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She could feel the hole inside her every morning when she woke. It wasn’t hunger, though sometimes there was that too. It was a hollow place, an emptiness where her heart had been, where her brothers had lived, and her parents. Her head hurt too. Not as bad as it had at first, but still pretty bad. Arya was used to that, though, and at least the lump was going down. But the hole inside her stayed the same. The hole will never feel any better, she told herself when she went to sleep.  Some mornings Arya did not want to wake at all. She would huddle beneath her cloak with her eyes squeezed shut and try to will herself back to sleep. If the Hound would only have left her alone, she would have slept all day and all night.  And dreamed. That was the best part, the dreaming. She dreamed of wolves most every night. A great pack of wolves, with her at the head. She was bigger than any of them, stronger, swifter, faster. She could outrun horses and outfight lions. When she bared her teeth even men would run from her, her belly was never empty long, and her fur kept her warm even when the wind was blowing cold. And her brothers and sisters were with her, many and more of them, fierce and terrible and hers. They would never leave her.  But if her nights were full of wolves, her days belonged to the dog. Sandor Clegane made her get up every morning, whether she wanted to or not. He would curse at her in his raspy voice, or yank her to her feet and shake her. Once he dumped a helm full of cold water all over her head. She bounced up sputtering and shivering and tried to kick him, but he only laughed. “Dry off and feed the bloody horses,” he told her, and she did.  They had two now, Stranger and a sorrel palfrey mare Arya had named Craven, because Sandor said she’d likely run off from the Twins the same as them. They’d found her wandering riderless through a field the morning after the slaughter. She was a good enough horse, but Arya could not love a coward. Stranger would have fought. Still, she tended the mare as best she knew. It was better than riding double with the Hound. And Craven might have been a coward, but she was young and strong as well. Arya thought that she might be able to outrun Stranger, if it came to it.  The Hound no longer watched her as closely as he had. Sometimes he did not seem to care whether she stayed or went, and he no longer bound her up in a cloak at night. One night I’ll kill him in his sleep, she told herself, but she never did. One day I’ll ride away on Craven, and he won’t be able to catch me, she thought, but she never did that either. Where would she go? Winterfell was gone. Her grandfather’s brother was at Riverrun, but he didn’t know her, no more than she knew him. Maybe Lady Smallwood would take her in at Acorn Hall, but maybe she wouldn’t. Besides, Arya wasn’t even sure she could find Acorn Hall again. Sometimes she thought she might go back to Shama’s inn, if the floods hadn’t washed it away. She could stay with Hot Pie, or maybe Lord Beric would find her there. Anguy would teach her to use a bow, and she could ride with Gendry and be an outlaw, like Wenda the White Fawn in the songs.  But that was just stupid, like something Sansa might dream. Hot Pie and Gendry had left her just as soon as they could, and Lord Beric and the outlaws only wanted to ransom her, just like the Hound. None of them wanted her around. They were never my pack, not even Hot Pie and Gendry. I was stupid to think so, just a stupid little girl, and no wolf at all.  So she stayed with the Hound. They rode every day, never sleeping twice in the same place, avoiding towns and villages and castles as best they could. Once she asked Sandor Clegane where they were going. “Away,” he said. “That’s all you need to know. You’re not worth spit to me now, and I don’t want to hear your whining. I should have let you run into that bloody castle.”  “You should have,” she agreed, thinking of her mother.  “You’d be dead if I had. You ought to thank me. You ought to sing me a pretty little song, the way your sister did.”  “Did you hit her with an axe too?”  “I hit you with the flat of the axe, you stupid little bitch. If I’d hit you with the blade there’d still be chunks of your head floating down the Green Fork. Now shut your bloody mouth. If I had any sense I’d give you to the silent sisters. They cut the tongues out of girls who talk too much.” That wasn’t fair of him to say. Aside from that one time, Arya hardly talked at all. Whole days passed when neither of them said anything. She was too empty to talk, and the Hound was too angry. She could feel the fury in him; she could see it on his face, the way his mouth would tighten and twist, the looks he gave her. Whenever he took his axe to chop some wood for a fire, he would slide into a cold rage, hacking savagely at the tree or the deadfall or the broken limb, until they had twenty times as much kindling and firewood as they’d needed. Sometimes he would be so sore and tired afterward that he would lie down and go right to sleep without even lighting a fire. Arya hated it when that happened, and hated him too. Those were the nights when she stared the longest at the axe. It looks awfully heavy, but I bet I could swing it. She wouldn’t hit him with the flat, either.  Sometimes in their wanderings they glimpsed other people; farmers in their fields, swineherds with their pigs, a milkmaid leading a cow, a squire carrying a message down a rutted road. She never wanted to speak to them either. it was as if they lived in some distant land and spoke a queer alien tongue; they had nothing to do with her, or her with them.  Besides, it wasn’t safe to be seen. From time to time columns of horsemen passed down the winding farm roads, the twin towers of Frey flying before them. “Hunting for stray northmen,” the Hound said when they had passed. “Any time you hear hooves, get your head down fast, it’s not like to be a friend.”  One day, in an earthen hollow made by the roots of a fallen oak, they came face to face with another survivor of the Twins. The badge on his breast showed a pink maiden dancing in a swirl of silk, and he told them he was Ser Marq Piper’s man; a bowman, though he’d lost his bow. His left shoulder was all twisted and swollen where it met his arm; a blow from a mace, he said, it had broken his shoulder and smashed his chainmail deep into his flesh. “A northman, it was,” he wept. “His badge was a bloody man, and he saw mine and made a jape, red man and pink maiden, maybe they should get together. I drank to his Lord Bolton, he drank to Ser Marq, and we drank together to Lord Edmure and Lady Roslin and the King in the North. And then he killed me.” His eyes were fever bright when he said that, and Arya could tell that it was true. His shoulder was swollen grotesquely, and pus and blood had stained his whole left side. There was a stink to him too. He smells like a corpse. The man begged them for a drink of wine.  “If I’d had any wine, I’d have drunk it myself,” the Hound told him. “I can give you water, and the gift of mercy.”  The archer looked at him a long while before he said, “You’re Joffrey’s dog.”  “My own dog now. Do you want the water?”  “Aye.” The man swallowed. “And the mercy. Please.”  They had passed a small pond a short ways back. Sandor gave Arya his helm and told her to fill it, so she trudged back to the water’s edge. Mud squished over the toe of her boots. She used the dog’s head as a pail. Water ran out through the eyeholes, but the bottom of the helm still held a lot.  When she came back, the archer turned his face up and she poured the water into his mouth. He gulped it down as fast as she could pour, and what he couldn’t gulp ran down his cheeks into the brown blood that crusted his whiskers, until pale pink tears dangled from his beard. When the water was gone he clutched the helm and licked the steel. “Good,” he said. “I wish it was wine, though. I wanted wine.”  “Me too.” The Hound eased his dagger into the man’s chest almost tenderly, the weight of his body driving the point through his surcoat, ringmail, and the quilting beneath. As he slid the blade back out and wiped it on the dead man, he looked at Arya. “That’s where the heart is, girl. That’s how you kill a man.”  That’s one way. “Will we bury him?”  “Why?” Sandor said. “He don’t care, and we’ve got no spade. Leave him for the wolves and wild dogs. Your brothers and mine.” He gave her a hard look. “First we rob him, though.”  There were two silver stags in the archer’s purse, and almost thirty coppers. His dagger had a pretty pink stone in the hilt. The Hound hefted the knife in his hand, then flipped it toward Arya. She caught it by the hilt, slid it through her belt, and felt a little better. It wasn’t Needle, but it was steel. The dead man had a quiver of arrows too, but arrows weren’t much good without a bow. His boots were too big for Arya and too small for the Hound, so those they left. She took his kettle helm as well, even though it came down almost past her nose, so she had to tilt it back to see. “He must have had a horse as well, or he wouldn’t have got away,” Clegane said, peering about, “but it’s bloody well gone, I’d say. No telling how long he’s been here.”  By the time they found themselves in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon, the rains had mostly stopped. Arya could see the sun and moon and stars, and it seemed to her that they were heading eastward. “Where are we going?” she asked again.  This time the Hound answered her. “You have an aunt in the Eyrie. Might be she’ll want to ransom your scrawny arse, though the gods know why. Once we find the high road, we can follow it all the way to the Bloody Gate.”  Aunt Lysa. The thought left Arya feeling empty. It was her mother she wanted, not her mother’s sister. She didn’t know her mother’s sister any more than she knew her great uncle Blackfish. We should have gone into the castle. They didn’t really know that her mother was dead, or Robb either. It wasn’t like they’d seen them die or anything. Maybe Lord Frey had just taken them captive. Maybe they were chained up in his dungeon, or maybe the Freys were taking them to King’s Landing so Joffrey could chop their heads off. They didn’t know. “We should go back,” she suddenly decided. “We should go back to the Twins and get my mother. She can’t be dead. We have to help her.”  “I thought your sister was the one with a head full of songs,” the Hound growled. “Frey might have kept your mother alive to ransom, that’s true. But there’s no way in seven hells I’m going to pluck her out of his castle all by my bloody self.”  “Not by yourself. I’d come too.”  He made a sound that was almost a laugh. “That will scare the piss out of the old man.”  “You’re just afraid to die!” she said scornfully.  Now Clegane did laugh. “Death don’t scare me. Only fire. Now be quiet, or I’ll cut your tongue out myself and save the silent sisters the bother. It’s the Vale for us.”  Arya didn&rsqu............
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