"You are a child of the sea little one, incapable of being weaned off the waves, before you were even a hour old, you tasted the sea air, heard the lullabies of the moaning wind, felt the tides and saw the sea and it's liberty. Little by little, your bold heart grew."
I stood at the helm of the ship, basking in the sea air, a smile on my aged face as the welcoming cold breeze caresses my face, after a whole day of heat and sun I welcome the cold nights with open arms. Most men my age would be weary, tired. But not I, for the sea is in my blood and have embraced it since I first set foot in the cool waters at the stony shore at the mere age of three.
I brush my hand over the woodwork of my beloved ship, The Grand Mary, whom I take great pride in for she had saw me through many troubling times and I have spill enough of my blood on her decks to make her a relative to me. In my mouth I smoked a pipe, caring little for my impending doom of earning boils in my lungs. The Gods cannot deny me my pleasure.
Less than three weeks ago I celebrated my name day, with kin and friends. As a sailor I find it hard to find the time to rejoice about having survived another year, atlas, I am an old man now. Forty years of age, but I have never described myself in that way, I see myself as a man with a talent for being lucky in the most uncanny way. Wheather or not you count taking my pregnant daughter in law for a small journey with my young grandson, whom is still in his boyhood with my own son back home, tending to matters a lord should take care of it entirely up for interception...
I tilt my head slightly, to direct my gaze onto the owner of that voice. My hearing had been decreasing of late, and while I loathe to admit that my hourglass is beginning to run out with the gains of time. It’s only a matter of time until nature’s cruelty takes my sight as well and covers my world in shadow, but I shan’t ponder on such thoughts. Why be afraid of the inevitable?
“Aye?” I answered Toman, my young cabin boy with awful affiliation, a stammer. And a lanky young boy, at that awkward age where his face is plagued by teenager spots, the boy before me also has a gap between his teeth, and a rather crooked nose that leaned to the left. Silently I wonder to myself why I cared enough to bring this lad aboard m precious ship with his limited uses. But then again, I am stubborn and I do not care to hide the fact I have the eerie talent of spotting a quality in others when others can only see mud. To me, Toman is an unpolished gem, capable of being a great sailor. After all, the boy’s loyalty to be is profound. I raised my eyebrows at the boy, urging him to speak for I am tired and dawn will grace us with her presence soon, I would prefer to get some sleep.
I tighten my lips as Toman stammered, I silently pray to the old Gods to preserve my patience a little longer. “C-Captain, its lady Crowe. S-she’s...” I didn’t bother to hear the boy out, as I took one look at the door to my cabin and shoved the lad out of the way to reach Daralis.
As I got closer, I could hear Daralis’s screams rising higher and higher like an eagle that soars. I could feel my heart sinking further and further into the depths, the hands of fear clutching my heart. I profess I know little of pregnancy in women and not much of women in general either, for a woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets. And there is none brave enough to dive into its depths to find the treasures that it hides..
Like I hurricane I rush in, only for the sight of a pale-looking northern woman to greet me, who is currently bend over, her hands clutching the edge of the bay window’s seat. Her eyes squeeze shut, with her fringe sticking to her forehead and her dirty blonde locks tangled like an old yarn. I could feel my concern for her rising “Daralis?!” I spoke quickly, trying my best not to sound too alarmed. She groaned again and motions her hand towards me, gesturing me to come closer and I came closer to her, only for my hand to be gripped with a vice-like hold. “What’s wrong?” I asks her, she looks at me then with a perplexed look only a woman can achieve, and I felt like a fool because the answer should’ve be obvious: she is giving birth.
I heard the door behind me creak open and in came my good doctor, the young lordling Dustin. Larrence Dustin. I looks up with only the expression of a clueless man could have “What in seven hells is happening Dustin?!” I shouted at him, with little care of how it makes me look. And quietly, I think to myself ‘I’m terrible with women, especially pregnant women.’ So lost in the moment I fail to see my dear doctor speaking, whom is more calm than I. “Captain, Lady Crowe is in labour, please give me room to inspect her.” And I did as I was told, but I turned around to save Lady Crowe’s embarrassment, I know she had young Uleric ten years ago, and had the fingers of doctors and nurses checking on here before she gave birth, but in front of her father in law? Well that’s entirely new I think to myself, a grin of amusement and a short chuckle rising.
The minutes ticks by, and with each scream, each groan and sob, finally the baby was pushed out. Doctor Dustin pulled the child out, but something was wrong. There was no cry, I turned around and saw the little one still in the doctor’s eyes, his face twisted in concern and sorrow. The baby wasn’t moving.
I could see the fear written across my daughter in law’s face “Why isn’t he crying?!” I heard her wail; she lifts up her arms, desperately trying to hold the child. I sighed, not out of annoyance, but out of pity. For there is no greater tragedy than the loss of a child...so to ease her suffering I took the baby from Dustin’s hands and simply held him, looking down at his face, his eyes closed and unresponsive. But suddenly I saw his nostrils lift up, as if struggling to breathe but not sure how to. So with a smile I whisper to him “Come on little one, you’re a Crowe. You’re strong.” And suddenly, he kicks out, wiggles his arms and then opened his mouth. A piecing cry rips through the room, bringing everything to a standstill. Without another second I brought the child to Daralis, and allowed the little boy’s first contact of his mother’s skin.
Even though the baby’s skin was wrinkled and thin looking, his head too large for his body, there was a feeling within me telling me he would be fine. And I knew he would be loved despite his premature birth, for I have never seen Daralis smile with such relief before.
I smiled softly, quite content to go to bed now and grab some sleep before the dawn creeps up on me, but the sight of the newborn beckons me to go to the little one, and before I could even reach a agreement with myself I was at her side, my tall frame looming over both mother and son. It was then I let out the breath I had been holding.
When morning came, I broke out the ale in celebration, announced we’ll drink to the birth of my Grandson. I brought young Uleric with me “Are you looking forward to meeting your baby brother?” I ask him, and Uleric looks up me, a small dignified smile on his lips and dark eyes that are kind yet bear the remnants of a wise soul. “Aye, I do grandfather. I look forward to when he’ll grow to torment me.” With a chuckle I lead him to his mother, and stood in the doorway and simply observe the boy coming close to meet his brother for the first time. It looks like a wonderful sight to me, sunlight caressing the boy’s face, his brown eyes open wide and his little coos filling the room, his small fingers clasping tightly around Uleric’s finger. “What are you calling him?” I ask my son’s wife, and with a smile of endearment she looks up with proud emerald-green eyes, exhausted yet so blissfully happy.“Haytham.” I sucked in a breath, my eyes widening in surprise before a smile cracks my lips. “A good name, tis fits him for my grandson is handsome indeed, both of them are.” I joked, and then I inquired about the middle name, she confesses she doesn’t know what to give for his middle name. For a short while I ponder on the middle name, before it came to me like I song I listened to. “Morven.” I said suddenly, it is the name of one of the heroes I told Uleric and Keane about, the story of a child who was born from the waves of the sea, and for ages he lived in harmony with the oceans, guiding lost travelers far from home to the shore and leading the sea’s dead to the afterlife. “It means ‘child of the sea’.” I informed her, and she too widen her eyes before looking down at little Haytham, her expression turning into love, her radiant smile shining like a thousand moons. “Tis suit him. Haytham Morven Crowe...”
"He crawls to the cliff and plays on a brink
Where every eye but his own would shrink;
No music he hears but the seagull’s noise,
And shells and weeds are his only toys.
No lullaby can the mother find
To sing him to rest like the moaning wind;
And the louder it wails and the fiercer it sweeps,
The deeper he breathes and the sounder he sleeps.
I plunged my fingers into the water pool, my face lighting up as I giggled to myself, the sparkling water warm and glistening from the warm sunlight. The smell of the summer air as fresh and beautiful as it always had been to me. I moved my little fingers through the smooth and shapeless water, searching for that one thing that I hope to present to my grandfather, it is only right isn’t it? My dearest grandpa always gives me a gift when he comes ashore after months and years at sea.
Finally I found the object of my desire, I could feel the creature’s skin, and it is small but its skin hard and bumpy. I dropped my other hand in and leaned in, but in my foolish haste my foot slipped and off I drop into the water with a yelp, only to rise out again seconds later, soaking wet. But I didn’t care; I gazed down in awe at my acquired prize, a starfish. Beautiful and mystical and incredibly colourful, it was perfect and I knew it would please my grandfather.
I just stood there in the pond, knee deep, simply watching the creature, utterly enchanted. It was only when did I hear my brother’s voice that I lifted my head to hear him calling my name into the distance, a tone of concern and irritation in his voice, and then those words that always halt whatever misdemeanour I’m doing. “Haytham!” I heard him call “Father’s coming soon! Hurry up!” I gasped and looked about, muttering as I tried to figure out where to hide the starfish, and then I thought of something. My sleeve!
I shoved the poor thing up my sleeve and pulled myself out and dashed off into the forests, leaving the stony shore. My breath hasty, my eyes fearful, my heart hammering with dread that father would arrive before I could get there. And then suddenly the horn sounds and I stopped, my heart in my throat. The fear slips away and excitement replaces it, without a second thought I raced off again with more speed than before, caring little for the leaves and the loose frail branches that brushed me whenever I rushed through, the nearer I got, the more I could hear the sound of the waves, the cries of the seagulls and I busted out of the forest and came to halt again, panting with a wide silly grin on my young face. There in the distance I could see Grandfather’s ship about to dock, the ship’s name clear as crystal, The Grand Mary.
“Haytham!” I snapped to attention and darted my eyes about and spotted Uleric at the bottom of the grassy hill, standing in a line of men, his eyes on me as he gestured me to come down immediately. I didn’t do that at first, I looked around for father and I could see him marching down the line with the authority only a lord could have. I silently gasped and immediately put one foot forward, I did it too fast as I practically slide/ran down the hill before tripping over a loose root to end up rolling down the hill like a barrel, I would’ve rolled right into the line if it was not for Uleric making a gap for me to roll through, and I could’ve rolled right into a mud if it was not for my brother’s hand swiftly grabbing me by my shirt’s collar to roughly pull me back up my face. Red-headed with fright and joy and a little bit dazed I looked at Uleric, dizzy and feeling sick from that short roll. Uleric frowned and hinted to father, glaring at the state of my clothes, muddy and ripped. He then patted my back, urging me to stand straight, but first I felt around for my starfish and let out a breathe of relief once I felt it’s presence up my arm, only then did I pat myself down and stood up straight and stick out my chest just in time for father to walk past, I had hoped he would not see me but I was wrong. Couldn’t blame him really, I was muddy, soaked with bits of leaves and stray sticks in my hair. My father paused in his walk, glancing back over his shoulder, first to Uleric, and then his firm glare fell on me. Two seconds later he paced back to me, his stare unwavering and uncomfortably heavy.
I was six, I could do naught but play the oblivious fool and pretend that everything is well with me, and that father is only quietly praising my timely arrival. However as the seconds’ ticks by, the tension rose and I could feel more eyes on me. I looked up to father like a demure deer and nervously smiled. That only vexed father more as he lifted a perplexed brow and then calmly stated “You have cobwebs, sticks and leaves in your hair.” I could only avoid his gaze “How did that happen?” I heard him acquire, I knew that he already knew of how it came about, but I lied anyway.
“The maids were struggling to reach some hard to reach places in the green houses, so I offered and helped them.” It was somewhat a lie; I have done it before since the maids were either too tall or too wide to reach the places I mentioned. “And the dirt on your face?” I worked my small brain for another reply “I fell into a puddle sir.” I could see his chest rise and his nose exhale a sigh, his eyes closing in irritation. “And that’s why you’re wet?” I looked to my brother; I could feel my father’s gaze hardening again. “Aye sir.” I answered with a straight face, yet my voice wobbled. Father of course, would never fall for my childish excuses but he felt it was fit to make me stumble on my words. “Must’ve been an awfully big puddle to swallow you whole and make you emit that horrid stink.” My eyes fell to the ground as I played with my fingers, scuffling my feet, shame-faced. But I dared to lie again “Aye milord, awfully gigantic. I had the grandest adventure.” Even without looking up I knew my father was restricting himself from shouting or hit me, I could even tell he was squeezing his hands together behind his back and his teeth gritting in annoyance. But he let out a resigned sign and then addressed Uleric “Son, clean up your brother. Your grandfather shouldn’t have to be greeted with the sight of a dirty child.” And without another word my father went on his way to check the remainder of the line. My little impish grin and mischievous chuckle was snuffed out as Uleric took hold of me, pulled out a piece of cloth, he spat into it and then began to rub my grubby face. I groaned in irritation but did not resist. I did whine though. “Where’s the starfish?” he asked and then I cracked a smile “In my sleeve! You gotta see it! It’s big, it’s colourful and it’s-“ my eager voice was silenced as he shush me “Good, keep it there until you can give it to grandfather. Now tuck in your shirt.” I pulled a face but did as I was told while he pulled out the leaves, cobwebs and sticks out of my head with some level of disgust yet amusement at my antics.
It seemed like an eternity as I stood there like a statue amongst my father and brother, twiddling my fingers in eagerness and tapping my feet with impatience. I promised myself that I will stay in line and show that I can be patient, but as soon as I saw the ship dock and my grandfather stepping off, I jetted off with no cares for my father roaring my name.
I dashed across the beach, the grains of sands beneath my toes, the wonderful breezy caressing my face and hair, the sound of the waves and my heartbeat in my ears, my mouth agape with a big smile as large as the sun. My tucked in shirt coming undone, and behind me I knew my father would be exhaling a sigh, and my brother struggling to conceal the humoured smirk.
I could see my grandfather in the distance, dressed in his seafaring gear, his massive navy blue hat, his black leather boots with the bottom caked in mud and weed, yet the top clean and polished, his white shirt with the ties undone to reveal his tattoo of a heart and a crow, his vest blue and his pants striped with lines of dark blue. Elated to see him I shouted “Grandfather!” with my arms outstretched, I didn’t know my grin could increase any further until my grandfather smiled in response, dropped his bag in a heartbeat and bend down to his knees and outstretched his own, I picked up my pace just to reach him quicker until I all but knocked the air out of his lungs as I practically hug-charged at him with enough force to make him almost stumble. “Oh my!” I hear him gasp before he chuckled, his rumbling laugh making me giggle into his chest. He smelled of whisky and salt water, I could see he added more tattoos to his arms, and two new tattoos to his fingers. “What is this Haytham?” he asked as he pointed to the hidden starfish that was almost out of my sleeve, with a wide grin I pulled the creature out and presented it to grandfather, my smile missing a tooth since one of my baby tooth had dropped out, leaving a gap. My smile widen in pride as my grandfather accepted the gift and complimented it, he then, with a rather chuffed smirk pulled out a object from his bag, hidden with cloth until he uncovered and revealed it to be a seashell. One of those large, spiral conch shells. I gasped in awe and traced my fingers over it, marvelling at its earthly colours of brown with specks of white. It felt smooth to me, yet hard. I continued to brush my fingers over its rounded surface, I could tell my grandfather grinning with amusement at my fascination. “Listen closely Haytham.” He said as he urged me to press the seashell to my ear, and I did, I laughed as soon as I could hear the roar of the waves beating along the shore from within.
My grandfather extended a smile, his eyes soft and gentle. “This way you’re never far from the ocean my little sailor.” I grinned and hugged the seashell to my chest; I made a promise to grandfather that I would treasure this. And then the captain lifted me into his arms to settle me on his shoulders.
"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
I drummed my fingers against the metal work of the table, my bright intrigued green-grass eyes staring out to the ocean, watching the waves batter the aged cliffs of Crowford, an aged structure of both rock and oak, etched during the time of the first men when Farris, son of Beowulf the one-eyed Crow was given Moat Caitlin to defend and protect until the end of his days.
Everyone told me that as the youngest Crowe and second in line to the lordship of the house I should be educated, but atlas, all I wanted to do is play and dream of fighting krakens and sailing the seas. I also wanted to listen to the music and the songs of the small folk; there was something special about their music. Something you would not find in the halls of nobles.
Lost in daydreaming I fail to notice the master calling my name with irritation upon his tongue “Master Crowe!” shouted Adwen sharply, his nostrils so flared I could see the curious nostril hairs poking out colliding with his moustache and just like that my imagination fell apart and back to the reality of dull lectures. “Aye?” I answered, my unenthusiastic reply only served to vex him further. “Master Crowe, kindly inform me of three religions of Westeros.” Fumed the teacher, I was wise enough to know I should say the three he requested of me but atlas, my inner imp could not help but to correct him. “Four.” I answered back, the master scoffed “Nonsense! There is not a fourth- “again Interrupted “There is maester Adwin! There’s the Red God of Essos and-“ and instantly ol’ Adwin frowned and I found my tongue silenced as I sank back into the aged wooden seat with a huff, ol’ Adwin is not in the mood for me it seems. He did not desire to hear how I come across such little known information.
“Again. The religions of Westeros.” Said the man firmly, I sighed and reluctantly gave him the answer “The old Gods of the North and the wall, the faith of seven of the seven kingdoms and the drowned God of the Iron Islands.” Adwin seems satisfied with my answer and nodded “Good lad, I advise you to refrain from ill curiosities child.” I bit my lip, so he wants me to remain ignorant of Essos is it? To not be marvelled by its mystery? Well stuff that I thought to myself. “And the Red God.” I cursed Adwin’s good ears as he heard me and then proceeded to lecture me once more.
An eternity seemed to pass before Adwin turned his back and resumed the lesson and I, unable to take the insufferable bore chose to leave my seat quietly, my feet silent as feathers as I neared the window, my only exit. Fortunately, I had the foolish bravery only naïve children can have as my little fingers clutch to the handles of the windows and pulled myself up and out. I am now standing on the window still, mare inches away from falling but it was not the first time I went on a climbing endeavour. Thankfully my bright green-grass eyes spotted a tree branch on my left, reaching out to me like a hand and I took it. I leapt from the window and managed to grab onto the strong branch and pull myself up, from up here, I looked down, I did not know how far the drop is but I knew it felt bottomless. But I cared not, for here I was, on top of the world with a view of land of Crowford, the stony store, Bear Island and the Wolfswood but most importantly, the sunset sea.
“Lord Crowe, the boy king marches upon Sunspear, ready to beat them into submission.” My ears picked up on Darin Glover, one of my father’s closest advisers. The Glover house, if I remember right their seat lies in deepwood motto and their lands consists of the wolfswood. Curious I reached for one of the statues of the Crow heads that decorates the walls of castle, pulled myself up so I was just above father and Glover when they appeared from the garden, from up here I could see father’s iconic black cotton cape, steel blue in colour and grey at the ends- the colours of our house. “So soon after ascension of the throne? Either the king possess the wisdom to win the support of his subjects via finishing Aegon’s work, or ego drives him.” And then my father stopped and turned his steely glare upon Glover “I suspect the latter. History teaches us that egoistical kings are not in short supply.”
The affairs of politics bore me so I chose to take my interest elsewhere; I decided to return to my room which is just on the other side, being a bit more cautious now since going forward is one thing, but going backwards is another. I hung from the statue from my fingers and swung myself onto the windows ledge slowly, my fingertips catching cracks in the wall to save myself from falling. Successful, I peeked in to see where the old owl had gone and to my delight he is absent so I giggled in mirth and re-entered the building and there I was, devilishly happy that I have not been caught, but my joy was ill-timed as Adwin approached me from the shadows of the room and gripped me by the scuff of my collar. “Blasted child! Let us see what your father will make of your insolence!” barked Adwin as he marched me down to my father’s study.
I stood there in the middle of my father’s study, my feet planted on the bear rug, my gaze to the floor. I must’ve looked like a shame-faced child as Adwin spouted off my many mischiefs and I did not even have to look up to tell father was still writing down into his books with his quilt pen, seemly uncaring as Adwin continue to prattle on but I knew better. It was only when Adwin mentioned my climbing did father finally look up, his hard glare silencing Adwin and bringing forth a lump in my throat “He climbed?” said father, his voice smooth and deep, but held a hint of broodiness in them. Adwin shifted his gaze to me; I silently cursed my inability not to show fear. “Aye my lord.” And just like that, father put down the pen.
“Adwin, you are dismissed.” I could feel my heart leapt to my throat as the room fell hauntingly quiet until the door clicked shut, I can already picture what will come next- a trip over his knee. “Haytham.” His voice resonant through me as he commanded me to look at him and I did, and regretted it. He was furious. “Is it true?” my legs felt meek as I nodded, I always stammer in front of father and when I do he always shouts at him to spit it out so I just nodded, and then father sighed. He then instructed me to get ready, and my fingers fell for the belt holding up my trousers but father stopped me and instead told me to remove my tunic, now I was afraid. Does he mean to whip me? Is he truly that angry? He had raised his hand to me, beaten with a stick but he had never whipped me. No, instead father had something else in mind. “Now place yourself in front of the fire place and lean against the mantle.” My eyes became wide; I don’t like it when father changes his punishment methods. They become unpredictable and I can never prepare myself properly for the pain.
Still I obeyed, as his son I was no position to refuse so I removed my tunic, folded it up neatly and set it aside before approaching the fire and planted my hands on the mantle, or at least the fingers and then leaned. I bit down on my lips at the heat of the flames on my skin. I could hear father ruffling around behind me, bringing something out from his desk but I dared not look. I knew what it was though, a cane.
I managed to shallow the yelp when I felt the first sting of the cane landing on the back of my thighs, they were quick, one after another making impact in quick succession. While father didn’t place any increase in his forceful beatings, the burning sensation build up until I was whimpering and the tears falling and dripping off my chin. Six, seven, eight- they kept coming fast and thick. The skin of my back thighs softened but the pain kept growing and growing, with my teeth gritted and my breath sucked in I concentrated on the number each time I heard the cane *WHACK* thirteen *THWACK* fifteen. At last it was over, and I felt like I was on fire. The whole ordeal only lasted thirty seconds. My legs were trembling, my arms shaking too and at last father told me to get dressed as he handed back my tunic, I did not look at him, only focused on the ring on his hand suddenly I found it so fascinating. “You are not to climb again, do I make myself clear?” I did not answer at first before his booming voice erupted again “Haytham!” I recoiled slightly before answering him “A-aye sir.” And then I was dismissed. The memory of father’s trembling hand with the cane burned into my memory.
"Oh, the power to be strong
And the wisdom to be wise,
all these things will come to you in time.
On this journey that you're making, there'll be answers that you'll seek.
And it's you who'll climb the mountain, It's you who'll reach the peak. "
"There are tiny little fingers pressed against my cheek, and the palm of the hand that holds all my dreams.
There is a careful little grimace directed right at me, and the expression of innocence that grabs me every time.
There is a pair of big brown eyes that light up in the dark, and the window to a soul that knows only truth."