By the time they reached Volantis, the sky was purple to the west and black to the east, and the stars were coming out. The same stars as in Westeros, Tyrion Lannister reflected.
He might have taken some comfort in that if he had not been trussed up like a goose and lashed to a saddle. He had given up squirming. The knots that bound him were too tight. Instead he’d gone as limp as a sack of meal. Saving my strength, he told himself, though for what he could not have said.
Volantis closed its gates at dark, and the guardsmen on its northern gate were grumbling impatiently at the stragglers. They joined the queue behind a wagon laden with limes and oranges. The guards motioned the wagon through with their torches but took a harder look at the big Andal on his warhorse, with his longsword and his mail. A captain was summoned. Whilst he and the knight exchanged some words in Volantene, one of the guardsmen pulled off his clawed gauntlet and gave Tyrion’s
head a rub. “I’m full of good fortune,” the dwarf told him. “Cut me loose, friend, and I’ll see you’re well rewarded.”
His captor overheard. “Save your lies for those who speak your tongue, Imp,” he said, when the Volantenes waved them on.
They were moving again, through the gate and beneath the city’s massive walls. ” You speak my tongue. Can I sway you with promises, or are you determined to buy a lordship with my head?”
“I was a lord, by right of birth. I want no hollow titles.”
“That’s all you’re like to get from my sweet sister.”
“And here I’d heard a Lannister always pays his debts.”
“Oh, every penny… but never a groat more, my lord. You’ll get the meal you bargained for, but it won’t be sauced with gratitude, and in the end it will not nourish you.”
“Might be all I want is to see you pay for crimes. The kinslayer is accursed in the eyes of gods and men.”
“The gods are blind. And men see only what they wish.”
“I see you plain enough, Imp.” Something dark had crept into the knight’s tone. “I have done things I am not proud of, things that brought shame onto my House and my father’s name… but to kill your own sire? How could any man do that?”
“Give me a crossbow and pull down your breeches, and I’ll show you.” Gladly.
“You think this is a jape?”
“I think life is a jape. Yours, mine, everyone’s.”
Inside the city walls, they rode past guildhalls, markets, and bathhouses. Fountains splashed and sang in the centers of wide squares, where men sat at stone tables, moving cyvasse pieces and sipping wine from glass flutes as slaves lit ornate lanterns to hold the dark at bay. Palms and cedars grew along the cobbled road, and monuments stood at every junction. Many of the statues lacked heads, the dwarf noted, yet even headless they still managed to look imposing in the purple dusk.
As the warhorse plodded south along the river, the shops grew smaller and meaner, the trees along the street became a row of stumps. Cobblestones gave way to devilgrass beneath their horse’s hooves, then to soft wet mud the color of a baby’s nightsoil. The little bridges that spanned the small streams that fed the Rhoyne creaked alarmingly beneath their weight. Where a fort had once overlooked the river now stood a broken gate, gaping open like an old man’s toothless mouth. Goats could be glimpsed peering over the parapets.
Old Volantis, first daughter of Valyria, the dwarf mused.