The two were silent for the rest of the ride until they made camp that night beside the rocky road.  After taking care of Thunder, Mei-Ling built up a fire and fixed a small meal of dried meat and oatcakes that they chased with berries she had scavenged and washed it down with water from a nearby spring.

Only after they were sitting before the fire, with Tyrion wrapped in blankets from the saddle bags, and Mei-Ling sitting across the fire from him tending her wound did either of them speak.

“Not that I am ungracious or anything,” Tyrion began.  “But what brings a Sister of the East Wind to Westeros, to the Eyrie of all places to champion a dwarf on trial for murder?”

Mei-Ling had shed her robe to tend her wound, and Tyrion could not help but appreciate the sight she presented to him.  The firelight flickered across her skin, creating alluring shadows.  She took her time answering him, first drawing one of her daggers and dragging it across her wound, cutting a little deeper as Tyrion could see the slow welling of fresh blood.

He noticed she made no noise, no expression as she cut into her own flesh.  Instead her face was suspiciously blank, causing Tyrion to wonder if she had sent herself into some kind of meditative state.  Wiping the dagger clean on the grass and re-sheathing it, Mei-Ling reached for a small pot of ointment, and after pressing on the wound to make it bleed more freely and wiping it clean with a bit of cloth, began to spread the ointment liberally over the shallow wound before taking up a roll of linen and start binding herself up.  Only then did she answer his question.

“I am indeed an adept of the Four Winds,” she began as she wound the linen around herself, “But I have reached the end of my training among my sisters.  Now I wander the world, seeing what I can before I grow too old and return to my sisters to teach the next generation and live the rest of my life with them.”

Shrugging, Mei-Ling tied off the bandage before continuing.  “What brought me to the Eyrie was merely happenstance.  I am traveling to all the great houses and our paths crossed at that place as the Stars meant it too.”

“The Stars? Ah yes you Sisters are nature worshipers aren’t you?” Tyrion commented, reaching for the warmth of the fire.  While winter had not descended upon the Vale, they were still high above the rest of the valley floor and the nights tended to get rather cold.

Mei-Ling nodded, shrugging on her robe, but not tying it shut, seemingly oblivious to the cold.  “We are.  We follow the teaching of the Mother Goddess and her children the Four Winds.”

“Each wind representing a different virtue and color, and each level within the wind represented by another color usually worn on robes or ornamentation; with red belonging to the least apprentice, followed by green for initiate, yellow for adept, blue for master, and white for the leader of your Wind branch,” Tyrion rattled off to her, mostly to refresh himself, and also a little bit to impress her if he would let himself admit it.

“Yes, yes I know much of your religion Sister,” he continued with a wave of his hand.  “Being a dwarf leaves you with little time for anything but reading.” Tyrion eyed her robes.  “But again, what compelled you to champion for me?”

She shrugged, reclining on the cold ground.  “You interested me.”

Tyrion felt himself grow hot at her words.  Here he was thinking she was different from those who saw him as a freak to be ridiculed rather than a man to be respected.  He struggled to keep the anger from his voice but heard a little leak through anyway.

“Well I can see how a dwarf would be interesting to a woman of the east.  I assume once you leave in the morning you will return to your sisters and tell them of the cute little man you saved?”

Mei-Ling looked at him, bored.  “I did not say your height interested me, I said you interested me.”

“There is a difference?” he asked dryly.

“Indeed,” Mei-Ling sat up straighter as she spoke.  “You stood before the Lady of the Eyrie on trial for murder, facing certain death for we both know that you would not get a fair trial.  Yet you stood there and faced your death with courage and honor.  I have not met many men of noble blood who have been able to face their fate without breaking down and weeping like women.  That interested me.”  She added another branch to the fire, cocking her head to the side quizzically as she watched the flames.

“My order has also been trained to see a great many things that others are blind to.  I heard your charges and your confessions my lord.  You are guilty of a great many things that you confessed, but one thing that you are not capable of is the cold blooded murder of an innocent child,” Mei-Ling looked him right in the eye as she continued, and Tyrion had the strangest sensation that while she was looking at him, she was somehow looking through him at the same time.  “I could not let you be murdered in turn for something you did not do,” she said.

Tyrion lowered his gaze from hers and stared into the flames, calmed and somewhat mollified by her answer.  She spoke sense, and seemed sincere, but one thing about her still bothered him and he wrestled with himself about asking her.  If he asked her she could very well kill him for it.  However if she didn’t kill him things would be very interesting, and Tyrion was not often a man to turn down anything that would interest him.

Tyrion did not feel that she would harm him if she spoke what was on his mind, because not only did it not make sense to save him then kill him on his first night of freedom, if she wanted him dead she would have killed him by now.  He took a deep breath and sent a quick prayer to the Seven that he was not wrong.

“Very well then, I thank you for coming to my aid.  Fortune smiled upon me that our paths crossed at this time.” Tyrion met her eyes as he continued.  “I am however curious to know what a Sister of the East Wind, the wind of honor, wears black to line her clothing?”

Mei-Ling remained silent, her attention fixated on a small twig she had picked up and was twirling in her fingers.

“It would be very confusing you know,” he continued conversationally. “We have heard the fanciful stories as far West as here about the secret order of Black Winds, the assassins and magicians of your order.  Most famously is the Black Wind of the East, the deadliest of this secret cabal.  She is said to be a woman of stunning beauty, unsurpassing skill, and a moral code no one but herself follows.”

There was still not reply from across the fire, but Mei-Ling did look up with an expression of polite curiosity on her face.

“I am only noting Sister, that you might want to correct that situation before someone mistakes you for a Black Wind.”

Mei-Ling stood up swiftly and slowly circled around to him.  Tyrion held his breath as she came closer, hoping he was not wrong in his assessment of her.  But Mei-Ling simply knelt down before him and leaned in close.

“I am not a fan of fancy, circling words my lord,” she said, her voice barely above a husky whisper.  “So let us speak truthfully and plainly to each other and sort this out before the sun finds us.”

Tyrion held her gaze, a flicker of admiration beginning in his breast.  Everything in him screamed not to trust her, that he would only be hurt and betrayed as he was so many times before.  But he could tell by the look in her eyes that she would not accept anything less than the truth, and that she would know if he was lying.  He took a breath before he began.

“I believe you are the Black Wind of the East, one of the greatest assassins and no doubt a magician of some skill,” he began slowly, then continued with more confidence as she remained silent.  “Why you are here I do not know.  What you are planning to do with me I have a decided interest in and can only hope it involved ale and wenches somewhere along the way.”

Mei-Ling was stone faced for a moment before she smiled.

“You are incredibly well read my lord,” she said with a grin.  “There is little of my order that is kept on paper, and that is indeed very old and hard to find.”

Tyrion shrugged.  “I told you, I have little time for much else other than reading fanciful tales and forgotten histories.”  Mei-Ling chuckled low in her throat at that.

“Do not believe everything you hear about the Black Wind of the East my lord,” she said still smiling.  “For I know for a fact that the East Wind has no honor, or at least no honor when it comes to being alone with a man along a road.” She winked at him.

Tyrion burst out laughing. “Oh good one Sister,” he chortled.  “Few women have any honor left once I leave their company!”

Mei-Ling laughed briefly too, a bright, lilting sound before reclining back on her heels in front of Tyrion and regarding him.  While not the first dwarf she had met in her travels, he was the most interesting.  She could not see what he looked like, for like all members of her order she did not see with normal vision, but rather what they had termed long ago as Soul Sight.

While Mei-Ling could view inanimate objects and lesser animate ones through normal vision, any animals greater than a cat or a dog in intelligence she could only see with her Soul Sight, in that she could tell what kind of creatures they were by the colors of their soul.

No soul was made of just one color either, but a myrid of them, all blended, mixed, and swirled together in such a way that if anyone else were to see them the way she saw them, without the years of training, they would only see a confusing jumble of colors.  But Mei-Ling had spent years learning how to ‘read’ souls, and by reading them she can tell an honest man from a dishonest one, a gentle dog from a rabid one, and everything in between.

And Tyrion’s soul was among the most interesting she had seen, to the point where she felt inexplicably drawn to him, and wondered briefly if she had found her daisho, her True Mate in this strange, honorable little man.

It was a legend among the Black Winds, that none of their order could wed or bear a child unless their daisho was found, a person whose soul resonated with the same mix of colors that the Black Wind had.  And since no Black Wind knew their own colors for the Soul Sight only worked on other creatures, there was no true way of knowing if a daisho had ever been found.

Coming back to herself, Mei-Ling realized she had been lost in her mind for several moments, long enough for the yellow-brown of unease to thread through Tyrion’s soul.  Giving herself a mental shake, she continued on as if nothing had happened.

“You have been honest with me, and so I shall be honest with you,” she said. “I am indeed the Black Wind of the East.  I tell you only because you already know.  I do not consider myself an assassin although I have killed, and I am certainly not a magician for I have worked no magic, but I do have the knowledge.”  She sighed and sat down next to him, turning her dark, blind-yet-not eyes on him.

“I am honestly traveling the world as the winds take me, with no deign or plan upon the future beyond what I have told you.  What I intend to do with you,” she paused to eye him, “is take you wherever you will, and stay or leave upon your desire.”

“Upon my desire?” he echoed.  “Are you bound to me now for saving my life?”

Mei-Ling shook her head. “No, but I am tired and bored of traveling alone.  I like you my lord,” she said with a shrug.  “I admire you.  I find you interesting.  And I think you find me interesting as well,” she flashed a mischievous grin at him.  “I would like us to walk the same path until the Winds call me away again, but I will not force my company upon you.”

Tyrion shook his head.  “You are indeed a confusing woman Sister-”

“Call me Mei-Ling,” she interrupted.  “After saving your life and spending a night alone in the woods with you I doubt we need to stand on formalities when alone.”

Tyrion inclined his head with a chuckle.  “Mei-Ling then,” he said.  “You are indeed a confusing woman Mei-Ling, and you would make my life more interesting.  I would be glad for your company until I can repay my debt to you.”

“You owe me no debt my lord-”

“Tyrion,” he interrupted, “Formalities are indeed rather useless at this point.”  His face grew grave.  “I owe you my life Mei-Ling. ‘A Lannister always pays his debts.’  I would not feel right if I did not repay you in some way.”

Mei-Ling nodded.  “Honor.  Very well, I understand.”  She stood up swiftly and returned to her blanket on the other side of the dying fire, her still open robe fluttering with the movement.  “Time for rest now, Tyrion.  The morning will find us on a long road.”

“What, separate blankets? Whatever happened to losing your honor on the road with a man?” he said with a lavatious grin.

Mei-Ling grinned back, wrapping a blanket around herself before lying on the ground.  “And as you say Tyrion, I am a confusing woman.  Good night.”

Tyrion lay down with a chuckle and stared up at the stars, wondering which god or devil was laughing at him right now, and who would get the greatest laugh in the end.

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