THE LOST LORD
I t should not have taken this long, Griff told himself as he paced the deck of the Shy Maid. Had they lost Haldon as they had Tyrion Lannister? Could the Volantenes have taken him? I should have sent Duck-field with him. Haldon alone could not be trusted; he had proved that in Selhorys when he let the dwarf escape.
The Shy Maid was tied up in one of the meaner sections of the long, chaotic riverfront, between a listing poleboat that had not left the pier in years and the gaily painted mummers’ barge. The mummers were a loud and lively lot, always quoting speeches at each other and drunk more oft than not.
The day was hot and sticky, as all the days had been since they left the Sorrows. A ferocious southern sun beat down upon the crowded riverfront of Volon Therys, but heat was the last and least of Griff’s concerns. The Golden Company was encamped three miles south of town, well north of where he had expected them, and Triarch Malaquo had come north with five thousand foot and a thousand horse to cut them off from the delta road. Daenerys Targaryen remained a world away, and Tyrion Lannister… well, he could be most anywhere. If the gods were good, Lannister’s severed head was halfway back to King’s Landing by now, but more like the dwarf was hale and whole and somewhere close, stinking drunk and plotting some new infamy.
“Where in the seven hells is Haldon?” Griff complained to Lady Lemore. “How long should it take to buy three horses?”
She shrugged. “My lord, wouldn’t it be safer to leave the boy here aboard the boat?”
“Safer, yes. Wiser, no. He is a man grown now, and this is the road that he was born to walk.” Griff had no patience for this quibbling. He was sick of hiding, sick of waiting, sick of caution. I do not have time enough for caution.
“We have gone to great lengths to keep Prince Aegon hidden all these
years,” Lemore reminded him. “The time will come for him to wash his hair and declare himself, I know, but that time is not now. Not to a camp of sellswords.”
“If Harry Strickland means him ill, hiding him on the Shy Maid will not protect him. Strickland has ten thousand swords at his command. We have Duck. Aegon is all that could be wanted in a prince. They need to see that, Strickland and the rest. These are his own men.”
“His because they’re bought and paid for. Ten thousand armed strangers, plus hangers-on and camp followers. All it takes is one to bring us all to ruin. If Hugor’s head was worth a lord’s honors, how much will Cersei Lannister pay for the rightful heir to the Iron Throne? You do not know these men, my lord. It has been a dozen years since you last rode with the Golden Company, and your old friend is dead.”
Blackheart. Myles Toyne had been so full of life the last time Griff had left him, it was hard to accept that he was gone. A golden skull atop a pole, and Homeless Harry Strickland in his place. Lemore was not wrong, he knew. Whatever their sires or their grandsires might have been back in Westeros before their exile, the men of the Golden Company were sell-swords now, and no sellsword could be trusted. Even so…
Last night he’d dreamt of Stoney Sept again. Alone, with sword in hand, he ran from house to house, smashing down doors, racing up stairs, leaping from roof to roof, as his ears rang to the sound of distant bells. Deep bronze booms and silver chiming pounded through his skull, a maddening cacophony of noise that grew ever louder until it seemed as if his head would explode.