It had been nearly a month since I’d taken control of Khal Moro’s khalasar and made it my own. All things considered, I would say that transitioning these savages into… Well, I wouldn’t call them decent folk, but I suppose, less bloodthirsty?
Transitioning them to that point had gone easier than expected.
I mean, sure, there were a couple of executions to get them up to snuff.
“A couple?” Erebus said incredulously.
Well, okay, more like a few dozen; the idiots thought they could sack a nearby village and rape its women. So I had the rapists rounded up and gave them a way out.
If they could hurt Hestia, I would set them free.
Naturally, they all died in exceedingly gruesome ways.
Hestia had grown in leaps and bounds- her growth rate the subject of great interest to me; the Maester’s documentation on dragons was scarce, but what few of it remained clearly hinted at a much slower growth rate.
But then again, whenever I was concerned, nothing seemed to go to plan. I supposed I should’ve been thankful she was growing faster and not slower.
By the time the war in Westeros started- more like a one sided massacre, really- Hestia was about the size of Ghost. Before I’d left for Pentos, she was as tall as a horse and twice as long.
Now? I’d say she doubled in size.
At this point, I would say she would have given the Hungarian Horntail a run for her money- and her growth wasn’t slowing down in the least. It was possible that, if she lived long enough, she would surpass her father Balerion in size.
A scary thought.
After the executions, the Dothraki people seemed wary of me, as if I’d kill them too. A few came forward, presenting me with their arguments and reasoning.
They raided and attacked because they were a nomadic, war-like people. Strife and hunger was all they knew.
“What if I said to you that your hunger was a thing of the past?” I’d told them, having learned some Dothraki in that time.
They, of course, gave me dubious stares. Dragonlord I might have been, but sating the hunger of over twenty thousand people was more than a bit difficult.
So, I went to one of the food storage boxes and super-sized one of the horse flanks within. The effect was instantaneous.
Some cried “Maegi” in horrified tones. Others looked at the feat with incredulity. Most adopted a look of awe.
“Under my rule, you will never go hungry again.” I’d told them. “But, it is my rule.”
Dissent all but disappeared. Their struggle for survival had ceased to be. The only remaining hurdle was dealing with their war-like tendencies.
When I told them that we would be attacking the Red Priests in the various Free and Ghiscari cities, the Dothraki roared in approval and glee.
“Have to say, though.” Bronn said atop his horse. “I didn’t expect ya to have such a plan, Harry.”
He was wearing the attire he was captured in- dark brown hide shirt and pants underneath a worn hauberk. His face turned to fascination when I’d restored his armor to pristine condition with the repairing spell.
His sword had already been sold off, though, so he was forced to wield an arakh in its stead. Not that he seemed bothered by it, really. He was a firm believer on not being attached to anything.
I quite admired him for that.
“Why’s that?” I asked as I sat on Hestia’s upper back. She didn’t even show a hint of strain, anymore. I was that light in comparison to her bulky size.
“Doesn’t fit a lord’s way, does it?” He asked bluntly.
I smiled. That was why I liked the man. He had a singularly most impressive talent to speak the truth with a brevity and clarity seldom seen elsewhere.
“I suppose not.” I replied amiably as I stared over the cloudy horizon. It was going to rain, soon. “I’ll be pissing off the entire continent with this stunt.”
“Aye.” Bronn agreed. “So why should I stay here with you, then? You’ve no use for me, here, as you’ve gotten a good grasp of Dothraki over the past month. We’d be fighting hundreds of thousands of men, if not millions. The Unsullied would be among them, and I’m sure you’ve heard of what Unsullied can do to a Dothraki army.”
I had heard of it. Three thousand Unsullied had held back fifty thousand Dothraki screamers. It sounded impressive, true; but tales could have been altered over time- and this was quite the long time ago, during the Century of Blood after Doom had hit Valyria.
“You think the Free Cities will create alliances with the Ghiscari Cities?” I laughed. “The Free Cities can barely tolerate each other, let alone the Ghiscari… By the time they even think of joining together- if they ever do- I will have already completed my goal. And, besides, can you ever see yourself not being on my side?”
Bronn considered it.
“If what you said is true…” He’d said. “About what happened in Westeros..”
“It is.” I affirmed. “You’ve seen only a hint of what I’m capable of. Hell, you’ve barely seen a hint of what Hestia is capable of. Her killing those dissenters? She was half asleep during the whole thing.”
Bronn looked down at Hestia, who was staring him right in the eye. He blinked first. Satisfied, she looked in front of her again.
I rolled my eyes; Hestia’s antics were cute.
“Did I just lose a staring contest with a dragon?” Bronn asked himself.
“Yes.” I confirmed, but frowned when Hestia suddenly stopped.
§What is it, Hestia?§ I questioned and peered over her shoulder for a better view. That was probably the only annoying thing about riding on a dragon’s back, you could barely see anything when you were on the ground.
§I don’t see anything.§ Hestia said, before shaking her head. §Wait, there’s a group of men riding here.§
I filed that information. “Hm. Wonder what they want.”
“Or, who they are for tha’ matter.” Bronn added in.
I watched from afar as the men took in the sight of Hestia, then of me atop of her, looked back at the Dothraki army, before motioning quickly in my direction. They wanted to talk, then?
A talk, it is.
“Joqo.” I called out to one of my kos in Dothraki. He turned his head to me and bowed it in deference. “Have someone set up a meeting area, so that I can receive these visitors.”
“It will be done, my khal.” He obeyed, before turning and barking out orders at his men, who went to work immediately.
“You know, you could have set it up, yourself.” Bronn noted idly as he watched the men slowly figure out the logistics of having a meeting tent- or if it need be a tent, at all.
“You’re right.” I acknowledged with a dip of my head. “I could have done it in seconds.”
I shook my head after a few moments of silence.
“But, then, they would know what I was capable of.” I added in. “Of course, these are the least of my capabilities, but the less they know, the better.”
“You know who they are?” Bronn asked curiously.
“Not really.” I denied. “I have a fair idea of who they might be representing, considering how close we are to Qohor. About a day’s ride away, at this point?”
“Ah, noble emissaries, then?” Bronn asked and spat to the side, as if an awful taste had overtaken his mouth. “You’re right. Make ’em wait.”
The raising of the meeting tent took the better part of an hour as the men broke out the good food and drinks, set up chairs and tables for everyone to sit upon, and finally had the guard line the sides of the way to the meeting area.
“A fairly simple, if brutish, way of showing your army’s strength to the enemy.” Bronn said as I stared down at my makeshift throne while Hestia laid down next to the wall-less tent, showcasing her powerfully built body for all to see, while at the same time looking perfectly relaxed.
It was a skill even I had trouble with.
“When are they due to arrive?” I asked one of the nearby men.
“Minutes.” He replied, shaking his head. “Maybe more.”
I gave a nod of acknowledgment and turned back to the shoddy looking throne. It was a rush job of broken wood from whatever the Dothraki had stockpiled in the past. Judging from the slightly rotting smell of it, it was quite old.
With a wave of my wand, I transfigured it into a simple, yet comfortable throne, with blue dragon engravings along the dark brown, varnished wooden surface.
“Never get used to tha’.” Bronn piped up next to me.
“No one ever does.” I replied. “Tyrion often said the same thing.”
“Tyrion Lannister?” Bronn asked curiously, eyebrows raised. “Met the wee bugger, once.”
“Yeah?” I smiled. “When?”
“Bit before that war, really.” Bronn said, narrowing his eyes in remembrance. “He was exchanging a night’s stay at an inn for a golden dragon since all the rooms were full. Offer was too good to pass up.”
Of course it’d be money related. Why did I even ask?
“Interesting.” I said, filing it away for later. “Who knows, maybe you’ll meet him again. In fact, if you stick with me, I garantee it.”
“I’m sure I’ll see the wee cunt, again.” Bronn agreed with a smirk. “He ‘ad good taste for wine, ‘e did. And women.”
I rolled my eyes and sat down upon the throne, watching as Bronn stood by my side.
“You’re not going to sit?” I asked curiously.
“Ah, no.” He replied, patting his right thigh. “It’s been feeling a little stiff today.”
“Fair enough.” I said, and waited.
Ten minutes passed.
“This is the worst part of this shit.” I groaned as the minutes seemed to drag on. “Just waiting. Can they get here already?”
“Your own idea to intimidate them with your army, wasn’t it?” Bronn seemed amused.
I slapped a hand over my forehead. “It’s necessary, though.”
“Never said it wasn’t.” Bronn was enjoying this, I could tell.
“You never said it was, either.” I countered.
“You make a terrible underling, you know that?” I asked. “If it were anyone other than me, they would have had you beaten or something.”
“Then it’s a lucky thing it’s not anyone other than you, isn’t it?” Bronn asked back.
I opened my mouth to reply, but shut it as one my men- heh, I had men now- came forward.
“Good news, I hope?” I asked.
“Yes, my khal.” The man bowed his head. “The emissaries are almost upon us. What do you wish of us?”
“Stand here, look menacing, I suppose.” I replied back, catching Bronn’s incredulous stare. “If they look right at you, just glare until they look away. Show me your glare.”
The Dothraki complied.
“No. Fiercer. Wait. Too fierce, little less- yes, you’ve got it.” I smiled triumphantly. “You just maintain that face and look when their eyes catch yours.”
“You’d make as good a King as I’d be an underling.” Bronn said, shaking his head.
Ain’t that the truth, I thought to myself as the emissaries from Qohor finally made their appearance. They numbered ten men in total. Two on horseback- the lords- and the rest carrying chests- servants, I assumed.
The two lords dismounted, handing the reins of their horses to one of the servants, before striding on to me, their eyes glued to Hestia’s large form behind me, before shaking their heads and focusing back to me.
“Welcome.” I said, leaning back in my throne, crossing my legs as I regarded them with the laziest gaze I could muster. “Who stands before me?”
The first man, whose clothing choice bore a resemblance to the taste of Illyrio Mopatis- perhaps they all saw the same tailor?- stepped up first.
“I am Magister Tessario Melzo of the Free City of Qohor.” He dipped his head in deference, quick enough for it to be considered an insult, but slow enough that it could not be legitimately brought up in discussion.
“And I am Jargo Hoat.” The other man replied. He was only dressed in a black robe, with the symbol of a black goat patched on to its breast. A Black Goat follower, then?
“Hoat?” I frowned. The name seemed familiar.
My eyes widened. “Ah! Any relation to the sellsword Vargo Hoat?”
The priest grimaced. “My brother. You know of him?”
“He was executed in Westeros for crimes, I was told, which were too numerous to count.” I informed him. “My condolences.” I added.
“Unneeded.” The priest said after a moment. “The man was dead to me, long ago.”
“I believe you have not done us the -ahem- honor of introducing yourself.” The Magister said.
“Of course.” I smiled and stared at my fingernails for no other reason than to piss the Magister off. “I am khal Harry Potter, known far and wide as the Blackscale, and Dragonlord of the Twins.”
At that moment, Hestia poked her head in, prompting me to scratch the side of her face with a hiss. I did as asked, ignoring the awed gazes both lords and all their servants gave the great she-dragon.
I turned back to them, gesturing for my men to pull up a few chairs. “Please, sit down.”
“Magister, Priest.” I addressed them. “Why have you come to my khalasar?”
I had an idea of why they were here; the Free Cities gave gifts away to the khalasars because they did not want to be attacked by Dothraki.
The two shifted uneasily, before the Magister began to speak.
“We come bearing gifts for you, great khal.” The Magister said, before clapping his hands.
“The noble lords of Qohor send you a gift, great one.” He said as the servants carried the heavy chests over and set them before me.
“Ancient, and great, is the Free City of Qohor.” The Magister spoke as one of my men opened the chests and presented it to me. “A long history, we can boast.”
“Indeed.” I said, taking a ruby from the pile of gold and jewels within the chest. “And quite the rich history, as well. Wouldn’t you agree, Bronn?”
“Aye.” He was staring at the ruby like a hawk. “Very rich- err- history, tha’ is.”
I snorted and threw the ruby to him. He snatched it with reflexes I hadn’t anticipated. I supposed the body went past its limitations when it was truly motivated.
“That one’s yours.” I said in amusement, before turning to the two men, who looked confused at the byplay.
“Tell me something, Magister.” I said directly, gaining the two men’s attention, once more.
“Yes, great khal?” The Magister replied.
“Your city is called the City of Sorcerers, is it not?” I went straight to the point. “A city of magic.”
“Ah- yes.” He replied.
“What sorts of magic?” I asked curiously.
“I’m afraid I do not understand, great khal.” The Magister seemed confused at the direction the conversation was going.
“It is a simple question.” I sprawled in my throne, regarding the man with an irritated gaze.
“Of course, my apologies to you, great khal.” He bowed his head quickly and began to speak. “We of course have powerful magics in our city. Long have we held that title, and long shall we hold it, still.”
Translation: they didn’t have shit.
I sighed. It looked like that particular well was dry.
“Didn’t really think they had anything left, did you?” Erebus whispered in my mind.
“It was worth a shot.” I thought back, before putting my attention back on the Magister and the Priest. “And, what is your opinion of the Red Priests of R’hllor?”
“The followers of R’hllor are very devout, and-“
“-and a complete nuisance!” The Black Goat Priest snarled at his fellow. “Just the other week, they attempted to burn the Black Goat of our temple!”
I watched the Magister attempt to pacify the Black Priest, and saw an opportunity.
“I come to your city for two reasons, Magister and Priest.” I said, grabbing their attention.
“The first?” The Magister questioned, eyes narrowing shrewdly.
“The first is to slaughter and convert any of the followers of the Red God.” I said simply. “This would involve destroying the Red Temple in your city.”
“Unacceptable.” “I accept.” The Magister and Black Priest said at the same time, before glaring at each other.
I rolled my eyes.
“My second reason is that I wish to include your Free City under my banner.” I continued as if I hadn’t heard their disagreement.
This time, their response was the same. “Unacceptable.”
“It is true you have a great army, and a dragon..” The Magister stared warily at Hestia, whose eyes were locked onto something in the distance. “But we will not be swayed into servitude by force.”
“Who said anything about force?” I replied, attempting a confused look. “Worry not, magister, I do not wish to force you into servitude.”
“But you do wish for us to serve.” The Priest picked my words apart. “By what right can you make such a demand? The only man to ever lead us in the past was-“
“Aurion, the Dragon Emperor.” I finished for him and saw his eyes go wide. “I am quite familiar with my ancestor’s story.”
“Impossible.” The Magister sputtered, looking between me and my dragon, as if not believing it.
A bit slow, wasn’t he? Just goes to show that bloodlines don’t necessarily mean anything.
“Oh, it is quite possible.” I smiled, negligently gesturing at Hestia. “The proof is right before your eyes. Whether or not you choose to believe it.. That is another matter entirely.”
“We’re listening.” The Black Priest said and harshly cut off the magister with a rude gesture. “What do you wish of us? Surely not to storm the ruins of Valyria, as your ancestor did long before you?”
“You can’t be serious.” The Magister said, looking at his fellow incredulously. “Have you lost your mind? You are suggesting we follow this stranger?”
“Indeed, I am.” The Black Priest replied. “Perhaps you have forgotten in your life of luxuries, Magister, but the Emperor Aurion became so when he saved our city from the Ghiscari invasion after the Doom. Do you remember how?”
“Yes, yes.” The Magister waved it off. “He showed us the ways of some of his people’s magic, better ways to worship our God- and our city has not fallen, since. Children’s tales told to them so they sleep well during the night.”
“You dismiss our history so easily! How dare you-” The Black Priest took a moment to compose himself. “The next time you speak, is the last time you have a tongue to speak with! I’m of half a mind to execute you this very moment.”
I could see Bronn was stifling an amused grin from the corner of my eye.
“Perhaps this is not the best time for such things.” I cut in, trying to make peace between the two. I hadn’t expected this, at all. Perhaps there was knowledge of magic within Qohor, still.
Or, at least, an acknowledgement of its existence, and possible texts on the subject matter. Something to look into.
“You must forgive this fool, Dragonlord Harry.” The Black Priest spoke. “He is one of the few in Qohor who refuse to believe that magic has returned to the world. Called the dragonglass candles lighting a mummery!”
My eyes narrowed. “Indeed? How long have you known of the return of magic?”
“Perhaps.. Five turns of the moon? Seven? We are not sure.” He replied.
I nodded. Around the time I came to this world, then. Or close to it, at least.
“Near the time I hatched Hestia, here.” I gestured towards the she-dragon once more.
“It would make sense. The death of the dragons had caused the magic in the world to die out. Perhaps their return revived it.” The Black Priest said, before standing abruptly.
I followed suit.
“We shall take care of our Red pest problem within the day.” He declared, bowing his head to me in deference. “However, I cannot promise to swear our army to yours, descendant of the great Aurion, as I do not have the power to do so. The leaders of the city must convene. If you’ll allow us that-“
“-Granted.” I cut him off, dismissing the issue as if unimportant. “My main objective is to kill the Red Priests in Essos. While the help of your city’s army would greatly help in my cause, it is not absolutely required.”
“Then, I shall speak with you on the morrow, Dragonlord.”
Jargo Hoat gave me a final, considering look, before nodding curtly, and turning to leave. He barked out a few orders at the Magister in what I assumed to be High Valyrian.
“He’s telling him to get his sorry ass up and follow him. His title of Magister is apparently at stake now.” Balthazar supplied, his learning of High Valyrian finally paying off. “Heh.”
Jargo said a few words to the remaining servants, before he and the Magister mounted their horses and rode off. The servants followed.
“Oddly convenient.” Bronn piped in after a few seconds, moving to check the contents of the remaining chests and whistling at the precious gemstones and gold within.
“Yeah.” I agreed. “I won’t have to sacrifice any of my men to destroy this particular Red Temple.”
“Also that you might get an army for free- again.” Bronn added in as he hefted a rather ornamental dagger, before scowling and putting it back.
“There is that.” I said. “Who knew the Qohorik still held Aurion in high regard? I heard they rejected the Valyrians for their religious tolerance. But then, the priest said that Aurion showed them how to better prepare blood sacrifices for their god, so…”
Bronn said nothing, in return.
I turned to my kos.
“We won’t be fighting, it seems. At least, not this time.” I announced in Dothraki.
Joqo, who was staring curiously at the two of us the whole time, made a bad attempt at hiding a scowl.
“Cheer up.” I smiled. “If you really wish to fight that much, then we’ll hold a… err… contest, or something.”
“What is contest?” He tried the Common word out.
“Ah, well…” I scratched the back of my head as I thought of a way to explain it in as simple terms as I could. “It is a challenge, of sorts. To see who is the strongest, fastest, or most skilled.”
“A fight?” The light came back into his eyes.
“It could be.” I said, before scratching my chin thoughtfully and smiling. “Yes. I’ve got it. This is perfect!”
I looked around the tent that the Dothraki had so painstakingly set up for me. “Hell, we even have a perfectly good area for us to sit and watch.”
“I will compete.” Joqo announced.
“As you wish.” I nodded to him, and began listing my instructions.
“Horse.. racing?” Joqo tried the word out. “What is-“
“A test.” I explained, cutting him off. “To see who the fastest rider among you is.”
My mind was whirling with ideas.
“Not just that.” I began detailing a list of other activities to pass the time. Spear throwing, archery competitions, all while on horseback. It seemed to woo the small crowd of Dothraki that had begun to discreetly listen in to our conversation.
After all, what is more worthy to battle against than your own people?
My Dothraki minions fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
“Suckers.” Erebus said as we watched them talk amongst each other animatedly, spreading the word of these new competitions.
“What’ll you call these competitions, then?” Bronn piped in through the excitement of the people.
“Hm.” I sat back down in my throne and considered the question. “I won’t call them anything. I’m sure the khalasar will come up with its own name for it, soon enough. Something simple and solid.”
That night, the word “contest” became part of the Dothraki language.
Also, that night, Hestia- who I’d sent to discreetly spy on Qohor- came to me with news that a large structure within the city walls had been reduced to rubble.
I smiled as I watched two Dothraki archers attempt to outdo each other in the field.
Everything seemed to be going well.
Now, if only I could get the Dothraki to stop fucking screaming so much.