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. WaIder 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.
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