The hour is late, the night dark, but Braavos does not sleep. Oh, the nobles do, for the most part, but in the areas of the city where they move by the day, others hold court at night. Bravos, certain courtesans, singers and others who belong to the darker hours gather at the finer inns, such as those around the Moon Pool. The plaza is lined with various establishments offering services to those who prowl the city at night, and it is hardly any less lively than a marketplace during the day. Laughter and loud voices spill out of the inns, and on the plaza itself the bravos swagger around. Not a few are clustered around the Moon Pool, waiting and watching.
One of them stands out, with exotic features and hair of a colour similar to the torches that illuminate the plaza. Samara is standing with a pair of other bravos and a dark-haired, full-breasted girl outside one of the inns. The girl’s colourful skirts are hiked up a bit to show petticoats with a lace edge, and the top is pulled down low.
“They have sung your praises most enthusiastically, Ella. But that does not change the fact that the only sword I’ve got is on my hip.” There’s laughter from the two bravos, though the whore seems a little put out, and moves closer still to Samara. She leans in even, making a whispered suggestion. More laughter follows.
The Moon Pool attracts gawkers, men off ships at Ragman’s Harbor, clustering together as they look wide-eyed at the outlandish clothing of the bravos, the beauty of the celebrated courtesans, the singers and jugglers, and the whores—perhaps them most of all. Some are drunks and others are well on their way. One of these, it seems, is a familiar Dornishman, drawing his own stares thanks to the red robes he wears, so dark as to be nearly black. And this time, he carries a sword—a strange thing, for a nobleman—he must be one, the way he carries himself—to do in Braavos; swords are for bravos. But Westerosi are strange, and Dornishman stranger, so who’ll question it?
Despite the sword, it’s a wine flask he holds in his hand as he enters the square of the Moon Pool with a certain sharp grace in his movements, but a certain wine-heavy looseness to his carriage. He pauses in the light of a tavern, and there are women shoving their way to the doorway to do their best to catch his eye, calling him in the bastard Valyrian of Braavos, and occasionally the “my lord” of the common tongue of Westeros. He glances at them, and flashes a thin smile, before moving on.
With the whore finally persuaded to seek another customer, Samara and the two young men move some distance away, towards a small gathering around a juggler. There are a few mostly friendly shoves and jostles exchanged on the way; it seems the men are carrying the joke on longer than their companion appreciates. “Ah, fuck off, will you? Next time, one of you should try to satisfy little Ella better. You must be handling your cocks worse than your swords, even.” The response is laughter, though one of the men does put a hand on his sword. Just for a moment, then he laughs and shakes his head. “I’ll take my chances with Ella instead.”
As they reach the crowd by the juggler, Samara moves a little distance away from the two men and takes a little time to look around the square. There’s a duel about to break out near the Moon Pool, it holds her interest for a while, and then her eyes fall upon an unusual but not entirely unfamiliar sight, the dark-red robes standing out amidst all the bright colours.
Rhodry takes a draught from the wine skin he has, dark eyes sweeping the square. So many bravos, taunting one another, leads to certain tensions. Here they’re greater, here they’re lesser, but they’re ever present. A strange place for courtesans and singers to be, with the threat of violence hanging over all ... but then, it seems to be the chief attraction. It’s as he moves deeper into the plaza, nearer the Moon Pool where there’s a commotion, that lamplight and moonlight combine to give a hint of fiery red hair. His attention turns away—well, well. A familiar figure.
He comes nearer, dark robes a swirl about his feet, half-empty wineskin held loosely in his hand. “Greetings,” he offers, in passable bastard Valyrian, and without a pause he offers the wineskin—to Samara, or her companions, whoever would like a drink. But his dark eyes are on Samara, as he slips into the common tongue. “‘Just’ Samara. Such luck, to see a familiar face. The captain’s departed Braavos, so I’ve had no one to guide me.” There is the faint scene of strong Dornish red on his breath, and performs a hint of inebriated hilarity; yet he carries himself well enough. “I was quite lost,” he says, “before I found your sweetwater river and followed it here. This is the celebrated Moon Pool?”
“Wandering around Braavos at night is not the most sensible thing for a foreigner to be up to.” The answer is given in the common tongue as well, though there’s no mistaking the accent. Samara passes on the wineskin, but one of her companions grabs it and takes a good drink from it before passing it back. There’s an exchange in bastard Valyrian between Samara and the two men; Dorne is mentioned. “Especially not by the Moon Pool. It seems foolish to have paid a deposit with my mistress if you might not be alive to make use of it.” A flash of a smile, but not without an edge that suggests her temper is just around the corner.
“I can take care of myself,” offers the prince, and there’s a razor’s edge to his own smile at that, his eyes hooded. They slide from the girl toher companions, and he eyes them both as he accepts his wineskin back. “This is not so different from the shadow city, at Sunspear. The same ruffians, the same jugglers, the same pillow… Well, not quite the same.”
A pause, and then in bastard Valyrian he tells the men, “I am Prince Rhodry Nymeros Martell. From Dorne, as she said.” One of the two, for whatever reason, catches his eye more. The prince takes a swallow of wine from the skin again, and offers the skin back to the bravo.
Another exchange in bastard Valyrian, quicker and harder to follow. “They mostly believe that, it seems,” remarks Samara in the common tongue after a moment or two. “These two are Alario and Hanno. From Braavos.” A shout and then a splash is heard from over by the Moon Pool, followed by some loud curses. She looks over, alert to such sounds, but this time it is just a bravo with too much to drink who has let another man push him up against and then over the edge of the pool.
“So you are here for…homesickness, is it? You won’t be finding any nobles to do business with here at this time of the night, at least. And my mistress might find it…inappropriate if you seek out another courtesan before seeing her.” Tilted eyes narrow faintly as she speaks, looking Rhodry over in a measuring fashion.
“I am pleased to await her services,” the prince says, dark eyes lingering on Alario before fetching back his wine and sliding his eyes to Samara. “But a man has eyes, and at times one wants to use them. As—” He stops at the splash in the pool, looking that way, seeing what’s going on. “When do the water dancers appear to duel? One hears tales of such things.”
Alario’s manner changes a little, under the Dornishman’s inspection. Nothing obvious, no, but a stolen glance here and there, as he drinks the man’s wine when the skin is offered, and as he speaks in his bastard Valyrian. “What’s this prince asking, Samara?” he asks, annoyed at not being part of the conversation. He nudges Hanno and asks, “She should translate more for us, don’t you think? Maybe he wants to hire us to escort him home, or to the Isle of the Gods. I could use the coppers—or silver, if we’re lucky.”
“When there is cause for a duel. Which is easily found at times,” replies Samara. She shifts her eyes from Rhodry to Alario, then rolls them at both of the bravos. “Spend some time learning the common tongue if you want to take hire with foreigners.”
“Is that why you go to the Foghouse all the time?” asks Hanno in turn. “Maybe she is looking for hire and doesn’t want to share, Alario. I’ve heard that she asks for news from Dorne now and then down at the Foghouse. Maybe she—”
A dark-eyed glare from Samara cuts the bravo off.
Rhodry seems quite uncomprehending, as the bravos talk in Valyrian, and perhaps his Valyrian barely stretches beyond a greeting. He looks to Samara, a moment’s question ... and then an insouciant shrug, before he takes another swallow of wine, and passes the wineskin ‘round again. “Of Braavos, you said for your friends. But you aren’t, ‘just’ Samara?” he asks instead, with a certain archness to his expression. “I thought your Valyrian sounded different.” The last is musing, and his attention wanders ... past Hanno, to Alario, as the young man hands the wine back. A brief touch of hands in the exchange, but the dark-eyed prince is looking elsewhere, as one of these courtesans passes by, attended by a pair of maids almost—but not quite—as lovely as she is. A singer follows in her wake, extolling her beauties presumably, though that, too, is in bastard Valyrian.
“Is that why you do not find it amusing that they are “just” Alario and Hanno?” The question is rather dryly voiced, accompanied by a demanding quirk of a brow above those slightly peculiar eyes, like dark amber in the firelight. “You don’t find men and women with names to spare out at night, you’ll have to look for those among the nobles.” Samara ignores something said by Hanno, and takes half a step in Rhodry’s direction. “From time to time, too many questions can be one cause of duels. I learned that very quickly when I came to Braavos.” It is an answer, albeit indirectly, and its delivered with a thin, edged smile.
“What’s he talking about now, Samara?” says Alario, badgering. “He keeps mentioning our names. You aren’t being a cunt and telling him not to hire us, are you?” The way he postures and stares at Rhodry suggests he doesn’t mean to miss a chance at being hired.
Rhodry’s knife-edge smile broadens momentarily, an unpleasant thing. He stops with the wineskin half lifted and remarks, “Am I asking too many questions?” he asks, those dark eyes framed by dark lashes sparkling with arrogance, before he takes another swallow. And then, casually, his gaze goes back to Alario—a rather handsome young man, all considered; a little dirty, perhaps, and rough about the edges. But handsome… “What’s he babbling about? It’s more than my Valyrian can follow.”
An angry glare at Rhodry, and then one at Alario. Samara seems at a loss for a moment, perhaps not sure who to curse at first. “Fuck you.” Bastard Valyrian, but she seems to imagine the arrogant prince won’t miss that one. “I am not saying shit about you, you fools. He’s a nosy fucking bastard. But have at it, he’s all yours.” There’s no mistaking the irritation in her tone, and it doesn’t go away as she switches to the common tongue, more heavily accented whether from the switching or her temper. “They would like to offer their services to you. Since I don’t, I will leave you to it and entertain myself elsewhere.” And so she turns about, striding off.
The bravos, not entirely following what’s going on between the prince and Samara, seem baffled. But they can’t help but chuckle when Rhodry says in Valyrian to them, “Women.” One word, and with an acerbic edge to it, before he calls after Samara in the common tongue. “A word of advice, Samara,” he says, without the annoying prefix, “don’t waste time threatening. If you mean to do a thing, do it, and let the gods sort it out afterward.”
It takes just a fraction of a moment. A few strides away Samara’s progress is halted by what Rhodry calls out after her. The next instance, she has whirled about—smooth, fluid motions, anything unnecessary pared away—and there’s a sword in her hand. A heartbeat later, it is pointed at the Dornishman’s chest. “Which gods? There’s a lot of them in Braavos, it might take them a while to sort you out unless you let us know in advance where to turn.”
Eyes turn towards the confrontation—and there’s mutters of concern, to be sure, when a bravo draws a sword on a foreign nobleman, but no one tries to intervene. Except perhaps Alario, who starts, “Samara…”
“You know which gods we follows in Dorne, I imagine,” the prince replies, a flutter of lashes and a sparkle in his eyes being all of his reaction to the sword at his chest. He lifts the wineskin and takes a swallow.
“I hear you can’t decide which of seven it is. This might be a good time to make your mind up. ” Samara replies, both heat and chill in her voice. And then it goes smoother, a silky softness over the hard edges. “You fought in the war recently, no? If you wanted to get yourself killed, why come all the way to Braavos?” The sword remains pressed ever so lightly against Rhodry’s chest. “Of course, you could refuse to duel me. You are a foreigner, not everyone will assume that you are a not a man based on that.” A strange choice of words from a woman with a sword.
“There’ll be trouble if you do this,” mutters Hanno.
“Think of the Mistress, she’ll—” starts Alario, but his concern seems to be more with Rhodry, at the moment, than with Samara. The prince interrupts him, with a thin smile ... and a toss of the wineskin, for him to catch.
Rhodry says pointedly, and with no hint of modesty, “I’m accounted Dorne’s best sword. Perhaps that’s why your mistress consented to an assignation.” His gaze travels down from the fiery swordsman, to the slender blade in her hand ... and then his hand lifts, a finger extends, and he carefully pushes it aside and away from his chest. “Back a pair of steps, and let me have my own sword in hand, and you may try that again,” he tells her, thin lips twisting into a smirk.
“Nothing to worry about,” the red-haired bravo tells her two companions, even as she smiles and steps back a couple of steps. The sword Samara still holds in a high position, with the tip dipping down just a little. But her own stance changes, as she turns her hips and places one foot in front of the other. Both feet are light on the ground, her balance different from that of a knight. “I am ready when you are, Rhodry.” She is not much one for titles, it seems.
A lift of a dark brow, and Rhodry glances to the crowd—he’s caught the eye of some courtesans, for that matter, who whisper to one another behind the fans they hold—before drawing out his sword. It’s good castle-forged steel, in Westerosi fashion—a heavier, broader blade than what’s used here, with less of a point. He holds it as if it’s light enough, however, as he eyes the woman. His stance is different than that of the bravos, as well, shoulders squared, with a heavier balance. His robes hang about his feet.
His mouth opens—
—and he eats the ground between Samara and himself with long-legged strides, sword rising and falling in swift cuts, testing. Despite the leanness of his body, the muscle is firm and the sinew well-knit; the heavy sword hardly seems to weigh anything, the way he uses it, and the way he moves.
Hanno and Alario, and anyone else nearby for that matter, have quickly backed off to leave a good-sized open circle around the duellants. They know what’s needed in Braavos, and only moments later its made plain enough why.
Shorter, slighter and most definitely not as strong, it would not have been a contest had Samara stood her ground. But that is not what a bravo does. When Rhodry presses forward, she ducks sideways and then darts forward, weasel-quick. It doesn’t bring her quite behind him, but to his side. From there, she lunges from her sideways stance, the more slender sword moving in a flurry.
Steel rings against steel, as somehow Rhodry turns with a viper’s speed, getting his sword in the way. But that flurry puts him on the back foot, and he gives ground, and each time he parries a thrust, it comes a little closer to his flesh, and a little closer, and a little closer still—the sweeps of his sword are simply not quite as fast as that wicked, darting blade. His teeth are now gritted, his expression deadly.
The blades sound, and then there’s a space where the waterdancer’s sword licks out and stabs through one of the wide sleeves of his over-robe.
The costly robe’s sleeve is torn, but Rhodry opens space between them, or perhaps Samara lets him do so. There’s a pause in the dance of steel, and…
... he smiles, wicked and dangerous. “If you want to undress me,” Rhodry says, black eyes gleaming, dark, waving strands of hair escaping his queue and falling across his face, “you only need to ask.”
“I will leave that to my mistress. That’s what you’re paying for.” The response from Samara is quick and cutting, like her sword. But the anger seems to have slipped away now, replaced with focused intensity and a dash of slightly mad amusement. And then she lunges again, a feint at first, an attempt to draw Rhodry forward, and then another swift attack that carries her past him and lets her attempt a slashing, lengthwise cut.
The crowd watching the duel has grown larger now, and louder too. Wagers are shouted out, accepted and countered, and the novelty of the match-up seems to provide a good deal of entertainment for the onlookers.
Another a slash is torn into his robe, as Rhodry just manages to twist away. He glances down at the expensive cloth, and shakes his head. “A strange way to prove it,” the Dornish prince says ... and this time he sets to, approaching obliquely to the right before darting left, sword scything from the air, slashing—and then turning back quicker than it came, in a back cut aimed at Samara’sforward leg; but the blade twists at the last moment, to slap with the flat of the sword, and that slows the blow enough to make it easily passed…
... and he doesn’t stop, pressing forward despite this, sword a blur as he tries to make Samara give ground, to knock away any thrusts at the same time. It’s an explosive effort, and one that can’t be sustained, not when half the effort has to be given to keeping that darting blade away.
“Had enough, then?” Samara asks with a fierce smile, even as the explosive assault does seem to succeed in driving her if not quite backwards so at least sideways , away from where the duel began. She still lunges in for lightning-quick bites with the sword, the quick jabs making sure that Rhodry cannot press too close, but it seems she is no longer controlling the fight.
But then, all of a sudden, she changes direction again, slipping past a flurry of cuts and slashes to launch a furious whirlwind assault against her opponent. Now she is trying to drive him backwards again, more aggressively than before. She lunges in for one assault, pulls back, and then lunges forward again.
That… proves too much for Rhodry. He’s quick, very quick—but his sword and his training do not allow him to match that flurry. He’s driven back and back, opening space to try and win time—and no, no time, only another step back, and back. His sword clashes again and again, warding away these thrusts in the nick of time, but only because he falls back, and back, and—
—he trips into the Moon Pool, and falls with a painful splash, expertly driven into it by Samara ... and not once offering to put up his sword . He knew what was coming, and preferred that to surrender. And so the prince’s torn robes are soaked, an ankle may well be sprained, and the crowd ... well, most are laughing, even those who throw out curses as they lose their wagers. Rhodry ‘s expression ... he smiles. Oh, but what a smile, beneath furious eyes.
And Samara? She is breathing a little fast, that last series of attacks took some effort on her part, but she’s certainly smiling too. Its a wild, reckless smile, and it doesn’t even falter in the face of the look that Rhodry gives her. Not at first, anyway. Then it is suddenly gone in favour of a sudden look of concentrated composure. She puts away her sword, and extends a hand.
A long silence, and then Rhodry takes the proferred hand and pulls himself to his feet. Hair, robes, boots—all wet and dripping. He lifts his arms and shakes them up and down briefly, trying to remove the worst of it, and little succeeding. Then he turns, to take up the sword he dropped in his fall. He dries it with some small dry part of the robe, before sheathing it. All in silence.
When he does speak, it’s a phrase by rote in bastard Valyrian, “I require a guide.” His gaze moves past Samara, to Hanno and Alario. Well. To Alario, chiefly. When he does look back to the swordswoman, those black eyes ... promise. “A lesson to remember,” Prince Rhodry says in the common tongue. “I won’t forget it.”