able to make out the words though, knows exactly what her mother says.

"My son. They broke their promises and killed my son." Lady Stoneheart wheezes, when she is able to speak again, the sound coming out torturously. "He came to feast, put down his weapons and sat to celebrate. We will kill them all now. Every last one of them. We will not allow a single one of them to live."

It is the same thought that Arya had had, one week ago by the river as she looked upon her mother's corpse, a thought that still drives her. It does not sound right though, coming from her lady mother's lips.

"Yes," Arya reassures her mother, "We will, we'll take revenge for our family. We won't spare any of the people who hurt you and Robb."

Lady Stoneheart nods her approval.

Arya had once worried that her mother would no longer love her if she knew that she had become a killer.

There is no need to worry anymore, now it is what her mother will value about her most of all.

/

The first time that they ambush Freys it is a quick thing, they find some riding along one of the roads near the Twins and engage them in battle. By the end of it there is one injured Brotherhood member and two dead Freys.

The second time is even easier, a party of five men come out riding the next morning to look for the first two. Arya kills one of them herself. With the heat of battle upon her it had been easy, and Arya had felt the thrill of it, the satisfaction of the deed. These men had killed her brother and his bannermen after all. Killed her mother too.

They deserve to die, and Arya is glad that there are seven less Frey men in the world, that they have paid for their treachery. Her mother approves, is happy, as happy as a dead woman can be anyway.

They sit around the campfire that night, eating roast rabbit and listening to Tom sing a victory song, and Arya wonders if she's made Lady Stoneheart proud.

The next day, when Lady Stoneheart announces that they'll offer to ransom the dead men back to the Freys in order to trap more of them, Arya notices a flicker of unease in Gendry's gaze. It might be a trick, but what does it matter after all that the Freys have done? They'll face justice in the end, no matter how it's done.

He glances towards her then, a question in his eyes, and Arya turns her face away.

She doesn't want to hear what he has to say.

/

With Beric Dondarrion gone, the Brotherhood without Banners turns to Lady Stoneheart for leadership. Arya's mother has always been a natural leader, she is a true lady after all – the daughter of Riverrun, the mistress of Winterfell. Now she dresses in grey as a Silent Sister would and plots revenge from underneath the earth, in the protection afforded by the Hollow Hill.

It is meant to be a place of safety but all Arya can think is that it is that it is a fitting place for them, a grave dug for their corpses.

She isn't dead yet, but she's possibly the only one left of the Starks now that isn't. There's Sansa… but Arya has heard no news about Sansa since the time she left King's Landing and for all she knows, Sansa might be dead now too.

And so Lady Stoneheart plots her vengeance and keeps Arya close by her side, always close, as if afraid that at any moment she might die like the rest of their family. Arya stays and listens to the plans and tries to avoid Gendry's eyes when she sees him looking at her from across the fires.

He doesn't know. He couldn't. He can't understand how she feels and she's not even certain that she understands it herself.

Arya sits by Lady Stoneheart, Lady Stoneheart who used to be her lady mother, and tries to pretend that she really is with her family again, that she's found her mother at long last. There are days, on which Lady Stoneheart expresses her pride in something Arya's done, in an enemy that has been killed, that Arya almost feels it's true.

There are other days though, when she desperately wishes that her mother would hold her, that she would be as she once had, with the same love and care, that Arya cannot deny the truth. Lady Stoneheart is not Catelyn Stark, and all the warmth in her has been replaced by a bitter cold.

Arya stays with her anyway, as often as she is able, and hopes that her presence might bring her mother's shade comfort, even if it brings little to Arya herself.

And so she sits by Lady Stoneheart whenever she's in camp, listening to her words and storing them away as she speaks of plans for vengeance and death and justice. Arya carries out her mother's commands, participating in raids on Freys and Lannister and Bolton soldiers, and killing her fair share along with the other Brotherhood members.

It brings her far less satisfaction than she had once thought it would.

Arya has realised after all now, she knows in her heart, that no matter how many Freys or Boltons or Lannisters they kill, it will never bring her family back to her again.

/

The months pass.

Lady Stoneheart's justice now takes the form of trials followed by hangings, and the Brotherhood begins to call her The Hangwoman.

Arya hates it, hates it just like all the other names they've given her mother, even if they all fit her much better than Lady Catelyn would now.

Lady Catelyn Stark would never have wanted to be known as the Hangwoman or Lady Stoneheart or any of those other names, Lady Catelyn would have objected. But that was before… before Freys and Boltons betrayed them, before Lady Catelyn died and Lady Stoneheart came in her place.

Standing there, watching as some of the Brotherhood members prepare the captured Bolton men for the hanging, Arya knows that they've gotten what they deserved. They betrayed her family, turned a wedding into a massacre, broke the most sacred of all laws in Westeros.

There are times when they're not certain whether the men they catch participated in the Red Wedding or not, but they kill them anyway. Arya isn't sure if that's right or not, she doesn't know how she feels about it. She doesn't like to think about it at all.

"It's justice, no matter how it's done." Gendry speaks in a low voice beside her, his tone sincere as if trying to impress something upon her. "Any man who betrays guest right is the worst sort of traitor, one who has betrayed gods as well as men. Even if they only stood by and allowed it to happen, they still deserve to die for what they did."

Arya knows that Gendry hasn't been entirely happy about how things have happened. He's a stupid stubborn headed bull, and he has his own ideas about right and wrong. He still stays though, doing the Brotherhood's work and remaining close by to her whenever there is any fighting. It makes her think, it makes her wonder why he does.

She nods, and allows her fingers to brush against his for a moment, the smallest amount of human touch.

Apart from Gendry and Lady Stoneheart, nobody touches her anymore. She is the daughter of a dead woman after all, and death might be catching.

"We'll get them all one day." Arya murmurs, confident that they'll be able to now that Lady Stoneheart leads them. She hopes that she may have her mother's strength, and the courage to see it through. "Every last one of them."

"That's a lot of people to kill," Gendry says quietly, his voice lowered so that others can't hear. "Do you know how many Freys there are? Hundreds from what I've heard."

"I don't care." Arya replies stubbornly, "They were all responsible and they'll learn now what it means to betray my family. They'll learn that the North remembers."

"All of them?" Gendry asks her. "Even the women? Even the children?"

That makes Arya pause. She had never thought about the women and the children before, and what should happen to them. She supposes that some of the women might have known what was going to happen, but none of them would have actually participated. Frey women aren't like the Mormont women who fight alongside men after all, Frey women are stupid and useless, none of them would know how to kill a man. And the children… Lady Catelyn Stark would never have harmed a child, never, no matter what their parents had done. Yet Arya has heard that her mother's last act before death was to slit the throat of a lackwit, the last thing she did before her own throat was slit.

From what she has seen so far, Arya is not yet sure whether what Lady Catelyn Stark would never do would hold true for Lady Stoneheart as well or not.

"I don't know," Arya admits, "I don't know what we'll do with them. I guess we'll let them be."

"And who's going to tell Lady Stoneheart and the Brotherhood that?" Gendry asks, his voice soft but his tone hard. "Who's going to decide when it's time to stop?"

Arya has no answer for that; she looks across the fire to where Lady Stoneheart stands with Thoros, waiting for the hanging to commence.

"Arya…" Gendry starts to say, reaching out a hand to touch hers once again.

Arya jerks her arm from him and walks away towards her mother, as he looks at her with an expression that says he understands all too well.

He doesn't.

How could he when he's never had any family? It wasn't any of his kin that were murdered at the Red Wedding, he can't know how she feels. How could he possibly understand what it finally means to get her mother back when everyone else is gone - no matter what she might have become? Lady Stoneheart is the only family that Arya has left now, and Arya will help her to get vengeance for their family in whatever way she can.

Arya knows that the Bolton men deserve to die, she's glad that they do, and Gendry is wrong, he's an idiot. They will have their revenge, they will have justice, and once all the names on Lady Stoneheart's list are done they'll be able to go home again.

Lady Stoneheart gurgles, preparing to speak. Arya steps forward, towards her mother, steps up beside her to hear her words.

"See, my daughter, see how our enemies die," Lady Stoneheart rasps, as they string the Frey men up. "They killed your brother, and now they'll all die. See them kick and plead as they do so."

Arya stands beside her mother and watches, until the men hang limply from the end of their ropes.

/

She loses count of the number of men that have died and the number that she herself has killed.

Sometimes a week will go by with nothing at all, but those times are seldom now. Sometimes there are raids upon supply wagons to conduct, and sometimes ambushes of soldiers who have wandered away from their main host. Sometimes the men are not soldiers at all, but outlaws who rob or harm the smallfolk.

Killing has become easier, almost second nature now, but Arya finds that there is not the same satisfaction that there was in the beginning, when they first began. At first it had made her feel brave, the way she had always wished to, but there is an emptiness inside her too, that the killing does not fill. While sometimes they will find a Frey that had a part in the Red Wedding, the majority of the men they kill are only common soldiers, with no real value. A question echoes through her mind and refuses to go away, a question asked months ago by Gendry, of when it will be time to stop.

Arya finds herself wondering the same thing more often than she would like, though she would never admit it to him.

How many Freys are there? How many Boltons and Lannisters in this world? Arya's old list of people to kill sometimes feels more real than the vengeance they carry out here. With her list the success can be measured as names are crossed off, she will know when it's finally over.

They are not fighting a war anymore, not really; there's no army to defeat, no territory to win, no victories to claim. There's only killing and more killing, and no idea how far it's advanced them towards their goal.

Sometimes it seems that there is nothing left to her life anymore except killing, no other reason for her to be alive. Sometimes Arya wonders if this going to be her life forever now, the only one she'll ever know. She feels pieces of herself slipping away day by day, pieces of life and laughter and hope. Arya feels as if she is only a shadow of herself now, a reflection of her mother, day by day slowly turning to stone.

She wants to ask Lady Stoneheart whether she has a plan or not, and how they'll know when they've finally won. How many names are there to cross off her mother's own list, and how will they finally finish their vengeance for her brother and the North? Arya is not quite certain that there will ever be an end to it, and she wishes that just once she could speak to her mother like she used to, to have her reassure her that everything would be alright.

Through all that Arya has done, she has always wished to go home, to see her family again, and now that possibility seems like nothing more than a dream. She dreams sometimes, of the towers of Winterfell as she last saw them, of the godswood and the hot springs there, of laughing with her brothers and sisters. She dreams of seeing Jon again, of having him ruffle his fingers through her hair and call her little sister. Arya dreams and when she wakes she is careful to shut the thoughts to the darkest corner of her mind, where she might best forget them.

On a particularly cold autumn day, when the threadbare cloak around her does far too little to keep her warm and the emptiness inside her seems to have grown too large, she screws up her courage and finally asks her mother the question that has haunted her; of how they will know when they have finally won, of when they will finally have completed their vengeance.

"When they are all dead." Lady Stoneheart replies, and when she looks at Arya it seems as if her gaze pierces to Arya's heart, where it might see the doubts that she tries to hide there.

Arya does not ask again.

/

They ride up to the Inn at the Crossroads, leaving their horses with the stable boy before they go inside.

They've been on a foraging expedition, gathering food and money for the Brotherhood's cause and on the look out for any stray enemies that they might eliminate. Lady Stoneheart has left on one of her journeys, wanderings that she sometimes undertakes to learn more of the situation.

"We'll stop for some food and ale," Lem announces as he dismounts from his horse, followed quickly by Tom. He is hard these days, harder than Arya remembers him being before. They are all harder, even Gendry, as much as he tries to hide it.

He reaches out to help her down but Arya shrugs his hand away. She doesn't like to show weakness, doesn't need anybody's help now.

They enter the inn and there, right there in front of her, are The Mountain's men.

Polliver and the Tickler, drinking along with some pimply nosed squire; Polliver has his hand down the serving girl's bodice. Arya stops, forces herself to remain quiet while next to her, Gendry tenses. He recognizes them immediately, just as Arya does. Lem and Tom take a moment longer than they do, but the Mountain's men certainly recognize them in return.

Arya almost can't believe it, it's been so many months since they escaped from Harrenhall that she had doubted she would ever see the men again, but there they are in front of her. Her eyes stray to Polliver's side and sure enough there is Needle. Her hands ache to reach out and grasp the hilt, to grab it and simply run, but she would never be able to get away in time.

"Well, what have we here?" Polliver asks, as he looks them up and down, taking in Lem's yellow cloak. "A few lost brothers, wandered away from their outlaw band. Delivered yourselves right into our hands. Come with us quiet like and you'll get to live for awhile longer."

Lem snorts at that, though Arya and Gendry remain silent. "Think you'll take us to that mad dog you serve from House Clegane? Don't you worry, we'll be sure to send your corpses to him instead."

Polliver laughs at that, "Better not be calling him that to his face or he'll kill you more slowly than he needs to. We're looking for another dog though, the younger pup, Joffrey's dog. He turned craven at the Battle of the Blackwater and ran away, along with a prize. The Northern Girl. Might be we'll spare you if you can tell us where they are."

Arya can't help herself, and the words burst out of her before she can stop them. "What Northern girl?"

"The Stark girl that King Joffrey was to marry. Traitor's blood will show in the end it seems, she was seen riding out one of the gates with him."

Her sister… with the Hound. It doesn't make sense, Sansa would never agree to go with him, he must have kidnapped her, must have forced her to go with him.

Arya has no chance to think on it though, because in an instant the men in front of her have moved, hands reaching for their weapons, and she quickly reaches for her own.

/

Arya has long since washed The Tickler's blood from her hands, but whenever she closes her eyes his face swims in front of her again and she can hear herself screaming, asking him his own questions as she stabbed him over and over again in the back.

Lem and Tom had done for Polliver while Gendry had finished off the squire. At the end when the fight was finished they had dragged the bodies outside and then spoken with the Innkeeper to hear the latest news from King's Landing.

Joffrey is dead, poisoned at his own wedding feast; there are three less names on Arya's list now and she doesn't know how she feels about it. Once it would have been sizable victory, but with so many more people to kill now, it seems rather small to her. Arya finds that she cannot really recall what Joffrey's face looked like anymore, it makes the victory somewhat less sweet.

Sansa has disappeared and nobody seems to know where she has gone except that she was seen leaving with The Hound the night that Lord Stannis attacked King's Landing.

It doesn't make any sense to Arya, that Sansa would be with the Hound, or that he would leave the Lannisters in the first place. Did she choose to go with him or did he take her against her will? He had killed Mycah… and Arya can't think of a single reason why a man like him would help her sister. His name is still on her list and she promises herself that if he's harmed Sansa then she'll track him down and kill him, no matter how long it takes. Yet if he'd helped her sister, helped her to escape…

When Arya has changed so much, it's possible that Sansa has too. Maybe Sansa has also become hard, in the time they've spent apart. Maybe she also has an emptiness within her heart, maybe she chose to trust a monster just to save herself. Arya doesn't know. Arya doesn't think she'll ever know, considering that the Battle of Blackwater was months and months ago and there's been no news of her sister since then.

Sansa could be dead, killed either by the Hound or by other enemies. She could be fled to a far off land. She could even now be making her way North.

Arya doesn't know, but it chips away at her just a little bit more, knowing that she might never see her sister again. Apart from Jon, who wasn't allowed to bear the Stark name, Arya is now the last member of her family known to still be alive.

Arya is the lone wolf who survived, while the pack is gone.

But what is it that she lives for when she is the only one left? How much is left of Arya Stark now, when sometimes she feels that she is nothing more than a shade like her mother?

"Are you alright?" Gendry asks her, his hand suddenly upon her shoulder, startling her from her thoughts, examining her carefully as if to check if she is injured.

"Yes," Arya tells him finally, though it is a lie. His hand is warm even through her cloak and jerkin, and as much as Arya wants to shrug him off she also wants him to remain.

Gendry nods, clearly unconvinced, his brows knit together in concentration as he looks at her intently. "You tell me if you want to talk about it," Gendry says before he turns to mount his own horse, "I'm still your friend, Arya."

It is a small thing, but it warms her. It is enough to remind Arya that she is not so completely alone as she has felt these last few months, that there is still something other than killing to live for.

She stores the thought away inside her, within her darkness, and allows it to grow.

 
 
onborrowedwings
24 September 2013 @ 10:40 pm
Title: Carved From Stone 1/7
Rating: T?
Characters: Arya Stark, Gendry Waters, others
Warnings: violence and canon character deaths
Summary: Sandor Clegane is never captured by the Brotherhood without Banners, and Arya's journey takes a divergent path
A/N: This story is the result of a possibility that would never quite leave my mind, of what would happen to Arya should a Blackwater AU take place. It's a little different from my normal work, and I hope that you will enjoy it! A huge thanks to my beta reader kimberlite8 and to kylathelurker who encouraged me to keep going when this was in its initial phases.

***


Part One

Arya counts down the days until she will be back with her family, back where she truly belongs. The sooner she is away from the Brotherhood the better.

She had tried to run away from them, after Hot Pie chose to stay at the inn and Gendry decided to become a stupid knight, but the rain had been so heavy that she had had to go back; she would never have gotten far and besides, she’d had no idea where she was going.

She wants nothing to do with Gendry now, not after the choice he made. She had thought that he was her friend, that they would stand together against all odds to survive the winter as a true pack would. She has no pack anymore, she knows that now. It was all lies, and she’s as alone as she’s truly been since the moment her father was betrayed.

She’s glad that Gendry is going to stay with the stupid Brotherhood to be a knight; let him, she doesn’t need him anymore and if he doesn’t want to stay with her then why should she care?

He tries to make it up to her, giving her sideways glances and starting conversations. Arya resolutely ignores him and concentrates on the idea of being back with her mother and brother at last. They are her family, the ones she truly belongs with, and once she is with them again everything will be alright; maybe they will even be able to find some way to free Sansa from the Lannisters.

Arya cannot wait to be reunited with them, to be safe at last and yet… there are things that Arya will never be able to tell them. Would they still love her if they knew that she was a killer? If they knew what she’d had to do in order to survive? Would they even want to know her anymore?

She hopes that they never find out, that they never know just what she’s become in the time since they last saw her. Her mother, her gentle proper lady mother, she would never understand… Arya would not be able to bear it if they ever found out, if she had to see disgust in their eyes.

No, Arya will keep her secrets when she sees her family again.

She has grown very good at keeping secrets ever since she left Winterfell.

They are on their way to the Twins to ransom her, just a day’s travel away, a day away from finally seeing her family again, when they hear the news.

A small inn where they have stopped for food and ale; Gendry is seated beside her, speaking quietly about how it’s all for the best and how she’ll be safe and protected from now on, when the sound of a conversation between some of the other guests in the inn drifts towards them.

“Now that the Young Wolf is dead, we’ll soon be overrun by lions again…”

Arya freezes, stock still in her seat even as Gendry turns towards her, fright in his eyes and her name on his lips.

She’s misheard, it’s not possible, the farmer has it wrong. Her breathing comes fast and she forces herself to remain calm, still as a… to listen, to learn.

“Guest right doesn’t mean shit after what Freys have done, and nobody left to challenge them with all the Northern forces gone.”
“Not Bolton forces.”
The Boltons. Roose Bolton whom she once served as a cupbearer called Nan. He had been her brother’s bannerman, he could never have betrayed the Starks, he was a Northman after all, that is why Arya had helped his men to retake Harrenhall. Arya knows it’s a lie then, it must be.

“No, not the Boltons, they saw their chance and they’ll seize the North now. Always was unnaturally cold, that Roose Bolton, and now he’s betrayed his liege lord to take his place.”
There is a moment, before she has time to think, in which Arya opens her mouth to scream, to challenge, to call them liars, to demand they explain themselves, but before she can, Gendry has slapped a hand over her mouth and is dragging her outside before anyone can notice.

“They’ll kill you too,” he tells her when they’re outside, surrounded by the dark and the cold and his hand still over her mouth. “Nobody can know who you are now, not ever.”
“But they… it’s lies, it has to be. How could they kill Robb? He had an army, a whole army, and there was Grey Wind. Grey Wind would never let them kill my brother…. and my mother, what’s happened to my mother? They wouldn’t have killed her, she’s a lady, they couldn’t have killed a lady.”

Arya is allowed to cling to this hope for only a matter of moments, for only as long as it takes for Harwin to come out and join them.

“Milady…” he starts off hesitatingly, unsure of what to say.

“Don’t call me that, I’m not a lady,” Arya breaks in angrily, not wanting to hear what it is he has to say, not wanting to give him a chance. “My mother is a lady, and my sister, not me. My mother… we’ll find my mother, she must be locked in a dungeon, or they’re taking her to King’s Landing to Joffrey. We have to help her, we can still save her.”

“Your mother is dead, milady.” Harwin tells her, as quickly as possible, just as if he's pulling out a thorn, the better to get it over with.

Her lady mother is dead along with Robb, and Arya will never need to worry now of what she would think about what Arya has become.

Her mother is dead, her poor gentle lady mother, and she’ll never see her again.

//

Two days later and that’s no longer completely true.

They find her washed up on the river bank, naked, her skin clammy and pale from the water, and Arya forgets to breathe.

“Don’t look,” Gendry tells her, trying to turn her face away from the sight, but Arya refuses.

No,” she insists, “No, I need to see.”

She memorises it all then, the fingernail marks down her mother’s face, the deep cut across her throat where her blood is congealed. She memorises it and she swears she’ll make them all pay, every single one of those Freys and Boltons and Lannisters who betrayed her family.

Somebody throws a cloak over Catelyn Stark’s body, to give her back some of her dignity. Arya wonders if it matters at all, if her mother knows, wherever she is now.
“I’ll kill them all,” Arya promises, angry tears falling down her cheeks, even as Gendry grips her arm tightly to keep her from sagging to the ground beside her mother. “All of them, every last one.”

“That we will, sweetling.” Thoros of Myr tells her, “But first, let us see to your mother.”

“Can you save her?” Harwin asks him, “Bring her back to life, like you did Beric? Please, Thoros, if we could save Lady Stark...”

At that moment, Arya feels a desperate hope, her mother… if she could be brought back to life…

“She’s been dead too long, I’m afraid.” Thoros tells them, his sorrowful gaze fixed on Arya, “I can’t bring her back.”

“I’ll give her the kiss though, to speed her on her way.” Beric Dondarrion intones sadly, and bends towards Catelyn Stark.

Arya looks away at last then.

She does not see the first moment when her mother’s corpse opens its eyes.

//

It takes days for Lady Catelyn to remember who she is, and even longer than that for her to remember who Arya is.

The moment her mother had reawakened, Arya had heard the gasps and exclamations, and turned around to see what had happened. As Gendry had kept a hard grip on her arm, fear apparent in his eyes, she had turned; turned to see Beric Dondarrion dead upon the ground and to see her lady mother alive once more, come back to life and sitting up, clutching the cloak that had been put around her.

Arya had never been so happy. She had believed that the gods had heard all of her prayers and given her mother back to her.

She hadn’t realized then, the truth of what that would mean.

For the first few days Lady Catelyn had only sat there – silent and non-responsive, her eyes darting around the camp. They had found her clothes to wear and tried to give her food to eat – but she did not need to eat anymore. She clutched at her throat, where the wound was, attempting to close it but never quite succeeding. Lady Catelyn’s hair has turned brittle and white, half gone now, and Arya finds that she cannot quite recognize her mother in this resurrected woman.

She feels ashamed for that.

It takes her mother days to remember who she is, and when she eventually does, what she remembers is vengeance.

She cannot speak yet, but she is aware. She remembers, oh she remembers.

Lady Catelyn clutches at Arya’s hand and her flesh is cold and clammy, she clutches Arya’s hand so tightly that it is hard to withstand the pain. Arya wishes that she could pull away but she can’t, she won’t, she couldn’t do that to her mother.

Her mother is silent, unable to speak yet past the wound in her throat, but she looks at them all, and by signs, she lets them know what she wants.

Arya looks into Lady Catelyn’s eyes, looks into them and sees only hate.

She suspects then, that the woman Beric Dondarrion resurrected is not really her mother at all.

 
 
onborrowedwings
Author's Note: The first post-epilogue postscript to Cut it Out and then Restart. A huge thank you to Kim for beta'ing for me!
Words: 3337

By the time they arrive at Eastwatch by the Sea, Sansa knows that she is with child.

She had suspected it earlier, shortly after the beginning the voyage, and believes that their child must have been created during one of their last nights in Essos, as they held each other tightly within the tent they shared, whispering endearments and pouring their love into fierce kisses and caresses.

They had known that at the end of journey there would be another separation, another period of danger before they could be reunited. It has been so long since she has had to be parted from him that Sansa almost cannot stand the thought. She wishes that he might stay with them safely in White Harbour, to where they journey next, but his honour would forbid it. He plays an important role within Daenerys Stormborn’s army, and he will not let the queen or the host of men that he is in charge of down. Sansa knows that Sandor would not be able to stand to be safe and well in White Harbour while her brothers fight for the realms of men on the frontiers of the North. In the end it is not what she would truly want for him either.

So she suppresses her tears and her doubts, locks her fear deep inside her and prepares to bid him farewell – for only a short time, she tells herself.

She has already helped him to fasten his armour and now they stand together, reluctant to leave their cabin as yet.

He reaches out to caress her cheek, pulls her to him and places one warm, large hand over the slight swell of her belly where the child begins to show.

“I’ll do my best to be back before the babe is born.” he tells her, though she knows that he will have no control over how long it will be until they next see one another.

“We shall both be waiting for your return.” Sansa replies, a brave smile on her lips as she turns in his arms to face him. She lifts her hands to tug his face down to hers and captures his mouth, demanding and hungry with her kisses.

“I’ll not be able to leave you at this rate,” he rasps, breaking from her to look down upon her face, the first traces of grief beginning to appear in his eyes. She knows that he has never liked to leave her, that he is only truly comfortable when she is by his side.

“Remember that you are mine, and the Others have no right to take you from me.” she tells him sternly, suppressing the tears she wishes she could shed.

“I’d kill the Stranger himself if I had to in order to return to you, little bird. Believe that.” he promises her before kissing her once more, lingering and bittersweet.

They make their way to the deck where Arya and Gendry wait. Queen Daenerys has already gone ashore together with her knights, and Sansa and Arya had farewelled her earlier. Gendry shall accompany Sandor into battle, keen for the chance to have his share of heroic deeds. Sansa hopes that that is what it will come to, that they will not… no, she will not allow herself to think it. Their forces will prevail and it will become a story to be told for generations to come.

Arya had argued for the opportunity to fight alongside them, and Sansa is glad that Sandor has managed to persuade her otherwise. Her little sister was convinced only by the argument that she must remain in White Harbour to protect her remaining family members, should the worst occur. It is a relief to Sansa that Arya will not be exposed to such dangers, and yet the very idea of the worst occurring chills her to her bones.

As soon as they have appeared on deck, Arya moves to farewell Sandor, hugging him tightly as he brings a hand up to ruffle her hair.

“Keep your sister safe, and yourself too.” he tells her gruffly and she nods sincerely.
Sandor moves to kiss Sansa one last time then, tangling his fingers in her hair, leaning to touch his forehead to hers.

“You’ve always come back to me,” she whispers to him.

“And I always will.” he assures her, gives her one more quick kiss and moves to let her go.

They turn in time to see Arya launch herself at Gendry, throwing her arms around him and giving him a quick, hard kiss upon the mouth. He barely has time to respond before she lets him go, telling him, “And don’t you dare get yourself killed, you idiot.” before hurrying away from him to stand with her sister.

Sandor gives a sudden bark of laughter at this, “Don’t worry, brat, I’ll keep him alive for you. Wouldn’t want to deprive your lady mother of the chance to kill him herself when she finds out about this.”

They leave then, as Sansa stays upon the deck holding onto her sister, one hand placed upon her stomach as she watches until he is out of sight, seeing him turn around every so often to look for her. She does not even realize that she’s crying until Arya reaches up with one hand to gently wipe her cheeks.

“Don’t worry, Sansa, they’ll come back.” Arya tells her sister sincerely, “There’s the dragons after all, and they’ll be with Robb and Jon and Ghost and Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan. There’s no way that they can lose.”

“They will come back.” Sansa agrees resolutely, as the Captain calls for the ship to cast off and she and Arya both turn for one last look at the shore.

And when they do, may it be the last parting that Sansa has to endure.

**

It is difficult to wait in White Harbour, wondering what the outcome will be, waiting for the occasional ravens that the Maester at Castle Black sends with news.

Old fat Lord Manderly is kind to them and sees that they want for nothing, and Sansa and Arya move into a shared chamber together, overlooking the ocean. The lord’s granddaughters are soon counted as good friends, and many days are spent together at one task or another.

The reunion with Rickon and Talisa is a tender one. Their little brother has grown so much since they last saw him, he is now bigger than Bran was when they had first left Winterfell. He shows a strong tendency towards both wildness and stubbornness but the wildling woman who had looked after him, Osha, is able to keep him in check. Despite his time away, he remembers his elder sisters and enjoys sitting with them, demanding stories of their time away – of battles and dragons and far off exotic lands – and declares them better than any fairy stories. When his youthful spirit is too much to contain then Arya takes him down to the courtyard to practice at swordwork or tilting at a quintain and the ring of happy laughter can be heard from below.

Sansa and Arya both coo over their new nephew, Eddard, now almost two years old and growing every day. He is a laughing, happy child, eager to explore and needing to be constantly watched lest he get himself into trouble. Sansa enjoys sitting with her goodsister, spoiling her nephew and discussing the ways of babies as she prepares sets of tiny clothes for her own child.
The reunion with their mother is yet to come, Lady Catelyn remains at Winterfell to care for its inhabitants as its Lord sets out for war. In truth, she had refused to leave but insisted that her gooddaughter and grandson go to safety, denying the possibility that they might remain with her.

And so the days pass and Sansa waits as the child ever grows within her, finding ways to fill her days. The worry for Sandor is ever present within her, but she distracts herself by spending time with those she loves – seeing to Rickon’s education, teasing Arya over Gendry and listening to her admit her feelings with much embarrassment, discussions with Talisa about what has occurred in their absence, and with Osha about her time on Skaagos with Rickon.

There are dark moments, when a raven has not arrived for days, and Sansa begins to fear the worst. Will she never look upon his face again, will her child never know its father? There is so much to fear, the enemy is the most formidable that the realm has ever faced, unable to be killed by normal means. Despite the presence of Daenerys’s dragons and the knowledge that dragonglass can be used to kill the Others, it will be a formidable task. How should she live without him, should he not return? It is an impossibility, something that Sansa does not even want to consider, and yet for the sake of her child she knows that she must.

On the worst nights, Sansa takes to Arya’s bed, climbing in beside her and hugging her tightly while they both speak their fears. Arya remains optimistic, and Sansa wonders if it is mainly for her own sake, that her sister does not wish to compound Sansa’s worry with her own.  There are days when Sansa cannot bring herself to even leave her bed, her fear sits so heavily upon her. She spends her time in the sept and godswood when she may, kneeling on stone or before the hearttree, beseeching whatever mercy and grace that she may.

The months go slowly and soon Sansa is heavy with child, her time almost upon her, when finally they receive the message that she has longed for since she was first parted from him.

The war is at an end at last, Queen Daenerys’s dragons proving to be the key to their battles, along with the dragonglass swords and arrowheads that each warrior weilded. They have lost many men, but Sandor has written that all those whom Sansa and Arya hold dear are well, and that they shall be together soon once again. The relief had been so great at Sansa had broken down in sobs, clinging to her
goodsister who also shed some tears, as Arya danced around them with Rickon, laughing in her joy.

With the war an end, Sansa feels that even the air is somewhat warmer, as if signaling the return of a long awaited spring.
Robb and the majority of his forces will march directly to Winterfell along Queen Daenerys and her army. Jon remains on the wall for the time being, seeing to repairs and to the welfare of the men of the Night’s Watch, though he hopes to join his family for a time someday soon.

Sandor writes that he and Gendry shall take a ship from Eastwatch by the Sea directly to White Harbour along with the returning Manderly forces and Sansa finds herself waiting impatiently, her eyes most often turned towards the horizon, waiting for the first sight of the ship that will bear them. Talisa bids them farewell and leaves with Eddard, Rickon and Osha, accompanied by an honour guard. She is determined to reach Winterfell as soon as may be, longing for the reunion with her own lord husband.

On the day that the ship arrives, Sansa is unable to go to the docks to greet him, confined to her chambers for the past week now that her time is so near. Arya offers to stay with her, but Sansa will not hear of denying her sister her own reunion, one which she knows Arya has been desperately awaiting. So Sansa remains in her chambers, seated by the window so that she may see the moment that the ship lands; watching the happy crowds that have thronged the docks, cheering its arrival. She finds herself impatient, wishing to deny the maester’s advice and make her way there anyway, her concern for her child the only thing that stops her.

Sansa has had to learn far too much of patience for one lifetime, and it is sorely tested at this moment as she gazes longingly down, wishing that she could make out Sandor’s figures in the crowds.

She does not need to wait as long as she had feared, for within a half hour of the ship’s docking, she hears a commotion in the passage outside, a loud question muffled by the stone walls that immediately makes her heart sing. Her door is flung open with such force that it almost flies off its hinges and there, finally, after long months apart, stands her husband.

 “Sandor,” is all that she manages to say, before he shuts the door and crosses the room, gathering her up and crushing her to him. She
clings to him, crying all the while and babbling continuously – of how she’d missed him, how she’d feared for him, how she’d worried that he wouldn’t come in time.

“When you weren’t at the docks,” he finally says, pulling back to look down at her, his hands cupping her face, “I was afraid, I hadn’t thought to mark how much time had passed. Luckily that sister of yours told me exactly where you were.” He kisses her forehead before he claims her
lips eagerly, his arms winding around her as hers go to her back and neck.

It feels as if no time at all has passed since she last saw him, since he last kissed her in this way. But Sansa is crying, and when she raises her hand to touch his face she can feel the wetness upon his own cheeks.

He picks her up as if she were as light as a feather despite her increased weight, and carries her to the bed, settling her gently upon it. Pulling off his boots, he climbs in beside her and wraps his arms around her, one hand placed protectively upon her belly, and buries his face into the crook of her neck.

“I’ve missed you, little bird.” he murmurs into her skin, placing a lingering kiss upon her neck. “It won’t be an easy thing to make me leave you again.”

“It’s alright now,” Sansa whispers, tangling her fingers in his fine hair where it falls upon his neck. “We’re together again now, a family, and everything will be alright.”

He raises himself, leans forward to place a tender kiss upon her belly, and then resumes his place at her side.

Sansa knows that they are both finally home.

**
She is brought to the birthing bed not two days later, and nothing will make him leave her side. He glares at the attendants the first time they suggest that he should absent himself, and after that nobody has the courage to raise the issue again.

It is a long labour, and several times Sansa fears that she does not have the strength to see it through, but Sandor clenches her hand tightly and encourages her, even as Arya holds her other hand, having banished Gendry to the hallway outside where he sits with the Manderly sisters. Together they keep her spirits up as she pushes and pants, exhausted but refusing to give up.

When their child enters the world, red faced and squalling and impossibly tiny, Sansa knows that this will always be one of the happiest moments of her life as she first gazes upon the baby’s face.

“Congratulations, Lord and Lady Clegane,” the midwife tells them, “You have a beautiful daughter.”

Sansa would have liked to laugh for the sheer joy of it when they place the baby in her arms, but she is so tired that all she can do is smile up at her husband as he stands with one hand on her shoulder, gazing down at them with an expression of wonder, his throat working as he struggles to swallow some strong emotion. They are alone in the room now, Arya having ushered the others out to give them some privacy.

“Your daughter, Sandor.” Sansa whispers, the baby held securely in her arms. “Our daughter.”

He reaches out to touch the baby’s face, the fine dark hairs upon her head, and is undone.

**

It will be some time before they depart for Winterfell, in order to give Sansa time to recover and for their baby to grow and become stronger. Sansa longs to reunite with her family once more, to introduce her daughter to them, though Arya has developed a sudden reluctance to return, seeking to delay their departure as much as possible.

Sansa cannot help but laugh at this, her normally fearless sister afraid to face their mother and tell her who she wishes to marry. She and Sandor promise Arya and Gendry that they will stand by them, and speak on their behalf. Sansa imagines that once Queen Daenerys legitimizes Gendry and grants him lands and lordship for his parts in the battle, that her mother’s approval will be a lot easier to come by.
For now they enjoy their time together at White Harbour, at the simple pleasures of being together once more with nothing to fear. The weather is indeed becoming warmer and they often sit together on one of the balconies, basking in the afternoon sun.

Their daughter is a week old when they finally discuss names, never having had a chance to choose one before they were parted.

“Would you like to name her after your mother or sister?” Sansa asks Sandor gently, but he shakes his head resolutely.

“I would not like to give our daughter a name attached to such sad history. No, let us choose another name, little bird. What would you like to call her?”

Sansa has thought about it ever since their babe’s birth, of what name might be fitting for their child. At the back of her mind there has always been one name, a name that she had grown up hearing spoken in whispers and with grief.

“Perhaps we might call her Lyanna?” Sansa suggests shyly, and Sandor looks up in surprise from their daughter’s face, his expression a question as to the reason.

“I know that my aunt’s end was a tragic one, and that her choices affected all seven kingdoms of Westeros, yet my father loved her greatly, loved her so much that he brought her bones from Dorne to Winterfell and built a statue in her image, though that honour had previously been reserved for the high lords. While her story ended unhappily, she chose her own path, much as I have done. If she had not done so, then perhaps none of this might have come to pass, perhaps I might never have met you, never have been born at all. She was fierce and brave and beloved, and I would not want her to be forgotten by our family.”

Sandor nods once, his expression serious, and takes the baby from her arms to hold within his own.

“Lyanna it is.” he agrees, and leans down to kiss their daughter’s cheek.

Much like Lyanna, Sansa has made her own choices, has defied her family for love. It is a different matter that Robb had agreed to their match in the end, else there may not have been much difference between her and her aunt.

She has fought for her own destiny, fought for the happy ending that she deserved and today she has that life. In time, Sansa knows that they will face other trials, perhaps other separations, but there is time for that yet.

For now she has her husband and daughter by her side, her sister nearby, and her future clear in front of her.

Sansa watches Sandor hold their daughter, walking her up and down in the afternoon sunlight and speaking soft words to her, and knows that whatever choices she has made, that they have been the right ones.