Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Science Fiction > A Storm of Swords > DAENERYS
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】
A cross the still blue water came the slow steady beat of drums and the soft swish of oars from the galleys. The great cog groaned in their wake, the heavy lines stretched taut between. Balerion’s sails hung limp, drooping forlorn from the masts. Yet even so, as she stood upon the forecastle watching her dragons chase each other across a cloudless blue sky, Daenerys Targaryen was as happy as she could ever remember being.  Her Dothraki called the sea the poison water, distrusting any liquid that their horses could not drink. On the day the three ships had lifted anchor at Qarth, you would have thought they were sailing to hell instead of Pentos. Her brave young bloodriders had stared off at the dwindling coastline with huge white eyes, each of the three determined to show no fear before the other two, while her handmaids Irri and Jhiqui clutched the rail desperately and retched over the side at every little swell. The rest of Dany’s tiny khalasar remained below decks, preferring the company of their nervous horses to the terrifying landless world about the ships. When a sudden squall had enveloped them six days into the voyage, she heard them through the hatches; the horses kicking and screaming, the riders praying in thin quavery voices each time Balerion heaved or swayed.  No squall could frighten Dany, though. Daenerys Stormborn, she was called, for she had come howling into the world on distant Dragonstone as the greatest storm in the memory of Westeros howled outside, a storm so fierce that it ripped gargoyles from the castle walls and smashed her father’s fleet to kindling.  The narrow sea was often stormy, and Dany had crossed it half a hundred times as a girl, running from one Free City to the next half a step ahead of the Usurper’s hired knives. She loved the sea. She liked the sharp salty smell of the air, and the vastness of horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well. She liked the dolphins that sometimes swam along beside Balerion, slicing through the waves like silvery spears, and the flying fish they glimpsed now and again. She even liked the sailors, with all their songs and stories. Once on a voyage to Braavos, as she’d watched the crew wrestle down a great green sail in a rising gale, she had even thought how fine it would be to be a sailor. But when she told her brother, Viserys had twisted her hair until she cried. “You are blood of the dragon,” he had screamed at her. “A dragon, not some smelly fish.”  He was a fool about that, and so much else, Dany thought. If he had been wiser and more patient, it would be him sailing west to take the throne that was his by rights. Viserys had been stupid and vicious, she had come to realize, yet sometimes she missed him all the same. Not the cruel weak man he had become by the end, but the brother who had sometimes let her creep into his bed, the boy who told her tales of the Seven Kingdoms, and talked of how much better their lives would be once he claimed his crown.  The captain appeared at her elbow. “Would that this Balerion could soar as her namesake did, Your Grace,” he said in bastard Valyrian heavily flavored with accents of Pentos. “Then we should not need to row, nor tow, nor pray for wind.”  “Just so, Captain,” she answered with a smile, pleased to have won the man over. Captain Groleo was an old Pentoshi like his master, Illyrio Mopatis, and he had been nervous as a maiden about carrying three dragons on his ship. Half a hundred buckets of seawater still hung from the gunwales, in case of fires. At first Groleo had wanted the dragons caged and Dany had consented to put his fears at ease, but their misery was so palpable that she soon changed her mind and insisted they be freed.  Even Captain Groleo was glad of that, now. There had been one small fire, easily extinguished; against that, Balerion suddenly seemed to have far fewer rats than she’d had before, when she sailed under the name Saduleon. And her crew, once as fearful as they were curious, had begun to take a queer fierce pride in “their” dragons. Every man of them, from captain to cook’s boy, loved to watch the three fly... though, none so much as Dany.  They are my children, she told herself, and if the maegi spoke truly, they are the only children I am ever like to have.  Viserion’s scales were the color of fresh cream, his horns, wing bones, and spinal crest a dark gold that flashed bright as metal in the sun. Rhaegal was made of the green of summer and the bronze of fall. They soared above the ships in wide circles, higher and higher, each trying to climb above the other.  Dragons always preferred to attack from above, Dany had learned. Should either get between the other and the sun, he would fold his wings and dive screaming, and they would tumble from the sky locked together in a tangled scaly ball, jaws snapping and tails lashing. The first time they had done it, she feared that they meant to kill each other, but it was only sport. No sooner would they splash into the sea than they would break apart and rise again, shrieking and hissing, the salt water steaming off them as their wings clawed at the air. Drogon was aloft as well, though not in sight; he would be miles ahead, or miles behind, hunting.  He was always hungry, her Drogon. Hungry and growing fast. Another year, or perhaps two, and he may be large enough to ride. Then I shall have no need of ships to cross the great salt sea. But that time was not yet come. Rhaegal and Viserion were the size of small dogs, Drogon only a little larger, and any dog would have outweighed them; they were all wings and neck and tail, lighter than they looked. And so Daenerys Targaryen must rely on wood and wind and canvas to bear her home.  The wood and the canvas had served her well enough so far, but the fickle wind had turned traitor. For six days and six nights they had been becalmed, and now a seventh day had come, and still no breath of air to fill their sails. Fortunately, two of the ships that Magister Illyrio had sent after her were trading galleys, with two hundred oars apiece and crews of strong-armed oarsmen to row them. But the great cog Balerion was a song of a different key; a ponderous broad-beamed sow of a ship with immense holds and huge sails, but helpless in a calm. Vhagar and Meraxes had let out lines to tow her, but it made for painfully slow going. All three ships were crowded, and heavily laden.  “I cannot see Drogon,” said Ser Jorah Mormont as he joined her on the forecastle. “Is he lost again?”  “We are the ones who are lost, ser. Drogon has no taste for this wet creeping, no more than I do.” Bolder than the other two, her black dragon had been the first to try his wings above the water, the first to flutter from ship to ship, the first to lose himself in a passing cloud... and the first to kill. The flying fish no sooner broke the surface of the water than they were enveloped in a lance of flame, snatched up, and swallowed. “How big will he grow?” Dany asked curiously. “Do you know?”  “In the Seven Kingdoms, there are tales of dragons who grew so huge that they could pluck giant krakens from the seas.”  Dany laughed. “That would be a wondrous sight to see.”  “It is only a tale, Khaleesi,” said her exile knight. “They talk of wise old dragons living a thousand years as well.”  “Well, how long does a dragon live?” She looked up as Viserion swooped low over the ship, his wings beating slowly and stirring the limp sails.  Ser Jorah shrugged. “A dragon’s natural span of days is many times as long as a man’s, or so the songs would have us believe... but the dragons the Seven Kingdoms knew best were those of House Targaryen. They were bred for war, and in war they died. It is no easy thing to slay a dragon, but it can be done.”  The squire Whitebeard, standing by the figurehead with one lean hand curled about his tall hardwood staff, turned toward them and said, “Balerion the Black Dread was two hundred years old when he died during the reign of Jaehaerys the Conciliator. He was so large he could swallow an aurochs whole. A dragon never stops growing, Your Grace, so long as he has food and freedom.” His name was Arstan, but Strong Belwas had named him Whitebeard for his pale whiskers, and most everyone called him that now. He was taller than Ser Jorah, though not so muscular; his eyes were a pale blue, his long beard as white as snow and as flne as silk.  “Freedom?” asked Dany, curious. “What do you mean?”  “In King’s Landing, your ancestors raised an immense Dorned castle for their dragons. The Dragonpit, it is called. It still stands atop the Hill of Rhaenys, though all in ruins now. That was where the royal dragons dwelt in days of yore, and a cavernous dwelling it was, with iron doors so wide that thirty knights could ride through them abreast. Yet even so, it was noted that none of the pit dragons ever reached the size of their ancestors. The maesters say it was because of the walls around them, and the great Dorne above their heads.”  “If walls could keep us small, peasants would all be tiny and kings as large as giants,” said Ser Jorah. “I’ve seen huge men born in hovels, and dwarfs who dwelt in castles.”  “Men are men,” Whitebeard replied. “Dragons are dragons.”  Ser Jorah snorted his disdain. “How profound.” The exile knight had no love for the old man, he’d made that plain from the first. “What do you know of dragons, anyway?”  “Little enough, that’s true. Yet I served for a time in King’s Landing in the days when King Aerys sat the Iron Throne, and walked beneath the dragonskulls that looked down from the walls of his throne room.”  “Viserys talked of those skulls,” said Dany. “The Usurper took them down and hid them away. He could not bear them looking down on him upon his stolen throne.” She beckoned Whitebeard closer. “Did you ever meet my royal father?” King Aerys II had died before his daughter was born.  “I had that great honor, Your Grace.”  “Did you find him good and gentle?”  Whitebeard did his best to hide his feelings, but they were there, plain on his face. “His Grace was... often pleasant.”  “Often?” Dany smiled. “But not always?”  “He could be very harsh to those he thought his enemies.”  “A wise man never makes an enemy of a king,” said Dany. “Did you know my brother Rhaegar as well?”  “It was said that no man ever knew Prince Rhaegar, truly. I had the privilege of seeing him in tourney, though, and often heard him play his harp with its silver strings.”  Ser Jorah snorted. “Along with a thousand others at some harvest feast. Next you’ll claim you squired for him.”  “I make no such claim, ser. Myles Mooton was Prince Rhaegar’s squire, and Richard Lonmouth after him. When they won their spurs, he knighted them himself, and they remained his close companions. Young Lord Connington was dear to the prince as well, but his oldest friend was Arthur Dayne.”  “The Sword of the Morning!” said Dany, delighted. “Viserys used to talk about his wondrous white blade. He said Ser Arthur was the only knight in the realm who was our brother’s peer.”  Whitebeard bowed his head. “It is not my place to question the words of Prince Viserys.”  “King,” Dany corrected. “He was a king, though he never reigned. Viserys, the Third of His Name. But what do you mean?” His answer had not been one that she’d expected. “Ser Jorah named Rhaegar the last dragon once. He had to have been a peerless warrior to be called that, surely?”  “Your Grace,” said Whitebeard, “the Prince of Dragonstone was a most puissant warrior, but...”  “Go on,” she urged. “You may speak freely to me.”  “As you command.” The old man leaned upon his hardwood staff, his brow furrowed. “A warrior without peer... those are fine words, Your Grace, but words win no battles.”  “Swords win battles,” Ser Jorah said bluntly. “And Prince Rhaegar knew how to use one.”  “He did, ser, but... I have seen a hundred tournaments and more wars than I would wish, and however strong or fast or skilled a knight may be, there are others who can match him. A man will win one tourney, and fall quickly in the next. A slick spot in the grass may mean defeat, or what you ate for supper the night before. A change in the wind may bring the gift of victory.” He glanced at Ser Jorah. “Or a lady’s favor knotted round an arm.”  Mormont’s face darkened. “Be careful what you say, old man.”  Arstan had seen Ser Jorah fight at Lannisport, Dany knew, in the tourney Mormont had won with a lady’s favor knotted round his arm. He had won the lady too; Lynesse of House Hightower, his second wife, highborn and beautiful... but she had ruined him, and abandoned him, and the memory of her was bitter to him now. “Be gentle, my knight.” She put a hand on Jorah’s arm. “Arstan had no wish to give offense, I’m certain.”  “As you say, Khaleesi.” Ser Jorah’s voice was grudging.  Dany turned back to the squire. “I know little of Rhaegar. Only the tales Viserys told, and he was a little boy when our brother died. What was he truly like?”  The old man considered a moment. “Able. That above all. Determined, deliberate, dutiful, single-minded. There is a tale told of him... but doubtless Ser Jorah knows it as well.”  “I would hear it from you.”  “As you wish,” said Whitebeard. “As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior. “‘  “And he was!” said Dany, delighted.  “He was indeed.” Whitebeard bowed. “My pardons, Your Grace. We speak of warriors, and I see that Strong Belwas has arisen. I must attend him.”  Dany glanced aft. The eunuch was climbing through the hold amidships, nimble for all his size. Belwas was squat but broad, a good fifteen stone of fat and muscle, his great brown gut crisscrossed by faded white scars. He wore baggy pants, a yellow silk bellyband, and an absurdly tiny leather vest dotted with iron studs. “Strong Belwas is hungry!” he roared at everyone and no one in particular. “Strong Belwas will eat now!” Turning, he spied Arstan on the forecastle. “Whitebeard! You will bring food for Strong Belwas!”  “You may go,” Dany told the squire. He bowed again, and moved off to tend the needs of the man he served.  Ser Jorah watched with a frown on his blunt honest face. Mormont was big and burly, strong of jaw and thick of shoulder. Not a handsome man by any means, but as true a friend as Dany had ever known. “You would be wise to take that old man’s words well salted,” he told her when Whitebeard was out of earshot.  “A queen must listen to all,” she reminded him. “The highborn and the low, the strong and the weak, the noble and the venal. One voice may speak you false, but in many there is always truth to be found.” She had read that in a book.  “Hear my voice then, Your Grace,” the exile said. “This Arstan Whitebeard is playing you false. He is too old to be a squire, and too well spoken to be serving that oaf of a eunuch.”  That does seem queer, Dany had to admit. Strong Belwas was an ex-slave, bred and trained in the fighting pits of Meereen. Magister Illyrio had sent him to guard her, or so Belwas claimed, and it was true that she needed guarding. The Usurper on his Iron Throne had offered land and lordship to any man who killed her. One attempt had been made already, with a cup of poisoned wine. The closer she came to Westeros, the more likely another attack became. Back in Qarth, the warlock Pyat Pree had sent a Sorrowful Man after her to avenge the Undying she’d burned in their House of Dust. Warlocks never forgot a wrong, it was said, and the Sorrowful Men never failed to kill. Most of the Dothraki would be against her as well. Khal Drogo’s kos led khalasars of their own now, and none of them would hesitate to attack her own little band on sight, to slay and slave her people and drag Dany herself back to Vaes Dothrak to take her proper place among the withered crones of the dosh khaleen. She hoped that Xaro Xhoan Daxos was not an enemy, but the Qartheen merchant had coveted her dragons. And there was Quaithe of the Shadow, that strange woman in the red lacquer mask with all her cryptic counsel. Was she an enemy too, or only a dangerous friend? Dany could not say.  Ser Jorah saved me from the poisoner, and Arstan Whitebeard from the manticore. Perhaps Strong Belwas will save me from the next. He was huge enough, with arms like small trees and a great curved arakh so sharp he might have shaved with it, in the unlikely event of hair sprouting on those smooth brown cheeks. Yet he was childlike as well. As a protector, he leaves much to be desired. Thankfully, I have Ser Jorah and my bloodriders. And my dragons, never forget. In time, the dragons would be her most formidable ............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2014, All Rights Reserved