A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire 5) - Page 75

Yes, Tyrion wanted to say. Give me a crossbow, and I' ll show you my favorite. "No," Ser Jorah answered.

"A pity. I once had a monkey who could perform all sorts of clever tricks. Your dwarf reminds me of him. Is he a gift?"

"No. I brought you these." Ser Jorah produced his pair of gloves, and slapped them down on the table beside the other gifts the widow had received this morning: a silver goblet, an ornate fan carved of jade leaves so thin they were translucent, and an ancient bronze dagger marked with runes. Beside such treasures the gloves looked cheap and tawdry.

"Gloves for my poor old wrinkled hands. How nice." The widow made no move to touch them.

"I bought them on the Long Bridge."

"A man can buy most anything on the Long Bridge. Gloves, slaves, monkeys." The years had bent her spine and put a crone's hump upon her back, but the widow's eyes were bright and black. "Now tell this old widow how she may be of service to you."

"We need swift passage to Meereen."

One word. Tyrion Lannister's world turned upside down.

One word. Meereen. Or had he misheard?

One word. Meereen, he said Meereen, he' s taking me to Meereen. Meereen meant life. Or hope for life, at least.

"Why come to me?" the widow said. "I own no ships."

"You have many captains in your debt."

Deliver me to the queen, he says. Aye, but which queen? He isn' t selling me to Cersei. He' s giving me to Daenerys Targaryen. That' s why he hasn' t hacked my head off. We' re going east, and Griff and his prince are going west, the bloody fools.

Oh, it was all too much. Plots within plots, but all roads lead down the dragon' s gullet. A guffaw burst from his lips, and suddenly Tyrion could not stop laughing.

"Your dwarf is having a fit," the widow observed. "My dwarf will be quiet, or I'll see him gagged."

Tyrion covered his mouth with his hands. Meereen!

The widow of the waterfront decided to ignore him. "Shall we have a drink?" she asked. Dust motes floated in the air as a serving girl filled two green glass cups for Ser Jorah and the widow. Tyrion's throat was dry, but no cup was poured for him. The widow took a sip, rolled the wine round her mouth, swallowed. "All the other exiles are sailing west, or so these old ears have heard. And all those captains in my debt are falling over one another to take them there and leach a little gold from the coffers of the Golden Company. Our noble triarchs have pledged a dozen warships to the cause, to see the fleet safely as far as the Stepstones. Even old Doniphos has given his assent. Such a glorious adventure. And yet you would go the other way, ser."

"My business is in the east."

"And what business is that, I wonder? Not slaves, the silver queen has put an end to that. She has closed the fighting pits as well, so it cannot be a taste for blood. What else could Meereen offer to a Westerosi knight?

Bricks? Olives? Dragons? Ah, there it is." The old woman's smile turned feral. "I have heard it said that the silver queen feeds them with the flesh of infants while she herself bathes in the blood of virgin girls and takes a different lover every night."

Ser Jorah's mouth had hardened. "The Yunkai'i are pouring poison in your ears. My lady should not believe such filth."

"I am no lady, but even Vogarro's whore knows the taste of falsehood. This much is true, though ... the dragon queen has enemies ...

Yunkai, New Ghis, Tolos, Qarth ... aye, and Volantis, soon enough. You would travel to Meereen? Just wait a while, ser. Swords will be wanted soon enough, when the warships bend their oars eastward to bring down the silver queen. Tigers love to bare their claws, and even elephants will kill if threatened. Malaquo hungers for a taste of glory, and Nyessos owes much of his wealth to the slave trade. Let Alios or Parquello or Belicho gain the triarchy, and the fleets will sail."

Ser Jorah scowled. "If Doniphos is returned ..."

"Vogarro will be returned first, and my sweet lord has been dead these thirty years."

Behind them, some sailor was bellowing loudly. "They call this ale?

Fuck. A monkey could piss better ale."

"And you would drink it," another voice replied.

Tyrion twisted around for a look, hoping against hope that it was Duck and Haldon he was hearing. Instead he saw two strangers ... and the dwarf, who was standing a few feet away staring at him intently. He seemed somehow familiar.

The widow sipped daintily at her wine. "Some of the first elephants were women," she said, "the ones who brought the tigers down and ended the old wars. Trianna was returned four times. That was three hundred years ago, alas. Volantis has had no female triarch since, though some women have the vote. Women of good birth who dwell in ancient palaces behind the Black Walls, not creatures such as me. The Old Blood will have their dogs and children voting before any freedman. No, it will be Belicho, or perhaps Alios, but either way it will be war. Or so they think."

"And what do you think?" Ser Jorah asked.

Good, thought Tyrion. The right question. "Oh, I think it will be war as well, but not the war they want." The old woman leaned forward, her black eyes gleaming. "I think that red R'hllor has more worshipers in this city than all the other gods together. Have you heard Benerro preach?"

"Last night."

"Benerro can see the morrow in his flames," the widow said.

"Triarch Malaquo tried to hire the Golden Company, did you know? He meant to clean out the red temple and put Benerro to the sword. He dare not use tiger cloaks. Half of them worship the Lord of Light as well. Oh, these are dire days in Old Volantis, even for wrinkled old widows. But not half so dire as in Meereen, I think. So tell me, ser ... why do you seek the silver queen?"

"That is my concern. I can pay for our passage and pay well. I have the silver."

Fool, thought Tyrion. It' s not coin she wants, it' s respect. Haven' t you heard a word she' s said? He glanced back over his shoulder again. The dwarf had moved closer to their table. And he seemed to have a knife in his hand. The hairs on the back of Tyrion's neck began to prickle.

"Keep your silver. I have gold. And spare me your black looks, ser. I am too old to be frightened of a scowl. You are a hard man, I see, and no doubt skilled with that long sword at your side, but this is my realm. Let me crook a finger and you may find yourself traveling to Meereen chained to an oar in the belly of a galley."

She lifted her jade fan and opened it. There was

a rustle of leaves, and a man slid from the overgrown archway to her left. His face was a mass of scars, and in one hand he held a sword, short and heavy as a cleaver. "Seek the widow of the waterfront, someone told you, but they should have also warned you, beware the widow' s sons. It is such a sweet morning, though, I shall ask again. Why would you seek Daenerys Targaryen, whom half the world wants dead?"

Jorah Mormont's face was dark with anger, but he answered. "To serve her. Defend her. Die for her, if need be."

That made the widow laugh. "You want to rescue her, is that the way of it? From more enemies than I can name, with swords beyond count ...

this is what you'd have the poor widow believe? That you are a true and chivalrous Westerosi knight crossing half the world to come to the aid of this ... well, she is no maiden, though she may still be fair." She laughed again. "Do you think your dwarf will please her? Will she bathe in his blood, do you think, or content herself with striking off his head?"

Ser Jorah hesitated. "The dwarf is - "

" - I know who the dwarf is, and what he is." Her black eyes turned to Tyrion, hard as stone. "Kinslayer, kingslayer, murderer, turncloak. Lannister. " She made the last a curse. "What do you plan to offer the dragon queen, little man?"

My hate, Tyrion wanted to say. Instead he spread his hands as far as the fetters would allow. "Whatever she would have of me. Sage counsel, savage wit, a bit of tumbling. My cock, if she desires it. My tongue, if she does not. I will lead her armies or rub her feet, as she desires. And the only reward I ask is I might be allowed to rape and kill my sister."

That brought the smile back to the old woman's face. "This one at least is honest," she announced, "but you, ser ... I have known a dozen Westerosi knights and a thousand adventurers of the same ilk, but none so pure as you would paint yourself. Men are beasts, selfish and brutal. However gentle the words, there are always darker motives underneath. I do not trust you, ser." She flicked them off with her fan, as if they were no more than flies buzzing about her head. "If you want to get to Meereen, swim. I have no help to give you."

Then seven hells broke out at once.

Ser Jorah started to rise, the widow snapped her fan closed, her scarred man slid out of the shadows ... and behind them a girl screamed. Tyrion spun just in time to see the dwarf rushing toward him. She' s a girl, he realized all at once, a girl dressed up in man' s clothes. And she means to gut me with that knife.

For half a heartbeat Ser Jorah, the widow, and the scarred man stood still as stone. Idlers watched from nearby tables, sipping ale and wine, but no one moved to interfere. Tyrion had to move both hands at once, but his chains had just enough give for him to reach the flagon on the table. He closed his fist around it, spun, dashed its contents into the face of the charging dwarf girl, then threw himself to one side to avoid her knife. The flagon shattered underneath him as the floor came up to smack him in the head. Then the girl was on him once again. Tyrion rolled on one side as she buried the knife blade in the floorboards, yanked it free, raised it again ...

... and suddenly she was rising off the floor, legs kicking wildly as she struggled in Ser Jorah's grasp. "No!" she wailed, in the Common Tongue of Westeros. "Let go!" Tyrion heard her tunic rip as she fought to free herself.

Mormont had her by the collar with one hand. With the other he wrenched the dagger from her grasp. "Enough."

The landlord made his appearance then, a cudgel in his hand. When he saw the broken flagon, he uttered a blistering curse and demanded to know what had happened here. "Dwarf fight,"

replied the Tyroshi with the purple

beard, chuckling.

Tyrion blinked up at the dripping girl twisting in the air. "Why?" he demanded. "What did I ever do to you?"

"They killed him." All the fight went out of her at that. She hung limply in Mormont's grasp as her eyes filled with tears. "My brother. They took him and they killed him."

"Who killed him?" asked Mormont. "Sailors. Sailors from the Seven Kingdoms. There were five of them, drunk. They saw us jousting in the square and followed us. When they realized I was a girl they let me go, but they took my brother and killed him. They cut his head off. "

Tyrion felt a sudden shock of recognition. They saw us jousting in the square. He knew who the girl was then. "Did you ride the pig?" he asked her. "Or the dog?"

"The dog," she sobbed. "Oppo always rode the pig."

The dwarfs from Joffrey' s wedding. It was their show that had started all the trouble that night. How strange, to encounter them again half a world away. Though perhaps not so strange as that. If they had half the wits of their pig, they would have fled King' s Landing the night Joff died, before Cersei could assign them some share of blame in her son' s death. "Let her down, ser," he told Ser Jorah Mormont. "She won't do us any harm."

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