Freerider

A King’s Bastard

Ned turned off the square where the Street of Steel began and followed its winding path up a long hill… 

past blacksmiths working at open forges, freeriders haggling over mail shirts, and grizzled ironmongers selling old blades and razors from their wagons. 

The man they wanted was all the way at the top of the hill.

The master smith came to him hurrying. “I am Tobho Mott, my lord. You will not find craftsmanship equal to mine anywhere in the Seven Kingdoms.”

Ned smiled. "Did you make a falcon helm for Lord Arryn?”

“He did call upon me, with Lord Stannis, the king’s brother. I regret to say, they did not honor me with their patronage.“

Ned looked at the man evenly, saying nothing, waiting. He had found over the years that silence sometimes yielded more than questions. And so it was this time.

"They asked to see the boy.”

"I should like to see the boy as well.”

“As you wish, my lord”

The master called over a tall lad, his arms and chest corded with muscle.

"This is Gendry. Strong for his age, and he works hard.”

Ned looked at him: Black hair, piercing blue eyes…

“Gendry, when Lord Arryn came to see you, what did you talk about?”

“He asked me questions is all, m'lord.”

“What sort of questions?”

“How was I, and was I well treated, and if I liked the work, and stuff about my mother. Who she was and what she looked like and all.”

“What did you tell him?”

“She died when I was little. She had yellow hair, and sometimes she used to sing to me, I remember. She worked in an alehouse.”

“Look at me, Gendry.” The apprentice lifted his face. Ned studied the shape of his jaw, the eyes like blue ice. Yes, he thought, I see it.

“Go back to your work, lad. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

Ned turned to Tobho Mott again.

“If the day ever comes when Gendry would rather wield a sword than forge one, send him to me.”

His guard was waiting outside with the horses. 

"Did you find anything, my lord?” Jory asked as Ned mounted up.

“I did,” Ned told him, wondering. What had Jon Arryn wanted with a king’s bastard, and why was it worth his life?