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In the center of the Plaza of Pride stood a red brick fountain whose waters smelled of brimstone, and in the center of the fountain a monstrous harpy made of hammered bronze. Twenty feet tall she reared. She had a woman’s face, with gilded hair, ivory eyes, and pointed ivory teeth. Water gushed yellow from her heavy breasts. But in place of arms she had the wings of a bat or a dragon, her legs were the legs of an eagle, and behind she wore a scorpion’s curled and venomous tail.  The harpy of Ghis, Dany thought. Old Ghis had fallen five thousand years ago, if she remembered true; its legions shattered by the might of young Valyria, its brick walls pulled down, its streets and buildings turned to ash and cinder by dragonflame, its very fields sown with salt, sulfur, and skulls. The gods of Ghis were dead, and so too its people; these Astapori were mongrels, Ser Jorah said. Even the Ghiscari tongue was largely forgotten; the slave cities spoke the High Valyrian of their conquerors, or what they had made of it.  Yet the symbol of the Old Empire still endured here, though this bronze monster had a heavy chain dangling from her talons, an open manacle at either end. The harpy of Ghis had a thunderbolt in her claws. This is the harpy of Astapor.  “Tell the Westerosi whore to lower her eyes,” the slaver Kraznys mo Nakloz complained to the slave girl who spoke for him. “I deal in meat, not metal. The bronze is not for sale. Tell her to look at the soldiers. Even the dim purple eyes of a sunset savage can see how magnificent my creatures are, surely.”  Kraznys’s High Valyrian was twisted and thickened by the characteristic growl of Ghis, and flavored here and there with words of slaver argot. Dany understood him well enough, but she smiled and looked blankly at the slave girl, as if wondering what he might have said.  “The Good Master Kraznys asks, are they not magnificent?” The girl spoke the Common Tongue well, for one who had never been to Westeros. No older than ten, she had the round flat face, dusky skin, and golden eyes of Naath. The Peaceful People, her folk were called. All agreed that they made the best slaves.  “They might be adequate to my needs,” Dany answered. It had been Ser Jorah’s suggestion that she speak only Dothraki and the Common Tongue while in Astapor. My bear is more clever than he looks. “Tell me of their training.”  “The Westerosi woman is pleased with them, but speaks no praise, to keep the price down,” the translator told her master. “She wishes to know how they were trained.”  Kraznys mo Nakloz bobbed his head. He smelled as if he’d bathed in raspberries, this slaver, and his jutting red-black beard glistened with oil. He has larger breasts than I do, Dany reflected. She could see them through the thin sea-green silk of the gold-fringed tokar he wound about his body and over one shoulder. His left hand held the tokar in place as he walked, while his right clasped a short leather whip. “Are all Westerosi pigs so ignorant?” he complained. “All the world knows that the Unsullied are masters of spear and shield and shortsword.” He gave Dany a broad smile. “Tell her what she would know, slave, and be quick about it. The day is hot.”  That much at least is no lie. A matched pair of slave girls stood behind them, holding a striped silk awning over their heads, but even in the shade Dany felt light-headed, and Kraznys was perspiring freely. The Plaza of Pride had been baking in the sun since dawn. Even through the thickness of her sandals, she could feel the warmth of the red bricks underfoot. Waves of heat rose off them shimmering to make the stepped pyramids of Astapor around the plaza seem half a dream.  If the Unsullied felt the heat, however, they gave no hint of it. They could be made of brick themselves, the way they stand there. A thousand had been marched out of their barracks for her inspection; drawn up in ten ranks of one hundred before the fountain and its great bronze harpy, they stood stiffly at attention, their stony eyes fixed straight ahead. They wore nought but white linen clouts knotted about their loins, and conical bronze helms topped with a sharpened spike a foot tall. Kraznys had commanded them to lay down their spears and shields, and doff their swordbelts and quilted tunics, so the Queen of Westeros might better inspect the lean hardness of their bodies.  “They are chosen young, for size and speed and strength,” the slave told her. “They begin their training at five. Every day they train from dawn to dusk, until they have mastered the shortsword, the shield, and the three spears. The training is most rigorous, Your Grace. Only one boy in three survives it. This is well known. Among the Unsullied it is said that on the day they win their spiked cap, the worst is done with, for no duty that will ever fall to them could be as hard as their training.”  Kraznys mo Nakloz supposedly spoke no word of the Common Tongue, but he bobbed his head as he listened, and from time to time gave the slave girl a poke with the end of his lash. “Tell her that these have been standing here for a day and a night, with no food nor water. Tell her that they will stand until they drop if I should command it, and when nine hundred and ninety-nine have collapsed to die upon the bricks, the last will stand there still, and never move until his own death claims him. Such is their courage. Tell her that.”  “I call that madness, not courage,” said Arstan Whitebeard, when the solemn little scribe was done. He tapped the end of his hardwood staff against the bricks, tap tap, as if to tell his displeasure. The old man had not wanted to sail to Astapor; nor did he favor buying this slave army. A queen should hear all sides before reaching a decision. That was why Dany had brought him with her to the Plaza of Pride, not to keep her safe. Her bloodriders would do that well enough. Ser Jorah Mormont she had left aboard Balerion to guard her people and her dragons. Much against her inclination, she had locked the dragons belowdecks. It was too dangerous to let them fly freely over the city; the world was all too full of men who would gladly kill them for no better reason than to name themselves dragonslayer.  “What did the smelly old man say?” the slaver demanded of his translator. When she told him, he smiled and said, “Inform the savages that we call this obedience. Others may be stronger or quicker or larger than the Unsullied. Some few may even equal their skill with sword and spear and shield. But nowhere between the seas will you ever find any more obedient.”  “Sheep are obedient,” said Arstan when the words had been translated. He had some Valyrian as well, though not so much as Dany, but like her he was feigning ignorance.  Kraznys mo Nakloz showed his big white teeth when that was rendered back to him. “A word from me and these sheep would spill his stinking old bowels on the bricks,” he said, “but do not say that. Tell them that these creatures are more dogs than sheep. Do they eat dogs or horse in these Seven Kingdoms?”  “They prefer pigs and cows, your worship.”  “Beef. Pfag. Food for unwashed savages.”  Ignoring them all, Dany walked slowly down the line of slave soldiers.  The girls followed close behind with the silk awning, to keep her in the shade, but the thousand men before her enjoyed no such protection. More than half had the copper skins and almond eyes of Dothraki and Lhazerene, but she saw men of the Free Cities in the ranks as well, along with pale Qartheen, ebon-faced Summer Islanders, and others whose origins she could not guess. And some had skins of the same amber hue as Kraznys mo Nakloz, and the bristly red-black hair that marked the ancient folk of Ghis, who named themselves the harpy’s sons. They sell even their own kind. It should not have surprised her. The Dothraki did the same, when khalasar met khalasar in the sea of grass.  Some of the soldiers were tall and some were short. They ranged in age from fourteen to twenty, she judged. Their cheeks were smooth, and their eyes all the same, be they black or brown or blue or grey or amber. They are like one man, Dany thought, until she remembered that they were no men at all. The Unsullied were eunuchs, every one of them. “Why do you cut them?” she asked Kraznys through the slave girl. “Whole men are stronger than eunuchs, I have always heard.”  “A eunuch who is cut young will never have the brute strength of one of your Westerosi knights, this is true,” said Kraznys mo Nakloz when the question was put to him. “A bull is strong as well, but bulls die every day in the fighting pits. A girl of nine killed one not three days past in Jothiel’s Pit. The Unsullied have something better than strength, tell her. They have discipline. We fight in the fashion of the Old Empire, yes. They are the lockstep legions of Old Ghis come again, absolutely obedient, absolutely loyal, and utterly without fear.”  Dany listened patiently to the translation.  “Even the bravest men fear death and maiming,” Arstan said when the girl was done.  Kraznys smiled again when he heard that. “Tell the old man that he smells of piss, and needs a stick to hold him up.”  “Truly, your worship?”  He poked her with his lash. “No, not truly, are you a girl or a goat, to ask such folly? Say that Unsullied are not men. Say that death means nothing to them, and maiming less than nothing.” He stopped before a thickset man who had the look of Lhazar about him and brought his whip up sharply, laying a line of blood across one copper cheek. The eunuch blinked, and stood there, bleeding. “Would you like another?” asked Kraznys.  “If it please your worship.”  It was hard to pretend not to understand. Dany laid a hand on Kraznys’s arm before he could raise the whip again. “Tell the Good Master that I see how strong his Unsullied are, and how bravely they suffer pain.”  Kraznys chuckled when he heard her words in Valyrian. “Tell this ignorant whore of a westerner that courage has nothing to do with it.”  “The Good Master says that was not courage, Your Grace.”  “Tell her to open those slut’s eyes of hers.”  “He begs you attend this carefully, Your Grace.”  Kraznys moved to the next eunuch in line, a towering youth with the blue eyes and flaxen hair of Lys. “Your sword,” he said. The eunuch knelt, unsheathed the blade, and offered it up hilt first. It was a shortsword, made more for stabbing than for slashing, but the edge looked razor-sharp. “Stand,” Kraznys commanded.  “Your worship.” The eunuch stood, and Kraznys mo Nakloz slid the sword slowly up his torso, leaving a thin red line across his belly and between his ribs. Then he jabbed the swordpoint in beneath a wide pink nipple and began to work it back and forth.  “What is he doing?” Dany demanded of the girl, as the blood ran down the man’s chest.  “Tell the cow to stop her bleating,” said Kraznys, without waiting for the translation. “This will do him no great harm. Men have no need of nipples, eunuchs even less so.” The nipple hung by a thread of skin. He slashed, and sent it tumbling to the bricks, leaving behind a round red eye copiously weeping blood. The eunuch did not move, until Kraznys offered him back his sword, hilt first. “Here, I’m done with you.”  “This one is pleased to have served you.”  Kraznys turned back to Dany. “They feel no pain, you see.”  “How can that be?” she demanded through the scribe.  “The wine of courage,” was the answer he gave her. “It is no true wine at all, but made from deadly nightshade, bloodfly larva, black lotus root, and many secret things. They drink it with every meal from the day they are cut, and with each passing year feel less and less. It makes them fearless in battle. Nor can they be tortured. Tell the savage her secrets are safe with the Unsullied. She may set them to guard her councils and even her bedchamber, and never a worry as to what they might overhear.  “In Yunkai and Meereen, eunuchs are often made by removing a boy’s testicles, but leaving the penis. Such a creature is infertile, yet often still capable of erection. Only trouble can come of this. We remove the penis as well, leaving nothing. The Unsullied are the purest creatures on the earth.” He gave Dany and Arstan another of his broad white smiles. “I have heard that in the Sunset Kingdoms men take solemn vows to keep chaste and father no children, but live only for their duty. Is it not so?”  “It is,” Arstan said, when the question was put. “There are many such orders. The maesters of the Citadel, the septons and septas who serve the Seven, the silent sisters of the dead, the Kingsguard and the Night’s Watch...”  “Poor things,” growled the slaver, after the translation. “Men were not made to live thus. Their days are a torment of temptation, any fool must see, and no doubt most succumb to their baser selves. Not so our Unsullied. They are wed to their swords in a way that your Sworn Brothers cannot hope to match. No woman can ever tempt them, nor any man.”  His girl conveyed the essence of his speech, more politely. “There are other ways to tempt men, besides the flesh,” Arstan Whitebeard objected, when she was done.  “Men, yes, but not Unsullied. Plunder interests them no more than rape. They own nothing but their weapons. We do not even permit them names.”  “No names?” Dany frowned at the little scribe. “Can that be what the Good Master said? They have no names?”  “It is so, Your Grace.”  Kraznys stopped in front of a Ghiscari who might have been his taller fitter brother, and flicked his lash at a small bronze disk on the swordbelt at his feet. “There is his name. Ask the whore of Westeros whether she can read Ghiscari glyphs.” When Dany admitted that she could not, the slaver turned to the Unsullied. “What is your name?” he demanded.  “This one’s name is Red Flea, your worship.”  The girl repeated their exchange in the Common Tongue.  “And yesterday, what was it?”  “Black Rat, your worship.”  “The day before?”  “Brown Flea, your worship.”  “Before that?”  “This one does not recall, your worship. Blue Toad, perhaps. Or Blue Worm.”  “Tell her all their names are such,” Kraznys commanded the girl. “It reminds them that by themselves they are vermin. The name disks are thrown in an empty cask at duty’s end, and each dawn plucked up again at random.”  “More madness,” said Arstan, when he heard. “How can any man possibly remember a new name every day?”  “Those who cannot are culled in training, along with those who cannot run all day in full pack, scale a mountain in the black of night, walk across a bed of coals, or slay an infant.”  Dany’s mouth surely twisted at that. Did he see, or is he blind as well as cruel? She turned away quickly, trying to keep her face a mask until she heard the translation. Only then did she allow herself to say, “Whose infants do they slay?”  “To win his spiked cap, an Unsullied must go to the slave marts with a silver mark, find some wailing newborn, and kill it before its mother’s eyes. In this way, we make certain that there is no weakness left in them.”  She was feeling faint. The heat, she tried to tell herself. “You take a babe from its mother’s arms, kill it as she watches, and pay for her pain with a silver coin?”  When the translation was made for him, Kraznys mo Nakloz laughed aloud. “What a soft mewling fool this one is. Tell the whore of Westeros that the mark is for the child’s owner, not the mother. The Unsullied are not permitted to steal.” He tapped his whip against his leg. “Tell her that few ever fail that test. The dogs are harder for them, it must be said. We give each boy a puppy on the day that he is cut. At the end of the first year, he is required to strangle it. Any who cannot are killed, and fed to the surviving dogs. It makes for a good strong lesson, we find.”  Arstan Whitebeard tapped the end of his staff on the bricks as he listened to that. Tap tap tap. Slow and steady. Tap tap tap. Dany saw him turn his eyes away, as if he could not bear to look at Kraznys any longer.  “The Good Master has said that these eunuchs cannot be tempted with coin or flesh,” Dany told the girl, “but if some enemy of mine should offer them freedom for betraying me...”  “They would kill him out of hand and bring her his head, tell her that,” the slaver answered. “Other slaves may steal and hoard up silver in hopes of buying freedom, but an Unsullied would not take it if the little mare offered it as a gift. They have no life outside their duty. They are soldiers, and that is all.”  “It is soldiers I need,” Dany admitted.  “Tell her it is well she came to Astapor, then. Ask her how large an army she wishes to buy.”  “How many Unsullied do you have to sell?”  “Eight thousand fully trained and available at present. We sell them only by the unit, she should know. By the thousand or the century. Once we sold by the ten, as household guards, but that proved unsound. Ten is too few. They mingle with other slaves, even freemen, and forget who and what they are.” Kraznys waited for that to be rendered in the Common Tongue, and then continued. “This beggar queen must understand, such wonders do not come cheaply. In Yunkai and Meereen, slave swordsmen can be had for less than the price of their swords, but Unsullied are the finest foot in all the world, and each represents many years of training. Tell her they are like Valyrian steel, folded over and over and hammered for years on end, until they are stronger and more resilient than any metal on earth.”  “I know of Valyrian steel,” said Dany. “Ask the Good Master if the Unsullied have their own officers.”  “You must set your own officers over them. We train them to obey, not to think. If it is wits she wants, let her buy scribes.”  “And their gear?”  “Sword, shield, spear, sandals, and quilted tunic are included,” said Kraznys. “And the spiked caps, to be sure. They will wear such armor as you wish, but you must provide it.”  Dany could think of no other questions. She looked at Arstan. “You have lived long in the world, Whitebeard. Now that you have seen them, what do you say?”  “I say no, Your Grace,” the old man answered at once.  “Why?” she asked. “Speak freely.” Dany thought she knew what he would say, but she wanted the slave girl to hear, so Kraznys mo Nakloz might hear later.  “My queen,” said Arstan, “there have been no slaves in the Seven Kingdoms for thousands of years. The old gods and the new alike hold slavery to be an abomination. Evil. If you should land in Westeros at the head of a slave army, many good men will oppose you for no other reason than that. You will do great harm to your cause, and to the honor of your House.”  “Yet I must have some army,” Dany said. “The boy Joffrey will not give me the Iron Throne for asking politely.”  “When the day comes that you raise your banners, half of Westeros will be with you,” Whitebeard promised. “Your brother Rhaegar is still remembered, with great love.”  “And my father?” Dany said.  The old man hesitated before saying, “King Aerys is also remembered. He gave the realm many years of peace. Your Grace, you have no need of slaves. Magister Illyrio can keep you safe while your dragons grow, and send secret envoys across the narrow sea on your behalf, to sound out the high lords for your cause.”  “Those same high lords who abandoned my father to the Kingslayer and bent the knee to Robert the Usurper?”  “Even those who bent their knees may yearn in their hearts for the return of the dragons.”  “May,” said Dany. That was such a slippery word, may. In any language. She turned back to Kraznys mo Nakloz and his slave girl. “I must consider carefully.”  The slaver shrugged. “Tell her to consider quickly. There are many other buyers. Only three days past I showed these same Unsullied to a corsair king who hopes to buy them all.”  “The corsair wanted only a hundred, your worship,” Dany heard the slave girl say.  He poked her with the end of the whip. “Corsairs are all liars. He’ll buy them all. Tell her that, girl.”  Dany knew she would take more than a hundred, if she took any at all. “Remind your Good Master of who I am. Remind him that I am Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, the Unburnt, trueborn queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. My blood is the blood of Aegon the Conqueror, and of old Valyria before him.”  Yet her words did not move the plump perfumed slaver, even when rendered in his own ugly tongue. “Old Ghis ruled an empire when the Valyrians were still fucking sheep,” he growled at the poor little scribe, land we are the sons of the harpy.” He gave a shrug. “My tongue is wasted wagging at women. East or west, it makes no matter, they cannot decide until they have been pampered and flattered and stuffed with sweetmeats. Well, if this is my fate, so be it. Tell the whore that if she requires a guide to our sweet city, Kraznys mo Nakloz will gladly serve her... and service her as well............
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