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ARYA
Her eyes had grown accustomed to blackness. When Harwin pulled the hood off her head, the ruddy glare inside the hollow hill made Arya blink like some stupid owl.  A huge firepit had been dug in the center of the earthen floor, and its flames rose swirling and crackling toward the smoke-stained ceiling. The walls were equal parts stone and soil, with huge white roots twisting through them like a thousand slow pale snakes. People were emerging from between those roots as she watched; edging out from the shadows for a look at the captives, stepping from the mouths of pitch-black tunnels, popping out of crannies and crevices on all sides. in one place on the far side of the fire, the roots formed a kind of stairway up to a hollow in the earth where a man sat almost lost in the tangle of weirwood.  Lem unhooded Gendry. “What is this place?” he asked.  “An old place, deep and secret. A refuge where neither wolves nor lions come prowling.”  Neither wolves nor lions. Arya’s skin prickled. She remembered the dream she’d had, and the taste of blood when she tore the man’s arm from his shoulder.  Big as the fire was, the cave was bigger; it was hard to tell where it began and where it ended. The tunnel mouths might have been two feet deep or gone on two miles. Arya saw men and women and little children, all of them watching her warily.  Greenbeard said, “Here’s the wizard, skinny squirrel. You’ll get your answers now.” He pointed toward the fire, where Tom Sevenstrings stood talking to a tall thin man with oddments of old armor buckled on over his ratty pink robes. That can’t be Thoros of Myr. Arya remembered the red priest as fat, with a smooth face and a shiny bald head. This man had a droopy face and a full head of shaggy grey hair. Something Tom said made him look at her, and Arya thought he was about to come over to her. Only then the Mad Huntsman appeared, shoving his captive down into the light, and she and Gendry were forgotten.  The Huntsman had turned out to be a stocky man in patched tan leathers, balding and weak-chinned and quarrelsome. At Stoney Sept she had thought that Lem and Greenbeard might be torn to pieces when they faced him at the crow cages to claim his captive for the lightning lord. The hounds had been all around them, sniffing and snarling. But Tom o’ Sevens soothed them with his playing, Tansy marched across the square with her apron full of bones and fatty mutton, and Lem pointed out Anguy in the brothel window, standing with an arrow notched. The Mad Huntsman had cursed them all for lickspittles, but finally he had agreed to take his prize to Lord Beric for judgment.  They had bound his wrists with hempen rope, strung a noose around his neck, and pulled a sack down over his head, but even so there was danger in the man. Arya could feel it across the cave. Thoros - if that was Thoros - met captor and captive halfway to the fire. “How did you take him?” the priest asked.  “The dogs caught the scent. He was sleeping off a drunk under a willow tree, if you believe it.”  “Betrayed by his own kind.” Thoros turned to the prisoner and yanked his hood off. “Welcome to our humble hall, dog. It is not so grand as Robert’s throne room, but the company is better.”  The shifting flames painted Sandor Clegane’s burned face with orange shadows, so he looked even more terrible than he did in daylight. When he pulled at the rope that bound his wrists, flakes of dry blood fell off. The Hound’s mouth twitched. “I know you,” he said to Thoros.  “You did. In melees, you’d curse my flaming sword, though thrice I overthrew you with it.”  “Thoros of Myr. You used to shave your head.”  “To betoken a humble heart, but in truth my heart was vain. Besides, I lost my razor in the woods.” The priest slapped his belly. “I am less than I was, but more. A year in the wild will melt the flesh off a man. Would that I could find a tailor to take in my skin. I might look young again, and pretty maids would shower me with kisses.”  “Only the blind ones, priest.”  The outlaws hooted, none so loud as Thoros. “Just so. Yet I am not the false priest you knew. The Lord of Light has woken in my heart. Many powers long asleep are waking, and there are forces moving in the land. I have seen them in my flames.”  The Hound was unimpressed. “Bugger your flames. And you as well.” He looked around at the others. “You keep queer company for a holy man.”  “These are my brothers,” Thoros said simply.  Lem Lemoncloak pushed forward. He and Greenbeard were the only men there tall enough to look the Hound in the eye. “Be careful how you bark, dog. We hold your life in our hands.”  “Best wipe the shit off your fingers, then.” The Hound laughed. “How long have you been hiding in this hole?”  Anguy the Archer bristled at the suggestion of cowardice. “Ask the goat if we’ve hidden, Hound. Ask your brother. Ask the lord of leeches. We’ve bloodied them all.”  “You lot? Don’t make me laugh. You look more swineherds than soldiers.”  “Some of us was swineherds,” said a short man Arya did not know. “And some was tanners or singers or masons. But that was before the war come.”  “When we left King’s Landing we were men of Winterfell and men of Darry and men of Blackhaven, Mallery men and Wylde men. We were knights and squires and men-at-arms, lords and commoners, bound together only by our purpose.” The voice came from the man seated amongst the weirwood roots halfway up the wall. “Six score of us set out to bring the king’s justice to your brother.” The speaker was descending the tangle of steps toward the floor. “Six score brave men and true, led by a fool in a starry cloak.” A scarecrow of a man, he wore a ragged black cloak speckled with stars and an iron breastplate dinted by a hundred battles. A thicket of red-gold hair hid most of his face, save for a bald spot above his left ear where his head had been smashed in. “More than eighty of our company are dead now, but others have taken up the swords that fell from their hands.” When he reached the floor, the outlaws moved aside to let him pass. One of his eyes was gone, Arya saw, the flesh about the socket scarred and puckered, and he had a dark black ring all around his neck. “With their help, we fight on as best we can, for Robert and the realm.”  “Robert?” rasped Sandor Clegane, incredulous.  “Ned Stark sent us out,” said pothelmed Jack-Be-Lucky, “but he was sitting the Iron Throne when he gave us our commands, so we were never truly his men, but Robert’s.”  “Robert is the king of the worms now. Is that why you’re down in the earth, to keep his court for him?”  “The king is dead,” the scarecrow knight admitted, “but we are still king’s men, though the royal banner we bore was lost at the Mummer’s Ford when your brother’s butchers fell upon us.” He touched his breast with a fist. “Robert is slain, but his realm remains. And we defend her.”  “Her?” The Hound snorted. “Is she your mother, Dondarrion? Or your whore?”  Dondarrion? Beric Dondarrion had been handsome; Sansa’s friend Jeyne had fallen in love with him. Even Jeyne Poole was not so blind as to think this man was fair. Yet when Arya looked at him again, she saw it; the remains of a forked purple lightning bolt on the cracked enamel of his breastplate.  “Rocks and trees and rivers, that’s what your realm is made of,” the Hound was saying. “Do the rocks need defending? Robert wouldn’t have thought so. If he couldn’t fuck it, fight it, or drink it, it bored him, and so would you... you brave companions.”  Outrage swept the hollow hill. “Call us that name again, dog, and you’ll swallow that tongue.” Lem drew his longsword.  The Hound stared at the blade with contempt. “Here’s a brave man, baring steel on a bound captive. Untie me, why don’t you? We’ll see how brave you are then.” He glanced at the Mad Huntsman behind him. “How about you? Or did you leave all your courage in your kennels?”  “No, but I should have left you in a crow cage.” The Huntsman drew a knife. “I might still.” The Hound laughed in his face.  “We are brothers here,” Thoros of Myr declared. “Holy brothers, sworn to the realm, to our god, and to each other.”  “The brotherhood without banners.” Tom Sevenstrings plucked a string. “The knights of the hollow hill.”  “Knights?” Clegane made the word a sneer. “Dondarrion’s a knight, but the rest of you are the sorriest lot of outlaws and broken men I’ve ever seen. I shit better men than you.”  “Any knight can make a knight,” said the scarecrow that was Beric Dondarrion, “and every man you see before you has felt a sword upon his shoulder. We are the forgotten fellowship.”  “Send me on my way and I’ll forget you too,” Clegane rasped. “But if you mean to murder me, then bloody well get on with it. You took my sword, my horse, and my gold, so take my life and be done with it... but spare me this pious bleating.”  “You will die soon enough, dog,” promised Thoros, “but it shan’t be murder, only justice.”  “Aye,” said the Mad Huntsman, “and a kinder fate than you deserve for all your kind have done. Lions, you call yourselves. At Sherrer and the Mummer’s Ford, girls of six and seven years were raped, and babes still on the breast were cut in two while their mothers watched. No lion ever killed so cruel.”  “I was not at Sherrer, nor the Mummer’s Ford,” the Hound told him. “Lay your dead children at some other door.”  Thoros answered him. “Do you deny that House Clegane was built upon dead children? I saw them lay Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys before the Iron Throne. By rights your arms should bear two bloody infants in place of those ugly dogs.”  The Hound’s mouth twitched. “Do you take me for my brother? Is being born Clegane a crime?”  “Murder is a crime.”  “Who did I murder?”  “Lord Lothar Mallery and Ser Gladden Wylde,” said Harwin.  “My brothers Lister and Lennocks,” declared Jack-Be-Lucky.  “Goodman Beck and Mudge the miller’s son, from Donnelwood,” an old woman called from the shadows.  “Merriman’s widow, who loved so sweet,” added Greenbeard.  “Them septons at Sludgy Pond.”  “Ser Andrey Charlton. His squire Lucas Roote. Every man, woman, and child in Fieldstone and Mousedown Mill.”  “Lord and Lady Deddings, that was so rich.”  Tom Sevenstrings took up the count. “Alyn of Winterfell, Joth Quickbow, Little Matt and his sister Randa, Anvil Ryn. Ser Ormond. Ser Dudley. Pate of Mory, Pate of Lancewood, Old Pate, and Pate of Shermer’s Grove. Blind Wyl the Whittler. Goodwife Maerie. Maerie the Whore. Becca the Baker. Ser Raymun Darry, Lord Darry, young Lord Darry. The Bastard of Bracken. Fletcher Will. Harsley. Goodwife Nolla -”  “Enough.” The Hound’s face was tight with anger. “You’re making noise. These names mean nothing. Who were they?”  “People,” said Lord Beric. “People great and small, young and old. Good people and bad people, who died on the points of Lannister spears or saw their bellies opened by Lannister swords.”  “It wasn’t my sword in their bellies. Any man who says it was is a bloody liar.”  “You serve the Lannisters of Casterly Rock,” said Thoros.  “Once. Me and thousands more. Is each of us guilty of the crimes of the others?” Clegane spat. “Might be you are knights after all. You lie like knights, maybe you murder like knights.”  Lem and Jack-Be-Lucky began to shout at him, but Dondarrion raised a hand for silence. “Say what you mean, Clegane.”  “A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favors, they’re silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I’m the same as you. The only difference is, I don’t lie about what I am. So, kill me, but don’t call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other that your shit don’t stink. You hear me?”  Arya squirted past Greenbeard so fast he never saw her. “You are a murderer!” she screamed. “You killed Mycah, don’t say you never did. You murdered him!”  The Hound stared at her with no flicker of recognition. “And who was this Mycah, boy?”  “I’m not a boy! But Mycah was. He was a butcher’s boy and you killed him. Jory said you cut him near in half, and he never even had a sword.” She could feel them looking at her now, the women and the children and the men who called themselves the knights of the hollow hill. “Who’s this now?” someone asked.  The Hound answered. “Seven hells. The little sister. The brat who tossed Joff ‘s pretty sword in the river.” He gave a bark of laughter. “Don’t you know you’re dead?”  “No, you’re dead,” she threw back at him.  Harwin took her arm to draw her back as Lord Beric said, “The girl has named you a murderer. Do you deny killing this butcher’s boy, Mycah?”  The big man shrugged. “I was Joffrey’s sworn shield. The butcher’s boy attacked a prince of the blood.”  “That’s a lie!” Arya squirmed in Harwin’s grip. “It was me. I hit Joffrey and threw Lion’s Paw in the river. Mycah just ran away, like I told him.”  “Did you see the boy attack Prince Joffrey?” Lord Ber............
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