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ARYA
When they reached the top of the ridge and saw the river, Sandor Clegane reined up hard and cursed.  The rain was falling from a black iron sky, pricking the green and brown torrent with ten thousand swords. It must be a mile across, Arya thought. The tops of half a hundred trees poked up out the swirling waters, their limbs clutching for the sky like the arms of drowning men. Thick mats of sodden leaves choked the shoreline, and farther out in the channel she glimpsed something pale and swollen, a deer or perhaps a dead horse, moving swiftly downstream. There was a sound too, a low rumble at the edge of hearing, like the sound a dog makes just before he growls.  Arya squirmed in the saddle and felt the links of the Hound’s mail digging into her back. His arms encircled her; on the left, the burned arm, he’d donned a steel vambrace for protection, but she’d seen him change the dressings, and the flesh beneath was still raw and seeping. If the burns pained him, though, Sandor Clegane gave no hint of it.  “Is this the Blackwater Rush?” They had ridden so far in rain and darkness, through trackless woods and nameless villages, that Arya had lost all sense of where they were.  “It’s a river we need to cross, that’s all you need to know.” Clegane would answer her from time to time, but he had warned her not to talk back. He had given her a lot of warnings that first day. “The next time you hit me, I’ll tie your hands behind your back,” he’d said. “The next time you try and run off, I’ll bind your feet together. Scream or shout or bite me again, and I’ll gag you. We can ride double, or I can throw you across the back of the horse trussed up like a sow for slaughter. Your choice.” She had chosen to ride, but the first time they made camp she’d waited until she thought he was asleep, and found a big jagged rock to smash his ugly head in. Quiet as a shadow, she told herself as she crept toward him, but that wasn’t quiet enough. The Hound hadn’t been asleep after all. Or maybe he’d woken. Whichever it was, his eyes opened, his mouth twitched, and he took the rock away from her as if she were a baby. The best she could do was kick him. “I’ll give you that one,” he said, when he flung the rock into the bushes. “But if you’re stupid enough to try again, I’ll hurt you.”  “Why don’t you just kill me like you did Mycah?” Arya had screamed at him. She was still defiant then, more angry than scared.  He answered by grabbing the front of her tunic and yanking her within an inch of his burned face. “The next time you say that name I’ll beat you so bad you’ll wish I killed you.”  After that, he rolled her in his horse blanket every night when he went to sleep, and tied ropes around her top and bottom so she was bound up as tight as a babe in swaddling clothes.  It has to be the Blackwater, Arya decided as she watched the rain lash the river. The Hound was Joffrey’s dog; he was taking her back to the Red Keep, to hand to Joffrey and the queen. She wished that the sun would come out, so she could tell which way they were going. The more she looked at the moss on the trees the more confused she got. The Blackwater wasn’t so wide at King’s Landing, but that was before the rains.  “The fords will all be gone,” Sandor Clegane said, “and I wouldn’t care to try and swim over neither.”  There’s no way across, she thought. Lord Beric will catch us for sure. Clegane had pushed his big black stallion hard, doubling back thrice to throw off pursuit, once even riding half a mile up the center of a swollen stream... but Arya still expected to see the outlaws every time she looked back. She had tried to help them by scratching her name on the trunks of trees when she went in the bushes to make water, but the fourth time she did it he caught her, and that was the end of that. It doesn’t matter, Arya told herself, Thoros will find me in his flames. Only he hadn’t. Not yet, anyway, and once they crossed the river...  “Harroway town shouldn’t be far,” the Hound said. “Where Lord Roote stables Old King Andahar’s two-headed water horse. Maybe we’ll ride across.”  Arya had never heard of Old King Andahar. She’d never seen a horse with two heads either, especially not one who could run on water, but she knew better than to ask. She held her tongue and sat stiff as the Hound turned the stallion’s head and trotted along the ridgeline, following the river downstream. At least the rain was at their backs this way. She’d had enough of it stinging her eyes half-blind and washing down her cheeks like she was crying. Wolves never cry, she reminded herself again.  It could not have been much past noon, but the sky was dark as dusk. They had not seen the sun in more days than she could count. Arya was soaked to the bone, saddle-sore, sniffling, and achy. She had a fever too, and sometimes shivered uncontrollably, but when she’d told the Hound that she was sick he’d only snarled at her. “Wipe your nose and shut your mouth,” he told her. Half the time he slept in the saddle now, trusting his stallion to follow whatever rutted farm track or game trail they were on. The horse was a heavy courser, almost as big as a destrier but much faster. Stranger, the Hound called him. Arya had tried to steal him once, when Clegane was taking a piss against a tree, thinking she could ride off before he could catch her. Stranger had almost bitten her face off. He was gentle as an old gelding with his master, but otherwise he had a temper as black as he was. She had never known a horse so quick to bite or kick.  They rode beside the river for hours, splashing across two muddy vassal streams before they reached the place that Sandor Clegane had spoken of. “Lord Harroway’s Town,” he said, and then, when he saw it, “Seven hells!” The town was drowned and desolate. The rising waters had overflowed the riverbanks. All that remained of Harroway town was the upper story of a daub-and-wattle inn, the seven-sided Dorne of a sunken sept, two-thirds of a stone roundtower, some moldy thatch roofs, and a forest of chimneys.  But there was smoke coming from the tower, Arya saw, and below one arched window a wide flat-bottomed boat was chained up tight. The boat had a dozen oarlocks and a pair of great carved wooden horse heads mounted fore and aft. The two-headed horse, she realized. There was a wooden house with a sod roof right in the middle of the deck, and when the Hound cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted two men came spilling out. A third appeared in the window of the roundtower, clutching a loaded crossbow. “What do you want?” he shouted across the swirling brown waters.  “Take us over,” the Hound shouted back.  The men in the boat conferred with one another. One of them, a grizzled grey-haired man with thick arms and a bent back, stepped to the rail. “It will cost you.”  “Then I’ll pay.”  With what? Arya wondered. The outlaws had taken Clegane’s gold, but maybe Lord Beric had left him some silver and copper. A ferry ride shouldn’t cost more than a few coppers...  The ferrymen were talking again. Finally the bent-backed one turned away and gave a shout. Six more men appeared, pulling up hoods to keep the rain off their heads. Still more squirmed out the holdfast window and leapt down onto the deck. Half of them looked enough like the bent-backed man to be his kin. Some of them undid the chains and took up long poles, while the others slid heavy wide-bladed oars through the locks. The ferry swung about and began to creep slowly toward the shallows, oars stroking smoothly on either side. Sandor Clegane rode down the hill to meet it.  When the aft end of the boat slammed into the hillside, the ferrymen opened a wide door beneath the carved horse’s head, and extended a heavy oaken plank. Stranger balked at the water’s edge, but the Hound put his heels into the courser’s flank and urged him up the gangway. The bent-backed man was waiting for them on deck. “Wet enough for you, ser?” he asked, smiling.  The Hound’s mouth gave a twitch. “I need your boat, not your bloody wit.” He dismounted, and pulled Arya down beside him. One of the boatmen reached for Stranger’s bridle. “I wouldn’t,” Clegane said, as the horse kicked. The man leapt back, slipped on the rain-slick deck, and crashed onto his arse, cursing.  The ferryman with the bent back wasn’t smiling any longer. “We can get you across,” he said sourly. “It will cost you a gold piece. Another for the horse. A third for the boy.”  “Three dragons?” Clegane gave a bark of laughter. “For three dragons I should own the bloody ferry.”  “Last year, might be you could. But with this river, I’ll need extra hands on the poles and oars just to see we don’t get swept a hundred miles out to sea. Here’s your choice. Three dragons, or you teach that hellhorse how to walk on water.”  “I like an honest brigand. Have it your way. Three dragons... when you put us ashore safe on the north bank.”  “I’ll have them now, or we don’t go.” The man thrust out a thick, callused hand, palm up.  Clegane rattled his longsword to loosen the blade in the scabbard. “Here’s your choice. Gold on the north bank, or steel on the south.”  The ferryman looked up at the Hound’s face. Arya could tell that he didn’t like what he saw there. He had a dozen men behind him, strong men with oars and hardwood poles in their hands, but none of them were rushing forward to help him. Together they could overwhelm Sandor Clegane, though he’d likely kill three or four of them before they took him down. “How do I know you’re good for it?” the bent-backed man asked, after a moment.  He’s not, she wanted to shout. instead she bit her lip.  “Knight’s honor,” the Hound said, unsmiling.  He’s not even a knight. She did not say that either.  “That will do.” The ferryman spat. “Come on then, we can have you across before dark. Tie the horse up, I don’t want him spooking when we’re under way. There’s a brazier in the cabin if you and your son want to get warm.”  “I’m not his stupid son!” said Arya furiously. That was even worse than being taken for a boy. She was so angry that she might have told them who she really was, only Sandor Clegane grabbed her by the back of the collar and hoisted her one-handed off the deck. “How many times do I need to tell you to shut your bloodymouth?” He shook her so hard her teeth rattled, then let her fall. “Get in there and get dry, like the man said.”  Arya did as she was told. The big iron brazier was glowing red, filling the room with a sullen suffocating heat. It felt pleasant to stand beside it, to warm her hands and dry off a little bit, but as soon as she felt the deck move under her feet she slipped back out through the forward door.  The two-headed horse eased slowly through the shallows, picking its way between the chimneys and rooftops of drowned Harroway. A dozen men labored at the oars while four more used the long poles to push off whenever they came too close to a rock, a tree, or a sunken house. The bent-backed man had the rudder. Rain pattered against the smooth planks of the deck and splashed off the tall carved horseheads fore and aft. Arya was getting soaked again, but she didn’t care. She wanted to see. The man with the crossbow still stood in the window of the roundtower,............
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