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The drums were pounding, pounding, pounding, and her head with them. Pipes wailed and flutes trilled from the musicians’ gallery at the foot of the hall; fiddles screeched, horns blew, the skins skirled a lively tune, but the drumming drove them all. The sounds echoed off the rafters, whilst the guests ate, drank, and shouted at one another below. Walder Frey must be deaf as a stone to call this music. Catelyn sipped a cup of wine and watched Jinglebell prance to the sounds of “Alysanne.” At least she thought it was meant to be “Alysanne.” With these players, it might as easily have been “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.”  Outside the rain still fell, but within the Twins the air was thick and hot. A fire roared in the hearth and rows of torches burned smokily from iron sconces on the walls. Yet most of the heat came off the bodies of the wedding guests, jammed in so thick along the benches that every man who tried to lift his cup poked his neighbor in the ribs.  Even on the dais they were closer than Catelyn would have liked. She had been placed between Ser Ryman Frey and Roose Bolton, and had gotten a good noseful of both. Ser Ryman drank as if Westeros was about to run short of wine, and sweated it all out under his arms. He had bathed in lemonwater, she judged, but no lemon could mask so much sour sweat. Roose Bolton had a sweeter smell to him, yet no more pleasant. He sipped hippocras in preference to wine or mead, and ate but little.  Catelyn could not fault him for his lack of appetite. The wedding feast began with a thin leek soup, followed by a salad of green beans, onions, and beets, river pike poached in almond milk, mounds of mashed turnips that were cold before they reached the table, jellied calves’ brains, and a leche of stringy beef. It was poor fare to set before a king, and the calves’ brains turned Catelyn’s stomach. Yet Robb ate it uncomplaining, and her brother was too caught up with his bride to pay much attention.  You would never guess Edmure complained of Roslin all the way from Riverrun to the Twins. Husband and wife ate from a single plate, drank from a single cup, and exchanged chaste kisses between sips. Most of the dishes Edmure waved away. She could not blame him for that. She remembered little of the food served at her own wedding feast. Did I even taste it? Or spend the whole time gazing at Ned’s face, wondering who he was?  Poor Roslin’s smile had a fixed quality to it, as if someone had sewn it onto her face. Well, she is a maid wedded, but the bedding’s yet to come. No doubt she’s as terrified as I was. Robb was seated between Alyx Frey and Fair Walda, two of the more nubile Frey maidens. “At the wedding feast I hope you will not refuse to dance with my daughters,” Walder Frey had said. “It would please an old man’s heart.” His heart should be well pleased, then; Robb had done his duty like a king. He had danced with each of the girls, with Edmure’s bride and the eighth Lady Frey, with the widow Ami and Roose Bolton’s wife Fat Walda, with the pimply twins Serra and Sarra, even with Shirei, Lord Walder’s youngest, who must have been all of six. Catelyn wondered whether the Lord of the Crossing would be satisfied, or if he would find cause for complaint in all the other daughters and granddaughters who had not had a turn with the king. “Your sisters dance very well,” she said to Ser Ryman Frey, trying to be pleasant.  “They’re aunts and cousins.” Ser Ryman drank a swallow of wine, the sweat trickling down his cheek into his beard.  A sour man, and in his cups, Catelyn thought. The Late Lord Frey might be niggardly when it came to feeding his guests, but he did not stint on the drink. The ale, wine, and mead were flowing as fast as the river outside. The Greatjon was already roaring drunk. Lord Walder’s son Merrett was matching him cup for cup, but Ser Whalen Frey had passed out trying to keep up with the two of them. Catelyn would sooner Lord Umber had seen fit to stay sober, but telling the Greatjon not to drink was like telling him not to breathe for a few hours.  Smalljon Umber and Robin Flint sat near Robb, to the other side of Fair Walda and Alyx, respectively. Neither of them was drinking; along with Patrek Mallister and Dacey Mormont, they were her son’s guards this evening. A wedding feast was not a battle, but there were always dangers when men were in their cups, and a king should never be unguarded. Catelyn was glad of that, and even more glad of the swordbelts hanging on pegs along the walls. No man needs a longsword to deal with jellied calves’ brains.  “Everyone thought my lord would choose Fair Walda,” Lady Walda Bolton told Ser Wendel, shouting to be heard above the music. Fat Walda was a round pink butterball of a girl with watery blue eyes, limp yellow hair, and a huge bosom, yet her voice was a fluttering squeak. It was hard to picture her in the Dreadfort in her pink lace and cape of vair. “My lord grandfather offered Roose his bride’s weight in silver as a dowry, though, so my lord of Bolton picked me.” The girl’s chins jiggled when she laughed. “I weigh six stone more than Fair Walda, but that was the first time I was glad of it. I’m Lady Bolton now and my cousin’s still a maid, and she’ll be nineteen soon, poor thing.”  The Lord of the Dreadfort paid the chatter no mind, Catelyn saw. Sometimes he tasted a bite of this, a spoon of that, tearing bread from the loaf with short strong fingers, but the meal could not distract him. Bolton had made a toast to Lord Walder’s grandsons when the wedding feast began, pointedly mentioning that Walder and Walder were in the care of his bastard son. From the way the old man had squinted at him, his mouth sucking at the air, Catelyn knew he had heard the unspoken threat.  Was there ever a wedding less joyful? she wondered, until she remembered her poor Sansa and her marriage to the Imp. Mother take mercy on her. She has a gentle soul. The heat and smoke and noise were making her sick. The musicians in the gallery might be numerous and loud, but they were not especially gifted. Catelyn took another swallow of wine and allowed a page to refill her cup. A few more hours, and the worst will be over. By this hour tomorrow Robb would be off to another battle, this time with the ironmen at Moat Cailin. Strange, how that prospect seemed almost a relief. He will win his battle. He wins all his battles, and the ironborn are without a king. Besides, Ned taught him well. The drums were pounding. Jinglebell hopped past her once again, but the music was so loud she could scarcely hear his bells.  Above the din came a sudden snarling as two dogs fell upon each other over a scrap of meat. They rolled across the floor, snapping and biting, as a howl of mirth went up. Someone doused them with a flagon of ale and they broke apart. One limped toward the dais. Lord Walder’s toothless mouth opened in a bark of laughter as the dripping wet dog shook ale and hair all over three of his grandsons.  The sight of the dogs made Catelyn wish once more for Grey Wind, but Robb’s direwolf was nowhere to be seen. Lord Walder had refused to allow him in the hall. “Your wild beast has a taste for human flesh, I hear, heh,” the old man had said. “Rips out throats, yes. I’ll have no such creature at my Roslin’s feast, amongst women and little ones, all my sweet innocents.”  “Grey Wind is no danger to them, my lord,” Robb protested. “Not so long as I am there.”  “You were there at my gates, were you not? When the wolf attacked the grandsons I sent to greet you? I heard all about that, don’t think I didn’t, heh.”  “No harm was done.” “No harm, the king says? No harm? Petyr fell from his horse, fell. I lost a wife the same way, falling.” His mouth worked in and out. “Or was she just some strumpet? Bastard Walder’s mother, yes, now I recall. She fell off her horse and cracked her head. What would Your Grace do if Petyr had broken his neck, heh? Give me another apology in place of a grandson? No, no, no. Might be you’re king, I won’t say you’re not, the King in the North, heh, but under my roof, my rule. Have your wolf or have your wedding, sire. You’ll not have both.”  Catelyn could tell that her son was furious, but he yielded with as much courtesy as he could summon. If it pleases Lord Walder to serve me stewed crow smothered in maggots, he’d told her, I’ll eat it and ask for a second bowl. And so he had.  The Greatjon had drunk another of Lord Walder’s brood under the table, Petyr Pimple this time. The lad has a third his capacity, what did he expect? Lord Umber wiped his mouth, stood, and began to sing. “A bear there was, a bear, a BEAR! All black and brown and covered with hair!” His voice was not at all bad, though somewhat thick from drink. Unfortunately the fiddlers and drummers and flutists up above were playing “Flowers of Spring,” which suited the words of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” as well as snails might suit a bowl of porridge. Even poor Jinglebell covered his ears at the cacophony.  Roose Bolton murmured some words too soft to hear and went off in search of a privy. The cramped hall was in a constant uproar of guests and servants coming and going. A second feast, for knights and lords of somewhat lesser rank, was roaring along in the other castle, she knew. Lord Walder had exiled his baseborn children and their offspring to that side of the river, so that Robb’s northmen had taken to referring to it as “the bastard feast.” Some guests were no doubt stealing off to see if the bastards were having a better time than they were. Some might even be venturing as far as the camps. The Freys had provided wagons of wine, ale and mead, so the common soldiers could drink to the wedding of Riverrun and the Twins.  Robb sat down in Bolton’s vacant place. “A few more hours and this farce is done, Mother,” he said in a low voice, as the Greatjon sang of the maid with honey in her hair. “Black Walder’s been mild as a lamb for once. And Uncle Edmure seems well content in his bride.” He leaned across her. “Ser Ryman?”  Ser Ryman Frey blinked and said, “Sire. Yes?”  “I’d hoped to ask Olyvar to squire for me when we march north,” said Robb, “but I do not see him here. Would he be at the other feast?”  “Olyvar?” Ser Ryman shook his head. “No. Not Olyvar. Gone... gone from the castles. Duty.”  “I see.” Robb’s tone suggested otherwise. When Ser Ryman offered nothing more, the king got to his feet again. “Would you care for a dance, Mother?”  “Thank you, but no.” A dance was the last thing she needed, the way her head was throbbing. “No doubt one of Lord Walder’s daughters would be pleased to partner you.”  “Oh, no doubt.” His smile was resigned.  The musicians were playing “Iron Lances” by then, while the Greatjon sang “The Lusty Lad.” Someone should acquaint them with each other, it might improve the harmony. Catelyn turned back to Ser Ryman. “I had heard that one of your cousins was a singer.”  “Alesander. Symond’s son. Alyx is his sister.” He raised a cup toward where she danced with Robin Flint.  “Will Alesander be playing for us tonight?”  Ser Ryman squinted at her. “Not him. He’s away.” He wiped sweat from his brow and lurched to his feet. “Pardons, my lady. Pardons.” Catelyn watched him stagger toward the door.  Edmure was kissing Roslin and squeezing her hand. Elsewhere in the hall, Ser Marq Piper and Ser Danwell Frey played a drinking game, Lame Lothar said something amusing to Ser Hosteen, one of the younger Freys juggled three daggers for a group of giggly girls, and Jinglebell sat on the floor sucking wine off his fingers. The servers were bringing out huge silver platters piled high with cuts of juicy pink lamb, the most appetizing dish they’d seen all evening. And Robb was leading Dacey Mormont in a dance.  When she wore a dress in place of a hauberk, Lady Maege’s eldest daughter was quite pretty; tall and willowy, with a shy smile that made her long face light up. it was pleasant to see that she could be as graceful on the dance floor as in the training yard. Catelyn wondered if Lady Maege had reached the Neck as yet. She had taken her other daughters with her, but as one of Robb’s battle companions Dacey had chosen to remain by his side. He has Ned’s gift for inspiring loyalty. Olyvar Frey had been devoted to her son as well. Hadn’t Robb said that Olyvar wanted to remain with him even after he’d married Jeyne?  Seated betwixt his black oak towers, the Lord of the Crossing clapped his spotted hands together. The noise they made was so faint that even those on the dais scarce heard it, but Ser Aenys and Ser Hosteen saw and began to pound their cups on the table. Lame Lothar joined them, then Marq Piper and Ser Danwell and Ser Raymund. Half the guests were soon pounding. Finally even the mob of musicians in the gallery took note. The piping, drumming, and fiddling trailed off into quiet.  “Your Grace,” Lord Walder called out to Robb, “the septon has prayed his prayers, some words have been said, and Lord Edmure’s wrapped my sweetling in a fish c............
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