Syrio Baelish slid closed the lock on the thick oak door as he entered his modest house. It overlooked a busy street and a busier canal beyond, but shuttered windows muffled the din of the great city of Braavos to a dull hum. A long way to fall for a former First Sword, but not so terrible. Better than death, or worse, he though to himself as he undid his belt and laid his ornate, thin sword on a table. Syrio Baelish was not a man to wallow in self-pity, yet he had to admit that the taste of disgrace was bitter, no matter if it was warranted or not. He prepared a cup of mulled wine and was about to sit down when there was a frantic knocking on his front door. Syrio quickly squashed any small annoyance he might have felt as he pulled the great door inward, the noise and light of the city washing over him.
He was often interrupted these days, such was the fate of a Warden of Braavos. The surrounding sprawl of twisting streets and bridges,along with their diverse and often feuding occupants, were all under his jurisdiction. Syrio was tasked with mediating conflicts, arranging treaties between bickering guilds, negotiating trade rights with merchants, ensuring that no thieves from any adjacent Canton encroached on his own thieves’ turf, along with controlling more violent criminals, and anything else required to keep the peace. Every so often he had to intervene personally, but more battles were won with words than steel.
A young woman with dark eyes stood on his threshold. She had black hair and fine, if nondescript clothing. The woman was clutching what looked like a large, cloth-bundled package to her chest. Syrio thought he saw a look of relief on her face when he opened the door, but it was gone too quickly to be sure.
”You are Syrio Baelish”, it was more of a statement than a question.
”Just so. I am at your service, milady.”
”I need to talk to you, in private,” she said calmly.
He helped her inside and shut the door once more. The second it closed, it was if a mask had fallen off the young woman’s face. She looked near overcome with fear, “Please, you must help me. I don’t think we have much time,” she gingerly placed her package on the table, “You must swear to help, no matter what I ask of you,” her eyes full of pleading.
Curious, thought Syrio, maybe she is highborn and running from an unwanted marriage, or perhaps a young guild-mistress with enemies close behind.
”Just tell me what frightens you so and I will do everything in my power to protect you,” Syrio said gently. She shook her head once, “No, first you must swear. I will not ask you to hurt anyone or impugn your honor, but I need to trust you,” she looked near to tears.
”Milady, I canno…”-
”Valaar Morghulis,” she interrupted, gazing at him and biting her lip. The words seemed to hang in the air for a moment.
Ah, so that is the way of it, thought Syrio. He bowed, “I swear by my sword that I will serve you in whatever you ask.”
”Thank you,” she all but whispered.
They talked more, and before she left she pressed a mask into Syrio’s hands. It was white, and smooth where the mouth should be. Swirling red symbols, the color of blood and sunset, covered it. She leaned in close, “His name is Anton”.
Then she was gone, disappearing back into the streets of Braavos as suddenly as she had appeared. As Syrio reentered the room, the bundle on the table began to cry.
More to come