Chapter One

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Lyanna preferred the hard stone of the window seat to the comforts of Bran's featherbed and blankets. Abed, the walls pressed close and the ceiling hung heavy above her; abed, the room was her cell, and Winterfell her prison. Yet outside her window, the wide world still called.

Poor Bran. He could not walk, nor climb nor hunt nor fight with a wooden sword as once he had, but he could still look. He seemed liked to watch the windows begin to glow all over Winterfell as candles and hearth fires were lit behind the diamond-shaped panes of tower and hall, and he loved to listen to the direwolves sing to the stars.

Of late, he said he often dreamed of wolves. They are talking to me, brother to brother, he told Lyanna when the direwolves howled. She could almost understand them . . . not quite, not truly, but almost . . . as if they were singing in a language she had once known and somehow forgotten. The Walders might be scared of them, but the Starks had wolf blood. Old Nan told her so. "Though it is stronger in some than in others," she warned.

Summer's howls were long and sad, full of grief and longing. Even Visenya, Lyanna's grey direwolf. Shaggydog's were more savage.

Their voices echoed through the yards and halls until the castle rang and it seemed as though some great pack of direwolves haunted Winterfell, instead of only three . . . three where there had once been seven. Do they miss their brothers and sisters too? Lyanna wondered. Are they calling to Grey Wind and Ghost, to Nymeria and Lady's Shade? Do they want them to come home and be a pack together?

"Who can know the mind of a wolf?" Ser Rodrik Cassel said when Bran asked him why they howled. Lyanna's lady mother had named her Lady of Winterfell in her mother's absence, and her duties left her little time for idle questions. She made Lyanna promise to take care of Bran and Rickon.

"It's freedom they're calling for," declared Farlen, who was kennelmaster and had no more love for the direwolves than his hounds did. "They don't like being walled up, and who's to blame them? Wild things belong in the wild, not in a castle."

"They want to hunt," agreed Gage the cook as he tossed cubes of suet in a great kettle of stew. "A wolf smells better'n any man. Like as not, they've caught the scent o' prey."

Maester Luwin did not think so. "Wolves often howl at the moon. These are howling at the comet. See how bright it is, Lyanna? Perchance they think it is the moon."

When Lyanna repeated that to Osha, she laughed aloud. "Your wolves have more wit than your maester," the wildling woman said. "They know truths the grey man has forgotten." The way she said it made him shiver, and when she asked what the comet meant, she answered, "Blood and fire, lady, and nothing sweet."

Lyanna asked Septon Chayle about the comet while they were sorting through some scrolls snatched from the library fire. "It is the sword that slays the season," he replied, and soon after the white raven came from Oldtown bringing word of autumn, so doubtless he was right.

Though Old Nan did not think so, and she'd lived longer than any of them. "Dragons," she said, lifting her head and sniffing. She was near blind and could not see the comet, yet she claimed she could smell it. "It be dragons, lady," she insisted.

Hodor said only, "Hodor." That was all he ever said.

And still the direwolves howled. The guards on the walls muttered curses, hounds in the kennels barked furiously, horses kicked at their stalls, the Walders shivered by their fire, and even Maester Luwin complained of sleepless nights. Only Lyanna did not mind. Ser Rodrik had confined the wolves to the godswood after Shaggydog bit Little Walder, but the stones of Winterfell played queer tricks with sound, and sometimes it sounded as if they were in the yard right below Lyanna's window. Other times she would have sworn they were up on the curtain walls, loping round like sentries.

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