"Too many," said Gerrold, the handsome one with the sun-streaked hair. "We were six when we left Dorne, Your Grace."
"I am sorry for your losses." The queen turned to his large companion. "Greenguts is a queer sort of name."
"A jape, Your Grace. From the ships. I was greensick the whole way from Volantis. Heaving and ... well, I shouldn't say."
Dany giggled. "I think that I can guess, ser. It is ser, is it not? Daario tells me that you are a knight."
"If it please Your Grace, we are all three knights."
Dany glanced at Daario and saw anger flash across his face. He did not know. "I have need of knights," she said.
Ser Barristan's suspicions had awakened. "Knighthood is easily claimed this far from Westeros. Are you prepared to defend that boast with sword or lance?"
"If need be," said Gerrold, "though I will not claim that any of us is the equal of Barristan the Bold. Your Grace, I beg your pardon, but we have come before you under false names."
"I knew someone else who did that once," said Dany, "a man called Arstan Whitebeard. Tell me your true names, then."
"Gladly ... but if we may beg the queen's indulgence, is there some place with fewer eyes and ears?"
Games within games. "As you wish. Skahaz, clear my court."
The Shavepate roared out orders. His Brazen Beasts did the rest, herding the other Westerosi and the rest of the day's petitioners from the hall. Her counselors remained.
"Now," Dany said, "your names."
Handsome young Gerrold bowed. "Ser Gerris Drinkwater, Your Grace. My sword is yours."
Greenguts crossed his arms against his chest. "And my warhammer. I'm Ser Archibald Yronwood."
"And you, ser?" the queen asked the boy called Frog.
"If it please Your Grace, may I first present my gift?"
"If you wish," Daenerys said, curious, but as Frog started forward Daario Naharis stepped in front of him and held out a gloved hand. "Give this gift to me."
Stone-faced, the stocky lad bent, unlaced his boot, and drew a yellowed parchment from a hidden flap within.
"This is your gift? A scrap of writing?" Daario snatched the parchment out of the Dornishman's hands and unrolled it, squinting at the seals and signatures. "Very pretty, all the gold and ribbons, but I do not read your Westerosi scratchings."
"Bring it to the queen," Ser Barristan commanded. "Now."
Dany could feel the anger in the hall. "I am only a young girl, and young girls must have their gifts," she said lightly. "Daario, please, you must not tease me. Give it here."
The parchment was written in the Common Tongue. The queen
unrolled it slowly, studying the seals and signatures. When she saw the name Ser Willem Darry, her heart beat a little faster. She read it over once, and then again.
"May we know what it says, Your Grace?" asked Ser Barristan. "It is a secret pact," Dany said, "made in Braavos when I was just a little girl. Ser Willem Darry signed for us, the man who spirited my brother and myself away from Dragonstone before the Usurper's men could take us. Prince Oberyn Martell signed for Dorne, with the Sealord of Braavos as witness."
She handed the parchment to Ser Barristan, so he might read it for himself.
"The alliance is to be sealed by a marriage, it says. In return for Dorne's help overthrowing the Usurper, my brother Viserys is to take Prince Doran'
s daughter Arianne for his queen."
The old knight read the pact slowly. "If Robert had known of this, he would have smashed Sunspear as he once smashed Pyke, and claimed the heads of Prince Doran and the Red Viper ... and like as not, the head of this Dornish princess too."
"No doubt that was why Prince Doran chose to keep the pact a secret," suggested Daenerys. "If my brother Viserys had known that he had a Dornish princess waiting for him, he would have crossed to Sunspear as soon as he was old enough to wed."
"And thereby brought Robert's warhammer down upon himself, and Dorne as well," said Frog. "My father was content to wait for the day that Prince Viserys found his army."
"Prince Doran." He sank back onto one knee. "Your Grace, I have the honor to be Quentyn Martell, a prince of Dorne and your most leal subject."
The Dornish prince flushed red, whilst her own court and counselors gave her puzzled looks. "Radiance?" said Skahaz Shavepate, in the Ghiscari tongue. "Why do you laugh?"
"They call him frog, " she said, "and we have just learned why. In the Seven Kingdoms there are children's tales of frogs who turn into enchanted princes when kissed by their true love." Smiling at the Dornish knights, she switched back to the Common Tongue. "Tell me, Prince Quentyn, are you enchanted?"
"No, Your Grace."
"I feared as much." Neither enchanted nor enchanting, alas. A pity he' s the prince, and not the one with the wide shoulders and the sandy hair.
"You have come for a kiss, however. You mean to marry me. Is that the way of it? The gift you bring me is your own sweet self. Instead of Viserys and your sister, you and I must seal this pact if I want Dorne."
"My father hoped that you might find me acceptable."
Daario Naharis gave a scornful laugh. "I say you are a pup. The queen needs a man beside her, not a mewling boy. You are no fit husband for a woman such as her. When you lick your lips, do you still taste your mother's milk?"
Ser Gerris Drinkwater darkened at his words. "Mind your tongue, sellsword. You are speaking to a prince of Dorne."
"And to his wet nurse, I am thinking." Daario brushed his thumbs across his sword hilts and smiled dangerously.
Skahaz scowled, as only he could scowl. "This boy might serve for Dorne, but Meereen needs a king of Ghiscari blood."
"I know of this Dorne," said Reznak mo Reznak. "Dorne is sand and scorpions, and bleak red mountains baking in the sun."
Prince Quentyn answered him. "Dorne is fifty thousand spears and swords, pledged to our queen's service."
"Fifty thousand?" mocked Daario. "I count three."
"Enough, " Daenerys said. "Prince Quentyn has crossed half the world to offer me his gift, I will not have him treated with discourtesy." She turned to the Dornishmen. "Would that you had come a year ago. I am pledged to wed the noble Hizdahr zo Loraq."
Ser Gerris said, "It is not too late - "
"I will be the judge of that," Daenerys said. "Reznak, see that the prince and his companions are given quarters suitable to their high birth, and that their wants are attended to."
"As you wish, Your Radiance."
The queen rose. "Then we are done for now."
Daario and Ser Barristan followed her up the steps to her apartments.
"This changes everything," the old knight said.
"This changes nothing," Dany said, as Irri removed her crown.
"What good are three men?"
"Three knights," said Selmy. "Three liars," Daario said darkly.
"They deceived me."
"And bought you too, I do not doubt." He did not trouble to deny it. Dany unrolled the parchment and examined it again. Braavos. This was done in Braavos, while we were living in the house with the red door. Why did that make her feel so strange?
She found herself remembering her nightmare. Sometimes there is truth in dreams. Could Hizdahr zo Loraq be working for the warlocks, was that what the dream had meant? Could the dream have been a sending? Were the gods telling her to put Hizdahr aside and wed this Dornish prince instead?
Something tickled at her memory. "Ser Barristan, what are the arms of House Martell?"
"A sun in splendor, transfixed by a spear."
The sun' s son. A shiver went through her. "Shadows and whispers."
What else had Quaithe said? The pale mare and the sun' s son. There was a lion in it too, and a dragon. Or am I the dragon? "Beware the perfumed seneschal." That she remembered. "Dreams and prophecies. Why must they always be in riddles? I hate this. Oh, leave me, ser. Tomorrow is my wedding day."
That night Daario had her every way a man can have a woman, and she gave herself to him willingly. The last time, as the sun was coming up, she used her mouth to make him hard again, as Doreah had taught her long ago, then rode him so wildly that his wound began to bleed again, and for one sweet heartbeat she could not tell whether he was inside of her, or her inside of him.
But when the sun rose upon her wedding day so did Daario Naharis, donning his clothes and buckling on his sword belt with its gleaming golden wantons. "Where are you going?" Dany asked him. "I forbid you to make a sortie today."
"My queen is cruel," her captain said. "If I cannot slay your foes, how shall I amuse myself whilst you are being wed?"
"By nightfall I shall have no foes."
"It is only dawn, sweet queen. The day is long. Time enough for one last sortie. I will bring you back the head of Brown Ben Plumm for a wedding gift."
"No heads," Dany insisted. "Once you brought me flowers."
"Let Hizdahr bring you flowers. He is not one to stoop and pluck a dandelion, true, but he has servants who will be pleased to do it for him. Do I have your leave to go?"
"No." She wanted him to stay and hold her. One day he will go and not return, she thought. One day some archer will put an arrow through his chest, or ten men will fall on him with spears and swords and axes, ten would-be heroes. Five of them would die, but that would not make her grief easier to bear. One day I will lose him, as I lost my sun-and-stars. But please gods, not today. "Come back to bed and kiss me." No one had ever kissed her like Daario Naharis. "I am your queen, and I command you to f**k me."
She had meant it playfully, but Daario's eyes hardened at her words.
"Fucking queens is king's work. Your noble Hizdahr can attend to that, once you're wed. And if he proves to be too highborn for such sweaty work, he has servants who will be pleased to do that for him as well. Or perhaps you can call the Dornish boy into your bed, and his pretty friend as well, why not?" He strode from the bedchamber.
He is going to make a sortie, Dany realized, and if he takes Ben Plumm' s head, he' ll walk into the wedding feast and throw it at my feet. Seven save me. Why couldn' t he be better born?
When he was gone, Missandei brought the queen a simple meal of goat cheese and olives, with raisins for a sweet. "Your Grace needs more than wine to break her fast. You are such a tiny thing, and you will surely need your strength today."
That made Daenerys laugh, coming from a girl so small. She relied so much on the little scribe that she oft forgot that Missandei had only turned eleven. They shared the food together on her terrace. As Dany nibbled on an olive, the Naathi girl gazed at her with eyes like molten gold and said, "It is not too late to tell them that you have decided not to wed."
It is, though, the queen thought, sadly. "Hizdahr's blood is ancient and noble. Our joining will join my freedmen to his people. When we become as one, so will our city."