GEORGE R. R. MARTIN
A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
They gave him a horse and a banner, a soft woolen doublet and a warm fur cloak, and set him loose. For once, he did not stink. “Come back with that castle,” said Damon Dance-for-Me as he helped Reek climb shaking into the saddle, “or keep going and see how far you get before we catch you. He’d like that, he would.” Grinning, Damon gave the horse a lick across the rump with his whip, and the old stot whinnied and lurched into motion.
Reek did not dare to look back, for fear that Damon and Yellow Dick and Grunt and the rest were coming after him, that all of this was just another of Lord Ramsay’s japes, some cruel test to see what he would do if they gave him a horse and set him free. Do they think that I will run? The stot they had given him was a wretched thing, knock-kneed and half-starved; he could never hope to outdistance the fine horses Lord Ramsay and his hunters would be riding. And Ramsay loved nothing more than to set his girls baying on the trail of some fresh prey.
Besides, where would he run to? Behind him were the camps, crowded with Dreadfort men and those the Ryswells had brought from the Rills, with the Barrowton host between them. South of Moat Cailin, another army was coming up the causeway, an army of Boltons and Freys marching beneath the banners of the Dreadfort. East of the road lay a bleak and barren shore and a cold salt sea, to the west the swamps and bogs of the Neck, infested with serpents, lizard lions, and bog devils with their poisoned arrows.
He would not run. He could not run.
I will deliver him the castle. I will. I must.
It was a grey day, damp and misty. The wind was from the south, moist as a kiss. The ruins of Moat Cailin were visible in the distance, threaded through with wisps of morning mist. His horse moved toward them at a walk, her hooves making faint wet squelching sounds as they pulled
free of the grey-green muck.
I have come this way before. It was a dangerous thought, and he regretted it at once. “No,” he said, “no, that was some other man, that was before you knew your name.” His name was Reek. He had to remember that. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with leek.
When that other man had come this way, an army had followed close behind him, the great host of the north riding to war beneath the grey-and-white banners of House Stark. Reek rode alone, clutching a peace banner on a pinewood staff. When that other man had come this way, he had been mounted on a courser, swift and spirited. Reek rode a broken-down stot, all skin and bone and ribs, and he rode her slowly for fear he might fall off. The other man had been a good rider, but Reek was uneasy on horseback. It had been so long. He was no rider. He was not even a man. He was Lord Ramsay’s creature, lower than a dog, a worm in human skin. “You will pretend to be a prince,” Lord Ramsay told him last night, as Reek was soaking in a tub of scalding water, “but we know the truth. You’re Reek. You’ll always be Reek, no matter how sweet you smell. Your nose may lie to you. Remember your name. Remember who you are.”
“Reek,” he said. “Your Reek.”
“Do this little thing for me, and you can be my dog and eat meat every day,” Lord Ramsay promised. “You will be tempted to betray me. To run or fight or join our foes. No, quiet, I’ll not hear you deny it. Lie to me, and I’ll take your tongue. A man would turn against me in your place, but we know what you are, don’t we?