A new experiment has begun. In Reading, Pennsylvania, a friend is running a tabletop game set in the world of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. What follows are the recollections of my character, Cadmon Storm, in a journal he keeps on his person or ravens he sends to other characters. All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.
Most of the kids I grew up with barely knew Braavos existed.
There were a few who were curious about the lands across the Narrow Sea, but for the most part it was all about the gossip and impressing one’s parents. My mother had just been happy I was alive. I never felt the compulsion to impress anybody. Since I found the lessons dull and the company irritable, I was often running down books and maps in Storm’s End and engaging the maester with questions while the other children played.
So when I left Storm’s End at my mother’s behest, I got to see those lands in person. The years I spent aboard the Black Bertha were happy ones. The sailors were happy to teach a cabin boy so willing to learn, and I learned to play their games of dice as much as I learned their knots. It couldn’t last forever – what does? – and a raven from Dragonstone caused Ser Davos to put me off of the Bertha in Braavos. He explained it to me as well as he could.
“The Greyjoys have started a rebellion, and Lord Stannis needs me back home. It won’t be like the little skirmishes we’ve had here and there with pirates. It will be a brutal, extended business and I want you nowhere near it.”
“I can fight.” I was nine. Of course I protested. “I can carry water to the wounded.”
“You’re a brave boy, Cadmon, but you’re still a boy. It’s important for you to stay safe. Stay in Braavos, stay close to the docks. I promise you, you won’t go any longer without word than I can help it. Maester Cressen will take my letters and send them across the Narrow Sea to you.”
“You could learn to write yourself, you know.”
Ser Davos made a face. “Such things are for smarter men. You’re smarter than I am already. Keep that up. Be smart, and stay here. Learn.”
I wasn’t happy about it. I was resolved, in my childlike sense of justice, to resent Ser Davos right up until the first letter came from Dragonstone. Maester Cressen wrote the words of Ser Davos that told me of the Greyjoy Rebellion, of his lord Stannis storming the islands with Eddard Stark and how Jaime Lannister and Thoros of Myr had slain scores of men. It was the first of many, and I read it over and over in the candlelit nights on the docks.
People need their ships tied up and cast off when they arrive or depart. They may not know where the nearest spice merchant or inn or whorehouse is. They might just need an extra pair of hands carrying cargo to its destination. I was one of several children who fulfilled these roles. We’re called Gulls on the Docks.
I spent the next couple years on those docks. As Ser Davos had bid me I learned all I could. I was starting to pick up words and phrases in Valyrian, listening to the news from the other Free Cities, watching the bravos duel one another. I sometimes bet a little of the money I had on the duels. The fact that I won more often that I lost was a sore spot with some of the other Gulls, especially a Tyroshi boy named Symuril.
“That was utter shit.” Sym kicked a stone away as we walked back to the docks following a nasty duel. He was a dark-haired boy but he’d gotten half of it painted blue in the Tyroshi style. “Ilastus shouldn’t have fallen for that last feint. He’d seen it before.”
“But his blood was up. He wanted to split Timon like a ripe melon. He ended up taking the split himself, but I understand why he attacked so aggressively.”
“Feh. It still shouldn’t have happened.”
“It was going to. Ilastus was hot-headed, moreso than most bravos. Timon knew this and used it. That’s how fights are. It doesn’t change the fact that you owe me ten.”
Sym glared at me. “It was a cheap win, damn close to cheating, and I don’t owe you anything.”
I walked to stand in front of him. “You owe me. Pay me.”
Symuril was older than me by at least one name day. I was close to my twelfth when this happened. He sneered at me, his green-brown eyes full of childish conviction, and poked my chest with a finger. “Timon’s a cheat and a liar. I bet fans of his aren’t any different. And I don’t pay money to cheats and liars.”
It was stupid of me to throw the first punch. Yet that’s what I did. As much as it had been what he’d wanted, Symuril was surprised by it. He responded in kind, though, and we were suddenly on the ground, tussling in the gutter. Ser Davos, Storm’s End and my mother were another world, and in that moment I was a young bravo dueling with an upstart from another Free City because he’d impinged my honor and, frankly, I didn’t like him all that much. We punched, kicked, bit and wrestled until I ended up on top of him, punching his face with all the strength I had.
I don’t know where his stiletto came from. But it was a slender little blade that stuck in my side. It was an intense pain, which made me scream, a feeling of intense heat washing over my belly and side as the blood flowed. I reached for my own weapon at the small of my back, which I’d forgotten in my rage-fueled haste. It was a dagger of Valyrian steel, a gift from Ser Davos, the blade wide and slightly curved with a single edge. It was made to be easy to draw and slash in the same motion, and that’s exactly what I did.
I was surprised by how much Symuril bled when I opened his neck.
I’d seen game slaughtered before, and during a pirate skirmish one of Davos’ men had lost a leg. Still, seeing such things is not the same as getting blood squirted on your face yourself because you slit someone’s throat. The Tyroshi boy’s eyes went wide and he gasped, both hands reaching for his throat, his stiletto forgotten in my side. I stayed on top of him and pulled the thin blade out of me, putting my hand down over the wound. I felt him kicking under me, each passing moment making the motions more feeble. His eyes never left mine as blood gushed from under his hands and oozed from his mouth. Even when he stopped moving entirely, and his bowls emptied themselves into his stylish trousers, his green-brown eyes shouted their accusations. I was crying when I rolled off of his corpse and limped away.
I don’t know how I got as far as I did. I remember dragging myself up the steps towards the doors, one of weirwood and one of ebony. My nostils were full of the smell of incense.
The doors parted as the last of my strength left me. I remember gentle hands on my body, and an old man’s voice speaking in Valyrian, two words I recognized.