Its owner had been dead, the back of her head smashed into red pulp flecked with bits of bone, but her cloak looked warm and thick. It was snowing, and Varamyr had
lost his own cloaks at the Wall. His sleeping pelts and woolen smallclothes, his sheepskin boots and fur-lined gloves, his store of mead and hoarded food, the hanks
of hair he took from the women he bedded, even the golden arm rings Mance had given him, all lost and left behind. I burned and I died and then I ran, half-mad with
pain and terror. The memory still shamed him, but he had not been alone. Others had run as well, hundreds of them, thousands. The battle was lost. The knights had
come, invincible in their steel, killing everyone who stayed to fight. It was run or die.
45 “That’s a good lock you have on the building,” the sheriff announced. “Kept them from opening the door right away.”
“Mighty good thing your daughter happened to look out of her window before she turned in to bed,” remarked the neighbor.
“Yes, indeed it is.”
“I call the best part that you had a pop-gun to pepper them with. I heard one cry out, and from my window I saw that the fellow hiding nearest the barn grabbed toward his face.”
“From that window of yours you must have had a pretty good look at them, even if it was dark,” said the sheriff.
“Did, for an instant. The lad that got nipped seemed like a big boy; tall, stout chap I should say, but the way he sprinted after the gun went off, he
Death was not so easily outrun, however. So when Varamyr came upon the dead woman in the wood, he knelt to strip the cloak from her, and never saw the boy
until he burst from hiding to drive the long bone knife into his side and rip the cloak out
of his clutching fingers. “His mother,” Thistle told him later, after the boy had run off. “It were his mother’s cloak, and when he saw you robbing her …”