A Clash of Kings-Chapter 50
|A Clash of Kings chapter|
|Page||525 UK HC (Other versions)|
|Chapter chronology (All)|
Theon Greyjoy discovers that Bran and Rickon Stark have gone missing from Winterfell with their direwolves, the wildling woman Osha, Hodor, and the two Reeds, Meera and Jojen. He organizes a hunt to find them, but grows desperate when no trace of Bran and Rickon can be found. When the sun finally goes down, Reek offers Theon a solution to his problem.
Theon suddenly wakes up in Eddard Stark's former bedroom with the girl Kyra sleeping next to him. He tries to calm himself, but as he cannot remember dreaming, he cannot put it down to a bad dream. He gets out of bed, opens the window and looks outside, where all is quiet. He goes back to bed, until he realizes which sound is missing: the direwolves. He sends Urzen, who is guarding at his door, to check up on the animals, who have been locked up in the godswood. Recalling the day the direwolves had torn wildlings in the wolfwood, the idea of the direwolves running around makes him feel queasy. He wakes up Wex Pyke, who is sleeping by the bed, and sends him to check if Bran and Rickon Stark are still in their beds. Wex returns with the news that the two Starks are gone. As Theon finishes dressing, Urzen returns to tell him that the wolves are gone as well.
Theon gives the order to rouse the castle. As the order is being carried out, he wonders whether Stygg has reached Deepwood Motte yet, knowing that his sister Asha might be on her way to Winterfell by now.
The people of Winterfell are gathered in the yard. Theon angrily thinks that he tried to treat them justly, but that they have repaid him with betrayal.
Urzen and Black Lorren show Theon that Squint and Drennan, who had been guarding the Hunter’s Gate, have been killed. He recognizes Squint’s wounds as having been the work of the direwolves. He surmises that Drennan has been killed by "the woman" (Osha), and realizes she must have had help from someone who freed the wolves. He thinks to himself that he should have killed the direwolves the day he took the castle. He decides to search for the wolves at daylight.
In the yard, where Reek informs him that six people are missing: Bran, Rickon, Meera and Jojen Reed, Hodor, and Osha. Learning Dancer is still in the stables, Theon realizes they escaped on foot, and that they would be slowed down by the fact that Bran would be in the basket on Hodor’s back and that Osha would need to carry Rickon.
Theon confronts the people of Winterfell, who do not answer his questions. Reek suggests skinning them, but Theon loudly declares there will be no flaying in the north while he rules Winterfell, hoping some will understand that he is the only thing protecting them from people like Reek.
Theon organizes a hunt for Bran and Rickon, ordering Luwin to accompany them because he does not dare to leave the maester behind in the castle. One of the Frey wards,[N 1] asks to come too, which Theon allows. They leave the castle with eleven men, two boys, and twelve dogs. Reek takes a boar spear and an overstuffed washerwoman's sack with him, but Theon does not inquire as to its contents. The tracks of the drivewolves, Hodor, and the two Reeds are easily found and the dogs find the scent. They venture northwest, into the heart of the wolfswood. Theon considers that they might be fleeing to Deepwood, unaware that Asha will be occupying the castle. He bitterly thinks to himself that he would sooner see them all dead, believing it is better to be seen as cruel than foolish.
Maester Luwin asks Theon to consider being merciful, not only to Bran and Rickon, but also the Reeds, citing their value as a hostage against Lord Howland Reed. Theon agrees to spare them all, including Hodor, if he can, but not Osha, who took an oath and broke it.
They find the remains of a freshly-killed young elk, clearly killed by the direwolves. Theon realizes that the animal has only been eaten off by the wolves, and that Osha has not even cut off a few steaks. He asks Farlen if the dogs could be tracking the wrong wolves, but Farlen denies the possibility.
They continue, but the dogs lose the scent less than an hour later, at a muddy brook swollen by the recent rains. They are unable to determine where the wolves left the stream. Wex alerts them to the fact that there are only pawprints visible, but not the prints of men, meaning the wolves entered the water alone. Theon is horrified at the discovery, realizing that Osha likely send the wolves ahead on their own. He sends Gariss, Murch, Aggar, and four dogs to double back and find where the group must have parted from the wolves, while the others follow the direwolves, as they would not part from Bran and Rickon for long. He takes Wex, the Frey boy, and Gynir Rednose with him upstream. They search on both sides of the stream, but Theon feels forced to give up at midday, when they still have not found a sign of them. They reunite with Farlen's search party, which had traveled downstream, who bare the same bad news. Gariss, Murch, and Aggar, having retraced their steps halfway to Winterfell, have not been able to find any sign of the Starks either.
Theon does not dare to admit defeat and suggests returning to the brook again. The Frey boy believes they are unable to find the Stark children because the Reeds are with them, citing numerous superstitions on "mudmen". All men laugh at the notion, until Luwin cites how the histories say the crannogmen had once been close to the children of the forest, suggesting they may have secret knowledge. Regardless, they return to the steam and search for many a mile.
Wwhen the last daylight fades, they are forced to abandon the search. Reek approaches Theon, suggesting that the Starks have traveled northeast, in the direction of the Umbers. However, Reek states, the children would need to shelter someplace closer by, and he might know where that is, mentioning the old mill on the Acorn Water. Although Theon questions why the Starks would have gone to hide there, with so many other possibilities nearby, Reek insists on the location. He shows Theon the contents of his sack, and when Theon finds the wolf's-head brooch, he realizes what Reek is implying. He orders all but Aggar, Rednose, and Gelmarr to return to Winterfell. Luwin asks him to remember his promise of mercy, but Theon replies that "mercy was for this morning".
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