I speak their names even in sleep, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Queen Cersei, Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling…
I would speak more names, but my belly is so empty it hurts. I don’t remember when last I ate, but if I don’t get food soon I’ll go mad. But still I hesitate to open my eyes. There’s a tingle at the base of my skull, and I’ve come to know it as a signal that suvudu magic is in play. When I wake up, the suvudu — be it witch, god or sorcerer — will have magically transported me to some odd new land where someone will try to kill me.
I sense something move nearby. It runs straight at me and I reach for my sword Needle, sheathed at my hip. Before I can draw the weapon, I sense the truth of my visitor. I sit up and spread my arms wide. My beautiful dire wolf — my long lost Nymeria — leaps into my arms and we both tumble back to the soft forest floor, me giggling, her whining for joy. “I’ve missed you so, Girl.”
I breathe deep of her musk, beast and ferocity and freedom. Her stomach growls and it reverberates through my body like an earthquake. She’s even hungrier than I am. Whomever it is I’m to kill will have to wait until our bellies are full. Nymeria agrees. She licks my face and bounds off into the brush to hunt. I call after her, but she ignores me. Willful that one.
I climb to my feet and chase after her, praying to the old gods and new to send me home or at least grant me vengeance. I will learn what the suvudu is; I will learn why it’s interfering in my life, forcing me to fight, and then I will kill it. “Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Queen Cersei, Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling,the Suvudu.”
Up ahead of me, Nymeria sprints into a clearing and I sense her excitement. She has found prey. I catch a flash of what she sees in my mind’s eye but I’m skeptical. These beings walk on two legs like men, and though they are small and covered with fur, they wear bits of shiny white amour and helmets. But then I smell them as Nymeria smells them. It happens like that sometimes with Nymeria and I. We share thoughts and memories and such. When I catch scent of the furry little beasts, I stumble and barely catch myself from a nasty fall.
They smell delicious.
My stomach roars and drool seeps down my chin as I push my tiring legs to catch up to Nymeria. In my minds eye, I watch the dire wolf leap at one of the creatures, part of me thinks they are cute little things. They remind me of the straw dolls Old Nan used to make for Sansa. But the human part of me grows smaller with every heartbeat. In moments it shrinks to almost nothing, as does the wolf in Nymeria. There is no Arya and no Nymeria. There is only Hunger. And it is maddening.
Hunger feels no sympathy when we rip the throat from one of the females. Our food attacks, hurling rocks, and wooden spears and stone-headed weapons. But they are small and weak and their most powerful attack does little more than scratch our thick hide. We tear through them, and though their armor is sometimes effective in turning back our teeth and claws, their helmets, cuirasses, and gauntlets are so big and ill-fitting, we strip them of these things easily, like unwrapping sweets. Their tiny limbs fly willy nilly and once again the small part of me that was Arya laughs, remembering how she had torn the heads and arms off Sansa’s prettiest and most favorite dolls. The flesh of these creatures is sweet and tender. Their blood, as hot and spicy as mulled wine sprays through the air and we drink until we grow dizzy. We gorge until we swoon, until…
Until we sense danger.
Before we see the newcomer entering the clearing, we smell the sour stink of her humanity, and the Arya part of us comes again awake, recognizing immediately that this woman has been sent by the suvudu to kill us. She wears the white flowing dress of a priestess or witch, and is bathed in a strange light, some kind of magical force, and it shifts colors from green to blue to purple to orange. It terrifies us. The furry creatures are nothing more than a tasty distraction. She is the true threat, perhaps the greatest threat in the whole forrest. We leap at her. We can hear her heart pounding, smell the blood as it pumps through her veins…
And then pain.
Green fire explodes from the woman’s hands and blasts into us, ripping us in two. We scream.
The part of us that is Arya opens her eyes and watches our heavy Nymeria body crash into this woman in white, knocking them both into a sprawl that ends with the sorcerous buried beneath us. The part of us that is Nymeria is knocked from our mind, leaving room only for Arya, only for me. Nymaria is gone now, dead. I pray to the old gods that her dire wolf’s bulk will crush the white sorceress to death. I curse the suvudu for taking Nymeria from me again, and I curse the Stranger for his collusion in this wickedness.
I lay on the ground at the edge of the clearing, like I have been asleep. This is where my body fell when I joined my mind to Nymeria’s. My thoughts are jumbled and muddy as I stagger to my feet.
The white sorceress frees part of her face from beneath Nymeria’s corpse, but the rest of her remains trapped. “Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?”
Walking carpet. I nearly go blind with rage over her callous disrespect. I almost go for my sword, thinking to show her its pointy end before she can free her hands and throw more magic fire. I believe I could get to her quickly but she’s protected by the tasty little furry creatures. By the time I killed the two or three standing between us, she might free her hands and destroy me.
So I quake with anger and watch helplessly as they throw off Nymeria’s body like garbage and the white sorcerous stands. Her white robed dress is filthy with wolf’s blood. My wolf’s blood. She carries herself like a queen. No. I’ve seen queens. Cersei Lannister preens. This woman moves with authority. Her tone of voice says her authority has been earned. “Aren’t you a little tall for an ewok?”
“Huh?” I say. “What’s an ewok?”
“They are.” She indicates the delicious little furry creatures, and then looks me over. She’s good at hiding her suspicion, but I can smell it on her. She says, “Are you okay?”
She says it like it matters, like she doesn’t know we are here to kill one another. I put on my sweetest most innocent puppy-eye face and fish for the iron coin in my pocket. “I’m frightened, my lady.”
“Don’t be,” she says. “I’m Princess Leia Organa. I’m with the resistance.”
I’ve seen princesses. They are frilly and sweet-smelling and as useless as the seven hells. This woman is none of that. I don’t know what the resistance is, and I don’t really care. I drop to my knees with the coin in my hands and pretend to pray, whispering so she cannot hear me. “Ser Gregor, Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Queen Cersei, the suvudu, Princess Leia Organa…”
“What are you doing, kid?” Leia says. “Praying? Save your prayers and answer my question. Who are you?”
“I’m no one, my lady,” Just a poor peasant girl.”
Leia points her odd looking metallic wand at my head like it’s a weapon. “Peasant girls say “m’lady”, not “my lady. You’re a liar, kid.”
“All men lie when they are afraid,” I say. “Some tell many lies, some but a few. Some have only one great lie they tell so often that they almost come to believe it…”
“Save your primitive soothsaying bantha-crap,” Leia says, “I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you’ll do as I tell you, okay?”
I’m not quite sure what she means, but the ewoks find it funny. They all giggle and begin muttering among themselves in their primitive tongue. They’ve lost interest in me. Like I’m nothing. Like I don’t matter. “I’m Arya Stark of Winerfell! And I…”
“You’re a snot-nosed little kid,” Leia says. “And you’re too young to be part of this suvudu nightmare…”
“What do you know about the suvudu?” I say.
“Next to nothing. But I do know if we’re going to get out of here alive, you have to listen to me.”
I shake my head. “There is no getting out alive. Not for both of us…”
“Quiet, wolf-girl,” she says, though her eyes are on the queer metal gauntlet on her wrist. It’s covered with little symbols, like letters or numbers, and when she touches them in different sequences, the gauntlet flashes with colored lights and makes sounds. She holds it up to her mouth and speaks into it, “Han, do you read? Han? Luke? Lando? Do you read? This is Leia. I repeat, this is Leia. Do you read?”
“What are you doing?” I say.
“Trying to contact my friends. My brother is a Jedi Knight.”
“My brother is a king,” I say, easing closer. “King in the North.”
She looks at me like I’m stupid and goes back to fiddling with the lights on her gauntlet. That’s when I realize her weakness, hers, the ewoks, and everyone I’ve killed so far. When grownups look at me, they don’t see a wolf of Winterfell. They see a little girl, a harmless pup. But this pup has teeth. Well, a tooth anyway. With one hand, I hold up the Iron coin so that Leia can get a good look at it.
“What’s that?” she says.
“It’s very valuable.”
“Only if it can get us off this rock,” she says.
“It may be able to do that. Have a look.”
I say a quick prayer to the Warrior, and when she reaches for the coin, I drop it.”Oops. Sorry.”
She rolls her eyes at me and reaches over to grab the coin. I can’t believe how many times people fall for this trick. I grab her by the hair and stab her in the throat. The ewoks break into action, but they’re already too late. I stab again and again and again, but even as their tiny little ewok paws grab me and pull me off Leia, I see there’s no blood. My sword never even pierced her flesh. Damn it! She’s wearing armor…
Magic green fire explodes from Leia’s wand, temporarily blinding me as it slams into my chest. After a moment, I open my eyes and realize I’m on my back, laying on the ground. I can’t feel my legs and my belly is on fire. I clutch it with both hands, but blood and smoke ooze out between my fingers.
“I prayed.” It’s all I can think of to say as I feel around me for my sword. “The Warrior… The Warrior…”
My wet fingers touch the hilt of my sword, but before I can attack, Leia kicks it away.
“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” She whips off her cloak revealing the white breast plate beneath. She tears the cloak into strips and kneels down next to me to bind my wounds.
Everything is agony and I scream blood bubbles when she touches me near the wound. I grab at her, but my hands slide off the white chest plate, smearing it with crimson fingerprints. It’s lighter than any metal I’ve ever seen, even Valyrian steel. I cough up more blood, but manage to ask “What? What is this?”
The princess’ hands are as steady as stone as she dresses my wound, but I can see in her eyes she doesn’t expect me to survive. “Just some old stormtrooper armor,” she says. “Your little sword there may be only weapon in the universe that CAN’T pierce it.”
Everything goes dim. I know I’m dying. “Hold my hand, please.”
The princess takes both my hands in hers. She’s so warm. Even her voice is soothing. “I’m sorry.”
I try to give her words of forgiveness. I sense the kindness in her. This was nothing personal. Kill or be killed. But I can no longer make words. A tear spills from her eye and splashes across my cheek. She whispers, “May the force be with you.” I
“Come, child,” my father’s voice comes from a pinprick of light shining out the infinite darkness surrounding me. I run toward the light. Arms composed of my father’s spirit, strong and loving, embrace me. His voice whispers in my ear.
“Winter has come.”
*Originally published on the SUVUDU web site, 2014