Welcome to the new age...
A slender girl stood on the deck of a Braavosi ship, its gentle rocking at odds with the violence of what boiled inside of her. She was cloaked in the damp of the predawn mists and though her grey eyes appeared to pierce the gloom of the hour before sunrise, what occupied her mind was nothing which could be spied upon the dark and distant shore. Her cool fingers wrapped delicately over the railing as she listened to the lapping of the black waters against the wooden hull below her feet. She was perfectly silent and perfectly still, but she was not lulled.
And she was not at peace.
The vessel, a trading galleas with the elegant name of Titan's Daughter, had been her home for a seemingly immeasurable stretch of days and nights; days filled with a particular type of dancing (the type which required Valyrian steel in her hand and could be good sport but could just as easily be deadly); days of shouldering some of the work commonly done by men who made up a ship's crew (when she grew too bored or too consumed by her own troubled thoughts to remain inert, lest she go mad); days spent trading bawdy insults in three languages with the men who surrounded her (and, early on, trading blows when the men grew too bold for her liking. The crew had learned rather quickly what they could and could not say to Arya Stark). The days could be tiring, or fruitful, or frustrating, or monotonous in turn. The girl could no longer recall how many days it had been since she had spent time staring at anything other than a vast expanse of rolling, green water, with nothing but sea and sky to answer her gaze.
But if the days were often a trial, then the nights were always an affliction; an homage to suffering and misery and torment; a tribute to pain.
For her nights were filled with dreams of wolves she had abandoned and solemn fathers admonishing her to come home when she had no home (when she felt herself to be an exile who belonged nowhere). Her dreams were plagued by a silver king she had never met yet somehow knew, and by a dark knight she had once known but who was now a stranger (and whose sincere blue eyes and smiling face made her think only of abandonment and rejection). She was caught between fiery dragon's breath and icy crypts; she cried out for those lost to her, begging their forgiveness; begging for their return. Her nights were blessed and cursed with dreams of a voice whispering to her in Lorathi (by all the gods, I am yours), and a particular set of piercing, bronze eyes (bronze eyes that made her chest ache to gaze upon, the pain of it often waking her from deep sleep with a start). Bleeding one into the next without respite, hers were agonizing, endless nights.
Nights filled with silent tears scrubbed away roughly with small, tight fists.
Nights filled with quiet vows to avenge those who had been taken from her.
Nights filled with choking down grief and hate, storing them up and saving them for later.
Nights spent pacing the decks of Titan's Daughter when she could no longer stand to keep to her bed, snarling into the darkness as stinging winds and roiling seas coarsened her hair with salt.
Days were for sparring and plotting; working and improving and tiring oneself to the point that thought and contemplation finally failed. Days were for distraction. Nights, though... Nights were for mourning. Nights were for whispering names and calling it prayer. Nights were for malice and resolve.
And nights were for regret.
Regret for leaving Nymeria in the wilderness with stern words and some precisely aimed rocks.
Regret for her own inability to save her father from a fate he did not deserve.
Regret for not fleeing the dim halls of the House of Black and White sooner, as she had been urged, and for not taking Jaqen with her when she did.
At the thought of him, the girl closed her eyes and breathed out slowly; raggedly.
A voice broke her reverie.
"Will you leave us today, Salty?" asked the captain's son from just behind her. He spoke in the common tongue, heavily accented by his native Braavosi.
Arya continued staring into the gloom, her eyes tracing the faint, shadowy outlines of the trees in the distance. Saltpans. It was fitting that they had come back here. After a moment, she answered Denyo, her voice soft but sure.
The boy moved to stand next to her, his shoulder close enough that she could feel the warmth he emanated but not close enough to brush against her. He would not be so daring. Even with the recklessness so emblematic of youth, Denyo was not foolhardy. One did not reach out his hand to pet a feral wolf, no matter how beautiful the beast.
"And shall we ever meet again?" This he asked her in Braavosi, his tone wistful. His ability to speak the common tongue was rudimentary at best, though Arya had tried at various points during their journey over the Narrow Sea to help the captain's son improve. The girl turned her head and regarded the boy's profile. He was gazing out into the same grey that she had been contemplating when he approached her. She answered him in his native tongue, her own accent flawless.
"There are things I must do here first, but when my duty is done, I will return to Braavos. Perhaps when that time comes, it will once again be you who carries me back over the sea." She paused for a moment. "If the Many-Faced god wills it," she added. "I think I should like that, if it was you."
"But isn't this your home?" Denyo asked, sounding confused. "Why would you wish to return to Braavos?"
At her friend's question, Arya's mind filled with the images of two men, two sides of an iron coin, just as different, and just as connected. Two men—Faceless masters, both. One man, she longed for with all that was within her. The other, she would kill, fueled by the hatred which burned like wildfire in her gut.
Jaqen H'ghar and the Kindly Man.
Black and white.
Love and hate.
Why would you wish to return to Braavos?
"Because," the girl replied, her voice becoming harder as she spoke, "there is someone I must find, and there is a debt that I must pay."
Her tone prevented her friend from questioning her further. Though he had known her when she was little more than a half-starved stowaway just shy of her twelfth nameday and though he now found her to be wholly magnificent and wild and thrilling to be around, he did not forget how her passage was paid and he did not pretend that her two companions were simple travelers. Denyo was a man of Braavos, and with that distinction came a certain understanding about the mysterious order from which the girl had recently emerged. There were perhaps things he did not truly wish to know and things about which it was simply better not to ask.
A/N: This is a snippet of chapter 1 of The Grey Daughter. I hope to finish polishing the rest of the chapter for posting this week (barring unforeseen circumstances), but in the mean time, I hope you enjoy this little "sneak peek." Sorry I couldn't give you any of the "meat" of the chapter (why the Rat hates Arya), but that section just wasn't ready yet. Still, I wanted everyone who has been so kind as to read and comment and follow The Assassin's Apprentice to know that part 2 is on the way!