(121-05-10) Salt of Exile
Salt of Exile
Summary: Sylas meets a fellow countrywoman.
Date: 10/05/2014
Related: Wildling battle stuff

The Docks

Amid all the harbour's usual bustle, there is particular commotion coming from the precincts of one ship, in herself a rather intimidating sight. She is a longship of the isles, and a lord's flagship at that, sleek, dark, efficient, lurking in the water like the fantastical, engorged sea-serpent that adorns its prow; for this is the Leviathan ship, Lord Sylas Volmark's beloved Mourning Maw. And, this morning, after a too-long absence, her captain has returned from an unwonted and costly campaign on land.

Ironborn warriors to a man - for the oarsmen, being thralls, are kept firmly below save in quick, sternly supervised forays ashore - loiter both upon the decks and around the seafront. The lord and captain would seem to have just disembarked after giving his vessel a thorough inspection, and he has a boatswain a cautious pace behind him.

"Eleven of my best down. The Hightower would replace them readily enough in gratitude, but we have no use for such as theirs. I want Ironborn, good, hard, men, masterless or discontented, enough to make up the losses and more by the moon's turn," Sylas concludes, his voice captious, incapable of regret, impatient of contradiction, with an incongruous touch of musicality to it.

Only a few merchant galleys and small fishing boats away another vessel from the same lands has been docked though one would think it is far tamer were it not for the sails, adorned with the dangerous serpent sigil of Saltcliffe, rustling and blowing proudly in the salty harbour air. Men scurry in and out with heavy crates in their arms - a mixture of Ironmen and hired hands from the Reach. One figure stands out amongst them, tiny in comparison though it is her voice which carries the loudest in the breeze. A striking young girl dressed in a plain grey gown. Her demeanour proud and commanding.

"Be careful with that Wyck, it is mother's." She chides, a small smile at her lips as she overlooks the unloading of vessel, "And that is my harp over there. If I see one dent on it, it'll be your blood." Her threats flow easily and mockingly, a glint in her eyes as the sea air reddens her pale cheeks.

Her sharp green eyes move from the men at work to survey the other ships around her, her gaze caught by the longship that can only be from her native lands. Her eyebrows rise slightly and the young girl leaves her men to work as she approaches to get a better look, her curiosity piqued. "Who commands this vessel?" she asks, her voice loud and clear as she questions the men who linger by the great Iron longship.

Half a dozen and more of the Ironborn fighters, some still in their mail, others enjoying a rest in the heat and fresh Oldtown flax, are well within earshot of their young, highborn countrywoman's question. But they come of a notoriously insolent race, and most of them ignore it, some with sly grins, others with hearty laughter, others with craggy frowns, a couple with utter indifference. Only one, one of the nearer ones, is curious enough actually to reply. "N' who asks the question so commandin' and ladylike, I wonders? Are yer cap'n o' that pretty vessel o'er there y'self, m'lady?"

Somehow, though, the exchange has drawn more direct and distinguished attention. The slight, tough looking captain, adorned with decorations that attest to many instalments of the iron price, strides over, as the bo'sun scurries back aboard. "What've you found here, Hrallen? We need more ironborn blood and spirit on board the maw; at least this one looks as if she's hardly lacking in that." His sharp, black eyes drift to the sail yards behind the damsel.

"Saltcliffe. It's been a while, my lady, since I had your isle's acquaintance, and I sadly lack yours also. I am the Volmark. Your serpent may have more mouths, but ours has, I hazard, a larger stomach…"

"A highborn lady of Saltcliffe if it pleases you sers." The young girl curtsies mockingly at the men, letting them stare and returning the hostile glares right back at some of them. Her attention thankfully is drawn away as the answer to her question approaches her. The young lady of Saltcliffe gives a barely perceptible sign of recognition as she hears the name of the captain. "Ah.." Gysella replies with a polite smile "But perhaps all our heads together may match your one stomach." Her demeanour more respectful and guarded now and the corner of her lips curving up slightly, "I would dip into a curtsy for you too my lord but I think you deserve better." Instead she nods, "It is good to make your acquaintance. I am Lady Gysella, daughter to Lord Jerrod. I have arrived from Saltcliffe only a few days hence." She surveys the man before her. Her gaze coolly taking in his attire and the men around him. "I am familiar with your name. Tales of you reach the Iron Islands still you will be pleased to know. You seem to be returning worse for wear somehow but I cannot imagine you are still keeping to the Old Way?" her voice careful and each word pronounced slowly as she tries to work out where he must have be journeying from, an infamous exiled Iron lord - a subject worth being inquisitive about if there ever was one.

"My men are no knights. We have not succumbed to Reach customs yet, and I hope they take their time infecting you, too," Sylas retorts, his smile twisted and a touch rueful. "My cousin Lady Millicent might almost be a Hightower by now. But she, of course, is a half-breed anyway. I am sure a daughter of Saltcliffe has more stubbornness and steel in her."

Lord Sylas looks more than satisfied to hear that his reputation still casts some kind of a shadow, an echo, even a threat, in his homelands, but Gysella's next question seems to sour him back to careful neutrality.

"I have formed an alliance with Lord Hightower. A part of my retinue was lately instrumental in suppressing a wildling incursion, near the borders of the Reach, unlikely as it may sound. Some few of my men fell too far from the sea, but the rivers shall surely call them home to watery feast-days. In the meantime, I accrue strong and moneyed friends in the Reach by the day. You might let them know as much, back home…if they ever let you back there. I suppose you are expected to attach yourself to some soft Greenlander, to keep some of those nine serpentine mouths good and well fed…?"

"I do not think I could ever mistake your men for the knights of the Reach my lord." Gysella replies, a soft chuckle escaping her lips at the thought of these surly Ironmen in flowery doublets. "Oh I am a bit more subtle than that I hope. Cold steel with the coating of shiny gold."

She looks a little bit more impressed and grave with his next words. "Ah I am truly sorry to hear that. The loss of brave Ironmen is a sad thing indeed but the Drowned God will receive them well I am sure. " Her brows furrow slightly as she contemplates his words. "Wildlings? At the borders of the Reach? Curious.." The loose strands of her dark hair blow about in the gusty harbour wind and she tucks them firmly behind her ears. A more genuine smile as she breathes the sea air deeply. "At least I am not far from the sea here."

She takes a moment to regard him as he says his last word. Her reply quiet and almost tinged with a hint of sadness? "The Old Way grows perilous my lord. It is hard for good Ironmen like my father. Bending the knee does not come easy but times change and pride must be put aside. My business here is to make connections, same as yourself." Her pale green eyes meet his, "Why I'm sure there was a time when you would have spat on the notion of making alliances with Hightower and other greenlanders."

"Aye, that you are not," Volmark seconds curtly, and his stare swoops over the Saltcliffe maid's head to embrace the far, blue horizon, the warm breeze and the song of the gulls. "Even if the ocean here lacks the cold cleanliness that hones men, and women too, keen as blades. Even so. This is a place where ironmen could live, even rule, some day, as we ruled the Riverlands…not so very long ago." Under the command, Sylas need not add, of a king he claims as a forefather.

At Gysella's keen observation an even implied criticism, Sylas briefly seems to brindle, before, with an effort, smiling widely through his carefully combed beard. "The Greyjoys of Pyke would have us alone, because they would have us defeated, and firmly under them. I would have us more than that. There would be a place for men like Jerrod Saltcliffe in the leaguer I am assembling to take back my rights."

Gysella's eyes are now fastened on the horizon. She nods to his words "Aye. The air is different here somehow. Warmer and kinder perhaps. It is strange how I could not wait to leave home. To travel beyond the waters of the Isles. You see, I've always had this curiosity for the Greenlanders and their soft ways. But now that I am here, I do wonder when I shall Saltcliffe again. Breathe in that sharp, cold air of the Isles. My journey does not seem to have an inevitable return back home unlike my brothers. You must feel the same pain I'm sure. How long has it been now since you last saw our lands? Did you leave much of your family behind?" Her dress rustles softly in the wind as she turns towards Volmark now, one eyebrow cocked at his speech, "You are an ambitious man my lord. I will not deny you that." Her voice carefully controlled, trying to suppress the tones of surprise and incredulity at his words. "I see this is where your infamy stems from." A smile at her lips but it is more curious than anything else; her reply ambiguous and diplomatic. She knows it would be best to divert away from the topic of treason for that is what he speaks of but she can't help but admit that she is curious about what more he has to say on such a topic.

"The Maw set sail from Volmark for the last time less than a year back," Sylas admits, "but at times it could be half a lifetime, aye. As for family, they are least of my sorrows. A clutch of pompous cousins in Pyke, a conniving, murderous, bitch of a mother in my rightful seat, a bastard whelp the Drowned God alone cares where. Greyjoys the pack of them. I've had enough of Greyjoys."

But, by the same token, has Sylas quite adjusted himself to Hightowers? The brusqueness with which he now begins to call his men into order and command them back aboard somehow suggests not. "It has been amusing conversing, my lady of Saltcliffe," he calls from yards away, already. "We shall have better knowledge of each other hereafter…"

"Well I hope one day you will return my lord." The young girl replies, a mixture of amusement and shock in her eyes as Volmark speaks of his family. "At least for the love of the land if not for the people." As he makes his way back towards his men and the ship, she nods to his farewell. "Indeed we will my lord, I am almost sure of it." A slip of a smile at her lips before she too makes her way back to her vessel and her overseeing duties. She looks back once more towards the curious Iron lord, observing him for a few moments carefully, before becoming immersed once again in her work.

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