A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire 5) - Page 90

It took some courage to say that to my face. "Are you speaking of King's Landing or Volantis?"

"Both." Tears glistened in her eyes. "Everything. Why couldn't you just come joust with us, the way the king wanted? You wouldn't have gotten hurt. What would that have cost m'lord, to climb up on our dog and ride a tilt to please the boy? It was just a bit of fun. They would have laughed at you, that's all."

"They would have laughed at me," said Tyrion. I made them laugh at Joff instead. And wasn' t that a clever ploy?

"My brother says that is a good thing, making people laugh. A noble thing, and honorable. My brother says ... he ..."

The tears fell then, rolling

down her face.

"I am sorry about your brother." Tyrion had said the same words to her before, back in Volantis, but she was so far gone in grief back there that he doubted she had heard them.

She heard them now. "Sorry. You are sorry." Her lip was trembling, her cheeks were wet, her eyes were red-rimmed holes. "We left King's Landing that very night. My brother said it was for the best, before someone wondered if we'd had some part in the king's death and decided to torture us to find out. We went to Tyrosh first. My brother thought that would be far enough, but it wasn't. We knew a juggler there. For years and years he would juggle every day by the Fountain of the Drunken God. He was old, so his hands were not as deft as they had been, and sometimes he would drop his balls and chase them across the square, but the Tyroshi would laugh and throw him coins all the same. Then one morning we heard that his body had been found at the Temple of Trios. Trios has three heads, and there's a big statue of him beside the temple doors. The old man had been cut into three parts and pushed inside the threefold mouths of Trios. Only when the parts were sewn back together, his head was gone."

"A gift for my sweet sister. He was another dwarf."

"A little man, aye. Like you, and Oppo. Groat. Are you sorry about the juggler too?"

"I never knew your juggler existed until this very moment ... but yes, I am sorry he is dead."

"He died for you. His blood is on your hands."

The accusation stung, coming so hard on the heels of Jorah Mormont'

s words. "His blood is on my sister's hands, and the hands of the brutes who killed him. My hands ..." Tyrion turned them over, inspected them, coiled them into fists. "... my hands are crusted with old blood, aye. Call me kinslayer, and you won't be wrong. Kingslayer, I'll answer to that one as well. I have killed mothers, fathers, nephews, lovers, men and women, kings and whores. A singer once annoyed me, so I had the bastard stewed. But I have never killed a juggler, nor a dwarf, and I am not to blame for what happened to your bloody brother."

Penny picked the cup of wine he'd poured for her and threw it in his face. Just like my sweet sister. He heard the galley door slam but never saw her leave. His eyes were stinging, and the world was a blur. So much for befriending her.

Tyrion Lannister had scant experience with other dwarfs. His lord father had not welcomed any reminders of his son's deformities, and such mummers as featured little folk in their troupes soon learned to stay away from Lannisport and Casterly Rock, at the risk of his displeasure. Growing up, Tyrion heard reports of a dwarf jester at the seat of the Dornish Lord Fowler, a dwarf maester in service on the Fingers, and a female dwarf amongst the silent sisters, but he never felt the least need to seek them out. Less reliable tales also reached his ears, of a dwarf witch who haunted a hill in the riverlands, and a dwarf whore in King's Landing renowned for coupling with dogs. His own sweet sister had told him of the last, even offering to find him a bitch in heat if he cared to try it out. When he asked politely if she were referring to herself, Cersei had thrown a cup of wine in his face. That was red, as I recall, and this is gold. Tyrion mopped at his face with a sleeve. His eyes still stung.

He did not see Penny again until the day of the storm.

The salt air lay still and heavy that morning, but the western sky was a fiery red, streaked with lowering clouds that glowed as bright as Lannister crimson. Sailors were dashing about battening hatches, running lines, clearing the decks, lashing down everything that was not already lashed down. "Bad wind coming," one warned him. "No-Nose should get below."

Tyrion remembered the storm he'd suffered crossing the narrow sea, the way the deck had jumped beneath his feet, the hideous creaking sounds the ship had made, the taste of wine and vomit. "No-Nose will stay up here." If the gods wanted him, he would sooner die by drowning than choking on his own vomit. And overhead the cog's canvas sail rippled slowly, like the fur of some great beast stirring from a long sleep, then filled with a sudden crack that turned every head on the ship. The winds drove the cog before them, far off her chosen course. Behind them black clouds piled one atop another against a blood-red sky. By midmorning they could see lightning flickering to the west, followed by the distant crash of thunder. The sea grew rougher, and dark waves rose up to smash against the hull of the Stinky Steward. It was about then that the crew started hauling down the canvas. Tyrion was underfoot amid-ships, so he climbed the forecastle and hunkered down, savoring the lash of cold rain on his cheeks. The cog went up and down, bucking more wildly than any horse he'd ever ridden, lifting with each wave before sliding down into the troughs between, jarring him to the bones. Even so, it was better here where he could see than down below locked in some airless cabin. By the time the storm broke, evening was upon them and Tyrion Lannister was soaked through to the smallclothes, yet somehow he felt elated ... and even more so later, when he found a drunken Jorah Mor-mont in a pool of vomit in their cabin.

The dwarf lingered in the galley after supper, celebrating his survival by sharing a few tots of black tar rum with the ship's cook, a great greasy loutish Volantene who spoke only one word of the Common Tongue ( f**k), but played a ferocious game of cyvasse, particularly when drunk. They played three games that night. Tyrion won the first, then lost the other two. After that he decided that he'd had enough and stumbled back up on deck to clear his head of rum and elephants alike.

He found Penny on the forecastle, where he had so often found Ser Jorah, standing by the rail beside the cog's hideous half-rotted figurehead and gazing out across the inky sea. From behind, she looked as small and vulnerable as a child.

Tyrion thought it best to leave her undisturbed, but it was too late. She had heard him. "Hugor Hill."

"If you like." We both know better. "I am sorry to intrude on you. I will retire."

"No." Her face was pale and sad, but she did not look to have been crying. "I'm sorry too. About the wine. It wasn't you who killed my brother or that poor old man in Tyrosh."

"I played a part, though not by choice."

"I miss him so much. My brother. I ..."

"I understand." He found himself thinking of Jaime. Count yourself lucky. Your brother died before he could betray you.

"I thought I wanted to die," she said, "but today when the storm came and I thought the ship would sink, I ... I ..."

"You realized that you wanted to live after all." I have been there too. Something else we have in common.

Her teeth were crooked, which made her shy with her smiles, but she smiled now. "Did you truly cook a singer in a stew?"

"Who, me? No. I do not cook."

When Penny giggled, she sounded like the sweet young girl she was ... seventeen, eighteen, no more than nineteen. "What did he do, this singer?"

"He wrote a song about me." For she was his secret treasure, she was his shame and his bliss. And a chain and a keep are nothing, compared to a woman' s kiss. It was queer how quick the words came back to him. Perhaps they had never left him. Hands of gold are always cold, but a woman' s hands are warm.

"It must have been a very bad song."

"Not really. It was no 'Rains of Castamere,' mind you, but some parts were ... well ..."

"How did it go?"

He laughed. "No. You do not want to hear me sing."

"My mother used to sing to us when we were children. My brother and me. She always said that it didn't matter what your voice was like so long as you loved the song."

"Was she ... ?"

"... a little person? No, but our father was. His own father sold him to a slaver when he was three, but he grew up to be such a famous mummer that he bought his freedom. He traveled to all the Free Cities, and Westeros as well. In Oldtown they used to call him Hop-Bean."

Of course they did. Tyrion tried not to wince. "He's dead now,"

Penny went on. "My mother too. Oppo ... he was my last family, and now he's gone too." She turned her head away and gazed out across the sea.

"What will I do? Where will I go? I have no trade, just the jousting show, and that needs two."

No, thought Tyrion. That is not a place you want to go, girl. Do not ask that of me. Do not even think it. "Find yourself some likely orphan boy," he suggested.

Penny did not seem to hear that. "It was Father's idea to do the tilts. He even trained the first pig, but by then he was too sick to ride her, so Oppo took his place. I always rode the dog. We performed for the Sealord of Braavos once, and he laughed so hard that afterward he gave each of us a ...

a grand gift."

"Is that where my sister found you? In Braavos?"

"Your sister?" The girl looked lost. "Queen Cersei."

Penny shook her head. "She never ... it was a man who came to us, in Pentos. Osmund. No, Oswald. Something like that. Oppo met with him, not me. Oppo made all of our arrangements. My brother always knew what to do, where we should go next."

"Meereen is where we're going next."

She gave him a puzzled look. "Qarth, you mean. We're bound for Qarth, by way of New Ghis."

"Meereen. You'll ride your dog for the dragon queen and come away with your weight in gold. Best start eating more, so you'll be nice and plump when you joust before Her Grace."

Penny did not return the smile. "By myself, all I can do is ride around in circles. And even if the queen should laugh, where will I go afterward?

We never stay in one place long. The first time they see us they laugh and laugh, but by the fourth or fifth time, they know what we're going to do before we do it. Then they stop laughing, so we have to go somewhere new. We make the most coin in the big cities, but I always liked the little towns the best. Places like that, the people have no silver, but they feed us at their own tables, and the children follow us everywhere."

That' s because they have never seen a dwarf before, in their wretched pisspot towns, Tyrion thought. The bloody brats would follow around a two-headed goat if one turned up. Until they got bored with its bleating and slaughtered it for supper. But he had no wish to make her weep again, so instead he said, "Daenerys has a kind heart and a generous nature." It was what she needed to hear. "She will find a place for you at her court, I don'

t doubt. A safe place, beyond my sister's reach."

Penny turned back to him. "And you will be there too."

Unless Daenerys decides she needs some Lannister blood, to pay for the Targaryen blood my brother shed. "I will."

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