Chapter 1: Starting Point (2010)
On April thirteenth, 2010, the life of twelve-year-old Arya Stark changed forever. On that day, she was sitting in a seat in the middle of the school bus that was in the process of taking her home. While the school year was coming to a close, Arya was disappointed that she'd been given more homework throughout the past few weeks, and this was because final exams were coming up and the county school board had decided to add more homework so the students would be more prepared for their final tests and class assignments.
However, Arya felt that once she was over this academic hurdle, the following few months would be smooth sailing and that she would have an okay summer. She planned on going dirt biking and skateboarding, even if she didn't have many people to do these things with. Her first and only real friend, Mycah, had died in an accident three years earlier, and Mycah's distraught mother and father moved out of the town of Winterfell within weeks of their son being buried. Arya felt horrible when her friend died, and even years later, she still felt upset when she thought about Mycah for a long time.
If Arya wanted to bring anyone along, it would have to be her older cousin, Jon, if he decided to visit from where he lived up north. Jon was fond of riding on dirt bikes through the woods as well, though he didn't like skateboarding at all. Concerning other relatives, Arya knew her parents wouldn't come along, Robb (although athletic and enjoyed biking) no longer lived nearby, Sansa didn't like these types of activities, Bran was crippled, and four-year-old Rickon was too young to come along.
Robb himself, aged twenty-three, was getting married in five weeks. Although she got along with Robb's significant other well enough, Arya hated weddings. She'd been dragged to a few of them by her parents, and this would be the latest. While Robb got married, Arya wanted to be out biking somewhere through the woods going really fast, which would likely end with her being flung from her bicycle after hitting a tree stump or something and rolling through the dirt. She didn't care if it happened; as long as it took place, she'd be happy. One other event she would experience soon, likely within days from what her parents said, was that her Aunt and Uncle, Lysa and Jon Arryn, would be driving up from Eyrie to visit, likely bringing Arya's bratty cousin, Robert, up with them to visit the Stark family for a few days, perhaps even a week. Just what Arya needed: a spoiled, rotten little brat who would scream in her ear all day and snitch if she tried to sneak out to go skating or biking.
Currently, Arya's backpack sat next to her while the other children on the bus noisily shouted at one another. She was sitting next to the window in a seat on the right, and her bag was to her left. Nobody usually sat next to her, so this was common. Waiting for the ride to be over soon, Arya decided to look out the window to her immediate right. Mostly, there were a few cars and the occasional truck on the other side of the road, but then she noticed a police car with its siren on. Not too out of the ordinary; she saw some police cars every now and then when the bus took her home from school. However, what she noticed was that several more police cars began to tear down the road towards the main roads of the town of Winterfell. After a short while, even a police helicopter arrived and went the opposite direction of the bus. Arya wondered about what was going on, and she continued to watch as more police cars came around, part of the group even including an armored truck or two.
After a while, the bus stalled and then stopped, breaking down. The bus Arya took home had broken down before, and she knew what was going on as soon as it started happening. All around her, various students made surprised and confused noises while she stayed silent. The last time this happened, it took two and a half hours before Arya's mother, Catelyn, arrived to bring her home. Arya didn't want to spend two hours sitting there, waiting for her mother to show up, so she figured that she should sneak off the bus somehow and walk the rest of the way home. It wasn't very far from where the bus was currently located, just two left turns before she reached her family's home on Winter Street.
While the bus driver began to explain that the bus had broken down, Arya decided to wait for an opening to sneak off of the bus. Before she thought about how she'd go about doing this, she looked to her right for a short moment and saw that more police cars were headed towards the center of the town. Arya wondered if there was a riot or something going on in town, and she figured that if it was, she was fortunate to have gotten out and was on her way home before anything happened. Knowing that she'd have to make a few left turns, Arya decided that she would be leaving out of the left side of the bus.
Arya, after getting off the bus after successfully sneaking off, walked with her backpack towards the first left turn. She walked through the tree line adjacent to the bus so no one would see her, and as she neared the first turn, she heard more police sirens and saw another helicopter. Feeling like whatever was going on in town would catch up to her if she stayed put, she kept moving forward. She wondered if anyone from the bus noticed she was gone, but she didn't count on it. After all, hardly anyone noticed she was even on the bus with them half the time because of how quiet she always was.
After she made her first turn to get to Winter Street, she noticed that there were not a whole lot of people outside and around the street like what was normal for her neighborhood. Arya briefly wondered if this had something to do with the police cars and vehicles heading into town, but she put it out of mind. After all, she didn't really pay much attention to her other neighbors after Mycah died. Walking through the neighborhood, Arya became convinced that she would make it to her family's home without much trouble. Catelyn commonly left the door unlocked so that Arya could get in the house after the bus dropped her off (hers was the first stop). If it was locked, she'd just ring the doorbell and knock loudly and rapidly, and Eddard or Robb (who was visiting for a week with his dog in tow) would surely open the door for her.
After a brief while of walking, Arya made it to Winter Street and began to walk towards her family's two story house. As she made her way down the street, she noticed that like before, there were no people anywhere. The only sounds were the distant police sirens coming from the main road and what sounded like gnawing and chewing. Curious, Arya followed the sound of the chewing noise and walked to its source, which was behind a parked car. Cautiously and quietly, Arya continued to follow the sound to its source, and she found a neighbor hunched over something.
"Hello…?" Arya said cautiously. Instantly, the man dropped what he had in his hands–a dead cat–and Arya realized that this man had been eating it. The man jerked upward and turned around to face her. It was then that Arya noticed the man's skin was gray instead of a healthy pigmentation, and his eyes were sunken-in and completely pale blue. No irises or pupils, just pale blue. Arya, not expecting to see something like this, staggered backwards while still looking at him, realizing he'd been eating the cat when he opened his mouth and growled aggressively at her like an animal, revealing bloodstained teeth.
Arya screamed and ran towards her house when he started to chase her. Arya was quick, but the gray man was quicker–grabbing onto her backpack after a short while. Arya shook the bag off of herself and kept running towards the house, not caring if her bag got damaged or not by this crazed man that was chasing her. Arya managed to get back to the house, and to her delight, she found that the front door was unlocked. She flung the door open as the man neared, and she slammed it shut and quickly locked it. Immediately after, the angry, growling man began slamming himself against the door. Arya, shaking, stared at the door for a short while the man continued slamming himself against it, and he left a short while later. Arya figured that he'd given up and was hopeful that he wouldn't return. The thought of the cat still stuck in her mind, though, and she wondered why the man had decided to eat a cat. As she walked into the house, Arya figured that the man outside was sick and or crazy, hence the gray skin and pale blue eyes and behavior.
A beeping noise caught Arya's attention. She looked over to the kitchen, and she saw the answering machine giving off a red glow that signified a new message or two. Curious about what the message could be and just wanting to take her mind off of nearly being potentially beaten up or even kidnapped by some nut job, Arya decided to listen to the message before she went looking for her mother, father, and brother. She was confused as to why they were not around at the moment. Usually, Arya would come home to find Catelyn getting dinner ready and Eddard in the back gardening. Regardless of where they were now, Arya pressed the button on the answering machine to play the message.
"Two new messages," the robotic voice belonging to the answering machine said. "Message one. Left at twelve-thirty AM on April thirteenth."
April thirteenth? Arya thought. That's today.
"Hey, Cat, this is Lysa." Arya recognized the voice of her aunt, Lysa Arryn. On the message, Lysa's voice proceeded to discuss Arya's uncle, Jon Arryn. "Unfortunately, we can't begin to come up there today like what we discussed. Jon had a run in with a crazy guy outside our house when he went to check the mail, and we had to take him to the nearest hospital because, get this, this guy he ran into out there bit him."
With the description of the "crazy guy", Arya was reminded of the individual who had just tried chasing her outside. She then became more horrified than before. What's going on? she thought. Lysa's voice continued. "Anyway, Jon says he's not feeling well enough to drive up to Winterfell to see you and your family, so we'll have to postpone our trip until this whole mess gets sorted out and Jon is feeling better. Anyway, I hope you can understand. We'll call you back if there's an update."
The robotic voice came back after a brief pause. "Message two. Left at one-fifteen PM on April thirteenth."
Then Lysa's voice again. "Cat, are you there? Ned? Anyone, please call me back! Jon's… Jon is… please, there is something going on, there are lots of sick-looking people around, and the police aren't letting me leave! Please, just let me know you're okay!"
Then the robot. "End of messages." There was a beep, and then silence.
Now thoroughly unsettled, Arya began to search the house for her family. "Mom? Dad?" she called as she began to walk through the house. The house was uncharacteristically quiet, and it made Arya wonder if they were even home at all. She had seen Robb's car out front, so she figured that he was still around somewhere. Wanting to see if the cars belonging to other relatives were present in the garage (Robb's was the only one outside), Arya began to walk to the garage to see if they were there. She scurried over to the door to the garage, and she opened the door and turned the light on. The car belonging to Arya's elder sister, Sansa, was missing, but her parents' car was there instead. She heard a familiar gnawing sound, and she followed the sound of the noise to its source, and she was horrified at what she saw.
It was Robb, with gray skin and pale blue eyes, tearing into the remains of his beloved Akita, Grey Wind. Arya's heart lurched into her throat when she saw that like the man outside, her brother was just like him. Robb, who was facing Arya's direction, briefly paused to look up at his sister, lowly growling as Grey Wind's blood dripped from his mouth.
"Robb…?" Arya said carefully, trying hard not to sound frightened.
Robb growled and dove for her. Arya screamed and ran back into the house, hoping that Robb wouldn't open the door and follow her. Instead, he slammed himself against the door several times, and Arya thought the door would break down due to the sheer amount of weight being pressed and slammed on to it.
Arya, starting to become fearful, shouted, "ROBB, PLEASE STOP!"
Robb didn't listen. Instead, he continued to growl and slam himself against the door. It was then that Arya noticed that the hinges on the door were starting to splinter from the wall. Because of this, Arya ran upstairs and to her bedroom to hide herself. She locked the door and quickly pushed a small shelf in front of it to act as a barricade in case Robb followed her up there. Deciding to stay in her bedroom and wait, Arya wondered where her parents were. She knew that Robb was inside the house, and he'd apparently killed Grey Wind. Thinking about this, Arya was more confused and unsettled than before. Why would Robb kill his pet? The only other dog the Starks had, Sansa's Yorkshire Terrier, Lady, had to be put down after getting severely sick and was unable to be treated. Almost everyone was saddened, but Sansa and Robb were the most distraught of all of them. Robb loved dogs, and Arya didn't understand why he'd harm Grey Wind.
Hours passed. During those hours, Arya mostly stayed secluded in her room and occasionally looked out the window in order to view the street below. She watched several people get swarmed by people who looked like Robb and the man outside. Some got away, but most of these poor souls were swarmed and killed. Arya watched as a good amount of them were eaten alive, while others were partially eaten. Those who had been partially eaten or even just bitten turned into more of those like Robb. Some of the gray, blue-eyed people targeted animals and bit into and ate them, but unlike the people, the animals never came back.
Arya thought back to Robb and the man outside when she saw the bitten and partially eaten people turn. She had indeed seen bite marks on the both of them, and Arya didn't think that whoever was bitten would come back to being like a normal person. And now Robb was one of them. Arya had ventured out of her bedroom a few times, and it was during these times that she discovered her parents in the house. The both of them had turned as well.
Going to bed that night, Arya kept her door locked and kept it barricaded. When she woke up the next morning, she sat on her bed and did a lot of thinking. She came to realize that her home was not safe with everything that was going on taking place. I need to leave and find somewhere actually safe, Arya thought. However, her aunt's phone messages flashed back into her mind, and Arya figured both she and her uncle were among the growing ranks of the gray, blue-eyed people as well. Because of this, she didn't know where "somewhere actually safe" was located because if this was happening in both Winterfell and Eyrie, which were long distances apart from one another if one were to look at a map, then likely nowhere was safe. Regardless, she figured she had to try and find something, anything, that was potentially out there.
Arya cautiously exited her bedroom, and she quickly snuck downstairs to the kitchen. She could still hear Robb growling and stumbling around in the garage, and she wanted nothing to do with what was going on in there. Knowing she had to protect herself somehow, Arya made her way to where Catelyn kept her large kitchen knives and pulled two of them out of the knife block on the counter and then some rolls of bread from the fridge. Arya made her way to the door, unlocked it, and she opened, stepping out into the day.
"I'll check in town first," Arya said to herself, thinking that since there was a massive police presence going towards town a short while earlier, there would be someplace safe there. Arya gripped the handles of her knives, took a deep breath, and stepped out of the house and onto the street, leaving behind her infected parents and brother.
Chapter 2: The Crew (2010)
After leaving her home, Arya figured it would take a short while to make it to the inner town of Winterfell and look for a safe area set up by all of the police she'd seen earlier. However, it took her three days to make it to the town itself. She spent the first few days dodging various ranks of the living dead, which Arya had taken to calling "wights", and by the time the first day ended, she was hiding among the wooded area around the neighborhood, and various times, she watched as a few poor souls were swarmed and killed.
Regardless, Arya, still very nervous, tried to get some sleep, leaning up against a tree trunk as she tried dozing off with either knife at her side. She didn't get a whole lot of sleep, and she had nothing to eat as well. She woke up every time she heard a noise, but they were mostly just squirrels and even a deer once.
Waking up the next day, Arya was surprised to see that none of the wights had spotted her while she slept. However, she knew that being in the woods out in the open was dangerous because of the dead potentially headed her way, so she continued walking towards the main road. After getting back to the street, Arya looked to her left and then her right before taking off at full speed towards the main road. She heard the unmistakable sound of a wight growling nearby, pushing her to run faster towards the road.
Relieved, Arya stopped to catch her breath when she made it to the main road, and she looked back towards where she'd been walking the previous day. There was a large traffic jam, and Arya decided to walk in between cars to avoid being spotted by any wight that walked by from the woods or other side of the road. Arya, gripping her knives, peered at some of the cars as she walked. They were all abandoned, like whoever was driving them got sick of the traffic jam when the dead arrived, left their cars, and began running for their lives. It made Arya wonder where they all were now, and she figured that they were most likely dead, some of them likely with the dead wandering Winter Street and its surrounding neighborhoods, too.
After a while, she came across the school bus that she'd abandoned when everything started. Several windows and the door were open, and Arya wanted to see if anything (or anyone) was left on board. Cautiously, Arya approached the front door of the bus and boarded while gripping both of her knives, noticing a massive bloodstain on the part of the opened door to her left. Hoping that nothing was inside the bus, she entered and found blood sprayed all around, and there was a wight inside, a young, fat boy. Arya did not recognize him, but the wight evidently heard her enter.
It raised its head, turned around, and growled as it charged at Arya. Arya, gripping her knives, braced herself as the wight approached, then acting as she swung one of the knives forward, embedding it into the wight boy's head. Immediately, he stopped running towards her and collapsed, dying for a second time. Arya, panting from the shock of what'd just happened, yanked the knife from the wight's head. Arya, still rapidly panting, backed away from the body while still observing it, heading towards the back of the bus.
Wight or not, she'd just killed someone. Not wanting to stare at the undead fat boy's remains anymore, Arya grabbed him by his feet and began to drag him off the bus, pulling him to the other side of where she'd been walking through the cars. Getting back on the bus, Arya decided to investigate what the thing had been eating. Cautiously, Arya walked to the back and saw that unlike before, it was not an animal–this was a person instead. Arya could not tell who it was because the face had been completely gnawed away.
Figuring that she could stay on the abandoned bus for the night if she needed to, Arya decided to completely clean it out and remove this body as well. So she got to work with removing it, dragging the body larger than the wight boy outside the bus as well, leaving a trail of blood behind it. Outside, Arya looked around, and when she saw no wights anywhere, she felt safe enough to drag the partially-eaten body towards the fat wight boy and stack him atop her first wight kill. It was then that Arya looked and noticed two mobile wights emerging from the nearby tree line. Not wanting to be seen, Arya turned and ran back onto the bus.
She spent the night on the bus after getting the door closed as much as she could. Curling up in a ball to sleep in a seat, Arya felt her stomach growl. She hadn't eaten all day, and she regretted not looking for anything to eat while it was still light out. Regardless, she tried to get some sleep regardless.
The next day, Arya woke up and immediately made her way to the road, heading towards Winterfell's main streets. Today, she did not want to waste her time inspecting cars and other vehicles. Instead, she just pushed forward, hoping to find a safe area soon. Hopefully, the people in this safe area she hoped to find would have food. Starvation continued to make itself present in Arya's body, and she knew she'd have to find food one way or another.
Eventually, she made it into the town. It was after noon by then (Arya figured around two), and she looked around and saw many massive stains of blood, miscellaneous garbage, and abandoned cars around, some of them police cars. Upon seeing the police cars, Arya thought that the safe area she hoped to find did not exist. If the dead had taken out most of (if not all of) the town's police force, then Arya didn't think the rest of the town stood a chance. Feeling like she would be in harm's way if she walked down the street, she took to walking down the sidewalk instead, moving past several abandoned businesses. Most of them had been ransacked, evident by destroyed windows and emptied shelves inside of what were once bakeries and other small food stores. One had even been burned to the ground and was now a black husk instead of a well cared for building.
Her stomach growled again, demanding food. Not wanting to starve, Arya reached a decision she wouldn't even consider on a normal day: she would have to dig through garbage cans for food. She did this before at age seven to gross Sansa out, and the half-eaten hamburger she pulled out of a garbage can did the trick. Unfortunately, Arya became sick and was vomiting for two days as a result of eating the hamburger. Arya didn't like the idea of doing this again, but she figured that if she found something, anything, that she could eat something someone had thrown away without doing so much as taking a bite out of it.
Arya turned around a corner and, after finding more abandoned police cars that looked burned out, she found a garbage can nearby an alleyway. A car with its wheels missing–likely stolen–was in front of the alley. Arya hurried over to the garbage can and stuck her arm in, feeling around for something. She felt a few things, specifically a paper bag, a soda bottle, a balled up piece of paper, and other things that weren't food.
Sighing, Arya pulled her hand out and began to back up a bit. When she felt herself bump into something large, she quickly swiveled around and brandished both knives, thinking it potentially was a wight. Instead, it was a fat boy with a companion who was lanky. The both of them looked around her age.
"Who are you?" Arya asked.
"We can ask you the same thing," the fat kid answered.
"Yeah!" his friend added in. "Now tell us who YOU are!"
Arya didn't know these boys. She did not recognize either of them, and she was sure they were not students at her school, either. Regardless, these two had taken an interest in her, and Arya was willing to fight them off if she had to. I handled a wight, she thought. I'll handle these idiots.
The fat one, likely getting bold, suddenly reached forward and grabbed the front of Arya's shirt, yanking her towards himself. "TELL US WHO YOU ARE, YOU–"
He was cut off when Arya raised a knife and put it to his throat. The fat boy's eyes widened with fear, and his companion watched, either amused or too nervous to move. Arya's eyes narrowed. As she spoke, the fat boy slowly began to release her. "I've killed a fat boy before, and he wasn't even a boy at that point, just one of the wights. Do you think I'll stop at you?"
Just then, another guy emerged from the alleyway. This one was tall and buff. Regarding age, Arya guessed he was in mid adolescence. The buff guy called over to the fat boy, saying, "Hot Pie, what are you doing now?"
Hot Pie looked over at the buff guy, and he stammered, "N-nothing, Gendry, just–"
"Just picking on someone shorter than you?" Gendry said, crossing his arms.
Hot Pie looked ashamed. "…Yeah…"
Gendry shook his head in disappointment. "Bring her back here."
Sitting in the back of the alleyway against a brick wall, Arya silently ate a slice of bread Gendry had given her. Pleased to be eating food, Arya just focused on the bread and ignored everything else around her. Arya had asked for more, but Gendry explained that it was all he could provide. Gendry, the head of this small group, had explained that he was trying to ration what little food they had collected.
Nearby were Hot Pie and his lanky friend, Lommy. They were both sitting up against the wall opposite to Arya. Hot Pie had a bagel, and Lommy was eating an apple slice. Gendry was not eating anything, just pacing around with a crowbar, likely looking around for potential threats.
"Could you please just tell us who you are?" Hot Pie suddenly asked, getting Arya's attention. "I mean since you're part of us now, I think we should know who you are."
Arya contemplated answering, but she did anyway. "Arya."
"Well… hello, Arya," Hot Pie said, sounding like he was uncomfortable. Then he explained. "Look, I'm sorry about being horrible back there."
"It's fine," Arya said as she continued eating the bread. As she was finishing, Lommy asked her, "You got a family?"
"I did," Arya said after she finished chewing and then swallowed. "My parents and brother are among the wights now. Everyone else… I don't know. What about you two?"
Hot Pie and Lommy looked at each other before they spoke, Hot Pie first. "My parents died when all of this started. So did Lommy's."
"We were neighbors in an apartment building in town," Lommy said, then pointed to something off in the distance. Arya looked, and she saw the faint outline of a taller building in the distance. "One of our neighbors, I guess he was infected, got into our apartments. Me and Hot Pie made it out to the streets, and we had to hide under a car when everything happened."
Hot Pie nodded rapidly. "Yeah," he said. "It was crazy when the cops showed up and started shooting at the wights. Lots of people died, it was like a riot in town. We tried sneaking away, and some wights cornered us. We'd have died if it weren't for Gendry and this older guy he was with, Yoren."
"Where is Yoren now?" Arya asked.
"Dead," Lommy answered. "He was bit the next day, and we had to run when he started to turn… it happened so fast."
"We've been with Gendry ever since," Hot Pie explained. "We've been scavenging for food, and we all have weapons." To show his own weapon, Hot Pie raised a wooden bat next to him. Lommy had a wood plank with a nail driven through it.
Though Arya had expected to find a safe zone set up by the police, she now realized that none existed. She figured that the next best thing was this small group run by Gendry. Because of this, she asked, "Mind if I stay with you three?"
Hot Pie and Lommy looked at each other before they faced her again. "I'm fine with it," Hot Pie said. Lommy nodded, then added in, "Yeah."
Hot Pie looked over at Gendry. "Gendry!"
"She's in," Gendry said without hesitation or looking over to the others. He continued pacing, and Arya wondered if he was too focused on keeping watch to look at the others.
Now that Arya was part of this group, she couldn't help but think back to her family, wondering if the ones not turned into wights were still alive somewhere. She recalled Sansa's car being missing from the garage, and Arya hoped that this meant that she and the others were somewhere and still alive. Regardless, she figured that for the time being, she would be with these three.
While Arya figured she'd need a while longer to warm up to Hot Pie and Lommy, she'd already taken a great liking to Gendry after he stood up for her and had given her what little food he could share with her. Now that Arya was a member of this small group, she figured that she would have to help with searching for more food and potentially other supplies.
That night, Arya sat around a small fire set in a trash can that Gendry and Lommy had made. Also sitting there around the fire were the three she was now part of a group with. As they sat there, they talked.
"Tomorrow, we're going to search for more food," Gendry announced. "We're running low as it is, and Arya's new presence in our group's going to bring a demand for more food. Here's how it's going to be: Arya and I will split off from you two to look for food around town, and you guys go on your own to find food. We'll gather back here around noon when we have everything."
Food around town? Arya thought. I'm pretty sure everything's been picked clean by now.
"Alright," Hot Pie said. "Who's on watch tonight?"
"I am," Gendry said. "Hot Pie, I'll wake you up when it's your turn."
While Arya figured that sooner or later, she would have to spend time with Hot Pie and or Lommy, she was fine searching for food with Gendry.
"Alright, are we all ready?" Gendry asked the following day. The group of four, each holding their weapons, were standing in the alleyway and had just finished going over their plans for gathering more food.
"I'm ready," Arya said.
"So am I," Hot Pie said.
Lommy nodded rapidly. "Yeah."
Arya and Gendry made for the exit of the alleyway first, but Gendry suddenly stopped and held his arm out, signaling for everyone else to stop.
"What is it?" Lommy asked.
"Do you hear that?" Gendry asked, speaking quietly. "People."
Hot Pie and Lommy slunk back into the alley, but Arya stayed with Gendry. He looked at Arya and whispered, "Follow me over to that car. We'll hide behind it and listen."
Arya and Gendry crouched and snuck over to the car in front of the alleyway. They silently crouched next to the car, weapons in hand, as they listened in on a conversation between three men.
"How much longer? I haven't eaten in days."
"A man must have patience, and so must a man's companions."
"Patience," the first man sneered. Arya heard a growl coming from a third man. The first continued. "Jaqen, we've been meandering around for days. There's no food left in Winterfell. If we find someone with food, I'm not afraid to smash their head in."
The third man made another noise, and this sounded like growling or hissing. Arya wondered if the third man could even speak.
"Do you know them?" Arya whispered.
"No," Gendry answered just as quietly as the men continued speaking. They'd likely stopped to discuss the problems faced by their own group and were evidently unaware of the presence of Arya's group.
"Biter and I are getting hungry," the first man growled. "Now you're going to help us find food before I skin you."
Jaqen chuckled. "A man is aware, Rorge."
Arya didn't understand how someone could laugh off such a serious threat. She knew about skinning–a few months earlier, the police in the nearby town of Dreadfort were tracking a serial killer who went by the alias of "Red Helm". Red Helm had a reputation for skinning people alive, and Arya shuddered thinking about it. She overheard her parents talking about the same serial killer with Robb and Sansa, and Arya had also heard that Red Helm was capturing people around Winterfell as well. A few days before the apocalypse hit, Arya learned that the feds finally caught him. Red Helm turned out to be a psychotic man named Ramsay Bolton who had slain several of his own family members alongside his other victims. Arya hoped he was dead and that he hadn't found an opportunity to escape when the wights began to attack people.
Jaqen continued. "Mayhaps there is food around here, this very area."
Rorge snorted. Arya listened as he began to walk around the car. "I wouldn't count on it. This town's been ripped to shreds– HEY!"
Arya and Gendry stood up and backed up down the sidewalk as Rorge took notice of them. Biter and Jaqen then noticed as well, and the former two charged at Arya and Gendry as everyone began yelling. Biter charged at Gendry while Rorge went for Arya. Arya swung her knives at the massive, powerful man before her while Gendry swung his crowbar at Biter, who had charged him like a rabid dog. Gendry hit Biter on the back with his crowbar, but it didn't seem to work very well; Biter evidently seemed to have a high tolerance to pain.
Meanwhile, Rorge had quickly overpowered Arya, and she'd dropped both of her knives after Rorge gave her a hard punch in the gut. He hit very hard, and she crumpled to the ground, wheezing and clutching her wounded abdomen. Arya began to hear growling off in the distance, and as she tried to climb to her feet, Rorge laughed and kicked her hard, knocking her down again. Nearby, Biter kept snapping at Gendry's face with his sharpened teeth, and he kept trying to fight him off, winding up with the crowbar being shoved horizontally into Biter's mouth. Biter hissed and bit down onto the rusted metal as Gendry pushed Biter back.
Rorge stomped over to Arya and would have attacked her again if Hot Pie and Lommy hadn't run out from the alleyway and began hitting him with their own weapons. Rorge growled in annoyance and punched Hot Pie in the face, sending him staggering backward. Rorge grunted as Lommy's plank hit his back, and he snatched the plank from Lommy's hands and promptly broke it over his knee, tossing it off to the side in the process. Lommy's eyes widened in fear of what was to come, and Rorge reached for his face. However, before Rorge could get his hands on Lommy, Jaqen leapt from the roof of the car and kicked Rorge in the back of the head.
As Rorge staggered forward, rubbing the back of his head, Arya grabbed a sole knife and began to climb to her feet, still feeling very sore. Nearby, Hot Pie gripped his bat and began to get back on his own feet as Jaqen wrapped his right arm around Biter's throat and pulled back, enabling Gendry to climb out from beneath the massive bald man, crowbar in hand. Rorge noticed, and he began to rush at Gendry, only for Jaqen to use most of his own power to toss Biter at Rorge. They collided, and the back of Rorge's head smashed into a window of the car, breaking it and causing the car alarm to go off. While Biter flailed around and screeched, Rorge groaned pitifully.
Arya and Jaqen locked eyes for a moment after this. "A man suggests a girl and her friends leave quickly!"
Arya finally climbed to her feet, grouping up with Hot Pie, Gendry, and Lommy. All four of them looked beyond Jaqen, and they saw something that horrified them all: a massive swarm of wights were approaching from down the street. From what Arya could see, there were at least sixty of them.
"RUN!" Arya screamed, and the four then turned to run away, leaving Jaqen, Rorge, and Biter behind.
The four ran for the rest of the day, leaving the town of Winterfell and their scarce amounts of food all behind. Around dusk, Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy were on the highway headed south. When they made it out to the highway, they slowed down and began walking. After a while, they came across another traffic jam, the line of parked cars being very long. It reminded Arya of the traffic jam back on the main road in Winterfell.
"What now?" Hot Pie asked as everyone stopped in front of the cars. Gendry, who was up front, turned to face everyone else.
"We walk through the cars," he explained. With this, they all began to wade through the long line of cars. They walked for thirty minutes before Arya heard it: crying.
"Do you hear that?" she said.
"Hear what?" Lommy asked. Everyone stopped walking and faced Arya.
"Crying," Arya answered. "Listen."
Everyone stopped to listen.
Hot Pie shrugged. "I don't hear anything, Arya. I think you're imagining–"
"No, no, I hear it," Gendry broke in, then walked towards a car, likely following the noise to its source. Arya, Hot Pie, and Lommy followed him over to the car, and the crying noise became louder. Gendry wedged his crowbar into a back door of a car and, with a few hard jerks, forced the door open, revealing the source of the noise. Inside the car, sitting in the backseat was a small girl, a toddler in a pink car seat.
The girl in the car seat continued to cry, and she stared at the four who had discovered her uneasily, like she was trying to figure out what they were all about.
"Who are you?" Lommy asked. The girl just shook and made a whimpering noise, sniffling and crying all the while. The four approached her, and Hot Pie and Lommy began to provide a steady stream of questions to the girl.
"Come on," Lommy insisted. "Tell us who you are!"
"Where are your parents?" Hot Pie asked.
"Can you talk?" Lommy asked.
"How old are you?" Hot Pie pushed.
Upon hearing Hot Pie's second question, the girl–still shaking uneasily and crying–raised her right hand and lifted up two fingers.
"You're two?" Hot Pie asked for clarification. The girl nodded.
"Can you say anything?" Lommy asked, sounding annoyed. "Come on, talk!"
The girl shuddered and whimpered. Arya, eyes narrowing, stepped forward. "Lommy, Hot Pie, back off. I'll talk to her."
Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy walked away, allowing Arya to speak to the girl alone. Arya remembered as a younger child speaking to a screaming and flailing Rickon for the first time and being able to calm him down. Because of this, she figured that she could get the girl in the back of the car to calm down.
"Hey," Arya said gently to the girl, placing a hand on the girl's smaller hand. "Don't worry. You're okay. I'm not going to hurt you."
The girl observed Arya, and she stopped sniffling and stared into Arya's gray eyes. Arya continued to reassure her. "We'll be fine. You don't have to worry about us. Now I'll talk to the others and come back to you, okay?"
The girl smiled and nodded. Arya was relieved that the toddler was starting to feel better. Arya walked over to the others, and Hot Pie was the first to ask about what happened. "So what happened?"
"I got her to calm down," Arya said. "I think she should come with us."
"Why?" Lommy asked. "She'll just slow us down. If we stick around here for long, those wights from town are going to catch up to us."
"Let's discuss this, then," Gendry said. "I'm willing to take her with us."
Lommy's eyes narrowed in disapproval. "Gendry, are you serious?"
"Yes," Gendry said. "And Arya agrees with me. Hot Pie, what about you?"
"Uh…" Hot Pie said, looking around like he was searching for an answer. Then it seemed to hit him. "Aren't… aren't we out of food? Why bring in another mouth to feed?"
"That splits us in half," Arya said. "Majority rules, right, Gendry?"
Gendry nodded. "Yeah, that's how this'll work."
"Hot Pie, Lommy, she has no one," Arya said.
"Her parents–" Lommy tried to explain, but Arya interjected.
"Her parents are most likely dead," she said, the girl again reminding her of young Rickon, who she would never leave for dead. "If not, they're horrible people for abandoning their two-year-old daughter like this. She'll die without anyone helping her."
Hot Pie looked a little guilty. Arya continued. "Lommy, we'd be no different from them by leaving a little girl to die. She has no one, and we're likely the only ones who know she's here."
Hot Pie shuddered and took a deep breath. "Okay, okay, you've convinced me."
"What?!" Lommy snapped, shooting an angry glance over at Hot Pie.
"Then it's settled," Gendry said. "She's coming with us."
Lommy's hands were balled into fists, and his forearms were shaking. He was glaring at Gendry, and Arya thought that Lommy wanted to hit Gendry, which would only end horribly because Gendry could have very clearly easily snapped a scrawny twig like Lommy in half. Lommy opened his mouth again. "Gendry, are you going to keep being stupid–"
Gendry approached Lommy with an angry glare in his eyes with an imposing stance. For a second, Arya really thought that Gendry would punch Lommy in the face because of the tense feeling of what was going on. Hot Pie must have felt the same way because he looked outright scared. As Gendry approached, Lommy's angry face seemed to shift a bit as if there was a hint of nervousness behind his mask of rage now that Gendry was making it clear he wasn't putting up with his defiant nonsense.
"Lommy," Gendry said in a low, serious tone. "Shut your mouth."
The little girl, who was now silently crying, tightly held on to Arya's hand as they walked with the rest of the group towards the end of the cars on the highway. Sure, she slowed everyone down, but they made it to the end of the traffic jam as night set in. The whole way, the toddler made no noise aside from sniffling (Arya thought that if she could talk, she did not know many words, but passed her silence off as her being afraid and probably hungry as well). Gendry seemed to be closely looking at cars. Currently, the only light was provided by the moon and stars.
"Are you looking for something, Gendry?" Arya asked.
"Yeah," he answered. "A usable car."
"Why do you want a car?" Hot Pie asked.
"All five of us can drive away from Winterfell and get far away from here," he explained. "We just need to find a usable car, preferably with keys in it."
"What are the chances of that, though?" Lommy asked.
"We'll find one," Gendry said.
"Really?" Lommy snickered.
"We'll find one," Gendry pushed, sounding annoyed. Although Lommy could be annoying at times and somewhat selfish as well, Arya had to agree with him on this one and that he had a point. Arya didn't know anyone who'd just abandon a car and leave the keys for someone to take for their own.
A short while later, they made it to the end of the long line of cars, and Gendry peered into the partly blood smeared window of a light brown sedan. "Is that… yeah, it is!"
"What?" Hot Pie asked eagerly.
"A car with keys!" Gendry announced, and Arya felt surprised and relieved. She did not expect to find something like this, but she was pleased to make the discovery regardless.
"Is it unlocked?" Arya asked, prompting Gendry to walk over to the other side of the car to open the door. It was unlocked. After looking at the open door and inside of the car, he faced everyone else. "Everybody get in."
Following Gendry's orders, they all piled into the car, winding up with Gendry in the driver's seat, Arya in the shotgun seat, and Hot Pie, Lommy, and the toddler in the back.
"Should we go get this one's car seat?" Lommy asked, gesturing at the girl. When Arya helped her into the back, she seemed hesitant to let go of her hand, but did so regardless.
Gendry snorted. "You want to head back those several miles to get it?"
Lommy was quiet.
"Thought so," Gendry said as he used the keys to turn the car on. He then put the headlights on and took off down the highway.
"She needs a name," Lommy said.
Two weeks had passed since Arya and everyone else drove off from Winterfell. They'd gone south and wound up in the town of Barrowton four days earlier. Like Winterfell, Barrowton was overrun, but not as badly as Winterfell. Currently, the five in the group were hiding out in an abandoned bakery. They had found little food in there that scavengers hadn't found and were living on that. Arya was surprised that no other humans were traveling through Barrowton. Besides themselves, the only other "life" they saw were the wights, which Arya didn't view as being alive at all.
The car was parked outside of the bakery, and Gendry had taken to siphoning gas out of cars to get gas for the group's own vehicle. He suggested that everyone practice with siphoning gas so they could all get the hang of it if they ever needed to do it. Currently, only Gendry, Arya, and Lommy had siphoned gas out of cars.
Arya and Lommy were sitting in the middle of the abandoned bakery. Elsewhere, the toddler curiously followed Hot Pie around as he pulled various baking books off of shelves and flipped through them, and Gendry stood near the front with his crowbar, keeping watch for potential threats.
"What do you mean?" Arya asked Lommy.
"That girl you pulled out of the car on the highway," he explained. "She's nameless. We need to give her a name."
Thirty minutes later, Arya and Lommy grouped up with Gendry and Hot Pie and sat in a square-shaped formation. Nearby, the girl looked out of the dirty front window of the bakery at the night sky. Arya felt terribly sorry for her; the poor thing was obviously scared out of her mind, and the sight of her standing alone reminded Arya of how she'd wake up in the morning in the bakery and always find the small girl curled up in a ball next to her when they fell asleep apart, sleeping soundly as Arya observed her in the morning.
"What's this about a name?" Gendry asked.
"Lommy and I want to name the girl," Arya said. "She doesn't know her real name, and we need to call her something if she's staying with us."
"I like this idea," Hot Pie said, and Gendry nodded in agreement.
"So does anyone have any ideas?" Arya asked.
Hot Pie raised his hand. "How about Lemon? Or Berry? Maybe Turnip?"
"Are you hungry?" Arya asked.
Hot Pie's face fell. "Yes."
Gendry shrugged. "I'm not that good with names. You all pick something."
Arya thought for a moment, then it hit her. "How about Catelyn? Beth?"
Lommy then snapped his fingers as if he just got a good idea. "Weasel!"
Arya and Hot Pie gave him a puzzled look.
"What?" Arya asked.
"We don't know her name, and plus, she looks like one."
He started snickering, and Arya contemplated slapping him upside the head. However, before she could, Hot Pie spoke. "I actually like that. It has a nice ring to it."
"You can't be serious," Arya said.
Gendry shrugged. "I'm fine with it."
"Let's do it!" Lommy cheered.
Arya sighed. Even though the girl didn't look like a weasel to her, she figured that unfortunately, it was their best option. Lommy wouldn't listen to what Arya suggested, Hot Pie just thought about food, and Gendry didn't care either way. "Fine," Arya sighed. "Weasel it is, then."
"Alright!" Lommy cheered. "The five of us are gonna live to see another day! Me and Hot Pie and Gendry and Arya and Weasel! We're a crew!"
Nearby, the toddler–now known as Weasel–eyed them curiously.
Chapter 3: Five Man Band (2012)
Arya, in the process of sharpening her knife with a whetstone, listened as Hot Pie and Lommy entered the bakery after a supply run into Barrowton. Weasel was sitting next to Arya, quietly watching her. Outside, it was heavily raining, and the two boys were soaked. They did not have much food and other materials they could use; Barrowton was starting to run low on supplies, and Arya was not sure if the group could stay there for much longer without starving.
Gendry, who'd been sitting on an empty crate, got up and approached the two who had just returned. "What did you get?" he asked them while crossing his arms.
"Pudding, mostly," Hot Pie answered, he and Lommy placing their bags of supplies on the ground. "Lommy found some car parts and some ammo."
Lommy grinned like an idiot and simultaneously nodded. "Yeah, yeah."
"Alright, this should keep us going for a while," Gendry commented, then raised his voice. "Everyone, everyone listen!"
Arya, Hot Pie, Lommy, and Weasel all looked at Gendry as he continued speaking. "Tomorrow, we're going on a big supply run, all of us. We need to leave Barrowton soon."
"Why leave?" Hot Pie asked.
Arya didn't answer. She understood why they needed to go: Barrowton's supplies left behind by its former citizens were running dry, and there were more wights around than before. It seemed like there were more of them around every year, and they had been in Barrowton for two years at that point. What also helped push the notion to leave was that Gendry had found a usable minivan and had replaced the sedan with it. Currently, the rusted thing was outside getting soaked in the rain.
"There are barely any supplies and food left in town," Gendry explained to Hot Pie. "We need to make one last supply run before we leave because there's nothing left for us here. Lommy," he said, catching Lommy's attention, "you come with me to the back room. We need to discuss how we're going to go about this."
Lommy nodded. "Alright. I've got some ideas already."
Gendry and Lommy disappeared into the back of the bakery, and Hot Pie waddled off to go somewhere else. When they were gone for forty seconds, Weasel cautiously looked around and then addressed Arya.
Arya paused from sharpening her knife and looked at the small girl sitting next to her. Weasel learned how to speak after a short while, and while she could talk, her actually talking to someone was exceptionally rare. Weasel was very quiet and hardly uttered a word to anyone in the group. She only spoke to Arya and Gendry, less with the latter than the former. Weasel only really seemed to trust Arya completely, and while she seemed to be warming up to Gendry, she was neutral when it came to Hot Pie, and she didn't like Lommy at all.
Concerning Lommy, he often made fun of Weasel, which always resulted in Arya shouting at him to leave her alone. One incident from the previous winter almost resulted in Arya physically attacking Lommy when he actually shoved Weasel, but she held back from punching him. On that particular day, everyone was cold and huddled around a fire with blankets wrapped around themselves, and Arya didn't want to make the situation worse by starting something with Lommy that would result in a fistfight.
Lommy was forced to learn to respect Arya, anyway. In the group, she was the second in command after Gendry, and when he wasn't around, everyone took orders from her. Arya wasn't entirely sure as to why Gendry picked her to lead after him when he arguably spent most of his time discussing supply run strategies with Lommy, but she didn't really care about Gendry's reasons as to why he chose her.
"What is it, Weasel?" Arya asked.
"Are we really leaving?"
Arya paused for a moment to think. "Most likely, yes."
"Where will we go?"
"Somewhere we can stay that's got a lot of food."
"Is everyone else coming along?"
Weasel looked upset. Arya decided to guess about what was bothering her. "Are you thinking of leaving Lommy here?"
Weasel hesitated, but answered anyway. "…Yes…"
"Could you explain?"
"He's mean," Weasel answered. "He always pushes me around or call me things like 'dirt-eater'. I don't like it."
"I don't either," Arya replied. "But that doesn't warrant leaving him behind to fend for himself."
Weasel still looked sad. "Alright."
She got quiet again, and Arya thought about what would happen if Weasel took her concerns to Gendry: he would have none of it. Though Arya was fond of him, she had to admit that Gendry could be incredibly stubborn at times and refuse to resolve tension in the group, leaving this up to her. She also knew that Gendry wouldn't rid himself of Lommy because of the latter's key role in the group as the main strategist and weapons-maker. A year after the group arrived at Barrowton, Lommy had made a new weapon for himself in the form of a two-edged spear. He was also the one to find a cleaver for Arya to use alongside her knife and the one to locate a sledgehammer for Gendry to replace his crowbar. Everyone used their new weapons to this day.
In the group, Hot Pie acted as the one who rationed the food and provided extra muscle when they needed it. Though fat, Hot Pie used his weight to his advantage and used it when swinging the metal pipe he used as a new weapon at wights. Five months earlier, the bat he'd been using for a long time splintered in half when he smashed it upside a wight's head.
Weasel was often the source of arguments ending between members of the group. When she was present, not many of them happened, and Arya knew that Weasel just wanted the group to live at peace with one another, even if she didn't say it much. One thing regarding Weasel that started that Arya tried to shut down whenever she saw it was that somewhere along the line, Weasel had picked up a bad habit of eating dirt, mud, and sometimes bugs. Lommy made fun of this, and Hot Pie was disgusted. Gendry did not seem to care either way.
Arya resumed sharpening her weapon as the rain continued to come down outside. Weasel got up and walked away, and Arya silently hoped that the rain would stop by the following day so that they could search for supplies without getting wet.
The next day, the group gathered together with their weapons in hand. Gendry cleared his throat before addressing everyone else. All of them had backpacks on to carry things they found. "Okay, here's how this is gonna go down," he started. "We're splitting off into three groups. Arya and I are going to look for car parts like spare tires and gas. Hot Pie is going to look for food on his own, and Lommy and Weasel are going to look for weapons and things to make weapons out of."
Hot Pie nodded, tightly gripping his pipe. "Alright."
Weasel frowned when she learned that she would be with Lommy for the day, and Arya didn't blame her. She was at least happy to be able to search for gas with Gendry. The group soon after split up, and Arya watched as Weasel and Lommy disappeared around a corner; Weasel took one last look at Arya before she got out of her line of sight. Hot Pie disappeared shortly afterward, and that left Arya and Gendry walking down the street themselves.
"Where are we headed?" Arya asked.
"That junkyard Lommy and I found yesterday," Gendry said. "It's a short walk away from the bakery we've been living in. We need things for the minivan, and Lommy and I saw lots of cars in there. We could probably siphon some more gas from them, too."
"I thought we had enough," Arya commented.
"Yeah, we have a lot of it, but not enough."
"How are we on food?"
"Eh…" Gendry said, trailing off to think for a short while. "Just enough for all of us. Hot Pie takes inventory of the food, too, not just rationing it to everyone else."
Upon hearing this comment, Arya thought about Hot Pie and realized that, even two years into the apocalypse, he was still fat. This made her think that perhaps Hot Pie was taking most of the food for himself. However, at the end of the day, everyone ate and got their share of the food from him, so she wasn't complaining, and neither was anyone else.
While walking, Arya noticed two things: the junkyard, and two wights in the road, aimlessly staggering around. The both of them looked rather rotted, and Arya wondered if they'd been around since the beginning. "Wights," she said.
Gendry brandished his sledgehammer. "You get one, I get the other."
Arya drew both of her knives, and the two of them proceeded to rush at the wights. Gendry reached his first, the sledgehammer crushing the wight's skull and killing it almost instantly. Arya knocked the wight she was targeting down with the sheer force of her impacting it. When it was down, she quickly drove her knife through its pale blue eye into its brain. It stopped moving immediately after.
"Now the junkyard," Arya said as she and Gendry walked away from the bodies of the wights they'd just killed. As they walked towards the entrance, Arya noticed that the entrance was locked, several chains wrapped around the doors.
"Not through the front," Gendry said before Arya asked about this. "Follow me."
Arya followed Gendry over to a large, person-sized hole in the tall chain link fence surrounding the junkyard. Arya snickered when she saw the opening. "Was that always there?"
"No," Gendry said as he began to climb inside. "Lommy used wire cutters on this when we found it. It's been a goldmine for gas; you wouldn't believe how much gas is left behind in these cars in here."
Arya followed him inside, and she followed him deeper into the junkyard. While walking, she looked around and saw old cars stacked atop each other amid masses of garbage. Arya thought it all smelled bad, but not as bad as the wights. She'd take living in garbage over being forced to live through the apocalypse any day.
As the two of them walked, Arya looked around and saw that many of the cars had their gas cap doors opened. Arya thought that this was because these specific cars had gas siphoned out of them by Gendry and Lommy during the previous day. If there were any wights in the junkyard, Arya figured that Gendry and Lommy had cleared them out by then; after Lommy found two pistols a short while earlier, he and Gendry had used them the most. Arya figured that most of the wights in the junkyard had been shot by the both of them by now. Ever since the discovery, Lommy had talked about searching for something larger, like an AK-47 or AR-15. However, the group had not found something of that sort in Barrowton. Since they were leaving in a short while, Arya knew they wouldn't have time to look for something that probably wasn't there. Currently, the pistols were in the possession of Lommy and Hot Pie.
Regarding Lommy, Arya remembered him being with Weasel as she herself walked with Gendry through the junkyard. It made her concerned and slightly angry that Lommy was possibly bullying her again while Arya was not around to get him to shut up and knock it off, and she had no idea why Gendry placed them together for the day. As they kept moving, Arya decided to bring up the issue.
"Gendry," she began.
"Yes?" Gendry did not look back at her as they kept walking through the junkyard.
"About Weasel," Arya explained. "Why did you put her with Lommy today? You know she doesn't get along with him."
"Because they can bring things in better together," Gendry answered as he began to look through a junked car for potential supplies.
Arya frowned. "You know fully well that Weasel is not on friendly terms with–"
Gendry, when he saw that there was nothing within the interior of the car, began to siphon gas out of it as he replied to Arya. "They'll be fine."
"They'll be fine!"
Of course. Gendry was being stubborn as a bull again. Gendry being stubborn happened so much that one might as well count the amount of times they blinked or sneezed. Arya kept frowning, and she wanted to slap Gendry upside the head. Instead, she decided to push her luck with him and decided to keep talking instead.
"Then why does she only talk to us?"
Gendry paused for a moment, but then resumed his activity. "Arya, drop it! Weasel will be FINE."
Arya was more angry than before. She knew that Gendry knew that pairing off Lommy with Weasel was a bad idea. She emitted an angry exhale that she was sure Gendry heard, and she hoped he did.
Gendry finished siphoning the gas out of the car and turned to face Arya. "Now let's just finish–"
Gendry was cut off when a wight burst from the side window of a nearby car and grabbed his arm, shattered glass flying everywhere. Gendry shouted in surprise and lurched forward, trying to pull himself away. Arya sprung into action and charged at the wight, driving the cleaver into its head several times before it became limp, the top half of the rotting body dangling out of the side of the car. Both Arya and Gendry observed the dead wight before the latter spoke. "Huh. Nice one, Arya."
After a while, Arya and Gendry had collected lots of gas out of cars, and Gendry was lugging around a spare tire to use for the minivan he'd pulled off of some other car. Arya was surprised that the tire was still in good shape despite being in a town dump for who knows how long. Currently, the two of them were making their way between two large stacks of cars, looking for the exit of the junkyard. Soon enough, Arya noticed said gate.
"There," Arya said, pointing towards the locked front gate. "We're getting close."
Arya and Gendry picked up the pace to head to the hole Lommy had made sooner. However, as they neared the exit, Arya looked upwards and noticed one of the cars was leaning over the side. It was stuck in between two other junked cars, and a wight was growling and snarling as it reached outward at the air.
Arya slowed her pace, and Gendry noticed and stopped altogether. "What is it?"
"I'm looking at the wight up there," Arya explained as she stopped walking, pointing towards the wight with her cleaver. She wondered how it managed to climb up there, and she then realized that it could have been a person who got bit, got scared, and climbed into the car to hide until the wight or wights left the surrounding area, only to turn a short while later.
"So what about it?" Gendry asked, sounding annoyed that they'd stopped. The car the wight was in was shaking, like it was coming lose.
"It just caught my eye. That's all–"
Arya was cut off when the shaking car promptly fell out from the pile, the wight coming with it. Several other cars came tumbling down as well, landing atop each other and scattering around. Arya and Gendry managed to back up before getting crushed, but the wight in the car wasn't so fortunate; its decomposing head and parts of its body were crushed like a stale watermelon.
Now before Arya and Gendry was a pile of five totaled cars.
"Great," Gendry sighed after a brief period of silence. "Now we'll have to find another way around to get to the…"
Gendry trailed off when the sounds of groaning and snarling came from behind the two of them. Arya and Gendry turned around and saw that several wights–all drawn by the noise of the cars falling–were approaching from where they just walked. Arya asked Gendry while looking at the wights, "How about we climb OVER the cars?"
They did just that; Arya and Gendry simultaneously turned around and made for the fallen cars. Arya got up on one car first, and Gendry came close behind her after lobbing the wheel atop the same car, which had landed upside-down. They moved through the cars, and it took a while; Arya began to feel that the wights would gain on them and catch up before they got beyond the obstacle of the fallen cars. However, they got through the mess together.
Arya and Gendry (the latter slightly slowed by the tire he was carrying) soon after made it to the hole in the fence Lommy had made. Arya exited the junkyard first, and she looked around the street to make sure that no wights were around the streets of Barrowton. Fortunately, none were. Gendry exited the junkyard then, entering the street after pushing his tire out through the hole.
They both ran back to the bakery then with what they'd gotten in their supply run. Arya knew (and she was sure Gendry knew) that the wights would follow them out of the junkyard and find the hole, moving out onto the street.
"When do you want to leave Barrowton?" Arya asked as she ran with Gendry at her side.
"We're loading the minivan and leaving as soon as we get back," he answered.
When the group got back together at dusk, Arya immediately looked around for Weasel. When she spotted her, the smaller girl ran over to Arya and tightly hugged her side.
"Are you okay?" Arya asked carefully, gently rubbing the back of Weasel's head.
Weasel, looking as uncomfortable as she did when she set out with Lommy in the morning, looked up at Arya and silently nodded. Arya began feeling angry again; she felt–no, knew–that Lommy had bullied her again. She also thought she saw dirt flecked around her mouth, making her think that Weasel was eating dirt again.
"Did you and Lommy get things?" Arya asked.
Weasel nodded. Arya did not ask her if Lommy bullied her again; that was a question best asked in private.
The group took inventory that night before piling into the minivan. The gas Arya and Gendry had collected would keep them on the road for a while, Hot Pie had surprisingly found enough food for everyone to last a few weeks (though it was mostly more pudding), and Lommy and Weasel had found ammunition and other blunt instruments for weaponry. Lommy explained that Weasel had to crawl into small spaces to collect some of the items, and he also explained that he was admittedly impressed with her for once. Much to Lommy's lament, they did not find any AK-47s or AR-15s.
It was dusk then, and Arya was thankful for the small amount of sunlight still present in the sky providing them enough light to fill the back of the minivan with their things. Arya and Hot Pie looked through the bakery they'd been living in for one final time to make sure they had everything they needed, and Arya remembered to grab a road atlas they'd found a while earlier. She knew it would be useful to them on the road.
After everything was placed into the back of the minivan, they all piled in. They had two extra seats, and Gendry and Arya were up front, Lommy and Hot Pie were in the middle, and Weasel was in one of the three seats in the back, sitting in the middle so that Arya could see her if she looked back. Arya was not a fan of letting Weasel out of her line of sight for a long period of time when Lommy was around, so she was pleased that she could actually see her. It was dark out by then.
"Alright," Gendry said as he turned the car on, "we're off."
Arya watched as Gendry began to drive through Barrowton after turning his headlights on. Gendry carefully and slowly drove out of the town, and he made it to a major route.
"Where are we going?" Hot Pie asked. "Like, what town?"
Gendry paused. "Somewhere far away from Barrowton. Maybe we'll find more people."
"I think the people besides us are all gone," Lommy said.
Hot Pie raised an eyebrow and looked at Lommy. "What do you mean?"
Lommy crossed his arms. "Hot Pie, have you even seen a live person besides us since all this started?"
"No," Hot Pie admitted, "but that doesn't mean everyone's dead."
"Yeah," Gendry agreed. Weasel said nothing.
"But do you have a specific area in mind?" Arya asked. "Where are we going to go?"
"You've got the road atlas, Arya," Gendry said.
Arya frowned. Gendry, are you serious?!
It was dark out then, and Arya opened the road atlas and looked around at the nearest settlements shown on the map: White Harbor, Moat Cailin, and Greywater Watch. "Okay," she said as she folded the road atlas back up, "the closest areas are White Harbor, Moat Cailin, and Greywater Watch. The last one is really far off, though."
They passed by a green sign to the right. Arya quickly observed the names on it and how far away they were in miles.
WHITE HARBOR - 60
MOAT CAILIN - 70
GREYWATER WATCH - 100
WINTERFELL - 265
Gendry must have seen the sign, too, evident by him then saying, "White Harbor. We'll go there."
Arya looked at him and raised an eyebrow. He had clearly just decided that on the spot because it was closest from Barrowton. Do you actually have a long term plan?
Chapter 4: Red Water (2012)
Expect chapters to get lengthier as this story progresses, starting after this chapter. This may also mean it may take a while for a new chapter to be posted. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause.
It took Gendry a day, but he managed to reach White Harbor with the minivan after leaving Barrowton with the others. Arya, still sitting up front, noticed the city of White Harbor begin to come into view.
"There," she said, pointing forward while facing Gendry. "Do you see it?"
"Yes," he answered.
"Are we actually there?" Hot Pie asked curiously.
"Yes," Arya answered. "Gendry's getting close."
They'd been driving nearly nonstop since leaving Barrowton, and now that White Harbor was starting to appear off in the distance, Arya realized how fortunate they all were that they avoided another mass traffic backup like when they left Winterfell. She knew they'd be forced to abandon the minivan if that were the case, and they'd be on foot again.
"When will we have to fill the gas back up?" Lommy asked.
Gendry peered beyond the front wheel to see how much gas was left. "Probably when we get to White Harbor, or when we're about to leave."
"So are we just going to scavenge around again?" Arya asked.
"Maybe, maybe not," Gendry answered. "We could find a home there. White Harbor has docks, so we could fish if we need to."
"Fish?" Hot Pie said.
"Yes," Gendry replied. "Have you ever eaten fish?"
"Yeah," Hot Pie answered, bobbing his head.
They were closing in on White Harbor now. Gendry pulled into the city and made his way to the main road. While this was going on, Arya looked over and saw that the car was nearly out of gas. Lommy must have noticed the same thing, evident by him saying, "Gendry, we need to pull over. You're almost out of gas."
Gendry turned onto the main road of White Harbor after entering the city. "I know, Lommy. I'm pulling over anyway."
Gendry then pulled the minivan to the nearest curb and shut it off. "Everyone out," he instructed. "We'll scout around, and if we don't find somewhere to stay, we'll scavenge and leave to go somewhere else."
Arya didn't like the sound of "somewhere else". To her, it confirmed that Gendry had no set goal in mind other than the group supporting themselves somehow somewhere away from any and all wights. She was not sure if the other three in the group felt the same way, but she didn't doubt that they'd realize this if they thought about it for a lengthy period of time. She wanted to get away from the wights permanently, but she didn't know where "away" was located.
The five of them piled out of the car, weapons in hand.
"Are we going to refuel first?" Arya asked.
"When we leave," Gendry answered.
The group advanced down the street together in one big cluster. They found no wights around, much to Arya's surprise, even though the streets were mostly abandoned. This made her think that White Harbor wasn't entirely deserted. Lommy must have had the same train of thought, evident by him saying, "I don't think White Harbor is abandoned like the others."
"How do you know?" Hot Pie asked.
"There are no abandoned cars anywhere like in the other towns we've been through," Lommy explained. "I think someone's using them for some purpose."
"What purpose?" Hot Pie pushed. "And where are they?"
Lommy stopped, then looked and pointed to his right. "Probably in there."
Everyone halted and looked to where he was pointing. Arya looked over and saw a massive wall (likely nineteen feet high) made out of different sheets of metal vertically stacked in layers. Arya could clearly make out the smoke billowing out from beyond. "See the smoke?" she said when she noticed it, pointing. "There's people. Where there's smoke, there's fire."
"Then let's find a way in," Gendry said, leading the group towards the wall. They followed him, and when they got close, they began to look around for an entrance or a way to at the very least look inside beyond the wall. After a while of silent searching, Arya began getting frustrated when she couldn't see any way to look in.
Hot Pie must have felt the same way. "I think we should give up on getting in there. I don't see a way to get into here."
"What do you lot want with White Harbor?" a loud voice boomed from nearby. Arya and everyone else, all on edge, immediately looked over to the source of the noise. Standing before them was a fat man in makeshift armor. He was armed with a rifle, and on either side were two armed men, each with rifles of their own.
"We were just looking," Lommy tried to explain. Gendry noticed and walked up to him and nudges him in the ribs with his left shoulder to get him to not shoot himself (and the rest of the group) in the foot. "We weren't trying to rob– OOF!"
"Sir, we don't mean you any trouble," Gendry explained. Lommy looked irritated. "We just found this wall and got curious."
The fat man's eyes narrowed. "Hmph. You all look like you're scavengers. You part of a larger group?"
"No," Arya said. "Just us."
"Come with me."
Arya and the others sat in the back of a horse drawn cart as the fat man they'd encountered, who they learned was named Wendel Manderly, moved through the walled-off portion of White Harbor which, much to Arya's surprise, was bustling with people, reminding her of what life was like before the outbreak.
Currently, Wendel was in the process of taking the group to see Wyman Manderly, his father and the head of White Harbor. Apparently, Wyman had been the city mayor before the apocalypse, and he kept this title even after the dead began walking. After a while, Wendel pulled the cart up to the front of a tall government building. The guards who'd accompanied Wendel escorted the five in Gendry's group out of the cart and into the building, Wendel leading the way inside. He led them up a flight of stairs, and they wound up in an office.
Arya was the first inside after Wendel, and sitting behind a mahogany desk was the fattest man she'd ever seen. Mayor Wyman Manderly observed the five walk in, curiously eyeing them all. When everyone was inside, Wyman started talking as soon as the office door was closed. "Wendel, who are these people?"
"I found them outside peeking around at the wall," Wendel explained. "I brought them here for you to see."
Wyman eyed the group. From right to left, they were standing in the order of Hot Pie, Weasel, Arya, Gendry, and then Lommy. "Starting with you," Wyman said, pointing at Hot Pie. "Tell me who you are."
"Hot Pie," Hot Pie answered. Wyman looked at Weasel. Weasel shrunk back and tightly gripped Arya's hand. She was quiet as always. Arya did not want Weasel to feel uncomfortable by being asked questions by Wyman Manderly, so she answered for her. "That's Weasel. She doesn't talk much."
"And you are?"
When the introductions were finished after Gendry and Lommy introduced themselves, Wyman spoke again, saying, "Can I do anything for you?"
"Yes," Gendry answered. "We'd like food and shelter."
Wyman tapped his chin in thought before answering. "We can provide some food, but only temporary shelter."
Lommy's face twisted into one of aggravated surprise. "Temporary? Why?!"
"Because we're having a problem with rationing right now. The five of you can stay for a week before we cut you loose. That's it."
Lommy frowned, but he didn't say anything. Instead, Gendry spoke next as he crossed his arms. "Where can we stay?"
"The large hotel on Merman Street is where many of my people are kept," Wyman explained. "You'll be staying there for the week. When the seventh day has passed, you will leave White Harbor with a small amount of supplies we will provide you. While you are staying here, all of you will be expected to work in some capacity, and your little girl is not exempt. We need all the hands we can get right now."
That night, Arya sat up listening to the noises from the room next door. Every now and then, Lommy would screech, followed by a loud thud and loud laughter which sounded like a donkey braying. It made Arya wonder what was going on in that next room, but she was sure Gendry would try to put a stop to it–whatever stupid thing he was doing–if he were trying to sleep. It was likely that Hot Pie was egging Lommy on, but Arya didn't know for sure.
In the hotel, Arya and Weasel had been given a room to themselves while Hot Pie, Gendry, and Lommy had the other right next to theirs. Arya, focused on the noise, had her attention drawn away from it when Weasel tugged on her shirt. "Arya?"
Arya looked down at her. "Yes?"
"Where are we going to go after the week is over?"
"I don't know. That's up to Gendry."
Weasel was silent for a moment. "That makes me scared. Does he know what he's doing?"
Now Arya herself was silent. It seemed as if she and Weasel had the same train of thought regarding Gendry's lackluster leadership skills. "Weasel, don't be afraid," she said, ruffling the small girl's hair. "Let's think about something else. Have you practiced your reading?"
Weasel paused to think. "Not recently."
"Then let's find something," Arya said, beginning to search around the room to find something for Weasel to read. A while earlier, Arya had decided to teach Weasel how to read and write because she figured she needed to learn, and they had been making slow process at doing so. Eventually, Arya found a small book on a shelf in the room.
"Let's try this," Arya said, taking the book over to Weasel.
Throughout the previous two days, Arya and the others had gone on fishing trips and supply runs with Wyman Manderly's people. During the previous two days, Weasel had been on fishing excursions, but on this day, she accompanied Arya and Hot Pie on a supply run to the docks in White Harbor, which were widely unexplored. Arya knew that this likely meant they were infested with wights. Accompanying them were three inhabitants of White Harbor: Mikken, Bartimus, and Osha. Mikken had with him a machete, Bartimus a pistol, and Osha a spear. Elsewhere, Gendry and Lommy were busy helping others who lived in White Harbor fish.
"How far are the docks from the rest of town?" Hot Pie asked as the group of six proceeded to make their way to the water.
"Not that far," Mikken answered, tightly gripping his machete. "Be on guard. Those wights are everywhere around here."
This comment made Weasel grip Arya's hand harder. Weasel had been holding on to Arya's hand tightly before, but now it felt like an iron force grip. In the girl's other hand, she had a dagger. Arya knew that Weasel hated wights, and she also knew that Weasel did not really trust anyone outside of their own group of five as well.
As they walked, moving beyond what was considered White Harbor's "safe area", Arya began looking around for wights.
"We'll head towards the water first," Mikken said. "We'll spread out and search for supplies White Harbor can use."
They continued down to the water, and they stopped to talk when they were right next to it. It was agreed that the group would split into two groups: one consisting of Arya, Weasel, and Mikken, and another consisting of Hot Pie, Osha, and Bartimus.
"So it's settled, then," Bartimus said after the discussion about the two groups was finalized. "It'll be me and Osha and Hot P–aargh!"
Everyone else jumped back when Bartimus was suddenly pulled into the water by two wights who'd emerged from the water, each covered in moss and decaying. Bartimus fired off two shots, but it was no use. Osha ran to grab him, but it was too late; a large red spot began growing in the water almost immediately after he was pulled under the water.
"There are more of them!" Hot Pie shrieked. Arya swiveled around and noticed that there were indeed more wights quickly approaching. They were surrounded, and Arya knew that everyone else knew that they'd have to fight their way out.
"Stay here," Arya instructed Weasel as she drew each of her blades and charged at a wight, stabbing it in the knee with her kitchen knife before putting the cleaver through its skull. Nearby her, the others who were still alive struggled with doing battle with the wights in the area. Hot Pie smashed his pipe over one's head as Mikken tore off one's arm with his machete.
"This was a bad idea to come out this far!" Mikken shouted as he swung again and bore his machete through the same wight's skull.
"You THINK?!" Osha shouted as she speared a wight through the belly and flung the decaying thing back into the water where it'd just come out, ripping her spear out of its rotting body in the process. "We're getting eaten alive out here!" She paused from the conversation to spear two more wights through the head. Nearby, Arya had stabbed another wight's brain through the eye. Hot Pie was furiously beating down on another's head with his pipe. Weasel just watched, shaking with fear.
After Arya put down another wight, she turned and saw Mikken beginning to get swarmed. He was trying to fend off one wight while two more were approaching from behind. Wanting to prevent Mikken from winding up like Bartimus, Arya ran over to the wights approaching him, leapt into the air, and used her weight and momentum to tackle them both. Knocking them both over, Arya stabbed one in the skull while the other got right up and growled as it crawled over to her.
As it moved, Arya struggled to pull the kitchen knife out of the wight. After a short while, she gave it one more hard jerk before the blade snapped off of the handle, much to her dismay. However, she still had her cleaver, and she brought it down in a downward swing as Mikken finished off the wight he was focused on. He noticed what Arya was doing and was about to open his mouth to say something, but a shriek cut him off.
Arya looked over to where the noise was coming from and saw a wight biting into Osha's neck. Immediately, she ran over and tackled the wight like what she'd done before, pulling it away from Osha. She cut into its head with the cleaver and left it embedded in the thing's head as she heard Osha gurgling. Arya crawled over to her and looked her over. All around, the remaining wights were put down by the others.
"Osha! Osha, you…"
"No, no, Arya…" Osha said through coughs of blood choking her. Her eyes then widened, as if she'd just then recalled something important. "You… y…"
Another round of choking cut her off.
"What?!" Arya shouted.
"Your brother… Rickon, he…"
Arya's eyed widened. Had Rickon been in White Harbor? Was he still present somewhere? However, before Osha could provide an answer, she died of her wound. Arya looked down at Osha's body for a second before Osha lunged back to life as a wight, grabbing Arya. The latter shouted in surprise and fell back, recalling that she'd left her cleaver in the other wight's skull. It was too far away for her to reach, but she didn't have to; after struggling with fending off the undead Osha, the latter stopped moving when Weasel of all people suddenly gained a burst of courage, ran up from behind, and put her dagger in the back of Osha's head.
Arya flung Osha off of herself, and she climbed to her feet, looking down at Weasel. The latter looked up at Arya, and the two locked eyes for a moment. Weasel was quietly crying, and her hands were shaking. Before Arya could console Weasel, Mikken began yelling.
"WE NEED TO GO! NOW!"
Arya, Hot Pie, and Weasel didn't need to be told twice; all of them–Mikken included–turned to run back the way they came.
"What do you mean 'leave'?!" Lommy shrieked, his hands balled into fists. It'd been a day since Weasel saved Arya's life, and now the latter and the others were rounded up into the office of an irate Wyman Manderly.
"Our agreement has ended," Wyman hissed, then pointed an accusing finger at Arya, Weasel, and Hot Pie. "These three did nothing to prevent the deaths of two of White Harbor's citizens! There should be no reason as to why I continue to let you all reside here for the rest of the week! You all must leave my walls immediately, and you're not getting any of our supplies, either!"
The five left then, leaving Wyman's building to go and find the minivan, if it hadn't been stolen or destroyed by then. After they left the building, the group was stopped by a familiar face.
Arya turned and saw Mikken approaching, holding his machete. At first, Arya thought he was going to yell at the group, but she was surprised when he actually held his machete out for her to take.
"Take this as a token of my gratitude for saving my neck earlier," he said. "It's yours now."
Eyebrows raised in surprise, Arya gripped the handle and observed the machete, bringing it closer to herself. With her free hand, she poked the tip of the machete with her right index finger. "Sharp," she commented in approval. "Like a needle."
After leaving White Harbor's front gate, the group of five made their way back to the minivan. On the way over, they talked.
Hot Pie looked over at Gendry. "Where are we going now?"
"Somewhere else," Gendry answered.
Wow, Arya thought. Way to go, Gendry. Awesome. Great answer.
"What exactly happened at the docks?" Lommy asked.
"We got attacked by wights," Arya answered. "Those two people died, we didn't."
Arya omitted the details about Osha mentioning Rickon. Where did she know Rickon? When? Where was he now? She figured that dwelling on this would bother her for a while, so she tried forcing it out of mind.
"And Wyman blamed you three?" Lommy said.
"Yes," Arya answered. "Idiocy, if you ask me."
Lommy laughed in his braying donkey laugh. "Yeah."
"So who's refilling the gas?" Hot Pie asked. At this point, they were nearing the street where they'd left the minivan a few days earlier. "None of us ever bothered to talk about–"
"No, wait! This minivan is probably rigged to explode or something!"
That made everyone stop. Someone else had found the minivan before they could get back to it.
"Maybe, Elmar, but it's definitely bait. Who'd just leave something like this out in the open?"
Us, Arya thought.
"Who's talking to them?" Lommy asked quietly.
"I will," Arya said with a tone of confidence in her voice.
"So will I," Gendry added, tightly gripping his sledgehammer as Arya drew her machete. They both turned on to the road where the minivan was located while the other three stayed behind. When Arya was sure that she and Gendry were close enough to the minivan for the two scavengers to hear, she shouted, "WHO ARE YOU?!"
The two scavengers, who turned out to be boys around Arya's age, shrieked and pulled back from the minivan. Arya's eyes widened. She recognized them. In fact, the two of them, Elmar Frey and Edric Dayne, were former classmates of hers back in Winterfell. She was sure they'd both been on the bus with her the day everything began, but she wasn't too sure.
Elmar and Edric each paused and looked her over. Arya and the two observed each other in a moment of odd silence. Gendry raised an eyebrow and looked over at Arya. "Do you know them?"
"Yes," she said, then looked them over. "Elmar? Edric? Do you remember me?"
Edric was the first to take a step forward. "Arya? Arya Stark?"
After the minivan's gas tank had been filled again, the group set off to go south, towards Moat Cailin. Now in the group were Elmar Frey and Edric Dayne. They'd introduced themselves to everyone else, and Gendry had reluctantly let them into the group. The minivan was now full of people, and Arya knew that there would be problems with food with two new mouthes to feed. However, she was at least content that these were people she knew. However, she was way more familiar with Edric than Elmar.
Arya hoped that the others would get along with them well. She suspected that it would take a while for Gendry and the others to warm up to them, especially Weasel.
"When should we reach Moat Cailin?" Hot Pie asked.
"Not for a while," Gendry answered as he pulled onto the highway, away from White Harbor. "It's a long ways off."
Chapter 5: Companions (2013)
The night before they were to cross the Twins Bridge, Arya and the others exited the minivan, a few minutes earlier pulled over on the side of the highway. Nearby, an abandoned, rusted car sat still. When they pulled over, Arya could see in the moonlight that the car's windows were all smashed out, its hood was open (revealing that parts of the engine were missing), and all of the tires were gone. Looted, no doubt, Arya thought after getting a look at the car with Lommy. The latter had hoped to search the car for usable parts, but now it was apparent that someone had beaten them to it.
Currently, Arya and Lommy were making their way back to the others, who were huddled around a fire Gendry and Hot Pie had made. Within the past few months, Lommy had taken to wearing green gloves he'd found that made his hands and part of his forearms look green from a distance. He was currently wearing them.
"Shame the car didn't have anything we can use," Lommy said.
"Everything was probably taken when everything happened," Arya suggested.
"The wights can catch us if something happens to the car," Lommy said. "We need more supplies so we can keep moving."
Arya had to agree. Every decent and good-looking car they found, they siphoned gas out of it. Despite the fact that the minivan was starting to look beaten and rusted itself, it still worked. However, Arya remembered the sedan and knew the minivan would have to be abandoned someday. "The minivan's fine, Lommy. The wights won't catch us."
Lommy raised an eyebrow, and his voice took on a jovial tone. "Really?"
"No, they won't."
Lommy grinned, raising his hands into the air and wiggling his fingers. "They're coming to get you, Arya!"
Arya softly sighed and shook her head in disapproval as they neared the fire. When they got close, Elmar looked upward and noticed them approaching.
"Took you long enough," he said as Arya sat down in between Gendry and Weasel.
Arya shook off Elmar's rudeness; while Lommy had stopped being nasty to everyone in the group, Elmar had seemingly stepped into his place. Elmar only really got along well with Edric and Lommy, and what made Arya very angry is that Elmar often targeted Weasel with his bullying. She shouted at him to shut up when he did it, and it almost always led to a fistfight Gendry or Edric or Hot Pie would have to break up.
"What are we eating tonight?" Lommy asked, looking over at Hot Pie.
"What little we have," Hot Pie explained as he began to pass food around. After a short while, Arya had a bag of pretzels. Next to her, Weasel had a small cup of applesauce. While eating, Arya glanced over at Weasel frequently. She wanted to make sure she was eating. From what Arya could see, Weasel had stopped eating dirt and bugs for the most part, but she knew it still happened behind her back, evident by the dirt she sometimes found crusted around Weasel's mouth and Elmar making fun of her for it.
As everyone ate, Gendry spoke, saying, "We're going to cross the Twins Bridge tomorrow." There was a pause before he spoke again, Gendry swallowing a mouthful of food before he kept talking. "We'll get into Seagard after and look for food there."
"That's it, Gendry?" Edric asked, crossing his arms. He'd already finished eating the apple slices he'd been given. "No other plans?"
"I mean we'll find weapon-related things, and we could also–"
"No, I mean the food," Edric corrected. "We're about to run out, and all we've been doing is scavenging this past year. I want to stop for once and set up shop somewhere to stay permanently."
Elmar nodded. "Yeah."
"And where do you suggest we do that?" Gendry asked, crossing his arms. "Because we'll likely get kicked out of every group, just like with White Harbor."
"Gendry, do you even have a plan outside of 'run and collect whatever we can find'?" Arya asked, raising an eyebrow. "Because I agree. We're just going from town to town looking for things to–"
"Arya, stop." Gendry's tone suggested he didn't want to hear anything else out of her or anyone else. "We've been doing fine."
"No, not really," Arya said. "How many times have we almost run out of food? How many times have we nearly frozen to death in winter? How many times has Weasel gotten sick–"
As she began to finish her sentence, she cut herself off when she saw Weasel wasn't sitting next to her anymore. Arya's heart lurched into her throat. "Weasel?" She shot upward and spun around. "WEASEL?!"
Arya saw Weasel hunched over behind the front of the minivan. Immediately, she walked over to her and saw what she was doing when she got over there.
Weasel quickly spun around with a surprised look, making a startled "Mmf!" noise. Arya looked and saw that Weasel's mouth was smeared in dirt. Her eyes narrowed.
Arya sighed. "Weasel, spit it out."
Weasel frowned, and she opened her mouth. A wad of dirt spilled out and landed on the asphalt with a wet plop. Also present in the saliva-laced dirt was a live cockroach. Frowning, Arya addressed Weasel again. "I thought you were done with this."
Weasel frowned. "…Sorry, Arya…"
Weasel followed Arya back to the fire, and when Elmar got a look at Weasel, he burst out laughing. Arya didn't think it was funny at all.
Upon reaching the Twins Bridge, a large bridge with two roads paralleling each other, Gendry stopped the minivan and got out with everyone else. Much to Arya's aggravation, there was another traffic jam, this one being on the bridge. It was impossible for Gendry to direct the car around the traffic jam, so they were forced to abandon the minivan. Everyone who had a backpack–Gendry, Arya, Hot Pie, Lommy, Elmar, and Edric–gathered whatever supplies they could take from the minivan and left the vehicle.
"Follow me," Gendry said before the group began to wade their way through the cars on the Twins Bridge. "We'll figure something out when we get into Seagard."
Arya felt like lobbing a crabapple at Gendry's head. You have no plan, do you?
Despite her complaints about Gendry, Arya quite liked his company. If she were given a choice, there was a chance she would likely try and tough out the apocalypse with just him and Weasel. However, on the other hand, she had grown attached to Hot Pie and Lommy as well, and Edric and Elmar were starting to grow on her (though more of the former than the latter). Arya could tell that Gendry appreciated her as well; this was evident by him trusting her enough to put her in the position of his second in command.
In front of the group, five wights which were wandering aimlessly on the asphalt stirred, grumbling, then turned to look at the seven in the process of crossing the bridge. Arya pulled out her machete, and Gendry tightly gripped his sledgehammer. Arya was sure that behind them, the others were gripping their own weapons as well.
The first two wights made for Arya and Gendry. Arya charged, and she swung her machete upwards, cutting through where the jaw met the neck and rammed it through to the brain. Next to her, Gendry knocked his own wight down and smashed its skull like it was a stale melon. Lommy, Hot Pie, Elmar, and Edric ran from in between them and headed for the others. Weasel stayed back, tightly gripping her dagger. Arya didn't blame Weasel for deciding to stay back; ever since the incident at White Harbor, Weasel absolutely hated situations like this. She hated it before, but now it seemed like the dislike and aversion towards these things was more intense.
Nearby, Hot Pie, Lommy, Elmar, and Edric made for the other wights as Arya got to work with wrenching the machete out of her own wight's skull. It'd gotten stuck, and it became loose and came out after four good, hard jerks. Arya, Gendry, and Weasel proceeded towards the others, who were in the process of fighting the other wights. Lommy had just speared one through the eye, and Hot Pie and Elmar were in the process of beating one's head in, respectively wielding a metal pipe and a metal bat. Edric had just then rammed his knife through the final wight's right temple and into its brain.
When the wights were dealt with, the group continued to cross the Twins Bridge, and when they reached Seagard, they all got together in one big huddle to discuss what to do next.
"Two groups," Gendry said. "We'll search Seagard that way. We'll meet back up here at dusk."
"Who's in what group?" Elmar asked.
"You're going to be with Edric, Arya, and Weasel," Gendry answered. "I'm going to look for weapons and a new vehicle with Hot Pie and Lommy. We'll meet back up here at dusk."
Arya frowned. She didn't want herself and Weasel to be stuck with Elmar. If she were head of the whole crew and picked the groups, she would be with Gendry and Weasel, and everyone else would have their own massive search party. Regardless, Arya realized she'd have to work with what she'd been given. At least I'm with Weasel, she thought.
Walking through the derelict town of Seagard, Arya and the three others with her looked around for abandoned businesses where they could scavenge for food. In her backpack, Arya carried some food taken from the minivan: a few cans, and a handful of carrots they'd found before arriving.
"Are you sure there's anything left?" Edric asked.
"What do you mean?" Arya asked.
"Food," Edric emphasized. "I think everything's been picked clean."
"You never can be too sure," Arya said. "There could be something. That's why we're all looking."
Elmar began snickering. "Maybe Weasel here can find some dead cockroaches or more dirt. If she can learn how to talk, she can tell us what she wants to eat besides bugs and dirt."
Arya frowned, then decided to speak up when she heard Weasel sniffle. Arya turned around to face Elmar, and she let him have it. "Elmar, will you leave her alone?! She's only four years old!"
Arya wasn't entirely sure if this was true; while Weasel had been two when they found her, it was clear that a few years had passed since the outbreak started, evident by the amount of winters the group had lived through. However, Arya hadn't kept track of them, and she was sure that she herself was now at least pushing mid adolescence since everything started when she was twelve. She knew that Gendry was sixteen when everything started, so Arya figured that, at the most, he was almost twenty. Hot Pie, Lommy, Edric, and Elmar were likely around her own age.
Elmar frowned, and his eyes narrowed. "Arya, don't act like it's not true!" He then pointed an accusing finger at Weasel, who turned around to look at him. "That's all she's good for! Eating BUGS and MUD!"
Arya immediately stormed over to Elmar, then grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him forward so that their eyes were inches apart. Elmar flinched, then balled his hands into fists. "Listen, you–"
"Hey," Edric interrupted, prevented what would likely have been a fistfight.
"What?!" Arya and Elmar snapped in unison, turning their heads to look in Edric's direction. And then they saw what he saw: a supermarket.
The supermarket's parking lot had five abandoned cars, and Arya could see that the lights were out within the store. She wasn't surprised that the lights were out; most electrical things had stopped working a short while after the apocalypse hit. The doors, once functional sliding glass doors, were forced open by the group, and they stepped inside.
Whatever food wasn't grabbed at the start's likely spoiled by now, Arya judged. The only light provided to the group came from the front doors and the large, gaping hole in the top of the ceiling. Where the hole came from, Arya didn't care to know. The hole oddly reminded her of Lommy; recently, he had been using excess gas the group collected and other materials like propane and fertilizer he found in places to craft makeshift explosives. A few times, he'd nearly blown parts of his hands off, but he was never wounded. This had been going on for a few months, and Lommy seemed to be improving more as time went on.
"Let's stick together," Edric suggested. "I don't want any of us to get lost from each other in this big, dark building."
Everyone agreed, and they began to move in one big huddle through the store. Weasel tried to stay in the center of the group. Arya could feel Weasel's fingers tightly wrap around her left hand. She didn't mind. Arya had no doubt that Elmar would have made fun of Weasel if he saw her holding Arya's hand (he'd done this before), and this would end with Arya likely punching Elmar in the face or the gut.
The group entered the aisle to the farthest left, and Arya spoke, saying, "Look through the shelves. If there's nothing, go to the next aisle and look."
They got to looking then. From what they could tell, the aisle they were in once stocked bread and condiments. However, everything was gone. Frowning, Arya directed everyone to another aisle. "Let's go into the next aisle."
This process repeated for twenty-eight minutes. In every aisle, they found nothing. I was right, Arya figured as they entered one of the last two aisles. This store was picked clean.
"I don't think we'll find anything," Elmar whined.
"We might," Edric replied. "Be patient."
Arya and Weasel walked ahead of them, and Weasel let go of the former's hand. Weasel scooted away from Arya for a short while, and she got on her hands and knees and began to search under the shelves, just like what she'd done with every other aisle before. Arya had to admit it was a clever idea, in case something rolled beneath the aisles in the chaos that'd happened in the beginning days of the apocalypse. As Arya, Elmar, and Edric searched the shelves, Weasel looked beneath.
"Hey!" Weasel said, catching everyone's attention, crawling back with an unopened cup of applesauce in her hand. As Weasel continued, Arya noticed movement coming from under the shelf. "I found this–"
The wight that'd been under the shelf, which Weasel hadn't seen, growled as it crawled out from under it, tightly gripping Weasel's right leg with its rotting, bony fingers. Weasel screamed like she'd been shot in the abdomen and fell to the linoleum floor. Immediately, Arya sprung into action and drove her machete into the wight's head, cleaving it open with three good, hard swings. When the wight died, Weasel scrambled away from it and curled up in a weepy ball. Nearby, Edric picked up the applesauce from the floor and put it in his backpack.
Arya put her machete into its sheath on her back and hurried over to Weasel, kneeling down on both knees in front of her before she gently wrapped Weasel in a reassuring hug. In turn, Weasel quickly wrapped her arms around Arya's form and slowly began to stand up with her.
"You ready to keep going?" Arya asked her.
Weasel, crying quietly and slightly shaking with fear, nodded.
"You did a good job, finding that cup of applesauce," Arya said, hoping the compliment would lift Weasel's spirits. A small hint of a smile appeared on the girl's face, though she still sniffled and cried.
"Attention, gang," Elmar sighed as he watched Arya and Weasel, sounding annoyed. "We still have food to find."
Arya glared at Elmar, the fierce look in her eyes causing Elmar to back up a few feet, putting his hands into the air. Edric chuckled to himself when he saw this. Arya gently took Weasel's smaller hand in her own and addressed her. "We have to keep looking for food, Weasel."
Weasel, looking up at Arya, sniffled and nodded in understanding.
The four then made their way into the final aisles they hadn't checked. Again, Weasel looked beneath the shelves while the others looked through them. Much to everyone's delight, Weasel found more food that'd fallen beneath the shelves. After cycling through the final aisle, the group counted what they'd found, and they found that they'd scavenged three cups of applesauce and ten canned items.
"More than I expected to find in here," Edric commented. "I really thought everything would be gone at this point."
"So did I," Arya replied. "I really thought everything would be gone, too."
As they made their way to the front door, Arya held out her arm and stopped the others when she saw five wights shambling around near the front. Apparently, they'd gotten inside the store while Arya and the others were searching for food.
"What do we do?" Edric asked.
Arya pulled her machete back out. "Fight through them."
Arya, Edric, and Elmar all shouted loudly as they charged at the wights. The wights, noticing them, turned around and shambled over to them. Arya neared a wight and, as she smelled its carrion breath when its mouth opened, used this to her advantage as she rammed her machete through the roof of its mouth to its brain. The tip of the machete stuck out through the top of its head.
Nearby, Edric had knocked his own wight down and was repeatedly stabbing its face, hoping to jab the brain. Elmar was fending off the other three wights. Apparently, the buffoon had the bright idea to try and fight all three at once. Yanking the machete out of the mouth of the wight she'd just killed, Arya looked over and saw Elmar struggling with fending of the wights he was doing battle with, his pudgy body jiggling as he swiveled around.
And then one grabbed him by his hair.
Hollering and flailing his arms around, Elmar was pulled back, and Arya charged at the wight before it could have a chance to bite into Elmar's greasy flesh. She jumped and tackled it, causing herself, the wight, and Elmar to come tumbling down to the floor. The back of the wight's head made a wet cracking noise as it hit the floor. Before it could pick itself back up, Weasel ran over and jammed her dagger through its right eye as hard as she could, pushing directly into its brain.
Arya and Elmar didn't have time to thank Weasel. Instead, they jumped upwards and made for the remaining two wights. Elmar cracked one upside the head with his bat, a cracking noise emitting through the surrounding area. Adjacent to Elmar, Arya severed the arm of her own wight before lunging forward and running her machete through its brain after tackling the decaying thing to the ground.
After leaving the supermarket, though some had nearly died in there, everyone was generally pleased that some food had been found, even if all the food in the store should have been depleted long ago. Leaving the store, Arya looked into the sky and noticed that it was the middle of the day. Frowning, Arya realized that her small group wouldn't have as much time as she wished to have to find food in Seagard. This made her wonder if Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy were having any luck out there themselves.
"Where should we go now?" Edric asked Arya.
Arya thought for a moment. "Let's look around this area."
"Like the parking lot?" Elmar asked.
"Beyond the parking lot," Arya explained, pointing towards where they were before entering the store. "Down there."
They got to walking then, and before they got to the corner of the store, Arya heard it first: the sound of something walking. Because of how far away the sound seemed to be, Arya guessed that whatever was making this noise, it was around the corner, on the side of the store.
As the group kept walking, the sound got closer, and everyone stopped when they saw what it was: a starving German Shepherd appeared from around the corner, seemingly walking around aimlessly.
"Oh," Arya said, looking over the dog. She hadn't seen a dog in years, and this was the first one she'd seen. Seeing the poor, shambling thing walk around made her feel sorry for it. She approached, and Elmar watched uneasily.
"Hey," Arya said, getting the dog's attention, "you alright?"
Arya knelt down on one knee and began petting the dog. The dog stopped walking and observed her. Arya then noticed that it had a pink collar, but no name tag.
Elmar's shouting made both Arya and the dog flinch, the two of them simultaneously looking over at Elmar, who looked concerned.
"Arya, get away from that thing!"
"It might be rabid!"
"I don't think it's rabid," Arya said. "Look, it's got a collar. I'm certain it's vaccinated."
Arya, remembering that the dog looked hungry, removed her backpack, opened it, and began searching for the carrots she'd taken from the minivan. When she found one to use, she pulled it from the bag and held it out for the dog. The dog, now curious, sniffed the carrot and began eating.
Elmar sighed, annoyed. "Arya, what are you doing?"
"Feeding it," Arya answered.
"Arya, come on!" Elmar shouted suddenly. Weasel flinched when he started yelling. "If you feed it, it gets attached!"
Arya ignored him. By that point, the German Shepherd had eaten half of the carrot.
Elmar's eyes narrowed. "Arya!"
When the dog was finished, it looked at Arya, as if it expected more food from her.
Arya looked over at the others. "I'm taking it with me," she announced.
Elmar and Edric looked at her like she'd grown a second head. As always, Weasel was quiet. Finally, Edric was the one to break the silence. "Arya, are you kidding me?"
Arya raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"We can't take care of that thing!" Elmar hissed. Arya frowned as he continued. "Arya, we barely got enough food from the store, and we had just enough for the rest of us back in the car! And now you want to take in a new mouth to feed? And a dog, no less? We can't take it in, Arya. Just leave it to starve out here!"
Arya, though she wanted to fight Elmar and Edric on this, knew deep down that they were right. The group had a food shortage already, and what they'd just found in the store only barely helped. She'd already taken a great liking to the German Shepherd, however, and now she felt sad and angry being pushed into leaving it to fend for herself.
Arya took a deep, shuddering breath and spoke, resigning herself to the realities of the situation. "Fine, fine…"
When the group began to walk away from the dog, Arya began getting angry again, feeling rage towards Elmar and Edric, though mostly towards the former. Arya began to think that she felt angry at Elmar for most of the things he did and said, and she wondered why Gendry kept putting up with him instead of throwing him out of the group. Then again, Lommy was like him when he first met Arya, and they'd grown to appreciate each other over time.
Hopefully, Elmar will be the same, Arya thought.
Just as dusk was coming in, Arya, Weasel, Elmar, and Edric made it back to the Twins Bridge after taking a few hours to search for more food. Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy were there as well, the three of them standing in front of an RV that wasn't there earlier. Each group made a beeline for the other one, and before they ran into each other, they stopped to talk, but Arya didn't. Arya handed her backpack to Gendry, and she shuffled past the others towards the nearby curb.
She sat down, and she tried ignoring the others, watching the cracked, gray asphalt instead. Weasel hurried after her and sat down next to her. Arya had no doubts that Elmar and Edric would blab to the others about the incident with the dog, and Arya wanted to not overhear that discussion. In fact, she wanted to be anywhere but that street in Seagard in front of that bridge. At least Weasel was there.
Just me and Gendry and Weasel, Arya thought bitterly. If we ditch the others, we can make it on our own out there. Lommy can stay and be Elmar's best buddy if he wants. Hot Pie can come with us, too. He could stay with the others as a different choice.
"Arya?" Weasel said. "Are you okay?"
Arya looked over at the smaller girl sitting next to her. She took a deep breath and exhaled before answering, realizing that she was only thinking of ditching the group with Gendry and Weasel because she was upset about the outcome of the situation with the dog. Since she'd fed the dog, Arya wondered if it was out there somewhere in Seagard looking for her after it'd been provided with the carrot.
"I'm just upset right now, Weasel," Arya answered. "Nothing to concern yourself with."
"Okay," Weasel said simply. She paused to fidget and look at her feet. While Weasel's head was turned away, Arya got a look at her. Weasel's black hair had gotten longer, and it was greasy and even matted in places. The girl's face and clothes were smattered with dirt, but so were everyone else's face and clothes. Arya could not remember the last time she or anyone else was able to take a shower. Even while the group stayed in White Harbor, there had been no functioning showers available for them all to use. Everyone smelled like garbage, and Arya thought that this would make them blend in with the wights, but it didn't.
After a while, Hot Pie waddled over to Arya and Weasel. "Hey," he said.
Arya looked up at him. "What is it?"
"Gendry found an RV. We're getting in and leaving now. He says we're going south."
Arya looked over at the RV, and she climbed to her feet, Weasel following suit as well. The three of them began walking over to the RV, just as Lommy and Elmar began to climb inside. As Arya made her way to the door, Weasel–of all people–stopped everyone when she began yelling.
Everyone looked towards the nearest stop sign, and the same German Shepherd from before came walking around the corner. Arya couldn't help but snicker; apparently, the dog had followed them back to the Twins Bridge. Lommy and Elmar came tumbling out of the RV to see what was going on.
"Wow," Elmar sighed. Lommy burst into a fit of laughter.
Gendry looked over at Arya. "That the dog from the store?"
"Yes," Arya said. "It has the same collar."
They watched as the dog approached, and it stopped in front of Arya and looked up at her, as if asking for more food. Arya looked at the dog for a moment, then turned to look at Gendry, feeling hopeful. "Can we keep it?"
Gendry shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"
Elmar recoiled as if slapped. Edric raised an eyebrow. The former immediately began storming over to Gendry, mumbling, "No, no, no, no, no" repeatedly.
Gendry turned to look down at Elmar. "Elmar, what is it?"
"We can't take in a dog!" Elmar hissed. "We have barely any food! That thing has who knows how many diseases and parasites in it–"
"It can hunt for its own food, like rabbits and squirrels," Gendry said. "I can tell."
"How?" Elmar asked.
"It's survived for this long on its own," Gendry explained. "I mean where's it getting its food from?"
Edric stepped in then. "Gendry, come on!" He looked flabbergasted. "Gendry, this is a horrendous idea!"
"You know what?" Gendry announced. "We'll put it to a vote. If you are fine with Arya keeping the dog, raise your hand."
Arya, Weasel, Lommy, and Gendry raised their hands, leaving Edric, Elmar, and Hot Pie as the ones who lost the vote four to three. "Okay, then, so it's settled," Gendry said, then turning to face Arya. "Arya, you can keep the dog, but it's your responsibility. None of ours."
Gendry looked at everyone else. "Everyone, get in the RV. We're leaving Seagard right now."
In the days following the group leaving Seagard to head southeast, the German Shepherd began to get healthier after being fed a number of times, and Arya one day found herself sitting outside the RV with the dog and Weasel. Both girls were on their knees, observing the animal. Weasel looked at the dog, as if contemplating something, then looked at Arya.
Arya noticed. "What is it, Weasel?"
"Can… can I pet her?" Weasel asked carefully.
Arya smiled. "Of course you can, Weasel." She gestured at the dog's fur. "Go right ahead."
Weasel gingerly reached her hand out and stroked the dog's fur with her fingers. The dog didn't seem to mind. Weasel spoke as she pet the dog, asking Arya, "Have you named her?"
Arya nodded. "I have."
"What's her name?"
Sitting in the front seat next to Gendry, who was currently driving down a desolate road, Arya watched said road. All around, she noticed as some of the leaves of the trees surrounding them were beginning to turn yellow. It was spring, and soon enough, autumn would arrive in all its glory. Between them, Nymeria slept quietly on the floor of the RV.
"Thanks for standing up for me," Arya told Gendry as they kept driving. It was early in the morning, so everyone else was asleep. The sun had just come up. It was common for Arya and Gendry to be awake first.
"When?" Gendry asked.
"A few weeks ago, when you said I could keep Nymeria, and we had the vote."
"A good decision on my part," Gendry said. "She's helped us hunt, right?"
This was true; Nymeria had proven to be a great companion for hunting. Arya nodded in response to Gendry. "Yeah."
Arya, though she still disapproved of Gendry's leadership skills sometimes, felt as of she'd grown closer to her good friend over the years. It seemed to her that the two of them had a mutual respect and appreciation of each other that the others in the group didn't seem to have. Arya definitely picked up on it, and she was sure that Gendry had dropped a few hints here and there that there was definitely a connection of sorts.
Arya had the road atlas in her lap and flipped through it, hoping to see where they were going next. Ever since leaving Seagard, the group had been out in the woods in between it and the next town looking for food and hunting. Recently, Gendry had decided that they needed to move to somewhere else again. Arya scanned the pages of the road atlas, and she quickly noticed a big area with a label above it, its name. It looked like a small city or a large town. The fact that the group was headed there next was confirmed to Arya when she saw a green sign nearby with the location's name adorning it.
Chapter 6: Rip and Tear (2014)
I am dreadfully sorry for the long wait. I have been really dragging my feet with this story. I will try to avoid this in the future.
"Yeah, I understand that, it's just…" Hot Pie said, trailing off as he spoke with Arya. "…I just don't see anyone else in charge besides him."
Currently, it was night out, and Arya and Hot Pie were outside the RV, discussing various things. Eventually, the topic of discussion had shifted to Gendry, and Arya had let it be known to Hot Pie that she didn't think Gendry had a plan. Hot Pie seemed to partly agree and partly disagree.
"I'm not saying he should step down, I'm just saying he doesn't have an idea of where we're going," Arya explained. "We've just been running to nowhere for years now."
In the sky above them, a low growl of thunder made itself known. It'd been continuously raining heavily for a few days, and Arya was now beginning to think that it would cease soon. She hoped that this would be the case.
Hot Pie paused for a moment to think about Arya's words. "Yeah, yeah, you're right. That… that really is what we've been doing, just moving without stopping somewhere. I mean the closest we had was White Harbor, but we got kicked out when those people you were with died. If we stayed, it would have just been a week."
"Was it just a week?" Arya asked, trying to remember herself. It had been so long since she was at White Harbor that she'd let it slip from her mind regarding the details of Wyman Manderly's deal with her group.
"Hey, I'm just happy to be getting to a new town soon," Hot Pie said. "We've been staying out in the woods ever since that disaster in Oldstones."
Arya frowned when she thought of that event. Oldstones did indeed have lots of supplies to be scavenged and many cars of which to siphon gas out of, but there were many instances in which people were nearly bitten. Before they left, Lommy had decided to use one of his experimental bombs on a rusted out car. Much to his delight, it worked, but the loud noise had drawn out many wights, and several people were almost killed.
Arya nodded. As she spoke again, she felt a drop of rain hit her right cheek. "I agree with you."
Hot Pie looked up as Arya answered. Apparently, he'd been hit by the rain, too. "The rain's here."
"Let's get inside the RV, then," Arya said. She entered the RV, and Hot Pie followed. Hot Pie closed the door behind himself.
Inside, the first thing Arya heard was "Don't forget to tighten it."
She looked over to the source of the noise, and she saw Lommy sitting in the back with Elmar and Edric. Lommy had several of his homemade explosives sitting before him (including two Molotov cocktails), and he was currently working on constructing a third Molotov cocktail.
"I won't," Lommy said.
Arya trusted he wouldn't accidentally cause the RV to catch fire and subsequently explode in the middle of the night. Arya ignored them and walked over to the front of the RV. Gendry was sitting in the front seat, and Nymeria was asleep between them. Arya plopped down into the chair next to Gendry's own seat.
"We're going into Fairmarket tomorrow, right?" Arya asked, catching Gendry's attention.
Gendry shook his head. "Day after tomorrow. We're going hunting and fishing tomorrow."
"Alright, fine," Arya said before she shifted into a comfortable position and closed her eyes, trying to get some sleep. She hoped that Lommy would shut up for a while so she could actually fall sleep.
The next day, Gendry drove for a short while before he stopped the RV and parked it a short distance outside of the entrance of the ravaged town of Fairmarket. Even from a distance, Arya could see that Fairmarket was ripped to shreds, with several burned-out buildings with the glass of the front windows shattered. When Gendry stopped the RV, he ordered everyone out.
"Alright, we're going into Fairmarket tomorrow. Today, we're going to hunt and fish."
"Who's doing what?" Edric asked.
"Arya and I are going hunting with Hot Pie and Lommy. Nymeria's coming with us, too. The rest of you are fishing. We're very close to a river, so the others I didn't list are going to fish for the day."
Arya frowned. While she would like spending time with Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy, she was upset that Weasel would be with Elmar. She was fine with Edric being in Weasel's presence, but not Elmar. The latter hadn't let up regarding harassing Weasel, and Arya was past her breaking point with it. Arya watched as Weasel, Elmar, and Edric all simultaneously hurried over to the RV to open the storage compartment to get their hands on the buckets and spears the group used for fishing. They had to move aside some of Lommy's explosive equipment in the process, but they still found what they were looking for in the end.
After Weasel's smaller group retrieved their supplies for fishing, the others gathered what they needed. Weasel, Elmar, and Edric went north to the close river, and Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, Lommy, and Nymeria all went into the woods south of the beaten-up street.
"How much meat do we have?" Hot Pie asked. He was carrying a large bag, where everyone had been placing the game they hunted into.
"Not as much as I hoped," Arya said, eyeing the contents of the bag with everyone else sans Nymeria. Inside were eight rabbits, two squirrels, and three birds.
"Then what are we going to do?" Hot Pie asked, looking over at Gendry.
"We keep looking," Gendry said, turning to advance deeper into the woods. Arya and the others followed. All the while, Arya began to carefully look around for any other animals they could hunt for food. Nymeria was with them as well, and the dog walked over to the bag to sniff at it.
They kept going for about sixteen minutes, and they all simultaneously stopped as a large buck stepped out from behind a number of trees. The creature briefly paused to sniff the grass before it before it flipped its ears and kept moving, seemingly ignoring the others beside it. Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy were all silent before Lommy whispered to the others.
"Should we go for it?"
Before any human could answer, Nymeria did. She snarled, growled, then began barking at the buck. The buck looked over at the group and stood ramrod still as it now noticed the group of five. Nymeria barked a few more times, then charged at the buck. The buck immediately turned and ran, and Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy began hollering in unison as they chased after Nymeria, whom was in the process of chasing the buck.
They continued to run for a while. Arya could see Nymeria off in the distance, and she watched as the dog managed to catch up to the buck and successfully bring it down. Nymeria, growling, leapt from the ground and dug her claws and teeth into the back of the big buck. The buck fell, and the four humans who were in the process of chasing it finally managed to catch up.
Gendry and Arya carried the remains of the buck back to the RV. Hot Pie, Lommy, and Nymeria followed.
Night came. Arya found herself sitting around a fire made outside the RV with the others. She had been chewing the (now cooked) meat from the buck run down by Nymeria. It was rare for something as large as a buck to be spotted by anyone anymore. Arya couldn't remember the last time she saw one before the specimen from a few hours earlier. Weasel was on Arya's right, and Nymeria was to her left. Across from her, Gendry swallowed a piece of meat before he began to speak.
"We'll be heading into Fairmarket tomorrow morning," he announced. "We should discuss scavenging and how we'll go about looking for food and anything else we can use."
"Are we splitting up to look for stuff again?" Elmar asked after swallowing a bit of cooked buck meat.
Gendry shook his head. Arya raised an eyebrow as Gendry began to elaborate. "We'll be moving together as one big group. Better to stick together."
Arya was not sure if anyone else noticed this, but she got a look at Edric's face when Gendry explained his strategy for the following day of scavenging Fairmarket. Edric's face communicated to Arya that he thought Gendry's idea was completely stupid and that it was also incredibly dangerous.
Gendry, are you being serious? Arya thought.
Arya liked Gendry and all, but this was one of many different times where she wondered if he actually knew what he was doing. She had been thinking about this for the many years they'd been on the road, and she was aware that Hot Pie felt the same way as her. She was now beginning to think that Edric felt similarly. Arya also felt as if eventually, something was going to give away. Gendry would make a mistake, or something else would happen that would shatter his hold over the group if not weaken it permanently.
Arya would hate to see this happen. If it did happen, she expected that everyone (with the exception of perhaps a few) would leave. Hot Pie and Lommy might stick with Gendry if the group were to fracture, and Weasel and Nymeria would definitely stay with Arya, but the latter didn't know about anyone else.
However, Arya tried to reason with herself that the group wouldn't fracture. At the same time, Arya didn't want to fool herself into thinking that the group couldn't break apart.
After dinner, Arya escorted Weasel into the RV, and Nymeria eagerly followed after the both of them. Every night, Weasel slept on one of two beds in the RV, and this night was no exception. As Weasel crawled into bed, Arya watched.
"Have you taken care of everything?" Arya asked. "Like have you taken care of everything you need to do before bed?"
Weasel nodded before her head hit the pillow. "Yeah, yeah."
Arya gently patted Weasel on the head. "Alright, goodnight, Weasel–"
Arya was cut off when Weasel suddenly lunged forward and hugged Arya tightly. Arya, surprised but still appreciating the affectionate gesture, returned Weasel's hug. Normally, Arya did not like things such as this, but she was always willing to make an exception for little Weasel. The two of them had grown very close to one another over the years, and Arya knew that Weasel fully trusted and loved her.
Weasel was incredibly close to her, nearly family. It made Arya think about whether or not her blood family were still out there somewhere. Eddard, Catelyn, and Robb were all gone. However, there was a chance that everyone else was still out there somewhere. Arya had a faint hope she'd find them someday.
When the day came, Gendry led everyone into the ravaged town of Fairmarket. Everyone was armed, and Arya walked behind Gendry. Weasel was to her left, and Nymeria was to her right. As planned, all of them walked in a big cluster. Aside from the sounds of scuffling feet, Nymeria panting, and a cough every now and then, everyone was quiet. Lommy was the one to break the silence.
"We've got company."
Sure enough, before the group were two wights mindlessly shambling around the decimated streets of Fairmarket. One was next to a flipped, burned-out car, and the other was close behind. Arya could see that they were approaching an X-shaped intersection at the time. Arya and Gendry approached the wights, and with a swing of her machete, Arya put down one wight while Gendry used his sledgehammer to collapse the skull of the other.
With the threat taken care of, the group continued towards the intersection. Arya began feeling better; it seemed like they had everything covered and that no one would die. Upon reaching the center of the intersection, Arya noticed a tall, brick building nearby. She looked upward, and her eyes widened. Standing behind a dirty window watching them was, unmistakably, Jaqen.
"Arya?" Hot Pie said, taking her eyes away from the window to look at Hot Pie. The latter continued speaking. "You see something?"
"It's nothing, Hot Pie. Don't worry about it."
With that taken care of, Arya looked back up to the window as the group stopped when Gendry did. Jaqen was gone.
Wait… what? Arya thought. Where'd he go–
Hot Pie's cry caught everyone's attention. Arya looked to where Hot Pie was pointing, and she saw a massive hoard of wights approaching them from the location of the RV. There must have been at least eighty-five of them, all growling and headed right for the lot of them.
"There are more– WE'RE SURROUNDED!" Elmar shouted.
Arya looked around. Coming from every street, there were more wights, effectively boxing them into the center of the intersection. The wights coming from the direction where the RV was were much more close, but the others were still a distance away.
"Gendry, what do we do?" Edric asked.
Gendry looked towards the direction of the RV. "We need to get back to the RV. Fight our way through."
Everyone, still clustered together, eyed the rotting wave of the dead approaching them all. Nymeria began growling. Arya felt a rush of intense willingness to live to see another day shoot through her. Finally, someone–Arya wasn't sure who–emitted a war cry, which prompted everyone else to scream at the wights (bark in Nymeria's case) and charge forward. Within seconds, the living clashed on the dead, and Arya rammed her machete through the empty eye socket of one wight in the front row as Nymeria took down the one next to it, crushing its exposed brain in her teeth. Nearby, Lommy rammed one end of his spear through the skull of a wight, then another, then another.
Nearby, Gendry swung his sledgehammer a few times, taking out three wights and crippling another. Hot Pie, who was near Arya, swung his metal pipe at a wight and knocked it over. He proceeded to beat its brains in with the pipe. However, two wights grabbed for him, and Arya noticed. She ran towards the wights about to bite a chunk out of Hot Pie and severed the rotted arm of one that was about to grab her fat friend before putting the same machete through its temple. The second wight Arya pushed back by running her machete into its gut and running it backwards, yanking it upward and back as she made it fall, sending a spray of blood flying at her as the creature's gray and black, rotted intestines spilled out onto the street. The smell nearly made her gag.
"THEY'RE NOT FALLING BACK!" Elmar screamed as he cracked the head of one with the metal bat in his possession.
"NO DUH!" Arya shouted back as she sliced into the neck of a wight, taking its head clean off. The head, still making biting motions, rolled over to Weasel, who stuck her dagger into the side of it, killing it. At this point, the group had cut through a number of the wights, but they were still vastly outnumbered.
Arya heard two loud pops as Edric pulled out a pistol and put down a few wights. Next to him, Gendry crippled a wight and then mashed its head into red, gray, and black pulp with his sledgehammer with several frantic, hard swings downward. By this point, Edric, Elmar, Gendry, and Lommy were to the far left while the others were to the far right. Weasel began to scream as a wight grabbed her hair, desperately swinging her dagger at it to get it to go away. Arya heard her cries, but was busy grappling with a wight of her own. Nymeria charged over to Weasel and tackled the wight from behind, biting into its head and savagely shaking it around in her mouth.
"THAT'S IT, YOU GOTTA DO SOMETHING!" Lommy shouted. At his waist, three bottles intended to be used as Molotov cocktails were tied there. Also present at his waist was a makeshift bomb he had constructed out of an empty milk jug and other materials, which he'd named "Auk". He grabbed one of the bottles, lit the cloth, then threw it ahead of them. There was a large burst of flame, and several of the wights in the center began to catch fire. Lommy began yelling again. "GOTTA THIN THE HERD!"
Though Arya was a distance away from the burning flesh of the rotting wights, she could still smell it. She coughed and threw up in her mouth a little due to the strong, horrid smell. At her left, Hot Pie hollered and whacked a wight across the face with his pipe, splintering a number of teeth and bursting its nose like old fruit thrown against a solid wall. As he ran forward to finish the job, Nymeria tore at the leg of a wight before Weasel leapt forward and drove her dagger into its brain through a gash present in the forehead.
By this point, Arya and Gendry's groups were separated, wights in between the both of them. At this point, Arya began to hack away at the undead more fiercely and quickly, hoping that none of them were going to get boxed in and surrounded. Arya heard more gunshots nearby, and she watched as Lommy threw a second Molotov cocktail into the swarm of wights. This time, three more wights caught on fire than before. Nobody had been bitten or killed yet, but they were seemingly losing.
After Gendry broke open the skull of a wight before him with his sledgehammer to expose its brain, Arya rammed her machete through the mouth of a wight in front of her and then yanked it out. Hot Pie hit another wight upside the head with his pipe, and it dislodged a rotted eye. Weasel ran her dagger through a wight's knee before stabbing it in the face. Nymeria savaged a wight's forearm, dragging it backwards. Elmar broke the jaw of a wight advancing towards him. Edric used his last bullet on a wight about to bite a chunk out of Gendry's arm. Lommy continually speared wights at random; some of these wights died while others were disemboweled and lost limbs or digits.
"There are too many!" Hot Pie cried. Arya felt like this was true; for every wight they killed, two more arrived. The original plan of sticking together had unfortunately started to fail. It made her wonder when the other wights from behind would start to gain on them if they weren't there already. One wight whose hands had decayed to the point where the tips of the fingers were exposed bone reached Arya next, taking a swipe at her face. Part of her face, her right cheek, was grazed by the claw-like bone, and she started to bleed. Nymeria, noticing this, rushed to her master's aid and tore into the wight's throat before taking on the skull. Nearby, Weasel repeatedly drove her dagger into the back of a wight's head.
"I SEE AN OPENING!" Gendry shouted. "EDRIC, ELMAR, YOU TWO GO!"
"ARE YOU SURE?!" Edric shouted back.
"YES!" Gendry shouted as he swung at a wight and collapsed its skull. "NOW GO!"
"GO!" Gendry shouted as Elmar and Edric began to run to the RV, which Arya could make out in the distance. "GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO! GO!"
Upon hearing Gendry's shouting, Elmar and Edric began to run through the wights to get to the RV. Arya lost track of the two of them as they disappeared into the sea of the dead. As Gendry and Lommy continued to fight their way back to the RV, Arya, Hot Pie, Weasel, and Nymeria were getting backed into an old, now abandoned department store.
At this point, the four of them were backed against the front doors of the store. As the wights began to pile in towards them, Arya was almost certain they would die that day. However, they didn't. Behind them, the doors opened, and Arya and the others turned to see Jaqen–albeit smeared in gore–standing there.
"A man suggests a girl and her friends come inside if they wish to live."
They went inside. Jaqen shut the door and pushed a shelf over, barricading it successfully.
Jaqen led them into a back room of the department store. Arya and Hot Pie recognized Jaqen, but Arya had to explain to Weasel who he was. Weasel, always distrustful of strangers, at least managed to warm up to Jaqen after seeing that Arya and Hot Pie trusted him.
"Where are we going?" Hot Pie asked as the group of five continued to move through the store.
"A man noticed your plight, and he has a solution."
Arya couldn't believe Jaqen was still alive. She was certain that the wight swarm back in Winterfell had caused him, Rorge, and Biter to all die. It also opened up many questions. How did Jaqen show up in this department store without being seen? How did he get out of Winterfell? Did Rorge and Biter escape as well? Were they here with him? Curious, she decided to ask.
"Jaqen, how did you make it out of Winterfell when the wight horde was coming in?"
Jaqen was quiet for a moment, but he answered as he opened the door to a back room. "A man is full of surprises."
Jaqen held the door open for Arya and her companions, and they stepped into the room. A small lamp was atop a desk, and it was lit, revealing the other contents of the room. A bloodied ax was resting in the corner, its rusted handle leaning against the wall. Nearby was a stack of five dead wights. All of them had large wounds in their heads where Jaqen had obviously driven the ax into their skulls. Hot Pie stopped and noticed them.
"What are those for?"
Jaqen walked over to the ax and picked it up as he began to explain. Arya heard a loud explosion come from the outside street. She immediately knew that it was Auk going off. "A man will demonstrate." He looked over at Hot Pie. "A fat boy will come forward."
Jaqen pulled the top corpse off of the pile and began to swing into it with his ax. Everyone watched as he drove his weapon into it several more times. When he was finished, Jaqen leaned the ax against the adjacent desk and began to dig into the corpse with his hands, pulling out bits of intestine and liver and probably stomach. He held them out for Hot Pie to take.
"What… do you want me to do with…"
"A fat boy must cover himself," Jaqen explained. "A man has learned that one may mask their own smell by covering themselves in their insides. One may avoid detection in this manner."
The group proceeded to take turns covering themselves in wight guts and blood. They went in the order of Hot Pie, Arya, Weasel, and then Nymeria. Weasel needed some assistance in covering herself, and Nymeria needed to be covered by her three companions because she couldn't do it herself. In total, they had to cut open three of the wights on the pile. The smell was unbelievable, but Arya managed.
When they were done, they stepped out of the back room and into the main part of the store. Arya got a look out of one of the dirty front windows and saw that the street was swarming with wights. She did not see Gendry or Lommy out there. Jaqen followed close behind, and Arya and her companions turned to look at him when he addressed them.
"A girl and her friends can walk through, though a man must advise you to move slowly to avoid detection."
Arya nodded once. "Thank you, Jaqen."
As they turned to exit through the door they came through, Arya and Hot Pie proceeded to move the barricade away. It took some effort, but they managed to complete their task. As Arya reached for the door handle, she tightly gripped her machete in the other. She hoped Jaqen's idea would work. She also hoped that none of them would get bitten, hoped that Nymeria wouldn't growl or bark and thus attract unwanted attention from the wights, and hoped that none of the wights would catch on.
When applying the gore to her face, Jaqen warned her to avoid smearing any of the blood onto her open wounds on her cheek. Arya knew that wights were attracted to fresh blood among other things, so she figured that out of everyone in the group, she was the biggest liability aside from probably Nymeria. Her wound had crusted over by then, but she figured that it would open up again if she rubbed it even a little.
Before they stepped outside, Arya took one last look back at everyone. They were eagerly watching her. Jaqen was gone. Arya opened the door, and they went out. Arya, tightly gripping her machete in one hand, held Weasel's hand with the other. Hot Pie and Nymeria made up the rear, and they noticed that while some of the wights turned their heads to look and see what caused the noise of the door creaking open, but they ignored Arya's group altogether.
"It works!" Hot Pie whispered.
Slowly, they moved through the swarm towards the RV. While the wights went one way, the four trying to move through them went the other. All the while, Weasel did not loosen her grip on Arya's hand, and Arya herself felt a hint of nervousness every time a wight looked her way. Much to her surprise, Nymeria did not bark or growl.
Moving through the swarm, Arya saw the remains of Lommy's bomb, Auk. Ash and burned asphalt were present among the remains of the explosion, and the corpses of seven wights surrounded it. Nearby, there were more burned corpses of wights, evidently the result of Lommy using his final Molotov cocktail. At this point, Arya could see movement around the RV. It's them!
When they were getting close, they made a break for it and began screaming for someone to notice them, not caring if the wights detected them. Gendry and Lommy staggered out of the RV, and they ran over to greet their friends. Edric and Elmar appeared as well, and they approached.
Arya was the first to see Elmar staggering towards the front of the RV a short while later. He moved like he was sick. Curious, Arya approached him to see what he was doing. Getting close, Arya watched as Elmar began gagging as he placed his left hand to the front of the RV to support himself. From behind him, Arya could see that Elmar was coughing up blood and bile.
"Elmar?" Arya said, feeling as if she knew what was going on. She did not notice it when she and the others escaped the herd of wights, but now she saw a bloody red spot on his upper right arm. Elmar stuck his head up and, shaking, turned to face Arya.
Arya's eyes widened when she saw that Elmar's skin was turning gray, and his eyes were in the process of changing to the pale blue possessed by the wights. Realizing what was happening, Arya screamed for help.
Gendry and Lommy burst from the door of the RV, and they immediately noticed what was going on when they got a look at Elmar. Lommy was armed, Gendry and Arya weren't.
"What… Gendry…" Elmar mumbled.
"Lommy, put him down!" Gendry ordered.
Elmar took a step towards Gendry and mumbled something Arya couldn't understand.
"What?!" Lommy said, looking appalled. "That's a person! He's not a wight yet!"
"BUT HE WILL BE!" Gendry shouted. "You remember Yoren? How FAST he turned?!"
The commotion drew Hot Pie, Weasel, and Edric from where they were inside the RV. Arya was too distracted by Gendry and Lommy to notice Elmar charge at her when the latter turned. She only noticed when Elmar tackled her to the ground, snarling and snapping at her face with his teeth. Arya screamed and tried to push him off of herself, but to no avail.
Immediately, Gendry ran over, hoisted Elmar off of Arya, and choke slammed him to the asphalt. The undead Elmar did not hesitate in clawing at Gendry's arm. Lommy then ran over. Everyone was shouting. Lommy rammed one end of his spear into Elmar's head, and he went limp.
Everyone was silent for a moment. Finally, Edric was the one to break the silence.
"HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!"
"Let's look," Gendry said, proceeding to drag Elmar's body over to the RV. He leaned him up against it and began to inspect the body for bites. Arya walked over and watched as everyone else crowded around Gendry and Elmar and did the same thing.
After a brief while, Gendry rolled up Elmar's shirt sleeve and noticed a deep bite on his right arm, the same place where Arya had seen the red mark. Gendry then backed up a bit and took a deep breath.
"Alright," Gendry said, "alright, let's bury him."
It took a number of hours, but Gendry, Arya, and Lommy dug a hole in the nearby woods to bury Elmar. They brought his body over there and lowered him in. Gendry, Arya, and Lommy took turns shoveling dirt over Elmar's remains as Weasel, Hot Pie, Edric, and Nymeria all watched the event in silence.
As the dirt covered half of Elmar's body, Edric began to deeply inhale in and out. Arya watched him, and she saw in his eyes that he looked hurt and angry. When they finished shoveling, Edric's breathing was now very loud. Gendry was the first to address it.
"Are you okay?"
Edric hatefully stared at Gendry, then charged at him, shouting. Edric swung at Gendry, who quickly moved out of the way.
"What are you doing–" Gendry said, but was cut off when Edric swung again, connecting as he successfully whacked Gendry in the face.
Gendry, now looking very enraged himself, grabbed Edric's wrist as he tried to punch him again, then swung himself, hitting Edric in the gut hard enough to make him vomit all over Elmar's grave. When the vomit was gone, Gendry approached and whacked him in the right cheek. Realizing what was going on, Arya and Lommy got in between Gendry and Edric and began shouting them down from killing each other.
"WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?!" Gendry shouted.
"YOU'RE THE REASON HE'S DEAD!" Edric screamed back.
A screaming match between the two followed, and it ended with Edric walking backwards while shouting at Gendry, though the volume of his voice had lowered quite a bit since he began yelling.
"You told us to run because you don't have a plan! You just drag us along to every town so we can find next to nothing and just scrape to get by! Maybe you should step down and let Arya take over. She'd be MUCH better than YOU ANY DAY!"
He turned to walk back to the RV.
Sitting in the front seat next to Gendry, Arya flipped through the road atlas to see if she could find an alternate route out of Fairmarket rather than going straight through like what Gendry had originally planned. Gendry had decided that due to the mass of wights in there, they needed to find another way out. After some time, Arya found an alternate road to take to go southeast, though they needed to go through two streets in Fairmarket to get there.
Puling into the town, Gendry slowly drove through the street where the group had fought for their lives during the previous day. Arya was pleased to see that there were barely any wights around. Gendry turned right to head down a different street when he reached the intersection, and he began to leave Fairmarket. A few wights shambled around, but they did not advance towards the RV.
Edric was sitting in the far back of the RV, not talking to anyone. Hot Pie, a half-eaten bag of chips in his hand, watched as Lommy constructed a new Molotov cocktail at a table. On the floor, Weasel played with Nymeria. Up front, Gendry drove as Arya sat in silence and observed the streets of Fairmarket.
As Gendry drove, Arya wondered if there was anyone living in Fairmarket. She supposed that Jaqen may very well have been the ravaged town's sole occupant now, but part of her also thought that he was only passing through for the time being.
Arya began to wonder if there was once a sizable community at Fairmarket, but she did not see any sign of life anywhere. Almost all of the towns they'd been to had been raided or overrun, and Fairmarket was no exception.
And then she saw it. Written on a brick wall in black spray paint was a message that made Arya feel unsettled. It made her realize that Fairmarket likely had actually been raided in the past.
BEWARE THE BRAVE COMPANIONS
Chapter 7: Follow The River (2015)
By the time Weasel found what she was looking for in the road atlas, the rain outside of the RV was starting to slacken.
"Have you seen it yet?" Arya asked, not taking her eyes off the road. She kept both hands on the wheel like what Gendry had taught her months earlier. She didn't think she was at good at driving as Gendry, but she at least thought she was doing an alright job. Gendry himself was sitting in the back with the others. Nymeria was sitting between where Arya and Weasel were seated themselves, panting.
"I think so…" Weasel said. "You were looking for where Crossroads is, right?"
Arya nodded. "Yes."
Arya heard a shuffling sound that indicated Weasel was shifting through the pages of the road atlas. After a few moments of said noises–accompanied by a few confused mumbles–Weasel finally said something. "Okay, I think we're getting close."
"Is it big enough to have a supermarket or pharmacy?" Arya asked. She and Gendry had been discussing scavenging the next town they came across. According to the road atlas, said town would be Crossroads. Weasel had become the group's navigator after Elmar's death, and she had quickly gotten used to reading the road atlas. She was still somewhat bad at it, but she was making progress nonetheless.
Weasel shook her head. "No, it's just a dot."
Great, Arya thought. Just great. We're running low on food, and this type of thing happens–
"Arya, isn't that called a pork?" Weasel asked. "When a town is really small?"
"That's called a hamlet." Arya turned her head to face Weasel. "Ham, not pork, Weas–"
A loud crunching and thump grabbed Arya's attention. She looked to the front just in time to see something disappear beneath the front of the RV. The RV began to slow down, indicating that whatever Arya hit was stuck and now being dragged.
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Arya hissed, gently putting her foot on the brake and pulling over to the side. Gendry noticed and walked to the front of the RV.
"I hit something. We need to pull over and take care of it."
Arya put the car in park and killed the engine after pulling over to the side of the road. Everyone began to pile out. Gendry and Weasel left first, followed by Hot Pie, Lommy, Arya herself, and then Edric and Nymeria. When everyone walked out, Arya got a good look at everyone, and she became aware of how tall everyone now was. Tallest to shortest among the non-animals, everyone went in the order of Gendry, Lommy, Edric, Hot Pie, Arya herself, and then Weasel. Arya had already been observing Weasel's growth over the years, and it shocked her how fast she was growing. She wouldn't be surprised if Weasel would be taller than her someday.
Everyone gathered around the front of the RV, and they saw a wight stuck there. The lower half of it was stuck beneath the front, but its arms and head were still visible, the thing biting and grasping at nothing. Arya was relieved they didn't hit a living person, and it made her realize the group hadn't seen any sign of human life ever since they ran into Jaqen. It begged the question: were there any humans left aside from themselves and maybe some others?
"Alright," Gendry said. "Who's doing it?"
Edric immediately walked back into the RV, looking angry. Lommy stepped forward with his spear and drove one end into the wight's left eye. It went limp. Without hesitation, Lommy put his spear down, and he and Arya each grabbed an arm of the wight and pulled. It took a few hard jerks, but the wight's remains soon dislodged, and they dragged it over to the side of the road to both get it out of their way and so it could rot in the grass. Before getting back into the RV, Arya got a look at the front. There was blood there and some light surface damage, but Arya was convinced that the rain, though it was starting to stop, would wash at least some of it off.
After everyone was back inside, Arya began to drive towards Crossroads again. Some time passed, and the rain stopped. It was then that Arya noticed the river to her left as she drove over a wooden bridge. For the past year, they had been traveling southeast, always following the south bank of the river. They'd all been out in the woods most of the time without any progress being made on the road. Often times, the group all stayed in one place until food supply in the form of hunting game ran dry.
After a brief while, Arya finally came across a rusted, chipped green sign notifying that the group was entering Crossroads. Arya got a good look around and saw some houses smattered here and there, most hidden behind pine and spruce trees. Arya did not know a thing about the layout of hamlets, but she guessed she was on a main road. This was because of both the width of the road and the fact that abandoned, rusted cars were scattered everywhere.
Arya's eyes flickered beyond the steering wheel, and she saw they were running low on gas. This coupled by the cars everywhere convinced Arya to pull over and refill while also siphoning gas out of the abandoned cars. This long into the apocalypse, it was likely that the abandoned cars had little to no gas left, but she figured it didn't hurt to try.
After pulling over, Arya explained to the others what was happening. Willing to siphon gas out of a car, Lommy and Weasel followed Arya out of the RV. While the three of them approached the RV, Hot Pie followed them outside after being instructed to refill the gas tank with whatever they had saved in the RV's storage compartment. As Arya, Lommy, and Weasel approached the first car they saw, Arya looked over her shoulder and saw Hot Pie beginning to take a red gas can out. Everyone outside of the RV was armed.
"Do you remember how to do this?" Arya asked Weasel, who was going to be the one getting gas.
Weasel nodded. They reached the first car. "Yes, I do."
As Weasel got to work, Arya and Lommy both watched the surrounding area to make sure there were no wights around that could get the drop on them. Weasel had a confused look on her face, which twisted into a sad look after a brief while. Right before Weasel spoke again, Arya noticed some movement in the woods across from the three of them.
"I don't think there's any gas in here."
Weasel was about to move to the next car, but Arya reached her arm out and put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. Arya was still keeping her eyes on the woods, which Lommy and Weasel then noticed, and they followed suit by looking towards the woods.
Arya stepped forward, taking her hand off of Weasel. "Who's there?!"
Two girls stepped out from behind the trees. One of them, who was taller, had a crossbow. The shorter had a shotgun. The two groups stared at each other for a moment before anyone spoke, and it was the shorter of the two girls.
"We're here. Mind if you tell us who you are?"
Arya replied. "You tell us about yourselves, first."
The shorter girl raised her shotgun, likely trying to aim at Arya's head. "You're not in a position to tell us what to do." The other girl, likely a family member due to their close physical resemblance, did the same with her crossbow.
Weasel tightly gripped Arya's hand as the latter replied. Arya, figuring that they'd get nowhere unless someone said someone's name, decided to relent. "My name is Arya Stark." She gestured at Lommy and Weasel. "These here are Lommy and Weasel."
"Alright, Arya," the shorter girl said. "You and your crew run with the Brave Companions? Harrenhal?"
Arya recognized the name "Brave Companions" from when she saw the graffiti warning about them back in Fairmarket, and she did not know what "Harrenhal" was. Because of this, she told the truth. "No, we aren't part of any of those groups. We don't know any of those people."
The shorter girl lightly lowered her gun, then spoke again. "How many are with you?"
"Including us three, six. Plus one dog."
"Alright…" the short girl said, lightly nodding as she lowered her gun. "Alright… you're not one of them. I'm Willow Heddle, and this is my older sister, Jeyne."
Jeyne looked annoyed as she lowered her crossbow. "Willow, I can introduce myself."
Lommy snickered. Arya hoped neither of the Heddle sisters heard it. A moment ago, Willow was clearly very willing to blow Arya's brains out. Therefore, Arya didn't want Willow to be pushed into killing anyone that day. Eyeing Willow and Jeyne, Arya noticed that they were less covered in dirt than her whole group.
Jeyne must have noticed. "What's wrong, Arya?"
"You're not covered in dirt like us," Arya explained. "Do you have running water somewhere?"
Willow nodded. "Oh, yeah! We've got a house we've been staying in since all this started. We have access to a generator, and we've been pouring gas into it for power, but we try to conserve as best as we can. Do you and yours want to see it?"
Arya thought for a moment. Working electricity? This far into the apocalypse? Plus, she and the others didn't know these people well. However, she trusted them, seeing as how their (somewhat) clean yet wary state indicated they had something valuable that they wanted to protect. Arya, still wanting something out of this, spoke.
"Do you have gas you can lend us?"
Willow nodded. "Yeah."
In Arya's mind the matter was now settled. "Okay, then. We'll lead you to the RV so you can guide us there. We'll introduce you to everyone inside."
Willow's nose and face scrunched up when she entered the RV. Jeyne gagged and had to step outside to get some fresh air. Apparently, the Heddle sisters had been hit with an invisible wall of filth when the two of them entered the RV. The way Arya understood it, her own group had been living in filth for so long, they didn't notice the atrocious smell filling the RV and had adapted to its presence.
"Are you okay?" Hot Pie asked, looking at Willow.
"I'm fine," Willow hissed. "Just need some time getting used to this… smell."
Outside, Jeyne took a few deep breaths before walking back into the RV. Arya watched her, hoping that she didn't vomit all over the floor and on Nymeria or Weasel. Much to Arya's pleasant surprise, Jeyne didn't puke on anything. After the introductions with the Heddles and the rest of the group were out of the way, Arya waited for Jeyne and Willow to approach the front and instruct her on where to go.
Arya drove for a bit, and Willow directed Arya to a street which took her to a long, winding dirt path through the woods. They wound up in a small clearing with a large, dirty, two story house in the middle. Parts of it were burned, and there was a shed and a wooden picnic table out front accompanied by a chain-link fence around the property. There was an opening wide enough for the RV to enter. Taking in the whole sight of the property, Arya couldn't help but be impressed. There was some damage here and there, but the whole thing looked untouched by the apocalypse going on around it, like the home of the Heddle sisters existed in its own serene bubble. Arya shut the RV off when Willow instructed.
Everyone got out. Weasel, curious, went right for the front door of the house, but Willow reached out with fast reflexes and grabbed her arm to stop her. "No," she said sternly. "We talk first."
The group sat down at the picnic table. Arya noticed that Edric and Gendry stayed as far apart as possible. Arya, curious about what Willow meant by "talk" listened as she began to explain.
"Jeyne and I just met you all," Willow explained. She crossed her arms. "Now tell us everything. From start to finish."
For the next four hours, Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, and Lommy brought Jeyne and Willow up to speed. Weasel and Edric added in their own comments every now and then, but for the most part, they were quiet. Willow and Jeyne sometimes interrupted to ask questions, and everything was answered to the best of Arya's ability. Upon hearing about their escape from Fairmarket, Willow had an impressed look on her face. When they got to the part where Elmar died, Edric got up and walked away, sitting up against the front of the house.
After a while, everything was done, and Willow and Jeyne let Arya's group into the house to take turns showering and eating the small amount of food the sisters were willing to share. Later on, as the day dragged into the afternoon, Arya sat with Jeyne as Willow and Hot Pie worked in the nearby kitchen, cooking a meal together for the group. They had gotten to talking, and they each discovered that they had a mutual appreciation for food.
"So about that Edric character," Jeyne said. "I'm guessing he and Gendry are still angry at each other over that business with your late friend being bitten."
Arya nodded. "Yes, they can hardly talk to each other. It gets annoying, especially when they need to hunt together." After speaking, Arya thought about Gendry and Edric's worsening relationship. It was highly volatile, and she was surprised that neither of them had tried to kill each other yet. They could hardly go two weeks without fighting at least once, and it made Arya think about who would possibly be the one to draw first blood. She didn't want it to happen. She didn't want Gendry to cave in Edric's skull with his sledgehammer or Edric to shoot Gendry dead. However, with the way things were going, it was a definite possibility down the road.
"Huh, that's terrible," Jeyne commented. "My sister and I have always worked together. Yes, there are times when we disagree, but we always reconcile. In this world today, there is no room for any margin of error. It could be fatal. Not to be mean, but I'm honestly surprised that your group has had only one casualty. You must make a fine leader if–"
Arya raised an eyebrow. "What? No, Gendry's in charge."
Jeyne exhaled sharply to show amusement. "I never would have guessed."
Arya ignored the comment and decided to speak about something else. "Has it always just been you two out here?"
Jeyne shook her head. "No, we had our great aunt with us in the beginning, and my dad, too. They're both gone. One was a wight, and the other was when some men from the Brave Companions came by demanding food and supplies. We stood our ground, and three of them died, and we lost my dad in the process, too. I already told you Willow is the cook. I'm a healer. I tried to bandage his wounds as best I could, but it was no use."
Arya nodded, feeling sorry for her. "How many people come through here?"
"Not many. You're the first people we've seen in a long time." Jeyne leaned back a bit. "Honestly, we used to take in guests all the time. They'd give us supplies in exchange for temporary shelter. I do apologize on behalf of my sister. I suppose I should explain her behavior from earlier. After that business with the Brave Companions, we have been increasingly wary of strangers."
"Who are these 'Brave Companions'?" Arya asked, resting her crossed arms on the table. "I've heard about them, but I'd like to hear it from you."
Jeyne took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. "They are horrible. They are a group of men who travel around this part of the countryside raiding every community they find and killing everyone they come across. They are a group of barbarians left over from a primal age, and they are led by a horrible man with a lisp. I am thankful mine and Willow's home is secluded, or else it would be a prime target for them. From what I hear, their home base is in Saltpans, which is very close to here. Buildings with electricity and a supply of food, shaky or not, is a gold mine to anyone nowadays."
"What about wights?"
"Not many of those around here. We've had to worry more about the living than the dead."
"So after the meal, we get our gas and food, and then we go?" Arya asked.
Jeyne nodded. "Yes. We cannot go with you."
Weasel's sudden appearance made Arya and Jeyne jump. "Why not?"
"Because this is our home, Weasel," Jeyne explained. "It's a good home. Plus, we're protected anyway."
This information caught Arya's attention. The surrounding area being "protected" seemed to explain the serene nature of Jeyne and Willow's home. She turned her head back to Jeyne. "Protected? Care to explain?"
"We've got trade going on with this biker group that operates in the area," she explained. "We give them food and other supplies in exchange for protection. They hate the Brave Companions, so they're alright by me and Willow."
A voice came from inside the kitchen, Willow. "Dinner's ready!"
They ate outside at the picnic table. Willow and Hot Pie had cooked rabbit and fish for everyone, and they ate together. Also present were carrots taken from a small farm the Heddles kept in the backyard. The meal was mostly silent save for the occasional cough or joke and subsequent laugh. Finally, when the meal was over, Arya thanked Jeyne and Willow for their hospitality.
"Arya, I have something for you," Jeyne said afterward. She disappeared into the house and returned with a small circular tool. She held it out for her. "Here."
Arya took it in both hands and observed it closely. "What is it?"
"It's a tourniquet," Jeyne answered. "It stops blood flow if someone gets badly hurt. We have way too many of these things laying around, so I figured you could use one of our excess tourniquets someday. Like if someone were to lose something."
Jeyne nodded once. "You're welcome."
With that, Arya and the others boarded the RV. Hot Pie was evidently sad to leave Willow, but he seemed to accept that it was a reality he needed to face eventually. With everyone on board, she put the car in reverse and pulled out of the Heddle property, making her way back down the winding drive through the woods.
Driving southeast, Arya held on the wheel as she spoke to Gendry. They had been at the Heddle house for a while, and dusk was beginning to set in.
"Hot Pie seemed to like Willow," Arya commented.
Gendry nodded. "Birds of a feather flock together."
Arya thought back to how Willow was harsh on practically everyone among her and Jeyne's guests except for Hot Pie. Willow had overheard Hot Pie talk about food, and they got to talking about recipes and cooking, and they became fast friends. She also thought back to the two of them making the food for everyone, and they worked together very well. It seemed practically natural.
Arya and everyone else had liked the Heddles very much, and Arya was disappointed that she and the others all had to leave. For a brief moment, a fantasy of the group living with the Heddles flickered through her mind. Willow and Hot Pie could cook together, Weasel could see what it was like to grow up in a safe home, and everyone would pull their weight to help keep everything running. Sure, a wight or hostile person might show up every now and then, but it would still be–
"They're surrounding us!"
Arya became concerned immediately when Weasel started shouting. She put her foot on the brake and slowly stopped the car as she turned around to look back. Weasel, Hot Pie, Lommy, and Edric were crowding around various windows in the RV.
"What's going on?!" Gendry demanded, reaching for his sledgehammer.
"Guys on motorcycles!" Lommy shouted back. "The RV's surrounded!"
Arya finally looked forward, and she saw some of the guys Lommy was talking about starting to reach the front of the RV. Deciding to face the issue head on, Arya stopped the RV and killed the engine. Everyone gathered around Arya.
"What do we do?" Edric asked.
Gendry answered. "Don't do anything stupid–"
"I wasn't asking you!" Edric shot back.
"Everyone shut up!" Arya snapped. She let her statement hang in the air for a moment before she continued speaking. "We don't know who these people are! For all we know, they might want to trade with us or something! We're going out there."
Arya didn't give Hot Pie time to protest. "We're going out there! Weasel, you stay inside."
Arya did not forget to grab her machete before exiting the RV with Gendry, Hot Pie, Lommy, and Edric. All of them were armed. By then, several members of the biker group had dismounted their motorcycles and were watching their every move. Arya, tightly gripping the handle of her machete, didn't want any violence to break out. However, she would defend her group if she needed to. She heard several of the men make comments about her group, and she decided to address them herself.
"Who are you people?"
"Then tell us who you are," said a gruff, raspy voice. Its owner sounded like he was almost dead, and said owner came into view when he walked out of a group of bikers. Because of how they parted for him, Arya figured he was their leader. The first things Arya noticed about him were the eyepatch covering his right eye and wooden right leg. He had a large rifle strapped to his back.
"My name is Arya," Arya said. "These are Gendry, Hot Pie, Lommy, and Edric. Now what about you?"
He didn't answer her. Instead, he kept asking questions. "You come through here often?"
"No, we just came from Crossroads," Arya said. "We're headed southeast."
"To Saltpans or Harroway?"
"We don't know yet. Probably Harroway. We've heard some things about Saltpans."
"Brave Companions are holed up in there," the eyeless biker explained. "It's a death wish going into Saltpans right now. Did you say Crossroads?"
Hot Pie spoke instead of Arya. "We just met two people in a big house–"
"Shut up!" Arya demanded.
"WAIT!" the head biker held his hand out to indicate then needing to be silent. "What two people? Were they sisters?"
Hot Pie nodded wildly. "Yeah, Jeyne and Willow."
The man's eye seemed to light up. "Huh! Why didn't you just say so? We do trade with them quite a bit!"
Arya calmed down. It was then she realized that these men were the "biker group" Jeyne had described to her a day ago. In the heat of the moment, she'd forgotten about this specific information.
By the time night came, Arya and the others had (to some extent) gotten to know everyone in what their eyeless leader, Beric Dondarrion, referred to as the "Brotherhood Without Banners". Among Beric, their members consisted of Lem, Thoros, Harwin, Jack, Tom, Notch, Luke, Anguy, Mudge, Dennett, Watty, and Alyn. Currently, Arya was sitting on a fallen log to the right of Beric, and everyone else was gathered around a bonfire, sharing food and talking (except Weasel, who did not speak unless spoken to and Nymeria, who was asleep in the RV). Edric very much seemed to like these men, and Gendry did, too. At this point in her discussion with Beric, they had gotten to the topic of his wooden leg.
"I got this seven months ago," he explained. "We were in a bind down in High Heart. I fell and got bit in the ankle by a wight. If it weren't for Thoros's quick thinking with that chainsaw of his, I'd be a dead man."
"Wait, the infection can be stopped if you cut off an infected limb?"
"Yes," Beric said, nodding. "If you act fast enough."
It was then that Arya and Beric's attention was caught by Thoros approaching them. Arya liked Thoros from the start; he was a genial man who was willing to talk and share food. Thoros, noticing Arya, cleared his throat before speaking.
Arya nodded. "Yes."
"Mind if I sit?"
"No, I don't care."
Thoros sat down on a tire nearby. He crossed his arms and faced Arya. "So tell me: where are your families? I already guessed that the little girl is your child, but–"
Alarmed, Arya spoke up. "No, Weasel isn't my–"
"My apologies." Thoros put a hand up. "I just guessed she was yours."
Though the misunderstanding had been cleared up, it made Arya think. Out of everyone in the group, Weasel had been mostly attached to her. Whether she realized it or not before, Arya now came to understand that Weasel likely viewed her as a maternal figure. It made sense to her. After all, in the beginning, Arya had been the one to take care of Weasel the most, and Weasel only really spoke to Arya out of everyone else.
"So what about your families?" Thoros asked. "I'm very curious, and I couldn't get any information out of any of your friends over there."
"All of our families are long gone," Arya answered. "But… honestly? I still have hope some family of mine is out there somewhere. Have… have any of you come across some people with auburn hair? One of them's a tall girl, one of them is in a wheelchair, and one's a little boy. There's another with dark hair and gray eyes. They might have been around White Harbor up north."
Beric and Thoros shared a glance. Beric spoke first. "You remember anyone like that, Thoros? Sorry, after I took that fall back in Stone Mill, my memory hasn't been as good. I know you never forget a face."
Thoros sat and pondered for a moment. He took a deep breath and then answered. "No, we haven't encountered anyone who meets that description. Sorry, Arya."
Arya hated to hear that. She was hopeful that the Brotherhood Without Banners would provide some information regarding the whereabouts of Sansa, Bran, Rickon, and Jon, but they couldn't. Though she didn't show it on her face, it inwardly killed her a little more.
The next morning, each group began to prepare to leave. As Arya helped Hot Pie carry the supplies the Brotherhood gave them into the RV, she noticed that Gendry and Edric, for once, were not arguing or making very aggressive gestures at each other. After she put the supplies away, she decided to go to them.
"What's this all about?" Arya asked.
"I'm leaving with the Brotherhood," Edric asked. "I was going to tell you in a little while, but I talked it over with Beric, and he's fine with another helping hand."
It was then that Hot Pie, who was nearby and noticed, nudged Lommy to get his attention. He pointed to Arya, Gendry, and Edric, and they approached. Even Weasel poked her head out of the RV and followed them over.
"What's going on?" Hot Pie asked when he got over there.
"Edric's leaving to join Beric," Arya answered.
Hot Pie and Lommy's eyes widened. A chorus of "What?" came from them, and they looked at Edric, obviously desiring an explanation.
"It needed to be done," Edric said. "I can't be in this group anymore."
A short while later, all were quiet as Beric addressed Edric. Beric brought everyone up to speed as he explained that Edric would be joining the Brotherhood Without Banners. When he was finished, he faced the remaining people in Arya's group. "Would anyone else like to join us?"
Much to Arya's great surprise and disappointment, Gendry stepped forward. "I will."
Arya couldn't help but comment. "What?"
"I have to, Arya. Edric and I talked it over, and we figured we need to put this Elmar thing to rest. We figured we need to work together. And, admittedly, you've done a better job of leading this group than I ever could. You're in charge now, Arya. I'm gone."
Arya didn't like this at all. Gendry had been with her since day one, and while she did indeed do well leading a group, it would not be the same without him being there. Now that she had been promoted to the position of leader, she was in shock.
He's leaving m–US.
Arya took a deep breath and sighed it back out. "Okay… fine. I'm… I'm the leader now. Goodbye, you guys…"
They left afterward, Gendry and Edric going one way with the Brotherhood Without Banners while Arya and the others went the other in the RV.
"Where to, boss?"
Lommy asked Arya that question a day later. While continuing southeast, they had stopped for the rest of the day to hunt, and Lommy had been referring to Arya as "boss" ever since Gendry left and put her in charge. It didn't bother her, but it weirded her out; Gendry had never been referred to as "boss" by anyone before.
"I don't know yet, Lommy," Arya answered, still feeling hurt that Gendry had left them. "We're just going to keep going."
Weasel, sitting next to Arya, flipped through the pages of the road atlas. She was getting better at reading it, and it took her a less amount of time to find out where they were heading towards next.
"Okay," she said, "we're approaching a split in the road. If we go north, we'll be in Saltpans. If we go south, we'll be in Harroway."
"Harroway it is, then," Arya said, mentally reminding herself to take the turn to head to Harroway.
Arya remembered Beric and Jeyne's statements about Saltpans being compromised by the Brave Companions. If they were anything like what they had described–or even worse–Arya wanted none of what they handed out and or took part in. It also made her think: would Harroway be less safe? Was there a community around there? Was it wight infested like Fairmarket? Did the Brave Companions go through there?
Well, she thought, only one way to find out.
After about ten minutes, they reached the crossroads. Two green signs were before the RV. To the left, there was one reading "Saltpans". To the right, there was one reading "Harroway". Arya turned right and began to venture south.
Chapter 8: Life or Limb (2015)
After this, every chapter will be much more long than the ones that came before.
It was the middle of the day when the RV entered Harroway. Arya could already tell that said town would most likely be ripped to shreds, evident by a road sign in town being chipped and rusted. She also noticed bullet holes in it, too. Despite this sign that they would likely find next to nothing in this town, Arya drove into it anyway. Weasel was sitting up front, and Lommy was behind Arya, looking over her seat at the road.
"We're there, boss?" he asked.
"Yes," Weasel answered instead of Arya, her eyes scanning the road atlas in her hands. "We just entered."
Arya pulled to the left end of the road as soon as she saw some houses and shut the RV off. Noticing this, everyone–Nymeria included–piled out to the street. Harroway was more hilly than other areas the group had been through, but nobody seemed to mind. The RV was parked atop a hill that, beyond the guard rail, made a drop of about twenty feet down into a house's backyard. Large rocks jutted out from beneath the road there, looking almost like a natural staircase. Arya suspected that other areas in town would look like this as well.
Without hesitation, the group began to walk down the road. Arya soon pointed out a small house, the first one they found, and they approached the front door. Lommy reached out and tried the handle. Finding that it was locked, he backed up so Hot Pie could slam his weight against the door to force it open. It eventually fell down after he backed up and then charged five times. They went inside.
Much to Arya's surprise, the interior of the house was almost pristine. Of course, there were signs that whoever had lived there last had left in a hurry (such as empty cabinet drawers and a lack of other personal belongings in the house), but otherwise, the house was untouched. The group was fortunate; whoever lived in the house had left behind some canned food items. Pleased, the group gathered them in a pillow case they had been using to carry food they found and continued to look through the remainder of the house. They found nothing else that could have been of use to them and left after a while of thorough searching.
The group went from house to house, and they kept finding more canned food items. Arya was beyond surprised; most of the houses they hit looked almost pristine aside from the exterior walls, doors, windows, and roofs. There was an occasional wight to be dealt with, but for the most part, they had no problems. It was almost as if the denizens of Harroway had all simultaneously decided to just get up and leave.
After a while, Arya noticed that it was getting later on in the day, and she still wanted the group to head deeper into the town. Because of this, they decided to look through one final house. After Hot Pie rammed the door down, Arya immediately noticed a strong smell in the air. She recognized it immediately: decay. Weasel must have, too, evident by what flew out of her mouth as she beat the air in front of her face with her right hand in a futile attempt to clear up the smell before her.
"Ugh!" she groaned. "What DIED?"
Nymeria's head perked up, and she headed into the house, evidently picking up a scent.
Hot Pie noticed. "What's she doing?"
"She's got a scent," Arya answered. "Everyone follow her."
Everyone did as Arya said, and they followed Nymeria to a back room, evidently a closet. They found her scratching at the door. Arya drew her machete and ordered Nymeria to back off, which she did. She thought a wight would be behind the door. She opened it and found she was wrong. Instead, a heavily-decayed corpse fell out and landed face first on the tile floor with a wet sound.
Most lurched back with surprised shouts when they realized what they were looking at. Arya was silent, staring down the corpse. Due to the level of decay, she could not tell if it was a man or woman. What she also noticed was that all of the limbs had been removed, hacked off with something at the elbows or knees.
"Where are its arms and legs?" Weasel asked.
Arya knelt down to get a closer look. The hacking at the limbs were very hasty, as if someone had taken an ax or a machete and hastily hacked the limbs off. What Arya also noticed was that the limbs seemed more decayed than the face, meaning that the person was likely still alive when this happened.
"Arya, who do you think–"
Arya's answer to that cut Lommy off. "Whoever this guy is."
She moved to show everyone the bloodstained message that'd been hastily cut into the wall behind where the corpse had been.
SHAGWELL WAS HERE!
Arya didn't know who "Shagwell" was, but she didn't want anything to do with someone who tortured people for fun, especially if he or she was still in the same area. However, she still wanted the rest of the house searched before they left in case any food was there. They searched, but they didn't find anything they could use like food.
After leaving, Arya and the others began to head deeper into town like what they had planned earlier. Briefly looking up into the sky to find out where the sun was, Arya noticed that it was starting to near dusk.
Just one quick run into town, Arya thought. Then we'll take inventory in the RV and rest for the night. We'll keep heading deeper into Harroway tomorrow morning.
Lommy was in the process of siphoning gas from a car right before Arya pointed out the first wight they saw deeper in Harroway.
"Wight nearby," Arya commented, pointing towards it with her machete, which drew the attention of everyone. It was a sole wight that'd just appeared at a street corner from around a building. Then another came, then another, and then another. Arya's eyes widened as two, then six, then ten, then a dozen arrived, beginning to form a horde. "Lommy, hurry that up," she urged.
As Lommy hurried, Arya watched as one wight turned its rotting head to look at the group. By then, it was dusk out, and things would very quickly get bad if the group had a horde on their hands when they needed to get back to the RV as soon as possible. Finally, Hot Pie broke the silence as one of the wights up front began to run. "Run. NOW!"
Heeding Hot Pie's frantic command, everyone turned and began to run back the way they came up a hill. Lommy, who had held back to get a tiny bit of more gas from the car he was siphoning it out of, finally jerked away from his activity and followed them, every now and then glancing at the bomb tied to his waist. Arya noticed this, too, and became annoyed when Lommy lit said bomb and chucked it at an abandoned car. The car was soon swarmed by wights, and it exploded, sending fire, gas, and burned metal bits everywhere as the wights surrounding it were engulfed in a fiery explosion. She knew the noise would draw more wights out, and she frowned when several of them came pouring out of the woods to the right of the street. Everyone was near a fork in the road. If they continued to run forward, they would make it back to the RV. If they turned left, they would be heading into the neighborhoods they found when they first got there.
Immediately, Weasel, Arya, and Nymeria ran for the four wights now out front. More were shambling from the woods, but these four were the immediate threat. Arya unsheathed her machete and swung sideways, quickly cutting into the creature's brain. Nearby, Nymeria jumped up and began to savage the deteriorated skull of another. Weasel had stabbed a wight in the knee to make it fall and drove her dagger through its eye into the brain. Arya dispatched the last wight when it ran for Weasel, crippling it before running her machete through the back of its neck into its skull.
At that point, Arya realized Hot Pie and Lommy were still behind them, and she turned to look at what they were doing. Hot Pie was swinging at several with his pipe. Nearby, Lommy was repeatedly spearing as many as he could see. It was then that each of the two groups noticed the wights filling in the space between them, effectively trapping Hot Pie and Lommy.
"We'll go around!" Lommy called over to Arya and the others, grabbing Hot Pie's shirt sleeve to hurry him along as he began to run. "Just get back to the RV!"
"Follow me!" Arya commanded to Weasel and Nymeria, and they took off after her towards the RV while Hot Pie and Lommy went another way. How are you two getting back? Arya thought. Are they going to climb?
Fortunately for Arya, Weasel, and Nymeria, most of the wights in the horde had gone after Hot Pie and Lommy. Currently, Arya's small group of three was being tailed by about ten of them, though more were noticing and starting to come after them as well.
At that point, Arya could see the RV off in the distance. She knew that she could not afford to stop running, and neither could the others.
A few minutes after reaching the RV, Arya, Weasel and Nymeria had stood their ground against the wights for a few minutes before the former heard Lommy yell from the bottom of the hill that ended with the backyard they saw when they came in.
"We're down here!"
As Nymeria dealt with a wight, Arya and Weasel both ran over to see Hot Pie and Lommy at the bottom of the hill, looking upwards. Behind them, the wights were pushing themselves against a wooden fence Hot Pie and Lommy had closed and locked after reaching the backyard.
Unfortunately, the fence looked very close to falling soon. Because of this, Arya issued her next couple of orders to those down below. "You two, get to climbing!" She turned to Weasel. "You help me pull them up where when they get close enough!"
Weasel nodded. For the next minute, Arya and Weasel watched as Hot Pie and Lommy began to climb up the stones. As they began to climb, Arya heard a loud cracking noise and watched as the fence finally gave away, and the wights began to pour into the yard.
"Hurry!" Weasel cried. Below her, Hot Pie was getting there first, followed by Lommy down below. Eventually, when Hot Pie got close enough, he reached his hand out, and Arya grabbed it. Weasel grabbed what she could of Hot Pie, and the two used all of their combined strength to pull their fat friend to safety. Lommy was still behind him, and the wights had reached the stones, climbing atop themselves to use themselves as a ladder of dead. By the time Lommy got to where Hot Pie just was, he reached his hand out as well.
"HELP!" Lommy shouted.
Hot Pie got up from the ground and scurried over. He took hold of Lommy's hand just as a wight grabbed his ankle. Lommy slipped, dropped his spear into the wights, and caught on to another stone, forcibly pulling himself upwards onto the asphalt and away from the wights.
Lommy, panting, fell over the guard onto his back, crawling backwards to get away. It was then that he seemed to notice something. He looked beyond his knee at his lower left leg. It was then that everyone else walked over to see what he was staring at. Arya's eyes widened when she saw it on Lommy's lower calf, nearing the ankle: a deep, bleeding bite.
"No…" Hot Pie mumbled, then let his face collapse into his hands as he walked away, sounding tearful as he continued to mumble "No, no, no, no…"
Weasel looked to Arya, then to Lommy's bite, then to Arya again. She was shaking. Arya could hardly take her eyes off of Lommy's bite. Two things then popped into Arya's mind: Beric's wooden leg and Jeyne's tourniquet.
"Weasel, get my tourniquet. Hot Pie, take Lommy to the RV and hold him down."
Hot Pie looked confused. "What?"
"JUST DO IT!"
Shocked into obedience, Hot Pie ran to Lommy and began dragging him back. Lommy himself looked defeated and willing to accept death. The RV's door was open because Weasel had left it open. She soon reappeared in the doorway, the look on her face communicating that she was eager for more instructions.
Arya gave them to her. "Weasel, tighten than above his knee on the leg where he was bitten." By that time, Hot Pie had gotten Lommy over to the opened door of the RV and had leaned him in. Lommy now looked confused rather than accepting of soon death. Hot Pie, now likely fully realizing where this was going, sat on Lommy after stuffing a thick cloth into his mouth.
"You're gonna want to bite that," Hot Pie said. Nearby, some of the wights were beginning to crawl over the rail from the backyard.
By then, Weasel had tied the tourniquet around Lommy's bitten leg, and Arya unsheathed her machete. She took one look in Lommy's direction. He could not see her because of where Hot Pie was, but she knew he could hear her. "Lommy, this is going to hurt a lot."
Arya raised her machete into the air and swung down hard. Lommy screamed. Arya swung again, then again. Lommy passed out. Arya swung again.
Then one more time, taking Lommy's bitten leg off from half an inch below the knee down. Arya looked over at Hot Pie and Weasel as the wights began to close in. "Cover that stump's bleeding parts in gunpowder from some of our bullets and light it on fire. Wrap it in bandages after you're done."
As Hot Pie and Weasel pulled Lommy inside, Arya called for Nymeria, who hurried into the RV after them all. When she was inside, Arya slammed the door shut, locked it, and ran to the front seat, recalling the Heddle sisters. Jeyne Heddle was a healer, after all, and she would likely be able to treat Lommy's stump. Arya started the vehicle as Hot Pie looked over at her. "Where are we going?"
"Back to Jeyne and Willow," Arya explained. "They can help us."
She quickly did a u-turn and tore off back towards Crossroads. They were dangerously low on gas, and Arya didn't want them to run out.
"No! NO! NO!" Arya shouted, furiously slamming her hands on the steering wheel as the RV slowed to a halt when it ran out of gas. Thankfully, they were right near the fork in the road, where one could go to Saltpans or Harroway. Nearby, Hot Pie and Weasel were keeping a close look on Lommy, who was motionless.
Ever since the bandage had been applied to Lommy, nothing had happened. Arya kept wanting to look back to see what was going on, but nothing ever happened. Lommy looked pale and dead, though she was sure he was clinging on to life as much as he could. Arya knew he would be annoyed over having to make a new spear, but it beat being turned into a wight.
"What's wrong?" Weasel asked. "Why are we stopping?"
"We ran out of gas," Arya explained. "I need to get out and refuel."
Arya shut the RV off, got a red gas can, and exited. After a minute of getting everything ready, she began to refuel. While working, Arya thought back to Lommy, hoping that his paleness was due to blood loss instead of the bite. She thought that he would have turned by now if he kept the leg, but was he just dead? Did cutting the leg off slow down the bite at all? Did it stop it altogether?
As Arya continued to work, she heard someone step out of the RV and approach her. She turned her head and turned back to her work when she saw who it was: Hot Pie.
Arya didn't turn her head. "Yeah?"
"We need to talk about Lommy."
"What about him? We need to wait until we get to Jeyne and Willow's house."
Hot Pie approached, raising his voice in the process. "Why wait? I mean he might be turning right now! We might need to do something–"
"Then pull back his eyelids. See if they're turning from green to blue if you want to know so badly."
There was a tense silence before Hot Pie said anything else. "Look, someone has to address this!"
"And we'll talk about it later."
Hot Pie, enraged, then grabbed Arya by the shoulders, swiveled her around so that she would be facing him, and then slammed her against the side of the RV. "No, we need to talk about this RIGHT NOW–"
Arya slapped him across the face. Hot Pie recoiled as Arya began to scold him. "HOT PIE, WE NEED TO JUST WAIT! I'M CONCERNED ABOUT THIS AS MUCH AS YOU ARE, AND WE JUST NEED TO WAIT! YOU KNOW FULLY WELL WHAT TO DO IF HE TURNS! WE JUST NEED TO GET BACK TO JEYNE AND WILLOW, AND THAT'S ALL THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID RIGHT NOW!"
Hot Pie frowned. "I understand. I'll go back inside the RV."
As he left, Arya continued to refuel the RV. A few minutes later, she ran out of gas to put into the RV, so she returned to the interior of the vehicle and headed up to the front. Turning the RV on, she watched the fuel meter moved to indicate that the gas tank was almost full. Pleased with this, she continued towards the fork in the road to head to Saltpans or Crossroads. She turned left and went towards Crossroads.
However, one thing she noticed while making the turn made her feel a little unsettled. Sitting in a black car with a heavily-damaged, green front license plate were two men watching them. They were located on the road that would take them to Saltpans. Arya could tell that they were watching her every movement, and she hoped they would not follow her back to Crossroads.
Right before nightfall, the RV made it back to Jeyne and Willow's home. By the time Arya pulled into the Heddles' yard, she could see Willow carrying a bucket into the shed out front. Willow definitely noticed the RV, evident by her dropping the bucket and running into the house, likely to alert Jeyne about their return to the house.
In the back, Lommy was still unmoving, and Arya was starting to think he was dying or already dead. She didn't even know if he was awake or not. He was more pale than before. By the time Arya shut the car off and unlocked the door, she noticed the front door of the Heddles' home open. Arya looked over at Lommy and spoke to Hot Pie and Weasel.
"Get him ready to be moved."
A few moments later, Arya heard a sharp rapping on the door of the RV. She moved over there and opened the door, finding both Jeyne and Willow Heddle on the other side.
"What's going on?" Jeyne asked.
"Lommy was bitten," Arya explained. "I had to take his leg off."
"Where is he?" Jeyne asked, then entered the RV with Willow in tow.
Arya got out of the way as Lommy was carried out of the RV by Hot Pie, Willow, Jeyne, and Weasel. By the time they got outside, Arya followed them out and assisted them with carrying Lommy into the house. They hurried him into what Arya supposed was a bedroom of sorts. Nearby, a box of medical supplies was adjacent to the bed Lommy was placed on. Someone turned on the overhead light, and Jeyne looked at the others in the room to address them.
"Okay, I need to work alone. Willow, take them out."
Willow ushered Arya, Hot Pie, and Weasel out of the room. She directed them to the end of the hallway. By that time, Willow had put her hands on her hips and glowered at Arya, Hot Pie, and Weasel. "Alright, start talking," she said in a commanding tone. "Where are the other two? Gendry and Edric?"
"They left," Arya explained. "We ran into the Brotherhood, and they left with them."
"So what happened to Lommy?" Willow pressed, speaking more like a drill sergeant than an adolescent girl. "How and where did he get bitten?"
"Harroway," Hot Pie spoke up. "We were climbing up a hill to get away from some wights, and they grabbed him and bit him in the ankle or calf, I think it was the ankle. Arya had us hold him down while she cut off his leg." Hot Pie looked very uncomfortable–likely due to Willow's domineering and commanding tone of voice she'd selected for this interrogation, then mumbled out, "Please don't hurt me."
Willow snorted. "Hot Pie, I'd never hurt you to get information–" She pointed at Hot Pie when she said this, then moved her hand to point at Arya when she continued speaking "–but maybe her."
Arya frowned. Before she could say anything else, Willow hit them all with another barrage of questions. Just as Hot Pie answered the last one she had for them, Jeyne emerged from the bedroom, quickly approaching them. She had latex gloves on her hands. They didn't seem to do her any good; her arms up to her elbows were spattered with Lommy's blood.
"Willow, get out of my way," Jeyne said, sounding a little tired and aggravated as a result. "I need to talk to them."
"Is Lommy okay?" Weasel asked.
"For now," Jeyne asked. "Arya, you stopped the infection by cutting that leg off, but he's not out of the woods just yet. You did the right thing with the tourniquet and bandage, but the gunpowder could have gone better. Chances are, his leg's probably infected because of that, but I'll give you credit for stopping the bleeding as much as you possibly could.
"However, he still lost quite a bit of blood, and he's fluctuating between life and death right now. He needs his rest, and so do all of us. I suggest you all gather in your RV and get some sleep. Plus, I need to speak with my sister alone about your presence here."
Arya, Hot Pie, and Weasel followed Jeyne's instructions and left the house to sleep in the RV for the night. By then, it was night out. Entering the RV, Nymeria's head perked up, and she watched them. Hot Pie tried to get comfortable while Arya got to work with putting Weasel to bed.
"Arya?" Weasel said.
"Is Lommy going to be okay? Because I don't know for sure."
"I don't know, either," Arya answered. "We just need to wait and see. Try to get some sleep."
While Weasel and Hot Pie may have gotten some sleep, Arya could barely get a good night's rest herself. Lommy was the only thing on her mind at the time, and she wondered if he would even live to see another day. She figured that Jeyne would be working on Lommy's leg all throughout the night, but even Jeyne Heddle would need to get some sleep eventually.
Arya, who kept waking up in the night and whose nerves were completely shot at that point, lurched awake when she heard someone rapping on the RV's door from the outside. Hot Pie and Weasel definitely heard it, too, evident by them mumbling as they each woke up.
"Arya?" Willow said from the outside. "Are you awake? Are you in there?"
"Yeah…" Arya mumbled, rubbing her eyes. "What is it?"
"Jeyne wanted to see you."
Arya, Hot Pie, Weasel, and Nymeria all walked out of the RV together and all followed Willow towards the house. During the walk over there, Arya thought of Willow's statement and tone of voice and what they both implied.
At first, she thought that Lommy was dead. However, as she entered the house and began to walk down the hallway while Willow still led them, she could hear a conversation off in the distance. One voice sounded weak, like someone had just woken up after something serious.
"Yes, yeah, I do… I feel like…"
"I can still feel my foot…"
Willow led Arya, Hot Pie, Weasel, and Nymeria into the room, and there they found Lommy sitting next to Jeyne on the side of the bed. Arya looked down and, sure enough, where the lower half of Lommy's leg should have been was a stump wrapped in medical bandages. Lommy looked over at Arya and the others. His face was still a little pale, but he had more of a healthy look about himself now.
"Hi, Arya," Lommy said.
"How are you feeling?" Arya asked.
"It still hurts… I can still feel my foot…"
"But you lived," Hot Pie commented.
Lommy nodded a few times. "Yeah, all thanks to Arya and Jeyne here." Lommy wrapped an arm around Jeyne and patted her on the shoulder. Jeyne smiled. Nymeria walked up to Lommy, who held his hand out for Nymeria to lick. While they interacted, Arya spoke with Jeyne.
"Jeyne, I'm curious."
"How did you pull that off? I mean I know you're not a professional surgeon, but–"
"I've had practice with lost body parts," Jeyne explained. "A while ago, Willow and I had to briefly take in a warrior woman who was traveling with this guy who'd recently lost a hand to the Brave Companions. The Brave Companions patched it up themselves–they have a healer among them all, apparently–but whoever did it did a terrible job of it. I had to fix what their healer failed at doing. The two of them left the house the next day, and we haven't seen them since."
"We also had something else we wanted to ask," Willow explained, turning around to face Arya, Hot Pie, and Weasel. "I told Jeyne what you told me, and we got to talking. We now have something to ask of you: would you all like to stay here with us?"
Arya couldn't believe what she was hearing. Willow and Jeyne had just offered them a home with the both of them. They had been on the road for years, and now it seemed like they finally had somewhere to stay permanently. It would be good for all of them to finally have a place to stay, so Arya made her choice.
"I'm willing to stay," Arya said, then looked at everyone else. "What about you?"
"I will," Hot Pie said.
"Yeah!" Weasel cheered.
"I'm staying with you," Lommy said.
"We'll stay, then," Arya announced.