Once they left the High Hall of Arryn the world seemed to be a very different place. The sharp rays of sunlight brightly contrasted with the dim candlelight of the high hall, the trees danced in the wind full of life and vigor while the stone walls stood solemn with despair. While the men and women of the Eyrie mourned the death of Ser Vardis she and Lord Tyrion celebrated life.
Tyrion was jumping and hollering with joy, relieved that he would not go 'flying' today and grateful t the woman who made it possible. He wasn't sure what had shocked Lysa more – that her valiant Ser Vardis had been defeated in combat, or that he had been beaten by a woman. By the gods, he thought of the steeled look of calmly rage in her eyes as she threw that knife into his throat with expert precision, it made his blood run cold. How could he have missed the killer instincts that hid just beneath the surface of those strange pale eyes? He swore, never again would he underestimate a woman, especially if that woman was Jacquelyn Meryck.
Jacquelyn managed a small smile though her energy was fading. She needed a rest soon, otherwise she wouldn't make it two miles before collapsing. She had been a fool for fighting before she had fully recuperated, especially since she hadn't eaten a proper meal since 2012. She had been fortunate that exhaustion had never had an impact on her aim, and that no one noticed her two best throwing knives concealed in her arm braces the day she jumped through the moon door to an unknown fate.
Luckily her foolishness made Tyrion so happy he paid for her room and dinner that night at a small inn on the outskirts of the Eyrie. It was no different from any of the other inn's she had stayed at over the years, actually that wasn't true. There was something different about this place it reeked more than the others. It was small and a crowded so the smell of sweat and skin clung to their air like a thick cloud just above your head mixed with the putrid smell of moldy hay and the stench of infrequently changed chamber pots, but it had clean water to drink and fresh food to eat all with a roof over her head – that alone brought her some sense of comfort no matter how small.
There was one thing, one small thing, that excited her more than the hot food and perhaps a cold beer, and that was a bed. Tonight she would sleep in a bed, with blankets and pillows and she could not be more excited. The nights she had spent outside of the sky cells had been outside usually somewhere up high where she could keep an eye, and an ear, open for any news about Tyrion; or in barns and stables buried under mounds of hay, and if she was lucky, maybe a little bit extra to shape a pillow. She could never stay in one place too long for fear of being discovered and forced back into a cage.
In all her years as a shadow walker she learned to appreciate the little things in life, because in such a life full of uncertainty it was usually the little things that made a difference. And tonight she fully intended to take advantage of having an entire bed to herself before lord knows how many nights of sleeping outside again. Not that she minded sleeping outside, and now that she had her bag again it might actually be enjoyable, but the first rule of jumping: never say no to a bed when it is offered to you, especially right after a jump, never!
That night, after they finished their meager dinner of roast pig with roasted potatoes and some slop they passed off as boiled vegetables, they sat by the roaring fire as the Innkeeper brought over another round. Tyrion lifted his cup – " To my lady, my champion, my victor. I never should have doubted you," he toasted. "To getting out alive, And to my Lord for hosting such a glorious feast" she affirmed with a wink and drank the contents of her cup with a single gulp.
Once she had her fill she set down her own crude wooden cup and studied the amber liquid inside. Hundreds of thoughts and questions repressed prior to her arrest now resurfaced and burned in the corners of her mind.
Now that both she and Lord Tyrion were safe she had to deal with the usual problems of jumping. Where would she go from here? Would she find a village and try to call it home? Or would she do what she usually tried to do and go off and live in the woods, and off the land? Yes, that would be her safest choice. After spending days in the town listening to the idle gossip of the common folk it didn't take her long to realize that she didn't belong here – not that she belonged anywhere really, but here it was plain to see that she was an outsider.
Ordinarily she would pass her self off as some refugee from a village raided by soldiers from whatever country or tribe they were at war with, but after her near misses with Tyrion and listening to the people she realized that she had no idea when she was or where she was for that matter. The names of the kings and the countries, they made no sense. Never before had she heard of 'the Westeros.' Was there a Northoros, Southeros and Eastoros as well?
She could live in the forest, far from the Eyrie, somewhere she could hunt and set up camp. She would live the simple life she always wanted- far away from people asking her questions about where she was from, or why she spoke funny. She could spend her days doing as she please, hunting, or gathering herbs to sell to villages she came across during her travels and her nights stretched out by a campfire beneath the stars as the winds gently washed her face with cool air and the smoke told her stories of times gone by. The thought of living in the forest enticed her- there was just something about it that gave her a sense of calm and serenity. She knew it probably wouldn't work out like how she imagined, it never did, but at least she could dream.
Raging, and searing pain from her arm brought her from her daydreams back to reality. It stung and burned like nothing she had ever felt before. She tenderly rolled up the sleeve of the shirt Tyrion insisted on paying for her.
It was a plain grey shirt that tied up at the neck – one that a man would typically wear under his leathers and jerkin – he had bought it out of guilt, to make up for the sweater ruined earlier that day as Ser Vardis soaked it with blood when she slit his throat thus winning the trial by combat in Tyrion's favour.
The deep, long gash on her arm had not yet healed. Gently, she traced her fingers along the wound. The blood that had surrounded the gash was thick and lumped together, forming chunks of blood and skin along the walls, and while the heat of the fire burning inside her arms was feverish, the wound was cold to the touch. Never had she heard of a toxin capable of causing such a reaction, nor such pain.
"You're hurt?" Observed Tyrion, noticing her wound for the first time. " We must have someone look at that!" His tone had gone from gay and joyful to serious in the blink of an eye.
"It's fine" Jacquelyn insisted, meeting the imp's gaze her own. The intensity of his gaze on her arm was unsettling. " It looks worse than it is, it hasn't been cleaned yet. I just need some hot water and linens is all." She shrugged trying to brush it off, but Tyrion wasn't hearing of it.
He tried to argue the point further when a particularly busty tavern wench walked by with her breasts half exposed, temporarily distracting Tyrion from their quarrel.
Seizing the opportunity Jacquelyn added, " I'll have the innkeeper send some my chambers before we turn in. You'll see- it'll be better in the morning." At least she hoped it would be better in the morning. What she needed was to get to her room so she could figure out what toxin Ser Vardis had used on his blade, and if it had an antidote. She had already survived her execution and a lopsided battle with knight – there was no way in holy hell she was dying now from a poisoned wound. There was no way that was happening!
Tyrion looked at her skeptically, and reached out with his hand, touching the open wound with gentle fingers. " The wound looks angry my lady. At least have someone look at it before we leave." He insisted with earnest concern.
"It's nothing," Jacquelyn grumbled jerking her arm way from his tender touch, "nothing I haven't dealt with before." The last thing she needed was some quack 'healer' telling her what she needed. Knowing her luck they would probably suggest something ridiculous like leeches as a means of sucking the venom out. No thanks. She knew the reaches of medieval medicine, and she knew that she was probably more qualified than most to treat her wounds.
Tyrion inspected her arm in the dim light by the fire, never before realizing just how many scars marked it with large and small, thin and thick pink lines alike. He knew how they were caused, his brother had them and his father had them – battle scars. He could only wonder what she had done to earn them, and what exactly the rest of her body might look like. Was the rest of her covered in scars as well, or were they only confined to her arms?
"So it would appear," he pondered drinking again from his cup, not taking his eyes off the multitude of thin scars on her arm and hands.
Feeling the weight of his gaze on her arms Jacquelyn quickly rolled down her sleeve, and fastening the wrist closed before taking another drink from the cup and diverting her own gaze back on to the flames dancing and leaping in the hearth- anything to get the imp's stare off her arms before he could ask more questions.
Finally, after another couple rounds of insistence and denial she yielded to Tyrion's consistent badgering and called for the innkeeper to bring her a bowl of hot water and some linen.
Once he arrived with the steaming bowl and shredded linen she slowly started to dab at the wound dying the once white cloth an alarming purplish red. It was nothing she had ever seen – and she had done a fair bit of work with poison. She recalled her lessons with Father Malcolm and Brother Mortimer in the churches garden, going through the different kinds of plants and their uses as toxins and as antidotes. The book in her bag outlined every kind of toxic plant known to man and shadow walker, and their antidotes; surely whatever toxin ailed her would be listed along with its cure. Whatever this poison was it was potent, she had never seen her body react to a poison so quickly and so violently.
There wasn't much she could do now in the main room of the pub, but she would dress the wound better once she was in her own room and could use the supplies from the first aid kit she always kept in her bag. In all her years of jumping, Jacquelyn had managed to rack up an impressive number of injuries and scars, but not one of them grieved her as much as this. She could feel the poison in her veins. She could feel it racing its way slowly to her heart as he body attempted put up a fight, and delay the poison from taking hold for as long as she could. She had no idea how long she had before it started to take control of her body, she was exhausted and fresh from a jump so her immune system was shot.
She could only pray that she'd hold out long enough to find the cure. Shot immune system or not, she would still have more time than an ordinary man. As annoying as jumping, and being a shadow walker, could be it did have its benefits.
"Cheer up!" Tyrion ordered before guzzling down the rest of his drink. She couldn't remember what that made it, 7 – maybe 8 drinks altogether. For such a little person he could certainly hold his liquor.
Smiling politely she nodded looking up from her work, "I'm just tired you know – it's been a very trying week." What with jumping to some crazy ass country I've never heard of before, getting slapped, thrown in prison, jumping 600 feet to my death and then fighting for the life of someone else, killing a man in the process, all without adequate food or sleep- she mentally ran through the list.
"I know," Tyrion rested an affectionate hand on her arm, squeezing it tenderly. "I do not know how I will ever be able to repay you for what you have done for me." The light from the fire caused shadows to dance across his face telling a story that only she could read.
" You owe me nothing," she replied modestly before taking another sip of the bitter drink while mentally adding whisky to the list of things she missed from the 21st century. It was right up there with indoor plumbing, electricity, and the iPod. She was not a beer drinker and this particular brew was especially wretched.
"I owe you everything," Tyrion argued happily. The beer was slowly making its way to his head. Seeing him so happy, relaxed and drunk cheered her up. It was a stark contrast to the scared and wary Tyrion she had met in the sky cell – she found herself preferring the gay, happy little man whose company she was currently enjoying.
"Well you can start by helping me find a horse. Something tells me that in the next few days we will not be so welcomed here in the Vale. It would be in our best interest to put as much distance between us and this place as possib-"
But Tyrion was not listening, he was too busy nuzzling the bust tavern wench's now very publicly displayed bosom. Jacquelyn sighed and finished her drink before dumping the blood dyed water and retired for the night.
Sleep took her the moment her head fell against the soft pillow. It was a long and dreamless sleep; jut the way she liked it. She woke up at some point in the night and saw a ghostly, glowing moon shining brightly in the night sky. Approaching the window dressed in nothing but her grey shirt with a blanket wrapped around her for warmth she thought of the song she use to sing, and moon not all too different from the one that greeted her in her chambers. She stared out longing at that moon and watched her breath in the frigid night air. She softly sang the moon song to herself. It reminded her of home – well the closest thing she had to a home, and to a family.
She desperately longed to go for a ride on a night such as this. Under the cover of night and stars until the sickly pale light of the morning touched her face and the sun peaked out at her from beneath the mountain ridge; riding until she felt as though she had reached the very edge of the earth and yet never reaching a destination.
But that was not this night. No this night would be for sleep for she feared and hoped she would have many nights of riding in the darkened forest on the horizon. Letting out a soft exhale she turned and crawled back into bed.
Several hours passed before the soft, warm glow of sunlight chased away any remaining traces of night. Lord Tyrion was lying in bed, still half drunk from the night before with the breasts of a woman he did not know inches from his face. His head felt as though he had laid it out on a black smiths anvil and told him to take his largest hammer to it.
"Rise and shine," Jacquelyn walked in and threw his clothes at him.
Proceeding to walk across the room, stepping over the naked, passed out women on his floor she threw open the window.
One of the girls began to stir at the light before rolling over, returning to her dreams.
'Lucky girl,' Tyrion thought shielding his eyes from the light, trying to put his pants back, and grumbled about the ungodly hour.
" We need to get an early start if we want to get out of the Vale by tonight." She explained, "Unless you want to risk another run in with the Tully's."
Tyrion dressed in haste, nothing scared him more than the thought of going back into one of those tiny, frigid, sky cells.
10 minutes later both he and Jacquelyn strode out of the inn with their personal effects, and his purse strings a fair bit lighter. Following her advice they stopped at the nearest stable to look at horses, but after looking at the specimens that the breeder called 'the fairest in the land' they left. If those horses were the fairest in the land then horses in the Vale were all extremely under fed and about to keel over at any given moment.
They had more success at the next stable. Tyrion found a mount within minutes after crossing the premises. The first horse he saw was so drawn to the little man that it walked right up to him and began to nuzzle him, very much like the way he had been nuzzling the woman's bosom the night before.
Jacquelyn took longer to find a suitable horse. No ordinary horse would do, "he has to be sturdy and able to withstand several days of hard riding." She explained after looking at the third horse at one particular stable. The owner showed her several horses, and every single one of them looked as though they would fall over in a strong wind.
Giving up on the owner and his sales pitch she walked through the long rows of stalls where numerous horses neighed and whinnied when they saw her, but no one spoke to her until she found him.
He was a gorgeous bay coloured Clydesdale horse with white socks, and black hair. He was tucked far in the back away from all of the other horses.
The owner, a shrill stout little man easily on the latter end of his forties, making him old by the standards of the day, quickly tried to dissuade her from picking him. "Oh you won't like him misses," the owner said with a thick accent that Jacquelyn had no idea how to classify. In her world he sounded as though he might have been from Liverpool, but here – she had no clue.
"He bites, and throws off any man who tries to ride him. No good for riding, stupid beast won't even pull a simple plow." The owner kept babbling about the horse's bad temperament.
"Is he fast?" were the only words she asked the owner as she watched the horse watching her as they approached.
"Oh, he's the fastest I got," the owner admitted, " if he'd let anyone ride him. I told you, he doesn't like any man."
"Then good thing I'm not a man." She said over her shoulder to the owner while opening the horse's stall gate. The bay horse watched intently with large amber eyes as she approached him slowly.
Much to the owner's surprise, the horse made no fuss as Jacquelyn approached. Quietly, he stood by letting her run her hands over his neck. She whispered some words in a funny dialect that neither Tyrion nor the horse owner recognized, but somehow the horse under stood what she said because he stepped forward out of the stall and stood calmly and patiently for her to mount.
Jacquelyn walked over to the horse slowly and began to undo the knots that fastened the saddle to his body.
"What are you doing?" The owner shrieked as Jacquelyn handed him the saddle.
"You're using the wrong saddle." She looked over on the wall of saddles and found and old worn out leather saddle sitting alone in one corner ignored and forgotten – just like the horse. The leather was well worn, and had survived many seasons. There were patches where the leather had been so worn that it shone in the light as though it had been polished with waxes that would not exist for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. But like the horse, there was something about the saddle that spoke to something deep inside of her. "May I?" She asked looking over her shoulder to the stable owner.
The funny little old man, surprised by his demon horse's sudden compliance, shrugged and helped her lift the saddle off the wall. She gently fastened it on top of an old soft blanket to cushion the use of a saddle.
"I think I'll name you Trystan," She said sliding off the saddle after riding him around the property a few times. The owner was right about on thing – he was fast. Nudging her shoulder affectionately with his nose, suggesting that he liked the name too.
"Trystan?" Tyrion chuckled, repeating the name to himself, "what a funny name."
Jacquelyn thought to comment about how rich that was coming from a dwarf with the name Tyrion, but opted not to say anything on the matter. "It's the name of a hero from one of the stories of my people." She said not putting too much credence into it. There was something about the horse's eyes that reminded her of the tragic Arthurian hero.
After paying the owner for the two horses Tyrion and Jacquelyn set off on their newly acquired steeds for their ride to the Palisade village. The village was on the very outskirts of the Eyrie, once they were past the village they would be out of crazy Lysa Tully's grasp.
They stopped maybe once or twice along the way to eat and to give the horses a small break. Tyrion now understood what she had meant by wanting a sturdy horse, Trystan was barely phased by the intense, rocky ride, while his little horse looked as though it as ready to collapse if it had to endure much more.
It finally came time for Tyrion and Jacquelyn to part ways. They had passed the Palisade maybe an hour or so ago. Anxious to get as far away as possible Jacquelyn decided to ride through the village and Tyrion followed. They only stopped again, for the horses to rest and have some water before they parted.
Jacquelyn rested against one of the large grey boulders with Tyrion by her side as their horses hunted for any traces of grass buried beneath the light snow covering the ground.
Tyrion planned to head south along the King's Road towards the Crossroads Inn where he would send word to is brother and assure him of his safety before making his way home. "What do you intend to do now, Mistress Meryck?" He asked rolling onto his back to look up at the dim grey sky.
She took a deep breath, allowing the air to fill her lungs completely before exhaling, and looking out towards the wintery land that now lay before her. The sense of adventure stirred deep within her and she couldn't help but wonder what else was out there in this strange but beautiful land? Whatever there was, she wanted to see it, all of it. "I think I'll head north," she said pointing along a mountainous ridge, "I can live off the forest as I go."
"Just don't go too far north," Tyrion warned, " a pretty young woman like yourself would not find much welcome at the wall."
"The wall?" She asked looking over at him, "What pray tell is, 'the wall?'" She asked comically but eager to know the answer. How could something simply labeled ' the wall' be serious? It just sounded funny, like something in a fairytale where everything is only referred to as 'the castle' or 'the cottage.' She was curious.
"Someplace you don't want to be," Tyrion reiterated gently swatting her arm, making sure she knew how serious he was.
Grinding her teeth she nodded, trying to ignore the ripples of pain that his swat as sent up her arm. Days later and her wound had not yet healed. Every day she cursed herself more and more for disposing of his blade before learning what he had used to poison it.
"Come with me to King's Landing," He begged. "We need more women with your kind of intelligence and courage at the court – the court has become dreadfully dull – you could liven it up again."
Jacquelyn chuckled glancing over at her friend, " Trust me Lord Tyrion, the last thing your court needs is a woman like me. Unable to keep her mouth shut every time someone acts like a moron – you realize I would most likely end up insulting the King, or your sister the Queen."
"Oh I'm counting on it," Tyrion laughed, " but that's what would make it so much more fun. Besides, it would not kill Cersei to be taken down a notch or two."
'No' Jacquelyn thought, ' but it might kill me.' She smiled as she shook her head and looked back towards the thick forest that awaited her. She was so close she could almost hear the smell the pine and cedar calling her. "I'm sorry my lord but the woods are my home, and I'm afraid I've been gone too long, they're calling for me."
Tyrion ruffled his shaggy blonde hair sheepishly and smiled nervously at her. "I want you to have this." Handing her a pendant with a lion's head. "It is a token of my family, and it marks you as a friend of the Lannister's. If you are ever in need – please do not hesitate. You will always be welcomed at Kings Landing." He didn't really know what else to say to the woman who had so selflessly saved his life and continued to protect him from the forces of Lysa Tully. He also felt an overwhelming shame for having ever doubted her as his victor; this was the least he could do to repay her.
She took the pendant and slipped it gently into her leather satchel. Wanting to return the favor she dug a small bottle or golden liquid from her bag.
"Here," she gently tossed him the small bottle.
"What is it?" he asked looking at the bottle dubiously.
"It's called whisky. It's a drink from my home land. I brought a couple of small bottle with me." After having no luck with her book and identifying the toxin she found a couple travel size bottles in one of the pockets inside of her bag. "Just be careful, it's stronger than the stuff you're use to."
Tyrion unscrewed the lid and crinkled his nose at the strong smell of the fiery liquid.
"It tastes a lot better than it smells," she assured him, "especially if you add it to your tea."
Tyrion nodded, unsure as to whether or not he believed her, and gently placed the bottle in his breast pocket.
"I guess this is it," she shrugged not knowing what else to say. Part of her wished that she did not have to say farewell to the only friend she managed to make so far, especially after already making so many enemies, but she knew it was the best for both of them. Their paths were leading them in separate directions for the time being, but she had a feeling this would not be the last time she saw Tyrion Lannister.
"Take care of yourself," he smiled at her fondly as she mounted Trystan ready to ride off.
"Mistress Meryck." He added, " they will tell stories about you one day, stories about the girl who could fly –how did you survive that fall?" He asked as it suddenly came to mind. He had been so relieved to be released that he had forgotten about her escape.
With a cunning smile she laughed as she spoke, " That is a story for another day Lord Tyrion." She looked down at her braces and gently traced along the hawks carved into the leather with her fingertips. Today was a day for making stories, not reciting them.
"please, I must know," He pleaded standing up on the tallest boulder.
"Get use to disappointment," she yelled over her shoulder, a playful smile tugging at the corners of her lips, before sending Trystan into a full gallop towards the mountains.
Tyrion chuckled as he watched her and Trystan ride toward the mountainside where Gods know what would be waiting for her. He looked down at the small bottle in his pocket. He prayed to the old Gods and the New, and to whatever Gods she believed in that she would be safe.
He turned his own horse and pointed him in the direction of King's Landing and set off on the long journey home.