Chapter 1: Dark Sister
Chapter 1 - Dark Sister
Dany waited by her silver, stroking the horse’s soft neck. She leaned against the silver’s warmth and closed her eyes. Her muscles ached, and she thought wistfully of her sleeping mats and soft, silk pillows. Dany smoothed a hand over her swollen belly as she felt Rhaego move inside her. She focused on his kicks and drew strength from them. The Stallion Who Mounts the World.
“Khaleesi, it is safe now,” Jhogo said in Dothraki. Dany opened her eyes. She had not even heard Jhogo ride up. “The Andal awaits you at the shattered gates.” Dany nodded to him and gestured for her handmaidens to help her onto her horse. Her large belly had made Dany clumsy of late. Riding and sleeping on the ground had already become difficult and Rhaego still had a lot of growing to do. As Dany rode over the fields towards the Lhazareen town, she prayed that when her time came she would give birth in the comfort and safety of her tent during the night, rather than in a cart during the day when the khalasar was on the march. An icy trickle of fear made its way down her spine. My mother died giving birth to me. This was not the first time the thought had come to her unbidden. She forced it away. This does not mean that I will die in childbirth. “I am the blood of the dragon,” Dany whispered to herself.
The stench of death brought Dany out of her reverie, and her eyes widened at the sight of the battleground outside the town. After a moment’s hesitation, she straightened in the saddle and continued to move her silver forward; her khas and handmaidens following close behind. Bodies were strewn around them in red ruin. Blood soaked the ground and arrows littered it. Dany did not want to look, but she knew that she must. This was the price of the Iron Throne. This was the price of her war. It was not just men, but women and children who were dead. She saw the mercy men, taking heads from both the dying and the dead, collecting them up in baskets. Behind her were young Dothraki girls, collecting arrows to take back to Drogo’s khalasar.
“That will be Khal Ogo’s doing,” spat Rhakharo, gesturing to the dead sheep scattered amongst the bodies. “No one in Khal Drogo’s khalasar would be so foolish as to spend arrows on flock. Flock the khalasar could have taken for its own.” They passed through the field, approaching the town, which Dany could see was on fire in various places.
There was no more fighting, but Dothraki men still rode around fiercely, whips flying, herding the women and children from both Lhazar and Khal Ogo’s khalasar that would be their new slaves. Dany found that she could tell the two races apart. The Dothraki women and children did not show any fear, and while the Lamb Men had the copper skin and almond-shaped eyes of the Dothraki, they were a much squatter and flat-faced people. Most of the slaves would be sold in Slaver’s Bay for the much needed coin to bring the Dothraki over the poison water.
Dany could see Ser Jorah ahead at the gates. She urged her silver forward to meet him, her heart pounding in her chest. “Where is Drogo?” Dany asked in the common tongue, trying not to let fear sound in her voice.
“He is in the town, waiting for you.”
“Is the Khal well?”
“He has taken a few cuts, but no great harm has befallen him. He killed two khals today, khaleesi. It was a great victory.” Dany did not care about that right now; all she wanted was to see her husband, to see with her own eyes that he had come from battle safely.
“Take me to him.”
Ser Jorah turned his horse and led them through the gates.
Inside the town were more bodies. Dany had seen enough and the grief of it had tired her, but still she made herself look at them. She owed them that much. They had not travelled far into the town when Dany turned to the sound of a high pitch scream. Dany watched as a rider threw a girl about her age down face first amongst a pile of corpses. The rider spread the girl’s legs with a knee and plunged himself inside her. Three other riders dismounted around them. Dany tried to force away the horror that this girl would be raped in turn by each rider. This is what it costs. This is how I take back my birthright. Ser Jorah was talking to her as they passed the rape, but all Dany could hear were the screams.
“Stop them,” she interrupted. She clenched her hands tightly around her reins to stop them from shaking.
“Khaleesi?” he sounded confused.
“I said stop them,” she gestured towards the girl. “I command it. I will have no rape,” she spoke in Dothraki, looking to her khas as well. They looked to each other, perplexed.
Jhogo spoke, “The Dothraki do the Lamb woman honor by laying with her. This is the way it is done, the way it has been done since the Womb of the World birthed the first horse and rider.”
“Khaleesi, this is what war looks like. You must harden yourself to it if you’re to bring the Dothraki to Westeros and take the Iron Throne,” said Ser Jorah. Dany raised a hand to stop him from speaking further.
“I claim her as my slave. Stop them. That woman is mine.”
Her khas left her side, but Ser Jorah stayed. Jhogo spoke to the riders; they were too far away for Dany to hear what he was saying. The riders began to shout at him, and Rakharo drew his blade and took the head off the nearest rider. There was a quick clash of arakhs between the two parties before Jhogo and Rakharo had killed one rider each and Quaro had put an arrow through the neck of the raper. Quaro went to the blood-spattered woman who was still screaming and wrenched her up by the arm. He dragged her over to Dany, despite her resistance. “What do you want me to do with her?” he asked Dany, looking at the Lamb girl with distaste.
“Have Doreah see to her hurts,” she commanded. Doreah slid off her horse and wrapped the woman in a blanket, speaking to her in soothing tones.
They moved on. Headless corpses littered the streets and everywhere Dany turned were piles upon piles of heads. Dany came across more rapes and claimed those women as slaves too. One woman she claimed looked neither Dothraki nor Lhazareen. Her skin was as pale as Dany’s, and she had eyes as blue as the sky. Her hair was a muddy, matted mess and her red robes soiled with mud. The woman’s eyes were haunted, and tears streaked her dirty face. She can’t be any older than I am. Dany tried talking to the woman in the common tongue, but the woman only stared through her. Dany decided she would see to the woman herself after she had found her husband.
When they reached Khal Drogo, he was sitting in front of one of the Lhazareen temples, next to a towering pile of heads. Dany’s heart jolted as she saw he had an arrow through his right upper arm and there was blood on the left side of his chest. The cut there was not too deep but it was wide, and the skin dangled down from his chest sickeningly where his nipple should have been. She gasped and began to dismount. Irri quickly came to her side to help her down. Dany went to Drogo, wanting to touch him, but knew he would not allow such weakness in front of his bloodriders, two of whom were standing beside him, watching her as always with cold eyes.
“My sun and stars, you are hurt,” Dany managed to keep her voice from quavering.
“This? This is nothing. Just a small graze from Khal Ogo. He paid with his life and the life of his son”. Drogo gestured to two heads near the top of the pile next to him. Dany recognized Khal Ogo and his khalakka Fogo, who would have been khal at the time Drogo killed him. Dany burned with a fierce pride to hear of Drogo’s victories.
“You are the greatest khal this land has - ,”
“- Blood of my blood,” Dany was interrupted by Qotho, one of Drogo’s bloodriders. He was walking towards them with another rider. “There have been complaints amongst the riders that the khaleesi has been taking their spoils of war. Women. Lamb women. Some riders have even been slain at her command while they were laying with these women.”
“If the men wish to lay with the women, have them take them as wives and do so gently,” she interrupted and looked to her khal. He seemed to look slightly amused. He stood, and as he came to her, she could hear his steps ring louder than ever before. More bells were woven into his braid from the two khals he had slain. He took her small face in his large hands.
“Moon of my life. You have a gentle heart. You have not seen war before. This is the Dothraki way. These are our slaves now, and my men can do with them as they wish. It is the men’s rewards for having fought and won for me. Gold, horses and women.”
“And what of me? What of my spoils? Do I have no right as khaleesi to choose which slaves will be mine? Have I no right to claim them as my own, so that I can do with them as I wish?”
“The khaleesi does not understand. She is more sheep than horse,” Qotho spat. Dany turned on him, a fierce rage building inside her. “The khaleesi is a dragon who feeds on both horse and sheep.”
Drogo’s face broke out into a rare smile. “Qotho, see the fire my son - the stallion who mounts the world - gives to the moon of my life. Tell the men to find other slaves to mount. The slaves the khaleesi has claimed are her own.” Qotho did not look happy at the command, but Drogo did not notice, he was too busy looking into Dany’s eyes. After Qotho left, Drogo staggered back a few steps and sat down again. He had a greyish look to his face.
“My sun and stars, we must get these wounds treated. They are worse than you would have me believe.”
“I have sent all the healers away. There are many of my men more in need of healing than I am.” Drogo gripped the arrowhead and broke it off with a grunt of pain. Dany cried out. Drogo tossed the arrowhead to the ground and put up a hand to stop her from coming closer. He gripped the shaft of the arrow and pulled it out with one swift motion. The wound began to bleed. “Irri, some cloth!” Dany commanded. Irri took some cloth from the saddlebags. Dany began wrapping the cloth around his arm firmly to stop the bleeding. “This needs cleaning. Or to be sealed with fire,” Dany said as she bound the wound.
“Haggo. Bring me a burning stick from the fires,” Drogo said. Haggo left at once. “Bind my chest,” Drogo commanded Dany as she was tying up the ends of the first bandage. Dany's stomach clenched. “Will you promise me that you will command one of the eunuchs to come to your tent tonight to have this seen to properly? This is not the sort of wound you can just bind up. It will need cleaning too, and stitching.”
“Stop fussing woman. I have had worse. Bind it.” Dany carefully grasped the dangling piece of skin and smoothed it back over the wound. Drogo shuddered with the pain but did not make a sound. “Irri, come and help me bind this.” Dany held the skin while Irri worked around her, binding the wound tightly.
As they finished, Haggo came back with a stick burning on one end and passed it to Drogo. Drogo blew the fire out, leaving the end of the stick smoldering. “Lift the bindings,” Drogo commanded Dany, gesturing to his arm. Dany lifted the bindings on the topside of his arm. She wanted to look away but held Drogo’s gaze as he pushed the glowing end of the stick into the wound. There was a hissing sound, and Drogo winced. Dany placed the bindings back and then lifted them where the exit wound was, on the underside of his arm. Drogo repeated the process and then tossed the stick to the ground.
He hung his head for a moment and then stood. He didn’t look so grey as before. His lips were pink and his eyes clear. He’s going to be fine. Dany exhaled a sigh of relief. Drogo squeezed her shoulder and then began to walk away from her. “Promise me you’ll have the eunuchs see to you tonight,” she called after him. He waved her away in response without turning back. She would go and see him tonight, just to make sure.
Weariness washed over her, and she staggered a little. Irri and Jhiqui were by her side in an instant. “Khaleesi?” Seeing her sun and stars wounded had drained her. “I’m fine. Just tired. I will retire to my tent now,” Dany said, and they helped her to her horse.
The khalasar had set up camp in the fields on the outskirts of the Lhazareen town. Dany was in her tent being attended to by her handmaidens. After a bowl of hot broth and some horsemeat, she was feeling much more herself. “Heat some water and fill my copper tub,” she commanded her handmaidens. “And then bring me the slave I claimed with the sky-blue eyes.”
When they brought the slave girl to her, Dany commanded her handmaidens to leave. She stood in front of the girl and realized they were of a height. She still had those same dead eyes, and fresh tears had streaked more dirt away on her cheeks. “Come,” Dany said and took her hands, leading her towards the tub. “I’m going to take this robe off, and we’ll get you cleaned up.” She began to take the robe off when the girl caught Dany’s hands. “It’s okay,” Dany soothed, “Do you speak the Common Tongue?”
The girl nodded.
“Can I take your robe off?”
She nodded again. This time the girl held her arms up as Dany lifted the robe over her head. She was completely naked underneath apart from a leather strap between her breasts. “What’s this?” Dany asked, touching the smooth leather. The girl turned around and Dany saw that she had a slender longsword in its sheath strapped to her back. The girl does not look like a fighter. “May I?” Dany asked, gesturing towards the leather strap. The girl nodded. Dany unbuckled the strap and removed the sheathed sword. She held it in her hands and felt an almost queer humming sensation. She ran her fingers over the black grip to the gold pommel, which was shaped like flames. The guard was also gold flames and set with a ruby. Dany unsheathed the blade a little. Valyrian steel. It looked familiar somehow. Troubled, Dany sheathed it quickly and put it to one side with the robe and then helped the girl into the steaming tub. She saw gooseflesh appear on the girl’s smooth white skin. Dany slipped off her loose sandsilk trousers and tunic. She got into the bath too and sat down in front of the girl with a cloth and began with cleaning the girl’s hands. The sadness in her face broke Dany’s heart. “What is your name?”
“Bethany,” the girl replied.
“Where are you from, Bethany?”
“You do not have the accent of a Braavosi?”
“I was born in White Harbour; my family moved to Braavos when I was seven.”
“White Harbour is a good city; why did your family move to Braavos?”
“My father wished to give my brother and me to the Temple of R’hllor.” Dany had finished cleaning Bethany’s hands and moved to her arms.
“You are a red priestess?”
“Yes,” Bethany looked at her then, truly for the first time. Her eyes still looked hazy, like she was feverish.
“You are a long way from Braavos. There are no red temples in Lhazar.”
“I saw a prophecy in the flames. Azor Ahai come again in the Dothraki Sea. I told the High Priestess in Braavos about my visions. She believed my interpretations were true, that R’hllor was bidding me to seek the silver lady.”
“Silver lady?” Dany asked, but Bethany’s eyes were dead again. Dany smoothed the wet cloth over Bethany’s face, washing away layers of dirt. Dany realized the girl was quite pretty, with her small round face and clear, pale skin. Dany finished washing her body and poured jugs of water over Bethany’s hair, which was cropped to her shoulders. The mud washed away and Dany saw that the priestess had blonde hair, but where Dany’s was molten silver, Bethany’s was spun gold. She led Bethany out of the bath and dried and dressed them both in a simple shift. She led Bethany over to her own sleeping mats and laid her amongst the pillows. “You will share my sleeping mats tonight. Sleep, Bethany,” Dany bid her. She smoothed a hand gently over Bethany’s face and she closed her eyes. Dany could tell by the change in the girl’s breathing that she had fallen asleep instantly. Dany sat with her for a while. Asleep, Bethany looked like a young child, her dark lashes long against her cheeks, breath whistling in and out of her small nose.
Dany wrapped herself in her white lion skin and ducked out through the flap of her tent. It was almost dark now. Quaro was guarding her tent, and her other khas were close by sharing a skin of fermented mare’s milk around a fire pit. Her handmaidens were not too far off, washing Dany’s clothes on the shore of a rocky stream. “Rhakaro, tell my handmaidens to light the tent candles and dispose of the bath water when they are done washing. Tell them Bethany will be sleeping with me on my sleeping mats tonight. Jhogo, Aggo come with me.” As she walked to Khal Drogo’s tent, she breathed in the cool night air. She had been exhausted before, but Bethany’s strange talk and the sword had left her agitated.
“Khal Drogo does not wish to see anyone,” Qotho barred Dany’s way.
“Even his wife?”
“He commanded that no one be admitted to the tent.”
“Have the eunuchs seen to this wounds?”
“Khal Drogo commanded that no one was to enter the tent,” Qotho said slowly as if Dany was having trouble understanding his Dothraki.
“You will let me through, or Khal Drogo will know that you disobeyed the command of his khaleesi,” she said fiercely and barged her way past, despite her pregnant belly. “Jhogo, go and fetch the eunuchs,” Dany commanded over her shoulder as she ducked through the flap of the Khal’s tent. Drogo was stretched out on his sleeping mats with the heavy breath of deep sleep. She carefully lowered herself beside him amongst the pillows. “Drogo,” she said softly, running a hand down the side of his face. He did not wake, did not even twitch. His breath came deep and slow. “Drogo, my sun and stars. I’ve sent for the eunuchs to see to your wounds.” She shook him gently. “Drogo.”
She pushed back through the flap of the tent. “Why won’t he wake?” He did not smell of fermented mare’s milk and did not feel or look feverish.
“I do not have to answer to a khaleesi; I am not yours to command.” She stood in front of Qotho, feeling tiny compared to this hulk of a man. She pushed a finger into his bare chest. “You will tell me why the Khal will not wake,” she said fiercely, the dragon raging in her blood.
“He requested poppywine.” Poppywine. Damn the Seven. She ducked back into the tent. How much had he taken to put him in this catatonic state? Were his wounds that painful that this was what he had resorted to? Why had he not called the eunuchs as she had requested?
“Khaleesi?” It was Jhogo with two eunuchs. They were large men, but soft and round.
“The Khal was injured in battle. An arrow through his right arm and a wound on his left chest. He will not wake. Qotho told me that he had requested poppywine,” Dany managed to keep her voice steady. The Dothraki only valued strength. She knew she must never let weakness show through her mask.
“I dare not touch the Khal without his permission,” the taller of the two eunuchs said.
“You will do as your khaleesi commands, or you will know my wrath!” The eunuchs both lowered their eyes and set about their work. Dany knelt beside her Khal. “Drogo removed the arrow himself and sealed the entry and exit with fire. I told him that his chest wound needed stitching and cleaning, but he commanded me to bind it,” Dany said. The eunuchs looked at the arrow wound first.
“This needs nothing more done to it. He has removed it cleanly and there is no arrow fragments left in the arm. The muscles feel soft and pliable. There is no rigidness or warmth, which would indicate an infection. He has sealed it well.” They moved to his chest wound. The taller eunuch tutted over it. “This should have been seen to by a healer with haste.” Guilt flooded through Dany. She had done what she could to convince Drogo to see the eunuchs but it had not been enough. The shorter eunuch mixed up a paste, while the other peeled back the skin and treated the area underneath with boiled wine.The Khal grunted and twitched but he stayed relatively still. The paste was applied to the wound and the skin stitched with skilful hands. On his way out, the taller eunuch spoke to Dany quietly. “I have some concerns about the chest wound. The flesh around the wound has become warm and red. I fear the flesh will corrupt. We have done all we can for now. Do not let him have any more poppywine.” And with that they left. Dany swayed where she stood. The fatigue had crept back up on her. She stared at Drogo. He looked so peaceful, but worry for him tore through her. He’s strong. He has taken wounds worse than this before, he said so himself. “Khaleesi.” Dany turned around to see Aggo’s head poking through the tent flap. “You must come quick. It is Bethany.”
Dany stumbled along behind Aggo and Jhogo as quickly as she could, the cool night air kissing her moist skin. They were approaching a large fire. Larger than any fire the Dothraki would normally light to cook food, provide light or stay warm.
At the fire was Bethany. She was still in the simple shift Dany had dressed her in, but she was far from where Dany had left her. She was throwing more sticks onto the fire and raising her hands to the sky. “Ruler of Fire, Light, and Life. Hear my prayer,” Bethany called out. Another figure at the fire caught Dany’s eye. It was Ser Jorah, he seemed to be saying something to Bethany, but Dany could not hear his words over the roar of the fire and Bethany’s prayers. “Let this fire fend away the darkness, for the night is dark and full of terrors,” Bethany prayed. Dany began to approach, and when Ser Jorah saw her, he came to her side.
“She’s been like this since the sun’s warmth left the sky. Building this great fire and babbling on to some god.”
“Fill our hearts with your fire and our eyes with light!”
“She’s a red priestess,” Dany said.
“She’s frightening the Dothraki. It must stop.” Dany looked around and realized they had an audience. Many wide-eyed Dothraki women and children were watching Bethany. Dany was glad she could see no riders watching yet. “Have you tried talking to her?” Dany asked.
“You are the sun, the stars and the warmth in our flesh!” cried Bethany.
“She will not hear me.”
“She was raped today. She’s not in her right mind.”
“Go to her.”
Dany approached her slowly and carefully.
“Let not the darkness approach us-“
“- let not the night taint our souls.” Dany put a warm hand gently on Bethany’s shoulder, and Bethany turned on Dany, her eyes feverish. Bethany swung a thin arm at her. Dany ducked out of the way, and Ser Jorah shouted out. “Stay back!” Dany commanded him. “Bethany it’s me. I claimed you to keep you safe. I washed you and dressed you in my clothes. I gave you a place to rest on my sleeping mats in the safety of my tent.” Bethany looked into her eyes, her face full of sadness and confusion. Bethany searched Dany’s face and reached out and touched her hair. “You’re the silver lady.”
“I’m the silver lady.” Tears welled up in Bethany’s eyes. “I found you. After all this time, I have found you.” She knelt in front of Dany, her head bowed. “My queen.”
Dany reached down to take Bethany’s hand. “Rise. Come with me.” Bethany stood up, holding Dany’s hand. Bethany took one step with Dany but then resisted. “The night fire. I must make sure it burns through the night to keep away the Darkness. I must be there to welcome the sun at dawn.”
“Not this night. I promise there will be no darkness in my tent. I will have Irri ensure the brazier burns through the night.”
Dany led Bethany away from the fire. As she passed Jhogo, she whispered in Dothraki, “have a healing woman come to my tent.”
Dany sat Bethany down on her sleeping mats amongst the silk pillows. “I’ve sent for a healing woman to take a look at you. You have been through a terrible hardship today.” Bethany just huddled in the pillows, drawing her legs up to her chin. She looked like a child. “How old are you, Bethany?”
“We are of an age.”
“I know. I saw it in the flames.”
The healing woman ducked through the flap to Dany’s tent. Dany asked her to check Bethany for injuries from her rape and then to give her something to help her rest.
While the healing woman attended Bethany, Dany wrapped the white lion skin more tightly around her. It always made her feel safe as if Drogo were right by her side. Drogo. Her heart thumped at the thought of him and his wounds.
“Khaleesi?” It was the healing woman. “She sleeps now. I have given her dreamwine.”
“Is her body sound?”
“She is hale, though her body shows evidence of her rape. There is bruising and swelling but no cuts to the flesh that won’t heal on their own. She will recover, khaleesi.” Having no Dothraki words to thank the woman, Dany bowed her head, and the woman left.
Dany padded barefoot across the soft carpets to her sleeping mats. She lay beside Bethany and traced the outline of her peaceful face with the tip of her finger. Dany rolled over and curled up around her belly. I hope I can help Bethany find her peace. She closed her eyes and sunk into a deep sleep, untroubled by dreams or the burdens sitting heavily on her shoulders.
When Dany entered Drogo’s tent at dawn, the taller eunuch from the night before was already there. Dany greeted him. Drogo was sitting crossed legged on a mat, enduring the eunuch looking at his chest wound. He looked tired, but his coloring was one of health.
“The wound has improved over night. There is less redness and warmth to the skin. This paste must be applied every day for ten days around the seam of the wound. After that, the stitches should be ready to come out. I am no longer concerned about this wound. I estimate that the Khal will make a full recovery.”
“I should take your head for thinking anything less of me,” Drogo boomed. The eunuch cowered before him and said no more. He did not see the laughter in Drogo’s eyes.
When the eunuch left, and they were finally blessedly alone, Dany came to Drogo on his sleeping mats. She straddled him, and he lent back on his hands to compensate for her swollen belly. She watched the hunger in Drogo’s face as his eyes roamed over her body, drinking her in. Drogo smoothed a hand over her belly. “My son grows every day. It will not be long, khaleesi, and I will hold him in my arms.”
“He needs more time yet my sun and stars. More time to grow strong and fat.” He captured her warm mouth in his and kissed her deeply before taking her fiercely amongst the silk pillows.
Afterward, Dany took Drogo’s face in her small hands. “You seem well, my sun and stars.”
“Moon of my life, I have never felt better.” Drogo stood up and dressed. “We ride. Today.”
“Today, my love? Would not you rather rest a little while longer?” Dany said.
“Rest? A khal does not rest from a few scratches. A khal rides. A khal who cannot-“
“-ride, is no khal at all,” she smiled at him. “Well, then we will ride.”
Dany ducked out of the flap of Drogo’s tent. Back at her tent, her handmaidens were packing up her things, and Bethany was sitting cross-legged in front of the brazier, staring unblinkingly into the flames. Dany crouched beside her.
“Do you see anything?”
“Nothing. Well, nothing certain. There are images that twist and turn but nothing that I can make sense of.” Bethany looked away from the flames and into Dany’s face. She startled and bent her head. “My Queen, I’m sorry; I didn't realize it was you.” Dany gently cupped Bethany’s chin and raised her face. “You do not need to be so formal with me. I would like us to be friends.”
“Friends? Why would you want to be friends with me?”
Dany shrugged. “Maybe because you’re the only woman here I know from Westeros. And one of the three other people in the khalasar who speak the Common Tongue.”
“But I’m a slave.”
“You are not a slave. At least no slave of mine. I claimed you as one to save you, but I release you now. I have heard the red priests refer to themselves as slaves of the red god, but you are not a slave of any mortal and never will be while you are under my care.”
“Goddess. It’s the Red Goddess, not the red god.”
“Goddess? I’ve never heard that before.”
“I’ve seen it in the flames. R’hllor is female. She is the Great and Universal Goddess.”
“You said last night that you saw a vision of me.”
“Back in Braavos, I was given a vision through the flames. R’hllor showed me that you are Azor Ahai come again. The Red Goddess has tasked me with helping you fulfill your destiny.”
“And what is my destiny?”
“Your destiny is two-fold. First, to fulfill the prophecy of the Stallion Who Mounts the World.”
“You refer to my son, Rhaego. The dosh khaleen prophesied that the son in my womb would be the Stallion Who Mounts the World.”
“They are mistaken. It is you who will be the Stallion.”
Dany did not believe this, but a shiver ran over her nonetheless. “And the second part?”
“You will be reborn in the fire as Azor Ahai come again. You will wield the sword Lightbringer and end the Darkness and the Great Other.”
Dany felt breathless but uncertain. “Are you sure this prophecy applies to me? Wield a sword? I do not know how.”
“You will know how. I have seen it.”
“And where is this sword, this Lightbringer?”
“It’s not Lightbringer yet, but I believe it will be when you begin your rebirth into Azor Ahai.”
Bethany stood and paced over to where Dany had put Bethany’s things the night before. Dany followed her. The robe was gone; her handmaidens had hung it outside the tent to dry after washing it. The sword was still there; Bethany picked it up and knelt in front of Dany, proffering the sword to her. Dany reached down hesitantly and took it, holding the sheathed sword in two hands.
“This is Dark Sister,” said Bethany.
“Dark Sister is a Targaryen ancestral blade.”
“Yes it is, and it is finally back with its rightful owner. It was once wielded by Visenya Targaryen.”
“Almost three hundred years ago. How did you come by this blade? The last person known to have this sword was Brynden Rivers, and it has been almost fifty years since he went missing during a ranging beyond the Wall when he was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.”
“It has been in the temple at Braavos for a long time, that is all I know. The High Priestess gave it to me when I told her of my visions of you and this sword.”
“And so how does this sword become Lightbringer?”
“In the legends, six thousand years ago during the Age of Heroes and at the time of the Long Night, Azor Ahai was chosen to fight the Darkness, and he made a sword to do so. He spent thirty days and thirty nights making the sword, but when he tempered it in the water, the sword shattered. He began again, fifty days and fifty nights this time. He trapped a lion and tempered the sword by driving it into its heart, but again the sword broke. He knew then what he must do. So with great sadness, he began again. This time, one hundred days and nights. When the sword was finished, he thrust it into the living heart of his wife, Nissa Nissa, and her soul became one with the steel to create Lightbringer.”
“I fear I mistake your words. Are you telling me that to become Azor Ahai and make this sword into Lightbringer that I must thrust Dark Sister into Khal Drogo’s heart?”
“Yes, that is exactly what I am telling you.”
“I love Drogo with all my being.”
“As Azor Ahai loved Nissa Nissa.”
“If I killed the khal, his bloodriders would cut my throat before I had time to pull the blade from his chest. I would lose my own life and the life of my child. And even with the practicality aside, I love my husband. He is my world. I’m hardly about to murder him. Are you sure this is what the Goddess has shown you in the flames?”
“That was how the first Azor Ahai got Lightbringer, but the Red Goddess has not shown me any visions of how you will obtain the sword. Even using Dark Sister is just an educated guess on behalf of the High Priestess based on the visions I saw. Regardless, the sword should be yours. You are after all the Last Targaryen.”
Chapter 2: Rhaego
Daenerys fears for Drogo's life as his health deteriorates due to his wounds.
Dany’s eyes had not left Khal Drogo since the khalasar had begun to move slowly over the dry, grassless lands in the shimmering heat of the middle of the day. Despite being flushed pink from the warmth, Dany had a cold, oily fear coiling in her belly. Bloodflies buzzed around Khal Drogo, and he slumped in his saddle, his eyes half-lidded, his face grey and pale. It was a few days past that Dany had first noticed that something was not right with the Khal and she had pulled his painted vest aside to examine his chest wound, fearing corruption. Even though Drogo had not let her or the eunuchs apply the paste, the flesh was sound. There was no redness or weeping, and a firm scab had formed where the seam of the wound was. Dany had watched as Khal Drogo continued to decline from that point, eating and talking less every day and becoming more restless in his sleep. He had refused to see either the eunuchs or the herbwomen, saying he had been prodded enough by women and large, fat men. He instead turned to fermented mare’s milk and drank more every day.
A bloodfly landed just below Drogo’s eye, but he continued to stare blankly ahead. “Drogo?” Dany said softly. “Drogo, my love?” she reached out to him, and at her soft touch, he tilted to one side in his saddle and fell off his horse, face first into the dry dust. He did not move. “Drogo!” she called out to him. She scrambled from her silver, despite her big belly, and went to his side. She pressed a pink hand to his forehead. His flesh was searing with heat. She tried to turn him over, but he was too heavy for her. She turned his head to one side so he could breathe easier. His bloodriders rode up and vaulted from their horses. “Blood of my blood?” Qotho said. Drogo did not answer, his eyes were closed, and his breathing labored. Dany looked up at Qotho from the dust. “Help me,” she begged, refusing to let tears fall. Qotho stepped back, his face dead. “He has fallen from his horse.”
“Do not speak the words. Keep the rest of the khalasar back; do not let them see him. We will make camp here.”
“This is not a place to camp,” said Qotho. “The Khal cannot ride-“
“The Khal can ride. He just needs a rest.” Dany could hear the panic seeping into her voice. She steadied it. “Tell the khalasar Khal Drogo commands we halt here, that my time is near.”
“I am not yours to command, Khaleesi,” Qotho spat at her.
“I speak for the Khal. Deny me, and you deny your Khal,” she hissed. Qotho clenched his jaw and left with the other bloodriders. She looked to her handmaidens. “Prepare Khal Drogo’s tent. Jhogo, get the eunuchs and the herbwomen.”
Once Drogo’s tent was erected Quaro, Rhakaro and Aggo carried the Khal inside. They lay him down on his sleeping mats. A eunuch and two herbwomen entered the tent.
“Please. You must help him,” Dany begged. Her husband had not woken, and his breath rattled in his chest. The eunuch came to him at once and placed a hand on his forehead. “He’s burning up,” he said. “Prepare some cool cloths,” the eunuch instructed the herbwomen. “Has he been using the paste?”
“No. But the wound looks sound. I rechecked it this morning,” Dany said as she helped the eunuch remove Drogo’s painted vest.
“You’re not wrong. This wound is not the cause of the Khal’s sickness.” He felt the Khal’s neck, chest, and abdomen with expert hands. He reached under the Khal’s arms and the eunuch’s eyebrows knitted together. He lifted the Khal’s arm out sideways and revealed oozing black ulcers amongst the soft hair of his armpit. Dany breathed in sharply at the sight of them and swallowed down her fear. With his finger, the eunuch traced a faint black line from the ulcers to the underside of the fire-sealed arrow wound. There the line stopped.
“Poison,” he breathed the word out, barely audible. Dany balled her hands into fists. Poison. I was so focused on the chest wound I did not see. The arrow. The arrow he was hit with was poisoned. The eunuch touched his fingertips to the Khal’s lips, and blood came away with them. The eunuch got up, and as he passed the herbwomen bringing cool cloths, he said to them quietly, “Poppywine. To ease his passing.” Dany stood up, tears spilling unbidden. “To ease his passing?” her voice shook with her anger. “You are a healer. This is your Khal,” she barely noticed her son kicking furiously inside her.
“There is nothing I can do for him. I am sorry, Khaleesi. I do not think he will last till morning.” Dany sunk clumsily beside her sun and stars and took his hand and held it to her face. How could this have happened? He was so strong. She let the tears flow now as she hid her face in his large hand and rocked back and forth.
One of the herbwomen knelt beside her with a wooden goblet brimming with poppywine. “Please, can't you do anything?” Dany begged her.
“I can take away his pain and let him sleep soundly.” The herbwoman set the goblet down in front of her and soaked the edge of a cloth. She used her other hand to grip the Khal’s chin in her thumb and forefinger and pull his mouth open a little. She let the poppywine drip from the cloth into his mouth and then passed the cloth to Dany with a gesture of you try. Dany dipped the cloth into the poppywine and repeated the herbwoman’s actions. Her back ached as she leaned over her Khal. The herbwoman stood up beside her.
“Where are you going?” Dany asked.
“This is a dead man. It is a bad omen to be near a dead man.”
“You will stay. I command it; I speak for the Khal.”
“That is no longer the Khal. And you are no longer the Khaleesi.” Dany watched the herbwoman leave. She looked around the tent. There was no one. She was completely alone.
Feeling lost, Dany didn’t know what else to do but to keep dripping the poppywine into Drogo’s mouth. Drogo, my love, come back to me. She heard someone enter the tent behind her, but she was too numb to turn around.
“Khaleesi?” It was Ser Jorah. She didn’t answer but kept dripping the poppywine into Drogo’s mouth.
“My Queen?” Jorah knelt down beside her. “News has spread about the Khal’s condition. The khalasar is breaking up. We must leave. We two could make a quick escape, travel light and leave the Dothraki lands. With those dragon eggs, you could live the rest of your days as a rich woman. If we act now, you will not have to go to the dosh khaleen.”
“I will not leave him. He is still alive. There is still hope,” Dany said, her voice wavering.
“There is no hope for Khal Drogo. I am sorry, my Queen.”
“I am the Khaleesi; I will not leave my khalasar. I can still bring them across the poison water as Khal Drogo promised.”
“A khaleesi does not command a khalasar. When a khal dies his bloodriders take his khaleesi to the dosh khaleen.”
“But my son. My son will be the next khal. The bloodriders are sworn to him.”
“Any children of a dead khal are slaughtered. Only a blooded man may take on the mantle of khal after his father. We must leave now, for the sake of your son’s life. New khals are rising as the khalasar breaks up. If the other khals do not cut him out of you, they will kill him as soon as he is born. These are hard men, Khaleesi. Do not think they will show you mercy.” Even with this risk to her son’s life, she could still not bring herself to leave her sun and stars. Not yet. After he died she would need to build a pyre for him, give him a proper ceremony so that he could pass into the nightlands.
“I am not leaving.”
“I said I am not leaving. That is final. I will stay with my sun and stars until his last breath, whether that be tonight or in a thousand nights. If he does die, then and only then will we make plans as to what to do next.”
“I will get my armor and guard the tent through the night.”
“They are outside your tent. They will defend you and yours till the Khal’s end, but none of the Dothraki will enter while death breathes here.”
“Send me Doreah and Bethany. I do not wish to be alone.”
Soft hands touched Dany’s shoulders and startled her. She had been on the verge of falling asleep, in that nether region between waking and sleeping, still sitting cross-legged beside her husband, clutching the goblet and cloth.
“My lady, you should rest,” said Bethany. “Let Doreah take over.” Dany, exhausted, relinquished cup and cloth to Doreah. This late stage in her pregnancy had taken away much of her energy. She did not want to leave the Khal’s side, but she had to think of Rhaego, if not herself. Doreah began to drip the wine into Drogo’s mouth, and Bethany helped Dany up and lay her down amongst the silk cushions not far from her Khal.
“Does your order know anything of the healing arts?” Dany asked as Bethany plumped cushions around her.
“Most of us are taught some basic healing skills, but that is not what we are known for.”
“Do you have those skills?”
“Will you take a look at him?”
Bethany’s forehead furrowed.
“Please. Please do this for me.”
Bethany got up and went to the Khal. Doreah set aside the goblet and made room for her on the Khal's sleeping mats. Bethany felt the searing of his flesh and pried open each of his eyes with her fingers. She looked at the arrow wound and traced the faint black line to his armpit. When she lifted his arm to expose the ulcers, Dany gasped in a breath. The ulcers had worsened and spread further and the smell….it was of rot and death.
“I’m sorry, Khaleesi. The poison is just too far-gone. Even if I had all the potions of all the Red Temples in Essos, there would be nothing I could do except sit here with him and help him feel comfortable.” Dany watched numbly as Bethany removed the compress from Drogo’s forehead and took it to the washbasin to replace it with a cooler one. When she came back, Bethany wiped down his chest, arms, and belly before placing the cloth on his forehead. Dany returned to Drogo’s side and picked up the goblet Doreah had set down and began to drip more poppywine into Drogo’s mouth. Bethany spoke to Doreah softly, and she left the tent. “Where is Doreah going?” Dany asked, faintly.
“I’ve asked her to fetch me something.”
Bethany knelt beside Dany. “My Queen. We could ease the Khal’s suffering by finishing this now,”
“No. There is still hope. He’s strong. He can beat this.”
“I've asked Doreah to bring Dark Sister.”
“What are you saying?” Dany asked, her voice sharp.
“You could fulfill the prophecy and do the humane by Khal Drogo.”
“Get out,” Dany hissed, color gathering in her cheeks.
“What?” Bethany asked, her face growing pale.
“I said, get out!” Dany yelled, fuming, pushing at Bethany with her free hand.
Bethany looked at her in shock.
“Get this one thing through your head, Bethany,” Dany said, her face flushing, “I will never do anything to harm my husband. Not for your prophecy, not for the khalasar, not even for my son.”
It was in the cool hours of the early morning that Khal Drogo passed. The poppywine had eased his breathing, and he seemed in a peaceful slumber before the end. Dany had sat with him, hoping against hope that the easing of his breath meant that he would somehow pull through.
“Fight it,” she had whispered, tears dripping off her nose. “You must fight this. You are the strongest man I have ever known; I know you can do this.” But his breathing had become shallower and fainter until finally, she could feel no breath at all. She had laid her head on his chest, but there was no strong heartbeat, not even a faint one.
“Doreah, bring Ser Jorah in, do not tell anyone the Khal is dead. His bloodriders must not know.” A great pain washed through her body, and she clutched at her swollen belly, bending over it. She felt fluid gush out between her legs and looked down to see the mat stained pink beneath her. “No,” Dany moaned. “Not now. It is too early.”
“My lady,” Doreah rushed to her side at once. Dany groaned as another pain took her.
“It is time, khaleesi,” Doreah said.
Ser Jorah ducked through the tent flap, fully armored. He looked down at Dany. “Ser Jorah, help me,” she moaned.
Ser Jorah looked truly troubled. “But you were not due for another moon.”
“I know,” she said as the contraction eased off. “Get the birthing women. Make sure my khas do not leave.”
“Your khas remain, but the khalasar is gone. All that is left are a few slaves and some of the sick and elderly.” Dany groaned as another contraction began. “Fetch Bethany and have the handmaidens set up my tent if they have not already,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Khaleesi, your contractions are happening too quickly, we cannot move you,” said Doreah. Dany felt dizzy; this was all happening too fast.
“I cannot give birth in the tent where my dead husband is,”
“The Khal is dead?” said Ser Jorah.
“Yes, my husband is dead,” said Dany. The words had so much finality to them. “See if there is anyone left who has knowledge of birthing. And bring me Bethany.”
Ser Jorah returned with Bethany, but he could find no other woman who was willing to enter the Khal's tent. “Do you know anything of the bloody bed?” Doreah asked Bethany when she entered. Dany was on her sleeping mats, lying back on her cushions, sweating and panting - the contractions only just finishing before the next one started.
“We learn about the birthing process, but I have never been present for a birth.”
“That will have to do,” said Doreah.
Dany gasped, a pain like a hot knife was coming from between her legs, and she instinctively spread them. Bethany and Doreah came to her side and removed her sandsilk pants and undergarments. Bethany touched cool hands between Dany’s legs where the fire was.
“Your baby is coming, khaleesi. I can see his head just starting to emerge. He has silver hair like yours,” said Bethany.
Despite the pain, Dany couldn’t help but smile at the thought of her unborn son. The smile quickly faded as another contraction began. “Push!” Bethany commanded. Dany bore down for all she was worth. Then the contraction was over, and she lay back against the pillows recovering her strength for the next one. “You did well; I can see more of him.”
Four more times contractions came and went. “The head’s almost out now, Khaleesi. One more big push and it will be out.” Bethany said. Dany panted, the burning sensation between her legs was at a peak, she felt stretched and split open. Dany felt her belly begin to tighten with the next contraction. “Push! Big push now!” Bethany said. Dany pushed with all her might. She pushed through the burning sensation, feeling dizzy from the pain. The contraction eased off, and the burning lessened. “The head’s out!” Bethany gasped. Dany grinned in relief.
“That’s the hard part done, Khaleesi. One more push to get a shoulder out and then the rest of his body will come easy.” Despite her exhaustion, Dany felt excitement in her. One more push and she would meet her son. She reached down to touch the head of her unborn child. Dany felt the next contraction start. “Last push Dany and then you’ll meet your son. You can do this.”
Dany gathered her remaining strength and bore down with all she had left. She felt a raw, sharp pain as Bethany pulled her son from her and watched through tears of joy as he was lifted and placed onto her chest. Dany cried in relief and caressed his wet skin. She leaned down and kissed his silver hair. She felt light-headed with exhaustion. She blinked away her tears. “Why is he so blue?” she asked as she noticed his blue hands. She gently tilted his face up so she could see it. His lips were blue, and so was the skin around them. His eyes were closed. “Why isn’t he crying?” Dany said, a feeling of icy dread creeping into her.
Bethany put a hand on Rhaego’s back to feel for breath. Jorah ducked through the flap of the tent and was at Dany’s side in a moment. He drew a knife and cut the cord, and then whisked the infant away. He sat down on a low stool with the infant on his lap not too far from the women. He looked the infant over and then placed the babe belly down with his blue face turned to one side. He began to rub the baby vigorously on the back. Dany tried to get up to go to Rhaego, but Bethany and Doreah held her down gently. “Khaleesi, you still need to deliver the afterbirth, let Ser Jorah attend to your son. All will be fine,” said Bethany. Dany felt another contraction begin and the afterbirth came with a gush of blood. Dany looked down. There was so much blood, a great pool of it had puddled between her legs and was spreading across the sleeping mats. Dany felt faint, and the room began to fade. “My son,” she cried out as Ser Jorah, and Rhaego faded, and Dany’s world became darkness.
Chapter 3: Lightbringer
Daenerys recovers from Rhaego's birth and obtains the sword Lightbringer.
Dany awoke suddenly. A tremor ran through her body, causing her teeth to rattle. She tried to move but her head swam. She squeezed her eyes shut and lay still, willing the dizziness away. She ran a tongue over dry lips and swallowed. Her throat was raw and scratched, her body aching like she was broken and torn all over. She hurt most between her legs, a dull persistent ache and burn. She touched a hand to her face. It was wet, had she been crying? She ached inside too, but it was not a physical ache. She needed something. She wanted something, something important. Dany shivered, her teeth chattering. She pulled the blankets that were piled up over her more tightly around herself and edged a little closer to the fiercely burning brazier beside her sleeping mats. She was so cold. She did not ever remember being this cold.
Her head cleared a little, and she tried opening her eyes again. She looked around her. It was late afternoon, and she had been moved. Or had she? No, this was her tent. Where had she been before? Her thoughts were fuzzy. She looked for something, what was it?
“My lady?” Irri was beside her.
“Water.” Dany croaked. Irri picked up a water skin from beside the sleeping mats and tipped cool water into Dany’s mouth. The water invigorated her somewhat, and she began to rise, clutching the blankets to her for warmth. “Khaleesi, you mustn’t. You must rest.”
“I’m fine, I need….I need…” Dany’s head pounded, and she cradled it in her trembling hands.
“What? What is it you need?” said Irri as she gently pushed Dany back amongst her sleeping pillows and piled the blankets back over her. Dany tried to resist, but she was weak. She saw tears on Irri’s face. Something had happened. She remembered. No, she did not. The memories turned to dust as she grasped at them.
“I want….I want my dragon egg,” she heard herself say.
“The scarlet and black.”
Irri came back with the egg and nestled it between Dany’s body and her crooked arm. Irri left her. Dany felt sleep try to claim her again. She pulled the egg closer to her. It felt hot. She put a hand on it. Yes, definitely hot. She remembered she had been dreaming about dragons now. Or had she been the dragon? Dany closed her eyes and drifted back into the dream; her great white wings spread out as she rode the world.
Dany awoke again. It was night, and the brazier was burning low now. She felt too hot and pushed irritably at the thick blankets piled on her. The tent was quite cool, and a soft breeze billowing the tent flaps blew against the beaded sweat on her skin pleasantly. Her egg was still nestled between her body and her arm, and it still felt warm to the touch. She had dreamt of the eggs hatching, she remembered. They had hatched in the dragon-fire she had breathed on them. In the dream, she had been a white dragon. No, a silver-gold dragon, like her hair. She touched her hair, and then thoughts and broken memories crashed into her. She remembered kissing silver hair on a new babe’s head. Blue hands and lips. She remembered her husband and the black poison claiming his life. She sat up suddenly and had to steady herself as a wave of dizziness hit her. Where is my son? Jhiqui, Irri, and Doreah slept close by on sleeping mats, near the opening of her tent. “Where is my son?” she said out loud this time, voice shaking.
All three woke and lifted their heads. Doreah came to her first. “Khaleesi,” she murmured, a relieved smile on her lips. She touched Dany’s forehead. “Your fever has broken.”
“How long have I been asleep?”
“Long,” said Irri.
“For three settings of the sun,” said Doreah.
“Where is my son?”
Her handmaidens looked at each other, their eyes red and worried.
“I will fetch Ser Jorah,” said Irri and fled, Jhiqui following her. Doreah sat down beside her and held her hands.
“Khaleesi. Your son, he has passed,” she said gently. “He never took breath, though we tried long and hard.”
Grief stabbed at Dany’s heart like a white-hot poker. How could this have happened? How could she have lost both son and husband on the same day?
Ser Jorah entered the tent, Bethany beside him, cradling a small bundle of blankets. He approached Dany, and she suddenly felt afraid. She wanted to see her son, but somehow seeing him dead would make it real. “I’m so sorry, my lady,” Ser Jorah said in the common tongue. He laid the swaddled babe across her lap. She looked down at her baby, his tiny face peeping out of the blankets.
“Rhaego,” she said. She traced a finger across his forehead and down over his nose to his blue lips. She pulled the blankets away from his head so that she could run a hand over his soft, silver-gold hair. She very carefully unwrapped the rest of his body, releasing tiny hands and feet. Apart from the blueness, he looked so healthy, how could he have died?
“Sometimes these things just happen, Khaleesi,” said Ser Jorah. Dany did not realize she had spoken the question out loud.
Rhaego was fat and robust looking, despite being almost a moon early. His skin was darker than hers, coppery, with the promise of being nearly as dark as his father’s as he grew older. Then she knew she must see his eyes. She gently pried open an almond shaped eye to reveal a lilac iris. Her eyes, her hair. A true Targaryen. A dragon. But not to be. She felt the future she had thought was hers crumble and turn to ash. She had lost her heir and son. She had lost her husband and the khalasar who would have given her the Iron Throne. She had lost everything in one single day. All due to a poison arrow. “Was it my grief for my husband that killed Rhaego?” Dany asked Bethany.
“My Queen, there are many ways a newborn babe-”
“Answer me. Did I kill my child with my grief?”
Bethany knelt beside her. “Dany. A shock such as losing a husband could be enough to cause a stillbirth. Could he have been stillborn anyway? Yes. Only the gods know why your baby never took breath.”
“Irri, Jhiqui, bring me some hot buckets of steaming water,” Dany commanded.
“Khaleesi, you must rest,” said Bethany.
“I have had rest enough. I must clean my dead and prepare them for the funeral pyre. Ser Jorah, I put you in charge of preparing the pyre with Bethany. Doreah can assist me.”
“It’s so quiet. Is there no one left? Did the entire khalasar leave?” Dany asked Doreah as they began to undress Khal Drogo to bathe him in preparation for the pyre, the first light of morning streaming in through the tent opening.
“Most, Khaleesi. The frail and weak remain. Some elderly Dothraki, some women, and some children.”
“Where did the rest of the khalasar go?”
“The khalasar is broken. Ten thousand followed Khal Pono, seven and half thousand Khal Jhaqo and some smaller khalasars broke off too. There are a dozen new khalasars in the Dothraki Sea.”
“Where are Khal Drogo’s bloodriders? They should be cleansing his body with me. They should be preparing to travel to the nightlands with Khal Drogo. That is a bloodriders duty; is it not?”
“When you were birthing, the bloodriders tried to come into the tent; they wanted to see for themselves that Khal Drogo was dead. Qotho wanted to pull the babe from you and kill him himself before taking your life too. He called you a white witch and said you killed Khal Drogo with blood magic. The bloodriders blame you for his death and did not believe you deserved a life of any kind, even with the dosh khaleen.”
“Ser Jorah and your khas stopped them. I am sorry to tell you that Quaro died fighting for you. He fought bravely, Khaleesi.”
Dany felt numb at hearing the words; she had no grief left. She was empty. “Did they kill the bloodriders?”
“Haggo and Cohollo are dead.”
“He was gravely injured by Ser Jorah but is not dead. He was not able to leave with any of the khalasars due to his injuries. He wants to be killed honorably and burned with Khal Drogo, but Ser Jorah does not think he deserves such a clean death after his accusations and intentions towards you and Rhaego.”
Rhaego. The name still burned Dany's heart to hear it.
Dany stepped outside the tent into the midday sun, cleaning her hands with a piece of rough cloth. It was done. Doreah and her had prepared her dead husband and child for the funeral pyre. They’d scrubbed them clean and rubbed scented oils into their skin and hair. Dany had brushed Drogo’s beautiful long hair and bound it into a fresh braid. She had kept his bells and would add them to her hair as she gained her own victories. One hung there now. She had survived the bloody bed and survived the deaths of her husband and child. Every time it rang, she would remember.
Dany had her handmaidens prepare a hot bath for her in her tent. It stung to lower herself into the steaming water but the heat made her feel clean, and it melted away the pain and ache in her body.
After she was bandaged, she dressed in a painted vest that was one of her bride’s gifts, loose sandsilk trousers and leather sandals that tied up mid-calf. She ducked through the opening of her tent and out into the land beyond which was red and dry. She scanned the horizon for Ser Jorah and found him by the pyre he had made. The remainder of her khas was with him; she had nothing to fear of the people who remained to her. She approached with her handmaidens and looked upon their work. There was barely a tree in sight yet they had managed to forage enough wood and foliage for the pyre. They had used logs from the trees they had found to make a square and had filled the center with dry grass. In the middle of the dried grass was a platform made of logs. Her khas and Ser Jorah had woven together branches and placed them on this platform and covered them with dry leaves. On top of this, they had piled sleeping silks and soft cushions.
Rakharo was standing in the center of the log square holding a stallion. He called out to her, “Khaleesi, we could not find Khal Drogo’s horse. One of the elders saw Khal Pono take it. This was the finest stallion we could find from what was left.” The horse did not compare to the Khal’s red, but it was something at least. “You have done well, Rakharo. I wish to have another stallion burned for my son.”
“Khaleesi, Rhaego has no need of a horse. Dothraki who are too young to ride are reborn; they do not go to the nightlands.”
“I would have one burned for him anyway,” she said, her jaw set firm. Rhakaro cast his eyes down and bowed his head. “Ser Jorah, where is Qotho?” she asked.
“He is bound hand and foot in my tent.”
“With no guard?”
“We have none to spare, my lady. I needed your khas to help with the pyre. You have nothing to fear from him, not even escape. I cut both his calcaneal tendons. He could only crawl away if he had the will. He will never fight or walk again. His only wish now is to die with Khal Drogo.”
“And he will. He will burn next to the pyre and his Khal.”
“You would give Qotho what he wants? After he made to rip Rhaego from you?”
“He will burn next to his Khal, but he will burn alive.” Dany turned to watch as Rhakaro brought an ax down between the eyes of the horse. “Aggo, Jhogo, with me.”
Together, they brought Khal Drogo’s treasures to the pyre. Dany brought with her Drogo’s arakh, Aggo with the help of some of the older children left in the khalasar, carried his great tent and Jhogo his saddles and harness. Doreah brought with her Drogo’s dragonbone bow, Bethany his quiver, Jhiqui his painted vests and Irri his belts. Jhogo wanted to go back for the weapons given to Dany as bride gifts, but Dany refused. They were hers. But she did ask him to go back for something else. By the time they were finished loading the pyre and had moved the horses underneath the platform, it was sunset.
Dany caught Ser Jorah looking at her. She had caught him at it several times during the afternoon, a look of worry on his face. “Ser Jorah, it is time to send my husband and child to the Horse God.” Ser Jorah and Rhakaro carried her proud husband’s body to the pyre while the khalasar looked on. Aggo walked behind them, Rhaego in his arms. Dany helped Ser Jorah, and Rhakaro lay her husband among his silks and cushions. She then took Rhaego in her arms for the last time and kissed his soft silver-gold hair. She laid her baby next to Drogo, nestled between his right arm and torso. “Jhogo,” she commanded. Jhogo came forward with her chest of eggs. She climbed the pyre, and she beckoned for him to pass one to her at a time. Ser Jorah watched on, his forehead creased in a frown. “Khaleesi, these will be of no use to the Khal in the nightlands. Please, let us take them to sell in Asshai, you can live comfortably and in wealth for the rest of your life,” Ser Jorah said.
“I do not want to sell them,” Dany said. Jhogo passed her the green one first, and she put it beside Drogo’s head and curled his braid around it. The cream and gold egg she placed between his legs and the black under his left arm. She kissed her sun and stars for the last time and climbed down from the pyre. “Oil,” she commanded.
Dany’s khas began pouring pots of oil over the pyre, Rhaego, Drogo, his treasures and the surrounding logs. “Ser Jorah,” said Dany, “bring Qotho and bind him to the pyre. Aggo, help him.”
“Khaleesi, you mean to go through with this?”
“I am your Queen. Do not question me.”
They tied Qotho to a stake next to the pyre among the Khal’s treasures. His eyes hard, his legs a red ruin. Dany took a pot of oil from Bethany and poured the contents over Qotho, her face a mask of steel.
“You would have killed my son. You would have killed me. You abandoned your Khal the moment he could not ride a horse even though you had bound your life to his. For this, I sentence you to death. You will go with the Khal to the nightlands, and you will serve him there as you were not able to serve him on earth.”
“Qotho tilted his head back exposing his neck. “Have your milkman give me a good clean death. Your khas are not up to the task, and neither are you.”
“You will burn alive.”
“You are mad.”
She walked away.
“You witch, you cunt of the underworld. Kill me!” he begged. “Kill me!”
“Look, there!” Rhakaro pointed to the first star in the evening sky. It was time. Bethany brought forth a torch and passed it to Dany. She knelt and held the torch against the oily logs. The flames caught and she stepped back. Quickly the fire began to spread to the dry brush. Dany whispered something in Bethany’s ear. Bethany nodded solemnly and darted away. Dany tossed the torch into the spreading fire. Quickly it reached Drogo’s treasures, and the first of the flames began to lick the pyre. Heat from the flames reached her, and the rest of her khalasar stepped back, but not Dany. To her, the heat was as pleasant as a lover’s kiss. Qotho began to scream as the fire reached his ruined legs and quickly he was engulfed. The fire climbed the pyre, and Drogo’s clothes began to burn. Dany's breath caught in her throat. She felt herself take a step forward and a hand clutched at her arm. “My Queen, do not do this,” said Ser Jorah. Dany stood her ground and waited. Soon the heat drove the khalasar and Ser Jorah even further back. She could smell burning flesh, but it was really no different from the cooking of meat on a firepit in the evening. She opened her arms to the heat and the flame. “Khaleesi! Do not do this!” Ser Jorah cried out, his voice cracking with fear, but Dany knew the flames could not hurt her. She had the dragon in her blood; fire was in her veins. Qotho was silent now. She took another step forward. One more and she would be stepping over the log and into the flames. “My lady,” Bethany was just behind her. She held out Dark Sister. Dany took it from her and slung it across her back. She gave Bethany one last look before she stepped into the flames.
So bright, so beautiful. The heat engulfed her, and her skin turned to goose flesh. She made her way step by step to the pyre. Through the flames, passed Drogo’s treasures. She climbed to the top of the pyre and straddled her lover. His clothes were burning, but his face - his face was untouched. Dany reached back, behind her and pulled Dark Sister from its sheath. She gripped the handle of the sword with two hands and drew it up, high above her head. “Drogo!” she cried out and stabbed her lover through the heart. She pushed the sword down, all the way down so only the handle was visible.
She doubled over him, tears turning to steam as soon as she shed them. She scrunched her eyes closed, and the roaring of the fire stopped. She opened her eyes. It was dark. The stars were all around her. Above her, below her. She was still kneeling, but on what? The air around her felt cool and thick, like water. She looked around her and could see a bright light in the distance. A flame. It approached closer, and she realized it was a woman. A beautiful woman woven of flame. Dany could feel the heat and power emanating from what surely must be a deity. As the woman drew closer, the brightness of her flame flared white-hot, and Dany was compelled to bow her head. Hot fingers raised it. “Goddess of Light,” Dany heard herself say. The Goddess nodded.
“You are my Chosen One. Azor Ahai. Flamebearer. I gift to you the Red Sword of Heroes. Darkness shall flee before you.” The Goddess reached out a hand, palm up, and a flame grew from it in the shape of a sword. She held it out to Dany. Dany reached out a trembling hand, and she felt the pleasant burning sensation from the sword’s fire on her fingertips, but then she drew back.
“Goddess, I am honored, but I cannot be your Chosen One….I do not even know how to wield a sword.”
“You will. But first, my second gift to you. She stepped to one side to reveal a man who was standing behind her. The man’s face was the most familiar face in Dany’s world. “Drogo” she breathed and ran to him. Dany jumped into his arms and held him to her fiercely. “Drogo. Drogo, I am so sorry. I failed you. I did not see that the arrow had poisoned you, I should have known,”
“Shh. Moon of my life, you have done nothing wrong.”
“I lost our child!” Dany cried. Drogo carefully put Dany down, and she saw Rhaego was in his arms. “Rhaego rides with me in the nightlands. The Horse God had need of one such as he.” And dreamlike, they were in Drogo’s tent sitting on sleeping mats amongst silk pillows. Dany took Rhaego from Drogo. She held her son against her breast. He opened his lilac eyes, just like hers and she kissed his tiny pink forehead. He began to cry, and she let him suckle from her. The promise of a sweet mouth on her breast finally fulfilled. Drogo reached over and kissed her and when he broke the kiss, she looked up to see Rhaego was a plump toddler stumbling around the tent. His silver-gold hair long around his ears. Drogo rose and caught him just before he toddled too close to the brazier. The boy giggled. Drogo tossed him high into the air, and when he caught him, he was a small child. Drogo set Rhaego down, and he ran outside the tent. Dany chased after him and peered out of the tent flap as she watched him run outside with friends. Now he was an older boy riding a black horse, now a boy with his first silver fuzz on his chin drilling with his arakh with the older men, now a man grown - his skin gleaming copper and his long braid molten silver. Rhaego mounted a horse made of fire, and it was night again. The tent and grasses were gone, the sun gone. Just the stars below and above her. Rhaego raised a hand to her and waved. She waved back, and she watched as her son rode away into the stars. She turned back to Drogo and embraced him, tears falling unchecked down her face. He tilted her chin up and thumbed away those tears. He kissed her then. Long and passionately and the stars were no longer just around her but inside her too. She felt the heat of the Goddess beside them once again.
“My third gift to you,” the Goddess whispered, flames licking at Dany’s ear as she kissed Drogo. Through her lips, Dany felt Drogo’s essence bleed and burn into hers. Dany felt the muscles in her legs, arms and stomach grow taut and hard. Battle tactics flitted across her mind; her hands grew calluses, and her shoulders widened. She felt agile and cat-like. Dany broke the kiss, frightened that Drogo would no longer be. “In marriage souls are united. I have left you too early, moon of my life. So I leave with you a part of my soul. And know that I have no greater wish than to see you conquer the world and drive the Darkness from it.” Dany watched him mount his fiery stallion. She took his hand and kissed it and let it go. She let her sun and stars go and watched him ride into the night. Dany felt heat in her palm and looked down to see the flaming sword was in her hand. Dany turned to the Goddess who kissed her on both cheeks and then her lips. Dany closed her eyes to the stars and opened them when she heard the roaring of the fire again. She was straddling Drogo still, and her hands were around the hilt of Dark Sister. She drew the sword from his heart, and the blade was wreathed in flame. Dany heard a great cracking noise.
“My fourth gift to you,” whispered the flames and Dany looked down to find the black egg had cracked. A tiny black serpentine head was poking out from the shell. Dany placed the flaming sword across her lap and pried apart the shell to let the small dragon free. She held the tiny being, as hot as fire, in her hands. Two more cracks, two more dragons were born, one green and the other cream and gold. The pyre began to crumble, and she looked down to see that Drogo and Rhaego had turned to ash and bone beneath her. She clutched the dragons to her with one hand and gripped Lightbringer in the other and leaped down from the pyre. She knelt with them in the fire, and she realized her clothes had burned away and milk streamed from her sore, swollen nipples. First the cream and then the black dragon began to suckle from her. My children. She cradled them close as the fire started to die down around them.
In the early morning light, Ser Jorah made his way through the dying embers towards the pyre. When he found Dany, the green dragon was at her breast, and the black had coiled itself around her neck. The cream was curled up in her lap, dozing. When the black saw Ser Jorah, it raised its head and hissed at him.
“My Queen,” he whispered in awe and dropped to his knees. Dany stood, cradling the green and cream dragons with her left arm and with her right she held Lightbringer up high for all to see. She strode forward, passed Ser Jorah and into the midst of her khalasar. They gaped at her, her unburnt body covered in ash, carrying the first Targaryen dragons to be seen in one hundred and forty-six years. The khalasar fell to their knees before her, wordless and awed. Rakharo came forward and laid his arakh at her feet, “blood of my blood,” he said and knelt again. Jhogo and Aggo followed his example, saying together "blood of my blood." With her flaming sword still raised high, the dragons began to sing out into the night, a red comet shooting through the sky above them all.
Chapter 4: The Red Waste
Dany follows the Bleeding Star into the Red Waste.
Dany sat cross-legged amongst the scented hranna grass, a pile of old tack beside her needing mending. It was the dry season, and the hranna was the color of old bronze. Dany had Drogo’s leather mending tools set out around her and a bridle in her hands that required a new strap. She set to work on it, the wind sighing around her, swaying the tall grasses. She could see why Drogo had had a fascination with fixing old tack. It kept both the mind and the hands busy.
Dany wiped the sweat from her eyes and looked up into the sky. Even at midday, she could see the red comet. Her khalasar had named the comet the Bleeding Star and thought the omen ill. But Dany knew that the Light Goddess had put the Red Star in the sky for her, to herald the coming of R’hllor’s Chosen One. She tied off the piece of leather she was working on with a knot. She held her work out in front of her. The bridle was as good as new. She set it aside and picked up the next one. The night when she and Drogo had truly become one had left her with knowledge she was still discovering. She had found she knew how to fix tack, expertly ride her mare, use a bow, and wield both sword and arakh. She knew the land as if she had lived there all her life. Ever since the night she had sent her husband and son to the nightlands, she had kept Lightbringer strapped to her back, unwilling to part with it, though she had not had the courage to unsheathe it once. A small part of Dany could not help but worry that the flames would be gone and it would all have been just a dream. Her bridal gifts, the whip, and bow, she strapped to her mare when riding and the arakh she kept at her hip.
Ser Jorah and her bloodriders had not believed the story that she had seen the Red Goddess in the flames and that Drogo had come to her and meshed his soul with hers. Ser Jorah had told her that her grief and the smoke had caused her to hallucinate. Dany had shown Ser Jorah and her bloodriders her skill with the arakh. She had fought each of them in turn, and they were surprised, but still did not believe her story. When she asked them to explain what had happened to her, Ser Jorah seemed to think it was a reaction to her losing her husband and child and had nothing to do with the divine, that she had awakened a latent warrior’s prowess handed down through the generations from Aegon the Conqueror. Her bloodriders believed that the Horse God had come to her in the fires and given her the gifts of the warrior. The only one who truly believed her was Bethany.
Dany laid aside the stirrup she was mending and stood up to stretch her tight muscles. Jhogo and Rakharo were practicing with their bows not too far from her. They had made a target of thick furs and leather. Ser Jorah had joined them, and Jhogo was instructing him in the ways of Dothraki archery. Ser Jorah still has a long way to go. The Dothraki were able to shoot the bullseye of a target while riding on horseback. Dany bounced lightly on her toes. She could feel in her muscles that she knew how to do this. She stretched her arms above her head and then behind her back. She’d never felt so healthy, so invigorated. Not in her entire life. There was a deep health to her; she felt that all her bones aligned perfectly, her muscles were supple and strong, her body operated at maximum efficiency. She found that she was also eating more than she’d ever eaten in her life. She had to feed these new muscles and the new energy she harbored. She also needed the extra food to keep her milk supply up for her dragons, who still suckled greedily from her several times a day. It had been seven weeks and three days since Drogo and Rhaego’s death and she had no idea how long dragons would suckle for, or how much milk they would need as they grew. Her at times swollen, milk-filled breasts became a hindrance for all she wished to do with this new body, but after her dragons fed, she found some relief for a short while. Right now they were sore. Her dragons would wake and feed soon. Even still, she wanted to try this.
She rubbed the grime off her calloused hands with a rough cloth. She slung her quiver over her back, so it sat next to the ever-present Lightbringer, hooked her bow over her shoulder and whistled for her mare. Her silver approached, whickering gently, butting her head into Dany’s chest. Dany stroked her silver’s soft, velvety nose and ran a hand down her sleek neck. “You ready to show them what we can do?”
Dany carefully placed the small, flat Dothraki saddle onto her silver’s back and fastened the girth straps. She would need no bridle. She swung up into the saddle and guided the mare forward into a trot with just her legs and drew an arrow from her quiver. She nocked it and pulled back the taut string of the bow with ease. It would have taken Drogo months to harden his hands to be able to pull back a bow as strong as this one, but this was among the many gifts he had given her when their souls had joined. She clicked in her cheek and dug in her heels to urge her silver to a canter. As she sped past the target behind her bloodriders and Ser Jorah, she loosed the arrow, and it hit with a thock right into the middle of the target. The men spun around. Her blood riders cheered their Mother of Dragons, but Ser Jorah stared at his Queen in disbelief. She rode her mare up to the warriors and vaulted off her horse. Her bloodriders clapped her on the shoulder, but Ser Jorah just stared at her. “Believe me yet?” He did not answer her. “Try to pull back this bow,” she said passing Ser Jorah her dragonbone bow. He placed his fingers on the thick string of the bow and attempted to ease it back. The string barely moved. His eyebrows knitted together and he breathed out audibly. He tried again and again till he was red in the face and sweating and her bloodriders were holding their stomachs from laughter. Ser Jorah passed the bow back to her, muttering something inaudible under his breath and took his leave from the warriors.
Dany looked at the smiles on the faces of her bloodriders as they turned back to their bow practise and it filled her warmth. A bond had grown between her bloodriders, Ser Jorah and herself. An unbreakable bond. Knowing they were the only warriors in the khalasar, they had spent every spare moment sharpening their skills with both bow and arakh.
A warm breeze played with the loose strands of Dany’s silver-gold hair, and she closed her eyes. This was the most peaceful she had felt in weeks. It had started tough for this small khalasar. The day after Drogo went to the nightlands Dany, Bethany, her bloodriders and Ser Jorah had sat down around the brazier in Dany’s tent to decide what they should do next. Dany had told them then that the Goddess of Fire and Flame had put the red star in the sky to show her the way. While Bethany supported her, Ser Jorah and her bloodriders disagreed, saying that the star was leading them towards the Red Waste and that was a harsh place to travel.
“If we do not follow my red star, where do you propose we go?” said Dany.
“We should head north, back into the Dothraki Sea where food and water are plentiful,” said Aggo.
“Any khalasars we meet would kill those that could fight and enslave the rest. We must not go north,” said Rakharo.
“Such a ragged band as we are, are you sure another khalasar would bother us?” Dany asked.
“Yes, a khalasar will never turn from the chance of subduing a smaller or weaker khalasar and taking slaves. Also, most who come across our khalasar will strive to capture you and bring you to the dosh khaleen where the other Dothraki khalasars believe you belong,” said Ser Jorah.
“We should go south of the River. The lands there are green and abundant,” said Rakharo.
“Those are the lands of the Lamb Men. After all the raids they have endured they will not hesitate to attack any Dothraki they could dominate. Even soft Lamb Men could best five warriors,” said Ser Jorah. A warm feeling spread through Dany as she realized Ser Jorah included her in those five warriors, despite his doubts of where she had received these new skills. “Our best course of action would be to travel down-river. We may be able to take refuge in one of the ports there,” Ser Jorah continued.
“Khal Pono and his khalasar were headed in that direction to sell their new slaves in Slaver’s Bay. It would be too dangerous for us to head that way,” said Jhogo. Dany felt anger flit through her momentarily at the thought of Khal Pono selling Dothraki that had been Drogo’s into slavery. She vowed to herself that she would have her revenge. Dany knew she had the strength to do it; she could feel it coiled inside her.
“I do not fear Khal Pono.” Dany said. She felt strength surge through her. She knew she could beat him in single combat and she had never feared him when she was Drogo’s Khaleesi. “He had always been kind to me when Drogo was alive. Why should it be any different now?”
“Ko Pono was kind to you. Khal Pono will attack you and your tiny khalasar on sight. They are ten thousand, we are one hundred,” argued Ser Jorah. And most of those are the weak and the broken. We are not one hundred; we are five.
“So I guess we must follow my star after all. We cannot stay here, so that is the only way to go,” said Dany. There was no arguing against it; her council bent their heads in assent.
It was the only way they could travel, but it did not make the land any more kind. The heat of the Red Waste prevented them from traveling when the sun was in the sky, so they traveled by night and slept in their tents during the long heat of the day. The Red Waste was a barren place with little to eat and even less water. Khal Pono had taken the best of the horses, leaving her with the weakest and sickliest. They lost a few each day, meaning more and more of her fragile khalasar had to walk on foot.
As she sat tall in the saddle of her silver, she looked back upon her khalasar - the women, the elderly, the younglings. They were not a strong khalasar, but her people loved her fiercely and thought of her as a goddess reborn. They took what she said as law. They may not have strength, so I will be their strength. They may not have hope, so I will be their hope.
Dany’s three dragons had draped themselves around her. She had named them after the important men in her life that had now passed. The black and scarlet she had named Drogon after her sun and stars Drogo. The green dragon she had named Rhaegal, after her gallant brother Rhaegar. And the cream and gold she had named Viserion after her brother Viserys. Viserys' life may not have ended in strength and dignity, but he had cared for her since she was an infant and she would have no knowledge of who she was or who their family had been if it wasn't for him.
Dany had opened her painted vest for them as she rode. Rhaegal and Viserion were suckling at her breasts, and Drogon was sleeping, coiled around her neck.
The khalasar had to severely ration the food and water as there was so little to be found in the Red Waste. Dany had been surprised by how little the lower amount of food and water was affecting her. Another thing my sun and stars has passed to me. She wanted to take even less than was her ration so that the weakest could receive more, but Ser Jorah had urged her not to as she needed to keep up her milk supply for the dragons. “There are only three dragons in the whole world, Khaleesi. They are worth everything.”
Three days into the march and a man died. It was during the night ride. Dany’s dragons were asleep in a cage, which Irri and Jhiqui had fashioned out of twigs and small branches. Dany had been dozing lightly in her saddle when she awoke suddenly to a cry. She spun her mare and galloped down the column of Dothraki, horses, goats, and wagons. Ser Jorah and her blood riders followed closely behind. An elderly man without a horse had collapsed. Dany vaulted from her horse and ran to him. She put a cool hand to his hot forehead. His breath was coming fast, and he would not wake. “Water!” Dany commanded. No one moved. “I said water!” she looked up from the dying man into the faces of her khalasar. A woman dismounted from her horse, a small child clinging to her back, and handed her a water skin.
“He is a dead man, Khaleesi. Don’t give this poor woman’s water ration to a dead man,” said Rakharo.
“She can have my ration. This man is not dead yet; he needs water and rest.”
“You are the most important of all of us. The man is old, let him pass,” said Jhogo. Defiantly, Dany put the water skin to the man’s lips, but before the first drops flowed out, she brought it away. She rubbed her forehead. Her bloodriders were right. Even if she gave this man water, he would still pass. They must keep the water for those who still needed it. She held the water skin out for the woman, bowing her head to her in respect. The woman bowed her head in return before remounting her horse. She looked down at the man, suffering silently in the red sand.
“Do we have any dreamwine left?” Dany asked Ser Jorah.
“We never had any to begin with Khaleesi.”
“What about wine?”
He nodded. She gestured for him to fetch some. They made camp there early, and Dany carried the old man to her tent. She dripped the wine into his mouth with a cloth, much like she had for Khal Drogo and stayed with him holding his hand until he died. They burnt his body the next morning, sacrificing one of the weakest horses for his mount in the night lands.
Two days later it was a baby who died. Dany had awoken during her fitful daytime sleep to the cries of a woman outside her tent. “Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, please. Please,” the woman begged. Dany ran out to her and found she had a limp babe in her arms, a little girl, not that much older than Rhaego would have been now. She brought the woman, Kurru, into her tent. Her handmaidens and Bethany had awoken. “Some cool cloths, Irri,” Dany said. Dany took the sick baby into her arms, and her heart broke. It was all she could do to keep back her tears.
The baby was hot. She knelt and placed the baby down between her knees. She unwrapped the swaddling cloths and removed them. When Irri brought the wet cloths, Dany wiped the baby’s forehead, hands, tummy, and legs, trying to cool it. She sang to the tiny child in Westerosi as she did so. The child began to feel a little cooler and even began to stir. “How long has it been since she fed?” Dany asked. The woman told her she barely had any milk left for the child. So Dany took the baby to her own breast. She opened the small mouth with her little finger and popped her full breast into her mouth. The child would not suckle though. Dany squirted some milk into her mouth, but there was no response. She cradled the baby in the crook of her arm again and felt for breath, but there was none. She listened for a heartbeat, but there was nothing.
This death saddened her greatly. Without the council of the others she decided, despite the dangers, to risk returning to the Dothraki Sea. They were small in number; perhaps they could avoid other khalasars by sticking to the outer rim until they were well fed and stronger. Once their hunger and thirst had abated, maybe then, she and her small council could come up with another plan. She would not lose another child to her decisions though. No more.
“I thought you were going to follow the red comet,” Bethany asked her that morning as Dany was preparing herself for sleep.
“I believed the comet was the Lady of Flame’s way of showing me where I needed to go.”
“I believe it is.”
“So did I, and it seemed the only choice. But now I believe it is a test. I will not have my people die. Not for any cause. They are innocent, and they believe in me. We will return to the Dothraki Sea and pray that we will not come across any other khalasars.”
It took five nights to reach the Dothraki Sea. Towards the end of their journey on the fifth night, they started to see the grasses and soon after they found game and a small stream. All the khalasar, both people and animals lay by the stream drinking their fill. Dany rolled over lazily in the grasses, her belly taut and full of water. She would sleep here tonight with no tent, amongst the soft cool grasses and the babbling of the small stream. She watched the red comet, her dragons lying upon her. This is right. This was the right decision. Her khalasar would survive; she would make sure of it.
Over the next few days, as they traveled north on the outskirts of the Dothraki Sea, they came across a whole new society that Dany did not even know existed. There were many Dothraki living in small groups in the outer rim who did not belong to a khalasar at all. Her bloodriders wanted nothing to do with them, and neither did the rest of her khalasar. To them, these wanderers who did not belong to a khalasar were scum, no better than the dirt upon their feet. Other khalasars would have taken them for slaves, but Dany would have no slaves. Any slaves that were left to her, she had freed. Dany would have no more. She would never own another human being again.
Some of the wanderers they came across fled. Some took Dany’s small band for wanderers as well and traded with them. Any who did not flee were offered refuge amongst their khalasar. Dany’s khalasar grew from one hundred to one hundred and twenty. She told her khalasar that they needed to accept these wanderers. That they were now their equals.
Khalasars had many different reasons for casting out Dothraki. The most common reasons were because the man or woman was too weak to be part of a khalasar or they were crippled or deformed in some way. Another common reason was for crimes committed. The Dothraki did not have many laws, but rape of a khaleesi, theft, and murder in cold blood were considered heinous.
Dany still gave the crippled and deformed a horse and a place in her khalasar. Even if they could not fight with an arakh, some could still ride and shoot a bow. Those that had committed crimes she forgave and offered them a new life and purpose.
Out of the twenty new Dothraki in her khalasar, nine of these were warriors still capable of fighting. Her warriors now numbered fourteen, but it was not enough.
Dany and her council sat around the brazier that night. “The numbers of our warriors have grown. We are now fourteen,” Dany began.
Jhogo spat on the mat he was sitting on. “These wanderers are not warriors, they are not to be trusted, blood of my blood.”
“I have forgiven these new Dothraki of all their past sins. They have a new future now. They love their Khaleesi and will die for her. That is not the issue I wish to raise here tonight. We need warriors — more of them. Most of the wanderers we have come across are cripples or women and children. All are welcome in my khalasar, but if we are to survive in the Dothraki Sea, we need more warriors. I wish to train the women who are willing,” said Dany.
“This is not the Dothraki way. There are no warrior women in the Dothraki Sea. There has never been, and there never will be. The woman, she is for the man, and the man gives her children which she looks after. She cannot wield an arakh. It is blasphemy against the Horse God,” said Aggo.
“I wield an arakh. And my word is law. We will be training any willing women. Is that clear? Any who do not agree can change my mind with their steel against mine.” None challenged her. All had fought against Dany in training and knew her new strength was as Drogo’s had been. In single combat, Dany was undefeatable. “I have taken this khalasar back to the Dothraki Sea to keep you all alive. We were dying out in the Red Waste. While the Dothraki value only the strong, I value all my people, the strong and the weak alike. So we have turned aside from my red star, and I have brought you back to the grasses. We have fared well. We have plentiful water and food, and there have been no more deaths, even amongst the old. For now, I plan to stay on the far edges of the Dothraki Sea and hopefully not cross paths with any of the khalasars. I hope to increase our strength with additional warriors from amongst these wanderers and also to teach the women to fight. My hope is for this khalasar to become strong enough to be able to take on the smaller khalasars should we come across them. That way we can further increase our strength.” Her small council bowed their heads to her.
Dany ducked through the flap of her tent after her council had left and looked around her at the few weak horses and her even weaker people. This will not be forever, she promised herself. The Goddess of Light has given me gifts of strength for a reason. We will not be this shabby khalasar on the edge of nowhere forever. I will have my revenge, and I will take back what is mine.
The men and women of the khalasar had constant wariness in their eyes. They knew that being back in the Dothraki Sea meant that at any moment a stronger khalasar could come upon them and take everything. Dany made great efforts to prevent this. At all times she had four scouts from amongst the old and crippled men riding out north, south, east and west looking for signs of any khalasars. So far, there had been nothing.
Dany watched a mother walk past her with her two young children, ushering them in scolding tones towards the stream to be washed. Dany smiled, and her thoughts strayed to Rhaego. Her heart wrenched. I must not look back.
Dany ducked into her tent and picked up her bow. She ran her hands over the smooth, black dragonbone. It eased the ache in her heart a little. She swung her quiver over her shoulder and ducked back out.
It was getting late, and none of her warriors were practicing, so she had the targets to herself. She drew an arrow she had made herself from wood and bone and nocked it. She placed the pads of her calloused fingers over the string and pulled it back. She held it there until she felt the burn from her wrist across the strength of her well-muscled shoulders all the way to the other wrist. Only then did she let the arrow fly. The arrow whistled through the air before landing in the center of the target with a satisfying thock. She nocked another arrow with lightning speed, this time letting fly as soon as she had pulled back the string. In this fashion she spent all the arrows in her quiver, each hitting the center of the target and for that time no thoughts of Rhaego or Drogo filled her mind, and she found some peace. As she was pulling the arrows from the target, she felt someone approach from behind. It was Ser Jorah.
“The small council agreed because I told them they must, but truly Ser Jorah, what do you think of my decision to teach the women?”
“What do I think? I think it makes sense. We are lacking in warriors, and we have a lot of healthy women in this khalasar. While there are no women warriors amongst the Dothraki, female warriors are not unheard of in Essos. You will find female sellswords in the free cities and female pit-fighters in the fighting pits of Meereen. They are few, but they do exist. You will also find that most Dothraki women will have been taught by their mothers how to wield a knife to defend themselves against rapers. Dothraki women are vicious and courageous. I think what will be hardest is convincing them that they should go against Dothraki tradition and fight. That will be the real battle. You are the first female Dothraki warrior, but they view you as a goddess, not a woman. How will you convince them that after eons of them only bearing and raising children for their Khals that now they should fight for their Khaleesi?”
As Dany pondered this question a one-legged scout, galloped into the camp, crying out to her.
“Khaleesi! A scouting party rides for this camp!”
Chapter 5: Captured
An advance party from a larger khalasar attacks Dany's camp.
Dany's heart thudded in her chest at the news. “How many?”
“Five. That I saw, Khaleesi,” said the scout.
“Can we be sure it’s a scouting party?”
“Why else would a group of warriors ride out? It’s what khalasars do. They hunt for other khalasars they can conquer," said Ser Jorah. "Do not think for a minute they won’t come here and take what they can from us. They will rape and burn and take what slaves they can.”
Five. And they were fourteen. She had almost thrice the number of warriors, but they had only returned from the Red Waste two weeks ago. While mostly her warriors had recovered both fat and muscle, many of her khalasar was still weak. These five raiders had no one to protect, while she had over one hundred women, children, and elderly. They were slow to travel with many the cumbersome wagon. While she, Ser Jorah and her bloodriders had good weapons made of steel, her newest warriors had only spears and arrows they had crafted themselves of wood and bone. These five would be strong from good meat in their bellies and would all be carrying good steel.
Her hands itched to grip her arakh and ride out with her warriors to challenge them, to annihilate them and show the world that she was the Dragon Queen and would not be intimidated. The feeling burned in her blood, and she reached for her arakh. But if I rush out, what of my people? And my children? Despite their hard scales and breath of fire, they are only the size of small cats. They will be defenseless. It could be their death. She withdrew her hand from her arakh and placed it back calmly by her side.
“I can see them,” said Ser Jorah, his eyes squinting into the distance over the plains of the Dothraki Sea, the grasses turning gold as the sun set. “That’s not five. That’s twenty. These aren’t scouts; they’re an advance party.”
Damn the Seven. Dany could see them too; the setting sun gave just enough light to see the small specs on the eastern horizon. She looked around her. Many of the khalasar had come from their tents and pit fires. Her bloodriders and handmaidens also looked towards the horizon.
She lifted her voice so all could hear, “An advance party is heading this way,” she pointed out towards the eastern horizon. Hushed murmurs flowed through her khalasar and eyes widened. “I will not lie to you, we believe there are twenty of them, and they present a significant threat to our khalasar. If they do not hunt us down themselves, they will bring knowledge of our camp back to their khalasar, and that khalasar would swallow us up whole. Gather your family and what you can carry in hand and on horseback, and we will head north through the tall grasses. Do not take the wagons; leave anything you cannot carry behind. We can return here if the threat passes. For now, we must focus on escaping with our lives. We must leave within minutes. Douse all the fire pits!”
The Dothraki raced back to their tents to collect children, food, horses, and livestock. Dany grabbed her weapons, a leather pouch of food and a wineskin and made ready her silver mare. She and Bethany put her dragons in their cage and covered it with a cloth to hopefully lure them into sleep so they would not cry out. Dany commanded Bethany to gather her handmaidens and to flee quickly. “I will catch up to you as soon as I am able,” she promised. Dany made her way out of her tent, the dragon cage in hand and encouraged the slower of the Dothraki to make haste. She scanned the horizon. The riders were too close; they had not been quick enough. Their only chance of escape would be to outrun them; you could not hide easily in the Dothraki Sea. She urged the families to leave, requesting her bloodriders to lead them.
“Our place is by your side, Khaleesi, we are sworn to protect you, not the khalasar.”
“The khalasar needs you. They will not survive if you cannot lead them. Take the warriors, command them. Have at least three travel at the rear, and the rest flank the khalasar.”
Her bloodriders did not move.
“I command it!” They bowed their heads and left. Ser Jorah ducked out of his tent and headed towards her; a heavy leather bag on his back. "My Queen, we must - "
“Ser Jorah, ride with the khalasar. Your sole responsibility is to keep my dragons safe.”
“My Queen, I must protest-“
“This is not a discussion,” she fumed, her cheeks reddening. She saw his face fall. “There is not the time,” she said, her voice softening. “There are only three dragons in the whole world. They are my children. They are everything. Keep them safe!”
“And what will you do?”
“I will hold off the advance party.”
“That is madness.”
“I am the only one here that they will not kill or enslave. The riders will recognize my hair from a distance and realize that I am the khaleesi who must be taken to the dosh khaleen. They will not harm me.”
“And you will do this alone?”
Ser Jorah and Dany turned their heads towards the voice of one of the newer Dothraki warriors; bow slung across his back and spear in hand. His name was Ashefa, which means river in Dothraki, and he was an ex-wanderer. “I will fight beside you, Khaleesi, if you will allow it.”
Ser Jorah looked at her pleadingly.
“You know it will mean your life,” said Dany.
“I give it to you freely. If it means the chance between your life and death, and that of the khalasars, it is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”
Dany nodded. She looked behind her again. The riders were approaching closer.
“Go, Ser Jorah. Take my silver; she is the swiftest of horses.” After Ser Jorah mounted her horse, she passed him the cage of dragons. “Ride swiftly, my heart,” she whispered to her silver before Ser Jorah dug in his heels and rode away, not looking back.
She could hear the approaching warriors calling out to each other now.
“Light a torch, to make sure they keep heading this way. They must not head for the khalasar,” she commanded Asehfa. It was almost dark now.
“Khaleesi, you accepted me into this khalasar even though I was cast out from Khal Hador’s. Even though I was cast out for rape, a misdeed I have come to learn you abhor,” Ashefa said as he lit a torch and held it up.
“This is true. But I forgave you of all your sins when you joined this khalasar. You began a clean slate that day Ashefa, and you have only behaved honorably since. There is no need to delve into the past. You are no longer that man.”
“I was never that man, Khaleesi. The woman I was accused of raping was Halah, Khal Hador’s wife. By Dothraki law, rape of a Khal’s wife is punishable by death. But Hador was my brother, so he cast me out instead.”
Dany just listened.
“But I never raped her. We were in love, Khaleesi. And Hador had many wives; he did not care for her. But when he found out, he was enraged. I had only ever wished to give her the love and attention she deserved.”
“You are a good man, Ashefa. I felt it the moment I first saw you. Death approaches and the Horse God will welcome you into his fiery khalasar, of that, I am sure.”
As the riders drew closer, Dany saw them reach for their bows. She motioned for Ashefa to pass her the torch and she threw it into the closest fire pit.
Dany took the dragonbone bow from her shoulder and nodded to Ashefa to do the same. She reached for an arrow from the quiver strapped to her back and nocked it. She drew the bow back smoothly. If these had been Westerosi knights, her arrows with tips of bone would have done nothing against their plate and mail. But Dothraki did not wear armor, just painted vests and riding leathers. When the bow was drawn back as fully as possible, she released. The arrow flew through the air in a straight line and punched into the stomach of the first rider. It was a fair distance, but the double-curved dragonbone bow surpassed that of any regular bow. The rider flopped off his horse like a ragdoll, trampled under the feet of those following. The other warriors did not even falter. Ashefa also released the bow that he had made by his own hand, but the arrow fell short. He cursed and reached for another arrow. Dany had already nocked her next arrow and shot it, felling another rider. Arrows whistled through the air and speckled the dust at the defenders’ feet, but none struck flesh. Thrice more riders fell from Dany’s arrows. She was just about to release her next arrow when she heard one of the lead men shout out, and the rest of the men hooked their bows back onto their saddles. Dany returned the arrow to her quiver, slung her bow over her back and unsheathed her arakh, the steel ringing in the cool night air. “They recognize me,” she said to Ashefa, as he slung his bow over his shoulder and picked up his spear. As the riders rode up to meet them a wave of dust swept over the two defenders. They stood back to back as the riders encircled them. She recognized none of them. One man dismounted, holding his hands up, showing he had no weapon.
“You are Daenerys, are you not? The khaleesi of Khal Drogo?”
“I am Daenerys Stormborn The Unburnt, blood, and seed of Aegon the Conqueror, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men.”
“Titles will not hide you, Queen Daenerys. You were khaleesi to Khal Drogo. Your place is with the dosh khaleen; they await you.”
He reached to take her arm, but she spun away from him, pirouetting on the ball of one foot and then bringing her arakh down on that reaching arm in one fierce blow. Flesh and bone gave way to steel, and the forearm was cut cleanly away at the elbow. The man screamed and fell to his knees, a pool of blood spreading around him. The other Dothraki laughed as the man collapsed and bled out at her feet.
“The white bitch bites,” one of them chuckled.
“You will die for that,” cried Ashefa, lurching with his spear towards the chuckling rider moments before an iron arrow tip sprouted from his throat. Dany breathed in sharply and caught the gurgling Ashefa as he fell. She sunk to the ground with him and murmured his name, but he was already dead. She placed him on the ground and closed his eyes, his blood damp on her chest. She would grieve for him when this was over. She stood back up, though her limbs felt heavy. Rain began to pitter-patter softly on her face. The sky cries for you, Ashefa.
“There is no need for all this violence,” said another young Dothraki, with a cruel face and eyes as black as coal. “We do not mean any harm to you, Daenerys. All we wish is to take you back to the dosh khaleen.” He made a visible show of looking around them, at the fire pits, the wagons, and tents left behind.
“Are you alone?”
“You killed Ashefa; of course I am alone.”
“This looks to be a camp. A particularly large camp considering there were only the two of you. Where are the others?”
“There are no others. Once Drogo had passed, his khalasar left me to die. I found this wanderer, Ashefa, on the outskirts, and he was willing to let me travel with him. This is an abandoned camp we stumbled on.”
“What of the Andal? And your handmaidens. What of your khas?”
“Only one of my handmaidens was with me after the birth of my son; I assume the other two left with one of the khalasars that broke off from Khal Drogo’s. My khas wanted to take me to the dosh khaleen, but I refused. Ser Jorah, the Andal you speak of, fought them, and killed them. He later died of a wound to the hip. It was just my remaining handmaiden, Doreah, left to me. We joined a small group of wanderers led by Ashefa, but she died last week of a blood fever. The others passed shortly after. Only Ashefa and I survived.”
“Where is your son?”
“He did not survive the birth.”
The man she was speaking with drew his arakh. The remaining men drew theirs too. There were fourteen of them left. One against fourteen. Good odds. A cruel smile curving his lips; the man reached his free hand out and beckoned her. “Come now, Daenerys, why don't you put that arakh down and come quietly. You can ride with me,” he patted his leather saddle, sneering. Dany shuddered. “The life of a crone is not so bad. Not so bad as how life is now or will be if you refuse. Eunuchs will serve you, and you'll spend your days eating and relaxing and telling prophecies to the khalasars. You will meet brides and tell prophecies of the unborn children of the khals.”
She gave him a hard stare and did not move.
The cruel man yawned, “Come, this is getting tiresome. I tell you what, you come with me now, or I will kill you.”
Dany gritted her teeth and nodded curtly.
“Good, then. Come now, put down that arakh, and take my hand.”
Slowly, not taking her eyes off the cruel man, she bent her knee to place her arakh on the dust beneath her feet. The cruel man told his party to relax and sheath their arakhs. She feigned fixing her sandal, and when the cruel man rolled his eyes, she pulled a hidden bone dagger, crafted by her own hands, from her sandal and threw it with force at the cruel man’s throat. She had underestimated this young Dothraki warrior though; he caught the knife mid-flight and with a flick of his wrist sent it straight back at her. Reflexively, she picked up the arakh at her feet and cut the knife out of the air before it touched her flesh.
“Get her!” The cruel man commanded, signaling to three of them.
Dany readied herself in the pose of the warrior; one she had seen Khal Drogo in many times while training with his bloodriders. This would be her first real battle. Her body thrummed with excitement. Red Goddess guide my hand. Let me fight as fiercely as Aegon the Conqueror and Daemon the Dragonknight, whose blood both flows in my veins.
The men slipped from their saddles and approached her slowly, stepping over the dead body of their comrade. Two had arakhs; one had a spear. It was the arakhs that concerned her the most, but the spear had more reach.
With fierce agility and grace, Dany leaped toward her first target and swung her arakh in a vicious blur, the steel biting into the rider’s thigh through leather and down to the bone. The man dropped his arakh, collapsed on the ground, and grasped at the wound, blood bubbling between his fingers. She spun on her heel and ducked under the head of the spear jabbing towards her and punched steel into its wielders belly, withdrawing it just in time to clash arakhs with her third attacker. As they struggled she kicked her attacker in the stomach, throwing her hips and all her weight into it, sending him sprawling backward. She leaped towards him; her arakh raised high for a lethal blow when mid flight she felt something hard strike the side of her head. It knocked her out of the air, and suddenly she was on the ground, her arakh spinning away from her. She tried to rise, but a wave of dizziness hit her, and she felt a hot wetness trickling down her face. She looked up to see the cruel man was laughing down at her, but he faded from view as her world turned pale and then blackness engulfed her.
When Dany awoke, at first all she saw was the fuzzy glow of a fire pit. “Doreah…” she murmured. Her mouth was dry, her throat raw. Her head throbbed horribly. She blinked her eyes, and the fire came into focus. Two men sat close by her at the fire pit, sharing a wineskin. She was lying on her side in the dust; her hands bound tightly behind her back with coarse rope. She tried to move her legs, but her ankles chafed horribly against the rough rope that also tied them. Dany's feet were bare, and her bow and quiver gone, her arakh missing from her hip, and…..
“Missing this?” The cruel man knelt beside her, the sheathed Lightbringer in his hands.
“What is it Ivezh?” asked one of the men from the fire pit.
“It’s nothing of note, just an old Westerosi blade given to me as a wedding gift,” said Dany, her voice scratching in her throat.
“Oh, I don't think this is nothing. This is something special.” He must not unsheathe it. “Is it Valyrian steel?”
“No. Not Valyrian steel. My brother told me common steal was used to fashion this blade," she lied. "It looks magnificent at the hip, but it’s not so great in battle. Why do you think I chose to use my arakh over it. It’s just a common blade.”
Ivezh gripped the handle, making to unsheathe it.
“No, don’t!” Dany yelled out, fresh sweat breaking out on her face. But, it was too late, Ivezh began to draw the blade out of its sheath. Dany squinted, expecting the glow of red fire, but instead, cold steel met her eyes. Disappointment flooded her. She had not unsheathed the sword since the day the Red Goddess had forged it into Lightbringer and had been putting it off for a reason. She had never truly believed it could be true. How could it have been? It was a fanciful tale akin to the myths and legends she had learned as a child. Was everything she had seen when she walked into that fire a dream? Her son joining the Horse God’s starry khalasar? Her husband’s soul meshing with hers? The Red Goddess? Had all of it just been in her head?
“There. I knew there was something special about this blade. It is Valyrian steel. Very rare, you know, especially in the Dothraki Sea. There is only one arakh ever made of Valyrian steel, and that belongs to Caggo, a Dothraki turned sellsword and now captain of a mercenary company who calls themselves the Windblown. I know a little of Westeros, of your houses. A lot of the houses have ancestral blades made from Valyrian steel. Is this what this is? A Targaryen ancestral blade?” he asked, sheathing the sword.
She was baffled by his knowledge. How did he come to know such things? She was especially surprised he knew that her house was Targaryen when most Dothraki did not care for such things.
“I knew I’d be the one to find you,” Ivezh said. “Khal Pono will reward our party on our return with women, wine and gold.”
“Khal Pono? What does Khal Pono want with me?”
“I told you, he wants to take you to the dosh khaleen. He wants to make things right. The Horse God will reward him for keeping to the Dothraki ways; the ways things have always been done. It creates balance in the Dothraki Sea. You have upset that balance. It curses us all.”
He drew closer to her, grabbed her by the front of the vest, and hauled her up to sit against a whorled tree. Her head throbbed all the more, and she winced, squeezing her eyes tight shut.
“Let’s take a better look at you,” he grabbed her roughly by the chin, twisting her head left and right. “You are a beauty. I’ve never seen you up close before, though I was part of Drogo’s khalasar.”
“I do not remember you,” she said coldly.
“40,000 men, why would you? There were too many of us. Did you know that Drogo never even looked at another woman after he married you? And you wouldn't have known his reputation for having a different woman in his tent every other night. So let’s see what's so special about Daenerys no name, shall we? Let’s see what made the Khal turn aside from his ways.” He groped at her vest and Dany instinctively tried to pull away, struggling from his grip. “No!” she yelled at him. Remembering her new found strength, she set her jaw and head-butted him in the face. He pulled back, she had split his lip open, and he winced as his tongue found the wound. He smiled cruelly before slapping her. Slapping her so hard her lip split too and warm blood flowed down her chin. He reached for her again and ripped her vest open.
“It is against Dothraki law to rape the wife of a Khal. Even a dead Khal,” she spat at him.
“Oh, don’t worry; I only want to look…. and maybe touch.” He pushed aside her vest to expose her swollen milk-filled breasts. Rage filled her as the Dothraki from the fire pit looked around in interest too.
“I will kill you all,” she hissed. A sudden burst of strength zapped through her, and she strained against the bonds around her wrists until they broke. She brought a closed fist down on Ivezh’s face knocking him back, yelling her fury. Ivezh was down, and she tried to undo the bonds at her feet, but the cord was too tightly tied. Before she could loosen it, the other two men were upon her, and others came running also.
It took four men to hold her down. “Hold an arakh to her throat,” Ivezh commanded, his right eye red and bloodshot, the skin around it visibly purpling from where she had struck him. Cold steel bit at her throat and her jaw spasmed as she made to still herself.
He reached for a breast and gave one a painful squeeze until milk dripped from it. My dragons. How will they feed when I am not with them? “I can see why the Khal turned away from our kind. You have a rare beauty that surpasses all in the Dothraki Sea.”
“I am Daenerys Stormborn, of House Targaryen, first of my name, Queen of Westeros-“
He put his face so close to hers she could smell his rancid breath. “You are Daenerys no name, Queen of nowhere, who will be a crone of the dosh khaleen, forever and ever. You will have no titles, no story, and no heirs.”
He bent his head and licked her breast. She shuddered and swallowed down her revulsion.
“I thought you said your baby did not survive birth. That was, what, two moons ago? Why do you have milk?”
“One of the wanderers I first traveled with had a babe, but she had no milk. I had been feeding him before the blood fever took him also.”
“I feel that you are lying to me, Daenerys. If I had more men, I’d send them back to have a better look around that camp. I think you’re protecting someone or many someones. Don't think that they are safe. Khal Pono will likely send out another group of riders. He is always looking for new slaves to sell.” He reached down and gripped her sex through her horsehair pants, hard. “You’re lucky I’m a lawful man.” The last thing she saw was his fist coming towards her face.
Chapter 6: Slave
Khal Pono's khalasar takes Dany to Slaver's Bay.
Blackest misery. She could smell it. In their sweat, their piss, their blood. It oozed from them and washed over her. The only smell that was stronger in this tiny prison on wheels, was the filth that caked the bottom of the wood and iron cage.
When Dany’s Dothraki captors had tried to force her into the cage, she could taste the slaves’ fear and wretchedness in the air, and it had infected her, her eyes widening and mouth opening in horror. She had resisted, tried to resist. I will not go in there with them. I will not be confined. Even in her groggy state from the last time she was knocked out, it took five Dothraki riders to force her into that cage. They pressed her up against the bars, a knife to her throat. They shackled her hand and foot and collared her. The shackles and collar were connected with short chains and were locked onto a staple wedged into the floor of the cage so she could barely move. The back of the collar was chained firmly to the bars of the cage and fitted so tightly and high that it was a trial just to take breath. She could only suck in air if she sat a certain way, making rest and sleep impossible.
“I demand to speak to Khal Pono,” she had said on the first day of her imprisonment, between short breaths to Ivezh, who was riding beside her cage, one of her four constant guards. “You said he was to take me to the dosh khaleen. Vaes Dothrak is to the west, and we are traveling east.”
“For your insolence, that is, for the killing of his warriors, Khal Pono has taken your freedom and made you a slave. He will gain many riches selling a Westerosi Queen in Slaver’s Bay.”
“I thought Khal Pono was for the old ways.”
“Khal Pono is for Khal Pono. Besides, you are too dangerous to be loosed. Imagine what you might do to our precious dosh khaleen if we took you to Vaes Dothrak? No. You are fit now only to be a slave. You will never again set foot upon the Dothraki Sea, or in fact anywhere that the Master who buys you has not allowed you to.”
Hers was not the only cage traveling in Khal Pono’s khalasar; it was part of a column of them. The cage Dany was in was packed full to bursting with women and children. Even if she hadn’t been so heavily chained, she would barely have been able to move. Puke, sweat, piss, and shit. It engulfed her until she thought she’d be sick. She was the only one chained up, and the women and children stared at her. They might have lived their whole lives without seeing a woman with silver-gold hair and lilac eyes. All of them looked to be Dothraki. Khal Pono must have absorbed another khalasar. If each cage holds this many, there must be a thousand of us. They seemed curious, but none spoke to her or each other.
So tightly manacled and collared as she was, Dany was not able to tend to herself at all. She could not even scratch her own nose. Once a day, the march stopped at sundown, and all the slaves were taken out of their cages and commanded to shit and piss in the dust before the khalasar locked the slaves back up and settled down for the night. The young children, even with the small ration of only one ladle of water per slave per day, could not hold their bursting bladders for a whole twenty four hour cycle and so pissed and sometimes shat where they huddled.
Each slave was allocated one piece of stale flatbread per day. Dany could not feed herself, but gentle hands from the Dothraki women fed her even though they could have stolen her food to feed their starving children.
Dany was glad that none of the slaves were speaking. If she spoke to them, she knew her heart would break at the thought that these women and children would most likely be sold to separate Masters at Slaver’s Bay. Families would be torn apart. Her mind constantly strayed to her own children - her dragons and the people of her khalasar. I must make my way back to them. But how? She would escape. She’d have to; it was the only way she would see them again.
Drogo’s strength burned in her, and the small rations weakened her only a little, but she could see the toll it took on the others in the cage. Cracked, dry lips and pale, gaunt faces. Even though she could see their pain in the lines around their eyes, the Dothraki never complained or cried out, not even the children. All eyes were as dry as their lips and tongues.
It was a thousand miles to Slaver’s Bay from where the riders had taken Dany on the edge of the Dothraki Sea, and the slow journey took two and a half agonizing weeks. Dany’s hair became matted and dull, her skin and clothes filthy. Her split lip crusted over and healed. In the first week, her milk dried up. She wondered how her dragons were eating and if they still lived? They were such little things when she had left them. What were Bethany and Ser Jorah feeding them? Before they were separated, the only sustenance they had known was her milk. She desperately wished she’d tried them on meat earlier. She remembered Viserys telling her that only men and dragons ate cooked meat. Did Ser Jorah know this? Her handmaidens? Bethany? She missed them and her bloodriders and desperately hoped her plan had worked and they had escaped Khal Pono. They could be in any one of these cages for all she knew. She hadn't seen any of her khalasar among the slaves from her cage, but the collar she wore severely restricted her head movements, and she couldn’t be sure they weren’t amongst the adjacent cages.
Miles away from Slaver’s Bay, she could smell the fleshmarts, even above the stench of the shit and blood in her own cage. It was a smell of feces and rot, by far the most revolting smell she had encountered in her entire life, and she had to swallow down the urge to wretch.
The smell grew worse the closer Khal Pono’s khalasar drew and as they finally entered Slaver’s Bay and traveled along the road beside a harbor filled with slave ships, Dany felt ill at what she saw. The sheer and utter misery of the emaciated slaves being loaded and unloaded off the various ships slapped her in the face. As her cage slowly trundled by, she watched them shuffling along in lines, each shackle linked from one skeletal slave to the next, each fettered ankle oozing blood and pus. The horror she felt at what she saw was bone-deep. She worked against her fetters, as she had many times during the trip, but they were impossible to escape from, and even if she did, what could she do to help them? She had no weapons, no one to fight beside her. Their misery was so extreme that she could feel their hunger, their exhaustion, their pain. Dany closed her eyes to it all.
It was always fleshmarket season in Slaver’s Bay. She remembered her brother teaching her that the Great Cities of Slaver’s Bay – Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen – drove the slave trade for all of Essos. Slaver’s Bay’s leading industry was slavery. This was where people from all over came to purchase the slaves that had been sold here mainly from the Dothraki and the corsairs of the Basilisk Isles.
The column finally came to a halt outside the high, many colored brick walls of Meereen. The ground shimmered with heat, and the air was still and moist. Dothraki riders began to unlock the cages and unload their human stock. They bound the women’s and children’s hands from Dany’s cage with coarse rope. The piece left dangling was used to lead the slaves one by one out of the prison. From behind, Dany’s leather collar was freed from the bars she was pressed against and Ivezh unlocked the chains attaching her manacles to the staple wedged into the floor of the cage. He reefed her to her feet. The chains running between the leather collar and the manacles of her hands and feet meant that while she could stand and walk, she hunched over from the pull of the chains. Dany was led out of the cage and into the early morning sun – it had barely risen and already the markets had opened for the day.
Despite her strength, Dany felt light headed as she stepped down from the cage on wheels into the busy, crowded street. One street of many in this large, sprawling marketplace of human flesh. Customers stopped as they passed Khal Pono’s slaves to poke at one or the next, enquiring in the bastard form of High Valyrian the Meereenese spoke in. The Dothraki guards just grunted and waved them away. Dany twisted her stiff, bruised neck as much as she could. At first glance, she could have mistaken the marketplace for any other she had visited. Ghiscari men and women ambled up and down the street with their children, laughing merrily and pointing out the wares to one another as they passed by the different stalls. Except in this marketplace, the wares were human livestock. Sobs and shouts of unintelligible misery filled her ears. Sounds of whips and sticks beaten against human flesh. She had to shut it out, shut it all out or she would lose her wits. Disgust and outrage boiled up inside her at this atrocity — this blatant disregard for human life.
Ivezh suddenly brought her close, so close she could feel the moisture from his carrion breath in her ears. “You're thinking of running, aren't you? Do you know what happens if you are a slave and you run in a fleshmart? You see those Meereenese guards walking around? They will chase after you and cut down every slave in their path until they find you. You run, and you will kill many innocents.”
Dany passed by the stalls of flesh in a haze. Ivezh had taken her off separately from the other slaves, and she dreaded what would be at the end of their little stroll together. As they passed by the numerous stalls, she started to become aware that different booths sold different types of slaves. She saw signs for musicians, scribes, seamstresses, cobblers, tanners. Some stalls sold children only, and it pained her to see their little ankles chafed to bloodiness from their fetters and their small, pale faces peering up to hers and somehow seeing hope there. She was as much a slave as they were. How could she help them? She tried to avert her eyes as she passed a booth where a man was examining a female slave. The woman was completely naked and prostrate, and he was spreading her legs to examine her nether regions. Dany was horrified and could not tear her eyes off the woman’s, which had become as dull as the stones under Dany’s feet. The marketplace seemed to stretch endlessly. Wave after wave of anguish passed over Dany at the sites she was seeing.
Ivezh led Dany through a courtyard, a waft of roasting meat and Meereenese herbs hit her, her stomach rumbling and twisting till she felt ill with it. In the courtyard, auctions were taking place. The slaves here were skilled fighters, exotic dancers, healers, and women highly trained in the arts of pleasure. There were rows of benches where buyers sat for the auctions in front of a stone block where the prized slaves stood while the buyers bid on them. The bidders ate food and chatted amongst each other. None of them seemed bothered by the environment they were in, by the sheer despair of the slaves or even the stench for that matter. She could not believe that people could live so oblivious to others’ misery and agony.
On one of the many roads splitting off from the courtyard, Ivezh stopped at a small booth selling pit fighters. Dany stared blankly, her emotions exhausted, while Ivezh spoke in low tones to the Ghiscari slave broker manning the booth. She caught a few words, and it sounded like they were speaking in bastard High Valyrian. How did Ivezh know so much of the worlds beyond the Dothraki Sea? He stood beside her again, out of earshot of the slave broker. He spoke to her low, a whisper in her ear, so close his foul lips were on her skin. “Next time I see you, that is if I ever see you again alive, you will no longer belong to Khal Pono. You will no longer be a Dothraki and so will not be protected under Dothraki laws. I will part those pretty pink lips of yours and force myself into that sweet tight cunt. Goodbye, Daenerys no name. I hope you enjoy being a slave for the rest of your wretched life.” He passed her chains to the slave broker and walked off without looking back.
“Well, you don’t look like much of a fighter,” Dany turned towards the voice of the short Ghiscari man who held her chains. “Not that I don't believe you are. Khal Pono’s Dothraki have no reason to lie to me. Khal Pono and I have been in business for many long years.” He led her to the center of a circle of slave stalls that belonged to him and unlocked her chains. Dany was able to stand up straight for the first time since her Dothraki captors had forced her into that cage on wheels. She stretched out her aching back and rolled her stiff neck. “Xhondo!” the Ghiscari man commanded. A tall man, three heads taller than Dany, with ebony skin and rippling muscles approached. “Practice swords!” the Ghiscari man ordered. Xhondo looked Dany up and down, raised an eyebrow and fetched two well-used wooden practice swords and tossed one at Dany’s feet. Dany ignored it, staring straight ahead. “Fight him. Show me what Ivezh said is true,” said the Ghiscari man. Dany gave a small kick to the sword and spat on the ground. “I will not fight at anyone’s command.” She stared straight ahead, awaiting the blow that would surely follow. Surprisingly, instead, the Ghiscari man came to stand in front of her.
“You know what I am, don't you?”
“You’re a slave broker,” she said, her voice cracking from disuse and disgust.
“Ah, not just any slave broker, I am Grazhar, the most famous slave broker in Slaver’s Bay. Well, at least, the most famous slave broker in the pit fighting section of Slaver’s Bay. That’s why Khal Pono always brings me his slaves with the greatest potential as pit fighters. Not just fodder, he takes those elsewhere, no I mean true potential. I take a high percentage from the final sale, but more often than not, that sale is very high. This keeps Khal Pono happy and rich, which keeps me happy and rich. All the Masters in Slaver’s Bay would like to own a Queen. You’ll sell, that’s a guarantee. But I’ll make the most money off you if I can sell you for a Queen and a pit fighter. And do you know what’s in it for you, sweet Queen?”
Dany continued to stare straight ahead.
“It’s the best life I can offer you now that you're a slave. I’m sure as a Queen, you can read and write, and no doubt have other skills, but no one will buy you as a skilled slave considering the price a Queen will be put up for. You have no family here to buy you back. No family at all from what I hear, the rumors say that you are the Last Targaryen. I can guarantee that unless a Master buys you as a pit fighter, you will be bought for sex and sex alone. Who wouldn't want to bed a Queen? Maybe only your Master will rape you, maybe his whole House and honored guests too. On the other hand, as a pit fighter, you will be well looked after. To fight well, you need to be strong and healthy, therefore your Master will provide you with good hearty food, clean, fresh water, and unsoiled clothing and bedding. As a female pit fighter, your Master will allow no rape of you. Injury to your person will result in decreased performance, and a pit fighting Master wouldn't dare let any of his pit fighters fall pregnant. A woman cannot fight when she is heavy with child! And then the birth itself could cause injury or death and to shake the child loose with poisons can cause even greater sickness. And not only will you be assured all that, but as a pit fighter, your days will be filled with perfecting your fighting prowess. A lot more worth your time than anything else a slave would do with their life. If you're good enough, you will fight in Daznak’s Pit, the greatest and largest pit in Slaver’s Bay and you will gain fame and honor. In fact, being a Queen, you’ll probably still see Daznak’s Pit and fame regardless of your skill. Every man, woman and child will come from all over Slaver’s Bay to see you fight,”
Dany’s face remained stony, and Grazhar frowned and stroked his chin. Then he suddenly smiled, “Also, a pit fighter is the only type of slave who has the chance at becoming a free man.” Dany raised her eyebrows at this. “It’s rare. Very rare. But some of the most famous pit fighters in history, those who have brought the audience much satisfaction and have honored the very gods themselves, have been freed. Now,” he said, picking up the sword at her feet and offering it to her. “Show me what you can do.” Dany stretched out a hand and wrapped her callused fingers around the sword’s wooden grip, her jaw clenching in determination.
Chapter 7: Dhazak
Daenerys gets sold as a pit fighter.
The brick roads of Slaver’s Bay shimmered with the heat and Dany wiped the sweat off her brow with the back of her hand. Discarding her filthy garments, she stepped carefully into a metal tub of unheated water and eased herself down, delighting in the feel of the cool water against her skin. She had minimal privacy, and Grazhar’s other slaves gawked at her from their stalls. I don't care. Let them look. A white-haired crone who was slave to Grazhar came behind her and gently poured a cold bucket of water over Dany’s head. The beginnings of feeling clean. Dany sighed and lay back in the bath. The crone scrubbed Dany till she was red raw and washed and combed the tangles and snarls out of her hair.
As Dany stepped out of the bath, she felt fresh and clean. She looked at the filthy bathwater she’d left behind and hoped she would never be that dirty again. If everything went well at her showing this morning, she probably never would be. An hour ago, Dany had broken Xhondo’s nose with her wooden practise sword in her demonstration of prowess. The slave broker had clapped and smiled and left immediately to sign her up for that morning’s showings.
The crone passed Dany a coarse towel to dry herself off with and came back with Dany’s new clothing. Dany’s eyes widened. She had never dressed in garb as such. The garments were fierce in nature, not quite Dothraki, but savagely beautiful all the same. First, the crone wrapped the leather skirt about her. The skirt was in four pieces reaching just past Dany’s knees. One piece hung at the front and back and one at each side of her legs. The pieces were embroidered with gold Ghiscari glyphs and designs. The leather skirt was fastened with a belt of gold medallions just under her belly button. The leather top was made from the same embroidered leather as the skirt and formed two triangles over her breasts. It tied around the middle of her back and the back of her neck, leaving her belly and most of her back exposed.
The crone sat Dany down on a low stool and braided Dany’s long silver-gold hair back into many tiny braids, in a fashion Dany had seen some Summer Isles men and women braid their hair. The crone painted kohl around her eyes and dipped three fingers in a bright red paint that looked like blood. The woman dragged her fingers down from Dany’s forehead; over eyes, lips, chin and down her neck stopping when she came to Dany’s leather top. She painted swirls of the red paint in intricate designs on her arms and legs. She finished by giving Dany a pair of gold leather sandals that tied up at mid-calf and applying a gold paint to her lips. When she was ready Grazhar, who had returned by then, placed a gold circlet on her brow. “Now, you look like a Queen. Queen of the savages.” Dany frowned but bit her tongue. My people are not savages.
“I say that as a compliment, my lady. Now, come,” Grazhar said as he shackled her wrists.
As they walked, she asked Grazhar whether it was wise to go into a fight leaving so much skin uncovered.
“There is a famous female pit fighter in Meereen named Barsena Blackhair. She fights completely naked except for a breechclout.” Suddenly Dany was thankful for the amount of clothing she was wearing.
Grazhar left her chained up in a stockyard next to the fleshmart pit, while he went to take his place for the showings. The fleshmart pit was used to show off the fighting skills of potential pit fighters before purchase. The slaves housed in the stalls next to her were a lot healthier then the other slaves she had seen in the rest of the fleshmarts. They were well muscled and bright of eye. They stared at her queerly, her outlandish dress, small stature, long silver-gold hair, and intense lilac eyes would have looked out of place in the pits. She was the only female she could see in these stocks, but the slave broker had assured her that while not as common, female pit fighters did exist.
Before Grazhar had chained her up, he’d shown her the pit she’d be fighting in. It’s not much of a pit. Dany had not seen the fighting pits inside any of the Slaver Cities; in fact, this was her first time in Slaver’s Bay. But, she had heard about the famous Daznak’s Pit of Meereen while she was in Pentos. Daznak’s Pit was famed to be the largest Pit in Slaver’s Bay and was boasted to be able to hold seventy thousand people. The whole structure was six hundred and fifteen feet long, five hundred and ten feet wide, and one hundred and sixty feet tall. The actual pit was two hundred and ninety feet long, one hundred and eighty feet wide and fifteen feet deep. This pit she was looking at now was a mere eight feet deep and thirty feet at the widest. Just enough room to fight and not easily escape. The pit was oval shaped and circled by rickety tiers of wooden benches. Packed on those benches were Masters from all over Slaver’s Bay and slavers from further beyond, who wished to buy pit fighters. Most of these Masters would be what the Meereenese termed Pit Fighting Masters, who earned their coin solely from fighting their pit fighters in the various pits both minor and major across Slaver’s Bay. The grandest events being held in Daznak’s Pit.
The slave broker had pointed out to her Dhazak zo Dhazak, the Master who was head of the House of Dhazak and who was the most highly respected Pit Fighting Master in Slaver’s Bay. For the last three years, his First Fighter had won the Final Blood Games in Daznak’s Pit. “The pits are that man’s life, and he pours all his gold into his pit fighters,” Grazhar told her.
He was a man of grotesque fatness, pudgy from years of self-indulgence and gluttony. A great slug of a man, she had seen he needed the aid of a walking stick to get around. He was in his late forties, balding, with piggy eyes and sweaty, moist skin. He had the black hair and amber skin common to the Ghiscari people but did not have enough hair to style it as the Ghiscari men usually did in shapes of horns, wings and such. The slave broker had told her that he had had a wife who had died shortly after they were married and had left him no heirs. Even though this was twenty years ago, he had never taken another wife. It was rumored he slaked his lust with his female, male, and child slaves. Dany had looked shocked at this, but the slave broker reminded her that the slaves were Dhazak’s property and legally he could do with them as he wished, even if it was slightly frowned upon among the highborn. He also reminded her that she was property now too and would soon be doing the bidding of whatever Master bought her.
As Grazhar lead her back to the stockyard, he told her that she would be given a wooden sword and would fight against one of the pit fighters kept solely here for the purpose of testing out slaves as pit fighters. If the slave lived through the round, which was five minutes long, then the slave could be bid on in the late afternoon. “I’ll be watching from the benches. Fight well, for both our sakes.”
One at a time the fighters in the other stocks were unshackled and led out to the pit. Dany would be fighting last. She paced as much as her chains would allow her. I must get the attention of Dhazak. If Dhazak bought her, she might have a chance at being trained well enough to win the Final Blood Games. And if she did that well enough or enough times, just maybe she would be freed. My dragons might be grown by then. They might not even know me. But still, what else could she do? She might be able to escape once bought, but if Ivezh were speaking true, then guards would cut down every slave in their path until they caught her. No, she would not be responsible for the loss of innocent life, especially if one of those lives could be a child. She suddenly realized that she’d be taking innocent lives in the pits too. If I’m to get to my dragons, I’ll have no choice. It will be kill or be killed. They need their mother, I must return to them.
Shackles unlocked, a chipped practise sword in each hand, Dany stood before the wooden gate, waiting for it to open onto the pit and for her fate to be decided. Her heart thudded in her chest. As the wooden gate creaked up, she heard Grazhar’s shrill voice speaking out to the audience. “She may be small and dainty, but this beauty single-handedly killed twenty of Khal Pono’s men before they could subdue her! The Dothraki believe that the soul of her dead husband, Khal Drogo, the Khal you have all heard of who had a khalasar of an unprecedented number of forty thousand, now resides in her flesh. Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Slayer of Men, rightful Queen of the Iron Throne, daughter of the late Mad King of Westeros, younger sister to Prince Rhaegar the Silver, I give you the Last living Targaryen…. Daenerys Stormborn.”
No claps did she receive, only awed silence as she stepped out onto the sands. One man awaited her - a Ghiscari with red hair, his eyes as black as coals. He smirked at her as she stood a few meters from him, both her practise swords by her side. She wished they’d given her real steel. Then she could have really made a show out of this.
She found Dhazak amongst the crowd and looked him right in the eye. If she was going to be a pit fighter, she would fight for the best. She raised one of her swords and pointed it right at him. His eyes widened, and she bowed her head to him.
She brought the sword back down by her side and continued to stare at Dhazak. She could feel the Ghiscari pit fighter charging towards her, his wooden sword raised above his head, but her eyes did not leave Dhazak’s. At the very last moment, she stepped to one side; the fighter’s sword whooshed past her, causing loose silver strands of her hair to waft against her face. He lost his balance, stumbling. She pivoted and launched herself onto his back, and he fell onto the sands with her clinging to him. Before he even had the chance to react she raised both her wooden swords high and brought them down upon his back with such force that the tips and then the body of the swords punctured into his flesh, traveling through skin and muscle and into his lungs. He gasped and gurgled, convulsing under her. In that moment she felt euphoric. She could feel Drogo inside her, with her. She could feel him surging through her veins and beating in her chest. She withdrew the swords, blood spattering over her and the sands. She looked at Dhazak again as she tossed one sword to the side and with two hands thrust the tip of her remaining sword into the back of the fighter's neck. Never taking her eyes off Dhazak’s, she grabbed the dying man’s hair and wriggled his head, working the nicked sword against the flesh and bone. Blood welled and covered her hands. Using her strength, she pulled up, ripping flesh from flesh. She stood, with the man’s head in her hand and held it aloft, yelling out her fury and triumph. “Is that all you’ve got?” she yelled in bastard High Valyrian. She tossed the head to the side and spat. She walked back towards the gate she’d been let out of, massive applause erupting from the crowd as she did so.
Dany threw up into the less than clean wooden bucket in her stall. She heaved until there was nothing left in her stomach and even then it roiled and twisted in its disgust. Her chains and shackles clinked as she sat down beside the bucket in the stale, filthy hay on the floor of her stall. She tried to tell herself that what she had done was necessary - that she had needed to get the attention of the Masters to secure herself a place as a pit fighter with one of the best Pit Fighting Masters, preferably Dhazak. Had she gone too far? Yes, I’ve gone too far. That was my hands that not only killed that man but killed him in a horrific way. I parted his head from his shoulders. Nay, I ripped his head from his shoulders. She picked up handfuls of the hay about her, trying to scrub away the blood from her hands, but it was useless. It would not come away.
She wanted to pray. Pray to the Mother for forgiveness, to the Warrior for strength and the meaning of this brutality. But wasn’t it R’hllor who had given her this power? R’hllor who had given her her dragons?
Red goddess, please forgive me. I have killed and not out of necessity. I only needed to show my prowess against that man, but instead I brutally killed him, please forgive me, goddess, for I am lost. Show me the way. A single tear tracked its way through the dried blood on her face. Dany felt warmth bloom in her chest.
She closed her eyes, and in the blackness, a bright light came before her, and she felt a great heat on her face. It was the Light Goddess. R’hllor raised a hand and touched the tear on Dany’s face, and Dany heard the sizzle as it turned to steam.
“Dragons do not cry.”
“Red goddess, please, I have sinned. I have killed.” The goddess reached out a fiery finger and touched her lips to quieten her. The heat pulsed into Dany from that touch but did not burn.
“Daenerys Targaryen. You are a dragon. Be a dragon.”
And she was gone, leaving Dany in the darkness alone.
Dany opened her eyes. She was still huddled in the corner of her stall, amongst the hay. Her stomach had stilled, and she felt reinvigorated and strong. She stood, just as the Grazhar came to her stall. He had a big smile on his face. “Well, you certainly know how to put on a show. I’ve never seen anything like it in the fleshmart pit. In Daznak’s Pit, yes, but here, never. You are going to earn me a fortune.”
Dany waited patiently in her irons, in a line of shuffling slaves, in the courtyard Ivezh had led her through earlier this morning. One by one, they had been led onto the stone block above a crowd to be auctioned. Before she knew it, a guard was prodding her in the back with the tip of his spear. She climbed the stairs and stood in the middle of the block, facing the chattering audience. “Lot seventy-seven. One Queen Daenerys Targaryen,” the auctioneer announced in bastard High Valyrian. “Pit fighter. Was shown mid-morning in the fleshmart pit. Killed the pit fighter she was being shown against with a wooden practise sword by beheading.” A hush went over the crowd. “Only serious buyers, please.” Dany wiped her sweaty palms on her leather skirt. If she didn't show well here, then Dhazak may decide not to purchase her after all, and that man’s death would have been a waste. Head held high, and her back straight, she stood with confidence, while the audience gawped at her. She was still bloodied from battle - her face and chest were spattered, and her hands covered with it. Grazhar had decided not to clean her up. He thought that it might boost her worth for the crowd to see her still bloodied from her kill. It was very infrequent that any of the pit fighters who belonged to the fleshmart pit actually died.
Just as with the other slaves, before the bidding started, buyers were allowed to come and view the slave more closely and ask questions. Dany had been warned by Grazhar that she was not to answer these questions herself, that he would be the one doing the talking.
Most of the buyers were Ghiscari men and women wearing the tokars worn by the Masters of the Slaver’s Bay Cities. Others were dressed in garb suggestive of the Free Cities. They prodded and poked her; they wanted to see her teeth, feel her hair and skin. They wanted to know her age and whether she had born any children. One woman even wanted to see her naked, but Grazhar told her that only serious buyers would be considered, and serious buyers did not need to see a pit fighter naked. There were many boos at that. Dany kept her composure, staring straight ahead the entire time.
“Please take your seats,” the auctioneer announced. “The Spotted Cat was recently sold for three hundred thousand honors. The Spotted Cat is a household name, a celebrated Pit Fighter who you all know and love and who brings honor to the Meereenese with his finesse in the blood sports. Daenerys Targaryen is not a known pit fighter; she has not proven herself in the pits of Meereen, Astapor or Yunkai. But, she is a queen and the last of the old blood of Valyria. She has proven her proficiency as a killer in the fleshmart pit today, and she has proven it to Khal Pono whose men she killed, numbering in the hundreds in a single day." My story keeps getting inflated as it passes from person to person. "For that reason, I will start the bidding at no less than two hundred and fifty thousand honors." For a moment, there was no sound from the audience except for the noise of men and women nibbling at snacks brought to them by slaves on silver platters and the clink of elegant flutes filled with brightly colored drinks. Dany felt an oily sickness squirm through her belly. She searched the crowd and found Dhazak zo Dhazak lounging in a jewel-encrusted palanquin behind all the wooden benches.
“Who will open the bidding?” prompted the auctioneer.
“Two hundred and fifty-one thousand,” smirked a Ghiscari crone, whose hair had greyed and face had sagged.
“Two hundred and fifty-two thousand,” bid a young Ghiscari man with cruel eyes and dark red hair lacquered into the shape of horns.
“Three hundred thousand,” bid Dhazak. The oily feeling eased, and Dany stood up straighter.
“Three hundred and ten thousand,” bid the man with the dark red hair.
“Three hundred and fifty thousand,” bid Dhazak, his face shining with sweat.
“Three hundred and fifty-one thousand,” bid the crone.
“Three hundred and fifty-three thousand,” said the man with dark red hair.
Dany continued to stare straight ahead. I can't believe anyone would pay this much for a slave.
“Three hundred and fifty-four thousand, “ the crone said, her eyes narrowing.
“Three hundred and seventy thousand,” Dhazak bid, the sweat running down his face.
“Three hundred and eighty thousand,” said dark red.
“Three hundred and ninety thousand,” said Dhazak, who had gone red in the face.
“Three hundred and ninety-one thousand,” the crone said.
“Four hundred thousand,” dark red said, his eyebrows knitting together.
The crone rolled her eyes and huffed.
“Five hundred thousand,” bid Dhazak
The man with dark red hair threw up his hands in disbelief.
“Any takers for five hundred and one thousand?” asked the auctioneer.
“Queen Daenerys is sold to Dhazak zo Dhazak for five hundred thousand honors.”
Dhazak zo Dhazak sprawled on his palanquin; the curtains open so he could talk to Dany as they walked the brick roads of Meereen towards the House of Dhazak’s pyramid. He was wearing a red silk tokar with a gold fringe. A tokar was a sign of power in the Great Slaver Cities as the wearer is required to hold the tokar in place with the left hand and can only take small steps. It was a wonder this great whale of a man was even able to walk in one at all. One of his slaves held onto Dany’s chains as they walked. I don't know why Dhazak bothers to have him hold me, one tiny tug and I would send this slave sprawling.
“All slaves receive a brand,” said Dhazak. “Usually on the cheek. But, whores and exotic dancers normally get branded elsewhere to preserve their beautiful faces. You are not a whore or an exotic dancer. Nor will I ever ask you to be. But, I do wish to keep the Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men pretty. A pit fighting Master lives off sponsors and prize money. More people are likely to sponsor a pretty female pit fighter than one I have defiled with ugly tattoos. Instead, I’ll have them put my mark just under your left ear. Hair can cover it if needs be, but no one can deny that you are my slave. I’ll have you tattooed when we arrive at the pyramid, but first, I wish to show you something,”
He called for his slaves to halt and motioned for two of them to help him out of his palanquin. He walked beside Dany and did so quite surprisingly well for such a fat man. He does not look like a man who has been fat all his life. Maybe he was even fit in his younger years. Dhazak’s walking stick clacked on the brick road as they walked. “Meereen is a beautiful city. The most beautiful city in the world. And the most beautiful part of Meereen is her fighting pits. You would no doubt have heard of Daznak’s fighting pit in your time in the Free Cities, but even the smaller ones are beautiful.” They stopped outside one such pit. “This is the Ruby Pit. Minor games are being held here today.” She could hear the crowd cheering and stamping their feet, causing the whole structure to shake.
They entered through a rickety wooden door and ascended the steps, a slave still holding onto her chains. “There are many minor games at the beginning of the year, the major ones taking place towards the latter part and the Finals on the last day of the year.” They edged their way along a wooden walkway till they reached Dhazak’s private box on the first row above the sands. The previous match had just finished, and several bodies were being dragged away by scrawny slaves. “My best man, my First Fighter, is here today. I want you to see him fight. I want you to see first hand what the games are really about. What they mean to the people and what they will mean to you. The games are how we honor our gods. With blood. Pit fighters will fight each other, they will fight beasts, and they will fight criminals. There's a rumor that two hundred years ago a dragon fought in the fighting pits for a time. Most of the pit fighters you will meet on the sands have trained their whole lives for this. They have been born and bred to die in the pits. Few captured slaves do well. I have one such man, the man we are about to witness. I think you could be good too, Daenerys. As good as he, maybe even better.”
“Grand citizens of Meereen,” cried out the Pitmaster. “It is with great honor that I introduce to you the last match of the day. Enter the Black Bull!” The crowd cheered. A muscular Summer Isles pit fighter with skin as dark as ebony stepped out from the gate and onto the sands.
“He wears no armor?” Dany asked.
“No pit fighter does. The crowds have come to see blood. Blood and dismemberment, something you have already proved yourself apt at,” he yelled over the roaring crowd.
“Enter the Iron Wolf!” The crowd cheered with quadruple the enthusiasm they had given the Black Bull. On the other side of the arena, a man who looked to be of the Free Cities stepped out from the shadows. When he came into the light Dany’s breath caught in her throat. The man wore leather trousers and gauntlets, but his chest was bare. His skin was smooth and had been oiled. Look at the way the sun reflects off his form. He’s like a golden god. He was not an overly large man, but was well muscled, with a hard flat belly. He walked on his feet with the springiness of a cat. When he smiled at the crowd, her heart nearly stopped. The effect he had on the people, especially the women, was palpable. She could practically feel each maiden getting wet. She felt heat spread through her body, flushing her cheeks.
“The Iron Wolf?” she asked.
“That is the name the crowd has given him.”
“What is his real name?”
“Daario. Daario Naheris.”