she told the grass, and the grass murmured its agreement.
Thrice that day she caught sight of Drogon. Once he was so far off that he might have been an eagle, slipping in and out of distant clouds, but Dany knew the look of him by now, even when he was no more than a speck. The second time he passed before the sun, his black wings spread, and the world darkened. The last time he flew right above her, so close she could hear the sound of his wings. For half a heartbeat Dany thought that he was hunting her, but he flew on without taking any notice of her and vanished somewhere in the east. Just as well, she thought.
Evening took her almost unawares. As the sun was gilding the distant spires of Dragonstone, Dany stumbled onto a low stone wall, overgrown and broken. Perhaps it had been part of a temple, or the hall of the village lord. More ruins lay beyond it - an old well, and some circles in the grass that marked the sites where hovels had once stood. They had been built of mud and straw, she judged, but long years of wind and rain had worn them away to nothing. Dany found eight before the sun went down, but there might have been more farther out, hidden in the grass.
The stone wall had endured better than the rest. Though it was nowhere more than three feet high, the angle where it met another, lower wall still offered some shelter from the elements, and night was coming on fast. Dany wedged herself into that corner, making a nest of sorts by tearing up handfuls of the grass that grew around the ruins. She was very tired, and fresh blisters had appeared on both her feet, including a matched set upon her pinky toes. It must be from the way I walk, she thought, giggling. As the world darkened, Dany settled in and closed her eyes, but sleep refused to come. The night was cold, the ground hard, her belly empty. She found herself thinking of Meereen, of Daario, her love, and Hizdahr, her husband, of Irri and Jhiqui and sweet Missandei, Ser Barristan and Reznak and Skahaz Shavepate. Do they fear me dead? I flew off on a dragon' s back. Will they think he ate me? She wondered if Hizdahr was still king. His crown had come from her, could he hold it in her absence? He wanted Drogon dead. I heard him. "Kill it, " he screamed, "kill the beast, " and the look upon his face was lustful. And Strong Belwas had been on his knees, heaving and shuddering. Poison. It had to be poison. The honeyed locusts. Hizdahr urged them on me, but Belwas ate them all. She had made Hizdahr her king, taken him into her bed, opened the fighting pits for him, he had no reason to want her dead. Yet who else could it have been? Reznak, her perfumed seneschal? The Yunkai'i? The Sons of the Harpy?
Off in the distance, a wolf howled. The sound made her feel sad and lonely, but no less hungry. As the moon rose above the grasslands, Dany slipped at last into a restless sleep.
She dreamed. All her cares fell away from her, and all her pains as well, and she seemed to float upward into the sky. She was flying once again, spinning, laughing, dancing, as the stars wheeled around her and whispered secrets in her ear. "To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward, you must go back. To touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow."
"Quaithe?" Dany called. "Where are you, Quaithe?"
Then she saw. Her mask is made of starlight. "Remember who you are, Daenerys," the stars whispered in a woman's voice. "The dragons know. Do you?"
The next morning she woke stiff and sore and aching, with ants crawling on her arms and legs and face. When she realized what they were, she kicked aside the stalks of dry brown grass that had served as her bed and blanket and struggled to her feet. She had bites all over her, little red bumps, itchy and inflamed. Where did all the ants come from? Dany brushed them from her arms and legs and belly. She ran a hand across her stubbly scalp where her hair had burned away, and felt more ants on her head, and one crawling down the back of her neck. She knocked them off and crushed them under her bare feet. There were so many ...
It turned out that their anthill was on the other side of her wall. She wondered how the ants had managed to climb over it and find her. To them these tumbledown stones must loom as huge as the Wall of Westeros. The biggest wall in all the world, her brother Viserys used to say, as proud as if he'd built it himself.
Viserys told her tales of knights so poor that they had to sleep beneath the ancient hedges that grew along the byways of the Seven Kingdoms. Dany would have given much and more for a nice thick hedge. Preferably one without an anthill.
The sun was only just coming up. A few bright stars lingered in the cobalt sky. Perhaps one of them is Khal Drogo, sitting on his fiery stallion in the night lands and smiling down on me. Dragonstone was still visible above the grasslands. It looks so close. I must be leagues away by now, but it looks as if I could be back in an hour. She wanted to lie back down, close her eyes, and give herself up to sleep. No. I must keep going. The stream. Just follow the stream.
Dany took a moment to make certain of her directions. It would not do to walk the wrong way and lose her stream. "My friend," she said aloud.
"If I stay close to my friend I won't get lost." She would have slept beside the water if she dared, but there were animals who came down to the stream to drink at night. She had seen their tracks. Dany would make a poor meal for a wolf or lion, but even a poor meal was better than none. Once she was certain which way was south, she counted off her paces. The stream appeared at eight. Dany cupped her hands to drink. The water made her belly cramp, but cramps were easier to bear than thirst. She had no other drink but the morning dew that glistened on the tall grass, and no food at all unless she cared to eat the grass. I could try eating ants. The little yellow ones were too small to provide much in the way of nourishment, but there were red ants in the grass, and those were bigger. "I am lost at sea,"
she said as she limped along beside her meandering rivulet, "so perhaps I'
ll find some crabs, or a nice fat fish." Her whip slapped softly against her thigh, wap wap wap. One step at a time, and the stream would see her home. Just past midday she came upon a bush growing by the stream, its twisted limbs covered with hard green berries. Dany squinted at them suspiciously, then plucked one from a branch and nibbled at it. Its flesh was tart and chewy, with a bitter aftertaste that seemed familiar to her. "In the khalasar, they used berries like these to flavor roasts," she decided. Saying it aloud made her more certain of it. Her belly rumbled, and Dany found herself picking berries with both hands and tossing them into her mouth. An hour later, her stomach began to cramp so badly that she could not go on. She spent the rest of that day retching up green slime. If I stay here, I will die. I may be dying now. Would the horse god of the Dothraki part the grass and claim her for his starry khalasar, so she might ride the night-lands with Khal Drogo? In Westeros the dead of House Targaryen were given to the flames, but who would light her pyre here? My flesh will feed the wolves and carrion crows, she thought sadly, and worms will burrow through my womb. Her eyes went back to Dragonstone. It looked smaller. She could see smoke rising from its wind-carved summit, miles away. Drogon has returned from hunting.
Sunset found her squatting in the grass, groaning. Every stool was looser than the one before, and smelled fouler. By the time the moon came up she was shitting brown water. The more she drank, the more she shat, but the more she shat, the thirstier she grew, and her thirst sent her crawling to the stream to suck up more water. When she closed her eyes at last, Dany did not know whether she would be strong enough to open them again. She dreamt of her dead brother.
Viserys looked just as he had the last time she'd seen him. His mouth was twisted in anguish, his hair was burnt, and his face was black and smoking where the molten gold had run down across his brow and cheeks and into his eyes.
"You are dead," Dany said.
Murdered. Though his lips never moved, somehow she could hear his voice, whispering in her ear. You never mourned me, sister. It is hard to die unmourned.
"I loved you once."
Once, he said, so bitterly it made her shudder. You were supposed to be my wife, to bear me children with silver hair and purple eyes, to keep the blood of the dragon pure. I took care of you. I taught you who you were. I fed you. I sold our mother' s crown to keep you fed.
"You hurt me. You frightened me."
Only when you woke the dragon. I loved you. "You sold me. You betrayed me."
No. You were the betrayer. You turned against me, against your own blood. They cheated me. Your horsey husband and his stinking savages. They were cheats and liars. They promised me a golden crown and gave me this. He touched the molten gold that was creeping down his face, and smoke rose from his finger.
"You could have had your crown," Dany told him. "My
sun-and-stars would have won it for you if only you had waited."
I waited long enough. I waited my whole life. I was their king, their rightful king. They laughed at me.
"You should have stayed in Pentos with Magister Illyrio. Khal Drogo had to present me to the dosh khaleen, but you did not have to ride with us. That was your choice. Your mistake."
Do you want to wake the dragon, you stupid little whore? Drogo' s khalasar was mine. I bought them from him, a hundred thousand screamers. I paid for them with your maidenhead.
"You never understood. Dothraki do not buy and sell. They give gifts and receive them. If you had waited ..."
I did wait. For my crown, for my throne, for you. All those years, and all I ever got was a pot of molten gold. Why did they give the dragon' s eggs to you? They should have been mine. If I' d had a dragon, I would have taught the world the meaning of our words. Viserys began to laugh, until his jaw fell away from his face, smoking, and blood and molten gold ran from his mouth.
When she woke, gasping, her thighs were slick with blood.
For a moment she did not realize what it was. The world had just begun to lighten, and the tall grass rustled softly in the wind. No, please, let me sleep some more. I' m so tired. She tried to burrow back beneath the pile of grass she had torn up when she went to sleep. Some of the stalks felt wet. Had it rained again? She sat up, afraid that she had soiled herself as she slept. When she brought her fingers to her face, she could smell the blood on them. Am I dying? Then she saw the pale crescent moon, floating high above the grass, and it came to her that this was no more than her moon blood. If she had not been so sick and scared, that might have come as a relief. Instead she began to shiver violently. She rubbed her fingers through the dirt, and grabbed a handful of grass to wipe between her legs. The dragon does not weep. She was bleeding, but it was only woman's blood. The moon is still a crescent, though. How can that be? She tried to remember the last time she had bled. The last full moon? The one before?
The one before that? No, it cannot have been so long as that. "I am the blood of the dragon," she told the grass, aloud.
Once, the grass whispered back, until you chained your dragons in the dark.
"Drogon killed a little girl. Her name was ... her name ..." Dany could not recall the child's name. That made her so sad that she would have cried if all her tears had not been burned away. "I will never have a little girl. I was the Mother of Dragons."
Aye, the grass said, but you turned against your children. Her belly was empty, her feet sore and blistered, and it seemed to her that the cramping had grown worse. Her guts were full of writhing snakes biting at her bowels. She scooped up a handful of mud and water in trembling hands. By midday the water would be tepid, but in the chill of dawn it was almost cool and helped her keep her eyes open. As she splashed her face, she saw fresh blood on her thighs. The ragged hem of her under-tunic was stained with it. The sight of so much red frightened her. Moon blood, it' s only my moon blood, but she did not remember ever having such a heavy flow. Could it be the water? If it was the water, she was doomed. She had to drink or die of thirst.