"Here, eat it before Mother comes down." Robb said, passing over a carefully wrapped bundle to Sansa. Sansa snatches it up, laying it on her plate, mouth salivating at the scent. Even half starved, she cuts the meat into small pieces before popping one after another into her mouth. She can't help the blissful moan that slips from her mouth.
"Gods, Sansa, you're such a - a Southern lady! I'd say you're a baby but even baby Rickon can hunt better than you." Arya mocked, her smug smile revealed still bloody teeth. It was nice having one thing - the most important thing - she could lord over Sansa even if Mother would never know. Arya sucked on her teeth, tasting the blood of a fresh kill. Last night's hunt was filling, she only had to share with Rickon this time.
Rickon who was still sucking and gnawing on a juicy piece with his milk teeth. He was barely three and he reveled in the feeling of a good hunt. He looked peaceful with that hunk of raw meat dangling from his mouth.
"Mother's coming!" Bran hissed, his nose twitching at the familiar scent of his mother wafted into the room. "Take it away from him."
"I'm not putting my fingers near his mouth again. He almost bit my finger off last time. Arya, you do it." Robb said, inching away from his baby brother. Rickon's teeth may be small but they were sharp.
"Such a baby." Arya muttered, getting in Rickon's space. "You get bit a few times and suddenly you don't want to go near him."
"It's more than that...he gets damn near feral if I try." Robb grimaced, remembering the last time he tried taking anything away from Rickon. He thought for sure the boy would shift into his wolf form.
Arya rolled her eyes, Rickon eyed her warily. She quickly pinched cheeks so he bared his teeth, she yanked the last morsel from his mouth and popped it into her own mouth much to her sister's disgust. Rickon pouted but he didn't begrudge his sister for very long.
She nudged her brother into his seat before sitting him and Bran. She sighed and waited for Mother and Father to come in. It didn't take very long for them to come in. Mother caressed each their heads, pausing to give Sansa and Bran kisses on the cheek. With a wave of her hand she signaled the servants to bring in their breakfast.
Arya picked at her food, she didn't need to eat human food for another few days at the earliest. She and Rickon were the same in that respect, Mother would fuss over them when she noticed. But she never did so long as Robb, Sansa and Bran ate.
Sometimes Arya resented that.
Why did Mother bother her about being a lady when she didn't pay attention to whether or not Arya ate?
Arya looked around for Jon, hoping she could convince him to show her a few more moves. She stopped when she remembered that he wouldn't be there. He never bothered to come to meals after a hunt, wasteful he called it and she agreed.
"The King and his party are due to arrive this week," Her mother announced to the hall, Mother smiled at the people chattering around the room. She turned to look at Rickon and Arya specifically, and with a pointed look said, "We should all be on our best behavior, we don't want to insult our guests by making any unnecessary distractions. We hope to continue being good friends with the Royal family for generations to come."
Arya scowled, suddenly any lingering feeling of wanting to please her mother by staying to eat was gone. Her mouth twisted in a grimace, she looked down at her clenched fists. Her hands shifted between human and wolf, skin sprouting fur and nails growing to claws. She could hear Rickon whine in response to her anger, he nudged her thigh and pressed his face into her arm.
She patted his head very carefully before excusing herself. She can feel her mother's disapproving eyes and father's concerned gaze trailing after her. Anger soured the meal she had in her belly and Arya was salivating, her tongue felt thick in her mouth and teeth shifted into more canine shapes.
Suddenly she felt arms embraced her, a cool calm scent surrounding her as the figure guided her to the Godswoods. Arya turned her head to the side, pressing her nose into his armpit. She felt the body laugh as she did but he didn't push her away.
"What's wrong, little sister?" Jon asked, waiting for Arya to calm down and stop sniffing him so they could both sit next to the heart tree.
"Mother soured my meal with her talk..." Came Arya's muffled reply. "Do you think that's why we try to eat our mothers when were born, so they don't ruin our food."
Jon snorted, "That's just a wife's tale, your lady mother wouldn't be able to have so many of you if it was true. She would definitely notice what you were doing."
Though Jon licked his lips when she mentioned it, perhaps it was true. Perhaps that's why when he thinks of his mother - the vague concept of her - he felt a little hungry but mostly sated, satisfied.
"I'm hungry again. I want another hunt." Arya still whined. Jon laughed, Arya was never greedy that was more Rickon's thing but she did like the freedom of the hunt.
"What are we going to do about that? Father already allowed one hunt with the worst of them yesterday. It will be a while until there's more."
Arya whined, climbing into Jon's lap and scented him. "The party from King's Landing is coming soon...we could hunt then... without Father knowing."
Jon frowned, he really didn't want to disobey Father but Arya was his favorite sibling; if he had spare meat he would've shared but Sansa always took the last cuts of it. Honestly what would the girl do once she was married and had her own cubs? She needed to learn and learn quick, it was bad enough they let it go on this long.
He thought hard about it, it would be easy to hunt the party. They could lure away knights, hunt those wandering through the woods for wood or food, or just go after the easiest of the prey: the stragglers. It would be easy to sneak off, it wouldn't take more than a few hours. His mouth was already watering in anticipation.
"Be ready, we'll go tomorrow. Judging by the bird's energy they can't be more than two days ride, and if I'm guessing right, they should be less than a few hours away by tomorrow."
"Really?" She asked, and Jon nodded. Arya's smile made her whole face glow, Jon nuzzled their heads close happy to be rid of her sour stench. "If you had to choose one of the Royal party to eat, who would it be?"
"Arya!" Jon scolded, while the Godswoods were considered a safe haven, who knows who is listening. Talk of hunting raised no suspicion but the talk of cannibalizing the Royal family would call for treason.
Arya scowled, Jon didn't need to sound so much like Sansa in tone. Jon sighed, softening his voice to barely a whisper.
"The fat king. Lots of soft meat and soaked with wine."
Arya smiled, shaking her head. "Too fatty for me. I hear Ser Jaime Lannister will be along, he's fit and you know what they say about virgin flesh."
She mimicked taking a bite, the loud click of her teeth echoing in the silent woods. Jon laughed at her jape, everyone knew it was impossible for any Kingsguard to be virginal, even Ser Jaime must have been with a woman once before taking his vows.
She stopped her joking, seriousness taking over her features. "All joking aside, who will we go after?"
"Stragglers. This isn't a group hunt where we can lead and circle our prey right into our hands. It's just you and me, it won't be as easy." He warned. "We'll avoid certain people, especially the Mountain, Arya. That man is brutal, if we were both full grown I wouldn't mind hunting him but we're not."
"So we're gonna lure or hope that some idiot goes off alone...great." Arya frowned. She didn't like playing lure, she was a predator not a prey. She liked going after the most dangerous, they were always the best fight and they were never as badly afraid as the others. The meat tended to taste off with all that fear but if she wanted fearless meals she would have to settle for luring. "I want to kill someone deserving...like the Mountain or Meryn Trant, I heard he beats little girls. But Gods, Joffrey makes him look as pious as any Septon with what I heard about him."
"Where did you hear these things?" Jon has heard the same rumors. That Joffrey Baratheon killed his brother and sister's pets and left their corpses in their beds. That he tried to shoot his fat little brother with a crossbow all for daring to eat the last of the dessert. That maids were seen leaving his room bloody and bruised.
"Theon doesn't know when to shut his fat gob after visiting Ros." Arya said smugly. Try as he might to shelter her from the big bad world, Arya has always been adept at finding out information. She's a snoop, not necessarily a gossip but a snoop who likes having the information. "Anyways, what are we going to do about them?"
The them in question were their direwolf cubs. Jon wasn't sure. If they left them behind, no doubt Nymeria's whining and scratching would alert everyone that Arya was gone. Jon felt like they were still too young for a proper hunt, their hunting dogs didn't start training for hunts till they were around four months. But Arya was giving him the sad eyes at full force, paired with both Nymeria whimpering and Ghost's own imploring gaze, it was impossible for Jon to say no.
"Keep her quiet and she can come."
"Yes!" Arya jumped as she cheered. Her mood dampened slightly as she remembered she still had lessons to deal with today. "I'll see you later."
She pressed a kiss to his cheek and ran out of the Godswoods. Jon shook his head, a smile still on his face.