“Slaves,” she said, flushing. “We were his special slaves, though. Just like Sweets. His treasures.”
His pets, thought Tyrion. And he loved us so much that he sent us to the pit, to be devoured by lions.
She was not all wrong. Yezzan’s slaves ate better than many peasants back in the Seven Kingdoms and were less like to starve to death come winter. Slaves were chattels, aye. They could be bought and sold, whipped and branded, used for the carnal pleasure of their owners, bred to make more slaves. In that sense they were no more than dogs or horses. But most lords treated their dogs and horses well enough. Proud men might shout that they would sooner die free than live as slaves, but pride was cheap. When the steel struck the flint, such men were rare as dragon’s teeth; elsewise the world would not have been so full of slaves. There has never been a slave who did not choose to be a slave, the dwarf reflected. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.
Tyrion Lannister did not except himself. His tongue had earned him some stripes on the back in the beginning, but soon enough he had learned the tricks of pleasing Nurse and the noble Yezzan. Jorah Mormont had fought longer and harder, but he would have come to the same place in the end.
And Penny, well …
Penny had been searching for a new master since the day her brother Groat had lost his head. She wants someone to take care of her, someone to tell her what to do.
The old man was not convinced. “Ah, they found corpses by the hundred. They dragged them inside the pit and burned them, though half was crisp already. Might be they didn’t know her, burned and bloody and crushed. Might be they did but decided to say elsewise, to keep you slaves quiet.”
“Us slaves?” said the brown woman. “You wear a collar too.”
“Ghazdor’s collar,” the old man boasted. “Known him since we was born. I’m almost like a brother to him. Slaves like you, sweepings out of Astapor and Yunkai, you whine about being free, but I wouldn’t give the dragon queen my collar if she offered to suck my cock for it. Man has the right master, that’s better.”
Tyrion did not dispute him. The most insidious thing about bondage was how easy it was to grow accustomed to it. The life of most slaves was not all that different from the life of a serving man at Casterly Rock, it seemed to him. True, some slaveowners and their overseers were brutal and cruel, but the same was true of some Westerosi lords and their stewards and bailiffs. Most of the Yunkai’i treated their chattels decently enough, so long as they did their jobs and caused no trouble … and this old man in his rusted collar, with his fierce loyalty to Lord Wobblecheeks, his owner, was not at all atypical.
A slave’s choice is between bondage and death. There is always this choice. Is it basically different than the choice Dany presented to the slaves she freed? I don’t think so because the options Dany served them are basically the same. She is the right master these former slaves feel proud to serve.
“Missandei is no longer a slave. I free you, from this instant. Come ride with me in the litter, I wish to talk.” Rakharo helped them in, and Dany drew the curtains shut against the dust and heat. “If you stay with me you will serve as one of my handmaids,” she said as they set off. “I shall keep you by my side to speak for me as you spoke for Kraznys. But you may leave my service whenever you choose, if you have father or mother you would sooner return to.”
“This one will stay,” the girl said. “This one . . . I . . . there is no place for me to go. This . . . I will serve you, gladly.”
“I can give you freedom, but not safety,” Dany warned. “I have a world to cross and wars to fight. You may go hungry. You may grow sick. You may be killed.”
Dany gave Missandei her "freedom" but the only realistic option for her was to stick with Dany and serve her.
Dany had left Astapor in the hands of a council of former slaves led by a healer, a scholar, and a priest. Wise men all, she thought, and just. Yet even so, tens of thousands preferred to follow her to Yunkai, rather than remain behind in Astapor. I gave them the city, and most of them were too frightened to take it.
Was it because you took all the fighting force with you? How were they supposed to defend themselves against the slaving cities surrounding them? The ruling system Dany left behind was such a farce that a butcher was able to grab the power for himself.
Grey Worm had remained Grey Worm. When she asked him why, he said, “It is a lucky name. The name this one was born to was accursed. That was the name he had when he was taken for a slave. But Grey Worm is the name this one drew the day Daenerys Stormborn set him free.”
Grazdan shrugged expansively. “If blood is what you wish, let it flow. I am told you have freed your eunuchs. Freedom means as much to an Unsullied as a hat to a haddock.”
You are free to do what? What can an Unsullied do instead of being a slave?
“They are expert in all the erotic arts as well. I had thought to make Your Grace a gift of them.”
“By all means.” Dany was unsurprised. “I shall free them.”
That made him wince. “And what would they do with freedom? As well give a fish a suit of mail. They were made to dance.”
“Made by who? Their masters? Perhaps your dancers would sooner build or bake or farm. Have you asked them?”
“Perhaps your elephants would sooner be nightingales. Instead of sweet song, Meereen’s nights would be filled with thunderous trumpetings, and your trees would shatter beneath the weight of great grey birds.”
Dany, have you asked any of your slaves before you gave them “freedom”? What kind of job openings do you plan to create for former erotic dancers? Digging ditches?
The slave sailors off the Selaesori Qhoran, sold singly, had gone for prices ranging from five hundred to nine hundred pieces of silver. Seasoned seamen were a valuable commodity. None had put up any sort of fight when the slavers boarded their crippled cog. For them this was just a change of owner. The ship’s mates had been free men, but the widow of the waterfront had written them a binder, promising to stand their ransom in such a case as this. The three surviving fiery fingers had not been sold yet, but they were chattels of the Lord of Light and could count on being bought back by some red temple. The flames tattooed upon their faces were their binders.
For the Unsullied as well. It was just a change of owner. Just like Penny is looking for a new master.
“Who is that weeping?”
“Your slave Missandei.” Jhiqui had a taper in her hand.
“My servant. I have no slaves.”
“Should I pleasure the khaleesi?”
Dany stepped away from her. “No. Irri, you do not need to do that. What happened that night, when you woke . . . you’re no bed slave, I freed you, remember? You . . .”
“I am handmaid to the Mother of Dragons,” the girl said. “It is great honor to please my khaleesi.”
Looks like Dany’s revolution is not penetrating deep into flesh. Given that Dany used Irri as a bed slave (Irri of dutiful kisses); small wonder Jhiqui has such slips.
The poor wretch [Jorah] had returned too late. Daenerys Targaryen was wed, the guards on the pens had told them, laughing. She had taken a Meereenese slaver as her king, as wealthy as he was noble, and when the peace was signed and sealed the fighting pits of Meereen would open once again. Other slaves insisted that the guards were lying, that Daenerys Targaryen would never make peace with slavers. Mhysa, they called her. Someone told him that meant Mother. Soon the silver queen would come forth from her city, smash the Yunkai’i, and break their chains, they whispered to one another.
All of the entertainers were slaves. That had been part of the peace, that slaveowners be allowed the right to bring their chattels into Meereen without fear of having them freed. In return the Yunkai’i had promised to respect the rights and liberties of the former slaves that Dany had freed. A fair bargain, Hizdahr said, but the taste it left in the queen’s mouth was foul. She drank another cup of wine to wash it out.
Dany’s peace with the Harpy eroded her presumed role as Mhysa. Poor slaves. Dany first ignited their hopes for freedom and then she betrayed their hopes by marrying a slaver and becoming a lapdog for the Harpy.