Aaron unleashed an entire quiver of arrows into the bull’s-eye in under a minute, his third since he’d arrived. The range was lit by torches for those who wished to practise, but few were on the field and none of his skill. Two young boys of twelve had stopped practicing entirely and were now watching him fire one arrow after another in complete awe.
Eying his handwork critically brought a frown to his face. Anyone else might have been overjoyed by the result, but Aaron was dissatisfied. His clumping was off. The string tension of this bow was slightly too loose, the arrows slightly warped, the fletching shaved too long for the distance and the wind three or four miles faster than he’d accounted for. Adjusting the string tension slightly he loosed another quiver in rapid succession. Better, but still not good enough.
“It would seem the reputation of House Pierce is justified.” came a soft voice behind him.
He turned to see Iris walking toward him and bowed slightly. “My Lady.”
Resuming his shooting, another minute passed and another quiver; these shots even better than the last. Iris stood beside him now, watching him shoot. “Are you angry with me, my Lord?”
“I don’t know, my Lady. I’m simply angry. I’ve yet to decide who I’m angry with.”
“My Lord.” said Iris placing her hand on his arm. “I just wanted to thank you for helping Adham. The Maester said he almost died. It was a miracle he didn’t.”
“I said as much.” replied Aaron, a little more bitterly than he intended. “There is no need to thank me. I did nothing. Maester Jonys is the one who deserves the thanks.”
“You are too modest my Lord. I am sure-"
“Do you love me?”
The question had the intended effect. He might just as well have put a pine shaft between her pretty blue eyes. A first, she tried to fall back on old tactics, but they soon melted before his level gaze. “No my Lord, although I think you would be a man that would be easy to love.”
Aaron smiled wearily. “I’m not sure you are right about that, my Lady.” He paused for a moment. “Do you know why I love archery so much? There is no grey in archery, only truth. Either you hit the target or you don’t. Either you hit the bull’s-eye or you don’t. Whenever you take a shot, the result is unequivocal and measurable.
You need to understand that about me. Perhaps others will hold what has happened to you against you, but I do not. I will play your hero and I will do whatever I can to make this right. I will keep your secrets and I will fight for your honour. I would do this whether you are Iris Dannett or Lidda Sparkles.
I will fight to protect Adham, for no other reason than he deserves to be fought for. I’m furious someone has hurt him in my name, and I’ve grown very fond of him, but even if neither of that were true, no-one should have their life dispensed with so casually.
Finally, I will find who has caused so much misery and make him pay for it, even if I must do so alone. Call it justice or call it vengeance but they will have it, even if it be eighteen inches of wood on swift wings. I will do all of this because it is the right thing to do.
What I won’t do is be lied to or manipulated. Neither will I lie, for you or anyone. My father’s says when you don’t know who to trust, trust no-one. I trust only two people, with Adham becoming a potential third. I want to trust you, but I can’t do that until I’m sure you’re being completely honest with me.”
Iris had stood there absorbing all his soft words. “You’re asking me to trust you unequivocally.” her gazed fixated on the target with a forest of arrows in the round red circle.
Aaron looked into the young woman’s eyes, green meeting blue. “I’m asking that, with me, you be Iris Dannett or Lidda Sparkles. I will help either one, but I can’t help both.”