So. In my upcoming review, I make a side-mention about how odd it would be to see Philip Roth writing in the fantasy genre. “No one wants to read about dragons with mother issues” is the exact phrasing.
Well, somehow, in between sending it to my editor and now, it got to the desk of George R. R. Martin. Turns out that Roth was actually tapped for writing a guest chapter in A Dance with Dragons a few years ago. Though it was cut, Martin kept the first draft of Roth’s submitted chapter and was kind enough to forward it my way on the condition that I not share it with anyone.
I remember the old neighborhood—well, as close to a neighborhood as my two brothers and I saw; it’s not like we would ever have your typical neighborhood, being the outsiders we were. This might be the time to say that our chambers were warm and cozy, but when you’re one of us, there’s not a lot that’s not warm. Cozy, well, that depends on how long you’re in a small space. But I digress.
Mother loved us. That much was clear. And we loved her. That much was clear. Ever been trapped inside an egg for a century and a half? You’d love the first person who figured out how to hatch you, too. I mean, come on, it’s not that hard. The words on the banner are “Fire and blood.” It’s a freaking instruction manual, there. Get out of town.
So, yeah, maybe I overstepped some bounds, eating some lambs. But there wasn’t any need to do what they did to me. I was one of her kids. I was the senior amongst her kids. I was Absalom in her eyes, and what happens? Kicked out.
“You need to keep it under control,” Viserion, the albino freak, said. “Just let em feed you. It’s no big deal. Just wait. I heard Ma talking to that weird guy—y’know, the one who dyes his hair—saying that we were going to cross an ocean.”
“What do I want with an ocean?” I asked, beating my wings in the air. “Oceans. You know what makes up oceans, Viserion? Water. Gayn cacken afn yahm.”
“I’m not doing that,” he said. “Trust me, Drogon. This is the life.”
“Yeah,” chimed in Rhaegal, the green-skinned lacky. He was the one of us that I thought was interchangeable. The Curly, you know? Who wants to look at a green dragon? It’s cliché. Albino, sure, it’s got a bit of a freak value to it, but green—nu, you don’t freak out over a green lizard cause that’s the norm. I mean, yeah, Rhaeg had a bit of an overbite, but that wasn’t anything to get worked up about. But anyway, I guess he’s one of the three of us, the great minority, and so everyone “Ooh”s and “Aah”s at him just as much as me or Viserion. Doesn’t deserve it, though. “Yeah. Cows, Drogon. Cows. You won’t find cows out there in the wild, I don’t think.”
“No, but I can find horses, lambs, sheep, rams, deer, alligator, hell, yesterday I think I saw an auroch.”
“Get outta town,” Rhaegal said, sparks flying out of his nostrils. “A fucking auroch? Viserion, you hear that? Droggy saw an auroch.”
I spewed fire in the air. One of the curtains caught aflame and one of Ma’s handmaids rushed over and beat it out. “Don’t fucking call me Droggy. Jesus. How insulting can you be? You seen my wingspan? Do I look like a whelp anymore?”
“Gosh, Drogon, I didn’t mean nothing.”
“Of course you didn’t. You don’t have the mental capacity to mean anything by it.”
I guess you should know by now that we were in that city with the pyramids. Had the bird-woman on the top of them. I hated the way that city smelled. It smelled off. Sweat, that I can deal with, but bad perfume over the sweat—that’s something no self-respecting, well, anything should have to deal with. And that’s the smell that pervaded every square inch of that city. Trust me, I should know. I flew around the pyramids, the markets, down streets, above streets, above that big damn pit, flew all around it. That stench was everywhere. Almost made me sick. At least Mother kept the chambers smelling nice. There was sweat, yeah, but there wasn’t anything trying to mask it. Spices whenever food was served, the best damn still-living lambs I ever had were served off in one of the side-rooms. But it wasn’t enough.
“Why do you do it, anyway?” asked Viserion.
“Because I’m not content just to be some damn ornament sitting around while humans scrabble back and forth and stab one another.”
“No, I get that, but you’re acting like we never did anything. Need I remind you that we massacred an entire army of slavers?”
I snorted. “Yeah, after Mom tried to sell us to those slavers.”
“For someone who’s supposedly the smartest one of use, you’re the dumbest piece of shit that ever lived,” Viserion said.
I let out a screech and buffeted my wings, smacked him upside the head. “Yeah,” he said, “that’s great, act out like a child. You don’t bother listening to anything going on around you, do you? That was a ploy. A ploy to get us into action.”
I folded my wings against my torso. “That makes it better,” I said. “Pawns in some game.”
Viserion shrugged. “Worse things to be. At least we’re feared.”
“Feared. Ha. You don’t want fear. You want respect.”
“Why should I want respect? Look at all we’ve got out of fear. All that took was burning a few people to cinders. Nothing. I wasn’t even tired after it was done.”
“But you were hungry. And that’s why I am the way I am. I acknowledge what I am and what I’m supposed to do. None of this hanging around like a dog, waiting to be fed. No. That’s not the way you and I—or even Rhaegal—are supposed to live. We’re supposed to command respect from people, to soar, and to hunt. What are we doing? We’re lounging around, stunted, waiting for something to be given to us.”
We had this argument at least five times a week. Without fail, we had this argument. It was one of the things we were good at, us brothers. Viserion truly believed that a life as a court oddity was worth living. (Rhaegal, for the record, agreed with whichever one of us was shouting the loudest. I wouldn’t ask him to be a hunting partner. Don’t think he could handle quickly making decisions. You know I caught him grinning at the big brown guy a couple times? Disgusting. Dragons don’t grin, even at people who seem okay.)
It started when we were in those damn ships, confined and freaking out from too much time spent in one place. Did something to our cohesion as a family, you know? This thing wasn’t an issue before we were dragged on those fucking boats. Before then, we didn’t have to worry about losing balance, tumbling overboard and maybe going up in a puff of steam because our wings were cramped.
I pointed out the obvious, because that’s the way my mind is. Clear, you know? I told my brothers that they could go up on deck, shake it off, and go flying around. Mother wouldn’t mind; we were her kids and she wanted us happy. But they didn’t. They were afraid of Mom, and afraid of the guys with the arrows around deck. Assimilationists, I called them. Those who would willingly give up their nature to fit in with the expectations of those around them. So, I flew.
I wasn’t someone who believed in assimilation.
Then came the battle outside the stinking city. I was nipping at the bud to get out there and burn down some people, maybe torch some gates. But—because she started displaying some disturbingly protective desires—Mom decided to not let us bet the weapon she needed. We were kept back, and I was enraged. Viserion, of course, took her side, thinking that it was all for the best. Rhaegal took my view, but that’s because I was bellowing and the flames were burning hot that day.
We watched as the city fell—of course—but languished. They call us dragons, but right then, we were more like dogs. Exotic dogs, don’t get me wrongs, but still, lackeys waiting at our master’s beck and call. I think that’s when I hit the breaking point of not giving a damn. If there was a two-way street between Mom and us, then I would have been fine, but there wasn’t. It was a one-way thing in her mind—and Viserion believed that such was the way it should have been. The nancy boy.
Sometimes Rhaegal would tell me that Viserion had his doubts at everything and that, sometimes, when I was out hunting, the albino would say that I was right, and respect was more important than fear. But, I say, if a person acts like a patsy and talks the part of a patsy, then they’re a patsy—no matter if they mutter that those of us with some damn sense are in the right.
I never killed a kid. Never burned a human. You know, besides the slavers. I don’t know why they said I did. Maybe it was because they knew that I was the one of us who wanted to keep our dignity about us, who remembered what it meant to sit at the top of the food chain. Maybe it was a way to get rid of Mom. I sure as hell wasn’t ready to get my head chopped off—or thrown in a pit—for her after all that had happened.
So I flew. Again. Launched off the pyramid and went away from that stinking city full of men with twitchy eyes. No sense in hanging around.
I lingered for a bit, though. Heard Viserion and Rhaegal be led to the bowels of one of those pyramids. Two minds about it. First off, they deserved it. A good, valuable lesson about what they were doing to themselves—after all, it was all of their refusal to acknowledge their own glory by virtue of being born as what they were that led them to be chained up in a pit.
But then again, what kind of brother was I to let them wind up there? I should have stopped them, snatched up the humans that held the chains and thus freed my brothers. Mother wouldn’t have been happy, no, but there wasn’t a lot I could otherwise do.
Other than run away, that is. Shit. It was a hard time, okay?
So I hunted. I lived in the moment and called back to my roots. Those people who worship horses, they started knowing me by sight and knew that to stay around when I flew overhead was suicide. At least the smart ones did.
But all the while, at the back of my head, neat the horns, was the knowledge that my brothers were in chains and that my Mom probably wasn’t in the best of straits. It nibbled at me. The mother bit more than my brothers, admittedly. That got to be a little disturbing, I can tell you. No one wants to be constantly hit with reminders of their parents—especially when you don’t know your father and your mother isn’t of your species.
Thinking about that little nugget cost me a few ripe little lambs. Add that to the list of grievances.
But one day, I caught the smell and sounds of something happening back in the stinking city. Seemed different from the other stuff, so I went and checked it out. Well, I shouldn’t have been surprised when, after I landed in that pit, all of the humans went crazy and tried to kill me.
Except for my mother.
Who decided to climb on my back and cling to my neck when I took off.
Now, my Mom’s living in my place. Well, she was. Then she ran off. I guess I’m a disappointment because I’m not a pushover. This is what happens when you make an identity for yourself. Remember that. Everyone despises you for it.