Chapter 17

Interlude

The situation in Qarth was…troubling to say the least.

Within the last few months, there had been some truly interesting tales to come out of the east. Tales that, if true, could upset the delicate balance Essos had attained for itself.

The traffic of human flesh had all but stagnated in that part of the land. Ships carrying slaves bound for Qarth never returned and no ravens flew to tell of their circumstances.

Even more concerning were the tales that those slaves who did make it to Qarth, found themselves free of their iron collars and inducted into a new sort of economy, an economy where they were taught to read and write, apprenticed to scholars, became sailors on ships, weavers of cloth, fishermen, farmers even if one could believe it.

And many were having difficulty believing it, but the ground around Qarth had become fertile and green. Fields of wheat were springing up miles apace out from the city. Flowering trees and shrubs had been planted in neat rows in order to feed the residents of Qarth and all were protected from attack by the round the clock guard the new king had paid handsomely.

The new king….was even more troubling than the changes that Qarth had undertaken in the last few months.

Rumors had spread far and wide that he was a sorcerer of great renown, a shapeshifter with power over life and death, a clever conniving man who had orchestrated the deaths of all the members of the Pureborn, caused Xaro Daxos to flee the city, confiscated all of their wealth, lands and titles and was now seeing to the construction of a navy with all the ships he had purloined.

Cities such as Braavos were not pleased.

Though Qarth was yet one city among the vast deserts of Essos, the smallest change in dynamic in that country could lead to a domino effect among the others. Qarth was among the wealthiest of the Free Cities, something its members were quite vocal in bragging about when they were guests of other cities. The warlocks were an exotic commodity for all who traveled to the self-proclaimed "greatest city that ever was or will be," and seeing how Qarth was located on the straits linking the Summer Sea to the Jade Sea, it was a strategic position for all ships coming from the west and traveling on their way to Asshai or Yi Ti.

It position and the fact that the city was now in new hands was one of the most alarming things. Rumors had begun to spread that a great sea dragon was patrolling the coasts of Qarth, letting in only certain ships and sinking the others. The beast had never been seen but there was a great power in stories. The more superstitious captains began to refuse to sail to Qarth which meant a decrease in profits for some of the Free Cities.

The loss of slaves and their considerable profit was the proverbial breaking point for many of the more powerful free cities.

Eyes began looking east to the Jade Sea, assessing, weighing the cost of removing Qarth's new self-proclaimed monarchy so that profit margins might return to normal and trade could continue.

Braavos was the most vehement about seeing to a reformation. Many of their ships with their famous purple hulls had been lost in the waters of the Jade Sea and the rumors of a great sea dragon dragging their expensive cargo to the watery depths was not doing good for their coffers.

The Iron Bank was eager to capitalize on the losses of their merchants and receive their just payment from Qarth…and as such, plans began to be made.

Whether the rumors of the new king of Qarth being a sorcerer were true or not, the Braavosi were a proud people with a proud history. The wealth and pride in their great city and navy were second to none and with the shipments of dye, oysters, clams, eels and other manner of fish being pilfered, their ships confiscated, the magisters were demanding action.

Such action was twofold, the first of plan being carried out in a high tower on the northern corner of the city close to the harbor.

"I do not care if he is a sorcerer or merely some charlatan playing at politics!" the Sealord exclaimed, slamming his fist down on his parchment covered desk. "Remove him and remove his head!"

"And what of these reports of a sea dragon your excellence?" the hooded figure asked. "Our order is not paid to remove the heads of monsters."

"You leave those stories to me," the Sealord replied, waving a hand dismissively. "Sea dragons, what nonsense! Dragons have not been present in this country for centuries. This is a civilized age. Those beasts have long since died out. The Targaryens took them and their madness to the grave."

There was a moment of silence from his guest who was still standing in the corner of the room nearest the window. The hood that had been pulled over his head blew slightly in the breeze from the harbor air, but otherwise the figure did not stir. "And the sorcerer?"

"Nothing more than a man as you and I are," the Sealord went on waving a hand as took a sip from the goblet of wine just to his right on the desk. "Deal with him in the same way you have dealt with all others you have been sent after."

The Faceless man finally turned to regard him but the Sealord didn't return the gaze. When he had first laid eyes on the man, he appeared rather unassuming, unremarkable in fact to be from so storied an order. But all it had taken was one look into the man's eyes to ensure that he never faced him again.

The name he had been given was Jaqen H'ghar, but the Sealord knew enough to know that his true name would never be revealed. And it didn't need to. He didn't need someone to ask too many questions or know too many names.

He only needed this one task carried out.

"You have your name," he said to the assassin. "Payment to be received now and upon when you return. I do not have to tell you how large both sums are and will be."

The figure said nothing else and the Sealord turned away. A breath of wind passed and he looked back to see that the Faceless Man had gone.

He released a slow breath and returned to his scribblings. That order, even their very name unsettled him. But if one wanted to employ the deadliest killers in the world, there were certain sensitivities that one would have to swallow.

He finished his letters and then moved to the window so that he might watch the ships coming into the harbor.

Nothing appeared amiss and he knew he would do what it took for all to remain such as it was.

This Loki of Qarth would die.

All men did in the end.

W

Sorry for the lateness of this. I try to update this story every few weeks and time got away from me on this one. One of my followers admitted that they would like to see a bit of the doings outside of Qarth while Loki has been reforming it and I thought it was a good idea; something to just break up the perspectives between the two main characters a bit. The presence of Jaqen H'ghar is not too surprising I hope. After all, we've gone beyond the confines of season 2 at this point which was when he met Arya and escaped from Tywin. I think the timeline would allow him to be back in Braavos.

We'll be back to Dany's perspective in the next chapter and we'll be seeing more of her ancestor Aurion who is going to be playing an interesting role in this story. I can't wait to lay out how he got into the stone in the first place.

I hope you enjoy this chapter and don't forget to review!