"Twenty-five hundred." A female voice this time; a girl, short, with a thick waist and heavy bosom, clad in ornate armor. Her sculpted black steel breastplate was inlaid in gold and showed a harpy rising with chains dangling from her claws. A pair of slave soldiers lifted her to shoulder height on a shield.
"Three thousand." The brown-skinned man pushed through the crowd, his fellow sellswords shoving buyers aside to clear a path. Yes. Come closer. Tyrion knew how to deal with sellswords. He did not think for a moment that this man wanted him to frolic at feasts. He knows me. He means to take me back to Westeros and sell me to my sister. The dwarf rubbed his mouth to hide his smile. Cersei and the Seven Kingdoms were half a world away. Much and more could happen before he got there. I turned Bronn. Give me half a chance, might be I could turn this one too. The crone and the girl on the shield gave up the chase at three thousand, but not the fat man in yellow. He weighed the sellswords with his yellow eyes, flicked his tongue across his yellow teeth, and said, "Five thousand silvers for the lot."
The sellsword frowned, shrugged, turned away.
Seven hells. Tyrion was quite certain that he did not want to become the property of the immense Lord Yellowbelly. Just the sight of him sagging across his litter, a mountain of sallow flesh with piggy yellow eyes and br**sts big as Pretty Pig pushing at the silk of his tokar was enough to make the dwarf's skin crawl. And the smell wafting off him was palpable even on the block.
"If there are no further bids - "
"Seven thousand," shouted Tyrion.
Laughter rippled across the benches. "The dwarf wants to buy himself," the girl on the shield observed.
Tyrion gave her a lascivious grin. "A clever slave deserves a clever master, and you lot all look like fools."
That provoked more laughter from the bidders, and a scowl from the auctioneer, who was fingering his whip indecisively as he tried to puzzle out whether this would work to his benefit.
"Five thousand is an insult!" Tyrion called out. "I joust, I sing, I say amusing things. I'll f**k your wife and make her scream. Or your enemy'
s wife if you prefer, what better way to shame him? I'
m murder with
a cross-bow, and men three times my size quail and tremble when we meet across a cyvasse table. I have even been known to cook from time to time. I bid ten thousand silvers for myself! I'm good for it, I am, I am. My father told me I must always pay my debts."
The sellsword in the purple cloak turned back. His eyes met Tyrion's across the rows of other bidders, and he smiled. A warm smile, that, the dwarf reflected. Friendly. But my, those eyes are cold. Might be I don'
him to buy us after all.
The yellow enormity was squirming in his litter, a look of annoyance on his huge pie face. He muttered something sour in Ghiscari that Tyrion did not understand, but the tone of it was plain enough. "Was that another bid?"
The dwarf cocked his head. "I offer all the gold of Casterly Rock."
He heard the whip before he felt it, a whistle in the air, thin and sharp. Tyrion grunted under the blow, but this time he managed to stay on his feet. His thoughts flashed back to the beginnings of his journey, when his most pressing problem had been deciding which wine to drink with his midmorning snails. See what comes of chasing dragons. A laugh burst from his lips, spattering the first row of buyers with blood and spit.
"You are sold," the auctioneer announced. Then he hit him again, just because he could. This time Tyrion went down.
One of the guards yanked him back to his feet. Another prodded Penny down off the platform with the butt of his spear. The next piece of chattel was already being led up to take their place. A girl, fifteen or sixteen, not off the Selaesori Qhoran this time. Tyrion did not know her. The same age as Daenerys Targaryen, or near enough. The slaver soon had her naked. At least we were spared that humiliation.
Tyrion gazed across the Yunkish camp to the walls of Meereen. Those gates looked so close ... and if the talk in the slave pens could be believed, Meereen remained a free city for the nonce. Within those crumbling walls, slavery and the slave trade were still forbidden. All he had to do was reach those gates and pass beyond, and he would be a free man again. But that was hardly possible unless he abandoned Penny. She' d want to take the dog and the pig along.
"It won't be so terrible, will it?" Penny whispered. "He paid so much for us. He'll be kind, won't he?"
So long as we amuse him. "We're too valuable to mistreat," he reassured her, with blood still trickling down his back from those last two lashes. When our show grows stale, however ... and it does, it does grow stale ...
Their master's overseer was waiting to take charge of them, with a mule cart and two soldiers. He had a long narrow face and a chin beard bound about with golden wire, and his stiff red-black hair swept out from his temples to form a pair of taloned hands. "What darling little creatures you are," he said. "You remind me of my own children ... or would, if my little ones were not dead. I shall take good care of you. Tell me your names."
"Penny." Her voice was a whisper, small and scared.
Tyrion, of House Lannister, rightful lord of Casterly Rock, you sniveling worm. "Yollo."
"Bold Yollo. Bright Penny. You are the property of the noble and valorous Yezzan zo Qaggaz, scholar and warrior, revered amongst the Wise Masters of Yunkai. Count yourselves fortunate, for Yezzan is a kindly and benevolent master. Think of him as you would your father."
Gladly, thought Tyrion, but this time he held his tongue. They would have to perform for their new master soon enough, he did not doubt, and he could not take another lash.
"Your father loves his special treasures best of all, and he will cherish you," the overseer was saying. "And me, think of me as you would the nurse who cared for you when you were small. Nurse is what all my children call me."
"Lot ninety-nine," the auctioneer called. "A warrior."
The girl had sold quickly and was being bundled off to her new owner, clutching her clothing to small, pink-tipped br**sts. Two slavers dragged Jorah Mormont onto the block to take her place. The knight was naked but for a breechclout, his back raw from the whip, his face so swollen as to be almost unrecognizable. Chains bound his wrists and ankles. A little taste of the meal he cooked for me, Tyrion thought, yet he found that he could take no pleasure from the big knight's miseries.
Even in chains, Mormont looked dangerous, a hulking brute with big, thick arms and sloped shoulders. All that coarse dark hair on his chest made him look more beast than man. Both his eyes were blackened, two dark pits in that grotesquely swollen face. Upon one cheek he bore a brand: a demon'
When the slavers had swarmed aboard the Selaesori Qhoran, Ser Jorah had met them with longsword in hand, slaying three before they overwhelmed him. Their shipmates would gladly have killed him, but the captain forbade it; a fighter was always worth good silver. So Mormont had been chained to an oar, beaten within an inch of his life, starved, and branded.
"Big and strong, this one," the auctioneer declared. "Plenty of piss in him. He'll give a good show in the fighting pits. Who will start me out at three hundred?"
No one would.
Mormont paid no mind to the mongrel crowd; his eyes were fixed beyond the siege lines, on the distant city with its ancient walls of many-colored brick. Tyrion could read that look as easy as a book: so near and yet so distant. The poor wretch had returned too late. Daenerys Targaryen was wed, the guards on the pens had told them, laughing. She had taken a Meereenese slaver as her king, as wealthy as he was noble, and when the peace was signed and sealed the fighting pits of Meereen would open once again. Other slaves insisted that the guards were lying, that Daenerys Targaryen would never make peace with slavers. Mhysa, they called her. Someone told him that meant Mother. Soon the silver queen would come forth from her city, smash the Yunkai'i, and break their chains, they whispered to one another.
And then she' ll bake us all a lemon pie and kiss our widdle wounds and make them better, the dwarf thought. He had no faith in royal rescues. If need be, he would see to their deliverance himself. The mushrooms jammed into the toe of his boot should be sufficient for both him and Penny. Crunch and Pretty Pig would need to fend for themselves.
Nurse was still lecturing his master'
s new prizes. "Do all you are told
and nothing more, and you shall live like little lords, pampered and adored,"
he promised. "Disobey ... but you would never do that, would you? Not my sweetlings." He reached down and pinched Penny on her cheek.
"Two hundred, then," the auctioneer said. "A big brute like this, he's worth three times as much. What a bodyguard he will make! No enemy will dare molest you!"
"Come, my little friends," Nurse said, "I will show you to your new home. In Yunkai you will dwell in the golden pyramid of Qaggaz and dine off silver plates, but here we live simply, in the humble tents of soldiers."
"Who will give me one hundred?" cried the auctioneer.
That drew a bid at last, though it was only fifty silvers. The bidder was a thin man in a leather apron.
"And one," said the crone in the violet tokar.
One of the soldiers lifted Penny onto the back of the mule cart. "Who is the old woman?" the dwarf asked him.
"Zahrina," the man said. "Cheap fighters, hers. Meat for heroes. Your friend dead soon."
He was no friend to me. Yet Tyrion Lannister found himself turning to Nurse and saying, "You cannot let her have him."
Nurse squinted at him. "What is this noise you make?"
Tyrion pointed. "That one is part of our show. The bear and the maiden fair. Jorah is the bear, Penny is the maiden, I am the brave knight who rescues her. I dance about and hit him in the balls. Very funny."
The overseer squinted at the auction block. "Him?" The bidding for Jorah Mormont had reached two hundred silvers.
"And one," said the crone in the violet tokar. "Your bear. I see."
Nurse went scuttling off through the crowd, bent over the huge yellow Yunkishman in his litter, whispered in his ear. His master nodded, chins wobbling, then raised his fan. "Three hundred," he called out in a wheezy voice.
The crone sniffed and turned away. "Why did you do that?" Penny asked, in the Common Tongue.
A fair question, thought Tyrion. Why did I? "Your show was growing dull. Every mummer needs a dancing bear."
She gave him a reproachful look, then retreated to the back of the cart and sat with her arms around Crunch, as if the dog was her last true friend in the world. Perhaps he is.
Nurse returned with Jorah Mormont. Two of their master's slave soldiers flung him into the back of the mule cart between the dwarfs. The knight did not struggle. All the fight went out of him when he heard that his queen had wed, Tyrion realized. One whispered word had done what fists and whips and clubs could not; it had broken him. I should have let the crone have him. He' s going to be as useful as ni**les on a breastplate. Nurse climbed onto the front of the mule cart and took up the reins, and they set off through the siege camp to the compound of their new master, the noble Yezzan zo Qaggaz. Four slave soldiers marched beside them, two on either side of the cart.