Summer Ship: The Ballad of Dany and Yara (Part 4)

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Summer Ship

“Nothing is happening!” Cersei hisses at Melisandre, taking a generous gulp of Arbor red. “We’ve been here for weeks and Lord Serrett is no closer to backing my bid for the Iron Throne than he was when we stumbled into this dratted Castle.” She restlessly paces the chamber like a caged tiger. And she’s right.

“Lord Serett is weighing his choices.”

“Lord Serett is a doddering old coward, too weak to seek vengeance on the false Queen and her pirate Consort.”

Melisandre warms her withered hands by the fire, gazing into the flames with an expression of… Regret? Contemplation? Cersei still doesn’t understand the old woman who rescued her from Crakehall.

“Do you have a plan if Lord Serrett refuses us?”

Melisandre shakes her head.

“Once, when I was strong, I might have used magic to manipulate Lord Serrett without a second thought. Now…”

Melisandre unconsciously caresses her sagging, age-spotted throat.

“Now I must conserve my energy.”

“So am I supposed to just sit here waiting until I grow as old as you?”

“No. You’re supposed to figure this out on your own.”

Cersei’s eyes widen. She is quiet for a moment. Thinking.

“Lady Jeyne Serrett seems quite spirited,” Cersei observes blandly.

“Yes. I wonder she feels about her father’s reticence?” Melisandre replies casually.

“Hmm. I wonder.”

 

Source: Popsugar.com

Source: Popsugar.com

 

Arya lies face up on the cold dirt floor of The Red Keep’s smallest inner courtyard. It is adjacent to the stables, between the loud main courtyard and royal gardens,where fine Ladies and powerful Lords promenade whispering sweet seductions and cruel gossip. Few courtiers bothered with this “Knight’s Courtyard,” a training ground for Guards, Knights, Mercenaries, and Squires to practice their skill. The Knight’s Courtyard is a large circle filled with smaller circles drawn in white chalk that decrease in size until the very middle of the circle. This is no more than a dot, big enough for only one man to stand. Or, in this case, woman.

Brienne of Tarth peers critically down at her Squire.

“Giving up already?”

“Just taking a moment to admire your profile.”

Brienne bends over, yanks Arya up with one enormous arm, and cuffs her on the ear. 
“None of that sass.”

“I wasn’t sassing. I was flirting.”

“That’s even worse. Twenty laps to cool your ardor.”

Arya grumbles good-naturedly and trots to the outermost circle to begin her laps.

“Knees up!” Brienne bellows.

Arya lifts her knees almost to her chest as she runs, striking a ridiculous resemblance to a heron.

“That’s better.”

Arya grimaces dramatically in Brienne’s direction but easily completes the first few laps. She is in excellent shape, partly in thanks to her own discipline and partly thanks to Brienne’s fanatical devotion to practice. Under Brienne’s watchful eye, Arya felt her body and mind grow. Her body, always lithe and toned, had now developed sinewy muscles that bulged pleasingly when she flexed. On the rare occasions Arya found herself alone and in the presence of a mirror, she couldn’t help but admire the way her biceps and abdominals rippled in the light.

Since becoming Brienne’s Squire, Arya had moved into a small room adjacent to Brienne’s quarters in the White Sword Tower. On her first morning, Arya had woke at Sunrise to a hideous roar. Half asleep, Arya wondered if King’s Landing might be under fire and reached instinctively for her weapon. Only to run smack into Brienne.

“Planning on stabbing me on your first day of training?” Brienne asked, leaning close over Arya and smiling menacingly.

“I thought it was an attack.”

“That’s one way to put it. Get up!”

Since then, Arya’s days had been consumed by physical and mental training. When Brienne wasn’t putting Arya through sword drills, archery practice, endurance tests, and weight training, Brienne was shoving as much information into Arya’s brain as it could handle. And then some. Geography, history, etiquette, math, and culture were the main topics.

Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr

 

“Why do I need to know the Islands of the Stepstones? When will that possibly be of use to me?” Arya had asked Brienne on her third day of such lessons. Brienne sighed and sat down next to Arya.

“As a Knight, your duties will carry you through every part of Westeros. You will travel, unguarded and often alone, into perilous regions filled with people who do not want you there. You must try your hardest to remember every piece of knowledge I impart upon you. For I promise, one day, you will need them. Furthermore, as a Knight, you must speak and act with authority. Wisdom and skill are the bedrocks of such authority. You must wield both to be a true Knight.”
Arya thinks about this and nods.

“You’re right.”

“I’m so glad you think so. Now, tell me about the Stepstones.”

“The Stepstones are a chain of islands between the southern narrow sea and the northwestern Summer Sea. They are east of Dorne in Westeros, west of the Disputed Lands in Essos, and just north of Tyrosh. They include Bloodstone and Grey Gallows.”

“Good. What are they known for?”

“Pirates, mostly. I think Yara has been there.”

“I’m sure she has. Why are they important?”

“They’re not important.”

“Arya, how many times must I tell you this? Everything is important.”

Arya sighs and racks her brain.

“According to legend, the Stepstones are a remnant of a land-bridge, which once linked Westeros and Essos. Ten thousand years ago the First Men used that land-bridge to cross into what is now known as Dorne to begin their invasion of Westeros. The greenseers of the children of the forest are said to have used magic to shatter the land-bridge into an archipelago. This is now known as the Stepstones.”

At this, Brienne had smiled with a trace of pride. For the first time in years, Arya felt the warm glow of approval from someone she looked up to.

The pleasant memory of that lesson is disturbed by a stray rock under Arya’s heel. She trips and falls face down with an embarrassing splat. Brienne breaks into gleeful laughter and Arya feels her cheeks grow red. She picks herself up and meets the cerulean eyes of none other than Lady Aspeth: the fairest and most admired maiden in King’s Landing. Arya feels her stomach drop and wishes she was somewhere far, far away. Under a rock maybe.

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