Cat shrouded herself with her scarf and wore the same gown yesterday when she entered King’s Landing with Ser Rodrik. Her task here wasn’t satisfy enough to gather proof to have her justice, but it was satiable enough to gather information who the dagger belonged to now. Tyrion Lannister, she thought the devilish imp with disgust and resentful. Even his stature was not normal to be a lord. She prayed that justice would pay him a visit or two. Oh, how she really prayed that the Lannisters deserved what they get. All the blonde lot of them.
“I wish I could see the girls.” She missed Sansa and Arya already. Knowing that Sansa would be marrying to the prince gave her sadness but also happy for her daughter, her beautiful Sansa.
“It’s too dangerous.” Ned responded. She knew that was the answer as she was expecting it.
“Just for a moment,” Cat insisted, hoping it would convince him to let her see their girls one more time before leaving for Winterfell.
“Until we know who our enemies are…”
“I know they did it, Ned. The Lannisters. In my bones, I know it.” She would repeat countless of times that the Lannisters were behind Bran’s fall.
Ned looked down a little. He seemed that he wanted to believe in her words but he was so hesitant. “Littlefinger’s right. I can’t do anything without proof.”
“And if you find the proof?” She prayed to the Old Gods and the New that would be the case. She really wanted to have justice to those who attempted to kill her Bran.
“Then I bring it to Robert… And hope he’s still the man I once knew. You watch yourself on the road, huh? That temper of yours is a dangerous thing.”
She couldn’t repress a light chuckle. “My temper? Gods be good, you nearly killed poor Littlefinger yesterday.”
Even her husband couldn’t supress a low laugh. She remembered when she saw Ned pinned poor Lord Baelish against the wall yesterday with his hand. “He still loves you.” he said.
Cat knew what that meant. All too well she remembered the day Littlefinger challenged Brandon Stark to win her heart but failed, and mortally wounded. Brandon Stark was supposed to be her husband but he was called to the capitol and met his end there.
“Does he?” She looked at him and him to her. They looked at each other in the eyes for a moment and their heads got closer to each other and their lips met. Their arms wrapped around their necks and shoulders. It was a long kiss enough. She would still hope that she could give Ned a son or daughter before leaving again but that wouldn’t be best for now.
Finally, they broke off their kiss slowly. Their face grew concerned suddenly, but Ned’s hands were on her shoulder. “Off with you.”
Cat took another moment to look at her husband before leaving. And it meant a lot of things and meanings than just a glance of judge. King’s Landing was a dangerous place for anyone who were royals and nobles and important associates. She left Ned behind the Littlefinger’s brothel’s compound.
Ser Rodrik was waiting for her with the two horses they mounted, with supplies replenished from Littlefinger as a token of his friendship. They would be enough on their return trip back to Winterfell, where she belonged. She was hoping she could make a stop for her father Lord Hoster Tully where he was severely sick and eventually became bedridden.
But now her place was with her three sons: Robb, Bran and Rickon. Especially Bran since Ned told her that he had already awoken up. She couldn’t wait what she had to hear from Bran’s mouth concerning his fall. That would put the Lannisters in a bad situation, she hoped.
Ser Rodrik helped her got up her horse, and another moment she took another glance to her husband just one more time. May the Old Gods and the New protect him and my daughters in King’s Landing. It broke her heart that she had to leave Ned. Her husband had left her three times previously. First was during Robert’s Rebellion, second Greyjoy Rebellion, and the third was when Ned took the official royal office as Hand of the King to his long best-friend Robert Baratheon. This time however, she was the one to leave him but not the same reason. She left because she had good reasons to. To protect her family. Family, Duty, Honor.
Cat and Ser Rodrik reined their horses to where the Dragon Gate was located; they came in from there before they were found by the City Watch and brought to Littlefinger. It was the road to the kingsroad, the road to Winterfell. She would not dare to look behind as it would tempt her to stay just to be with Ned. She had to resist and supply her mind that her sons would need her guidance and assistance. They must’ve missed her already, but she knew Robb would be strong and wise in ruling in Ned’s stead.
As they strode off the road of the Dragon Gate there were still many people going in and out of the capitol city. Guards posted on their post and stopped individuals who sought to enter the city – asking for their warrants or official papers to get passed. Some were patrolling around in groups, armed and armoured, little were mounted. Cat noted that not many could afford horses or a saddle.
She had thought about hiring a ship to White Harbour and back to Winterfell. She had some money left for the return journey home but she’d rather save them and they have ample supplies on the road ahead. Not to mention that she’ll go past her father’s lands first and might make a stop at Riverrun and the Crossroad Inn. She would love to meet her brother Edmure again, and probably make an appearance for the riverlords and ladies. She was still a Tully deep in her. She might… but she won’t.
She started the conversation as they strode off from the city gate. “It’ll be nightfall when we reach my father’s land.” Cat said. “We’ll have to spend the time on the road.”
“We can make a stop at Darry. They’re your father’s bannermen. I’m sure they would greatly receive you as their guest of honour.”
Castle Darry was ruled by House Darry, a black plowman on a brown field. It would be a good idea to know that they would have comfort and proper food for a fortnight but Catelyn wouldn’t risk having their whereabouts and identity. If Littlefinger could know where she went or her intentions then anyone could as well. She was taken aback when the goldcloaks found her and Ser Rodrik when they entered the city through the Dragon’s Gate.
“No, we must not risk that.” Cat told him. “We’ll make a camp not far from the road if we have to. At first light then we’ll go to the inn at the crossroads.”
“Aye, m’lady.” he complied. An old and stoic but loyal lad. He may be big and old but he was still capable of fighting and trained as master-at-arms.
Cat looked back over her shoulder, and the city was impedingly staying away from her, and no goldcloaks to follow or stop her. It may be the last time she saw Ned, Sansa and Arya for a long time before meeting again. By then, Sansa might already marry to the prince and have children of princes and princesses. Arya also might have been betrothed to some southern high lord as well and probably learn some fundamental etiquette of how to be a lady. I miss my girls already.
She had left the dagger to Lord Baelish’s safekeeping. She thought it would be better to give it to him and received more information from what her old dear friend could gather. To know that the Lannisters had a hold of the dagger when Lord Baelish lost his bet to Tyrion Lannister during the prince’s last nameday was more than enough proof to arrest him and those who partake in the attempt. But Ned and Littlefinger suggest otherwise since it was too risky and that Lord Tyrion the Imp could contradict her statement. Littlefinger had been right as well because Bran’s direwolf Summer killed the catspaw that could otherwise spoke the truth against the Lannisters.
There was a fire happening during the attempt to assassinate Bran. She stayed in Bran’s room when it happened and the catspaw was so swift and skilled that Cat didn’t listen any noise when he entered the room. She tried to stop the catspaw in result her palms getting scars but she did it to protect Bran. It was pure luck that the direwolf was there to protect her boy.
Afternoon came and half an hour later they passed Hayford Castle and making their way across the countryside. There were still some leagues away before passing Harrenhal and Darry. Journey with two people would be faster than travelling in group or in an army (not that she had been in one) but the countryside were filled with criminals, outlaws and bandits alike. And that her children had direwolves each, who knows what creatures, could dwell in forests and caves and lakes.
“I suppose we can make a stop at the Ivy Inn. It’s not far from where we are now, Ser Rodrik. We’ll break our afternoon meals there for proper food.” she said, breaking their long silent.
“Decided to get warm meals and bed, m’lady?” the old knight asked.
Cat shook her head. “No, we couldn’t risk that. We’ll get beds at Crossroads’ Inn.” It had been awhile since she last saw Masha Heddle with her crooked smiling teeth. Cat remembered it all too well.
“It’ll be a long journey from the riverlands to Moat Cailin, m’lady. There won’t be any comfort in the Neck.”
“We’ll force ourselves to get as much closer to Winterfell then.”
They stopped at the Ivy Inn and a table for two. The inn was simple two floor house with the main hall first and the beds and room above. Outside was a stable with a small hut house at the back with a windmill. There were five family members that helped operate the business, and there were much patrons stopped over for a drink or bed.
Cat didn’t bring much with her, a large pouch of silvers would be enough for the road and they wouldn’t have to spend any for supplies, thanks to Littlefinger. They ordered what was enough to satiate their belly and kept the remaining silvers for the road ahead. Beef stew and bread was more than enough until dinner when they set up camp.
They didn’t rouse any suspicious heads or any whispers in the inn when they left. Everything was in order for her to get back to Winterfell. They mount up their horses and started moving north again. By nightfall they finally made camp around the outskirts of castle Darry. By tomorrow’s morning they would reach the Crossroads Inn and take a rest there for a day and after that they would make their harsh journey up the Neck to Winterfell.
They set up camp just east of Darry, and the both of them set up small tents to cover themselves from rain. Ser Rodrik then went on to a nearby patch of trees to find some firewood and twigs and branches to fuel the fire from extinguished. And he brought back a bundle of them back to their camp. From where they were, they could see the castle lit and people carrying torches passing them by but none bothered them.
As the fire was still burning brightly Ser Rodrik prepared their dinner with skewered beef meat peppered with salt and spices, and glazed with honey and butter. There wasn’t any support stand to place the skewer atop the campfire so they had to take out a small pan to cook it. Ser Rodrik waited for the pan to get heated and when it finally was he placed two of the skewered beef on the pan and came the sizzling sound and the great smell from the butter and honey glaze. Cat took out a boiled leather waterskin from the saddlebags that contained wine.
She sat back down on the log as her seat while watching Ser Rodrik tampering on the beef with his stick. Cat had to let out a chuckle. “I didn’t know you were good at cooking, ser, nor do I know that you have a thing for cooking.”
He smiled back. “If we have the necessary ingredients and things to make something good for a meal, my lady, I don’t see why not.”
It wasn’t a big portion, not that she was very hungry, but it was certainly good. Finally she had eaten something fine since she left Winterfell. The stay at Littlefinger’s brothel wasn’t much with just pastry and wine. She was surprised to even know that the old knight was a fine cooker.
After he was done finishing his fill and drank some wine from the waterskin, he told Cat that he would go to take a rest first and would wake up when Cat takes her sleep. It would be hard to sleep on rugged pelts with the dirt and grass just underneath it, not to mention that there would be insects flying around them with the fire they just started earlier. She took a moment looking around the dark night; it was beautiful with dim-lighted torches, sconces and braziers that were inside houses and the castle.
Cat looked up to the dark skies, with thousands of bright stars and the silhouette traces of the clouds. It was beautiful to ponder at to waste her time by before taking the short sleep. Even the wind was gentle as the Mother. It was cold, but a warm coldness against her skin and cheeks. Winter is Coming, her husband’s house words came into her mind. She had to enjoy her summer while it last before it came.
She started to feel her eyes about to close and felt that her eye bags a little heavier than it normally was. She had pondered for about half an hour up at the sky, awed at nature’s beauty the gods have blessed this world upon. She woke up Ser Rodrik slowly and told the old master-at-arms that she would be taking the short sleep before continuing their journey up to the inn.
Early in the blue morning Ser Rodrik woke her up. She let out a dry cough, and her eyes were still heavy from the sleep. The old knight passed the waterskin to her and she removed the attached cap and drank the contents. At first it was sour before starting to turn into a sweet taste, too much for her dry throat to handle she passed it back.
“With this morning, m’lady, we can move swift. I have already fed the horses.” he said, sitting down on his log and took out a small spool and two wooden bowls. He was already cooking something without her knowing. It was like a soup or something heavy liquid when he poured it on the bowl. “It’s oats, m’lady. Very hot and warm for the morning.” He handed Cat her bowl of hot oats.
She took it with gratitude. “Thank you, Ser Rodrik.” She slowly took the contents into her mouth. It was still freshly hot from the pot but it was sweet that it alleviated her empty stomach. “I should asked you to be the master cook of Winterfell one day other than being the master-at-arms, ser.”
He chuckled. “I’m far better off training your sons’ swords. Robb is still leagues away from mastering a sword, and Bran has yet to learn how to properly shoot a bow.”
If he ever could stand on his feet, would that I will be very much jubilant. She finished her fill. “We have to go the inn, Ser Rodrik. Sleeping on rough surface makes me uncomfortable and uneasy.”
“We’ll have to spend money when we take beds and meals at the inn, though.”
It was not her silvers anyway. “If you have the golds and silvers to spend at your leisure, ser, I don’t see why not.” she smiled back at him, remembering that the old knight told her something similar last night. They both laughed for a short while, until she broke their silence again. “We’d best get to the inn, then. Every second we wasted the more I yearned to see my sons’ faces.”
It was shining bright already by the time they were making their way. They passed castle Darry five minutes ago and they would reach the inn not long from now. There weren’t much people as they walk their horses. Most were busy with reining their wagons with goods and farming. Otherwise, not a person had bothered the both of them.
The inn was just before them, after some while, she thanked the gods for good beds and warm meals. They stopped before the inn and a stablemaster came to them, offering to let their horses stay under the stables’ roof with food and water. Cat accepted the offer and got down from their horses. She remembered to put her hood up when she heard the morning bustling chatter inside the inn. They entered.
It was almost packed that Cat thought they weren’t any rooms or seat for them to stay. That was until Masha Heddle came. She remained the same. Fat and middle-aged woman but with her dreaded smile that showed her blood-red teeth caused by her continuous eating of sourleaf. Ser Rodrik was the one to do the talking.
“Ser. M’lady.” she greeted. It was a good thing the innkeeper didn’t know who she was, for she was hidden under the shadow of her scarf. “How can I be of service?”
“Two rooms with beds and a table for two. All those until tomorrow. Can you give us that?”
“Indeed,” she nodded, “you’re lucky to have rooms because patrons left not along ago. Though there was still important persons here that take most of the rooms. What would you have for breakfast?”
Surprisingly to Cat, she found her stomach rumbling again. The oats earlier was only to fill for a short while until they reached the inn. “Two mugs of milk, for a start, and good bread you can offer and two stew. That’ll be all.”
“You can have the seat near the window, just near the staircase.” she showed the place where they were going to break their second fast. “Jeyne! Where is my niece? Don’t tell me she had enchanted herself with the lions.” she went into the kitchens.
Lions? Ser Rodrik led her to their table and seats. A window and the staircase was just opposite of the side of them. A tall thin girl, plain with brown hair and brown eyes brought them their mugs of milk. This could be Jeyne, Masha’s niece, Cat thought. She looked around her to the people that were in the inn. Most of them were her father’s bannermen. Brackens. Smallwood. Darrys. Whents. Freys. All of them. She felt safe and comfortable.
A singer came to join them at his own will. He grabbed a nearby stool and sat with them. “Would the two of you want a song? A Bear and the Maiden Fair? The Dornishman’s Wife?”
“What do you want, bard? Don’t you see that we are busy?”
“M’lady,” his tone was sweet. “is this your father? Grandpa here seems to dislike songs that are known throughout Westeros. I would gladly sing a song freely if grandpa here covers for my meal.”
“I’d rather throw myself down a well.” the knight responded, which she chuckled silently.
“Grandfather, may be your last chance if you’re heading north. The only music the northerners know is the howling of wolves!”
That was wrong. Sansa mastered her music lessons like a perfect lady she was. She could perfect sing Gentle Mother and A Bear and the Maiden Fair and more.
That was until when she heard the distant voice of a familiar that she hated. It was coming from the stairs and it was becoming more apparent as they were taking their steps down. She couldn’t see who it was but she could certainly tell who the voice belonged to. None other than the Imp of Casterly Rock, Tyrion Lannister.
She remembered that he was at the Wall visiting along with Jon Snow when he took the black. He was there now before the stairs with his richly crimson vest and tunic with a fur cloak over his shoulder. His blond curly hair and his nose were perfectly normal, even for a dwarf. Come to think of it, he would have been a perfect lord had he not been born a dwarf. There he was the mastermind behind her Bran’s fall.
“We will have our breakfast here before we make our journey back,” he said to Masha, “I don’t want to go on a journey with empty stomach.”
“The lot of you took a lot that I fear our storage and granaries might be exhausted.” Masha complained. The lot of them? Tyrion had seven Lannister guards, heavily in crimson cloak and armed.
“We paid you handsomely than the rest here. More so than your prices and fees. We’ll double our average pay so you can fill your stores again. Now, we would like to break our fast.” Tyrion took a look around them seeing that the room was filled with people. There were no seats left for his lot. “Is there no one to give up their tables and seats for us for a bag of silvers?”
“You can have my table and seat.” replied a sellsword that had a lean, wolfish appearance with a dark hair and dark eyes, with stubble of beard.
The Imp smiled. “There’s a clever man. You can manage on your yes, I trust?” He threw a small pouch of gold to the sellsword.
“My Lord of Lannister!” exclaimed the bard merrily. Cat looked away immediately as soon as the dwarf’s head turned to their position. “Might I entertain you while you eat? I can sing of your father’s victory at King’s Landing!”
“Nothing would more likely to ruin my supper.” Cat felt the silence, and that a glance was on her and Ser Rodrik. “Lady Stark! What an unexpected pleasure. I was sorry to have missed you at Winterfell.”
She sighed deeply because her cover was blown. Everyone, her father’s bannermen at the least, were now talking in whispers voices. “Lady Stark.” Masha curtsied.
Cat stood, and removed her scarf back. “I was still Catelyn Tully the last time I stayed here.” she said to her, then turn her face to a knight. “You, Ser… Is that the black bat of Harrenhal I see embroidered on your coat?”
A knight of House Whent nodded. “It is, my lady.”
“And is Lady Whent a true and honest friend to my father… Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun?”
She turned to another bannermen that sworn to her father’s house. “The Red Stallion was always a welcome sight at Riverrun. My father counts Jonas Bracken amongst his oldest and most loyal bannermen.”
“My lord is honoured by his trust.”
“I envy your father all his fine friends, Lady Stark, but I don’t quite see the purpose of this.” Tyrion Lannister said.
She was bothered by his interruption. She quickly ignored him and turned back to another bannermen. “I know your sigil as well… the Twin Towers of Frey. How fares your lord, ser?”
“Lord Walder is well, my lady. He has asked your father for the honour of his presence on his ninetieth nameday. He plans to another wife.”
She heard the Imp scoffed. Baffled by it, this was her moment. “This man…” she pointed her finger on the dwarf. “came into my house as a guest and there conspired to murder my son, a boy of ten.” she could see the confusion on his face. Act confused all you want, you cannot escape now nor can your guards to protect you. “In the name of King Robert and the good lords you serve, I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell to await the King’s Justice.”
All of her father’s bannermen answered her with a response of them unsheathing their swords and pointed at Tyrion and their guards. Even Ser Rodrik. The dwarf was speechless. Then a person appeared before them. She knew this one, a familiar sight that was not of dread and terror but of comfort. She knew him.
Tall and handsome, or pretty, with his short golden curls with a good body build, with straight and small bulgy chin and his delicate aquiline nose. His cheeks were crimson pink, his lips were similar to his brother but slightly smaller. He was Braenden Lannister of Casterly Rock. He was clad in a dreadful black cloak with a black lion carved on his chestplate.
“Tyrion, we sho- What is the meaning of this?”
One of the bannermen’s swords pointed towards Braenden’s neck, threatening him silence. She noticed that his hands were fast that it reached the pommels of his swords but made no further attempt to unsheathe his swords. “I could kill you all here like a hot knife through butter.” Braenden threatened.
“Braenden, stop.” Tyrion said.
“You’re outnumbered, Lannister. It’s high time that you meet your justice.”