A Time of Fracture



Her lesson with Syrio would be soon. That was all Arya really cared about at this moment. She didn't care that the king died. She didn't care about Stannis, or the new religion he brought with him. She didn't care about the scandal of Cersei's arrest, or of the tensions between the houses of Lannister and Baratheon. All she cared about was her 'needlework'. It made her happier than anything else at King's Landing. If it weren't for her lessons, she'd want to go home, but she enjoyed the lessons too much. They were hard, and frustrating, and she would hurt afterwards, but it was all worth it to her.

Arya was currently balancing on the top step, as she often did in her free time. With her dad no longer the Hand of the King, she had assumed that they'd have more time together, but Stannis took the title of king far more seriously than his brother, and worked his small council even more than that. Arya still wasn't sure what her father's role even was anymore, but he had even less free time to spend with her, or Sansa.

Arya once again stood with both feet on the floor. She hadn't checked how Sansa was feeling since the King had died. Most of the time, Arya hated her sister. But she also loved her too. They were family.

The scruffy little girl hurried through the corridors, past all the prim castle dwellers who would turn their noses up at the boyish little northerner getting under their feet. Eventually, she came across Sansa's room, and was about to knock on the door, when she heard voices. One belonging to Sansa, the other Joffrey's.

"My dad's dead! How do you think I feel, you stupid girl!"

"Please, Joffrey. I was only trying to-"

"You stop me, Sansa! I'm going to march down to the dungeons right now and stick my sword through my mother's heart!"

Some more shouts of protest from Sansa came from the room before Arya could hear heavy footsteps, and the door was thrown open. Joffrey didn't even look where he was going, and walked straight into Arya. His eyes sparked with wrath and before Arya could make any retort of her own, Joffrey's palm connected with the left side of her face.

"Get out of my way, you damned bitch!"

"Make me, bastard!"

Ayra was vexed from her stinging cheek, her sister's upset voice, and her hatred of Joffrey in general, but she did not mean to insult Joffrey like she did. She had just meant to use a strong word to match his use of 'bitch'. 'Bastard' was a very poor word to have used, and she immediately regretted it. Even she would not have hit that low.

Joffrey took it even worse than expected, and drew his sword. Ayra, from a mere glance at his face, knew that he meant to kill her right now. She drew her own sword. The two stood at an impasse, both suddenly terrified of the prospect of mortal combat, but both too proud to back down. Sansa has a million objections on her tongue, but she was too stunned to speak any of them, and just stood aside, desperately holding back tears.

Arya heard Syrio Forel's voice in her head, comforting her at this very tense, fearful time.

"What do we say to death?"

"Not today," Arya muttered under her breath, and thrust. Joffrey was ready for it. His father always used to start with a thrust. Joffrey's large, twin-edged Heart Eater threatened to snap Needle in two as it parried the smaller blade, but despite the difference in the size of their weapons, Arya's held steady enough to withstand Joffrey's parry, and then, her instinct kicked in. The muscle memory worked up by all her lessons with Syrio moved on their own, Arya swung needle away from Joffrey, twisted it under her hand, and brought it back up.

But Joffrey was not Syrio. He did not block it. The sword pierced the center of his chest as Sansa screamed. Arya felt sick. She had hated Joffrey, and many a time since he caused the death of Mycah she had fantasized about killing him herself, but this…

This was nothing like she imagined. She felt sick. She wanted to cry, or turn back time, but more than anything, she wanted to run away.

She looked back at her sister's face. It was not just mortified and upset, not just heartbroken, but it was fearful. It was fearful of Arya. This was all that Arya could take. Without even attempting to remove Needle from Joffrey's chest, she ran. She turned and ran straight down the corridor. The entire fight and flight lasted less than four seconds.

Arya stopped when she couldn't run anymore, and looked around her. She was still in the castle, but now, she was totally lost. She crumpled in a heap, and sobbed. She never sobbed. She hadn't known herself to sob, ever, but now she couldn't help herself. At the end of the day, even with her father's guidance, Jon as a brother, or Syrio's teachings, she was still nothing more than a little girl.

A strong gloved hand grabbed her shoulder, making her jump with a start and turn to the man who had snuck up on her. She recognized that burnt face anywhere. It was the Hound. Joffrey's dog. If she was frightened before, she was truly scared now. The gruff man spoke.

"Stop crying, girl, and just run. Run until you see the stairs, and leave the city, and then keep running.

Arya had to make sure she wasn't hearing things. Why was this man sparing her?

"Why? Why are you letting me go?"

"Because you did the right thing. Now run!"

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