Ned Stark Lives! Part 2 Chapter 44 Daenerys
It took three days to negotiate the terms of the agreement with Euron Greyjoy, the Crow's Eye, as Dany soon learned he was known as. Three days wasted camped on the shore by Meereen, three days lost because of the arrogance and greed of the man who sat opposite Dany while they negotiated. He was boastful of his deeds, lecherous in the way his one good eye leered at Dany, and above all he was demanding, asking for much and offering little in return. But he had ships, and men who could sail them. Most of all he had been to the east, if the tales he told were true, and it was east Dany wanted to go.
"East?" Ser Jorah had said in surprise the moment Dany told him her wish soon after the battle.
They were standing on the shore, not an hour after the great battle, and Dany was glad to see her strong bear had survived the fight at the docks. Ser Jorah and his men had saved ten ships. They had lost some men but surprise had been on their side. Now the ten ships rode at anchor in deeper waters offshore. Ser Jorah had come by small boat to report to her and discover what had happened elsewhere. Dany was just cleaning the grime of battle from her hands and face when Ser Jorah rowed ashore. As they stood on the shore she discussed matters with him, Ser Barristan, Lord Varys, Captain Groleo, and Daario Naharis. Watching the Greyjoy ships coming closer, Dany told them of her decision, but not the why of it.
Ser Barristan also seemed surprised by her choice. "But you told Captain Groleo to sail for Westeros, Your Grace."
"I did," she answered. "And to arrive at Westeros safely we must go east."
"The east is a dangerous and unknown place, Your Grace," Captain Groleo replied. "Our journey is to the west."
"Is going west not also dangerous?" she asked. "Is not the Volantene fleet waiting for us somewhere between here and Westeros? East we must go."
She was echoing another woman's words. "To reach the west you must go east," the women in the lacquer mask had told her when they had been stuck in Qarth those many days past. Quaithe was her name, but little else Dany knew of her. Her face was always hidden and her words ominous and full of warnings. One such warning told her to beware the kraken. Now the kraken was here, coming toward her, and Dany must be ready. She did not tell her advisors and captains this but still insisted that it was to the east they had to sail.
Yet Ser Jorah still had doubts. "To go east to reach Westeros…is it even possible?"
"How does the sun fly across the sky?" she asked them and then Varys chuckled.
"It does not fly, my Queen. It stays still and the world moves under it."
"Night is but the sun sleeping, some stories say," Ser Barristan added. "But an old maester I knew as a child told me the world does indeed move, not under, but around the sun. Both are great balls, one of fire, one of earth. Round, like a ball, one spinning around the other. If our world is a ball, then eventually east must meet west. If this is so then past Asshai and Yi Ti lies the Sunset Sea…and home."
Once more Ser Jorah threw cold water on the idea. "Aye, maybe it is so, but where is there a sea passage through the lands of the far east?"
None of them knew of such a sea passage. Captain Groleo was consulted. "I know the Jade Gates passage flows past Qarth and the isle of Great Moraq into the Jade Sea where Asshai and Yi Ti lie…but I have never been there. And I do not know if the Jade Sea is a landlocked inland sea or an exit exists on its far side like the Jade Gates. But they might know," he said as he looked out to sea at the approaching Greyjoy ships. "The krakens have sailed the Sunset Sea for thousands of years."
As the Greyjoy ships drew closer rank upon rank of Unsullied marched to a position behind Dany and her group that was close to the shore. Dany felt comfort with her brave warriors behind her. The ironmen would be fools to attack her. Ser Barristan advised her to get to a place of safety while he confronted the ironmen but she told him no, she had to face them, and discover if they had come as friends or foes.
Soon the ship with black sails and dark red hull that also bore the banner with the black crows, crown, and red eye on a blue background anchored itself as close to the shore as it could. Then a small boat with just a few men came from it. Other ships anchored and also sent out small boats. As the occupants waded ashore Captain Groleo spoke in awe. "It's him…the Crow's Eye."
Dany knew not who he spoke of. "The one with the eye patch," Ser Jorah told her. "Euron Greyjoy, younger brother of Balon Greyjoy, ruler of the Iron Islands. A cold and ruthless man, it is said. Be wary, Your Grace."
Euron Greyjoy seemed ruthless in appearance at least. Tall and broad, pale of skin, with long thick black hair, a black beard, with his right eye blue and a sinister eye patch on the left one. He wore a sword at his side, daggers in his belt, and the golden kraken of his family etched into his breastplate. With him coming from the small boats were many more of his ilk, men with shaggy locks and fierce beards, tall and strong looking, the ironmen of infamy. Some wore the kraken sigil, others had different ones, and all were in different garb, carrying an array of weapons, with no uniformity. Their leader walked straight up to Dany and her group, striding as if he owned the shore and all his one blue eye could see. He looked disappointed in some way, as if he had expected to have to fight his way on shore and now wished a horde of enemies were here to meet him. Up close he seemed a handsome man, except for the blue hue that was on his lips, which Dany knew was caused by drinking shade of the evening. She was reminded of the warlocks of Qarth and was immediately on her guard.
Euron Greyjoy looked at Dany and in an instant she knew he wanted her. He smiled broadly and then spoke in a deep voice. "A woman of such beauty can only be Daenerys Targaryen," he said. "I am Euron Greyjoy. I have come to take you home."
Dany was taken aback by his brash statement and the sudden desire to say 'yes, take me, now'.
"It is customary to kneel before your Queen," Ser Barristan said before Dany could reply.
Euron Greyjoy laughed. "I kneel before no man or god," he said. "Least of all a woman." Then he stared at Dany with his one eye. "But before your bed, Daenerys Targaryen, I may make an exception."
She could feel the men beside her getting angry, most of all Daario Naharis, her lover, but she merely laughed lightly. "I am happy to see at least one woman can make you kneel."
Euron Crow's Eye grinned. "Aye, but we will have time for that later. I have traveled far across the seas to find you, Mother of Dragons."
He looked up and to the south where her three children were still chasing her running enemies. "I see the tales are true," the Crow's Eye said. "Dragons fly once again. With dragons, we can take over Westeros."
"We?" said Ser Jorah in a dangerous tone.
"Aye," said Euron Crow's Eye. "I will sit the Iron Throne with my queen by my side."
There was a stunned silence at this brash arrogance and then Dany laughed, long and loud and Euron was clearly not happy with this. "Oh, I needed that," Dany said. "I have not laughed like that for a long time. Euron Greyjoy, are you always so humorous?"
"I do not jest," the Crow's Eye said, his anger on him. "I have come to take you home, Daenerys Stormborn. Together we will defeat all the usurpers…if you marry me."
The time for laughter was over. She needed his ships, however, and so must walk carefully here. "You have not heard. I am freshly widowed, my husband dying this very day, so you must allow me time to grieve before I choose any new suitors."
The Crow's Eye smiled. "You do not seem to be grieving. I take it you had no love for this man."
Daario had stood by while this went on but now could no longer control his tongue. "She is not for you, kraken!"
Now things became dangerous. The Crow's Eye smiled again. "My steel has not drunk blood for many days now. I think it is time I quenched its thirst."
Swords were quickly drawn on both sides and Dany feared the worst.
"Enough!" she said in a commanding voice. "Any man who draws blood I will feed to my dragons!"
The tension was thick in the air and it was Varys who put an end to the confrontation. "My Queen, I believe Drogon senses you are in peril."
Indeed at that moment the shadow of the black dragon came over them and with a thud Drogon landed nearby, menace in his dark eyes and tendrils of smoke coming from his snout. Dany walked to his side and said soothing words. She was happy to see everyone had put away their weapons and even the Crow's Eye seemed awed by the sight of a dragon up close.
"I need your ships," Dany said to him from Drogon's side. "You shall be rewarded handsomely. What do you wish?"
"You," he answered, with lust dripping from his voice.
"The Queen is not for sale," Ser Barristan told in him a tone that brooked no arguments.
"Old man…," one of Euron's men started to say but the Crow's Eye raised a hand and the man stopped talking.
"You are of Westeros?" he asked Ser Barristan.
"I am Ser Barristan Selmy."
"Barristan the Bold," Euron Greyjoy said. "I thought you were dead." He looked at Ser Jorah and Varys. "A bear and a eunuch. I have heard of Jorah Mormont being in the east when I was last here. A wife with rich tastes you could not satisfy. Or was it in the bed chamber you could not satisfy her?" His men laughed loud at this and Ser Jorah looked ready to take out his steel again but kept control of himself and said nothing. Euron turned to Varys. "And you…you can only be Varys the Spider. Even in the Iron Islands we heard how you ran away from Westeros. We also know of the deceitful webs you spin." He looked next at Daario. "And the loud Tyrosh…you I know not."
"I am Daario Naharis, commander of the Stormcrows…and a better man than you."
Euron laughed and so did his men. "Aye, maybe we will see some day." He turned back to Dany. "Strange company you keep. So we are now to negotiate. That is thirsty work." He turned to his men. "Bring the tents and food and drink ashore. Call all my captains. We will toast to our victory. When we are sated will we talk…Your Grace."
He gave a mocking bow to her and then did not wait for her to reply but with his men waded back out to their small boats and rowed to their ships.
And so for three days they had camped, and ate, and drank much, and talked, while time wasted away. His men camped on the shoreline and her army camped further inland, and at a place between the two forces they set up an open air pavilion with a table and two chairs, a place to negotiate the future. As they negotiated her Unsullied took to burning the remains of the Yunkai camp and its dead, while making sure none of them returned from the south. Strong Belwas' body was recovered just inside the city, near the city gates, and he was given proper funeral rites and his body was burnt as well. Her blood rider Rakharo's body they could not get to as he was killed in the fighting pit and no one knew where his body now lay.
Meanwhile the city of Meereen was going through turmoil as the Shavepate began to take control. A messenger came saying the Shavepate wanted help, and at first she refused him but changed her mind on Ser Barristan's advice.
"It is their city now, they wanted it," he said. "But we need food and tents and many other things if we are to stay here a while. Perhaps it is best to give him one thousand Unsullied to help him maintain order. In exchange for the things we need." So it was done and soon after the one thousand Unsullied marched into the city, wagons rolled out of Meereen with food, drink, and tents.
The commanders of the Windblown and the Second Sons arrived at her camp the night of the first day. She sat in the pavilion with the Tattered Prince and Brown Ben Plumm across the table from her, an oil lamp on the table to give them light, with her three Westerosi advisors, her two blood riders, and Missandei standing behind her. Missandei gave them wine and bread. After they drank and ate Plumm began by asking if she would hire his men once more.
"You wish to join me…again?" she said with scorn to Brown Ben Plumm. He was much older than Dany, but not as old as Ser Barristan. Still, above his dark features his black hair was sprinkled with grey and was receding.
"We are sellswords," the Second Sons' commander said. "Changing sides is in our nature."
"What is to say you would not change sides again?" Ser Jorah asked.
"You would know of that, Ser Jorah," the Tattered Prince retorted. This one was as old or older than Ser Barristan. He had a sad, mournful look to his face, which was framed by long silvery grey hair. His one other distinguishing feature was his multicolored tattered cloak that gave him his name. "You and the eunuch signed papers for the Windblown," he continued, glaring at Varys and Ser Jorah. "I call you deserters. You know what we do in the free companies to deserters?"
Varys tittered. "Make them eat the dreadful stuff that passes for food?"
No one laughed and Dany was in no mood for people making threats against her men. "Ser Barristan, kill this fool if he goes near Varys or Ser Jorah."
"With pleasure, Your Grace."
"And also call for Daario. I believe he has a score to settle with Brown Ben Plumm."
Plumm snorted. "You need us. We have almost two thousand swords. All experienced men, many from Westeros. Our demands will be modest, I assure you."
"I have almost seven thousand Unsullied, three dragons and soon a fleet of ironmen," Dany answered. "Why do I need you as well?"
"The Lannisters have many and more men," Plumm told her. "And all the gold of Westeros. Stannis Baratheon has a great army as well it is said. If they don't kill each other then you must defeat both of them to take the throne. And who is to say what the Starks, Arryns, Martells, and the rest will do?"
Dany knew he was right, but wanted them for nothing, or almost nothing. "Very well," she said. "I will hire each sword I can fit on my ships…for one gold piece…each."
"Per month," countered the Tattered Prince.
"No," Dany said. "One gold dragon apiece…in total, until I sit the Iron Throne. Half when we reach Westeros, half when the war is over."
"Madness," said Plumm in exasperation. "That could take years!"
"It may," Varys added.
"The sergeants and captains and commanders must get more," the Tattered Prince demanded.
"No," Dany answered again. "Take it or you can sit here and rot. Maybe the Meereenese will decide to slaughter you before you starve. All the nearby ships will soon be mine. You can get to Volantis by walking, of course, but the road is said to be very dangerous."
"Ten gold dragons for each man," Plumm demanded as if he had not heard her words. "One hundred for sergeants, a thousand for captains, and ten thousand for me and the Prince."
"One each," Dany replied, feeling the dragon rising inside her and fighting to control her anger. "For everyone. Take it or leave it."
"Our men will kill us," the Tattered Prince said.
"Then it would be a quick and merciful death," Ser Barristan told them. "The Queen is offering you employment and a passage away from these lands."
"It is an insult," Plumm retorted.
"Then stay here," Dany said. "We are done."
The two commanders left the pavilion and Ser Barristan told her how he really felt. "It was an insult to offer them so little, Your Grace. We could use such experienced men."
"I care not," she replied. "They fought for my enemies and Plumm turned his cloak. They are lucky my Unsullied do not slaughter them. They will be back."
She was right. They did come back, the next day, and accepted her terms, with one provision. The two companies could keep all the plunder they took from her enemies in Westeros, and each captain and Plumm would be made lords and given lands and castles.
"Done," Dany replied and a deal was struck.
The Tattered Prince did not want a castle in Westeros. He wanted his homeland, Pentos. He tried to get her to say she would help him take Pentos but she refused. "Pentos does not belong to me or you." He went away mad but he still took her deal, for his men.
The Second Sons and the Windblown camped between Dany's Unsullied and the walls of Meereen. To forestall any trouble between Daario and Plumm she ordered her lover to take his men to the south and block the road to Yunkai and report on any movements of her enemies. Daario seethed and demanded the right to kill Plumm but she refused to honor his wishes. He went away mad and Dany wondered if she would ever reconcile the two.
As for the ironmen, making a deal was more difficult. For three days Euron Greyjoy stalled while his men feasted and drank. The first time they talked he demanded the right to sack Meereen but Dany said if he tried that she would unleash her dragons and Unsullied and sellswords on him and his. After that he left in anger but his men still rested and drank and did not attack Meereen. On the second day the Crows' Eye demanded all the ships Ser Jorah had taken and refused to embark any of Dany's people except her. And her dragons, of course. She absolutely refused all demands and said she would sooner swim to Westeros than leave behind anyone as long as there was room on the ships. Once again the kraken had stormed out of the pavilion.
Dany wanted to have done with him but she needed those ships now more than ever. He had forty ships, plus twelve prizes captured from the Yunkai. Many of his ships were sleek war galleys, which could hardly hold any more people, but he had five fat cogs, merchant ships he had taken as prizes on his voyage here, and each could hold several hundred men and many supplies. She had ten ships, all galleys, not as well built as the ironmen's ships, but they were larger and could hold many men and supplies. They would serve. Together they could take almost all her army.
On the third day they got to the heart of the matter. "What do you want today?" Dany asked in exasperation, frustrated by his outrageous demands. If Euron Greyjoy did not give her a straight answer she would command her dragons to burn his ship called Silence, the one with the red hull and black sails.
They were seated at a table across from each other in the open air pavilion, protected from the merciless sun by the canvas over their heads. Some of his captains stood behind him, all men of the Iron Islands, while Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan, Captain Groleo, her two blood riders, and Varys stood with her. Nearby stood a rank of one hundred Unsullied. Missandei poured wine and then the talking began.
"Rule of the Iron Islands," Euron Greyjoy said as his first term, finally getting to the heart of things. "My nephew Theon now rules but he is weak and cowardly. I will take them from him and pay the iron price, but I want no interference from you and yours. I want to be independent of the Iron Throne."
At last something she could grant. "Yes…it will be done. Now if there is nothing…"
"The right to reave, as in days of old."
"Reave?" she asked innocently.
Ser Barristan supplied the answer. "Attack, rape, pillage…where they wish."
She nodded. "Yes. It will be so."
The Crow's Eye's captains looked surprise and so did he, looking at her in suspicion. "We are no fools. No ruler would ever grant that without some other hidden reason."
Dany smiled. "You may have the right to reave…but only when and where I tell you."
Euron Crow's Eye snorted. "We are to be independent."
"So you shall," Dany told him. "But when I and my heirs call on your ships to fight my enemies I expect them to join the fleets I assemble. Anyone who reaves where and when they wish will be hunted down and executed."
"Reaving is in our blood," he answered, his voice rising. "What do you want of us, woman? To become soft greenlanders? To farm and fish? We do not sow!"
His men shouted out their agreements. The Crow's Eye shook his head and started to stand. "I cannot accept these terms."
Dany was getting exasperated. "What would be acceptable?"
He sat again and grinned, his blue lips making it more obscene. "Your hand in marriage."
Ser Jorah let loose an oath. "My Queen, we will never leave here if this keeps on. I say we make our own way to Westeros."
"And who will sail your ships?" the Crow's Eye asked in a contemptuous tone.
"I will," Captain Groleo answered and the captains with the Crow's Eye all laughed.
"You?" said one. "What ships have you captained besides fat bellied cogs and leaky galleys?"
"Captain Groleo is a great seaman," Dany said in protest. "He sailed to Qarth from Pentos and then to here."
"Aye?" said the Crow's Eye, seeming a bit impressed. "Maybe you have some skill…for a merchant captain. But soon the whole Volantene fleet will be here."
This was news to Dany and her captains. "Where are they?" Ser Jorah asked.
"Maybe a week away," the Crow's Eye told them. "Maybe less. No man knows which way the winds will blow from day to day and how strong they will blow. If I do not get what I want, I will leave, on the morning tide…without you."
That brought a lot of shouted arguments and insults back and forth and finally Dany slapped her hand on the table and the noise subsided somewhat. "Yes," she said. "I will marry you." And all went quiet in the pavilion and Dany was glad Daario was not here or blood would have been spilt.
The Crow's Eye smiled. "You will be my bride?"
"No…you will be my husband."
Now he looked confused and also angry. "Your husband?"
"Yes…to sit by my side, to lead my fleets,…to give me heirs. But it is I who will sit the Iron Throne, make no mistake about that. None in Westeros would ever accept you on it."
"They may not even accept him as your husband, Your Grace," Varys said with his characteristic titter.
"If you had any balls I would make you eat them, eunuch," the Crow's Eye said to him.
"How fortunate I am not so equipped," Varys replied.
"This one is the first I will kill on our wedding day," the Crow's Eye promised all.
"No," Dany said. "You will threaten none of my advisors, you will make no decisions without my say so. You will have no power except what I give you. The Iron Islands will be yours, but no other lands. No reaving shall be done except against my…our…enemies. Our sons will be kings and our daughters princesses of Westeros. These are the final terms. Accept them or not. It is your choice."
His eye was staring at her with lust, and she knew she had him. But he had one more surprise first. "We will marry, here, today."
"No, in King's Landing, when our enemies are defeated."
He hesitated, suspicion in his one good eye. Finally he nodded. "Aye…but when we first set foot in Westeros."
In turn she hesitated and then also nodded. "So it shall be done."
The Crow's Eye relaxed and leer at her. "Then it is time we made plans to sail."
Dany relaxed as well. She had no intentions of ever marrying the man, but his ships were hers now. A promise made today may have to be kept tomorrow but who knew the future?
"We must leave, soon," said Ser Barristan.
Ser Jorah raised several problems. "We still have to find provisions for the voyage and a way to load our men and horses quickly. And the dragons, how will they get to Westeros? They cannot fly all the way. They must rest and have food."
All this Dany had been thinking on as well, which they had discussed before the great fight in the city and had no solution.
The Crow's Eye solved one problem. "We have captured much food from ships we took. We can also stop at some islands rich with game. Fat boars run wild on the Isle of Cedars. Your dragons can fly over land and feed. Once past the Volantene fleet we can hug the coastline. Maybe they can also rest on the ships if you can control them."
Dany was uncertain but did not show it. "I can."
"We still need more food," Ser Jorah said. "If we are to take everyone. We have more than ten thousand mouths to feed."
"So many cannot sail on our ships," protested one ironman captain.
"We shall need them all in Westeros," Ser Barristan rejoined. "And the food to see them there."
Dany sighed. "Then I must see the new leaders of Meereen and make a deal."
That evening long after dark she sent Ser Jorah as an envoy to ask for a meeting with the Shavepate. He returned and told her it was set. She wrapped herself up in rough sailor's clothing and hid her hair under a sealskin hat. She and her two knights with a strong body guard of Daario and many of his men came into the city in the darkness and met with the Shavepate in the pyramid that was once Dany's home. He sat on the chair that once served as Dany's throne and looked down on her as if she was a supplicant come asking for a favor from her king. But she was still the Mother of Dragons and could burn his city if she wanted. She neither knelt nor paid him any respect, simply telling him what she needed and asking his price. The Shavepate still had not total control of the city and had needs as well.
"If I give you food, what will my people eat?" he asked when Dany made her needs clear.
"We do not require much," she replied. "Enough to see us for a week, maybe two, until we can reach lands where we can gather more food."
The Shavepate thought and then spoke, with an evil grin. "I require one dragon," and around him his new advisors and guards smiled, knowing a dragon would make them invincible.
Dany laughed and his face grew angry. "One dragon!" he repeated.
"You should ask the people of Astapor what happened when they demanded a dragon," Dany replied. "But I suppose it would be difficult for dead men to tell tales. My old friend, you helped me through many battles. Even if I gave you a dragon, you would not be able to control it. Now come, there must be something you need that I can give you."
He grumbled and spouted oaths and then said what he really wanted, what he wanted all along, and she knew as well, and that asking for a dragon was just a ploy. "For each week's worth of food I require an additional one thousand Unsullied," the Shavepate demanded.
"Done…but I get to march my army through the city and to the docks and my ships get to be loaded there."
"For this extra demand I will need…"
"No, I will give you nothing more. With these two thousand more Unsullied you will have now have three thousands. The city will be yours and any enemies will think twice to attack you."
He cursed again but in the end he agreed. Now Dany had less than five thousand Unsullied. But she also had almost three thousand sellswords and the ironmen and their ships. The next day they marched through the city to the docks as the Crow's Eye and his men sailed into the harbor. As Dany flew on Drogon's back to the docks and her other two dragons followed them, she saw many faces looking up in awe and fear. She landed her children near the docks and Ser Jorah was wise enough to have a pen with ten sheep inside waiting for them. Her children soon stilled the cries of the bleating sheep and after eating slept for the rest of the day.
That night it rained, providing some much needed relief from the heat and water to fill the wells of the region. As it rained the leaders held a conference in a warehouse by the docks as the Unsullied and some ironmen continued to load supplies on the ships. Some of the sellswords helped, but many had refused to load the ships, claiming such labor was not for true warriors. Dany decided not to press the matter as time was short. Most of the sellswords were now in nearby wine sinks and pubs getting drunk and laying with whores one last time before they had to put to sea. Daario was once again with his company away from the others, guarding the dock area from any surprises the Meereenese people may have in store for her. Many enemies she still had in the city and none would forget the manner in which she had left so abruptly and in which so many nobles had died. She had not planned on being back, but she had not counted on having the ironmen appear with so many ships that could carry her men and supplies to Westeros.
"Will we be ready by morning?" Dany asked the assembled captains and advisors.
The Crow's Eye nodded. "Aye, with the tide we shove off."
Long into the night they talked about details and routes. Dany's decision to move east was the big sticking point.
"It s not possible," the Crow's Eye said and his captains agreed with him. "There is no passage to the Sunset Sea from the Jade Sea."
"How far east did you go?" she asked him "To Asshai, to Yi Ti?"
"Aye," he replied, then seemed to think, looking at the rough map he had drawn of the Jade Sea. He pointed a finger. "Here, by the city of Asshai is the Saffron Strait…but we did not enter, turning west for home. The Shadow Lands loom large here, and no man knows what is on the other side of the strait. We asked but heard nothing but stories. Some said there is another sea. Others we asked said the Saffron Strait leads to nowhere but more land. The land stretches from north to south as far as a ship can sail safely. There is no passage…so we were told."
"We must go east," she insisted but still did not tell them why. She was sure they would mock her.
"Better to go west," said one of the ironmen captains.
"Aye," said the Crow's Eye and then he outlined his plan with a new map. "We sail straight across Slaver's Bay, then past the Isle of Cedars once we stop and take on more food and water there. We cut straight across the Gulf of Grief and the Summer Sea to the Basilisk Isles, then take a wide swing west and south to avoid the Volantene fleet. Once past Volantis we hug the coast, move through the Step Stones, sail up the Blackwater to King's Landing and demand their surrender. When they see the dragons and my fleet, they will open the gates. We plunder the city, take what we want, and put my bride on the Iron Throne."
"And what of the Volantene fleet?" Ser Jorah asked. "Can we avoid them? You say they are near. How many ships do they have?"
"Hundreds," Euron Crow's Eye admitted. "All big war galleys. But if we meet them with the dragons we will singe their sails and send them fleeing home."
"Maybe…or maybe not," Ser Barristan said. "The Battle of the Gullet was similar to this situation. Do you know the tale, from the Dance of the Dragons civil war?"
"Aye, I have heard it from Rodrik the Reader once. The names I forget but the battle I remember. One side had four dragons…and still barely won the battle and lost most of its ships as well."
"And a dragon," Dany added, knowing this story from her brother's lessons about their family. She shuddered at the thought of losing one of her children. "If we go east, we can avoid the Volantenes."
But the Crow's Eye was still against it. "If we meet them we will crush them. There is no glory in running."
Dany stared at him across the table. "We go east."
He stared back, and Dany knew he either accepted her way or this was all for naught. A contest of wills with the fate of Westeros in their hands. Finally, she smiled at him, and she thought it broke the deadlock. He lusted for her, and maybe thought he could have her before the wedding night, and she thought he would agree. But he didn't. "We go west. I have been east, and I know those lands. But I know of no way to reach Westeros from here except to sail west."
Dany knew all her advisors and captains agreed with him. She looked at them all in turn and they all backed the Crow's Eye's plan and finally she relented. "Then we shall sail to the west and trust in the gods to see us home."
That night in her spacious cabin on the large galley she had granted to Captain Groleo as his flagship, named the Summer Wind, Dany sat with Ser Barristan and Varys, eating a light meal of bread, olives, cheese, and wine, with Missandei standing nearby to serve them.
"If you marry that man, Your Grace," Ser Barristan said. "None in Westeros will ever support you."
"She isn't going to marry him," Varys said with confidence.
"I never said that," Dany told them and that alarmed them all and then she laughed lightly. "Of course I cannot marry him. But he mustn't know that. He is a strong warrior and a great captain and we need him."
"Someday we may have to kill him," Ser Barristan advised.
"Ser Barristan is right," her bear told her as he heard this last as he stepped into her cabin. "The lords of Westeros despise the Greyjoys and this one most of all. There is more news about the Crow's Eye you must hear, Your Grace, which I have just heard from one of the ironmen in a pub."
He sat and food was brought for him and as he ate he told the tale. "All the ironmen fear their leader and his ship, the man told me. He has roamed the seas of the east for years, reaving his way around the Jade Sea, visiting lands few in Westeros had ever heard of. All his crew on the Silence are from these lands, all mutes he made, cutting out their tongues to keep his secrets safe. So the rumors say. They also say Euron Greyjoy claims he sailed into Old Valyria and took out a magic horn. This is not a rumor, as the man I spoke to saw and heard this horn being blown."
"Magic horn?" Ser Barristan scoffed. "And what power does it have?"
Ser Jorah shrugged. "None the man could see. Or at least he was sober enough not to tell me its secrets. But this is part of another tale, the tale of why Euron Greyjoy made his voyage and what happened when he returned home. His older brother Balon Greyjoy banished him, the rumors say, but the why if it no man knows. Something happened in the Greyjoy family is all anyone knows, or dares to know. Then after two years Silence came home to Pyke the very day after Balon Greyjoy fell to his death from a high rope bridge at his castle."
"Balon Greyjoy is dead?" Ser Barristan asked in surprise.
"Aye," Mormont answered. "I was suspicious when Euron said his nephew Theon was leader of the Iron Islands now. The ironmen I drank with told how Euron took over the islands until Theon returned from the North, barely escaping with his life from Ned Stark's wrath when he threw the ironmen out of Winterfell."
This story they had in bits and pieces from Varys and other sources but they knew not what had become of Theon Greyjoy. "Theon returned to find his father dead and his uncle on the Seastone Chair," Ser Jorah continued. "Then his other uncle, called the Damphair, a priest to their god, he called a great council of all the ironmen captains. Here they voted for Theon be their new king. Euron tried to assassinate his nephew and failed. He then fled from his homeland with his few supporters."
"Gods," said Ser Barristan. "He is a madman."
"This we already knew," Varys told them. "And more to the story I may add. Long ago I learned the reason Euron Greyjoy was banished. He bedded his younger brother Victarion's wife, and then boasted of it. Victarion killed his wife with his bare hands, but could not touch his brother as kinslaying is the one sin the ironmen do not break. Balon Greyjoy banished Euron to prevent any breech of this law."
Dany took all this in and it changed nothing. "We still need his ships."
Varys agreed. "We need his ships, so you must see this through, whether you intend to truly marry him or not. And a promise made today will give the ships to us. The future…who knows what will happen."
"He is not a man to be put off so easily, Your Grace," said Ser Jorah. "If he gets us home he will make good on his demand."
"We only have ten ships," Dany reminded them. "I cannot conquer Westeros without an army. Is there any other way to get most of us to Westeros?"
No one had an answer. Soon the little group broke up and Dany was alone with Ser Barristan guarding her door.
"You should get some rest," she told him. Before he could reply the door opened and Ser Barristan's hand went to his sword.
"The Queen is not to be disturbed," he said to the intruder.
"Rest easy, old man," replied the Crow's Eye. "I have come to take my future wife to her ship."
"She is on her ship," the old knight told him sternly.
But Euron Crow's Eye had hardly heard him, his eye only for Dany. "I have prepared a large cabin for you. You will be comfortable and safer there."
Dany smiled. "I thank you for this offer but it would be unseemly for a woman to spend the night in her future husband's home before the wedding day. People will gossip."
"Let them gossip," he said as he stepped close to her. She could feel a twinge of passion for this brute, handsome and strong he was, but when she saw the blue on his lips up close all such passion fled.
"You drink shade of the evening?" she asked.
"You know it?"
"I tried it once."
"Is it not wondrous?"
"No. It is favored by the warlocks of Qarth, who once tried to assassinate me. It is time for me to rest. You as well. We sail on the morning tide."
He was being dismissed but cared not. Ser Barristan had been standing behind him the whole time, hand on sword hilt. "The Queen has asked you to leave."
Euron Greyjoy turned and stared at him, his blue eye glaring. "The Queen is coming with me."
"She is not," Dany said. "Leave…now."
He turned back to Dany, seemed about to protest once more and then just as quickly turned on his heel and headed for the door. "We sail with the tide. Be ready or stay here, I care not." And then he was gone.
Dany had been holding her breath and now she relaxed. "Gods, the man is so… so…uncouth."
"He will never be your husband, promise me this or I shall hang up my sword right now."
"You have my promise."
Ser Barristan was still tense. "When we reach Westeros, I must kill him."
"Will it be necessary?"
"He plans to marry you, sit by your side as you sit the Iron Throne," Ser Barristan replied. "But we have not yet told him of Aegon or that you may not even be the strongest claimant to the throne. What will Euron Greyjoy do then?"
She had no doubt. "He will try to kill Aegon."
Dany sighed. "So be it. He must die when we reach Westeros."
"Not to worry, Your Grace, we shall find you another husband. Mayhaps even your nephew if the match is suitable. You will give the realm heirs to carry on your legacy."
Dany sat on her bed and then she could not help it. First one tear and then another came down her cheeks and more followed. Ser Barristan did not know what to do. He was a knight, and not one for wiping away the tears of a young girl.
"My Queen, why do you cry?"
She had to tell him. He was her closest advisor and to keep him in the dark was a disservice. "It matters not who I marry. I…I cannot give the realm any heirs. I am barren."
He was silent for a long moment and she felt she knew what he was thinking. He was a product of the tangled webs of the lords and ladies of Westeros, where marriage and producing heirs was all that mattered.
"My Queen…are you certain?" was what he asked.
"I am. When Khal Drogo's son died in me, murdered by that witch, my womb shriveled and can now no longer give life."
"But you are still young and…"
She shook her head and he stopped talking. "You know Daario and I are lovers?"
"How could I not know?" he replied. Always he stood near and always he knew much. There was no judgment in his tone for which she was thankful.
"For many moons he has lain with me and given me his seed. Still my belly does not grow."
She sniffed and then he said what she knew he would say. "If this is so, Aegon must be king…and you cannot be his wife. For the good of the realm, my Queen, this must be so."
She gulped and nodded. "For the good of the realm."
"I am sorry."
Dany wiped her eyes with her hands and sat up straighter. "No…better to decide this now. But no one must know, not even Ser Jorah or Varys. If Aegon truly lives and makes his way to Westeros I will join him, fight his battles, and help put him on the Iron Throne."
It was not what she wanted, but as he said she must make a sacrifice of her desires for the good of the realm.
"And Euron Greyjoy?" Ser Barristan asked
"He must die when we reach Westeros."
The next day the ships began to prepare to leave. The sellswords came on board, many with heavy heads, and finally Daario and his men arrived, all placed aboard one fat cog, where no other sellswords were. She had hardly a moment to wish him well and then he went on his ship.
The dragons were the hard part. Dany had at first wanted them together but no ship was big enough to hold all three. So she decided to put one each on three fast galleys Captain Groleo had. A heavy breakfast helped calm the dragons. On the flagship Summer Wind Dany coaxed Drogon up a stout and wide gangplank and onto the after deck by using soothing words in Old Valyrian. Once he was there, filling up most of the after deck above the rudder and behind the wheel, he lay down and curled up and seemed at ease. Twice more she did this, with Viserion and Rhaegal, and on each ship she put a dragon on the crews feared fire and began to haul up buckets of water to put all around their ships.
By the time this was done on the dockside a large crowd of Meereenese was growing. Many beseeched her to remain, to save them, and they called her mother in the many languages of the city. Dany hardened her heart and gave the command to set sail.
The ships began to leave the harbor one by one, rowed or pulled by smaller boats to where they could unfurl sails and catch the morning breeze. It blew to the west, a good omen. And then the ironmen did something that sickened Dany. They began to sacrifice captives. On several different ships struggling men were dragged up from below, bound hand and foot, and taken to the prow of each ship and shoved off into the water to drown.
"A sacrifice to their Drowned God," Ser Jorah told her from the deck of Summer Wind.
"The Silence made no such sacrifice," Varys said, looking toward the sleek red hulled and black sailed ship as it leaped ahead of the fleet.
"No, he would not," Ser Jorah said. "The drunk ironman I talked to said Euron Greyjoy is a godless man, and makes no prayers or sacrifices to any god."
As they sailed west the day remained calm and fair. Soon they left the narrow bay where Meereen was sited and were soon in the more open waters of Slaver's Bay. Now the wind picked up a bit and the ship rolled back and forth. Varys excused himself and was soon sick over the side railing. "Wine," he mumbled and he headed below to his cabin.
After a quick lunch Dany, with great care, managed to slip a large rope around the neck of Drogon. Then she tied it with a loop in the end. With more care she climbed aboard and held onto the rope and then with more gentle words she coaxed Drogon into the sky. His brothers soon joined him and on they flew with Dany learning more about how to move and make her dragons do as she wanted. High in the sky they went and as Dany held on for dear life the great panorama of the bay and the lands around it was in clear view. Down below her ships moved in ragged ranks, with little formation except among the ironmen. She scouted far ahead and the seas were clear as far as the horizon, with no ships in sight other than her own. The word must have spread. Stay away from Slaver's Bay, the ironmen are there.
Each day after this she went aloft when the weather was good and slowly the fleet moved across Slaver's Bay. On the fifth day they reached the Isle of Cedars and spent two days here, taking on more food, killing many boars and other animals, filling the ships' holds with salted meat, and allowing her dragons to fly free and eat at their leisure. It took time to get them back to the ships but soon it was done and they were ready to sail again. An unfortunately consequence of this stop was a plague of monkeys which somehow had found their way aboard many ships. Many of the crews cursed them but Dany thought they were funny and even began to feed one from her hand. This ended when Drogon suddenly lunged and swallowed her monkey whole. Dany was sure she saw a jealous look in her dragon's eyes.
The next day they emerged from the strait between the Isle of Cedars and the Ghiscari coastline. Here they saw their first ship, a Ghiscari trading galley, which the ironmen quickly ran down and took as a prize after a short fight. It was carrying honey, wine, hides, and a small bit of iron ore. Then on the next day they lost a ship, one of those Ser Jorah had taken from Meereen. It ventured too close to the coast and hit some rocks. It was filled with over two hundred Unsullied plus its crew of sailors. Many were saved but some were lost and the ship sank in waters so shallow its mast was still visible.
Dany fretted and Ser Jorah gave her some wisdom. "You cannot expect to get them all to Westeros, Your Grace."
"No…of course not," she replied but she still did not like losing a ship.
The next day dawned cloudy, an overcast that hinted of rain. They were in more open waters with the Ghiscari coast far to their left and the wind coming from the east. Silence raised a signal flag to turn from south to the southwest and Dany reluctantly told Captain Groleo to follow the command. Her dream of heading east was quickly fading.
After this Dany's dragons took wing, heading to the far off coast, looking for game to kill and eat. Dany did not stop them. She went below to her cabin to breakfast with her two strong knights as Missandei served and her two blood riders stood guard by the doors. The girl and all her remaining Dothraki did not like being on ship she knew but they did not complain. Lord Varys, however, complained loud and long, and was sick once again. He now lay in his cabin with a bottle of wine in hand and a bucket on the floor.
As they ate below decks in her cabin, the ship suddenly lurched. "Getting choppy," Ser Jorah said. He had lived on Bear Island all his youth, she knew, and he was no stranger to ships and rough waters. He stood up and went up to the deck. Moments later he was back.
"They are here," was all he said and the rest of them raced up on deck. Everyone was looking to the west and what Dany saw made her shudder.
The sky to the west was growing ominous, long lines of black tipped clouds moving toward them. But it was the many sails between these clouds and her fleet that gave Dany cause to be worried.
"Volantenes," Ser Jorah said.
It was the Volantene fleet in rank on rank of moving war galleys, many so big even from this distance Dany knew they were larger than any galley she had. Dozens of sails Dany counted, more than one hundred ships, maybe two hundred, and all were coming for her much smaller fleet. Maybe they would stop and let her go if they knew she was leaving and their lucrative slave trade could begin again. But that was a foolish thought. They had to show they were the ones with power and the best way to do that was to sink her fleet and kill or capture her. She would not let them take her alive. Dany would throw herself into the sea first.
The ironmen took matters into their own hands and moved to attack, not seeming to care that they were outnumbered. They were already slicing through the water, not waiting for any orders from her, and it was better this way, for they knew the business of fighting at sea and she did not. Euron Greyjoy had said as much before they left Meereen. Leave all the fighting to my ships, he had said at their last meeting. Now she would see if the legendary ironmen were truly made of the stuff they had boasted of.
Their ships were moving fast through the water, the oars slashing and rising, slashing and rising, propelling them forward to the attack, to ram and sink or board enemy ships. She could see their decks crowded with men, reading themselves for boarding and killing their enemies. On other ships her Unsullied stood still while trying to maintain ranks on the rising and falling decks, readying their spears and bows. The five large cogs carrying most of their supplies and their few horses turned and moved out of the way of the fighting galleys. Daario was on one of those cogs and Dany felt some satisfaction that he was safe. Yet she was also sure he was cursing and wanting to join the battle.
Dany had a sudden feeling that they would be overwhelmed by so many ships and that she had to do something, anything. "I must get aloft!" Dany shouted to Ser Jorah. "We cannot defeat so many with ships alone. Can you see Drogon?"
"No," he replied as he scanned the skies, looking toward the coast that was now to their backs. By his side Ser Barristan had just come on deck from below, now dressed in his full armor.
"You will sink like a rock if you go over the side," Captain Groleo shouted to the old knight from where he manned the wheel.
"Then you best handle this ship smartly so that does not happen," Ser Barristan told him. He looks happy, Dany thought, as he readied for battle once more.
"There they are!" shouted Missandei and on the horizon Dany saw her three dragons where the young girl was pointing.
"Come to me," Dany wanted to scream but they were so far away there was no point. But now the dragons wheeled in unison and made straight for the Volantene fleet, flying past the advancing ironmen. As if they felt her will they began to circle the enemy ships and then dive down. Many black specks flew up at them, a volley of spears and arrows no doubt, but all three dragons appeared unhurt.
And then came the fire.
Three long gouts of flame shot down at three ships and in moments all three were blazing wrecks. Small dots of fire leaped from the ships into the water.
"Men, jumping overboard," Ser Jorah said in a grim tone. "A far better death than by fire."
Dany was hardly hearing him, and ran to the bow and watched as her children rose and flew down once again and three more ships turned into flaming funeral pyres. Now the Volantene fleet was breaking up, ships heading in all directions to avoid the wrath of the dragons.
As this happen the ironmen's long ships began their attacks. Here and there individual Volantene ships tried to make a run for it but the ironmen ran them down and soon small ship to ship melees broke out across the wide sea. But the dragons concentrated on the main fleet and more ships caught fire and many more small darts of flame leaped into the waters.
"More speed!" Dany shouted, wanting to get closer, and the order was passed and down below the drum beat for the rowers grew faster and faster.
"We must turn," Ser Jorah suddenly said from her side. Without waiting for her to ask why, he left her and ran back to talk to Captain Groleo. Dany lost their words in the wind, which now seemed to turn from the east and come straight at her from the west. The sail behind her on the main mast cracked and seemed to flutter and then it backfilled, the wind pushing it straight back. The whole ship shuddered and then water splashed across Dany as it came over the bow.
"Move back, Your Grace," Ser Barristan shouted as he grabbed her arm and pulled her back to nearer the main mast. Already sailors were climbing the rigging and pulling down the mainsail on the captain's orders. The wind howled and the waves rose higher, and all around Dany saw the waves begin to wash over the bows of her ships.
"We cannot hold this course!" Captain Groleo shouted into the wind. "We must come about and race with the wind!"
Already many ships had done just that, turning away from the advancing wall of black clouds and the strong storm they carried. In the distance Dany could see more enemy ships on fire but the surviving Volantene ships were moving at great speed, looming larger, being pushed east with the western wind. She had to order the turn or they would soon be surrounded by enemies. She looked to Silence once again and now as the Crow's Eye's ship finally turned east in the mounting waves she gave the command to her captain.
It was almost too late. Just as she gave the order a massive wave bore down on them and struck the bow, tossing great sheets of water across the deck. Dany lost her footing and went down, sliding across the deck toward the railing which was now inches from the water as the ship heeled over to port. Two sailors screamed as they went overboard and Dany knew she would soon follow. She reached out to grab onto anything she could grasp but there was nothing.
A watery death awaited her and then her strong bear was there, grasping her boot with one hand while he sprawled on the deck and held onto a rope that was attached to the main mast with his other strong arm. He pulled her close and then had her in his arms as the wind howled around them. Ser Barristan helped them up and they struggled and forced their way to the hatch leading below decks. The old knight kicked it open and Ser Jorah started to take her below.
The last thing she saw as she looked back was her three children racing away to the east before the wind and rain. She stopped, looked for them to come back, but soon they were lost to sight. And then the fury of the storm was on them and Dany wondered if she would not meet a watery death after all.