The sow had a sweeter temper than some horses he had ridden. Patient and sure-footed, she accepted Tyrion with hardly a squeal when he clambered onto her back, and remained motionless as he reached for shield and lance. Yet when he gathered up her reins and pressed his feet into her side, she moved at once. Her name was Pretty, short for Pretty Pig, and she had been trained to saddle and bridle since she was a piglet.
The painted wooden armor clattered as Pretty trotted across the deck. Tyrion’s armpits were prickly with perspiration, and a bead of sweat was trickling down his scar beneath the oversized, ill-fitting helm, yet for one absurd moment he felt almost like Jaime, riding out onto a tourney field with lance in hand, his golden armor flashing in the sun.
When the laughter began, the dream dissolved. He was no champion, just a dwarf on a pig clutching a stick, capering for the amusement of some restless rum-soaked sailors in hopes of sweetening their mood. Somewhere down in hell his father was seething and Joffrey was chuckling. Tyrion could feel their cold dead eyes watching this mummer’s face, as avid as the crew of the Selaesori Qhoran.
And now here came his foe. Penny rode her big grey dog, her striped lance waving drunkenly as the beast bounded across the deck. Her shield and armor had been painted red, though the paint was chipped and fading; his own armor was blue. Not mine. Groat’s. Never mine, I pray.
Tyrion kicked at Pretty’s haunches to speed her to a charge as the sailors urged him on with hoots and shouts. Whether they were shouting encouragement or mocking him he could not have said for certain, though he had a fair notion. Why did I ever allow myself to be talked into this farce?
He knew the answer, though. For twelve days now the ship had floated becalmed in the Gulf of Grief. The mood of the crew was ugly, and like to turn uglier when their daily rum ration went dry. There
were only so many hours a man could devote to mending sails, caulking leaks, and fishing. Jorah Mormont had heard the muttering about how dwarf luck had failed them. Whilst the ship’s cook still gave Tyrion’s head a rub from time to time, in hopes that it might stir a wind, the rest had taken to giving him venomous looks whenever he crossed their paths. Penny’s lot was even worse, since the cook had put about the notion that squeezing a dwarf girl’s breast might be just the thing to win their luck back. He had also started referring to Pretty Pig as Bacon, a jape that had seemed much funnier when Tyrion had made it.
“We have to make them laugh,” Penny had said, pleading. “We have to make them like us. If we give them a show, it will help them forget. Please, m’lord.” And somehow, somewise, someway he had consented. It must have been the rum. The captain’s wine had been the first thing to run out. You could get drunk much quicker on rum than on wine, Tyrion Lannister had discovered.
So he found himself clad in Groat’s painted wooden armor, astride Groat’s sow, whilst Groat’s sister instructed him in the finer points of the mummer’s joust that had been their bread and salt. It had a certain delicious irony to it, considering that Tyrion had almost lost his head once by refusing to mount the dog for his nephew’s twisted amusement. Yet somehow he found it difficult to appreciate the humor of it all from sowback.