The boy named Ned is gone now. She’s glad of that. She doesn’t want a boy named Ned around, Ned Dayne, Ned for Ned, Dayne like Ashara who was never to be mentioned again. The boy named Ned is gone now, but his memory lingers on like the memory of empty bones in a casket.
When she removes her hood, they stare at her neck, at the scars on her face. She doesn’t feel them though. They gape like open mouths, screaming in pain, but she does not hear them. She does not notice them. She only notices when she tries to speak, when she must hold her throat closed to make a noise at all.
But she doesn’t speak often. She doesn’t speak, but she remembers–remembers all too clearly.
Harwin stands to her right most days, out of guilt she can only assume. How many times had she watched him run at quintains with Robb in the yard of Winterfell, back when it was still summer, back when her boy had laughed and smiled and muttered in frustration when Harwin’s lance had landed truer than his? Her boy would be as tall as Harwin now. Tall and brave and dead, his heart stopped by steel. Harwin does not speak of Robb, or of Winterfell. He hardly speaks at all, except to tell the men to be quiet, for the Lady speaks. But she doesn’t speak often, so Harwin remains silent.
She made Tom of Sevenstreams stop singing near her. She’d had a girl once who’d loved dearly to sing, and a boy who had been killed by a song and now cannot stomach a melody at all. And though they’d said that his cloak was of lemons, they stopped calling him “Lemoncloak” for “Lemoncloak” sounded too much like “lemon cake” and the sweetness of lemon cakes made her teeth hurt for gritting them.
And then there is the boy–the one who looks like Robert Baratheon, and who had come to find her, to say that he’d been a friend of her daughter. He is a bastard too, like the boy Jon Snow, and, like the boy Jon Snow, a friend to Arya.
Arya whom they had held. Arya whom they had lost.
The boy stays away as well, for the most part, with his sad eyes. She does not want his pity. She wants none of their pity.
They’re all shades of them–the children she lost. She’d wept when Lord Beric had given her life again–for this is not a life she wants, empty without them, painful without them. She’s heard men say all her life that motherhood might make a woman mad. She had denied it once, but now she does not, for she thinks of them, her precious babes, Robb boistrous in her arms, and Arya too, Bran and Sansa gentle and quiet, and Rickon loudest of them all. She remembers Ned, Ned, Ned, not my hair, Ned loves my hair, and the warmth of him at her back while they watched their children playing, and there are none of them left but her, none of them not even the baby.
Just her. Just her and these shades of her children that haunt her step and infest this band of brothers.
And she’s not their brother, she can tell that much. Their Silent Sister, mayhaps, but she was once a sister, and never before had sisterhood felt this way. They obey her. Not as a lady, but as a mother. They do not climb when she tells them not to. Her special boy had fallen even though he had climbed before he could walk and was as much a squirrel as a boy. Unlike Bran, they listen to her when she tells them–do not climb. They hang the nooses from horseback instead.
Once she’d been a Stark and a Tully. Once she’d been Lady Catelyn, beautiful and charming and full of life. But Lady Catelyn is dead and her body lives on. Lady Stoneheart some call her, a Mother Merciless, leading a motherhood without banners.
The brothers of the Kingswood, they were an outlaw band. The forest was their castle, but they roamed across the land. No man’s gold was safe from them, nor any maiden’s hand. Oh, the brothers of the Kingswood, that fearsome outlaw band …