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 When he came up on deck, the long point of Driftmark was dwindling behind them while Dragonstone rose from the sea ahead. A pale grey wisp of smoke blew from the top of the mountain to mark where the island lay. Dragonmont is restless this morning, Davos thought, or else Melisandre is burning someone else.  Melisandre had been much in his thoughts as Shayala’s Dance made her way across Blackwater Bay and through the Gullet, tacking against perverse contrary winds. The great fire that burned atop the Sharp Point watchtower at the end of Massey’s Hook reminded him of the ruby she wore at her throat, and when the world turned red at dawn and sunset the drifting clouds turned the same color as the silks and satins of her rustling gowns.  She would be waiting on Dragonstone as well, waiting in all her beauty and all her power, with her god and her shadows and his king. The red priestess had always seemed loyal to Stannis, until now. She has broken him, as a man breaks a horse. She would ride him to power if she could, and for that she gave my sons to the fire. I will cut the living heart from her breast and see how it burns. He touched the hilt of the fine long Lysene dirk that the captain had given him.  The captain had been very kind to him. His name was Khorane Sathmantes, a Lyseni like Salladhor Saan, whose ship this was. He had the pale blue eyes you often saw on Lys, set in a bony weatherworn face, but he had spent many years trading in the Seven Kingdoms. When he learned that the man he had plucked from the sea was the celebrated Onion knight, he gave him the use of his own cabin and his own clothes, and a pair of new boots that almost fit. He insisted that Davos share his provisions as well, though that turned out badly. His stomach could not tolerate the snails and lampreys and other rich food Captain Khorane so relished, and after his first meal at the captain’s table he spent the rest of the day with one end or the other dangling over the rail.  Dragonstone loomed larger with every stroke of the oars. Davos could see the shape of the mountain now, and on its side the great black citadel with its gargoyles and dragon towers. The bronze figurehead at the bow of Shayala’s Dance sent up wings of salt spray as it cut the waves. He leaned his weight against the rail, grateful for its support. His ordeal had weakened him. If he stood too long his legs shook, and sometimes he fell prey to uncontrollable fits of coughing and brought up gobs of bloody phlegm. It is nothing, he told himself. Surely the gods did not bring me safe through fire and sea only to kill me with a flux.  As he listened to the pounding of the oarmaster’s drum, the thrum of the sail, and the rhythmic swish and creak of the oars, he thought back to his younger days, when these same sounds woke dread in his heart on many a misty mom. They heralded the approach of old Ser Tristimun’s sea watch, and the sea watch was death to smugglers when Aerys Targaryen sat the Iron Throne.  But that was another lifetime, he thought. That was before the onion ship, before Storm’s End, before Stannis shortened my fingers. That was before the war or the red comet, before I was a Seaworth or a knight. I was a different man in those days, before Lord Stannis raised me high.  Captain Khorane had told him of the end of Stannis’s hopes, on the night the river burned. The Lannisters had taken him from the flank, and his fickle bannermen had abandoned him by the hundreds in the hour of his greatest need. “King Renly’s shade was seen as well,” the captain said, “slaying right and left as he led the lion lord’s van. It’s said his green armor took a ghostly glow from the wildfire, and his antlers ran with golden flames.”  Renly’s shade. Davos wondered if his sons would return as shades as well. He had seen too many queer things on the sea to say that ghosts did not exist. “Did none keep faith?” he asked.  “Some few,” the captain said. “The queen’s kin, them in chief. We took off many who wore the fox-and-flowers, though many more were left ashore, with all manner of badges. Lord Florent is the King’s Hand on Dragonstone now.”  The mountain grew taller, crowned all in pale smoke. The sail sang, the drum beat, the oars pulled smoothly, and before very long the mouth of the harbor opened before them. So empty, Davos thought, remembering how it had been before, with the ships crowding every quay and rocking at anchor off the breakwater. He could see Salladhor Saan’s flagship Valyrian moored at the quay where Fury and her sisters had once tied up. The ships on either side of her had striped Lysene hulls as well. In vain he looked for any sign of Lady Marya or Wraith.  They pulled down the sail as they entered the harbor, to dock on oars alone. The captain came to Davos as they were tying up. “My prince will wish to see you at once.”  A fit of coughing seized Davos as he tried to answer. He clutched the rail for support and spat over the side. “The king,” he wheezed. “I must go to the king.” For where the king is, I will find Melisandre.  “No one goes to the king,” Khorane Sathmantes replied firmly. “Salladhor Saan will tell you. Him first.”  Davos was too weak to defy him. He could only nod.  Salladhor Saan was not aboard his Valyrian. They found him at another quay a quarter mile distant, down in the hold of a big-bellied Pentoshi cog named Bountiful Harvest, counting cargo with two eunuchs. One held a lantern, the other a wax tablet and stylus. “Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine,” the old rogue was saying when Davos and the captain came down the hatch. Today he wore a wine-colored tunic and high boots of bleached white leather inlaid with silver scrollwork. Pulling the stopper from a jar, he sniffed, sneezed, and said, “A coarse grind, and of the second quality, my nose declares. The bill of lading is saying forty-three jars. Where have the others gotten to, I am wondering? These Pentoshi, do they think I am not counting?” When he saw Davos he stopped suddenly. “Is it pepper stinging my eyes, or tears? Is this the knight of the onions who stands before me? No, how can it be, my dear friend Davos died on the burning river, all agree. Why has he come to haunt me?”  “I am no ghost, Salla.”  “What else? My onion knight was never so thin or so pale as you.” Salladhor Saan threaded his way between the jars of spice and bolts of cloth that filled the hold of the merchanter, wrapped Davos in a fierce embrace, then kissed him once on each cheek and a third time on his forehead. “You are still warm, ser, and I feel your heart thumpetythumping. Can it be true? The sea that swallowed you has spit you up again.”  Davos was reminded of Patchface, Princess Shireen’s lackwit fool. He had gone into the sea as well, and when he came out he was mad. Am I mad as well? He coughed into a gloved hand and said, “I swam beneath the chain and washed ashore on a spear of the merling king. I would have died there, if Shayala’s Dance had not come upon me.”  Salladhor Saan threw an arm around the captain’s shoulders. “This was well done, Khorane. You will be having a fine reward, I am thinking. Meizo Mahr, be a good eunuch and take my friend Davos to the owner’s cabin.  Fetch him some hot wine with cloves, I am misliking the sound of that cough. Squeeze some lime in it as well. And bring white cheese and a bowl of those cracked green olives we counted earlier! Davos, I will join you soon, once I have bespoken our good captain. You will be forgiving me, I know. Do not eat all the olives, or I must be cross with you!”  Davos let the elder of the two eunuchs escort him to a large and lavishly furnished cabin at the stem of the ship. The carpets were deep, the windows stained glass, and any of the great leather chairs would have seated three of Davos quite comfortably. The cheese and olives arrived shortly, and a cup of steaming hot red wine. He held it between his hands and sipped it gratefully. The warmth felt soothing as it spread through his chest.  Salladhor Saan appeared not long after. “You must be forgiving me for the wine, my friend. These Pentoshi would drink their own water if it were purple.”  “It will help my chest,” said Davos. “Hot wine is better than a compress, my mother used to say.”  “You shall be needing compresses as well, I am thinking. Sitting on a spear all this long time, oh my. How are you finding that excellent chair? He has fat cheeks, does he not?”  “Who?” asked Davos, between sips of hot wine.  “Illyrio Mopatis. A whale with whiskers, I am telling you truly. These chairs were built to his measure, though he is seldom bestirring himself from Pentos to sit in them. A fat man always sits comfortably, I am thinking, for he takes his pillow with him wherever he goes.”  “How is it you come by a Pentoshi ship?” asked Davos. “Have you gone pirate again, my lord?” He set his empty cup aside.  “Vile calumny. Who has suffered more from pirates than Salladhor Saan? I ask only what is due me. Much gold is owed, oh yes, but I am not without reason, so in place of coin I have taken a handsome parchment, very crisp. It bears the name and seal of Lord Alester Florent, the Hand of the King. I am made Lord of Blackwater Bay, and no vessel may be crossing my lordly waters without my lordly leave, no. And when these outlaws are trying to steal past me in the night to avoid my lawful duties and customs, why, they are no better than smugglers, so I am well within my rights to seize them.” The old pirate laughed. “I cut off no man’s fingers, though. What good are bits of fingers? The ships I am taking, the cargoes, a few ransoms, nothing unreasonable.” He gave Davos a sharp look. “You are unwell, my friend. That cough... and so thin, I am seeing your bones through your skin. And yet I am not seeing your little bag of fingerbones...”  Old habit made Davos reach for the leather pouch that was no longer there. “I lost it in the river.” My luck.  “The river was terrible,” Salladhor Saan said solemnly. “Even from the bay, I was seeing, and shuddering.”  Davos coughed, spat, and coughed again. “I saw Black Betha burning, and Fury as well,” he finally managed, hoarsely. “Did none of our ships escape the fire?” Part of him still hoped.  “Lord Steffon, Ragged Jenna, Swift Sword, Laughing Lord, and some others were upstream of the pyromancers’ pissing, yes. They did not burn, but with the chain raised, neither could they be flying. Some few were surrendering. Most rowed far up the Blackwater, away from the battling, and then were sunk by their crews so they would not be falling into Lannister hands. Ragged Jenna and Laughing Lord are still playing pirate on the river, I have heard, but who can say if it is so?”  “Lady Marya?” Davos asked. “Wraith?”  Salladhor Saan put a hand on Davos’s forearm and gave a squeeze. “No. Of them, no. I am sorry, my friend. They were good men, your Dale and Allard. But this comfort I can give you- your young Devan was among those we took off at the end. The brave boy never once left the king’s side, or so they say.”  For a moment he felt almost dizzy, his relief was so palpable. He had been afraid to ask about Devan. “The Mother is merciful. I must go to him, Salla. I must see him.”  “Yes,” said Salladhor Saan. “And you will be wanting to sail to Cape Wrath, I know, to see your wife and your two little ones. You must be having a new ship, I am thinking.”  “His Grace will give me a ship,” said Davos.  The Lyseni shook his head. “Of ships, His Grace has none, and Salladhor Saan has many. The king’s ships burned up on the river, but not mine. You shall have one, old friend. You will sail for me, yes? You will dance into Braavos and Myr and Volantis in the black of night, all unseen, and dance out again with silks and spices. We will be having fat purses, yes.”  “You are kind, Salla, but my duty’s to my king, not your purse. The war will go on. Stannis is still the rightful heir by all the laws of the Seven Kingdoms.”  “All the laws are not helping when all the ships burn up, I am thinking. And your king, well, you will be finding him changed, I am fearing. Since the battle, he sees no one, but broods in his Stone Drum. Queen Selyse keeps court for him with her uncle the Lord Alester, who is naming himself the Hand. The king’s seal she has given to this uncle, to fix to the letters he writes, even to my pretty parchment. But it is a little kingdom they are ruling, poor and rocky, yes. There is no gold, not even a little bit to pay faithful Salladhor Saan what is owed him, and only those knights that we took off at the end, and no ships but my little brave few.”  A sudden racking cough bent Davos over. Salladhor Saan moved to help him, but he waved him off, and after a moment he recovered. “No one?” he wheezed. “What do you mean, he sees no one?” His voice sounded wet and thick, even in his own ears, and for a moment the cabin swam dizzily around him.  “No one but her,” said Salladhor Saan, and Davos did not have to ask who he meant. “My friend, you tire yourself. It is a bed you are needing, not Salladhor Saan. A bed and many blankets, with a hot compress for your chest and more wine and cloves.”  Davos shook his head. “I will be fine. Tell me, Salla, I must know. No one but Melisandre?”  The Lyseni gave him a long doubtful look, and continued reluctantly. “The guards keep all others away, even his queen and his little daughter. Servants bring meals that no one eats.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. &l............
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