her brother Jojen asked her.  “I saw the haunted forest,” she said in a wistful tone. “Hills rising wild as far as the eye can see, covered with trees that no axe has ever touched. I saw the sunlight glinting off a lake, and clouds sweeping in from the west . I saw patches of old snow, and icicles long as pikes. I even saw an eagle circling. I think he saw me too. I waved at him.”  “Did you see a way down?” asked Jojen.  She shook her head. “No. It’s a sheer drop, and the ice is so smooth I might be able to make the descent if I had a good rope and an axe to chop out handholds, but...”  “... but not us,” Jojen finished.  “No,” his sister agreed. “Are you sure this is the place you saw in your dream? Maybe we have the wrong castle.”  “No. This is the castle. There is a gate here.”  Yes, thought Bran, but it’s blocked by stone and ice.  As the sun began to set the shadows of the towers lengthened and the wind blew harder, sending gusts of dry dead leaves rattling through the yards. The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear.

 “And that was the fault in him dermes hk,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.  He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King andthe Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.  “Some say he was a Bolton,

” Old Nan would always end. “Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber, Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled Bear island before the ironmen came. He never was. He was a Stark, the brother of the man who brought him down almo nature.” She always pinched Bran on the nose then, he would never forget it. “He was a Stark of Winterfell, and who can say? Mayhaps his name was Brandon. Mayhaps he slept in this very bed in this very room.”  No, Bran thought, but he walked in this castle, where we’ll sleep tonight. He did not like that notion very much at all. Night’s King was only a man by light of day, Old Nan would always say, but the night was his to rule.

Watty could not keep his breakfast down, and young Ned was feverish and shivering by turns, with skin clammy to the touch. There was an abandoned village half a day’s ride to the north, Notch told Lord Beric; they’d find better shelter there, a place to wait out the worst of the rains. So they dragged themselves back into the saddles and urged their horses down the great hill.  The rains did not let up . They rode through woods and fields, fording swollen streams where the rushing water came up to the bellies of their horses. Arya pulled up the hood of her cloak and hunched down, sodden and shivering but determined not to falter. Merrit and Mudge were soon coughing as bad as Watty, and poor Ned seemed to grow more miserable with every mile. “When I wear my helm, the rain beats against the steel and gives me headaches,” he complained. “But when I take it off, my hair gets soaked and sticks to my face and in my mouth.”  “You have a knife,” Gendry suggested. “If your hair annoys you so much, shave your bloody head.”  He doesn’t like Ned. The squire seemed nice enough to Arya; maybe a little shy, but good-natured. She had always heard that Dornishmen were small and swarthy, with black hair and small black eyes, but Ned had big blue eyes, so dark that they looked almost purple. And his hair was a pale blond, more ash than honey. 

“How long have you been Lord Beric’s squire?” she asked, to take his mind from his misery.  “He took me for his page when he espoused my aunt.” He coughed. “I was seven, but when I turned ten he raised me to squire. I won a prize once, riding at rings.”  “I never learned the lance, but I could beat you with a sword,” said Arya. “Have you killed anyone?”  That seemed to startle him . “I’m only twelve.”  I killed a boy when I was eight, Arya almost said, but she thought she’d better not. “You’ve been in battles, though.”  “Yes.” He did not sound very proud of it. “

I was at the Mummer’s Ford. When Lord Beric fell into the river, I dragged him up onto the bank so he wouldn’t . I never had to fight, though. He had a broken lance sticking out of him, so no one bothered us. When we regrouped, Green Gergen helped pull his lordship back onto a horse.”  Arya was remembering the stableboy at King’s Landing. After him there’d been that guard whose throat she cut at Harrenhal, and Ser Amory’s men at that holdfast by the lake. She didn’t know if Weese and Chiswyck counted, or the ones who’d died on account of the weasel soup... all of a sudden, she felt very sad. “My father was called Ned too,” she said.  “I know. I saw him at the Hand’s tourney. I wanted to go up and speak with him, but I couldn’t think what to say.” Ned shivered beneath his cloak, a sodden length of pale purple. “Were you at the tourney? I saw your sister there. Ser Loras Tyrell gave her a rose.”  “She told me.” It all seemed so long ago. “Her friend Jeyne Poole fell in love with your Lord Beric SmarTone.”

“Tell her to open those slut’s eyes of hers.”  “He begs you attend this carefully , Your Grace.”  Kraznys moved to the next eunuch in line, a towering youth with the blue eyes and flaxen hair of Lys. “Your sword,” he said. The eunuch knelt, unsheathed the blade, and offered it up hilt first. It was a shortsword, made more for stabbing than for slashing, but the edge looked razor-sharp. “Stand,” Kraznys commanded.  “Your worship.” The eunuch stood, and Kraznys mo Nakloz slid the sword slowly up his torso, leaving a thin red line across his belly and between his ribs. Then he jabbed the swordpoint in beneath a wide pink nipple and began to work it back and forth.  “What is he doing?” Dany demanded of the girl, as the blood ran down the man’s chest.  “Tell the cow to stop her bleating,” said Kraznys, without waiting for the translation.

“This will do him no great harm. Men have no need of nipples, eunuchs even less so .” The nipple hung by a thread of skin. He slashed, and sent it tumbling to the bricks, leaving behind a round red eye copiously weeping blood. The eunuch did not move, until Kraznys offered him back his sword, hilt first. “Here, I’m done with you.”  “This one is pleased to have served you.”  Kraznys turned back to Dany. “They feel no pain, you see.”  “How can that be?” she .  “The wine of courage,” was the answer he gave her. “It is no true wine at all, but made from deadly nightshade, bloodfly larva, black lotus root, and many secret things. They drink it with every meal from the day they are cut, and with each passing year feel less and less.

It makes them fearless in battle. Nor can they be tortured. Tell the savage her secrets are safe with the Unsullied. She may set them to guard her councils and even her bedchamber, and never a worry as to what they might overhear.  “In Yunkai and Meereen, eunuchs are often made by removing a boy’s testicles, but leaving the penis. Such a creature is infertile, yet often still capable of erection. Only trouble can come of this. We remove the penis as well, leaving nothing. The Unsullied are the purest creatures on the earth.” He gave Dany and Arstan another of his broad white smiles. “I have heard that in the Sunset Kingdoms men take solemn vows to keep chaste and father no children, but live only for their duty. Is it not so polar?”