Rat stew, rat soup, rat sandwiches, rat on the cob, rat curry, rat salad, roasted rat, fried rat, skewered rat.
Stelios Giannakopoulous had known it would be tough on the road, but that didn't mean he was any more prepared. It had been many years now since he'd travelled to this freezing tundra, or at least that's how he viewed it, from the warm paradise he'd once called home. Stelios had almost forgotten what the beaches and ocean looked like.
He'd been forced to flee his homeland when his family were overthrown from power.
As the Prince it would've been far too dangerous to remain. His eyes squinted as the briefest glimpse of the sun emanated from behind the dark grey clouds, but it was gone before he'd even felt its warmth. At least he was not alone on his travels, although he had suddenly noticed that his partner was no longer keeping pace.
"Yang." Spoke his companion, pointing along the path of the forest on which they tread.
Stelios looked to where the long finger was directing his attention. At first he saw nothing, but then he saw what had caught the eye of his tall friend. It was fleeting, but it was there. The orange glow of fire could barely be seen towards the end of the path.
"Fellow travellers?" Stelios queried. "Or soldiers?"
"Yang." His protector replied, although he'd still not mastered, after all this time, how to make sense of his single word responses.
Stelios would occasionally become frustrated with him, but he owed a huge debt to Yang Chengpeng. He thought back to when he first arrived on this land, escaping the rebellion of his homeland. On his first night he'd been ambushed by thieves who had noticed his particularly valuable sword, as best as Stelios had tried to hide it.
The three men had beaten him badly and left him for dead, but as they made their escape they were met by Yang, who was far taller than any man Stelios had ever seen. Yang swatted them away like flies, recovered the sword and carried Stelios to Maester Gary Lewin.
He'd saved his life that night and Stelios intended to repay him fully one day, but for now he had rewarded Yang with the valuable sword that had so nearly been stripped from him. After that Yang just kind of followed him, for no particular reason other than they were both travelling alone. The complete lack of any ability to form a conversation would normally prove to be a hindrance to a friendship, but Stelios had had a squire called Andy Townsend in his younger days who could only say 'For me Clive', so he viewed Yang as a brilliant conversationalist in comparison, even though he could only say his first name.
"They might have actual food Yang," Stelios said as he crouched down, apparently fearing his second suggestion of who might be responsible for flames. "Stay low if you can."
"Yang." Replied the man Stelios had always suspected was at least half giant.
They creeped along the path, staying as close to the bushes as they could. They could hear voices growing louder with every footstep, it was definitely a large party. Dusk was drawing in upon them, which was making the source of the flames easier to pinpoint and would certainly aid their quest of going undetected. He signalled to Yang to halt.
"We'll wait here 'til nightfall." He whispered.
They didn't have to wait long and soon the forest was kept from being black only by the fire they approached. A few more steps and they could see silhouettes. A lot of silhouettes. A lot of silhouettes with weapons. The rumble that had filled Stelios' stomach was replaced with fear. On the edge of firelight he thought he could see a cage. Surely these soldiers will have chickens in there. Anything, anything but rats. Stelios and Yang stayed in the shadows and shuffled round the perimeter of the camp. They reached the cage, but what they could make out inside were certainly bigger than chickens.
"Pigs?" Stelios murmured to Yang.
Yang seemed to nod in hope more than agreement. Neither could remember the last time they'd tasted pork.
"Who are you?" One of the pigs muttered. "You're not one of them."
Stelios and Yang retreated a few steps. Talking pigs were not something they'd come across on their travels before. All of a sudden the large shape they'd assumed was a pig broke away into two smaller shapes, which were looked distinctly more human.
"Why are you in a cage?" Stelios questioned. "And are you pig or human?"
One of the shapes moved closer to the bars of the cage. His face was now visible, and it was definitely human, much to the disappointment of Stelios and Yang's stomachs.
"I am Ser Kevin Nolan of the Macronfort," The face said in muted tones. "Free me from this prison and I'll shower you in treasure."
"I do not desire treasure." Stelios barked as quietly as he could.
"What then?" Kevin Nolan replied frustratedly.
"Food," Spoke Stelios softly, as he looked towards Yang and back at Kevin. "Food and shelter."
"I can give you both in abundance, just free us please." Kevin said with more than a hint of desperation.
"And what of these soldiers who guard you," Stelios muttered as he began counting the silhouettes. "I cannot imagine they'll just..."
Stelios' attention was grabbed. He'd been counting shadows, but had only been able to make out one or two faces through the darkness, but he'd spotted one he knew. One he would never forget. One he had promised to himself to find one day.
Zat Knight was sat on the other side of the fire holding a sword that Stelios knew only too well. Stelios wielded a knife and began cutting at the thick rope that held the cage door shut. He was so determined that he was through it in seconds. He opened the door quietly.
"Have your freedom, Ser Kevin Nolan or the Macronfort," Stelios growled. "But I no longer want food or shelter as reward for doing so."
"What then?" Kevin quizzed.
Stelios stared across through the fire, at the face of the man he'd been searching for every day since arriving on these frosty shores, at Zat Knight. He slowly turned his head back towards Kevin and cracked a smile.
"Revenge, Ser Kevin."