AN: So this is my very first fanfiction. In fact it's my first ever attempt at creative writing. I've been reading them for a little over a year now and decided to give it a go.
This first chapter has quite a few OC's at the beginning but by the end there are more familiar faces. At this point the only pairing I've decided for sure is Arya/OC. I'm undecided on pretty much every other one.
Fair warning there is a lime scene clearly marked toward the end of the chapter.
Italics are thoughts
Disclaimer: A song of ice and fire is the property of George R. R. Martin no copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made from this story
Arya Stark was no one… at least, she convinced the other members of the House of Black and White of that fallacy.
Five years, it had been five long years since last she was in Westeros but despite popular belief, time did not cure all hurts. She still remembered every injustice she saw while hiding from the Lannisters: Yoren being killed by Lannister men along the Kingsroad, Lommy having a spear driven through his throat when his only crime was being an orphan, Beric Dondarrion rising from the dead after the Hound slashed him with a sword, her brother Robb's desecrated body; his direwolf, Grey Wind's, head sown to upon his shoulder where his head should have been. All of it would be forever etched into her mind.
Of course, that was only the beginning of what she'd seen in her pursuit of survival and more importantly justice. Serving as one of the Faceless Men had given her many opportunities to see the extents of both the good and evil people were capable of.
From the brothels where she wore the face of a whore, somehow managing to never sacrifice that last piece of her innocence, she learned the depths of sexual depravity men could fall to; how a man could do those things to a child or a corpse she would never understand. From the streets where she wore the face of a beggar, she learned that whether highborn or commoner it made no difference, they had little time for those they believe beneath them but for every thousand that pass by there was still one with kindness in their heart. From the temples where she wore the faces of a priest or priestess, she learned that despite their supposed piety they were more than willing to steal from the coffers and lie to their practitioners but for every ten dishonorable holy persons, there was one who willingly sacrificed all they had for those they claimed to serve. So despite the ruin of her family and atrocities of war she had been subjected to, Arya Stark still could see there was some good in the world; unfortunately, the good was just far harder to find than the bad.
Five years had allowed her to perfect her art, and her art was death. She had traveled all around the Free Cities and never once failed to take a life once it was assigned; a knife slipped between the ribs, a bit of poison slipped into a Lord's goblet, an unexpected tumble down a flight of stairs, if there was a method to kill a man she had used it.
She was a weapon, a tool, used to achieve an end and she knew it. She always made it quick because it was not the job of a Faceless man to exact pain… only death. She had taken two hundred and fifteen lives in her five years of service to the Many-Faced God. She could remember every face clear as the day she took them, but these were not the faces that haunted her dreams at night, their crimes while quite often atrocious meant nothing to her. The crimes of Cersei Lannister, Ser Ilyn Payne, Ser Meryn Trant, Roose Bolton, and Walder Frey meant something to her. Of course Bolton and Frey had only been added to the list after she learned of their involvement in Robb and her mother's death. These names and the faces that belonged to them were the ones that haunted her dreams, these names were the reason she still held on to Needle. Pulling away from her more morose thoughts Arya contemplated the news she'd heard from Westeros the past five years.
While Arya did not actively seek out news of the Seven Kingdoms she could not help but hear things when frequenting brothels and bars in pursuit of a target. The brother of the Night's Watch named Jon, Lord Commander after he defended the Wall against Mance Rayder with the help of Stannis Baratheon. Stannis enlisted the help of the Northern tribes and started a war against the Bolton's. Jon having encountered the Others began allowing wildlings into the Gift so long as they swore to protect the Wall. With over a hundred thousand men manning the Wall, and a great deal of dragonglass brought in from Dragonstone, the Others had been stalled, but it was well known they waited on the other side of the wall, biding their time until they are ready to strike.
Apparently Arya had been married to Ramsay Snow. She was pleased she missed the wedding. With the help of Lord Manderly and supporting her apparently-still-alive brother Rickon as the new Lord of Winterfell, Stannis was able to gather a large enough army to push back the Bolton's who turned tail and went to the Lannisters for protection.
Of course, with Cersei Lannister being the last remaining Lannister to turn to, their welcome was less than hospitable. Tywin was killed in his privy when Tyrion Lannister escaped his prison, Kevan Lannister died of a crossbow bolt from an unknown assailant, and Lord Commander Jaime Lannister had disappeared while restoring peace in the Riverlands. It was said he now roamed the countryside with the Brotherhood without Banners, led by the infamous Lady Stoneheart, Arya's supposedly reanimated mother, and her second in command who based on description was Gendry Waters. Arya missed her former friend but from what she had heard he now condoned killing for sport something she could never abide. She knew she wasn't necessarily one to judge, but even an assassin had to have some kind of code.
Tommen Baratheon still sat on the Iron Throne, but the country was ruled by his wife Margaery Tyrell and his mother, though neither was pleased by the others machinations.
Two years ago a man claiming to be Aegon VI Targaryen, sailed across the Narrow Sea with the Golden Company and attacked Storm's End. The Dornish, still desiring revenge for the death of Elia Martell, joined with the would-be King and the Kingdom's were once again pulled into a three way war. Tommen's army was made up of men from the Westerlands, the Reach and what few Northern houses followed Roose Bolton, Stannis' army from men of the Stormlands and the bulk of the Northern forces, and Aegon VI's army consisted of the Golden Company and Dorne. All had to contend with Ironborn raiding parties led by the Crow's Eye and his brother, Victarion. Despite the deepening winter the War still raged though all fighting took place further south.
Meanwhile in Slaver's Bay, the Mother of Dragons spent two years stabilizing the area until finally she eradicated all potential uprisings and utterly destroyed the Wise Masters. It was well known this was not Daenerys's original intention but seeing the absolute lack of cooperation from the native people she decided it was necessary to use force to make them accept change. She acquired a potent new ally in the form of Tyrion Lannister. He urged her to travel to Asshai where she learned proper control of her children.
When she returned from the shadowlands, her dragons became a far more powerful weapon. Where before they were nothing more than reckless killing machines, lacking any sense of discrimination, they developed something truly terrifying… control. With Slaver's Bay firmly in her control and the renewed turmoil in the Kingdoms, Daenerys decided to marshal her forces and mount an invasion meant to see a Targaryen back on the Iron Throne.
It was this bit of news that saw Arya standing in front of mirror, preparing to leave the House of Black and White for the last time. After Daenerys's invasion Arya doubted she would be able to personally strike any of those names from her list and that was something she couldn't abide. So for the first time in three years, she was looking at her own face and body.
Arya stared at herself in the mirror. She was surprised at what she saw. The past five years had at least been kind in regards to appearance; no longer would anyone think to call her Arya Underfoot or Arya Horse-face. At five and ten Arya had grown to five foot seven. One would be foolish to call her anything but beautiful. Jet black hair fell down to just below her shoulders. Large eyes that appeared an almost metallic grey, similar to burnished steel, gazed out from long eyelashes. Her face was completed with a dainty nose and full lips. A slender neck led down to strong shoulders and pert breasts that while not enormous made it clear she was a woman. Strong muscles lined her lithe frame from hours of training; a thin waist drew the eye to her generous hips. Should one see her from the back, their eye would be drawn to her long legs leading up to a firm butt. She looked just as much a beauty as her late Aunt Lyanna.
Arya finally understood why her father would make the comparison when she was a child, now she was the picture of Northern beauty. Looking at her, it would be hard to reconcile the young woman with a finely tuned killer and that was all the better in Arya's opinion. Better that they underestimate me; it will make them less likely to expect a blade in the back.
As Arya turned from the mirror she was faced with the waif, her first teacher, staring at her from the doorway with her eerily large eyes, "It has been a long time since last I saw that face. Who are you?"
On instinct Arya responded, "I am no one."
For the first time in years the waif did not look as though she believed Arya, "You're lying, how is it that you managed to stay someone yet learn our ways? For years now I have believed you, it would appear that the student has surpassed the teacher."
Sounding far more confident than she felt Arya replied, "I could never stop being Arya Stark. As much as I wished to be no one, I have unfinished business away from the House of Black and White."
"They will not take kindly to this; few have ever left the service of the Many-Faced God." The waif responded slowly.
"Well I will be numbered among those few." Arya responded firmly, "I have learned much from the House and I do not just mean the art of death. I have come to understand people and their motivations better than I ever could have hoped had I not come here but I can no longer serve the House, I must go my own way and right the wrongs done upon me and those I care about."
The child-like woman nodded her head, "Very well, who are you?"
"Arya Stark of Winterfell, daughter of Catelyn Tully and Eddard Stark both of whom were murdered in cold blood." She could not help a hint of pride from entering her voice owning her name for the first time in years.
"Yes, I think you are," said the waif a small smile upon her lips. With that she turned and allowed Arya to pass through the doorway.
Arya made her way to the main room of the House and was met by the kindly man and a face she had seen only once in her years as a Faceless man, Jaqen H'ghar.
"Arya Stark, it has been a long time since a man has seen that face. A man takes it you have decided to leave the Faceless men?" asked Jaqen, the kindly man only frowned.
She shook her head slightly at his easy analysis of the situation, "Yes it is time that I do what is necessary to gain justice for my family and for that I must be Arya Stark."
"The very best of luck to you Arya Stark, and remember valar morghulis."
Arya smiled, "Valar dohaeris," She made to walk away but stopped, returning her attention to her fellow assassin, "I never thanked you Jaqen, if not for you I would have died long ago whether at Harrenhal or after Bolton's betrayal at the Twins, for that I will forever be grateful and I will always count you amongst my friends, so truly thank you." Jaqen his recognition but did nothing further to acknowledge her thanks.
The kindly man spoke up then, "I will not claim to be happy with your decision, nor do I understand how you were able to fool both myself and the waif, but if this is what you feel you must do than I wish you luck Arya Stark." Arya's shoulders relaxed almost imperceptibly at his words, even as he continued, "Where will you go?"
"Queen Daenerys's invasion fleet will make rest in Pentos in order to restock and make final preparations for the invasion of Westeros; I plan to join up there and offer the Queen my services." She explained freely.
"Very well Arya Stark, for both our sakes I pray we never meet again, valar morghulis."
"Goodbye, valar dohaeris." With that Arya Stark left the House of Black and White for the last time, collecting Needle and the not so small sum of money she had collected over the years from the loose step as she left.
It was a 900 mile journey from Braavos to Pentos and this wouldn't be the first time Arya made it. She booked passage on ship set to make port in a small town a hundred miles north of Pentos, the ship provided her the anonymity she valued. She should reach Pentos a month before Queen Daenerys' army made port.
There Arya would beg audience with the Queen and hope that she held no grudge against Arya's family for their part in ending the Targaryen dynasty. Arya doubted she would be the only person wishing to see the Mother of Dragons but she knew none of them had been trained to be little more than a shadow, should the need arise.
After a month of sailing along the coast, the ship was nearing the end of its 800 mile journey. Arya was grateful that it passed uneventfully, even if the winter weather left the waters choppier than was perfectly comfortable. She kept to her cabin nearly the entire time, only leaving when absolutely necessary.
Gathering her belongings and making sure Needle and her various daggers were secure, Arya donned her cloak and made her way to the ship's deck. It was surprising that the Dothraki hordes ignored this place but Arya assumed that with Pentos nearby the village was beneath their notice. Why waste time on a small port when one of the great free cities was mere days away? Pentos would offer far more to ensure the horde left them be than anything they could take from this place.
Disembarking the ship Arya took in her surroundings. It was a simple little village, a few average looking homes lined the area, the odd merchant was peddling his wares, and a tavern was very near the dock. Likely does great business, gods know sailors like to drink.
Arya noticed a group of people congregating to the south of the town. It appeared she was not the only one planning to travel to Pentos. Arya made her way over to the group. Always safer to travel in a group, easier to blend in with a crowd and hopefully I'll be able to pick up the odd bit of news.
The group consisted of twenty people: two families of four each with a mother, father, boy and girl; they likely wished to see the mother of dragons, three merchants each with a cart full of their various goods obviously they hoped to make a killing when the army made port, eight older men all of whom appeared to be sell-swords looking to make coin in the Queen's army, last was a young man maybe eight and ten he wore a long cloak and carried a large bag with him.
He had an elegant looking longsword on his hip, the pommel styled in the form of a striking snakes head and its tail wrapping around the rest of the hilt. It was the sword that caught Arya's attention; the weapon appeared far too expensive for a common sell-sword. Of course, a beautiful blade did not mean that this young man knew how to use it. Ha, Joffrey certainly didn't know how to use his pretty sword… still this one I will have to keep an eye on. Reaching the group, Arya addressed one of the merchants in bastard Valyrian, "I take it you are all traveling to Pentos to see the Queen of the Bay?"
The merchant, an older man maybe sixty years old, eyed her wearily , "Yes, I take it you wish to join our merry little band then, and look another sword to protect the group; though, you hardly look the part of swordsman young lady." Arya smirked underneath the hood of her cloak. Well he is observant if nothing else, not everyone would have seen a feminine figure underneath all this.
"Looks can be deceiving, and yes, if it's no trouble I would like to join in your travels."
"Very well, should you wish to buy anything let any of we three merchants know, between us we should have what you need. I failed to mention my name is Allim, the others you can meet at your own discretion or don't. I doubt anybody will take any offense. "
"Thank you. When will we be leaving and how long do you expect the journey to take?"
"We will be leaving in an hour, and a hundred miles with the merchandise we carry will likely take ten days."
"Very well," and with that Arya took her leave, making her way to the back of their makeshift group.
In the intervening hour, Arya decided to gather information on her traveling companions. The first family of four was made up of Micah the father, Doreah the mother and their children Masha and Mero twins who were only eight years old, they had traveled from Braavos as well, but instead of traveling by boat made their way south with whatever travelers they encountered in order to ensure safety. The other family was Ferrego the father, Eroeh the mother, Jaggo a son of two and ten and Nela a daughter of only six, they were members of the little port town and as expected both families were traveling to see Queen Daenerys, her fleet, and her dragons.
The sell-swords were in the employ of the three merchants, seven of them were from the free cities and the eighth was a bastard from the Stormlands: Quill, Rhialt, Vako, Varro, Beln, Cassim, Dirth and Loren Storm. Beyond that all she had learned was that Quill was merely a nickname, earned from his insistence on carrying a feathered quill with him.
The three merchants were partners each selling different wares. Allim who she had already met sold common merchandise, furs and clothes things necessary for day to day life, Alquo his brother sold used and repaired weapons and armors while not the best of equipment it would serve the average soldier well, their final partner was a mutual friend from Westeros, Bartrand sold various salted meats and other foods. They employed the sell-swords to ensure they made it to Pentos unmolested. Of course it only served to the sell-swords' advantage that they were already planning to travel to Pentos.
The last member of the group was the only one whose motivations Arya was unable to ascertain. All she learned of the young man was that his name was Aerion, just Aerion according to Nela, who claimed the young man was very quiet but kind. Apparently, he gave the children sweets when their parents weren't around. Well at least he has that in his favor, a man willing to show kindness to children is far less likely to have malicious intent.
As they were leaving Arya got her first proper look at the young man's face, black hair with the odd silver-blond strand that seemed to shine in the light came down to just above his shoulders. Startling amethyst eyes looked out from a handsome face with light stubble and a strong chin. If Arya were to guess from his physique she would have to say that he had seen combat before. All and all, he was a very handsome man; though, he was certainly not the first handsome face Arya had seen and often a pretty face masked a black heart. The pair took up positions at the back of the group, they walked for a time in silence until finally he turned his head and introduced himself in a deep rather melodious voice, "I'm Aerion and you are?"
"Arya, just Arya," For now at least.
Five days had passed since they left the port and they were making good progress. They were set to reach Pentos midday in another five days. Arya was genuinely coming to like some of her traveling companions. She'd forgotten what it was like interacting with ordinary people without the express interest of gaining information on a target.
She had learned that Micah and Doreah had known each other since childhood and when she turned sixteen he proposed; they were married in the temple of the Red God a month later. He was a successful salesman and business owner. He left his stores in Braavos in his brother's hands while they traveled to Pentos. Arya was surprised to realize she had frequented his business on occasion when staying in the House of Black and White. The Braavosi pair was rather light skinned with dark hair and hazel eyes. They were thirty and five both of them. Micah was slightly portly while Doreah was a slim woman.
They had twins Mero and Masha, who while as identical as a young boy and girl could be in appearance, both having the same dark hair and eyes as their parents, seemed very different children on the surface; however, to someone as observant as Arya it was obvious they were as similar as there appearance. The difference was that Mero was overtly mischievous and adventurous where Masha was the silent type.
But after five days it was readily apparent to Arya that Masha had the same flare for mischief that her brother had. Mero had been blamed for dying one of the sell-swords underthings a vibrant red but Arya noted that Mero could not have done the act as he was busy exploring an area along the coast they traveled when the deed was done. No one else seemed to notice the glint in Masha's eyes. Arya shuttered to think what kind of trouble they would cause if they started working together. Micah and Doreah were strict but fair parents, though Mero probably didn't see it that way when he was punished for something he didn't do. All and all, she greatly enjoyed the family's company.
Ferrego and Eroeh were a simpler sort. Ferrego, a man of thirty and two, had lived in the port village his whole life fishing being the family business. He was a fit man, as one would expect from a fisherman, tanned from hours of working in the sun. His hair was a sandy brown and eyes a pale green. It was clear his nose had been broken at some point from the look of it. He had a scar running just near his left eyebrow. Eroeh was originally from Myr but when her mother died from fever moved to live with her uncle. A woman of thirty, she had a simple beauty to her, hair a shade lighter than Arya's framed a heart shaped face whose most noticeable feature was powder blue eyes. She was lithe with subtle curves to her body.
They met when he was six and ten and she was four and ten, he was immediately drawn to her but she wouldn't give him the time of day. After a year of trying to gain her favor, Eroeh finally gave him a chance. Six months later, after realizing how good of a man he was, they wed. They had been together for fifteen years now.
Their children lacked the mischievous streak Mero and Masha had, which Arya imagined they appreciated. At two and ten Jaggo was at that awkward stage between childhood and manhood, slightly gangly and just beginning to grow hair on his face. She found it rather endearing that he could not seem to say a proper sentence in her presence… she honestly never thought she would have that effect on any boy. Nela was one the single most adorable children she had ever met. Arya had even seen some of the less pleasant sell-swords crack a smile when Nela was around. A tiny thing of only three feet tall, she had her mother's dark hair. Unfortunately for everyone she had mastered the puppy dog look complete with big blue-green eyes.
The little girl seemed fascinated by Arya as she had never met a Westerosi woman before. Nela tended to follow Arya around when she could asking her questions or telling her how pretty she though Arya was… it didn't bother her one bit. When she wasn't busy with Arya, Nela spent her time sitting with Aerion. The little girl had confessed she found the young man incredibly handsome. To his credit, he took the little girl's developing crush in stride and answered every one of her questions, slipping sweets to her and the other children when their parents weren't looking.
The merchants kept mostly to themselves… though that did not stop everyone else from hearing their bickering. One could mistake them for a group of disgruntled birds with how much they squawked at one another about how profits should be split. Arya paid them little mind and they did her the same courtesy.
The sell-swords largely did the same as the merchants though there were points she wanted to stick Needle through Varo and Vako, brothers who clearly thought High Valyrian was beyond her. She had heard all sorts of lecherous comments thrown toward herself and other girls while serving as a Faceless man but this was the first time someone leered at her body and her face, to say she did not take kindly to their less than honorable insinuations was putting it mildly. Based upon Aerion's reaction, she believed he spoke the Tongue of Old Valyria as well.
This was not to say that all of the sell-swords were crass bastards, in fact, a couple were quite pleasant. Talking to Quill, Arya found out that the reason he carried the quill with him at all times was because he greatly enjoyed writing. He kept a log of every interesting thing he had done in his time as a sell-sword.
Cassim hailed from Naath and took up the profession in order to someday buy his younger sisters freedom, now he planned to serve the Dragon Queen because she had freed his sister when conquering Astapor.
Loren Storm was the bastard son of a Tyrell bannerman and Stormlands whore, he knew he could never escape the shame of his baseborn name in the Kingdoms so when he was a man grown he left for the Free Cities.
The others, Rhialt, Beln and Dirth, were content ignoring everyone in favor of guarding their employers' goods.
Arya had decided she liked Aerion… even if he was keeping secrets. She could not fault him wanting to retain some privacy when she was far from an open book. His story was interesting if nothing else, he was born in Pentos, the youngest of three children and the only boy. At the age of three his parents discovered he had a talent for music and so did everything they could to encourage it. At the age of six he was hired by a group of mummers. During his time he earned quite a bit of gold, a good chunk of which he sent back to his family. While they were not poor, he saw no harm in ensuring his sisters and parents were well provided for.
At the age of ten his contract with the mummers ended and, as most boys are wont to do, he developed a desire to learn the sword. After four years performing he had built up quite the sum of money and easily found a suitable teacher. His teacher was not unlike Syrio Forel. He was a former First Sword of Braavos, Yaltin, taught Aerion all he knew of the sword. Unlike Syrio, this did not stop at the water dance, no instead Aerion learned the fighting styles of Bravos, Westeros, the Summer Isles and even Dothraki use of arakhs. Accustomed to the dedication required to be the best from his time as a young musician, it took Aerion only five years for Yaltin to declare him the superior swordsman, and the truth was he had surpassed him long before that; however, before he was allowed to leave Yaltin's tutelage he was given a final task. He was required to forge his own blade one that suited him best. The sword on Aerion's hip was the end result of that task.
Aerion had enjoyed forging it so much that he decided to craft his own armor. He felt there was something honest in doing the work yourself, instead of benefitting from another man's talents. I can at least respect a man with that kind of outlook on the world.
Properly trained at the age of five and ten Aerion desired to put his new skills to the test; he traveled Essos going as far as Asshai and took contracts to serve and protect people. He refused to actually sell his sword, instead only taking rewards when offered. Ironically his view on the matter was similar to Arya's, "every man has to have a code." He said.
After five years of serving the Faceless men and hours of training with the waif Arya could tell when someone was telling a lie, whether it was a blatant lie, a little white lie or even a lie of omission she could almost always tell. It was during their current conversation, regarding what they desired from their visit to Pentos, that he told Arya his very first lie or at least not the whole truth.
They were currently talking at the rear of the group and Arya finally asked the question that had been on her mind since she had joined their group, "So what exactly do you hope to achieve in Pentos?"
Caught slightly off guard Aerion took some time to respond, "Achieve, I don't know if I want to achieve anything, I simply wish to pledge my sword to the Dragon Queen's cause. I just hope they will have use for me. What do you hope to achieve Arya?"
Arya didn't take half so long in her response, "Much the same actually, though I suppose I will be pledging my service not my blade."
Aerion chuckled, "While that may be true, I doubt you are anything less than lethal with that skinny blade of yours. I am sure the Queen would be lucky to have it in her service."
Arya could only smirk. Oh you have absolutely no idea. "Well what do you wish to achieve once you have reached the Seven Kingdoms then?"
Aerion furrowed his brow in mild frustration, "Why the sudden curiosity? You have been perfectly content to let my motivations be my own business before now."
Arya weighed her words before explaining herself, "Because of everybody we travel with, you are the only one who is not simple. The families we travel with wish to see living legends and the woman who commands them. The merchants wish to peddle their wares to as many people as they can and right now Pentos is where the most people will be. The sell-swords wish to make coin and Daenerys offers them the best opportunity for long-term employment. You though, I sincerely doubt someone as well trained and likely skilled as you simply wishes to pledge his sword to a woman he's never met, in the pursuit of reclaiming a land that you've never been to. No, I imagine your motivations aren't that simple."
"All men are simple Arya, even when their goals are not," started Aerion calmly, "You asked me what I wished to achieve once I reach the Seven Kingdoms, and while what I want may not be easy it is most certainly simple. I wish to have my name go down in history for helping to a woman I believe cares about her people and their well-being."
He paused momentarily before continuing, his eyes seeking hers, "I have traveled many lands and it is very rare to find a ruler of that conviction. That is the honest truth. I have no ulterior motive in this." And it was the truth but not the whole truth but Arya would let him have his secrets because whatever other reason he had to fight for Daenerys it would only add to his convictions.
His voice pulled her from her musing and his purple eyes were locked on hers, "What of you? I am not the only one here whose motivations are more complex than they seem."
"I wish to right the wrongs done in the place of my birth." She answered with a hint of steel in her voice, the memories that drove her coming to the fore.
"I suppose there are few nobler causes than that," and with that they fell into a comfortable silence, each understanding the other a little bit better.
It was a couple of hours after their conversation and Nela joined Aerion and Arya at the back of the group. The twilight winter sky looked beautiful as the sun slowly fell in the horizon, signaling that they would have to make camp soon.
Nela's voice broke the companionable silence, "So Arya, what part of the Seven Kingdoms are you from?"
Deciding there was no reason to lie Arya answered, "I grew up in the North near Winterfell." Well she didn't need to tell her the whole truth.
Curious to hear of anything new Nela continued, "What was it like? Winterfell, I mean?"
How does one adequately describe something like Winterfell? "It was… awe-inspiring in its own way. The walls of the castle seemed as powerful and everlasting as the sea, the buildings taller than and as prominent as the trees in the godswood."
Even at five and ten she had a healthy reverence for the godswood, "The godswood, with its heart tree that seemed to stare into your very soul was far older than anything else in the old fortress. Winterfell was beautiful, more beautiful than any southern castle, but I hear it was burned by the Ironborn." I wonder if Theon still lives, if he does it will just be another name to add to the list. Arya failed to notice Aerion's calculating gaze, she was too busy reminiscing as the little girl stared at her adoringly.
"I wish I could get to see that someday." Nela said softly, slightly stunned by Arya's description.
"Me too Nela, me too." Arya replied with a small hint of sadness.
The sell-swords who always traveled at the front of the group were about to crest the hill they were climbing when a scream was heard. Reacting quickly Aerion and Arya commanded the families and merchants to run back down the hill as they made their way to the top of the hill lying flat on their stomachs as they surveyed the situation.
Twenty bandits were fighting the now seven sell-swords, as Vako was the unfortunate recipient of an arrow to the throat as they crested the hill. There were four archers all of whom were serving only as support should any stragglers escape the main fray. The archers were positioned in a half circle around the skirmish.
Aerion whispered to her softly, ensuring that they weren't overheard, "We're going to have to take out the archers before we join the main fight." Fortunately that did not appear to be a bad thing as, while they couldn't seem to gain ground, the remaining sell-swords were keeping the bandits at bay while keeping themselves away from the archers' line of fire.
Splitting up, Arya headed for the nearest archer on the right taking a wide angle to avoid detection. Aerion took a slightly more direct approach, drawing the attention of the other archers and providing Arya with a better opening. Slipping a knife from her sleeve once directly behind her target, she tilted back the bandit's head and slit his throat. Her strength belying her smaller stature, she kept the body standing and progressed to her next target using it as a human shield.
Meanwhile, Aerion had dispatched his first target with help from one of the other bandits. The fool drove a shaft into his ally's chest in his attempts to keep Aerion from interfering in their attack. Only two archer's remained Arya was quickly closing on hers, while Aerion pillaged the bow and arrow from his previous victim and fired a shaft striking his target in the leg, acting quickly he finally unsheathed his blade and rushed the archer before he could get up, driving his sword through the man's chest, a gurgling sound escaping from Aerion's victim before he went limp. Arya had just reached her target with the help of her shield and slipped a dagger between the man's ribs much to his surprise. Archers dealt with, the pair turned to evaluate the main skirmish.
Fourteen bandits and six sell-swords remained. It appeared Rhialt took a slash to the shoulder that cleaved through his chainmail shirt. Nodding to one another, swords drawn, Arya and Aerion entered the fray. The remaining bandits were caught almost entirely unawares. They were able to kill two bandits with thrusts to the back, each piercing vital organs. The smell of blood began to saturate the air as the bodies dropped to the ground lifelessly.
Finally responding to the new combatants, both Arya and Aerion found themselves parrying blows. Both quickly realized these men were far from what one would call well trained and soon they were carving through them like a knife through warm butter.
Following his parry, Aerion removed his opponents head at the shoulders with a quick horizontal slash; then, he immediately continued into a forward thrust toward the next bandit catching him in the shoulder causing the man to stagger and nearly lose grip of his sword. Taking advantage, Aerion advanced forward striking the bandit in the face with the pommel of his sword. Then, pulling back, he drove his blade into the man's stomach.
Arya being a smaller fighter relied primarily on speed while in combat. Using both Needle and one of her daggers Arya slashed at the man's wrist, severing a tendon and causing the man to let out a pained yell. Less than impressed, Arya simply put the man out of his misery driving her dagger through his eye with a wet squelching sound. Seeing another opening, Arya dashed forward slashing at the back of another bandit's knees bringing him to the ground. No point in continuing the man's suffering she slipped needle between his chainmail straight to his heart.
In the time Aerion and Arya dispatched their mediocre opponents, the sell-swords dispatched two more bandits. Realizing they were now outmatched, the remaining bandits turned tail and ran. Varo turned to follow, clearly wanting to kill all those responsible for his brother's death but, realizing that none of the others offered their support in his pursuit, stopped.
Aerion cleaned his blade and sheathed it but not before Arya had the opportunity to see the weapon. It was black in color and seemed to gleam in the sunset. I'll have to remember to ask him about that later. Cleaning her own blades, Arya turned to head back down the hill, leaving the sell-swords to deal with their dead. Both Arya and Aerion quickened their pace, wanting to make sure that the other members of their group were alright.
Reaching the carts a brown haired projectile crashed into the pair's lower bodies. Nela was talking so fast neither could discern exactly what she was trying to say but, they figured that she was relieved to see that they were okay. It was at this point that the others joined them. Allim asked the question on everyone's mind, "They are gone then?"
Still trying to calm Nela, Arya responded, "Yes they are gone but Vako and Rhialt are dead."
"We will do something to honor them before we move on," said Farrago, "for now we need to keep moving and make camp. There will need to be a guard tonight."
"Agreed," interjected Aerion, "though based on their lack of training, I doubt those men were part of a larger group of bandits. So chances are we have nothing to fear from them tonight." Nela had finally calmed down, and the rest of the two families approached them.
Embracing them Eroeh whispered, "We are so glad you two are all right. Nela would have been absolutely devastated had something happened to either of you. We are sorry the two sell-swords died, but we are so glad you two are alright." The same sentiments were shared by everyone else there.
Nela, looking incredibly timid, came up as everyone was making camp and asked Arya, "Would it be okay if I stayed with you tonight, my mother said it would be okay, if you were okay with it?"
Arya may be a trained killer but even she couldn't resist the look on the little girls face, "Of course Nela, grab your furs and come here."
It was a few minutes later that the pair were laying silently beneath the stars, Nela pushing herself close to Arya. The little girl's quiet voice broke the silence, "Aerion is taking the watch tonight, right?" Arya nodded slightly as she answered, "Yes little one, why?"
"Because I feel safer knowing you or him are looking out for us." She admitted readily, "I heard what happened during the fight when one of the sell-swords was telling daddy. He said that you and Aerion saved their lives, that if it weren't for you we would likely all be dead or captives." Arya could hear the fear in her voice, she remembered the first time she was that afraid. She wanted to take that fear away from Nela.
She leaned in and gave Nela a comforting smile, "Well I guess it's a good thing we're here for you then, isn't it?" The little girl relaxed at Arya's question
"Yes, definitely." She answered emphatically before digging herself deeper into her furs. And with that she fell asleep still facing Arya. Arya turned into her and gave her a kiss on the temple. Of course we'll only be around to keep her safe a little while longer. And with that unsettling truth sitting in her mind, Arya drifted off to sleep.
Five days had passed since the night their ragtag group was attacked, the morning after they had a short ceremony for their fallen. Varo had been understandably silent since that night, while Arya did not like the man she still could sympathize with his loss. Vako and Rhialt's bodies were burned and their ashes scattered by the sea. The remaining sell-swords thanked Arya and Aerion for their assistance. Quill made a point of informing them that the story would make it into his logs.
The children managed to lighten the rather tense mood of their elders. Nela managed this by simply being herself, while Masha and Mero pranked their parents and each other as way of lightening everybody's mood. They somehow managed to color their parents' faces absurd colors that had everybody smiling at the very least.
Three days from Pentos, Arya remembered to ask about Aerion's sword, "So I noticed that your blade is unlike any steel I have seen before."
Glancing over at her Aerion responded, "I was wondering whether you noticed that or not. Most people who see it comment on it."
Arya shrugged lightly, "So why is the blade black as night?"
"It is an alloy made from melted dragon glass and steel. It is nearly as sharp as Valyrian steel and holds its edge significantly longer than common steel." He paused in thought, glancing down at the sword on her hip, "I can make you a blade once we reach Pentos, if you like?"
Arya let the offer slide for the moment, instead focusing on his claims, "That is incredibly impressive. No one has been able to make a blade similar to Valyrian steel since the Doom."
"Well to be fair it is not quite as potent as Valyrian steel," Aerion admitted easily, " but it is a far cry better than any castle forged blade."
"Fair enough." She couldn't see a reason not to accept the offer, "If you would be willing I would appreciate a blade, preferably a dagger, as I refuse to give up my Needle, it was a gift from my brother.
"Very well," He didn't seem offended by her desire to retain her own sword, "Seeing as we will have time in Pentos before Queen Daenerys arrives I will work on it for you."
"How much is it going to cost me?" Arya questioned as she thought to the amount of gold left in her pouch.
A small smirk tugged at the corner of his lips before he responded, "Absolutely nothing."
Arya was shocked to say the least. A blade of that quality should cost her substantially more than nothing. "Surely you don't mean to simply give me a blade of that caliber?"
"That is exactly what I intend to do," A full smile now gracing his handsome features, "I see no harm in gifting you a weapon that will be used in service of our future queen." He waved his hand airily, "Besides which, I truly do not need the money. Between traveling as a musician and the various favors I was given for my services, the past twelve years have been far from unkind to me as it pertains to gold."
Not wanting to insult her new friend, Arya simply relented, "Very well then, but I will do something to repay you." Though she had no inclination what that would be as of yet.
Now they were mere miles away from the city. Cresting one last hill before Pentos was fully visible, the group was stunned by the sight that greeted them. We really should have expected this. The area a mile out from the walls of Pentos on each side was filled with people who made the journey to greet the Targaryen queen.
After a moment of staring, Aerion seemingly made a decision, turning to the families whose company he'd come to enjoy much like Arya, he made an offer, "I will not have people I care about camping outside the city walls subject to any number of dangers. I know the winters in Essos are far less severe than in Westeros, but I'm sure you would still appreciate a warm bed and hot bath. To that end I propose that you stay at my family's home in the city and before anybody attempts to protest there is plenty of room. As I have said, my family was never poor off and the additional income I sent my parents only helped their situation."
While Arya was perfectly comfortable in the cold and crowd outside the city, she could not deny that a hot bath sounded incredible… it helped that she enjoyed the company as well. In her mind there was only one reasonable response, "I will definitely be taking that offer." Aerion smiled her direction, her acceptance would go a long way to convincing their other traveling companions to do the same.
Sure enough not a minute later, after the husbands and wives had a short conversation, Micah responded for both families, "We would be happy to accept your hospitality, if it's not too much trouble."
He couldn't help but smile, "Excellent let us make our way to the city and those warm beds."
An hour more of traveling found the group, minus the merchants and sell-swords, approaching the gates of Pentos. Merchants needed to be where people were and the vast majority of people were outside the city walls, so the bickering trio had left them sometime before.
Aerion bade his fellow travelers wait away from the gate while he went to talk to the guard. Initially it appeared the guard would not let them pass, but something Aerion said immediately changed his mind. Aerion gestured for to them follow as they were allowed through the gates.
Nela, Jaggo, and Farrago were staring wide eyed upon seeing the city. Arya couldn't say she was surprised. This is the first time any of them have seen a proper city. For everyone else present, the city, while impressive, was no greater than the other major cities they visited. For Arya and Aerion in particular it was simply another city, both had visited every one of the free cities in their travels.
The group slowly made their way through the city, allowing for the distraction of those new to a city's sites. Eventually they arrived in a rather affluent district and stopped at the front door of a fairly large home. Aerion approached the front door with long strides and knocked.
A few moments later, a lovely woman of some forty years, who could only be some relation of Aerion's, answered the door. She was as tall as Arya, maybe a little taller. She was still in great shape for a woman of forty. She had light blonde hair (though not the silver blond that littered Aerion's), but what made it obvious she must be related to Aerion were the eyes. They were the same unique shade of purple as his. Upon seeing Aerion, the woman embraced him and looking at his companions bade them all enter, "Please all of you come in, any friend of Aerion's is welcome in this house."
"Hello Mother, I hope you're well?" His tone was warm if formal.
"I'm wonderful darling," She said with a wide smile, "I should have expected to see you sometime soon. Obviously you would want to see the Targaryen queen. And if I know my son, I would guess he plans to fight for her."
Aerion shook his head in bemusement, "What can I say mother, you've always been able to see through me as though I were a piece of polished glass."
She simply chuckled and turned to his companions, "Though I must say, I did not imagine you would bring so many traveling companions with you. Aren't you going to introduce us darling?"
"Of course mother," and with that Aerion began the process of introducing his new friends to his mother. "Arya my mother Rhea, mother my friend Arya," and so it went. Rhea smiled and greeted each adult with a handshake, and each child a pat on the head. Arya could tell she was as ensnared by the young ones, particularly Nela, as Aerion and herself were.
The introductions done, Rhea turned back to her son, "So I take it everybody will be staying with us till the Dragon Queen leaves for the Seven Kingdoms?"
Rhea smiled widely, "Excellent we'll make ready enough rooms. We have warm food and water, something I'm sure you can appreciate after traveling a hundred mile in the cold of winter."
With that everyone was taken on a tour by Rhea, each being allowed to decide where they wished to stay, though Rhea was quick to give her recommendations. Farrago and Eroeh took a room on the second floor across from their son who, being the typical boy of two and ten, requested his own room. Micah and Doreah took a room on the third floor across from the twins. Finally, Arya relenting to Nela's puppy dog eyes would be sleeping in a room on the first floor, keeping the little girl company.
Three days had passed since arriving in Pentos. The city was lovely as ever but Arya had to admit she much preferred her current accommodations over the brothel she stayed in when last she was there. Near midmorning, Arya and Nela could be found watching Aerion make the dagger he had promised her.
Having retrieved all the necessary supplies Aerion made his way over to the two ladies wearing his blacksmith's apron and no shirt.
Arya may have experienced a great deal in her short life but she was still a young woman. Being a young woman, she appreciated a handsome young man when the opportunity presented itself. Though, an outside observer would be hard pressed to find any sign of her attentions. Years of learning how to lie had given her expert control of all her facial muscles.
Aerion broke her from her surprisingly ordinary thoughts, "So Arya, what kind of blade would you like? Also, do you have any design preference for the grip of the dagger?"
Unsurprisingly Arya's response was precise and to the point, "I would prefer a curved blade, ten inches in length, and with the weight slightly favoring toward the tip," Aerion only nodded as he began to select the necessary casts he would need for such a blade, "as for the design, I would like a wolf integrated into it somehow other than that you have free reign."
Aerion's eyes narrowed marginally, "Why a wolf? If you don't mind me asking."
Truthfully, Arya didn't care if Aerion and the others discovered who exactly she was. She knew that once Daenerys arrived she would be forced to fully reveal herself when she pledged her service. From what she knew of Aerion, he wouldn't change the way he treated her and Nela would just have even more questions she wished to ask.
That did not mean that she was going to tell them who she was, if Aerion figured it out for himself all the more power to him. But right now, she didn't need the hassle of her noble name, so Arya decided to tell a half truth, "The Wolf's Wood was my favorite place in the North and while most people fear the animals, I have always thought they were beautiful in a primal sort of way." I think I know that better than most after dreaming of Nymeria all this time.
About once a week Arya would have wolf dreams, seeing through the eyes of her lost direwolf. When first they came she did not understand them, but now she took comfort in the knowledge Nymeria was alive and well She also learned an important lesson from the wolf dreams; a lone wolf could find a new pack if they were strong enough.
Accepting her explanation without any further questions Aerion set to work. This was not the first time that Arya had seen a man work the forge. She had watched Mikken forge dozens of weapons and various other metal works while living at Winterfell and while held captive at Harrenhal she had seen Gendry do much the same but now, now she could understand the artistry in the act; something that eluded her in her younger years.
Arya didn't understand what he did to form the alloy but the end result differed only slightly from common metal. The molten metal turned a darker shade of red. No longer the cherry red of common steel it appeared almost the color of blood. It was beautiful and drew the eye the same way fire or ripples in the water did. Aerion then poured the alloy into a cast and let it cool briefly before quenching it. When he pulled the new blade from the quench tank, it appeared an iridescent black and he then began the process of folding the steel layer upon layer as he took it over to the anvil. Every strike of hammer on metal needed to be precise and when hit just the right way the metal almost sang.
Three hours of intensive work later Aerion had finished for the day, sweaty but smiling he addressed his audience, "I'll spend tomorrow sanding and honing the blade and then working on the grip." He looked directly to Arya, "Your dagger should be done in two days."
"Thank you Aerion, I really do appreciate it." With that she took Nela's hand and left the forge, "Come on Nela I think it is time we go find something to eat."
"Do you think we can find some lemon cakes?" Arya could only smile and nod. She'd learned very quickly that Nela had the same sweet tooth that Sansa once did.
Two days more found Arya standing in the beautiful home's courtyard a straw practice dummy her only companion. Nela was spending time with her mother and Arya thought it was the perfect time to test her new dagger.
The end results of Aerion's labors could only be described, in Arya's opinion, as the finest dagger she had ever owned. The blade was exactly as she had requested. The iridescent black metal shown beautifully and if caught at the right angle, one could see a variety of different colors playing along the blade. It was as sharp as Aerion claimed but it was the grip that truly impressed.
It was made of a black wood polished and treated to have the same quality of appearance as the blade itself, various lines of inlaid silver ran along the grip in the appearance of branches (Aerion claimed he did this in honor of the weirwoods of the North), and at the bottom in amazing detail was a wolf's head baring its fangs in much the same way the snake pommel of Aerion's sword did. When she asked how he managed such a feat, he chuckled and told her that he wasn't the one who carved it. He had enlisted the help of his father for whom wood carving was a longtime hobby. It turned out that Aerion's father, Marik, had done much the same when Aerion designed his sword's pommel.
Pulling her attention back to the present, Arya began twirling the blade between her fingers; something that came as naturally as breathing. Then, without warning either by noise or body language, Arya gripped the blade of the dagger and drove it into, what would have been, the ribs of the dummy with practiced precision and ease. She then proceeded to dismantle the dummy: a slash to the throat, a slit at the wrists, a stab to the kidneys, a thrust into the base of the neck, a prick to the knees that would cause a slow death. Arya repeated the processes over and over again losing herself to the dance. This was her way of relaxing now, of letting the world slip away till the only thing left was her and the dummy who took the appearance of every name on the list in her mind's eye.
Five years filled with training and then putting that training to use left little opportunity to simply relax, so Arya learned to relax when it was only her and the blade. A half hour of intensive attack saw Arya pouring sweat. As she stepped away from the now useless dummy, she was met with an unexpected noise, and acting on instinct she immediately brought her dagger to bear on the potential threat but just as quickly dropped the blade back to her side when she realized it was only Rhea, Marik, Micah and Doreah clapping. They must have been watching my little display.
The two couples approached her smiling. "I must say when first I heard that you planned to pledge not only your service but your blade to the Dragon Queen I was… well surprised would be putting it mildly." Marik told the young woman cheerfully.
"I couldn't help but think that a pretty young woman such as yourself wouldn't have the necessary skill to be of use to any Queen, at least not with a blade. Of course, when I heard tale of the incident with the bandits and how you managed to kill as many men as Aerion, no small feat I assure you, I decided to reserve judgment until I saw you in action for myself." He bowed his head to her, "Now I find that I must apologize, one must never judge a book by its cover. Queen Daenerys should count herself lucky if someone as talented as you desires to pledge their service."
Arya appreciated the sentiment but saw no need for apologies, "Marik, you are not the first nor will you be the last to look upon a girl and think her incapable of defending herself, particularly to the extent I can. So, and I mean this, there is absolutely no need to apologize." A wolfish grin spread across her face, "In fact, I prefer when people underestimate me, it makes it that much easier to surprise them when they least expect it."
The gathered group chuckled at that but Rhea had a question, "I am curious though my dear, how exactly did a lady so young come by such skills? It is clear you have practiced many years as skill like that no matter how talented a student may be does not just appear. You have to have been training for years now."
"You know it's funny you ask, I came by my skills much the same way your son did. A former First Sword of Braavos, Syrio Forel, lived in Westeros after serving the Sealord. My father, realizing I would never be one for dresses and the like, hired him to teach me. I think he felt I was likely to end up in dangerous situations and he hoped that training would help to keep me safe."
A small smile crossed her face at the memory of her first weapons teacher, "Syrio taught me the Braavosi Water Dance but due to my youth and size could not teach me the other sword forms as they relied heavily on a strength I lacked; so instead, he taught me how to use daggers in tandem with the sword. I have spent the last five years doing everything I could to perfect the art when I could." Arya could only chuckle to herself. Well they do say that the best lies have at least a grain of truth to them. She sobered quickly though when she remembered the last time she saw Syrio. Soon Ser Meryn will be just another name crossed off the list.
"Yes, the Braavosi certainly know their way around a blade if nothing else," commented Micah.
"Very true," answered Arya. She bowed her head in farewell, "If you will all excuse me, I think I will go take a bath. I seem to have sweat quite a bit while practicing. I will see you all at dinner." With that Arya took her leave.
Four days after her impromptu knife fighting demonstration, Arya walked with Nela around the courtyard of Aerion's family home talking about any number of innocuous topics. It is for this reason that Arya was caught completely off guard by Nela's next question, "Would you teach me to fight the way that you do?"
Eyebrows raised Arya looked questioningly at the younger girl, "What do you mean teach you to fight like I do? You've never seen me fight to want to fight like me."
"Yeah," the little girl said softly, "but the other night I heard my mom and dad talking about what they saw you do in the courtyard. They said you seemed really confident and good with your weapons. I know you can protect yourself, and I want to too." As children are known to do, she started getting slightly indignant as she finished.
"I want you to be able to protect yourself too Nela," Arya began with a slight chuckle, "but chances are we will only be together for another couple weeks at most. Trust me sweetie, it takes much longer than a couple of weeks to learn to fight the way I do."
"What if I came with you when you leave with the Dragon Lady?" Nela asked hopefully.
"You don't want to leave your family just to learn how to fight Nela." Arya sighed and looked through the little girl instead of at her as she continued, "You would miss them terribly and might never see them again." She shook herself before continuing sternly, "Besides which, that is not your choice to make and your parents would never allow it. They love you too much."
"If they loved me they would let me go with!" All sense ha d left the little girl at this point, she was simply grasping at air trying to convince Arya, "I want to be just like you!"
Arya shook her head slowly at that and her eyes seemed to dim, "No Nela, you most certainly don't want to be like me. To be like me, you would have to watch helplessly as your family was torn apart like a rat in a viper's nest. To be like me, you would have to fight what feels like every minute to make sure you survive. To be like me, you would have to witness the depths people are willing to go to ensure they keep whatever small amount of power they have."
Her steel grey eyes locked on to those of the child's almost desperately, "Please Nela you are far too precious a child to want to be like me. While I want you to stay safe and would like you to have the means to protect yourself, I hope you never become just like me."
Big blue-green eyes, wet with unshed tears, stared into metallic grey and Arya thought she would cry too if she hadn't mastered that reflex a long time ago. Nela let out a stifled sob then launched herself at Arya's legs hugging them tight as her arms would allow. After a good minute in that position, Nela backed away tears staining her young face. She then promptly turned and ran off. Heaving a sigh,
Arya rubbed at her temples. A voice broke the silence, "You did the right thing you know."
Arya didn't startle as she had heard him approach just as Nela expressed her desire to be just like her, "I know Aerion but that doesn't make it any easier. The look on her face pulled at my heartstrings harder than I'm willing to admit."
Aerion stepped closer, his face impassive, "Not surprising but you did what was necessary. While I commend her desire to protect herself, she understands little of what the world is really like." He cocked his head to the side in thought, "That makes me happy actually, knowing that six year old girls can still have the innocence they deserve."
Arya nodded slowly, her expression pensive, "Do you think she will avoid me after this?"
"No," Aerion stated firmly, "I just think she will need some time to come to terms with what you told her. I imagine she will have a new appreciation for her family after this."
Arya smiled a little at that, "I hope you're right."
Aerion's demeanor changed then, his eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed, "You know I trained with a First Sword of Braavos and I doubt any of them have much skill with a dagger, Yaltin certainly didn't. And while it is unfortunate what happened, you are hardly the only young girl to have her family taken from her."
His tone wasn't unsympathetic, but Arya could tell he'd yet to reach the point, "But the other things you said to her, it would take a certain kind of person to experience those things. One does not usually develop that kind of understanding of people unless they've seen far more of them than the average person."
So between that and your almost innate ability in battle to find the shadows and attack an enemy's most glaring vulnerability, I have only one question for you," He moved closer to her, his impressive height making her look smaller than she was, "Are you wearing your own face or is this the face of one of those given 'the gift'?"
Arya was only mildly surprised Aerion had figured it out. Someone as well traveled as him was bound to have heard stories of the servants of the House of Black and White, if not personal experience. Knowing denial would do her no good, she simply answered the question, "No, this is my face. It is the first time in three years I've actually worn it. I left the service of the Many-Faced God in favor of serving Queen Daenerys."
"I did not know one could leave the Faceless men." Said stiffly, clearly skeptical of her claim.
"It is rare but not unheard of." She explained without a hint of fear. Intimidating he might be, but fear had long ago left her.
He stared her right in the eye then, a good two minutes never wavering, simply assessing the truth of what she said, "Very well I believe you, were you still a member I doubt you would have invested so much of yourself into our traveling companions.
He stepped back and a faint smile came to his lips, "Someday I hope to hear exactly how it is you came from the North of Westeros to serve the House of Black and White in Braavos and the other Free Cities."
"It is very likely that someday I may tell you." Arya admitted knowing her own interests in the young man, Though you will tell me why a young man with great talent in music chose to take up a blade and travel the Free Cities and beyond, I imagine your story is nearly as intriguing as mine."
Aerion chuckled then, "Agreed."
Eyeing him critically, "I take it this information will remain just between us then?"
"Yes I think that would be for the best," He conceded without a fight, "Everyone here, me included, greatly enjoys your company. I somehow doubt others would be quite as understanding of your former profession as I am."
"Of that we are most certainly in agreement," said Arya over her shoulder as she turned to leave.
It took two days for Nela to begin acting her normal self again. Eroeh approached Arya the day after Nela ran away from her and thanked her for dissuading the little girl of her desire. Arya didn't think she deserved anyone's thanks for what she had done. She had hurt someone she cared about in the hopes that it would save her some future pain.
Nonetheless, Eroeh insisted. They had known, Farrago and Eroeh, had known what Nela planned to ask but could not talk her out of it, the words "cute as a button but stubborn as a mule" were used. When they failed to dissuade Nela, they hoped Arya would be able. While Eroeh understood Arya's remorse over making Nela cry, she insured her that Nela would come around quickly after she thought over exactly what Arya had told her. As Eroeh had said the little girl could be "stubborn as mule but quick as whip as well."
To say the least, Arya was ecstatic that morning when Nela woke her requesting they play a game. That was why Arya along with all the children were hiding in various obscure locations as Nela tried to hunt them down. It has been so long since the last time I played hide-and-seek, I may be a little old for it but the enthusiasm of the kids is absolutely infectious. Arya currently found herself taking refuge in a first floor closet. What Arya wasn't expecting was for Aerion and Rhea to begin a conversation in the adjoining room. Rhea seemed incredibly irritated with her son.
Identical amethyst eyes bore into each other, "You really expect me to believe that your desire to serve Daenerys Targaryen is not based in some vain desire to right a wrong committed years ago by your sires?"
Aerion's tone was far more hostile than Arya had ever heard it, "Believe what you wish mother, the simple fact of the matter is that my reasons are my own. I am not a child who needs every decision I make questioned."
"You may be a man grown but even a man remains a child in his mother's eyes," Rhea sighed and her voice calmed, "I am not questioning you simply because I want to henpeck you, I am just a mother concerned for her son's wellbeing. I don't want you risking your life in the pursuit of correcting a wrong you had no part in committing."
Aerion deflated at that and his eyes softened, "I understand and because I love you dearly I will be honest with you."
He spoke slowly at first, "There is some part of me that wants to correct the wrongs of your grandfather and his family but the main reason I want to do this comes from a desire to help bring a little bit more peace to a broken world. It is my opinion that Daenerys is the best person to do that."
He shook his head briefly, "Had I been trained when it happened, I would gladly have participated in her liberation and revolution in Slaver's Bay. From everything I've heard of her she isn't perfect and she makes mistakes, but the things she does are for the betterment of her people not for the sake of her own vanity and power. I have spent years of my life now looking for someone like that. Someone who believes the things I believe but the power to do something about it."
Rhea stood and approached her son, "I love you so much Aerion," embracing him she continued, "I am so incredibly proud of you, even if I don't agree with all of your reasons for doing this, you are doing the right thing."
Aerion nodded wresting his chin on his mother's head, "Thank you mom, I love you too." With that the two left the room. Arya remained behind in the closet considering their conversation. Well looks like we'll both be learning something new about the other once Daenerys arrives. Five minutes later Nela found her the other kids in tow. Apparently she had won the game of hide- and- seek.
Three hours later Arya was looking for Aerion. Rhea had asked if Arya would inform him dinner was ready. As she approached his door she heard a lovely melody coming from the room. Entering the room, she saw Aerion reclined on his bed, flute to his lips.
The instrument was nearly as beautiful as the music coming from it, polished Blackwood with silver bands around each joint of the instrument. Aerion seemed completely unaware of her presence and Arya was content to just listen to the beautiful melody. He just continued to play, flowing from note to note with elegance indicative of his years of experience. A few minutes later with a flourish he finished.
Returning to the world, he finally noticed her, "I'm sorry Arya I didn't hear you come in, I get kind of lost in my own little world when I play."
"No, no that's alright." She waved off his apology, "I enjoyed listening to you play. I imagined you must be good to have performed from such a young age but that was truly a pleasure."
"Well thank you," He said a little shyly, "I appreciate the compliment. While I have talent with a blade, music was my first love and as such, it is the thing I turn to when I want to get away for a time."
Arya could remember a time where she had something other than the blade to relax her. She would go to the godswood and stare into the eyes of the heart-tree when she could no longer tolerate her mother, Sansa or the Septa's useless lessons. "I imagine you were trying to take your mind off Daenerys's arrival tomorrow. Gods know I am anxious as can be."
"Yes," he admitted with a chuckle, "the anticipation is always the worst part. I know everybody can't wait to see the Dragons tomorrow. I imagine the kids will have a hard time sleeping tonight."
"I imagine you're right." Admitted before going into her own ponderings on what would transpire, "I doubt she will take visitors until the second day. It is possible that we won't even be given the opportunity to speak with her. I assume the sell-swords will talk directly with Daario Naharis leaving only those who wish to ply the queen with gifts and those who wish to pledge their service and swords instead of selling them. My guess would be maybe a hundred actual callers will come before her or her advisers."
"I had reached the same conclusions." But he shrugged then, "Declaring to Daenerys Targaryen directly is irrelevant though, what is important is ensuring that we are heard. Though I doubt people of our skill will have any problem with that," he finished with a smirk.
"No problem at all," a similar smirk gracing her lips as well, "oh I was sent to tell you that dinner is ready." She informed him, remembering why she had been sent to begin with.
Aerion quickly pushed himself up from his bed, "Better get down there then, mother won't abide tardiness… well at least not from me."
It was just past noon and every person in and around the city of Pentos looked toward the south, waiting to see the Daenerys Targaryen's fleet and more importantly her dragons. That morning Aerion's sisters and their families had joined them. They were both beautiful women but in entirely different ways.
Rhona, the oldest, was five and twenty, her face favored her mother but she had the same black hair (lacking the silver strands Aerion had from their mother's side) as her father and the same jade green eyes. She was taller than Arya standing at five foot nine. She was well endowed in all of the right places and had the kind of body most women dreamt of having. Devan, her husband, was a handsome man only an inch taller than his wife with short sandy brown hair who she had met when being educated in Myr. He was a salesman but that was all Arya had learned of him. They had one daughter six years of age, named Ashlyn. She and Nela immediately began to get to know one another as only little girls could.
Daessa was two and twenty, her facial features were a balance of her two parents. She was the only child who had entirely inherited their mother's light blond hair but had her father's eyes. She was by far the shortest member of the family standing only five feet tall. She was a slip of a girl though not lacking in feminine attributes. She appeared a dainty thing beautiful in the same way as a stain glass window. Her husband, Marius, dwarfed her standing in at nearly six foot five; he was the only person taller than Aerion.
They had a two year old son, Eyron, who Rhea immediately began fussing over. Clearly she was an extremely proud grandmother. A small pang hammered her heart as she looked at the gathered families along the dock. While she had come to adore those she had traveled with, she felt the pain of never being able to stand with her own family whole and healthy ever again. Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Cersei Lannister, Roose Bolton, Walder Frey. She would end every person who helped destroy her family or die in the trying.
A cry that went through the gathered crowd pulled Arya from her less than friendly thoughts. In the sky to the south maybe three miles from the city was a great black beast that dominated the sky. Five years of growth had been kind to the most potent of Daenerys's dragons.
From tail to snout the black behemoth appeared at least 150 feet long and its wingspan was so vast it cast a great shadow upon the ground. It traveled straight up into the sky and that is when the other two dragons made their appearance. One green as an emerald and the other white as freshly fallen snow with lines of gold running along its scales, they chased after their brother apparently wishing to catch their larger sibling. Though smaller these two dragons were no less impressive, they were at least a hundred feet long from tail to snout. The sight of them was awe-inspiring. They are beautiful like the fire, such a sharp contrast to Nymeria who was beautiful like the ice.
Five minutes later hundreds of sails broke the horizon. Arya had never seen anything quite like it. Watching as three dragons flew above hundreds of white sails Arya couldn't help but think that the scene would make for a good painting. Another hour and the ships had gone from the horizon to right upon the city. Almost every ship made landfall a mile outside the city but one, with a Dragon's head for a bust, continued on until it reached Pentos's port. The three dragons landed gracefully on buildings around the dock; seeing them that close gave an even greater appreciation for their enormity. They want to be close in case they need to protect their mother.
The Queen's ship was massive. Having finally docked men, both Unsullied and former slaves who served in the army, began filing out of the ship in two lines. People moved as the soldiers formed a path for the Queen. Two hundred men exited the ship before Arya saw two familiar faces.
Waddling along at a leisurely pace was Tyrion Lannister, though it was a Tyrion Lannister with a rather gruesome scar across his nose that had not been there when last she saw him. Exiting the ship behind him were five knights, one of whom was Ser Barristan the Bold, dressed all in white armor. With them came a man, who based on the descriptions she had heard, must be Daario Naharis, and an Unsullied who must have beeen their captain.
It was only then that Daenerys Targaryen the Stormborn, Mother of Dragon's, Breaker of Chains, Queen of Slaver's Bay, and Rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms exited the ship accompanied by a darker skinned young woman of an age with Arya.
Daenerys wore a purple dress that hugged the gentle curves of her body like a second skin. Around her wrists were metal bands made of gold that almost looked like vambraces. In her hair sat a circlet designed as a dragon devouring its own tail.
Looking at Daenerys, Arya could not help but be impressed by her beauty. Hair like silver gold cascaded down her back and along her shoulders framing a beautiful face. Large amethyst eyes a shade lighter than Aerion's scanned the scene before them. She had high cheekbones, a smallish cute nose, and full pouty lips. Her body was as beautiful as her face, she was thin everywhere a man would want and curved in just the right way. Her breasts and hips were not overly large but would draw the attention of any man with ease. She lacked the hard muscles that training like Arya's provides but she appeared firm in all the right places. She was shorter than Arya, standing only five foot five. Arya could understand why men the world round now talked of this woman's beauty.
Arya couldn't help but notice that her hair was the same color as the odd strands in Aerion's.
A foolish man would see Daenerys Targaryen as nothing more than a beautiful woman but for Arya, who had spent five years learning how to read people, Daenerys was nothing less than a warrior queen who simply happened to be beautiful. The evidence of this fact could be seen in the set of her shoulders and the fire that seemed to reside in her eyes. For not the first time, Arya was reminded that appearances could be deceiving. Daenerys Targaryen was just as dangerous as the dragons she commanded and Arya found herself impressed. Arya felt she could come to befriend the woman if given the chance.
The Queen made her way through the city smiling at the gathered crowd waving occasionally. Her Queensguard was never far from her side. Ser Barristan was particularly observant of the Queen's location and movements.
It was an hour's walk through the city before Daenerys finally reached her destination. Arya was shocked to see yet another familiar face. There, standing next to a man she knew to be Magister Illyrio Mopatis, was Varys the Spider. Now that is something that merits investigation later. They must be the reason she chose to come to Pentos instead of resupplying in Tyrosh and then landing in Dorne. As the Queen entered the manse, her guards and advisors at her side, the crowd began to disperse. Arya and her companions made their way back to Aerion's home.
It was announced early the next morning that the Queen would spend the next three days, as the fleet restocked, from sun up to sundown receiving the people of Pentos. That is why the early morning found Aerion and Arya preparing themselves to stand before the Mother of Dragons.
Aerion donned armor for the first time in her presence. She was surprised that the black steel used for their blades was also used to craft his armor. He wore black metal gauntlets, vambraces and greaves. Each piece was lined with a white fur for comfort.
She was unsurprised to find that snake designs wrapped around the vambraces. He wore a chainmail shirt underneath a purple tunic, over the top of that he wore a leather jacket that came half way down the arm.
Apparently, the leather came from a wyvern he had encountered in his travels to Asshai. Wyverns while incredibly rare were not the legends that dragons were; however, their skin was light and incredibly durable. Standing their dressed all in black, purple and silver Aerion was quite the sight. He had his sword strapped to his left him and a dagger on his right. He also carried what appeared to be another sword with him wrapped in a silk cloth.
Arya was surprised when he handed her a package. Inside, made of the now familiar black metal, was a pair of the same vambraces, grieves, and gauntlets, only instead of a snake motif wolves adorned the armor. A jacket was inside as well. It was a lighter shade of grey instead of his black and included a cowl at the back. Knowing she preferred to fight as light as possible to better optimize her agility, he didn't provide her with anything else.
Arya was quite touched when she saw the armor and surprised both of them when she hugged him, "Thank you, they will be put to good use."
Backing away he smiled down at her, "Think nothing of it. I wanted you to have the best protection you could. Besides I know Nela would hurt me if I let anything happen to you."
She laughed out loud at the mental image of a six year old beating on the young man, "I'm quite sure she would be just as likely to hurt me if I let anything happen to you." Aerion chuckled as he left the room, giving her privacy to get changed.
An hour later the pair stood in a queue waiting to stand before the Queen. As they had expected the sell-swords had all been directed straight to Daario Naharis, which drastically reduced the number of people waiting to see the Queen.
A few were foolish men seeking the Queen's hand. Anybody with sense knew she had refused all suitors since her first husband died. It will take more than a bit of wealth and gifts to win Daenerys's favor. Most were Magisters or other wealthy men hoping to garner some favor from the woman who, should she succeed, would be more powerful than any living person by the end of her campaign. They fear she may take the Free Cities after she has finished with the Seven Kingdoms.
Daenerys received people in the courtyard of Illyrio's extremely large manse. Soldiers kept spectators a good fifty feet from the makeshift, though still stately, dais on which she sat. Ser Barristan stood to her left on high alert should there be any sort of threat. Tyrion Lannister was seated to her right, looking more than a little bored of the proceedings. And finally, there was Varys beside him. The rest of her Queensguard stood two to each side, relaxed but ready. However, if anybody found the guards to be an unconvincing deterrent from trying something stupid, Drogon's resting form sat mere feet behind her most certainly would do the trick.
The Magisters gave Daenerys all manner of extravagant gifts: furniture, silk gowns, paintings, metal work of silver and gold, rare and unique books. Each gift she accepted with a smile and her thanks but Arya could tell she tired of pandering to the affluent men who so desired her attention. The only person who surprised Arya was Cassim, the sell-sword they had traveled with from the port village, but he wasn't there to see the Queen.
He kneeled in supplication to Daenerys before turning to her court scribe and translator, Missandei. When she recognized him all sense of decorum left her as she rushed toward him hugging him fiercely, apparently this was the sister Cassim had mentioned that was freed when Daenerys first took Astapor. The Queen merely allowed them to have their moment clearly happy that Missandei was mistaken in her belief that she had no family left in the world. After about a minute Cassim released his sister, bowed to the Queen, and departed to return to the army camp. Daenerys would ensure they had a chance for a longer reunion later.
An hour more passed before Aerion and Arya were finally at the front of the line. Arya, turning to Aerion, asked, "Which of us will go first then?"
"Why, the lady of course." There was a time when she would have protested the very idea of being called a lady but now when she was further from the prototypical lady than ever, it didn't bother her at all. She simply nodded and walked toward the Queen's dais stopping twenty feet away as they had been instructed.
Tyrion, who had seemed incredibly bored by the entire process, sat up straighter and eyed her critically. Ser Barristan, who constantly scanned the crowd for any possible danger, locked his gaze on her. He paled slightly as though he had seen a ghost. Varys' reaction was the most unusual. She was quite positive that the look of utter bewilderment had never graced his face, not even when Joffrey had unexpectedly decided to have her father's head cut. Unaware of the others' reactions, Missandei continued with business as usual, "Please state you name and business with Queen Daenerys."
Looking only at the woman who could decide to kill her for her father's role in the fall of the Targaryen dynasty, Arya spoke in the common tongue of Westeros, never wavering despite her nerves, "I am Arya Stark, daughter of Catelyn Tully and Eddard Stark, former Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, and Hand to King Robert I Baratheon, may the gods give them rest. As to my business, I wish to pledge my service to your Grace's cause. "
Daenerys's eyes widened and eyebrows rose. She turned to her advisors, clearly wishing to know their opinions on the validity of Arya's claim. Tyrion decided to answer the unspoken question, "She most certainly looks the part and she always did have more of the North in her than any of her siblings, besides maybe Jon Snow." He leaned forward and looked her up and down with interest, "Though I must say everybody was convinced she had died when she disappeared after her father's execution."
Ser Barristan smiled slightly at her, and then turned to address his Queen, "That is Eddard Stark's daughter, I would bet my life on it. She looks much like her Aunt Lyanna." He glanced at the weapon on her hip, "Also, I remember seeing her practice with her dancing instructor once; she carried the same blade with her then that she does now."
Daenerys spoke up then, wanting to hear what the Spider had to say, "Lord Varys have your little birds had any news of the young Lady Stark in recent years?"
Varys, finally snapping from his bewildered stare, shook his head slowly, "No she has been lost to me and my informants for five years now but, I must say from look alone, that is definitely Arya Stark."
Daenerys then returned her attention to Arya, skeptically she asked, "Why would the daughter of a man who helped end my family's dynasty wish to help me? Would it not be more likely that you wish to harm me in some way?"
Arya had long since prepared her response to the obvious question, "It was never my father's desire to end the Targaryen dynasty. He only wished to see Aerys brought to justice for what he did to my grandfather, Rickard and my uncle, Brandon; he did not fight because Lyanna left with Rhaegar that was Robert's cause."
The Queen looked unconvinced so Arya continued, "He never hated your brother, he would often tell us, my siblings and I, that Rhaegar Targaryen was a good man. He hated what was done to your niece and reportedly done to your nephew." She noticed both Barristan and Tyrion nod along to her claim. He left King's Landing when the bodies were presented to Robert and he only thought it good that more dragon-spawn lay dead."
Her conviction never wavered as she explained further, "My father pleaded with Robert not to send men after you and your child but Robert would not listen. His refusal to take part in your attempted assassination was the reason he resigned as Hand."
There was nothing else she was willing to say in such open company, "So no your Grace, you have no reason to fear harm from me. As to why I would wish to help you, my father always taught me the importance of family and honor. I wish to help you reclaim what is yours because you are a just ruler. It only makes me more willing to help your cause as I will be able to see justice done upon those who destroyed my family as well."
The Queen seemed mollified by her explanation and now continued more curious than anything, "And what exactly can a girl of five and ten offer in way of service?"
"I have not been idle these past five years, I am as skilled with a blade as any man and would gladly use it to spill blood for you." She wasn't being boastful, merely stating a fact. And the confidence in her voice would convince many to the validity of her claims.
"More importantly I can offer insight that none of your councilors can," She knew there were times that knowledge could be more powerful than the sword, "Eventually you will have to enter the North when reclaiming the Seven Kingdoms but you have no one capable of instructing you in how to approach it. I'm sure Lord Tyrion has read plenty of books on the matter but the North is my home and I will always know it better."
The Queen sat silently for a long moment, pondering everything Arya had said until finally she came to a decision, "Very well Arya Stark, I accept both your body and blade into my service." The Queen nodded to herself, obviously having come to a personal decision, "You will attend supper with me here tomorrow night. I would like the story of how you were able to avoid even Varys' informants for five long years."
While Arya was slightly stunned by the offer, she didn't let it show, "Of course your Grace, I look forward to it." With that she turned to the crowd only to see Nela sitting on her father's shoulders waving at her. Everyone had come to watch the proceedings apparently. Arya waved as she made her way over. Daenerys following her gaze saw Nela as well, caught the little girl's attention, and then waved as well causing the little girl to blush in excitement.
Once Arya had entered the crowd Aerion stepped forward, Missandei repeated the same thing she had to all the other, "State your name and the business you have with Queen Daenerys."
Aerion kneeled before the Queen and placed the clothed sword in front of him, "I am Aerion Ormthair and I stand before your Grace wishing to return something that was taken from your family long ago and offering my blade to your service."
Curious, Daenerys eyed the blade in front of Aerion, "What could you possibly have to return to House Targaryen?"
"My mother was the only child of Maelys Blackfyre and his unwilling sister Daena Blackfyre." He explained to the shock of those before him, "I am the last male descendant of Aegon IV's bastard son, Daemon Blackfyre. As such I return to you your ancestral Valyrian sword, Blackfyre, the sword Aegon used in his conquest of the Seven Kingdoms." Ser Barristan reacted as one would expect from the man who killed Maelys the Monstrous. He immediately went to draw his sword but stayed his hand at Daenerys's signal.
The Queen gestured to the covered sword before him,"Please unclothe it Aerion, I wish to see my family's legendary blade," and so Aerion did, "Un-sheath it please." Aerion took the hilt in hand and drew the Valyrian blade with a practiced motion.
The sword was truly a work of art, still as sharp as the day it was forged. The cross-guard resembled the outstretched wings of a dragon. The pommel was circular with a ruby inlaid in one side and an onyx in the other. "Please bring the blade to me sir." Daenerys instructed.
Holding the sword horizontally so as not to anger any of her various guards or the ever present dragon for that matter, Aerion approached the Queen and upon reaching her turned the blade so as to present her with the hilt. She accepted the blade gracefully but one could easily tell she had little experience with a blade in her hand.
She examined both the sword and Aerion carefully, "It is a truly magnificent weapon, I thank you sir for returning it to my family," with that she sheathed the weapon. Looking at Aerion she commented idly, "It's funny you know, our eyes are nearly the same. I haven't seen a pair of purple eyes since my foolish brother died six years ago."
She shook herself from her musings, "But I digress, I believe you said you wished to pledge your sword to my cause, do you wish to be a member of my Queensguard?"
"Do the Queensguard take similar vows to that of the Kingsguard?" Aerion questioned, though it was obvious from his tone that he already knew the answer.
Ser Barristan answered, "They do."
Aerion bowed his head, "Then I am afraid I must decline your Grace. I am my father's only son, I could not take that from him; besides which, I wish to know the love of a woman before I leave this world."
"And I cannot deny you that," Daenerys said with a slight smile, "Aerion Ormthair I accept your blade into my service. Though I will require a demonstration at some point as I have never actually seen you fight," She glanced over in Arya's direction, "Perhaps you would accompany Arya here tomorrow? You two seemed to know one another."
Aerion smiled before responding, "It would be my honor your Grace, when should we arrive?"
"Well I may as well get a demonstration of both your skills before dinner," Daenerys reasoned out loud, "so you are to arrive here tomorrow five hours past noon, as I doubt I will have many people to receive tomorrow… you should bring your family as well. I would like to meet your mother at the very least."
"Of course," Aerion bowed once more to the Queen, then turned to join his friends and family just as Arya had done. Aerion walked up to Arya and smiled, "Well looks like we both have a story to tell."
Four hours and thirty minutes past noon the next day, Aerion's entire family plus Nela and her mother traveled to the manse of Magister Illyrio. The others were offered the opportunity to come along as well but upon seeing the finery required by Rhea they promptly declined. Eroeh decided to accompany her daughter while the other parents chose to supervise the other children.
At Rhea's insistence everybody was dressed in their absolute best. She had even bought Nela and Eroeh new dresses for the occasion. Arya and Aerion were dressed exactly the same as they had been the day prior, they figured they would need the armor for whatever demonstration the Queen desired. Explanations of the previous day's revelations were postponed as they were quite sure they would only be telling the same stories to the Queen.
Ten minutes before the appointed hour they arrived. Better to be early when dealing with royalty. When they reached the gate they were surprised to find Lord Tyrion and Ser Barristan there to guide them. Arya quickly realized they had offered to accompany them in a desire to speak to Aerion and her, though they didn't seem to know how to break the silence that reigned. Surprising, I didn't think Tyrion Lannister was ever unwilling to broach unpleasant subjects.
Taking pity on them Arya spoke up, "So Lord Tyrion, last I saw you, you had no scar upon your face. How did it happen?"
Tyrion smirked, "I received the scar at the Battle of the Blackwater when I attempted leading a sortie against Stannis's men." He ran a finger along the memento left to him by the battle, "Outside the gates I was attacked by Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard, he attempted to kill me on I believe Cersei's orders. He slashed me across the face and as he went in for the kill I was saved by my squire Pod."
"I heard rumor your plan saved the capital that day, had you not been there Stannis would have taken the city before your father could arrive." She turned curious eyes on the half-man, "You never had any love of Joffrey, why help save him?"
Tyrion nodded at her claim, "Ah you see I was serving as Hand of to the King at the time, and while I hated the vile little monster," he spat out at the memory of his nephew, "I knew it would be my head mounted on the pike next to his should we lose, besides I had as much love for Stannis and his Red God as I did for Joffrey."
Arya chuckled lightly, "Well I suppose I cannot blame you for worrying about your own head, it is most certainly worth far more than Joffrey's ever was."
"Of that we are in firm agreement," Tyrion turned toward her then, a sad smile on his disfigured face, "I must say Arya, I am sorry for what happened to your family. Few men were as noble as Ned Stark, he never grasped for power he merely did all he could for a man he considered a brother and he died because of it. Your mother," the smirk returned then, " well she tried to have me killed, but I can't exactly blame her; she was far from the first person and there have been more than a few since. My sister the most frequent. Catelyn was a good woman willing to do anything for her family. What was done to her and your brother Robb… well let's just say I hope that my father and his conspirators burn in the deepest pits of the Seven Hells."
"Thank you Lord Tyrion but what happened to my family was far from your doing… though you must excuse me if I wish you had failed at the Blackwater, much would be different if you had," Arya sighed, "but then wishing something to be different does not make it so." Her lit up with the fire of deep seated conviction, "I cannot bring my family back but I will have justice."
"I wish you the best of luck in that endeavor," he said genuinely, "You know I was your good brother for a time? Unfortunately, I have heard no word of my former wife since Joffrey's death."
"Yes I had heard that you and Sansa were forced to marry." Arya replied evenly, "I hope you were kind to her if nothing else." There was a hint of a threat in her tone.
Tyrion looked unperturbed so she continued, "I have heard no rumor of her whereabouts either. I suppose I must simply assume the worst and should she be alive, hidden away somewhere, it will be a pleasant surprise. But should any form of harm been done upon her, the culprit will find my blade buried in their back."
"I imagine after all this time, should she still be alive, she will have quite the story to tell. I hope wherever she is, that she is safe." She could tell his concern was honest and that allayed any fears regarding her sister's treatment, "While we certainly did not love each other, I did come to care for her in my own way. I like to think that we helped each other tolerate the capital and my wretched family for a time," Arya only nodded in response.
Seeing as their conversation had ended for the time being, Ser Barristan chose that moment to interject, "Lady Arya..." but he got no further.
"Please Ser Barristan," She said kindly, "I was never much of a Lady and while I understand the necessity for titles when the situation dictates it, please when in private just call me Arya."
"Very well then Arya," he began somber for a reason Arya didn't understand, "I feel I must apologize to you. I was there the day that your father was taken captive by Cersei Lannister and did nothing. Your father was an honest man and my inaction helped lead to his death. It is one of many regrets I will carry to my death."
"And it is a regret that I know my father would not want you to bare." Arya tried to convince the old knight, "While you did not help my father that day, did you raise your sword against him?"
Ser Barristan shook his head stiffly, "No, at the very least I did not do that."
"Then while I feel there is no need to apologize to begin with, you are forgiven." Arya offered what little she could to allay the man's guilt, "Had you chosen to stand with my father that day, you would be dead same as him, branded a traitor for daring to do what was right. Instead you now have the opportunity to help right the wrongs done by Lannisters, I believe my father would be happy for small blessings."
"Thank you, I will do all I can to help you find justice." Ser Barristan said, his head held just a slight bit higher.
"I know Ser Barristan." Arya told him with a smile.
With that Ser Barristan turned his attention to Aerion, "So you are the only male descendant of Maelys the Monstrous?"
"That is correct ser. Why?" Aerion questioned.
"I killed him at the Stepstones," Barristan told him grimly, "he earned his moniker well. I find it hard to believe any woman would have him."
Rhea felt the need to speak, "And no woman willingly would, he forced himself upon his sister in hopes of continuing the Blackfyre line. She praised your name to every god she could think of when she heard you had killed her brother."
Ser Barristan didn't seemed surprised by the news but he wasn't wholly appeased,"And how is it that she escaped her brother's other supporters? I imagine they would have wanted to keep her under thumb."
"If you don't mind Ser," Aerion interjected, "we would prefer to wait until the Queen is present to tell the story. It is part of the reason we are here after all."
"Of course, she should be joining us shortly," Barristan eyed his blade and armor, noting the similarity to Arya's, "tell me where did you get your armor? It appears to be very high quality."
"I made my armor and Arya's," Aerion revealed with a hint of pride, "as well as my sword."
"Truly," exclaimed Ser Barristan surprised, "I did not take you for a blacksmith."
"Nor do I claim to be." Aerion admitted, "I made the blade as my final assignment from Yaltin, former first sword of Braavos. He believed a man should know his blade as well as he knows how to use it. I happened to have a talent for the craft and decided to make my own armor as well."
They had reached the main courtyard, "Would you mind showing me your sword?" Without a word Aerion drew the blade and handed it to Ser Barristan. The old knight gave the sword practiced swings, feeling the weight of it, and checking the balance. Even such a simple act showed years of experience and skill few could hope to match despite his age. Finally, he examined the metal of the blade closely, clearly trying to discern its origin but having no luck.
"It is a beautiful weapon," Barristan said as he offered the weapon back to Aerion, "lighter than I would have expected but perfectly balanced… should you be half as good in its use as you are in its making then the Queen is lucky to have your service."
Aerion couldn't help a small smile from creeping up on the corner of his mouths at the legend's praise, "Thank you Ser Barristan, it is good to know my work is appreciated."
Barristan raised one white eyebrow, "I must ask though, what metal is it made of? I have never seen another like it."
"It is an alloy of obsidian and steel," Aerion told him, just as he had Arya, "It is lighter than common steel, and holds its edge nearly as well as Valyrian steel."
"And why the snake?" Arya perked up at this, it was a question she had been meaning to ask for quite some time.
"Snake's do not attack except for at the opportune moment, they lay in wait patient something I think any warrior, knight or common soldier should seek to emulate." Aerion ran a finger along the pommel of his blade, "Furthermore, snakes are a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, wisdom in life and battle is what separates good men from great men."
Barristan seemed to appreciate the answer, "Very good," then addressing Arya as well, "I do not know what the Queen will desire in way of demonstration but I look forward to it nonetheless." And then Ser Barristan and Lord Tyrion began a conversation of their own away from the gathered group.
The guests talked amongst themselves while they awaited Daenerys. Twenty minutes later and half past five, the Queen entered flanked by Daario Naharis and one of her Queensguard, Varys was behind them.
"I apologize for my tardiness. I had matters to discuss with Lord Varys and Magister Illyrio." She smiled at those gathered and looked to Arya and Aerion, "Now, I believe introductions are in order." Aerion, as it was his family, introduced them to the Queen.
She smiled gently at each of them and laughed heartily when Nela and Ashlyn couldn't help but burst out, "You're so pretty," in perfect unison. It was almost disconcerting how lose they had become in just two days.
Once introductions were made, Daenerys smiled and clapped once, "Excellent now that everyone knows each other I think it is time for that demonstration I wanted, stories and explanations can wait for later."
"Of course your Grace, who would you like us to fight? Or would simply like us to attack training dummies?" asked Arya.
Daenerys shook her head, "No I think you shall fight one another for a start," they were slightly taken aback though they should have expected it, "You may use edged blades, practice swords or even wood if you like, all are at your disposal."
The pair looked at one another, a competitive gleam in their eyes. Despite their penchant for practicing their craft they had never actually fought one another. This is going to be fun, finally going to find out just how good Aerion really is. Aerion's thoughts mirrored hers on the matter.
Both removed their leather coats, Arya drew Needle and the dagger Aerion made for her as he drew his sword. He should really name that sword. It is far too fine a weapon not to have a name, all the best swords should have names.
What she was not expecting was for Aerion to walk over to a rack of swords and pick up another one, swinging it with the same skill in the left hand as he would in the right. In position Arya called to him, "I was not aware you were ambidextrous."
"I am but, I tend to prefer using only one blade." He smiled, "However, fighting somebody who I know to be as quick as you, the extra blade is almost a necessity."
Arya dropped down into a ready position, a wolfish grin upon her face, "First blood then?"
"Agreed," in position now the smile had left his face to be replaced by determination.
With that the onslaught began. The clang of steel on steel rang throughout the courtyard. Arya understood very quickly that the only other time she had seen Aerion fight he had been holding back immensely. Luckily for her so had she.
He was fast, faster than a man his size had any right to be and strong, stronger than she even expected. Fortunately neither was aiming to permanently hurt the other. Slashes and jabs were deflected with fluidity by both participants. To the gathered spectators, it appeared almost as if they were dancing. The problem, Arya realized, was that while she was extremely skilled with a sword, her true expertise came in the subtle knife. Aerion was the better swordsman and now she knew it. She highly doubted there were very many men who could match him. That being said, she was not going to make it easy on him. She attacked with a fury: slashing, stabbing, thrusting and then slashing again.
After ten minutes of intense sparring Aerion changed his tactics, gone was the fluidity of the water dance they had both been using, in its place was the ferocity she knew to be the Westerosi style. She knew that he would eventually overwhelm her with shear strength … she only hoped he would leave her an opening before that time came.
Another ten minutes and Arya finally found an opening. Aerion thrust with the sword in his left hand seemingly leaving his left flank open to her knife hand. She went to strike but the thrust was a feint by Aerion. Bringing the blade in his right hand down hard in a slash he dislodged the dagger in her hand. He then lashed out with his left leg, catching her off guard and knocking her to her knees. It was then she felt it… cold steel cut the back of her hand. She looked up, amethyst purple locking onto metallic grey, and she realized the incredible excitement the whole thing had caused in her and from the look in his eyes, she could tell he felt it too.
For the first time in years Arya actually blushed, looking away from those damnable eyes. He offered a hand and helped her back to her feet. I've always known he was attractive, but that was absolutely exhilarating. It was with that thought she realized the assembled spectators were politely applauding as they approached the pair.
Daenerys addressed them, "Well I am no expert on matters of sword play but for me that was truly impressive. Ser Barristan, what say you?"
Barristan eyed them both appreciatively, "I would say that Aerion is the single most skilled swordsman I have met since Ser Jaime Lannister, and whatever else the Kingslayer may be, he was truly gifted with a blade. Arya is no less talented but hampered by her size. She makes up for it with speed and could easily best most men in a fight, members of your army included your Grace."
Daenerys smiled, "I thought as much, thank you," turning now to Daario, "and your opinion?"
The blue haired man smiled widely, "They are incredibly skilled. You should count yourself lucky they decided to fight for you."
"Yes I most definitely should" She said before turning to the pair with a bit of mischief in her eyes, "I have a proposition for you two."
Aerion and Arya glanced at one another apprehensively as she continued, "You may or may not be aware that Daario has served as my champion in matters of single combat since I took the city of Meereen; however, with the number of sell-swords now at my command I will need him as one of my generals instead. Seeing as neither of you will be serving in my Queensguard, I would like to offer the role of champion to both of you… jointly."
The group chuckled at the gob smacked expressions on their faces. They turned to each other, coming to a silent agreement before Arya spoke, "We would be honored your Grace, we pledged our blades and they will serve you in whatever way possible."
"Excellent, should there be no need for single combat you will serve in the army as normal, just as the members of my Queensguard. Now the two of you appear to need bathes, Missandei will escort you. Fresh clothes will be laid out for you when you are done. Servants will then bring you to dinner."
Missandei walked up to them then, "If you would follow me please," and so they did. A short walk later she directed them to a room each just across from one another. Upon entering the room, Arya took no time to admire the extravagance of Illyrio's home, what she did admire was the steaming tub of water that beckoned her sweaty body. Quickly divesting herself of her clothing,
LIME CONTENT. SCROLL DOWN IF YOU WISH TO SKIP
Arya gently lowered herself in to the warm water, sighing at its relaxing touch. It was only then she noticed the obvious signs of her arousal. Her nipples were hard, harder than they had ever been and felt at her lower lips it was obvious to her that the moisture there was not just from the water.
Arya had never had time for personal pleasure, she was a weapon trained to kill as effectively as any poison but in that moment she felt a need for release that she had never experienced before.
Slowly she slid her hand down her body passing over her firm breasts and taut stomach before coming to her trimmed pubic hair and cupping her mound. She rubbed two fingers along her slit enjoying the wonderful friction before slowly slipping just one finger into her tight channel.
She gasped at the sensation as she slowly penetrated herself until she had buried her finger up to the second knuckle. She pushed the finger back and forth slowly, reveling in the tight grip of her grasping womanhood. Her finger continued to delve deeper until she had sheathed the entirety of her index finger.
She wanted to feel more of the euphoric sensation so brought her middle finger to join her index. s she did so her thumb brushed against her clit causing her to yelp in surprise and release a lustful moan. She ran her thumb across the tiny nub again and bit her lip as she felt a thrill run through the nerves of her body.
She increased the speed of her fingers, as they stretched her tunnel to cause intense pleasure; all while she continued rubbing her nub in small circles. Tiny whimpers of pleasure escaped her mouth as the water rippled with her motions.
Slowly she began to writhe as she felt something building. It started in her stomach and spread out across every nerve in her body until it exploded. In that moment, her mind went to haunting purple eyes and she suppressed her scream instead moaning from deep in her throat.
LIME CONTENT OVER. KEEP READING FROM HERE
After a minute of collecting herself from her first self-induced orgasm, her eyes opened an she began the task of actually cleaning her body from her earlier fight.
Five minutes later she stepped from the bathroom only to see a beautiful silver dress hanging on a hook on the door. While Arya was no fan of dresses she understood the necessity of them in situations like this. She pulled on her undergarments then donned the dress.
It was a sleeveless, dark blue dress that clung to her body, accentuating her womanly curves while maintaining all sense of propriety, though it was certainly more revealing (and flattering) then her usual pants and tunics. Arya couldn't help but be a little rebellious and affixed her grieves and vambraces to her body. Fully dressed she exited the door but did not find a servant. Instead she was met by Varys.
"Lady Stark," his usual sickeningly sweet tone present, "I must say it was a shock to see you alive and well. It has been believed for years you died after escaping the Lannisters."
"Yes I'm sure you are quite surprised," Arya resisted the urge to sneer, "it is not every day you find somebody your little birds failed at keeping an eye on. I imagine the Lannister were quite unhappy with yours and Littlefinger's inability to find me."
"Yes quite," He replied, not the least bit disturbed by the implied dig, "though I must ask how did you hide so effectively for so long?"
"I assume you will be joining us for dinner?" Arya ignored his question.
Varys seemed to realize that she was not in the mood to answer his questions, "No, the Magister and I shall eat elsewhere."
"Very well you shall have to hear it from somebody else then," She had no interest in telling the story more than once, particularly not for the former Master of Whispers, "I very much doubt you will have trouble finding someone to tell you the story." She looked him squarely in the, "I have an important question of my own Lord Varys."
"I assume this has something to do with your father?" He took a step to get further away from her.
"Indeed, what could you possibly have said to my father to convince him to plead he committed treason when you and I are both very much aware he did no such thing?" a bit of heat entered her voice by the end of her question.
"Ah, yes that was a terrible business," Arya was surprised to see genuine regret on the man's face, "Your father was a good and honorable man. In most situations he would have held to his convictions till his dying day."
He shook his head in self-deprecation, "I convinced him that it was in yours, Sansa's and the realm's best interest should he confess his supposed treason. You see Sansa had pleaded for your father's life. He was to be allowed to live his remaining days at the Wall. Cersei even agreed with the sentence knowing it would avoid war with the North," here his mood darkened, "but then that ill-born imbecile Joffrey went and had him executed, depriving the realm of peace and the Wall of a much needed commander."
They had arrived outside the main hall but stopped to continue their conversation, "No he robbed a family of their father when his only crime was speaking the truth," spat Arya.
Varys clearly didn't see things as she did, "True, my Lady but the realm comes first."
"Tell me Lord Varys, how have you come to serve Daenerys?" Arya almost demanded, "I remember you in the capital, always having a whispered word for whoever requested your services. You were always so complicit in the various wrongs that occurred there, was it all just another play expertly put on by the former mummer?"
Varys smiled at her, "I serve Daenerys because the Targaryen's are the best hope for a peaceful Seven Kingdoms. As to the matter of my 'play', I would be of little use to anyone with my head on a pike." Arya knew it was only a matter of self-preservation that motivated him, "My original plans had nothing to do with seating Daenerys on the Iron Throne, but Viserys proved to be a fool and she returned legends to the world. The decision was easy."
"I recall you encouraging Robert in his desire to have her and her brother assassinated." She pointed out with narrowed eyes.
"Yes well, I knew which parts needed to be played and when to play them." Varys replied unconcernedly.
"In other words, she wasn't the only avenue to your ultimate goal." Arya pointed out knowingly. "You had Aegon hidden away should your plans with Daenerys and Viserys fail. I wonder though what will happen now that Aegon and Daenerys will be rivals for the throne? Is he even a true Targaryen or just a mummer's dragon?"
"Only time will tell my Lady. It will be interesting to say the least." With that he opened the door for her and she entered the room as he walked away.
Everybody who had been present for the demonstration was seated at the table. Even Ser Barristan sat at the table, though he seemed less than comfortable without his armor on. Daenerys, who had been quietly chatting with Aerion's sister Rhona, noticed her and smiled.
"You look lovely in that," drawing everyone's attention to her, "now that you're here we can begin."
Aerion's gaze seemed to linger longer than anyone else's as she took her seat, and she couldn't help but enjoy it. She caught his eye before they both looked away. She noted with pride the very slight flush to his cheeks. It's good to know I'm affecting him the same way he has started to affect me.
Dinner was a delicious but not overly extravagant affair. A clam soup was served to start. It was obvious the clams had been taken from the sea that very day. The main course was individual game hens served with roasted vegetables and potatoes. The meat was so tender it seemed to melt in her mouth. She was able to figure out that dessert was lemon cakes before they even reached the table, Nela's squeal of delight did that much.
Conversation was kept light throughout. The Queen took time to speak with each of her guests, even Ashlyn and Nela, who both seemed overjoyed at the attention. Finally after the hour long meal had concluded the more serious topics were broached. Daenerys turned to Arya, "So tell me how is it that you came from the Red Keep of King's Landing all the way to pledging your sword to me here in Pentos?"
And so she did, the assembled group sat enthralled as she told her story. She told of her escape from the Red Keep with the help of Syrio Forel, watching her father's execution by Ilyn Payne with his own sword, Yoren, the wandering crow, who cut her hair and helped her escape the capital. She told of her companions, Gendry, Lommy and Hot Pie, how Lommy was murdered by Lannister men hunting Gendry and how she essentially saved Gendry's life. She told of her time at Harrenhal and Jaqen offering three lives for the three she had saved, how he gave her an iron coin more valuable than any made of gold. She told of her time with the Brotherhood, how they planned to ransom her to her brother. She told of her time with the Hound, how he saved her life even if only so he could still gain some coin. She told of the massacre at the Twins as her family was betrayed. Then she told of finding a ship bound for Braavos and giving the captain the iron coin and being directed to the House of Black and White.
Her story elicited varying reactions. For Nela and Ashlyn they merely began to cry, the former most of all, for the terrible things that had happened to her. Their mothers' did their utmost to comfort them. Tyrion upon hearing she had been in the House of Black and White had a sudden realization and eyed her appraisingly. Rhea, Rhona, Daessa, and Eroeh seemed to offer sympathy if not outright pity. Their husbands as well as Daario took the whole thing in stride finding it to be an excellent tale. Daenerys, Aerion, and Barristan all had similar reactions. She was pleased when she looked at them as she didn't find pity or sympathy just understanding. These three understood that the past was just that and there was no reason to cry as it could not be changed. They were kindred spirits if nothing else.
Taking a large breath of air she continued, "At the House of Black and White I found sanctuary but more importantly, I began training to become a Faceless man." The reactions were immediate and varied nearly as much as the reactions to the rest of her story. Daenerys's eyes narrowed but she showed no other outward reaction. The women present gaped at her as though she had grown another head. Ser Barristan and Daario along with the other Queensguard by the doors grabbed at the hilts of their blades. Tyrion chuckled. Aerion actually looked slightly smug. Huh that's a new look for him.
Voice slightly less welcoming then before Daenerys asked, "You are an assassin?"
"Was an assassin your Grace," Arya made the important distinction, "I left the service of the House to pursue justice for my family and to help you bring peace to my home."
Ser Barristan interjected, "And how do we know you aren't just biding your time waiting for the opportune moment to strike?"
"Tell me Ser Barristan if I wished the Queen harm, why would I freely offer the information of my former profession?" This mollified the old knight rather quickly. "Furthermore why would I wear my own face? It would make no sense when it would be far simpler to take the guise of a servant and strike when she is completely unawares."
Daario seemed irritated by that comment, "You seem to have given it a fair bit of thought!"
"Actually I have given it absolutely no thought," Arya replied calmly, "I was simply extremely good at what I did."
Daenerys ceased Daario's squabbling with a look and then returned her attentions to Arya, "I believe you," Arya let out a breath she did not know she was holding in, "should you have wished me harm I have no doubt I would already be dead. It should be invaluable having someone of your skill on hand should someone be hired to make that sort of attempt… and I suppose this explains your talent with a sword a bit better than a few months of instruction from a former First Sword of Braavos."
Arya nodded glad she would not be getting beheaded. Daenerys then fixed her gaze on Aerion. Apparently his lack of reaction had not gone unnoticed, "I take it you were aware of this?"
Aerion nodded, "Yes I came to suspect as much after I heard about a bit of practicing she did at our home after I gifted her the dagger she used earlier. Between that and my own experience with her skills when we were attacked by bandits on the road," he looked to Arya briefly, "I realized that she was likely far more than she seemed. My travels around the Free Cities allowed me to deduce that she had learned from the Faceless men. She is not the first I've met."
"You did not think it pertinent to divulge this information?" A hint of irritation made its way into her voice.
Aerion knew there was no reason to try and lie, "No your Grace, it was not my secret to tell. Once I received her guarantee that she meant you no harm I had no reason to betray her trust."
"And what's to say she wasn't lying?" Daenerys leaned back into her seat as she asked the question.
"Nothing," He admitted, "but I had already gotten to know her a good deal by that point, though I know now there was much more to her. In the end, it came down to the fact that, after our experiences to that point, I trusted her and she has done nothing but continue to build that trust since. I would not do anything to damage what trust she had in me when I had no reason to think her false."
The Queen's face softened and she actually smirked, "It is good to know that my new champions will both be capable of keeping secrets when necessary," turning back to Arya, "Well it seems I was even luckier than I imagined when you decided to side with me. I imagine you have many stories from your time serving as a Faceless man?"
"Yes your Grace."
"I wish to hear them someday, at least the more exciting ones, for now though," she turned to Aerion and Rhea, "I would like to hear your stories."
Rhea spoke, "Well I suppose I should start by saying that I am the daughter of Maelys the Monstrous and Daena Blackfyre, his younger sister. As no one else would have the deformed bastard, he raped my mother multiple times before Ser Barristan killed him." There was no mistaking how she felt about her biological father.
"I was conceived just before he left in his ill-conceived attempt to take the throne. Once she found out she was pregnant she stole every heirloom they still had including the Blackfyre sword and fled the remnants of the Golden Company and came here to Pentos. She sold every heirloom save Blackfyre." Everyone, even her family, was hanging on her words.
"Fortunately, she was an extremely intelligent woman and still had her beauty at only twenty and five so she did not have to simply rely on what she made from selling those heirlooms," There was clear affection in Rhea's voice as she spoke of her beloved mother, "She assumed a new name calling herself Aoife and became advisor to a Magister named Orthen." She was well respected and helped Orthen grow in influence.
Rhea smiled sadly as she continued, "When I was five he offered to marry her but she refused. She refused ever suitor who offered their hand. When I was twenty she told me that despite still having her beauty she felt tainted and refused to take that taint into any kind of marriage. I asked her if she regretted having me and she only smiled at me with tears in her eyes. She told me she regretted the experience but that she loved me more than anything else in her life. She died three years ago of old age."
"She sounds like a marvelous woman. I wish I had the opportunity to meet her," said Daenerys earnestly.
Ser Barristan said, "I am pleased I was able to do her a small kindness by killing that monster, even if I didn't know it at the time."
"I was not having you on earlier Ser Barristan," Rhea told him with a slight smirk, "She really did praise your name to every god she could think of."
The Queen smiled and turned to Aerion, "So what of you then?" So Aerion told the Queen of his time as young boy traveling with a group of musicians. She was surprised that such a young boy was allowed to travel with his parents' consent. Rhea explained that the group was highly acclaimed and as such offered a great deal of protection for their performers, not to mention that the other musician's adored him and would do anything to keep him safe. "Also more often than not either Marik or I would travel with one of the girls to see him play."
"Ah how lovely," Daenerys said with a smile, "but how did a young musician become such a skilled swordsman?"
Aerion looked to his mother briefly before explaining, "That story starts when my mother sat me down and told me the history of her family. After hearing what the Blackfyre family had done to the Seven Kingdoms I decided that I would do something to make amends for their wrongdoing."
Surprisingly out of character for Arya she burst out, "That's why your mother was so concerned about your motivations!"
Startled Aerion responded, "Well yes, but how exactly do you know about that?"
Arya had the good grace to at least look sheepish, "I may have been in the closet, playing hide-and-seek with the kids when you had that conversation."
Aerion chuckled while shaking his head in mild exasperation before returning to his explanation, "Right well, with the rather large amount of money I had made playing music I hired a teacher and trained from the time I was ten till the time I was fifteen."
He took a sip of wine from his goblet before continuing, "After I had officially been deemed finished by Yaltin I chose to travel Essos as training means nothing without experience. For the past three years I have traveled as far as Asshai fighting for the common people wherever I found the opportunity I refused to simply sell my sword as it would cheapen the work I had done."
"In time I realized that while my initial reason for taking up the blade, while noble, was not the right reason to fight." A small bit of frustration entered his voice, "Everywhere I went I saw the powerful exploit the weak for their own gain and nothing more. They thought nothing of how to better others. Do not mistake my meaning; I am all for the improvement of any person's life but to do so at the expense of thousands is unacceptable."
"Of course everywhere I heard tale of the Dragon Queen of Slaver's Bay," He smiled at Daenerys who inclined her head, "a woman who freed slaves and destroyed any of their old masters who attempted to subjugate them once more. It was amazing to hear of someone who used what power they had to support the people they ruled and provide them with opportunities instead of taking them away."
"I was not always so prone to destroy those who threatened the peace," Daenerys said with a small frown, "at first I thought to appease the former slavers. In return for my kindness they plotted my death behind my back. When I found out I was enraged, I killed dozens until the others finally capitulated. I seized every asset of those who plotted against me and reinvested it into the people who I fought so hard to see free."
"So I heard your Grace. I must say I approve." He knew it didn't really matter butt could see that the decision still bother her on some level, "In order to break thousands of years of established culture a statement must be made. Your statement was made in blood."
"Yes when I heard the Yunkai'i had re-enslaved all those who remained in the city I brought my army down upon them and had them strung up in the streets." Daenerys said stonily for those who didn't know, "When I heard of the vicious acts of Cleon the Butcher in Astapor, I sent the Unsullied to bring me his head."
"Yes but that was necessary violence," Arya pointed out, "And when it was finally done you assigned your own people to oversee the conquered lands and have seen three years of peace as a result."
"Yes but fear was the price of that peace." Daenerys said quietly.
"Fear from some maybe but you are still loved as well." Tyrion pointed out, speaking up for the first time in quite a while.
Daenerys nodded at her advisor with a faint smile, "True… though we have gotten off topic."
Aerion realized it was directed at him so continued his story, " I heard of your travels to Asshai two years ago. That is the reason I traveled there, I intended to pledge my sword to you then but unfortunately you left two weeks prior to my arrival. I contemplated traveling to Slaver's Bay but decided against it, instead I continued doing as I had until I heard that you were sailing to Westeros."
She smiled at him and Arya in turn, "Well I am pleased you were eventually able to find me. You and Arya were entirely unexpected, I thought I would be dealing only with simpering Magisters trying to gain my favor, which I did, but I also had the pleasure of gaining two interesting and talented new members of not only my army but someday my court." Aerion and Arya smiled in return.
"Well it is true what they say, time really does fly when you're having fun." Everybody was shocked to realize over five hours had passed since dinner had started. "I would like to thank you all for coming, each of you was fantastic company." With that the guests stood and began to leave the Magister's manse.
Arya was surprised when she realized Tyrion was still sober apparently serving the Queen had fixed his well-known drinking problem. Even more surprising was his lack of witty reply's, he's most certainly quitter than I remember. Arya felt it necessary to say goodbye to her fellow Westerosi. "Ser Barristan, Lord Tyrion I enjoyed our conversations. It was nice to see familiar faces."
Tyrion smiled, "Yes well you are certainly interesting company Arya, and an amazing young woman in my opinion."
Barristan nodded his agreement, "Yes I never would have guessed half of what has happened to you but it has clearly turned you into a strong woman."
"Thank you both, I'm sure we will be seeing much of each other from now on." With that Arya went to bid the Queen farewell. Only to be met with the sight of Nela and Ashlyn hugging her legs and her patting their heads. A Queen of the people with a will of steel, and people wonder why she inspires such loyalty. The two little girls let go of Daenerys, smiling from ear to ear and returned to their mothers who both look rather amused.
The Queen turned to Arya and Aerion, "This was lovely. It was nice to learn what motivated you two and how you got here. It certainly put any doubts I may have had to bed." She hugged them both then, "Should you wish to you may return here tomorrow as I would enjoy your company. Regardless, at dawn two days from now we shall meet at my warship. That day we sail for the Seven Kingdoms and war."
With that the group returned home, Arya and Aerion walked side by side able to talk for the first time since their earlier demonstration.
"We should do that again sometime." Aerion said unexpectedly.
"I'm sure we will have many opportunities to speak with the Queen before the Seven Kingdoms are conquered." Arya replied with a slight smirk.
"That's not what I meant and you very well know it." Aerion respond with a roll of his eyes, "We should spar again sometime. I haven't fought like that since I was training and then it was because I lacked experience not because my opponent was so good."
Arya showed no outward sign of reaction but inside she was ecstatic, "Yes well I do believe I would very much enjoy the opportunity to do that again. I don't like losing."
He smiled at her then and she couldn't help the small shiver that shot up her spine, "I thought not."
AN: Well there it is, I hope you liked it.
I'm pretty happy with how this turned out. There could have been more development of Aerion's father and sisters but I felt his mother was far more important to the overall story considering she is the tie to the Blackfyres
Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. If you choose to flame that's your prerogative but I'm likely to just ignore it.
Please Read and Review. If you do choose to leave a review let me know if you would like this to be multiple POV or just Arya's
Thank you for reading