Doreah is waiting for them when they return from seeing the slavers, ready to tend to whatever a proper head of house tends to. (Her attempts at mimicking Irri are still clumsy, but it does her good to have things to do. She does not want to keep idling in bed like an invalid or like – what she is not allowed to call herself anymore.) The two former knights have worry on their faces, creasing their brows and setting their mouths in lines; the khaleesi looks almost angry, though it is her quieter kind of angry.
What’s more interesting, though, is the unfamiliar girl trailing behind them. She’s likely of an age with the khaleesi, maybe a bit younger, maybe a bit older (a life spent among people who lie about their age has made Doreah awful at guessing others’); she’s curly-haired and willowy, not quite apprehensive but not quite confident either.
Doreah crosses to them, an eyebrow quirked. The closer she gets, the surer she is that the girl comes from something horrible – she has the weary-but-unhesitating look that belies such things. As such, Doreah is careful with her tone when she says, “Hello.” Once she realizes the girl isn’t going to do any more than nod deferentially without further prompting, she tries for a polite smile (the kind she’s out of practice with) and adds, “I’m Doreah. What are you called?”
The girl stands up a bit straighter, pulls her shoulders back. “This one’s name is Missandei,” she says, her voice clear and even.
Doreah bites her lip, holds up one hand in a silent pardon me, then motions Daenerys aside to whisper-confer with her. “Have you been freeing slaves today, my love?” she asks, not without fondness and a fair amount of pride alongside the attempts to better understand.
“It’s complicated,” Daenerys murmurs, frowning like there is more she needs to say but she can’t, not yet. She switches to Dothraki to add, “Trust me, moon of my life.”
“Yes, Khaleesi,” Doreah replies, demurely biting back a smile. She has never grown fully used to the sounds of the Dothraki language, she does not speak it particularly well or know as much of it as Daenerys does, but she knows enough to understand the request.
Turning back to Missandei, then, Doreah says, “You must be famished,” her tone kind but very carefully not patronizing (that, she knows, is important).
The young woman’s dark eyes dart to Daenerys, who nods encouragingly. “I think we could all use some supper,” the khaleesi declares. Her knights have already vanished, and any of the others are otherwise occupied as well, but she rightly assumes that Doreah has not yet eaten, so the “all” is really “us girls.”
(It is a silly comparison – Missandei is after all near their age, and Doreah knows that because she is the queen’s lover does not mean that she is an equal player in this game – but she cannot help but feel like they’ve suddenly adopted a child.)
Missandei does not make conversation while they eat; she murmurs gratitude for the meal and polite compliments to the cook, but only when she seems to feel prompted to. There is none of the easy chatter that fell from Irri’s lips, none of Doreah’s proclivity toward storytelling. Hers, Doreah intuits, was a life reliant on reticence.
It must be Daenerys who suggests they retire to her quarters, Doreah who agrees to it: this is normal, they are showing. They do not yet join hands before the girl (that, too, must be at Daenerys’ discretion) but they are plenty affectionate with each other and warm enough toward her as well.
“Will this one be needed to ready you for bed?” Missandei asks, sounding as unsure as she has yet.
Daenerys shakes her head, letting her gaze travel to Doreah and back. “I merely wish to speak with you,” she assures.
It must look shockingly relaxed, this lady of eminence inviting girls with their pasts (how much of Doreah’s past does Missandei even intuit? Most behaviors that would imply it have faded, but neither is she a noblewoman) to join her on cushions on her floor, but that is how it is.
Missandei sits stiffly, uncomfortably, and Daenerys just smiles. “What do you think, my lady,” she half-asks. “Ought we to help Missandei relax?”
“This one will do what she is told,” Missandei mutters, visibly tensing even further.
“It’s not like that here,” Doreah says softly, laying her hand over Missandei’s. She can guess at what was just assumed, after all. She understands that flash of anxiety in the girl’s eyes.
Daenerys moves behind Missandei, gingerly begins combing fingers through her hair. “Is this all right?” she asks carefully.
“It – Your Grace flatters,” Missandei breathes, startled by the casual, warm attentions.
“But is it all right?” Daenerys presses.
“Of course,” Missandei murmurs. For minutes, the girls are in silence, Dany twisting and braiding with practiced hands, Doreah just smiling, Missandei looking wholly unsure of the situation. Some are particular about their slaves’ appearances, she knows, perhaps it is just that.
(Of course it is not, Doreah knows well that her khaleesi is calmed by the easy pattern of hair-playing and that this is not the first time she has used it as an act of comforting, both to herself and the other party. She is surer now that something weighs on Dany’s mind, but she trusts her to reveal it in time. She trusts her, full stop.)
“Doreah my love, could you fetch one of my robes?” Dany asks suddenly once the braid is finished and secured, serving as a band of sorts to hold back the rest of the girl’s hair. Doreah nods, rising gracefully and going to her queen’s trunks, and Dany moves to her cushion again, touches her own throat in example. “Missandei,” she says, “Remove your collar.”
“Your Grace…?” She lifts her gaze, seeming unsure of the command or indeed of its giver’s intentions.
“Remove it,” Daenerys echoes. “From this day, you are a free woman. I must ask your services tomorrow, of course –” She nods almost sheepishly, which Doreah knows is not all it seems, and Missandei nods in return, too startled to speak – “But if you wish to leave me when tomorrow is done, it is your right.”
Missandei’s jaw drops, and she cannot help but to voice the years of anxieties that have been conditioned in her. “This one does not deserve –”
“No,” Dany interrupts. “Do not talk like that, do not think so poorly of yourself. Of course you deserve your freedom.” She meets Missandei’s eyes. “Will you remove your collar, Missandei? Will you remove your collar and follow me as a free woman?”
Missandei worries her lip, then without a word reaches to unclasp the collar. Doreah offers the robe, sinking to her knees to help Missandei swap it for her slave’s dress.
“This one –” Missandei stops herself, sets her jaw. “I am happy to follow you, Your Grace.”
Dany and Doreah smile, first as Missandei and then at each other. “I am honored,” Dany says.
They sit in silence a minute, adjusting to the arrangement it seems, and Doreah stands again, this time unbidden, to fetch one of the bottles of wine in her khaleesi’s small reserve. She notices Missandei watching her, as if she’s trying to puzzle things out, and she can predict what will follow when the girl murmurs, “Begging your pardon, Your Grace?”
Daenerys casts a smile, the startled kind that shows she was likely just letting her thoughts drift until brought back to reality, and accepts the wine from Doreah as she says, “What is it?”
“You will forgive if the question is impertinent,” she begins, sounding shocked that she is even saying it, “But this – but I am ignorant, the men who were with you at the master’s serve as advisors and guards, you are a queen, how –” She frowns, furrowing her brow apologetically. “What is my lady Doreah’s part in this?”
Doreah bursts out laughing. “I am no true lady, sweetling,” she says.
Missandei hurries to correct herself, flustered. “No offense was meant, my – how ought you to be addressed, if not as such?”
“My name will suit,” Doreah smirks.
“Address her however she likes,” Daenerys cuts in. “She is my lady, my lover and companion, but she is not yet officially titled.” At ‘yet,’ Doreah raises an eyebrow in some sort of surprise; Missandei is unfazed, nodding in seeming understanding.
They chat awhile longer, letting the conversation fall to the upcoming day’s events and then to more lighthearted matters; when Missandei begins to yawn, Doreah makes up the bed that some still pretend is hers and suggests the other girl take it. Once Missandei has fallen asleep, softly not-quite-snoring, Dany and Doreah disrobe and climb into the larger bed; Dany rolls on her side, preoccupied, and Doreah takes a chance by nuzzling up against her, throwing an arm over her waist.
“Your lover and companion,” she whispers, almost playful. “It sounds so elegant.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?” Daenerys asks, her voice faint.
“Of course,” Doreah says, kissing Dany’s shoulder blade and sighing. She knows what that voice means, that it is only a matter of time before Dany changes the subject to what is truly worrying her.
It takes only moments. “I am not going to go through with it,” she murmurs. “The arrangement.”
“Giving a dragon over,” Dany clarifies. “The master thinks – gods, even Jorah and Ser Barristan think – but I am not stupid.”
“Of course you aren’t,” Doreah soothes, careful of the tone of her voice.
The blonde scoots yet closer, covers Doreah’s hand with her own. “I need the Astapori to believe me,” she explains. “And Ser Barristan does not know – he has not been with me for so long. But Jorah –” Her voice breaks, she sounds so fragile when she adds, “I would never use my children as things to barter. He should know this.”
It’s enough to bring tears to Doreah’s eyes (she has shed more tears for Daenerys Targaryen then she has let herself shed on her own behalf, she thinks) and naturally, she understands. It is a mother’s wounded pride, but it is also a queen’s bitter disillusionment (seeing her advisors’ lack of faith), a woman’s ugly recognition (seeing, not for the first time, that even those who say they trust do not, for any number of reasons). Whatever friendship she had hoped to maintain with Jorah seems less and less possible, too.
“He should,” Doreah agrees finally. She does not speak against the knight, at least outright, but she’s fairly sure her frustration toward him is no secret.
Carefully, Daenerys turns over to face her lover; there are tears in her eyes, too, but there is no mistaking it, they are of pure anger. “You were right, I think,” she says. “I am plenty enough of a warrior, they will not be able to deny it at this time tomorrow.”