"I never saw Joffrey's corpse, nor Robert's," growled the Eel's proprietor. "Maybe they're all alive as well. Maybe Baelor the Blessed's just been having him a little nap all these years."
The old fellow made a face. "Prince Viserys weren't the only dragon,were he? Are we sure they killed Prince Rhaegar's son? A babe, he was."
"Wasn't there some princess too?" asked a whore. She was the same one who'd said the meat was grey.
"Two," said the old fellow. "One was Rhaegar's daughter, t'other was his sister."
"Daena," said the riverman. "That was the sister. Daena of Dragon-stone. Or was it Daera?"
"Daena was old King Baelor's wife," said the oarsman. "I rowed on a ship named for her once. The Princess Daena. "
"If she was a king's wife, she'd be a queen."
"Baelor never had a queen. He was holy."
"Don't mean he never wed his sister," said the whore. "He just never bedded her, is all. When they made him king, he locked her up in a tower. His other sisters too. There was three."
"Daenela," the proprietor said loudly. "That was her name. The Mad King's daughter, I mean, not Baelor's bloody wife."
"Daenerys, " Davos said. "She was named for the Daenerys who wed the Prince of Dorne during the reign of Daeron the Second. I don't know what became of her."
"I do," said the man who'd started all the talk of dragons, a Braavosi oarsman in a somber woolen jack. "When we were down to Pentos we moored beside a trader called the Sloe-Eyed Maid, and I got to drinking with her captain's steward. He told me a pretty tale about some slip of a girl who come aboard in Qarth, to try and book passage back to Westeros for her and three dragons. Silver hair she had, and purple eyes. 'I took her to the captain my own self,' this steward swore to me, 'but he wasn't having none of that. There's more profit in cloves and saffron, he tells me, and spices won't set fire to your sails.' "
Laughter swept the cellar. Davos did not join in. He knew what had befallen the Sloe-Eyed Maid. The gods were cruel to let a man sail across half the world, then send him chasing a false light when he was almost home. That captain was a bolder man than me, he thought, as he made his way to the door. One voyage to the east, and a man could live as rich as a lord until the end of his days. When he'd been younger, Davos had dreamed of making such voyages himself, but the years went dancing by like moths around a flame, and somehow the time had never been quite right. One day, he told himself. One day when the war is done and King Stannis sits the Iron Throne and has no more need of onion knights. I' ll take Devan with me. Steff and Stanny too if they' re old enough. We' ll see these dragons and all the wonders of the world.
Outside the wind was gusting, making the flames shiver in the oil lamps that lit the yard. It had grown colder since the sun went down, but Davos remembered Eastwatch, and how the wind would come screaming off the Wall at night, knifing through even the warmest cloak to freeze a man's blood right in his veins. White Harbor was a warm bath by comparison. There were other places he might get his ears filled: an inn famous for its lamprey pies, the alehouse where the wool factors and the customs men did their drinking, a mummer's hall where bawdy entertainments could be had for a few pennies. But Davos felt that he had heard enough. I' ve come too late. Old instinct made him reach for his chest, where once he'd kept his fingerbones in a little sack on a leather thong. There was nothing there. He had lost his luck in the fires of the Blackwater, when he'd lost his ship and sons.
What must I do now? He pulled his mantle tighter. Do I climb the hill and present myself at the gates of the New Castle, to make a futile plea?
Return to Sisterton? Make my way back to Marya and my boys? Buy a horse and ride the kingsroad, to tell Stannis that he has no friends in White Harbor, and no hope?
Queen Selyse had feasted Salla and his captains, the night before the fleet had set sail. Cotter Pyke had joined them, and four other high officers of the Night's Watch. Princess Shireen had been allowed to attend as well. As the salmon was being served, Ser Axell Florent had entertained the table with the tale of a Targaryen princeling who kept an ape as a pet. This prince liked to dress the creature in his dead son's clothes and pretend he was a child, Ser Axell claimed, and from time to time he would propose marriages for him. The lords so honored always declined politely, but of course they did decline. "Even dressed in silk and velvet, an ape remains an ape," Ser Axell said. "A wiser prince would have known that you cannot send an ape to do a man's work." The queen's men laughed, and several grinned at Davos. I am no ape, he'd thought. I am as much a lord as you, and a better man. But the memory still stung.
The Seal Gate had been closed for the night. Davos would not be able to return to the Merry Midwife till dawn. He was here for the night. He gazed up at Old Fishfoot with his broken trident. I have come through rain and wrack and storm. I will not go back without doing what I came for, no matter how hopeless it may seem. He might have lost his fingers and his luck, but he was no ape in velvet. He was a King's Hand.
Castle Stair was a street with steps, a broad white stone way that led up from the Wolf's Den by the water to the New Castle on its hill. Marble mermaids lit the way as Davos climbed, bowls of burning whale oil cradled in their arms. When he reached the top, he turned to look behind him. From here he could see down into the harbors. Both of them. Behind the jetty wall, the inner harbor was crowded with war galleys. Davos counted twenty-three. Lord Wyman was a fat man, but not an idle one, it seemed.
The gates of the New Castle had been closed, but a postern opened when he shouted, and a guard emerged to ask his business. Davos showed him the black and gold ribbon that bore the royal seals. "I need to see Lord Manderly at once," he said. "My business is with him, and him alone."
The dancers shimmered, their sleek shaved bodies covered with a fine sheen of oil. Blazing torches whirled from hand to hand to the beat of drums and the trilling of a flute. Whenever two torches crossed in the air, a naked girl leapt between them, spinning. The torchlight shone off oiled limbs and br**sts and bu**ocks.
The three men were erect. The sight of their arousal was arousing, though Daenerys Targaryen found it comical as well. The men were all of a height, with long legs and flat bellies, every muscle as sharply etched as if it had been chiseled out of stone. Even their faces looked the same, somehow ... which was passing strange, since one had skin as dark as ebony, while the second was as pale as milk, and the third gleamed like burnished copper.
Are they meant to inflame me? Dany stirred amongst her silken cushions. Against the pillars her Unsullied stood like statues in their spiked caps, their smooth faces expressionless. Not so the whole men. Reznak mo Reznak's mouth was open, and his lips glistened wetly as he watched. Hizdahr zo Loraq was saying something to the man beside him, yet all the time his eyes were on the dancing girls. The Shavepate's ugly, oily face was as stern as ever, but he missed nothing.
It was harder to know what her honored guest was dreaming. The pale, lean, hawk-faced man who shared her high table was resplendent in robes of maroon silk and cloth-of-gold, his bald head shining in the torchlight as he devoured a fig with small, precise, elegant bites. Opals winked along the nose of Xaro Xhoan Daxos as his head turned to follow the dancers. In his honor Daenerys had donned a Qartheen gown, a sheer
confection of violet samite cut so as to leave her left breast bare. Her silver-gold hair brushed lightly over her shoulder, falling almost to her nipple. Half the men in the hall had stolen glances at her, but not Xaro. It was the same in Qarth. She could not sway the merchant prince that way. Sway him I must, however. He had come from Qarth upon the galleas Silken Cloud with thirteen galleys sailing attendance, his fleet an answered prayer. Meereen's trade had dwindled away to nothing since she had ended slavery, but Xaro had the power to restore it.
As the drums reached a crescendo, three of the girls leapt above the flames, spinning in the air. The male dancers caught them about the waists and slid them down onto their members. Dany watched as the women arched their backs and coiled their legs around their partners while the flutes wept and the men thrust in time to the music. She had seen the act of love before; the Dothraki mated as openly as their mares and stallions. This was the first time she had seen lust put to music, though.
Her face was warm. The wine, she told herself. Yet somehow she found herself thinking of Daario Naharis. His messenger had come that morning. The Stormcrows were returning from Lhazar. Her captain was riding back to her, bringing her the friendship of the Lamb Men. Food and trade, she reminded herself. He did not fail me, nor will he. Daario will help me save my city. The queen longed to see his face, to stroke his three-pronged beard, to tell him her troubles ... but the Stormcrows were still many days away, beyond the Khyzai Pass, and she had a realm to rule. Smoke hung between the purple pillars. The dancers knelt, heads bowed. "You were splendid," Dany told them. "Seldom have I seen such grace, such beauty." She beckoned to Reznak mo Reznak, and the seneschal scurried to her side. Beads of sweat dotted his bald, wrinkled head. "Escort our guests to the baths, that they may refresh themselves, and bring them food and drink."
"It shall be my great honor, Magnificence."
Daenerys held out her cup for Irri to refill. The wine was sweet and strong, redolent with the smell of eastern spices, much superior to the thin Ghiscari wines that had filled her cup of late. Xaro perused the fruits on the platter Jhiqui offered him and chose a persimmon. Its orange skin matched the color of the coral in his nose. He took a bite and pursed his lips. "Tart."
"Would my lord prefer something sweeter?"
"Sweetness cloys. Tart fruit and tart women give life its savor."
Xaro took another bite, chewed, swallowed. "Daenerys, sweet queen, I cannot tell you what pleasure it gives me to bask once more in your presence. A child departed Qarth, as lost as she was lovely. I feared she was sailing to her doom, yet now I find her here enthroned, mistress of an ancient city, surrounded by a mighty host that she raised up out of dreams."
No, she thought, out of blood and fire. "I am glad you came to me. It is good to see your face again, my friend." I will not trust you, but I need you. I need your Thirteen, I need your ships, I need your trade. For centuries Meereen and her sister cities Yunkai and Astapor had been the linchpins of the slave trade, the place where Dothraki khals and the corsairs of the Basilisk Isles sold their captives and the rest of the world came to buy. Without slaves, Meereen had little to offer traders. Copper was plentiful in the Ghiscari hills, but the metal was not as valuable as it had been when bronze ruled the world. The cedars that had once grown tall along the coast grew no more, felled by the axes of the Old Empire or consumed by dragonfire when Ghis made war against Valyria. Once the trees had gone, the soil baked beneath the hot sun and blew away in thick red clouds. "It was these calamities that transformed my people into slavers," Galazza Galare had told her, at the Temple of the Graces. And I am the calamity that will change these slavers back into people, Dany had sworn to herself.