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 Rob bid farewell to his young queen thrice. Once in the godswood before the heart tree, in sight of gods and men. The second time beneath the portcullis, where Jeyne sent him forth with a long embrace and a longer kiss. And finally an hour beyond the Tumblestone, when the girl came galloping up on a well-lathered horse to plead with her young king to take her along.  Robb was touched by that, Catelyn saw, but abashed as well. The day was damp and grey, a drizzle had begun to fall, and the last thing he wanted was to call a halt to his march so he could stand in the wet and console a tearful young wife in front of half his army. He speaks her gently, she thought as she watched them together, but there is anger underneath.  All the time the king and queen were talking, Grey Wind prowled around them, stopping only to shake the water from his coat and bare his teeth at the rain. When at last Robb gave Jeyne one final kiss, dispatched a dozen men to take her back to Riverrun, and mounted his horse once more, the direwolf raced off ahead as swift as an arrow loosed from a longbow.  “Queen Jeyne has a loving heart, I see,” said Lame Lothar Frey to Catelyn. “Not unlike my own sisters. Why, I would wager a guess that even now Roslin is dancing round the Twins chanting ‘Lady Tully, Lady Tully, Lady Roslin Tully.’ By the morrow she’ll be holding swatches of Riverrun red-and-blue to her cheek to picture how she’ll look in her bride’s cloak.” He turned in the saddle to smile at Edmure. “But you are strangely quiet, Lord Tully. How do you feel, I wonder?”  “Much as I did at the Stone Mill just before the warhorns sounded,” Edmure said, only half in jest.  Lothar gave a good-natured laugh. “Let us pray your marriage ends as happily, my lord.”  And may the gods protect us if it does not. Catelyn pressed her heels into her horse, leaving her brother and Lame Lothar to each other’s company.  It had been her who had insisted that Jeyne remain at Riverrun, when Robb would sooner have kept her by his side. Lord Walder might well construe the queen’s absence from the wedding as another slight, yet her presence would have been a different sort of insult, salt in the old man’s wound. “Walder Frey has a sharp tongue and a long memory,” she had warned her son. “I do not doubt that you are strong enough to suffer an old man’s rebukes as the price of his allegiance, but you have too much of your father in you to sit there while he insults Jeyne to her face.”  Robb could not deny the sense of that. Yet all the same, he resents me for it, Catelyn thought wearily. He misses Jeyne already, and some part of him blames me for her absence, though he knows it was good counsel.  Of the six Westerlings who had come with her son from the Crag, only one remained by his side; Ser Raynald, Jeyne’s brother, the royal banner-bearer. Robb had dispatched Jeyne’s uncle Rolph Spicer to deliver young Martyn Lannister to the Golden Tooth the very day he received Lord Tywin’s assent to the exchange of captives. It was deftly done. Her son was relieved of his fear for Martyn’s safety, Galbart Glover was relieved to hear that his brother Robett had been put on a ship at Duskendale, Ser Rolph had important and honorable employment... and Grey Wind was at the king’s side once more. Where he belongs.  Lady Westerling had remained at Riverrun with her children; Jeyne, her little sister Eleyna, and young Rollam, Robb’s squire, who complained bitterly about being left. Yet that was wise as well. Olyvar Frey had squired for Robb previously, and would doubtless be present for his sister’s wedding; to parade his replacement before him would be as unwise as it was unkind. As for Ser Raynald, he was a cheerful young knight who swore that no insult of Walder Frey’s could possibly provoke him. And let us pray that insults are all we need to contend with.  Catelyn had her fears on that score, though. Her lord father had never trusted Walder Frey after the Trident, and she was ever mindful of that. Queen Jeyne would be safest behind the high, strong walls of Riverrun, with the Blackfish to protect her. Robb had even created him a new title, Warden of the Southern Marches. Ser Brynden would hold the Trident if any man could.  All the same, Catelyn would miss her uncle’s craggy face, and Robb would miss his counsel. Ser Brynden had played a part in every victory her son had won. Galbart Glover had taken command of the scouts and outriders in his place; a good man, loyal and steady, but without the Blackfish’s brilliance.  Behind Glover’s screen of scouts, Robb’s line of march stretched several miles. The Greatjon led the van. Catelyn traveled in the main column, surrounded by plodding warhorses with steelclad men on their backs. Next came the baggage train, a procession of wayns laden with food, fodder, camp supplies, wedding gifts, and the wounded too weak to walk, under the watchful eye of Ser Wendel Manderly and his White Harbor knights. Herds of sheep and goats and scrawny cattle trailed behind, and then a little tail of footsore camp followers. Even farther back was Robin Flint and the rearguard. There was no enemy in back of them for hundreds of leagues, but Robb would take no chances.  Thirty-five hundred they were, thirty-five hundred who had been blooded in the Whispering Wood, who had reddened their swords at the Battle of the Camps, at Oxcross, Ashemark, and the Crag, and all through the gold-rich hills of the Lannister west. Aside from her brother Edmure’s modest retinue of friends, the lords of the Trident had remained to hold the riverlands while the king retook the north. Ahead awaited Edmure’s bride and Robb’s next battle... and for me, two dead sons, an empty bed, and a castle full of ghosts. It was a cheerless prospect. Brienne, where are you? Bring my girls back to me, Brienne. Bring them back safe.  The drizzle that had sent them off turned into a soft steady rain by midday, and continued well past nightfall. The next day the northmen never saw the sun at all, but rode beneath leaden skies with their hoods pulled up to keep the water from their eyes. It was a heavy rain, turning roads to mud and fields to quagmires, swelling the rivers and stripping the trees of their leaves. The constant patter made idle chatter more bother than it was worth, so men spoke only when they had something to say, and that was seldom enough.  “We are stronger than we seem, my lady,” Lady Maege Mormont said as they rode. Catelyn had grown fond of Lady Maege and her eldest daughter, Dacey; they were more understanding than most in the matter of Jaime Lannister, she had found. The daughter was tall and lean, the mother short and stout, but they dressed alike in mail and leather, with the black bear of House Mormont on shield and surcoat. By Catelyn’s lights, that was queer garb for a lady, yet Dacey and Lady Maege seemed more comfortable, both as warriors and as women, than ever the girl from Tarth had been.  “I have fought beside the Young Wolf in every battle,” Dacey Mormont said cheerfully. “He has not lost one yet.”  No, but he has lost everything else, Catelyn thought, but it would not do to say it aloud. The northmen did not lack for courage, but they were far from home, with little enough to sustain them but for their faith in their young king. That faith must be protected, at all costs. I must be stronger, she told herself. I must be strong for Robb. If I despair, my grief will consume me. Everything would turn on this marriage. If Edmure and Roslin were happy in one another, if the Late Lord Frey could be appeased and his power once more wedded to Robb’s... Even then, what chance will we have, caught between Lannister and Greyjoy? It was a question Catelyn dared not dwell on, though Robb dwelt on little else. She saw how he studied his maps whenever they made camp, searching for some plan that might win back the north.  Her brother Edmure had other cares. “You don’t suppose all Lord Walder’s daughters look like him, do you?” he wondered, as he sat in his tall striped pavilion with Catelyn and his friends.  “With so many different mothers, a few of the maids are bound to turn up comely,” said Ser Marq Piper, “but why should the old wretch give you a pretty one?”  “No reason at all,” said Edmure in a glum tone.  It was more than Catelyn could stand. “Cersei Lannister is comely,” she said sharply. “You’d be wiser to pray that Roslin is strong and healthy, with a good head and a loyal heart.” And with that she left them.  Edmure did not take that well. The next day he avoided her entirely on the march, preferring the company of Marq Piper, Lymond Goodbrook, Patrek Mallister, and the young Vances. They do not scold him, except in jest, Catelyn told herself when they raced by her that afternoon with nary a word. I have always been too hard with Edmure, and now grief sharpens my every word. She regretted her rebuke. There was rain enough falling from the sky without her making more. And was it really such a terrible thing, to want a pretty wife? She remembered her own childish disappointment, the first time she had laid eyes on Eddard Stark. She had pictured him as a younger version of his brother Brandon, but that was wrong. Ned was shorter and plainer of face, and so somber. He spoke courteously enough, but beneath the words she sensed a coolness that was all at odds with Brandon, whose mirths had been as wild as his rages. Even when he took her maidenhood, their love had more of duty to it than of passion. We made Robb that night, though; we made a king together. And after the war, at Winterfell, I had love enough for any woman, once I found the good sweet heart beneath Ned’s solemn face. There is no reason Edmure should not find the same, with his Roslin.  As the gods would have it, their route took them through the Whispering Wood where Robb had won his first great victory. They followed the course of the twisting stream on the floor of that pinched narrow valley, much as Jaime Lannister’s men had done that fateful night. It was warmer then, Catelyn remembered, the trees were still green, and the stream did not overflow its banks. Fallen leaves choked the flow now and lay in sodden snarls among the rocks and roots, and the trees that had once hidden Robb’s army had exchanged their green raiment for leaves of dull gold spotted with brown, and a red that reminded her of rust and dry blood. Only the spruce and the soldier pines still showed green, thrusting up at the belly of the clouds like tall dark spears.  More than the trees have died since then, she reflected. On the night of the Whispering Wood, Ned was still alive in his cell beneath Aegon’s High Hill, Bran and Rickon were safe behind the walls of Winterfell. And Theon Greyjoy fought at Robb’s side, and boasted of how he had almost crossed swords with the Kingslayer. Would that he had. If Theon had died in place of Lord Karstark’s sons, how much ill would have been undone?  As they passed through the battleground, Catelyn glimpsed signs of the carnage that had been; an overturned helm filling with rain, a splintered lance, the bones of a horse. Stone cairns had been raised over some of the men who had fallen here, but scavengers had already been at them. Amidst the tumbles of rock, she spied brightly colored cloth and bits of shiny metal. Once she saw a face peering out at her, the shape of the skull beginning to emerge from beneath the melting brown flesh.  It made her wonder where Ned had come to rest. The silent sisters had taken his bones north, escorted by Hallis Mollen and a small honor guard. Had Ned ever reached Winterfell, to be interred beside his brother Brandon in the dark crypts beneath the castle? Or did the door slam shut at Moat Cailin before Hal and the sisters could pass?  Thirty-five hundred riders wound their way along the valley floor through the heart of the Whispering Wood, but Catelyn Stark had seldom felt lonelier. Every league she crossed took her farther from Riverrun, and she found herself wondering whether she would ever see the castle again. Or was it lost to her forever, like so much else?  Five days later, their scouts rode back to warn them that the rising waters had washed out the wooden bridge at Fairmarket. Galbart Glover and two of his bolder men had tried swimming their mounts across the turbulent Blue Fork at Ramsford. Two of the horses had been swept under and drowned, and one of the riders; Glover himself managed to cling to a rock until they could pull him in. “The river hasn’t run this high since spring” Edmure said. “And if this rain keeps falling, it will go higher yet.”  “There’s a bridge further upstream, near Oldstones,” remembered Catelyn, who had often crossed these lands with her father. “It’s older and smaller, but if it still stands -”  “It’s gone, my lady,” Galbart Glover said. “Washed away even before the one at Fairmarket.” Robb looked to Catelyn. “Is there another bridge?”  “No. And the fords will be impassable.” She tried to remember. “If we cannot cross the Blue Fork, we’ll have to go around it, through Sevenstreams and Hag’s Mire.”  “Bogs and bad roads, or none at all,” warned Edmure. “The going will be slow, but we’ll get there, I suppose.”  “Lord Walder will wait, I’m sure,” said Robb. “Lothar sent him a bird from Riverrun, he knows we are coming.”  “Yes, but the man is prickly, and suspicious by nature,” said Catelyn. “He may take this delay as a deliberate insult.”  “Very well, I’ll beg his pardon for our tardiness as well. A sorry king I’ll be, apologizing with every second breath.” Robb made a wry face. “I hope Bolton got across the Trident before the rains began. The kingsroad runs straight north, he’ll have an easy march. Even afoot, he should reach the Twins before us.”  “And when you’ve joined his men to yours and seen my brother married, what then?” Catelyn asked him.  “North.” Robb scratched Grey Wind behind an ear.  “By the causeway? Against Moat Cailin?”  He gave her an enigmatic smile. “That’s one way to go,” he said, and she knew from his tone that he would say no more. A wise king keeps his own counsel, she reminded herself.  They reached Oldstones after eight more days of steady rain, and made their camp upon the hill overlooking the Blue Fork, within a ruined stronghold of the ancient river kings. Its foundations remained amongst the weeds to show where the walls and keeps had stood, but the local smallfolk had long ago made off with most of the stones to raise their barns and septs and holdfasts. Yet in the center of what once would have been the castle’s yard, a great carved sepulcher still rested, half hidden in waist-high brown grass amongst a stand of ash.  The lid of the sepulcher had been carved into a likeness of the man whose bones lay beneath, but the rain and the wind had done their work. The king had worn a beard, they could see, but otherwise his face was smooth and featureless, with only vague suggestions of a mouth, a nose, eyes, and the crown about the temples. His hands folded over the shaft of a stone warhammer that lay upon his chest. Once the warhammer would have been carved with runes that told its name and history, but all that the centuries had worn away. The stone itself was cracked and crumbling at the comers, discolored here and there by spreading white splotches of lichen, while wild roses crept up over the king’s feet almost to his chest.  It was there that Catelyn found Robb, standing somber in the gathering dusk with only Grey Wind beside him. The rain had stopped for once, and he was bareheaded. “Does this castle have a name?” he asked quietly, when she came up to him.  “Oldstones, all the smallfolk called it when I was a girl, but no doubt it had some other name when it was still a hall of kings.” She had camped here once with her father, on their way to Seagard. Petyr was with us too...  “There’s a song,” he remembered. “‘Jenny of Oldstones, with the flowers in her hair. “‘  “We’re all just songs in the end. If we are lucky.” She had played at being Jenny that day, had even wound flowers in her hair. And Petyr had pretended to be her Prince of Dragonflies. Catelyn could not have been more than twelve, Petyr just a boy.  Robb studied the sepulcher. “Whose grave is this?”  “Here lies Tristifer, the Fourth of His Name, King of the Rivers and the Hills.” Her father had told her his story once. “He ruled from the Trident to the Neck, thousands of years before Jenny and her prince, in the days when the kingdoms of the First Men were falling one after the other before the onslaught of the Andals. The Hammer of justice, they called him. He fought a hundred battles and won nine-and-ninety, or so the singers say, and when he raised this castle it was the strongest in Westeros.” She put a hand on her son’s shoulder. “He died in his hundredth battle, when seven Andal kings joined forces against him. The fifth Tristifer was not his equal, and soon the kingdom was lost, and then the castle, and last of all the line. With Tristifer the Fifth died House Mudd, that had ruled the riverlands for a thousand years before the Andals came.”  “His heir failed him.” Robb ran a hand over the rough weathered stone. “I had hoped to leave Jeyne with child... we tried often enough, but I’m not certain...”  “It does not always happen the first time.” Though it did with you. “Nor even the hundredth. You are very young.”  “Young, and a king,” he said. “A king must have an heir. If I should die in my next battle, the kingdom must not die with me. By law Sansa is next in line of succession, so Winterfell and the north would pass to her.” His mouth tightened. “To her, and her lord husband. Tyrion Lannister. I cannot allow that. I will not allow ............
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