Long before noon, Sandor Clegane was reeling. There were hours of daylight still remaining when he called a halt. “I need to rest,” was all he said. This time when he dismounted he did fall. Instead of trying to get back up he crawled weakly under a tree, and leaned up against the trunk. “Bloody hell,” he cursed. “Bloody hell.” When he saw Arya staring at him, he said, “I’d skin you alive for a cup of wine, girl.”
She brought him water instead. He drank a little of it, complained that it tasted of mud, and slid into a noisy fevered sleep. When she touched him, his skin was burning up. Arya sniffed at his bandages the way Maester Luwin had done sometimes when treating her cut or scrape. His face had bled the worst, but it was the wound on his thigh that smelled funny to her.
She wondered how far this Saltpans was, and whether she could find it by herself. I wouldn’t have to kill him. If I just rode off and left him, he’d die all by himself. He’ll die of fever, and lie there beneath that tree until the end of days. But maybe it would be better if she killed him herself. She had killed the squire at the inn and he hadn’t done anything except grab her arm. The Hound had killed Mycah. Mycah and more. I bet he’s killed a hundred Mycahs. He probably would have killed her too, if not for the ransom.
Needle glinted as she drew it. Polliver had kept it nice and sharp, at least. She turned her body sideways in a water dancer’s stance without even thinking about it. Dead leaves crunched beneath her feet. Quick as a snake, she thought. Smooth as summer silk.
His eyes opened. “You remember where the heart is?” he asked in a hoarse whisper.
As still as stone she stood. “I . . . I was only . . .”
“Don’t lie,” he growled. “I hate liars. I hate gutless frauds even worse.
Go on, do it.” When Arya did not move, he said, “I killed your butcher’s boy. I cut him near in half, and laughed about it after.” He made a queer sound, and it took her a moment to realize he was sobbing. “And the little bird, your pretty sister, I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her. I took the bloody song, she never gave it. I meant to take her too. I should have. I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out before leaving her for that dwarf.” A spasm of pain twisted his face. “Do you mean to make me beg, bitch? Do it! The gift of mercy . . . avenge your little Michael . . .”
“Mycah.” Arya stepped away from him. “You don’t deserve the gift of mercy.”
The Hound watched her saddle Craven through eyes bright with fever. Not once did he attempt to rise and stop her. But when she mounted, he said, “A real wolf would finish a wounded animal.”
Maybe some real wolves will find you, Arya thought. Maybe they’ll smell you when the sun goes down. Then he would learn what wolves did to dogs. “You shouldn’t have hit me with an axe,” she said. “You should have saved my mother.” She turned her horse and rode away from him, and never looked back once.
On a bright morning six days later, she came to a place where the Trident began to widen out and the air smelled more of salt than trees. She stayed close to the water, passing fields and farms, and a little after midday a town appeared before her. Saltpans, she hoped. A small castle dominated the town; no more than a holdfast, really, a single tall square keep with a bailey and a curtain wall. Most of the shops and inns and alehouses around the harbor had been plundered or burned, though some looked still inhabited. But the port was there, and eastward spread the Bay of Crabs, its waters shimmering blue and green in the sun.
And there were ships.
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