Reincarnated Poet: Hello all. This story is actually evolved over night. Last night it was non-existant. Today it is what you see before you as well as another 7 or 8 thousand words. Hope you like it. I'm not the type to hold chapters hostage for reviews, but if I feel no one's out there reading, I won't update. So if you want more, let me know.
Chapter One: Winter Comes to Qarth
When she had asked Jaqen H'ghar to help them escape from King's Landing in the dead of night, she wasn't aware that he'd simply kill all of the men on watch. It wasn't as though any of them had softened her heart, but none of them had made it to the list of names she said every night as though it kept the world together. Seeing their corpses there, some strung up to appear standing, one with a pike clean through his spine and into the ground, something in her shifted. Jaqen H'ghar was her friend, but he was a dangerous friend. A girl should be bloody too; this is her work. The words that he'd spoken slid through her mind just like that, and as Hot Pie and Gendry walked behind her on either side, she had the deepest urge to reach out and dip her finger tips in the blood below them. Her eyes darted from corpse to corpse until finally she spotted him, up above as always, leaning against the battlements with a dagger in his hand.
She nodded in his direction, and he only watched her, eyes sharp and glittering in the moonlight. He was challenging her. She had given the man his own name, and in the moonlight, he was telling her to take it. She could of course, simply call out, loose her throat and scream like she imagined Sansa would, but that would be against her goals, and for some reason, the girl trusted the man. Her eyes darted up to him one last time, and in the moonlight, she walked toward a glittering pool of blood, dipped her fingers into the thick soup, and stared down at them in the dark. She looked back up at him, a smile on her face, but he was not there. Her face fell, and Gendry was pulling at her elbow, so she let him take her along, through the gates. No one stopped them. No one followed them.
The night outside of the walls was cold, and they didn't speak for fear of drawing the attention of any guards that could be walking the perimeter, but Arya felt more free than she had in the course of a year. Had it really been that long? She thought back to the last time she had truly felt free. It had been standing with Serio as he told her that there was only one god. In the dark Gendry took her hand, wiping it clean of the blood that was drying there. She scowled at him, but he didn't look at her face. She let him scrub, and scrub he did until her fingers hurt.
"Stop it!" She ordered, jerking her hand away. Gendry startled at the movement, eyes wide in the darkness. "You're going to rub my skin off." She chided, turning away from him to walk through the thickening tree line. Out away from the wall, she wasn't sure exactly where they were going to go. A chill raced down her spine and she felt the need to go, move, run. Her eyes sought out the darkness, but there was nothing there. Shaking it off they continued onward through the night, putting as much distance between themselves and the Red Keep as possible. When the sun started to rise and sent thin tendrils of light through the tree canopies, they started talking again.
"Arry, can we just take a break?" Hot Pie asked, breath coming in gasping pants. Arya turned, glancing over her shoulder at the boy's reddened face. Gendry wasn't panting, but his breath was coming more quickly than normal, and there was a slump to his shoulders. Arya stood for a moment, truly letting her body speak to her, and in that second, she felt their fatigue.
"Yes." She agreed, almost smiling as Hot Pie collapsed to his buttocks and immediately curled up to sleep. Gendry was more regal about it, and that was the only way that she could describe it. For a blacksmith's apprentice, he carried himself with an air that she'd seen in her father, in Robb, and on occasions in Jon. Her heart ached at that. Jon. Her bastard brother was alone hundreds of miles north, on a god forsaken spit of frozen wall, probably unaware that their father was dead, Robb was going to war, and she had cut her hair off and become a boy.
She eyed the world around her. It would take some time for them to figure out a direction, but all she wanted to do was get as far away from King's Landing as possible. "Arya." Gendry murmured, and she jumped. She hadn't heard him move so close. "Come on, get some sleep." He all but ordered. We'll move on in a few hours." She nodded and laid down under a tree, settling her back against the rough bark. As it had night and night again, sleep claimed Hot Pie and Gendry seemingly long before it claimed her. She turned her back to the boys and sighed.
In the light of the day it was more difficult to sleep, and her tongue itched to start muttering names. She waited for Gendry's breathing to die down behind her before she started. "Joffrey. Cersei. Ilyn Payne. The Mountain." She drew a breath and already she was relaxing. "The Tickler. The Hound." Another deep breath. "Weese. Polliver." Another. "Joffrey." A deeper breath and her eye lids started to relax. "Cersei." Another and another. "Ilyn-" She didn't get his last name out before she was asleep.
Gendry sat against a tree, listening to Arya's list of names. It pained him as it had the first time he heard her muttering her death list. For someone so young and pleasant to fall asleep with dreams of blood on her hands made him shutter. When she'd dipped her fingers into the blood at the gate he'd thought they'd lost her. The assassin was up on the wall, staring at her as though she had something about her that only he saw. It had made the blacksmith's insides burn, and he'd taken her by the elbow and drug her from the gate. The blood on her finger tips had haunted him until he scrubbed it away, and now she lay murmuring epitaphs for men and women still living.
He sat, back against the tree, and waited for the list of names to stop. When it finally drifted away he gave a deep sigh and leaned his head back, letting himself fall into slumber. In his dreams the world was in chaos, or at least his world was. In his dream world, Arya Stark was standing on a field of battle. There were men and women around her, fanned out, all in various stages of armor, gripping weapons as diverse as they were. She had a wicked grin on her face, a long, thin blade in her hand, blood spattered across her face as someone lay dead at her feet.
He watched as she turned to the small group at her back, said something that he couldn't hear, and they roared, faces contorting and voices screaming. He quickly realized that he was the man laying at her feet, death was creeping up on him, and as he looked up at her, she turned back to him, gave him a sad little smile, and stepped over his corpse. The group followed her, and as they left the world dimmed. The last thing he recalled from the dream was a large grey and white wolf leaning over him whimpering and crying.
He woke to rain. Arya was already awake, sitting with her arms wrapped around her and her head bowed in the wet. Hot Pie slept on, occasionally sputtering and rolling over if a rain drop landed in his face. "Been awake long?" He asked, but already knew the answer.
"Winter is coming." She murmured, as if she wasn't aware she'd said it. "It's getting colder. We've got to figure something out today." She mumbled, shook herself, and stood up to wake Hot Pie. "There were soldiers in the night. Came through to the west, but they passed us by. They were looking for run away slaves." She gave Gendry a hard look and her eyes flickered back and forth.
"We'll have to stay off the roads." Gendry reasoned, climbing to his feet, wincing at the aches that the chill of the night had brought. "Lannisport should only be an hours walk. We could find passage north." He offered, hoping that the promise of her family's lands would spark some interest in her. He was not disappointed.
"I wonder if my brother has woke." She asked the air, and in that moment, Gendry saw the wolf from his dreams. He saw her father in her then, and it settled his dis-ease.
"Let's get going. I'm starving!" Hot Pie declared, and in a few minutes they were walked through the forest again, speaking every once and a while. Hiding when the random squirrel or boar snuffed at the grass only to laugh off their jumpiness. Lannisport was nothing but chaos. Men and women ducked and bantered. There were boats of all sizes and shapes, rendering Arya and Hot Pie awed. Gendry chuckled and disappeared through the throng of men and women. He had been in Lannisport before, selling what extra weaponry and armor that he'd made at the blacksmith.
Arya and Hot Pie walked from stall to stall, and Arya even managed to sell the clothing that Tywin Lannister had given her for a profit, even while purchasing warmer clothes for all three of them. The wonder of the Lannister sigil almost frightened her. She wished that she'd grabbed something else with their lion on it, if only to sell it for more useful wares later. Gendry returned with a foul look on his face.
"There are no trade ships going North." He informed. "The Lannisters have cut off the North from their trade, and there have been soldiers asking after three slaves." He glanced to Arya, whose face paled. While the North relied on little trade from the South, it did rely on food stores through the winter. "We need to get out of Lannisport." Gendry muttered, taking the cloak that Arya held out for him.
"And go where?" She asked, a wave of depression washing over her. "We cannot walk to Winterfell. It was a month's ride." Gendry nodded in agreement, eyeing a passing soldier who was talking to the merchants. Arya followed his gaze and paled. He was talking to the woman that she'd sold the Lannister's clothing to. With a swift pivot she was pushing Hot Pie and Gendry through the crowds. "Go. Pick a ship and get on." She hissed, dodging men and women who were carrying wares back and forth on the dock. "They've found us." Through the crowd she could hear the firm bark of a soldier to part the way, but in the throng of people his order was unheeded.
"Where Arya?" Gendry asked, trying to navigate while her little hands dug into the small of his back, pushing him forward. Hot Pie was grousing and struggling to keep up, but she dug her heels into the wooden boards beneath their feet and kept pushing forward.
"Anywhere." She cried, and pushed them again. "Pick one, quickly." And quickly he did. With a pivot he changed directions, gripping both Arya and Hot Pie's arms and pulling them toward a trading vessel that was being stocked. It was easy to slip in amongst the deck hands and disappear into the hold, hiding amongst boxes and barrels, crates and baskets. Gendry settled the two youngest against the back of the hold and peered up over the stacks. They wouldn't be found. When he turned back Hot Pie was already chewing on something he'd pulled from a basket, making an odd face. "Good choice." Arya observed, eyeing the dried spices and fruits that were boxed around them.
"Saw it earlier." He muttered, pulling a dried date from his pocket. "Its not going North." He muttered, eyeing Arya who simply nodded in acceptance.
"Where are we bound?" She asked, but Gendry did not answer. Instead, he glanced at the crates around him. On the top of a barrel there was a emblazoned crest of the country of Qarth. He lifted the lid and held it up for her inspection. For a moment she held her breath, racking her brain for the sigil. It took a moment, as she wasn't as skilled at heraldry as Bran or Robb, but it came to her quickly. "Qarth?" She asked, face brightening at the thought of adventure across the sea.
"What's Qarth?" Hot Pie asked, but was quickly ignored as Arya continued to rage about the free lands.
"They say that there are dragons there!" Arya cried, probably louder than she should have, but Gendry couldn't bring himself to chide her. It had been so long since he'd seen a true child like response from her it was comforting to know that she still had the ability to smile. "And they say that Daenerys Targaryen is there. That she married a Dothraki horse lord and has taken over his people. They say that she carries the stallion that will mount the world!" Hot Pie sat with his mouth open, listening as Arya recounted the exploits of Daenerys Stormborn.
"How do you not know news of your own home, but you know all there is to know about what happens across an ocean?" Gendry asked, regretting it the moment her face fell.
"News about Daenerys isn't kept quiet from cup bearers, but even the Lannisters know that a cup bearer who hears about someone close by can cause problems." She sighed, but there was still a spark to her face. "Did you know that they call her the Mother of Dragons?" She asked Gendry, who simply shook his head, happy that his mention of her family had been forgotten.
"I would very much like to meet a woman that they could call Mother of Dragons." Gendry said, face sober as he could make it. "Could you imagine birthing a dragon?" And they collapsed into laughter. When the ship moved from the dock, Hot Pie could no longer even look at the food in the barrels, his stomach churning with sickness. Gendry himself was eyeing the barrels with disdain, but Arya just wanted to explore the vessel, slipping in and out of the hold more times than Gendry could scold her for. The trip took longer than expected, and by a week into the voyage, Arya had made friends with a kitchen girl who slipped her roots for Hot Pie and Gendry to chew. It came none too soon, as Hot Pie was starting to look more thin than fat, and Gendry's already slim body was looking frail despite the hard muscle from years wielding a hammer. The roots, while tasting terrible, did their job, and soon Hot Pie was back into the baskets of fruits and spices, coming up with new (and often times disgusting) combinations. Gendry looked more healthy, but took to the food with less relish than the shorter, more round boy.
"You're going to get us hung, Arya." Gendry groused when she brought more of the bitter tasting medicine the next day. "Do you think they won't notice a girl creeping around their deck?" Arya scoffed and rolled her eyes.
"I'm a boy. Do you know how many times one of the sailors has cried out to me to hold something down or to clean up some mess or another." She rolled her eyes. "The men on this ship don't care who I am as long as I'm handy on deck, and the girl in the kitchen isn't even sure I'm a girl." She sighed and handed over the small bit of root. "But they are running out, and the captain's been swearing about poor wind and tides. We should have landed three days ago." She shared an uncomfortable look with Gendry, who was now rubbing at the back of his neck.
"Did you hear anything else?" He asked, but she shook her head and disappeared up the ladder again. Gendry sighed and leaned back against a barrel of apples, picking one from the stack and chewing on it slowly as his stomach settled. It bothered him that Arya was above deck, learning and seeing everything while he cowered below, hiding as efficiently as he could with Hot Pie. Something about the way she seemed to glow when she first came down the ladder, and how that glow died slowly as she spent more time in the dark. He found himself wanting that glow, wanting to see it in all its glory up in the sunlight. He sighed and ducked behind the barrel when a seaman came below to get some manner of provisions or another. He settled back against the wood of the ship and fell asleep.
Arya shook him awake some time later, face lit with something that was new and exciting. "The carajo spotted Qarth a few hours ago We'll be in port by nightfall." She moved on, shaking Hot Pie awake, who had fallen asleep with an apple core on his chest. Gendry gathered the cloak that Arya'd given him and quickly tried to cover up the evidence that any stow aways had been on the ship. Hot Pie lolled back to sleep, and Gendry found himself taken in its embrace quickly as well. It felt like a few minutes before Arya shook him awake again, disgusted with the fact that he was asleep again. "Come on, we've got to go. They're unloading. Each of your grab something and act like you're helping." They did as they were told, and stepped for the first time from the darkness. The sun burned the back of his eyes, and Hot Pie dropped the keg he was holding to cover his eyes. A sailor chided him and kicked at his backside, but he escaped easily enough.
Arya dropped the crate she'd been carrying in the pile and slipped around the back side onto the docks of Qarth.