The warhammer whistled sharply in the air as he brought it crashing down into the metal breastplate of an unnamed Bolton knight. Gendry could not tell you how the battle began (or how it would end); it was like he had just been transported into the middle of the fray without having any memory of how he’d gotten there. One minute, he had been watching the cloudy expression on Arya’s face as they’d rode to Winterfell; and the next, they had been battling. Somehow or another, he’d managed to get inside the walls of Winterfell, though he didn’t know when he’d done that. He hadn’t been privy to the war plans; he hadn’t needed to be. Arya would talk about them right before they fell asleep, but he would close his eyes and try not to think about it. All he needed to remember how to do was fight.
“You’re strong,” she had told him, over and over again. It was something that he’d been told his whole life, but it had never truly mattered until now. Strength was necessary in the forge when shaping armor and bending metal, but it was a matter of life or death here. This was when everything counted. He realized, quite suddenly, that he wasn’t nearly as prepared for battle as he’d hoped. Some of the men they were fighting were well-trained; they had been raised by master-at-arms or had squired for years before they earned their knighthood. Gendry had done nothing to earn his own knighthood; he’d merely bent the knee, said he could work as a blacksmith, and watched as Arya ran away from him.
Though it was heavy in his hands and nearly threw him off balance once or twice, the warhammer fit him well. Gendry was an alarming figure among the men they were fighting. He was taller and stronger-looking than most of the knights, his armor shining like a warning. While many carried long swords that could slice and dice, he held a warhammer that could crush a man’s body. He’d startled himself by the first person that he’d hit. The man had come out of nowhere, shouting and swinging his sword wildly. Gendry had reacted more out of shock than skill and had knocked the man clean off his feet, sending him five feet back. Lem had let out of laugh, which had sounded strange against the metal clangs of swords and screams of men.
Gendry slid the warhammer back into the strap, pulling his sword out of its scabbard. It would make it easier for him to travel through the castle walls. He’d told himself that he would keep track of Arya at all times, but that had been impossible once the battle had begun. He’d lost a sense of nearly everything, trapped in a bubble of war, and only the fighting had remained. All of his thoughts became actions – swing, duck, dodge, swing, swing – and he forgot what fear and anger and wonder tasted like. The only thing he could taste was blood. The first man he’d hit in the face with his warhammer had splattered blood all over his armor so much that Gendry had been distantly reminded of the Lannister crimson colors on the armor he’d made in Harrenhal all those years ago.
He had to find Arya. He’d promised to watch over her and protect her, though he hadn’t said that out loud. She would’ve slapped him for that and said she didn’t need to be protected. Instead she’d slipped away from him the moment the fighting began, quiet as a mouse. While most men shouted and chanted, she had been silent. She was deadlier that way. She always had been. Even her armor had somehow remained quiet, or maybe it had been just a trick of the ears since everyone had been shouting and horns had been blowing.
“Arya!” he called out as he entered the castle, stepping over a pile of dead bodies. He doubted that she could even hear him. Another man ran down the stairwells at him, sword raised high. Gendry just barely had enough time to raise his own sword to counter, but was lucky to be the stronger one. With their swords locked, Gendry raised his foot and kicked the man in the shin. When the man tumbled, Gendry sliced his sword in the air, hacking at the man’s neck. He wasn’t a clean fighter or even a good one, his stance clumsy and his actions clumsier, but he was strong.
I’m not as strong as Arya.
As he ran up the stairs, taking three steps at a time, Gendry wondered where Stannis was. He’d always figured that king sat back while their men did all the work, as he’d heard King Joffrey had done on the Battle of Blackwater, but Stannis Baratheon was not the type of man that sat on his ass. He’d stood in the front lines with his men. Gendry felt strange hoping that the older man was alive, despite the fact that Stannis seemed to despise him.
Gendry was surprised by a young man jumping out of the shadows. He jumped to the side, but the man still managed to stab Gendry in the arm, just in between armor plates. A shot of pain shot through his arm, as the man tried to pull the dagger back out, but it was caught in the chainmail. Gendry jabbed the hilt of his sword into the man’s face, knocking him back into a wall, and then shoved his sword into him. Grimacing, Gendry jerked the blade out of his arm and threw it aside. It wasn’t a deep stab. Besides, the adrenaline coursing through his veins gave him relief. He carried on through the halls, pushing through more than a few men with the help of some of Stannis’ men. Arya was nowhere to be found up here. His heart raced like an out of control mare.
He didn’t know his way around the castle; he just ran from place to place, fighting men at every angle. His arms strained as he swung the sword and his legs begged for release. He remembered how he’d been in such pain after walking constantly with Yoren and those bound for the Wall, but this was beyond any pain he’d felt. All the battles and spats he’d fought with the Brotherhood had been short and quick. Though he couldn’t have been fighting for long, it felt like he’d been waging war against these men for days and they just kept regenerating and coming in droves. For every men that Gendry slew, two more popped up. He was exhausted.
There was a pair of large doors ahead of him. Men were fighting in front of them, no one he recognized, but he felt drawn to that room. The only castle he’d been in had been Harrenhal, but these doors reminded him of the great hall that had been there. He ran through the fighting, briefly sparing with an old man who he easily managed to knock off his feet, and shoved the doors open. They were so heavy that he nearly toppled over once they finally opened for him; he stumbled instead, doing his best not to fall to his knees, and swung the sword up, using its weight to pull his body upright. When he finally looked ahead, he saw her, dancing around a knight, slicing and stabbing him as gracefully as a swan. She’d told him, years ago, that she was a terrible dancer, but he knew that was a lie; she didn’t know how good she was.
However, there was no time to say anything to her, and he didn’t dare distract her from her duel. A Frey knight was over top one of Stannis’ men, trying to shove a dagger into the Baratheon knight’s throat. Gendry ran in that direction, kicking the Frey knight onto his back and bringing the sword down through his chest. The metal of his armor was cheap, practically worthless against the sword that he’d been given a few days ago. When Gendry looked back at the man on the ground, he realized it was Ser Clayton, who was holding onto his throat that had been barely scratched. No time. Gendry felt rushed and unsure of what to do, so he just went on to fight the next person he could find. Battle was an endless day; it was like the Long Night that other children had told him stories of when he was little in King’s Landing.
A door on the left opened and more men poured out. They were not the kind of men that Gendry wanted to see, but he hacked away at them as best as he could. When there were two knights on him, one managed to knock the sword clean out of Gendry’s hands. The three of them watched it soar in the air and then clutter to the side uselessly. He didn’t have time to draw another weapon, so Gendry recklessly barged into one of the men, catching them both off guard. Grabbing the man, Gendry threw him into the other and the two Frey knights tumbled to the ground in a heap of armor and shouts. Before they could get up, Gendry pulled the warhammer back out and slammed it down on them both repeatedly, like he would a piece of armor in the forge. Each hit sent a vibration up his arms, making him ache, and blood splattered up to meet him.
Wiping the blood from his face, Gendry spotted Stannis Baratheon fighting a man that Gendry immediately recognized as Roose Bolton. It had been six years or so, but there was no mistaking the man that had once lorded over Harrenhal when he, Arya, and Hot Pie had been held captive there. Gendry knew that Stannis was more than capable when it came to combat, but he seemed to be struggling somewhat against the Lord Bolton. It wasn’t until he realized that Stannis was favoring his left that Gendry saw that Stannis bore a bright wound on his right side that was seeping blood down his armor. Despite being wounded, however, Stannis fought incredibly hard against Roose, the two mens’ blades clashing louder than most. In true fashion, his face was strained, and he was ground his teeth with every blow that Roose gave.
He turned his head and saw Arya, still dancing around men, stabbing at them in a way unlike everyone else in the castle. She was fighting against two men though, and it was becoming increasingly more difficult for her as another Frey knight jumped in. Everything in Gendry screamed for him to run to her defense, especially when he saw blood slipping down her face from a cut on her cheek, but then he heard a shout and the unmistakable sound of a sword clattering on the stone. When he turned his head, he saw Stannis on one knee, holding his side, and weaponless. Roose was standing above him, raising his sword. Gendry reacted without thought. He turned from Arya, ran to the king, and brought the warhammer up to meet with Roose’s sword. It was like sparks flew the moment the sword hit the hammer, sounding like a sword might make when hit against a whetstone.
For a moment, there was a pause, as Gendry came face-to-face with a man that he had only ever watched from afar. Roose’s cold, dead eyes narrowed as recognition and confusion flitted across his face. “Robert–”
With all his strength, Gendry shoved Roose Bolton back. He stumbled briefly before catching his guard, meeting the warhammer again and again. He was more fluid than Gendry, who merely swung as hard as he could again and again and pushed Roose back, but he was also older and weaker than Gendry. In one lucky stroke, Gendry hit Roose’s hand instead of the sword, which nicked Gendry on the right arm; Roose let out a shout as his hand was shattered and his sword went to the ground. There was no thought in Gendry’s mind as he shouted with the effort and brought his warhammer on the Lord of the Dreadfort’s chest, forcing him to his knees. His eyes were not dead enough for Gendry’s taste, so he swung the hammer at his head, knocking the man to the ground. He took a staggering step backwards, nearly tripping over a dead body, and spun on his heels to see Stannis Baratheon standing up, sword in hand again. There was an indescribable expression on his face.
It turned out, Gendry realized dizzily, as the room spun around him, that it didn’t matter if you were highborn or lowborn when it came to war. Everyone died all the same, by anyone’s hands.
“Gendry, your right!”
The high pitch scream of a girl pulled Gendry back into reality, but it was not enough to save him completely. He turned, only to see a sword heading straight toward him, and jerked backwards. The sword sliced thinly through an opening in his armor on his chest. He would’ve been killed had he not stumbled over a corpse and fell onto his ass. A knight from a House Gendry didn’t recognize stood over him brazenly, but before he could deal Gendry a fatal blow, a sword poked through his neck. The knight’s body was kicked to the ground, revealing a wild and terrified-looking Arya.
“You have to watch your–”
Gendry did not say anything, but instead reached out and jerked on Arya’s leg. She fell to the ground, letting out a shout, and the sword that would’ve taken her head off merely sliced through the air. He watched as she reacted so quickly that he could barely realize what was going on. She’d knocked the knight off his feet and stabbed him before Gendry could even think of what to do. They both got to their feet and looked around the room. He could feel the agitation and adrenaline rolling off of her.
They both spotted the real target at the same time. He was at the head table fighting one of Stannis’ more skilled knights, Ser Justin Massey, while two others fought beside him, protecting him from anyone that tried to interrupt.
Gendry looked at Arya. “I’ll get the other two; you can get the–”
Arya’s scream was so loud that nearly all of the knights looked in her direction. Even Ramsay Bolton looked her way. It had even startled Gendry, who had never heard her so angry and vicious and raw before. He’d seen her heated and they’d had plenty of arguments over the years, but this was the first time he’d heard such danger and blind rage in her voice. She took off in his direction before Gendry could react, and he followed her as quickly as he could. She was so much faster than him and was able to weave through the fights much better than him. Whereas she could dodge a blow, he had to parry and knock someone to the side. She had already somehow managed to slip past the two knights guarding Ramsay before Gendry was there. One tried to hack at her, but Gendry grabbed him by the back of his armor and threw him back down the stairs.
He was beyond exhausted, but so were these men. Gendry didn’t even know how any of them were managing to still fight, but they did. When he caught sight of Arya, who had pushed Justin Massey aside so she could fight Ramsay, she was still fast as lightening. How she had any energy left was beyond Gendry. He would’ve probably died or just plain passed out if it wasn’t for Massey helping out with the second man. Massey killed one man and then began to help Gendry with the other. Gendry tried to focus on the man before him, but it was hard not to catch snippets of what was going on behind him as he heard armor clanging and metal smacking against metal.
“I’ll enjoy when this is over so I can fuck you senseless!”
“I believe you already have, husband!”
Gendry couldn’t help but wheel his head around to look at the stunned look on Ramsay’s face. It didn’t last long though as he had to fight off Arya again. There was less fluidity in her movements now. She was growing irrational and angry and was attacking him like a rabid dog. She was breathing heavily, her chest heaving, and he saw tears in her eyes.
“I am the real Arya Stark,” she ground at with each hit.
“Yes, and I will take back what was stolen!”
Ramsay slipped, his sword going low when hers went high. He cut her in the side, his sword burying itself into her armor, but she buried her sword in his neck. She pulled on the sword, jerking his whole body forward onto his knees as the sword was buried too deeply in his fleshy neck. “Send the Stranger my regards,” she hissed, before pulling the sword out and sending blood spurting everywhere. Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton and Lord of Hornwood and Winterfell, fell to his face and his death. Dark, thick, red blood seeped out from underneath him, pooling around Arya’s feet. When it reached Gendry’s, he looked up.
The look on Arya’s face was one of loss. Covered in blood and scratches and bruises, tears sliding down her dirty face, Arya looked more like a child than ever before. He wondered what she would do now that she’d done everything that she’d dreamed of doing.
As he reached out for her, the warhammer hanging at his side, he knew in his heart that the battle had been won. But will the war ever really end?