Pain of Love Part Three- III

ImageThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gods had ever sent to Westeros. The boy wondered what she could possibly see in the weathered and scarred ruffian that had employed the seven-year old boy. He ran his fingers through his shampooed black hair and considered Grayne. I like him. Haven’t had a decent bite to eat since I came out of me mum’s belly, he thought. Ugly as the winter is cold, but he done all-right by me.

  He didn’t know the name of his master, but old ‘one-eye’ (as he called him, in his head) had given him an area of the city to look for her. He had been told to ask questions, but to keep a low profile. He knew a few back alleys where he could find other street people to ask about the beautiful Summer. His wife? If she was as beautiful as he heard, she wouldn’t be too hard to find.

  If she was so beautiful, why would he leave her?

  It was deep into the afternoon, the sun was setting and the street-child grew hungry. He was able to purchase a half-loaf of bread and some fruit juice with which to wash it down. His clean clothes, and combed and washed hair had made it more difficult to get the information he needed from the dirtier types in the city, but he never would have been allowed to buy bread looking the way he had yesterday.

  The sun was setting as he reached the end of his quest; a small flower shop set right against the castle wall. The boy was naturally uneasy this close to the garrison and the Lord and all them royal mucky mucks.

  He made his way in the front door. The smell of flowers were a chorus of smells to his nose, causing the boy to sneeze as soon as he entered. He heard light footsteps, and suddenly the woman his new master had described was before him. The boy looked up at her and instantly knew it was the Summer he sought. Everything was as he described, from her curly red hair to her plump red lips. He was dizzy, perhaps from the intoxicating flowers, from the long walk or from her beauty. He was unsure why, but his head certainly reeled. He struggled with a response to her genuine warm smile and her question of, “How can I help you, little man?”

His mouth hung open as he struggled with the words. He knew he had succeeded at finding Summer and was already planning on what to say to his one-eyed northern master. He knew the man would be happy and that made the boy happy. He tried to say something, but the beautiful Summer kept smiling and that just made him dizzier. “Can I help you?”, she asked, but not to him.

The smell of roses and chrysanthemums vanished, replaced by leather, steel and body odor. The boy hid behind a large vase filled with flowers that was as tall as he was and risked a glance at the three armed and armored men that entered the humble shop. Their armor was patchwork leather poorly sewn together, and their blades were not castle-forged steel, but they were obviously dangerous, especially to the unarmed woman. Two of the men strode into the shop and secured the back door as the third stood menacingly. The boy moved to the opposite side of the giant pot, preventing him from seeing Summer, but making it harder to be seen by the men. His heart raced and he felt bile rising in his stomach. I have to protect her. For One-Eye’s sake.

“Nice shop you have here, Summer.” the boy heard the third man say.

“I am here by the grace of his lordship,” she said threatening them with her powerful patron. “There are many guards in the area who will be here in a flash, if I scream.”

“Then I will have to silence you,” the boy heard the man’s reply, and then a struggle. When he heard her muffled scream, he leapt out from behind the massive vase and rushed up Summer’s side. He latched on to the man around his waist and bit down on one of his arms that was struggling to keep Summer from screaming. The man cried out despite himself and thrashed outward against the boy, flinging him with a crash of glass and steel into a display of vases and flowers.

Free of the melee with the man, Summer began to scream. Her shriek threatened to alert the entire Westerlands, until the ruffian silenced her with a punch to her gut that brutally forced the air out of her lungs. As she was bent over from the punch, the ruffian followed with a two-fisted haymaker to the back of her neck. The boy heard a sickening crunch and then the sound of her collapsing to the floor like wet meat.

Bloody but still alive, the boy struggled to his feet, preparing to battle the three hooligans and save his master’s woman. With a shout, he lunged at Summer’s abuser, but the boy was scooped up from behind by one of the thug’s partners, before he could soundly thrash him. He was held in the air, kicking and screaming in an attempt free himself and save the woman.

The boy stopped thrashing when the man who downed Summer grabbed him by his clean black hair and holding his head still, promptly slit his throat.

Advertisements

Pain of Love Part Three-II

 A foggy day threatened rain as Grayne entered the small city surrounding Ashemark castle. Sellers shouted loudly hawking wares from vulnerable carts, desperately trying to make sales before the weather worsened. The weary northerner bought some cooked beef conveniently placed on a stick. He needed to find a place to stay with the few coins he had remaining. An able-bodied man, especially one with the heartiness of Grayne, was able to make coins as needed, taking unpleasant jobs. He had mucked stables, unloaded ships, and picked cotton so frequently that he had forgotten any details of the labor. He had learned long ago, in the care of the torturer Farzan, to shut his mind to any unpleasantness.

 He finished the meat and threw the stick into an alley that was already covered in trash. An urchin, no more than seven years old rushed out of the alley and began to accost him, touching him, complimenting him, and asking for money.

 Grayne threatened a back-hand and the child closed his eyes and cowered. Opening a single eyelid to see if Grayne was going to beat him, he instead became alarmed. “Ser, hide your blade.”

 The northerner eyed him with suspicion and the child, with renewed urgency and wild desperate eyes said, “Ser, weapons are not allowed so close to the castle! You must hide it, or expect to spend a night in the jail.” The boy pointed at Grayne’s sheathed blade.

 Thinking on it, he didn’t remember seeing a single weapon upon entering the crowded city. He cursed himself for being so dense as looked around for something with which to hide the blade for the idea of a night in any cell filled him with unease. Seemingly sensing the man’s thoughts, the urchin told him that he might know where there was a bedroll that he could use to hide the blade.

 “What would you ask for such an item?”

 “I ask only that I be your squire, ser knight. I would carry your bedroll,” he said with a deliberate wink, “and show you around the city.”

 “I don’t need a vassal, boy. I could simply pay you for your information and assistance,” said Grayne looking around and moving into the more concealed location of the trash-strewn alley.

 “My terms are non-negotiable, ser.” said the boy, clearly sensing Grayne was a foolish foreigner and ripe for the plucking. “I could use the money, but I would also enjoy sleeping indoors for bit. How long will you be in town, ser?”

 He ignored the question and said, “Agreed, fetch the bedroll, boy and we will talk further.”

 The child jumped excitedly into the air before turning on his heels and rushing deeper into the alley.

 Grayne scrunched his face and looked into the sky upon feeling a few drops of rain.

 The boy returned promptly holding a dirty, but dry, thick green blanket. It was obvious to the man that this was the boys home. Grayne took the scabbard off his belt and wrapped it in the child’s bedroll, completely concealing the weapon, albeit suspiciously. He handed the rolled-up sword to the boy and the child held it awkwardly in his outstretched arms. He knelt before the boy and his single grey eye locked with the boy’s own brown eyes. That child’s dirt-caked face was flushed of color from fear of the menacing man. The boy could not look away as the threatening northerner said with frigid sincerity, “If you betray me, I will kill you.”

Pain of Love- Part Three

Suddenly, it came into view. A gigantic castle which was the seat of Marbrand power jut out above the small city below. The Ashemark, as it was called, was the solid stone centerpiece of a bustling city that surrounded the keep. As the city’s radius ended, the landmarks changed from businesses and houses, and became farms and hovels. Grayne had barely reached the perimeter of farmlands and could barely make out the stronghold in the distance. A feeling of uneasiness came over him, after months of travel, he had reached his destination.

The northern warrior who had survived so much took a moment to steady himself. He took a deep breath and as his eyes surveyed familiar landmarks his mind drifted back in time to the reason he had returned, to the reason he had been able to survive the horrific ordeals of the past five years.

 

By the Crone. the Maiden, the Stranger, the Smith, the Warrior. The Mother and the Father, I take you on this day and for all my days.” Grayne and Summer looked into each other’s eyes and recited the vows of marriage in the secret grove outside town, but under the blanket of stars and the watchful eyes of the new gods.

The priest performed the blessing, and quickly and quietly left the young couple alone in the forest. A warm breeze rustled the leaves of the trees. Grayne took his young bride in his arms and kissed her full lips passionately. His large hands pushed back her auburn hair and he gazed with adoration into her grass-green eyes. His strong arms encircled her and he felt like he should never let her go. He held her for many long moments and she was relaxed in his powerful protective embrace.

“Let’s run away. Let’s leave this place and never come back,” he said as he stared at her with aggressive sincerity. “We will be safe. We have nothing here.”

For a moment Summer smiled, but then that smile turned to a frown. “We can’t! I know you, Grayne. You aren’t a deserter. I don’t give a damn about this war or House Marbrand, and I know you don’t either! But, your word is important to you.”

Grayne’s steel grey eyes were like battering rams as they crashed through Summer’s resolve. She shook her head and turned away. Grayne jumped in front of her and demanded, Let’s go! We will be a dozen leagues from here before they know we’re gone!”

Summer kissed his lips and said, “You’re not afraid of anything.”

“I’m afraid of losing you, he said as he kissed her plump red lips again.

“You won’t. I will be here when you get back. I promise,” a tear rolled down her cheek.

“What if I don’t come back?” he said, knowing the uncertain nature of war, though he had never been in a real battle.

“You will. I know you will.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“I don’t want you to go, either. Just promise me you will come back to me.”

“I promise,” he said resolutely. 

And their lips met with frantic passion. A desperate urgency to their desire overcame them as their love became a pure primal force. There in the forest beneath the stars and the old gods and new, they became husband and wife.

Pain of Love Part Two- IV

Image

Cold rain mercilessly assaulted his form, and although his heavy coat and leather armor shielded him from the sky’s fury, Grayne was soaked to his bones. He wondered if it was possible for one’s soul to be drenched as he rushed through the streets of Lannisport, looking at houses and businesses with a single careful eye. On an ordinary night, the tall, well-armed Northerner would have looked out of place and raised the suspicions of the elite City Watch. However, he was all but invisible as guardians and criminals alike huddled in doorways and under overhangs to avoid the rain, even though at times the rain seemed to fall sideways. Even ‘ladies of ill repute’ were wisely inside warmer locales. Eventually, he found the building for which he frantically searched. The only thing of note that belonged to the humble door was a small golden seven-pointed star, a symbol that indicated a faithful of the Seven, the seven gods worshipped across Westeros, lived within the structure. He pounded on the otherwise nondescript door with his damp fists. The dark streets seemed to absorb and dull the sound from the rapid impact of his furious knocking.

Suddenly, the door swung wide, and light rushed into the street illuminating Grayne’s bedraggled and soaked shape. The tall, proud northerner looked not unlike a sad, wet dog under the deluge of water that sprayed from the sky. A tiny grey-haired man stood in the doorway, bathed in warm light emanating from the open doorway. “Come in! Quickly! It is wretched out,” the old man grabbed Grayne and pulled him inside without asking who he was or what he was doing at his home in the middle of the gods-forsaken night. The soaked warrior did as he was bade.

Grayne stood silently as the man closed the door behind them. He looked the frail man up and down, noticing his neatly trimmed head of grey hair, his gaunt form wrapped in a weathered housecoat and his piercing blue eyes that seemed brighter in the light of a single candle. “Forgive me, father,” Grayne said as a puddle of rainwater coalesced beneath him.

“My son, why are you here? How man I help you?” asked the tiny, frail man as he pulled a heavy chair along the wooden floor with a scraping sound.

Grayne sat down on a hard wooden chair and shifted back and forth trying to get comfortable. After failing to find comfort in the seat, he said, “I have heard you are a respected holy man of the Seven. I wish to confess my transgressions. I have done wrong and I seek the forgiveness of the Seven. I have committed a failure of spirit. Will you hear my evil deed?”

The bedraggled holy man sat in a soft chair across from Grayne. The chair looked black in the limited light of the single candle. He leaned in to say to the soaked traveller, “I do not pretend to communicate to the gods, my friend. I cannot speak for, or with them, but I know that if you speak the truth from your heart, they will hear you.” The man scanned Grayne’s weathered and war-torn visage with his brilliant blue eyes for some insight into the man’s past. Looking into his one good eye, he saw only pain. “Go ahead; tell me. What have you done?”

“i betrayed a woman, a woman who had treated me wrong, but more than repented for her own failure of spirit. I left her to die, and I know I am a moral coward.”

“Tell me,” said the holy man.

Grayne quickly explained the years of torture and his love for Summer. The elderly man listened with quiet respect as Grayne described in a few sentences the pain and horror of years in a desolate holding cell and his strange relationship with Raven.

“I find commendable and no sign of weakness your ability to forgive this woman for her role in your abuse,” said the man after struggling for long moments to absorb the tale.

“I always felt as if I was using her. Does that make sense? She was able to repair my teeth for me, and she had been a good travelling companion.”

“Yet, you bore her no love?”

“My love is for one woman.”

“Continue,” said the holy man, seeking a conclusion to the story.

“We knew the Ironborn liked to raid the villages up and down the coast, but we didn’t anticipate an attack while we were in town,” Grayne said looking down at the puddle below his chair.

“It was a raid?”

“A hundred of so Ironborn attacked from the south by land, and a few ships blocked escape by sea.They moved quickly, killing any men who stood against them and carrying off any women they could grab. I sent Raven running, but they had the village surrounded. I could do nothing as the Ironborn took her; they snatched her up as she ran. I dispatched the ones I faced easily enough, but there were two dozen between me and those who took her screaming through the streets. She called out to me, begging me to save her, but I did nothing. I ran like a coward.”

The grey-haired man’s previously welcoming demeanor faded as he squinted his eyes in judgement and asked, “Why? Why did you not help her? Were you afraid?”

Grayne closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. After a few moments, he replied. “Yes, but not for my own life. I knew I could never wade into such a throng of armed men and hope to live. I couldn’t help but think of the woman I loved, the woman for whom I had suffered so much. I knew I couldn’t save Raven without risking my future with Summer.”

The elder priest looked horrified and sad at the same time as his face drained of color and his eyes opened wide. “You left your companion to the mercy of the raper ironborn?” he asked, knowing full-well the answer.

Grayne’s silence mirrored his inability to save Raven .

The old man’s words shot from him like an accusatory ballista,.“Why do you tell me this story? Why do you come to me in the middle of the night…awaken me…for what? Do you seek the forgiveness of the Gods? I do not know what to say.” The holy man stood up from his soft chair and stormed about the room. “Your actions…your inaction…is without forgiveness!”

Grayne closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. He filled his lungs with warm air and said, “I had hoped someone would tell me I am not a monster.” With that, he stood and said,” I am sorry to have wasted your time.” He slowly, but determinedly, strode to the door, but before he could pull the door open and flee back into the cold wet night, the holy man asked him to stop. The elder priest stared at him and stood motionless contemplating Grayne and his story. Without expression, he slowly shook his head and said, “May the old Gods and new have mercy on your soul.”

Grayne slunk back into the cold wet night alone, and without the mercy he sought.

Pain of Love Part Two- III

Image

Grayne looked up at the hand-painted sign that hung over the door to the shop. Though he could not read the words he recognized the map of Westeros on the wooden sign and knew he had come to the place he could purchase a map.

Grayne took a moment to look at the other shops to make sure there wasn’t anything else he needed to purchase for his journey home. Standing in front of the mapmaker, his good eye scanned the businesses that were open on the quiet overcast afternoon. He had warm clothing, weapons and armor. Even a horse was stabled for him. He caught his own reflection in the mapmaker’s window. The northerner had put on weight now that he was eating regular meals, and more than a year of cross-country travel had redeveloped his muscles. He took a moment to readjust his eye patch over his right eye so it covered more of the scar. Even though he was what any but the most scrutinous observer clean-shaven, he felt his own face for stubble and was displeased to find some. His years in a stagnant windowless prison had left him with an unquenchable thirst for cool air and no tolerance for facial hair. He stopped to shave no less than three times each day.

In the window’s reflection he saw a figure exit the weaponsmith’s shop across the street. He noted the figure carried an unsheathed blade in his hands and was armored in chain mail. Grayne turned to get a better look at the fighter.

Horrible recognition crashed onto his face like waves upon the shore.

Grayne knew the man, though he couldn’t make out his face from across the street. The armored man had long blonde hair tied into a ponytail that told Grayne he was not a commissioned soldier, for no military in Westeros would allow their men to have such long hair.

The figure watched with trained interest as Grayne strode determinedly toward him. As Grayne walked, he drew his sword in a swift, almost angry motion. The blonde soldier did not move as Grayne approached. The soldier’s naked blade remained loosely held across both of his hands. Grayne stopped a few feet away, close enough for a sword swing and stood there, his sword at the ready. Several people stopped to watch, paralyzed and uncertain of what was happening or what to do.

The blonde man simply asked Grayne, “Have I wronged you in some way, ser?”

Grayne scrutinized the man for long moments, long enough for him to doubt his actions. How could this man be the man I think he is? It is insanity! I am three-hundred leagues and a year from where and when I encountered him. I never saw him clearly, yet I know it is him!

A single voice shouted for the guards, yet Grayne and the man never took their eyes off one another. Finally Grayne spoke. “You took my eye.”

The man smiled sheepishly and said, “How do you know it was me?”

“I know not. But by the Gods old and new, I know it is you.” And with those words, Grayne attacked!

With both hands on the hilt of his greatsword, Grayne brought the blade down in a downward strike, fully intent on cutting the warrior in half from crown to crotch. However, the pony-tailed warrior had other ideas and sidestepped Grayne’s blade easily and tapped the greatsword with his own blade to create a perfect ping of metal on metal.

A woman shrieked.

Grayne stood before his opponent with his larger sword before him in both hands. The other man simply held his blade in one hand with his body facing sideways. The men began clanging their blades together as Grayne sought to cleave his enemy in two, while the other man kept Grayne’s larger blade at bay, while seeking an opening himself. The two circled one another while the sounds of their grunts and the clanging of their blades rung through the city streets. The melee lasted for a minute with neither landing any serious strikes, when a pair of city guards approached with swords drawn. “Halt!” they commanded.

The blonde fighter deflected another of Grayne’s furious attacks and said, “Lest ye wish to spend the night in the city jail, we’d better change our tactics.” Grayne backed away but did not take his eye off his opponent, his two-handed sword at the ready.

The guards approached the combatants cautiously, “Throw down your blades!”

“Men, men”, said the blonde warrior thrusting his sword point in the ground so that the blade stood straight up harmlessly. He held his hands out palms first in surrender. “My friend Grayne and I were just testing the balance of my Valarian steel blade I just had re-hilted.”

Grayne looked quickly at the man and back to the guards. “Yes, sers. My friend…”

“Talbit”

“…my friend Talbit, and I were just practicing.”

“You!” a guard shouted at the man with the Valarian steel sword. “Kick your blade over to me.”

Grayne saw several more reinforcements running down the road to assist the two guards. He said to the blonde man, “Our situation worsens. We cannot let them take us. You will never see your Valarian sword again.”

The man nodded and said, “And I suspect you have had enough of prison cells. “

Grayne laughed for the first time in a very long time as the five city guards encircled them. “More than enough.”

The clang of steel and the sounds of combat lasted less than a minute.


 

“Who are you?” Grayne asked seemingly to his empty ale.

Talbit,” said the blonde warrior, patting Grayne on the back. Innkeep, two more ales!” he said with a shout.

The bartender came quickly and refilled both of their mugs. “Sers, you have had twenty-two ales between you. I must insist on settling your tab before I can let you continue drinking.”

Talbit flipped a gold lion to the man and said, “Keep them coming every ten minutes until one of us passes out.

The innkeeper greedily snatched up the coin and said his “yes sers”, and became obsequious again.

“It is you, isn’t it? The knight on horseback.”

Oh, aye.”

“Eye?” said Grayne standing up. “Is that some kind of joke?” he said, pointing at his eyepatch with feigned anger. His legs became tangled in the stool and he fell over to uproarious laughter from Talbit and the other tavern patrons. Talbit leaned over and with a mighty pull, yanked Grayne unceremoniously to his feet.

“Let’s get some air,” suggested Talbit as he firmly pushed Grayne toward the door.

The two stumbled from the stuffy, smoke-filled bar and into the cool night air. Grayne lifted his face to the sky and relished the cold air on his face. The two men clumsily walked with arms around each other, each trying to remember the words to a Marbrand drinking ballad.’♫…in flaming fields, we praise ye ♫” they ended the song in separate keys, neither of them correct.

“Grayne, I want you to have this,” said Talbit.

Grayne didn’t turn his head to look at his new friend and teased him saying, “I told you, Talbit. I’m not drunk enough to look at your tiny shillelagh. Save it for the tavern wenches.”

“No, you drunk idiot. My sword. I want you to have my sword. For my remorse. For your eye.”

Grayne stopped and slowly turned. Talbit held the naked blade before him as an offering. Grayne put his hands on the smooth, almost blue steel of the Valarian steel broadsword. The metal came from a continent far away and only the richest men carried a weapon of the finest steel. Many lords and knights would sooner lose a son than a Valarian steel blade.

’Tis the finest weapon I have ever seen.”

“Take it. I want you to have it.”

“I am not worthy. I am not the swordsman you are. I am a three-legged horse compared to you.”

“I can teach you. You have what no other man I have ever seen has. You are the toughest man I have ever met! Or even heard about. Even the mighty Bjorn the Indomitable of the Age of Heroes would have been lucky to carry your codpiece. When that soldier hit you over the head with the flat of his blade and his sword broke! I thought he was going to shit himself!”

Grayne chuckled and smiled at the memory of the fight they had been in hours before. He turned away from Talbit and the blade. “I haven’t the time for lessons, Talbit. Nor can I take on the responsibility of such a weapon. After what I have endured, I simply don’t have it in me to care for such a fine weapon.

“What is it, Grayne? Where do you have to be?” Talbit asked with sincere concern in his voice.

He turned back to face his new warrior companion. Grayne opened his good eye wide, smiled, and said, “I am trying to get back to Summer.”

Pain of Love Part Two- II

marbrand

“Can you do it?” Raven asked the question pleadingly. “We have travelled so far and I owe him so much.”

The old hag they had travelled so far to see just stood there and let Raven plead her case. Long moments passed and Grayne felt he could actually hear her dying. The sound he heard may have only been the creaking sound that emitted from her withered form. Aside from that, the room was silent.

The woman finished contemplating and her words seemed to creak out of her. “Raven, I can do it, that’s not the question. The question is; can he survive the process?” She breathed the words and they hung in the air like swamp air- toxic and heavy.

Though the woman’s eyes had lost their luster perhaps decades ago, Raven looked into them with the seriousness of stone. She said, “If there is any man alive who can, it is this one.”

Grayne stepped forward and also met the ancient woman’s stern gaze. His eye narrowed as he examined the hag. With sudden forcefulness he pulled Raven out of the grass thatched hut. He leaned over and in hushed but forceful tones said, “This…”, he struggled for the word, “…woman is veritably ancient!” In response to the look that came upon Raven’s pristine face, he said, “I know you said she is a miracle worker, but I don’t know…”

From the hut, the crone breathed, “I may be old, but my ears are as keen as any bird of prey.”

“It’s her eyes I’m worried about,” Grayne mumbled.

“Grayne, please! I know it sounds hard to believe, but I have seen her handiwork before. She can save your jaw!”

Grayne looked skeptical. “You’ve seen her replace teeth in someone’s jaw before?”

Raven lowered her head and spoke at the ground, a response Grayne had become accustomed to in the months since they had escaped the torture chamber of Farzan. “Well, no; only the reverse.”

Grayne was about to grab her and run as fast and as far as possible away from this place when suddenly the hag was beside him. She made no creaking as she sneaked up beside Grayne, but her putrid breath hit him like a fist of rotting foods. He wondered how this woman whose mouth smelled like dead things could perform a procedure on his own mouth.

“Grayne, though I have never done the procedure before, I have seen it done. Not with actual teeth, mind you, but with Dragoncalc, a stone that has the same hardness and structure as real teeth,” the hag spoke at Grayne.

He looked down at the woman, who was more than a foot shorter than her and shook his head in silent acceptance. After all, he could not present himself to Summer, the woman he loved, in his current condition. After a deep breath, he asked, “What can I offer you in payment? We have a few gold Stags, but perhaps I can…” Grayne looked at the hut for chores he could perform, but it seemed in good working order. The roof, though made of grass and sticks seemed strong and the wooden walls seemed in good repair.

She looked at him and with a smile that had two more teeth than Grayne’s said, “I am an old woman, and it has been years since I have known the tender touch of a man. Though I am old, I do have needs.” The words lingered in the air with fetidness.

Grayne staggered back from the impact of her statement. Though he had faced many terrors over the years that had hardened his mind making him effectively fearless, terror struck him in the gut and his stomach flipped.

The old hag began to cackle! “You should see your face. Don’t worry, Grayne. I wouldn’t fuck you for all the crowns in all of the Lannisters’ vaults.” She turned and walked back into her hut breathing a final cloud over her shoulder, “You’re too ugly!”

Pain of Love- Part Two- I

gameofthrones0a0a0a-default

Grayne woke with a start. He threw off the blankets that covered him and struggled to stand. A pale-skinned woman with curly black hair stood from the chair by the fireplace and rushed over to him.

“Grayne, you need to take it easy,” she said urging him to return to the bed.

“Who are you?! Where am I?” he demanded from a crouched position. He looked ready to spring and his single good eye scoured the room. He acted like a wild cornered animal although he was still emaciated and could barely stand. In fact, he looked as if he might topple.

The black-haired woman spoke in a soothing voice. “Grayne, we are at the Cardinal’s Roost, an inn in the town of Falnook. We left Farzan and the Citadel weeks ago. I am Raven. Do you remember me?”

Her words seemed to take the fight out of him and Grayne fell backwards onto the bed. “Yes, I do remember.” He put his hand over his damaged eye and felt a patch covering the grisly opening. He struggled to remember and said, “I am so very tired.”

“You have been asleep for twelve hours,” Raven said as she moved over to the table near the door. She brought a tray and set it on the edge of the bed. “I have apples and milk.” She held out an apple segment for him to take. “I didn’t think you’d want bread,” she said lowering her eyes bashfully.

Grayne snatched the apple piece from her hand and ate it voraciously. “Go slowly,” she warned. “You will make yourself sick. You need time to adjust.” She handed him another piece of apple and took the knife from the tray and began to cut more segments.

Grayne ate the second piece more slowly, but he still eyed her suspiciously, like a wild animal, as though she might take the apple away from him. She handed him another piece and began to pour milk from a pitcher into a metal cup. As she handed it to him, she asked, “Who’s Summer?”

Grayne’s eyes narrowed. He threw the cup full of milk aside and it splashed onto the wooden floor. With strength borne of anger he grabbed Raven by her black hair. She screamed and he took up the apple knife and placed it against her neck. A line of red trickled down her porcelain neck.

Desperately she cried out, “You said her name in your sleep. Please, I meant nothing by the question.”

He let out a guttural noise from his toothless maw. “What is this? Is this a trick?” Years of physical, emotional and psychological torture left him with the belief that even this could be part of Farzan’s cruelty. “Answer me, or by The Seven I will cut your pretty throat without a second thought!”

“Grayne! No, this is no trick! Farzan is imprisoned by your house.” Grayne tensed up at hearing Farzan’s name. “I swear to you, I only want to help you.”

“Why?!” he asked as the blade pushed deeper into the flesh of her neck.

“I…I,” she stammered. “I want to repay you for what I have done to you. For the years you lost. For…for my role in..” she trailed off.

“I don’t need your help!” he shouted as he pushed himself off her while still holding the blade at his side. “I don’t want your help,” he said just above a whisper.

“Grayne, I will do anything to save you. Please, you have to trust me.”

He turned back, and in a flash was back upon her. “I have to?” he asked with a pink gummy smile. His single grey eye bore into her skull before he pushed her away.

“On the table there is a small leather bag. Please look in it,” she said short of breath.

Grayne looked at her for long moments, searching her face for a clue as to her motives. Finally, he rose off her and moved unsteadily to the desk. He lifted the brown leather bag and looked back at her. The bag was light. He expected it to be filled with coin, perhaps a consolation for her participation in the years of torture he withstood. He looked at the bag and back at her.

She looked down at the floor as she said, “Go ahead. Open it.”

Grayne pulled the bag open and peered inside. He squinted as he looked for several long moments, trying to comprehend what was inside. “Is this a joke?” He threw the bag at her, but Raven did nothing to defend herself from it. She simply let it hit her in the face. The brown bag flopped onto the floor and its contents spilled out onto the oval rug underneath her.

Splayed across the floor were thirty-two teeth.