With all the traveling it seemed I barely had a moments rest. When I did get to sleep it was dreamless, but I wasn't worried. Daenerys had her army to protect her; she would be all right on her own until Edmure's wedding had passed.
Catelyn, Robb and I stood looking at the war map. Robb pushed the symbols for our army across the table to surround the few Lannister symbols stationed at Casterly Rock. "Can you imagine?" I asked quietly.
"If we take Tywinn's home we will show Westeros he isn't invincible," Robb said.
"If we can do that we might draw more men to our side," I added.
"Are you sure about this?" Catelyn asked. "It's dangerous."
"You told me not to send Theon to negotiate with his father and he proved you right. The North is in shambles. Bran and Rickon are gone. I am asking for your advice," he said to her.
"Do we have the army for it?" She asked.
"If the Freys cooperate," I told her.
She nodded and looked at the map intently. "If the Lannisters send more men to Casterly Rock we'll be trapped."
"They won't know we're coming, they'll have no reason to take a chunk of their army away from the war," I told her.
"The two of you will stay in Riverrun," Robb told us.
"We will do no such thing," Catelyn and I said at once.
After a moment of staring at us, waiting for us to see the light in his suggestion, he nodded. "At least we'll plan an escape for you. I'll have Aylward briefed on it as soon as possible."
Catelyn nodded. "Show them what it feels like to lose what they love."
The following morning we arrived at The Twins. We were escorted inside to meet Walder Frey. Our first meeting felt like ages ago, though he still looked as ancient as ever. I wondered if maybe he had fossilized, that would explain his preserved appearance.
"I welcome you all into my home and to my table," Walder said. He introduced some of his daughters and granddaughters to us, there were too many for me to remember but I probably could have said anything that started with Wald and gotten it half right. No one could call them original, but once you're that old you probably stop caring.
"It is my pleasure to meet each of you," Robb said.
Walder's eyes fell on me. "Ah, the new Queen in the North. Come here let me look at you." He motioned me towards him and I took a few steps in his direction. "Certainly prettier than this lot," he mumbled.
"Thank you for having us," I said.
"Thank you for agreeing to my terms," he said. He gave me a nod that I knew meant he had approved of the suggestions I'd given his sons. He stood and I returned to Robb's side. "Now, let's get on with it."
That night it seemed that Joffrey in King's Landing would be able to hear the festivities at The Twins. Outside our soldiers were taking the break between battles to drink and socialize.
The mood inside was more somber. Edmure waited for Walder to walk Rosalin to him. We had yet to catch a glimpse of the bride to be and I could tell Edmure was more than nervous about it. The girl reached the steps and knelt before him, finally her head was uncovered. Without even seeing her face I could tell she must be pretty, as Edmure's eyes widened in surprise and he smiled.
Edmure helped her to her feet. "You may now cloak the bride and bring her under your protection," the priest said. It was a wedding in the style of the Seven, something I had never seen before. It was odd that my ancestors had followed this religion yet I knew so little about it.
After the ceremony came our festivities. The main hall was decorated and the balconies were full of musicians playing happy music made for dancing, some that had more to drink than I were dancing about slightly off beat. I wandered over to Catelyn and Brynden's table. "And to think Edmure almost threw a fit about the whole ordeal," I said.
"You did well," Brynden said. I curtsied jokingly. A servant came to their tables with refills for the wine and Roose Bolton waved her away.
"You don't drink?" Catelyn asked.
"Never, it dulls the senses," he answered.
I opened my mouth to say that I was sure I'd seen him drinking with him men in the past but then thought better of it. "I don't drink much either," I said instead. Brynden excused himself and I went back to my table.
"You've left my mother all alone with Roose Bolton," Robb observed.
"Oh, I'm sure she can handle herself just fine," I told him.
Lord Frey stood up before I could say anything else and got the rooms attention. "Your grace, I think the time has come for the bedding."
"If you think the time is right then a bedding there shall be," Robb called. Rosalin and Edmure were carried out of the hall and most of the party followed after them.
"I've never cared for that tradition, its barbaric," I said. "Everyone knows the purpose of marriage, they'll get around to it sooner or later."
"My queen, never one to follow what everyone else is doing," he said.
"Never! How can one be original without following her own path?"
"Sorry to interrupt you," Aylward said stepping very close to us. "One of Lord Frey's sons has just locked the main doors to the hall."
"Why would he do that?" I asked. The band, which had since stopped playing, resumed, this time with a song I was all too familiar with. "Rains of Castamere," I mumbled.
"Is there another way out?" Robb asked Aylward. Robb held both my hands very tightly.
He nodded. "I inspected the hall while everyone was at the ceremony."
"Get Amina away from here, don't look back," Robb told him. He turned to me. "Promise me you won't return here."
"Come with me," I begged.
"It will be easier to slip you out undetected," he said. He kissed me softly. "I know you loved Jon. Go to the wall; promise me you'll find him. He's heir to the North now."
"You're talking like you're already dead."
"Amina, go, before it's too late," Robb urged me. Aylward led me to the side of the room.
"Talk to me, like you would normally," Aylward prompted.
"Aylward, what's going on?" I asked. He shook his head. We went around the head table, Walder's wife looked at us but she looked too scared to say anything. He opened a door and pushed me out in front of him. We were in the kitchens, which were eerily quiet. We weaved through the room to an outside door on the other side. He grabbed a cape from behind a crate. "You planned this escape," I realized.
"Hurry, Amina." I pulled the cape over my dress. He smeared dirt on my cheeks to make me blend in with the scullery maids that seemed to have a perpetual haze of dust on their faces. As soon as we were both changed we walked out into the open. In the chaos we were able to walk across the bridge without anyone noticing us.
Aylward's horse and Myst were waiting for us not far away. It was as if I had lost all the fight in me, I didn't care what happened anymore. Aylward lifted me onto his horse in front of him and pulled Myst's reins so she would follow behind.
We didn't stop riding until daybreak, and even then we kept going until it seemed the horse was about to give out under us. "Amina, are you alright?" Aylward asked.
"They're dead aren't they?" I asked. "Robb, Catelyn, our army, everyone." He shuffled hesitant. "Tell me!"
"Did you know this was going to happen?" I asked. "Did Robb know?"
"We planned for the worst. It was supposed to be a drill for me, so I'd be prepared for the storming of Casterly Rock."
"Casterly Rock," I mumbled. "What dreamers we were. Gods we were so stupid, the Lannisters were a part of this no doubt."
"There must have been a spy," Aylward said.
"Roose," I said. "Who else would it be? That whole family is rotten."
"Before we left Robb said to-"
"He said he knew I loved Jon," I said. "I love– loved Robb too. I didn't even get to tell him that." I stood up quickly, almost loosing my balance and falling back down. "Take me back, you have to take me back."
"They'll kill you."
"I have to see what happened, I have to see them."
"Amina, I can't do that."
"He's my husband, I deserve to burry his body!" I screamed over him. My voice cracked and suddenly I was engulfed in a river of tears. "He's dead."
Aylward pulled me into his chest and let me cry on him. "Shh, shh."
"The horses are rested, we should move," Aylward said.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"That's up to you. If you want to go to the wall we'll have to circle around to continue north, I wasn't paying much attention to direction last night."
"I want to see Jon, but I'm not sure if I can right now. I need time to myself first."
"So not north then."
"We'll go south, to Kings Landing. We can look for Sansa. I've got the advantage, only a few people there have seen me. Margaery's wedding is coming up, I can pass as one of her cousins from Highgarden."
"This is a bad idea, Amina. You're putting yourself right in the lion's den."
"We'll leave at the first sign of trouble. Even if we can't help Sansa escape now, knowing she's alright will make me feel better."
"Fine, then south it is."
One Week Later
"Are you sure you want to do this, my lady?" Aylward asked me for what seemed like the hundredth time. "There's still time to change your mind."
"And go where? Dorne? We're come too far to go North now and I can't cross the Narrow Sea without tying things up on this continent."
"You could, you sister would be happy to see you. Have you spoken to her since…" he trailed off.
"No, I haven't," I informed him. "You do not need to skirt around the subject, Alyward. What's passed is past."
"Why is it I don't believe you've put it behind you that quickly, Amina?"
"I will never forget but I have no choice but to move forward. If I look back, I am lost."
"You're sounding more and more like Daenerys each day."
"Am I? We have much in common, I suppose."
"Yes, I suppose you do."
"We're wasting time, we should go into the city. There are only a few weeks until the wedding and I'm here to help my cousin prepare."
"As I've told your comrades, I'm Desmera Redwyne, Lady Margaery's dear cousin," I explained to yet another imbecile guard.
"And who's he?" The man asked, pointing at Aylward.
"My personal sword," I said tersely. "If any of you paid half a mind to politics or gods forbid took a look at the guest list, you would know I am one of my cousin's requested handmaids for her wedding preparations. I'm sure you know how testy Margaery can be, she would greatly appreciate it if you would take me to her chamber immediately."
He sighed and motioned for Aylward and me to follow him down the hall, where we ran right into Margaery. She stopped in her tracks and looked me over. "Mina!"
"Thought you said your name was Desmera," the guard mumbled.
"A nickname, because I look so much like my mother," I told him. I turned my attention back to my friend, "Dear cousin, I haven't seen you in ages, we should retire to your chambers and catch up."
She all but pulled my arm out of socket as she led me into her room, Aylward trailing behind us. Margaery slammed the door in the guards face. "Amina!" She squealed, hugging me tightly and burying her face in my hair. After a moment she pulled back but still held onto my arms with a fierce grip, as if she thought I would evaporate at any moment.
"Shh, the castle walls have ears," I told her, before she could shout my name again.
"I heard what happened, Mina, I'm so sorry." She hugged me again.
"What's passed is past," echoing my previous words to Aylward.
She took a good look at my face, clearly not believing me anymore that Aylward had. "I never received word about you, I thought– I assumed you'd been murdered as well," she said. "But you're alive! Do they know?"
"I'm not sure," I said.
"Roose would have noticed you absence during the attack," Aylward inserted. "He may not have released that information to the Lannisters but he knows, my lady."
"There you have it, someone knows," I told Margaery.
"Then why are you here? You had business in the savage country, did you not? Why haven't you escaped?"
"The best place to hide is in plain sight," I explained. "I do hope the real Desmera Redwyne will not be in attendance at your wedding."
"Her mother told her she was too young to make the journey. The rest of my family doesn't pay much attention to cousins so you should be safe from them. Oh, Loras will love to see you as well, both of you!" I had almost forgotten that Aylward was formerly one of Renly's kingsguard. "And you'll get to meet my grandmother, she will adore you."
"How many people in court know your identity?" Aylward asked me, worriedly.
"Margaery and Loras, Sansa…Maybe Tyrion Lannister, he'd be the one to pay attention, I'll be sure to avoid him and his sister if I can."
"Brienne is at court as well," Margaery added. "Along with Jaime Lannister."
I groaned. "More than I anticipated."
"You're safe from my family and Brienne, I'm sure. The Lannisters will be the only problem."
"We'll just have to make sure your paths never cross," Aylward concluded.
"I'm so glad to see you again, Mina." She paused. "Or should I say, Mera?"