There were many things Misssandei could not remember.
She could not remember what her mother looked like. If she hummed while combing her hair as she’d seen some slave women do to their own children in Astapor. She could not remember if the waters off Naath were warm or cold, or what her father’s laugh sounded like. All these things were taken from her during her years as a slave until all she could remember were fragments; broken images and fleeting impressions that were both curse and comfort.
She did remember when she first saw Daenerys Targaryen. The woman was dressed in blue, her skin almost as pale as her hair and so short the top of her head barely came to the shoulders of the two men flanking her. Despite her short stature and lack of funds she held herself like a queen dressed in the finest silks, and when Missandei called her ‘Your Grace’ the honorific felt as if it belonged. When Daenerys tricked the masters into giving her their Unsullied and freed the slaves of Astapor it was the first time she felt hope.
“I know what it’s like to be little better than a slave,” Daenerys confessed one night when they were alone. Though she never demanded it of her, Missandei would often spend her evenings with the other woman. They were the few times Daenerys allowed herself to put aside the mantle of queen and simply be. “To my brother, I was something to be abused and bartered away; currency for him to buy the army that would retake the Seven Kingdoms.” Something lurked in her gaze as she stared into a brazier, darkness that lent truth to her words. “Though I came to love Drogo our beginnings were…difficult.”
Missandei listened as Daenerys spoke of how she was paraded in front of the Khal like livestock with no words spoken between them. Of how she had no choice in her husband, or if she wished to marry at all. Of the wedding and the strange and violent customs she witnessed. “I did not understand the ways of the Dothraki,” her queen sipped her wine, eyes looking to the past. “Not then. Not for several months. I behaved like a slave, and so a slave was how he treated me.” Daenerys focused on her, eyes gleaming in the lamplight. “I will free every slave I can, Missandei. No one should live like that.”
She spoke the words like a vow.
Her Queen’s journey took her from the hot sands of Astapor to terraced gardens of Yunkai and the pyramids of Mereen. Missandei swore she would be by her side though Daenerys herself required no such oaths. She knew she could take her leave and it would be granted, but she did not. In their first conversation, Daenerys warned her of the risks she would face. Knew that she was going to war, and it was a war she might lose. They were risks Missandei would face gladly if it meant freeing others from bondage and allowing them the chance to finally live.
But no matter how many she saved, no matter the freedom she brought to people who had never known it, there was a need that haunted Daenerys like a shadow. Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen didn’t want to be a Queen of the Bay of Dragons, she wanted to be the Queen of Westeros. Her eyes were ever turned westward, across the Narrows Sea and into the unknown. Even in this, Missandei determined to stand with her. Without Daenerys, she would still be a slave. She would have lived and died at the pleasure of Master Krassnic and never known what it was to be free. To love. She would see the Mother of Dragons and the Breaker of Chains recover the birthright she so craved and sit on her Iron Throne. Then, perhaps, her friend would know peace.
She wished she could have convinced her to stay in Essos.
Looking down on Daenerys from the walls of King’s Landing, Missandei saw how Westeros diminished her friend. She crossed the Narrows with a fleet of hundreds of ships, thousands of soldiers, and three dragons. Now, two of her children were dead, her army was decimated, and she was no closer to reclaiming her birthright than when they first arrived at Dragonstone. She saved the people of Westeros from a fate worse than death, but none but the Northerners would know of it. Northerners who still refused to see her as their queen.
Missandei flinched away from the hand that ran down her arm. The lion queen stepped close, her smile that of a cat who thought it cornered a mouse. “If you have any last words, you should say them now,” she said with amusement in her voice, so sure she had won.
Missandei reached out and latched onto the woman’s velvet sleeve. The blonde woman watched her with cold green eyes. She knew eyes like that. They were the eyes of those who cared for nothing but themselves and their own pleasures. The eyes of those who ordered children torn from their mother’s breasts for the meager coin it would give them. That watched as slaves fought each other to the death for their amusement and bred others like cattle. They expected her to beg. To plead for her life. Perhaps to call to Daenerys to surrender.
Her smile caught the lion queen off guard. “You would have fit in well with the masters in Astapor,” she said, calm as the waters off Naath as her hand latched onto the woman’s wrist.
The false queen’s smile faded as she looked down.
There were many things Missandei could not remember, many more that she wished to forget, but there was one thing she carved into her heart the day Daenerys struck the collar from her throat. One thing she swore to herself above all others.
No one will use me ever again.
When she took her step into the open air, she took the lion queen with her.