When the vault door opened Xaro fell to his knees. "Oh, thank the Gods. Thank the Gods."
"Not you, king of Qarth," said Ser Jorah, the point of his sword against Xaro's throat. "Only her."
Thank the Gods, thought Doreah.
The khalasar had made camp outside the walls of Qarth, close enough to bring food and water from the city, but far enough away to be a distinct entity.
Doreah walked behind Jorah's horse. She was still wearing the bedrobe she'd been thrown into the vault in, and she was sure her bare feet were going to be bloody and torn by the time they reached the camp.
She recognised what they were doing. They'd had penitent's walks in Lys, too.
Doreah had been a slave since her childhood, she had begged and pleaded and fucked for her life more than once, and she knew how to dance this dance.
Jorah left her in the khaleesi's tent with a gruff but not unkind, "wait here."
In pride of place were the boxes where the dragons slept. Doreah crept over and peeked inside, she should like to see the little creatures once again.
"They are not in there," said Daenerys, the khaleesi had entered the tent with a dragon on each shoulder and one in her arms. "Do you really think I would trust you with my children now?"
Doreah sank to her knees as one of the dragons gave a roar. "Khaleesi, please..."
"Oh, get up. I did not have you brought here to grovel."
Doreah scrambled to her feet, but kept her eyes averted. "Then why...?"
"To explain yourself. I want to know why, Doreah. I thought you-- I am your khaleesi, why would you betray me like this?"
Why? Doreah blinked in confusion, wasn't it obvious? When a slave's owner died, the slave must find a new owner or perish too.
"I had no choice, Khaleesi."
"No choice?" the dragons had picked up on the anger in Daenerys' voice and added their own growls to it. "You had no choice but to sell my dragons to Xaro Xhoan Daxos?"
"Khaleesi, no! I--" Doreah struggled over the words. "Xaro's men killed all the warriors, they took your dragons. He said you were alone, unprotected and surrounded by enemies. He said you were as good as dead. It was either go to his bed willingly or be taken by force."
"You should have believed in me," Daenerys' voice was still hard but it had lost a little of its edge. "You were mine. I would have come for you, I would have saved you."
"As you saved Irri, you mean?" said Doreah, only realising her mistake when Daenerys' palm cracked across her cheek, and the dragon displaced by the slap beat his wings against her face.
Any of the men from the pleasure house, or Viserys even, they would have wanted Doreah to fall to the ground, to cringe and cry. But Doreah did not know what Daenerys wanted from her, so she stood still and silent until the khaleesi said, "You will not speak her name, do you understand me? You will not speak her name."
Daenerys turned away and called for Ser Jorah. "See that Doreah is guarded whenever she is not in my presence. I will not give her leave to betray me further."
When the khaleesi stalked from the tent one of the dragons, the one with the greenish scales, peeked over her shoulder and gave a plaintive little roar at Doreah.
The strange thing was that sometimes Daenerys seemed to be two entirely separate people, and Doreah could not resolve them in her mind.
There was the great khaleesi, the dragon queen of Westeros, who had walked through fire and lived, and who Doreah was completely in awe of, and who she feared almost as much as she lusted for.
Then there was the girl who had lost her husband and son, the girl who'd saved the Lamb women from rape, and who thought the world would bend to her will if only she shouted at it enough. And Doreah had loved that girl, just as she had worried that she was going to get them all killed.
Doreah resumed her duties as handmaiden to the khaleesi. Irri and Jhiqui's duties too, now.
It kept her busy, and so tired that each night she curled up at the foot of the khaleesi's bed and slept like the dead.
Through it all Daenerys didn't speak to her, hardly looked at her.
"Why spare me," Doreah asked, "why keep me by her side when she can't stand the sight of me?"
"She is a queen," said Jorah, "and a queen needs must be merciful."
"But she's not," said Doreah, thinking of darkness and thinning air and Xaro's hoarse sobs. "Not especially."
Doreah thought that the khaleesi might have started to forgive her the morning she woke up late to find Daenerys staring at her with a confused expression on her face, like Doreah was a puzzle she couldn't quite solve.
One of the dragons, the one with the greenish scales who Daenerys had named Rhaegal, and who had always been Doreah's favourite, had crawled out of his box during the night and curled up next to Doreah, his tail wrapped around her arm.
"He likes you," said Daenerys softly. "He always liked you."
The day Daenerys claimed the Lamb women, to spare them the from riders, that was the day Doreah fell in love with her.
She had been in love before, of course. Love was nothing new or special to Doreah. People you loved betrayed you, or were sold to other masters, or found someone else to love who didn't command such a high price.
And then there was the khal, Daenerys' love for her husband was like something from a story.
Loving Daenerys was an idleness, something to pass the time with, to make their journey through the Great Grass Sea less dull.
Then the khal died, the dragons hatched, and Daenerys walked through fire and lived.
Doreah had thought, I'll follow you anywhere, to the edges of the world.
And she had followed the khaleesi into the Red Waste, and the horses had died, Jhiqui had caught a fever and died. Daenerys' pride had nearly seen them turned away from the gates of Qarth. Xaro's men had killed Irri and taken Doreah.
It was not until much later that Doreah realised how betrayed she had felt.
She is not a god, Doreah thought, as she braided the khaleesi's hair in honour of her victory over the warlocks of Qarth.
She is not a god, it is okay to love her as a woman.
The Thirteen of Qarth--
"Eleven," the khaleesi reminded them, "you are eleven now."
--showered them with gifts in the hope of encouraging their departure.
"Almost like a true khalasar," mused Jorah.
"We are a true khalasar, Ser," said Daenerys.
Doreah was surprised when she was given a horse to ride; slaves did not ride among the Dothraki, neither, for the most part, did handmaidens.
"The Thirteen gave us enough for the whole khalasar, near enough," said Daenerys.
So Doreah rode atop a bay mare, and Rhaegal rode atop Doreah's shoulder. It was not that the green dragon preferred her, Daenerys was his mother, but perhaps Doreah was a favoured aunt of some kind.
At any rate, the dragons had reached a size where all three of them could not cling to Daenerys at once.
The coastal road they traveled was supposedly haunted, but this was not like the Red Waste; they had food and water, the warriors were mounted and armed, and they were not surrounded by foes on every side.
Disease caught up with the Khalasar once again. But this time no one, not even Daenerys herself, expected the khaleesi to be able to stop it by force of will alone.
Doreah missed most of what actually happened, being among the first to fall, weak and feverish, from her horse.
When she woke, in the khaleesi's own bed, in the khaleesi's own tent, Daenerys pressed a lingering kiss to her forehead.
"I thought you were lost to me..." she said.
"An airtight vault didn't get rid of me," said Doreah weakly, her throat was cracked and sore. "You'll have to try harder than a fever."
It was Kovarro, the bloodrider who had taken Rakharo's place as the khaleesi's favourite and most trusted, who told Doreah that while she'd been close to death the khaleesi had stayed by her bed every night.
They must cross the water.
It is known, Doreah could almost hear the echo of Irri in her mind.
Jorah had convinced the khaleesi to sail for Slaver's Bay to raise an army rather than heading straight to Westeros.
Doreah was relieved. She was bound now, she could not leave Daenerys Targaryen a second time and live, but she could be grateful for whatever revelation had caused Daenerys to realise that she could not conquer seven kingdoms with three barely grown dragons and her will.
"My Dothraki fear any water their horses cannot drink."
"Then it is almost a shame we did not cross six months ago when we had no horses," said Doreah, and was pleased to see the khaleesi smile.
Most of the Dothraki chose to stay below decks with their horses. Doreah shared a cabin, and a bed, with the khaleesi.
She woke one night to the blankets rustling and Daenerys trying to muffle her sobs in the pillows.
"Shh," said Doreah, pressing her lips to the khaleesi's cheek and tasting her tears.
She caught Daenerys' wrist and slipped her own hand between the khaleesi's thighs. Her fingers fumbled inexpertly, unexpectedly; she'd trained for this in the pleasure house, she'd once been able to keep a woman on edge for hours, but it wasn't long before Daenerys' hips jerked and she gasped against Doreah's neck.
"He's been gone a year--"
"Shh," said Doreah against the khaleesi's mouth. "Shh."
From the deck of their hired ship Doreah watched the dragons dive-bomb each other out of the sky, gasping when Rhaegal came off worse against the black dragon and only just managed to catch himself before he hit the water.
Daenerys watched too with a smile on her face that made her look more like a girl than a queen or a conqueror.
Doreah would have kissed her, if she could.
"My father was murdered by a member of his own kingsguard," said Daenerys, glancing sideways at Doreah. "My brother Rhaegar died on the battlefield fighting those who should have been loyal to him. Viserys sold me to Khal Drogo, and if my Sun-and-Stars had been a different sort of man..."
"I want to trust you, Doreah. I want to allow myself to care for you, but I cannot be betrayed again."
"I understand," was all that Doreah could find to say.
She might need an army, but Daenerys misliked slavers.
She clung to Doreah fiercely in the night. "You are not my slave. I keep no slaves. You are free to leave my side at any time."
"Now you tell me," said Doreah, she was only half-teasing.
Now, she couldn't leave Daenerys Targaryen if she'd wanted to.
"Your Grace," said Doreah.
It was Jorah who had started addressing Daenerys in the manner of Westerosi royalty. Doreah liked it less that khaleesi, it didn't roll off her tongue in the same way, she couldn't breathe it across Daenerys' skin.
"You don't need to, when we're alone, like this-- When we were very small my brother called me Dany."
"Daenerys... Dany..." Doreah whispered
There were no rapes in Daenerys' khalasar. Dothraki tradition said that the khal's will was law, and Daenerys wished for no rapes.
But what struck Doreah as they rode from Slaver's Bay, the khaleesi's new army marching before them, was that none of the men so much as approached her any longer.
"They know that you belong to the khaleesi," Kovarro told her.
The kindest word the Dothraki had for what Doreah was to the khaleesi was plaything, or more crudely fucktoy.
Doreah overheard Daenerys talking with her bloodriders, trying to teach Kovarro and Aggo the correct Westerosi word.