A/N:First of all, I am so, so, so sorry for just abandoning this story for a year…. I wrote about six new chapters to this fic that I wanted to post all at once and then decided I hated the direction I was taking it in, so I decided to start over from where I had left off. That was a bit of a blow to my work ethic and I just left the story sit for a while and wrote bits and pieces of other things. Since I started this fic off as just little snapshots of different meetings, and had not expected at all for this to develop a plot, it was hard going. I wanted to post this chapter as a bit of a warm up for getting back into it! Also, I am thinking of writing a little stand- alone fic to accompany this one about Gendry losing his virginity. Good idea or the best idea? ;) Lord knows I want to porn up this story more. Thank you everyone who has commented, you pushed me through!
Gendry awoke to a new day, feeling decidedly refreshed. The cat –Jonquil – had scampered off his chest sometime in the night, but he still felt cozy, wrapped up as he was in the thin blanket against the early morning chill. He blinked a few times, feeling the sleep fade away, and listened to the sounds of Rylo moving about in his private quarters within the house. Work would begin soon.
He nudged the boy curled up beside him. "Finn, rouse yourself. Sun's up already." The boy mumbled something in protest but nevertheless untangled his small self from the pallet and stumbled out to make water. Gendry rose himself, folding up the blankets and pushing the pallets beneath the large tabletop that dominated the corner of the forge. He followed Finn outside, and after relieving his bladder into the canal, the two washed up with water from the rain barrel, shivering at the cold and fighting for their turn. Finn's sharp, skinny elbow jabbed Gendry in his bare ribs as he pushed in front. "Oi!" Gendry huffed, grinning, and smacked Finn with the sodding wet rag, shouldering him easily out of the way. Finn howled in indignation, mischief flaring in his eyes as he tried to climb over Gendry's taller, broader frame like a monkey.
"Stop mucking about!" boomed Rylo from inside the forge.
With a last, rough tousle of the boy's unruly blond hair, Gendry turned back to the forge. "Hurry up, boy, or I'll eat your portion, too!"
That had Finn scrambling to keep up. He followed Gendry through the forge into the private back room where Rylo cooked the meals. The giant Pentoshi had a massive pot of hot porridge bubbling over the fire, and a heaping platter of rashers already set on the table, sizzling lowly. Gendry's mouth watered.
"Eat before it gets cold, you lot," Rylo said, heaving down onto his side of the rough bench. The wood groaned in protest. They obeyed, settling into their respective places, and began to serve themselves. "Lots of work today," Rylo told them. "We've got three broken axles to mend, and a big special order."
"Special order?" Gendry asked around a mouthful of porridge.
The giant shook his head, eyes dark. "For the House of Black and White."
"Cor! For true?" Finn piped up, eyes wide and mouth agape.
"What's that?" Gendry asked, brow furrowed.
"Are we going to see one, you think? One of them?" the boy continued on, ignoring Gendry.
Rylo nodded slowly. "Oh, aye, we might. We're to deliver it there ourselves. Heard those attending the nave aren't of that ilk, though."
Finn swallowed, settling back, looking a bit green about the ears. "Think one'll try to stick me?"
"For Smith's sake, boy. Of course not."
"What's the House of Black and White?" Gendry repeated loudly, over the conversation of the two.
Rylo raised his bushy crimson brows. "Do you not know? Seven hells, how long have you been in Braavos? It's the temple to the Many-Faced God, and its acolytes are the Faceless Men." Rylo shuddered. "No knowing the secrets that Temple holds."
Gendry rolled his eyes. The people of the Free Cities worshipped many strange and ancient gods. He knew a few prayers to the Smith for when the work was hard, but these veiled, ominous deities of Braavos he cared for not.
"What do they do, then? Read signs in the fire?"
Finn shook his head. "You are thinking of the followers of R'hllor. These Faceless Men…" The boy paled and shut his mouth, eyes shifting around the room like one would pop out from the shadows.
"They can be anyone and anywhere," Rylo said lowly. "They will kill prince or pauper, for the right coin. They call it a Gift." The man snorted. "Bit rich, if you ask me. Giving a gift no one asks for, and all the while lining their coffers with more gold than we will see in a hundred lifetimes."
But Gendry was not listening. "Anyone and anywhere?" he repeated, leaning forward.
Rylo leaned forward as well. "That's the thing, see? There are hundreds of them, maybe thousands. Women, children, cripples, courtesans. They all go about their day, normal as a boil on a mummer's ass, but when the order comes to give the Gift to some poor, unsuspecting soul that needs dying…" Rylo drew a finger across his throat, grinning at the little shiver Finn gave.
Gendry snorted. "Are you saying the Lyseni Songbird could be an assassin? Not bleeding likely. Where would she put the knife, in her smallclothes?"
"Nah, the Songbird doesn't wear any smallclothes," Finn piped up, shrugging one thin shoulder. The men stared at him. "Where do you go reckoning a thing like that?" Gendry asked, grinning. The boy's ears colored a bit. "Not practical is it? For a lady of her profession. Me mam said most working girls don't bother." Gendry had forgotten that Finn's mother had been a whore.
Rylo clapped his hands together, clearing his throat loudly. "Enough dallying about now, boys; you've eaten your fill. We have orders to complete."
It went by slowly, the morning's work. The axles had been so far bent out of shape, that there was nothing for it but to melt them down and form them anew. "Thrice-buggered bravos," growled Rylo. "Carriage-racing on the causeways; overturning market stands and ruining the horses' hooves."
"More work for us," Gendry grinned, wiping at the sweat on his arms and chest. They had long discarded their shirts under the heavy leather aprons; the uncommonly warm weather coupled with the heat of the forge had turned the place stifling. "But bugger the bravos, nonetheless."
When the axles were cooling in their troughs of water, Rylo turned to them. "Now, for the special order." He pulled out a large block of black iron from a locked chest beneath his workbench, grunting with the effort. Finn and Gendry stared at it. It was odd iron, coal black, with an oily sheen where the light reflected off it. "What's that?"
"Iron from Ashhai. They mine it from the foothills of the Shadow Lands. Damned expensive, and not simple to get ahold of. But the Faceless Men have quite a quantity of it, if the stories can be believed. This," he said, patting the block, "Is what we have been ordered to craft the Faceless Coin from."
Finn's eyes went round; Rylo nodded solemnly.
Gendry snorted. "What's that?"
Rylo looked at him pityingly. "You really should mingle with the locals more,Gendry. There are things that are important to know, even for those not native born."
"Their bastard Valyrian is a meddling language to learn," Gendry muttered. "And Finn and I do "mingle"; at the mummers' shows in Ragman's Harbor."
"Bastion of culture, that," the giant japed, grinning. "But anyway, the Faceless Coin is how the Faceless Men identify each other, and reveal themselves to those they choose. We have the great honor to craft these coins."
"Why don't they take it to the Iron Bank," Gendry asked. "Surely, its moneymongers are better at striking coin?"
"The Faceless Men care for the people of Braavos. Gold directly to our hands will help the city prosper, while gold into the Iron Bank will go to foreign borrowers in Westeros and the far-off cities of the East." Rylo's eyes crinkled, contemplating. "The Faceless Men are not just cold killers. If death and life are two sides of one coin, they say, and all men must live and die as they will, then it is right to create a good life, as well as a good death. It is poetic, almost," Rylo sighed, a smile pulling at his lips. "I can see the allure; a calm death and a good life. All men must die, so why fear it?"
"As you say," Gendry shrugged. "And as I say, if their gold is good, I have no complaints."
"Right, then!" Rylo grinned. "Finn, man the bellows! Let's be at the door of the House before the evening bell strikes!"