Wow. Long delay between updates. All I can say is that I'm sorry and hope it doesn't happen again. I haven't been writing as much recently, and upon getting my motivation back decided, somehow, that it would be a good idea to start yet another story. Long story short, having five fanfics on the go at once is a bad idea.
As a reminder, I own nothing.
Daenerys Stormborn, the last member of House Targaryen, kept her face styled in an apathetic mask as she and her advisors neared the city of Astapor at a brisk stride. Her tread, in particular, would stand out to anybody who happened to observe the three as confident, and fitting for the role of a lady of a powerful family or, more aptly, a queen.
The girl wore a flowing purple gown, that stirred slightly in the seaside breeze of Astapor. The dipping V of the neckline showed off ample bosom, as Eragon had learned was expected in this world, and between her supple breasts there rested an Amethyst, encased in silver and with a slim chain of the same metal snaking up and around her neck. Her arms were left bare by the dress, and her silver hair spilled over the back. He was happy to say that the dress and jewel that they had settled on complimented her remarkable well. Her white-gold hair was similar to the silver of her necklace, and the purple highlighted her Targaryen-purple eyes and the majesty that had been bred into them.
Eragon, and Jorah who stood next to him behind the girl, had not gone as full-blown as the claimant queen. It would not have served any purpose to do so, after all. Instead, Eragon had provided a new helmet for the other knight, a new pair of leather gloves, an ornate dagger, and bronze greaves. Unfortunately, Eragon had not been thinking of armour around the time he stocked that particular hideout. He had, instead, been thinking about robbing the slavers blind. The only chest-plate that would have fit Jorah was far too recognisable, with the likeness of a panther on the front, and so may have been remembered by somebody from the time that the Rider had stolen it.
Eragon himself had donned a leather tunic that would serve as light armour, matching gloves and some trousers that had not been torn apart by weeks of travel as well as leather boots. Along with these, he had a belt of small knives diagonally across his chest, for the purpose of throwing in the case that the need arose. Other than that, Brisingr and the dagger that he had now bequeathed fuileadair, or Bloodletter, were all he felt were necessary. There was virtually no chance of them being attacked, but if they were he was confident that he could fight off any enemy with the two.
What chance was there of the Unsullied spilling any blood, after all?
Eragon's grip on Bloodletter's hilt tightened as he and Daenerys stood with a visage of patience on their faces. That they were being kept waiting was not what bothered him; it was the location in which they were waiting. From the trickle of emotions that he felt from Daenerys, the Queen-to-be felt much the same.
The Plaza of Pride was far from the most disgusting part of Astapor, but it was a horrendous reminder of how mundane slavery was in this part of the world. Of how little the masters cared for the lives of the slaves.
With a single sweep of one's eyes, more than a dozen types of slaves could be seen. From bodyguards, to singers, to dancers. From wet nurses to those that would be inevitably tossed into the pit to fight each other or the wild beasts captured by the hunter-slaves and their masters who herded the herders. From children meant to be company for the lonely progeny of the masters to children meant for other things. Things that killed Eragon, to know that he had failed to raze this practise despite his best efforts over the years. From these disgustingly young whores, to the adult kind; men to bugger or be buggered, women to spread their legs or provide abuse to the masochist-Masters.
Of course, there were also the simpler slaves. The labourers, cooks, and cleaners that all masters required. To not have at least one of each was to have no status in this city, and that spoke volumes.
And then there were those behind Eragon's presence in the disgusting city. Or, more specifically, behind Daenerys' decision to come here; she needed an army after all.
The unsullied were… impressive. Even from Eragon's perspective, and he had met some incredibly talented warriors in his time. Even the elves, more physically able than any of the other humanoid species he had encountered, were not impressive in quite the same way. When the Elves fought, they attacked as individuals. They attacked as extremely formidable individuals, but as individuals nonetheless. Eragon had seen them flow over the walls of a city as smoothly as a wave, or swarm over like scavenging creatures, but they did not sack cities as the Unsullied did.
Where the Elves would move as individuals, the unsullied moved as a singular being. Their shields interlocked, and their spears stabbed out as though striking snakes on the back of the creature he and the other Riders had encountered that one youth had dubbed a Chimera. A Lion-Goat hybrid that had a bushel of serpents in lieu of a tail. The strength of the Unsullied did not lie in their individual strength, or speed, or magic. It lay with the fact that they had been mercilessly drilled to fight as part of a unit. Only as part of a whole.
It was fortunate, then, that Daenerys would need them foreseeably for conflict on the open field, or the taking of cities. That was what war consisted of, as long as the other side was human.
Around the edge of the courtyard, the slave-soldiers outshone the few free men who chose that duty. It was no surprise. No free man would choose to have the rigorous training that the Unsullied had forced upon them, and their more expensive equipment could not make up for that. Nor was the slight advantage they had in being whole.
"Tell me of them." Daenerys instructed, her own gaze resting on the Unsullied without expression. Jorah responded first, and Eragon tuned out the information as he lowered his mental shield and touched the mind of one of the Eunuch-slaves.
Eragon had noticed on this world that discipline had a direct correlation with the strength of one's natural defense. Where the talented soldiers of Westeros required some focus to get a sense of their thoughts and those educated members of court more still, the common man would project them even more loudly than those in Alagaesia; it was one of the reasons Eragon kept his telepathy under check, though that there were none who knew mind magics other than he was far more significant.
It made sense, then, that this slave's mind seemed to have genuine walls around it. Almost flawless, due to the incredible hardships that he had undergone in the guise of training. Eragon was actually impressed by the feel and took a moment to check the slave next to the first to ensure this was no fluke. He was not disappointed, finding the second mind as secure as the first, and wondered just how formidable their army would be. Then, how tough they must be on the outside for this much to translate to the in.
After these few seconds, Eragon entered the mind without difficulty. For it was almost flawless, and he was a master of the branch of magic. The cracks that would be impossible to spot for a novice were as clear to him as a light at dusk.
Green Roach, as he was called today, did not have thoughts as an ordinary man would. Eragon could hardly even interpret them, and was shocked at what he divined.
He had been stripped of his individuality to a horrifying degree. The man, and Eragon refused to call him anything different for the mutilation he had suffered, named after a colour and a vermin as was customary for his kind, hardly had an inner commentary. His thoughts, instead, were… subdued. Eragon would have called them dull, if not for the fact that he knew the soldier would, on a simple command, become as sharp as a scholar. In his own way.
Their entire purpose was war. War and serving those that called themselves masters.
How tempting it was to plant the thought in their minds that they did not need to be like this. That they did not need to serve them. That they could so easily take control of their own destiny.
Maybe he would, once they left. For now, that knowledge would endanger Daenerys and Eragon was determined to prevent such an action.
"Eragon?" He was brought to the present by a touch on his arm, and it was only that he could feel Daenerys' presence next to him that stilled Bloodletter.
The Rider looked at her with curiosity and a slight frown at having lost himself to his thoughts. He hated slavery, and that was concerning because Eragon doubted he could stand with Daenerys at the head of an army of Unsullied.
"We have been asked to proceed to the meeting place." She said, with some small concern in her eyes at the sight of her new advisor's lapse in concentration.
Eragon nodded, and they moved with Daenerys in the lead.
"The Unsullied have stood here for a day and a night without water." The translator translated for her master Kraznys as the man twirled a finger in his red and black beard.
"The things will stand until they drop, they are so obedient." Kraznys continued, in Valyrian.
Melisandre repeated the statement, without the greasy pride, in the common tongue.
The three visitors to Astapor and their hosts neared the column of Unsullied that had been referenced, and their master flicked his hand containing the whip. The soldiers moved as one, and parted to provide a passage for the five.
"They may suit my needs," Daenerys acknowledged. "Tell me of their training."
"The Westerosi woman is impressed but speaks no praise in order to lower the price." Melisandre informed her master. "She wishes to know how they are trained."
"Tell her what she wants to know and be quick about it. The day is hot, and I grow hungry." Kraznys ordered.
"They begin their training at five. Everyday they drill from dawn to dusk until they have mastered the short sword, the shield and the three spears. Only one boy in five survives this rigorous training." Melisandre dutifully went about informing the Westerosi visitors as her master turned a lecherous gaze on Daenerys, and told the slave girl what to say.
"Their discipline and loyalty are absolute. They fear nothing."
"Even the bravest men fear death," Jorah said, as their was a lull in the speech.
"The older knight says that even brave men fear death." Melisandre translated for her master.
"Tell the old man he smells of piss." Kraznys responded, without missing a beat.
Melisandre hesitated to obey, and asked. "Truly, Master?"
"No, not truly! Are you a girl or a goat to ask such a thing?!" He berated, and then continued. "Tell the old man that the Unsullied are not men. Death means nothing to them."
She did, and Eragon spoke at this point.
"That is an issue," He said to the overweight man. "Eunuchs are never as strong as whole men."
"The regal knight says that men without their genitals are not as strong as they could be."
"He's prettier than you," Kraznys sneered. "Tell the girl that they are better trained than he will ever be, and not to talk of matters of which he knows nothing." Had Eragon been a younger man, he might have taken offence at this. Instead, he took solace in knowing that the disgusting, greasy slaver would be dead soon.
"My master assures you that they more than make up for this with their training and… and their discipline. He does, however, wonder what your role is here and expresses doubt that you provide protection to Lady Targaryen because you do not look to have seen much battle." Eragon made a note that the girl was rather intelligent. More so than he would have suspected even knowing that she was well versed in many tongues.
"Eragon serves as one of my advisors. He is an accomplished Ser in both matters of politics and warfare." Daenerys answered. Then, she continued. "I have heard tell of the discipline of the Unsullied, and I am sure that it is impressive, but they are still only soldiers. And as soldiers they are men. They have the same limitations as any man would."
After Melisandre repeated these sentiments, Kraznys sneered again. "Tell this ignorant whore of a westerner to open her eyes and watch, then." He said, and walked down the steps to stand in front of an Unsullied. He waved his hand and the man stepped forwards, removing his helmet as he did so to reveal a plain, heavy browed face.
Kraznys brought the whip up, and then down across the Unsullied's face. It cut a long, thin gash across his face and Eragon caught Daenerys' flinch at the sight and sound. The Unsullied, on the other hand, did not move or give any reaction to the sensation.
Kraznys barked another order at the Unsullied, and the man removed the portion of his light leather armour that covered the right pectoral. The master drew a knife and Daenerys regained her bearings enough to object.
"Tell the good master there is no need-" She spoke hurriedly.
"She's worried about their nipples? Does the dumb bitch know we've cut off their balls?"
"Master Kraznys points out that men don't need nipples."
With that, the bald-headed master's blade cut through flesh and removed, as promised, the Unsullied's nipple. A splatter of blood fell to the floor, and the slave did not react. Then, Kraznys waved him off and the slave redonned his helm.
"This one is pleased to have served you." He said, and stepped back into line.
Kraznys turned to Daenerys, and began to speak. Melisandre translated the words.
"To win his mark, an Unsullied must go to the market with a silver mark, find a newborn, and kill it before its mother's eyes." Melisandre's voice shook minutely. "This way, my master says, we make sure there is no weakness let in them."
"You take a babe from its mother's arms, kill it, and pay for her horror with a silver coin?" Daenerys' tone contained a significant amount of venom here, not that Eragon was surprised. He did not know this fact about the Unsullied.
"She is offended," Melisandre translated. "She asks if you pay the silver coin to the mother."
"What a soft, mewling fool this one is…" Kraznys smiled.
"My master would like you to know that the coin is paid to the baby's owner, not the mother."
'That could be one of the babies Kraznys and his ilk murder.' Eragon thought, keeping his face in a passive mask as the slave-woman cooed at her baby's gurgling laugh. He did not have to reach for her thoughts to know that she was enjoying one of the few pleasures in her life.
Even now, Eragon often forgot how despicable humans could be. He turned his eyes to the sky, and made a silent vow. 'When this is done, I will put an end to the Slave Trade. I will put the fear of their gods into them. If that does not work… it will be the first time I kill an entire class of person, but with the amount of blood on my hands a little more makes no difference.'
He looked to the ship on which Daenerys was meeting with the old knight who had saved her life, and sighed. Was he getting rusty? That his instincts hadn't picked up on the Warlocks' assassin was worrying. Of course they would make an attempt on her life; it was not good that he had neglected his duty as one of her protectors.
Or maybe he was just tired. Tired of war. Tired of watching people live and die, and then watching their children do the same. Tired, most of all, of loneliness. Half his soul was missing, and Eragon knew that the backing of this girl-queen was just a way to pass the time.
Had he been a lesser man, Eragon would have long-since grown tired of being the way he was in this world. Always on the outskirts. Even now, when he was throwing himself into the centre of an invasion, the Rider's name would not be known. Daenerys would remember him; she would regale her children with stories of the majestic knight who had helped her win the throne. But her children would doubt the validity of these stories as they grew older. Maybe they would also tell their young, but more likely not. And the memory of Eragon would fade once more until he found another situation to hold his interest.
Or, hopefully, he would be reunited with the partner of his heart by then. Whether or not they stayed in this world or moved back to Alagaesia, his life would be all the better for her being there.
Eragon frowned, and hoped that this time nothing had happened to Daenerys. Had he not felt the need to track the other members of Kraznys' council to their neighborhood, then Barristan Selmy would not have needed to intervene. And she wouldn't have nearly died. Eragon would have become miserable even after knowing the claimant queen for such a short time.
He let his mind expand, and examine the scene around him. Thoughts and feelings rushed to meet him, and his mind processed them quickly before dismissing each as unthreatening.
His consciousness extended to the point that he brushed against the dragons where they were staying on the boat, and found them agitated. Not surprising; all creatures valued freedom and none more than dragons. Next, he found the mind of Jorah Mormont. The man was content for the moment, and Eragon assumed that was a good thing; the suspicious man trusted Selmy with the life of the girl he loved, at least enough for now, so Eragon would give the old knight a chance too.
Eragon's mind turned to other matters, as his consciousness came back to himself in an instant. He was going to give the next meeting a miss, because he had seen the intention in Daenerys' mind, but he could spend his time productively anyway. Searching for the weakest point for best method of incursion, for example.
Eragon pushed off the wall on which he leant and walked into the city. He would walk the perimeter, and make a note of the weak spots he found that would not risk the lives of those enslaved.
"Is it done then?" Daenerys asked of Kraznys, as she looked at the whip in her hand. "They belong to me?"
Even with his knowledge of what was next, Eragon was gripping Brisingr's hilt with enough strength that the tendons in his forearm were straining against the skin at the sounds Drogon was making as his mother handed him to the slaver.
Daenerys' words were translated by Missandei, and Kraznys responded with a simile on his face.
"It is done. She holds the whip. The Bitch has her army."
"It is done. You hold the whip, and so they will obey your orders." Missandei informed Daenerys.
"Dovageris!" Eragon noted that, at her use of a high valyrian word, Jorah's, Barristan's and Missandrei's heads all snapped around for them to stare shocked at the Queen-to-be. "Forward march!"
The unsullied marched forwards.
The unsullied ceased their walk.
Eragon's eyes were locked on the struggling dragon, as it tried to escape Kraznys by pulling desperately at the chain on its feet.
"Tell the bitch her beast won't come!" Kraznys demanded of Daenerys' translator.
"A Dragon is not a slave." Daenerys responded, in the same tongue. Kraznys' eyes widened at the sound.
"You speak Valyrian?!" Kraznys said, shocked to his core.
"I am Daenerys of the house Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria." Her eyes narrowed, as she glared on at the slaver as one would look at a piece of dirt. "Valyrian is my mother tongue.
"Unsullied!" She turned, and looked at her army. "Slay the masters! Slay the soldiers! Slay every man holding a whip!" The slaves seemed unaffected by the order, and gave no reaction. "But slay no child and strike the chains off every slave you see!"
Two masters were unfortunate to have been walking amongst the Unsullied, checking that their formation was as perfect as it could be. They died first, speared from behind by two fast-acting unsullied.
"Stop this!" Kraznys' voice wavered. He knew they wouldn't obey. "I AM YOUR MASTER!"
"Dracarys." Daenerys instructed, with the Valyrian word for Dragonfire. Drogon opened his mouth and spewed fire at the slaver; Kraznys died screaming.
Eragon drew both his knife and sword as Daenerys turned to him.
"Go," She nodded, with steel in her eyes. They had discussed this earlier, and so Eragon knew exactly what she meant with the word.
He leapt into action, running forth in a beeline for three soldiers blocking his path. The free men hesitated slightly before raising their spears and stepping forwards to engage him and, in their minds, finish Eragon quickly. They should have noticed his speed, and taken a hint from that that he was no ordinary man.
Eragon pushed off the ground and into the air with his blades raised. One of his adversaries gasped, and Bloodletter thunked into his throat as the noise died. The man stumbled back, and fell to the ground.
Eragon's foot lashed out at the man on his right, and his helmet dented with a clunk. He fell to his rear, suddenly groggy, as Eragon landed and the uninjured soldier stabbed at him with his spear, shield raised. Eragon twisted and the spearhead passed harmlessly by his ribs, not even grazing the armour under his loose tunic.
The Rider turned Brisingr in his hand, and swung. It passed through the man's helmet, and half of his head fell to the floor. Shortly, the rest of the man joined it while greymatter pooled on the floor.
Eragon spun, and grabbed the live soldier's wrist before his dagger could make contact. Brisingr raised and descended, and the arm was removed at the elbow. The man screamed, and Eragon stabbed the sapphire blade into the open crevice and out the back of his head. He kicked the man off Brisingr, and let him fall to the ground.
Stopping briefly to retrieve Bloodletter, Eragon ran for the gate.
"Jierda!" The gate was snapped in two, and Eragon smiled at the feel of his magic coming free for the first time in so long.
He headed for the centre of the city, where he would find the remaining members of the city's council and their private army.
He would deal with them quickly, and with his magic. That was where the cities free children would be, and they did not need to see their parents die at the hands of their once-protectors.