The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.
Ivan Campo, with his glorious dark curls, had been keeping watch over an eerily quiet night in the castle. He was standing, staring out of the window, waiting patiently for the next soldier to relieve him from his shift. His patience was beginning to wear thin as the sun rose and became fully formed in the sky. He couldn't remember the last time he'd finished work on time. But just as his frustration was turning to exasperation, a loud knock came at the door.
He was on the fourth floor of the furthest tower in the least populated area of the Macronfort, so it should and could only be his relief.
"Come in," he said, masking his annoyance. "It's open."
The splintered door swung open and there he was, in the flesh, Bruno N'Gotty. Just like Ivan, Bruno had travelled across the narrow sea to be in the service of House Bolton, so there seemed to be some sense of understanding between the two, as they were surrounded by local lads like their captain Ser Kevin Nolan and his squire Jay Spearing, who would follow Kevin everywhere asking him about something called 'scouse pie', whatever that was.
"Busy night?" Bruno asked politely.
"No." Ivan responded. "Josh Vela was sleep walking again and ended up in the pig sty for the third time this week, but nothing else of note."
Bruno slumped down into the room's only chair, drew his sword from its seethe and began admiring it from every angle, as if he was determined to find fault with it. Not wanting to disturb this apparently important ritual, Ivan took leave without another word and quickly made his way down the thin and crumbling spiral staircase.
He only had one thing on his mind, and that was breakfast. Ivan was nearly out of breath by the time he reached the bottom of the stairs, but his hunger and the excitement to satisfy it pushed him through the pain in his lungs across the vast and empty courtyard and into the food hall. He didn't care what had been cooked this morning, just as long as it wasn't...
"PASTA?" Exclaimed a deep voice from across the room. "Again with the fucking pasta!"
The voice belonged to Mario Jardell, and he was preparing to filibuster at the chef over the latest trend from castle kitchens.
"If it's good enough for Cris..." The chef had begun repeating.
"Don't bring Cristiano Ronaldo into this Sam!" Mario interrupted. "You're not cooking for House Milan, House Madrid or even House fucking Norwich, who at least have Delia Smith, this is House Bolton and we're fed up with pasta every goddamn day!"
Mario slammed his bowl to the floor and stormed off out of the hall, muttering curse words under his breath that Ivan had only ever heard in these parts. Precisely what a 'prick weasel' was remained a constant mystery, but he'd been under the stewardship of House Bolton for so long that it would be strange for him to ask at this point.
Ivan, despite his hatred of pasta, was far too hungry to emulate Mario's outburst and shuffled over the collect his breakfast.
"Morning Big Sam." He said half heartedly as the rumble in his stomach was becoming overwhelming.
"Ah, Ivan, good man, you'll have some pasta." beamed Big Sam Allardyce back at him.
Big Sam was a popular man in the castle, despite his loyalty to the Italian noodle. He was responsible for a lot of the inhabitants of the Macronfort, having been in charge of the castle for a while many years ago, he was now down in the kitchens where he seemed to be far happier.
Fernando Hierro, Youri of Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okocha and Kevin Davies, four of the castle's most popular residents, had been brought here during Sam's time as leader. The four of them and Ivan were some of the most experienced swords inside these walls, but were far from peak condition. This was something Sam was attempting to rectify with this new diet he'd implemented. Ivan held out his bowl and received an extra large portion of Sam's slimy carbohydrates.
"Gracias Sam." Ivan cooed begrudgingly.
Ivan sat down at an empty table. There were barely any other people awake at this hour, so he ate every last forkful in silence. He polished off his bowl and left the food hall before the residents had even begun emerging from their beds. Waving to Big Sam as he left, his stomach had already started to dread having to come back here in 6 hours for another bowl. Suddenly the silence of the castle was broken.
"RAISE THE GATES!" bellowed one of the guards. Ivan's need for sleep had been temporarily suppressed by his curiosity. Who would possibly arrive at this hour? But it was not a who, but a what. A horse sprinted through the now raised entrance, but with no rider.
Quickly after another bolted into the castle, however this steed was dragging a body behind it. Both horses were noticeably disturbed, but had now come to a stop. Ivan rushed towards the body and turned it over in order to see his face, but he'd already spotted the shield on the side of the first horse as it came in. He would've recognised his captain's shield even if it had been the darkest and foggiest of nights. The body was covered in blood, but Ivan was still able to identify him. It was Jay Spearing.
"Wi..." Jay coughed and spluttered as he struggled to get the words out. "Wint..."
Ivan cradled Jay in his arms and leant in closer in a desperate bid to understand what he was saying, but his voice was becoming quieter with each attempt to get his message out, but he was unable to and exhaled for the last time.
"Somebody fetch Maester Carnerio!" Ivan cried out.
"There's no need. He's dead." Snapped a voice from outside of the gate.
Ser Kevin Nolan stumbled into the courtyard and fell to his knees. He too was covered in blood. Ivan gently lay the corpse he was holding to the floor and went to try and assist with his captain's wounds.
"Leave me be Campo," Ser Kevin stressed. "Run and find the commander, deliver him a message, it's absolutely essential that you go straight away and deliver him a message."
"What's the message?" Ivan enquired.
"Winter is coming." Ser Kevin answered.
"Henry or Jeff?" Ivan asked.
Kevin's arm flew towards Ivan, grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and dragged him to within inches of his face.
"BOTH!" Kevin screamed before collapsing.
Ivan wiped the blood from his hands and stood over his captain's now still body. He turned and broke into a sprint. He had to find the commander.
He had to find him now.