“Khaleesi?” Ser Jorah Mormont asked from outside the tent.
“Yes, Jorah?” Daenerys Targaryen said to answer one question with another.
“I’ve heard intriguing rumors from Westeros,” he said, still talking through the tent fabric. She was inside the tent with her handmaidens Doreah, Irri and Jhiqui.
“I’ll be ready shortly,” Daenerys said crisply.
She had been married off to the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo to advance her family’s political fortunes. Somewhat ironically, this gave her some distance from her cruelly temperamental brother Viserys. Irri and Jhiqui, Dothraki themselves, were Daenerys’ introduction into that strange world. They were both good teachers, Irri focusing on horseback riding and Jhiqui on the Dothraki language.
Doreah had given her advice on how to please Drogo. Daenerys was too young and inexperienced to know about such things. Doreah was also too young, but unfortunately, she was too experienced. Well, this was a better life than the brothel for her, Daenerys thought. Now her only customers were Viserys and Illyrio Mopatis, the fat merchant who had arranged the marriage.
Doreah, Irri and Jhiqui had been amongst the wedding gifts. They were fast becoming more than servants to her, but right now they were working – they were almost done dressing her. That was a challenge now that she was several months pregnant with Drogo’s son. Drogo had hunted a hrakkar, a white lion, and made Daenerys a cloak out of its pelt. That garment did not fit any more.
She made especially sure to be fully dressed around Jorah. He was looking at her as more than a queen, the one thing that aggravated her about the loyal servant. “Ser Jorah, you may enter,” Daenerys called out.
“As you wish, Khaleesi,” he replied as he ducked under the tent flap. “The Usurper is dead!” he said triumphantly.
“Excellent, but how have you heard?”
“Sailors from trade ships plying the Narrow Sea have brought some very intriguing news, and that’s hardly all of it,” Jorah answered.
“Go on, then,” Daenerys ordered.
“The usurper’s son Joffrey sits the Iron Throne. The usurper’s eldest brother Stannis had crowned himself, insisting that the usurper’s supposed children were truly fathered by the queen’s brother.”
“So his queen was the only woman in Westeros he wasn’t bedding?” Daenerys sarcastically responded. She knew the harsh truth of Robert Baratheon – not only did he steal the throne away from her family, he spent his time in power eating, drinking and whoring. A relationship between brother and sister was not so surprising to a Targaryen
Jorah particularly enjoyed the jape, but quickly got back to business. “Stannis says the Iron Throne is his by right.”
“He would be the Usurper’s heir. If he is honest about doing his duty, he shall recognize that the throne is truly mine by right. If not, a Dothraki horde will make him recognize,” Daenerys said with authority, a voice of command that came naturally to her.
“Exactly,” Jorah affirmed. Their youngest brother Renly had crowned himself for unknown reasons. Lord Eddard Stark told the same tale of Joffrey’s parentage, and Joffrey had him executed for it. His son Robb leads the North in rebellion against the pretender. And so we have a fourth king.” We aren’t even women and men grown and look at us, Daenerys mused.
“How old is the new Lord Stark?” Daenerys wondered.
“Mayhaps five-and-ten, Your Grace,” Jorah answered. He is not yet a man grown yet he seems to be acting like one, Daenerys mused. Considering myself at four-and-ten, I would understand.
The Usurper had killed Prince Rhaegar and then had Rhaegar’s children killed. Viserys had made himself an enemy of the Dothraki and was killed by them. This left Daenerys as the only known living descendant of Aerys II.
The Dothraki did not normally deal in currency or ships. However, Drogo’s khalasar would need to buy passage across the Narrow Sea to Westeros to bring their forces to bear for House Targaryen. So they went to raid a peaceful shepherding town, and found another khalasar there doing the same. Drogo personally defeated its khal Ogo and khalakka Fogo, two more victories in Drogo’s long unbroken string of them, a string of bells in his hair as per the Dothraki tradition.
Daenerys was not ashamed of war, but she could not tolerate the rape that came after the battle. She used what authority she had in her voice and in her title to interrupt it when she came across it. One of the relieved women was a healer and went to tend the wounds Drogo had received during the battle. This helped lend Drogo’s support to the righteous enterprise.
However, the initial treatment was not working, and Drogo fell ill. Mirri tried to save him with dark magic. Some Dothraki warriors were annoyed they couldn’t have an enemy woman against her will, but dark magic was a universal fear of their culture. Irri and Jhiqui had made that plain enough to Daenerys. She needed to respect the Dothraki culture to earn the respect of the Dothraki people. Failure to learn that lesson had cost Viserys his life.
Daenerys was determined that it wouldn’t lead to her death – or the death of her son. The Dothraki refused to go near the tent where Mirri was casting spells on Drogo. This included the Dothraki midwifes, and Daenerys was going into labor. By staying away from Mirri, Daenerys was able to obtain the help that mother and child needed. Once the umbilical cord was cut, Daenerys wrapped her hands around the baby’s waist and triumphantly held him up into the air. Jhiqui would be pleased with her Dothraki right about now. “Khalakka dothrae!” she bellowed. The prince is riding! Even the guttural Dothraki language was a more pleasant sound than her cries of childbirth pain.
“Rakh haj!” the crowd answered in a repeated chant. A strong boy! Most of the group were women, but there were a few men, notably her khasari, the personal guards Jhogo, Aggo and Rakharo.
“Ma me nem ahakee ma Rhaego!” Daenerys exclaimed. He shall be called Rhaego! “Gaezo Rhaegar ma mahrazhkem Drogo,” she explained. Brother Rhaegar and husband Drogo
The chant switched to just the name ‘Rhaego’.
Meanwhile, even Mirri’s extreme spells had left Drogo for dead. An angered Daenerys had Jorah rudely drag Mirri in front of her for questioning. “He lives, that is all I promised,” she stammered.
“Not for long!” Daenerys snapped.
“After his horde destroyed my village, killed or enslaved those I knew, and his warriors ravaged me and many others, do you really think I owed him anything?” she answered defiantly.
“It is no matter. You will be burnt along with him when he leaves this world,” Daenerys decreed. “Life for life, as you also promised.”
Daenerys holding Rhaego and a few others approached the spot where Drogo was sitting in agony. The sight of his wife and son brought a momentary smile to his pained face. “Make sure the boy grows strong enough to rule for himself,” Drogo said. The handmaidens eventually came to carry the baby back to the tent, and the other guests also soon departed. The two were soon left alone as the life faded from Drogo. For weeks she would be too raw to take a man inside her, as the midwives had emphasized, but Doreah had taught her many other ways, and so the khal left this world with pleasure from his khaleesi’s mouth, hands and breasts.
A bloodrider was guard, friend and brother to his khal, something beyond the Kingsguard of Westerosi tradition. It was the last duty of a dead khal’s bloodriders to escort his widow to join that group. That was one Dothraki tradition Daenerys did not want to submit to. “I can do more with my life than live it out with a group of old widows,” she said confidently. At this Drogo’s bloodriders Cohollo, Qotho and Haggo attacked. However, Jorah and her khasari fought them off. She wanted the khasari as her bloodriders, but they hesitated to follow a woman, even this woman.
Drogo’s body was to be burnt along with his possessions. Daenerys stood by the assemblage with three of hers – dragon eggs. They were her wedding gifts from Illyrio. She was blood of the dragon, she could weather these simple flames, not only survive them, but emerge from the ashes with the first living dragons in well over a century. She felt the flames burn her clothes away. She heard the eggs crack. She saw the three dragons emerge. One was black and red, one green and bronze, the other white and gold, all matching the colors of the eggs they had hatched from. Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion, named after her husband and brothers. She rose from the ashes with Rhaegal and Viserion perched on her shoulders and Drogon held in front of her.
The sight of living dragons changed everything. “Blood of my blood,” Jhogo, Aggo and Rakharo finally offered. The Dothraki followed strength, and these three were hardly the only ones who saw that in even recently-hatched dragons.
However, much of the khalasar had already found that in a much more conventional source. Tens of thousands of riders had already departed with Drogo’s general Jhaqo, who had made himself a khal. Mago rode as one of his bloodriders. Those two names were painfully familiar. I have no need of those rapers, Daenerys thought to herself, for I am “The Unburnt, Mother Of Dragons,” as the crowd called out. Even without Jhaqo and the other breakaway khals, the assemblage was still tens of thousands strong. “Mother of Khal Rhaego,” they continued.
Irri brought her the boy, as surely blood of the dragon as she was, so it made sense for him to become acquainted with that as soon as possible.
The slavers had offended her as much as the rapers. She had shielded as many captives as possible by taking them into her personal custody. Now she spoke to all of them. “This khalasar’s slaves are hereby freed,” she said, simply but powerfully.
Doreah, Irri and Jhiqui stepped forward. Irri and Jhiqui had themselves been captured in some of Drogo’s long-ago battles. Many captives of the recent battle rushed to join them, staying with her, giving Daenerys yet another title as they surged forth. “Breaker of chains!”
“That was quite wise, Khaleesi,” Jorah said to her softly. “If you wish to rule Westeros, you must act as they do, and they have absolutely no tolerance for slavery. I would know. I learned that the hard way. Selling criminals into slavery instead of submitting them to standard punishments is not a good way to support an expensive wife.” That must have been why he went into exile. The particular revelation pained Daenerys far more than Jorah’s overly interested gaze.
“A queen must have a king. It is known,” Irri reminded her.
Stannis married years after the War of the Usurper, but years before the present conflict. Renly had wed the daughter of one of his major allies. Even if they had been single, Daenerys would not have them. Marrying one older man for politics rather than love had been more than enough.
Drogo had worked out, but another could be much worse. If she was so miserable, she wouldn’t care so much about who sat the Iron Throne. Furthermore, maybe she had resigned herself to her fate, thinking Drogo was better than he actually was. She remembered the nights when Drogo took her from behind and the pillow muffled her cries. Drogo was the only love she had known, so what did she have to compare him to?
She would never associate with the pretender Joffrey, let alone in so intimate a manner. Robb could prove to be much more reasonable. As she confided in her handmaidens, “If I was to marry again, he would be not so bad.”