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What The Raven Brings

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Catelyn was afraid. A raven had come from the Vale and her father had locked himself and the Blackfish away in his study. Whatever was happening, it was not good. How did it all fall apart so quickly, she wondered. One day she and Brandon were to be married and life was good. Then Petyr challenged Brandon to that foolish duel and that was scarcely over before Brandon was leaving to see to his sister's disappearance.

He had not come back like he'd promised. He'd gone to King's Landing and demanded his sister's return, and King Aerys had had him and his lord father executed. Oh, Brandon, how could you be so foolish? Catelyn was angry at him, and at Aerys, that mad and cruel king, and at Prince Rhaegar, who had not been content with his own wife and had taken Lyanna Stark, causing the whole mess. And she was terrified. Lord Jon Arryn had Brandon's brother Ned and Lyanna's betrothed Robert Baratheon with him in the Vale, so far refusing to turn them over to Aerys's "justice." She could not think why he would be writing to her father.

"Cat." Brynden Blackfish looked surprised to find her waiting outside the door.

"What's happening?"

"I should not be the one to tell you." He held the door open for her. "He wanted to be alone, but I think it'd be good for him to have your company."

Catelyn slipped inside and found her father standing at the window, looking out at the great rush of water where the Tumblestone and the Red Fork of the Trident converged. She went to stand beside him without speaking.

Lord Hoster put his arm around her and hugged her close, still watching the river. "My little Cat," he sighed.

"Why has Lord Arryn written to you?" she asked.

"He will not condemn his wards to Aerys and Aerys will accept nothing less. There will be war between them."

"Rebellion." Lord Darklyn of Duskendale, a Tully bannerman, had taken King Aerys captive several years ago. His rebellion had been short-lived, and at the end the whole of his family, down to the smallest babe, had been killed. Aerys would be just as merciless now as he'd been then. Catelyn had never felt such fear before.

"Rebellion," Lord Hoster agreed. "Arryn believes Tywin Lannister will remain neutral, if he does not join the rebellion outright. The combined strength of Arryn, Stark, and Baratheon will be a fair match for the Iron Throne."

Catelyn had to say it aloud, though the words frightened her. "He would not tell you this unless he meant for you to join him."

"Yes," her father said. "Aerys is mad, but Tywin kept the realm safe from his madness. Now...to execute lords, one of them a great lord, with no trials...For the prince to abduct a high lord's daughter...Any of us could be next, Cat. Something must be done."

"If we rebel and we fail, we will all die."

Her father hugged her tighter and Cat tucked her head under his chin, needing his strength like she had as a little girl believing she'd seen monsters in the dark. The monster is real and he wears a crown. "We will not fail," he promised, and she tried to believe him.

"Eddard Stark proposes to marry you in his brother's stead, to seal the alliance between our Houses. Do you agree?"

Catelyn had never met Eddard. She only knew what Brandon had told her about him; that he was quiet and shy and upright, the most serious of the Starks. Still, there was only one answer she could give. "Yes."

Lord Hoster kissed her forehead. "Good girl." He released her and turned back to the window and the river. "Send your sister Lysa to me."

Lysa had been moping about ever since Petyr had been sent back to the Fingers. She was still angry at their father, no matter how Catelyn tried to explain that Petyr had left him with no choice by acting as he had. This will reconcile them, she thought. Lysa will be too afraid for Father to stay angry with him. It was a small comfort in the daunting face of war, but Catelyn seized it eagerly and hurried to find her sister.