A Practical Guide to Monsters #11

In Sight of Ravens (2)

Previously

The months dragged on. Snow was fading, though the cold persisted. Yet there was still enough snow on the ground for Robyn to follow the wolf-tracks in the light of a half-moon.

He wore a wolfskin cloak as he hunted the beast. He thought it half a mockery. He carried a pack that made his movements awkward. The smell of its contents alone was enough to put him ill at ease.

Robyn went through Sherwood with the reflexes and attention of a deer. But he did not intend to become prey to this wolf.

The paw prints came to a sudden end on the verge of Nottingham, where the snow had all but melted.

It was here that his plan took shape. He unloaded his pack and sheep carcasses slapped to the ground. Bits of horse, too, and rabbit and deer. Tasty flesh for you, wolf man, he thought. Come and get it. Come here and get it!

He could not afford to wait any longer. As the Baron’s stay in Nottingham grew, so too did the menace of the Sheriff and the Baron grow. He had even ensured his granddaughter Marian safe passage into Nottingham, so that he could be sure she would not be harmed alone back in his shire of Little Dunmow.

He could hear the wolf panting behind him. It howled as Robyn turned, nocking an arrow as he did so. He felt hairs prickling on the back of his neck. He drew and loosed.

The arrow bit the wolf’s side, and it started for Robyn. Robyn sidestepped its pounce as he drew another arrow from his quiver. Don’t lose your footing, he reminded himself. Remember where you are. Remember where you’re going!

The wolf closed the distance between them and brought its claws down across Robyn’s chest. His clothes tore and blood seeped through his wounds as he stumbled back. The palpitations of his own heart were clear to him, now. His next shot and caught the wolf in the leg, but it forged on toward the outlaw.

Robyn backed toward a tree, and tried to visualize it in his mind’s eye—he saw it opening, like double doors, swinging back.

And then he was falling. He landed on the ground two feet below. Pain exploded into his back, driving his breath from him. It was daytime, now, the two were in some sort of rocky highland. The wolf shrank back as it realized this, and turned to go back, yet discovered too late its exit had vanished.

Robyn thought he saw fear in its eyes.

Fire whorled toward the wolf. Robyn saw it reflected in its yellow eyes and as it rocketed past him. The creature howled and the outlaw scrambled out of his path. Robyn looked over to the old one and his fire to see he had not moved nor turned to look at the beast.

“Stop!” Robyn called. “Stop! That’s my friend!”

“It is not,” the old one said. “I am burning the beast. Your friend remains safe.”

Robyn watched as its skin blackened and curled. Its howls turned to moans and then it was dying, skin flaking away. It seemed to melt into the fire itself, which did not dissipate, but rather sank back into the old one’s flames.

Robyn parted his gaze with the old one and where the wolf stood was the unburnt body of Little John.

* * *

Little John awoke to see Robyn Hood standing over him, moonlight pouring over his back. He raised a hand to shield his eyes. “Robyn?” he murmured, “What’s going on?”

“Do you remember what happened, John?” The goliath could detect no emotion in Robyn’s voice.

“I fell asleep at the Trysting Tree and now I’m…now I’m here.”

“John, does the word Shai’da mean anything to you?”

“What language is that?” Little John asked.

“No language you would know, I’m certain.”

Little John rose, and shook his head clearvof the cobwebs in his mind. “I know little and less of other languages. This Shai’da is much the same.”

Robyn Hood scowled at that, though John did not understand why. He laid a heavy hand on his companions shoulder. “What troubles you, lad?”

Robyn answered with a question of his own. “Why did you join my fight?”

“Because I believe the sheriff is committing a grave injustice upon the people of Nottingham. I believe Prince John is bleeding us to death, and I want to make a change—”

“That’s not what I meant,” Robyn interrupted. “Every outlaw under my command could answer me that, same as you. But everyone has their personal reasons. Robert Burgundy was going to be hanged. He fled the sheriff and saw strength in numbers. David of Doncaster joined my gang for the promise of riches.” Robyn shrugged, and as an afterthought, added, “He didn’t get any, but now that he’s one of my men, he sees no point in returning to his own outlawry. So tell me, Little John. Why do you join me?”

Little John sat slumped against a tree. “The short version? I’ve been a thief since I was old enough to walk,” he said. “My father taught me how to steal, and as I grew up, I helped him in his thievery. Everyone needs to eat, after all. The sheriff’s men shot down my father one day, and I swore vengeance. I have since realized my father was misguided. He stole from the poor, who in turn needed food, forcing them into thievery as well. So after the sheriff killed my father, I stole from his men. But they caught me one night as I walked in on one of the wolf attacks. It was enough to spread rumors.” John shook his head. “And now I’m here.”

Robyn was silent for a time, and then said, “You would do well not to dwell on rumors. It will lead you down paths you will not like and stir up false emotions.” He stumbled upon a wolf attack, Robyn thought Lycanthropy is a disease…so he caught it from someone else.

“John, I want you to tell me everyone you met in the week leading up to the attacks…”

Next

The Vile Assembly

The Vile Assembly

The Great Detonations of the twenty-first age killed half the world. And yet more: it mutated we who survived. Our eyes don’t quite work properly, anymore, though our other senses are far greater. The average human will experience the perfect culmination of light and color to see the world properly roughly once every few years.

It’s not all bad, though. In the dark, you see, everything is anything it should be.

* * *

I found myself praying to Nailed God when I learned that my title of Lordess was balanced on a blade’s breadth. It wasn’t a rank bestowed by the Crown. I was, rather, the Lordess of a gang: the Murder of Crows.

I needed the Nailed God’s help.

A fortnight before my praying began, I’d found trouble with a Crown-approved gang: The Fangs; who lived down on Sandpiper Quarter, where the monsters dwelt.

My Murder reported one of the Fangs was selling thaumaturgical artifacts in my district of Elysium. So I assembled my Murder and set out to treat with him. Only to treat. Nothing more.

My Murder was wreathed in their own darknesses, and followed my orders to stay put while I approached. Halfway down the road, I’d heard the jangle of jewels against leather—a sack that held them, most like (In Morgad, you see, a keen ear keeps you safe—the ability to hear all the intricacies of sound and then translate them into sight is vital to survival in the blind city).

“What is your business in Elysium?” I asked.

The monster’s voice was raspy. It probably had teeth grinding in the back of its throat. I kept my distance, my hand holding the grip of my blade. “What’s it to you?” he asked.

“You encroach on my district,” I’d told him.

“I can sell what I like where I like.”

“Why?” I asked him, “Because you belong to a Crown-approved gang?”

“Because I’m a prince of the Fangs!”

“A prince of the Fangs,” I had to admit, the words flowed well enough. And yet: “How high, truly, is a prince of the gutters? Is that not unlike being king of the ashes?”

At his hip was a rattling–a scraping. He was unholstering his blade, I realized. So I mimicked the draw, though quicker than him, and cut off the hand that held his weapon.

He did not bother to scream—from shock or because the monster had no nerves to feel pain I’ll not profess to know. Nevertheless, he fled, hooves pounding down the stone street.

I followed him.

The street was empty, save us two and my Murder. I’d whistled across the way and heard one of my Crows whistle in return. I needed to keep track of where they all were. It was too easy to get lost in the dark city.

More and more of my Crows whistled, closing in on all sides.

And the next day, the minor prince from the Fangs was discovered in the gutter with his throat opened wide.

The Fangs didn’t like that. And having the Crown on their side gave them some authority to settle the dispute.

* * *

I finished my prayer to the Nailed God and sighed, hands falling to my sides and feeling the granite steps overlooking the battle-yard. Few dared to venture there, which was why I had—wearing a cloak of three layers of interwoven crow-feathers; and with fingers bedecked with rings of lapis lazuli. I’d chosen my favorite blade—the one with the good-luck wolf on the end.

I let out a low whistle. Far off in the darkness, someone matched my note. So I tried three notes, interchanging. Thrice-over the same notes returned. Then came the footsteps—three pairs, and the sound of canes clacking toward me.

It’s a trick everyone in Morgad learns sooner or later—to separate the rhythm of a man’s cane. To know the difference between one man’s click clack click clack from another’s clackity click clackity click.

I whistled again and more whistles returned. Five, then seven, then ten. I continued this way until my Murder was assembled.

They were wordless for they knew what awaited us. Soft hands and rough hands helped me out of my cloak and removed my hauberk. They rubbed oils and ointments on my arms and torso. “Relax, Isora.” It was Retcha’s voice. The one who spoke a quarter-octave above me, but softer. “Now isn’t the time for fear.”

“No,” I agreed. “That comes later.”

Another Crow spoke, then. I think it was Azoc, my chief lieutenant. His thrice broken nose made his voice sound all squishy. “Your cloak—It’s scratchy. What’s it made from?”

“Crow feathers,” I said. “It cost me a high price.”

“If you lose, can I keep it?”

Azoc would gain Lordship over the Murder of Crows if I lost. I might’ve given him the cloak, too, except that he asked.

So I snorted a laugh and turned to face him. “You want it?”

“I’d love tha—”

I threw my fist toward his voice and felt his nose crack on my knuckles. In less than a second there was a whump on the ground. I didn’t hear Azoc speak or move. There was only his breathing.

“Find my cloak, please, Retcha,” I said, not unkindly. “That cost me a fortune. I’d rather not lose it.”

I felt a force on my shins like a raven had spattered into then. Hands grasped at my leg. The soft hands of my green boy. “I’ll always be your man!” It was Orym speaking now, squeaky as a rusty door hinge. I felt the boy’s soft hand on my cheek. “No matter what happens tonight, I’ll always be loyal to you.”

I reached out and clamped down on the boy’s wrist. “You will not,” I said. “If they kill me, you’ll flee and go kiss the feet of the first brigand with a blade that you find on the road.”

“I cannot,” Orym said. “I will not! Don’t make me!”

I let the silence hang there. If he had anything more to say, he’d have filled it.

I could sense all ears on me, waiting for my voice. I laughed and then released Orym’s wrist. “You’re a fool,” I said. Though even I wasn’t sure if I meant it as an insult.

* * *

The Fangs arrived late to the battle-yard. Their steps were made heavy by what I assumed were royal-grade boots. I leaned forward from my seat on the steps. as they came stomping across the grass. There were seven rhythms to hail seven Fangs approaching. Seven cloaks snapped in the wind with a sound like war banners. Unless it was war banners, and they weren’t wearing cloaks. I could hear them mutter and hiss and growl guttural speeches to each other. The bootsteps fell silent, save one: their champion, who approached me.

“Are you ready, Lordess Isora?”

I spat on the ground in answer and then rose and reached out. “Who is this champion I’m speaking to? I would know your face.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean this.” I reached out to touch him. My hands found his face and I traced its outline. Crows rustled and Fangs fidgeted with their blades as I measured the width of his shoulders; the size of his hauberk—where there was flesh there were soft, squishy bumps, even on his right eyelid. His flesh was slicked with a layer of pus and his hair felt damp as seaweed. I touched his teeth, solid and flat, though with some slick layered-coating for protection.

He was short enough that I could put my palm flat on his head without moving my arm over my shoulder.

“A boy,” I said. “You’ve sent me a boy. Do you think a trial by battle rewards a concave chest?”

A few of my Crows laughed at that. The boy slid out of my reach. “Blade!” He shrieked. “Bring me my blade!”

“Mine, too,” I said. My Crows returned to me my hauberk and cloak. “If I die, I might as well ruin my most costly possessions. I don’t want any of you looting my corpse Do you hear me?”

There were scattered yeses, so I unholstered my blade and turned toward the Fangs’ champion.

Across the battle-yard was a sound like something unzipping. Then I heard the unmistakable vrrrung of his weapon. I knew that sound. It was a weapon with metal teeth spinning around the blade’s edge.

For the first time, my confidence wavered. I tightened my grip on my blade and steeled myself toward the task at hand.

“He’s got a power-blade,” Retcha muttered. “Do you hear that? He’s got a power-blade.”

“And he’ll need long arms to use it,” I said, though I wondered if these monsters weren’t smarter than I’d anticipated.

But I knew the rules for engaging a power-blade. If I tried to parry against its edge my blade would be cut in half. So as we crossed the yard toward each other I kept my blade down and out of its path and hoped the boy would come to me.

His breathing was heavy before his first attack; his tongue, I assume, hanging out as he panted; his great slavering jaws dripping with saliva.

The pitch of his power-blade changed as he hefted it. I followed the noise, retreating as it grew louder and moving in when the vrrrunging grew fainter.

That was the problem with power-blades. They could kill you quicker than a blade, but your opponent could hear your weapon, which made defense easier.

The vrrrung changed to vrrraang and, anticipating a thrust, I sidestepped its path, listening to the sparks spit from the device, their heat nearly spewing onto my face

The vrrrang turned to vrrrung and the sparks crackled on the ground a mere foot away. The power-blade’s sparks lurched. The boy was stumbling, changing tactics. I could hear his breaths from across the yard as he worked some spell to sharpen his teeth and turn fingers to claws.

So I broke his concentration—I smacked him on the ear with the flat of my blade.

“Come, Fangs!” shouted Azoc, who had regained consciousness, “Let’s hear a fight!” There was laughter at that.

The boy was still stumbling—still changing, so I smacked him again. His transformation stopped and something fumped to the ground. I could hear sparks leaping into the air with fizzling cracks as the power-blade chewed up the ground. The loose dirt sprayed my shins. Beyond the weapon I heard the boy huffing, but otherwise there was no sound of movement. He was regaining his strength to make ready for another attack, or spell.

I came forward, stepping around the power-blade and I threw myself into a sustained, attack, swinging my blade with well-practiced figures-of-eight.

The boy’s bootsteps were uneven in his retreat, distracting him from the attack he’d been readying. I heard a short, sharp shout and a sound like a box on the ear.

In my pursuit, I almost fell victim to the same trap—the hole that had no doubt turned his ankle. Treachery he planted that had been turned against him. If I had the breath I’d have laughed at the irony.

But I regained my balance and brought the blade down hard, yet I sliced only through empty air. I whirled about, looking and listening for my opponent.

Then a line of pain panged the back of my shin. I fell to the dirt, spitting loose soil when  a weight fell on my stomach, driving my breath from me. I reached up and seized pus-slicked wrists. “That’s not how you fight with a dagger, boy.”

“One of us is about to get stabbed,” he said, “You’re in no position to tell me how to use this.”   

My arms burned with the exertion of holding his wrists. I didn’t reply. I just waited and calculated. One false move and his dagger would go through my throat.

“You killed one of our princes!” He grunted.

“He was in my district,” I said through my teeth.” I twisted his arms and my hips all at once. The boy and I toppled in a tangle of limbs. I pried the dagger from his hands as we struggled and threw one leg over his chest.

Our positions had changed as I pushed the knife toward his chin while boy pushed my hands back in an attempt to stave off the point. “He was making a profit off of my people!” I said. His pus mixed with my sweat, turning both our grips slick. “He was a monster, besides!”

I could feel his arms trembling, about to give way. The boy laughed, then, in spite of it all. “Is it too late to negotiate?”

“There’s no negotiation with monsters.” I said.

His arms collapsed and I drove the point up through his chin.  I fell off of him and crawled across the battle-yard, retracing my steps to retrieve my blade.

I remember the power-blade vrrunging, the salty sweat that I blinked out of my eyes. I took up my blade and stood, my knees trembling. “Fangs!” I shouted. “Our dispute is settled. Leave now and we can forget what has happened.”

As I spoke, the sun pierced the sky, turning the world brighter and brighter. I could feel my eyes adjusting as light and color made themselves known to me for the fourth time in my life. The Nailed God had no doubt heard my prayer. Sight was not known to stay longer than seconds. I shielded my eyes at first, raising a hand to protect from the light of the sun.

But then I saw the rings on my fingers—there were no stones of lapis lazuli. There were only rusted bands. The sun had stolen my jewels.

But it had taken more, too. For the sun had stolen my crow-feather cloak and exchanged it for one of mottled green wool, so weathered it was almost gray. My blade had little shine to it, and the wolf on the end was nothing more than a chipped block of wood.

And then I saw the five other Fangs—children, down to the last. Then I turned to the boy and saw that there was no monster. There was no pus or monstrous bumps—only big white pimples and grease. He had yellow teeth but nothing that belonged to a whale. He was just a boy with a dagger shoved up through his chin; his mouth hanging open, revealing the blade.

I collapsed to my knees and vomited. “Just a boy,” I sputtered. “Just a boy…”

But as it was before and as it would be the world began to blur as my sight left me until I was in my own darkness again. I wondered what trick the sun had played on me. He was the Nailed God’s agent, truth be told.

So I checked my belongings to see if the sun had returned them. My rings felt the same as they had before my sight returned. It must have returned to me my lapis lazuli. My cloak and blade, too, seemed no different than any other time I had felt them in the dark. The sun, in its power, had returned my belongings to me, safe and now sun-blessed.

But there was one last thing I needed to check.

With shaking hands, I felt the boy’s face. Felt the bumps, touched the teeth—careful of the blade in his mouth—I felt no difference between what my hands told me now and what my they had said before we’d dueled. The only difference was the sweat and the blood. To this day I’ve no idea why the sun played such a cruel trick on my eyes.

“It’s a monster,” I muttered, smiling. “It’s only a monster…”

 

Lord of the Greenwood

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We could never agree on where we’d first met, nor when. I thought we were eight—he said we were four. But we both agreed that I’d been older then him.
He’d been an impish, fey little boy in the beginning, safe in the knowledge of his parents’ protection. He knew he could throw rocks at me without reprisal—or did he throw sticks, as he’d insisted years later?
I remembered playing with him every day, every summer, though he insisted it was only on holidays and feast days.
I do remember long periods of time spent trapped in his manor while my parents doted on his. It was my duty to learn to weave and sew and dance and speak horribly-accented French.
But we were friends—that much I remember. And we agreed on that. Our friendship began the day he first to lead me into the greenwood. He dragged me by my hand, painfully pulling through dark, knotted trees. He was resolute, dragging me through as the thorns and brambles scratched at my legs.
The woods was supposed to be a terrible place.
I remembered the stories my parents would tell of witches and werewolves and dark, evil things. They hid in the forest waiting for children like us. They would snatch us up and nobody would find us again.
I wanted someone to find us.
He led me into the woods that day, my clinging desperately to his. If there were truly some evil thing out there waiting to consume us, it would have to take us both.
I wasn’t going to be gobbled up without him.
#
Years passed, and the boy’s parents died when he turned fifteen—or was he nineteen? I can’t quite remember.
But within months of his new Lordship, my own parents died, and I was taken away within the week.
The sheriff, I learned, had offered me a position in his castle. His offer, to me, didn’t seem so bad. Though it was not, strictly speaking, an offer.
Since my parents’ death and my unmarried state, I was a ward to the shire. A ward to him, the sheriff, he had explained.
The sheriff—was a pinch-faced little man with a high-pitched voice and a thick accent. An accent that reeked of a foreigner.
So he took me away from my childhood home, the manor where my parents had worked. He took me away from the friends and the servants. And the one boy I came to know quite well.
Too well, maybe.
Months passed, a year passed, and the boy sent me letters upon letters. The first half-year he wrote boring drabble about the management of his estate. But soon his letters came less and less and his handwriting had changed, the words marred hastily onto parchment as though time was of the essence. He told me that with the King gone off to reclaim the Holy Land, he had lost many powerful allies. I would wait for months to hear what had become of him, and the letters grew shorter and shorter. He had lost his lands and titles, he said. And then: I have met the Lord of the Greenwood of late.
To hear the sheriff tell it, this Lord of the greenwood was a cunning rogue with no love of the prince of the crown
And then, one night, I retired to my chambers to find him standing there with a grin on his face—the same one he’d wore that day he led me into the greenwood.
And I see in his eyes, though his titles were revoked he was truly the a servant to the Lord of the Greenwood; with dust on his face and twigs in his hair. He scoured the forest with the sun on his back.
But in his absence I had become the ward of the shire, with dresses that itch and a dagger hidden beneath them. I walked through halls of cold stone and colder drafts.
I wanted to slap the boy, but instead I was kissing him. We’d been so long away from each other that I couldn’t bring myself to bandy words no matter how badly I wanted to.
Except: “You have to leave. If they find you—” I said.
But he had a plan, same as always. “I came through the window. I’ll leave the same way. It’s no trouble at all, I promise.” He drank in my shock, my fear and my dread as I rushed to the window to see.
I gasped, exclaimed: “You shouldn’t have done this,” and then cursed myself for uttering the obvious.
He was by my side, then, showing me the rope. He gave it a tug, two then three. “Who would follow me down such a climb? Who could even see?”
He had the right of it, so I didn’t argue. But I knew there must have been a reason for his visit, so I asked.
“I’m billeted out in the greenwood,” he said—as if I didn’t already know—“but I’ll need your help in these times to come.”
“What times?” I asked. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of an answer. But he grinned and smiled. He knew what I’d say.
“The King is gone. The Prince has the throne but he cannot enforce with the proper strength. Someone needs to keep order—at least in these parts.”
“And what would be you?” I asked, biting my lip. I shouldn’t have needed to ask. I knew what he’d say.
“The people are starving and thieves run rampant, unchecked.” Under his breath, he added, “Most thieves are the ones who should see the King’s law enforced.”
“If you do this, the sheriff will order more soldiers,” I protested.
“His soldiers are not trained for the greenwood.”
“But they need only torches—”
He clamped his hand clamped around my wrist. “Do you think it so easily burned?”
“It isn’t the greenwood I worry about.”
“I wear a hood, you know. To hide my face.”
“They suspect—”
“Of course they suspect!” He snapped, “But they’ve no proof—they’re powerless.”
“Why have you come, my Lord?” I asked. I meant it to tease but it didn’t. His face darkened with memories of stripped titles and possessions. His ancient house now held by somebody else.
And anything unneeded, burned.
He didn’t answer; he didn’t need to. I knew what he sought and I would give it unasked. For I was a fool in those days.
#
He took me into the forest one day—showed me who to make merry with and who to avoid. He warned me against the friar with meaty hands and the large belly. His singer had fingers that were nimble on more than his lute. These were hard men, I realized. And outlawed for a reason. Yet this was the company he chose to keep.
He was a servant to the Lord of the Greenwood. I didn’t dare to question him.
They built a fire that night to dance around and make merry. I joined them in their jovial songs, watching those who were watching me. By my gaze was only for their greenwood Lord. The others meant little and less.
At length, he pulled me aside and asked, “Do you feel safe here?”
“I do,” I shrugged. “Aside from those who would see me undressed.”
So he put a dagger in my hand, its blade orange against the firelight. He closed my fist around it.
And try as I might, I could not contain my laughter.
The concern dropped from his face and it the fire’s glow emphasized its coloring red. “What is it?” He asked, “What’s so funny?”
And in that moment the greenwood lost its’ Lord—for I remembered how young he was. We were.
I stoop to one knee and retrieve my own dagger from beneath my itchy dress—and then I pressed it to his hand and closed his fist around it.
It was his turn to laugh. And then all the others were looking. Their leader was a grim man—a hard man, not a merrymaker. But his defenses were all but gone and for the moment, he enjoyed that.
He seized my hand and pulled me toward the fire while his singer played his songs.
We danced, made way for his friends, made merry, made love.
And when I awoke I was Lady of the greenwood with dirt on my face and twigs in my hair. But this was far from my home where the cold stone walls called me.
I was careful to dress—I didn’t want to wake him. A servant to the Lord of the greenwood, purring in his sleep.
But he awoke anyway, despite my intentions, and smiled as I cleaned myself up. He said not a word, merely admired me from afar.
He understood I must go. For just as a castle confined him with small spaces and close heavy air, the greenwood was always too vast for me. I was like to lose myself if I tarried too long.
#
The winters were harsh and one season he came wearing wolf-pelts. “To match the wolf’s head the prince has titled me,” he explains.
“Wolf’s head?” I asked.
“That’s how much my life is worth now. I am outside the law, and my head can be sold for the same price as a wolf’s.”
“How warm are you?” I asked, “Out there?”
“Warm enough,” he said, but he his gaze wandered when he said it.
“You little brat!” I shouted, seizing him by the collar. “You have to find someplace safe to stay!” I threw my arms around him and dragged him toward the fire.
“The villagers are all too eager to help,” he protested.
“They can’t hide you forever.”
“Nor would I want them to.” He pulled his wolf-skin cloak close as he sat. I rested my head on his shoulder. “I belong in the greenwood, not some peasant’s home. I’ve enough wolf’s heads to me without others added to my ranks for aiding us.”
“And how many are sworn to you?” I asked, leaning close. “How many wolf’s heads hide out in the greenwood?”
“Seven-score,” he said. He shrugged, jolting my head. “Maybe more, maybe less. I can’t quite say.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I’d need quite the tall tree to count all of them.”
“And how do they keep warm on such nights?”
“They bed down with beautiful ladies in itchy silks,” he grins.
“You jest.”
“I would never!”
“Such things you say! How would you know if my dresses get itchy?”
He turned red, then. Redder than I could’ve imagined. “I’ve needed disguises in the past and without coin to pay, I may have taken one or two out the window.”
“And?”
“And I don’t understand how you wear them so long! Truly you are made of sterner stuff than I, to last so long in such garments.”
“And what of your men who have no ladies to bed?”
“Can we not discuss men? Not right now, not right here.”
“But what of their fate? They’re your subjects, are they not?”
He said nothing. Again, he avoided looking at me. Without warning he stood and went to the window. His cloak was a crescent behind him. “There are no Kings in the Greenwood.”
“But they talk of that man’s title—”
“They jest.”
“You take orders from him—” I began.
“That’s my choice,” he said, “More or less.”
He paused on the sill, turned around and held his hand out to me.
I took it, wanting to pull him back in. Give him a respite from his misery. But when smiled those urges faltered and I found I could not. “You don’t have to go,” I tell him.
“There is much I must do and much to be done. The Prince is arriving on the morrow.”
“And?”
“And he’ll find the Lord of the Greenwood is in Nottingham that day. And watch as he steals all his coffers.” He began his descent, hesitating only once more as he shouted my name.
I came to the sill, shouted “What?”
“I almost came down by the chimney today. I thought you’d like to know.”
“And what stopped you?”
“Last minute change of hearth, I guess,” he said and descended with half-muted chuckles.
It is only a moment, before he returns. “One more thing,” he says, “Put on some britches. You’re coming with me.”

Reader’s Ramblings: The Lies of the Magister

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Khal Drogo presents Dany with her silver while Magister Illyrio looks on. Artwork by Amok

This week’s Reader Ramblings examines Book!Drogo’s reason’s for marrying Daenerys in A Song of Ice and Fire:

Imagine, for a moment, that you are Khal Drogo. You are incredibly powerful, incredibly wealthy, you have one hundred thousand Dothraki screamers under your command.

Why do you cross half the world to marry a thirteen year old girl with no lands, wealth, allies, and a memory of a title? Especially when you have a choice of thousands of brides? This seems nothing but a liability.

This liability is, of course, Daenerys. A woman who was criticized by her brother as “Too skinny,” in her first POV chapter, Viserys went on to say, “Are you sure the Khal likes women this young?” Which plants seeds of doubt in the reader’s mind, if they are keen enough.

It is Magister Illyrio that outright states why the Khal wants her, later in the chapter. “She has had her blood. She is old enough for the Khal.” He goes on to say, “That silvergold hair, those purple eyes…she is the blood of Old Valyria. No doubt, no doubt.”

Magister Illyrio confesses that Khal Drogo wanted to marry Daenerys for breeding.

From this, it can be assumed, since Martin’s works have key figures obsessed with prophecy, from Melisandre to Rheagar Targaryen to a horde of others, that Drogo has crossed the world to marry this girl to produce a child. That’s it. He thinks he and Daenerys can produce the Stallion Who Mounts the World.

Khal Drogo is known to want to head east, as told in the Dany’s third POV chapter. “Khal Drogo had always dreamed of the day he might sack the great cities to the east.”

Jorah Mormont seems to share Drogo’s obssession with the east. A place in Martin’s world the readers have never seen. Jorah, however, is specifically interested in Asshai. He mentions it often. He even suggests going there when Drogo gets sick.

It is both Jorah and Illyrio did not want Viserys to come along. “Magister Illyrio urged him to wait in Pentos, offered him the hospitality of his manse. But Viserys would have none of it.”

They knew of Viserys’s temperment, yet they allowed him to continue in the Khalasar.  The only thing protecting him is the language barrier.

Yet when Viserys attacks Daenerys, someone had to send an order to the horselords to intervene. And only four people, Jorah included, speak the common tongue to a fluency at which they could understand that Daenerys was being threatened. So who gave the order? And what kind of man is Jorah who would betray the man he said he would set on the Iron Throne.

Additionally, when Viserys gets drunk shortly before his death, he seems to believe he can’t be hurt in Vaes Dothrak.  Who gave him this information? Who could? Someone who speaks the common tongue and knows Dothraki customs. Who else is there who knows this?

With Viserys out of the way, Daenerys can now birth the Stallion Who Mounts the World.

But not in the way that Drogo might have wanted. It is known that Daenerys is the “Moon of my life” to Drogo, and Drogo is her “Sun and stars.” Curious, then, that there is a tale of dragons coming from the moon, as they wander too close to the sun and the moon cracks. “He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi. Once there were two moons in the sky, but one traveled to close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand dragons poured forth and drank the fire of the sun.”

Sounds like the moon of his life wandered too close to her sun and stars. In both bedroom and funeral pyre, the moon of Drogo’s life gets close to her sun and stars, and the dragons come again.