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Winter has not yet arrived but still the air is cool and night comes sooner than expected. The last vestiges of traffic pass along the Street of Sisters as Allaro Carharis leads his student towards the promise of a new shop that carries the best pigments in the Myrish style, and the thinnest and smoothest wooden panels of the sort they could use for painting. The portly Tyroshi weaves in his saddle a little as they ride, his cheeks flushed as red as the doublet he wears, standing out against his new green hued whiskers. They would not be out quite so late save for the fact Allaro had insisted they stop to have a drink at the Three Hills on the way, putting down a fair bit of that expensive Summer Island rum before carrying on to the shop. He glances back at Pennei with his eyes the shade of robin’s eyes, and smiles. “Not far now,” he says. “Wait until you see the pigments this man stocks, fresh from Myr itself,” he smiles broadly then and strokes one of the wax points of his mustache nervously. “Can’t doddle else dark will fall and we shall be needing goldcloaks to see us home.”
Pennei guides her pale grey palfrey easily along the streets, comfortable in the saddle. The hood of her cloak is drawn, shielding her against the evening’s chill. The girl’s expression is a bit nervous for she mislikes being out of the protective walls of the castle so late. There are always stories. “Aye, Master Allaro.” She murmurs, though the wind might carry away her words.
“Perhaps we should have brought Luthor with us, or a couple of his men.’
Allaro’s smile becomes tight as he shakes his head. “No need, we will be there and gone before you know it so long as we do not doddle,” he turns back and curses softly in Valaryian. “Missed our turn,” he grumbles in Westerosi as he turns his horse about to take a side street. “Besides, he is a knight not an artist, there will be no swords or shields to amuse him, only the tools of our craft.”
“I won’t doddle.” Pennei promises, neglecting to mention that if Allaro hadn’t doddled at the Three Hills Inn, they would not be pushing so close to evening. “Some of the best pigments will be harder to come by, from the Free Cities. Autumn storms on the sea can be fierce.”
The master painter nods as he slows his mount so as to ride beside Pennei. “This is true,” he agrees. “A long winter if what is needed does not cross the Narrow Sea,” he rubs his hands together. “A long cold winter,” he looks over at Pennei. “It is a shame you could not have come to Tyrosh like we planned. The winters there are better, warmer. I think you would have liked it.”
“Perhaps we will visit, if Luthor’s duties permit.” Pennei smiles faintly. “He has been to the Free Cities before. I would love to see Tyrosh, Myr and Pentos.” She’s practically grown up on stories of their elaborate and vibrant artwork, where it is appropriate to paint a subject -other- than the gods.
Allaro leads them up the winding side street, the light here is dimmer with few of the shops still having lights glowing in their upper story windows, around them the buildings close in. “They are like living dreams, so full of colour and art. Even the stones of the buildings are full of colour like in your Red Keep,” the painter grows wistful but he smiles. “Though, you would truly like to see them?” he asks. Ahead a lone figure emerges from a shop with a lantern in hand. He raises a hand in greeting to Allaro, and the painter, after a moment, raises one back.
“Oh, of course.” Pennei replies blandly. She flicks some hair on her horse’s mane to the right side of her neck absently, and thus misses the little exchange Allaro has. “Maybe after the tourney at Highgarden.”
Allaro nods. “We shall see,” he promises as they pull alongside the man with the lantern. In the light he is revealed to be dark of hair and skin, as a Myrishman might be, and he bows. “Ah, Master Allaro, here at last, and of course this must be your talented pupil the Lady Pennei,” he bows. “I’m Roldo, please, come into my shop.” He gestures towards the open door behind him from which light and shadow spill. The shop seems to have seen better days for a place that is said to have such treasures within. Still Allaro dismounts, if unsteadily and beckons for Pennei to do the same.
“Thank you, Master Roldo.” Pennei replies politely. She notices the state of the shop and looks a bit puzzled, but she sees that Allaro, whom she trusts, has no compunction about going inside. She dismounts smoothly and follows.
Allaro pauses by the door for a moment and turns towards Pennei, before he steps inside, speaking to Roldo, who waits behind holding the door for his noble guest. “Now where are these pigments and panals?” he asks, as Pennei draws near, Roldo strikes, grabbing for Pennei’s waist while he tries to clamp a hand over her mouth. Inside shadowed figures move towards the door, steel glinting in the darkness as they do.
Pennei manages a cry of surprise and fear before the hand is clamped over her mouth. She struggles in the man’s grip, then perhaps remembering some lesson given to her from one of her uncles, tries to stamp down hard on the top of the man’s foot, with her bootheel. She wore her riding boots, of course.
“Bitch!” Roldo snarls as the bootheel strikes home on his slippered foot. The man lifts Pennei by the waist with the weight of his body and the arm around her, and tries to slam her into the wall in retaliation. As he does his hand slips over her mouth giving her a chance to cry out as the figures begin to emerge from the shadows. By the door, Allaro stands wringing his hands. “No, no, do not hurt her!” he cries but he makes no move to intervene.
Pennei gasps a quick breath, “Allario, get help!” She cries out before she is slammed into the wall, comprehending too late that the artist is looking on, but not helping. The wind is knocked out of her body from the force of the blow, causing her to go limp while she struggles to breathe.
There is the sound of flesh striking flesh and Roldo releases Pennei from his grasp. A new figure emerges from the gloom above her, tall and powerfully built, his hair dyed a shocking shade of red. He puts a hand firmly on Pennei’s shoulder and pushes her against the ground to keep her secure while another hand presses a rag against her mouth, it smells heavily of sweet herbs. “Shhh,” he whispers in a deep voice. “We’re all the help you’re like to get,” he says in a voice tinged with the accent of the Free Cities.
Pennei drops unceremoniously to the floor when Roldo releases her and she has time to look up at this newcomer with frightened, blue eyes before the rag is pressed over her mouth. She has no choice but to inhale, still recovering from getting knocked into the wall.
The newcomer’s face is scarred like Pennei’s own, but instead of one scar there are several that criss-cross his visage. His head is shaved save for a fringe of red hair and his chin sports a spade of a beard dyed the same colour. He keeps the rag pressed close to Pennei’s mouth with a calloused hand and behind him Roldo appears rubbing at his jaw. The red-haired man glances back. “Fetch the dreamwine,” he orders Roldo, then looking at others outside of view. “You two, get the carpet,” he demands then turns back to Pennei patient if pitiless eyes.
With air returning, as does some awareness. Dreamwine? A carpet? Pennei blinks once, then tries to twist in the red-haired man’s grasp, making a little sound of terror, muffled by the rag. She is not an overly large person and neither is she particularly strong.
The man shakes his head. “Don’t,” he says firmly, as he presses a knee into her side. With the hand that holds the rag he turns her face towards him. “You’re coming with us,” he says with cold certainty. “If you want us to beat you first, keep struggling.”
Wide blue eyes meet those of the other, pleading mutely even as tears form in the corner. She stops struggling, hearing nothing but absolute certainty in his voice. Her body trembles even as she tries to curl into a protective ball.
“Good girl,” The man says as he removes his knee from her side. He turns back as Roldo appears with a clay cup. The man lets go of the cloth over Pennei’s face to take it from him. He looks inside once, then, moves the cup towards Pennei’s lips. “Drink,” he orders.
Another man appears from the direction of the door, a Westerosi by the look of him, young, and ill fed. He smiles when he sees Pennei laying on the floor, but quickly turns to the man. “We can’t make the docks. Goldcloaks are everywhere, plus, the customs men are watching the ship.”
“Drink,” the man repeats to Pennei before glancing back. “Darkness take their eyes,” he curses in Valaryian before he addresses the Westerosi without further hint of distress. “Send word, we’ll meet them where we came ashore.”
The Westerosi youth nods and gives Pennei another look and a smirk before he departs.
“No.. Please… Allaro, why?” Pennei tries to look to where her tutor stands, the companion she’s had for years. The presence of the Westerosi ruffian does nothing to put her more at ease. She speaks enough Valyrian to catch the large man’s words, but she still doesn’t comprehend who these men are and why they are taking her somewhere. Her trembling increases, but she doesn’t drink just yet.
The man puts the knee back against Pennei’s side but before he can press down Allaro appears above his shoulder, hands wringing and eyes wet with tears. “Shhh, listen to him sweetling,” he urges desperately. “Please drink, I don’t want them to hurt you child, when you wake I will explain it all.” The man glances back at Allaro then turns back to Pennei and thrusts the cup at her lips. “Drink,” he repeats.
Pennei looks from her tutor, to the red-haired, scarred brute. She is terrified of what will happen to her when the dreamwine takes effect, but another look at the red Tyroshi and she doesn’t doubt he would beat her senseless, then pour it down her throat. Feeling no other option, she drinks the cup, tears rolling down her cheeks, one following the pattern of her scar.
The scarred man presses the cup against her lips until it’s drained and tosses it aside. Above him Allaro weeps but says no more, and moves aside as two men appear with a Myrish carpet held between them. They lay it on the ground and kick it until it is unfurled. The scarred man looks back at Pennei, his eyes cold even as he gently lifts her from the floor and moves her to lay on the carpet. Once she’s down, he nods to the men. “Tightly, but if she suffocates, R’hllor help you both.”
The men duck down and begin to roll Pennei into the carpet.
Pennei’s terror and sobs begin anew, but quickly, her arms are pinned by the carpet and she is held immobile. She cannot help the wave of panic that washes over her, causing her breath to come in short gasps and her small body to tremble uncontrollably. But for the dreamwine, she might have suffocated herself in the carpet’s confines. Gradually, the effects kick in, stilling her struggles as she slips into some sort of vague unconsciousness state.
Silence fills the ramshackle storefront as Pennei’s struggles stop and the men at both ends of the carpet listen for her breathing. Both hear it at once and nod, after sharing a relieved look. The scarred man nods. “Load her in the wagon. We will cross the river tonight, before the search begins,” then he holds out a hand towards Roldo as he advances on Allaro. “Roldo, your knife.”
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