GEORGE R. R. MARTIN
A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
He woke alone, and found the litter halted.
A pile of crushed cushions remained to show where Illyrio had sprawled. The dwarf’s throat felt dry and raspy. He had dreamed… what had he dreamed? He did not remember.
Outside, voices were speaking in a tongue he did not know. Tyrion swung his legs through the curtains and hopped to the ground, to find Magister Illyrio standing by the horses with two riders looming over him. Both wore shirts of worn leather beneath cloaks of dark brown wool, but their swords were sheathed and the fat man did not look to be in danger.
“I need a piss,” the dwarf announced. He waddled off the road, undid his breeches, and relieved himself into a tangle of thorns. It took quite a long time.
“He pisses well, at least,” a voice observed.
Tyrion flicked the last drops off and tucked himself away. “Pissing is the least of my talents. You ought to see me shit.” He turned to Magister Illyrio. “Are these two known to you, magister? They look like outlaws. Should I find my axe?”
“Your axe?” exclaimed the larger of the riders, a brawny man with a shaggy beard and a shock of orange hair. “Did you hear that, Haldon? The little man wants to fight with us!”
His companion was older, clean-shaved, with a lined ascetic face. His hair had been pulled back and tied in a knot behind his head. “Small men oft feel a need to prove their courage with unseemly boasts,” he declared. “I doubt if he could kill a duck.”
Tyrion shrugged. “Fetch the duck.”
“If you insist.” The rider glanced at his companion.
The brawny man unsheathed a bastard sword. “I’m Duck, you mouthy little pisspot.”
Oh, gods be good. “I had a smaller duck in mind.”
The big man roared with
laughter. “Did you hear, Haldon? He wants a smaller Duck!”
“I should gladly settle for a quieter one.” The man called Haldon studied Tyrion with cool grey eyes before turning back to Illyrio. “You have some chests for us?”
“And mules to carry them.”
“Mules are too slow. We have pack horses, we’ll shift the chests to them. Duck, attend to that.”
“Why is it always Duck who attends to things?” The big man slipped his sword back in its sheath. “What do you attend to, Haldon? Who is the knight here, you or me?” Yet he stomped off toward the baggage mules all the same.
“How fares our lad?” asked Illyrio as the chests were being secured. Tyrion counted six, oaken chests with iron hasps. Duck shifted them easily enough, hoisting them on one shoulder.
“He is as tall as Griff now. Three days ago he knocked Duck into a horse trough.”
“I wasn’t knocked. I fell in just to make him laugh.”
“Your ploy was a success,” said Haldon. “I laughed myself.”
“There is a gift for the boy in one of the chests. Some candied ginger. He was always fond of it.” Illyrio sounded oddly sad. “I thought I might continue on to Ghoyan Drohe with you. A farewell feast before you start downriver…”
“We have no time for feasts, my lord,” said Haldon. “Griff means to strike downriver the instant we are back. News has been coming upriver, none of it good. Dothraki have been seen north of Dagger Lake, outriders from old Motho’s khalasar, and Khal Zekko is not far behind him, moving through the Forest of Qohor.”
The fat man made a rude noise. “Zekko visits Qohor every three or four years. The Qohorik give him a sack of gold and he turns east again.