He had heard more than he wanted. Even outside in the corridor the angry voices had reverberated. Well, who would have thought that? The upset, loath girl he was pulling along with him was late Lord Eddard Stark's younger daughter! Ser Gilroy would have smiled if the situation had not been so serious.
Lady Arya – for that was her name now again – was shaking from anger and grief. The knight knew that right now she was inconsolable, but he wanted to give her something to think about.
“Lady Arya, I was as surprised as you when I learned about the new situation. One should assume that someone like Lord Clegane would make your sister unhappy, and their beginning must have been horrible indeed – for both of them, by the way. The marriage was a shock for the lord as well.”
The girl snarled then: “What do I care what HE felt? He's a bastard! And Sansa? Did you see that? She has accepted him! She's a traitor! Ha, but for you it doesn't matter, you're a Lannister man like the others. I hate you, too!”
Ser Gilroy was only momentarily astounded by Lady Arya's wild emotions; then, he thought that it was quite understandable that she reacted like this after everything she'd been through.
So he ignored her insulting behaviour and went on: “Lady Sansa was given a choice by the king, you know? She could have married Ser Ilyn Payne as well.”
Lady Arya winced then, but didn't say anything to that.
So Ser Gilroy went on: “By the way, I thought Lord Clegane to be a monster in human disguise, too, until shortly ago. I used to fight for Stannis Baratheon in the past.”
“Then you're a turncloak! Like my sister!”
“Lady Sansa has fallen in love with Lord Sandor, but she has no love for the Lannisters and the king, I can see that.”
“Sansa? Love? What does she know about love!? She started drooling when she saw Ser Loras ride in a tournament and thought herself in love!”
“Now, it's different. For the two of them. And they have changed both. Didn't you see Lord Clegane with Bessie? He took care of her personally when we found her family butchered near the road. Whoever the lord used to be, he's different now. I wonder...”
Arya gave him a snide look and spat: “As if a monster and a brute like him could really change! And what do you wonder?”
Ser Gilroy gave her a sad smile: “I wonder if it was my doing that triggered all of this off.”
The young lady furrowed her brow and commented: “What could an average knight like you have possibly done to change the course of history?”
Ser Gilroy coughed into his hand and explained: “During the Battle of the Blackwater I and a friend from the Holy Hundred got separated from our comrades. We were still on Stannnis's side at the time, but we had lost our swords. My friend caught fire somehow, I don't know exactly what happened. It was green wildfire. Really mean stuff that cannot be extinguished. The Lannisters had been using it to set the Blackwater aflame to save King's Landing from our troops. Anyway. To make bad things worse my friend stumbled into Lord Clegane and he was cut down by him. I went berserk when I watched it happen and didn't fear death any more. I grabbed a wooden log that was lying in the mud, attacked Lord Clegane from behind and crashed it onto his head with all the force I could muster. He fell like an ox that had been slaughtered and I thought him dead. Only later, when King Joffrey celebrated his victory, did I see him again and learned what had happened to him.”
Lady Arya stared at Ser Gilroy now, thunderstruck.
“What!? You blinded the Hound and he still lets you be around him?”
“He doesn't know. But he will soon, I guess – now that I've told you. You hate all the people so much that you'll fling any bad word you can come by into everyone's face. By some miracle your body has survived all the horrible things that have befallen you, but your soul is dead. As dead as little Bessie's soul, I must add. She has watched her father's death, too. And not only his. Her mother's, her uncle's, her aunt's – and her siblings are gone. I guess you've got an idea what that must be like, only she's even younger than you. Well, and she has chosen Sandor Clegane as some kind of guardian. He's the only one she really trusts. That says a lot, doesn't it? Don't take that away from her.”
Lady Arya was very quiet now and didn't resist him any longer.
A few moments later, they had arrived at a heavy, wooden door. They both entered a bedroom. Ser Gilroy made sure everything was all right.
Then, he stated: “No fire tonight, and I have to lock you in. I'm sorry. Security matters.”
The girl in front of him shrugged and mumbled back: “Can't be colder than in the dungeons.”
Ser Gilroy nodded: “Yes. And you've got a real bed. Good night.”
Then, he left Lady Arya and made sure the door was well locked.
Afterwards, he breathed deeply. He hoped that his words might germinate and grow into the right plant, but only time would tell. Now, he'd make a tour of the castle like he always wanted to do late in the evening nowadays.
The sun had set, and in the dark the castle looked even emptier and quieter and bleaker than usually. Ser Gilroy made sure that the bathhouse was deserted now and barred it. In the kitchen, he came across the meaty boy who had comforted Lady Sansa on her arrival. The lad – Hot Pie, he remembered – was willing to hand him a toad-in-the-hole, which he had just prepared, and the little delicacy turned out to be very tasty.
In better spirits Ser Gilroy moved on and finally, he reached the gatehouse. He clambered up to the battlements, because he wanted to have a relaxing look at the waters of the Gods Eye in the moonlight. The drawbridge had been closed ever since Lord Clegane's impressive tirade about the safety of the castle.
A man he didn't know well, some Dillon, was on duty there as nocturnal vigil. They chatted a little about this and that, about the war and the possible outcome, and the man looked grateful he wasn't alone for a while. Ser Gilroy felt even better now. He wondered if there was hope for the huge fortress at long last.
Suddenly, there was a movement down at the foot of the castle walls. At once, the knight prodded the arm of the guard silently.
“What's that down there?” he whispered.
Dillon murmured back: “Whatever it is – it's not human.”
A moment later, the moon, which had been covered by a cloud for a moment, was shining again brightly and revealed a huge, furred creature, something like a pony – only it wasn't a pony. And then, the animal threw it's head back and howled so loudly that the dead could surely be woken by the ghastly sound.
Dillon uttered a little squeal.
“A wolf! That's a wolf! And a big one at that! Ser Gilroy, can you hand me the crossbow? I had just put it down for a moment when you arrived.”
But the knight shook his head.
“You won't shoot this one. This is a direwolf. And judging by its behaviour it wants to enter the castle.”
“WHAT!? But why?”
“I guess that this is the infamous wolf bitch you must have heard of. And I've got the feeling she's in search of her pack.”