A dance with dragons 34 ( a song of ice and fire 5)


The Selaesori Qhoran was seven days from Volantis when Penny finally emerged from her cabin, creeping up on deck like some timid woodland creature emerging from a long winter’s sleep.

It was dusk and the red priest had lit his nightfire in the great iron brazier amidships as the crew gathered round to pray. Moqorro’s voice was a bass drum that seemed to boom from somewhere deep within his massive torso. ” We thank you for your sun that keeps us warm, ” he prayed. ” We thank you for your stars that watch over us as we sail this cold black sea. ” A huge man, taller than Ser Jorah and wide enough to make two of him, the priest wore scarlet robes embroidered at sleeve and hem and collar with orange satin flames. His skin was black as pitch, his hair as white as snow; the flames tattooed across his cheeks and brow yellow and orange. His iron staff was as tall as he was and crowned with a dragon’s head; when he stamped its butt upon the deck, the dragon’s maw spat crackling green flame.

His guardsmen, five slave warriors of the Fiery Hand, led the responses. They chanted in the tongue of Old Volantis, but Tyrion had heard the prayers enough to grasp the essence. Light our fire and protect us from the dark, blah blah, light our way and keep us toasty warm, the night is dark and full of terrors, save us from the scary things, and blah blah blah some more.

He knew better than to voice such thoughts aloud. Tyrion Lannister had no use for any god, but on this ship it was wise to show a certain respect for red R’hllor. Jorah Mormont had removed Tyron’s chains and fetters once they were safely under way, and the dwarf did not wish to give him cause to clap them on again.

The Selaesori Qhoran was a wallowing tub of five hundred tons, with a deep hold, high castles fore and aft, and a single mast between. At her forecastle stood a grotesque figurehead, some worm-eaten wooden eminence

with a constipated look and a scroll tucked up under one arm. Tyrion had never seen an uglier ship. Her crew was no prettier. Her captain, a mean-mouthed, flinty, kettle-bellied man with close-set, greedy eyes, was a bad cyvasse player and a worse loser. Under him served four mates, freedmen all, and fifty slaves bound to the ship, each with a crude version of the cog’s figurehead tattooed upon one cheek. No-Nose, the sailors liked to call Tyrion, no matter how many times he told them his name was Hugor Hill.

Three of the mates and more than three-quarters of the crew were fervent worshipers of the Lord of Light. Tyrion was less certain about the captain, who always emerged for the evening prayers but took no other part in them. But Moqorro was the true master of the Selaesori Qhoran, at least for this voyage.

” Lord of Light, bless your slave Moqorro, and light his way in the dark places of the world, ” the red priest boomed. ” And defend your righteous slave Benerro. Grant him courage. Grant him wisdom. Fill his heart with fire. “

That was when Tyrion noticed Penny, watching the mummery from the steep wooden stair that led down beneath the sterncastle. She stood on one of the lower steps, so only the top of her head was visible. Beneath her hood her eyes shone big and white in the light of the nightfire. She had her dog with her, the big grey hound she rode in the mock jousts.

“My lady,” Tyrion called softly. In truth, she was no lady, but he could not bring himself to mouth that silly name of hers, and he was not about to call her girl or dwarf.

She cringed back.

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A dance with dragons 34 ( a song of ice and fire 5)