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DAENERYS
Her Dothraki scouts had told her how it was, but Dany wanted to see for herself. Ser Jorah Mormont rode with her through a birchwood forest and up a slanting sandstone ridge. “Near enough,” he warned her at the crest.  Dany reined in her mare and looked across the fields, to where the Yunkish host lay athwart her path. Whitebeard had been teaching her how best to count the numbers of a foe. “Five thousand,” she said after a moment.  “I’d say so.” Ser Jorah pointed. “Those are sellswords on the flanks. Lances and mounted bowmen, with swords and axes for the close work. The Second Sons on the left wing, the Stormcrows to the right. About five hundred men apiece. See the banners?”  Yunkai’s harpy grasped a whip and iron collar in her talons instead of a length of chain. But the sellswords flew their own standards beneath those of the city they served: on the right four crows between crossed thunderbolts, on the left a broken sword. “The Yunkai’i hold the center themselves,” Dany noted. Their officers looked indistinguishable from Astapor’s at a distance; tall bright helms and cloaks sewn with flashing copper disks. “Are those slave soldiers they lead?”  “In large part. But not the equal of Unsullied. Yunkai is known for training bed slaves, not warriors.”  “What say you? Can we defeat this army?”  “Easily,” Ser Jorah said.  “But not bloodlessly.” Blood aplenty had soaked into the bricks of Astapor the day that city fell, though little of it belonged to her or hers.  “We might win a battle here, but at such cost we cannot take the city.” “That is ever a risk, Khaleesi. Astapor was complacent and vulnerable. Yunkai is forewarned.”  Dany considered. The slaver host seemed small compared to her own numbers, but the sellswords were ahorse. She’d ridden too long with Dothraki not to have a healthy respect for what mounted warriors could do to foot. The Unsullied could withstand their charge, but my freedmen will be slaughtered. “The slavers like to talk,” she said. “Send word that I will hear them this evening in my tent. And invite the captains of the sellsword companies to call on me as well. But not together. The Stormcrows at midday, the Second Sons two hours later.”  “As you wish,” Ser Jorah said. “But if they do not come -”  “They’ll come. They will be curious to see the dragons and hear what I might have to say, and the clever ones will see it for a chance to gauge my strength.” She wheeled her silver mare about. “I’ll await them in my pavilion.”  Slate skies and brisk winds saw Dany back to her host. The deep ditch that would encircle her camp was already half dug, and the woods were full of Unsullied lopping branches off birch trees to sharpen into stakes. The eunuchs could not sleep in an unfortified camp, or so Grey Worm insisted. He was there watching the work. Dany halted a moment to speak with him. “Yunkai has girded up her loins for battle.”  “This is good, Your Grace. These ones thirst for blood.”  When she had commanded the Unsullied to choose officers from amongst themselves, Grey Worm had been their overwhelming choice for the highest rank. Dany had put Ser Jorah over him to train him for command, and the exile knight said that so far the young eunuch was hard but fair, quick to learn, tireless, and utterly unrelenting in his attention to detail.  “The Wise Masters have assembled a slave army to meet us.”  “A slave in Yunkai learns the way of seven sighs and the sixteen seats of pleasure, Your Grace. The Unsullied learn the way of the three spears. Your Grey Worm hopes to show you.”  One of the first things Dany had done after the fall of Astapor was abolish the custom of giving the Unsullied new slave names every day. Most of those born free had returned to their birth names; those who still remembered them, at least. others had called themselves after heroes or gods, and sometimes weapons, gems, and even flowers, which resulted in soldiers with some very peculiar names, to Dany’s ears. Grey Worm had remained Grey Worm. When she asked him why, he said, “It is a lucky name. The name this one was born to was accursed. That was the name he had when he was taken for a slave. But Grey Worm is the name this one drew the day Daenerys Stormborn set him free.”  “If battle is joined, let Grey Worm show wisdom as well as valor,” Dany told him. “Spare any slave who runs or throws down his weapon. The fewer slain, the more remain to join us after.”  “This one will remember.”  “I know he will. Be at my tent by midday. I want you there with my other officers when I treat with the sellsword captains.” Dany spurred her silver on to camp.  Within the perimeter the Unsullied had established, the tents were going up in orderly rows, with her own tall golden pavilion at the center. A second encampment lay close beyond her own; five times the size, sprawling and chaotic, this second camp had no ditches, no tents, no sentries, no horselines. Those who had horses or mules slept beside them, for fear they might be stolen. Goats, sheep, and half-starved dogs wandered freely amongst hordes of women, children, and old men. Dany had left Astapor in the hands of a council of former slaves led by a healer, a scholar, and a priest. Wise men all, she thought, and just. Yet even so, tens of thousands preferred to follow her to Yunkai, rather than remain behind in Astapor. I gave them the city, and most of them were too frightened to take it.  The raggle-taggle host of freedmen dwarfed her own, but they were more burden than benefit. Perhaps one in a hundred had a donkey, a camel, or an ox; most carried weapons looted from some slaver’s armory, but only one in ten was strong enough to fight, and none was trained. They ate the land bare as they passed, like locusts in sandals. Yet Dany could not bring herself to abandon them as Ser Jorah and her bloodriders urged. I told them they were free. I cannot tell them now they are not free to join me. She gazed at the smoke rising from their cookfires and swallowed a sigh. She might have the best footsoldiers in the world, but she also had the worst.  Arstan Whitebeard stood outside the entrance of her tent, while Strong Belwas sat cross-legged on the grass nearby, eating a bowl of figs. on the march, the duty of guarding her fell upon their shoulders. She had made Jhogo, Aggo, and Rakharo her kos as well as her bloodriders, and just now she needed them more to command her Dothraki than to protect her person. Her khalasar was tiny, some thirty-odd mounted warriors, and most of them braidless boys and bentback old men. Yet they were all the horse she had, and she dared not go without them. The Unsullied might be the finest infantry in all the world, as Ser Jorah claimed, but she needed scouts and outriders as well.  “Yunkai will have war,” Dany told Whitebeard inside the pavilion. Irri and Jhiqui had covered the floor with carpets while Missandei lit a stick of incense to sweeten the dusty air. Drogon and Rhaegal were asleep atop some cushions, curled about each other, but Viserion perched on the edge of her empty bath. “Missandei, what language will these Yunkai’i speak, Valyrian?”  “Yes, Your Grace,” the child said. “A different dialect than Astapor’s, yet close enough to understand. The slavers name themselves the Wise Masters.”  “Wise?” Dany sat cross-legged on a cushion, and Viserion spread his white-and-gold wings and flapped to her side. “We shall see how wise they are,” she said as she scratched the dragon’s scaly head behind the horns.  Ser Jorah Mormont returned an hour later, accompanied by three captains of the Stormcrows. They wore black feathers on their polished helms, and claimed to be all equal in honor and authority. Dany studied them as Irri and Jhiqui poured the wine. Prendahl na Ghezn was a thickset Ghiscari with a broad face and dark hair going grey; Sallor the Bald had a twisting scar across his pale Qartheen cheek; and Daario Naharis was flamboyant even for a Tyroshi. His beard was cut into three prongs and dyed blue, the same color as his eyes and the curly hair that fell to his collar. His pointed mustachios were painted gold. His clothes were all shades of yellow; a foam of Myrish lace the color of butter spilled from his collar and cuffs, his doublet was sewn with brass medallions in the shape of dandelions, and ornamental goldwork crawled up his high leather boots to his thighs. Gloves of soft yellow suede were tucked into a belt of gilded rings, and his fingernails were enameled blue.  But it was Prendahl na Ghezn who spoke for the sellswords. “You would do well to take your rabble elsewhere,” he said. “You took Astapor by treachery, but Yunkai shall not fall so easily.”  “Five hundred of your Stormcrows against ten thousand of my Unsullied,” said Dany. “I am only a young girl and do not understand the ways of war, yet these odds seem poor to me.”  “The Stormcrows do not stand alone,” said Prendahl.  “Stormcrows do not stand at all. They fly, at the first sign of thunder. Perhaps you should be flying now. I have heard that sellswords are notoriously unfaithful. What will it avail you to be staunch, when the Second Sons change sides?”  “That will not happen,” Prendahl insisted, unmoved. “And if it did, it would not matter. The Second Sons are nothing. We fight beside the stalwart men of Yunkai.”  “You fight beside bed-boys armed with spears.” When she turned her head, the twin bells in her braid rang softly. “Once battle is joined, do not think to ask for quarter, join me now, however, and you shall keep the gold the Yunkaii paid you and claim a share of the plunder besides, with greater rewards later when I come into my kingdom. Fight for the Wise Masters, and your wages will be death. Do you imagine that Yunkai will open its gates when my Unsullied are butchering you beneath the walls?”  “Woman, you bray like an ass, and make no more sense.”  “Woman?” She chuckled. “Is that meant to insult me? I would return the slap, if I took you for a man.” Dany met his stare. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, khaleesi to Drogo’s riders, and queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.”  “What you are,” said Prendahl na Ghezn, “is a horselord’s whore. When we break you, I will breed you to my stallion.”  Strong Belwas drew his arakh. “Strong Belwas will give his ugly tongue to the little queen, if she likes.”  “No, Belwas. I have given these men my safe conduct.” She smiled. “Tell me this - are the Stormcrows slave or free?”  “We are a brotherhood of free men,” Sallor declared.  “Good.” Dany stood. “Go back and tell your brothers what I said, then it may be that some of them would sooner sup on gold and glory than on death. I shall want your answer on the morrow.”  The Stormcrow captains rose in unison. “Our answer is no,” said Prendahl na Ghezn. His fellows followed him out of the tent... but Daario Naharis glanced back as he left, and inclined his head in polite farewell.  Two hours later the commander of the Second Sons arrived alone. He proved to be a towering Braavosi with pale green eyes and a bushy red-gold beard that reached nearly to his belt. His name was Mero, but he called himself the Titan’s Bastard.  Mero tossed down his wine straightaway, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and leered at Dany. “I believe I fucked your twin sister in a pleasure house back home. Or was it you?”  “I think not. I would remember a man of such magnificence, I have no doubt.”  “Yes, that is so. No woman has ever forgotten the Titan’s Bastard.” The Braavosi held out his cup to Jhiqui. “What say you take those clothes off and come sit on my lap? If you please me, I might bring the Second Sons over to your side.”  “If you bring the Second Sons over to my side, I might not have you gelded.”  The big man laughed. “Little girl, another woman once tried to geld me with her teeth. She has no teeth now, but my sword is as long and thick as ever. Shall I take it out and show you?”  “No need. After my eunuchs cut it off, I can examine it at my leisure.” Dany took a sip of wine. “It is true that I am only a young girl, and do not know the ways of war. Explain to me how you propose to defeat ten thousand Unsullied with your five hundred. innocent as I am, these odds seem poor to me.”  “The Second Sons have faced worse odds and won.”  “The Second Sons have faced worse odds and run. At Qohor, when the Three Thousand made their stand. Or do you deny it?”  “That was many and more years ago, before the Second Sons were led by the Titan’s Bastard.”  “So it is from you they get their courage?” Dany turned to Ser Jorah. “When the battle is joined, kill this one first.”  The exile knight smiled. “Gladly, Your Grace.”  “Of course,” she said to Mero, “you could run again. We will not stop you. Take your Yunkish gold and go.”  “Had you ever seen the Titan of Braavos, foolish girl, you would know that it has no tail to turn.”  “Then stay, and fight for me.”  “You are worth fighting for, it is true,” the Braavosi said, “and I would gladly let you kiss my sword, if I were free. But I have taken Yunkai’s coin and pledged my holy word.”  “Coins can be returned,” she said. “I will pay you as much and more. I have other cities to conquer, and a whole kingdom awaiting me half a world away. Serve me faithfully, and the Second Sons need never seek hire again.”  The Braavosi tugged on his thick red beard. “As much and more, and perhaps a kiss besides, eh? Or more than a kiss? For a man as magnificent as me?”  “Perhaps.”  “I will like the taste of your tongue, I think.”  She could sense Ser Jorah’s anger. My black bear does not like this talk of kissing. “Think on what I’ve said tonight. Can I have your answer on the morrow?”  “You can.” The Titan’s Bastard grinned. “Can I have a flagon of this fine wine to take back to my captains?”  “You may have a tun. It is from the cellars of the Good Masters of Astapor, and I have wagons full of it.”  “Then give me a wagon. A token of your good regard.”  “You have a big thirst.”  “I am big all over. And I have many brothers. The Titan’s Bastard does not drink alone, Khaleesi.”  “A wagon it is, if you promise to drink to my health.”  “Done!” he boomed. “And done, and done! Three toasts we’ll drink you, and bring you an answer when the sun comes up.”  But when Mero was gone, Arstan Whitebeard said, “That one has an evil reputation, even in Westeros. Do not be misled by his manner, Your Grace. He will drink three toasts to your health tonight, and rape you on the morrow.”  “The old man’s right for once,” Ser Jorah said. “The Second Sons are an old company, and not without valor, but under Mero they’ve turned near as bad as the Brave Companions. The man is as dangerous to his employers as to his foes. That’s why you find him out here. None of the Free Cities will hire him any longer.”  “It is not his reputation that I want, it’s his five hundred horse. What of the Stormcrows, is there any hope there?”  “No,” Ser Jorah said bluntly. “That Prendahl is Ghiscari by blood. Likely he had kin in Astapor.”  “A pity. Well, perhaps we will not need to fight. Let us wait and hear what the Yunkai’i have to say.”  The envoys from Yunkai arrived as the sun was going down; fifty men on magnificent black horses and one on a great white camel. Their helms were twice as tall as their heads, so as not to crush the bizarre twists and towers and shapes of their oiled hair beneath. They dyed their linen skirts and tunics a deep yellow, and sewed copper disks to their cloaks.  The man on the white camel named himself Grazdan mo Eraz. Lean and hard, he had a white smile such as Kraznys had worn until Drogon burned off his face. His hair was drawn up in a unicorn’s hom that jutted from his brow, and his tokar was fringed with golden Myrish lace. “Ancient and glorious is Yunkai, the queen of cities,” he said when Dany welcomed him to her tent. “Our walls are strong, our nobles proud and fierce, our common folk without fear. Ours is the blood of ancient Ghis, whose empire was old when Valyria was yet a squalling child. You were wise to sit and speak, Khaleesi. You shall find no easy conquest here.”  “Good. My Unsullied will relish a bit of a fight.” She looked to Grey Worm, who nodded.  Grazdan shrugged expansively. “If blood is what you wish, let it flow. I am told you have freed your eunuchs. Freedom means as much to an Unsullied as a hat to a haddock.” He smiled at Grey Worm, but the eunuch might have been made of stone. “Those who survive we shall enslave again, and use to retake Astapor from the rabble. We can make a slave of you as well, do not doubt it. There are pleasure houses in Lys and Tyrosh where men would pay handsomely to bed the last Targaryen.  “It is good to see you know who I am,” said Dany mildly.  “I pride myself on my knowledge of the savage senseless west.” Grazdan spread his hands, a gesture of conciliation. “And yet, why should we speak thus harshly to one another? It is true that you committed savageries in Astapor, but we Yunkai’i are a most forgiving people. Your quarrel is not with us, Your Grace. Why squander your strength against our mighty walls when you will need every man to regain your father’s throne in far Westeros? Yunkai wishes you only well in that endeavor. And to prove the truth of that, I have brought you a gift.” He clapped his hands, and two of his escort came forward bearing a heavy cedar chest bound in bronze and gold. They set it at her feet. “Fifty thousand golden marks,” Grazdan said smoothly. “Yours, as a gesture of friendship from the Wise Masters of Yunkai. Gold given freely is better than plunder bought with blood, surely? So I say to you, Daenerys Targaryen, take this chest, and go.”  Dany pushed open the lid of the chest with a small slippered foot. It was full of gold coins, just as the envoy said. She grabbed a handful and let them run through her fingers. They shone brightly as they tumbled and fell; new minted, most of them, stamped with a stepped pyramid on one face and the harpy of Ghis on the other. “Very pretty. I wonder how many chests like this I shall find when I take your city?”  He chuckled. “None, for that you shall never do.”  “I have a gift for you as well.” She slammed the chest shut. “Three days. On the morning of the third day, send out your slaves. All of them. Every man, woman, and child shall be given a weapon, and as much food, clothing, coin, and goods as he or she can carry. These they shall be allowed to choose freely from among their masters’ possessions, as payment for their years of servitude. When all the slaves have departed, you will open your gates and allow my Unsullied to enter and search your city, to make certain none remain in bondage. If you do this, Yunkai will not be burned or plundered, and none of your people shall be molested. The Wise Masters will have the peace they desire, and will have proved themselves wise indeed. What say you?”  “I say, you are mad.”  “Am I?” Dany shrugged, and said, “Dracarys.”  The dragons answered. Rhaegal hissed and smoked, Viserion snapped, and Drogon spat swirling red-black flame. It touched the drape of Grazdan’s tokar, and the silk caught in half a heartbeat. Golden marks spilled across the carpets as the envoy stumbled over the chest, shouting curses and beating at his arm until Whitebeard flung a flagon of water over him to douse the flames. “You swore I should have safe conduct!............
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