A Feast For Crows

A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin

Book: A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin Read Free Book Online
Authors: George R. R. Martin
swirling clouds of dead leaves across the rutted road. They made a rustling sound as they scuttled past the hooves of the big bay mare that Jaime Lannister had bestowed on her.
As easy to find one leaf in the wind as one girl lost in Westeros.
She found herself wondering whether Jaime had given her this task as some cruel jape. Perhaps Sansa Stark was dead, beheaded for her part in King Joffrey’s death, buried in some unmarked grave. How better to conceal her murder than by sending some big stupid wench from Tarth to find her?
    Jaime would not do that. He was sincere. He gave me the sword, and called it Oathkeeper.
Anyway, it made no matter. She had promised Lady Catelyn that she would bring back her daughters, and no promise was as solemn as one sworn to the dead. The younger girl was long dead, Jaime claimed; the Arya the Lannisters sent north to marry Roose Bolton’s bastard was a fraud. That left only Sansa. Brienne had to find her.
    Near dusk she saw a campfire burning by a brook. Two men sat beside it grilling trout, their arms and armor stacked beneath a tree. One was old and one was somewhat younger, though far from young. The younger rose to greet her. He had a big belly straining at the laces of his spotted doeskin jerkin. A shaggy untrimmed beard covered his cheeks and chin, the color of old gold. “We have trout enough for three, ser,” he called out.
    It was not the first time Brienne had been mistaken for a man. She pulled off her greathelm, letting her hair spill free. It was yellow, the color of dirty straw, and near as brittle. Long and thin, it blew about her shoulders. “I thank you, ser.”
    The hedge knight squinted at her so earnestly that she realized he must be nearsighted. “A lady, is it? Armed and armored? Illy, gods be good, the
size
of her.”
    “I took her for a knight as well,” the older knight said, turning the trout.
    Had Brienne been a man, she would have been called big; for a woman, she was huge.
Freakish
was the word she had heard all her life. She was broad in the shoulder and broader in the hips. Her legs were long, her arms thick. Her chest was more muscle than bosom. Her hands were big, her feet enormous. And she was ugly besides, with a freckled, horsey face and teeth that seemed almost too big for her mouth. She did not need to be reminded of any of that. “Sers,” she said, “have you seen a maid of three-and-ten upon the road? She has blue eyes and auburn hair, and may have been in company with a portly red-faced man of forty years.”
    The nearsighted hedge knight scratched his head. “I recall no such maid. What sort of hair is auburn?”
    “Browny red,” said the older man. “No, we saw her not.”
    “We saw her not, m’lady,” the younger told her. “Come, dismount, the fish is almost done. Are you hungry?”
    She was, as it happened, but she was wary as well. Hedge knights had an unsavory reputation. “A hedge knight and a robber knight are two sides of the same sword,” it was said.
These two do not look too dangerous.
“Might I know your names, sers?”
    “I have the honor to be Ser Creighton Longbough, of whom the singers sing,” said the big-bellied one. “You will have heard of my deeds on the Blackwater, mayhaps. My companion is Ser Illifer the Penniless.”
    If there was a song about Creighton Longbough, it was not one Brienne had heard. Their names meant no more to her than did their arms. Ser Creighton’s green shield showed only a brown chief, and a deep gouge made by some battle-axe. Ser Illifer bore gold and ermine gyronny, though everything about him suggested that painted gold and painted ermine were the only sorts he’d ever known. He was sixty if he was a day, his face pinched and narrow beneath the hood of a patched roughspun mantle. Mail-clad he went, but flecks of rust spotted the iron like freckles. Brienne stood a head taller than either of them, and was better mounted and better armed in the bargain.
If I fear the likes of

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