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Her brother held the gown up for her inspection. “This is beauty. Touch it. Go on. Caress the fabric. ”
Dany touched it. The cloth was so smooth that it seemed to run through her fingers like water. She could not remember ever wearing anything so soft. It frightened her. She pulled her hand away. “Is it really mine?”
“A gift from the Magister Illyrio,” Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. “The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess. ”
A princess, Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known. “Why does he give us so much?” she asked. “What does he want from us?” For nigh on half a year, they had lived in the magister’s house, eating his food, pampered by his servants. Dany was thirteen, old enough to know that such gifts seldom come without their price, here in the free city of Pentos.
“Illyrio is no fool,” Viserys said. He was a gaunt young man with nervous hands and a feverish look in his pale lilac eyes. “The magister knows that I will not forget my friends when I come into my throne. ”
Dany said nothing. Magister Illyrio was a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, and other, less savory things. He had friends in all of the Nine Free Cities, it was said, and even beyond, in Vaes Dothrak and the fabled lands beside the JadeSea. It was also said that he’d never had a friend he wouldn’t cheerfully sell for the right price. Dany listened to the talk in the streets, and she heard these things, but she knew better than to question her brother when he wove his webs of dream. His anger was a terrible thing when roused. Viserys called it “waking the dragon. ”
Her brother hung the gown beside the door. “Illyrio will send the slaves to bathe you. Be sure you wash off the stink of the stables. Khal Drogo has a thousand horses, tonight he looks for a different sort of mount. ” He studied her critically. “You still slouch. Straighten yourself” He pushed back her shoulders with his hands. “Let them see that you have a woman’s shape now. ” His fingers brushed lightly over her budding breasts and tightened on a nipple. “You will not fail me tonight. If you do, it will go hard for you. You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.
“No,” Dany said meekly.
Her brother smiled. “Good. ” He touched her hair, almost with affection. “When they write the history of my reign, sweet sister, they will say that it began tonight. ”
When he was gone, Dany went to her window and looked out wistfully on the waters of the bay. The square brick towers of Pentos were black silhouettes outlined against the setting sun. Dany could hear the singing of the red priests as they lit their night fires and the shouts of ragged children playing games beyond the walls of the estate. For a moment she wished she could be out there with them, barefoot and breathless and dressed in tatters, with no past and no future and no feast to attend at Khal Drogo’s manse.
Somewhere beyond the sunset, across the narrow sea, lay a land of green hills and flowered plains and great rushing rivers, where towers of dark stone rose amidst magnificent blue-grey mountains, and armored knights rode to battle beneath the banners of their lords. The Dothraki called that land Rhaesh Andahli, the land of the Andals. In the Free Cities, they talked of Westeros and the SunsetKingdoms. Her brother had a simpler name. “Our land,” he called it. The words were like a prayer with him. If he said them enough, the gods were sure to hear. “Ours by blood right, taken from us by treachery, but ours still, ours forever. You do not steal from the dragon, oh, no. The dragon remembers. ”
And perhaps the dragon did remember, but Dany could not. She had never seen this land her brother said was theirs, this realm beyond the narrow sea. These places he talked of, Casterly Rock and the Eyrie, Highgarden and the Vale of Arryn, Dorne and the Isle of Faces, they were just words to her. Viserys had been a boy of eight when they fled King’s Landing to escape the advancing armies of the Usurper, but Daenerys had been only a quickening in their mother’s womb.
Yet sometimes Dany would picture the way it had been, so often had her brother told her the stories. The midnight flight to Dragonstone, moonlight shimmering on the ship’s black sails. Her brother Rhaegar battling the Usurper in the bloody waters of the Trident and dying for the woman he loved. The sack of King’s Landing by the ones Viserys called the Usurper’s dogs, the lords Lannister and Stark. Princess Elia of Dorne pleading for mercy as Rhaegar’s heir was ripped from her breast and murdered before her eyes. The polished skulls of the last dragons staring down sightlessly from the walls of the throne room while the Kingslayer opened Father’s throat with a golden sword.
She had been born on Dragonstone nine moons after their flight, while a raging summer storm threatened to rip the island fastness apart. They said that storm was terrible. The Targaryen fleet was smashed while it lay at anchor, and huge stone blocks were ripped from the parapets and sent hurtling into the wild waters of the narrow sea. Her mother had died birthing her, and for that her brother Viserys had never forgiven her.
She did not remember Dragonstone either. They had run again, just before the Usurper’s brother set sail with his new-built fleet. By then only Dragonstone itself, the ancient seat of their House, had remained of the Seven Kingdoms that had once been theirs. It would not remain for long. The garrison had been prepared to sell them to the Usurper, but one night Ser Willem Darry and four loyal men had broken into the nursery and stolen them both, along with her wet nurse, and set sail under cover of darkness for the safety of the Braavosian coast.
She remembered Ser Willem dimly, a great grey bear of a man, half-blind, roaring and bellowing orders from his sickbed. The servants had lived in terror of him, but he had always been kind to Dany. He called her “Little Princess” and sometimes “My Lady,” and his hands were soft as old leather. He never left his bed, though, and the smell of sickness clung to him day and night, a hot, moist, sickly sweet odor. That was when they lived in Braavos, in the big house with the red door. Dany had her own room there, with a lemon tree outside her window. After Ser Willem had died, the servants had stolen what little money they had left, and soon after they had been put out of the big house. Dany had cried when the red door closed behind them forever.
They had wandered since then, from Braavos to Myr, from Myr to Tyrosh, and on to Qohor and Volantis and Lys, never staying long in any one place. Her brother would not allow it. The Usurper’s hired knives were close behind them, he insisted, though Dany had never seen one.
At first the magisters and archons and merchant princes were pleased to welcome the last Targaryens to their homes and tables, but as the years passed and the Usurper continued to sit upon the Iron Throne, doors closed and their lives grew meaner. Years past they had been forced to sell their last few treasures, and now even the coin they had gotten from Mother’s crown had gone. In the alleys and wine sinks of Pentos, they called her brother “the beggar king. ” Dany did not want to know what they called her.
“We will have it all back someday, sweet sister,” he would promise her. Sometimes his hands shook when he talked about it. “The jewels and the silks, Dragonstone and King’s Landing, the Iron Throne and the SevenKingdoms, all they have taken from us, we will have it back. ” Viserys lived for that day. All that Daenerys wanted back was the big house with the red door, the lemon tree outside her window, the childhood she had never known.
There came a soft knock on her door. “Come,” Dany said, turning away from the window. Illyrio’s servants entered, bowed, and set about their business. They were slaves, a gift from one of the magister’s many Dothraki friends. There was no slavery in the free city of Pentos. Nonetheless, they were slaves. The old woman, small and grey as a mouse, never said a word, but the girl made up for it. She was Illyrio’s favorite, a fair-haired, blue-eyed wench of sixteen who chattered constantly as she worked.
They filled her bath with hot water brought up from the kitchen and scented it with fragrant oils. The girl pulled the rough cotton tunic over Dany’s head and helped her into the tub. The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. “Ours is the house of the dragon,” he would say. “The fire is in our blood. ”
The old woman washed her long, silver-pale hair and gently combed out the snags, all in silence. The girl scrubbed her back and her feet and told her how lucky she was. “Drogo is so rich that even his slaves wear golden collars. A hundred thousand men ride in his khalasar, and his palace in Vaes Dothrak has two hundred rooms and doors of solid silver. ” There was more like that, so much more, what a handsome man the khal was, so tall and fierce, fearless in battle, the best rider ever to mount a horse, a demon archer. Daenerys said nothing. She had always assumed that she would wed Viserys when she came of age. For centuries the Targaryens had married brother to sister, since Aegon the Conqueror had taken his sisters to bride. The line must be kept pure, Viserys had told her a thousand times; theirs was the kingsblood, the golden blood of old Valyria, the blood of the dragon. Dragons did not mate with the beasts of the field, and Targaryens did not mingle their blood with that of lesser men. Yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian.
When she was clean, the slaves helped her from the water and toweled her dry. The girl brushed her hair until it shone like molten silver, while the old woman anointed her with the spiceflower perfume of the Dothraki plains, a dab on each wrist, behind her ears, on the tips of her breasts, and one last one, cool on her lips, down there between her legs. They dressed her in the wisps that Magister Illyrio had sent up, and then the gown, a deep plum silk to bring out the violet in her eyes. The girl slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed the tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets crusted with amethysts around her wrists. Last of all came the collar, a heavy golden torc emblazoned with ancient Valyrian glyphs.
“Now you look all a princess,” the girl said breathlessly when they were done. Dany glanced at her image in the silvered looking glass that Illyrio had so thoughtfully provided. A princess, she thought, but she remembered what the girl had said, how Khal Drogo was so rich even his slaves wore golden collars. She felt a sudden chill, and gooseflesh pimpled her bare arms.
Her brother was waiting in the cool of the entry hall, seated on the edge of the pool, his hand trailing in the water. He rose when she appeared and looked her over critically. “Stand there,” he told her. “Turn around. Yes. Good. You look . . . ”
“Regal,” Magister Illyrio said, stepping through an archway. He moved with surprising delicacy for such a massive man. Beneath loose garments of flame-colored silk, rolls of fat jiggled as he walked. Gemstones glittered on every finger, and his man had oiled his forked yellow beard until it shone like real gold. “May the Lord of Light shower you with blessings on this most fortunate day, Princess Daenerys,” the magister said as he took her hand. He bowed his head, showing a thin glimpse of crooked yellow teeth through the gold of his beard. “She is a vision, Your Grace, a vision,” he told her brother. “Drogo will be enraptured. ”
“She’s too skinny,” Viserys said. His hair, the same silver-blond as hers, had been pulled back tightly behind his head and fastened with a dragonbone brooch. It was a severe look that emphasized the hard, gaunt lines of his face. He rested his hand on the hilt of the sword that Illyrio had lent him, and said, “Are you sure that Khal Drogo likes his women this young?”
“She has had her blood. She is old enough for the khal,” Illyrio told him, not for the first time. “Look at her. That silver-gold hair, those purple eyes . . . she is the blood of old Valyria, no doubt, no doubt . . . and highborn, daughter of the old king, sister to the new, she cannot fail to entrance our Drogo. ” When he released her hand, Daenerys found herself trembling.
“I suppose,” her brother said doubtfully. “The savages have queer tastes. Boys, horses, sheep . . . ”
“Best not suggest this to Khal Drogo,” Illyrio said.
Anger flashed in her brother’s lilac eyes. “Do you take me for a fool?”
The magister bowed slightly. “I take you for a king. Kings lack the caution of common men. My apologies if I have given offense. ” He turned away and clapped his hands for his bearers.
The streets of Pentos were pitch-dark when they set out in Illyrio’s elaborately carved palanquin. Two servants went ahead to light their way, carrying ornate oil lanterns with panes of pale blue glass, while a dozen strong men hoisted the poles to their shoulders. It was warm and close inside behind the curtains. Dany could smell the stench of Illyrio’s pallid flesh through his heavy perfumes.
Her brother, sprawled out on his pillows beside her, never noticed. His mind was away across the narrow sea. “We won’t need his whole khalasar,” Viserys said. His fingers toyed with the hilt of his borrowed blade, though Dany knew he had never used a sword in earnest. “Ten thousand, that would be enough, I could sweep the Seven Kingdoms with ten thousand Dothraki screamers. The realm will rise for its rightful king. Tyrell, Redwyne, Darry, Greyjoy, they have no more love for the Usurper than I do. The Dornishmen burn to avenge Elia and her children. And the smallfolk will be with us. They cry out for their king. ” He looked at Illyrio anxiously. “They do, don’t they?”
“They are your people, and they love you well,” Magister Illyrio said amiably. “In holdfasts all across the realm, men lift secret toasts to your health while women sew dragon banners and hide them against the day of your return from across the water. ” He gave a massive shrug. “Or so my agents tell me. ”
Dany had no agents, no way of knowing what anyone was doing or thinking across the narrow sea, but she mistrusted Illyrio’s sweet words as she mistrusted everything about Illyrio. Her brother was nodding eagerly, however. “I shall kill the Usurper myself,” he promised, who had never killed anyone, “as he killed my brother Rhaegar. And Lannister too, the Kingslayer, for what he did to my father. ”
“That would be most fitting,” Magister Illyrio said. Dany saw the smallest hint of a smile playing around his full lips, but her brother did not notice. Nodding, he pushed back a curtain and stared off into the night, and Dany knew he was fighting the Battle of the Trident once again.
The nine-towered manse of Khal Drogo sat beside the waters of the bay, its high brick walls overgrown with pale ivy. It had been given to the khal by the magisters of Pentos, Illyrio told them. The Free Cities were always generous with the horselords. “It is not that we fear these barbarians,” Illyrio would explain with a smile. “The Lord of Light would hold our city walls against a million Dothraki, or so the red priests promise . . . yet why take chances, when their friendship comes so cheap?”
Their palanquin was stopped at the gate, the curtains pulled roughly back by one of the house guards. He had the copper skin and dark almond eyes of a Dothraki, but his face was hairless and he wore the spiked bronze cap of the Unsullied. He looked them over coldly. Magister Illyrio growled something to him in the rough Dothraki tongue; the guardsman replied in the same voice and waved them through the gates.
Dany noticed that her brother’s hand was clenched tightly around the hilt of his borrowed sword. He looked almost as frightened as she felt. “Insolent eunuch,” Viserys muttered as the palanquin lurched up toward the manse.
Magister Illyrio’s words were honey. “Many important men will be at the feast tonight. Such men have enemies. The khal must protect his guests, yourself chief among them, Your Grace. No doubt the Usurper would pay well for your head. ”
“Oh, yes,” Viserys said darkly. “He has tried, Illyrio, I promise you that. His hired knives follow us everywhere. I am the last dragon, and he will not sleep easy while I live. ”
The palanquin slowed and stopped. The curtains were thrown back, and a slave offered a hand to help Daenerys out. His collar, she noted, was ordinary bronze. Her brother followed, one hand still clenched hard around his sword hilt. It took two strong men to get Magister Illyrio back on his feet.
Inside the manse, the air was heavy with the scent of spices, pinchfire and sweet lemon and cinnamon. They were escorted across the entry hall, where a mosaic of colored glass depicted the Doom of Valyria. Oil burned in black iron lanterns all along the walls. Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the SevenKingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. His honorable host, Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of the Free City of Pentos. ”
They stepped past the eunuch into a pillared courtyard overgrown in pale ivy. Moonlight painted the leaves in shades of bone and silver as the guests drifted among them. Many were Dothraki horselords, big men with red-brown skin, their drooping mustachios bound in metal rings, their black hair oiled and braided and hung with bells. Yet among them moved bravos and sellswords from Pentos and Myr and Tyrosh, a red priest even fatter than Illyrio, hairy men from the Port of Ibben, and lords from the Summer Isles with skin as black as ebony. Daenerys looked at them all in wonder . . . and realized, with a sudden start of fear, that she was the only woman there.
Illyrio whispered to them. “Those three are Drogo’s bloodriders, there,” he said. “By the pillar is Khal Moro, with his son Rhogoro. The man with the green beard is brother to the Archon of Tyrosh, and the man behind him is Ser Jorah Mormont. ”
The last name caught Daenerys. “A knight?”
“No less. ” Illyrio smiled through his beard. “Anointed with the seven oils by the High Septon himself. ”
“What is he doing here?” she blurted.
“The Usurper wanted his head,” Illyrio told them. “Some trifling affront. He sold some poachers to a Tyroshi slaver instead of giving them to the Night’s Watch. Absurd law. A man should be able to do as he likes with his own chattel. ”
“I shall wish to speak with Ser Jorah before the night is done,” her brother said. Dany found herself looking at the knight curiously. He was an older man, past forty and balding, but still strong and fit. Instead of silks and cottons, he wore wool and leather. His tunic was a dark green, embroidered with the likeness of a black bear standing on two legs.
She was still looking at this strange man from the homeland she had never known when Magister Illyrio placed a moist hand on her bare shoulder. “Over there, sweet princess,” he whispered, “there is the khal himself. ”
Dany wanted to run and hide, but her brother was looking at her, and if she displeased him she knew she would wake the dragon. Anxiously, she turned and looked at the man Viserys hoped would ask to wed her before the night was done.
The slave girl had not been far wrong, she thought. Khal Drogo was a head taller than the tallest man in the room, yet somehow light on his feet, as graceful as the panther in Illyrio’s menagerie. He was younger than she’d thought, no more than thirty. His skin was the color of polished copper, his thick mustachios bound with gold and bronze rings.
“I must go and make my submissions,” Magister Illyrio said. “Wait here. I shall bring him to you. ”
Her brother took her by the arm as Illyrio waddled over to the khal, his fingers squeezing so hard that they hurt. “Do you see his braid, sweet sister?”
Drogo’s braid was black as midnight and heavy with scented oil, hung with tiny bells that rang softly as he moved. It swung well past his belt, below even his buttocks, the end of it brushing against the back of his thighs.
“You see how long it is?” Viserys said. “When Dothraki are defeated in combat, they cut off their braids in disgrace, so the world will know their shame. Khal Drogo has never lost a fight. He is Aegon the Dragonlord come again, and you will be his queen. ”
Dany looked at Khal Drogo. His face was hard and cruel, his eyes as cold and dark as onyx. Her brother hurt her sometimes, when she woke the dragon, but he did not frighten her the way this man frightened her. “I don’t want to be his queen,” she heard herself say in a small, thin voice. “Please, please, Viserys, I don’t want to, I want to go home. ”
“Home?” He kept his voice low, but she could hear the fury in his tone. “How are we to go home, sweet sister? They took our home from us!” He drew her into the shadows, out of sight, his fingers digging into her skin. “How are we to go home?” he repeated, meaning King’s Landing, and Dragonstone, and all the realm they had lost.
Dany had only meant their rooms in Illyrio’s estate, no true home surely, though all they had, but her brother did not want to hear that. There was no home there for him. Even the big house with the red door had not been home for him. His fingers dug hard into her arm, demanding an answer. “I don’t know . . . “she said at last, her voice breaking. Tears welled in her eyes.
“I do,” he said sharply. “We go home with an army, sweet sister. With Khal Drogo’s army, that is how we go home. And if you must wed him and bed him for that, you will. ” He smiled at her. “I’d let his whole khalasar fuck you if need be, sweet sister, all forty thousand men, and their horses too if that was what it took to get my army. Be grateful it is only Drogo. In time you may even learn to like him. Now dry your eyes. Illyrio is bringing him over, and he will not see you crying. ”
Dany turned and saw that it was true. Magister Illyrio, all smiles and bows, was escorting Khal Drogo over to where they stood. She brushed away unfallen tears with the back of her hand.
“Smile,” Viserys whispered nervously, his hand failing to the hilt of his sword. “And stand up straight. Let him see that you have breasts. Gods know, you have little enough as is. ”
Daenerys smiled, and stood up straight.