In other news, I wrote some more fiction.
These are simple things: a sword, long, slim, bright. A leather strop, rhythmically run across a razor edge. A plain oilcloth cloak, un-ornamented, collecting a steady drizzle of rain and shedding it in little rivulets. The sea, drab grey like the sky above. A ship, unremarkable but sturdy and trim, gently rocking at anchor.
Anson was aware that there was really nothing simple about the ship. On his last voyage he had endeavored to make himself useful during the long days at sea, and he had come away with a lasting respect for the intricacies of sailor’s work. The crew on this ship were a motley bunch; a mix of Ironborn, northerners, sellswords, and anyone else he had been able to talk or buy into accompanying him on this mission. At the moment they were engaged in making final preparations to set sail, fastening lines, securing stores, stowing sails. Anson knew he’d just be in the way on board, so he sat on a piece of bleached driftwood on the rocky beach and sharpened his sword.
Working the pale edge meditatively, feeling the cold rain on his face, hearing the lap of wavelets against the shore, Anson felt an unaccustomed sense of peace settle over him. He had no idea what the future held in store, or whether he would survive the next few weeks. He was a wanted man, a traitor by some accounts, about to embark on a voyage into certain danger with dubious chances for success. He didn’t even know if the men and women he sought to free were still alive. But he knew without a shadow of a doubt what he had to do. There were no ancient tomes to consult, no hairs to be split, no precedent to be consulted, no interpretations to be weighed. No one left to plead with for resources, no preparations left to be made. He knew what he had to do, and in his hands and in the ship rocking gently at anchor a hundred yards away were the means with which to do it. The rest was in the hands of the Gods.
The preceding months had been a whirlwind. Taking a leave of absence from his detested post as Master of Law, ostensibly for a “hunting vacation”, he had instead joined Aralise Greyjoy and the crew of the Sea Minx on their mission of vengeance against the Astapori lords who had instigated attacks on Westerosi ports. The next few weeks had been a glorious respite from his dreary life in King’s Landing. Days spent learning to tie sheet bends and take in sails, pestering the grizzled old sailors with questions, and sparring on the hot deck in preparation for the fight ahead. Nights on deck, learning the constellations and omens that can guide a ship safely to port or signal her doom, and, later, nights in Aralise’s cabin, exploring other mysteries.
Then the arrival and infiltration, posing as traders interested in slaves and goods; the surprise attack; a confusion of swords and spears; the impulsive diversionary attack that had separated him from his men; the dangerous and roundabout path to the appointed meeting point; and the long, long wait for a rendezvous that never came.
Anson had waited for two agonizing weeks, in constant fear of discovery, before departing and making his own way home to Westeros. Upon landing and hearing that the lords of Westeros were gathering in Winterfell to pay their last respects to the old lord Stark, he had ridden day and night, and arrived the night of the funeral ceremony. In all that time it had never occurred to him that his news of the missing raiders would inspire anything other than instant action.
He had been swiftly disabused of that notion. The nobles, while concerned about the fate of the raiders, were distracted by other affairs. Accusations of treason were flying fast and furious. Dornishmen had attacked Tyrell lands, apparently on the Regent’s orders. The air was thick with hostility and suspicion. Anson had found few ears willing to pay more than passing attention to the fate of a few shiploads of Greyjoy far off in the Free Cities. The royals had seemed, to him, to be particularly dismissive.
Exhausted, filled with worry, and frustrated by the seeming lack of interest in the welfare of men and women he had come to regard as friends and brethren in arms, Anson had grown increasingly irritable. The explosive atmosphere hadn’t helped his mood. His attempts to interject the voice of the Law into the heated debates over accusations and counter-accusations went unheard. By the end of the night he had been in a stupendously foul mood.
Which, perhaps, is partly why when the Lannisters and Isa Stark had come to him with their evidence against Gherys and his mother, he had damned the consequences and demanded their immediate arrest. That had gone badly. The arrest had flopped, Gherys stripped Anson of his post on the spot, and General Trevel had threatened his life. But Anson was too upset to care much by then. Even when the call later went out for his immediate execution, Anson’s only response had been to send a bundle of flowers to Gherys’ rooms, with a note thanking the regent for relieving him of a hated job.
Realizing that no one was going to be sent to the aid of his friends, he had set about rounding up support for a second raid on his own, this time a rescue mission. He had ridden far and wide, and sent raven after raven, pleading for help in any form that it could be given. His efforts had paid off; and the proof was now bobbing slowly in the harbor in front of him. A ship, a crew to sail it, and a small force of fighting men. It wasn’t much against a whole city of slavers which was no doubt still buzzing like a kicked beehive after the last raid. But in the unlikely event they succeeded it wouldn’t be by sheer force of arms.
He ceased his work and tested the blade against the skin of his arm, smirking approvingly at the thin red line that appeared. He looked up, and saw that a small boat was approaching the shore. A sailor hopped out when the water was knee-deep, and made his way up the beach. Anson sheathed his sword, and stood up. The sailor approached, and gave a perfunctory bow. “The ship is ready, Ser”.
Anson acknowledged this with a nod, and, not looking back, strode down toward the boat, the waiting ship, and the sullen sea beyond. He grinned, suddenly, and began to hum a tune he had learned from the Ironborn aboard the Sea Minx:
“Yo ho, yo ho–“