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Third Entry

My time in the House of Black and White that sits in Braavos taught me several things. I learned patience, for those days after I awakened in a small acolyte’s room were long and quiet. I learned how precious every moment is, considering how I’d simultaneously delivered a soul onto death and nearly fell into its arms myself. I learned that while I was recuperating in the temple of the Many-Faced God, the face of the weirwood of Storm’s End was the one that came to mind when I felt the need to pray. I learned to speak more languages, to listen to whispers, to watch how people moved and looked around when they spoke. And I learned the water dance from Mavek Kushahn, Third Sword of Braavos.

She took my dagger from me, letting me fight only with wooden swords. It wasn’t until I took her practice weapon from her hand that she returned it. That same day, I thanked the priests in the House of Black and White and, wearing the clothes of a bravo, hired myself as a deckhand and sellsword to a trading ship. So it was for years, before wanderings and adventures brought me to Pentos.

I was days from turning ten and seven, a man grown by Westrosi reckoning. I had taken scars and lives alike, and as I walked through the city to make my delivery I drew in the salty sea air and thought of how different it smelled from the spray of Storm’s End and the cold loam of Dragonstone. I didn’t miss them, precisely, but I knew they were the foundation upon which Cadmon Storm the bravo had been built.

I handed the wineseller his cask and took his money. I was counting it for the third time – just to be certain – when I bumped shoulders with a youth just a few years older than me. He had his hand gripped tightly around the wrist of a young girl who caught my eye. While the teen pulling her along called me a fool and to watch where I was going, I found myself staring, the image of her searing into my memory.

Her hair, caught in the breeze and sunlight, looked as if spun from a metal more precious that silver, more rare than gold. She was wearing a fine if somewhat insubstantial dress that was very much in keeping with the fashions of the upper-crust ladies of the Free Cities. What captured me, though, were her eyes. Not their color, though you don’t often see them the color of amethysts. No, it was the sadness. The longing. Though she was dressed in the manner of a daughter of wealth, she looked very much a prisoner.

A little voice in the back of my mind told me I would embarrass myself if she caught me gauping, and I tore my eyes away from the sight of her. Her escort, whoever he was, turned his eyes to me, eyes the same color as hers, and if looks could kill I would have dropped dead on the spot. Instead, I bit out an obscenity in Valyrian – another skill I’d refined in the House of Black and White. His eyes went wide and I winked at him, before he himself ran headlong into an oncoming traveler. I ducked out of sight before the drama unfolded any further.

There was something about that pair, a feeling in the back of my brain that coiled and writhed in a mix of uncertainty and excitement. Who had I just seen? Why did this notion of destiny poke at my heart? I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter. I had coin, and free time, and I knew what to do with both. Pentos had more than its share of taverns, and I had a favorite, the “Sea Lady’s Chamber”, a short walk from the docks.

The Chamber is a home away from the sea for sellsails, oarsmen, and shipwrights of all types. One at the bar was smiling and laughing with a pair of ladies, wearing a dark tunic with a strange device over his heart: an onion, embroidered in white.

It was a device I knew well.

The ladies were striking in their own right. The more flamboyant of the two was also the larger, a collection of curves and bright flashing gold hanging from belts and sashes. Her bright hoop earrings and bold-colored scarves on her head were a stark contrast to her dark skin. She didn’t look like one for fighting, but all the same, a jeweled scabbard holding a sickle-like dagger was prominent on the front of one of the many sashes around her waist.

Her companion was more slender, her curves more modest, the caramel of her skin subtly accented by her fashionable skirt, slit up to her hip to expose bare leg running to the boot that came to just below her knee. A gem flashed in her navel, set in a taut belly shown by the tied-off sleeveless shirt in the same sandy color as the skirt. Behind her cocked hips, I could see the hilt of a Braavosi blade. Her hair was long and ebony, braided with threads of silver woven through it. The only other decoration she wore was a slender silver chain that encircled the base of her neck, itself braided at the hollow of her throat and hanging down between her full breasts and into her shirt.

Again, the eyes got my attention. But they weren’t exotic, like the amethyst orbs I’d beheld earlier. No, these eyes were a stormy, expressive blue. Familiar eyes. Eyes I’d caught sight of in mirrors or polished glass from time to time.

Curious, intrigued, and perhaps a little aroused, I began to make my way over.

Three bravos burst into the Chamber behind me. I stepped to one side; I didn’t want to be seen as an obstacle to them. Not yet, at least.

“Dale Seaworth!” The bravo that called the name drew his blade. “You will come with us!”

Dale looked at the bravos, then his companions, then drank down the remnants of his wine. “Why would I do that?”

“Your ship has raided and taken the property of our employer.” It was the middle bravo who spoke now, his Westrosi Common slightly more refined. “We’ve come on behalf of our lady, Betharios of Braavos, to demand recompense.”

The slender woman set down her goblet and crossed her arms, the firelight reflecting from the studs of her fingerless gloves. “Dale. Have you been pirating?”

Dale shook his head. “The ships were carrying slaves towards Westeros. I turned them back.”

“Lies.” The bravo who hadn’t spoken yet, the largest one, had a voice like gravel being ground underfoot. “You kept the cargo of Betharios for yourself.”

People are not cargo, I wanted to say, but Dale beat me to it. “I daresay that people are not, in fact, cargo.”

“I know Betharios,” said the large woman, leaning on the bar. “She’s a bitch. I’m not surprised she sent dogs to do her dirty work.”

The first bravo spat. “We are no dogs!”

“And at least we are not pirates and thieves,” the second agreed. “Not like you. Now will you come with us or shall we draw your blood now?”

Dale got to his feet. People were quietly leaving the tavern or getting into a better position to watch. “I can’t leave. My ship departs with the tide. I need to be on it, you see, as I am her captain, and we have goods to take back to Westeros. Goods, I might add, that were not taken from the leaky boats of Betharios.”

“We are three.” The first bravo grinned, a smile missing a few teeth. “You are one. Odds are not good, pirate.”

“Learn to count.” The slender woman uncrossed her arms and moved, hips almost in a slither-like motion, to stand by Dale. “We are two.”

The grinning bravo moved his hand to his hilt. “I can count. And we still number more than you.”

“You there. Tall, dark, and ugly.” I stepped out of the crowd, lifting my chin to the big, stoic one. “We shall duel, bravo, you and I.”

He blinked at me. “You will stand for this Westrosi seadog?”

“Aye. Any seadog of Westeros nursed at the same bitch I did.”

Dale smiled. “The Narrow Sea’s a cold, hard one.”

The woman smiled, too. My heart might have skipped a beat.

“Enough talk!” The first bravo roared as he attacked. We paired off immediately: the first with Dale, the second with the woman, and the big one with me. I parried and gave ground. He was strong enough, but he lacked finesse. Dale was quick on his feet and had a Westrosi longsword in his hand before his bravo could get close enough to stick him. The woman, for her part, ducked and darted like a snake, and I read in her water dance a placid patience, moreso than any sort of fury or malice, as she looked for the perfect place and time to strike. I kept mine busy, moving around the tavern and letting him grow tired and stupid… well, more stupid than usual.

Sure enough, he over-extended his thrust and I took him in the chest, just below his heart. He slid back off of my blade and staggered, looking down at the wound in shock. I raised my blade to my face in salute, then turned to the other as he backed Dale into a corner. Dale wasn’t used to fighting water dancers, and while he was holding off the attacks, it was only matter of time before he was disarmed or worse. The other bravo saw me moving, and was about to shout a warning when the woman capitalized on the distraction, her thrust landing in his throat. Winking at her, I turned back to the first bravo, my left hand reaching for my dagger. Valyrian steel whispered through the air as I ducked low, slicing the tendons at his heel. His leg turned to rubber, but he somehow stayed upright, clearly well-trained enough to keep his balance despite the sudden handicap. The large bravo shocked me when he roared and came at with with a final burst of energy. Effortlessly, the woman spun into his path, the tip of her blade slashing his face. He stopped, mid-stride, even more shocked than before. A good shove from her put him down on the floorboards. He didn’t get back up.

Dale finished off his hobbled foe when the bravo pressed an unwise attack. He slapped the thin blade of his opponent aside with contempt, and cleaved the man’s neck down to the spine on the reverse stroke. The bravo bled all over his flamboyant clothing as he sank to his knees, then fell to one side. Dale cleaned his blade, nodding in my direction as the woman sidled up beside me.

“You made that a lot easier than it could have been, friends. Thank you.”

“Any family of Davos Seaworth is family of mine.”

“You know my father?”

“Quite well. This dagger was a gift from him. He helped me leave Westeros. I was in a place where bastards like me are seen the way a noble looks at a pile of horseshit he just stepped in.”

The woman was studying me intently at this point. She smiled, and again, the effect it had on me was undeniable. “I know a bit about being a bastard of the Seven Kingdoms. It’s a shame your experience was so negative.”

I shrugged. “I didn’t have the advantage of your charms.”

“Don’t go trying to seduce my first mate away from me!” The large woman walked over to us and laughed. “She’s far too much of an asset to the Pillowqueen.”

I knew that ship name. My face split into a huge grin.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet the great Madrosa Saan!” I removed my hat and swept low in a bow. “I hear that business is treating you and your family well.”

Large dimples appeared as Madrosa smiled at me. “It is, young bravo, but you do have me at a bit of a disadvantage.”

“My name is Cadmon Storm. And, if I may, I find myself between jobs, and I’d be honored to be considered for your crew.”

Now the woman by my side was openly staring. “‘Storm.’ As in Storm’s End?”

I turned to her, blinking. “Yes. I was born there. My mother is…”

“Rhiannon Penrose.” She took my arm. “Walk with me.”

We left Dale Seaworth and Madrosa Saan watching us in confusion. I glanced over my shoulder, and I saw them exchange a look and a shrug. We walked across the street and down the docks, under a cloudless night littered with stars. The moonlight did fascinating things to the woman’s skin. I noticed, now, that she was closer to my age than I’d originally thought. She turned to me when we were alone.

“I know who your father is, Cadmon. Because he’s my father, too.”

She reached between her breasts, into her top, and drew out the end of the chain. At the end of it was a large ring. She placed it in my hand. It was heavy. It had a thick band and fit over the long finger of my left hand. Its central accent was not a gem, but a signet of white. It depicted a tall tower with a flame at the top. I studied it for a long moment, then looked up into her eyes.

“I didn’t know who he was until after I arrived in Braavos. My mother kept his identity secret, even to me.”

“My mother had no need for such deceptions.” She rested her hand on mine, the ring now shared between our skin. “My name is Sylvaria Sand, and I’m your half-sister.”

I suddenly felt a little abashed for feeling so attracted to her. She must have noticed this, because she flashed her alluring smile. Even with this new revelation, I couldn’t help but notice the fullness of her lips.

“No need to be so bashful, Cadmon. This isn’t Westeros, and we’re not intended for high seats. We should embrace what’s beautiful, not hide from it. My mother, herself a bastard, taught me that.”

I tabled that for the moment. Plenty of time for such talk later.

“I can’t help but feel there’s a reason we met tonight,” I said. “Both you and Dale Seaworth, in the same tavern at the same time, on a night I arrive there… Do you believe in fate, Sylvaria?”

She gently slid my finger free of the signet ring, but did not let go of my hand. “Sometimes, it’s hard to deny that there might be such a thing as fate. And meeting you, as delightful as it is, reminds me of home, and how much I miss it. The Water Palace, and my mother’s love, and my sisters. I should very much like to see them again.”

Something wells up in my heart. “My mother and I haven’t seen each other since I left.”

“It’s settled, then.” As boldly as she stepped up to fight for Dale Seaworth, my half-sister leaned into me and placed a warm, gentle kiss on my lips. “Let’s go home, Cadmon.”

Honor & Blood

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