GEORGE R. R. MARTIN
A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
For a long while he did not stir, but lay unmoving upon the heap of old sacks that served him for a bed, listening to the wind in the lines, to the lapping of the river at the hull.
A full moon floated above the mast. It is following me downriver, watching me like some great eye. Despite the warmth of the musty skins that covered him, a shiver went through the little man. I need a cup of wine. A dozen cups of wine. But the moon would blink before that whoreson Griff let him quench his thirst. Instead he drank water, and was condemned to sleepless nights and days of sweats and shakes.
The dwarf sat up, cradling his head in his hands. Did I dream? All memory of it had fled. The nights had never been kind to Tyrion Lannister. He slept badly even on soft feather beds. On the Shy Maid, he made his bed atop the roof of the cabin, with a coil of hempen rope for a pillow. He liked it better up here than in the
boat’s cramped hold. The air was fresher, and the river sounds were sweeter than Duck’s snoring. There was a price to be paid for such joys, though; the deck was hard, and he woke stiff and sore, his legs cramped and aching.
They were throbbing now, his calves gone hard as wood. He kneaded them with his fingers, trying to rub the ache away, but when he stood the pain was still enough to make him grimace. I need to bathe. His boy’s clothes stank, and so did he. The others bathed in the river, but thus far he had not joined them. Some of the turtles he’d seen in the shallows looked big enough to bite him in half. Bonesnappers, Duck called them. Besides, he did not want Lemore to see him naked.
A wooden ladder led down from the cabin roof. Tyrion pulled on his boots and descended to the afterdeck, where Griff sat wrapped in a wolf-skin cloak beside an iron brazier. The sellsword kept the night watch by himself, rising as the rest of his band sought their beds and retiring when the sun came up.
Tyrion squatted across from him and warmed his hands over the coals. Across the water nightingales were singing. “Day soon,” he said to Griff.
“Not soon enough. We need to be under way.” If it had been up to Griff, the Shy Maid would continue downstream by night as well as day, but Yandry and Ysilla refused to risk their poleboat in the dark. The Upper Rhoyne was full of snags and sawyers, any one of which could rip out the Shy Maid ‘s hull. Griff did not want to hear it. What he wanted was Volantis.
The sellsword’s eyes were always moving, searching the night for… what? Pirates? Stone men? Slave-catchers? The river had perils, the dwarf knew, but Griff himself struck Tyrion as more dangerous than any of them. He reminded Tyrion of Bronn, though Bronn had a sellsword’s black humor and Griff had no humor at all.
“I would kill for a cup of wine,” muttered Tyrion.
Griff made no reply. You will die before you drink, his pale eyes seemed to say. Tyrion had drunk himself blind his first night on the Shy Maid. The next day he awoke with dragons fighting in his skull. Griff took one look at him retching over the side of the poleboat, and said, “You are done with drink.”
“Wine helps me sleep,” Tyrion had protested. Wine drowns my dreams, he might have said.
“Then stay awake,” Griff had replied, implacable.
To the east, the first pale light of day suffused the sky above the river. The waters of the Rhoyne slowly went from black to blue, to match the sellsword’s hair and beard. Griff got to his feet.