A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire 1) - Page 253

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  • The Dothraki exchanged uncertain glances. "Khaleesi, " the handmaid Irri explained, as if to a child, "Jhaqo is a khal now, with twenty thousand riders at his back."

    She lifted her head. "And I am Daenerys Stormhorn, Daenerys of House Targaryen, of the blood of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel and old Valyria before them. I am the dragon's daughter, and I swear to you, these men will die screaming. Now bring me to Khal Drogo."

    He was lying on the bare red earth, staring up at the sun.

    A dozen bloodflies had settled on his body, though he did not seem to feel them. Dany brushed them away and knelt beside him. His eyes were wide open but did not see, and she knew at once that he was blind. When she whispered his name, he did not seem to hear. The wound on his breast was as healed as it would ever be, the scar that covered it grey and red and hideous.

    "Why is he out here alone, in the sun?" she asked them.

    "He seems to like the warmth, Princess," Ser Jorah said. "His eyes follow the sun, though he does not see it. He can walk after a fashion. He will go where you lead him, but no farther. He will eat if you put food in his mouth, drink if you dribble water on his lips."

    Dany kissed her sun-and-stars gently on the brow, and stood to face Mirri Maz Duur. "Your spells are costly, maegi."

    "He lives," said Mirri Maz Duur. "You asked for life. You paid for life."

    "This is not life, for one who was as Drogo was. His life was laughter, and meat roasting over a firepit, and a horse between his legs. His life was an arakh in his hand and his bells ringing in his hair as he rode to meet an enemy. His life was his bloodriders, and me, and the son I was to give him."

    Mirri Maz Duur made no reply.

    "When will he be as he was?" Dany demanded.

    "When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east," said Mirri Maz Duur. "When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before."

    Dany gestured at Ser Jorah and the others. "Leave us. I would speak with this maegi alone." Mormont and the Dothraki withdrew. "You knew," Dany said when they were gone. She ached, inside and out, but her fury gave her strength. "You knew what I was buying, and you knew the price, and yet you let me pay it."

    "It was wrong of them to burn my temple," the heavy, flat-nosed woman said placidly. "That angered the Great Shepherd."

    "This was no god's work," Dany said coldly. If I look back I am lost. "You cheated me. You murdered my child within me."

    "The stallion who mounts the world will burn no cities now. His khalasar shall trample no nations into dust."

    "I spoke for you," she said, anguished. "I saved you."

    "Saved me?" The Lhazareen woman spat. "Three riders had taken me, not as a man takes a woman but from behind, as a dog takes a bitch. The fourth was in me when you rode past. How then did you save me? I saw my god's house burn, where I had healed good men beyond counting. My home they burned as well, and in the street I saw piles of heads. I saw the head of a baker who made my bread. I saw the head of a boy I had saved from deadeye fever, only three moons past. I heard children crying as the riders drove them off with their whips. Tell me again what you saved."

    "Your life."

    Mirri Maz Duur laughed cruelly. "Look to your khal and see what life is worth, when all the rest is gone."

    Dany called out for the men of her khas and bid them take Mirri Maz Duur and bind her hand and foot, but the maegi smiled at her as they carried her off, as if they shared a secret. A word, and Dany could have her head off . . . yet then what would she have? A head? If life was worthless, what was death?

    They led Khal Drogo back to her tent, and Dany commanded them to fill a tub, and this time there was no blood in the water. She bathed him herself, washing the dirt and the dust from his arms and chest, cleaning his face with a soft cloth, soaping his long black hair and combing the knots and tangles from it till it shone again as she remembered. It was well past dark before she was done, and Dany was exhausted. She stopped for drink and food, but it was all she could do to nibble at a fig and keep down a mouthful of water. Sleep would have been a release, but she had slept enough . . . too long, in truth. She owed this night to Drogo, for all the nights that had been, and yet might be.

    The memory of their first ride was with her when she led him out into the darkness, for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man's life must be done beneath the open sky. She told herself that there were powers stronger than hatred, and spells older and truer than any the maegi had learned in Asshai. The night was black and moonless, but overhead a million stars burned bright. She took that for an omen.

    No soft blanket of grass welcomed them here, only the hard dusty ground, bare and strewn with stones. No trees stirred in the wind, and there was no stream to soothe her fears with the gentle music of water. Dany told herself that the stars would be enough. "Remember, Drogo," she whispered. "Remember our first ride together, the day we wed. Remember the night we made Rhaego, with the khalasar all around us and your eyes on my face. Remember how cool and clean the water was in the Womb of the World. Remember, my sun-and-stars. Remember, and come back to me."

    The birth had left her too raw and torn to take him inside of her, as she would have wanted, but Doreah had taught her other ways. Dany used her hands, her mouth, her br**sts. She raked him with her nails and covered him with kisses and whispered and prayed and told him stories, and by the end she had bathed him with her tears. Yet Drogo did not feel, or speak, or rise.