Little Walder led the way with torch in hand. Reek followed meekly, with Big Walder just behind him. The dogs in the kennels barked as they went by. Wind swirled through the yard, cutting through the thin cloth of the filthy rags he wore and raising goose prickles on his skin. The night air was cold and damp, but he saw no sign of snow, though surely winter was close at hand. Reek wondered if he would be alive to see the snows come. How many fingers will I have? How many toes? When he raised a hand, he was shocked to see how white it was, how fleshless. I have an old man's hands. Could he have been wrong about the boys? What if they were not Little Walder and Big Walder after all, but the sons of the boys he'd known?
The great hall was dim and smoky. Rows of torches burned to the left and right, grasped by skeletal human hands jutting from the walls. High overhead were wooden rafters black from smoke, and a vaulted ceiling lost in shadow. The air was heavy with the smells of wine and ale and roasted meat. Reek's stomach rumbled noisily at the scents, and his mouth began to water.
Little Walder pushed him stumbling past the long tables where the men of the garrison were eating. He could feel their eyes upon him. The best places, up near the dais, were occupied by Ramsay's favorites. But there were strangers too, faces he did not know. Some wrinkled their noses as he passed, whilst others laughed at the sight of him.
At the high table the Bastard of Bolton sat in his lord father's seat, drinking from his father's cup. Two old men shared the high table with him, and Reek knew at a glance that both were lords. One was gaunt, with flinty eyes, a long white beard, and a face as hard as a winter frost. His jerkin was a ragged bearskin, worn and greasy. Underneath he wore a ringmail byrnie, even here at table.
The second lord was thin as well, but twisted where the first was straight. One of his shoulders was much higher than the other, and he stooped over his trencher like a vulture over carrion. His eyes were grey and greedy, his teeth yellow, his forked beard a tangle of snow and silver. Only a few wisps of white hair still clung to his spotted skull, but the cloak he wore was soft and fine, grey wool trimmed with clack sable and fastened at the shoulder with a starburst wrought in beaten silver.
Ramsay was clad in black and pink; black boots, black belt and scabbard, black leather jerkin over a pink velvet doublet slashed with dark red satin. In his right ear gleamed a garnet cut in the shape of a drop of blood. Yet for all the splendor of his garb, he remained an ugly man, big-boned and slope-shouldered, with a fleshiness to him that suggested that in later life he would run to fat. His skin was pink and blotchy, his nose broad, his mouth small, his hair long and dark and dry. His lips were wide and meaty, but the thing men noticed first about him were his eyes. He had his lord father's eyes; small, close-set, queerly pale. Ghost grey, some men called the shade, but in truth his eyes were all but colorless, like two chips of dirty ice.
At the sight of Reek, he smiled. "There he is. My sour old friend." To the men beside him he said, "Reek has been with me since I was a boy. My lord father gave him to me, as a token of his love."
The two lords exchanged a look. "I had heard your serving man was dead," said the one with the stooped shoulder. "Slain by the Starks, they said."
Lord Ramsay chuckled. "The ironmen will tell you that what is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger. Like Reek. He smells of the grave, though, I grant you that."
"He smells of nightsoil and stale vomit." The stoop-shouldered old lord tossed aside the bone that he'd been gnawing on and wiped his fingers on the tablecloth. "Is there some reason you must needs inflict him upon us whilst we're eating?"
The straight-backed old man in the mail byrnie studied Reek with flinty eyes. "Look again," he urged the other lord. "His hair's gone white and he is three stone thinner, but this is no serving man. Have you forgotten?"
The crookback lord looked again and gave a sudden snort. "Him? Can it be? Stark's ward. Smiling, always smiling."
"He smiles less often now," Lord Ramsay confessed. "I may have broken some of his pretty white teeth."
"You would have done better to slit his throat," said the lord in mail. "A dog who turns against his master is fit for naught but skinning."
"Oh, he's been skinned, here and there," said Ramsay.
"Yes, my lord. I was bad, my lord. Insolent and..." He licked his lip, trying to think of what else he had done. Serve and obey, he told himself, and he'll let you live, and keep the parts that you still have. Serve and obey and remember your name. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with meek.
"There's blood on your mouth," Ramsay observed. "Have you been chewing on your fingers again, Reek?"
"No. No, my lord, I swear." Reek had tried to bite his own ring finger off once, to stop it hurting after they had stripped the skin from it. Lord Ramsay would never simply cut off a man's finger. He preferred to flay it, and let the exposed flesh dry and crack and fester. Reek had been whipped and racked and cut, but there was no pain half so excruciating as the pain that followed flaying. It was the sort of pain that drove men mad, and it could not be endured for long.
Sooner or later the victim would scream, "Please, no more, stop it hurting, cut it off," and Lord Ramsay would oblige. It was a game they played. Reek had learned the rules well, but the one time he had forgotten and tried to end the pain himself with his teeth, Ramsay had not been pleased, and the offense had cost Reek another toe. "I ate a rat," he mumbled.
"A rat?" Ramsay's pale eyes glittered in the torchlight. "All the rats in the Dreadfort belong to my lord father. How dare you make a meal of one without my leave?"
Reek did not know what to say, so he said nothing. One wrong word could cost him another toe, even a finger. Thus far he had lost two fingers off his left hand and the pinky off his right, but only the little toe off his right foot against three from his left. Sometimes Ramsay would make japes about balancing him out. He does not want to hurt me, he told me so, he only does it when I give him cause. His lord was merciful and kind. He might have flayed his face off for some of the things Reek had said, before he learned his true name and proper place.
Lord Ramsay filled his cup with ale. "Reek, I have glad tidings for you. I am to be wed. My lord father is bringing me a Stark girl. Lord Eddard's daughter, Arya. You remember little Arya, don't you?"
Arya Underfoot, he almost said. Arya Horseface. Robb's younger sister, brown-haired, long-faced, skinny as a stick, always dirty. Sansa was the pretty one. He remembered a time when he had thought that Lord Eddard Stark might marry him to Sansa and claim him for a son, but that had only been a child's fancy. Arya, though... "I remember her. Arya."
"She shall be the Lady of Winterfell, and me her lord."
She is only a girl. "Yes, my lord. Congratulations."
"Will you attend me at my wedding, Reek?"
He hesitated. "If you wish it, my lord."
"Oh, I do."
He hesitated again, wondering if this was some cruel trap. "Yes, my lord. If it please you. I would be honored."
"We must take you out of that vile dungeon, then. Scrub you pink again, get you some clean clothes, some food to eat. I have a little task for you, and you'll need your strength back if youare to serve me. You do want to serve me, I know."
"Yes, my lord. More than anything." A shiver went through him. "I'm your Reek. Please let me serve you. Please."
"Since you ask so nicely, how can I deny you?" Ramsay Bolton smiled. "I ride to war, Reek. And you will be coming with me, to help me fetch home my virgin bride."
馬丁細膩的形容詞在翻譯的時候真的很煩人。= = (喂)