Three, thought Arya, there are three. Two were only river galleys, shallow draft boats made to ply the waters of the Trident. The third was bigger, a salt sea trader with two banks of oars, a gilded prow, and three tall masts with furled purple sails. Her hull was painted purple too. Arya rode Craven down to the docks to get a better look. Strangers are not so strange in a port as they are in little villages, and no one seemed to care who she was or why she was here.
I need silver. The realization made her bite her lip. They had found a stag and a dozen coppers on Polliver, eight silvers on the pimply squire she’d killed, and only a couple of pennies in the Tickler’s purse. But the Hound had told her to pull off his boots and slice open his blood-drenched clothes, and she’d turned up a stag in each toe, and three golden dragons sewn in the lining of his jerkin. Sandor had kept it all, though. That wasn’t fair. It was mine as much as his. If she had given him the gift of mercy . . . she hadn’t, though. She couldn’t go back, no more than she could beg for help. Begging for help never gets you any. She would have to sell Craven, and hope she brought enough.
The stable had been burnt, she learned from a boy by the docks, but the woman who’d owned it was still trading behind the sept. Arya found her easily; a big, robust woman with a good horsey smell to her. She liked Craven at first look, asked Arya how she’d come by her, and grinned at her answer. “She’s a well-bred horse, that’s plain enough, and I don’t doubt she belonged to a knight, sweetling,” she said. “But the knight wasn’t no dead brother o’ yours. I been dealing with the castle there many a year, so I know what gentleborn folk is like. This mare is well-bred, but you’re not.” She poked a finger at Arya’s chest. “Found her or stole her, never mind which, that’s how it was. Only way a scruffy little thing like you comes to ride a palfrey.”
Arya bit her lip. “Does that mean you won’t buy her?”
The woman chuckled. “It means you’ll take what I give you, sweetling. Else we go down to the castle, and maybe you get nothing. Or even hanged, for stealing some good knight’s horse.”
A half-dozen other Saltpans folks were around, going about their business, so Arya knew she couldn’t kill the woman. Instead she had to bite her lip and let herself be cheated. The purse she got was pitifully flat, and when she asked for more for the saddle and bridle and blanket, the woman just laughed at her.
She would never have cheated the Hound, she thought during the long walk back to the docks. The distance seemed to have grown by miles since she’d ridden it.
The purple galley was still there. If the ship had sailed while she was being robbed, that would have been too much to bear. A cask of mead was being rolled up the plank when she arrived. When she tried to follow, a sailor up on deck shouted down at her in a tongue she did not know. “I want to see the captain,” Arya told him. He only shouted louder. But the commotion drew the attention of a stout grey-haired man in a coat of purple wool, and he spoke the Common Tongue. “I am captain here,” he said. “What is your wish? Be quick, child, we have a tide to catch.”
“I want to go north, to the Wall. Here, I can pay.” She gave him the purse. “The Night’s Watch has a castle on the sea.”
“Eastwatch.” The captain spilled out the silver onto his palm and frowned. “Is this all you have?”
It is not enough, Arya knew without being told. She could see it on his face. “I wouldn’t need a cabin or anything,” she said. “I could sleep down in the hold, or . . .”
“Take her on as cabin girl,” said a passing oarsman, a bolt of wool over one shoulder. “She can sleep with me.”
“Mind your tongue,” the captain snapped.
“I could work,” said Arya. “I could scrub the decks. I scrubbed a castle steps once. Or I could row . . .”
“No,” he said, “you couldn’t.” He gave her back her coins. “It would make no difference if you could, child. The north has nothing for us. Ice and war and pirates. We saw a dozen pirate ships making north as we rounded Crackclaw Point, and I have no wish to meet them again. From here we bend our oars for home, and I suggest you do the same.”
I have no home, Arya thought. I have no pack. And now I don’t even have a horse.
The captain was turning away when she said, “What ship is this, my lord?”
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