“I don’t like tests.”
“A girl is right. A man is tired of being tested.”
“The Waif said brothers are examined every five years.”
“Just so.” He already did the math, four years and ten since his previous time; another brother was tested a week before, and for him it was five and three.
They stopped in the middle of the woods to look at the map Jaqen was given the same morning, after the Elder took off their blindfolds; a journey in the darkness by carriage that lasted the whole night.
They had walked at first to climb up a hill, then went down into the forest, on the shores of a small lake. An unknown terrain.
The atmosphere seemed peaceful, but a man had a strange suspicion, he kept it for himself, not informing Arya about it
It was strange they were tested together, she was scheduled to be admitted to the order in a few weeks and a man believed such a try was not necessary for her, at close distance with her final examination.
A girl had to obey, he repeated Arya since their first meeting, a man named Jaquen H’ghar, a master, had to apply himself the same rule.
His first test was deafness, a week in a world of silence that required all his control.
His second and last was about fencing, an endless flows of duels inside the training room, against his brothers wearing masks,
Defeating physically, indeed, but easier to manage than this uncertainty and the real reason Arya was with him. A test for two, together, was heard only once before within the order, involving two brothers, never an apprentice.
He had been extremely careful with the brothers, his face and gestures deprived ov every emotion
They were walking close, so close their clothes were in contact, breeches and jackets, Jaqen needed to feel arya’s presence, his senses were in full alert, a strange restlessness was taking roots inside him.
Then he understood: there were no sounds, no birds, no wind, no living soul in that part of the forest.
They reached a glade, short grass and a pathway difficult to follow, so few the traces were on the ground.
After a short walk, they passed under an arch made of branches, partially dried and dark.
Arya pointed at the arch with her dagger and Jaqen nodded, the silence was becoming too heavy,
Jaqen fought against the impulse to go back to the beginning of their path, take Arya with him somewhere far from there and forget the test, the faces and the house.
The sensation made him sweat and his legs trembled, he stumbled into a fallen branch with his feet and leaned against a tree, pretending not to show Arya his distress.
She relied on him, he was sure, he could not let his doubts prevail upon her complete trust in him.
After a dozen of steps it was dark all around, half of the trees were burnt , their trunks bare, without leafs, the ground covered in dust.
Arya grabbed his wrist, her fingers dug into his flesh, she felt his pulse quickening, was for the contact or for the place they were into? His hand covered hers, warm and big.
“I’m here.” He reassured her, words that conflicted with his worried face.
“This place is strange, there’s danger and magic. Black magic.“
“Are you sure?”
“I feel it. My brother taught me, our parents were angry with him but we used to hide in a tower of Winterfell and he went into a sort of trance and grabbed my hand and I was able to listen to the magic.”