Sorry it's been awhile, you guys. My boyfriend and I moved from an apartment to a house, and the process has been… something else, lemme tell ya. I have been incredibly busy what with moving as well as working full time. Moving is hella expensive and now we're broke af. We'll be okay in the long run but man oh man, things are difficult in the short term. Rest assured, though, this fic is never going to be abandoned, even if it takes a little while for me to upload sometimes. It'll happen eventually, though, I promise. I loved the show too much and care too much about rectifying it to abandon this fic. If you ever want to bug me about it, my tumblr username is imnotoverlyobsessive, so please do feel free to either leave a comment/review and ask or come talk to me there.
Chapter Twenty-two: The Yellow City
Every bondman in his own hand bears the power to cancel his captivity. - William Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar
After marching her army out of the city and ordering them to set up camp so as to guard Astapor, as well as instructing them to choose their own leaders within their ranks, Daenerys had turned her horse around and gone back inside the gates.
Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan followed close behind, as did Missandei, the forming two questioning her actions.
"Khaleesi, where are you going?" Ser Jorah asked her.
"Your Grace, we must leave Astapor quickly before word reaches the rest of Slaver's Bay," Ser Barristan warned.
Daenerys turned her horse around to address them. "That's exactly why I'm not going to leave yet. I cannot let the people I have just freed be enslaved again. I must stay until I am sure they're protected from that."
The two men nodded, then mounted their own horses and returned with her inside the city. Missandei was perched atop her own steed, but stayed ever silent, watching Daenerys and listening to her words. The Unsullied were not the only slave soldiers in Astapor. They were simply the greatest slave soldiers. There were a number of others, and they were essential.
Riding her horse back into the city, she rode past the Walk of Punishment. Most of the victims there had already been freed, and those that were deceased already were being clutched by their family members, finally able to grieve for their loved ones. The man Daenerys had offered water to only the day before had managed to live, it seemed, and was sitting down on the steps leading up to the pedestal where he would have died. Another slave was giving him water, and a child ran over to him with some bread. As she rode past, the man looked up her, smiling weakly.
Much of the city's population had taken to following her and her entourage, and when Daenerys reached the dais at the Plaza of Pride, the majority of the citizens crowded in behind her, curious and afraid. Her horse stepped on the remains of the scorched whip. The chaos had dissipated, but most of the corpses had not been moved.
"People of Astapor," Daenerys called out in High Valyrian. "You are no longer slaves. Each one of you is now free. You may leave the city if you so choose. Take the gold that once belonged to your former masters if you wish," at that, some ran off with a smile. More still stayed, wanting to know what else she had to say. "I ride for Yunkai, and then Meereen, and one day, I shall sail to Westeros. You may come with me if you so choose, or you may stay here in Astapor." Some of the citizens looked intrigued, but most looked nervous. "I intend to rule Slaver's Bay. If I am to do that, there must be a population here, and I must instill soldiers to keep the peace. Anyone willing to do this, step forward."
Several hundred men stepped forward. Every one of them wore slaves' clothing. "Are you willing and able to protect the city of Astapor?" She asked them. The men collectively nodded. "Very well. Those of you who have experience in organization, come with me." She dismounted, murmuring to Ser Jorah, "A table and chairs," as she passed, Missandei close behind.
Half a dozen men had followed her, as well as several women, and Daenerys seated herself at one of the simple chairs Ser Jorah had brought her, Missandei standing to her side. She gestured for the group to sit, and they did, looking from her to each other nervously.
Suddenly, one of them burst out, "thank you for freeing us, Your Grace."
Daenerys smiled kindly at the man. "I didn't free you," she told him. "Your freedom is your own, and it was stolen from you. I am glad I was able to help you take it back." From the awed expression the men shared, Daenerys guessed that no one had ever told them they were in charge of their own lives.
"Now then," she began, leaning forward, "If you will consent to it, I will leave the city under your control as a group. You will have a dozen of my Unsullied here as well."
One of the women spoke. "What do you mean the city will be under our control as a group?"
"You will be representatives of the city and its citizens," Daenerys explained. "Having more than one ruler will prevent tyranny. I will receive weekly reports regarding the city, but should you be unable to come to an agreement or if you have any concerns, any one of you may send me a raven at any point and I will answer it personally."
The group seemed pleased at this arrangement, and Daenerys answered several more of their questions before dismissing them.
Outside of Astapor again, Daenerys found herself standing before a group of Unsullied.
"These are the ones?" Daenerys asked her handmaiden.
"Yes, khaleesi. The officers." The group stepped forward, each one of their unified steps kicking up dry, coarse dirt.
"You did not choose this life," Daenerys observed in High Valyrian. "But you are free men now, and free men make their own choices. Have you selected your own leader from amongst your ranks?"
The men parted wordlessly, each movement unified amongst them, even down to their breaths, it seemed. A single man had not moved, indicating that this was the man chosen as the leader of all the Unsullied.
"Remove your helmet," Daenerys told him, and the soldier did as commanded, walking forward with stiff, abrupt steps.
"This one has the honor," the man said in unaccented High Valyrian. His face was without expression, his dark eyes without feeling. Daenerys wondered if all feeling had been beaten out of these men, if any identity remained in them at all.
"What is your name?" She asked him.
"Grey Worm," he told her.
Daenerys blinked. "Grey Worm?" she murmured softly in confusion, turning her head slightly towards Missandei in silent request for an explanation.
"All Unsullied boys are given new names when they are cut," Missandei informed Daenerys in the Common Tongue. "Grey Worm, Red Flea, Black Rat. Names that remind them what they are: vermin."
Suddenly outraged all over again at the inhuman treatment all slaves faced, Daenerys clenched and unclenched her hands at her sides, fighting back the urge to give life to the ever-present fire around her, waiting for her to give it form.
They're dead, Daenerys reminded herself. The slavers are dead and these men are free now.
Turning her gaze back to Grey Worm, she addressed the group as a whole, forcing her voice to remain steady and even. "From this day forward, you will choose your own names. You will tell your fellow soldiers to do the same. Throw away your slave name. Choose the name your parents gave you, or any other. A name that gives you pride."
"Grey Worm gives me pride," the soldier said with a slight nod. "It is a lucky name. The name this one was born with was cursed. That was the name he had when he was taken as a slave. Grey Worm is the name this one had the day Daenerys Stormborn set him free."
At this, Daenerys became quite emotional. She had to retire to her tent for several minutes before she felt up to speaking to anyone. As it turned out, all the Unsullied felt this way. None of them remembered their given names, and cast scorn on the mere thought of the name they had been given at birth.
When they began their march to Yunkai, Daenerys offered mounts to the Unsullied officers, as there were not enough horses for every soldier. Each man declined, saying he would prefer to march with his men than ride alone.
Yunaki was called the Yellow City for a good reason, Daenerys learned. From a distance, the city appeared to be made entirely of gold, and it shone brightly in the hot sun. As they neared the city, though, it became apparent that it the buildings had been crafted to resemble gold, but it was quite clear that they were not.
The buildings got progressively more elaborate and less run down as they reached the peak of the hill the city sat upon, and Yunkai's pyramids seemed as if they might brush the clouds above them.
"The Yunkish train bedslaves, not soldiers," Ser Barristan said as they observed the city from a nearby hill. "We can defeat them."
Ser Jorah, ever one to argue with the older man, objected. "On the field, with ease. But they won't meet us on the field. They have provisions, patience, and strong walls." Ser Jorah glanced at Ser Barristan, then turned his gaze back to the city before them. "If they're wise, they'll hide behind those walls and chip away at us, man by man."
"I don't want half my army killed before I've crossed the Narrow Sea," Daenerys informed her companions.
"We don't need Yunkai, khaleesi," Ser Jorah told her softly. "Taking this city will not bring you any closer to Westeros or the Iron Throne."
Daenerys looked at him, then back at the city. "How many slaves are there in Yunkai?"
"200,000, if not more."
"Then we have 200,000 reasons to take the city," Daenerys informed him. These people deserved their freedom just as much as any other. Turning to Grey Worm, she said, "tell the slavers I will receive them here and accept their surrender. Otherwise, Yunkai will suffer the same fate as Astapor."
Grey Worm nodded and left to give the order.
Several hours later, a camp had been set up outside the city, the tents made of elaborate fabrics from Qarth and Astapor. Daenerys had several tents for her own use, and currently, she sat on an intricately carved couch in her reception tent. It was airy and open, and if she looked up, she could see the path leading to the city gates, lined with Unsullied. Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan stood beside her on the dais, both men sweating slightly from the heat of the flames that surrounded it (flames under Daenerys' control that she was careful not to allow to spread) and her children were perched nearby. Missandei stood at the tent's entrance, ready to announce the slaver upon his arrival, and Grey Worm stood at the edge of the tent beside one of the Dothraki women Daenerys chosen as a handmaiden.
Reaching over to scratch between Viserion's eyes absentmindedly and listening to him purr, she waited for the man she was to receive.
She was nervous, although she did not appear so. She had never received anyone before. For all her titles, Daenerys had yet to properly hold court. Drogo had never held court; the closest things had been the parties he'd thrown, and those were far more casual than this. Her brother, of course, had never had a court to begin with.
She didn't want to intimidate anyone, not really. Still, though, she recognized it as necessary when a person was her enemy. And this man, the man she was to meet, he was a slaver. He did not deserve kindness or compassion.
As the minutes passed, Daenerys heard the distant beating of a drum which got progressively louder. Several minutes later, exhausted looking slaves carried a palanquin, upon which sat an elaborately dressed man whose face spoke of arrogance and fear.
Good, Daenerys thought. He should be afraid. He didn't know if she would keep her promise of safe passage. Nor did he know what she was capable of. There were only rumors, after all.
The exhausted slaves lowered the palanquin into the dirt, and the slaver stood and walked forward, his nervous gaze switching from Rhaegal on his perch, Drogon at Daenerys' side, and Viserion to her back.
"Now comes the noble Razdal mo Eraz of that ancient and honorable house, master of men and speaker to savages, to offer terms of peace." Razdal stepped too close, however, and all three of her children reared their heads at him and screeched in anger. The man flinched. None of Daenerys' companions did. They were used to her dragons.
"Noble lord," Missandei continued, having been given instructions to use Daenerys' full list of titles when introducing her to enemies. "You are in the presence of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen of the blood of Old Valyria, Queen of the Andals, the Rhyonar, and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, and Wielder of Flames."
"You may approach," Daenerys said with a nod, flicking her intricately braided hair over her shoulder. "Sit," she commanded, and the slaver regarded her silently as the Dothraki woman placed a chair before him, while Missandei prepared a cup of wine for him. Enemy or not, he was her guest.
He stepped around the chair, sitting down with his elaborate robes spread out around him.
"Will the noble lord take refreshment?" Missandei asked the man, who nodded silently in response, barely glancing up at her. The nervous frown never left Razdal's face.
Daenerys smiled politely as he drank from the goblet Missandei had given him, then placed it on the carpet beneath him.
He had begun to sweat from the fire.
Finally, he spoke. "Ancient and glorious is Yunkai. Our empire was old before dragons stirred in Old Valyria. Many an army has broken against our walls."
Daenerys smiled at him again, and cocked her head to the side. "Perhaps you did not learn your history as well as you could have," she told him, seeing anger flare in his face. Before he could open his mouth, he continued. "Yunkai was merely a colony of Old Ghis. The Valyrians destroyed old Ghis and conquered Yunaki. If not for the Doom, Yunkai would still belong to the Valyrians. I am merely here to take back what my ancestors lost with their deaths."
Razdal's face hardened further, and he said, "you shall find no easy conquest here, khaleesi."
Daenerys retrieved a piece of raw meat from a gilded dish and tossed it into the air. Her children fought over it, screeching all the while. In her mind, they objected to not being given a fair share, but she hushed them, mentally reminding them that they'd be given a proper meal once their enemy left.
Pleased, they continued to fight amongst themselves, flapping their wings angrily about the tent. Razdal leaned back in his chair, clearly trying to hide the fear from his face, but failing to do so.
"Good," Daenerys said with a smile, drawing his attention back to her. "My Unsullied need practice. I was told to blood them early."
"If blood is your desire," he leaned forward, "blood shall flow. But why?" He asked her. "Tis true, you have committed savageries in Astapor, but the Yunkai are a forgiving and generous people." He clapped his hands twice, and two pairs of slaves stepped forward, each carrying bejeweled chests, straining with each step. "The wise masters of Yunkai have sent a gift for the silver queen."
The slaves placed the boxes on the steps of the dais, opening them and backing away from the flames around them quickly, their heads bowed.
"There is far more than this awaiting you on the deck of your ship."
"My ship?" Daenerys raised her eyebrows at him, surprised. Perhaps when Ser Jorah had told her most cities chose to pay tribute to hordes rather than fight them, this is what he meant. The Yunkai were certainly going to great lengths to be rid of her.
"Yes, khaleesi," the slaver responded. "As I said, we are a generous people. You shall have as many ships as you require," he promised.
"And what do you ask in return?" She wondered.
"All we ask is that you make use of these ships. Sail them back to Westeros where you belong and leave us to conduct our affairs in peace." Daenerys looked away from Razdal to the slaves who had brought the chests of gold bars in. They were kneeling before her, as if begging her to leave them to their chains. The fire surrounding the dais flared slightly.
"Rest assured that the gold and ships will most certainly be put to good use. I thank you for them, and in return, I offer you a gift, as well: your life."
"My life?" Razdal blinked.
"And the lives of your wise masters," Daenerys confirmed. "But I also want something in return. You will release every slave in Yunkai." The slaver's eyes widened in surprise, and he lifted his head. "Every man, woman, and child shall be given as much food, clothing, and property as they can carry as payment for the years of servitude. Reject this gift, and I shall show you no mercy," she smiled at him again.
"You are mad," he accused, leaning forward. "We are not Astapor or Qarth. We are Yunkai, and we have powerful friends. Friends who would take great pleasure in destroying you. Those who survive, we shall enslave once more." He stood up abruptly. "Perhaps we'll make a slave of you as well."
Daenerys laughed lightly. "I'd rather enjoy seeing you try." At her words, the fire around the dais rose, just below the ceiling, and her children screeched in fury at him, Drogon extending his neck to poke through the flames.
"You swore me safe conduct," he objected nervously.
"I did," she agreed. "But my dragons made no promises, and you threatened their mother."
"Take the gold," he commanded the slaves, and when they moved tentatively towards the dais, the flames shot out to meet around the dais steps, and Rhaegal flew to perch atop one of the chests, screeching angrily as his brothers joined him. The slaves backed away quickly.
"My gold," Daenerys reminded Razdal. "You gave it to me, remember? And I shall put it to good use. You'd be wise to do the same with my gift to you." With a tilt of her head, she told him, "you are dismissed." He muttered in Valyrian as he walked towards his palanquin again, anger written on his face.
"The Yunkish are a proud people," Ser Barriston told her. "They will not bend."
Daenerys gazed after the slaver and his entourage. "And what happens to things that don't bend? She said he had powerful friends; who was he talking about?"
"I don't know," Ser Jorah said, looking down in thought.
"Find out," she told him, and he left to do as she commanded. Drogon climbed onto the couch beside her, craving her attention. She held out her hand to him, and he nuzzled her affectionately, purring.
And there we go, chapter 22! I hope you enjoyed it, and I apologize again for the long wait. When I last wrote, we were preparing to move, and now that we actually have, things have slowed down significantly.