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“All?” The slave girl sounded wary. “Your Grace, did this one’s worthless ears mishear you?”  Cool green light filtered down through the diamond-shaped panes of colored glass set in the sloping triangular walls, and a breeze was blowing gently through the terrace doors, carrying the scents of fruit and flowers from the garden beyond. “Your ears heard true,” said Dany. “I want to buy them all. Tell the Good Masters, if you will.”  She had chosen a Qartheen gown today. The deep violet silk brought out the purple of her eyes. The cut of it bared her left breast. While the Good Masters of Astapor conferred among themselves in low voices, Dany sipped tart persimmon wine from a tall silver flute. She could not quite make out all that they were saying, but she could hear the greed.  Each of the eight brokers was attended by two or three body slaves... though one Grazdan, the eldest, had six. So as not to seem a beggar, Dany had brought her own attendants; Irri and Jhiqui in their sandsilk trousers and painted vests, old Whitebeard and mighty Belwas, her bloodriders. Ser Jorah stood behind her sweltering in his green surcoat with the black bear of Mormont embroidered upon it. The smell of his sweat was an earthy answer to the sweet perfumes that drenched the Astapori.  “All,” growled Kraznys mo Nakloz, who smelled of peaches today. The slave girl repeated the word in the Common Tongue of Westeros. “Of thousands, there are eight. Is this what she means by all? There are also six centuries, who shall be part of a ninth thousand when complete. Would she have them too?”  “I would,” said Dany when the question was put to her. “The eight thousands, the six centuries... and the ones still in training as well. The ones who have not earned the spikes.”  Kraznys turned back to his fellows. Once again they conferred among themselves. The translator had told Dany their names, but it was hard to keep them straight. Four of the men seemed to be named Grazdan, presumably after Grazdan the Great who had founded Old Ghis in the dawn of days. They all looked alike; thick fleshy men with amber skin, broad noses, dark eyes. Their wiry hair was black, or a dark red, or that queer mixture of red and black that was peculiar to Ghiscari. All wrapped themselves in tokars, a garment permitted only to freeborn men of Astapor.  It was the fringe on the tokar that proclaimed a man’s status, Dany had been told by Captain Groleo. In this cool green room atop the pyramid, two of the slavers wore tokars fringed in silver, five had gold fringes, and one, the oldest Grazdan, displayed a fringe of fat white pearls that clacked together softly when he shifted in his seat or moved an arm.  “We cannot sell half-trained boys,” one of the silver-fringe Grazdans was saying to the others.  “We can, if her gold is good,” said a fatter man whose fringe was gold.  “They are not Unsullied. They have not killed their sucklings. If they fail in the field, they will shame us. And even if we cut five thousand raw boys tomorrow, it would be ten years before they are fit for sale. What would we tell the next buyer who comes seeking Unsullied?”  “We will tell him that he must wait,” said the fat man. “Gold in my purse is better than gold in my future.”  Dany let them argue, sipping the tart persimmon wine and trying to keep her face blank and ignorant. I will have them all, no matter the price, she told herself. The city had a hundred slave traders, but the eight before her were the greatest. When selling bed slaves, fieldhands, scribes, craftsmen, and tutors, these men were rivals, but their ancestors had allied one with the other for the purpose of making and selling the Unsullied. Brick and blood built Astapor, and brick and blood her people.  It was Kraznys who finally announced their decision. “Tell her that the eight thousands she shall have, if her gold proves sufficient. And the six centuries, if she wishes. Tell her to come back in a year, and we will sell her another two thousand.”  “In a year I shall be in Westeros,” said Dany when she had heard the translation. “My need is now The Unsullied are well trained, but even so, many will fall in battle. I shall need the boys as replacements to take up the swords they drop.” She put her wine aside and leaned toward the slave girl. “Tell the Good Masters that I will want even the little ones who still have their puppies. Tell them that I will pay as much for the boy they cut yesterday as for an Unsullied in a spiked helm.”  The girl told them. The answer was still no.  Dany frowned in annoyance. “Very well. Tell them I will pay double, so long as I get them all.”  “Double?” The fat one in the gold fringe all but drooled.  “This little whore is a fool, truly,” said Khaznys mo Nakloz. “Ask her for triple, I say. She is desperate enough to pay. Ask for ten times the price of every slave, yes.”  The tall Grazdan with the spiked beard spoke in the Common Tongue, though not so well as the slave girl. “Your Grace,” he growled, “Westeros is being wealthy, yes, but you are not being queen now. Perhaps will never being queen. Even Unsullied may be losing battles to savage steel knights of Seven Kingdoms. I am reminding, the Good Masters of Astapor are not selling flesh for promisings. Are you having gold and trading goods sufficient to be paying for all these eunuchs you are wanting?”  “You know the answer to that better than I, Good Master,” Dany replied. “Your men have gone through my ships and tallied every bead of amber and jar of saffron. How much do I have?”  “Sufficient to be buying one of thousands,” the Good Master said, with a contemptuous smile. “Yet you are paying double, you are saying. Five centuries, then, is all you buy.”  “Your pretty crown might buy another century,” said the fat one in Valyrian. “Your crown of the three dragons.”  Dany waited for his words to be translated. “My crown is not for sale.” When Viserys sold their mother’s crown, the last joy had gone from him, leaving only rage. “Nor will I enslave my people, nor sell their goods and horses. But my ships you can have. The great cog Balerion and the galleys Vhagar and Meraxes.” She had warned Groleo and the other captains it might come to this, though they had protested the necessity of it furiously. “Three good ships should be worth more than a few paltry eunuchs.”  The fat Grazdan turned to the others. They conferred in low voices once again. “Two of the thousands,” the one with the spiked beard said when he turned back. “It is too much, but the Good Masters are being generous and your need is being great.”  Two thousand would never serve for what she meant to do. I must have them all. Dany knew what she must do now, though the taste of it was so bitter that even the persimmon wine could not cleanse it from her month. She had considered long and hard and found no other way. It is my only choice. “Give me all,” she said, “and you may have a dragon.”  There was the sound of indrawn breath from Jhiqui beside her. Kraznys smiled at his fellows. “Did I not tell you? Anything, she would give us.”  Whitebeard stared in shocked disbelief. His hand trembled where it grasped the staff. “No.” He went to one knee before her. “Your Grace, I beg you, win your throne with dragons, not slaves. You must not do this thing -”  “You must not presume to instruct me. Ser Jorah, remove Whitebeard from my presence.”  Mormont seized the old man roughly by an elbow, yanked him back to his feet, and marched him out onto the terrace.  “Tell the Good Masters I regret this interruption,” said Dany to the slave girl. “Tell them I await their answer.”  She knew the answer, though; she could see it in the glitter of their eyes and the smiles they tried so hard to hide. Astapor had thousands of eunuchs, and even more slave boys waiting to be cut, but there were only three living dragons in all the great wide world. And the Ghiscari lust for dragons. How could they not? Five times had Old Ghis contended with Valyria when the world was young, and five times gone down to bleak defeat. For the Freehold had dragons, and the Empire had none.  The oldest Grazdan stirred in his seat ‘ and his pearls clacked together softly. “A dragon of our choice,” he said in a thin, hard voice. “The black one is largest and healthiest.”  “His name is Drogon.” She nodded.  “All your goods, save your crown and your queenly raiment, which we will allow you to keep. The three ships. And Drogon.”  “Done,” she said, in the Common Tongue.  “Done,” the old Grazdan answered in his thick Valyrian.  The others echoed that old man of the pearl fringe. “Done,” the slave girl translated, “and done, and done, eight times done.”  “The Unsullied will learn your savage tongue quick enough,” added Kraznys mo Nakloz, when all the arrangements had been made, “but until such time you will need a slave to speak to them. Take this one as our gift to you, a token of a bargain well struck. “ “I shall,” said Dany.  The slave girl rendered his words to her, and-hers to him. if she had feelings about being given for a token, she took care not to let them show.  Arstan Whitebeard held his tongue as well, when Dany swept by him on the terrace. He followed her down the steps in silence, but she could hear his hardwood staff tap tapping on the red bricks as they went. She did not blame him for his fury. It was a wretched thing she did. The Mother of Dragons has sold her strongest child. Even the thought made her ill.  Yet down in the Plaza of Pride, standing on the hot red bricks between the slavers’ pyramid and the barracks of the eunuchs, Dany turned on the old man. “Whitebeard,” she said, “I want your counsel, and you should never fear to speak your mind with me... when we are alone. But never question me in front of strangers. Is that understood?”  “Yes, Your Grace,” he said unhappily.  “I am not a child,” she told him. “I am a queen.”  “Yet even queens can err. The Astapori have cheated you, Your Grace. A dragon is worth more than any army. Aegon proved that three hundred years ago, upon the Field of Fire.”  “I know what Aegon proved. I mean to prove a few things of my own.” Dany turned away from him, to the slave girl standing meekly beside her litter. “Do you have a name, or must you draw a new one every day from some barrel?”  “That is only for Unsullied,” the girl said. Then she realized the question had been asked in High Valyrian. Her eyes went wide. “Oh.”  “Your name is Oh?”  “No. Your Grace, forgive this one her outburst. Your slave’s name is Missandei, but...”  “Missandei is no longer a slave. I free you, from this instant. Come ride with me in the litter, I wish to talk.” Rakharo helped them in, and Dany drew the curtains shut against the dust and heat. “If you stay with me you will serve as one of my handmaids,” she said as they set off. “I shall keep you by my side to speak for me as you spoke for Kraznys. But you may leave my service whenever you choose, if you have father or mother you would sooner return to.”  “This one will stay,” the girl said. “This one... I... there is no place for me to go. This... I will serve you, gladly.”  “I can give you freedom, but not safety,” Dany warned. “I have a world to cross and wars to fight. You may go hungry. You may grow sick. You may be killed.”  “Valar morghulis,” said Missandei, in High Valyrian.  “All men must die,” Dany agreed, “but not for a long while, we may pray.” She leaned back on the pillows and took the girl’s hand. “Are these Unsullied truly fearless?”  “Yes, Your Grace.”  “You serve me now. Is it true they feel no pain?”  “The wine of courage kills such feelings. By the time they slay their sucklings, they have been drinking it for years.”  “And they are obedient?”  “Obedience is all they know. If you told them not to breathe, they would find that easier than not to obey.”  Dany nodded. “And when I am done with them?”  “Your Grace?”  “When I have won my war and claimed the throne that was my father’s, my knights will sheathe their swords and return to their keeps, to their wives and children and mothers... to their lives. But these eunuchs have no lives. What am I to do with eight thousand eunuchs when there are no more battles to be fought?”  “The Unsullied make fine guards and excellent watchmen, Your Grace,” said Missandei. “And it is never hard to find a buyer for such fine well-blooded troops.”  “Men are not bought and sold in Westeros, they tell me.”  “With all respect, Your Grace, Unsullied are not men.”  “If I did resell them, how would I know they could not be used against me?” Dany asked pointedly. “Would they do that? Fight against me, even do me harm?”  “If their master commanded. They do not question, Your Grace. All the questions have been culled from them. They obey.” She looked troubled. “When you are... when you are done with them... Your Grace might command them to fall upon their swords.”  “And even that, they would do?”  “Yes.” Missandei’s voice had grown soft. “Your Grace.”  Dany squeezed her hand. “You would sooner I did not ask it of them, though. Why is that? Why do you care?”  “This one does not... I... Your Grace...”  “Tell me.”  The girl lowered her eyes. “Three of them were my brothers once, Your Grace.”  Then I hope your brothers are as brave and clever as you. Dany leaned back into her pillow, and let the litter bear her onward, back to Balerion one last time to set her world in order. And back to Drogon. Her mouth set grimly.  It was a long, dark, windy night that followed. Dany fed her dragons as she always did, but found she had no appetite herself. She cried awhile, alone in her cabin, then dried her tears long enough for yet another argument with Groleo. “Magister Illyrio is not here,” she finally had to tell him, “and if he was, he could not sway me either. I need the Unsullied more than I need these ships, and I will hear no more about it.”  The anger burned the grief and fear from her, for a few hours at the least. Afterward she called her bloodriders to her cabin, with Ser Jorah. They were the only ones she truly trusted.  She meant to sleep afterward, to be well rested for the morrow, but an hour of restless tossing in the stuffy confines of the cabin soon convinced her that was hopeless. Outside her door she found Aggo fitting anew string to his bow by the light of a swinging oil lamp. Rakharo sat cross-legged on the deck beside him, sharpening his arakh with a whetstone. Dany told them both to keep on with what they were doing, and went up on deck for a taste of the cool night air. The crew left her alone as the............
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