"We have to make them laugh," Penny had said, pleading. "We have to make them like us. If we give them a show, it will help them forget. Please, m'lord." And somehow, somewise, someway he had consented. It must have been the rum. The captain's wine had been the first thing to run out. You could get drunk much quicker on rum than on wine, Tyrion Lannister had discovered.
So he found himself clad in Groat's painted wooden armor, astride Groat's sow, whilst Groat's sister instructed him in the finer points of the mummer's joust that had been their bread and salt. It had a certain delicious irony to it, considering that Tyrion had almost lost his head once by refusing to mount the dog for his nephew's twisted amusement. Yet somehow he found it difficult to appreciate the humor of it all from sowback. Penny's lance descended just in time for its blunted point to brush his shoulder; his own lance wobbled as he brought it down and banged it noisily off a corner of her shield. She kept her seat. He lost his. But then, he was supposed to.
Easy as falling off a pig ... though falling off this particular pig was harder than it looked. Tyrion curled into a ball as he dropped, remembering his lesson, but even so, he hit the deck with a solid thump and bit his tongue so hard he tasted blood. He felt as if he were twelve again, cartwheeling across the supper table in Casterly Rock's great hall. Back then his uncle Gerion had been on hand to praise his efforts, in place of surly sailors. Their laughter seemed sparse and strained compared to the great gales that had greeted Groat's and Penny's antics at Joffrey's wedding feast, and some hissed at him in anger. " No-Nose, you ride same way you look, ugly,"
one man shouted from the sterncastle. "Must have no balls, let girl beat you." He wagered coin on me, Tyrion decided. He let the insult wash right over him. He had heard worse in his time.
The wooden armor made rising awkward. He found himself flailing like a turtle on its back. That, at least, set a few of the sailors to laughing. A shame I did not break my leg, that would have left them howling. And if they had been in that privy when I shot my father through the bowels, they might have laughed hard enough to shit their breeches right along with him. But anything to keep the bloody bastards sweet.
Jorah Mormont finally took pity on Tyrion's struggles and pulled him to his feet. "You looked a fool."
That was the intent. "It is hard to look a hero when mounted on a pig."
"That must be why I stay off pigs."
Tyrion unbuckled his helm, twisted it off, and spat a gobbet of bloody pink phlegm over the side. "It feels as though I bit through half my tongue."
"Next time bite harder." Ser Jorah shrugged. "Truth be told, I've seen worse jousters."
Was that praise? "I fell off the bloody pig and bit my tongue. What could possibly be worse than that?"
"Getting a splinter through your eye and dying."
Penny had vaulted off her dog, a big grey brute called Crunch. "The thing is not to joust well, Hugor." She was always careful to call him Hugor where anyone might hear. "The thing is to make them laugh and throw coins."
Poor payment for the blood and bruises, Tyrion thought, but he kept that to himself as well. "We failed at that as well. No one threw coins."
a penny, not a groat.
"They will when we get better." Penny pulled off her helm. Mouse-brown hair spilled down to her ears. Her eyes were brown too, beneath a heavy shelf of brow, her cheeks smooth and flushed. She pulled some acorns from a leather bag for Pretty Pig. The sow ate them from her hand, squealing happily. "When we perform for Queen Daenerys the silver will rain down, you'll see."
Some of the sailors were shouting at them and slamming their heels against the deck, demanding another tilt. The ship's cook was the loudest, as always. Tyrion had learned to despise that man, even if he was the only half-decent cyvasse player on the cog. "You see, they liked us," Penny said, with a hopeful little smile. "Shall we go again, Hugor?"
He was on the point of refusing when a shout from one of the mates spared him the necessity. It was midmorning, and the captain wanted the boats out again. The cog's huge striped sail hung limply from her mast, as it had for days, but he was hopeful that they could find a wind somewhere to the north. That meant rowing. The boats were small, however, and the cog was large; towing it was hot, sweaty, exhausting work that left the hands blistered and the back aching, and accomplished nothing. The crew hated it. Tyrion could not blame them. "The widow should have put us on a galley,"
he muttered sourly. "If someone could help me out of these bloody planks, I would be grateful. I think I may have a splinter through my crotch."
Mormont did the duty, albeit with poor grace. Penny collected her dog and pig and led them both below. "You might want to tell your lady to keep her door closed and barred when she's inside," Ser Jorah said as he was undoing the buckles on the straps that joined the wooden breastplate to the backplate. "I'm hearing too much talk about ribs and hams and bacon."
"That pig is half her livelihood."
"A Ghiscari crew would eat the dog as well." Mormont pulled the breastplate and backplate apart. "Just tell her."
"As you wish." His tunic was soaked with sweat and clinging to his chest. Tyrion plucked at it, wishing for a bit of breeze. The wooden armor was as hot and heavy as it was uncomfortable. Half of it looked to be old paint, layer on layer on layer of it, from a hundred past repaintings. At Joffrey's wedding feast, he recalled, one rider had displayed the direwolf of Robb Stark, the other the arms and colors of Stannis Baratheon. "We will need both animals if we're to tilt for Queen Daenerys," he said. If the sailors took it in their heads to butcher Pretty Pig, neither he nor Penny could hope to stop them ... but Ser Jorah's longsword might give them pause, at least.
"Is that how you hope to keep your head, Imp?"
"Ser Imp, if you please. And yes. Once Her Grace knows my true worth, she'll cherish me. I am a lovable little fellow, after all, and I know many useful things about my kin. But until such time I had best keep her amused."
"Caper as you like, it won't wash out your crimes. Daenerys Targaryen is no silly child to be perted by japes and tumbles. She will deal with you justly."
Oh, I hope not. Tyrion studied Mormont with his mismatched eyes.
"And how will she welcome you, this just queen? A warm embrace, a girlish titter, a headsman's axe?" He grinned at the knight's obvious discomfit. "Did you truly expect me to believe you were about the queen'
s business in that whorehouse? Defending her from half a world away? Or could it be that you were running, that your dragon queen sent you from her side? But why would she ... oh, wait, you were spying on her." Tyrion made a clucking sound. "You hope to buy your way back into her favor by presenting her with me. An ill-considered scheme, I'd say. One might even say an act of drunken desperation. Perhaps if I were Jaime ... but Jaime killed her father, I only killed my own. You think Daenerys will execute me and pardon you, but the reverse is just as likely. Maybe you should hop up on that pig, Ser Jorah. Put on a suit of iron motley, like Florian the - "
The blow the big knight gave him cracked his head around and knocked him sideways, so hard that his head bounced off the deck. Blood filled his mouth as he staggered back onto one knee. He spat out a broken tooth. Growing prettier every day, but I do believe I poked a wound. "Did the dwarf say something to offend you, ser?" Tyrion asked innocently, wiping bubbles of blood off his broken lip with the back of his hand.
"I am sick of your mouth, dwarf," said Mormont. "You still have a few teeth left. If you want to keep them, stay away from me for the rest of this voyage."
"That could be difficult. We share a cabin."
"You can find somewhere else to sleep. Down in the hold, up on deck, it makes no matter. Just keep out of my sight."
Tyrion pulled himself back to his feet. "As you wish," he answered, through a mouthful of blood, but the big knight was already gone, his boots pounding on the deckboards.
Below, in the galley, Tyrion was rinsing out his mouth with rum and water and wincing at the sting when Penny found him. "I heard what happened. Oh, are you hurt?"
He shrugged. "A bit of blood and a broken tooth." But I believe I hurt him more. "And him a knight. Sad to say, I would not count on Ser Jorah should we need protection."
"What did you do? Oh, your lip is bleeding." She slipped a square from her sleeve and dabbed at it. "What did you say?"
"A few truths Ser Bezoar did not care to hear."
"You mustn't mock him. Don't you know anything? You can't talk that way to a big person. They can hurt you. Ser Jorah could have tossed you in the sea. The sailors would have laughed to see you drown. You have to be careful around big people. Be jolly and playful with them, keep them smiling, make them laugh, that's what my father always said. Didn't your father ever tell you how to act with big people?"
"My father called them smallfolk," said Tyrion, "and he was not what you'd call a jolly man." He took another sip of watered rum, sloshed it around his mouth, spat it out. "Still, I take your point. I have a deal to learn about being a dwarf. Perhaps you will be good enough to teach me, in between the jousting and the pig-riding."
"I will, m'lord. Gladly. But ... what were these truths? Why did Ser Jorah hit you so hard?"
"Why, for love. The same reason that I stewed that singer." He thought of Shae and the look in her eyes as he tightened the chain about her throat, twisting it in his fist. A chain of golden hands. For hands of gold are always gold, but a woman' s hands are warm. "Are you a maid, Penny?"
She blushed. "Yes. Of course. Who would have - "
"Stay that way. Love is madness, and lust is poison. Keep your maiden-head. You'll be happier for it, and you're less like to find yourself in some dingy brothel on the Rhoyne with a whore who looks a bit like your lost love." Or chasing across half the world, hoping to find wherever whores go. "Ser Jorah dreams of rescuing his dragon queen and basking in her gratitude, but I know a thing or two about the gratitude of kings, and I'd sooner have a palace in Valyria."
He broke off suddenly. "Did you feel that?
The ship moved."
"It did." Penny's face lit up with joy. "We're moving again. The wind ..." She rushed to the door. "I want to see. Come, I'll race you up."
Off she went.
She is young, Tyrion had to remind himself, as Penny scrambled from the galley and up the steep wooden steps as fast as her short legs would allow. Almost a child. Still, it tickled him to see her excitement. He followed her topside.
The sail had come to life again, billowing, emptying, then billowing again, the red stripes on the canvas wriggling like snakes. Sailors dashed across the decks and hauled on lines as the mates bellowed orders in the tongue of Old Volantis. The rowers in the ship's boats had loosed their tow ropes and turned back toward the cog, stroking hard. The wind was blowing from the west, swirling and gusting, clutching at ropes and cloaks like a mischievous child. The Selaesori Qhoran was under way. Might be we' ll make Meereen after all, Tyrion thought. But when he clambered up the ladder to the sterncastle and looked off from the stern, his smile faltered. Blue sky and blue sea here, but off west ...