She was running the ball of her thumb across the most worn of them, trying to decide which king it showed, when she heard the door opening softly behind her. And moving.
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She stepped to one side, grabbed for her stick, snapped it up to protect her face. Wood clacked against wood. The force of the blow almost knocked the stick from her hand. She held on, slashed back… and found only empty air where he should have been. She did not answer. Talking would only muddle any sounds he might be making.
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He would be moving, she knew. Left or right? She jumped left, swung right, hit nothing. A stinging cut from behind her caught her in the back of the legs. From the left she heard the sound of laughter. She slashed right. This time she connected. Her stick smacked off his own. The impact sent a jolt up her arm.
The blind girl did not know whom the voice belonged to. One of the acolytes, she supposed.
She did not remember ever hearing his voice before, but what was there to say that the servants of the Many-Faced God could not change their voices as easily as they did their faces? Besides her, the House of Black and White was home to two serving men, three acolytes, Umma the cook, and the two priests that she called the waif and the kindly man.
Others came and went, sometimes by secret ways, but those were the only ones who lived here. Her nemesis could be any of them. The girl darted sideways, her stick spinning, heard a sound behind her, whirled in that direction, struck at air. And all at once his own stick was between her legs, tangling them as she tried to turn again, scraping down her shin. She stumbled and went down to one knee, so hard she bit her tongue. There she stopped. Still as stone.
Where is he? Behind her, he laughed. He rapped her smartly on one ear, then cracked her knuckles as she was scrambling to her feet.
Her stick fell clattering to the stone. She hissed in fury. Pick it up. I am done beating you for today. Syrio says left but goes right, and he is trying to teach Arya not to hear his commands , but to see and foresee his movements. She squirmed out into the yard, glancing around warily as she climbed to her feet. The castle seemed deserted. The Red Keep was never deserted.
All the people must be hiding inside, their doors barred. Arya glanced up longingly at her bedchamber, then moved away from the Tower of the Hand, keeping close to the wall as she slid from shadow to shadow. She pretended she was chasing cats… except she was the cat now , and if they caught her, they would kill her.
Moving between buildings and over walls, keeping stone to her back wherever possible so no one could surprise her, Arya reached the stables almost without incident. How could a little girl with a wooden stick manage to stay alive then?
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It is by becoming a cat. Cats signal a promotion in this pair of chapters: Syrio Forel becomes the first sword of Braavos because he can see a common braavosi cat for what it was, and Arya gets her eyes back after she see through a common braavosi cat who it was that was beating her. It is warging a cat that Arya gets to move on from blind Beth, moving to the next stage of her training, while in the Red Keep it is being a cat that Arya overcomes her fear and starts to move again. There is a scary possibility posed here: if they catch her they will kill her.
This begs the question: what would the priests of the HoBaW do should they find out Arya is a skinchanger?
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In Arya IV, aftet she finally overcomes her fear and begins to make plans to escape the castle, Arya first goes to the stables, where she finds dead men, among them a groom she used to play with, Desmond and Hullen. She retrieves Needle and some other possessions, and tries to saddle a horse, but a stable boy comes in her way, and in trying to defend herself using her sword, she kills him.
Only this time, before Arya goes into the hall, she snatches two candles from the Sept. While the candle does give her the confidence she needs to cross the windowless hall, it makes her much more vulnerable than the last time she was there:. The long windowless hall beyond the door was as black as she remembered.
She held Needle in her left hand, her sword hand, the candle in her right fist. Hot wax ran down across her knuckles. The entrance to the well had been to the left, so Arya went right. Part of her wanted to run, but she was afraid of snuffling out her candle. She heard the faint squeaking of rats and glimpsed a pair of tiny glowing eyes on the edge of the light, but rats did not scare her.
Other things did. It would be easy to hide here, as she had hidden from the wizard and the man with the forked beard.
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She could almost see the stableboy standing against the wall, his hands curled into claws with the blood still dripping from the deep gashes in his palms where Needle had cut him. He might be waiting to grab her as she passed. He would see her candle coming a long way off. Maybe she would be better off without the light …. A candle in the darkness will create a halo of light around the bearer, which will make possible to see within its reach. A stick serves a similar purpose, allowing blind people to perceive obstacles within a close perimeter.
While the stick helps Arya to move around, just like the candle did, it also makes it impossible for her to go about without being heard. Last of all she grasped her stick.
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It was five feet long, slender and supple, thick as her thumb, with leather wrapped around the shaft a foot from the top. Better than eyes , once you learn how to use it, the waif had told her. That was a lie. They often lied to her, to test her. No stick was better than a pair of eyes. It was good to have, though, so she always kept it close. Even with light in her hands, Arya is symbolically blind when she crosses the hall to leave the castle behind. The candle proves an useful tool none the less, so Arya does not blow it out. Memories and smiles:.