SUMMARY: All Brienne ever wanted was to be a respected knight and serve a just king. Destiny, however, has different plans for the Lady of Tarth. This is her journey from Catelyn Stark's sworn sword to the most powerful player in the Game of Thrones.
Chapter One: Oath Keeper
The scent of sea, fish and smoke settled over Brienne like a comfortable blanket. The dock at Tarth was far smaller and quieter than here at Ragman's Harbor, but the scent was the same. Tarth had mostly fishermen and traders while the Braavosi harbor was a thriving community.
"Are you sure it was Arya?" Brienne looked around at the noisy, crowded dock. "We've come all this way to Braavos because you claim to have seen Arya Stark board that boat."
"She looked like the same girl and she wore similar clothes." Podrick also looked around. "And you needed time to recover from beating the Hound."
People of all sizes and colors shared the dock. She had always stuck out in the small community at Tarth; too tall, too pale, too strong and too unfeminine to be accepted, even as the daughter of their lord. Here, she barely drew a second glance. Many men and even some women were taller than her, their coloring as varied as the goods and services they offered.
She looked over the powerful, dark-skinned, shirtless men offering curved fighting blades, the blue or green-haired tradesmen calling out their wares in multiple, indecipherable languages, white-haired but dewy-skinned women pressing nearly bared breasts against lecherous-eyed sailors, sun-burned, rag-dressed beggars and priests of every faith mingling in the masses.
"I don't see anyone who looks like her here." Brienne strode along the dock, allowing the wave of people to guide her up the pier.
"How can we find anyone in this crowd?" Podrick half walked, half ran to keep up with her longer strides. "Especially someone as small as that girl."
Brienne stopped abruptly and Podrick stumbled into her back. She grimaced but said nothing. He was right. Arya was tiny while the dock was huge. Braavos was the biggest shipping and trading center in Essos.
"Not everyone is as tall as you, my Lady, Ser," he continued. "Arya could duck down and we'd never see her."
Brienne turned in a full circle, the mass of people parting around her like water flowing around a rock. "We won't be able to find her here."
"So where do we find her, my Lady, Ser?"
"She's not here…yet."
It took her a moment to find the old man who'd spoken. The man was barefoot and poorly clad in seawater robes, looking at her expectantly.
"Were you speaking to me?" she asked.
The old man nodded. "You are searching for a grey-eyed wolf, aren't you?"
She glanced over at Podrick who looked as confused as she felt, his eyebrows pulled together and mouth open in a rounded circle.
"How did you know?" she demanded, moving closer to the old man.
He didn't appear intimidated by her build or her glare, steadily remaining in place as he studied her unfeminine shirt and breeches, worn boots and heavy sword belt with calm acceptance.
"I know many things." The man was small, his skin wrinkled and darkened by the sun, his body bent and shrunken with age. "The Gods have been waiting for you."
"For me?" Brienne's eyebrows rose. "What is a priest of the Ironborn doing in Braavos and telling me of other Gods? You're a long way from home, old man."
"Aye," he agreed. "I've travelled all this way and summoned you here for a message of grave importance."
Again, she exchanged confused glances with Podrick. Her young squire moved closer to her side as though expecting to protect her from the feeble priest.
"You summoned me? How?" She put her hand on Oathkeeper's pommel, an unconscious gesture of warning and self-defense.
"By showing you what you wanted to see." The priest forced his body to straighten, to meet her gaze. "A great and terrible night will soon overtake the lands, including the Iron Islands. We must all, men and Gods, work together to protect the people."
Brienne frowned. "Speak clearly, old man. Your words make no sense."
"I've seen the past, the present and the future. There are five visions, five keys." He held up a gnarled forefinger. "I've seen a lion roar and a wolf escape its jaws."
Brienne stiffened, not daring to look at Podrick.
The priest held up his second finger. "A bird snatched the wolf. The bird dashed the wolf against icy, unyielding ground."
He paused as if expecting her to comment. She remained silent, her lips pressed into a bloodless line.
The priest's third finger could barely unbend. "The wolf struggled against blood-red figures."
She nodded, indicating for him to continue.
The priest held up four aged fingers. "A large blue dragon flew towards the wolf."
Brienne sucks in a deep breath. "A dragon?"
"Aye." The priest waved his hand to draw her attention to the five outstretched digits. "The dragon became smaller; it's wings contracted and it became a woman with pale gold hair and blue armor."
She finally looked at Podrick again. He blinked back at her, his expression blank, as if the information is too much for him to process.
Brienne turned back to the priest. "A lion and a wolf? You've seen this?"
"Aye, the events are already in motion, aren't they?" He folded his hands together. "Destiny has already put you on your path. You must go to Tyrosh to find what you seek."
"Tyrosh? But I've just gotten to Braavos." She waved to the large ship in the harbor, passengers still passing them up the dock. "How can Arya already be in Tyrosh?"
The old man sighed. "I'm not a learned man. The saltwater trance only provides visions. Many priests have seen the same vision so it must be truth."
Brienne shook her head. "Are you sure your message is for me?"
"Yes. Only you can do what must be done." A minute change came over the priest; a slight sharpening of his eyes, an almost imperceptible strengthening of formerly brittle bones. "Look carefully. You must see what is not seen."
The moment was gone, the old man looked weak and feeble again. "The Gods will guide you but you must complete this journey. Be strong, Brienne of Tarth, for you are on the path of a mighty destiny."
She stepped back, the sincerity in his eyes creating an energy field around him. "How do you know my name?"
"You are chosen. Your destiny was foretold in the stars before you were born." He moved back, allowing the crowd to separate them. "Hurry, Brienne of Tarth. The reign of the Night Queen will soon begin."