A Game of Thrones Chapter Sixty-one


When the battle was done, Dany rode her silver through the fields of the dead.Her handmaids and the men of her khas came after, smiling and jesting among themselves.

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Dothraki hooves had torn the earth and trampled the rye and lentils into the ground, while arakhs and arrows had sown a terrible new crop and watered it with blood.Dying horses lifted their heads and screamed at her as she rode past.

Wounded men moaned and prayed. Jaqqa rhan moved among them, the mercy men with their heavy axes, taking a harvest of heads from the dead and dying alike. After them would scurry a flock of small girls, pulling arrows from the corpses to fill their baskets. Last of all the dogs would come sniffing, lean and hungry, the feral pack that was never far behind the khalasar.

The sheep had been dead longest. There seemed to be thousands of them, black with flies, arrow shafts bristling from each carcass. Khal Ogo’s riders had done that, Dany knew; no man of Drogo’s khalasar would be such a fool as to waste his arrows on sheep when there were shepherds yet to kill.

The town was afire, black plumes of smoke roiling and tumbling as they rose into a hard blue sky. Beneath broken walls of dried mud, riders galloped back and forth, swinging their long whips as they herded the survivors from the smoking rubble. The women and children of Ogo’s khalasar walked with a sullen pride, even in defeat and bondage; they were slaves now, but they seemed not to fear it. It was different with the townsfolk. Dany pitied them; she remembered what terror felt like. Mothers stumbled along with blank, dead faces, pulling sobbing children by the hand. There were only a few men among them, cripples and cowards and grandfathers.

Ser Jorah said the people of this country named themselves the Lhazareen, but the Dothraki called them haesh rakhi, the Lamb Men. Once Dany might have taken them for Dothraki, for they had the same copper skin and almond-shaped eyes. Now they looked alien to her, squat and flat-faced, their black hair cropped unnaturally short. They were herders of sheep and eaters of vegetables, and Khal Drogo said they belonged south of the river bend. The grass of the Dothraki sea was not meant for sheep.

Dany saw one boy bolt and run for the river. A rider cut him off and turned him, and the others boxed him in, cracking their whips in his face, running him this way and that. One galloped behind him, lashing him across the buttocks until his thighs ran red with blood. Another snared his ankle with a lash and sent him sprawling. Finally, when the boy could only crawl, they grew bored of the sport and put an arrow through his back.

Ser Jorah met her outside the shattered gate. He wore a dark green surcoat over his mail. His gauntlets, greaves, and greathelm were dark grey steel. The Dothraki had mocked him for a coward when he donned his armor, but the knight had spit insults right back in their teeth, tempers had flared, longsword had clashed with arakh, and the rider whose taunts had been loudest had been left behind to bleed to death.

Ser Jorah lifted the visor of his flat-topped greathelm as he rode up. “Your lord husband awaits you within the town.”

“Drogo took no harm?”

“A few cuts,” Ser Jorah answered, “nothing of consequence. He slew two khals this day. Khal Ogo first, and then the son, Fogo, who became khal when Ogo fell. His bloodriders cut the bells from their hair, and now Khal Drogo’s every step rings louder than before.”

Ogo and his son had shared the high bench with her lord husband at the naming feast where Viserys had been crowned, but that was in Vaes Dothrak, beneath the Mother of Mountains, where every rider was a brother and all quarrels were put aside. It was different out in the grass. Ogo’s khalasar had been attacking the town when Khal Drogo caught him. She wondered what the Lamb Men had thought, when they first saw the dust of their horses from atop those cracked-mud walls. Perhaps a few, the younger and more foolish who still believed that the gods heard the prayers of desperate men, took it for deliverance.

Across the road, a girl no older than Dany was sobbing in a high thin voice as a rider shoved her over a pile of corpses, facedown, and thrust himself inside her. Other riders dismounted to take their turns. That was the sort of deliverance the Dothraki brought the Lamb Men.

I am the blood of the dragon, Daenerys Targaryen reminded herself as she turned her face away. She pressed her lips together and hardened her heart and rode on toward the gate.

“Most of Ogo’s riders fled,” Ser Jorah was saying. “Still, there may be as many as ten thousand captives.”

Slaves, Dany thought. Khal Drogo would drive them downriver to one of the towns on Slaver’s Bay. She wanted to cry, but she told herself that she must be strong. This is war, this is what it looks like, this is the price of the Iron Throne.

“I’ve told the khal he ought to make for Meereen,” Ser Jorah said. “They’ll pay a better price than he’d get from a slaving caravan. Illyrio writes that they had a plague last year, so the brothels are paying double for healthy young girls, and triple for boys under ten. If enough children survive the journey, the gold will buy us all the ships we need, and hire men to sail them.”

Behind them, the girl being raped made a heartrending sound, a long sobbing wail that went on and on and on. Dany’s hand clenched hard around the reins, and she turned the silver’s head. “Make them stop,” she commanded Ser Jorah.

“Khaleesi?” The knight sounded perplexed.

“You heard my words,” she said. “Stop them.” She spoke to her khas in the harsh accents of Dothraki. “Jhogo, Quaro, you will aid Ser Jorah. I want no rape.”

The warriors exchanged a baffled look.

Jorah Mormont spurred his horse closer. “Princess,” he said, “you have a gentle heart, but you do not understand. This is how it has always been. Those men have shed blood for the khal. Now they claim their reward.”

Across the road, the girl was still crying, her high singsong tongue strange to Dany’s ears. The first man was done with her now, and a second had taken his place.

“She is a lamb girl,” Quaro said in Dothraki. “She is nothing, Khaleesi. The riders do her honor. The Lamb Men lay with sheep, it is known.”

“It is known,” her handmaid Irri echoed.

“It is known,” agreed Jhogo, astride the tall grey stallion that Drogo had given him. “If her wailing offends your ears, Khaleesi, Jhogo will bring you her tongue.” He drew his arakh.

“I will not have her harmed,” Dany said. “I claim her. Do as I command you, or Khal Drogo will know the reason why.”

“Ai, Khaleesi,” Jhogo replied, kicking his horse. Quaro and the others followed his lead, the bells in their hair chiming.

“Go with them,” she commanded Ser Jorah.

“As you command.” The knight gave her a curious look. “You are your brother’s sister, in truth.”

“Viserys?” She did not understand.

“No,” he answered. “Rhaegar.” He galloped off.

Dany heard Jhogo shout. The rapers laughed at him. One man shouted back. Jhogo’s arakh flashed, and the man’s head went tumbling from his shoulders. Laughter turned to curses as the horsemen reached for weapons, but by then Quaro and Aggo and Rakharo were there. She saw Aggo point across the road to where she sat upon her silver. The riders looked at her with cold black eyes. One spat. The others scattered to their mounts, muttering.

All the while the man atop the lamb girl continued to plunge in and out of her, so intent on his pleasure that he seemed unaware of what was going on around him. Ser Jorah dismounted and wrenched him off with a mailed hand. The Dothraki went sprawling in the mud, bounced up with a knife in hand, and died with Aggo’s arrow through his throat. Mormont pulled the girl off the pile of corpses and wrapped her in his blood-spattered cloak. He led her across the road to Dany. “What do you want done with her?”

The girl was trembling, her eyes wide and vague. Her hair was matted with blood. “Doreah, see to her hurts. You do not have a rider’s look, perhaps she will not fear you. The rest, with me.” She urged the silver through the broken wooden gate.

It was worse inside the town. Many of the houses were afire, and the jaqqa rhan had been about their grisly work. Headless corpses filled the narrow, twisty lanes. They passed other women being raped. Each time Dany reined up, sent her khas to make an end to it, and claimed the victim as slave. One of them, a thick-bodied, flat-nosed woman of forty years, blessed Dany haltingly in the Common Tongue, but from the others she got only flat black stares. They were suspicious of her, she realized with sadness; afraid that she had saved them for some worse fate.

“You cannot claim them all, child,” Ser Jorah said, the fourth time they stopped, while the warriors of her khas herded her new slaves behind her.

“I am khaleesi, heir to the Seven Kingdoms, the blood of the dragon,” Dany reminded him. “It is not for you to tell me what I cannot do.” Across the city, a building collapsed in a great gout of fire and smoke, and she heard distant screams and the wailing of frightened children.

They found Khal Drogo seated before a square windowless temple with thick mud walls and a bulbous dome like some immense brown onion. Beside him was a pile of heads taller than he was. One of the short arrows of the Lamb Men stuck through the meat of his upper arm, and blood covered the left side of his bare chest like a splash of paint. His three bloodriders were with him.

Jhiqui helped Dany dismount; she had grown clumsy as her belly grew larger and heavier. She knelt before the khal. “My sun-and-stars is wounded.” The arakh cut was wide but shallow; his left nipple was gone, and a flap of bloody flesh and skin dangled from his chest like a wet rag.

“Is scratch, moon of life, from arakh of one bloodrider to Khal Ogo,” Khal Drogo said in the Common Tongue. “I kill him for it, and Ogo too.” He turned his head, the bells in his braid ringing softly. “Is Ogo you hear, and Fogo his khalakka, who was khal when I slew him.”

“No man can stand before the sun of my life,” Dany said, “the father of the stallion who mounts the world.”

A mounted warrior rode up and vaulted from his saddle. He spoke to Haggo, a stream of angry Dothraki too fast for Dany to understand. The huge bloodrider gave her a heavy look before he turned to his khal “This one is Mago, who rides in the khas of Ko Jhaqo. He says the khaleesi has taken his spoils, a daughter of the lambs who was his to mount.”

Khal Drogo’s face was still and hard, but his black eyes were curious as they went to Dany. “Tell me the truth of this, moon of my life,” he commanded in Dothraki.

Dany told him what she had done, in his own tongue so the khal would understand her better, her words simple and direct.

When she was done, Drogo was frowning. “This is the way of war. These women are our slaves now, to do with as we please.”

“It pleases me to hold them safe,” Dany said, wondering if she had dared too much. “If your warriors would mount these women, let them take them gently and keep them for wives. Give them places in the khalasar and let them bear you sons.”

Qotho was ever the cruelest of the bloodriders. It was he who laughed. “Does the horse breed with the sheep?”

Something in his tone reminded her of Viserys. Dany turned on him angrily. “The dragon feeds on horse and sheep alike.”

Khal Drogo smiled. “See how fierce she grows!” he said. “It is my son inside her, the stallion who mounts the world, filling her with his fire. Ride slowly, Qotho . . . if the mother does not burn you where you sit, the son will trample you into the mud. And you, Mago, hold your tongue and find another lamb to mount. These belong to my khaleesi.” He started to reach out a hand to Daenerys, but as he lifted his arm Drogo grimaced in sudden pain and turned his head.

Dany could almost feel his agony. The wounds were worse than Ser Jorah had led her to believe. “Where are the healers?” she demanded. The khalasar had two sorts: barren women and eunuch slaves. The herbwomen dealt in potions and spells, the eunuchs in knife, needle, and fire. “Why do they not attend the khal?”

“The khal sent the hairless men away, Khaleesi,” old Cohollo assured her. Dany saw the bloodrider had taken a wound himself; a deep gash in his left shoulder.

“Many riders are hurt,” Khal Drogo said stubbornly. “Let them be healed first. This arrow is no more than the bite of a fly, this little cut only a new scar to boast of to my son.”

Dany could see the muscles in his chest where the skin had been cut away. A trickle of blood ran from the arrow that pierced his arm. “It is not for Khal Drogo to wait,” she proclaimed. “Jhogo, seek out these eunuchs and bring them here at once.”

“Silver Lady,” a woman’s voice said behind her, “I can help the Great Rider with his hurts.”

Dany turned her head. The speaker was one of the slaves she had claimed, the heavy, flat-nosed woman who had blessed her.

“The khal needs no help from women who lie with sheep,” barked Qotho. “Aggo, cut out her tongue.”

Aggo grabbed her hair and pressed a knife to her throat.

Dany lifted a hand. “No. She is mine. Let her speak.”

Aggo looked from her to Qotho. He lowered his knife.

“I meant no wrong, fierce riders.” The woman spoke Dothraki well. The robes she wore had once been the lightest and finest of woolens, rich with embroidery, but now they were mud-caked and bloody and ripped. She clutched the torn cloth of her bodice to her heavy breasts. “I have some small skill in the healing arts.”

“Who are you?” Dany asked her.

“I am named Mirri Maz Duur. I am godswife of this temple.”

“Maegi,” grunted Haggo, fingering his arakh. His look was dark. Dany remembered the word from a terrifying story that Jhiqui had told her one night by the cookfire. A maegi was a woman who lay with demons and practiced the blackest of sorceries, a vile thing, evil and soulless, who came to men in the dark of night and sucked life and strength from their bodies.

“I am a healer,” Mirri Maz Duur said.

“A healer of sheeps,” sneered Qotho. “Blood of my blood, I say kill this maegi and wait for the hairless men.”

Dany ignored the bloodrider’s outburst. This old, homely, thickbodied woman did not look like a maegi to her. “Where did you learn your healing, Mirri Maz Duur?”

“My mother was godswife before me, and taught me all the songs and spells most pleasing to the Great Shepherd, and how to make the sacred smokes and ointments from leaf and root and berry. When I was younger and more fair, I went in caravan to Asshai by the Shadow, to learn from their mages. Ships from many lands come to Asshai, so I lingered long to study the healing ways of distant peoples. A moonsinger of the Jogos Nhai gifted me with her birthing songs, a woman of your own riding people taught me the magics of grass and corn and horse, and a maester from the Sunset Lands opened a body for me and showed me all the secrets that hide beneath the skin.”

Ser Jorah Mormont spoke up. “A maester?”

“Marwyn, he named himself,” the woman replied in the Common Tongue. “From the sea. Beyond the sea. The Seven Lands, he said. Sunset Lands. Where men are iron and dragons rule. He taught me this speech.”

“A maester in Asshai,” Ser Jorah mused. “Tell me, Godswife, what did this Marwyn wear about his neck?”

“A chain so tight it was like to choke him, Iron Lord, with links of many metals.”

The knight looked at Dany. “Only a man trained in the Citadel of Oldtown wears such a chain,” he said, “and such men do know much of healing.”

“Why should you want to help my khal?”

“All men are one flock, or so we are taught,” replied Mirri Maz Duur. “The Great Shepherd sent me to earth to heal his lambs, wherever I might find them.”

Qotho gave her a stinging slap. “We are no sheep, maegi.”

“Stop it,” Dany said angrily. “She is mine. I will not have her harmed.”

Khal Drogo grunted. “The arrow must come out, Qotho.”

“Yes, Great Rider,” Mirri Maz Duur answered, touching her bruised face. “And your breast must be washed and sewn, lest the wound fester.”

“Do it, then,” Khal Drogo commanded.

“Great Rider,” the woman said, “my tools and potions are inside the god’s house, where the healing powers are strongest.”

“I will carry you, blood of my blood,” Haggo offered.

Khal Drogo waved him away. “I need no man’s help,” he said, in a voice proud and hard. He stood, unaided, towering over them all. A fresh wave of blood ran down his breast, from where Ogo’s arakh had cut off his nipple. Dany moved quickly to his side. “I am no man,” she whispered, “so you may lean on me.” Drogo put a huge hand on her shoulder. She took some of his weight as they walked toward the great mud temple. The three bloodriders followed. Dany commanded Ser Jorah and the warriors of her khas to guard the entrance and make certain no one set the building afire while they were still inside.

They passed through a series of anterooms, into the high central chamber under the onion. Faint light shone down through hidden windows above. A few torches burnt smokily from sconces on the walls. Sheepskins were scattered across the mud floor. “There,” Mirri Maz Duur said, pointing to the altar, a massive blue-veined stone carved with images of shepherds and their flocks. Khal Drogo lay upon it. The old woman threw a handful of dried leaves onto a brazier, filling the chamber with fragrant smoke. “Best if you wait outside,” she told the rest of them.

“We are blood of his blood,” Cohollo said. “Here we wait.”

Qotho stepped close to Mirri Maz Duur. “Know this, wife of the Lamb God. Harm the khal and you suffer the same.” He drew his skinning knife and showed her the blade.

“She will do no harm.” Dany felt she could trust this old, plainfaced woman with her flat nose; she had saved her from the hard hands of her rapers, after all.

“If you must stay, then help,” Mirri told the bloodriders. “The Great Rider is too strong for me. Hold him still while I draw the arrow from his flesh.” She let the rags of her gown fall to her waist as she opened a carved chest, and busied herself with bottles and boxes, knives and needles. When she was ready, she broke off the barbed arrowhead and pulled out the shaft, chanting in the singsong tongue of the Lhazareen. She heated a flagon of wine to boiling on the brazier, and poured it over his wounds. Khal Drogo cursed her, but he did not move. She bound the arrow wound with a plaster of wet leaves and turned to the gash on his breast, smearing it with a pale green paste before she pulled the flap of skin back in place. The khal ground his teeth together and swallowed a scream. The godswife took out a silver needle and a bobbin of silk thread and began to close the flesh. When she was done she painted the skin with red ointment, covered it with more leaves, and bound the breast in a ragged piece of lambskin. “You must say the prayers I give you and keep the lambskin in place for ten days and ten nights,” she said. “There will be fever, and itching, and a great scar when the healing is done.”

Khal Drogo sat, bells ringing. “I sing of my scars, sheep woman.” He flexed his arm and scowled.

“Drink neither wine nor the milk of the poppy,” she cautioned him. “Pain you will have, but you must keep your body strong to fight the poison spirits.”

“I am khal,” Drogo said. “I spit on pain and drink what I like. Cohollo, bring my vest.” The older man hastened off.

“Before,” Dany said to the ugly Lhazareen woman, “I heard you speak of birthing songs . . . “

“I know every secret of the bloody bed, Silver Lady, nor have I ever lost a babe,” Mirri Maz Duur replied.

“My time is near,” Dany said. “I would have you attend me when he comes, if you would.”

Khal Drogo laughed. “Moon of my life, you do not ask a slave, you tell her. She will do as you command.” He jumped down from the altar. “Come, my blood. The stallions call, this place is ashes. It is time to ride.”

Haggo followed the khal from the temple, but Qotho lingered long enough to favor Mirri Maz Duur with a stare. “Remember, maegi, as the khal fares, so shall you.”

“As you say, rider,” the woman answered him, gathering up her jars and bottles. “The Great Shepherd guards the flock.”

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