The high noon sun was brightly reflected upon the waves, as a slender form, clad in misshapen, mismatched armor leant against a guard rail, cleaning out the underside of his nails with a particularly vicious looking dagger, curved and scratched. His skin was pocked and miscoloured, a leftover from some distant disease, but lending plenty of creedence to his name: Poxy Alan. Adding to his not inconsiderable charms, he made an horrific snorting sound and spat a yellow, glutinous mass into the clean looking ocean.
There is a whisper of rope and a a dark figure silhouetted against the sun makes its way down the rigging from the crow’s nest with practised ease. Bare moments later, it leaps the last few feet to the deck; the glare is cut off by the sail and the Iron Serpent’s angular features resolve themselves from a haloed blur.
Alan glances up from his ministrations to his fingers and flicks a ball of scuzz to the deck. He slid the dagger away without looking and speaks in his own rough way.
“Anythin’ to be seen up there,” he squints upward as he sketches a salute that would be considered insolent by any measure…but for those that know Alan.
“Land or some such crap?”
“Land, yes,” the Iron Serpent replies briefly, glancing at the summer haze that blankets the horizon. “Less than a day now and we will be basking”—and his mouth twists—“in the glory of King’s Landing.”
“‘Glory’ my skinny pocked arse,” Poxy Alan remarks with a grin to his commander, displaying his chipped, dicoloured teeth, “Ye should spend time in the cess pit of Flea Bottom. A right scurrilous place with thievery, whorin’ and boozin’ a plenty. Little glory in it, but a right shite load of fun.”
Turning back from the horizon, Dagur studies the pockmarked man with a bemused gaze, “You’re a strange one, Poxy. And that’s no easy thing when you have company like Whoreson and Steffyn.”
He rolls his shoulders then; the Ironman’s manner, usually so unreadable, seems strangely restless today: “I spent a day in that cesspit and it made me wish it into the sea.”
Alan affects a look of hurt, “I will take that as a complimentary like, but well now, that’s me ‘ome ye talkin’ about, cap’n.” He scratches his ribs…maybe lice…fleas…any ten kinds of disease…
“What’s on ye mind, in any case? That there frown usually mean li’l bloody good for us lot.”
“There will be little bloody good for the Iron Reavers in King’s Landing whether I wish it or no,” replies the knight distractedly, glancing again at the horizon. He hisses between his teeth then, as if in impatience, “Get the blunted swords from below.”
Without question, the Reaver slides down the ladder into the passenger hold. He appears agilely enough a few moments later with a twain of swords, beaten and battered and not likely sharp enough to cut butter, let alone flesh, though a strike will leave a bruise rightly enough. He hands one to Dagur with a grimace.
“Just leave me pretty enough to go whorin’, cap’n,” he drawls, “Wouldn’t do right by the lovelies if I’m all uglified now, would it?”
That, at least, dispels the strange mood that is on Dagur long enough to wring the trace of a smile from him, “The Seven, Poxy, must look upon your as their personal trial.”
Stepping back, he swings the blade—once, twice—loosening his arm and testing the sword’s balance.
Doran’s form becomes visible from the forecastle as he begins to descend the carved staircase to bring himself to the main hull. “Training?” Doran inquires, his eyes sweeping first and foremost to the training swords held in the hands of the ironborn. Dressed as always in the black that has been associated so oft with his name, he still seems to favor the leathern tunic filled with a sea of diamonds across the chest.
“Ser Dagur.” Doran states, a weak smile crossing his face as he stops near the two. He lowers his head respectfully, giving proper courtesy to the knight, before turning to examine the man whom bears no marks of nobility, “I’d assume you would be the one they call Poxy Alan.”
“The Seven are too fookin’ busy lookin’ after your miserable arses to bother with me, cap’n,” Poxy winks at Dagur as the little man swings his sword a time or two, and slips into a stance that belies his rough tone…the fellow seems to know a few tricks in his..uhh…thirty something plus something extra years. He pauses then to look at the new arrival.
“And ‘oo might this little sparrow be then, eh?” he looks at Doran, “He looks all shiny and new.”
“Oh, the Stranger will never be too busy to come for you one day, Poxy. Depend on it.”
And with that morbid thought—and no warning whatsoever—the Iron Serpent drives forward, the dull grey steel winking in the noon heat. And, “Ser Doran. Stand back!” he calls even as he does so.
“And I will welcome him with whore under one arm and a bottle of booze in the other,” the Iron Reaver’s teeth gleam…as well as yellow -can- gleam, he slides his feet fast, and skips Dagur’s sword aside, seeming to bound off it and flicking a lightning fast blow to his commander’s left shoulder.
“Doran. Can’t be sayin’ I know that name. He do anythin’ important like?”
When it comes to reflexes, few are considered the Blackbolt’s equal. He does as he is bidden, and a quick backwards sidestep brings him out of range of any stray attacks that either of the ironmen could close without warning. “Perhaps…” Ser Doran’s tone turns pensive, and he watches as both the two do their dance of death, a dance he has done so many times in the training yards of Blackhaven and Stonehelm. “I’ll forgive your lapse, Poxy, but I have earned my spurs. Show me the appropriate courtesy, and do not address me as if I were common.”
“He was on the Boneway,” replies Dagur briefly; he twists aside, his own sword too wide to bring back for a parry. And even as the blow whistles harmlessly past, he brings the blade around at Alan’s unprotected side.
To the words exchanged between his opponent and the Blackbolt, he pays not attention—or, at least, seems not to.
Up at the Forecastle, Lanei’s attention is called well-enough to make her rise to her feet, leave the place she was reading, quietly, and walk to the rail to look down at the deck and what is going on. She knew of the men training there—which did not interested her even a little bit; if at least they had been dornishmen… Certainly, it was one of the men calling out Doran’s name what aroused her curiosity, so that she stands, for now, next to the carved stairs, observing the three men. Is she wrong, or Doran and this couple of training men don’t get along?. But, on the other hand, should she get surprised at this?.
Alan drops down, squatting at an angle almost unnatural, but by him does the blade pass and he thrusts upward at Dagur’s midsection.
“Boneway? Slit any fine throats I know about?” the Reaver asks, before snorting at the Blackbolt knight, “Well now, I’m sure I will be gettin’ to bein’ respectful one o’ these days, won’t I, Ser Dagur?” The latter was said with wry amusement.
Doran twists his waist and moves to the edge of the deck, leaning against the rail with his hind quarters as he observed the training. “Many died on the Boneway.” It is the only answer that Doran gives, and his arms come up to cross his chest, with his right hand resting on the hilt of his ornate castle-forged blade. “Have you seen the ‘guests’ about? Are they taking their supper?” The Blackbolt puts heavy emphasis on the term guests, casting a glance at the uncouth Poxy Alan.
With a snort of amusement, the Ironman batters the thrust aside, “Ser Dagur, is it? If it’s courtesy you’re looking for, Blackbolt, you’re looking at the wrong man.”
In the same instant, his foot snakes out in an attempt to hook the squatting man’s feet from under him: “The hostages are doing whatever it is sheep do when the wolves are amongst them.”
Eventually, the dornish lady decides to climb down to the deck. Well, she is not going to hang around the Forecastle just for the sake to dodge meeting some of the men on board, whether they like or not to see them passing through the place while she heads for the cabins. Indeed, many men died there, Lanei thinks after listening to Doran’s words, and soon wonders if his mention to the ‘guests’ meant the ‘hostages’. Surely yes, she bets.
The Fowler lady coughs softly, as if clearing her throat -and, doubtless, to call for Doran’s attention?-, and while walking to the ladder leading below the deck, she inclines her head, to greet the standing men, and ventures a “Good afternoon”.
The foot hooks Alan’s, and he slides to the ground, but no stumble is it. With the momentum he slides foward, and swings for a blow at Dagur’s passing thigh.
For some reason, he hasn’t yet stopped his chatter.
“Courtesy? Well now, ain’t that a quaint notion. Sounds like shite and dribble when a man wants ta bed a woman…jest go pay for it at Mistress Jacelyn’s. Less cause to talk sweet there.”
“I’d be careful, Ser Dagur. Beware the wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.” Doran’s eyes turn to Dagur, examining his stance as if pointing out strengths and weaknesses in the depths of his mind. “Dorne whom was once an enemy, will in time be an ally. These sheep as you call it will be in our banquets, our tournaments, and our counci—.” The Blackbolt’s voice stops abruptly as Lanei clears her throat.
Doran immediately uncrosses his arms and pushes off the rail to stand upright, “My lady of Fowler.” Doran speaks with nothing but respect, his hand going to his chest over his heart as he gives a half bow to the dornish woman. To Poxy Alan he speaks no more, although his eyes do wince as if taking a blow at the man’s mouth in the presence of a noble woman.
But the Ironman is gone already, past the slicing blade and past Alan, ignoring the chance for a backhanded blow in passing. There he pauses, lean and battle-ready: “An ally, is it? You’re a sterner man than I, Blackbolt, to send a man to a Dornishwoman’s bed with her kinsman’s blood on his hands. Lady Lanei.”
And with that, he drives forward again—and it is as if the swordplay before was a limbering up, no more. He is quick now, the Ironborn knight—viciously so—and his blade flickers in the afternoon like the tongue of the serpent he is named for.
Alan bounds to his feet, movement belying his apparant age and tings his commander’s blade out of the way, he grins.
“More like it…” and snaps a returned blow at the extended arm, dancing out of the way on light feet.
Lanei cannot help but think that these men would have a hard time to convince her to join their beds, considering their manners, words—and looks, and she is about to wonder who could be that Jacelyn one of them mentioned, when she realizes that, of course, she must be some whore of King’s Landing. Ah, well, men are the same, north and south the Mountains of Dorne, aren’t they?.
Then, as Doran speaks, her cold eyes, now blazing, turn swiftly to one of the men who is no more a stranger to her, for now she knows that he is Dagur Saltcliffe, called the Iron Serpent, the one who killed Utheryn Uller. The Blackbolt’s next words, these to the lady, are almost missed, yet not completely and, gathering her will, Lanei forces herself to look back at the Dondarrion knight. “Ser Doran” she offers and inclines her head a little. “I see you are in good company today. Enjoy it, if you can, for I will not stay around men which challenge ladies, and toss daggers at their feet. Or attempt to insult them.” And may the Stranger guide this man’s blade so that he will gut you, Dagur Saltcliffe, she adds mentally.
The blow is met, parried with a whining screech of steel, and returned—all in a heartbeat. Forward, always forward the Iron Serpent pushes, swatting aside counters, his own attacks undiminished.
As for Lanei’s words, he does not spare the moment to glance at her—not in the middle of swordplay. But the ghost of a smile tugs at his lips: “I have upset your sensibilities.”
Alan has not survived nigh twenty years by being slow with a blade, but to his commander? Nay, even he could not defend a lightning blow to the hilt that he narrowly missed which sent the blade spinning across the deck.
“Must be your smell, Captain,” he chuckles as he holds up his empty hands.
Doran seems taken back at Lady Lanei’s fury, as this was a side he has not seen of the Fowler lady. A strange look of confusion crosses over the half-dornish knight, and his sparkling emerald eyes seem to lose the always present despondency as he attempts to discern what has just transpired. “My lady?” the Blackbolt inquires, his eyes glancing to the Iron Serpent.
“I take it that you have met?” Doran’s statements still are filled with question, and he spares another as he directs it at Dagur, “I take it you have met Lady Liane Fowler?”
Alas, Lanei’s short prayer was left unheard, or the Stranger simply disregarded it, because she could not witness Dagur’s death at her feet. Pity. “You did not and, since you know naught of me, you will not” comes the lady’s quick reply, yet spoken clearly and calmed.
“He did not” she turns to Doran. “And I wish I had not this afternoon. The day was too good to get ruined before its end. He knows my name, though” the lady smiles, faintly, “Even if I wonder how. Surely Ser Dagur has been inquiring about us”.
“It’s rank enough, sharing the hold with you,” agrees the Ironman, putting his sword up.
He glances aside then, “Half-a-score hostages on board, Blackbolt. They can scarcely escape notice.” And he studies Lanei for a moment before answering mildly, “Inquiring about you? My interest in the Dornish, woman, ended in Sunspear when your Prince bent his knee.”
“I have a right lovely a-roma,” the Reaver Alan grins, “Jest ask Jory.” He bends to pick up his fallen blade and observes the Dornish woman properly.
“Well now, ain’t she a pretty one. Like t’other. Lia,” he looks her up and down, “More easily offended seems like. T’other one seemed ta even like ol’ Alan, and that’s a-nusual ‘nuff occurance.”
“Let’s be civil, Ser Dagur.” Doran states, his tone reflecting the command he had on the Boneway. His face softens considerably as he turns his eyes to Lady Lanei, “May we refrain from the curt? There is enough stupidity on board with the presence of Ser Jonn Lannister.” A few strides take the Blackbolt forward, closing the distance between Lanei and himself. His eyes darting to Poxy as he speaks, but to him he gives no words.
At Dagur’s statement, Lanei’s brows are lifted so delicately. “Oh? Are you speaking the truth, my good ser?” she asks, renewing her smile - which soon will fall from her lips, right after launching her next question. “Or have you so easily forgotten than some evenings back you challenged lady Liane, saying that you were curious to know if all dornishwomen could handle little blades - and tossed your dagger at her feet?”.
She brushes an imaginary spot of dust from her skirt. “It seems that, either you lied, or your memory is really poor and, indeed, your interest did not end after Sunspear’s falling.” Alan deserves no more than a quick glance, before the lady resumes her words. “Anyway, the Judge will ask you for the truth, not I.” Turning to the Blackblot, Lanei tilts her head, “Will you take your evening meal down at the eating room, Ser Doran, or are you on duty?”.
And now, for the first time, a flicker of impatience furrows the Ironman’s brow: “If I meant to be uncivil, Blackbolt, you would know it. Leave the preaching to the septons.”
The gaze he turns to the Dornishman is more neutral—indeed, enough so to be disinterested: “I did, at that. No doubt the Seven will judge me harshly for the foul deed.”
Poxy Alan eyes the conversation with interest and a mocking smile. He folds his arms across his breast and tilts his head to observe the Blackbolt, and his gaze is insolent.
Doran’s eyes stay focused on Lanei as she speaks, and then slowly drift to the ladder to the hold below. “I can take my meal in the hold, my lady.” The Blackbolt slowly begins to move to the exit until catching the comment from Ser Dagur. A soft sigh escapes his chest, and it would seem he wished he had wit to silence the feuding as Ser Almer had done the evening before. He halts and turns to address the Iron Serpent, “I have no quarrel with you, Ser Dagur. Your accomplishments are known to me, and I would call you friend if you would allow it. Yet all have lost in this war, and it has made a scar we need now to focus on healing. Show the respect I have given you, for you can earn lose it as quickly as it was given.” The Blackbolt turns his eyes on the two gentleman’s belts, suddenly very aware that all save Lanei have live steel.
Why does Lanei keep smiling, still? Even more than before?. Indeed, it seems as if the smile had grown upon her lips. Because she has perceived Dagur’s impatience? If Doran caused it, she will light a candle to the Maiden asking her to protect him, despite Gods do not favour kinslayers, or that she was taught.
“Well spoken, my good ser” Lanei offers to Doran, and nods. “Then, perhaps, you would like to take that meal with me? So, we will speak a bit more. I have so many questions! About King’s Landing, and the Seven Kingdoms. You know, they say we shall arrive there very soon, in no more than two days, perhaps sooner.” Looking sidelong at Dagur, Lanei smiles and curtsies. “Enjoy your training, Ser Dagur…”
Liane, as usual, is quick as she comes up the ladder from below, though this evening she scrubs a hand over her face as she does, letting out a heavy breath. It isn’t until she’s to an open space of deck that she pauses to survey her surroundings, a decidedly heavy look around her eyes.
Rubbing his jaw, the Ironman tosses the practice sword to Alan. That brief flash of impatience seems to have faded; he merely shakes his head: “If it’s courtly chivalry you want while you preach and the woman prates uninvited, Blackbolt, look elsewhere. But I will say once again—you scrounge for offence where none was intended.”
He turns away to the hatchway, “And the respect of a kinslayer is, I’m afraid, not the largest of my worries.”
There is no malice in his voice, no bite—merely the statement of a fact. Lanei’s curtsy he acknowledges with a cursory glance.
Alan’s hand snaps out and grabs the sword. His eyes glint with inner laughter as he follows his commander to the hatch.
No malice may have been intended by the ironborn knight, but Doran wheels from it just the same. His brow furrows as an emerald fire of wrath crosses through his eyes, but it is a momentary thing before the conflagration dies to leave only the hollowed sorrow look in the half-dornish knight. “Good evening, Ser Dagur.” The Blackbolt manages his courtesy the best that he can, turning to see Liane as he moves towards the ladder that descends below decks.
A small nod of respect is offered to the Uller, and the Blackbolt drops his eyes to stare at the deck as he moves past her. No glance behind him will come, and Doran begins to descend below without confirming that Lady Lanei follows him.