he Prince of Dorne's eyes were alight with wonder. Essos had been everything he'd imagined from his texts, and then more. In so many ways, it was quite like Dorne; the languorous twists of language, the spiced cuisine, the whispering wisps of silk that passed for gowns. None of which was found in the other Seven Kingdoms. And yet, as familiar as everything seemed, it was altogether alien. Something about these shores just seemed older. More civilizations had perished here than had existed upon the shores of his homeland. Doran had sailed first to Lys from Sunspear, marveling at the marble city shrouded in silk, and the pallor of its inhabitants. It was an altogether different world from the one he'd left behind, where amber eyes flashed through dark lashes, and black hair gleamed against copper skin. Here, pale blonde glimmered against skin as pale as the marble the city was built from, and jewel-toned eyes smoldered behind slowly waving fans. Something about the place chilled Doran to his bones. Perhaps it was the clear evidence of slavery that still flourished there, the lithe young women in their gilded cages. Or perhaps it was an ancestral memory; his Rhoynish blood recalling the dragon lords' violet eyes and violent whims.
From Lys, Doran had sailed to Volantis, where he marveled at the black walls, and wandered through the western edge of the city, incognito within its twining alleyways and wide avenues. He crossed the Long Bridge, haggled with merchants in his rough Volantene, and still felt. . .strange. There was something deeply unsettling about the city in which time had both passed by, and utterly forgot. His western sensibilities were further challenged by the even clearer evidence of slavery that surrounded him; the elaborate facial tattoos that embellished each human, marking men and women as property. For a man who'd been raised with freedom as a key right; it was something wholly anathema to him. He did not mourn when he next took a river-craft northward upon the Rhoyne. He wondered no longer why she was called the Mother of Rivers. In places, her banks were so wide that he felt they were not upon a river, but upon a curiously calm sea. Here, instead of the salt air that both invigorated and drained, mist blanketed the landscape, at least for a while. The Sorrows were aptly named, and through rolling fog, Doran spied the bones of cities; the carcasses of what was once a great civilization. Chroyane's remnants of obelisks rendered in green marble, and the Bridge of Dream, upon which dwelled nightmares broke the monotony of the cold gray.
The further north they traveled, the slower their journey, for they paddled against the flow. Still, Doran did not mind the glacial pace with which they passed through Ny Sar. Here, Nymeria once walked, before building her ten thousand ships and sailing south to the Summer Sea and west to Dorne. From the deck, Doran witnessed ancient cobbles choked with weeds, and architecture that was familiar and yet alien all at once. He was finding that feeling to be a common one upon these shores; the juxtaposition of the common and the strange, the known and the unknown. A collection of shattered domed roofs that once might have been glorious, the pink and green marble once majestic. Amber eyes missed little of the sights here; this was where it had all began, so long ago. From Ny Sar, he then traveled up the Noyne, the Mother of Rivers' 'Wild Daughter' and Doran learned it too was aptly named. The landscape grew hillier here, and more wild, and vast fields soon gave way to dark tangled forests. Tangled forests occasionally gave way to walled villages surrounded by terraced farms, and soon enough, he sighted Norvos. The upper part of the city, ringed by mighty stone walls was built upon the tallest hill in the region, and the lower part was a warren of twisting, narrow lanes, and merchants hawking goods, words twisted by strange accents.
Doran was an honored guest here, welcomed by the ancient nobility that dwelled within the High City, and bid take part in a festival honoring strange gods. And who was Doran to say no? He was the Prince of Dorne, and it was his duty to maintain that facade, to smile at the proper men, to kiss the cheeks of their children, and to leave a pleasant taste in their mouths once he'd left. Dorne had always kept closer ties to Essos than the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, and now was no different; fealty to the Iron Throne or no. Dancers spun about the Sinner's Steps, garbed in wisps of silk in cloth-of-silver, blue, green, beads rattling about their necks, and bells jingling about their ankles. The bells of Norvos, too, rang; the deep, mournful peal of Noom resounded in Doran's bones, the sound nearly heady, compounding the effects of the spiced nasha he drank. Following the human dancers were bears, clad also in bells and bright colors, and kept moving by men bearing chains and whips; large, heavily muscled men without a trace of hair upon their bodies. With the glut of festivities surrounding him, Doran was not sure where to rest his eyes.
He had settled upon raking his amber gaze all around him, absorbing as much as he could, when he found himself arrested in spot. Several steps above him, and what felt like half a world away, stood her. She held the forest in her gaze, and the world stilled around them as their eyes met, slowing to a crawl. The deep rolling thunder of Noom sounded all around them, as Narrah pealed mournfully, and Nyel's chime punctuated the moment. And it was for but a moment, and the crowd shifted, and he could no longer sight her in her swirls of silk, dripping in gold and gems, with emeralds in her gaze. A strange feeling of loss cut through Doran like a knife. In many ways, Doran was no stranger to beautiful women; hailing from Dorne, his world was dominated by black-haired women in wisps of silk, sultry gazes equal parts inviting and domineering. And yet, Doran had never known a woman as such; never felt that carnal call, that basest form of man's nature. Even yet a youth, he was formed less of the flame and shifting sands of Dorne than the rock and ice of the Red Mountains. His peers teased him for an old man, to which Doran only replied with that quiet smile of his; dark eyes unreadable. He was the Prince of Dorne, and though he had never felt fully of Dorne, he knew that there was yet a place for a quiet Prince inside Sunspear.
The gold-clad prince was startled from his reverie by a man clearing his throat before him. Doran focused his eyes upon the man before him, broad shouldered and quiet-eyed, a serious twist upon his lips. "My lady bids that I make her introductions," he began, voice heavily accented, the twists of syllables unusual to Doran's ear. "She is the Lady Mellario of Norvos, and bids your own name."
"Doran," he replied, gaze distant, mind someplace else, "Prince Doran Martell, of Dorne."
young doran fc (varun dhawan)