Chapter 1: I
Daeron Targaryen. That was what his mother had named him in her last fleeting moments. Ser Willem often tells him that a storm had raged outside of Dragonstone, waves so large that it crashed against the cliffs and terrains of the castle, washing out the last remnants of the Targaryen fleet and with it any hope of countering the Usurper.
Chapter 2: II
Chapter 3: III
Dany had tried to fight back, had tried to rail against his chains only to be flipped onto his stomach. The slaves trembling hands had tore at Dany’s tattered tunic, exposing his bare back already riddled with bruises from Viserys unforgiving hands. The master had chuckled at that, had laughed at the irony. “It seems your brother has already done some work on you, though not enough. Zegh here, will remedy that,”
Chapter 4: IV
The hard part isn't picking up the barrel, in fact in Dany’s opinion that had been the swiftest part. The hard part in question was carrying the gallons of oil while attempting to run about the yard. The hot sun had bored down on his skull, though the heat from the sun wasn't as bad as the heat from his body. So much blood had rushed to his face, a personal warmth hanging above his skin as it lathered itself in perspiration.
The man, Caggo he believes his name is, made him run until sun up and sun down, until his thin tunic was drenched in sweat and his body was drained of will.
“You will do this again, tomorrow,” Dany could still see the smug smirk on his face, eyes gleaming in satisfaction. What was the man getting out of this? Daeron dreaded the morrow, as he laid still as a statue on his bunk. If he closed his eyes and focused hard enough he could hear the loud thud of his heart, each breath he draws, the snores down the hall and the one above him, and not much else.
Dany yearned for sleep, but his mind refused to stay inactive, to let go of the rusty shards of reality and succumb to the blissful lulls of sleep. The surreality of the situation has yet to wear off, and he still has to remind himself how he ended up here when he starts to miss Viserys. Viserys. What was he doing right now Dany wondered. Does he think of Dany as much as Dany thinks of him or is he to indulged in the splendor of Essos to care? Was it worth it Viserys? , he swallowed the lump in his throat, was your own brother worth it?
For once the cold cell felt like a relief as sorrow became rage and his skin turned hot. He shut his eyes tightly, trying to block out the neverending bleakness. Maybe if he just laid there with his eyes closed, he’d slip into a fitful sleep without even realizing it.
He needs sleep, he needs to run on something heavier than a sack of oats lest he faint tomorrow, he needs his back to heal and his sore body to soothe. He needs to scream at the top of his lungs.
Instead, he begins to remember all the Targaryen dragons, recounting their riders and the color of their scales. There was Balerion the Black dread, as black as night, ridden by Aegon the Conqueror and his son Maegor the Cruel after him. Dany thinks Meraxes had golden eyes and silver scales, and the dragon was big enough to swallow a horse whole. The dragon did not live as long as her siblings and neither did its rider Queen Rhaenys. Vhagar, Sunfyre and Silverwing. Caraxes and Dreamfyre, Syrax and Tyraxes, Shrykos and Morghul… he could see them now, flying in the heavens as their wings cast large shadows. Their cries were powerful, enough to make both the sky and earth quake in the wake of it.
Dany knew that the dragons were no more, that the last dragon died a century and a half ago, but in this wallowing moment he could make himself believe they were there with him. And then he slept.
The days go by dreadfully slow, filled with nothing but him trying but mostly failing to run with gallons of oil. Caggo taunts and mocks him of course, comparing him to little village boys who could apparently carry two barrels at a time. Something Dany realizes isn't true and that the man is merely trying to rile him up.
The man carried a large arakh, made from steel the like Dany has never seen before. It was smokey and dark, but had a grimy look about it, almost as grim and grimy as the man who owned it. Caggo seldom smiled unless he was goading Dany, and when he did it was a hideous thing. He had nearly soulless eyes, sunken and devoid of emotion unless that emotion was anger. Which was easy to provoke and he was quick to resort to it. Dany made sure not to as often as possible.
Today however, Dany purposefully provoked said anger. The oats he ate that morning were light on his stomach, to light, and his body nearly collapsed the moment the sun peaked the sky. He couldn't run, he wouldn't run, he would die if he did, Dany knew he would. He told his teacher as much, and was rewarded with a hard smack across the face and a shout, the taste of iron on his tongue. This did not faze Dany in the slightest, no matter how much the side of his face throbbed the thought of running laps while dragging a barrel at his feet pained him more. He could feel the eyes of everyone in the yard flickering between him and their task, light chuckles and whispers.
When screaming and shoving Dany wasn't enough, Caggo succumbed to insults, “You're going to give up that easily little boy? Are you so quick to accept failure?”
“I will if it means I will live another day,” had been his rebuttal, before slumping against the wall, crossing his arms in defiance. The little he had left.
“Oh, and what a life to live. No wonder your brother sold you, you're completely useless. You're prettier than any girl and as gangly as one to, though he would have been better off selling you to a pleasure house in Lys than the fighting pits.” that had gotten Dany’s attention. “What? Did that hurt your feelings? Do you know what will hurt more though? Getting eaten alive by a lion in the pits because you weren't fast enough to run or strong enough to push the weight of the beast off of you,” the thought seemed amusing to the Dothraki, smiling his ugly smile. “The first thing you do when you set foot in this yard is pick up a damn sword, thinking that your masters will truly honor your first fight with that of another man, when in truth you are a boy and the only honor you will get is a broken spear and starved tiger. Though I must say, the tiger won't have much to feast on,”
“Shut up!” the truth was as cold and biting as a blade, but the truth was the truth regardless of how he feels. Dany refused to hear any of it.
“Are you telling me to shut up? Oh the little dragon has finally lost its temper,” Caggo threw back his head in laughter, before his face settled and those sunken eyes stared into Dany’s own. They made him feel empty inside. “Mind who you speak to boy, I’ll run through you like butter if it means I make a lesson out of you. And don't think I won't,”
He spoke like a man who had nothing to lose, but Dany had nothing to lose either. What did he have, truly? A throne he’s never seen and a birthright he’s never known? He was born a prince to a destroyed dynasty, with nothing but the clothes on his back to claim, and even then that was because someone gave it to him. What did he have to lose? In the end, if Dany should perish, the only ones who’ll have any losses are the masters who paid for him and a brother who sold him with the hopes of gaining money.
“Do it then,” the young boy boldly proclaimed, and death didn't seem so bad compared to the pain that gnawed at his belly and the welts that ached on his back. He truly doesn't know how Black Mare or Zegh does it, but he assumes its because they don't burn off their meal the moment they step into the arena. His eyes quickly skimmed the yard, bounding to a lingering longsword. He heard Caggo scoff.
“Stop it now while you still can little boy,”
The blade felt heavy in his hands, yet he garnered the little strength he possessed, falling into a stance as he glared at his large foe. Dany didn't stand a chance against such a man, nearly six feet tall and built with hard muscle. Battle hardened and seasoned to near perfection compared to Daeron. Though, he remembers the way it felt to delve his golden dagger into the heart of the magister who tried to have his way with him, the clean blade gliding into the flesh until it reached the hilt. Dany remembers the shock on the man's face, his mouth agape as he gasped in pain and the pained and frightened look in his eyes. He remembers the man shat himself. The thought made him let out a wry laugh, before resolve took over.
“No,” was his only response, and for the first time in weeks, years even, Dany felt free.
Caggo had regarded him with his onyx pitless eyes, before drawing his dark blade silently. No heinous smile or nasty goading, no grimace or scowl. The man truly meant to kill him. Dany vaguely wondered what the masters would think of this.
Daeron struck first, and Caggo’s blade countered, chips of the bastard sword flying off at the contact of the hard steel. The blades were crossed, the clash of them still resounding in his ears. He tried to hold off against the Dothraki strength, and it seemed to work when the man’s resolve weakened until Dany realized a little to late that it was a ploy to make him lean in, and a foot swept his legs making him fall off balance.
That’s how he found himself at sword point, under Caggo’s cold regarding stare. “Bold little boy,” he mused, speaking for the first time in minutes. “Weak, but bold. To bold,” the Dothraki flipped the hilt and crossguard of the sword toward himself, the pommel coming face to face with Dany. Then there was brief pain, one that wracked his skull before darkness closed in.
The first thing Dany notices is the smell, a sweet lavender essence dancing with the scent of meat- meat! -and other foods. It is different from the other cells by far, which houses half a hundred men, all whom aren't afforded regular bathing. Even then, the bed in which he lays is softer than the usual haybed he slept on, if only small and his covers are warm. He still wears his ragged clothes and his hands are bound tightly with cuffs, and the smell of sweat and blood counters that of sultry oils. The dull thud in his head had yet to abate, a pulsating throb resonating in his ears.
Then he feels soft hands lightly caressing his back, unraveling his old bandages. Dany imagined they were brown from dirt, sweat and dried blood. Each piece peeled off his skin with a reluctant stickiness that made his stomach churn in disgust.
He groaned into the pillow his face was smothered in, and the movement halted.
“Ah, the boys awake,” the sound of Caggo ’s voice sent a shiver down his spine.
The last thing he remembers seeing is the but of the man's sword knocking him unconscious, the boiling rays of sunlight baking him under the insufferable heat. “I should have had you whipped again for your insolence.”
Reluctantly, he raised his head turning to the voice in question. The man sat grumply in a little wooden chair that seemed to cringe beneath his weight, arms crossed as he peered down at the young boy.
It seemed they were still in the pit, though located in a different part of it. The room looked like a renovated corridor turned into quarters, with rows of beds and white washed walls. There was a row of windows as well, each sectioned between a bed.
“This is where they house the domesticated slaves. You'll find more comfort here for the time being, but don't expect it to last little boy. The moment your bandages are changed and your welts healed your back with the rest of them in the cells,” he scoffed, shaking his head. “How did they except such a weak boy to become their finest warrior?”
“Perhaps they didn't,” Dany spoke in what felt like a lifetime. His throat was drier than the blood road. “Perhaps they wanted me to die,”
Caggo snorted, “More like they wanted to piss on the ashes of Valyria. I care not for their reasons. If they think they can insult me by giving me the weakest link in the chain, I'll prove them otherwise,” he narrowed his eyes at Dany, “And you won't have to worry about lions tearing at your flesh if you don't do your part little boy,”
“My name's not little boy,” Dany couldn't help but bite back. The weakest link in the chain, he called him.
Caggo shot him a disenchanted look, “I care little for what you wished to be called. You are what I say you are: a weak little slave boy,”
The slave girl returned with a tray of different meats, Dany hadn't even known when she left. The smell was nauseating, yet his mouth watered at the sight of them. Caggo rudely grabbed the tray from the girls hand, making her jolt back. He took a thick sausage, placing it between his just as thick fingers, before he taking a gnarly bite out of the blood sausage. In all honesty Dany couldn't tell the difference between either. “And I now know why you are so weak. You don't even have fat to build muscle off of. Your masters were foolish to think you’d become their prized warrior surviving off of oats and gruel. A man is nothing without his meats, and you are just a boy,” it was something akin to kindness in the man's voice, but Daeron had no doubt it was more for the thought of food than actually giving Dany any of it.
“Sit up and eat. Now,”
Dany followed the command without hesitation.
Chapter 5: V
For four days he slept in fragile peace, knowing he would soon have to depart from the warm bed and trays of meats and cooked vegetables, but basking in the brief comfort nonetheless.
The Fat Master seemed to have no qualms with this, for reasons unknown to Daeron, but the other day outside the corridor while Caggo and the Master were...conversating he heard something along the lines of Valyrians being soft by nature and needing specific conditioning. As if they were discussing a rare special breed of animal and not a human boy.
Viserys will come back for me, he reminded himself. Dany had to believe it lest he almost get himself killed again. Next time, he thinks, he won't get off as easily as he did the first time.
Gradually over the course of days the ache in his back began to subside, and it didn't hurt as much as it used to when he laid on it.
He looked down at his hands, his rolled up sleeves leaving his arms exposed. Dany’s skin has began to pick a hue darker than the creamy ivory he was born with, his skin liquidating itself in a golden glow from the countless hours spent in the sun. What truly surprises him is that it hasn't blistered or turned red yet. Perhaps he isn't as delicate as the Fat Master thinks.
Like Caggo promised, he was back in the cells with the rest of the slaves. The tension weighed down on his shoulders.
They all regarded him coolly now where before it was indifference. What did I do this time to affront them?
At least Mare was more or less the same, with his easy grin, and Dany was still unnerved by Zegh who stood by in the distance with watchful eyes. The boy trusted him not.
The daily routine came to him easily, and he had long ago adjusted to waking up early. Mare passed him a jar of oil and he rubbed the olive oil into his skin and head.
“It’s good to have you back. It was starting to get lonely again in that cell,” they trudged out the cold hall into the open yard. As usual, the yard was illuminated by the torchlights and firepits and it had yet to reach dawn.
The domestic slaves approached the funnel of boys and men that poured out the walkway, giving the usual sacks of oats that Dany loathed. He grabbed the sack, opening it to where he could easily pour a mouth full. He swallowed it sorely, the tiny flakes scraping his throat.
“You know, the least they can do is offer water. It’d make swallowing it easier,”
Mare only shrugged, “Water is for later in the day, when it grows hot and we need motivation to follow through with our task,”
Everyone broke off into their own groups as their teachers entered the yard. Dany wasn't so wary of the sight of Caggo, not after staring at the man for four days straight, and most definitely not after what happened prior to that.
The man stalked his way, his arakh swaying in the scabbard on his hip, opposite to his sword hand. He carried a sack in his fleshy hand, dripping in grease and immediately Dany knew what it was. He hated how eager he was for a few pieces of meat, like a stray alley mut. Caggo tossed it into his hand, making Dany drop his bag of oats. Though he didn't mind that, instead he untied the small sack, tearing into the meat inside. Dried beef and greasy sausages had never tasted this savory.
Caggo had decided to try a new means of exercise, one that blessedly did not consist of running laps while carrying small barrels. Instead he carried a thick rod on his shoulders, heavy sacks tied to each end as he ran laps around the yard. It weighed less than the small barrels but they were heavy all the same.
“When you are stronger, you will return back to the barrels. The large ones,” Caggo had happily proclaimed with that ugly toothless smile of his.
The mornings became more bearable after, with something heavier than grains and oats on his stomach. The afternoons were something he anticipated for, and the realization of his unbidden comfort and familiarity to his situation frightened him. Every afternoon he spared against the Dothraki, getting knocked to the ground more times than he could count and yet he continuously got up again. And again, and again, and with each week that rolled by he began to last longer. He attained more bruises from their bouts than he did wins, but with a sword in his hand he felt invincible. As if there was a way out, as if that particular moment in his life wouldn't last forever. Viserys will come back for me, I know it. I just have to survive. He’d go past his expectations and prove everyone wrong about him. That was his only way out, Dany had decided.
The man corrected every error Dany made, instructing him on how to advance and properly block a defense with or without a shield. What stance to fall in depending on what angle his opponent was in and the precise footwork to step into. With each correction an insult was sure to follow, but Dany had grown so used to the man’s foul nature he barely noticed the slights.
It was the hope that made him get up every morning, despite the fact that it sometimes wavered like a weak flame, waiting to be extinguished.
Dany had grabbed a piece of charcoal from the unlit pits, and soon after tally marks adorned his cell wall, estimating the days that passed prior and keeping track of the ones that followed.
Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to moons, and Dany spent his time sparing and running in the boiling rays of the Essosi heat. Idly waiting by in the moments when he wasn't called for. At night when he slept, he dreamed of dragons.
Tonight was particularly cold. A summer storm raged outside the dungeon they slept in. Loud booms of thunder clapped in the skies, and Daeron flinched with each one that passed.
He remembers on nights like these, back at the manse with the red door, Dany and Viserys used to hide beneath the blankets together. His brother would hold him closely and soothe his whimpers, whispering words of comfort. Sometimes he’d tell stories about their ancestors, regaling him with the tales of Dunk and Egg and the Princess and the Queen.
Another clap of thunder sounded, this one louder than the last, making him jolt in his cot.
“Dany?” Mare called out worriedly, his head peeking down the bunk beneath him.
“I’m alright, I’m just…” what could he tell the Summer Islander? That he was afraid of thunder? The boy would laugh at him.
Silence reigned until another sound of thunder boomed across the arena.
“Can I ask you a question Dany?”
Daeron hesitated before nodding, despite the fact that Mare couldn't see him do it. “Go ahead,” Anything would be better than stewing in his fear.
“Why do you leave tally marks on the wall?”
“Isn't it obvious? To keep track of the days,”
“But what’s the point of doing that?”
“It gives me something to do!” he responded curtly, the lie slipping from his lips easily.
“Alright, alright,” Mare startled, shifting in his cot.
Daeron hadn’t meant to shout or shy the boy away from talking. Lest he slip back into the nights when there was no cover or roof to protect Dany and Viserys from the summer storms. “I’m sorry, I admit I am a little tired and by extension grumpy,” he reluctantly apologized. “You can ask more if you want,”
“Okay!” was Mare’s eager response. “Uh, let’s see. Oh! You are a true descendant from Valyria correct? One of the families? How did your family escape the Doom?”
Daeron mulled his companions words over before responding, “They didn't escape the Doom, because they weren't there when it happened. My brother-” he paused, ignoring the clenching in his chest. “Viserys said that our ancestor Daenys saw the fall of Valyria in a dream, which is why they called her The Dreamer. She warned her family, and her lord father took them and fled to an island near Westeros: Dragonstone, which is the Targaryen family seat,” Viserys had also went on to say that that whole story was horseshit, and that Lord Aenar only sought to escape execution not extinction.
“ Lord father? But I thought Targaryen’s were royalty not lords?”
“We are,” we were . “My ancestor Aegon the Conqueror made sure of it,”
That seemed to garner the Summer Islanders interest. “How so?”
Dany would have thought everyone in the known world knew how. Conquering an entire continent and forging a band of squabbling kingdoms into one single kingdom was no small feat to go unnoticed. But perhaps Mare had things he’d rather not think of, perhaps hearing Daeron talk was an escape as much as it was for himself.
“Well, one day Aegon and his sister wives flew across Westeros on their dragons: Balerion Meraxes and Vhagar, seemingly curious visitors. But when Aegon returned to Dragonstone he had a table constructed to look like the continent, with all the landmarks and whatnot. Argilac the Storm King had grown wary of Harren the Black, and offered his daughters hand in marriage, Argella I think, to Aegon Targaryen in exchange for protection. But Aegon rejected the offer, instead extending the offer to his friend Orys Baratheon,” bastard brother, Viserys would say with a sneer, bastards always prove their nature in the end, would follow after. Dany hated when he got that way, because a beating would follow soon after. He shook the thought away. “Aegon had sent an envoy to relay the proposal but the hands of his envoy were returned to him along with a message: These are the only hands you will receive, it read. And then the conquest began, with Aegon calling his banners and sending out ravens to all the independent kingdoms. Dorne, the Vale, the Riverlands, the Stormlands, the Westerlands, the Reach and the North. There would only be one king in Westeros, and they could either bend the knee and keep their lands and titles as lords and wardens or be greeted with fire and blood,”
“I assume people fought back,”
“They did, and they died because of it. What’s an army of men compared to just one dragon, let alone three?”
“There aren't any dragons anymore,” was Mare’s daunting reply.
“I know,” Dany turned on his side. Over the moons his body had grown from soft to sore to solid. The soreness had fell upon him like a disease, and only massaging oil into his skin could abate the ache’s. But there was a hardness to his lean body now, one that hadn't been there before. He hoped it would help in the battles sure to come, though Caggo still thought him weak. “It’s strange what time can do to things,”
“Can I ask you a question Mare?”
There was a long silence, a pause in their conversing, then a sigh and sudden reply, “Of course my friend,”
“How did you learn the Common Tongue? You're from the Summer Isle’s, and most men here speak their mother language,” another pause.
“The boy before you taught me,” it was obviously something his companion didn't want to talk about, and despite Dany’s newly piqued curiosity for the boy who once shared this cell with Mare, he let it go. Mare sensed the end of their nightly talk, muttering a gentle “Goodnight my friend,”
Sleep came to him easily after.
They didn't leave their cells until noon, when the sun was out and it was hot enough to dry the hard sand concrete.
Today was a day that Dany eagerly anticipated for. The slaves would be switching teachers, and for the first time since he’s arrived he’d be training with something other than sword and with someone other than the Dothraki. It had been announced suddenly by the slavers amidst training hours, whom relayed the Fat Masters words. Caggo’s words still echoed in his mind, of having to fight a tiger or lion instead of an actual man. A spear would come more in handy. Daeron also pitied who’d ever fall under the mans tutelage.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” the Dothraki had spat. “This is not the last you’ll see of me.”
There were many teachers from selected backgrounds. A Norvoshi priest looking to make some extra coin, with axes at hand. Then there was seasoned Unsullied with their spears and fighters from Yi Ti with long curved single edged blades.
Dany would be receiving one on one training from the unsullied warrior. The man stood tall and rigidly, a permanent scowl on his face with a spiked helm on his head, clad in plain black leather armor. His face was indiscernible as the rest of the Unsullied guards that surrounded the premises, lacking any depth or individuality. What went through the man's mind? Was there anything at all, any emotion or was it all blank? Did they even feel anger?
“Boy,” the man spoke after a long uncomfortable silence, his firm gaze on Daeron. “Go grab spear,” each word was spoken in length paces, as if the man had to think every word through.
Dany determinedly stalked toward the barrel of spears.
They trained until the sun descended from its zenith, when the evening finally settled in and the slaves ate bowls of gruel before falling back into their groups once more.
He and the unsullied soldier had went over many routines comprised of a wooden staff set and steel spear. Obviously, being more experienced than Dany, the man won every bout they had after going over techniques, but the young boy endured longer than he probably would have moons before.
“You have much to work on,” the unsullied circled him, how a predator circles a prey before going in for the kill. “Arms are not strong enough to carry spear, let alone steel spear,”
Dany nearly groaned from the dread he felt. He knew what would come after this.
“You will do exercise, like training Unsullied.” Dany bit the side of his cheek. “And you will start now. You will not go back to cell until you master first exercises,”
With a sigh, he nodded. This was all to help him, so that’d he’d survive the pits long enough for his brother to return and take him away from the horrid place. How long would it be before he stepped outside the arena?
In lieu of carrying or running, the exercises consisted of continuously lifting the weight of his body off the ground using the strength of his arms and legs or cupping the back of his head while consistently lifting his torso off the ground, legs laid straight out. The ground was relatively warm, but not hot, and Dany internally thanked every god there was for it.
“When you are stronger, your knees will be bent,” Dany mourned the day when that would come. If it would come.
He stood on sore unsteady legs, leaning his weight against the cool wall. Dany had already drunk his fill of water, and thus would not be permitted another. Mare had warned him to wait a little later during their break, but the Valyrian boy had been more than impatient. Patience would become you my friend, he had laughed.
“What is your name?”
The unsullied frowned from where he stood, lips slightly curling “Boy does not ask unnecessary questions,”
“But you are my teacher, shouldn't I address you by a name or title?”
“Did you address Dothraki by title?” Dany bit his lip, his silence the only answer the unsullied needed. “Then no.”
“How long will you be my teacher?”
“For as long as your master allows,” he stated flatly, eager to end the small conversation Dany was conjuring. It was a foolish feat, and the agonizing silence almost made him yearn for Caggo’s constant goading. “We are finish for today. Go back to cell,”
“Why are the Unsullied so…” Dany tried to find the right word, settling with “stiff.”
Mare shrugs “Because they are trained that way,” his eyes are unsettled by the thought of it.
They sat by bars of their cell door, which offered the light from the nearby torches on the wall.
“How are they trained?”
“Brutally,” Mare’s reply was tense. “Worse by far compared to how we are trained. You shouldn't judge them, who knows the horrors they’ve seen or done,”
Mare seemed to know, from the way he closed his eyes pained and slightly shuttered as he spoke. “When I was first brought to the slave markets of Astapor, my slaver had lingered there for five days, selling and purchasing other slaves. I remember one day, while I was being bided, a young boy had approached the slaver, who had with him a girl and her mother. The boy had brought the girl for a high price and then slit the little girls throat right in front of her mother. I can still hear the woman’s screams, and every other women in the market who was unfortunate enough to be there that day. He was an unsullied, trying to earn a helm or something of the like,”
The Summer Islanders words left him speechless, that familiar churning of disgust and fear settling in the pit of his stomach.
“How long have you been a slave Mare?” he asked suddenly, leaning in close to his companion with exact attention. Dany didn't know much about the boy at all. It was always him talking of himself as Mare asked questions, never the other way around but Daeron was determined.
The boy started at the question. Dany had never seen him frown before, had never seen him look so lorn. Mare was the happiest person in the vicinity of this place. Perhaps it was only a mask to conceal the sadness beneath. It takes character to smile even when you're sad. Dany couldn't say the same for himself.
Chapter 6: VI
Moons eventually bring the new year, and there is no more space on the wall across from their bunks to draw tally marks, so he makes room on the wall adjacent.
Years. Mare had been a slave for years, six years to be exact but years nonetheless. Dany has only been a slave-and he knows now more than ever that he is a slave- for eight moons, and it has felt like a lifetime. This is only the beginning. I haven't even fought in the fighting pits yet. I’m not even finished with training. Who knows how long others have been slaves, and Mare claimed that Unsullied were trained from a ripe age, and they didn't have that lingering hope Dany has. That, someone, was still out there, far away yet close at the same time, who’d someday return for him. Viserys would return for him. He knew his brother. Viserys had sworn that he’d take Daeron to Westeros, along with every other oath and promise he swore to the Seven Gods. He couldn't do that if Dany was stuck in some arena for the rest of his days. The flame of his hope still flickered.
The wind rushes through the hills and mountains, kicking up orange sand and dust. The rattling of chains and moving feet resonates on the lone path as those without trousers try to avoid brushing their skin against any bushes. Lest it is poisonous.
For the first time, Dany’s been afforded freedom. The irony was daunting but the statement was true in a way. After moons of being locked away in a cell at night and confined to one single space during the day, running along a path felt like a victory.
The sky is beautiful, something he rarely notices anymore. An ombre of golden-hued orange clouds, with tips of pure white and an enigma of indigo and blue. Like the heavens themselves are opening up to reveal a crisp blue horizon. The wilderness is alive with the twittering of birds and rustling leaves.
They run in a single file line, with ironclad collars around their neck. It connected with a long rusted chain, that locked him with the person in front of and behind him. Of course, stopping isn't an option and despite the fact that his thighs burn and the soles of his feet feel like they might crack open, he felt like he could finally breathe.
Dany has grown used to the smell of musk, sweat, and blood. The air that filled his lungs now almost tasted sweet in comparison.
Someday, he thought defiantly, I will know true freedom again.
It is five moons into the year 294 AC. Five moons and six days when he is permitted to go into the fighting pits. Nearing his twelfth name day.
They lined them up in the yard, heads down as the hot sun baked the back of it, hands placed behind their backs with heavy chains. Pit owners were there as well, to make bids on which slave they’d get pick to spill blood in their arena. They smiled and laughed and cheered as they dined on food and drink, sitting in their extravagant litters held by even more slaves. A celebration of sorts for the good fortune they were soon to receive.
It felt like a trail, slave after slave being pulled out of line to showcase their skill. Those who did not reach expectations, let alone had a buyer, were cast aside and led back to their cells. A trail and an execution.
They were all vying for him, he could tell from the eager looks cast his way, from the way they’d all hoarded around the Fat Master with pockets full of coin. And the Fat Master had looked more than pleased. Dany knew that he would go to the pits regardless if he was well trained or not. The fate seemed almost inevitable as if the gods themselves sought after his doom. Yet another tragedy to befall the last of the dragons.
His feet felt heavy beneath him with each gnarly step. Perhaps it was the weight of the chains or the weight of his problems.
All eyes were on him as he stepped from the line, trailing after the scion with his head down. Violet eyes mindful of those watching.
On the ground laid weapons of varying sorts, but his eyes only spotted the familiar two. A bastard sword and a wooden spear. A goaler freed him of his chains as Caggo and the unsullied warrior fell to his side from the short line of teachers. The Dothraki leveled him with a knowing stare, harsh and unapologetic. The unsullied stared straight ahead, gazing at nothing in particular with his hands placed sternly behind his rigid back.
Dany picked the sword first before waiting for instruction.
The Dothraki ordered him to do numerous stances. The middle stance, the high stance and the low stance, each done in an uncertain regality with uneased poise. Dany tried his hardest not to stare down at his feet to monitor his footwork, lest they find him wanting. And why did he care for what they thought of him? The answer was as stark as day, but the young boy refused to acknowledge it.
He twirled on his heel more times than he could count, and with each stance that passed, Caggo began to call them out rapidly, forcing Dany to move faster. It was like a dance, and his limbs were breaking wind as hard as the blade of the sword he carried. An erratic dance, a performance to entertain his masters.
Daeron could practically feel Master Ozel’s hateful glare boring into him.
“Hold,” the boy halted in the close left stance, sweaty palms clenching the hilt. A lifetime seemed to pass as silence reigned. He could feel the blood rushing to his ears, the beads of sweat rolling down his brow, and every labored breathe he released. “Release.” he dropped the sword, the metal clamoring to the ground as he placed his hands to his side and stared downward.
The unsullied began to circle around him in that unusual way he was prone to doing. “Grab the spear,”
With weary feet he moved to the line of weapons, grabbing the long metal spear the Unsullied favored. It was hot and covered in red rust, weathered from use and age.
“Long stance,” the warrior's voice was stern yet gentle, carrying on the wind. “Remember what I told you. Each movement is sharp and firm,”
Dany kept the surprise from showing on his face as the spear thrust in longitude, one foot positioned before him and thigh bent down in a firm arch. He hadn't known the teachers were still allowed to give critic and advice. The cycle went on, with the unsullied calling out stances with drops of knowledge lingering behind. It was a stark contrast to Caggo. The man had little patience for anything, not even time itself.
“Hold. Release,” the spear clamored at his feet, the same as the bastard sword. The teachers fell to his side again, Caggo with his hefty steps and the unsullied with his calculated movement. His teachers were as different as the sun and the moon.
Silence dawned on the arena again before suddenly being filled with rapturous laughter and the clapping of hands. “Good!,” the Fat Master shouted from his litter, startling the slave girls nearby. “Very good. I am pleased. And I assure you my good friends, the crowds of people that will soon flood your pits will be pleased as well, and all shall prosper.”
The highest bidder would get to bleed the slave first, then the second, then the third and fourth, down to the very last.
How many had bided for him? Had thrown gold at his master's feet? Dany hated how vulnerable he was, so much that he couldn't even understand their snake-like language to comprehend the amount of pain that was in store.
Mare found him in the cell that night, frantically pacing back and forth. His face was red with panic and he looked as if he might faint. The reality of the situation finally settled in, and it terrified him. Dread for the inevitable is all he felt. An energy absorbing, time-consuming dread that sunk to the marrow of his bones and petrified his soul.
Daeron was going to fight in the pits, the gods only know how many. For countless masters, with numerous rounds, going toe to toe with men far better trained than him. Men whose faced far worse and came out in triumph. They were born to kill, but Dany? He was born a prince; albeit to a disgraced royal family but royalty nonetheless. He was born as the spare and had his family not been usurped he’d never have had to worry about dying with a clean sword. Rhaegar would have been the warrior, Viserys perhaps a knight or the Hand and Dany the spare married off to some pretty lady with a family eager to marry a prince of the blood.
Viserys Viserys Viserys. How could he do this to him, knowing how small and weak and scared he always is? Even the summer storms cowed him.
His heart raced faster at the thought and he felt as if he might pass out. “Dany!” Mare shook him out of his manic daze. “It’s going to be alright! You did fine and-”
“Nothing is going to be alright!” he angrily tried to loosen the Summer Islander’s grip, but to no avail. “I am going to die, Mare! I will not last a day in the pits and you know it! The masters...they are sending me to my death. It’s all a big joke to them! We are all jokes to them!”
How could they do this to people! Too real, very much alive people. They breathed the same air and lived under the same sky, with blood as red as wine flowing to their hearts. They felt the same emotions, from anger to happiness, to joy and sorrow, fear and courage. They all cried and laughed and smiled and loved the same. And yet it mattered not to the masters. Did those men in their silken robes and golden rings even see them as human? Were they even aware of the dozens of backs their grandeur litters sat upon or the young girls who served them faithfully or the young boys they sent to early graves for their greed and amusement? Or did they see them as objects, little more than a dumb mule to be moved about and ordered until death claimed it? How could anyone think like that or see someone in that way and sleep peacefully at night?
Mare regarded him with weary eyes before letting him go. In a single second that gods be damned smiled returned. “It is just something we have to learn to live with my friend, but you will do alright.”
Dany had to stop himself from shouting at his companion-his friend.
Chapter 7: VII
According to Mare, Dazno no Forak is a frequent visitor of the Fat Masters, renting out slave boys both old and new.
Just like the rest of them, he wears the tokar of a master, clad in silver bands and rings to match the pale mint green of the fabric he wears. He smelled more of flowers and perfume than he did oils, and despite the greyness of his aged hair, his face was tight and youthful, androgynous in a way. Unusual for a master from what Daeron’s saw so far.
Master Dazno inspected them curiously again from where he stood, having his overseers prod and pry. It was the second time the young boy stood out the arena, lined up with his cellmates with iron collars around their necks. The Fat Master sat nearby in a pavilion, consistently fanning himself whilst Master Ozel stood with his arms crossed, staring at everything as if it were all a great affront to him. They were surrounded by masters, pit masters, slavers, goalers and overseer's
For the life of Dany, he couldn't even begin to explain how grateful he felt to have been picked alongside Mare, a familiar face, a friend. Even seeing Zegh was a relief. It was the first time he truly got a look at the rest of the boys and the men whom he shared the cells with. Some were tall, others short, lean others lusty, young where most were older. He had thought Mare had been older, but that notion was swiftly dissuaded when he looked upon some men- whom despite having a rather well physique for their age, had crows feet at the corner of their eyes, wrinkles on their brow, and white whiskers sprouting from their faces.
They were surrounded by masters, pit masters, slavers, goalers, and overseers. One by one they called out their names as the slavers checked for height and ethnicity. The Master Dazno no Forak regarded them with a sleek smile.
The master's graceful feet stopped before Dany, the man taller than him by half. His smile stretched farther, teeth as golden as the sun. An overseer stood beside him. “Name,”
He knew the name his masters gave him. Dyni , Valyrian for beast. But it wasn't ingrained into him, and so it was no wonder the name “Daeron,” slipped past his lips. He doesn't think a thousand lashes could strip him of his name, the name his mother gave him.
“My name is Daeron,” he says again, this time bolder.
It was also no wonder when Ozel snapped his head toward Dany, eyes furrowed like a viper. “What did you just say?” he stepped from beneath the tent, stalking toward the young boy with malice intent until they were face to face. The man's hand gripped his cheeks, murder in his eyes. “You do not go by that name anymore! Your name is-”
“Ozel that is enough!” the Fat Master lazily called, waving a dismissive hand. “Leave the boy be,”
The young master whipped around, roughly letting go of Dany’s red face, “Let the boy be? He is being an insolent-”
“It’s quite alright,” Master Dazno’s voice sounded over the others. He stepped closer, moving past the scandalized Ozel. “A dragon is a dragon even when it’s in chains. It will give the people of Meereen something to look forward to,” the man's smile was sweet and cruel.
Daeron now knows why they ran along the trail all those weeks ago, and plenty of weeks after. It was to prepare for the long and tiresome walk from the arena to the docks. Miles and miles, days upon days of relentless moving through the wilderness. He couldn't run away even if he wanted to, despite the numerous opportunities that presented themselves.
Unlike before they lacked the coffles to provide more mobility. If he wanted, he could attempt at sneaking off into the night, past the sleeping Unsullied and slavers without the burden of being shackled to someone else. But he didn't know a thing about hunting for food or fighting off wild animals, he hadn't even seen a proper fight. Oh yes, he remembers killing the magister with a sharp clarity, but that was different. At least Dany thinks that’s different. What’s an old perverted magister to a hungry pack of wild cats? Or the poisonous vipers and scorpions that lurked the ground at night? He could barely see now with the little light provided from the master’s pavilion and the slavers campfire, let alone by himself into the unfamiliar jungle that surrounded the road.
The soil was moist and cold from the nightly rains. Another summer storm had passed through not so long ago, and Dany wouldn't be surprised if another passed through again. He just hoped they managed to make it out in time before it did.
Mare and Dany rested their backs together as men moved to and fro around them, setting up camp in hopes of gaining extra rations.
“Will we be there soon?” he asked, weary from the days long journey. The soles of his feet were sore and cracked, his sandals a ruin.
“Yes, just a few more miles to walk, and then it’s to the docks. The master might make a few more stops to gather more slaves for the pits,”
Daeron nodded. They had already made stops to nearby markets and pits, and the fruits of the master's laborious search now sat among them. The slaves from the Old Arena seemed to mingle with the slaves picked up along the way, even Mare sometimes drifted off to great old friends, leaving him alone to the uncomfortable shadow that was Zegh. They all regarded Dany with indifference and the cold distance he was used to, and so he stayed clear of them.
“This master must be very wealthy,”
“Not really, at least by the master’s standards. Master Dazno is relatively new I believe, but he is becoming very well known. He is from a powerful family after all, not old, but powerful.”
The next day, they boarded the Great Harpy. Daeron found that perhaps walking was more pleasant.
The unsteady sway of the ship left him wide awake and a victim to his thoughts.
The smell was beyond unbearable. A mix of salt and must that clashed together, one scent relentlessly trying to prevail over the other. It was humid and hot, and it seemed his predictions for another storm was wrong. There was barely enough room to move around, and worst of all he was next to those who were more than a little hostile, mumbling in their foreign tongues as they glared at him. Over the moons his bald head had grown a silvery gold fuzz and his violet eyes stood out starkly in the dark, making it easier to identify the Valyrian.
He and Mare had been purposely separated while boarding the ship, for reasons unknown to both of them besides the fact that the slavers wished to cause them displeasure. So only Zegh was the familiar face amidst him, below the deck with fully grown men closely chained together like jarred goods. No room to move their legs, for their legs were cradled against their chest to make more room for those in front of them. Huddled closer than cargoes of cattle. The unlucky ones were chained to planks, laid flat out like rows of dead men. And gods but did it smell, Dany couldn't stress this enough. It smelled of waste, for rarely did the slavers come down to provide buckets to release in. The ones that they have overflowed with shit and piss, spilling onto the floor with each drift of the vassal. Vomit permeated the stuffy rows as well, so strong to the point of suffocation.
Dany would rather suffer days walking in the hot sun, with fresh clean air and the promise of a rare breeze from the nearby ocean.
They ate food from their filthy hands, all scampering through their chains and climbing over each other to reach the overseer who so kindly plopped scalding scoops of gruel into eager hands. If one didn't make it in enough time, then one would have to wait until the next. The same with the bread and water and those were truly bloody to get ahold of. Only the fittest claimed those rare awards.
It was those moments that truly endeared him to Zegh. At first, he had questioned the man's intentions, but thirst and hunger abated any suspicions after the first few days. Had Mare told him to look after his Valyrian friend?
Sometimes it got to the point Dany didn't even want to eat, from the loathsomeness of the stench, but he needed the strength and those who had food but refused to eat were flogged besides.
Even the overseers and slavers couldn't fathom the foul air, going as far as to let them out on deck, though only one group a day. It amused the slavers to see the slaves wrestle each other to the ground to be apart of the ascending group.
The Great Harpy was the true embodiment of hell.
“What’s a girl doing here?” a burly man calls out. His tongue is that of low Valyrian, his eyes filled with hate and spite, and Dany knows the question is in regards to him.
The sky is a gloomy pelt of grey and blue, and the winds are plentiful. Daeron blessedly managed to fight his way to the overseer to be apart of the lucky group of boys and men brought to the deck. If he closes his eyes and thinks hard enough he can pretend that he’s on his way to Braavos with Viserys. He remembers watching the white sails beat in the wind, remembers wanting to be a sailor. He tries not to think about what happened after when he told Viserys as much.
The other slaves laugh at the stalky man's jibe, but the man in question is all gnarled lips and hard eyes.
“It’s the Valyrian boy Hegg! The one from the Old Arena,” this voice is more youthful, similar to Mare’s, but when he turns around it is not his friend he sees. Only a stranger, another slave. “They are going to put him in the pits to fight, can you believe it?”
The mere thought was humorous to them, the greatest jest of them all. Dany couldn't help but dreadfully agree.
“You are all aware that I am standing here? That I can hear you?”
The group went silent for a moment, faces slightly puzzled, before bursting into more fits of laughter. Distantly, he hears one of the slavers telling them to shut up.
“Did you understand him? What funny tongue is that again?”
“I think it’s from the Sunset Kingdoms,”
“Is he from Westeros? Are the Andals selling off their young and weak now? He won't last a day in the Great Games.”
The Great Games. “The Great Games?” he suddenly felt numb. He hadn't known it was the time for the Great Games. No one had said anything about the Great Games. Was it such a regular occurrence in everyone’s life that his masters had not seen fit to mention it?
Daeron remembers hearing of them as a boy when he and Viserys walked the streets of Braavos. Every few moons it was all the Braavosi could talk about, the unjust and barbaric practices of the Ghiscari, from the sailors to the beggars.
“Look at him! Look how he trembles!”
Dany looked down at his hands and saw that they were in fact trembling. He closed them into a tight fist, stilling the unbidden movement.
“ No, foolish boy. The Great Games are far from now. I hardly doubt you’ll last until then though. You’ll be dead before the turn of the moon. Perhaps the gods of Ghis have finally seen fit to smite the Valyrians. No dragons, no power, no freedom to reign terror. Just a boy who is a slave. A boy who will be dead soon.” it was the same man who instigated the conversation. He looked as if he wanted to carve the young boy up with his murderous glare.
“They answered to neither god nor man, and now they are neither nor.”
How was Dany supposed to respond to that? What did he say to that? To speak of something he had little knowledge of? Whatever the reason was, the man seemed to harbor an unwarranted grudge toward the young boy.
“Ah, leave the boy be Hegg. Holding him accountable for the crimes of his forefathers will do us no good.”
All eyes turned to a young man, with tendrils of sandy brown hair and a promising smile. He leaned near the railing with folded arms, the breeze whipping through his hair.
Before anyone could so much as say anything to him the overseers came to the small group of men, whips in hand for anyone who didn't move below the deck fast enough.
Chapter 8: VIII
Daeron simmered in the thick of waste and vomit for an entire moon before they made it to Meereen. They’d seen the great pyramids peaking above the city walls as they crossed the spoiled Skahazadhan, all made from different bricks. Bronze harpies aligned the river wall, the sun making them gleam like pennies.
The hot take of air was almost a relief, but the foul odor followed after them, so much that every passerby covered their noses in disgust for both slave and Freeman. The docks were filled with incoming slaves from far off pits, with masters eager to reach the gate first. The slavers and overseers led them like herds of sheep, as they rode upon their camels and steeds and great litters. There seemed to be both a hub of excitement and trepidation among the chain gang he was with, but all Dany could feel was dread and unbidden resignation.
When they finally entered they were greeted by onlookers, eager to see the new stocks. People hoisted their children above their heads to get a better glimpse, laughing and cheering for the festivities to come. They looked dirty, some no better than the slaves, but as they entered deeper into the city near the pyramids old browned rags turned into Myrish silks of varying color. Oiled skin and extravagant tokars, golden nose rings, earrings, and arm bands. And behind them were their slaves, four for each master.
The streets of Meereen were filled with temples, granaries, hovels, palaces, brothels, and bath houses.
The bath house they resided in was in great disrepair, with caved-in ceilings and cracked walls. Weeds and vines sprouting in every corner. Everything was damp and musty, and they were all crowded into one narrow space. Despite that, it was a blessing Dany was grateful for.
Water still ran hot in the large tubs and poured generously from the carved out holes in the wall. Guards stood to watch in the entrance, ready to end any dispute.
Daeron washed the grime from his body, basking in the scalding hot water where other men stayed clear of it. His skin felt hard and rough, bones lean and tense. They were afforded a small bar of soap, made from charcoal and dry oil, the dark solution blending in with the dirt that flowed down the drain.
It gave him time to think, the little time it was. About the house with the red door, about Ser Willem Darry and the maids, the years he and Viserys spent in fear and poverty and thought would the gods be so cruel as to let it end like this? If there were any gods.
They rested below the small pyramid of the Forak’s in a large den. The pyramid structure was made of pale mint green and white brick, and just down the road was the Bronze Pit with its bronze gate and harpy. Some masters brought their purchases to the pits early, as to get a head start, but Master Dazno thought it wiser to be patient. To wait until the people heavily emerged in the games and willing to bid and spend more freely. Though he had separated the slaves into two separate groups, sending one off earlier than the other just to be sure. Where are Mare and Zegh? the boy wondered. Just like his friend, he’d lost the strange man as well. Wherever Mare was, he hoped his islander friend survived.
The night was quiet and solemn in the den, but he found he couldn't sleep. Think of dragons , he reminded himself. For I am of their blood.
Above the pyramids of the great city, the wind howled like the wolf, and the clouds edged closer. The graces prayed in their temples, blessing the games to come and the games that passed as slave men, women and children graved the names of the fallen into the Gates of Fate.
Once again they were paraded through the streets, a grand spectacle for the people of Meereen to look onto. Pit fighters were herded in every direction, for in every direction there was a pit to be filled. The masters seemed to hover above them like clouds in their litters, palanquins, and sedan chairs. The graces threw petals of flowers onto them when they passed, wooden bead necklaces and sharded silks, screaming their excitement and small blessings.
Today was the day, perhaps the first and the last for Daeron. His hands trembled in trepidation. How would the day end? Would he see the end of it?
Everything seemed to clash together unfavorably. The bright and vibrant tokars melding with the dirtied rags of lesser men, the scent of sex and perfume that wafted from the brothels they passed, and as they edged closer and closer to the Bronze pit he could taste the blood and rot in the air. It resembled that of a butcher house and all he learned, all his training seemed to fly out the window at the sight of it.
Puddles of blood soaked the sand, and screams filled the air. The den gave an open windowed view of what progressed in the yard. Nothing but hungry beast plagued its grounds, and all around him were boys his age or younger.
The wild creatures had looked skeletal at the beginning, but as the day progressed their stomachs began to grow heavier until they were completely sated. When that happened they were placed back into their dens to starve once more, while more beasts were brought out. They whipped them and stuck them with pikes, making them grow more feral and bloodthirsty.
A small boy, shy of seven stood woodenly with a blunted sword in his hand, eyes big and round with fear and tears. It was so heavy he dragged it at his feet when he began to run. The other children had already fallen, bodies mangled and torn and the beast sought for more. There was no use, the wild cat prowled the grounds with ease, eyes filled with hunger and blood lust. A chain was wrapped around its gangly neck, so it could only go so far around the perimeter, a procedure to keep the guards and onlookers seated low in the arena safe. But the boy wore a chain as well, attached to the same hinge as the beast. It was no use, he had no chance, no training. It was over as soon as it began and the crowd cheered for more.
The boy's shrill screams permeated throughout the yard, but the freeman overpowered it. More! they chanted, as the gnarly teeth ripped at his flesh, tearing into the child's thin body. His live blood spilling out onto the ground.
The den shifted between dreadful silence and mournful whimpers. The devoted and faithful whispered prayers up to their gods, others called for their mother’s. Dany had neither to call onto.
I am a dragon . The mantra played continuously in his head. The blood of the dragon. Hadn't Caggo warned him of this? He was still a boy-child himself, barely a man grown, barely trained. Why would they honor him with a true fight, a proper death? It was all a joke to them, just many of their games.
The gate to the den opened up, letting in the cold air. Goalers stepped inside, calling out names as they snatched boys out onto the yard. There were girls too, the undesirable cast from the pleasure houses and condemned to death.
He couldn't breathe, the walls of the den seemed to close around him, the chains seemed to grow tighter.
“Dyni!” one called. No, please no. But it was to be. They pulled at his chains, yanking him forward, pass the huddled up bodies until he crossed the iron threshold.
The sky was blue and grey, and the wind swept up the sands, yet his blood coursed hotly through his veins.
The herald announced each one on the field, eliciting few cheers as the gaolers released them from their chains.
Only half a dozen was brought out this time. His heart pounded against his chest, and the sight of the crowds nearly took his breath away. Dany felt like an animal himself, enclosed and trapped, ready for the slaughter.
He could feel the blood of the innocent beneath his feet, could see their torn bodies being carried away. Someone blew on a horn, signaling the beginning of the games. The beginning of the end, he thought dourly.
“And now may I present to you Hamza the Old Beast!”
Everyone’s eyes suddenly flew to the other den, the frightful roars that quaked from within and resonated onto the field. Quickly, hands reached for the discarded weapons, but Dany was stuck in place. The roars were like thunder, vengeful and fearsome, and rightfully so.
A lion crawled into the grounds, back covered in scars, some red and fresh others old and scabbed. It lacked an eye, the socket hollow and black, an assessment of countless battles. Her snout was snarled as she hissed and growled in the young gladiator's direction. She was a ferocious thing, a prideful beast that knows it’s been done many wrongs, ready to enact her rage onto those she feels at fault.
She snapped at the guards who held her chain, growing even more gruesome when they struck her in response. Their whips were unforgiving, slicing through the wind at every given moment as they tried to attach her chain to the hinge.
The boy was caught in a fear induced captivation, despite every fiber of his being screaming at him to run and cower. Instead, he stilled his trembling hands, grabbing the nearest spear he could find. It was rusted and blunted, covered in blood. Not one person who held it before him survived.
A light sprinkle greeted his skin, and when he looked up it was to clouds hovering close.
The chain slipped right through their fingers, and before anyone could stop her she pounced on the first thing her eyes caught sight of. A girl of ten, dressed in the exposing wear of pleasure slaves. She was so skinny, so weak and scared. The small thing barely had enough time to raise the heavy blade in her hands. The guards had left the pit with all haste, not taking the chance in becoming the next target.
The crowd’s screams were deafening. More, more, more! They chanted, like a choir of hissing snakes. What more could these people want? Blood, blood, blood! The tongue was becoming more and more familiar to him now, at the heart of Slaver’s Bay.
The bronze statues of the gods glared down at them all, basking in the rituals done in their honor. The sky turned a deeper gray but the games continued.
The she-lion was on the hunt again, stalking further into the pit, dangerously close to all of them. Her snout dripped with blood, and she was still hungry for more.
Sometimes she’d lightly graze her nails against her selected prey, throwing the weight of her body at them before narrowly missing. They’d all run and dodge her, but it wasn’t long before she snatched someone by the foot, sinking her claws and teeth into them.
They were all going to die, he was going to die, and he could do nothing but hopelessly stand around. The crowd grew rowdier, the clouds grew darker and the ground was drenched in more blood.
Yet another child fell victim to her. The small group grew smaller. There had been six of them but now there stood only three. Her dark eyes shifted between the three of them, all spread out and frozen in place. A young boy of ten years and a boy of nine. She darted toward the latter. He thrashed at her, swinging his blunted sword into her leg. For a moment it seemed as if she’d relent but to no avail. She bit down into his neck, with one sickening crunch and he stilled beneath her. His head was titled as she dragged his broken form, giving all who cared to look a view of his lifeless eyes. Who had he been in life, what was his real name? Whose son was this, whose child?
Something broke within him, and a sob escaped his lips, a sorrowful broken thing. He closed his eyes tightly as tears spilled forth. In front of hundreds, Daeron Targaryen did what he was afraid to do even in the blanket of darkness. That boy would be him soon, if he stood and watched like a fool, like a craven.
I’m afraid, I’m so very afraid . His mind was filled with what if’s, a thousand scenarios that ended with his demise. I’m just a boy, a child. But he wanted to survive, he couldn't afford to be a boy anymore if he sought to survive.
When he opened his eyes again it was to the sight of the she-lion bounding on the boy across from him. Her long chain swung wildly in the air as she sped toward the slave child. He mirrored Dany, frozen and afraid.
Daeron’s heart beat faster as he tried to gather nerve. For the first time, he moved with real purpose. With each step, he drew closer to her form, spear in hand. The chain , he thought, I must grab her chain. Lure her to the hinge. It was only a matter of time before she grew weary and slow, belly heavy from her conquest. He’d try to use that to his advantage.
Everything happened so fast, even time slipped through his fingers. The chain whipped at him with every motion she made to bite into the poor child’s arm and chest as he screamed bloody murder.
Dany dropped his spear before grabbing at the chain, the rust scratching at his hands, making them wet with sweat and blood. Despite the fear and quiver of his knees, adrenaline flowed generously through him. He yanked the chain with all his might, falling out onto the ground. Her head snapped toward him, eyes filled with menace. A low growl erupted from her throat, slowly stalking around his form.
Quickly he rose to his feet, clinging tightly to the chain. She leaped at him as he whipped the chain in a circular motion, wrapping a few inches around her neck. He dropped to the ground and rolled over, dodging her weight, never letting go of the chain.
It was a game of cat and mouse, her springing to catch the culprit who earned her ire and he escaping her deadly claws, leading her toward the iron hinge. With every chance he had, he threw more of the chain around her neck. The length grew smaller.
The rain and blood turned the sand into slush, slowing his steps, but he never stopped for a second. It would be certain death if he did. He could have thanked every god there was when he finally reached the hinge, felt the rusted metal beneath his fingers. The end of the chain clasped onto it, finishing the job the gaolers couldn't. The rain fell down harder.
He was so tired. Everything burned, and the adrenaline that’d previously given him strength and courage slowly waned. It was only a few seconds of relief before the old beast was hovering above him. He was trapped between her muscular arms, her haunched legs. Her muzzle dripped with blood. She snapped at his face but the layers of chains around her neck restricted much movement. Her eye bulged and bled as she chocked herself, her head inches away from his. The chain was loosening around her neck though, slowly unwinding in the rain. He had to act fast. His arms flailed around him grabbing a short sword, dull and rusted. The chain loosened a little more, giving her leeway to thrust her head further, her muzzle opened wide and teeth ready to maul his face. Do it Dany. He plunged the blade into the back of her throat, her lifeblood slowly seeping down blade and hilt, onto his face. Her eyes looked peaceful almost, as she slumped onto her side, forcing him to crawl away.
Were people still here? He could hear the light sobs of the boy, the rains and pours and the boom of thunder. It clapped loudly in the sky, louder than any beast of the earth. Daeron stood on shaky legs, looking up at the arena. It was small compared to the Old Arena in Tolos, but the sight of hundreds drinking him in made it obnoxiously large. The nobility whispered and murmured fervently among each other, leaning over the railings to get a better glimpse of the Valyrian boy.
He looked back to the sobbing child, curled in a fetal position. That could have been me. That almost was me. Dany goes to him. The child was going to die, and they both knew it. The child was shaking from the cold and pain. The rain seemed to wash his wounds clean, a small blessing amidst the curses bestowed upon him. Dany kneeled down toward him, cradling his small form like Viserys used to. “What is your name?” he asked gently.
He wished he would have asked the same to all the fallen surrounding them. He should have acted faster, moved faster. Perhaps, had he not been such a craven he could have saved them all.
The boy chocked on his own blood, every breath he drew was haggard from his crushed chest and mauled throat. He suffered briefly and then went cold in Dany’s arms. He laid the boys body on the ground, shutting the child's eyes.
“Boy!” Dany could hear footsteps coming toward him. “What is your name boy?!” the man asked with that same bastard Ghiscari Valyrian he was growing used to. The herald pulled him up by his arm. The crowd waited with anticipation, their whispering growing louder. Are these people serious? It was as if the dead bodies scattered around the pit were invisible to them.
He briefly wonders if he should stay true to the name his masters gave him, but it wouldn't be the first time he didn't. “Stormborn. Daeron Stormborn.” the name his mother gave him. The man’s eyes gleamed, a smile spreading across his hard face.
“Stormborn! The boy who slew the beast!”
That night the shores and docks of Meereen fell victim to the winds and rain. To the brewing storm that would halt the games for a day and a night. And throughout the brothels and temples, the pyramids and manses, the name Stormborn spread like wildfire.
New chapters for this story will be uploaded to my other fic Bonded (renamed Bonded and Bondage), as I feel it will be better if the two stories were combined together in one. So don't worry, Daeron's storyline is not on dormant, and in fact, I posted his POV chapter in Bonded this morning if you wish to read it!