Mya was falling, tumbling down a hole with no hope of a soft landing. Across the crowded dance hall Lysa Arryn and Petyr Baelish stood talking with a stunned-looking Catelyn. They’d clearly been travelling; Lysa still wore a stylish sky-blue coat over her dress, and Petyr still had his duster on. Lysa’s boy Robin was with them too - a petulant, spoiled thing that Mya had never been able to stand. He always told me I smelled of mules and suckled at his mother’s teat before his tutor would come for his lessons.
And now they were here, here, in the same room, unknowingly ready to swing a hammer at the fragile foundation of her new life. Mya’s legs felt hollow. They wouldn’t support her weight for more than another minute. She began to feel light-headed, as if she might actually faint right there in front of the entire town. Distantly, she became aware that Robb was still at her elbow, easing her into a chair. His brow was furrowed. Mya gaped at him, still trying to form words. “Lysa Arryn is your aunt?”
“Well...yeah,” he replied. “Do you know her? I haven’t seen her for years. Didn’t know Ma’d invited her.”
Think before you say anything. Mya seemed incapable of even that. All she could think about was that initial jolt of recognition on that rainy night, so many months ago. Robb had the same bold russet hair as Lysa, the same blue eyes. She’d never connected the two; why would she? What was she supposed to say now?
“I…” Before she could continue, or even shut her mouth, Sansa pointed across the room directly at them. Her eyes locked on Lysa and Petyr. For a long moment they just stared at each other. Mya was dimly aware of Theon kneeling at her side now, asking her something, but all she heard was a high-pitched whine. Lysa and Petyr were crossing to her now, seeming larger than anything else in the room. Everything else seemed to fade until they stood before her.
“Mya Stone.” It was Petyr who spoke first, Petyr with his oily smile and oilier voice. It filled Mya’s ears, coating the back of her throat with fear. “What on Earth are you doing here?”
“You must be mistaken.” Ever cordial, Robb extended his hand to Petyr. “This here’s Alice Longmire. I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Lysa’s nep-”
“Is that what she told you?” Lysa broke in, looking from Robb to Theon as he took Mya’s hand.
Theon stood slowly, his hand moving to her shoulder. His fingers were tight, suspicion and mistrust rolling off him in waves. Mya prayed for the ground to just open and swallow her now before Theon found out. Ned and Catelyn lingered behind Petyr and Lysa, confusion and growing suspicion on their faces. It’s over. It’s all over.
“Yeah, that’s what she told us.” Theon’s voice turned quietly tense. People had stopped dancing and were now staring at them, whispering. “There a problem with that?”
“Well, it’s a flat-out lie, for one,” Lysa replied airily. “Her name’s Mya Stone, sure as the ground under my feet. She’s one of Petyr’s and my girls.”
“Lysa,” Catelyn put a hand on her sister’s arm, her voice low. “You’ve got to be mistaken. Alice is one of our farmhands-”
“No she isn’t!” Lysa’s voice rose shrilly. She jerked her arm away from Catelyn and faced her. Mya’s stomach fell. Lysa’s temper had always been uneven and mercurial. “She’s one of our whores! We’ve been looking for her since the spring. She robbed one of our customer and stole his horse. Where’s your Sherriff? We want her arrested!”
Ned stepped forward, troubled. “There’s got to be some kind of mistake.” He looked down at Mya. He seemed so tall. Theon’s eyes turned to her, then Robb’s, and then everyone was staringat her and she couldn’t breathe. “Alice?”
“I…” Mya tried to draw a breath but it stuck in her throat. She looked up at Theon and saw the exact moment he understood. His eyes hardened in anger, turning dark and cold. She reached for his hand, but he jerked it away. “I’m so sorry. I never meant…”
Robb’s eyes widened, and Lysa gave a triumphant laugh. A new figure was pushing through the crowd: the Sheriff. He was someone Mya had only seen at a distance. Some Umber from further North, Theon had told her once. He was called Smalljon to separate him from his father, the Greatjon, and was married to some distant relative of Robb, a girl named Alys. He seemed big as a bear, and just as hairy. Most of his ruddy face was covered by a beard. His eyes were piercing, and Mya knew at once they missed nothing. His Sheriff’s badge gleamed on his chest, and his hand rested on his revolver butt. “We got a problem here, folks?”
“Not anymore, Sheriff.” Lysa rested a hand on her son’s head. “We’d like this girl taken into custody, if you could be so good.”
“Slow down, Lysa,” Ned answered before the Sheriff could. “Let’s all go somewhere more private and just talk this over, alright?”
“That’s a fine idea,” Petyr replied. He placed a hand on the small of Lysa’s back. “I’m sure everyone has questions.”
Sherrif Umber offered the use of the jail. Lysa was intent on bringing her boy, hesitant to leave him out of her sight, but after several long minutes Petyr convinced her he didn’t need to hear about Mya’s crimes. Catelyn, Robin, and Robb stayed behind at the dance hall, while Ned, Lysa, Petyr, Mya, and Theon followed the Sheriff.
It was a long, silent walk out. Mya’s eyes burned with unshed tears. She kept them on the floor ahead of her, willing her feet to keep moving. She’d never been so humiliated in her entire life. Theon walked tall next to her, his jaw clenched so hard she could see the muscle bunch. She glanced up at him from time to time, but his gaze was resolutely forward. He kept a hand clenched around her upper arm, as if keeping her from running. How was she going to explain this to him?
The jail occupied the first floor of a two-story building in the middle of town, with four or five empty cells lining the far back wall. The cells were empty right now, holding nothing more than flat wooden slabs for beds with thin blankets folded over the ends. There were no windows, no creature comforts. The sight of them made Mya balk until Theon pushed her forward. The Sheriff motioned to a long, rectangular table in the middle of the room, and everyone sat.
“Now.” Sheriff Umber folded his hands on the table. His voice was gruff, but his demeanor was surprisingly calm. “Let’s start from the beginning.”
Petyr cleared his throat. “Ms. Arryn and I run a lucrative saloon and boarding house in the Eyrie. Miss Stone came into our...service about six years ago. She proved to be a quick learner. We had very few problems with her up until this past spring.”
“What sort of work did you have her do? Six years ago, she must’ve still been a child,” the Sheriff said.
“She was old enough,” Petyr said. Mya’s skin burned with humiliation. “We had her do whatever our customers required of her.”
There was a long pause while Petyr’s words sunk in. “What happened then?” Ned asked.
“One morning, about seven or eight months ago, a regular customer, Bryndyn Hill, came to us and informed Ms. Arryn and I that Mya had stolen several items from him while she was spending time with him the previous evening.” Mya’s eyes stung with shame. Tears began to roll down her cheeks as Petyr went on. “When we went to question her, we found she had fled in the night. We immediately sent out search parties and posses, but they were unable to locate her. We wouldn’t have had this stroke of luck, but Ms. Arryn’s niece, Sansa, wrote us in the spring and invited us to Robb’s wedding. It was supposed to be a surprise for Catelyn. She hasn’t seen her sister in some years, and Sansa thought it would be nice.”
“What was stolen?” The Sheriff asked.
“Several items of clothing, a hunting knife, a significant amount of money…” Lysa ticked off the items on her fingers. “Also an antique pocket-watch, and a horse that Mr. Hill had had raised since its birth. He was very attached to it.”
Mya’s head jerked up. Across the table, Theon snorted quietly and Mya knew he was remembering the state of Fatty when she’d arrived. “I never stole a pocket watch, or money!”
“But you admit to rest, then?” Ned asked quietly.
Mya looked to Theon again. He was sitting in the chair across from her, one ankle balanced on the opposite knee. His face was stone, staring at the empty table. It made a lump rise in her throat as she nodded jerkily. “I had to. I had to get out. But the horse and the clothes - that was all. I never took anything from you and Mrs. Stark, never.”
Lysa snorted. “The girl’s a proven liar.”
Sheriff Umber closed his eyes briefly, then leaned forward, resting his arms on the table before addressing Petyr. “What sort of debt does she owe you?”
“Lysa and I paid for some medical care for her four years ago.” Petyr replied. Mya’s stomach clenched painfully. Her hands were fisted in her full skirts, her nails digging crescent moons into her palms. “She had a baby and required the town’s doctor.”
“A baby?” Ned sounded slightly incredulous. “Alice...Mya, how old were you?”
“Fourteen,” she whispered. She hazarded another look at Theon. He glanced at her, then back at the surface of the table while he traced the wood grain. “I was fourteen.”
“Fourteen...gods above.” Ned swore softly. “That’s younger than Sansa.” He shook his head as if trying to clear it. “Where is the child now?”
“Dead.” Saying the word was like plunging a knife into her own chest. “Stillborn.”
There was a long moment of silence at the table. Tears streamed down Mya’s cheeks, dripping onto her skirt. She didn’t care. She was about to lose everything, possibly even her life, so what did a few tears matter?
Finally the Sheriff cleared his throat. “If you’re admitting to the theft, there ain’t much I can do.”
“It wasn’t theft,” Mya said dully. Her voice was quiet, but the room was silent. “I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t…” Her voice cracked and failed. She shook her head miserably. “I couldn’t.”
For a long while the only sounds in the room were Mya’s stifled sobs. Finally, Ned cleared his throat. “Catelyn and I will reimburse Mr. Hill for his lost goods. The horse is old, isn’t it, Theon.”
Theon grunted. “Too old to survive another trip that long. He’s better off up here.”
“Alright. We’ll pay for the horse, and that’ll be that.”
“Mr. Hill has already been repaid.” Petyr said. “I reimbursed him from the saloon’s own purse, so Miss Stone’s debt is to the saloon.”
“Fine,” Ned sounded weary and irritated now. “I’ll reimburse the saloon, then.”
“I don’t think so.” Petyr replied and Mya went cold. She raised her eyes and saw he was smiling at her. It didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m afraid this debt is Miss Stone’s to pay, and she will pay it.” He straightened in his chair, covering Lysa’s hand with his own. “Sheriff, I think you’ll find that since these crimes were committed, by Miss Stone’s own admission, in the Vale, you have no jurisdiction or authority here. With your leave, Ms. Arryn and I will accompany Miss Stone back to the Eyrie where she’ll face the consequences of her crimes.”
“No,” Mya blurted out. She looked from the Sheriff to Ned to Theon. “Please, you can’t let them take me back there, you can’t. I’ll do anything!”
“I’m sorry,” the Sheriff said. “Mr. Baelish is right - I have no jurisdiction here. And you have admitted to what you did. Your best chance now is to get a good lawyer back in the Eyrie.”
“A good lawyer?” Mya didn’t remember standing. She could barely speak through her tears. Her entire body was shaking, and she leaned heavily on the table for support. “What good is a lawyer going to do me? I can’t pay and either way, I’m going to hang once they get me back there!”
“Not necessarily,” Lysa said flippantly. “If you can prove what you did was right, you’ll live. Granted, you’ll still have your debts to us to pay off, but you’ll be alive for it.”
Mya collapsed back into her chair, her shoulders shaking with the force of her sobs. Petyr and the Sheriff were still talking, but their words were a grey drone in her ears. Just yesterday, hells, just this morning, everything had been perfect. She’d had a future. She’d had Theon. And now, it was nothing. It was gone, dust. She was aware of footsteps shuffling towards the door, and the Sheriff’s large, rough hands gently pulled her to her feet. Petyr, Lysa, and Ned were gone. Theon remained, looking somewhat stricken. Their gazes met. For a split second the anger fell from his face, revealing a deep, betrayed hurt that made Mya’s tears start all over again. Before she could open her mouth, before she could try and beg his forgiveness, he tore his eyes away from hers.
“You’ll stay here tonight. Mr. Baelish and Ms. Arryn have agreed to leave tomorrow. You’ll go with them.”
Mya looked up at him. “I can’t. Please, there has to be some other way. I can’t.”
Sheriff Umber’s face was troubled. He pressed his lips together, looking away, and for a brief, bright moment Mya thought he’d look the other way. When he looked back down at her, there was nothing but pity on his face.
“I’m afraid there isn’t. You’ll stay here tonight.”
Numb now, Mya let the Sheriff lead her to one of the cells and slide the door shut. The lock clanged loudly. She had to cover her mouth to hold her cries in. The tall man looked from her to Theon, fingering his ring of keys.
“You’ve got five minutes.” The Sheriff loped out of the jail and shut the door behind him. The room was silent now. She wrapped her fingers around the cold, rough bars.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. Her words were little more than gasps and whispers, she was crying so hard. “You have to forgive me. I was going to tell you.”
Theon slowly crossed the room, his footsteps heavy and his spurs loud. His hands were jammed deep in his pockets, and his face was closed again. He came closer and closer till they were inches apart, the only thing separating them the bars of her cell. His eyes moved over her tear-stained face. Mya’s heart was pounding. She needed to hear his voice, needed words of comfort from him. Without realizing what she was doing she reached through the bars and grabbed his arm.
“Please, Theon. I...I love you.” She hadn’t realized it till she said it but she knew it was true. She’d held affection for men before but never like this. Never anything this deep and pure, this consuming. It was terrifying.
Theon jerked as if she’d burned him and stepped back, a flurry of emotions flashing across his face. His tongue traced a circle around his cheek, and turned towards the door. He stopped with his hand on the knob, not looking back at her.
“I don’t even know you.”