Chapter Thirteen

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No roads ran through the twisted mountain valleys where they walked now. Between the grey stone peaks lay still blue lakes, long and deep and narrow, and the green gloom of endless piney woods. The russet and gold of autumn leaves grew less common when they left the wolfswood to climb amongst the old flint hills, and vanished by the time those hills had turned to mountains. Giant grey-green sentinels loomed above them now, and spruce and fir and soldier pines in endless profusion. The undergrowth was sparse beneath them, the forest floor carpeted in dark green needles.
When they lost their way, as happened once or twice, they need only wait for a clear cold night when the clouds did not intrude, and look up in the sky for the Ice Dragon. The blue star in the dragon's eye pointed the way north, as Osha told her once. Thinking of Osha made Lyanna wonder where she was. She pictured her safe in White Harbor with Rickon and Shaggydog, eating eels and fish and hot crab pie with fat Lord Manderly. Or maybe they were warming themselves at the Last Hearth before the Greatjon's fires. But Lyanna's life had turned into endless chilly days walking front, up and down the slopes of mountains.

"Up and down," Meera would sigh sometimes as they walked, "then down and up. Then up and down again. I hate these stupid mountains of yours, Prince Bran."

"Yesterday you said you loved them." Bran said who was riding behind Hodor's back.

"Oh, I do. My lord father told me about mountains, but I never saw one till now. I love them more than I can say."
Bran made a face at her as Lyanna looked back over her shoulders. "But you just said you hated them."

"Why can't it be both?" Meera reached up to pinch his nose.

"Because they're different," he insisted. "Like night and day, or ice and fire."

"If ice can burn," said Jojen in his solemn voice, "then love and hate can mate. Mountain or marsh, it makes no matter. The land is one."

"One," his sister agreed, "but over wrinkled."

The high glens seldom did them the courtesy of running north and south, so often they found themselves going long leagues in the wrong direction, and sometimes they were forced to double back the way they'd come. "If we took the kingsroad we could be at the Wall by now," Bran would remind the Reeds. He wanted to find the three-eyed crow, so he could learn to fly. Half a hundred times he said it if he said it once, until Meera started teasing by saying it along with him.

"If we took the kingsroad we wouldn't be so hungry either," he started saying then. Down in the hills they'd had no lack of food. Meera was a fine huntress, and even better at taking fish from streams with her three-pronged frog spear. Bran liked to watch her, admiring her quickness, the way she sent the spear lancing down and pulled it back with a silvery trout wriggling on the end of it. And they had Summer and Visenya hunting for them as well. The direwolves vanished most every night as the sun went down, but they were always back again before dawn, most often with something in their jaws, a squirrel or a hare.

But here in the mountains, the streams were smaller and more icy, and the game scarcer. Meera and Lyanna still hunted and fished when they could, but it was harder, and some nights even Summer and Visenya found no prey. Often they went to sleep with empty bellies.

But Jojen remained stubbornly determined to stay well away from roads. "Where you find roads you find travelers," he said in that way he had, "and travelers have eyes to see, and mouths to spread tales of the crippled boy, his giant, his pretty sister and the wolves that walks beside them." No one could get as stubborn as Jojen, so they struggled on through the wild, and every day climbed a little higher, and moved a little farther north. Lyanna blushed and smiled as she kept walking and lead the way.

Some days it rained, some days were windy, and once they were caught in a sleet storm so fierce that even Hodor bellowed in dismay. On the clear days, it often seemed as if they were the only living things in all the world. "Does no one live up here?" Meera Reed asked once, as they made their way around a granite upthrust as large as Winterfell.

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