Tower of the Hand

Book 5, Chapter 6.
Tyrion leaves Pentos with Illyrio and travels through the Flatlands to the Rhoyne.
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Tyrion and Illyrio leave Pentos through the Sunrise Gate bound for Volantis. While a ship would be faster, autumn storms and Stepstones pirates make that route hazardous. They will travel down the Rhoyne instead, which is infested with river pirates and stone men but still safer. Illyrio will not be making the entire trip and will be relying on Tyrion and Griff to welcome Daenerys at the city.

Tyrion asks what interest a Magister of Pentos could possibly have in who sits on the Iron Throne, but Illyrio deflects the question. He next asks what Daenerys is like, and Illyrio explains that when he knew her, she was young and frightened. Illyrio did not really believe that she would survive long among the Dothraki, but she was reborn in blood and fire. He also states that Viserys was loathe to give her up and tried to sneak into her chambers to take her maidenhead after the marriage to Drogo was arranged. Illyrio had posted guards on the door to prevent this, however, as this act would have undone years of planning on his part. Now, Daenerys has conquered Astapor, humbled Yunkai, and sacked Meereen. There are five hundred fifty leagues between her and the Free Cities. Whether she travels overland through Mantarys along the old Valyrian roads or by ship, her destination will have to be Volantis. Either way, she will lose men, but the core of her army will be harder and stronger. Griff will be waiting in Volantis with fresh troops and sufficient ships to carry them all across the Narrow Sea.

Tyrion thinks of what he knows of Volantis, where there are five slaves for every free man, and wonders aloud again why that city or Illyrio, who dabbles in the slave trade himself, would want to aid a woman intent on ending that trade. This time Illyrio claims Viserys promised him the post of master of coin and the choice of any castle in Westeros, but does not appear all that interested in whether he receives those rewards or not. Tyrion thinks there must be something worth more to Illyrio than coin or castles for him to be taking part in this venture. Tyrion then asks why Illyrio is so fond of Varys, and the magister explains their history. Varys arrived in Pentos from Myr one step ahead of slavers and plied his trade as a thief in the city, sleeping in the sewers by day and prowling rooftops by night. At the time, Illyrio was a poor bravo living by his blade. The statue of a naked boy holding a sword in Illyrio's manse actually depicts him at sixteen and was carved by the sculptor Pytho Malanon.

Varys had been a prince of thieves in Myr, but he was forced to flee the city when a rival informed on him. In Pentos, he could never again rise so high because he was despised and beaten for being both a foreigner and a eunuch. Therefore, Varys approached Illyrio and entered into a business relationship with him in which Varys would spy on lesser thieves and steal their loot and Illyrio would serve as a broker with the victims and promise to recover their belongings for a fee. Soon, the whole city knew to come to Illyrio if something was missing, while half the thieves in the city began approaching Varys to sell him what they had stolen. Soon, Varys and Illyrio were rich, and they took their game to the next level. Varys began recruiting orphan boys and young girls that were quick and quiet, taught then to read, and set them loose in the city to steal secrets from letters, ledgers, and charts. He called them his "little mice." Illyrio grew so respectable that a cousin of the prince of the city allowed him to marry his daughter and thus enter the upper crust of Pentosh society, while Varys attracted the attention of a paranoid king1 who did not trust his son,2 his wife,3 or his Hand, a childhood friend that had become arrogant and overproud.4

Illyrio goes to sleep, so Tyrion drinks and thinks. When he was a child, he had always dreamed of owning a dragon. One year, he asked his uncles for a dragon for his nameday. Gerion just laughed, but Tygett told him the dragons were all dead. He thought that so unfair that he cried himself to sleep that night. Now, however, there are three dragons in the world again. Tyrion falls asleep thinking of dragons, and when he wakes, the litter has reached a Valyrian road, broad and straight. The Valyrians had extended their control all the way to Dragonstone, but they never tried to invade Westeros. Tyrion thinks that odd, because even though the wealth of the continent was concentrated further west, the Valyrians had dragons and must have been aware of it. Tyrion has a closer look at the road as the party continues and sees that it is not made of dirt or brick or cobble but of fused stone. Unlike the narrow tracks of Westeros, it is wide enough for three wagons abreast and shows no sign of deterioration or aging some four hundred years after the Doom.

Illyrio states that his news of Daenerys is old and stale, but that fresh tidings should have arrived in Volantis. They may have to alter their plans some, but Griff will know what to do. Tyrion wonders who this Griff is that Illyrio would trust him so, and the magister replies that he is a sellsword, but one he trusts like a brother. Tyrion thinks that is a mistake. Illyrio also states that the Golden Company is marching towards Volantis as well. Tyrion is shocked that Illyrio was able to get them to break their contract with Myr, but Illyrio responds that while some contracts are writ in ink, others are writ in blood. The Golden Company is renowned as the greatest of the sellsword companies and was established by Bittersteel after the failure of Daemon Blackfyre's rebellion. After Daemon perished on the Redgrass Field, many nobles who refused to bend the knee fled with Bittersteel and Daemon's younger sons across the sea. Forced to sell their swords to eat, the exiles began to scatter among the free companies such as the Ragged Standard, the Second Sons, and Maiden's Men. Bittersteel established the Golden Company to bind the exiles together. They have fought in the petty wars of the Disputed Lands ever since dreaming of home. With the Blackfyre line ended by the death of Maelys the Monstrous in the Stepstones, the company is ready to follow Daenerys and return home. Tyrion wonders what Ser Barristan will think of fighting beside the Golden Company, as he cut through a large number of them to reach and slay Maelys.

Illyrio sleeps again for a time, and when he wakes, he tells Tyrion that they are traveling through the southern marches of Andalos, the land the Andals had taken from men related to the hairy men of Ib and established their kingdom under the rule of Hugor of the Hill. The region they are traveling through is called the Flatlands in Pentos, and their journey will take them through the region and into the Velvet Hills beyond. Tyrion recounts how according to the Faith, the Father himself pulled seven stars from the heavens and set them on Hugor's brow to make a glowing crown. Illyrio is surprised that Tyrion is so devout, and the dwarf explained that he decided as a boy that since he could not be a knight, he would become High Septon instead. That goal lasted until he fell in love. Illyrio responds that he understands about love and pulls out a locket containing the painted likeness of a woman. Her name was Serra, and Illyrio found her in a Lysene pleasure house. Soon, he fell in love and married her. The gates of the prince's palace where closed to him thereafter, but he felt the price worth it. She died during an outbreak of the grey death carried to Pentos by a Braavosi ship called Treasure that killed two thousand before it ran its course. He keeps her hands in his bedchamber in remembrance.

Tyrion and Illyrio discuss the Flatlands some more. The Andals learned how to work iron from the Rhoynish who lived along the river, but there is no civilization here now. The people of the land work orchards, farms, and mines, but there are no towns because the Dothraki favor this route when they decide to pillage to the sea. Tyrion wonders why the Free Cities don't just destroy a khalasar as an object lesson, but Illyrio remarks it is cheaper to buy them off. Besides, they learned that sellswords would run from Dothraki at Qohor.5 Tyrion sleeps again for a time and dreams of a great battle on the hills of Westeros with Bittersteel beside him and dragons overhead. In the dream, he has two heads, and as he slays his father and then his brother, the second head is weeping.

When Tyrion awakes, they are still traveling through the Flatlands, but will soon reach Ghoyan Drohe on the Little Rhoyne, a ruined city of the Rhoynar destroyed by Valyrian dragons. As they pass through the Velvet Hills, Illyrio points out a circle of stones supposedly raised by giants, a deep lake supposedly haunted by the spirits of a band of robbers that pull people under the lake and devour them, and a huge Valyrian sphinx who's partner was carted off by the Dothraki back to Vaes Dothrak. That night, Tyrion gets particularly drunk and thinks of Shae and Tysha and thinks back to the last moments of his father once more before falling asleep hoping that the darkness will devour him.


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Footnotes

Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.