Chapter Six

Lyarra smothered a yawn into the sleeve of her cotton nightdress as she pushed open the glass door and slipped outside to the balcony. Her slipper-clad feet slid easily across polished tile, two meters to the bannister, where she slumped with arms hanging loose over cold stone. This early in the morning, before the sun had yet to rise, the desert air was brisk and chilly and not unlike spring in Winterfell. The dark-haired she-wolf had made all of her cousins acutely jealous when she padded down to breakfast several days ago, sleepy-eyed and still dressed in the simple shift donated by Elia. While her Martell blood helped her withstand the harshness of the sun, the Stark side of her allowed Lyarra to dress in fragile cloth even before the sun rose.

'Not that I kept them on afterwards…' Lyarra still blushed crimson when she recalled her screech, high-pitched and 'akin to Trystane', when she became aware of her attire. It's not that Dornish fashions weren't beautiful or even unreasonable in these temperatures but they were difficult to accustom herself to. 'I'd never bared so much skin before in my life.'

It didn't matter really that she had nothing to show. It was the principle of the matter!

Her cousins- and she had cousins!- still teased her for it. Lyarra had been shy to the mockery at first but then learnt quickly that nothing was meant by it. In a household composed almost solely of women- she perhaps could understand now why the infamous Trystane Martell was prone to sniffles- there'd be those sharp japes that left unmarked skin behind. Words slung arrow sharp would broker an enmity of a thousand suns only to be forgotten in the next heartbeat once laughter sprung out, a query was made or a shared interest spotted. Lyarra had had sisters before but Sansa and Arya were both younger than her and neither of an age where their awe of her had dispelled. Here, the she-wolf had gone from the eldest of three sisters to the second-youngest of six though she had high hopes of moving up the rung when Aunt Ellaria brought another daughter to the world.

Of course nothing was certain until the babe was born but Lyarra was starting to think her Uncle Oberyn incapable of throwing sons. He didn't seem to mind that one bit which was simply odd. Even Lady Stark, who loved her daughters deeply, boasted of birthing an Heir first for House Stark.

Closing her eyes and allowing the salty sea breeze to ruffle past her dark curls, cut down to brush against her shoulders and fastened back by a cotton headband of scarlet, Lyarra enjoyed the peace a little longer. Her haircut was one more difference to be accustomed to but she preferred it to strangling the damp curls into order before the few sword lessons she'd had thus far. Besides Elia claimed it looked 'cute' and her cousin had led her wrong in fashion quite yet.

'I hope the bazaar has watercolors available.' Her walls were plain but the sky outside was to be painted in bold strokes of pale blues, vivid oranges, soft yellows and bold reds. If she could sketch even a fraction of the beauty of the Gods' hand, Lyarra would be content. 'Now to dress for breakfast.'

The dark-haired girl didn't have much of a wardrobe now but many of Elia's clothes ill-fitted her little. A forest green kirtle was pulled over the white frock from before, her headband swapped for a matching white one and laced-up wrap sandals brought halfway up to her knee. Her trusty locket with her mother's portrait was around her neck as was usual. Fortunately she was still too young to need a bodice or a corset, neither of whom Sarella had told her in all sincerity, were designed with the possibility of breathing in mind. Once satisfied with her appearance, Lyarra made her way down the spiralling tower designed specifically to make invaders turn to left-handed weapons to maneuver and wandered into the breakfast hall. There she found a beautiful copper-skinned stranger with curls as thick as her own flowing loose down bare shoulders.

The stranger looked over at her and smiled. "You must be Cousin Lyarra. I'm Arianne Martell, your eldest cousin by Prince Doran."

"Hello," Lyarra answered, cautiously making her way closer to the heavily-laden table. This was one of her royal cousins and the dark-haired girl could well believe so, with such finely-paned features in lush silks and grand jewels looking back at her. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"And I, you!" Arianne's amicable response was paired with a swift movement drawing her out of her seat and over to kiss Lyarra's cheeks. The child's pale skin flushed in response. "Aren't you adorable?"

"We haven't broken her of the blushing yet," Nymeria offered languidly. Beside her was Tyene, the stain of pink dye on her skin suggesting that she'd been making an early offering to the Maiden. Lyarra hoped it wasn't to convert her again. "It's an ongoing effort."

"You should end it, she's simply too cute to change." This was accompanied by a pinch to her cheeks that drew a scowl out of the dark-haired girl. Arianne merely laughed it off, a husky, mirthful sound followed by another kiss to her cheek. "You are far too cute, little cousin. We'll have to keep a sharp eye on you to keep another from stealing our wolf."

"Unless," she added in afterthought, "You would like to be stolen? I'm told she-wolves prefer so."

Lyarra blinked upwards in confusion. Tyene voice, soft with disapproval, chided their cousin for crass words- 'what had she said that was improper?', Lyarra wondered- and then lured the Northern girl to the table. The Snow soon found herself with a plate full of her favorites, a combination of the familiar from home, as with the smoky sausage, and additions that she'd taken well to, such as date pudding. Arianne was soon drawn back into conversing with her older cousins, allowing Lyarra to sit back and happily partake of her meal.

As she slowly made her way through her meal- leisurely breakfasts were the convention, rather than the exception in a realm with plenty of sunlight to spare- others were drawn to the table. A grumbling, sleepy-eyed Elia, hair pulled into customary braid, didn't bother to fill her own plate as she clambered into a seat next to her. Pulling up a heavy mug of tisane, the girl sipped her way through it as Lyarra slipped her bites from her own meal. Sarella had adopted the same habit though rather than being fed, she shamelessly stole from all of her family members, including Princess Arianne herself. Obara came in near the end reeking of a morning's devoted effort but neither Aunt Ellaria nor Uncle Oberyn made an appearance. Lyarra had asked where they were once and Nymeria had seem poised to answer until Tyene accidentally kicked her in the shins. Or at least Tyene claimed it was an accident.

"Are you ready for today, Lyarra?" Nymeria inquired, once she'd polished off enough pineapple and banana slices for the entire table.

"Is today special?" She'd thought it be another morning of lessons with the septa really. Not that she'd believed Septa Scylla to be one at first. There hadn't been a single sermon on the Seven yet but there had been hours of lessons on posture, dictation, etiquette and House rivalries. Her head spun from how many people hated how many other people in this realm, though most vengeance seemed limited to snubbing each other from parties. Uncle Oberyn alone had a list of Dornish enemies that Lyarra had been given to read through. Why the entirety of House Qorgyle hated the man, she would dearly love to know.

"We're going shopping!" Nymeria announced, making almost everyone in the table perk up. "Or at least you are, Lyarra. You'll be presented at Sunspear's court next sennight, so you must have a wardrobe readied for you. We can't all attend to this, of course, so you may pick two of us to go."

"Elia," Lyarra answered quickly, because that was the easy one. Her eyes tracked over the remainder and deciding that Tyene looked far too predatory for her own good, added, "Obara."

Both Obara and Tyene looked disappointed by this for the exact same reason.

"Why me?" Obara groaned, as Tyene pouted and demanded, "Why not me?!"

"I need clothes to spar in too?" Thankfully that reason had been enough to calm Tyene down and after Obara left for a quick wash, Lyarra and Elia were dragged out to find her some clothes. To her surprise, Arianne elected to join them.

"I love my cousins," the Princess explained with a sly smile. "But Obara is not made for courtly fashions. Neither, frankly, are Tyene and Sarella. All are too set in their ways and if we want them to overlook that long Stark face of yours then we'll need proper Dornish fashion."

Lyarra nodded slowly, grasping at least the implication that her features may not be wholly welcome in a Dornish court but that her family intended to present her as one of them regardless. Arianne's presence then, was a gift rather than an imposition, a kindness that had Lyarra shyly reach for one of the Princess' hands and have it squeeze hers comfortingly in return. Elia appeared soon after to her other side and began to chatter as was her wont.

"Grandfather said his prized mare is about to go into heat soon and he'll have a stallion selected to sire a proper foal on her for the new baby's sake. The foal will be old enough for her to ride in a few years and that's the only steed that she'll begin with because Grandfather doesn't tolerate any of his grandchildren riding inferior horses. He breeds the best sand steeds in Dorne, as you know." Elia paused here to offer a haughty grin to her. "Nine of the last ten firelight tourney winners rode Uller horses. The only one who didn't was… uh…"

Arianne sniffed. "You can speak his name, you know. I am not a glass doll to shatter for a boy's sake."

"Well, Ser Daemon didn't ride the proper horse but he won anyway, probably cause Father didn't want to ride that day," Elia asserted. "Father's the second best rider in the family. The best one is Mother but you don't know that because she's all fat and slow now. When she isn't though, she can ride like the wind! That's how she and Father met. They were in a horse race and Mother sped by him-"

The dark-haired girl let the words fall cheerfully around her ears as they traversed the swindly labyrinth that was the Shadow City. More populous than Winter Town but less so than White Harbor much less the grand cities that Oldtown and King's Landing laid claim to, this was a dizzy, narrow, serpentine, completely disordered row of paths that Lyarra lost track of within moments of entering. Her fingers itched for a good sketchpad and ink quill to draw out a proper city block with neat, orderly rows of houses built to cast shadows in an ever-decreasing row. It'd be a good way to keep the people cool, as would plots of mango groves here and there and a narrow grove dug in to let sea water flow into the city. Drainage systems and mud-brick roads to be swept away of dust too.

"This way, little wolf," Arianne pulled her into one windowless building, her eyes adjusting swiftly to the dim lighting inside. Inside were rows and rows of leather and stiffer canvas clothes, of which Obara scoured through to find outfits for herself. Lyarra found that her duty was simply to stand still and not fidget as Arianne and Obara fell into a swift discussion that yielded three pairs of trousers and two tunics for her, amongst other minor amenities. Once her measurements had been decided…

"Let's look at the threads in the other room!" Elia didn't wait for a response before tugging her further into the building. It was bigger than it seemed on the outside, with one thick wall built of dozens of cubby holes. Inside were spools of thread dyed in more colors than she'd ever seen before. "You'll need to embroider the clothes yourself, so pick which ones you like!"

"...Grey?" Lyarra suggested? Amber eyes blinked owlishly at her and then Elia dragged over a stool and plopped her down. The Snow obediently fell to nodding as her cousin offered spool after spool for her judgement. Soon the basket was filled to the brim with colorful threads crossing the entire rainbow. "Do we really need all this? It must be frightfully expensive."

"Threads? They're cheap here," Elia dismissed. Indeed, Lyarra was left a bit astounded as, after an amiable haggling, the merchant ended up handing over the basket for a mere silver and six coppers.

When that was done, she was brought to a cobbler ("Have her pattens made with poulaine toes, if you please"), a draper (brightly patterned cottons were apparently the style now), a tailor (she'd had to insist that any transparent fabric be returned altogether) and for some inexplicable reason, a furrier.

"What do you even do in Dorne?" Lyarra asked in patent disbelief. A moment later, she remembered that ladies did not use such tones and ducked her head down in embarrassed apology. Fortunately the man took it well enough to laugh at her words.

"Plenty, my lady!" The man's eyes twinkled in humor. "Every time anyone wants to take a trip outside of Dorne, they arrive at my doorstep to commission something for themselves."

"The furs you've brought from the North are too layered and heavy," Arianne informed her blithely. "Nymeria ordered a servant to bring them in here to be salvaged if they can and sold if they cannot. We'll have a few pieces made should you become colder at night or travel outside of Dorne."

'Travel outside of Dorne?' The possibility was as thrilling as it was daunting. Lyarra focused on that rather than the pang of sadness for when she heard her old clothes were to be ripped apart. Her eyes skittered across the room of one of the few indoor bazaars here that kept windows open for light and settled on a handful of hats in the back. Drawing closer, she found caps of a design unknown to her. They were relatively flat and plain, made of dyed wool and of dark colors. Lyarra caressed a soft grey one with a single finger.

It was pulled from her grasp a second later and placed upon her head. A little overlarge, it fell between her bangs, over her forehead and partially disfiguring her eyes. Lyarra blinked and pulled it upwards. It fell down again. Lyarra then held it upwards, peeking up at her assailant now.

Arianne's lips twitched into a wide smile. "We'll take that as well."

x

The next day, when Lyarra was done with her morning lessons and idling time away until Elia arrived, she found herself bent over a fresh sheet of parchment on her writing desk. They'd had sums today and she'd been allowed to leave as soon as her sheet was finished, leaving her cousin to stab at her own worksheet as though it had mortally offended her in some way, possibly by claiming Ueller horses inferior to any other breeds in the realm. The dark-haired girl was quite happily surprised to learn Maester Winlow more tolerant of his student's disappearing once their lessons were done.

In Winterfell, she'd had to sit and swing her legs impatiently while Robb finished his own work, often slowing down the time even more because her brother preferred sending her morose looks to actually calculating numbers. He'd have been better off taking Elia's approach to matters. Shortly after learning her proficiency in the subject, Elia had subjected her to a two hour lesson on finger-tapping that would share the answers without speech. They'd pulled it off successfully thrice now but possibly the Maester had caught on, because he insisted on sitting across from them on the table today.

'Which is very unfair because now Tyene can cheat without the Maester watching!'

For such a pious girl, her cousin sure did have a flexible moral compass.

But it was one of those anecdotes that Lyarra, while desperate to share with her best friend, was hesitant to actually do so. Her letter to Robb had to be of exacting nature. It couldn't claim her unhappy because that was dishonest and Lyarra should probably retain her honest nature for at least her Northern blood. It couldn't be truthful either, because she didn't want Robb to think she was having too much fun without him there. And it absolutely couldn't include any detail that would imply she was being raised in a manner ill-fitting for a Northern child because Father would get his hands on this letter and she didn't need him to dislike Uncle Oberyn any more.

'So… embroidery?' Lyarra shook her head. She didn't necessarily mind adding designs to her delightful new wardrobe but not even Robb's affection for her would extend to a letter focused on that. 'My swordsmanship and riding lessons! I can speak of that!'

To my least likeable older brother,

I have been most tolerably settled in Sunspear for the last few days. While I haven't the fortune of meeting a young prince just yet, you may inform Sansa that Arianne Martell is as beautiful a princess as any a knight would dream of rescue. She is of height with Theon, with a figure that your Ironborn friend would likely walk into a door for, as well as curls managed with far more skill than my own. Her desires lie with soft silks in vibrant blues and soft greens, patterned and layered transparently as is current court fashion here, and matched with gems of unknown tongues. I suspect one to be jade, a pale green shade lighter than moss that originates from a land called Yi-Ti. I'd add details more but alas, not even ten pages, full on one side and another, will capture enough of her royal beauty to satisfy our sister. Merely tell Sansa that the Princess of Dorne is properly songworthy and beg her imagination to fill the aspirations that my quill cannot.

Onwards to a topic that may keep your eyes from glazing over, I've recently ridden a steed by myself! Twice around a ring admittedly, at a slow trot but without anyone else to hold my reins! Can you claim the same, Brother? If you cannot, you must admit yourself the lesser horseman of us two. I will take pity on you though. I understand that Theon Greyjoy wouldn't have many riding lessons on the Iron Islands. He must still be acclimating himself to the proper mode of transportation in the other realms and your own lessons will be delayed for his ease. The horse that I rode was a gelded colt with a pale brown coat excepting for a streak of white drawn down his face. It was so akin to foam that I named the beast 'Ale' at first glance and now he will answer to naught else. Elia swears to me that Lord Ueller will find it an entirely appropriate and amusing choice in name, which I hope for. The man has been most kind in sending this gift to me-

'I cannot tell him that.' Lyarra paused and struck out the last line. She had been touched when a lord unrelated to her by blood, merely her Aunt Ellaria's father, sent her a steed as he did every other Sand Snake but this would make her seem too welcomed to her brother. When Edmure Tully had visited his sister a year past, he had brought gifts for every child but herself. But then, he couldn't be seen to favor the bastard of his sister's husband. 'Of course, the eldest four Sand Snakes are Uncle Oberyn's bastards by women other than Aunt Ellaria…'

No, that wasn't the same at all. She didn't know why but… but it just wasn't. Uncle Oberyn and Aunt Ellaria may have treated any of the children under their care with equal affection, born of his loins or her womb or not, but that was wonderfully, frightfully unique to them. Lyarra didn't believe that others would have done the same, not even in the strange land that she was growing accustomed to now. Deciding to keep that line struck out, Lyarra continued.

There is a saying in Dorne of House Ueller that half are mad and the other half worse, so I would not want to invite his displeasure upon myself! But the man does train a fine horse, none can deny that. The sand steeds here are smaller and lighter than their Northern brothers, bred to move swiftly through a treacherous landscape with few obstacles in the ground but prone to storms that can rub one's eyeballs dry. They have very long lashes and wobbly kneecaps, which should not be graceful but somehow are in full run. They drink very little water as well. Uncle Oberyn has an amusing tale of how they acquired this ability, starting with a violently purple cactus (I have attached a sketch below of a prickly plant that drinks the blood of the unwary and the foreign but stores much water in its veins for the Dornishman to partake of) and a Myrish merchant with an equally bright turban-

Recalling at the last moment that said amusing tale included a dirty jape integral to the premise, Lyarra quickly crossed those lines out as well. This continued throughout the letter. Every time she fell into a natural narrative, almost feeling as though her brother was across from her to converse with as they once did, she would remember that this or that line was improper or unsuitable or just plain strange for a reader lacking context. When Lyarra was done, her five sheets of work were blotted with ink lines and scribbled over doodles of her kin.

Carefully placing her quill to the side, Lyarra buried her face in her arms. Since when had writing to Robb ever been hard?

x

Lyarra's hat is a cross between the Tudor flat hat (thank you to Author376 for finding it!) and a newsboy cap in a soft grey wool. It's a little too large on her now but she likes to tuck it down and hide behind the fabric, so that's alright.