Ch. 1 – Gendry

As Biter chewed the flesh from the woman knight's cheek, Gendry felt rage surge into his body. He was astonished by how much she reminded him of her. Brienne looked like what she might look like now: clothed in armor, refusing a life of feminine conformity, and fighting with every breath. He hadn't allowed himself to think of her in years, at least during his waking hours. Once in a while, she slipped into his dreams and tormented him in his sleep, her cold, stony eyes staring him down, chilling him to the bone until he awoke in the morning with icy sweat down his back. On such days he found himself gulping the memories down with a cup of mead.

He was tired of reliving the past. He would correct his mistake from long ago with his actions, even if she didn't forgive him. Seizing a spear from a nearby rack, he whirled back around with all his strength and plunged it into the bald man's neck, skewering skin, muscle, and finally bone. The hulking giant sputtered blood from between his pointed teeth, his eyes rolling to the back of his head. His body keeled forward and moved no more. Brienne looked small and broken beneath him as the bull hauled the towering form from her. Crimson poured from the body beside them, leaving copper streaks in the grass. "Renly," she croaked through swollen lips, descending into delirium. Her eyes seared blazing blue, like the hot center of a flame as she gazed at the blacksmith.

Members of the Brotherhood heaved the unconscious Tarth from the ground and deposited her on a nearby horse. Jeyne was handed rope, and she moved to bind the limp maiden's wrists and ankles. The light from the inn's open door cast eerie, haunted shadows of the men across the lawn. Gendry watched in silence. She was going away, and he was powerless to stop it, again. He turned on his heel and walked back to the forge, his leather apron flapping between his legs. He pounded onto the steel harder than ever, hoping to hammer out his guilty conscience.

As a fine sheen of sweat accumulated across his back, the memory of that day came sharply back into existence. He ran after the fierce, little girl of the ancient house of the North when she took off into the rain, her grandfather's house seen within the flames, but she was already gone. The Brotherhood held him back from searching further, instilling him with the oath he took to serve. She was his friend, the only true one he ever had, and he abandoned her for a set of words, a title, and a forge. He was a stupid bull.

When his arms ached from strain, he looked down at his work to find a horribly misshapen sword; his worst creation to date. He cast it into the fire and began to pack his things. He didn't care if he'd be labeled a deserter. It was time to right some wrongs. Their paths had crossed for a purpose. Coin and land were no longer the currency of the realm- friendship was. The sword folded unto itself, curling and shriveling within the flames as Gendry walked out into the frigid night.