brienne is good. she’s very good, and she learns quickly. it’s that, more than anything else, that makes arya glad that she was training with her and not the master at arms. the master at arms was a good man, and had his hands more than full teaching children and girls who’d never held a bow in their lives how to shoot. arya could have swept the floor with him.
but not brienne. brienne’s big, but she’s quick too. that’s what makes her so powerful. and it’s not long at all before she’s started to read arya’s little tricks.
arya’s good–she’s trained hard for years now. the feel of needle in her hand is right. she refuses to use a broadsword when sparring brienne; she trains with it separately, but with brienne she is testing herself, testing them both. needle is a part of her in a way the way other steel never truly will be. jon gave me needle. needle, which had gotten her through anything. she wishes he were here. if i’d come straight here instead of going to the twins…but she hadn’t known…
the flat of brienne’s sword smacks her side and she lets out a cry.
“you’re distracted,” brienne barks. arya crouches and lets out a growl and this time, when brienne swings, she dodges easily. no distractions, she reminds herself. she wasn’t allowed distractions–not ever. it’s why she was good, it’s how she’d survived. never letting herself give in though gods only knew how the world had tried to make her. she steps aside as brienne swipes and snakes needle through the woman’s outstretched arm. brienne pulls away, and arya presses forward. quick as a cat.
oysters clams and cockles! she’d been a girl named cat once–cat for her mother. her mother had once watched her chasing bran through the yard and–
“you’re distracted,” brienne repeats, knocking needle from her hand. the steel spins across the courtyard and brienne’s sword swings for her chest, halting just short of it. “you’re not usually distracted.”
she’s not. it’s true. she looks around the courtyard and her eyes fall on needle. i’m home, she thinks. home, except home’s not quite right. sansa’s the lady of winterfell, and bran doesn’t smile anymore, and jon’s not here. and robb, and rickon, and mother and father… somewhere deep down inside her, that old hole in her heart aches. it’s strange being here without them.
in all the years she’d dreamed of coming home, the years of empty bellies and lies and fear–gods, so much fear–she’d not really imagined what it would be like to be home. and not like this.
she bends down and picks up needle. the sword is the size of a toy in her hand, and much smaller than brienne’s valyrian steel blade. she closes her eyes for a moment and remembers for just a moment the way it was, when father had been alive, when jon had been here…
she opens her eyes and turns back to brienne, sinking back to a guard stance. she’ll fight for that. fight for how it was, fight for how she remembers it, because if she can do that, then it’s not over, not truly. winterfell beats in her heart so long as she lives.