I could give you ten million excuses as to why I haven't updated in almost a month, but the truth of the matter is, I just suck. Sorry about that. If my lack of motivation bothers you, by the way, don't worry. My boyfriend feels the exact same way. In the future, if you feel like I haven't updated in awhile, you can give me a little push. Come bitch me out on Tumblr (imnotoverlyobsessive), or comment here, whatever. I won't be offended or upset, it'll just be like, "oh yeah, that's a thing I'm supposed to be doing. I'm not working quite yet so I literally have zero reason not to write. If you're annoyed at my sporadic updates, seriously: come bug me about it.

Chapter Twenty-one: The Flaming Whip

Get so scared you got to scare them back. Become the monster that came to eat you.- Cato to Elizabeth, Underground

Daenerys had grown up running from one slave city to the next. She was no stranger to slavery. She'd walked past the pleasure houses in Lys. She'd seen tattoos beneath the dead eyes of Volantene slaves, all spirit beaten out of them long ago. Most of the Free Cities had a thriving economy thanks to slavery. The Dothraki, too, owned slaves.

Slaver's Bay, she was learning, was different. If someone told Daenerys that when the city was built, the builders had used the blood of slaves instead of water when making the city's bricks, she wouldn't have been the least bit surprised. The energy of Astapor alone was suffocating; she could feel the misery in the air, smell the blood, hear the cries of pain.

The Walk of Punishment, however, was the worst thing she'd seen in the city, or perhaps anywhere. It was hot, and the sun blared down on them, but to the slaves on the Walk of Punishment, the heat was probably an afterthought compared to the agony they were in. There were dozens and dozens of men, women, and children lining the wall of the city, chained to posts. Their chests and faces were whipped raw, and their heads hung. Beneath the lashes, each rib was prominent, each bone jutted out.

She couldn't tell which of them were asleep, still clinging on to life, and which were already dead.

"The Walk of Punishment is a warning, Your Grace," Ser Barristan informed her.

A warning? Warnings weren't typically so inhumane, or so she'd like to think.

"To whom?" She asked him.

"To any slave who contemplate doing whatever these slaves did," he followed her gaze towards once such slave, looking fearfully up at one of the so-called warnings before turning his eyes to the ground and hurrying after his master.

Stopping in front of one of them, she held out her hand to Ser Jorah. "Give me your water," she commanded.

He handed her his canteen, but said, "Khaleesi, this man has been sentenced to death." She merely fixed him with a look before ascending the steps to the man's platform. The closer she got to him, the further the scent of blood mingled with that of the sea behind him.

She held the canteen to the man's lips, and he seemed to wake. "Here, drink," she said in soft, gentle High Valyrian.

"Let me die," he murmured weakly before appearing to go back to sleep. She withdrew the canteen slowly, horrified.

She kept her voice quiet, barely above a whisper. "Hold on. I swear to you, every slave in this city will be free before nightfall tomorrow. Hold on." The man's eyes opened slightly, but there was so little hope in them that she suspected he may not bother trying to survive. She hoped he would.

"Leave this place, Your Grace," Ser Barristan implored of her. "Leave tonight, I beg you."

"And what is she to do for soldiers?" Ser Jorah wondered. They'd been having this debate since the day Ser Barristan was told of their reason for being in Astapor. Ser Barristan didn't approve of slave soldiers. Ser Jorah rationalized Daenerys' need for them.

"We can find sellswords in Lentos and Myr," the older knight responded swiftly.

Ser Jorah turned towards him. "Is it 'we' already, Ser Barristan?" He turned to Daenerys. "If you want to sit on the Throne your ancestors built, you must win it. That will mean blood on your hands before the thing is done."

"The blood of my enemies, not the blood of innocents," she insisted, returning his canteen to him and walking onward. Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan followed close behind.

"How many wars have you fought in, Ser Barristan?"

"Three," the older knight said.

"Have you ever seen a war where innocents didn't die by the thousands?"

After a moment, Ser Barristan responded with a soft "no."

"I was in King's Landing after the sack, Khaleesi," Ser Jorah addressed her directly then. "You know what I saw? Butchery. Babies, children, old men. More women raped than you can count. There's a beast in every man and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand," he explained. "But the Unsullied are not men. They do not rape. They do not put cities to the sword unless they're ordered to do so. If you buy them, the only men they'll kill are those you want dead."

Wanting to be fair to her new advisor, she addressed him. "Do you disagree, Ser Barristan?"

He didn't answer the question directly. "When your brother Rhaegar led his army into battle at the Trident, men died for him because they believed in him, because they loved him, not because they'd been bought at a slaver's auction. I fought beside the last dragon on that day, Your Grace. I bled beside him."

"Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, and Rhaegar died," Ser Jorah reminded them.

"Did you know him well, Ser Barristan?" Daenerys wondered.

"I did, Your Grace," he said softly. "Finest man I ever met."

"I wish I had known him," Daenerys said honestly. He had died months before she'd even been born. "But he was not the last dragon."

Standing before several slaveowners and their translator on their raised platform, Daenerys felt less like a queen and more like a little girl playing pretend.

The translator seemed genuinely surprised when Daenerys informed her that she wanted every Unsullied in the barracks. "All? Did this one's ears mishear, Your Grace?"

"They did not," Daenerys said simply. "I want to buy them all."

The translator relayed this to her master.

"She can't afford them," Kraznys said in his gruff voice. "The slut thinks she can flash her tits, and make us give her whatever she wants."

If Viserys had not insulted her at every turn when they were children, she likely would not have been able to maintain her facade of ignorance. But she was used to being insulted. It did not phase her. The slavers' many disrespects were far from the worst things that had been said to her.

"There are eight thousand Unsullied in Astapor," the translator reminded Daenerys. "Is this what you mean by all?"

"Yes. Eight thousand," Daenerys confirmed. "And the ones still in training as well."

The slaver next to Kraznys, Greizhen, learned towards his companion. "If they fail on the battlefield, they will shame Astapor."

"Master Greizhen says they cannot sell half-trained boys. If they fail on the battlefiled, they will bring shame upon all of Astapor," the translator informed her.

"I will have them all or take none. Many will fall in battle. I'll need the boys to pick up the swords they drop." Daenerys neglected to inform them that her goal was to demand something she could not afford.

"The slut cannot pay for all of this," Kraznys said with a roll of eyes.

"Master Kraznys says you cannot afford this," the translator informed her.

"One of her ships will buy her one hundred Unsullied, no more, and this because I like the shape of her ass," Kraznys said to the amusement of his companions, and the girl translated it, albeit far more politely.

"The gold you have left is worth ten," Kraznys went on, "but I will give her twenty if it stops her ignorant whimpering. Her Dothraki smell of shit, but may be useful as pig feed. I will give her three for those."

While the girl translated her master's words, Daenerys looked up to see slaves looking down on them, and they served to further her resolve.

"So, ask this beggar queen," Kraznys continued, "how will she pay for the remaining 7,877?"

Looking away from a slave girl no older than ten, Daenerys locked her eyes on Kraznys.

"I have dragons. I'll give you one."

While the girl translated Daenerys' words to her master, Ser Barristan stepped forward quickly. "You will win the throne with dragons, not slaves, Your Grace."

"Khaleesi, please," Ser Jorah implored. Daenerys silenced him with a look.

When she stepped closer to the slavers, Kraznys leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "Three dragon," he said in broken, heavily accented Common Tongue.

"One," she insisted.


"One," she repeated.

Kraznys leaned back to confer with his companions for a moment before coming to a decision.

"They want the biggest one," the girl translated.

"Done," Daenerys agreed.

Kraznys repeated the word back to her. She went to leave, but had a thought. "I'll take you, as well. Now," she said to the translator. "You'll be Master Kraznys' gift to me. A token of a bargain well struck."

The girl hesitated before relaying the message to her master. "She asks that you give me to her, as a present. She asks that you do this now," her words were slow and quiet, unsure.

The translator likely had been trained to translate her master's words more politely than he himself had spoken them, and therefore when translating Daenerys' words, the girl maintained her cautious nature. They would have to have a discussion about this if the girl chose to remain in Daenerys' service. She needed her words translated verbatim with the confidence Daenerys herself said them, especially when she was speaking to her enemies.

Kraznys stared at Daenerys like she was a different species he couldn't quite wrap his head around; he examined her unmoving stance, her unwavering gaze. She got the impression that he was unused to women presenting themselves in such a fashion. Had he never encountered a female who was sure of herself?

Ser Jorah addressed her decision as soon as they left the room. "Khaleesi, a dragon is worth more than any army."

For once, Ser Barristan agreed with him. "Aegon Targaryen proved that."

That was quite enough. She'd been planning on waiting until they returned to the boat, but could not wait any longer to reprimand them for their behavior.

"You're both here to advise me. I value your advice, but if you ever question me in front of strangers again, you'll be advising someone else. Is that understood?" She didn't wait for a response before walking away and speaking to the girl. "Do you have a name?"

"This one's name is Missandei, Your Grace," the girl said, falling into step beside her.

"Missandei," Daenerys repeated. "Do you have a family? A mother and father you'd return to if you had the choice?"

"No, Your Grace. No family living," Missandei said. That, Daenerys supposed, was something they had in common.

"You belong to me now. It is your duty to tell me the truth."

"Yes, Your Grace," Missandei agreed. "Lying is a great offense. Many of those on the Walk of Punishment were taken there for less."

"I offered water to one of the slaves dying on the Walk of Punishment. Do you know what he said to me? 'Let me die.'"

"There are no masters in the grave, Your Grace."

Daenerys blinked. "Indeed. You are free now, Missandei. I shall provide you with new clothes without a collar as soon as we return to my ship. If you choose to return to your home, I will assist you in doing so to the best of my ability. If you choose to stay in my service, you will serve as my handmaid."

Missandei looked over at her, shocked. "F-free?" When Daenerys nodded, the girl looked at the ground again. "I have nowhere to go. I will serve as your handmaid."

"Very well," Daenerys said. She empathized with Missandei; neither of them had a home to return to, neither of them had a family. "Is it true what Master Kraznys told me about the Unsullied? About their obedience?"

"All questions have been taken from them," Missandei told her. "They obey. That is all. Once they are yours, they are yours. They will fall on their swords if you command it."

"And what about you?" Daenerys asked her. "You know that I'm taking you to war. You may go hungry. You may fall sick. You may be killed."

"Valar morghulis," Missandei responded.

"Yes, all men must die," Daenerys agreed. "But we are not men."

The sun was high overhead when Daenerys walked through the Plaza of Pride the following day, her entourage following behind her. Missandei was closest to her, wearing a dress she had chosen for herself. Free women chose their own clothes, Daenerys had told her. Her hair was intricately braided; it was nice to have someone to help with it again.

It was hot and the air was dusty. The deeper in the city they were, the less one could smell the salty sea air. For many, the heat must have been unbearable. For Daenerys, though, it brought comfort. Comfort and confidence.

Kraznys did not greet her properly. Missandei translated for him, mincing his words, keeping them polite. "The master says they are untested. He says you would be wise to blood them early. There are many smalls cities between here and there, cities ripe for sacking." As they neared the awning under which Kraznys stood, Daenerys noticed slaves and nobles alike crowding to see the foreign woman paying for every Unsullied in the barracks with a dragon. "Should you take captives," Missandei continued to translate, "the masters will buy the healthy ones, and for a good price. And who know? In ten years, some of the boys you send them may be Unsullied in their turn. Thus, all shall prosper."

Missandei sounded displeased at the prospect of more slaves. Daenerys had assured her the night before that there would be no slaves serving under her, that anyone who followed her would do so of their own accord. Daenerys knew, though, that life as a slave taught people that hope was futile, and even with Daenerys' promises, that hope was not easily reignited.

Saying nothing to Kraznys, she turned to the cage in which Drogon was being kept. It was hastily put together; she hadn't caged her dragons in months, and they had long since outgrown the last set.

The spectators murmured, talking amongst themselves, wondering if the curiosity really existed at all, or if it was merely a cat with wings tied to it.

Drogon screeched when he emerged, his wings, growing larger by the day, flapping in the air.

She heard his voice questioning in her mind. Mother?

He was afraid she was truly going to give him away. Don't worry, my love. Be patient.

This seemed to reassure him. She held the chain far above her head, allowing Drogon to fly high enough for every spectator to get a good look at him. Kraznys looked on in amazement, clearly thrilled at the prospect of owning a dragon.

Although Drogon followed Daenerys willingly, not fighting against her in the slightest, as soon as Kraznys grasped the chain, her child flapped against its pull, the links going taut. He screeched at Kraznys angrily, who seemed unfazed. He shoved the whip in Daenerys' hands.

It had a golden handle that was intricately carved into the harpy of Astapor, and many leather throngs. She looked down at it, disgusted.

"Is it done, then?" She asked. "They belong to me?" Missandei translated her question.

"It is done," Kraznys responded, glancing at her briefly before looking back up at Drogon, who was still flapping against the chain and screeching down at the slaver. It was the closest Daenerys had ever been to him. She could smell the heavy oils he anointed himself with.

"You hold the whip," Missandei translated.

"The bitch has her army." Daenerys glared at him for that, knowing full well he wouldn't notice.

She walked towards the Unsullied, emotionless. Worn-looking slavers walked up and down the lines of soldiers, whips slack in their hands.

"Unsullied!" She called out in High Valyrian. As soon as she said the word, there were gasps all around the Plaza. She had made sure no citizen of Astapor had any idea she was anything but ignorant of the language.

In acknowledgment of her, there was the loud collective sound of shields being pulled to chests. Behind her, Drogon seemed to be getting more and more agitated. His screeching grew louder, angrier. The vigorous flapping of his wings could be heard even from a distance.

"Forward march!" Daenerys shouted, testing out the army. The momentous stomp of eight thousand feet sounded for a moment before she commanded, "halt!" They obeyed instantaneously. She smiled slightly, pleased with the outcome.

Behind her, Kraznys spoke. "Tell the bitch her beast won't come."

Daenerys turned towards the slaver. "A dragon is not a slave."

He stared at her in astonishment. "You speak Valyrian?" He demanded in outrage.

"I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria. Valyrian is my mother tongue," she said fiercely. Judging by the expression on his face, Kraznys was terrified. He knew that he had been deliberately deceived. Turning back to her new army, she addressed them once more. "Unsullied!" They slammed their spears on the ground in response. "Slay the masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child. Strike the chains off every slave you see!"

The nobles were frozen for a moment, not quite believing their ears, but they regained motion when the first Unsullied thrust his spear through a slaver's back.

"I am your master!" Kraznys called out desperately as Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan drew their swords, preparing for a fight. They was no need for that, though. "Kill her!" Kraznys yelled. "Kill her!"

Turning towards Drogon, she spoke directly to him in both speech and mind. "Dracarys."

Without hesitation, Drogon breathed a stream of flames upon the slaver. The oils he wore made him burn faster, and he screamed and fell to the ground, thrashing as he died.

Before the dust had even settled around his body, one of the slavers rushed at Daenerys, a in hand, its blade glinting in the sun. Both her knights moved to defend her, but Daenerys was faster. She did nothing when the manticore rushed at her. She would not do nothing again.

Allowing flames to form in the palm that held the whip, she willed them to set its throngs alight. The man looked at the burning whip in horror, trying desperately to stop, but his momentum was too great and she swiped her hand out in front of her, and the burning leather slashed across his face. He dropped the knife, screaming, and Daenerys held her other hand at her side for half a second before raising it throwing fire at him, willing it to engulf him in seconds.

She stepped over the man's burning body and climbed the steps to the platform, standing beside Kraznys' corpse. She vaguely noticed that the edges of the cape she wore were on fire, and she put it out with a flick of her hand. Holding the flaming whip high above her head, she focused on burning it to a crisp as slaves looked on in awe, nobles in horror. When there was nothing left but ash on her hands, she smiled.

Later, when the dust had settled, the Unsullied had returned to their lines. She walked amongst them, Missandei following close behind. The girl hadn't said anything yet. Daenerys wondered what she thought, if she still wanted to serve under her. Having ordered a horse be brought for her, Daenerys mounted it.

"Unsullied!" She addressed them once more. This time, they did not respond. "You have been slaves all your life. Today, you are free," she declared. "Any man who wishes to leave may leave, and no one will harm him. I give you my word. Will you fight for me? As free men?"

There was silence for a moment, but then, one man began slamming his spear into the ground again and again. Then another joined him, and then another, and another. After a few seconds, every Unsullied in the Plaza of Pride was slamming their spears into the dirt.

She led them out the Plaza, eight thousand men and two thousand boys marching behind her, her dragons flying overhead.

I always thought it was bullshit Dany didn't free Missandei explicitly and clearly like she does in the books. I added that in because goddammit it makes sense. And yes, I had her burn the whip instead of just discarding it. It was a way of showing her people what she can do without freaking them out too much all at once. I combined two episodes again, as well. There was really no reason not to. In any case, I hope you enjoyed this chapter.