A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire 5) - Page 177

And Penny, well ...

Penny had been searching for a new master since the day her brother Groat had lost his head. She wants someone to take care of her, someone to tell her what to do.

It would have been too cruel to say so, however. Instead Tyrion said,

"Yezzan's special slaves did not escape the pale mare. They're dead, the lot of them. Sweets was the first to go." Their mammoth master had died on the day of their escape, Brown Ben Plumm had told him. Neither he nor Kasporio nor any of the other sellswords knew the fate of the denizens of Yezzan's grotesquerie ... but if Pretty Penny needed lies to stop her mooning, lie to her he would. "If you want to be a slave again, I will find you a kind master when this war is done, and sell you for enough gold to get me home," Tyrion promised her. "I'll find you some nice Yunkishman to give you another pretty golden collar, with little bells on it that will tinkle everywhere you go. First, though, you will need to survive what's coming. No one buys dead mummers."

"Or dead dwarfs," said Jorah Mormont. "We are all like to be feeding worms by the time this battle is done. The Yunkai'i have lost this war, though it may take them some time to know it. Meereen has an army of Unsullied infantry, the finest in the world. And Meereen has dragons. Three of them, once the queen returns. She will. She must. Our side consists of two score Yunkish lordlings, each with his own half-trained monkey men. Slaves on stilts, slaves in chains ... they may have troops of blind men and palsied children too, I would not put it past them."

"Oh, I know," said Tyrion. "The Second Sons are on the losing side. They need to turn their cloaks again and do it now." He grinned.

"Leave that to me."

Chapter Sixty


A pale shadow and a dark, the two conspirators came together in the quiet of the armory on the Great Pyramid's second level, amongst racks of spears, sheaves of quarrels, and walls hung with trophies from forgotten battles.

"Tonight," said Skahaz mo Kandaq. The brass face of a blood bat peered out from beneath the hood of his patchwork cloak. "All my men will be in place. The word is Groleo. "

"Groleo." That is fitting, I suppose. "Yes. What was done to him ... you were at court?"

"One guardsman amongst forty. All waiting for the empty tabard on the throne to speak the command so we might cut down Bloodbeard and the rest. Do you think the Yunkai'i would ever have dared present Daenerys with the head of her hostage?"

No, thought Selmy. "Hizdahr seemed distraught."

"Sham. His own kin of Loraq were returned unharmed. You saw. The Yunkai'i played us a mummer's farce, with noble Hizdahr as chief mummer. The issue was never Yurkhaz zo Yunzak. The other slavers would gladly have trampled that old fool themselves. This was to give Hizdahr a pretext to kill the dragons."

Ser Barristan chewed on that. "Would he dare?"

"He dared to kill his queen. Why not her pets? If we do not act, Hizdahr will hesitate for a time, to give proof of his reluctance and allow the Wise Masters the chance to rid him of the Stormcrow and the bloodrider. Then he will act. They want the dragons dead before the Volantene fleet arrives."

Aye, they would. It all fit. That did not mean Barristan Selmy liked it any better. "That will not happen." His queen was the Mother of Dragons; he would not allow her children to come to harm. "The hour of the wolf. The blackest part of night, when all the world's asleep." He had first heard those words from Tywin Lannister outside the walls of Duskendale. He gave me a day to bring out Aerys. Unless I returned with the king by dawn of the following day, he would take the town with steel and fire, he told me. It was the hour of the wolf when I went in and the hour of the wolf when we emerged. "Grey Worm and the Unsullied will close and bar the gates at first light."

"Better to attack at first light," Skahaz said. "Burst from the gates and swarm across the siege lines, smash the Yunkai'i as they come stumbling from their beds."

"No." The two of them had argued this before. "There is a peace, signed and sealed by Her Grace the queen. We will not be the first to break it. Once we have taken Hizdahr, we will form a council to rule in his place and demand that the Yunkai'i return our hostages and withdraw their armies. Should they refuse, then and only then will we inform them that the peace is broken, and go forth to give them battle. Your way is dishonorable."

"Your way is stupid," the Shavepate said. "The hour is ripe. Our freed-men are ready. Hungry."

That much was true, Selmy knew. Symon Stripeback of the Free Brothers and Mollono Yos Dob of the Stalwart Shields were both eager for battle, intent on proving themselves and washing out all the wrongs they had suffered in a tide of Yunkish blood. Only Marselen of the Mother's Men shared Ser Barristan's doubts. "We discussed this. You agreed it would be my way."

"I agreed," the Shavepate grumbled, "but that was before Groleo. The head. The slavers have no honor."

"We do," said Ser Barristan.

The Shavepate muttered something in Ghiscari, then said, "As you wish. Though we will rue your old man's honor before this game is done, I think. What of Hizdahr's guards?"

"His Grace keeps two men by him when he sleeps. One on the door of his bedchamber, a second within, in an adjoining alcove. Tonight it will be Khrazz and Steelskin."

"Khrazz," the Shavepate grumbled. "That I do not like."

"It need not come to blood," Ser Barristan told him. "I mean to talk to Hizdahr. If he understands we do not intend to kill him, he may command his guards to yield."

"And if not? Hizdahr must not escape us."

"He will not escape." Selmy did not fear Khrazz, much less Steelskin. They were only pit fighters. Hizdahr's fearsome collection of former fighting slaves made indifferent guards at best. Speed and strength and ferocity they had, and some skill at arms as well, but blood games were poor training for protecting kings. In the pits their foes were announced with horns and drums, and after the battle was done and won the victors could have their wounds bound up and quaff some milk of the poppy for the pain, knowing that the threat was past and they were free to drink and feast and whore until the next fight. But the battle was never truly done for a knight of the Kingsguard. Threats came from everywhere and nowhere, at any time of day or night. No trumpets announced the foe: vassals, servants, friends, brothers, sons, even wives, any of them might have knives concealed beneath their cloaks and murder hidden in their hearts. For every hour of fighting, a Kingsguard knight spent ten thousand hours watching, waiting, standing silent in the shadows. King Hizdahr's pit fighters were already growing bored and restive with their new duties, and bored men were lax, slow to react.

"I shall deal with Khrazz," said Ser Barristan. "Just make certain I do not need to deal with any Brazen Beasts as well."

"Have no fear. We will have Marghaz in chains before he can make mischief. I told you, the Brazen Beasts are mine."

"You say you have men amongst the Yunkishmen?"

"Sneaks and spies. Reznak has more."

Reznak cannot be trusted. He smells too sweet and feels too foul.

"Someone needs to free our hostages. Unless we get our people back, the Yunkai'i will use them against us."

Skahaz snorted through the noseholes of his mask. "Easy to speak of rescue. Harder to do. Let the slavers threaten."

"And if they do more than threaten?"

"Would you miss them so much, old man? A eunuch, a savage, and a sell sword?"

Hero, Jhogo, and Daario. "Jhogo is the queen's bloodrider, blood of her blood. They came out of the Red Waste together. Hero is Grey Worm's second-in-command. And Daario ..." She loves Daario. He had seen it in her eyes when she looked at him, heard it in her voice when she spoke of him. "... Daario is vain and rash, but he is dear to Her Grace. He must be rescued, before his Stormcrows decide to take matters into their own hands. It can be done. I once brought the queen's father safely out of Duskendale, where he was being held captive by a rebel lord, but ..."

"... you could never hope to pass unnoticed amongst the Yunkai'i. Every man of them knows your face by now."

I could hide my face, like you, thought Selmy, but he knew the Shavepate was right. Duskendale had been a lifetime ago. He was too old for such heroics. "Then we must needs find some other way. Some other rescuer. Someone known to the Yunkishmen, whose presence in their camp might go unnoticed ..."

"Daario calls you Ser Grandfather," Skahaz reminded him. "I will not say what he calls me. If you and I were the hostages, would he risk his skin for us?"

Not likely, he thought, but he said, "He might."

"Daario might piss on us if we were burning. Elsewise do not look to him for help. Let the Stormcrows choose another captain, one who knows his place. If the queen does not return, the world will be one sellsword short. Who will grieve?"

"And when she does return?"

"She will weep and tear her hair and curse the Yunkai'i. Not us. No blood on our hands. You can comfort her. Tell her some tale of the old days, she likes those. Poor Daario, her brave captain ... she will never forget him, no ... but better for all of us if he is dead, yes? Better for Daenerys too."

Better for Daenerys, and for Westeros. Daenerys Targaryen loved her captain, but that was the girl in her, not the queen. Prince Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna, and thousands died for it. Daemon Blackfyre loved the first Daenerys, and rose in rebellion when denied her. Bittersteel and Bloodraven both loved Shiera Seastar, and the Seven Kingdoms bled. The Prince of Dragonflies loved Jenny of Oldstones so much he cast aside a crown, and Westeros paid the bride price in corpses. All three of the sons of the fifth Aegon had wed for love, in defiance of their father's wishes. And because that unlikely monarch had himself followed his heart when he chose his queen, he allowed his sons to have their way, making bitter enemies where he might have had fast friends. Treason and turmoil followed, as night follows day, ending at Summerhall in sorcery, fire, and grief. Her love for Daario is poison. A slower poison than the locusts, but in the end as deadly. "There is still Jhogo," Ser Barristan said. "Him, and Hero. Both precious to Her Grace."

"We have hostages as well," Skahaz Shavepate reminded him. "If the slav ers kill one of ours, we kill one of theirs."

For a moment Ser Barristan did not know whom he meant. Then it came to him. "The queen's cupbearers?"

"Hostages, " insisted Skahaz mo Kandaq. "Grazdar and Qezza are the blood of the Green Grace. Mezzara is of Merreq, Kezmya is Pahl, Azzak Ghazeen. Bhakaz is Loraq, Hizdahr'

s own kin. All are sons and daughters of

the pyramids. Zhak, Quazzar, Uhlez, Hazkar, Dhazak, Yherizan, all children of Great Masters."

"Innocent girls and sweet-faced boys." Ser Barristan had come to know them all during the time they served the queen, Grazhar with his dreams of glory, shy Mezzara, lazy Miklaz, vain, pretty Kezmya, Qezza with her big soft eyes and angel's voice, Dhazzar the dancer, and the rest.


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