Actions

Work Header

An Empire of Ice and Fire

Chapter Text

A/N: Hi everyone. First time writing for Game of Thrones, so don't be too hard on me, lol. I had this idea for a while and finally decided to write it.

Be sure to comment and let me know what you think :D

CHAPTER ONE

Slicing through the still air, a decent warmth yet joined by a cooling breeze even during summer, the arrow impacted directly into the center of the target. Only, it wasn’t that of the young nobleman practicing. Little Arya took a bow, clutching her own bow - leading Bran to chase after her while the older boys laughed. Life may not have been perfect for the Stark clan, but it came close sometimes.

“Alright lads,” cautioned Ser Rodrick. “Clean up dis mess before you head inside!” Both Robb Stark and Jon Snow complied, knowing the drill.

Grabbing a trio of arrows, Jon couldn’t help but glance up to catch a glimpse of his father. The lone bastard in the brood of Starks, even the slightly pampered life of an acknowledged son couldn’t make up for the missing affection provided to his half-siblings. Lord Eddard Stark loved all his children, and Jon cherished any bit of fatherly pride he gave him. Eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Brother, why are father and Lady Stark arguing?” Catelyn Stark made sure he knew of her distaste for him.

Robb looked up himself, frowning. “This does not look good. They rarely argue like this.” The Realm was at peace, so it was rare that disputes led to such contention between the Lord and Lady of Winterfell. Even the death of Catelyn’s father hadn’t done so, her brother Edmure taking the control of the Riverlands rather easily. “I guess we’ll find out when we find out.”

“I guess we will, brother,” Jon replied, averting his eyes upon Lady Stark’s death glare sent at him.

Tearing her gaze from Jon Snow - her husband’s bastard, the living reminder of the shame the normally honorable Warden of the North brought down upon her - Catelyn turned back to her husband. “And why in the name of the Old Gods must you do this?” She tried to keep her voice down, feeling it wise not to draw attention to their quarrel.

Worry lines deepened on the brooding vestige of Lord Ned Stark. “I don’t have a choice Catelyn. It is my responsibility to see this through.”

“But to disappear from the North to journey across the sea? Not a day after we found out Jon Arryn passed away? You cannot leave Winterfell now.”

“We have been at peace for over a decade, Cat.”

“Times are uncertain now. Ned. All I ask is that you stay. Lord Karstark can see to this. It is his deal that he must follow through on, his people at stake after all.”

Ned frowned, slightly stunned that Catelyn would minimize his duty. “Lord Karstark would do this, but the merchants in Pentos would only treat with the Warden of the North for something of this magnitude.”

“But it is not your responsibility.” Lady Stark had inherited the Tully stubbornness after all.

“I am Warden of the North, therefore it is my responsibility.” He remembered the raven from Karhold, telling him of the outbreak of blight. Karstark and his men had eradicated it, but with the result of destroying the current years crop - they had to get more or else there would be starvation in their lands or a depletion of stores for winter. “There is nowhere else for Karhold to get grain this late in the harvest season.”

Catelyn grasped his arm. “If this were the Vale, or even the Westernlands I’d understand, but Pentos? You can’t travel all the way to Essos simply to oversee a shipment of grain. Send one of your trusted men, or even Ser Rodrick!” she pleaded.

“I gave Lord Karstark my word, and a Stark’s word is his bond.” He felt hurt seeing the steely look in his beloved’s eyes. “Myself and my son will sail for Pentos before the end of the week.” Ned might as well drop the other bombshell on his wife.

“You’re taking Robb to Pentos too? I see no reason why both you and your heir should leave.” If something happened to both of them then Bran would have to assume the Lordship, and he was far too young.

Ned looked down at his two sons, laughing as they put away the archery equipment. How he loved them both, even if only one was his trueborn. “No. Robb will stay here and manage affairs in my name. It is time he get true experience in being a Lord.” The second born that he was had won his experience during the furious conflict of Robert’s Rebellion. “I will take Jon.”

As he expected, Catelyn visibly recoiled as if a fire had engulfed the space between them. “Your bastard?! Why would you soil yourself with him?” she hissed.

“The circumstances of his birth are immaterial. He is my… blood of my blood.” Ned hated further dishonoring himself, but he simply had to do so. For everyone he knew and loved. “I need someone strong and trustworthy to assist me on this voyage and Jon is the best choice.”

“How could you insult me this way, Ned?” Her piercing gaze returned to Jon Snow, putting away the last of the arrows. He looked up and met Catelyn’s eyes once more, feeling the radiating contempt. “First you bring him to Winterfell, humiliating your faithful wife with proof of your adultery. And now you grant him the full privilege of being your son when we all know full well that he is no such thing.”

‘Aye, he is not,’ Ned thought, sighing inwardly. He hated fighting with Catelyn, but Jon was a constant source of disagreement - to put it mildly. “Look Cat, I understand Jon isn’t your favorite person.” She huffed and crossed her arms, averting her gaze. “But long ago I made a promise that I would take care of him no matter what. He is my blood and I love him as… just as much as I do Robb, Sansa, and all the others.” It warmed his heart that his eldest and three youngest accepted Jon with open hearts, though he wished Sansa wouldn’t be as cold. “He has no birthright. No prospects for anything other than the skills he can bring to bear for this House.”

“Your bastard,” she spat, “Can join your brother at the Wall. We all know that he wants to. There is no more perfect place for him that the Night’s Watch.” To tell the truth she had been looking forward to the day when he would be shipped off there, never to be seen again by her or anyone.

Ned’s heart broke, thinking of Jon at the Wall. “He could, aye, but what if it isn’t his destiny. Seeing new places and learning new skills would be good for him, give him a new outlook on life.” Wanting more for his son than a dreary life at the Wall, an exile to the end of the world nor befitting what a great man Jon was, Ned knew he was grasping at straws but willing to try. “It is decided, Cat. I am taking Jon to Pentos, that is final.” Catching the pained look on his beloved’s face, Ned hated to hurt her but knew it needed to be done.

********

The cool sea breeze whipped Jon’s matted hair behind him, counteracting the unhindered rays of the summer sun. He rested his hands on the caravel’s railing, watching the vast expanse of dark blue water as far as the eye could see - no land having been in sight since leaving White Harbor and the open arms of House Manderly. He smirked, having rather enjoyed being part of the festivities for a change.

Looking back at the hustle and bustle of the Manderly crew - the aging Lord Wyman more than happy to provide his fastest ship for the great Ned Stark - Jon knew there would be much to enjoy about this journey. Sure he missed his siblings, even Sansa though he doubted she returned such feelings, but being away from the presence of Lady Stark and the other longtime stalwarts of House Stark was more than welcome. Here, out on the open sea he was not Jon Snow, the Bastard of Winterfell. He was the son of Lord Eddard Stark, Warden of the North and Wolf of the Trident. His idol, along with his Uncle Benjen.

“Such an amazing sight, isn’t it?” Jon was interrupted out of his thoughts by the presence of his father, joining him on his right. “Living inland, we don’t get this sort of view.”

“Aye.” Despite knowing his father loved him, Jon still felt sort of cowed in his presence. Seemingly sensing the thoughts, Ned reached out and clasped the lad’s shoulders, giving them a fatherly shake. Jon couldn’t help but grin. “Being away from the North for the first time, seeing everything, it puts things into perspective doesn’t it?”

“That it does son, that it does.” Jon’s heart skipped a beat at being called ‘son.’ With the life he had, a bastard took whatever affection sent his way with open arms. “Jon…” he turned and looked at his father, studying him. The normally proud Eddard Stark seemed… conflicted. Pensive even. As if he was fighting within himself.

Protocol dictated that a bastard call his father by his title - yet, it was just him and his father, no one else to contradict or scold him over it. “Yes, father?”

Opening his mouth, nothing came out. Luckily for his dignity, a yipping ball of white fur bailed Ned Stark out. The Warden of the North glanced down to find Jon’s new dire wolf - the runt of the litter - begging for attention. “I see your new child is calling you,” he said in a rare moment of jest.

Jon laughed and hefted up the pup. “What’s wrong Ghost? Let’s see if the ship’s kitchen has something for you.” The pup wagged his tail excitedly as his master led him away.

As soon as Jon was out of sight Ned let out a breath that he didn’t realize that he’d been holding. ‘Was I just about to tell him…” He shook his head. Now was not the time, never the time. Ned Stark knew it in his bones that trouble was on its way, and the status quo was the safest for all.

The ship turned south, making course for Pentos.

********

Blinking her eyes, the silver-haired young girl didn’t think she heard him correctly. “I’m sorry, brother. I don’t think I understood what you were saying.” If it was what she thought it to be, then the barely-eaten lamb and vegetable milieu in the style of Western Essos didn’t look as appetizing.

Viserys laughed, a piercing, cruel laugh - as if he enjoyed his sister’s confusion and dejection. “Well of course you didn’t understand me, sweet sister. A weak and frail woman wouldn’t understand the schemings of her male betters.” He speared a cube of meat in his fork, scarfing it down his skinny gullet. Unlike what the stories said of the toned, muscular Crown Prince Rhaegar, his younger brother was as skinny as a reed. However, he had enough haughtiness to spare. “I shall go slower for you, though. For the first time in our wretched life you shall be of use to me, sister.”

Hands in her lap, Daenerys Targaryen avoided looking at her older brother. If she looked ungrateful then he would undoubtedly ‘Awaken the Dragon.’ That she grasped that he only had done so to those weaker than him - mostly women - was something he failed to see. “There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do to be of use to you, dear brother.”

She felt his clammy hand cup her cheek, forcing her to look up. “That is good, because our near term plans have changed. It is not I that you will marry in the near term.”

This did surprise Dany - as her mother had once called her in the few hours they had known each other. As with their parents, and grandparents before them, Targaryens had largely upheld the custom of Aegon the Conqueror to marry siblings. Keep the bloodline pure, even though the Targaryen blood joined that of the Baratheons and Lannisters in its strength. Though she would have done it for her family, inside Dany was relieved that it was not to happen. Then a thought hit her. “Who… who am I to marry?”

A sickening grin - more hyena than Dragon - formed on Viserys’ face. “The Khal of the Dothraki barbarians. You for an army to put me back on the Iron Throne. My birthright.”

Daenerys had to bite her lip to keep from screaming.

“I am not happy with this arrangement Illyrio,” Ned Stark ground out, his lips pursed in a dark glower. His northern clothes baked in the heat of the Essos sun, sensing that Jon would join him in relief to head inside. For now, his annoyance at the merchant distracted him from the discomfort. “You were supposed to have the grain ready yesterday morning. I don’t see enough to fit even one silo.”

Hands clasped together underneath the flowing red/yellow shift, Illyrio Mopatis snorted. “It is not I that controls the weather, Lord Stark. Nor do I have any control over the slaves that grow the wheat. Pentos has trouble feeding itself for now.” Given the thick neck and flabby belly underneath the scraggly, braided beard and flowing garments, Jon observed, the Master of the Pentos Merchants Guild had no trouble procuring enough food for his table.

His father was having none of it. Ned was normally even tempered - even when executing the deserter from the Night’s Watch, Jon hadn’t seen him bat an eyelash. Now though… “We had an agreement,” Ned seethed. “I will not let Karkold starve on my watch.” A smirk found its way onto Jon’s face watching his father grip the hilt of his sword. A move seen by all.

Gulping, Illyrio backtracked with a beaming smile on his face. “But of course, Lord Stark. Forgive me. We have been working at a vigorous pace to fill Lord Karstark’s order, but it will take more time than we expected.”

Letting go of the sword, Ned let out a deep breath, calming himself. “And how much more time will we need?”

“A month, give or take a week… the harvest at Karkold, limited it may be, can last for that long if my estimates are correct,” the merchant hastily added.

Sharing a look with Jon, who merely shrugged, Ned knew this was the best he could do. Illyrio was right, Karkold’s harvest would hold. It wasn’t what he desired, but… “Alright. But given the order of this magnitude, I will oversee that you fulfil the amounts that you promised. Both myself and my son, Jon.”

Having been preoccupied observing the strange sights of Essos, Jon immediately turned back to his father. ‘Not Jon Snow, or my bastard… but Jon.” Essentially, Eddard Stark had claimed him as his son without clarification. Suppressing outward emotion, inside Jon was beaming.

“Of course,” Illyrio conceded, bowing slightly to the Warden of the North and personal friend of the King of Westros. “As a sign of my apologies for the delay, allow me to offer you and your son the use of two of my spare bedrooms. My house is at your service, and there is more than enough room to house both you and my other guests.”

Both northerners raised a single brow. “Other guests?” Ned inquired. The merchant guilds - and the bankers guild in Braavos - were the most powerful organizations in the free cities. Illyrio, who commanded his guild, wouldn’t open his home to just anyone.

The smile on the oily merchant’s face was disconcerting to Jon. This was not a man to trust. “Right this way, Lord Stark.” He guided Ned into the atrium of the mansion, Jon following close behind. “Allow me to introduce you to my other honored guests…” He stopped, smile widening. “Ah, there she is now.” Color drained from Ned’s face at the first glimpse of silver hair.

Sitting by herself at the fountain, Daenerys still hadn’t processed what her brother told her. ‘The Dothraki.’ All in the known world knew of them, the barbarians on horseback. Terrors and land pirates that built nothing - only sowing destruction in their wake. She was so consumed with her thoughts that she didn’t spot the two northerners until they were nearly upon her. Clearly Westerosi, one sported the hardened, weathered looks of an experienced fighter while the other - was far younger and far more handsome. Dany blushed, looking away.

She was beautiful. In all his life, Jon had never seen such an exquisite woman. But why was his father so ashen upon seeing her?

Illyrio would soon dispel any doubt. “Lord Stark, allow me to introduce Princess Daenerys of House Targaryen.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

“I will not stand for this!” Daenerys heard some kind of wooden trinket or case crash against the wall. To say that her brother took Lord Stark’s arrival badly was an understatement. “To allow one of the Usurper’s dogs into the same home as me, his rightful king!” Yet another enraged yell left his throat, this time not joined by something shattering.

“Calm down, your Grace,” Illyrio cautioned, staying back and letting the prince let out his anger. “His arrival here is but a coincidence, due to business dealings I have with one of his vassal lords…”

Viserys chuckled darkly. “Do you think I can give two shits about your business, Illyrio? No, the effrontery of him to even grace his presence around me while still bending the knee for Robert the Usurper is what angers me. And to bring a bastard into my presence…”

Dany’s ears perked up at the even passing mention of the handsome young man accompanying Lord Stark. ‘He is a bastard?’ Though such distinctions were less imposing in Essos than her native land, it still surprised her that such a high nobleman would essentially treat a bastard in the same vein as a trueborn child. Such spoke volumes about Eddard Stark, or this Jon Sta… Snow - as was the traditional northern bastard name - or perhaps both.

For some reason the young girl felt a need to defend him from her brother’s insults. “Viserys, it is not this young man’s fault he was born a bas… eeek.” A strangled breath left Dany’s lips as she was pressed into a wall, stone digging into her back while her brother’s hand was wrapped around her neck. “Did I say you could talk, sweet sister?” He hissed. “Do not wake the dragon!” With that, Viserys let go, causing her to crumple on the floor.

Sensing a need to calm the situation - Daenerys was no good to anyone severely injured - Illyrio jumped in. “Do not worry, your Grace. Lord Stark may be on the side of King Robert…”

“Robert the Usurper! I am the King, do you understand!”

The merchant gritted his teeth. “Yes forgive me. But while Lord Stark has his loyalty to the Usurper the people of the North still drink secret toasts to your name. He would be a fool to be anything but respectful of you.” That Ned Stark always conducted himself with honor and respect regardless of oaths and loyalty could be left out, as was the North’s hatred of the Targaryen name.

It seemed to mollify the angry prince, who merely huffed. “If that is the case then I will tolerate his presence, but if he sullies my good name with that half-blood bastard then things will be different.” Viserys stormed off, Illyrio behind him.

Curled up against the wall, one hand soothing her sore neck, Dany fought the tears that were threatening to fall. “I am the blood of the dragon,” she whispered to herself. “A dragon does not cry.” It wasn’t the first time Viserys abused her, nor would it be the last. Truth be told, this was mild compared to some of the enraged tantrums he had taken out on her. ‘It is not kindness,’ she quickly thought. ‘A bruise would lessen my worth to the Dothraki… and lower his standing in front of the Starks.’ To not even allow herself to imagine her brother had any kind or loving feelings for her hurt Dany worse than any blow, but a lifetime on the run from assassins and poverty quickly killed any idea of harboring denial.

“I am the blood of the dragon.”

It was at that moment a voice reached her ear, a voice from outside. One that she had only heard once in the atrium just this morning. Standing on shaky feet, she made her way to the open window to see the handsome young man playing with a white pup. The Bastard of Winterfell.

Jon Snow.

‘He looks much better, smiling,’ Dany couldn’t help but think. However, something drew his gaze to where she stood, and for a second their eyes locked before she ducked back away from the window - a bright red blush adorned her pale cheeks.

Sighing, Jon looked away from the now empty window to where his dire wolf sat, tail wagging. “Well Ghost. Think a girl like that would ever think me more than a bastard?” Ghost cocked his head to one side, tongue swiping over his nose. “That’s what I figured.”

*****************

Of all the far-fetched contingencies Ned Stark had imagined were waiting for him in Pentos, seeing the two remaining children of the Mad King wasn’t one of them. Robert was not going to like this if he found out. The King of the Seven Kingdoms trusted Ned with his life, but was irrational when it came to the Targaryens. ‘I will have to stop by King’s Landing on the way home, break the news personally of this visit.’ If Robert knew the whole story then he was bound to understand. Ned knew that it was only he that could have gotten away with it, though.

Eyes catching a glimpse of the princess… ‘She looks just like her mother, more beautiful even.’ He still remembered Rhealla, silver hair lustrous with the Targaryen graceful beauty on that fateful day. The Grand Tourney that started everything. It was as if Ned saw a ghost, but he would have to shove that aside. He was the mighty Warden of the North. No man worth his salt would insult a host’s gracious invitation to a feast in his honor.

Convincing Jon to let go of his emotions was a whole other story. “Father, do you know what they did to our family?” the 16-year old hissed. The classic stubbornness of youth, along with a bullheaded nature clearly from his mother - it made Ned want to smile in fond recollection, but he bit it back. Now wasn’t the time. “I will not treat with the Mad King’s son.”

“Aye, our family suffered at the Mad King’s hands,” Ned conceded. The fact that Jon omitted the Princess was not lost on him. “But that was the Mad King’s doing. Viserys was but a child, and Daenerys was merely a bump in her mother’s belly.” Jon opened his mouth to protest when Ned placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Believe me son, I hate the Mad King for what he did. But what did I teach you and Robb about judging a man’s character?”

Jon’s face softened. “An honorable man always looks at what a person is, not what his family has done.” It was the Stark way. Ned’s way. He taught his children well. “I see your point father. I will give the Prince and... Princess my respect.”

Ned smiled at his son. “Good. I’m proud of you, Jon.” He eyed him over, truly taking in what a strapping young man Jon had become. The boy deserved more - it was his failure that he hadn’t gotten it. “I couldn’t ask for a better son.”

Unused to such praise, Jon merely smiled at his father. The smile turned into a nervous frown. “Father.” He struggled with the boldness to ask what he had always died to know. “Tell me about my mother, please.”

‘Of course he would ask.’ Ned would have been shocked had Jon not. But he couldn’t tell him, not now.

‘He deserves to know something,’ a voice in his head cajoled.

‘It is too risky, especially in these times.’ The Warden of the North settled on a compromise. “That is for another time, Jon. But I promise you, your mother loved you very much. More than anything in the world.” It was the truth. She did love Jon. Watching tears start to form in Jon’s eyes, Ned smacked him affectionately on the shoulders. “Now come on lad. A Stark is never late.”

‘Back to seeing ghosts,’ he couldn’t help but think.

**************

It certainly felt different being in the center of the attention. Given Lady Stark’s disposition towards him, Jon usually spent any major feast or dinner out of the main hall. He’d eat in the kitchens, Robb or Arya keeping him company when he was lucky, and spend the festivities letting out the anger and bitterness through training. Now though, here he was, sitting right next to his father at the head table as merchant after merchant passed by to address the Warden of the North and the other honored guests.

Jon knew he occupied the most junior position, the far left edge, on the table but he didn’t care. It felt great to eat next to his beloved father, who at the moment had a fake, reserved smile plastered on his face as a drunk merchant with terrible teeth began asking about the battle of the Trident. Hearing a loud snort further down the table, Jon quickly understood why his father refused. Sitting to Illyrio’s right was Viserys Targaryen, staring daggers and both him and Ned. Spotting him, the prince’s face turned revolted and shifted to talk to Illyrio - as if a bastard wasn’t worth his time. It didn’t bother Jon, he was used to it from Lady Stark, Ser Rodrik, and to a lesser extent Sansa.

To Viserys’ right a small figure of silver-blonde hair leaned forward. Princess Daenerys. Remembering the incident with the balcony, and what his father had told him right before the feast, Jon sent what he figured was his warmest smile. Something he only reserved for Arya and his other siblings. To his credit, Daenerys responded with a smile of her own. Jon decided at that moment that she looked best when she smiled, though why it mattered to him did cross his mind.

“Lord Stark!” boomed another rather boisterous - and clearly drunk - merchant with a beard twice the length of Illyrio’s. “What an honor it is to see the Wolf of the Trident himself!” Hoisting his mug in the air, a green look washed over him as his eyes bugged out and he ran for a small antechamber in the corner of the hall. A smirk crossed Ned’s face and Jon snickered, faint retching sounds audible over the cacophony.

“Is this what it’s always like in the east?” Jon asked his father in a whisper.

“No,” Ned remarked. “Only the separate room. It’s so partygoers can… void their stomachs to keep celebrating.” That statement made both burst into chuckles. “I knew plenty of feasts where a room like that would have helped King Robert.” Chuckles turned into pure laughter.

“Tell us about Dorne!’ another shouted.

“The man who defeated the Morning Swordsman single handedly,” announced another. At this, Jon’s interest was peaked. He and Robb loved hearing about their father battling Ser Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy, but had never heard it from his father personally.

A loud smack was heard through the cavernous hall. “Of course,” sneered Viserys, his speech slurred slightly from the fine Dornish wine. “The great Eddard Stark, renowned the world over for stabbing his King in the back.”

The whole hall grew quiet, even the drunkest among them knowing what was said. Ned’s face turned the stone, not a single emotion visible. Jon on the other hand grew flush with anger. “You do not know what in seven hells you are talking about, my Prince,” he sneered.

“Oh but I do, bastard.” The Prince had a smug look on his face, coupled with a rather serpent-like grin. “When my ancestor Aegon the Conqueror defeated the northern forces, Torren Stark swore fealty to him in perpetuity. For your undoubtedly feeble half-blood brain, that means that the Starks are forever sworn to the Targaryens. Your father is a vile traitor.”

Jon, even in his anger, could tell Daenerys was mortified at what was going on - similarly, she hadn’t had a drop to drink. “Brother, please. This is not…”

A sharp crack echoed out, Dany’s hand rushing up to clutch her face where Viserys had struck her. “Quiet slut!” Dany’s quiet pain made it clear this wasn’t a rare occurrence.

In any case, Jon felt fire course through him. Lord Stark had raised honorable men, and no man worth his salt ever laid a hand on a woman - Robb had pounded Theon Greyjoy to a pulp two years before just for trying. This time, Jon was more diplomatic. Slightly. “If you raise a hand against your sister again, I will cut it off,” he hissed, standing with his hand on the hilt of his sword. Daenerys stared at him with wide eyes, while her brother laughed. Jon could sense a small flash of fear though.

“Jon, that is enough. Sit down,” he heard his father say evenly. Ned Stark’s face was still stone, but his eyes blazed. Sitting, Jon knew it wasn’t directed at him. “My family, Prince Viserys, were loyal subjects of House Targaryen. However, when my brother and father pleaded with King Aerys about my sister, and he responded by burning one alive and strangling the other to death.”

The room was silent. Daenerys sat there with pure horror written on her face, the little color her pale skin had draining away. The Prince by contrast grew enraged. “LIES! Every word!”

“My oath to him died on that day, and I can tell just by looking at you that you share his honor.” He stood. “More accurately the lack of it.” Ned turned to his son. “Jon, we’re leaving. I’ve lost my appetite.”

Glad to go, Jon followed his father out of the hall. He turned for one last look at the Princess, who was close to tears at his father’s story. Perhaps he had only misjudged one of the siblings.

****************

The knocking on the door disturbed Ned from his work. Quick reflexes prevented the ink bottle from spilling on the grain manifests cluttering the intricate wooden desk. “One moment.” He hoped it wasn’t Illyrio or one of his servants, not needing the headache.

Opening the door a creak, he was surprised to see a rather subdued Daenerys Targaryen. Not the person he would have imagined being at his door so late after dinner, but then again nothing about this visit to Pentos was ordinary. “I’m sorry to bother you my Lord, but may I have a few minutes of your time.”

Though hard and somber most occasions, Ned Stark allowed her a soft smile. This girl was not like her brother, nor her father - more like her mother and brother, which was an eminently good thing in his opinion. “You are not bothering me, Princess.” He let her in, keeping the door slightly ajar. “One should rest his eyes often while writing. Please, sit down.” He motioned to the bed while sitting in his chair. While she complied, the young Targaryen remained silent. Her cheek was red with a large handprint, something that made his blood boil. “My Lady, please forgive me for my rudeness earlier.”

Biting her lip, after a few terse seconds Dany mustered the courage to speak. “No, you weren’t rude. My brother was…” She never criticized her brother, knowing what Viserys would do to her if he heard it. However, allies of the Usurper they might be, the Starks were honorable men and they didn’t deserve what happened. “He was wrong. You two are fellow guests of our host and deserve our respect.”

Ned smiled. Daenerys Targaryen had a good heart, unlike her father. While he felt she’d be a formidable ruler if given a chance - just a gut feeling, though a Stark gut was usually quite accurate - the humility and kindness precluded the Targaryen madness her father and brother had. “Thank you, my Lady.”

Smiling softly at his noble air, Dany stood. “Do you know where your son is? I’d like to let him know as well.”

“I’m not sure, I think he’s outside.”

Nodding, Dany was about to leave when one last question popped into her head. One that nearly made her shake. “Lord Stark?” She watched Ned look at her with sincere eyes. “Was it true? About my father?”

Honorable to the core, Ned couldn’t lie to her. “Yes.”

Feeling physically sick, Dany fought the tears threatening to fall from her eyes with all the fortitude of a dragon. “I’m sorry, for everything.” With that she was gone.

*****************

She found him exactly where Lord Stark had said - leaning on the railing, gazing out at the sea. Aside from the half-moon high above them the only light was a flickering lantern on the far wall, casting a low illumination. Daenerys could tell that the young man was immersed in thought. Handsome features imagining something far away from current reality.

The revelation about her father had floored the princess, adding to the whirlwind her life had taken in a mere twelve hours. ‘Sold to the Dothraki and being the daughter of a monster.’ Viserys had berated her not to “Believe the lies,” but at this point Dany felt that Ned Stark was far more trustworthy. Her brother would have thought her a fool for her need to talk to the Lord’s bastard as well, but she slowly approached him. Dany didn’t know why, but felt compelled to do so.

Reaching out to brush his shoulder, out of nowhere he jumped and batted her hand away. Dany’s eyes widened, fear spreading on her face.

Jon had been staring at the sea, not being able to get a silver-haired girl out of his mind. It wasn’t the first time he had seen a pretty girl, far from it, but his self-loathing and fear of putting another Snow in the world normally won out. So why was it this woman that couldn’t leave his thoughts? ‘Must be the fact that she is a Targaryen.’ It wasn’t every day that one comes across the legendary Dragon House. Growing up to stories of how evil and mad the family was, finding one so… innocent only made it more surreal.

It was therefore that he instinctively prepared to fight whomever disturbed him - only to find his stomach pain when seeing those waves of silver before him. “Princess.” He drew away, angry at himself for causing her much fear. “Forgive me.”

Blinking, Dany was taken aback by his piercing grey eyes. But that lasted but a second. “It is alright, my Lord. I should be more careful sneaking up to a warrior next time.” She couldn’t help but smile sheepishly.

“Aye, but you shouldn’t call me that.” He turned back to the sea. “I’m not a Lord, I am but a bastard of a Lord.” Catelyn’s words still cut him deeply from halfway around the world. He was nothing compared to the lowliest son of the lowliest lord, let alone a pure-blood Targaryen.

Dany bit her lip once more, not knowing what to say. This Jon Snow was an enigma, not much escaping the brooding, aloof exterior, but she could tell his status was a source of insecurity. She could relate, given her relationship with her brother. Looking out at the sea, she decided to ignore it. “I’m sorry for what my brother said. Even a bastard deserves respect.”

“Perhaps, but you clearly do.” His eyes were drawn to her cheek, the welt making him snarl. “I meant what I said about cutting off his hand.” He looked her in the eyes for a moment, conveying his sincerity before shifting away. “Your brother is what I thought all Targaryens would be like,” Jon snorted. “No offense, Princess.” He sighed. “Your family and my… my father’s family haven’t had the best of histories.”

“No, they have not.” Gazing back at Jon Snow, Dany took in his features. The hardened yet boyish skin, the slightly long, wavy hair, determined jaw. He was handsome, no doubt - downright beautiful. He was still lost in thought. “What are you thinking about Jon Snow? Home? The North?”

She was simply too kind, too innocent. It disarmed him. “Aye, Winterfell. It isn’t much to the eye compared to somewhere like here, but I love it nonetheless.” His lips curled into a wistful smile, Dany’s heart fluttering at how much it brightened his face. “Spending time with my brothers and sisters, and my father. There’s nothing I love more.”

Dany could just imagine it, and felt happy that the enigmatic Jon Snow had some levity in his life. He was lucky to have siblings that loved him, unlike her. It had been easy to talk to Ned Stark, the weathered lord kind and and welcoming - almost like the father figure she never had. Jon Snow on the other hand? Daenerys simply… it felt right, as if he could relate to her. ‘Perhaps he does.’ “Must you have left a pretty girl behind?” Dany asked, curious. A small teasing impulse took her over for a moment. “Perhaps more than one?” A ghost of a grin crossed her face.

Only to disappear at his frown. “None.”

“Why not? I would be sure plenty would be interested.” ‘In someone as beautiful as you,’ she didn’t add.

What drove Jon to trust her with his secrets was a mystery to him, but it felt right to do so. “I don’t want to create another bastard named Snow, and no woman would want to marry a bastard.”

An overwhelming sadness crossed over Dany, feeling for this boy more than anyone else she had ever encountered - including herself. Wordlessly, she raised a delicate palm and placed it on Jon’s back, stroking softly. Comfortingly.

Not moving to push the hand off, Jon felt some of his pain flow away.

Gazing down at the two from his second floor window, Ned Stark sighed. On some level he knew this would happen the moment he spotted the silver-haired princess, though by the old gods and the new this was the last thing he wanted happening now. ‘Oh Lyanna,’ he thought, wishing he could talk to his long dead sister. ‘What should I do?’

He heard nothing but the rustle of the equatorial wind.

Chapter Text

Head leaning on his propped up forearm, Robb nursed the persistent migraine that hadn’t left him since Ned and Jon had left. ‘Dear Gods, how can father make this look so simple.’ Even with Ser Rodrick, Maester Luwin, and his mother advising him the whole task of being the interim Warden of the North in his father’s stead was overwhelming at times. Catelyn had informed him that he was settling into his role, but the heir to Winterfell hoped that the grain shipment for Lord Karstark would end soon.

Just as he figured that the business of the day was concluded a servant flew into the room. “my Lord, we just received a raven from the capitol.” He seemed to have run all the way from the aviary, panting hard.

“I’ll take it.” Grabbing the strip of paper from the servant’s hand, the young Stark’s eyes widened. ‘I have to get this to mother.’ Throwing his bearskin cloak over his shoulders, Robb whistled for Grey Wind to follow and stalked out of the receiving hall.

Catelyn was at the balcony, where he expected her to be. “Bran! I told you not to climb on the battlements!” she yelled across the ground. “Stop encouraging him, Arya.”

“But he’s doing so well, mother,” his younger sister responded.

“You should be sewing with Sansa.” The groan audible from even the balcony gave Robb a belly chuckle. The day Arya would willingly sew was the day dire wolves would take to the sky.

But the message from King’s Landing wormed back to prominence again. “Mother. King Robert is coming north.”

That got her attention. “What?” Robb handed her the note, causing her to scowl. “Damn you Ned.” She crumpled it up. “The King is only coming because of him. This is not good news.”

“We’ll need to prepare the castle for his arrival, stockpile food and such for the feasts.” If what his father had said about King Robert was true, then the kitchens couldn’t have enough supplies stored.

“Agreed.” Catelyn began to look for Maester Luwin. “And pray to all the Gods that your father comes back from Pentos soon.”

 

Muscles straining, Jon brought the sword against the practice dummy dragged into the courtyard at Illyrio’s orders. The oily merchant may have been as trustworthy as a snake to both honest Northerners in his care, but did make a legitimate effort to make them feel welcome and comfortable. Honing his fluidity and ease of swordsmanship on the thick wood, Jon knew it wasn’t the same as having a sparring partner. His father was, however, overseeing a delivery of inland grain to the port so the dummy would have to do.

It had been one week since he and his father arrived - one week since the fateful feast. Since that night overlooking the Narrow Sea. Dodging an imaginary swing, Jon reflected on the time he had spent with Ned, the longest continuous length of time he had with his father in his entire life. He wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world no matter the backbreaking and stressful work at the docks managing the grain. When Ned Stark wanted something done right he did it himself, and expected Jon to join in.

Much to Jon’s pleasure, he hadn’t seen hide nor hare of Viserys Targaryen since that night, earning belly laughs from his fellow northerners in dubbing him “The Mad Prince.” He could envision the Prince in the Mad King’s shoes, burning his family alive. Jon’s hacks at the dummy grew far more frenzied, anger lashing out.

“I don’t think it would harm you.”

Stopping mid hack, Jon drew back his sword and turned to meet the soft voice. No longer did all Targaryens elicit his loathing. Faced with the silver-waves and lovely, kind face of Daenerys Targaryen, here was one that challenged his preconceptions. “my Lady,” he remarked, bowing. “I did not hear you come by.”

Dany couldn’t help the small upward curve of her lips. “Seems like that is a running problem with you.” Ghost, waiting on the sidelines, was immediately up and at Dany’s side. Double the size Jon found him, he wagged his tail in excitement. Beaming, the princess gently kneeled to pet him. The snow white direwolf rolled on his back, enjoying the attention. Jon smiled - Ghost had taken an immediate liking to Daenerys. It surprised but did not disappoint him.

Over the week since he had arrived with Lord Stark she often sought out his company, mostly during the evenings. Dany hadn’t been able to get Jon Snow out of her mind following their chat by the sea, and in the stress and chaos preceding the date she would be presented to the Dothraki the distraction he gave was most welcome. “A northern warrior that can’t watch his back… Not a good thing.”

Nodding modestly, Jon wiped the sheen of sweat on his brow. “Perhaps it is because of your gentle feet, my Lady,” he deadpanned. “Small enough to sneak up on a person.”

She snorted, not helping the unregal, girlish giggle that left her lips - Viserys would not have been pleased at her behavior but in present company she didn’t care. There was something about Jon Snow that disarmed her, drawing out a part of her that had been suppressed long before. ‘He is a bastard, while I am my brother’s valuable asset. Ones that have had their humanity marked as less than others.’ The handsome northerner was largely the same as her, and Dany figured that was what drew them together. “Are you always this witty?”

The brooding look returned. “I wouldn’t know.” Even with Robb and Arya he rarely talked more than was needed, always mindful of Lady Stark or Ser Rodrick. Jon knew that only Ned’s presence - and Arya’s stubbornness - allowed him to spend time with his siblings at all. Seeing Dany’s face fall at his mood, it tugged on Jon’s heartstrings. Despite always being beautiful, this beautiful vixen deserved nothing but happiness. Of this he was certain. “Want to know something about my sister Arya?” he asked, trying to change the subject.

Her eyes immediately perked up, sparkling. “Yes.” Jon had mentioned his siblings in passing over their past conversations, and while he loved them all it was Arya that he clearly loved the most.

“She’s the wildest of all of us,” he recalled fondly. “Stubborn to a fault, which my father says she gets from my Aunt Lyanna.”

‘The one my brother dishonored,’ Dany thought. Instead of voicing it, she let him continue, loving the sound of his voice.

The day before his father informed him of their impending trip came to mind, Jon grinning. “She’s a natural at archery and swordsmanship for her age, and it drives Bran up the wall. Arya likes showing off that she’s better than him, and he finds it humiliating that a girl can beat him.” The grin had evolved into full blown laughter at this point.
Dany loved his laugh. Coming from how dour he usually was, the carefree sound made her smile. “And your father and Lady Stark allow her to do so? Viserys wouldn’t dare let me learn the combat arts.”

A dark fire crossed Jon’s grey eyes for a moment at the mention of the Mad Prince, but he extinguished it by focusing on Arya. “Lady Stark would rather she be a lady in training like Sansa, but they let her be most of the time. I think my father feels it’s like being with his long-dead sister once again.” Though his fond memories, what Daenerys said about her brother came back to mind. “I could teach you a few things.”

Eyes widening, Dany wondered if she heard him correctly. “What?”

For some reason he found her confusion amusing. It was… cute. “I always encouraged Arya to learn these things. Though she could only benefit to be a bit more feminine, I was planning to make her a sword of her own when we get back to Winterfell.” He placed a hand over hers. “Learning a few basic skills wouldn’t hurt, especially for someone soon to join the Dothraki.” From the stories he heard, their women were tough.

Mouth opening and closing several times without a sound, Dany was about to finally answer when a snide call made her heart sink.

“Sweet sister,” Viserys sneered sarcastically, striding up to the both of them in full Targaryen regalla. “I thought I told you to wait for me in my rooms to discuss your future with the barbarian chief.” He laughed. “Imagine, when future generations speak of my reign, they’ll realize the beginning to be this. How boring, wouldn’t you say.” Not waiting for her to finish, his grin turned into a scowl upon seeing Jon. “What are you doing here bastard? Are you harassing my sister?”

Jon’s eyes narrowed. ‘It is not I that is harassing her now,’ he thought, based on her demeanor. He willed himself calm, however. “Merely practicing my swordsmanship.”

The statement seemed to amuse Viserys to no end. He cackled, hand on his gut. At Jon’s raised eyebrow, he sneered. “Oh the northmen, the worst swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms.”

“Ser Arthur Dayne would say differently,” the Bastard of Winterfell deadpanned.

Viserys snorted. “Even if your father beat the Sword of the Morning, the common blood inside you beat out all of his.” A gleam entered his murky violet eyes. “Tell you what, bastard. If you think you are so skilled, then fight me.” He drew his own blade, the steel glinting in the sun.

Staying silent, Jon turned away. He wasn’t going to take the bait.

“Viserys, please…” Dany pleaded, tugging on his shoulder, pale with fear.

The Prince’s head swiveled to Dany, blazing with anger. “Hands off me, slut! Do not wake the dragon.”

Both were soon preoccupied again as Jon drew his sword, leveling it at Viserys. He could take insults directed at his person, but he would be damned if Daenerys was abused on his watch. Her fear, her cowering in front of this pathetic worm ignited a fire deep inside him - one that never once bubbled to the surface in his life. “If you wish a match, then so be it.”

Gleaming in a smug triumph in comparison to Dany’s horror, Viserys pulled away from her and the two began circling, swords drawn and sizing each other up. “Scared, bastard?”

“No.” Ignoring him, Jon spent his time shooting Daenerys a calming look, as if saying ‘I’ll be fine.’ Her horror changed into a more concerned fear, but he was glad she was no longer about to scream or pass out. The Prince’s taunting did not bother him, used to far worse from Lady Stark. “The opposite actually. I could use a sparring partner.” Jon’s lips curled upward in a ghost of a smirk. “Even if it is the Mad Prince.”

At hearing the name Jon had coined for him, a vein throbbed on Viserys’ reddening head. “You will pay for that.” And with that, he lunged forward with a poor excuse for a battle cry - likely meant to be frightening but coming off as cringeworthy. Steel glinted as it moved to slice at Jon…

Only for Jon to easily sidestep it. He had expected the attack, and was ready. Gripping the hilt tightly with one hand, metal clanged as two frenzied parries were batted away with minimal effort. “Is that the best you can do, our Grace?” Jon teased, enjoying Viserys’ rage. Ser Rodrick may have shared Lady Stark’s opinion of him, but he was as thorough with teaching him as he did Robb - in this case the importance of psychological warfare.

As expected, it only angered the Prince even more. “Enough games!” Raising his sword high above him, the steel slightly discolored from rust - obviously he hadn’t taken care of his blade as a true swordsman would - he brought it down with all his might.

Dany felt her entire body tremble. She wanted to move, to cry, to do something but her feet and legs failed her, voice barely a rasping whisper. Viserys had sparred in her presence before, usually against training servants that he always beat. The powerful downward slice made her mouth gasp in a silent scream - so worried that her northern companion was a goner - when the blades clashed once again. The vice gripping her heart eased watching Jon fluidly bat and parry her brother’s attacks, his movements graceful and skilled.

Only for the suppressed scream to leap from her throat. Not catching an uneven stone paving, Jon’s agile footwork to avoid stumbling cost him time to react to a slash by Viserys - the Prince’s blade tasted blood, slicing through Jon’s tunic and leaving a shallow gash on his side. His dark smirk of triumph contrasted with the near tears in Dany’s. She couldn’t stand to see him hurt. In such a small time, he had become one of the only people she could trust. Her friend. Her confidant.

“Give up, bastard?”

Blacking out the pain, Jon gripped his sword in both hands. “I could do this all day.” He feinted to the right, sparing a moment’s satisfaction at the Prince taking the bait. Two swipes and a lunge of his sword later, and the rusted blade clattered on the stone. A kick to the gut sent Viserys to the ground, scraping his arm and bruising his elbow.

Instinct and familiarity, much as she would have rather seen to Jon first- as Ghost did, running to his master’s side - brought Dany to her brother’s side. “Do you need help, brother?” she asked, grabbing his hand.

A primal screech left Viserys’ throat. “Don’t you touch me!” Pride taking a huge beating, the princess knew that he was using every facet of his self-control not to lash out physically at her - apparently Jon’s threat of slicing off his arm had worked to an extent. He wouldn’t dare attack her in the northman’s presence. He stormed off towards Illyrio’s house, cursing up a storm.

“Jon!” Dany raced over to him, free to now that her brother was gone. All she could see was the red mark on his chest, oozing a small trickle of blood. Her hands were on it. “Oh Gods.”

Wincing from the sting, the gentle touch of the Targaryen princess ghosting on his skin nevertheless felt wonderful. A calming warmth radiated from the pale digits, soothing much of the pain. “It’s fine, Dany. It’s just a scratch.”

Inspecting it carefully, once she was confident that it wasn’t serious Daenerys’ mind finally realized what he had said. “Dany?”

Jon looked away sheepishly. “Sorry. It just slipped out.”

“No.” She couldn’t help the blush spreading on her cheeks. “It’s fine. I... like it.” Dany really did. The nickname felt so sweet, so right coming from him. His statement from earlier came to mind. “Perhaps I shall take you up on your earlier offer.” She tugged on his arm. “Let’s get you inside and get it cleaned. Are you sure you’re fine?”

“Positive.” Jon smiled, letting her know that it was nothing. “Robb did far worse to me during our spars, though in fairness those were fair matches. Now I know what Ser Rodrick must have felt when he was teaching us to spar.”

Dany couldn’t control the laugh that tumbled from her. Leave it to Jon Snow to make her laugh after such a day.

 

A flick of the quill pen finished off his signature, Ned Stark indenting a small dot to punctuate the message. As condensed and small as possible to fit onto the large piece of raven parchment, the Lord of Winterfell quickly read it over. There was so much to convey in so little space. But his brother needed to read it, being the only person he could completely and totally trust.

Dearest brother,

The gods have nearly created our nightmare. I am in Essos with Jon, for what is not important, but while there I have ran into the Targaryen orphans. The boy is worse than his father, while the girl…

She and Jon have grown close in our time here, and I fear the worst. I will likely return within a few weeks, and will send another raven to you when I arrive in White Harbor. Please be ready to ride to Winterfell, for we need to speak.

Ned

He was supremely confident that Benjen would come. The Lead Ranger of the Night’s Watch loved Jon, probably more than anyone in the family aside from Arya - and had kept the secret for longer than even Ned. Never indecisive or lost, on this he needed his brother. There was literally no one else that he could turn to.

For the aviary where Illyrio kept his ravens - always fully stocked due to the plethora of dealings undertaken by the head of the Merchant Guild of Pentos - Ned caught the sound of merry laughter from the gardens. Resting on a stone bench underneath an acacia tree were the subjects of his dilemma, engrossed in amiable conversation. Jon’s direwolf Ghost was resting in Daenerys’ lap, licking her face as she laughed - it was as if all the pain and apprehension was gone from her face, leaving nothing but a radiant beauty in its wake.

And Jon… the reserved brooding present even during light moments was fully gone. His smile was completely genuine. Ned had only seen it once before, for a moment after Arya was born and Jon was able to hold her. While the smart thing would have been to keep Jon and the Dragon Princess apart, his heart warmed at seeing his son so happy and content. ‘If only you were here to see this, Lyanna.’ Given all that happened, remembering her was bittersweet. It was at these times that he hated both Robert and the Mad King for bringing it about.

Everything was simply so unexpected, the chances of running into the last Targaryens with Jon at his side so remote that he had never considered it possible. ‘And yet you are here.’ The bell could not be undone, so he would have to bear the brunt of it. Delivering the message to the raven-keeper and watching him ready the black bird, Ned formulated what he would need to do. Getting Jon out as soon as the grain was ready remained atop his list, for he couldn’t let the boy grow too close to Princess Daenerys. ‘You may be too late,’ a voice inside his head told him, but he ignored it.

Besides him and Jon, there were only two that needed to know about this - and only one of them the whole truth. Ned could trust Benjen, while Robert had to at least be told of him running into Viserys and Daenerys. Exiting the aviary, Ned knew the King would not be happy, but it was better hearing it from him rather than one of the Lannisters. With Jon Arryn dead the allies he had at court were slim to none, and even if the whole of Westeros separated him from King’s Landing he had to cover his bases.

“Excuse me, is this the home where Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen are residing?”

That voice. Never in his future years would Eddard Stark ever forget that voice. One belonging to someone that brought the greatest scandal ever to befall the North after the coronation of Robert Baratheon. Turning the corner of the grounds, there he was. Older and far more weathered, be it from stress or labor, but there he was.

A man Ned had sentenced to death.

Jorah Mormont, the disgraced heir to Bear Island.

Chapter Text

To describe Ser Jorah Mormont’s exile as hard would be engaging in a massive understatement. Once the heir to Bear Island, one of the oldest and most noble Northern houses, the dashing warrior had his life ripped away from him over one mistake - a mistake that cost him everything. Unable to go home, to even exist in his native land. The knowledge that those he once called friends and comrades now hated him, his family branding him a disgrace. His poor father, condemned to live out the rest of his years at Castle Black with Jorah’s shame. All to please a woman that never loved him.

Drowning his sorrows at a tavern in Pentos, reduced to a common sellsword, the rumors had floated in regarding the upcoming marriage between the Khal of the Dothraki and Princess Daenerys Targaryen. This had piqued his interest. He held no love for the Targaryens, none whatsoever. What they had done to Rickard and Brandon Stark bought them Jorah’s everlasting hatred. However, an opportunity arose. They would need a Westerosi face to trust among the Dothraki horde, and King Robert would pay handsomely for information… perhaps even a pardon?

Such was what brought him to the home of Illyrio Mopatis, to call on Prince Viserys to offer his services. He knew the Dothraki, and they would be well served by him.

“Ser Jorah Mormont,” the merchant announced, feet gliding across the glazed floor tiles to greet his guest. “I did not expect the Andal himself to arrive at my home.”

Jorah smiled wanly, not bothering to correct Illyrio - being from the north, he was a First Man, not an Andal. But the name stuck among the sellswords of Essos, and he was fine with it. “I come to offer my services to the Prince and Princess.”

The oily merchant’s eyes gave away nothing. “I will pass this along to them, Ser Jorah. Prince Viserys would likely be thrilled to have such a great warrior giving him counsel.”

“Aye, they would be lucky to have his counsel.”

As soon as he heard that statement, Jorah’s blood turned to ice, blood leaving his tanned, weathered skin. Turning, he was completely and utterly shocked to find his former Warden striding toward them. “Lord Stark,” he said evenly, fighting hard not to croak. There were few that intimidated Jorah Mormont, but Eddard Stark was one of them. If he had his way then Jorah would have died at his hand.

“Ser Jorah Mormont, in the flesh.” Ned was angry at seeing this disgrace once again, but suppressed it. He had every right to be here, for it wasn’t Westeros, and it would have been dishonorable to pass the man’s sentence outside the North. “I know that Prince Viserys wouldn’t value my word, but I can vouch that Ser Jorah is an able warrior and advisor.”

Blinking, Jorah only just managed not to gape. Illyrio clapped Lord Stark on the back. “Well put.” He turned back to Jorah. “I will inform the Prince of your arrival, though it is not the right time for you to formally offer your services. Perhaps at a later time, Ser Jorah.”

“Whatever you feel is proper.” The Bear Islander bowed. “Lord Illyrio, Lord Stark. May the grace of the old Gods be with you.” He turned and walked to his horse, pondering what had just occurred.

Stroking the stubble on his chin, the gears were turning inside Ned’s head. ‘Jorah is too much a proud northerner to wish to serve a Targaryen. What does he desire?’ Whatever it was, he was going to find out.

 

Darting to the right, Daenerys nimbly shifted along the grounds when a thump on her shoulder left her pursing her lips. A Valyrian curse tumbled from her lips. Yet again she was bested.

“Dead, for the tenth time,” came the husky, slightly amused northern accent of her instructor. “Good think you have warriors like me to protect you, Princess.”

Daenerys glowered at Jon, violet eyes stormy with annoyance. “You do not fight fair, Jon Snow.” Tucking the heavy, wooden practice weapon under her arm, she rubbed the blossoming bruises on her shoulders and sides. Had it not been Jon, her kind and devilishly handsome northern companion, she probably would have lost patience with this after the third thumping. She glanced over at Ghost, the growing puppy sprawled comfortably in the shade of an acacia tree. ‘Lucky wolf.’

Jon grinned, the silver-haired princess disarming his guarded nature as Robb or Arya did. “Battle is not fair, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. There are no rules, except to win of course.” For the last two weeks the two of them had been practicing, Jon running through all of the drills and exercises taught to him. It hadn’t been the easiest going, but Dany was coming along well enough to graduate to basic sparring.

At the glimpse of a blue-black welt marring Dany’s porcelain skin, Jon’s face fell. Perhaps he was being too hard on her. He would never forgive himself if he hurt her. “Would you like to stop, Dany?”

The nickname never ceased to make her stomach flutter. Raised to be a proud woman of the last noble house of Old Valyria, Daenerys nevertheless loved the sound of ‘Dany’ in the husky northern dialect of her companion. “No, I’m fine. I want to master this, it’s just frustrating.” She huffed, kicking at a few pebbles on the courtyard floor.

“Maybe we should change direction then.” Jon reached into his mind, remembering the lessons with Ser Rodrick. There were fundamental principles to good swordsmanship that all warriors were obligated to master, but otherwise the skills were malleable. The styles of Braavos were different than the styles of Dorne which were then different from the styles of the North. What worked for Jon and Robb’s strong muscles and large swords wouldn’t work for the dainty and slender Daenerys.

What she needed was a different technique, not to master for now but to allow her to defend herself. “Hand me your sword.” Dany complied, watching with puzzled eyes at what Jon was doing. Opening the chest holding all the wooden practice blades, he set it down and grabbed a curved Dornish scimitar, the wood slender and light. “This should help. We’ll try some exercises to take advantage of your speed and agility.” He couldn’t help eying her figure for a moment. Clad in a slightly tight female tunic and trousers that Arya favored - his little sister hated dresses - Danys full slender curves were on full display. It was a magnificent sight, one where he willed himself to discount most of the time. He’d never get any work done otherwise. “As a woman your body is nicely built for it.”

Dany blushed slightly. ‘Is he really complimenting my body?’ She realized that she would enjoy it if he did, as well as his grey eyes on her. Taking the faux scimitar in her hand, she was immediately appreciative of how much lighter it was. How much easier it was to maneuver it with her hand. “So I should try to mimic the agility exercises?”

He readied his stance. “Yes, but please try to be unexpected, Dany. You are the blood of the Dragon. You have it in you.” With that, Jon began with a light jab at her abdomen.

‘Blood of the Dragon.’ Managing to dart out of the way, just, Daenerys let her scimitar slash at Jon. While missing, she felt pretty good - the lighter blade was easier for her to handle, requiring less strength and more agility. This time, she managed to last over thirty seconds before a cross from Jon caused her to stumble and lose her footing.

A small hand reached out and grabbed Jon’s shirt to try and stay upright, but the motion ended up propelling both to the ground. Jon on top of Dany. Both were breathing heavily from the exertion. “Looks like.” Jon sucked in a breath. “We found your particular style.”

“Yes.” Dany breathed. “We did.” He chuckled, and so did she. Their faces barely apart. Eyes gazing into the other. Dany’s shifted down to his lips, and she swore his did to hers.

The moment was ruined at Ghost letting out a bark, both hurriedly separating and standing as a servant girl approached. Flustered, Dany couldn’t help the small smirk on her face at Jon’s bright red blush, the northerner rubbing the back of his neck. It was oddly adorable. “Yes?” She asked the servant.

“My Lady, your brother the Prince would like your presence in the baths.”

A pit formed in her gut. ‘Oh Gods. That’s today.’ Biting her lip, Dany looked back at Jon. “I have to go. Today is when I’m presented to the Dothraki Khal.”

Sensing her fear, Jon soothingly placed a hand on her arm. It felt electric to the touch. “Would you like me to attend?” He knew that Viserys would likely try something, and if the stories he heard about the Dothraki were true then an additional sword wouldn’t hurt.

Dany could feel her heart melt. No one had ever been as kind to her as Jon. “I would like that very much, Jon Snow.”

 

“Seven hells, sister, what are you doing in those ghastly rags?” Whatever levity and confidence that Jon Snow made bubble to the surface disappeared upon sight of her brother. Dany couldn’t control it, Viserys being a far larger presence in her life. “You look like some flea bottom wench.” A disgusted grimace on his lips, he slapped at the garment, as if not wanting to sully his fingers with it. “No, no, this won’t due at all.

The bath was already steaming, various servant girls filling it further with searing water. They scurried out to avoid Viserys - he was a noted groper when he was drunk, and had his fun with the female domestic staff. ‘He would have done so with me had I not been so valuable to him as a maiden,” Daenerys thought sadly.

Viserys returned with a flowing grey-white dress, cutting a rather dashing figure in his cotton tunic and leather, high-laced boots. He paled in comparison to a certain raven-haired northerner in Dany’s eyes, though. “Here, look at this fabric.” She reached up, gently feeling the gossamer fabric between her fingers. It was thin and airy in the traditional style of Essos noblewomen. Much better in the heat of the equatorial sun than what Jon and Lord Stark wore. “Much better for you than those mannish rags. A gift from Illyrio. Isn’t he a gracious host?”

Dany looked away, thankful for the thicker layers hiding her from Viserys’ wandering eyes. “He’s never given us anything while we’ve stayed here.”

“Oh Daenerys,” her brother chuckled. “He knows that I will repay his friends once the throne is mine. They drink secret toasts to my health in the Seven Kingdoms, you know.”

‘How little you know, brother,’ she thought, looking at how Jon thought of him. If the northman was any indication, they thought nothing of Viserys. “What do you want me to do?”

“You shall take a bath and get ready for the Dothraki king to arrive.” He hummed in approval, eyeing her over - unike Jon’s looks, she only shuddered unnoticably. “One thing the northern bastard did right, he improved your posture. But forget everything else. A proper bride is submissive before her husband.” A look she knew very well flashed in his eyes, causing her to want to flinch. “You will be perfect today, sister. Don’t think of waking the Dragon.”

Shaking her head, Dany endured how he stripped her of the tunic and trousers, running a hand along her naked body. “A woman’s body. Perfect.” Walking out, he glanced back at her. “Soon, I shall be on the Iron Throne. Our family will be back where it belongs. Where I belong, with you by my side, my sweet.”

Turning towards the bath, Daenerys reflected on the family legacy. How she was likely birthed solely to provide her dead brother Rhaegar with a daughter-in-law. How she was still only a broodmare for Viserys, to keep the bloodlines pure. Dany hated feeling alone, hated thinking that she could be the last Targaryen - in this way she loved Viserys, but seeing how Jon talked about his siblings and how he loved them all so dearly, Viserys was not her true brother. He did not love her, only wanted her as his pawn.

And she was too weak to be anything but.

“You are the blood of the dragon.” Jon’s words still echoed in her.

‘I am the blood of the dragon.’ Slowly, she lowered herself into the bath, ignoring the pleas of the servants. It felt hot, scorching even. But she could handle it.

‘Blood of the dragon.’

 

“What do you know about the Dothraki, father?” It felt good to be able to call Ned father. Used to the strict rules at home, Jon was only free to not use “Lord Stark” when alone or among his siblings.

Ned pondered the question, the two of them walking to the balcony overlooking the front courtyard. “Not much. Only by reputation. They live on horseback, raiding and looting to keep wealth. That makes them powerful warriors.” He remembered a little tidbit he learned from a sellsword at the docks. “A Dothraki warrior only cuts the long braid of hair if he loses a fight. Their current leader, Khal Drogo, has never once cut his hair.”

“And he’s the one Daenerys is marrying?” Jon couldn’t help the gloomy look that crossed over his face.

It did not go unnoticed by the Warden of the North. “Yes. I believe so.” He looked to the sky, once again wishing she had not left this world. Ned had been doing that quite a lot since landing at Pentos.

Gazing down from the balcony, he spotted Dany waiting next to her brother and Illyrio. Jon’s breath hitched. She looked like perfection embodied in the light, flowing dress - he couldn’t deny it. As if noticing his arrival, Dany glanced backward and the numb expression quickly morphed into a wide smile. Jon smiled back, hoping that he could calm her by just being there. The Princess was his friend, someone that he had grown quickly to care for.

Almost as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, Dany turned back as the drum of hoofbeats grew closer and closer. Mask back on, she steeled herself. ‘This is it.’ She did not want this to happen, wanted to scream to the heavens for her brother to end it, but at least with Jon Snow close by she didn’t have to go through the ordeal alone.

Soon, the Khal had arrived, surrounded by his equally fearsome bloodriders. “Khal Drogo of the Great Grass Sea,” Illyrio called out in a grand tone, opening his hands wide. “Please, let me present to you Viserys of House Targaryen, third in his name, rightful King of the Andals, Rhoynar, and First Men, Protector of the Realm.” He then motioned to her. “And Daenerys, Princess of House Targaryen. Your prospective betrothed.”

Closing her eyes, Dany heard the steady clop-clop of hooves on stone. They got closer and closer, her future… husband approaching.

‘Blood of the dragon.’

She opened them, looking up into his face. Drogo was handsome, in a way. No one could call him beautiful, but he had a muscular build that screamed strength. Nothing that could compare to the perfect beauty. To Jon.

‘Blood of the Dragon.’

The horse circled her, Drogo inspecting Dany as if she were at a Meereen slave auction - which in effect she was.

‘Blood of the Dragon.’

Before she could even make sense of it, the Khal rode off, his bloodriders following. “Hey!” Viserys cried, running down the carpet. “He didn’t say anything! Did he even like her?”

“Calm down your Grace,” Illyrio replied, clasping a hand over Viserys’ back. “If he had any objection, we’d know. The Khal liked his prize.” He grinned, the smile spreading to Viserys as they walked back inside.

Hearing them had been too much for Dany. Trying to stay strong was brutal, and she had heard her brother view her as akin to a slave before, but this time something inside her broke. She rushed out, heading for the garden. Heading for someplace she could be safe.

Sad grey eyes watched her the whole time.

 

Quiet, nothing but the rustle of the wind and the low hum of the great free city of Pentos long away. It seemed surreal for Jon, and for a moment he feared that he may have been alone. That something could have happened. That there was no sign of…

It was then that he heard it. A soft sobbing, one that brought relief to his system and ice to his heart simultaneously. There, nestled in a grove of trees, was Daenerys. She laid herself out on the lone stone bench, head laying on her crossed arms and body shaking from tears. Jon’s heart ached for her. She was such a strong, noble woman with blood that rivaled any high-born noble in the Seven Kingdoms. He knew she carried herself with such quiet dignity despite being used as a pawn by her brother, but if anyone understood being overwhelmed it was him.

Stepping forward, Jon gently placed his hand on a bare upper back. The pale skin felt so soft, but her whole figure tensed up immediately. “It’s me, Dany.” The tension disappeared.

Fearing that someone had intruded on her shameful ignoble moment, Daenerys was so relieved to hear Jon’s voice. In a short time he had become the only person she trusted so fully. A kindred spirit that knew her pain. There was a deeper connection, one she hadn’t yet found out nor could even comprehend, but was supremely glad was here in this trying time. “Jon.” She rose, wiping her eyes and steeling herself. “Please forgive me.”

He sat next to her, making her shiver at the closeness. “There’s nothing to forgive, Dany.” A callused hand placed itself over hers. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for you. Only someone with the strength of a dragon could endure it so well.” She watched him purse her lips, as if wrestling with some bad memory. One that ached at his soul.

Staring into his grey eyes, heart beating rapidly, Dany softly rested her hand on his cheek. It was prickly with the unshaven black stubble, but it just made him all the more manly to her. Rugged. Strong. He closed them for a moment, opening to reveal a storm of emotion. So comforting. So beautiful.

Without warning she closed the distance between them, her lips coming into contact with his. The sudden move caught Jon by surprise, but it lasted a mere moment before his icy posture melted by Daenerys’ fire. He relaxed into her, arms pulling the silver-haired princess to him as he instinctively returned the kiss. Dany felt as if she was flying, surrounded by his strong arms and clutching his waist tightly. She never wanted this to end. Wanted more, so much more.

Brain fogged, all Jon could think about was Daenerys. For the first time in his life he had someone to relate to, someone who could share his pain. The kindest heart and most loving soul. He groaned as Dany’s tongue swiped slowly over his lips. Seeking entrance. Unable to resist, he granted it.

Warmth bellowed into flaming dragonfire as her tongue met his. Dany knew this had to be unique. She had never been kissed before. No ordinary kiss could be like this. Two hands snaked up his chest as their tongues battled. ‘Gods, this man is so beautiful.’

The princess’ touch threw Jon back into reality. It felt so amazing, but he couldn’t do this. Wrenching himself away, Jon sucked in a wheezing breath. Dany stared at him with confused eyes, looking so beautiful in the low light. Jon wanted her. He felt ashamed. “What have I done?”

His words were like an icepick to Daenerys’ heart. “Jon.” She placed her hand on his shoulder, only to be shrugged off. “Please. What’s wrong?” Tears welled in her eyes.

“I can’t do this.” He tore his eyes away, noticing her suppressing a sob. Nothing hurt him more than watching her in pain because of him - but it was his fault. “You deserve someone perfect. You deserve more than a bastard.” And with that he walked away, two pairs of eyes wet with tears.

Chapter Text

“I have acquired you a slave, Daenerys.”

Perched at her vanity table, elegant wood a dark mahogany from Volantis, Dany continued brushing her silver locks as if her brother had not mentioned his random statement. “Oh? I thought the Free Cities abolished slavery?”

A chuckle left Viserys’ lips. “There are always ways, sweet sister.” He stepped behind her, placing a hand on her bare shoulder. It was revolting to the touch, clammy and cold, but Dany couldn’t care to express an emotion - lest the tears bubble up. “She is a special slave, purchased to be your personal handmaiden alongside what horse trash your husband will provide.”

In all honesty, Daenerys had barely heard a word her brother said. All her mind was focused on was either what had happened only a few days before - or trying to forget what happened. Just remembering the words from her likely former friend’s mouth made her heart feel like it had been run in with a sword. Dany couldn’t take it. Even for the blood of the dragon, it was too much.

Still, the way Viserys had called this new handmaiden a “Special Slave,” caused a pit to form in her gut. “Oh?” She tried to seem aloof and disinterested. “How would she be special.” Dany set down her brush and glanced at her brother through the mirror.

She watched as the snake-like grin spread on his face, stretching from ear to ear. It clearly amused him to think about. “She is a former whore that served the Dothraki. Doreah will teach you everything you need to know about pleasing a man, Khal Drogo to be exact.” The look in his eyes was pure glee, as if he enjoyed the images dancing in his head. Her thin garment left little to the imagination.

For Daenerys, her eyes merely widened in horror. There it was, the certainty of her future brought back like an onrushing bull elephant - it had been drowned out by Jon in the last few days, but was crystal clear now. She was to be married to the Dothraki Khal. Sold like a common slave - by her brother nonetheless. The last family she had left. Of the sweet boy that taught her about the history of their people, both in Valyria and Westeros, nothing remained. The Targaryen madness had set in, leaving him cold and obsessed with power.

Her discomfort and grief wasn’t even noticed by him. “You must listen to your future King, Daenerys, for he possesses all the intelligence that is lacking in a mere woman.” He ran his hand along her cheek. “I know how to play a man like Drogo. I give him a Queen, and he gives me an army.”

“I don’t want to be his Queen,” she blurted quietly, almost a whisper. It just slipped out. Part of the confidence her time with the northmen taught her rushed to the surface, only to die down upon being reminded of where she was and who she spoke to. Under his peering gaze, she retreated into her usual meekness. “I want…” Jon. She wanted Jon. “I want to go home.”

“I do too.” Viserys had a puzzled smirk on his face, as if he was surprised she said such a stupid thing - but too dense to read between the lines. “I want us both to go home, but we can only do so at the head of an army. Khal Drogo’s army.” His hand returned to her cheek, stroking it. It made Dany nauseous. Once resigned to having to marry him to keep the bloodline strong, compared to one kiss from Jon she found she could not do it. Her brother’s lack of concern for her only solidified her inner disgust.

“I would let his whole tribe fuck you, them and their horses, for that army, sweet sister.” Feeling his lips kiss her on the forehead, soon Dany found herself alone in the room. Totally and completely alone as she was most of her life.

Wrapping her arms protectively around her chest, Dany fought back the tears that threatened to form. Once again denied even the littlest comfort from another, she missed the moments she had with Jon. A connection existed between them, one that didn’t make sense to her - but it was there, Daenerys knew it and was certain the raven-haired wolf knew as well. ‘My wolf.’ Sobs wracking her lithe frame, she needed his comfort, his words of wisdom and kindness, but they weren’t available. After their kiss, the happiest moment in her life, he had fled thanks to his insecurities. She cried for what hurt him so.

“You are not a bastard to me.” No one around her, the words were lost to the silence.

 

It should have been for the best. Every voice inside Eddard Stark’s head was shouting loudly that they had all averted the the catastrophe hanging over their heads the minute the Bastard of Winterfell laid eyes on the silver-haired Targaryen princess. That didn’t stop the proud Warden of the North from feeling like shit. A heavy sigh, a guilty sigh escaped his lips as he watched his flesh and blood train in the courtyard - hacks and parrys were as skilled as ever, but there was an enraged intensity to them. An unnecessary brutality attempting to free demons trapped within the young lad.

Hanging his head, Lord Stark turned and ambled through the lush garden overlooking the Narrow Sea. For him the riddle had an easy answer. It was the fourth morning where Jon trained alone, without the companionship of Daenerys Targaryen. Ned had his theories as to why this occurred, not knowing for sure but surmising.

‘It is his destiny, brother,’ the nagging voice would keep saying whenever he thought about it. Ned didn’t want to believe it - for his entire stay in Pentos he willed to both the old gods and the new that Jon and Daenerys wouldn’t share that connection. But, it was all for naught.

Perhaps it was destiny? A song of Ice and Fire, as it had been for…

He stopped, eyes catching a flash of silver in the grove of trees ahead. There was only one of two people in the entire known world it could be, and the gods wouldn’t be cruel enough to Ned for it to be anyone else but her. And they weren’t. If Ned had any doubt as to the reciprocity of Jon’s feelings, the look of faraway heartbreak in Princess Daenerys’ violet eyes shattered it. ‘A song of Ice and Fire.’ Destiny? He made his way into the grove.

‘It is their destiny, Ned.’

“Princess.” The Lord of Winterfell gave her a small bow.

Staring out at the sea, almost like how she had first found Jon on his first night in Pentos - while barely three weeks before, it seemed like ages since he arrived into her life - Dany nearly jumped out of her skin at the dour northern accent. “Lord Stark,” she breathed after catching her bearings. With the poise of her highborn birth, she rose and curtsied for the Warden of the North. “I did not see you arrive.”

“Tis’ alright,” Ned chuckled softly, motioning for both of them to sit on the stone bench. “A wolf instinctively knows how to quietly approach something.” It heartened him to see the girl’s lip quiver upward at his lame attempt at humor.

‘Don’t let this go on, Ned.’

“Jon, he’s never had the easiest time of it.” He could tell she had shifted her gaze, looking intently at him, but he remained fixed on the sparkling waves of the Narrow Sea. It had to be done, or else he’d lose his nerve - words never once thought to apply to Eddard Stark. It wasn’t comfortable for him, but his honor mandated it. For his family. “Most bastards in the north, they are but loyal pawns for the family. Useful, but never truly loved.”

“But not Jon.” Ned smiled. The girl caught on quickly.

“No, not Jon. I always treated him as my own, strived to make sure he knew he was part of the family. My other children… apart from Sansa they all did as well. Her… I know she loves him, but she wishes to emulate Catelyn. Lady Stark.”

Dany closed her eyes, welling back the anger she felt for the Lady of Winterfell. It wasn’t hard to know why. “Jon told me about her, of how he respects her.” That got Ned to meet her eyes, if for only a moment. “But I can tell, the animosity she has for him from his words. She never truly forgave you for straying, and takes that out on him, yes?”

Guilt bubbled within the Warden of the North. “Aye.” If only she had known the truth… but the truth could never be told. ‘Could it? To her?’ If to Benjen, could Ned trust her with this? Such was a question for another time. “With his siblings, Jon can open up from his shell. However, I have never seen him as close to anyone as he has been to you. Like…” Like his mother. “Himself.”

Eyes watering, Dany’s lip quivered. It went both ways. With Jon she, almost instantaneously, had that elusive home. Where she could simply be… Dany, without the stress and worry of her house and her blood, if only for a little while.

Glancing back at her, Ned felt the facade of anger simmering away. Of course he hated the Mad King, but the weight of history that he wore as armor to fulfill his promise, it melted in the face of this innocent girl. She was blameless for her father’s madness. Blameless for the mistakes of her eldest brother. ‘For Jon she is…’ That may be much too far, but there was no denying to himself that the two’s destinies were intertwined somehow. Even if miniscule.

Daenerys broke his thoughts, standing. “You are an honorable man Lord Stark, and have raised an honorable son.” She possessed the regal poise of a queen, but her violet eyes burned with determination and… love? “Thank you for this talk.” A small smile crossed her features. “I will take it to heart.”

Watching her graceful form leave, feet rushing along the stone path in a brisk walk, Ned let a massive breath he had been keeping in exhale. “Seven hells, what did I just do?” This had gone far beyond what he had hoped to contain. His promise long before continued to pop in his head, her words seared in his mind...

“You have to protect him. Promise me Ned. Promise…”

That memory never ceased to bring the great Eddard Stark to tears, glad only the wind rustling through the olive and acacia trees bore witness to it. The greatest loss of his life, the loss of one of those most near and dear to him - it still gripped his heart like a vice. There was no greater honor than keeping the promise made that day, regardless of the consequences. Jon was safe. No matter what, he was safe.

‘And now Daenerys is in his life.’ The loving, carefree female voice was strong and clear in his mind - as if she were next to him. ‘You knew this day would come, Ned. She is now as much a part of him as he himself is.’ He closed his eyes. He now had both their lives in his hands.

‘You know what you must do.’

“Promise me Ned.”

 

Every muscle aching, Jon collapsed onto the bed. Illyrio kept his house stocked with plenty of fresh water - all available at a call for a servant - and for this Jon was grateful. Even with the sea breeze the heat was overpowering, and cool water felt welcome on his skin. Hair damp from both sweat and where he splashed water on it to cool, changed into a clean tunic he allowed himself the moment of recovery following his mid-afternoon training session.

He was exerting himself past mere exhaustion. Unlike someone like Theon Greyjoy, Jon wasn’t dense enough to deny the undeniable. Pushing himself to the breaking point every day turned his muscles into limp rags by dinner, and if he kept it up only trouble would result. But Jon needed the solace training provided. Needed the escape venting his anger through his sword gave him. Needed to get the image of her devastation out of his mind.

Needed to get her out of his mind.

“You deserve more than a bastard.” Words still as true as they were when first spoken. Jon’s heart ached from having to turn her away, from breaking what had been his only real connection to a person not his family. ‘She was just my friend, nothing more.’ He had to believe that, to believe the kiss meant nothing. It haunted his dreams, how much he wanted her, but he knew it was for the best.

Hearing a loud thump on his door, Jon blinked the tiredness from his eyes and rose, wincing at the soreness. Expecting his father, his mouth dropped at the sight of the very person that haunted his thoughts so. “Daenerys…”

“Out of my way.” Without so much as a greeting, the silver-blonde goddess pushed her way past him and into the room. Her lips were pursed in a determined scowl, jaw set in determination. She looked angry. She looked breathtaking. Oh how he wished to take her in his arms and kiss her over and over again.

Jon willed that desire to the recesses of his mind. “You shouldn’t be here. Not alone in my chambers.”

The princess literally growled. Blood of the dragon. “Don’t you dare tell me where I can and cannot be, Jon Snow.” Whereas once it was like a vice on her heart, now his sadness and insecurity spewed forth an anger deep inside her. Dany would not let him do this - not let him think this way about himself. She would make him see the truth if it killed her. “Why have you been avoiding me, Jon?”

He fought to be emotionless, cold. “You know why. This is not proper.”

Though unladylike, the noise Daenerys made clearly expressed her opinion on his statement. “Stop lying. I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen.” The regal thunder in which she spoke shocked her. She never spoke in this manner to anyone, the back of Viserys’ hand making acquaintance with her cheek for far less. “You will tell me the truth!” He remained silent, looking away - Dany would not stand for this. “Tell me,” she said in a softer yet steeled tone, stepping closer until she was looking up into his face.

The violet eyes drew Jon in like a magnet. They were filled with steel, anger, and… pain. If he looked deep enough, he could see the pain he caused her. It tore him in two. “I’m sorry, Dany. But it was for the best.”

Daenerys scoffed. “You can’t possibly think that.”

“I am a bastard, Dany.”

“Do not speak of yourself so lowly.”

“It is the truth,” he exhaled with a heavy heart, only to see his hand encased by hers.

The other cupped his cheek, causing a wave of silence to descend over the room. It was as if time stood still, only the two of them remaining in the world. Moving forward, Daenerys melded her lips on hers in a sweet kiss. It was electric, warming her wonderfully while still hurting her heart that this was the most that they could do. She wanted this man more than anything, but could never have him.

But Dany still could make sure he never thought badly of himself again - if that was all that came out of this, she’d be content. “You listen to me, Jon Snow, you are not defined by your birth. You have a noble heart, just like your father.”

Though it warmed his heart to hear the woman that had enchanted him since his arrival praise him so, her statements still seemed to ring hollow. “And what does it all give me? No matter how good I become I will always be a bastard.”

“You will always be the man that means so much to me.”

He blinked. “Dany…”

“No. You’ve done so much for me, simply by being here. I know it’s been short, and I know that…” she bit back the crushing, painful truth. “I will never regret meeting you, Jon. I…” She couldn’t say it, it would only hurt both of them even though she knew he likely felt the same. Please don’t ruin the last bit of time we have together. Let us just have this.”

Opening his mouth to respond, Jon thought against it. She was right, they did have so little time together. ‘I can’t do this to her, let her suffer more.’ Part of him felt that he did deserve this, was a good person, if only that the amazing creature that was Daenerys Targaryen thought so. Smiling, he kissed her again, this time just as passionately as their first.

Feeling her heart burst, Dany melted into the kiss. The two of them fell sideways into the bed, soon ending up nestled together. Jon on his back, Dany cuddled up against him. Both wishing they could go farther, but knowing they couldn’t.

“I’m sorry, Dany. I really…”

“Shhhh.” Dany enjoyed his embrace. The feeling, that of pure calm and contentment that had been so lacking in the last few days, was back - even moreso. She didn’t want to think about the future, about a time where she was going to have to let this man go. They couldn’t go forward, even if they wanted to. No husband would take such a prize as her if she wasn’t a maiden. Daenerys had her duty, and Jon had his honor. Best not to think about it. “You should really wear more proper clothes in this weather, Jon Snow.”

A snort left Jon’s face. It was just such a random topic, but he appreciated it. He didn’t wish to think about leaving Dany as much as she apparently did. “I like my clothes, Daenerys Stormborn. They suit me, and I can tolerate the heat and sweat.”

“That’s not what I have seen,” Dany giggled, patting the young man’s chest - such a firm chest, not as muscled as Drogo but well suited to his frame. “And I couldn’t say that I wouldn’t enjoy seeing you bare chested.” It felt downright naughty, but Daenerys knew that Jon Snow was the only one who could get her to this undignified, flirty state. Just a feeling.

“Of course you would.” He chuckled. Taking the initiative, he guided her chin up and kissed her again on the lips. Dany moaned, spurring him to deepen it. The feeling was indescribable.

Once he pulled away, the silver-haired princess remained in a haze for several moments before blinking it away. “I refuse to believe there is no girl in Winterfell waiting for you. A kiss like that must have been honed by practice.” Not having been kissed before, she still knew through instinct who was a good kisser - and Jon Snow definitely was.

Jon shook his head, playing with a strand of silver hair. “You were my first kiss, my Lady.” A rose blush colored his cheeks, feeling a bit embarrassed.

Melting, Dany looked at him with longing. ‘Gods, could this man get any more attractive to me.’ She leaned up and pecked his lips again. “I’m glad, Jon Snow.”

Leaning down, he kissed the crown of her head. “You should head back to your rooms, Dany. Prince Viserys would not take it well if he discovered you here.”

Much as she would want to stay with him, Dany knew him to speak the truth. “He and Illyrio would have a fit seeing me in an unattached man’s room.” Not just a fit. ‘The dragon would wake if I did anything to jeopardize him obtaining his precious army.’ She stood, immediately feeling alone and lost out of his embrace. “I shall see you at dinner, and then tomorrow morning in the courtyard for training.”

Jon cocked an eyebrow. “You want to start that up again, princess?”

“But of course.” She smiled slyly, winking. “What kind of person passes up a chance to be taught by Jon Snow of Winterfell, master swordsman.” This man deserved to be praised, and Dany planned on using the little time they had to boost his confidence.

To her delight, he merely shrugged sheepishly. “Whatever my Lady wants, Daenerys Stormborn.”

Maybe, just maybe, they would be alright.

 

Even at night, Pentos was a bustling place. There always seemed to be people in the streets. Essosian smallfolk and drunk sellswords were out and about for business or pleasure, their cackles and shouts echoing through the cavernous alleyways. Thus no one seemed to notice the cloaked figure darting through the shadows. Passing guards or smallfolk ignored him as he strode purposefully, determined in his goal.

‘There!’ The flophouse was run by a gnarly former infantryman of the Golden Company, purchasing it with a share of gold from a bonus paid to them by the city of Qarth after completing a contract. It was dilapidated and filthy, but was still packed with those down on their luck and passing through the city. ‘Oh how the mighty have fallen.’ The figure ducked into the stairwell leading up to the rooms, sneaking past a sleeping security guard. The person he sought deserved to be in this hell, though that could change depending on tonight.

While nowhere near as cunning as the Master of Whisperers, the figure had managed to use some ‘little birds’ of his own to find the exact address - among other, far more juicy tidbits of information. Confident, he gently rapped on the rotting wooden door. Sounds of steps and groans came from inside.

“What?” an irate Jorah Mormont ground out before being pushed roughly into his room. Previously fast asleep and groggy, he was wide awake now. Anyone would have been with a sharp blade pressed against their throat. “Please, I don’t have much money.”

The figure drew back his cloak to reveal Eddard Stark, hard steel in his grey eyes. “It is not money I am after, Mormont,” he said evenly.

Jorah sighed. He had expected this might happen ever since running into the Warden of the North at Illyrio’s mansion. The disgraced noble had made his peace. “Go ahead, my Lord,” he said respectfully. “Carry out my sentence. I submit to your justice.”

“I am not going to kill you for that, Mormont,” Ned rasped, keeping his voice low but the blade firm. “However, I know the real reason why you’re offering your services to the Targaryens.” He smirked darkly. “You intend to sell information to Robert Baratheon for a royal pardon.”

Eyes widening, Jorah wracked his brain for what could have tipped Stark off. He found nothing. “What is your business if I did?” he croaked, sweat pouring from his brow. “You hate the Targaryens as much as he does.”

“Aye, I hate the Mad King with all my heart and soul, but the Mad King is dead.” Deciding it was time, he lessened the hold he kept on Jorah’s neck. “The girl is innocent, Mormont. No harm can come to her.”

“That can’t be the true reason.” A voice in his head told him it was a bad idea to press his tormentor, but he was curious and Ned weakening the sword’s hold made him bold. This went beyond honor.

Ned closed his eyes, and when they opened Jorah was shocked to find pure emotion. Grief. “Long ago, I promised one I loved with all my heart that I would protect someone.” An image flashed before his eyes, of a laughing Jon, happy and at ease for the first time in his life. He was with Daenerys, sparring with her - there was no doubt in his mind that she was the cause of his happiness. Denial was counterproductive. Jon had found his dragon, as Lyanna found hers. He was too late and too trusting to protect her, but he could and would protect Jon. In totality. “And I am fulfilling that promise, though it has now expanded in scope.” He took a deep breath. “I am offering you a chance to redeem yourself.”

This Jorah did not expect. Here was a chance, not just to go back home but a chance to atone for his shame, to make his family and father proud again. No royal pardon could do so, but a pardon from the Warden of the North could. “What must I do?” The decision was easy.

“First, let me say this. I always liked you, Jorah. You were honorable and good, which is why it pained everyone in the north when you did what you did.” His eyes met Jorah’s, sheathing the sword back into its scabbard. “Do you regret it?”

“Every day.” There was nothing that Jorah wanted more than to take it all back.

“Good.” Ned rested a hand on a battered table, leaning on it. “I need you to protect the girl, Jorah.”

Jorah blinked. “Which girl?” He had a feeling but had to be sure.

“Princess Daenerys.” He met the disgraced Mormont’s eyes once more. “Make sure no harm comes to her, and you will have your pardon.” It was sealed with a clasp of the hands.

Chapter Text

Elbowing his way through the crowd of dirty, swearing smallfolk, Jon kept one hand on his moneypurse and the other on his sword. Pickpockets and criminals abounded in the Pentos marketplace, especially on market day itself. ‘Plenty of ignorant, rich fools not paying attention to their riches.’ No son of Eddard Stark would ever be so foolish.

Though he stood out from the drab yellows and browns by the dark grey leather of the north, no one paid him any heed. Everyone seemed to be going about their own business. Such suited him fine. Jon had business here too, unrelated to that of his father - the massive grain ships in the harbor filled to the brim for Karhold loomed large in the background. It was personal in nature. He was looking for the perfect… wedding gift for Dany.

Bile rose in his throat and his heart clenched at the thought. ‘Dany…’ It had been nearly impossible for Jon to abide by their pact - had it only been two weeks since they had done so? Every moment with her, every bit of levity and happiness only stoked the desire for more in his heart. Oh how he wished that it was he that she prepared to wed. He that was being gifted such a beauty, the most breathtaking, amazing girl in the known world.

‘Any man would fall in love with her in an instant… but I cannot afford to.’ Jon wished he could be allowed to love Daenerys Targaryen, but she belonged to someone else. Was a highborn Valyrian while he was simply a northern bastard. No matter how good he could ever be, simply being that made him unworthy of her. ‘Even if she does feel the same way.’

No, all honor and practical consideration proved to him that she would never be his. After his father informed him that they would be leaving once the wedding concluded - Jon still remembering Illyrio extending the invitation, “Have you ever been to a Dothraki wedding?” - he owed it to his own honor to find Dany the perfect gift. Something to always remember him by.

Something unique, as she was to him.

Trying to keep focused on the objective, her violet orbs flashed in his mind. The ones that haunted his dreams even now, before he had to let her go. Though no Weirwood tree stood south of the Vale, Jon remembered how he beseeched every old god that could hear his prayer. “Please, let us be together. I will give you anything, even my life, to be with her.” A moment of weakness, one he was not proud of, but even now he felt that she was worth it.

Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. ‘Dany.’

Steeling himself, he kept walking.

 

“Be patient Khaleesi,” Doreah smiled wanly, trying to put her at ease. “This will be over soon.”

Nodding, Daenerys nevertheless felt all her blood rush to her cheeks, flushing them with color. For a girl cloistered all her life - not from the existence of sex but certainly the nature of the act itself - one couldn’t help but be just a tiny bit mortified. ‘That all the lessons put images of one handsome northman into my head doesn’t help matters.’ That her first night of sex lessons only two days before her wedding happened right after a whole midday and afternoon with the handsome, kind Jon Snow didn’t help such matters.

A chuckle left the lips of her new handmaiden - the slave purchased by her brother. “Pay attention.” A gentle hand coaxed the embarrassed Dany to look at her. “It’s the eyes, Khaleesi. Always keep your eyes on your beloved.” Grinning sultrily, Doreah rolled her hips around Dany’s, miming the sex act for her new lady. “Love comes in at the eyes.”

“Does it?” Remembering a pair of grey orbs, boring into her soul, Dany began to appreciate the words. ‘Perhaps she is right.’

“Oh yes. Irogenia or Lys was said to have finished a man by simply looking them in the eye.”

Dany raised an eyebrow. “Finish a man?” Watching Doreah smirk, realization dawned on her face - along with yet another blush. “Oh.” Thinking of Jon doing just that made her blush even more crimson. “I don’t think J… Drogo would like me being on top.”

“Dothraki take slaves like a hound takes a bitch, Khaleesi. A man desires something that they never had, and it is the wife’s job to please him so greatly with those skills that he never strays.” She mimes riding her, showing her the proper way to ride a man when Doreah suddenly stops. “Wait, you almost said another name, not your intended’s.” Her eyes flashed interest. “Hmmm, so there is someone else that you lust for? And yet your skill is that of a prudish Westerosi spinster.” She giggled at Dany’s half-glare. “If you made love before, then you wouldn’t be this inexperienced Khaleesi - so I’d take it that he is one that takes what he wants as well?”

“What… no…” By now, Dany felt she’d be beet red - as if covered in dust from the Red Waste. “I’ve never done… that.”

“No? Such a shame for your preferred lover. You are a rare beauty, Daenerys of House Targaryen.” Carefully stepping off her, Doreah readjusted her skirt “It is too bad Khaleesi, that you have not had a lover before. That would make this far easier, both in teaching you and for when you marry the Khal.”

“What do you mean?” Now Dany was puzzled. Much as she would have enjoyed laying with a particular man, both her honor and need to preserve her maidenhead prevented it - for the good of House Targaryen, to provide Viserys with his army. “I cannot lay with a man. My husband must be my first.”

Pouring a cup of Dornish red wine from the corner table, Doreah let out a merry stream of laughter. “Who told you that? If it was your brother, then he is quite misinformed. The rightful King, but ignorant of the persons he wishes to fight for him.”

Dany blinked. “The Khal wouldn’t value his bride’s maidenhead? I don’t want to jeopardize my brother’s army.”

“Don’t worry, Khaleesi. The Dothraki depend on large numbers to conduct their raids. They care not about chastity - though I wouldn’t advise you to cheat on your Khal, simply because you are the Khaleesi. Fertility is what is important to them.” Gingerly, she sat on the bed next to Daenerys. “As long as you can give the Khal plenty of strong sons and beautiful daughters, he will not care how many past lovers you had.” Doreah winked at her, choosing that moment to step outside. ‘The Princess has a lot to think about,’ she couldn’t help but think, a wry smirk on her lips.

Simply lying there, staring blankly at the ceiling, Dany’s mind was racing a mile a minute. ‘Is it true, what she said?’ If it was, then.... Scrambling out of bed, she quickly snatched up the thick book resting on a shelf in the far corner of the room. One that she borrowed from Illyrio’s library, titled Understanding the Dothraki Horde. Eager to learn, Dany had read about halfway through but now leafed through to the final section - where the information was bound to be…

Wide eyed, Dany felt her knees buckle. Collapsing onto bed, the words were burned in her mind. ‘It is true. Jon and I could…’

She quickly composed herself. ‘I am blood of the dragon.’ If any person was capable of decisive action, it was Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. Standing, she made her way out of the room. She knew what she wanted and would obtain it no matter what.

 

Unable to sleep, Jon rolled over onto his back for the fifth time in thirty minutes. He wished he could drift into slumber, but his mind raced with images of the goddess sleeping somewhere else in the mansion. In a few days, she’d marry the Dothraki Khal and he and his father would set sail for Westeros, never to set eyes on Daenerys Targaryen ever again. Oh how he wished he could just toss her over his shoulder and take her back to Winterfell, but that wasn’t possible. “A bastard doesn’t get to have the beautiful woman,” Jon mused. They never married highborn ladies, never got to have love in the end. Most died alone, which was why the Night’s Watch was so appealing.

Hearing a soft knock on the door, Jon was glad for there to be something to distract from his insomnia. Given this had happened before, he half expected it to be Dany… What he never would have prepared for was what was to come. “Jon,” she announced, silver hair flowing behind her as she breezed in. “I need to speak with you.”

“Can’t sleep either, Dany?” he asked, chuckling. It was then apparent to him that she wasn’t in the mood for jokes.

Without warning, she pulled Jon into her arms and kissed him - deeply. “Make love to me, Jon.” His eyes widened, the grey eyes that she loved so very much. “Please.”

For several moments, nothing came out of him. “Da… Daenerys. I… we can’t.” Images of the Dothraki impaling him through the back came to mind. “You should go.”

“No.” She gripped his arm, holding tight. “The Dothraki don’t care. All they want is for their women to bear them children.” Pain filled her soul - Daenerys didn’t want to bear the Khal’s children, only someone else’s. ‘My wolf’s.’ She didn’t say that out loud. “They are not like those in Westeros.”

If this was true, Jon would be stupid not to take her up on that offer. There was nothing he would rather do more, but hesitate he did. “Dany, you deserve more than a bastard.”

“Please Jon. I don’t want my first time to be like this. I want it with someone I know that cares about me. With someone I…” Daenerys closed her eyes, tears poking out from underneath the creamy lids. “With someone that I love.” There, it was said. She loved Jon Snow - loved him more than anything. In less than a month he had stolen her heart… no, she had given him her heart willingly. How could she have not?

Mouth agape, knees trembling, Jon had to brace himself against the wall. ‘She loves me. Loves me.’ The radiant Daenerys Stormborn, Dragon Princess, loved a northern bastard. He had run from female affections all his life, convincing himself - not altogether without evidence - that no woman would ever want the Bastard of Winterfell.

“I can’t sire yet another bastard named Snow.” But with Dany… a warmth spread to his body. Jon saw the fear and sadness from her face melt away, her eyes staring at him intently. A smile tugged on his lips. Who was he to deny the truth? Stronger men couldn’t have resisted her, and at this moment Jon couldn’t. “I… I love you too.”

Whatever emotions Daenerys wore before melted in the brilliant grin that stretched nearly from ear to ear. The future didn’t matter - all that did was that Jon was here, and he returned her feelings. He loved her, and she loved him. Crossing the small distance between them, Dany crashed their mouths together. Her lips opened, his tongue plunging between hers as he wrapped his strong arms around her waist and pulled her as close as possible. She complied, wanting to be flush against him, feel his hard body on hers.

The small yip that left the enchanting Daenerys Stormborn’s throat as they collapsed on the bed made Jon smile against her lips, his strength ensuring they never had to break their hungry kiss. They had kissed before, sometimes passionately, but never like this. Never gone this far. ‘I couldn’t have kept my hands off her if I knew.’ No woman could compare to Dany. Hands roaming over the lithe curves and supple breasts barely concealed by her flimsy nightgown, every moan coaxed from Dany at a new spot discovered was sent right to Jon’s member, now as hard as Valyrian steel.

Nimble fingers enclosed around the fabric of his tunic, nearly ripping it to get it off. Seeing Jon’s bare torso exposed to her, Dany latched her lips to his neck, loving how strong and warm it felt to her tongue. Loving the grunts that he made because of her. “Dany,” she heard him whisper, making her heart hitch with love. Leaning up slightly, Daenerys closed her eyes and lowered the straps of her nightgown. She had a good opinion of her body - at least from what Viserys and Doreah had told her of it - but in front of Jon she was shy and nervous. ‘I want to please him.’ Opening them after several seconds passed, a shiver of pleasure warmed her core at the pure lust in his dark grey eyes.

“You’re beautiful,” Jon managed to ground out, staring at the milky globes that Daenerys had exposed for him. Seeing her shy blush, he grabbed her hands in his, kissing them. “You are, Dany.” She seemed to melt at that, thrusting out her chest.

If she was to live her life as her brother’s pawn, Dany would have this pleasure first. Enjoy the man she truly loved before it was too late. “Make love to me, Jon.”

Jon was eager to comply. “As you wish, my Lady.”

Gasping, Dany fought to keep her eyes open as her wolf latched to one breast. Her hands grasped his head, holding him there. “Please, don’t stop.” Licking, nipping, and sucking, Jon’s hot mouth brought her so much pleasure - more than she had ever thought possible. His stubble tickled her skin. The grip on his wavy hair tightened. “Gods, you are wonderful!” How he did it, made her close to shattering with barely any touches, was dizzying and amazing at the same time.

Breast red and slick from his attention, Jon released it and attacked the other, earning yet another round of those delicious moans and whimpers that he now adored. Straining against his now tight trousers, he quickly began to shove it down his legs. The nipple left his mouth with a pop. Soon her thin shift joined the trousers on the floor, both of them completely bare. Unlike back home, Jon didn’t need a crackling fire to keep comfortable in this state.

Unsure and dejected at Jon abandoning her breasts, Dany opened her eyes only to have them immediately widen. There he was, nude. She had seen nude men before, but never in this light. Never one so… perfect. Rippling muscles, taut stomach, length thick and long as it poked into her stomach. Daenerys gulped, reaching down to touch it. A hiss escaped Jon’s lips when she closed her fingers around it. She found she liked that noise very much. “Enjoying this, Jon Snow?” Dany said with a small smile.

“Aye.” He was so hard it was painful. “I could explode at any minute, Dany.”

The thought was sobering, bringing out the gravity of what they were about to do. ‘I don’t care.’ Daenerys wanted this boy to be her first. To always have this memory of when she was truly happy. “I love you, Jon.”

“Love you too,” he replied, replacing her hand and guiding his length to her entrance - it was how Theon always described how to do the act, though this moment was nothing like his tawdry stories. Loving, not debased. With the perfect woman beneath him. The woman he loved. “There’s no going back from this.”

“I know. Please don’t make me wait.” On instinct, she locked her legs around his waist, leaving Jon no recourse but to slide inside her.

The feeling was like no other. Hot and wet walls sheathed him, soaking his length and drawing him further inside. All the stories Robb and Theon told him made sense to Jon now, though he doubted anything they experienced could compare to Dany. The heat was intense, dragonfire, though perfect to him. “Dany.” His Dany, at least for now. Reveling in the feelings, a soft whimper of pain drew his eyes to hers. “Should I stop?” he asked with concern, seeing her discomfort.

Dany shook her head almost violently, cupping his cheek. “No, do not stop. I’ll be fine.” She kissed him and all his tension melted. Slowly, he began to rock inside her. Daenerys let out a scream inside his mouth. The kiss never broke, the princess using it to ground herself in reality. It felt like nothing she could have ever experienced. A delicious fullness, satisfying an empty, carnal longing deep within her body and soul. “Jon. Jon. Jon,” she purred into his mouth, tightening her legs to spur him on. Something was building inside her, something that would soon burst with the force of a thousand dragons.

Increasing the force and speed of his thrusts, Jon gritted his teeth as he watched Dany’s eyes roll in the back of her head. Whatever pain was evidently gone, replaced with pleasure. If she felt even a fraction of the pleasure he was feeling… Walls contracting like a vice around him, Jon felt it happen. The breaking point before his release. “Dany!”

The sensation of his seed coating her walls did it for her. The dam broke. “Jon!” Daenerys shattered around him, stars and flame in her vision as the rippling climax coursed through her entire body. She felt him collapse on her, his welcome weight pressing down on her body as the final shockwaves left her system - leaving nothing but spellbinding bliss.

Feeling his heart beating out of his chest, Jon rolled off Daenerys’ body and onto his back. A smile crossed his face as the lithe form of his lover immediately turned as well and snuggled against him. Silver hair spilled out on his chest, soft lips placing a kiss right on his heart. “Mmmmm, I love your heartbeat.”

“I’m glad,” he replied, stroking her shoulder. “Why is it that it always goes like this?”

Dany looked up at him. A slender hand reached up to play with one of his raven curls. “What do you mean, Jon Snow?” The soft glow of the moon highlighted her violet eyes, making her even more regal than before.

Leaning forward, abdominal muscles strained for a slight moment as he pecked her lips. “Our relationship, all the important moments began with you approaching me, mostly while I’m in my room.”

Blinking, Dany’s jaw dropped for a moment before a delightful giggling left her lips. “You may be right.” She rested her head on his chest and nuzzled it lovingly. “Whatever happened, it worked.”

“Aye, it did.” Jon wrapped his arms tightly around Dany, loving the pleasant warmth radiating off her porcelain skin. ‘The benefits of sleeping with a dragon,’ he thought happily, closing his eyes with a pleased sigh.

“What are these benefits you speak of?” His eyes opened and found the object of his joy lying atop him. She sported a quizzical look on her face, as if daring him to answer the question.

Surprised, Jon, gulped. “Did I say that out loud?”

Much as she tried to remain dour, Dany couldn’t help the smirk on her face. ‘It would be impossible to be dignified when alone with this man.’ He made her want to act like a love-struck maiden - which in this case, she was. “Yes you did, Jon Snow, so you have to answer your Princess.”

Grey eyes found themselves rolled. “Your warmth. I could very well use you on cold, winter nights in the north.”

“So I’m just a mobile brazier to you?”

“More or less,” Jon teased, causing her to smack him on the chest.

“Shut up.” It felt nice, being able to be herself. Daenerys loved this man, feeling privileged to see him crawl out of his brooding shell. Jon Snow was far more than the Bastard of Winterfell, the amazing, honorable man that so enraptured her kept hidden due to the anger of the outside world. Her blood boiled. ‘If only I could march to Winterfell and make sure they all knew how wonderful this man is…’ If only she could march. ‘I can’t.’ She couldn’t. In two days would likely never see this man again. Thoughts spewing forth from where their passion had forced them into, out of sight, tears welled in Dany’s eyes - spilling onto her lover’s chest.

Jon felt the superheated droplets on his skin. “Hey, what’s wrong, sweetling?”

A contented warmth spread through Daenerys at the pet name, heart swelling with love. ‘We may have only known each other for mere weeks, but this is real.’ She snuggled closer to him. “I love this. The first time I’ve felt at peace in years.”

Smiling, Jon ran his hands through her shimmering locks. “If only my siblings were in the same house as us, then it would be complete for me.”

“Even Sansa?” Dany remembered Jon telling her how she was always cold to him.

“Aye. I still love her, Dany. She’s my blood.”

Dany placed a kiss on his chest. “You’re a good brother, Jon. Loving and loyal to a fault.” A resigned breath left her lips. “Viserys was once like that, kind and sweet. When we lived in Braavos, in a house with a red door, he would often tell me stories at night about our house. The history of old Valyria.”

“That doesn’t sound like him now,” Jon couldn’t help but observe.

“King Robert’s agents killed our protector, and we were forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on our backs to save ourselves. Everyone used to call him the Beggar King. It… changed him.” She shimmied up the bed, resting her head in the crook of his neck. “Now, he’s cold and power-mad - like your father said about mine.” Fresh tears trickled from her eyes. “And I am not his sister, but a pawn in his quest for the throne. I don’t want to be a pawn.”

Close to tears himself, Jon held her tighter, kissing her cheek. “All my life, I wished to be my father’s trueborn son as Robb is. Growing up, I knew that was impossible, and dreamed of joining the Night’s Watch, where I’d be accepted.” As his uncle said, there were many bastards there, and all were brothers in the black. “Now, I would rather just be with you.”

The sobs escaped, Dany unable to control herself anymore. “I want the same, my sweet wolf.” She kissed him, deeply. “I want to run away with you, beyond the Red Wastes to places unknown, where we can be together. But, but, but…” It hurt to continue, so she instead kissed him again.

A hand rested on his heart, pressing not a soft warmth but the pure heat of dragonfire into him. Unlike how one would expect, it felt welcome to Jon… more calming than anything before. “Dany…”

“I love you Jon Snow,” she ground out, sobbing. Daenerys pressed her lips against his hungrily. Passionately. Desperately. “No matter where you are, be it in Winterfell, the Wall, or the frozen wastes far to the north, know that I love you.”

Hi squeezed her tightly, rolling her around and pressing his skin flush against hers. He would not cry, fighting the tears threatening to fall. But when Jon spoke, the emotion hoarse in his voice was unmistakeable. “Daenerys.” All her kisses were returned, their tongues clashing. “I love you too. No matter where we are, I always will.” Fresh tears escaping her, Dany simply melted into their ardor.

Nothing mattered to the two lovers in that moment, just each other. Enjoying every newfound act of sexual intimacy. Celebrating a love that almost never happened, and honoring one that likely could never continue. Two lost souls that found each other.

Fire and Ice.

Chapter Text

A Dothraki wedding was certainly a sight to behold. While Jon had figured that the parties and feasts thrown in the great hall of Winterfell were rowdy, ale and meat passed around as dozens of boisterous northerners celebrated, they were downright meek compared to the kind of celebration thrown by the plains horde. Whole animals were roasted on spits, warriors mounted women in the plain view of everyone else, and dozens of fights broke out. He - and his father both - were disgusted as one rider disemboweled another at the foot of the Khal’s platform over a female dancer decked out in garish blue paint. Overhearing Illyrio, apparently a Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths was a tame affair.

Glancing up at the dais, Jon felt his heart clench for the woman he loved. Standing next to the Khal was Daenerys, apprehension and misery written all over her face. He wanted to go to her. Wanted to grab her and stow her away on the ship to White Harbor - but one look at his father and reality proved to Jon that this was impossible.

Jon was surprised to see a Westerosi face next approach Dany. His father leaned forward, eyes boring deeply on the man in a determined stare. “Your Grace,” he bowed. “Ser Jorah Mormont of Bear Island.” The northerner’s eyes widened. “Histories of Westeros, your Grace, a humble offering.”

“Your offering is much appreciated, Ser Jorah,” Dany responded, smiling kindly on the weathered knight.

“Father, this is the man you condemned to death,” Jon hissed, only to be silenced with a hard look. He knew that look, his father had planned something.

Jorah bowed deeper, bending the knee. “Your grace, as someone that has knowledge of the Dothraki and their ways, I humbly pledge my services to you in any capacity that you see fit.” He rose and walked to the side, taking a seat near the edge of the main party - sharing a quick look with Ned, who nodded.

Lord Stark soon rose, approaching the newly married couple to offer his congratulations and a small gift. As protocol dictated, the bastard son of the lord was relegated to after the Lord himself - had this been at Winterfell, Jon knew that even four year old Rickon would outrank him in matters such as these. Sharing a glance with Ned, who sent him a calming nod and smile, Jon held his gift horizontally upon outstretched arms. He caught the inquisitive look from the rather intimidating Khal Drogo. Out of the corner of his eye, Viserys scoffed at his presence.

“Presenting, Jon Snow, the bastard son of Lord Ned Stark,” Illyrio announced, adding the phrase in Dothraki for the other guests.

Locking eyes with Dany, Jon could see the slight hitch of her breath and flush on her cheeks. Most would likely think it was the sun. Jon smirked. He knew better.

The two lovers moved in tandem, one meeting the thrusts of the other. Tongues danced, hands roamed, and skin pressed against skin as neither even dared to allow any form of separation. Their mouths had joined at the beginning and never once broke. Only for a quick gulp of needed air would they part, lips crashing back into nirvana right after. They needed this. Needed it more than to quench their thirst or abate their hunger. Needed the closeness.

“Oh, Jon,” Dany moaned into her lover’s mouth as he shifted angle, hitting into a spot that made her see dragonfire. In the last few days since they abandoned modesty and lost themselves in each other, her wolf had grown from a cautious virgin into quite the skilled man. “Ah! Please.” She bit his lower lip, not complaining.

Grunting, the northerner’s hair spilled over his eyes as he continued to thrust inside his dragon. “So tight, Dany.” Her walls tightened around him like a vice, sucking him deeper. It felt angelic, the greatest pleasure of his life. “Fuck yes, so amazing.”

“Yes. Fuck me hard, Jon!” Detaching her kiss swollen lips from his, Daenery surged forward and latched onto his neck, sucking hard. “Remember this, Jon Snow,” she hissed. “Remember our love. Remember me.” She would remember him - till her dying day Daenerys Targaryen would remember her wolf.

Jon kissed her. “I will. Always, my love,” he groaned as both of them tumbled into bliss...

Dany closed her eyes, core heating at the sensuous memory. ‘Was it only early this morning?’ Noticing he was getting close, she wished she could take him now - that he was her groom instead. But that wasn’t going to happen, the look in his eyes told her he knew as well. His face morphing into an impassive one of respect, he bent the knee. “My lady, I present to you a humble gift to honor your marriage.”

A biting laugh rang out. “What could a bastard offer a Princess,” mocked Viserys. Dany glanced at him apologetically, while Jon ignored the insult. His attention was focused on the silver-haired goddess, wishing that it was he marrying her than the stony-faced Khal.

Drogo grumbled something in the guttural Dothraki language. “He says for you to present the present, for you are taking too much time.” The main guests all found humor in that, Jon noticing his father’s distinctive chuckle. Even Dany smiled at it.

He accepted it with a sheepish smile. “My apologies, honored Khal, Khaleesi.” The way he said it made Dany shudder internally, knowing it was his bedroom voice. Without delay, the small cloth covering the gift was removed and she let out a gasp at the gleaming metal.

“A sword?” Viserys scoffed, as if both amused and insulted. Dany stared in wonder. Holding it, Jon sliced it slowly and fluidly through the air, showing off its capabilities. The steel was smooth, pressed thin and flat in a gleaming curve just under one arm length long. The curve was shallow, unlike the Dornish scimitar or Dothraki sickle, connected to a simple cylindrical hilt of fine sharkskin.

Jon presented it to her, kneeling once again. “It is a katana, Khaleesi, favored by the peoples beyond the Red Waste.” He reached out, guiding Dany’s hand along the smooth blade - sparks shot out from where they touched, Jon noticing her struggling to remain composed. Their eyes locked, love relayed through to the other. “Valyrian steel, imported to the Eastlands from Old Valyria itself.” The merchant that he purchased it from had no idea, only knowing it had come from the east by way of Qarth - the only city that had trade ties with the Eastlands.

Fluid, easy for her to handle, Daenerys was on the verge of tears. Her wolf knew how much their sessions meant to her, and purchased a weapon he personally selected that was perfect for her to handle. She wanted to kiss those wonderful lips of his, Jon staring at her in a similar manner. The sexual tension between them could have been cut with a knife.

Luckily, a humorous bark from her husband saved them both. All around the Dothraki howled in laughter, pumping their weapons in the air. At a questioning look from Viserys, Illyrio translated, laughing himself. “The Khal has stated that such a weak sword is perfect for the weak female touch.” Jon pursed his lips - Dany was far from week, joining Arya and Lady Stark as some of the strongest women he’d ever known. No part of him sought conflict with Drogo, however, so he merely bowed and headed back to his seat next to Ned.

Both he and Daenerys missed how proximate they had been to each other.

“And now for the final gift,” said Illyrio with a sweeping gesture. Two burly servants ambled forward. In their hands was carried a large chest, which let out a resounding clunk upon being set on the dusty ground. “For the bride, blood of the dragon, I have found the perfect token of my well wishes and honor.”

Straining to see what it was, Jon saw Dany’s eyes widen after Illyrio swung the chest open. “Gods,” his father whispered next to him, slight shock written on his face.

“Father?”

“I thought there were none left,” came the cryptic reply. What Illyrio said next would shed light for Jon, but it seemed as if Eddard Stark wasn’t telling all he knew.

“Dragon eggs, Khaleesi. From the mountains beyond Assai. Though the centuries have ossified them into stone, their beauty shines to anyone that beholds them.” He watched with a grin as Dany stood, running her hands over the scales. “Keep this as a reminder of your heritage, as a daughter of Old Valyria.”

Tips of the scales pricking at her fingers, Dany’s eyes glazed over. She sensed a… heat coming from the eggs. Faint, but there. Thanking Illyrio for the gift, her gaze shifted to Jon. No words had to be said.

I love you.

I love you too.

Our hearts will always be connected.

One day, I hope we can be together.

I will pray for that, my love.

 

“That’s it Joffrey, swing left,” came the guttural growl of King Robert of House Baratheon. His meaty paws clutched a chicken drumstick, enjoying his considerable lunch outside on the sunny Riverlands day. “Catch him off balance!”

The golden-haired prince slashed with the wooden trainer, chafing at his mother’s insistence on the generally harmless weapon over his brand-new sword gifted to him by his uncle Renly on his last name day. His personal guard and instructor, Ser Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, was skilled enough to dumb down his swordsmanship for the boy - but there was no getting past Queen Cersei and her overprotective devotion. It drove King Robert to distraction, and irritated Joffrey in this instance.

“Careful!” the aforementioned queen, locks as golden as her beloved son, shouted as the Hound skillfully parried the sloppy blow his ward sent at him. “Careful with my sweetling.”

A belch resounded from the King’s stomach. “Seven Hells, woman. The boy needs to man up! Do as you were taught, lad. I’ll make a Baratheon out of you yet.” His house was populated with powerful warriors, both him and his two brothers some of the most skilled in the Seven Kingdoms. “Slice his arm off! Defend your house and your honor!”

After yet another parry was dispatched, Joffrey snarled and charged at the Hound. Fighting the urge to roll his eyes, the burn-scarred knight sidestepped his Prince, watching him trip over his feet and stumble to the ground. Elbow outstretched, it slammed against a stone resting in the grass.

Pain shot through Joffrey’s arm, a sharp stab that had him curled into a ball and clutching the wounded arm. “Ahhhh!” Heads turned across the entire encampment, their Prince’s cries not an uncommon sound for them.

Cersei was out of her seat almost immediately, skirts fluttering as she rushed toward her fallen boy. “Joffrey! My sweetling.” Kneeling, she cared not that the dirt soiled the expensive silk. “Call a maester! The Prince is injured!”

Belly jostling, the King lurched from his bench and made his way to the two of them. “Let me ‘ave a looks see.” Once trim and powerful, the man that defeated the great Rhaegar Targaryen with his mighty warhammer, the now King waddled across the ground with the grace of a southern penguin - or rather the lack of it. It was a sorry sight. Roughly yanking his son and heir off the ground, blue eyes narrowed as they inspected Joffrey’s injury. “Gods! What in the name of the Warrior is this?” Robert’s mouth contorted in disgust and embarrassment. “You call this an injury?”

Smacking the affected elbow, Joffrey cried in pain from the sting. His father wasn’t known for his consideration or empathy. “Father, please. It hurts!”

“‘Father, please. It hurts,’” the King mocked in a falsetto. “Stop whining like a woman. Get back to your tent, compose yourself like a man, and get back here and do it again! No food until you do!” Shaking his head in annoyance, his glare rested on his Queen and wife - though the last time they shared a bed escaped his memory. “And don’t even think about disobeying my command, lionspawn. That boy takes too much after you for his own good!” Grumbling, he plopped down and resumed his lunch, too apathetic to notice the death glare Cersei sent his way.

Expensive crocodile skin boots squelching through the mud, Joffrey fought back tears as he hurried to his tent. The Hound followed right behind, ever the loyal guard. “Your grace, I didn’t intend to let you…”

“Stuff it, Hound, if you know what’s good for you!” snarled the Prince, flinging the curtains back to the yellow-black tent. Rolling his eyes once more, Sandor muttered exactly what he thought of his ward before heading to grab some stew.

Breathing hard, Joffrey stared at what possessions he had. The sharp blade rested on the table, hilt encrusted with gold and steel polished enough to gleam. “Fucking Northerners! Fucking Hound!” Unsheathing the sword in a blind rage, Joffrey swung it down at the table, slicing it in two. “Fucking father!” Angered screams echoed through the tent, the blonde-haired boy venting his frustration out on the furniture.

“I’ll show them!” A mirror found itself shattering, Joffrey disgusted with the weak boy staring back at him. “I will be the strongest, most powerful King in history!” His enemies would rot, his father choking on his words. “He will see! They will all see!”

 

A gentle wind wafted across Dany’s face, blowing her hair behind her in a lustrous sheen. It was said that such coloring made Targaryen women the most beautiful in all the world. Jon certainly thought so, given how he looked at her - those grey eyes near black with desire. A contented smile passed over her face for but a moment, thinking of the handsome face of her wolf.

The heavy breathing behind her dispelled those thoughts to the back of her mind. Khal Drogo - her husband - on the other hand was an enigma. In matters of battle and strength his opinions were worn on his muscular sleeve, chuckling and rolling his eyes at the various antics of his blood riders. Silently cheering on the fight that saw one of them die. In matters of love, of affection, his brown eyes gave away nothing. His lips remained flat in an expressionless scowl. Daenerys knew not how he felt for her. Whether her beauty bewitched or even excited him, or whether he would rather avail himself to the swarthy Dothraki women that likely warmed his bed before. She gulped, choosing not to think about it.

Gazing at the rocky shore, Dany found no others but herself and Drogo. A good distance away rested both their horses, her husband’s powerful Volantian stallion’s brown coat contrasting with the snow white of her Dornish mare. Ser Jorah’s words came to mind: “The Dothraki believe everything of importance must be done under the open sky.” And her she was. A married woman ready to consummate her marriage outside.

A rough hand brushed against her shoulder, toying with the strap of her gown. Unlike Jon’s touch, she had to force herself not to shudder. Unlike with her brother’s, Dany succeeded. “Do you know the common tongue?” she asked, hoping for an affirmative. Her Dothraki was very limited.

“No,” came the grunted reply.

‘A dragon does not cry.’ “Is no the only word that you know?”

Drogo untied a bow holding the back of her dress together, moving to two gold bangles in the front. “No.”

Eyes drifting to the vast expanse of ocean, Dany gazed intently for the speck of wood and sail - the speck that her love was on. ‘Jon.’ She missed him, missed his touch and his voice. ‘My wolf, my love.’

But he was gone. Likely she would never see him again.

‘A dragon does not cry.’ Yet tears trickled down her cheeks all the same.

With a flick of his meaty hand, Drogo let the wedding gown slide down her body. Self-conscious - wishing only Jon could have the privilege of seeing her breasts, of lavishing them with the attention that made her melt from pleasure - Dany nevertheless didn’t cover up. She let her new husband cup one of the mounds roughly. It was her duty now, and by the gods she was not going to let herself be hurt.

Sensing Drogo kneel behind her, Dany turned around roughly. “No.” A flash of anger crossed his eyes before she rested a soothing palm on his chest. “Please. I would like to look upon you as we make love.” Dothraki halting and heavily accented, Daenerys saw that he understood her all the same. For the longest time, she waited in silence as Drogo pondered her request. Every second that passed she waited for him to shove her onto her hands and knees and fuck her brutally - nowhere near the hard yet loving passion Jon used.

Doreah’s words proved true, however. Nodding almost imperceptibly, Drogo acceded to his bride, likely the first time he had ever let a girl take the lead. ‘Men want what they never had.’ Mounting him, giving the Khal her best look of lust and passion, as she lowered herself onto him Dany nevertheless only thought of Jon.

 

“Jon.” The young man glanced back at his father, who viewed him with kind eyes. “Are you coming below? It will be a long voyage, and you’ll need your rest for the ride back to Winterfell.”

Smiling wanly at his father, Jon shook his head. “I’ll be there in a moment, father. Allow me a little more time in the fresh air.” The cooling mist took that time to hit his skin, banishing the heat that clung to him thanks to the scorching equatorial sun.

Ned nodded, turning to head down the stairs of the sternpalace. A sense of foreboding, of destiny coursed through him, body shuddering slightly. ‘He pines for her. Misses her. Loves her.’ Nothing of this magnitude escaped him. It felt as if the last seventeen years of his life had led to this moment, put into place as part one of a song that was yet to be completed.

“Lyanna,” he whispered to the sparkling ocean, to the orange-pink skies above. “I pray that I have done right by you today.” For his role, at least for the portion left behind, was complete. It was up to the gods now.

Staring at the shrinking landmass to his south, the red-orange orb of the sun setting on the right, Jon thought of his beloved. The woman he loved with all his heart. Alone, fulfilling a destiny that did not include him. Never to see him again, or he her. It took all his strength, all the honor of a Wolf of Winterfell, to not break down and allow the pain to fully crush his heart.

“Daenerys… Dany…” Closing his eyes, a single tear fell into the waves below.

Chapter Text

Grasshopper whizzing past his head, Jon heard the merry chirping of birds all around him. It hadn’t been winter for years, but for him it always was a bit of a shock to see the north so vibrant and full of life. After listening to the tales and perceptions of many others from across the world, his home had the reputation of being rather bleak and lifeless. ‘I wish Dany could have seen it.’ Jon blinked back the urge to cry. No matter where his thought process shifted to, it always came back to the silver-haired princess. His love. His first. ‘The wife of another.’ He wouldn’t cry, not again.

Another insect irritated his mount, causing her to neigh. “Easy girl,’ Jon whispered, stroking the horse’s head gently. A soft crunching drew his attention to Ghost, who was happily chewing on a grasshopper in his jaw. “Enjoy that snack boy. Nothing more till we get to Winterfell.”

“Shouldn’t be more than an hour away, I would think,” his father stated, pointing to the sky. “Sun’s directly above us, gonna be there right after lunch.”

Jon nodded. “Hope so. All this riding is giving me aches.”

“You’ll get used to it, but not by much.” The two of them shared chuckles, enjoying the quiet time together. ‘He seems lighter, more confident underneath his sadness.’ Ned would have been an idiot not to know why - they weren’t being quite the masters at sneaking into each other’s rooms. They had been lucky that only he noticed. ‘Just like Lyanna,’ he thought to himself. ‘Can’t resist the allure of a dragon.’

A commotion ahead of them drew their attention. Hoofbeats filled the air. “Father, something’s ahead on the King’s Road.” Jon stilled his mount, Ghost starting to bark.

“I see that, son. Ride behind me.” Urging the horse into a light gallop, Ned quickly approached the massive host. Eyes widened at the distinctive Stag and Lion sigels.

‘Robert.’

 

It was always surreal for Ned Stark when he entered the Winterfell crypts. Nothing but a flickering light from the few torches to banish away the darkness, the dancing shadows that were cast on the sarcophagi of Starks long dead left him disconcerted most of the time - especially at the three youngest stone tombs. Added in not even two decades before. His brother and father, the latter’s body too burned to be recognizable, and his beloved sister. The one King Robert Baratheon stood in front of, body stone still in grief still crippling. Lyanna.

“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t miss her, Ned,” the King ground out. A meaty hand rested on the dusty stone, almost reverently. As if a pilgrim touched an ancient relic.

Ned bit back the urge to draw his sword and sever the hand. ‘You don’t deserve to even speak about her.’ Much as Robert was a friend to him, he was the cause of all of this - just as much as the Mad King. “She was an amazing woman,” he finally said, voice heavy with sincere emotion. Ned did grieve for her, and wore it as a cloak against the bile. “Everyone loved her.” Lyanna was the She Wolf of Winterfell, able to charm anyone into loving her. ‘But she only loved one, a dragon.’

Tears welled in Robert’s eyes. “The sad thing is, I barely even remember her face.” He laughed half-heartedly, likely to keep from crying. “What could have been, Ned,” the King announced, grasping the Warden of the North’s shoulder. “The two of us, bound in blood as well as friendship. A stronger alliance emerging out of the ashes of the dragonspawn.” Grief morphed quickly into anger. “I’ll kill every single one of them. Every last Targaryen in this world, in her name. She deserves that justice.”

‘Even her child? The one she and her true husband loved?’ The King’s anger was still not tempered by time, burning white hot against the house that stole his beloved from him. Hiding Jon in plain sight only increased in importance, given what had happened in Essos. It were times like this that truly tested the famed honor of Lord Eddard Stark. Much as he loved Robert, he hated him just as much.

‘Tell him, Ned.’ Ned sighed, knowing there was going to be no better time. Robert was alone with him, and it was far less likely that he’d go into a homicidal rage when in Lyanna’s presence. “Robert,” Ned said, clasping both of the man’s shoulders. “You do know that I would never betray you.”

The king snorted, eyes narrowing in confusion. “Well of course, Ned. What in Seven Hells are you talking about?”

Best out with it. “Do you know who are the remaining Targaryens are?”

Rage crossed back on Robert’s face. “Yeah, the last two of the Mad King’s hellspawn. A son and daughter.” His head tilted back as he roared in laughter. “Last I heard, they were living as beggars in Essos. Fitting life, before I have them killed.”

Much as it pained Ned to allow Daenerys to essentially be sold to the Dothraki, she was safer with the Khal than anywhere near Robert Baratheon. “Robert, I… when I arrived in Pentos to secure the grain shipment, the merchant with whom I resided hat them as his guests.”

Eyes widening, Robert, squeezed his upper arm. “Did you do it, Ned? Did you kill them, avenging your father and my bride?” He seemed almost gleeful at the possibility.

Grief, hate, and complete obliviousness had consumed the once great leader and warrior. ‘All the drinking and whoring haven’t helped.’ What could have been a solid marriage with Cersei Lannister was tanked by Robert himself, killing what respect Ned had for the King. He steeled himself for what was to come. “I had no authority to carry out any sentence in Pentos, and I couldn’t dishonor myself in such a way.”

Silence reigned for the moment before a guttural snarl left Robert’s throat. “TRAITOR! You dare leave the swine alive?!” Robert grabbed him by his cloak. “After all that has happened, you let the Targaryens escape to scheme against me, call me a usurper, and prepare to destroy the peace I have brought to the realm!” Steam almost left his ears, chubby face red as a tomato. “I should have you drawn and quartered for this!”

Ned allowed his anger to rise. Batting aside Robert’s grasp - none of the great warrior remaining in the fat king - he roughly gripped the King’s head and forced him to look at Rickard Stark’s tomb. “Look at it. Look at it, Robert. That is my father, corpse having to be entombed in a closed coffin because there was barely anything left from when the Mad King burned him alive. If you think I’d side with the Targaryens then you don’t deserve my friendship or loyalty!” Not a total lie - Ned hated the Mad King more than anyone in the known world.

Never confronted in this way by anyone other than Ned and Stannis, Robert’s rage evaporated - the shock of Ned’s response had blasted through it.

Taking advantage, the Warden of the North pressed on. “I didn’t have a choice in my contact with them. To insult my host by trying to kill the exiled Prince would have jeopardized the grain shipment for Karhold, an action that I was not about to let happen.”

A snort left the King’s nostrils. “Lord Eddard Stark’s famous honor.” It seemed the ghost of a grin couldn’t help but grace his lips. “Only one person could break it, and I have yet to meet her.” His eyes softened, Ned’s rationalizations seeming to work - he wondered if it was the presence of Lyanna, tempering his anger and boorishness. ‘She did always do that, much as she hated him.’

“Prince Viserys, he couldn’t be less of a threat to you if he tried. Don’t worry about him, Robert.” In this Ned was completely sincere, able to use his true feelings and divulge his real observations. “The boy is a stupid version of his father. Arrogant and entitled, without an ounce of sense.” A grin appeared on his face, a rare laugh leaving his lips. “He once told everyone that the people of Westeros raised secret toasts to his health.”

Robert’s belly jostled as he chortled, laughing bombastically. “That little twerp. I will personally enjoy using my warhammer on him when the time comes.” That Robert was likely too fat to go into battle anytime soon wasn’t voiced by Ned. The King shifted his gaze back to Ned, wiping spittle off his beard. “And what of the girl?”

“The Targaryen princess was married off to the Dothraki Khal, she’s just a child, Robert. Not a threat to you or anyone.” At this point, it was true. “No self respecting horse tribesman would fight for her brother. He couldn’t general a bun fight in a brothel.”

“Bun fight in a brothel, I like that.” His scowl returned. “I want them both dead, Ned, regardless of how incompetent one of them is. They stole Lyanna from me, and I vowed to her that I’d kill every last one of them!”

‘And I vowed the exact opposite directly to her,’ Ned thought, wishing he could slam his fists into the King. Knowing that to be a mistake, he triggered his final strategy. “I know you would, Robert. That is why I have a person I trust attached to them.”

“Who?” Robert’s eyes widened in curiosity.

“Jorah Mormont.”

“The Lord of Bear Island? The one you sentenced to death?”

“No one would expect him to be my agent. I offered him a pardon to track her movements for me.” As before, not a complete lie.”

A wide smile stretched on the King’s face. “Fucking good move! There’s the great Eddard Stark, and he ‘as a cunning side after all!” Robert smacked Ned on the back, anger forgotten. “Sorry bout that, Ned. I should’ve known you’d always be loyal. Being on that damn horse and having to deal with those goddamn gold-shitting Lannisters all the time messes up your head. By Gods, my own son can’t even swing a sword properly. Getting him betrothed to a hearty Stark girl will get that right out of him.” He gestured towards the exit. “Let’s forget about Targaryens for a while. Time to drink and be merry just like the old days!”

Letting out a soft breath, Ned nodded. The conversation having gone far better than he expected, the Warden of the North knew that a hearty feast would get his mind off everything - at least till his brother came.

 

To say that the Stark family had been shocked to see Ned and Jon arrive with the royal procession was an understatement. Not a moment after the King and his father disappeared into the Crypts did Arya and Bran throw themselves at Jon, hugging him tightly. Little Rickon joined in, while Robb clasped his shoulder. The welcome warmed Jon’s heart, having missed his siblings greatly - a quick look at Sansa expected her usual cold vestige. To Jon’s surprise, she hugged him too. Though not as warm, perhaps she did have a soft spot in her heart for him. The way the young Prince Joffrey eyed her over disconcerted him, though.

Locked out of the feast as usual, the bastard of Winterfell too humiliating to be displayed to the King - such was normal among noble families, the disgustingly ignoble Walder Frey the exception. Under the twinkling stars of the night sky, Jon grabbed his training sword to practice. The habit had become even more habitual for him since leaving Dany, to get his mind off of the woman he still loved with all his heart. ‘Dany.’ Whom he would never see again, he but a lowly bastard pining for the future Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

“The gods flip a coin for every Targaryen, one side for madness the other for greatness.”

Remembering his father’s words as he practiced fluid movements, Jon knew deep in his soul that she would be great. That she would be Queen. Needing to make alliances, secure victories through marriage - he would never shape up, never be more than the bastard son of a northern Lord. The most he could aspire to was the Night’s Watch...

“The southern sun agrees with you, Jon,” Robb chuckled, punching his brother’s shoulder playfully. “Adds a nice tan to your skin.”

“That’s what happens on the open ocean,” Theon Greyjoy said, combing his hair. “It’s why the Iron Islands breed strong, virulent warriors. The majesty of the waves.”

Jon rolled his eyes. A month away hadn’t changed Theon worth a damn. “Is that right? Then why are you here? Or Stannis Baratheon alive?” Theon’s smirk quickly changed into a scowl, deeper after Robb joined in the laughter. Enjoying putting the arrogant shit down, Jon winced as the barber gripped his chin in a vice of bony fingers. “I still don’t see the point of this.”
“All of us endured this, Jon,” Robb responded. “Mother wants us pretty for the King and Queen, and I’m not going to let you weasel your way out of it like you did everything else while you were gone.” There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Worked well for me, I got so much ass in Wintertown with this haircut.” Strutting around the room, Theon’s smugness was overbearing. “Wish you could have seen it, bastard.” He winked and left the room.

Jon rolled his eyes, left alone with Robb after the barber left. “Well, Theon’s just as much of an ass as he always was.” The memory of the Iron Islander almost killing the pups came to mind.

“Aye, he is.” Robb furrowed his brows. “You didn’t brood and shy away when he bragged about his exaggerated prowess.” ‘Damn,’ Jon thought, but his brother was already on the scent. “Did you meet a girl in Essos?” The raven-haired lad’s silence said it all. Robb laughed merrily. “Well good for you,” he said, slapping him on the back. “Who was it? The Targaryen princess?” Tone indicating it was a joke, the smile fell a bit at Jon’s continued silence. “Was it?”

“It’s a long story…”

He didn’t know why he confided in Robb about Dany, but knew he could trust his half-brother. The two were thick as thieves, always getting into adventures and trouble together over their shared childhood and adolescence. The heir to Winterfell had no problems with it, and gave his word to keep it a secret from everyone, but the whole experience just brought memories of Dany back to his mind.

Hacking again at the target, the steady clopping of hoofbeats drew Jon’s attention. “Is he dead yet?” The attention widened into a smile at the sight of the distinctive black cloak draped over the rider. Dismounting, the rider shot Jon a smile in return, striding up to him. “I was looking for my nephew, not a master swordsman in the making,” he said merrily.

“Uncle Benjen,” Jon replied, firmly encircling the man’s shoulders with his arms in a manly embrace. His uncle was one of the few outside his siblings that showered affection on him, and they were always close - and the fact he was the Head Ranger of the Night’s Watch didn’t hurt Benjen’s image. A bastard stuck in the middle of a sullen reception from the rest of Winterfell, the egalitarian nature of the Brotherhood appealed to Jon.

Now, all that he wished for was to be with Dany. To hold her in his arms and be her protector as she reclaimed her destiny, her birthright. But it was not to be. “Not inside?”

“Lady Stark…” resentment bubbled up, where only self-loathing would have been before. “Thought it would insult the Royal Family to seat a bastard in their midst.”

Benjen blinked. “Well… there’s always room for a bastard at the wall.”

“And I would take no wife, and father no children…” Silver-hair flashed in front of his eyes.

“It’s not like I have any other choice, uncle.”

 

Once Jon was out of sight, Benjen’s smile dropped into a pensive frown as he sought out Ned. As luck would hold, there he was, standing off to the side near the entrance to the great hall, seemingly getting some air. “Brother,” he called out in a harsh whisper. After a quick greeting, the still unsmiling Ned led him to a secluded alcove. “Is it true? Did he meet the Targaryen princess?” Ned’s letter didn’t leave much doubt to Benjen, but it had to be asked.

Ned’s nod told him everything. “Seems he can’t resist falling for a dragon any more than she could.”

Unable to resist chuckling, Benjen clutched the bridge of his nose. “While I’m happy for him, this does raise a massive problem for us. Did you tell anyone else about the truth?”

“I enlisted Jorah Mormont to protect Princess Daenerys in Essos.” Ned winced at what she was likely enduring in the hands of her brother and the Dothraki. “It killed me to leave her there and not bring her to safety among her… family, but there was simply no other choice.”

“Agreed.” Benjen knew Ned barely handled having to endure the stigma from his great lie. This was likely even worse in his eyes. “Even if Robert wouldn’t go into a homicidal rage and have her gutted, who’s to say Tywin Lannister wouldn’t sick the Mountain on her to protect Joffrey’s claim.” He ran a hand through his long hair. “And what about Jon?”

The Lord of Winterfell visibly sagged. “Does he still wish to join the Night’s Watch?” It had been Jon’s dream for years, the boy quite excited about it.

Benjen sighed and placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “He used to want to, but just now his entire tone about it was that he seeks to use it to escape whatever demons ail him. It’s not smart since the vows are for life. From the tone of your letter you intend on having him seek his birthright.”

“From what has transpired in Essos, I believe it inevitable.” Both brothers hushed up as a couple of drunk Lannister guards sauntered by, talking about the whores in wintertown. “He can’t know now, but we have to get everything that he needs up to Castle Black. In the care of your Maester.” Ned then spent the next few minutes discussing how exactly his plans would work.

“You’ve really thought of everything, haven’t you Ned?” Benjen chuckled dryly. “I just have one addition. You need to tell Catelyn.”

It was unavoidable. “Aye.”

 

“Explain to me why we are heading into the crypts, Ned?” Pulling a light cloak tighter around herself to ward out the draft, Catelyn stuck close to her torch-wielding husband. She never went down here - while there was no real reason for her to, the pitch blackness didn’t endear it to her. And to have Ned drag her from her hostess duties by literally sneaking out of the great hall while King Robert pawed at a serving girl and Queen Cersei consulted with her brother was only making it worse. Catching the determined set of his jaw, she merely folded her arms.

Ned glanced down at her, a sheen on his face illuminated by the flickering flames. “Trust me, Cat,” he said in an oddly loving tone for the normally dour Warden of the North. “Would I lie to you?”

“You did, once,” replied Catelyn, who immediately regretted it. The once loving look hardened once more. Ned turned away, and the Lady of Winterfell closed her eyes to block out the pain and tears. ‘I love Ned, I truly due,’ she told herself, but that moment sixteen years before truly hurt her to this day. The man she loved… betrayed her - it had been a stain on their relationship ever since, never truly being able to replicate the ardor that had characterized their early marriage bed.

Turning a corner, deeper into the labyrinth, Ned turned to her once again. “I never meant it to hurt you. Not once, Cat.” A pained frown crossed his lips. “I do love you, wife.”

This surprised Catelyn. They never discussed the elephant in the room, even if it brought so much pain to the household - not since that very day… the day Ned Stark returned to Winterfell. “Seventeen years ago you rode south with Robert Baratheon, leaving me pregnant with our son.” Even the stoic, proud Catelyn Stark of House Tully couldn’t stop the tear that cascaded down her cheek. “One year later, you returned with a baby in your arms - a baby you had with a southern harlot. I never expected the honorable Ned Stark to betray me this way.” Her voice caught. “Never expected the husband that I loved and thought loved me to betray me.”

A less gravelly, more jovial voice punctuated the din. “I know Ned loves you, Cat, and would never have found another to grace his bed. Not the Ned I knew.” Blinking, Catelyn was finally made aware of a second torch hanging on one of the columns, directly in front of Lyanna Stark’s grave - standing there with a crowbar in each hand, was Benjen. Nodding at Ned, he tossed him one of the metal bars. “What took ya so long?”

“Robert’s easy to sneak by,” Ned shrugged, walking beside his brother. “Cersei… not so much. Had to wait till she was talking with her brother.”

Benjen laughed. “Lions my ass, I always said the Lannister house sigil should be a viper.” Hefting the crowbar, he slid one of the ends inside a small crevice in the sarcophagus and began to push. “If you don’t mind, brother?”

Watching the two of them try to wrench open a… panel in the sarcophagus baffled Catelyn to the core. A reason for them to hack at Lyanna Stark’s grave - no reason came to mind. “Why are you two acting like fools?” she demanded, suddenly annoyed. “I did not consent to be snuck out of the most important feast I’ve ever put together just to peak at the bones of your long-dead…”

Cutting her off, the small stone panel dislodged, teetering over. It slammed into the ground, kicking up a cloud of dust. Catelyn smothered her mouth and nose with her cloak. “Damn it, Ned.” But neither Stark listened to her, Benjen on his stomach and reaching into what seemed like an alcove underneath the tomb - something that was not usually present, if the funerals of Ned’s father and brother were any indication.

Ned stood hunched over, holding the torch for Benjen’s sake. He kept his eyes focused on her, however. “Forgive me Cat. I never wanted to lie to you, but I had no choice.”

“What are you…?” Catelyn trailed off when she saw exactly what Benjen pulled out of the alcove. The nearly ossified round lumps. “What in the Gods?” Her jaw was dropped, completely shocked out of for the first time in her life.

Both brothers had the nerve to keep their eyes on the floor. “Cat, there’s a story that you need to know…”

 

Running a gentle hand along her limp son’s hair, Catelyn knew she looked like the worst of hells. Face pale, skin unwashed, eyes sunken… the tolls of staying by Bran’s bedside had affected her greatly - yet she stayed. Refused offers to leave. Refused other nurses. Refused all but the very modest of meals in her dedication to her son. The only other with similar dedication was resting on the bed, Summer’s snout perched on Bran’s still form.

Everyone had been by to give their support or see Bran, Ned and Robb struggling to keep the tears from flowing while Sansa, Rickon, and even Arya failed at that venture. All gave their love and kindness to their brother’s fight to stay alive… except one. ‘Jon.’

With plenty of time to reflect, Bran having not woken since Hodor brought him back to Winterfell after his fall, Catelyn’s mind kept revolving back to Jon Snow. Her husband’s bastard. ‘Not his bastard.’ Memories of that day sixteen years ago kept repeating whenever she closed her eyes. How Ned came back from the South, a pink baby bundled in a blanket in his arms. How he carried him reverently, as much in love with him as he was with little Robb. Catelyn hated that child, hated Jon with every fiber of her being. Hated the reminder of how her beloved Ned was seduced by some southerner, and the love he had for the child stoked jealousy that he loved her as well.

‘But it was all a lie.’ The truth felt surreal. In all her life, she was in the company of the rightful…

A knock on the door startled her. Catelyn looked up, only to spot the object of her thoughts. “May I enter, my Lady?” Jon Snow asked, his face supplicant and tone respectful. Unable to come up with an answer, Catelyn just nodded.

Watching him stride towards Bran’s bedside, Catelyn looked him over as if she had never seen him before. With his coal-black hair, grey eyes, and sturdy features Jon definitely took from his Stark side. And the way he loved his family, speaking words of affection and brotherly love for the still sleeping Bran… the lady saw much of Ned in him. ‘Lyanna.’ But there was an almost regal air… a martial prowess and innate confidence that was just starting to prop up. ‘His other side.’ The one that stunned her and disconcerted her the most. It hadn’t been there before, before the Targaryen princess. Jon had been sullen, withdrawn, unsure of himself. Was that because of her? Regret pulsed in the back of her mind.

The contemplation was once again broken when Jon kissed Bran’s brow, moving to head out. “Jon,” she called, his name not tinged with bile for once. The lad stopped, glancing at her puzzled. He sensed it too. “Thank you, for coming. Bran would welcome it.”

Modestly, Jon merely nodded his head. “It is no trouble. He is my brother.” His response only made her pain worse, and his leaving left her alone with her thoughts.

Catelyn looked to the ceiling, as if her eyes centered on heaven itself. “You can count on me, Lyanna.” For the first time in sixteen years, Catelyn Tully Stark let go of her anger.

Chapter Text

Stepping back, Jorah quickly wielded his broadsword into a blocking position. Steel clashed on steel, his arms straining to move the heavy weapon to block the swift slashes from his opponent…

The slight prick on his neck ended the sparring as quickly as it began. A smirk formed on his face. “Yield.” Pride flashed on his face. “First time you’ve beaten me.”

Daenerys, Khaleesi of the Dothraki and Princess Targaryen, beamed exhaustively. “It won’t be the only time, Ser Jorah.”

Bent over, catching his breath, Jorah glanced over at his secret ward. The girl was panting hard as well, silver hair sticking to her brow. In the several weeks since Ned Stark bound him to her by the iron northern vow, the former lord had seen Daenerys grow from a shy young girl into a vibrant, confident lady. One he was growing to view as a daughter of his. The Khal was enraptured by his exotic wife - at least to an extent - all but the most arrogant of his khalasar seamlessly following their Khaleesi’s orders. She fit into that role faster than Jorah had expected. Some in the Khal’s inner circle would grumble, but only Viserys truly challenged Daenerys on her authority. A good thumping by her guards and Jorah himself while Dany watched without emotion quickly taught him a message to not challenge her publically. And now, she was steadily becoming a master swordsman - or woman rather. He wiped a sheen of sweat off his forehead. “You’re getting better by the day, Khaleesi.”

Her breaths were still labored. “I still can’t beat a warrior in a fight.”

“You’re getting there. Just need to perfect your agility. Fighting a massive knight, the proper maneuvers can get around him and hit him in vulnerable places with ease.” He eyed the Yi Ti sword - Jorah had never seen anything like it. The gently curved blade, steel the same color as her hair, it suited her and her fighting style. “Most great swords have names. Have you thought of one for yours?”

Pursing her lips, Dany seemed lost in thought. “Old Valyria had a class of elite warriors, that used cunning and agility to defeat stronger enemies - like me.” She glanced at the sword fondly, running a finger along the smooth steel. “I’m inclined to call my sword by the name of those warriors. Saracen.”

“Saracen. I think that is a fitting name.”

Smiling at him, Daenerys had just sheathed her sword when a hand drifted to cup her belly - midriff exposed in the Dothraki style. Her face was pale. “Khaleesi?” Jorah asked, concerned. It was expected that she would tire from their sessions. The determined young woman made it a standing order that Jorah not go easy on her, but this was different.

Opening her mouth to respond, Dany’s eyes widened. Instead, she rushed over to a clump of tall grass and spewed the contents of her stomach into the dull green flora. Hunched over, she noticed Jorah’s hand resting comfortingly on her back - in a paternal manner. An overwhelming feeling of embarrassment clouded over Dany. “That… please forgive me for that, Ser Jorah.”

“No need for apologies,” Jorah said with a soft chuckle. “It happens to the best of us.”

“I…” The world faded to black as Dany’s eyes rolled into her head. The last thing she felt were two strong arms keeping her from falling.

“KHALEESI!”

 

With a heave, Alliser Thorne shoved another boy - Grenn, if his aged mind remembered correctly - forward. “What are you waiting for! Get on with it!” The previous lad barely even tried to spar with the young Tarly boy, the one who Aemon always found in the Castle Black library. Not a warrior he was, but based on how each of the other trainees that Thorne threw at him looked at Jon Snow, he had a benefactor. “Attack him!”

Grenn seemed to whisper something to Samwell, who barely struck his chest with the wooden sparring sword. The lad went down immediately. “Yield! Yield!” Wrinkled lips curved into a smile.

Face contorted in anger, Thorne shoved Samwell aside and advanced on Jon Snow. “You think that was funny?” Earning Aemon’s respect, Jon said nothing and stood his ground with a smirk. ‘Just like his father.’

“Enough, Alliser,” the old Maester called out. “I’m sure you have more pressing duties as Deputy Commander.”

Scowling at his nominal superior, Thorne dressed down the other recruits and stormed off. Sparing one last look at Jon Snow, Aemon didn’t notice the younger man step beside him. “There’s a lot that resembles him in the lad, isn’t there?”

Sighing, Aemon Targaryen sheared away from the railing and headed back indoors. He tightened the loose robe on his wrinkled frame. “Yes, and much that resembles her, from what I have heard of the She-Wolf.” The old Maester may have been near blindness, but he swore he could have seen the slight tears that clouded Benjen Stark’s eyes. “The lad’s birthright is wasted here at the wall.” Closing the door, the two were safe from prying eyes and listening ears. With the Lannister at Castle Black for at least another week, one had to be extra cautious. “It is he who is the rightful heir.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Benjen shot back. “That she wouldn’t want her only child condemned to the chains of our vows. I don’t even think the boy wants them anymore himself, simply that he doesn’t have a choice.”

Reminded of that fact, Aemon’s tired eyes glazed over. “The princess…” he trailed off wistfully. “Love is the death of duty, Benjen. We saw that with my great nephew, but, there is derived a strength from it that cannot be measured by human minds.” A gnarled hand reached for a pitcher of wine.

Benjen took the offered cup that Aemon poured for him. “At this point, the safest place for him is here. And the safest place for her is on the Great Grass Sea.” He chuckled darkly. “My brother says a storm is coming, and either of them will be tempting targets for the vipers and opportunistic swine. Wildlings and barbarians pale in comparison.”

“And if what that deserter said is true?” Toothless gums smacked together, eyes narrowing at Benjen. “If the Others truly have risen?”

Grey eyes rolled. “I highly doubt that.”

Aemon leveled a finger at Benjen. “Remember, Lead Ranger, complacency and closed mindedness have toppled stronger and smarter men than you or I.” Legs wobbling, he finally allowed himself the luxury of sitting down. “I still don’t know why Ned Stark entrusts me with Jon Snow’s name day gift from his father.” He gazed at the stone wall in a specific spot, hiding a secret alcove where the precious bundles rested. “He stored them in Winterfell for sixteen years, didn’t he?”

“If the storm does come,” Benjen replied. “And our families play as large a part as we both feel they will, this is the only place they will truly be secure from the wrong hands.”

Nodding, the Maester glanced out the window. Tired eyes settled on Jon. He wrapped a friendly hand around Samwell Tarly’s shoulder, helping him with his swordsmanship. “You speak true. Pardon me for being selfish, but it feels wonderful not to be alone again.”

 

SIX MONTHS LATER

“It isn’t like Robert to call a meeting of the Small Council so early,” Eddard Stark, Hand of the King remarked to his companion, both meandering down the winding halls of the Red Keep.

Renly Baratheon nodded, delicate features contorted in a pensive frown. “Something must have spooked him. News about someone or something that he would pay particular attention to.” The youngest Baratheon sibling laughed. “I can count on one finger the matters that would fit on that list not involving jousting, drinking, feasting, or whoring.”

“Quite so.” Ned considered Robert an old friend - one of the reasons he accepted the position as Hand of the King - and accepted as true even the unsavory aspects of his personality. All of the peace and prosperity of the last decade had been Jon Arryn’s work. Robert was too busy immersed in his vices to make an actual attempt to rule.

In the corner of his eye, Jon spotted a thatch of gold hair next to the Master of Coin. “What is Joffrey doing with Lord Baelish?” he asked Renly in a low whisper.

The youngest Baratheon clicked his tongue. “They’ve been rather chummy in the last few weeks, Littlefinger often talking to the boy about this and that regarding the kingdom.” At that moment both of the two turned, eyes falling on Ned and Renly. Littlefinger managed to put on a warm smile, while Joffrey viewed them with barely disguised derision. “I have no idea why, mind you. No one but his mother can stand that boy.”

“His mother and Sansa,” Ned added. It was not a match that he wanted, seeing the boy in action over the past months. How Sansa could still care for him after what happened with her wolf… Walking into the Small Council chamber, Ned put it aside for another day.

Robert’s anger clouded the room from the moment Ned entered. Not angry - he was livid, face nearly purple from rage. Varys, the plump Master of Whisperers, stood off in a corner trying to make himself unnoticed. “Your grace?” Littlefinger finally asked, having entered last from his discussion with the Crown Prince.

A wood-fitted scroll found itself chucked at the Master of Coin’s head, only an agility normally reserved for a younger man allowing him to dodge it. “Fucking Seven Hells! She’s pregnant!” Before the four assembled could draw the wrong conclusions, Robert continued. “The Targaryen bitch is pregnant!”

Ned’s blood turned to ice. Jorah had informed him of this development barely after he arrived in King’s Landing, and he hoped to keep this from Robert. A furtive glance was directed at Varys - apparently Ned wasn’t the only person to have spies in the Dothraki camp. “Ned!” The King’s bellow caught his attention. “Did that Mormont cunt tip you off to this?”

“No, your grace. He hasn’t said a word, though I can’t be sure if he’s even alive.” The lie rolled oddly seamlessly off his tongue.

Letting out a hiss, Robert threw a cup at the wall. Wine sloshed on the stone floor. “Now, the horse lord will have no reason not to cross the Narrow Sea!”

“Brother,” Renly said. “I highly doubt the Dothraki…”

“Shut it, Renly. If I wanted a faggot’s advice I would ask for it!” Face reddening, Renly nevertheless shut up. “I must nip this in the bud now. The bitch must die!”

The ice in Ned’s veins only increased in concentration. “Robert, to kill a mere child? A young woman with child herself? That isn’t the man you are.” It actually was, but this had to be stopped at all costs.

The King wasn’t hearing any of it. “You listen to me, Ned! If you do not accept my order, then you pack up and get out of this city!” Tempted to do just that, Ned nevertheless clamped his lips together.

“You cannot let this occur,” Ned demanded of Varys as the two walked together near the Hand’s office. The meeting had concluded ten minutes before, an enraged Robert formally condemning Daenerys Targaryen to death.

“The birds are ready to fly, Lord Stark,” the fat eunuch stated, voice flat and not giving away anything. It was always what unsettled Ned about Varys - his total lack of emotion, though that was an asset in King’s Landing rather than a detriment. “It would be unusual to change such orders so suddenly. Especially if it is a deviation from what the King so desires.”

Running a hand through his hair, Ned’s brain worked on overtime. Robert had been driven close to madness by the Targaryens before, and there was no doubt in the northerner’s mind that the King intended to fulfill his vow to wipe every single one of them off the face of the earth. ‘I have to protect her, at all costs.’ His honor commanded it, both to Lyanna and to Jon. But how could he go about it?

“The duty of the hand is to carry out policy in the King’s best interests, is it not Master Varys?” Ned finally replied. “Even if it means protecting the King from his own initial instincts.”

Still nothing escaped of Varys’ true thoughts. “That is the traditional role of the Hand, yes.”

‘What I have to arrange is something that will both protect Daenerys in the long run and be framed as in Robert’s best interests.’ A ghost of a smile formed on Ned’s face. “From what I know of the Dothraki, they would never follow a woman.” At least not an ordinary woman. “Take away the Khal, and child or not they will descend into infighting between pretenders that have no desire to honor the agreement between Drogo and Viserys Targaryen.”

A twinkle shone in Varys’ eye, a first from what Ned had seen. “And so if we kill the Khal, all threats to His Majesty vanish without having to stoop to killing a hapless girl and her unborn child.” The flat expression formed once again. “I shall say, Lord Stark. You are far more cunning than most give you credit for.”

“And what do most say?” Ned grinned.

“They say you are routine and predictable, always in pursuit of a lofty ideal rather than the smartest course.”

“That is true, to an extent.” Honor brought victory, even if the victory was long term. Such is what his father taught him, and Ned passed it on to all his children. “Please see to it that my orders are carried out… in the name of the King.”

Varys bowed. “Of course, Lord Hand.”

Shutting the latch to his office, a sigh left Ned Stark’s lips. “The gods have mercy on me,” he breathed. He couldn’t fathom how Jon Arryn could have lasted even one year among this pit of vipers. Cersei was more a jackal than a lion, Pycelle more a cutthroat than a maester, Renly a friend but overwhelmingly self-serving, and Petyr Baelish… Had it not been for Catelyn’s assurance that he could be trusted, Littlefinger perturbed him the most. The man was a snake, rich thanks to lax morals and oily to the core.

And now he was grafting himself to Prince Joffrey. That worried Ned, but on seeing the letter resting on his desk that apprehension started to fade. Picking it up, he opened it and began scanning the scrawl.

Lord Stark,

Yes, the information you informed me of is greatly worrying. Something is brewing, what I cannot be sure of. Jon Arryn would never inquire into Robert’s bastards if it wasn’t of importance.

I never trusted my sister-in-law as much as I could throw her, and I know that she is ultimately behind this. There is no other explanation that makes any sense.

I will head to King’s Landing with all haste.

Regards,

Stannis Baratheon, Lord of Dragonstone

 

Removing a strand of gold from her neck, Daenerys felt a soft thump from inside her belly. Unable to stop the smile spreading on her face, she placed her hand gingerly on the rounded bump - only for a second thump to strike her palm. A pleasured sigh left her lips.

“Calm down little one,” she cooed, rubbing her eight month baby bump with unadulterated adoration. Inside her stomach was a little boy or girl. ‘My little boy or girl.’ A tiny human half her, and half his/her father. ‘Father.’ A mix of pure happiness and grief crossed her mind at the thought of her child’s father. “Hush my sweet,” she couldn’t help but say in her native Valyrian - the one phrase she could remember her mother say to her. “Issa loves you, and I know daddy would love you just as much.” Tears came to her eyes. “I love him just as much. I wish we could be a family.” Dany closed her lids tightly. She would not give up hope.

Her child simply kicked against her hand yet again, as if indicating his or her assent.

Luckily, her sad thoughts were broken by one of her handmaidens. “I have something for you, Khaleesi.” Resting on a tray carried in both hands was some kind of concoction. “Straight from the best healers in Vaes Dothrak.” Countering the common narrative of all the Dothraki being vicious savages, the central city of the horde had a vibrant commercial scene to it. Plenty of merchants and travelers pawning their wares on the returning warriors.

Taking the metal goblet from the tray, Dany sniffed it - only to recoil. Her nose wrinkled. It smelled pungent and awful. “What in gods name is that?”

“Boiled herb tonic, Khaleesi, courtesy of Ser Jorah.” Her handmaiden swooned over the dashing Westerosi knight. “To give strength to the Stallion that Mounts the World.” By the tone of her voice, she believed exactly what Drogo called the child in her womb.

Rolling her eyes at Ser Jorah’s devotion and overprotectiveness - Dany secretly found it quite endearing, not ever having a real father figure in her life - she figured that there were worse things that she could do. Her stomach flipped at thinking back to when she ate the whole stallion heart raw. The Dothraki way to ensure a healthy baby, it took all of her steel not to hurl it all up and gift Drogo with a terrible omen. Instead, she finished it and gave him a positive one. Upon proclaiming a son named Rhaego dwelled inside her, he looked the part of a proud father who had sired a great warrior.

Gulping down the hellish concoction, Dany never really thought of her child by that name. She was not sure on the sex, and she did not want Drogo to be his or her father. It was not as if she hated him, far from it. The once brutish and aloof Khal had an endearing loyalty that made him hard to like upon truly knowing him. But Daenerys’ heart belonged to another - one she likely would never see again.

Desperate for something to distract her from thoughts of him, her gaze fell upon the three eggs resting in their sand-filled box. A place of pure honor. Reaching down, she picked up one that was pure black, red lines marring the intricate scales. Illyrio was right, they were the pinnacle of beauty. A symbol of her people - a relic from her family’s past. ‘The creatures Aegon and his sister-wives flew from these shores to conquer the whole of Westeros.’ What Dany wouldn’t give to see them fly through the clear skies once more.

Without thinking, she placed the ossified egg right on the brazier. It was not out of any plan but pure instinct. She wanted to see the egg in the heat. As her handmaiden prepared her clothes for the evening, Dany heard something - movement? It intrigued her, hands pressing against the scorching egg and feeling a flutter. Almost like her own child…

“Khaleesi!” At once Dany pulled her hands away, shocked by the scream of her handmaiden. “What were you thinking, you’ll get bur…” Grabbing her hands, the other woman quickly inspected them to find… no injury. No burns, not even redness. Just Dany’s distinctive pale skin. The baby kicked his or her approval at the revelation.

‘A dragon does not burn.’

All of a sudden her brother stormed into the tent, dragging a whimpering Doreah by her hair. “You!... Send this Whore!” he snarled, indignant and enraged. With a shove, Doreah was thrown to the floor in tears. “To give me commands! ME! The rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“Forgive me Khaleesi,” the whimpering girl cried.

Glancing down with a comforting look, Dany would have knelt down had it not been for the enormous bump containing her child. “Hush, dear. It’s alright.” The smile morphed into a hard scowl as she looked at her brother. “Does it pleasure you, brother, to abuse a hapless woman?”

Viserys was taken aback at his sister’s pure coldness and steel - even in their dealings before, she had never challenged him directly unless Jorah Mormont was there to back him up. The surprise quickly changed to anger. He’d show her not to wake the Dragon. “How many times do I have to tell you, sister…” Viserys hissed, approaching her. “You do not command me!”

“There was no command,” she responded evenly. “All I did was invite you to a feast tonight in honor of your unborn niece or nephew.”

“Do you think I care about some half-breed Dothraki chattel?” he replied incredulously. “And what use is a feast in this shithole?” Rage building, he began to toss jewelry and goblets to the floor. “This place smells of manure and piss!”

When one hit her in the torso, Dany started to fear for her baby. “Stop it, stop it now!”

Her words only angered him further. “I’m not here to dance with the horsefuckers. I am here for one purpose, to get an army to take back my Kingdom!” Viserys’ mouth hovered inches from her face, flecks of spit flying out. “Everything else is expendable, including you and your half-breed!

Protectiveness rising up - an innate maternal instinct that boiled like dragonfire within her - a clenched fist slammed into Viserys’ jaw. Being innately far weaker, given her short and slender frame not having skill in hand to hand combat, it didn’t cause him to fall. “Do not,” she ground out through clenched teeth. “Do not speak of my child in that way.”

Any sense of rationality left her brother, his eyes blazing. “YOU DARE STRIKE ME!” A vicious backhand sent her to the floor, Viserys climbing on top of her as best he could, given the bump. “You have woken the dragon.” Dany struggled as best she could as her handmaiden’s watched in horror. “You are a horselord’s slut and your spawn is a filthy halfbreed. I should kill it now, keep the bloodline pure!”

Fingers curling around a chain of gold coins, Dany branded it as a mace and flogged her brother’s face, catching him in the side of his cheek and forcing him off her. Scrambling to her feet with an agility normally lacking in a pregnant woman, she reached for Saracen an unsheathed it from it’s scabbard. Cursing vilely, the rage turned to pure terror as Viserys found Valyrian steel pressed against the skin of his neck. He looked at Dany as if he never saw her before… the meek girl he had been able to dominate was gone now. In her place was pure dragonfire.

“If you dare,” she breathed out as evenly as she could. “Even try to harm my child, I will kill you.” There was nothing in her voice that caused the threat to be anything but real. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, descendent of Old Valyria and the great Aegon the Conqueror. You will never raise a hand to me again.”

Inwardly, Dany took a perverse pleasure at watching her brother squirm.

It was this scene that Jorah burst in on, joined by her Dothraki bodyguard. In his harried state, he barely noticed. “Khaleesi, come quickly,” he breathed out.

Dany’s blood turned cold. “What happened?” This could not be good at all.

“The Khal… he’s been poisoned.”

Violet eyes widening, Dany tossed Saracen aside and began to rush to the tent flap - only to cry out in sudden pain. Jorah watched as a gush of wetness trickled down her trousers. “The baby…” she said weakly.

Jorah and her handmaidens were quickly on her. “Fetch the midwife! Quickly.” Dany didn’t hear much else, slowly drifting into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

Cold. The first thing Daenerys felt was a deep chill that burned her skin and knifed through to her very bones. Blinking, her teeth chattered as she wrapped her arms around herself to keep as much warmth in her body as she could. It wasn’t enough. Fire could not kill a dragon, but ice could.

Suddenly the cold vanished. Taken away, the silver-haired princess began to notice her surroundings. Grey, everything was a uniform grey - dull, lifeless. The stench of metaphorical death and decay, something once great that was now rotting and crumbling from its very core. Stepping forward, Dany immediately noticed she was not clad in her Khaleesi leather, but rather in a dark grey dress, hem and skirt reaching down to two combat boots tailored to fit her. The outfit not of a Khaleesi, but a warrior queen.

Stepping gingerly through the ruined edifice of the building, pentagram-styled windows shattered grotesquely, Daenerys suddenly found herself rising high in the air. Whatever she was in disappeared, the ground beneath her morphing into a massive pyramid that towered over the dreary landscape. In the distance, a golden figure stood tall, hair the color of precious metal as two booming horns resonated far and wide. What had to be hundreds of thousands fell prostrate, forced to worship this being.

The setting shifted again, Dany flung what seemed halfway across the world - back into the freezing cold. Torch appearing in her hand, the darkness all around her vanished into blinding white as a massive gate opened to reveal a massive blizzard. What awaited her on the other side made her heart skip.

Jon Snow, in the flesh. Slightly older, more hardened. And even more handsome than before. She walked up to him, as if on autopilot. His gentle hand cupped her cheek. “My Queen,” came the gravelly voice she loved so much. “My Empress.”

“My King,” Dany replied with all the affection in the world. “My Emperor.”

In the distance, a faint moan suddenly appeared. Immediately her wolf tensed, turning around and unsheathing his sword. The moan grew louder, turning into an all encompassing rasp that chilled Dany to the very fiber of her being. Jon looked at her, eyes replaced with flame. “Winter is here.” And a black mass fell upon them…

Shooting upright, Daenerys awoke to her panting breaths and sweat pouring from her brow. A dull ache permeated from her entire lower half. Only the low light of several braziers banished the stuffy darkness of the tent.

“She’s awake.” Turning her head, there was Ser Jorah, his face spread out in a wan and relieved smile. “You gave us quite a fright, Khaleesi.”

Reaching for a waterskin by her furs, Dany felt instantly better as she drank. Memories poured in. “The Khal is dead?”

“Yes,” Jorah replied. “He was poisoned, likely by agents of Robert Baratheon.” He sighed. “His bloodriders are already beginning to jockey for control of the Khalasar.”

She snorted. “Opportunistic swine.” Eyes then widened, Dany’s hands going for her stomach. The bump was no longer there. “Gods, my child…”

Jorah was at her side almost immediately. “Calm down, Khaleesi. Trust me.” Whistling, in came her two handmaidens. “They are fine.”

“They?” Looking to her front, all words left Dany as her violet eyes stared in wonder. Gently, two small bundles were placed in the crooks of her arms. Twins, she gave birth to twins.

“Two perfectly healthy little babes,” Jorah beamed, playing the part of a proud grandfather. “A boy and a girl.”

Dany looked over her two children, already falling helplessly in love with them. Her son sported a dark tuft of hair, tiny eyes already showing a hint of violet like hers. Her daughter was the opposite, sporting the silver mane of a Targaryen but eyes as grey as smoke. They were beautiful. They were hers.

‘They look just like him.’ It made her love them even more.

Waiting for Doreah to leave, Jorah crossed his arms and stared at Dany with eyes both stern and inquisitive. Rocking the now full princess gently in her arms, she knew exactly what was coming. “Khaleesi…”

“I hope I can trust you, Jorah.” The statement was flat, Dany sparing a glance on the twins to keep her grounded. This would be… quite emotional for her. Someone who she wished was here wasn’t, and could never be. Not to mention the horde of now-squabbling Dothraki and her arrogant, uncaring brother that waited outside.

The former Lord blinked, features softening. “You can trust me with your life, Khaleesi.” Kneeling, a gentle hand caressed her son’s soft cheek in the bassinet. “The twins are not Dothraki. Neither resemble the Khal in any feature.”

“I am their mother, Jorah.” It was a cop out, but Dany wasn’t ready to breach the subject herself. “They are half-Targaryen.”

“Aye, their features are Targaryen. The Prince’s eyes and the Princess’ hair… but the other features, they are Westerosi.” His gaze settled on her once more. “And I know this to be true, a son of the North that I am. Their father is a northerner, isn’t he?” Tears prickling in her eyes, unable to stop herself, Dany nodded. Jorah reached out and stroked her arm comfortingly, as a father would. “Was it him? The boy in Pentos?”

His image flashing before her eyes, Dany took in the chubby face of her daughter. Though looking mostly like her, those grey orbs exactly like him - her love. “Yes, Jon Snow is their father.” It was said. There was no going back now. After their short time together, Dany now had two tiny little beings, part her and part Jon. ‘Targaryen and Stark. Dragon and Direwolf.’ “Fire and Ice,” she said softly.

Something imperceptible crossed over Jorah’s face, her companion and father-figure seemingly processing the immense news that had been disclosed to him. “Does anyone else know? That you had... “ He chose his words carefully. “Were with Eddard Stark’s bastard…”

“Do not call him that, Jorah.” Dany warned firmly, rocking the baby in her arms. “He is a good man, and deserves better than that.” The look in her eye proved it was not a request. Nodding, Jorah offered a silent apology. She sighed. “No, no one else knows. Doreah knows that I had someone whom I was interested in, and I have a feeling Lord Stark had an idea.” He was too observant not to figure it out.

Remembering the feeling of Ice against his throat, the determination in Ned’s eyes, Jorah agreed with his Khaleesi. “What do you intend to do now, Khaleesi? Their birth at the time of the Khal’s death can be either auspicious or unpromising.”

Her daughter snuggling in her arms, Dany closed her eyes. What was she to do now? The Dothraki worshipped strength, and her place in the Khalasar would be quite unstable now - especially if the twins’ true parentage was revealed. And even if she maintained control, there was her birthright, her children’s birthright. She had the future of House Targaryen in her hands. And then there was Viserys, holding a stronger claim, but childless and incompetent. No man would follow him into battle, Dany was certain of it.

But could she accomplish it? Could she, a woman, reclaim her family’s birthright. Her children’s destiny as royals.

“If I could bet on anyone being a ruler, I’d bet on you, my beautiful dragon.”

If there was anyone Dany trusted, it was her love.

“I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, scion of Aegon the Conqueror and Old Valyria. Khaleesi of the Dothraki,” she announced. “I will not let my brother destroy our birthright with his incompetence. I will not allow my children from being denied their place in this world. They are Targaryens, and as the true Queen of the Seven Kingdoms I legitimize them.”

Wide-eyes, Jorah opened his mouth to say something, but stopped. Proud tears filled his eyes. He had wished for this, prayed for this, knowing that out of everyone that could rule only Dany truly deserved it. Silently, he lowered himself onto one knee. “Daenerys of House Targaryen, first of her name, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, I on this day pledge my life and my fealty to you.” As soon as she acknowledged his pledge, he looked at the two infants. “What shall their names be?”

“Rhaegar,” Dany said without hesitation. “His name is Rhaegar, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.” There seemed no better name for her beloved son than that of the noble Crown Prince - her eldest brother that she had never known but heard so much about. He was a great warrior, something she knew Jon would support. It was why she had chosen Rhaego as the Dothraki name. Dany was positive that her children would be Jon’s, but seeing them with the distinctive Stark features only proved it to her. It couldn’t be a Dothraki name.

“A noble name for a fine Prince,” Jorah smiled, already protective of the royal children. They didn’t have a crown yet, but Daenerys was his queen. No one in the entirety of the world could hold a candle to her. “And the Princess? Would you like a Targaryen name, or a northern one?”

Brushing the soft silver tufts of hair on her daughter’s head, Dany knew it should be a northern name. ‘Jon deserves it. Though he is half the world away, he is their father. My love.’ There were plenty of women in Jon’s life, his family whom he loved. One stood out though… whom he talked about with the most fondness. “Arya. Princess Arya, after Jon’s sister.”

Jorah nodded. “Ned Stark’s youngest daughter. She had just turned four last time I was in Winterfell.” He laughed. “A hellion, if I remember.”

Little Arya took that moment to yawn, tiny form wriggling in her blanket as she drifted off to sleep. Setting her down next to Rhaegar, Dany kissed both on the forehead. “Mommy loves you, little ones.” Face radiating love and adoration, inside Daenerys’ will hardened in determination. ‘I will make you proud, my love.’ She knew her destiny, and for the first time in her entire life she had something to fight for.

 

It had been just four days since the birth of her children - and the death of her husband, Khal Drogo - and Dany could feel the tension permeating Vaes Dothrak like a thick fog. As Jorah had told her, a Khalasar only had loyalty to strength. A Khal that could not ride or could not fight was as good as gone, and a dead Khal contained no strength. Already, out of the crop of a dozen pretenders two stood firm in their leading claims for the mantle of the great Stallion: Haggo, a former bloodrider for Drogo, and Moro, a skilled warrior and raider. Only the fact it was within the great city itself and the uncertainty surrounding the sudden death and sudden birth of the Stallions that Mount the World had kept the final struggle for leadership from happening.

Just the amount of time Daenerys needed. Clad in a black leather tunic and trousers - an outfit fit for a Targaryen conqueror, she had recovered and rested enough to stake her claim in the fight. “Are you sure it is happening today?” she asked Jorah.

“Yes,” replied the fully armored knight. Behind him was Doreah and half her bodyguard - the other half and Irri remained with the Prince and Princess, sworn to the death to defend them. Viserys was nowhere to be found, likely brooding in his tent. Dany didn’t miss him.“When these things happen in Vaes Dothrak, all contests for leadership happen directly outside the Rearing Stallions.”

“Since they fight to the death?”

“Aye, those that seek to rule the Khalasar fight to the death. They worship strength, thusly the strongest warrior will take over. The last one alive is the new Khal.”

Feet kicking up small puffs of dust, Daenerys allowed herself a small smirk. “Perfect.”

Formed into a semicircle along the outer approach to Vaes Dothrak, a crowd in the hundreds watched as the whittled down competition of two men prepared to battle it out for the Khalasar. But the approach of their Khaleesi changed matters - it was sufficiently rare that a fallen Khal’s wife concern herself in matters such as these. Eventually Haggo and Moro were forced to acknowledge her. “What is she doing here?” asked Moro, pointing to Jorah.

“You dare engage in this opportunistic jockeying while your great Khal’s body is still warm.”

Haggo laughed. “Foolish Andal, Drogo is still a corpse, and a corpse cannot ride, fight, or lead. A real man must take over.” His eyes narrowed. “So why is she here?”

Approaching the two, standing straight and proud as the blood of the dragon, Dany didn’t shy away from the towering figures. “I Daenerys Stormborn, as your Khaleesi seek the leadership of the Khalasar. To carry out the will of the great Khal Drogo.” A moment’s silence passed before the two warriors bawled over in laughter, thinking her ridiculous.

Eyes flickering between the laughing Haggo and Moro - not to mention the other Dothraki with an eye on the position - Dany’s lip curved upward in the ghost of a smirk. It reminded her of her brother, the day she told him not to marry her to Drogo. How he dismissed her, found her a fool. Someone not serious trying to control her own life. Jon never saw that, and thanks to him the silver-haired princess was able to take charge of her destiny.

“Jorah.” The knight took a wrapped bundle and pulled down the horse blanket cover.

Arm darting back, Dany’s fingers gripped the sharkskin and drew forward. The grey-silver blur of Saracen’s blade swished through the air, nimble feet gliding across the dirt-strewn ground. One advantage of her slight stature - far better mobility and flexibility in combat against opponents that relied on strength. Haggo, who certainly counted in that regard, hadn’t even brought up his khopesh before Saracen disemboweled him. The finely honed and sharpened Valyrian steel sliced through his skin and flesh like butter. Guts spilling, he collapsed in a heap.

It was over in seconds, Dany turning to Moro before anyone could really react. The small distance needed to be covered allowed the skilled warrior to bring up his khopesh to block Dany’s first slash, but the form was sloppy. The Targaryen had surprise on her side, and she exploited it for everything it was worth. Rapid movements causing him to try and hack, it was a fatal miscalculation. One downward blow from Saracen and his head rolled on the ground, severed from the limp torso.

Stepping away from the blood pooling on the ground, Daenerys extended Saracen in a threatening pose. Crimson liquid coated the blade for all to see. “Is there anyone else that seeks to challenge me.” While there had been many pretenders, with Haggo and Moro dispatched easily by their Khaleesi any interest had waned.

Jorah’s insights had been correct. The Dothraki worshiped strength.

 

“Commander!” Jon shouted, stepping off the floor where he had slid. Lord Commander Mormont stared with his narrowed, peering eyes at the confusing scene in front of him. Ghost, outside the spartan quarters, began barking and clawing at the door louder than before.

“What in the old gods is this?” Mormont inquired, voice hoarse with age and experience. The direwolf was literally slamming against the door.

Before Jon could respond, a scuffle drew his attention back to where the… corpse rested. Only it wasn’t a corpse anymore. Standing despite the sword impaled through its gut, the sallow grey thing pulled it out without a single indication of pain. “Shit,” he murmured. The rotting jaws of the… monster opened in a furious snarl.

Acting on instinct, Jon grabbed the lantern in the Lord Commander’s hand by the central cylinder - flames licking out of it - and hurled it at the figure. Already drenched in cheap, sour wine from the dining table, the ragged clothes and mottley skin ignited at once. The snarls turned to furious screams before the fire took its toll, finally killing the creature.

Jon was not about to risk anything however. “Move!” he yelled, pushing his commander out the now open door, Ghost nipping at their heels. Flagging over a builder, he pointed to the officer’s quarters. “Get Ser Alliser and other rangers, now!” It was only then that he allowed himself to check his hand for burns. Jon’s eyes widened at what he found.

The skin was untouched. Just the way they were before the skirmish.

 

A flash of dull steel, sword tip leveled directly at the crib where Princess Arya slept soundly next to her brother, Rhaegar. Neither infant noticed the drama unfolding around them, though no one else had that innocent luxury. “I am not asking, dear sister, I am telling you. I want what was promised to me,” Viserys hissed at the head of the tent where Daenerys sat - the mantle of the Khal, or in this case, the Khaleesi.

“Don’t even think about it, Viserys,” Jorah ground out, trying his best not to kill the man who threatened the Prince and Princess. “They will kill you.”

Viserys let out a barking laugh. “Kill me? They can’t. I’m in their sacred city, where they cannot shed a drop of blood.” His eyes turned back to his sister. Dany kept her composure even when her children were in danger. She stared into her brother’s eyes - there was not even a trace of love, of affection in them. They may have been blood, but they were not family. “You may think you have control here, but you do not. I am your older brother, head of our house. You will obey my command, and I command you to give me my crown! The crown I was promised!”

One of the new bloodriders opened his mouth to yell at the upstart but was silenced. “Enough.” All sounds cut off, voices died down at the will of the Khaleesi. “You will have what you want, Viserys of House Targaryen.” Dany saw her brother’s eyes twinkle in victory. “A golden reward, a recognition of what you truly deserve.” Turning to whisper something to her chief bloodrider, she kept one eye out on him.

Smiling softly, Viserys visibly relaxed. “Well.” A laugh left his lips. “Good. It’s all I wanted.” He lowered his sword. “What I was promised… that’s all.”

Though he seemed happier, the tension still filled the still air as Dany rose. She walked past him to where Jorah stood by the royal cribs. A soft hand stroked their cheeks lovingly. “Take him,” she told her bloodriders in Dothraki. At once, two of them advanced on Viserys.

Without batting an eye they grabbed his arms, pinning his legs between theirs. “No! Unhand me!” While Viserys wasn’t lacking in will or gusto in trying to break free, his own meager strength paled in comparison to that of the burly bloodriders. “I am the Dragon! You can’t harm the Dragon!” All the while, Dany coolly and calmly grabbed several of her gold medallions and tossed them in an empty kettle heating over the fireplace. ‘This is what happens when you threaten my children,’ she thought without emotion.

Everyone was silent, Jorah, Doreah, and all the other Dothraki in the tent watched their gentle and loving Khaleesi morph into Valyrian steel, a ruler that would make her ancestors proud. All except for Viserys, who managed to piece together what was transpiring. “No, Dany. Please, tell them to let me go.” Tears ran down his eyes in pure terror. “Tell them! I’m your brother!” She didn’t even spare him a glance.

To gasps and Jorah’s horror - and eventual wonder - Dany reached into the steaming pot. Without screaming, without pain, her cupped hands brought out a puddle of liquified gold. Daenerys approached her brother with nothing but a small, innocent smile on her face. Viserys writhed and screamed, trying to escape the hold of the two burly bloodriders. They forced his hand out. “I am the dragon!” he shrieked. “You cannot kill the dragon.” Gods, he was an embarrassment to their House in Dany’s mind.

However, her smile never faltered. “Don’t worry, sweet brother.” Her voice dripped faux sweetness, as if still an innocent, sheltered girl. Cupped hands hovered above his left hand. “Fire cannot kill a dragon.” Separating, the rivulet of molten gold poured down as her brother’s screams blocked out every other sound.

 

Lids half-closed, the overwhelming throbbing and stinging of his bandaged hand kept Viserys from the mercy of sleep. Delerium fogged his mind, yet he still had enough strength to raise his head. “Whaa… where am I?” It occurred to him that he was being frog-marched through Vaes Dothrak.

“Quiet!” came the barking reply of his Dothraki guard.

Viserys didn’t bother to learn Dothraki, but the context managed to keep the list of possibilities short. In his delirium and overwhelming pain, he could barely think. “Take… me to my… army. Am the dragon.” Feet dragged on the sandy soil. Those guards loyal to Daenerys were not attentive to his comfort after all.

The sounds of crackling torches, drums, and funeral horns grew ever louder in his half-listening ears. Suddenly, a fist slammed into his gut. The sharp pain and wind wheezing out of his lungs focused the mind like no other. “Stand him up, tie him to the post. The Khaleesi wants him to see this.”

“Mormont?” Opening wide - with great difficulty, lids feeling like bags of sand were weighing them down - the prince saw the former Lord of Bear Island staring back at him. “Make them unhand me.”

“I would rather have them burn you alive, but that’s not my call.” A dark smirk crossed his features. “We now know that it can be done.”

Rage and humiliation boiling inside him, Viserys lunged at him with his left hand… only for him to scream in pure anguish as the nearly charred digits brushed against Jorah’s stomach. “Gods! I am the dragon!”

A chuckle left Jorah’s lips. “After this, you will have your chance to prove to all of us that you can become King.” He gestured to what looked like a massive funeral pyre - the embalmed body of Khal Drogo rested inside. “After our Queen’s demonstration…”

“Queen! That horselord-slut is no queen!” Such earned him another punch to the stomach… and one to the jaw.

“After our Queen’s demonstration,” Jorah continued. “You will be banished to wherever you seek to go. Consider that a gift of mercy from our Queen.” He lifted the Prince’s left arm. “And let this be a lifelong reminder that you are no true dragon.”

Before he could respond, a chilling silence fell upon the entire horde. They were gathered in a massive well, looking upon the pyre resting upon a small ridge - high enough for all assembled to see. Out stepped his sister, hair done up and dressed in the regal brilliance of a Targaryen queen. Jorah stepped towards her, and hanging back a few feet from her were her handmaidens, each holding one of the royal twins.

“Are you sure about this Khaleesi? Even after the gold, I’m still nervous.” He pointed to the pyre

Daenerys smiled and leaned forward, kissing Jorah on the cheek. “I know you swore yourself to protect me, Ser Jorah, but trust me.” Stepping gingerly to where Arya and Rhaegar rested, she kissed each of them. “Mommy will be back soon, my angels.” Soft face hardening, soon she stood face to face with her brother.

“If you expect me to bend the knee, sweet sister,” he spat, “You will have to wait till the world ends.”

She merely chuckled darkly. “It is a good thing that you are not the sole champion of our house, brother. I hope you find your actual destiny.” Leaving it at that, she ascended to the pyre’s edge and gazed out at the assembled horde. “Dothraki.” She began in her now fluent grasp of the language. “I count you as my Khalasar, but today I hereby unshackle you from your chains. You may go about your way, seek out your own destiny. If you choose to follow me by your own free will, I promise never to let you down. To consider you not as my servants, but as my family. Anyone that wishes to hurt you will be immolated in pure dragonfire.

“Previous Khals, brave and noble as they were, measured your worth in middling amounts. They looked at the villages they could pillage, how many women they fucked, or how many horses the great cities of the coast could bribe them with. Khal Drogo thought differently, vowing that my children would be the Stallions that Mount the world! I will carry his legacy, take you across the Narrow Sea in the wooden horses that float. To leave the great knights and cities that think you mere barbarians cowering at your feet. If you follow me, you will have this.”

A huge cheer rose from the Dothraki, an ever rising wave of war chants that soon drowned out any other sound in the entire city… only to turn to screams and gasps as Dany turned and walked directly into the now alighted pyre. Even in his pain, Viserys gaped in shock.

The hours drifted by, time interminable. Several times the tied prince fell victim to his pain - only to be jerked back to consciousness by the Dothraki guard. Soon it was dawn, the sun still not poking out from behind the mountains that formed the eastern edge of the Vaes Dothrak bowl. The fire had died down, Jorah approaching the smoldering wreckage. In the middle, Viserys could barely make out the sitting form of his sister.

A loud screech drew his attention, then his wonder. And his horror. “It can’t… impossible.” Perched on his unharmed, unburnt sister were three tiny dragons - one black as coal, one a dark forest green, and one bone white. Dragons reborn.

An entire horde followed the lead of Jorah Mormont, kneeling to their queen. The Unburnt. The Mother of Dragons.

Chapter Text

If there was a more emotionless figure in the entire Seven Kingdoms than Stannis Baratheon, Ned Stark did not know of any. A powerful warrior and amazing strategist, but with all the compassion and warmth of a statue. Still, as the King’s brother and Lord of Dragonstone - normally a title reserved for the Targaryen Crown Prince, a thought which made Ned’s heart catch slightly - the reserved Stormlands nobleman was the honorable choice for the problems that faced the realm.

“And so my idiot brother-in-law killed your aide and left you crippled,” Stannis said flatly, as if stating a fact - of which he was. “For the swordsman that killed Arthur Dayne, that seems a bit underwhelming against someone who’s claim to fame was stabbing a man in the back.”

For someone so emotionless, Stannis sometimes could deliver the best humor. “He had more men, it happens.” It had taken a while to get used to the cane, and the resulting soreness in the shoulder. The limp would annoy him for the rest of his life, Ned figured.

Ned’s eyebrows furrowed. “The King’s life is in peril, and I think it involved Jon Arryn’s interest in his bastards.” Stannis rolled his eyes. “Considering how Jamie Lannister wanted my investigation stopped, they have to be involved.”

“Jamie is too dumb to be involved in such matters. Cersei… the bitch probably is, as is Tywin. The Imp… I doubt it.”

“Catelyn says Tyrion Lannister got the knife that nearly killed my boy from Littlefinger, and that I could trust Littlefinger.”

Stannis looked at him as if he sprouted two heads. “Littlefinger? I’d sooner trust the cockroaches in my stables. I wouldn’t doubt if he killed Jon Arryn, though not with those oily hands of his.” Feeling that the Lannisters had poisoned the former Hand, Stannis had fled to Dragonstone just in case - it had taken Ned Stark’s intervention to bring him back with twenty-five trusted swordsmen. “And he’s getting close to my nephew?”

He nodded. “Aye, angling his options I believe.”

“And yet your daughter is still betrothed to Joffrey,” the lord deadpanned - anyone but Stannis would have let out a laugh. “Did the incident with the wolf change her mind at all?”

A frustrated chuckle left Ned’s lips. “No, she’s still as enraptured with him as ever.”

“Really?” Stannis snorted. “No one but his mother would like that little golden-haired brat.” There was little sentimentality in the middle Baratheon boy - aside from his daughter there really wasn’t anyone that Ned suspected he loved.

“Well, Sansa seems to. Calls him her golden lion…” Trailing off, Ned’s eyes widened, drawing a puzzled look from Stannis. “Tell me,” he finally said. “Do you remember any of your ancestors being fair of hair?”

If Ned’s expression puzzled Stannis, the question tumbling from his mouth didn’t help matters. “Uhhhh… not to my knowledge. Our grandmother was a Targaryen, yet father remained dark of hair. A Baratheon’s seed is strong, that’s what he always said…” His eyes widened, catching on. “You can’t possibly…?”

Nodding, Ned knew he had to be correct. “Jon Arryn’s last words were the same as the old saying your father had.”

For someone both disciplined and circumspect, even Stannis’ statements were limited to profanity. “Well fuck.”

 

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” stuttered Samwell Tarly, looking over the palm. “You gripped the lantern body, where the flames flicked out?”

Seeing the unmarred skin for the thousandth time, Jon sighed. “Yes, I did. Must you keep asking me that, Sam?” He had answered the question over and over again. Thorne had called him a liar, disputing the entire story told by him about the crazed man in the Lord Commander’s chambers. Lead Ranger Royce seemed to believe him, as did Grenn, Finn, and Pyp. Lord Commander Mormont… he seemed out of it the whole time, as if thinking. Same with the Maester, Aemon.

Mormont had been forever grateful for Jon’s action - hence the presence of a Valyrian blade on his scabbard. ‘Longclaw, oh would Dany love to see this.’ Something they shared now, if she kept the blade he gave her.

All and all, the only one who didn’t question anything about his story was Sam - the only person who seemed fully on his side since Dany… Jon shut his eyes tightly, willing away memories of her. It would only serve to pull his soul deeper into melancholy, and he couldn’t afford it. Far from being the noble calling his uncle made it seem, the Watch was a den of vipers. One that wished to bite him most of all.

“Is Ser Alliser making you doubt it? You had to kill that thing somehow, Jon. And if you weren’t burnt doing so…”

“Just forget it, Sam. It’s impossible that I could avoid burns, so something else must have happened.”

The rotund thinker was unperturbed by Jon’s attempts to push him away. ‘Another trait he shares with Dany.’ Jon couldn’t explain why he was drawn to protect the fat weakling that Sam appeared to be as soon as he arrived at Castle Black, but in time the trust and friendship managed to form. “Come on, Snow. This is a mystery. Only those of Old Valyria… if I recall correctly, can possess burn-proof skin. They used it to ride dragons.”

A hearty chuckle left Jon’s lips. “Please, Sam. I knew… someone,” he ground out, fighting back the longing. ‘Dany.’ “Someone of Valyrian blood. That doesn’t apply to me.”

“We all know Maester Aemon…”

Jon cut him off. “She wasn’t Maester Aemon.” Sam was going to weasel it out of him anyway - along with Robb, he could trust him with his life. Even still, he hesitated with the words.

He hadn’t counted Sam to be as intuitive as he was. “Well, the only surviving Targaryens besides Maester Aemon are the son and daughter of the Mad King. Did you know them?” At Jon’s nod, Sam laughed. “Didn’t know you were so worldly, Jon. Essos? And meeting the Mad King’s children.” He patted Jon on the back. “Next thing I know, you’ll be telling me that girl you told me about was the Targaryen Princess…” Eyes widened in recognition. “No… really?” Sam literally squeaked.

Sighing, Jon nodded. “Aye. Daenerys Targaryen. She was the one I mentioned.” It had come up while they were both scrubbing the dining tables in the mess hall, the conversation going from their vows to sexual prowess and the fact he had been with a woman once before seemed pertinent. He had kept the identity of his lover a secret, but now it was out.

“You loved her, didn’t you? I can tell from your voice that you still do.”

“Enough about that,” replied the brooding steward, face flushing a dark crimson. This was not something he wished to discuss further - brought too many unwelcome feelings. Dany was gone and he had to live with it. “Did you find out anything about what I faced in the Lord Commander’s quarters?” Thorne had been convinced it was a Wilding, and browbeated anyone who thought differently. The old bear seemed to disagree with the assessment, Jon could tell, but he kept it to himself. Thus, Jon convinced Sam to get to the bottom of it themselves.

Nodding, Sam stumbled a bit trying to get something out of a small chest that housed his worldly possessions. Jon couldn’t help but smile - Sam was so unsuited to fighting it was comical, but there was no one better to provide advice and analysis. “Um… yes. I think it was a wight.”

One eyebrow rose. “A wight? Those aren’t anything but myths and legends from the story of the Long Night.” Jon remembered being told that story back as a kid, cuddled up with Robb and Sansa - back when the three of them were thick as thieves.

“Not necessarily, Jon. Think about something Maester Aemon once told me. If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth. No human could have survived a sword thrust to the chest.”

“Perhaps I didn’t hit the heart.” Sam raised an eyebrow, casting doubt on that. Jon’s thrusts were always true and accurate. “Point taken, but still? A wight?”

“It says in the texts, only fire can kill Wights. Why do you think the Wildings always burn their dead? Think about it, wildling raids to try and get over the wall have tripled in the last year. Your uncle disappeared, but no peep from any wilding bands - they like to show their work off… sorry.” Sam had the decency to look apologetic.

Sighing, Jon let it go. He had grieved enough for Benjen, though there was no proof he was actually dead. “Tis fine.” A thought came to mind. “There was that deserter my father killed before I left for Essos. He said something about the White Walkers. I thought it was just gibberish…” This whole line of thinking was liable to be foolish, but how else could he explain what he saw?

Sam looked determined. “I’m bringing this up in the next meeting…”

“No!” Jon knew that would be a bad idea. This had to be told, even if it turned out to be a crock. He could just hear Dany’s beautiful voice urging him to stand up and take the initiative. “Thorne will have us locked up for madness. It has to be to the Lord Commander. Lead Ranger Royce as well, he has a good head.”

“Maester Aemon too.”

Jon laughed. “Seems we have a plan then.” A shiver coursed through him, under his cloak. Suddenly it just got a bit colder.

 

It was an interesting sight for Lord Petyr Baelish, watching the small, rosy-cheeked Crown Prince pace nervously. Confined to his quarters after visiting the King’s sickbed, upon Littlefinger calling upon him fifteen minutes prior there had been nothing but fear and apprehension written over his face. “I don’t like this!” Joffrey cried, running a hand through his hair. “A boar’s tusks? Laughable. His enemies did this. My father’s enemies tried to kill him because they are afraid of his greatness.”

And even the dullest of rocks drew moss on occasion. Sometimes Littlefinger felt that the golden-haired Prince could have some hidden wits about him, but even a minute spent with him killed that hypothesis. It only made the situation perfect for him. With his reputation, it had taken a while for Cersei to stop sending guards to watch his every move with her precious Joffrey. But the Prince liked his counsel, just as he had hoped. “Your father does have many enemies. The Starks could be behind this, trying to put your uncle Stannis on the throne. This could be retaliation for the poisoning of the Dothraki Khal by Targaryen forces, as well.” ‘Or a move by your mother,’ he didn’t say, though it was his top idea.

“They will all die once I take the throne!” Joffrey hissed. Suddenly, he turned pale. “But what if they come after me? I must have my guard doubled. Get more loyal soldiers from my grandfather.” He did have some decent ideas about military reforms, even if they were practically infeasible and mired in the same megalomaniacal delusions.

“Your grandfather is a strong man, your Grace,” Littlefinger opined, lips curved in a winning smile. “However, he wasn’t there when your uncle was captured by Catelyn Stark…”

“Fuck my uncle. I wish he died in the Eyre.” When Joffrey held a grudge, he kept it.

Littlefinger pulled back slightly. His first instinct wasn’t to hitch his wagons to Joffrey, it went against his usual tactic to play sides against the other and keep options open. But Ned Stark was suspicious of him, despite the trust his beloved Catelyn had in him. Stannis hated him. With one side closed to him, Littlefinger was left with being able to cultivate the brash and manipulatable prince. “Of course, his treatment of such a noble young Prince is disgraceful.” Some people were susceptible to the most oily of flattery - one of those was the
Crown Prince. He loved when it was so easy. “But your grandfather… when he isn’t present, his family ends up in danger. Your mother cannot protect you, young Prince.”

He braced for the fury from the boy. “You’re wrong!” Joffrey sent a goblet toppling to the floor. “Mother loves me. She will keep the swine back!”

“Like she protected your father?” Time to sink in the knife. “Like how she got Arya Stark punished after she and that commoner attacked you.” Littlefinger just managed to suppress his dark smirk at the cringe from his future king. It may have been petty, but King Robert’s biting tongue and lack of any affection for his children - legally true, despite Stark and Stannis’ hunches that Littlefinger knew to be the truth - cut the Crown Prince deeply. “She loves you, cares for you, but cannot be trusted in a crisis.”

A tear fell from Joffrey’s eye, fist clenching. “She… she couldn’t get justice for me.”

“Queen Cersei is a sharp woman, but she is but a woman. Weak and frail.” Collapsing to his knees, Littlefinger knelt for his soon-to-be king. “You have my honor and pledge, Joffrey, first of your name. Let me protect you from your enemies.”

Staring at such a high lord, one of the wealthiest men in the Seven Kingdoms bending the knee to him - to him - sent an electric thrill through Joffrey’s system. He liked this, liked it greatly. There was no better feeling, than ruling. “Rise, Lord Baelish.” The Crown Prince took a seat. “So how will you protect me, when my mother can’t?”

Littlefinger allowed his smirk to finally show on his face. “Leave that to me, my Prince.”

 

“Unhand me!” For a puissant, Joffrey was kicking and writhing with the stamina of warriors twice his size. It took three Stark guards to heft him out of the throne room, Ned bringing the rear with two others against the Kingsguard - sans Barristan. “You will all be hanged for touching your king!”

“Gag him!” ordered Stannis, running his sword through the chain mail of a city guardsman as if it was paper. It had been hell in the throne room, the armored wedge formation cleaving through the line of Kingsguards but leaving half the combined Stark/Baratheon number down. Cersei had been screaming - to Stannis’ rare delight - and Littlefinger promising that you couldn’t bet against him, but the King had been secured. Though the Hound slayed ten men to do it. “We need to make haste for the docks, the ship to Dragonstone awaits.”

A Baratheon bannerman darted out of an alcove. “My Lord, we’re holding back reinforcements at the Red Gate but if they rush us again…” a croak left his lungs, grey blur of a sword passing through his midsection. The bannerman toppled to the floor in two bloody heaps.

Looking above, Stannis couldn’t help but growl. “Ser Gregor.” Ned noticed the massive hulk as well. ‘So this is Baelish’s surprise.’ The infamous Ser Gregor Clegane, sword drawn and ready to defend his King.

Wordlessly, the Mountain raised his sword and locked it with Stannis’, the two beginning an intense duel. “Keep them at bay,” yelled Ned, raising his blade and darting into the fray. His cane clattered on the ground, injury stabbing through his system but adrenaline masking the pain for now. Moving to thrust through a gap in Clegane’s armor, the Mountain noticed Ned’s assault at the last minute and essentially shoved Stannis back, sword parrying the new threat just in time.

Two Stark guards joined the developing melee and it became four to one… momentarily. The Mountain caught a sword in his thick, armored hands, squeezing until the steel snapped like a twig. A second guard charged but found himself brained by the hilt of Ser Gregor’s sword, fitted with a small mace at the end for just this eventuality. Back to two to one.

His armor was thick, Clegane managing to use his left arm as a shield to block attacks from whichever of the two Lords wasn’t attacking him. Thrust after thrust, parry after parry and neither of the two fighters were any closer to beating back Joffrey’s impromptu defender - nor did the Mountain manage to kill them as easily as he could innocent women and children. Nevertheless, time was being eaten up and they had little time.

Stannis snarled and managed to slice open a gash through a join in Clegane’s armor. The beast groaned but stayed on his feet, unshaken. Ned hit Clegane’s armored fist, slicing off two fingers but still not even shaking the giant from his watch.

“My Lord! They’re breaking through!”

“He has my knife!”

Suddenly, Stannis cried out as Joffrey stuck a knife into his side, having managed to use the chaos to break free of his captors. The Lord of Dragonstone batted him aside like a limp rag but it opened his frontal defenses - something that the Mountain used decisively. “Fucking bastard!” left Stannis’ lips, his last words before Clegane’s sword essentially caved in his skull.

Determined to kill the Mountain, despite the intense pain in his leg Ned summoned the courage to charge his enemy, only to be pulled back, knife at his throat. “I told you never to bet against me, Lord Stark,” Littlefinger smirked.

 

And so it was. Hearing Ilyn Payne stride behind him, feeling the firm, clammy grasp forcing him to the chopping block, Joffrey and the crowd egging him on - Ned Stark knew that it would soon be over. It was a calming effect really. Part of him was glad that his struggles, his pain would soon be over.

But with Sansa’s screams in the background, a figure mounting a statue in the distance that Ned felt was his beloved Arya, the promise he made to Lyanna still ringing in the back of his mind, he was also glad for his foresight. That others would keep his honor upright after his failure.

A small, cold prick on his neck - the sharpened blade soon to bring the sleep of death - Ned looked out to see Arya gone. ‘Be safe, my child.’ Sansa screamed for Joffrey’s mercy. ‘Be safe, all of my children.’ He closed his eyes. ‘And now it is your time, Jon.’

The prince who was promised.

Then blackness.

Nuzzling the fluffy, down pillow, King Joffrey moaned in contented bliss. The lad felt on top of the world - of which he pretty much was. King of the Seven Kingdoms, quarters guarded by the elite of the Kingsguard including his personal bodyguard, Ser Gregor. The life and death of anyone and everyone in the Realm in his hands.

It was quite the power trip, How easy it had been to order Ned Stark’s death and watch his head tumble from his corpse - and show Sansa where it had been mounted on the city walls. For Joffrey, it translated into the most relaxing sleep of his life.

Out of the corner of his eye, a figure loomed at the edge of the bed. “What is this?” Joffrey moaned sleepily. “I told you that I wasn’t to be distur…” A cursory glance with one eye led to both shooting wide open, feet and hands scrambling to push as much to the headboard as possible. “No, you’re dead.” Standing directly by the massive bed was Robert Baratheon, skin a mottled grey and a red splotch of crimson on his nightshirt.

“Joffrey Waters,” the apparition hissed. “Your rule shall be sturdy, standing the test of time as gold. God among men, until the greatest enemy arrives as prophecy told.”

Breathing rapidly, blood dripped from his father’s eyes and onto Joffrey’s bare chest - still youthfully flat, bare of hair. “I am your trueborn son,” he said in terror. “And I will rule longer than you.”

“Beware the bastard, son of your predecessor. True of birth, but lowly of life.” Blood poured out of Robert’s orifices, despite the pale death that surrounded him. “Only he will destroy you, the Lord of Light alight.”

“Azor Ahai?” Joffrey blinked, remembering something his tutors had said long ago. “He is my greatest enemy?”

Blood poured from the dead monarch’s mouth, but his voice was as clear as thunderclaps. “On female flesh his sigil makes it’s call, Azor Ahai walks among us, and your reign will fall.” A meaty hand reached out and gripped Joffrey’s wrist. The King screamed, eyes closing as skin burned from pure cold…

Scuffling boots on wood filled the room. “Your Grace!”

Opening them once again, the burning cold was gone, as was the apparition of his dead father. Joffrey was alone in the bed, guards surrounding him. Meryn Trant was the closest, sword drawn. “Your Grace, I heard your scream. Are you…” He reached for his liege’s hand.

Joffrey wrenched it away. “Don’t touch me!” He never wanted his guards to see him afraid again. “Bring me my manservant, now!” Lungs sucked in labored breaths. ‘I am trueborn. I am trueborn.” Hopefully he’d forget the obvious nightmare by the end of the day.

Chapter Text

“Come on, Rhaegal, I know you can do it like your brothers.” Twirling the small chunk of horseflesh in her fingers, Daenerys watched the youngest and smallest of her dragon children with a maternal humor. The green dragon didn’t have the same stamina as Balerion and Eddaron, both almost ravenous in their appetites - whereas Rhaegal was picky, as if uncomfortable without special care. “Dracarys.”

Finally, a small tongue of flame left his mouth and cooked the meat. “There you go, my sweet. Why is it so difficult with you?” she chided. Rhaegal cocked his scaled head to the side, blinking. It caused a laugh to leave Dany’s lips. Dragons were mysterious and intelligent creatures, so if there was something fundamental missing in his life then the growing dragon would clearly notice it. However, now fed, he let out a screech and flew into the sky to find his brothers.

“My Queen,” entering the tent, Ser Jorah walked straight up to her. Unlike the rest of her subjects, Jorah had earned the right to dispense with the usual protocol of supplication and greeting - while not as elaborate as in Westeros or the city states of Slaver’s Bay, the Dothraki did have their customs. “There are a group of visitors that wish to speak to you. Exiles from the homeland.”

Now this piqued Dany’s interest. “And I take it that you believe I should see them, for if you didn’t they would have already been dealt with by either yourself or my Dothraki subordinates.” Accustomed to her rapidly growing cunning and leadership, Jorah nodded. “Very well, send them in.” After he exited the tent, she sighed. What she would give to just be able to sit and relax with Arya, Rhaegar, and her dragons. The twins had already fed from her an hour before - Daenerys had absolutely forbade any wet nurse being summoned, instead insistent on feeding them herself regardless of whether it was undignified of a noblewoman of her stature - and she missed them something fierce.

But her duty mattered, her commitment to her House mattered. Daenerys Targaryen would rule the Seven Kingdoms once again, as both a Queen and as a mother. She would just have to find the right balance. It was what she wanted. ‘It is what Jon would want.’ Dany bit back the thoughts of her love, the ever present specter of her dreams. The thoughts would only distract her.

Sitting at the head of the room - where Drogo had once ‘held court’ in the Dothraki style - Daenerys had timed it perfectly to coincide with Jorah entering with two other men, one old and hardened and the other young, dashing, but no less hardened. “May I present Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen,” announced the Northern nobleman, standing firm with his hand extended toward her. Daenerys stood magnificent, clad in a azure blue dress from Qarth, gold Dothraki necklaces draped around her neck, and Saracen tied menacingly on her hip. Every inch a queen. “...Rightful Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.” The two men knelt before her, bending the knee.

Unlike others who may have enjoyed watching another human being supplicate themselves to her, Daenerys wasn’t that sort of ruler. Over-penitence disgusted her, and those that demanded over-penitence disgusted her even more. “Rise and state your names and titles.”

The older one rose first, looking Daenerys in the eye but still acting humble - grieved even. “My Lady… I am Ser Barristan Selmy, and this is my nephew Theodosius Caryn.”

“My Lady,” stated Theodosius, clasping a fisted hand on his chest. “It is an honor.”

Daenerys noticed Jorah stiffening. “Do you know this man?”

“Aye, Ser Barristan Selmy is one of the greatest fighters in the Seven Kingdoms, and the commander of Robert Baratheon’s Kingsguard.” At that, Dany stiffened as well, hand drifting to Saracen.

Taking a step forward, two Dothraki guards drew their swords at Theodosius - but he made no attempt to go further. “Please, Queen Daenerys. We do not come to harm you, but to join you.”

“Join me?” She kept her gaze expressionless. ‘Having Balerion at my feet would be far more intimidating.’ An idea to be reserved for when the black Dragon was further grown. “How would someone, at least in your uncle’s case, a noted servant of the Usurper come to the decision to join me?” While skeptical, Dany was also genuinely curious.

Gaunt, as if from seeing a ghost, Barristan approached the throne, next to his nephew. “Robert Baratheon is dead, your Grace. His son, Joffrey, rules on the Iron Throne. He has killed all that stand in his way, and is proving to be a monster. It was then that I knew I had to find you, to seek your forgiveness and do what is right for the realm.” Bowing his head, he once again bent the knee. “Allow me to join your Queensguard as I was at the side of your late brother.”

Eying him curiously, probingly, Daenerys’ mind debated on what to do. Certainly, she could kill him as a Usurper dog. It seemed Jorah was leaning that way. But Jon had always said that a person should conduct himself or herself with honor and mercy - only to resort to brutality when absolutely necessary. ‘The Stark way.’ Targaryens weren’t inherently like that, hence the house motto ‘Fire and Blood.’

‘The Targaryens were forced from their rightful place thanks to mindless brutality.’ Her course was set. Dany would take these two in - for now. Time would tell if they were loyal.

“So Ser Barristan,” Dany addressed him. She hadn’t quite decided yet whether they would be a permanent fixture to her retinue. That would be fleshed out at a later date. “If you were in my position, what would you do to acquire a significantly powerful infantry force to supplement my Dothraki light cavalry?” Daenerys was humble enough to admit she was no expert in military tactics, and there was no shame in seeking the counsel of someone other than her bloodriders and Ser Jorah. If anything, the wisdom of such an idea would provide further information as to whether to trust him or not. “I may presume that you would not advise basing my army around the sellswords of the Free Cities.”

An impressed glance crossed Barristan’s eyes. “That is correct, your Grace. Sellswords, even ones such as the Golden Company that can function as a rather impressive standing army, their loyalty is a question mark. If they themselves, or their benefactors, deem they can find a better deal elsewhere, then any patron is out of luck. No, only an army that is loyal will serve your ends.” He smiled at her. “And there is only one of that kind in Essos.” A finger stabbed at a city on Slaver’s Bay, in the center of the map.

Dany blinked. “Astapor?”

It was Theodosius that responded. “Yes, more specifically a slave army renown for its fighting prowess. Their proper High Valyrian name is long and hard to pronounce for a Westerosi…” Ser Jorah chuckled and Dany couldn’t help smirking at that. “But they have an informal and far more infamous name - the Unsullied.”

 

“Your Grace, this is a rather… enormous request,” coughed Tyrion Lannister. It was only his first week back in King’s Landing - the King’s Landing now ruled by his nephew - and only his third day as the interim Hand of the King. Already he wished he could pull his own hair out and smash something in frustration. “To issue these many death warrants on issues that do not involve treason?” ‘And on innocent children…” While he may have been able to issue the sort of rough discipline that Joffrey needed, his mother refused to meet out, and his father couldn’t care less to implement, now that the vicious idiot was the King it was impossible. Tyrion could only obey or by a miracle convince him.

“The Hand speaks truly, Your Grace,” Littlefinger added, surprising Tyrion. Coming to King’s Landing and finding the snake one of Joffrey’s top political advisors had been a shock - but outmaneuvering Stannis Baratheon and saving the King where Cersei could not had been a masterstroke. “There is no purpose in this.”

Normally smug and vicious, as he sat at the Small Council table the King seemed ashen. “The King’s will is law, therefore the King’s will must be done.” The words were croaked out.

“But your Grace.” Eyes blazing at Tyrion, the dwarf lowered his gaze in supplicance. “Finding all of your fathers… alleged bastards would be an enormous undertaking. How do we even know which ones to find?”

Stuttering, the ancient oaf Pycelle dropped a ledger on the table. “Now excuse me, Lord Hand, but Ned Stark had compiled copious notes built on Jon Arryn’s.” A hacking cough left his lungs, disgusting Tyrion. ‘How that filthy coot is still alive continues to baffle me.’ “We will be able to find them easily.”

“Then it is settled,” boomed Joffrey, ending debate. “The city garrison will find every one of these swine and kill them. Meryn Trant will oversee this.” Eyes shifted to the figure standing next to Ser Gregor, both the official bodyguards to the King.

A sick grin spread on his face. “It will be a pleasure, my King.”

“I am surrounded by sadistic bastards,” Tyrion muttered inaudibly. From how Varys snorted softly, he figured the shifty eunuch must have heard him.

The doors took that moment to swing wide open, a page entering. “Your Grace, there is a visitor for you in the Throne Room needing your audience.”

“I thought I wasn’t to be disturbed,” hissed Joffrey, the page starting to cower. Tyrion sincerely hoped this wouldn’t be a repeat of the minstrel debacle.

Deliverance for the hopeless page came in the form of Petyr Baelish. “Apologies, but I was the one that arranged this. These visitors arrived from Dragonstone just two days ago seeking your audience, and I believe that they will prove useful to securing your continued reign.” Tyrion joining the others in the retenue to stand and bow as Joffrey rose, they all formed a line behind their sovereign corresponding to their status. While the highest official rank, he was behind both Littlefinger and his sweet sister, each flanking the diminutive King from either side.

“And how is any visitor so crucial to his reign?” Snide came easy to Cersei - having known her all his life, Tyrion should know. While not as smart and far less effective than Littlefinger, at least the Imp could read her. Baelish was as enigmatic as ever. “From Dragonstone no less? Perhaps a last ditch attempt by supporters of Stannis Baratheon…”

“NO!” screamed Joffrey. “He is Stannis the traitor! Even in death, he deserves no titles!”

The retinue was silent, including Tyrion. The lad never would raise his voice at his beloved mother… until now. Had it been any other instance, the look on his sister’s face would have sent him into a fit of giggles. “Forgive my, your Grace,” she allowed. “Stannis the traitor could have set this up in case of his death.”

“I assure you, honored King, I can personally attest to their trustworthiness.”

Joffrey pursed his lips. “Uncle, what say you?”

Tyrion blinked. “You have the best of guards, your Grace.” He spared a glance at both Trant and Ser Gregor, skin crawling. “I’m sure there is no danger with at least hearing what the visitors have to say. Lord Renly has the city surrounded, and we could use any aid to make your coming victory all the more decisive.” Choosing his words carefully, even he could find himself on Joffrey’s good side from time to time. From the death stare Cersei gave him, staying on the King’s good graces was vital in more than one way.

The King nodded. “Very well.”

Two loud horns announced the presence of the King, an idea suggested by Baelish and one Joffrey fell in love with - with everyone in the Throne Room bowing deeply at the booming sound, Tyrion had to admit it was a pretty hefty power trip. Arrogantly draping himself on the Iron Throne, a plush cushion placed on the hard surfaces of the melted swords of Aegon the Conqueror’s enemies, Joffrey gestured the gathered persons to stand. “And who do we have today to see me?”

“My King,” Littlefinger announced, “May I present to you Melisandre of Assai and Ser Davos Seaworth. They have traveled from Dragonstone, braving vengeful Baratheon loyalists now allied with Renly the Traitor to arrive here.” Tyrion’s eyes drifted to the two figures. One was a rather hardened sea dog of a man, bald and tough. The other… one of the most striking women he had ever seen, blessed with fiery red tresses and high cheekbones. ‘Oh if I wasn’t a dwarf.’ At least he had Shae. “Please state your business with Joffrey of House Baratheon, First of his name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.”

Curtsying in her flowing dress, the Lady Melisandre gazed up at the Iron Throne. “Great King, I am honored and humbled to have set my eyes upon the Golden Prince.”

A snort left Joffrey’s lips. “It may be lost on you, but as all can see I am the King.” Derision marred his fair features. “I am a busy man, so be out with what you want or I’ll see you hanged.”

“Your Grace.” Davos knelt, speaking for the first time. His eyes were kept trained on the floor as he addressed his King. “The Lady Melisandre is a powerful priestess, and she seeks to inform you about the Lord of Light.” In his mind, he wasn’t sure he believed it himself, but the Red Priestess was an enigma. Lord Stannis entrusted him to care for her, and he would do so.

‘The Lord of Light?’ Tyrion was in mind to chuckle sarcastically. From what he had heard, worshippers of the fringe cult were common in Essos and spreading amongst the smallfolk in Dorne and the Crownlands - all hogwash in his opinion. But what shocked him was how the King immediately sat ramrod straight, eyes widening. It wasn’t lost on Littlefinger or Cersei - Pycelle was too bullheaded to notice. “Say your piece, now!” Joffrey demanded.

“There is a prophecy, honored King. One that tells of a Long Night, of one that will rule all that stands before him. Of the return of the great one, the lightbringer.” Joffrey visibly stiffened, all color draining from his face. “Stannis Baratheon believed he was the Prince that was promised, or that he would keep guard of the Kingdom for when the Prince arrived.”

“Stannis the Traitor was a troubled man with many delusions of grandeur,” Cersei dismissed, slightly perturbed that Joffrey hadn’t gone into a fit of rage at his uncle’s actual name. “The Lord of Light is a myth.”

Standing firm, Melisandre did not back down. “I can assure you, the prophecy is real. Stannis was consumed by it, and he set in motion a chain of events before he left Dragonstone that even I cannot control. Only the Great King can stop the coming chaos… the King standing before us.”

“Though your devotion to our King is commendable, we cannot spare any time for nonsense…”

“See to it that our guests are treated to the best of accommodations, Lord Baelish,” Joffrey ordered, interrupting his mother.

‘Well this is interesting.’ Tyrion made a mental note to get to know this Melisandre quite well in the future.

 

It was a small meeting - off the books so to speak. There would be no official records of it. No scribbling into the logs by Castle Black’s scribes to immortalize it for future generations of Night’s Watchmen. The meeting might as well have not existed, and that was the point. With such a sensitive subject that could result in the worst sort of punishments for the men that sought such a gathering, a need to know basis was enforced to ensure dialogue free from prying eyes. None of that made it any less intimidating for Jon Snow. All the great Watchmen of his day were present.

At the head was Lord Commander Jeor Mormont. Already intimately familiar with Jon, his personal steward, the Old Bear was still pensive and quiet from his experience that fateful night. As if he could never shake a nagging feeling deep inside him. His leadership hadn’t slackened, regardless of his newfound tendency to seek solitude in his quarters whenever not needed elsewhere.

First Ranger Qhorin Halfhand, a grizzled veteran of many a ranging expedition. Having enlisted in the Watch at age fifteen, his body was covered in scars from battles against wildlings and fearsome snow creatures. With the disappearance of Benjen - Jon’s heart ached for his lost uncle - Qhorin was the perfect choice for First Ranger by Lord Commander Mormont. No other knew as much about the wildling political structure than he, making him a vital addition to the meeting.

Maester Aemon Targaryen, old and frail but with a mind sharper than any within a thousand miles. Formerly the Crown Prince, he relinquished his claim for reasons still unknown to Jon, instead donning the robes of a maester and the black of the Watch. Head filled with knowledge and wisdom, the wealth of millenia dwelt within him.

Alliser Thorne, great warrior as he was… was not present. A deliberate move by Jon and Sam, for he would dismiss their findings without a moment’s hesitation. However, he was also their immediate superior. The reason Jon was a steward and not a ranger. Under all vows of a Watchman, to shun your direct superior could be great dishonor. You risked your life doing so.

But this was worth the risk. Jon knew Dany would have made sure he did it. If he was sure of the information’s importance, which he was, she wouldn’t rest until he made his case. That helped steel his nerves, to an extent.

The Lord Commander broke his silence. “You have requested this meeting, Snow. Tarly. Out with it.”

‘We have no confidence in Thorne’s decisions…’ The obvious answer died on Jon’s tongue, and Sam was too nervous and meek to vocalize anything. “Lord Commander, we believe the person that attacked both you and myself was not a rogue bandit searching for gold. The conclusion in the official record was incorrect.”

The Old Bear raised his eyebrow. “Are you questioning your commander? Ser Alliser prepared the report.”

‘Yes.’ Jon pursed his lips. “No, I am not. I am simply raising a point that his conclusions were based on second-hand observations, and those are more likely to be in error.” He had to choose his words very carefully. The three leaned in to listen. “There is no doubt in my mind that the attacker was a weight.”

Three pairs of eyes blinked, staring incredulously. “Weights? There haven’t been any of those in thousands of years,” exclaimed Halfhand. “Most say they’re a myth, even.”

“What evidence do you have of this conclusion?” asked Maester Aemon, curious.

“Um… we’ve conducted our own research of the ancient texts,” Sam stammered, setting several books on the table. “Based on what Jon Snow has told me of the attacker, his grey skin, death by fire, and glowing ice blue eyes correspond to both the account of Bran the Builder - first Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch - and the epic poem by the great bard on the Long Night.” He passed around the old manuscripts, laboriously collected. “No one has seen one for millennia, but records of them do exist.”

“I know these poems,” Aemon recounted. “If this person matches what Snow and the Lord Commander saw, then I would be very worried indeed. A new threat is on the horizon.”

Halfhand scoffed. “So a bunch of ancient poems should lead us to believe that we have weights and white walkers beyond the wall. I’m skeptical.”

“Once you eliminate the impossible,” said Jon in response. “Whatever remains, however improbable, has to be the truth.” He noticed Maester Aemon smile in… familial pride? It was the same smile that Robb, Benjen, or his father would give him upon a successful spar. “Lord Commander, you saw this creature. You must know what we say to be true.” All was in the hands of the Lord Commander. If Halfhand was skeptical and Aemon slightly supportive, then only the Old Bear could break it in favor or against him and Sam.

Finally, the old commander spoke. “Let us say we believe you, Snow.”

“But sir…”

“Quiet, Qhorin. We are being hypothetical at this point. I understand how Alliser wouldn’t believe us - his fixation and focus on the Wildling threat is an asset to us, but new threats can faze him.” Mormont could criticize, while an underling doing so could destroy them. “But if the attacker is a weight, then why haven’t we seen more of them in the last years, hmmm?”

“I would assume that the first persons they would come in contact with would be the Wildlings, sir.” Common sense, Jon had found, was sometimes lacking in military command tents - even among the most powerful warriors. “One must see what the Wildlings are doing. Have they made any major changes in their structure? I do know that more and more have began sneaking over the wall to raid the South.”

Aemon smacked his gums, looking at the First Ranger. “Qhorin, didn’t you tell us that the Wildlings have began gather around Benjen’s predecessor, Mance Rayder, as their King?”

“A Wildling King?” Sam looked shocked. “There hasn’t been a King north of the wall in recorded history.” All glanced at Halfhand.

“The clans started banding together about two years ago. Deep ranging expeditions planned by Benjen Stark and myself couldn’t find a location where they are potentially massing, but several villages were found abandoned and we’ve fought scouting parties made up of warriors from three or four clans - that’s how I got this.” He pointed to a scar on his cheek. “To tell the truth, that was when Lord Umber at Last Hearth started complaining of increased Wildling raids.” It wasn’t definitive evidence, but Jon and Sam’s theory began to appear less far-fetched than before.

The discussion continued for nearly an hour among the five of them, ranging from expressing the still significant doubts about the worst case scenario of the return of the Long Night to various solutions to fortify the wall. With Robb and the Northern Army essentially camped out in the Riverlands, there was no hope of extra reinforcement. If Mance Rayder or an as yet unconfirmed white walker army tried to break through, all they had was the brothers of the watch.

“Snow,” stated the Old Bear, breaking a heated debate between Halfhand and an increasingly resolute Sam. “You saved my life. You sought this meeting. What course of action would you take if you were in my shoes?” The way he said the last few words, to Jon it seemed as if Mormont was considering the possibility as likely.

Taking a deep breath, Jon remained confident and determined. “Someone needs to infiltrate the Wildlings. Find where they are massing and investigate why. If it is white walkers,” the execution of the deserter flashed before his eyes, “Then the Wildlings will have the best way to prove that. Any infiltration could be disguised by the simultaneous launching of a massive raiding party on our part,” he added. Dany flooding his mind, along with the nightmares of his father’s head being cut off by Joffrey the monster, he couldn’t stand being out of the action any longer. “If need be, I volunteer to be the infiltrator.” All stared at him with wide eyes, as if he was a condemned man.

Stroking his beard, Mormont took his time to respond. “You are certainly your father’s son,” he said. Suddenly, he laughed. “I like it.”

Perhaps he had sealed his death warrant after all.

 

All was dark in the Lannister military camp, a few drunken soldiers and their exalted shouts carrying over the flickering torchlights. Hood draped over her fiery features, the Lady Melisandre dismounted her horse and tied it to the hitching post next to the massive tent. With merely a raven dispatched and a horse borrowed from Ser Davos, she was confident only the person of her interest would know of her arrival.

‘He is not of Kingly blood, but it doesn’t matter.’ A more… liberal interpretation of the ancient texts had revealed that the ancestors of Kings were sufficiently kingly for her purposes. Melisandre wasn’t keen on using Joffrey in the manner she wished, especially due to what she had heard about his ‘proclivities.’ Her target was far different, and while ruthless, sufficiently noble for her to handle.

“Are you sure about this, Lady Melisandre?” asked her companion, the faithful protector. Ser Davos had taken his oath to Stannis quite seriously. Even after his patron’s death he made sure to protect her, whether or not believing same as the deceased Lord of Dragonstone that the Red Priestess was the key to the ultimate victory.

Looking back over her shoulder, she allowed a rare smile. “Keep watch on the horses, Davos. I shall be back soon.” With that she flipped open a tent flap and stepped inside.

The figure stood alone, back to her, at a large map table resting in the middle of the tent. In the corner rested an austere cot where the Lord would rest his aging bones. Melisandre spared a quick sweep of the rest of the tent. Aside from a few golden goblets and intricate tapestries depicting the Lannister sigil the entire furnishing pattern was austere. It heartened the Red Priestess, confirming to her that this was the right man. ‘So like Lord Baratheon, so unlike the young King.’ What had to be done, had to be done however. All for the Promised One.

“Don’t think that I don’t know of our presence,” Tywin Lannister stated flatly. His voice, though hoarse with age, was firm and decisive. “Or of your true nature.”

Walking till she was directly across from him, Melisandre ran her hand along the map of southern Westeros. “You are dwarfed by Renly’s armies, isn’t that correct?”

Eyeing her with narrowed slits, Tywin’s innate mistrust was found lacking in observing this woman. “He outnumbers us 80,000 to 40,000, not to mention the 10,000 defending the city itself. Depending on what the Tyrell armies do now that he has married the Rose of Highgarden, we are likely outmatched in the field of battle…” An eyebrow rose. “Unless your Lord chooses to intervene.”

A smirk found its way on Melisandre’s lips. He was perceptive. “These armies… they’re nothing but toys to the Lord of Light.” She stepped along the table’s edge, closer to Tywin.

“If your Lord truly has power, then perhaps you could tell him to burn our enemies.”

“Lord Lannister, I don’t tell the Lord anything. I am merely a servant of his will.” Only steps away from the tall Lord, she ran her long nails on a stag marker - one that clearly was Renly Baratheon. “I have seen the path to victory, and victory will be yours.”

Tywin smiled wanly. “Much as I trust my own military skill, unable it was to prevent my son from falling into the Young Wolf’s hands, Renly is loved by his men and is not likely to blunder into harm’s way. Defeat his army I may do, but he will live to fight another day - with the numbers to win a protracted war.”

Gazing at him with flame in her eyes, Melisandre calmly shrugged off her cloak and opened the robe underneath. Soon she was bare, exposed to the Lord of Casterly Rock. “You are unmarried, Lord Lannister. The father of three. Your prowess is unmatched, and if you give yourself to the Lord of Light, he will see to it that you are given a victory. That your enemies are crushed.” Pulling his wide-eyed face to her, ear to her hot mouth, she whispered into the shell. “Your grandson may be on the throne, but you are the true ruler… my King.”

Gripping her fiery red locks, Tywin smashed his lips against hers and pinned her to the table. Melisandre smiled.

Chapter Text

The scene in the Baratheon camp north of Storm’s End was chaotic - but there was a certain order to it. Clumps of armed foot soldiers, archers, and cavalry dashing every which way, with screaming knights and officers directing them towards the many moored boats on the quays. Supply were strewn everywhere, serfs and conscripted noncombatants darting by to load them into the ships. It seemed as if the entire Stormlands and Reach were behind Renly Baratheon.

‘And here we are, ready to present the North to him.’

Eventually, Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, and the rest of their retinue managed to secure a few noncombatants to take charge of their mounts. It was so surreal, being not just a future Lord but as a Monarch in his own right. Certainly the current regime in King’s Landing didn’t view his claim as legitimate, but having defeated the Lannister host on the battlefield and capturing the Kingslayer himself added a more practical type of legitimacy. Robb was their equal, and was being treated as such.

“Your Grace, Lady Stark,” announced the armored form of a Baratheon Kingsguard… the female armored form. “King Renly and Queen Margaery have been awaiting your arrival for some time now. They are ready to welcome you to the Stormlands.” She stood tall, menacing yet noble at the same time. This was a powerful warrior even in spite of her gender.

Catelyn knew exactly who she was. “Brienne of Tarth.” She had known her father well, and the young Brienne from the last time she saw her hadn’t outgrown her tomboyish attitudes. “I didn’t know you found service at King Renly’s side.”

Leading the two Starks to the ornate command tent - bearing the sigil of King Robert - the iron faced lady allowed herself a small smile. “His grace will make an excellent King, avenge his brothers from the Lannisters.” Brienne glanced at Lady Catelyn wryly. “As with his marriage, His Grace is one of those rare few that know the value of a strong woman, be it in body or in mind.”

“I have raised my boys the same way,” remarked Catelyn, smirking at Robb - who had the good graces to look away with a knowing innocence. ‘Even Jon.’

Two guards pulling the tent flap back, Catelyn and Robb stepped inside the massive tent. There, seated on an oaken throne, was Renly Baratheon. On his head rested a crown, and next to him sat the Rose of Highgarden. While her husband nodded in acknowledgement of his guests, Margaery Tyrell beamed in greeting. Robb noticed a faint twinkle in her green eyes, and bowed. “Your Grace, my Lady.”

“Robb of House Stark, King of the North, and the Lady Catelyn Stark,” announced Brienne. “Presenting to Renly of House Baratheon…” Continuing to recite the litany of titles, Robb glanced towards the throne. What kind of red blooded male would he be not to notice one of the most beautiful girls in the Realm, and he had enough experience to tell she seemed to like what she saw. ‘If only she weren’t the Rightful Queen.’ He could almost hear his mother scolding him for taking the risks he was, so covered them with a regal mask.

His mother hadn’t wanted to come, but the Northern Lords felt - and he agreed - that the Young Wolf supplement his battle skills with that of diplomacy. Robb knew he was experienced in that front, and had to obtain such knowledge if he were to be a great King for the North.

“Greetings, Young Wolf. Lady Stark. Welcome to Storm’s End Camp,” Renly stated after the titles had been announced. “You must be famished. Please, before we talk business, allow my household to provide you with food and drink.” That did sound lovely…

Almost an hour later, the servants were clearing the last of the plates off the table. “Now then, sweetpea,” the would be King addressed his bride. “Do please leave us. I have business to discuss with my guests.”

“Husband,” replied Margaery, “This seems to be a discussion that I could provide…”

“I’m sorry, dear,” Renly replied in a sweet tone - but both Starks could sense the ice in it. “But that wasn’t a mere request. I will come see you once I’m done.” With a kiss on her forehead, Renly bid her farewell. While rather polite, Catelyn knew no Stark would have ever disrespected their wife or female relative in such a way. Judging from the fist Robb formed underneath the table, he agreed. Or was it something different? In possession of a mind as well as beauty - something she shared with the Tyrell rose, and her famous grandmother - Catelyn could see the instant spark of lust between her son and the would be Queen. ‘Good thing this meeting is only for a day or two.’ Robb’s honor was enough to prevent him from sullying his good name in such a manner, but then again, Catelyn would have said the same of Ned.

‘But he did honor you.’

Renly broke the contemplation. “Now then, your emissaries had arranged a framework for you and I to enter into an alliance - we have common cause, I to take the throne and avenge my brothers, and you to avenge your father, Young Wolf.”

“There is more to strategy and motive than vengeance, your Grace,” Catelyn said.

“And what is it that you truly wish for? The rescue of young Sansa from the Red Keep?”

Biting her lip, Catelyn would have moved heaven and earth to rescue her daughter. Both her daughters. In her hesitation, Robb answered for her. “We wish… I wish that the North achieve its rightful place. The rest of the realm understands us not, and with what the Targaryens did to us and what Joffrey likely plans to do, our independence is non negotiable.” Catelyn was impressed - her son sounded every inch a leader.

Nodding, Renly smirked slightly. “I have no issue with independence for the North, as long as you swear the same loyalty to me as your great father swore to Robert. That alliance between them and Jon Arryn brought over a decade of peace. An alliance between us will have the same consequences once Joffrey’s head is mounted on a pike. And that will be soon, as I plan to assault King’s Landing within the fortnight.”

“If you plan to do so, what role do we play?” Robb was genuinely curious. Renly was still a far better strategist than him.

“The Lannister army under Lord Tywin still exists. It needs to be pinned and defeated even after the capitol falls.” He raised a glass. “May this alliance last a thousand years.”

 

Setting down the sleeping figure of her young son, Dany kissed his little, pink cheek. “Sleep tight, sweet Prince. Dream of how a mighty warrior you shall be, and of the great Kingdom you will inherit.” The seven-month old Rhaegar Targaryen yawned in his sleep, arms stretching up. A once hardened heart melted into goo, Dany feeling such love for the little tiny creature before her. Soft crying from the other crib in her personal tent - guarded by four elite Unsullied soldiers picked by Greyworm, her top commander - drew her attention.

“My sweet little one,” she cooed, clutching Arya close to her. Even with her features, she reminded her so much of Jon. It warmed her heart and made it ache at the same time. The wails lessened, but she remained as fussy and discomforted as before. “Please don’t cry, what could be bothering you?” What with securing the Unsullied, preparing battle plans, and raising three unruly dragons, the time needed to morph from a confused girl into an experienced mother was limited - handmaidens helped, Missandei being quite the natural much to her surprise, but Dany insisted on keeping her children close as opposed to most noblewomen. She loved them, and aside from Saracen they were her only connection to Jon.

Rocking her daughter back and forth, Dany wracked her brain for why Arya could be crying. ‘Cloth dry. Missandei fed her only an hour ago. She doesn’t look or feel sick.’ If it was loneliness, or missing her mother, Arya would have calmed down. Normally composed and regal, Dany was close to crying in pure frustration. ‘Jon would be laughing his ass off at this,’ she thought. Desperation made one look outside the box. “Would you like to hear about your father?”

Abruptly the wails stopped, Arya blinking her grey eyes at her mother. Dany almost burst out laughing at the irony of it all, but couldn’t. She missed Jon desperately, so it was only natural that even their one-year-old children would spiritually crave closeness with their father. “Well then, let me tell you about the North’s greatest swordsman - born of House Stark, the most honorable House in all of Westeros…”

 

“The future of our house rests on you fathering children for His Grace.” Her former beauty withered by age - though most said it had slowly transferred to the new generation - the Queen of Thorns sill possessed the sharpest of minds. “You must just try harder, my dear.”

Sighing, Margaery’s beauty was marred with frustration. “You don’t know how I’ve tried, grandmother. It is of no use.” She paced back and forth, chestnut hair swinging madly. “I have kept all the lights off. Made myself up to look like a boy.” Her nose crinkled at the rather foul memory coming to mind. “Not to mention having Loras in the same room as I while…”

“I don’t want to hear it.” Oleanna spat. Much as her father denied it, both Margaery and her grandmother had accepted Loras’ proclivities… they didn’t like it, but accepted it. “Even your brother can sleep with women if he so wants. Don’t tell me that your husband…”

Margaery nodded. “Nothing I can do leads his appendage to stiffen, and even with Loras there he cannot finish inside me.” Stray tears fell from her eyes - she knew most noble women would have to endure being married to someone they did not love for political reasons, but to be married to a man that liked only men? Inhaling, she summoned her grandmother’s infamous steel. “I fear he will never quicken me.”

Muttering something foul, Oleanna rose and hobbled to a window with her cane. “I was afraid of that. You must try to bear him a son and you are fertile now.” Her wrinkles deepened in thought. “Perhaps… I think I may have a solution to this.”

Pulling the cloak tighter over her head, hiding her face in the darkness, Margaery Tyrell stalked through the darkened camp. To her right the waves crashed into the rocky coast. The name for the Stormlands was apt, and luckily the ships were all moored in the Storm’s End harbor, which was protected by a storm barrier breaking the waves. If anything, it joined with the post-feast lethargy among the men to help cloak her from discovery. Margaery’s husband wouldn’t care, as he was currently enjoying himself with Loras in the warmth of the royal tent.

And therein laid the problem. The “perfect” marriage arrangement for the Reach and House Tyrell could only work if she delivered King Renly - soon to be the undisputed King of the Seven Kingdoms once Joffrey was deposed and King’s Landing was his - a son and heir. However, with her husband unable to finish himself with any but a man, she was stuck. Stuck with what her grandmother felt was the only solution.

It would be simple enough after the fact - if Renly was anything like his brother, get him drunk enough to pass out and he’d believe anything could have happened before losing consciousness. Loras would play ball. No matter how hard he loved Renly, his loyalty to their House was unquestionable. The complexity entered with finding a person who would both be willing to commit adultery with the Queen and one that resembled Renly enough to avoid uncomfortable questions. Covered in bulky and flowing garments, Margaery could never deny her renowned beauty. She was truly the Rose of the Reach as many called her, suitors crawling on their hands and knees for her till Renly Baratheon swooped in. Seduction wasn’t too bothersome a chore, her grandmother taught her well in that particular art. But who would be trustworthy enough not to blab - someone with a stake in the game.

Finally, with many to choose from, only one tickled Margaery’s fancy. And he was the one who’s tent was about to host an unexpected visitor. Pulling the flap back, she stepped inside.

The brazier had died out, but in the summer heat it was actually better that it did. Creeping closer to the bed, Margaery was about to remove her cloak when a knife found itself pressed to her throat. Her blood turned to ice, body shivering in terror.

“Identify yourself,” Robb Stark growled, blanket slipping down his torso - bare due to the temperatures in the south. Fingers shaking, Margaery managed to complete the task of lowering the hood of her cloak. Hard eyes widened in surprise. The knife lowered. “Queen Margaery, what are…?” Suddenly self-conscious, Robb covered his torso with the thin blanket.

His actions endeared him more to Margaery, who fought a laugh. In a world of backstabbing noblemen, willing to kill their own mother for more power or money, the Starks had honor - were above it all. The Young Wolf still might not go for it, so she would have to lay the seduction thick. “I could see you eyeing me since you got here, Robb Stark.” She slid out of her nightdress, revealing her naked form.

“We… can’t do this…” Robb tried, but couldn’t will his hands to resist. Every man had at least one weakness. The Young Wolf found one.

Straddling him on the bed, Margaery never dropped her smile. “I’ll be quiet.”

 

Arms straining to push the oar through the choppy waters of Blackwater Bay, Davos Seaworth deftly maneuvered the small craft towards one of the caves that dotted the cliffs off King’s Landing. These were only accessible by sea, and while there were plenty of caves within walking distance he had been informed by his ward that solitude was preferable. Sparing a glance at the visage of Melisandre, moonlight illuminating her fair features, Davos reasoned she had a reason to wish for it.

“And it begins soon,” spoke the Red Witch - as Stannis always called her. “They’re massing for the assault.”

Looking over his shoulder for a moment, Davos managed to pick up the flickering lights as they glided through the water. What had to be over a hundred ships, likely all packed with Baratheon troops. “They’re following Stannis’ plan then. Well that is to be expected, considering most of his advisors and officers flocked to Renly.”

“The youngest Baratheon betrayed his kin by abandoning him at the capitol,” Melisandre mused as they pulled into the cave. “The Lord of Light may not interfere in the affairs of men, but through his servants justice will be rendered against the guilty.” Rising from the boat, even the billowing cloak was unable to disguise her pregnant belly.

As with the cave, Davos didn’t bother to try to discern what Melisandre’s game was. His gut told him that he’d rather not know. “The night is dark and full of terrors,” he muttered, igniting a torch to banish the blackness. “No wonder men cherish fire so, even if it can burn.”

A soft laugh left the Red Woman. “A rather deep statement, coming from a simple man. Though I doubt you do not hold complications, Ser Davos Seaworth.” Stepping gingerly on the rocks, she studied him. “You claim to be a reformed smuggler, meaning you have had times as a bad man while also meaning you have redeemed yourself with good. But a half-rotted onion is rotten completely. One can only be good or evil.”

“If your lord truly does care about a scoundrel like me, then I’ll hope I am the former.” He couldn’t say that watching over her - be it for Stannis, King Joffrey, or Tywin Lannister wasn't interesting. Such was his life. Interesting.

Sitting down on an outcrop, Melisandre eyed him curiously. “We are both knights, Ser Davos, if unconventional. But an onion has layers, as you do. It is hard to catch a glimpse underneath yours.” It was at that point that she removed her cloak, leaving her swollen body bare to the elements.

“Lords protect us,” Davos gasped, his torch suddenly glowing three times as bright.

“The Lord of Light is the only true god, Ser Davos.” Folding her hands in her lap, Melisandre sat still. “We must wait now.” In the distance, a massive roar filled Davos’ ear.

It had begun.

 

“Where are our soldiers, Imp!” Joffrey snarled at his uncle. More Baratheon soldiers were pouring in, the last of Renly’s ships docking. Out in the bay, the licks of green flame still illuminated where dozens of ships and thousands of men had been dispatched into a watery grave. His uncle’s idea, a good one he grudgingly admitted. “You promised your wildfire attack would cripple them.”

“Your Grace, it did cripple them.” Gritting his teeth, Tyrion did his best not to slap the King as with the smallfolk riot - a vicious idiot described him well, but with his blood up and the wrong Clegane standing right next to him, it wasn’t the safest time to deliver hard lessons. “If it hadn’t been for the preliminary strike, they would have swarmed the walls by now. Sandor Clegane managed to beat back an initial assault, but they’ve rallied. We don’t have enough men for a protracted battle.”

Joffrey nearly tumbled back in fright as an arrow smacked one of the stone battlements right next to him - had the faceless archer been more accurate, young Tomman would have been King. “What… what should we do?” All bravado had leached from him. The arrogant boasting to Sansa prior to the fighting seemed so small compared to the glaring reality of impending death.

Looking at the assembled garrison below, Tyrion gulped. “Nephew, this is a time for you to lead your forces. Show them that you are willing to fight alongside them, to fight for your city and your kingdom. Lead us to slip around them and annihilate the Baratheons.”

While his uncle’s romanticized portrait of him fighting off his uncle’s forces appealed to him, the crippling fear remained. The messages from the Red Keep still remained in his mind. His mother wanted him to join her, his uncle wanted him to lead the fight, and Lord Baelish nestled squarely in the middle by wanting him to stay in the defenses. To allow the King to fight hard but not needlessly risk himself.

“I will stay here and defend the battlements. You lead the charge.”

Tyrion sighed. He honestly expected much less. ‘I can barely hold a sword,’ he thought to himself, ‘Yet I must lead the charge. How… ironic.’ With that he dashed off.

Glancing about, Joffrey barked a command. “Archers, bring more archers to the wall before…”

Suddenly, a door to a battlement was kicked open to reveal Loras Tyrell - armor drenched in blood, the Highgarden heir and right arm of Renly himself raised his sword, Baratheon guards behind him. “We meet again, Joffrey. Your uncle sends his greetings.”

Hands shaking, Joffrey drew his own sword. “Ser Gregor, kill him.” Sometimes the battles came to you.

 

“AHHHHHHH!” Davos grimaced, one part of him wishing he could help while the other advised him to back as far away as possible. The latter won out, to an extent. “URRRRRRRGH!” Melisandre’s screams echoed through the cave - obscuring the chaos of the battle outside. Grabbing her hair as she told him to do, Davos couldn’t help but observe the scene before him. The Red Woman was one of the great beauties of the realm. Not now though, not under the current circumstances.

The prospect of having to deal with Tywin Lannister’s child did not appeal to him. Of the three that existed, one killed the King he was sworn to protect, one was a bitch that Stannis thought was sleeping with the former, and the third was a drunken imp, the best of the lot. What would the fourth be?

Davos soon got his answer. “ARRRRRGGGHHHHHH!” His eyes widened and muscles shook as instead of a baby, a black cloud flowed out of the Red Woman. More literally clawed out with wraith-like hands. “The Lord of Light demands justice!” she shrieked. The wraith was fully out, taking the shape of a humanoid form. “Deliver it unto those that seek evil!” A pitched scream left the dark shroud, racing through the air to some unknown prey.

“Well then.” Close to shell-shocked, Davos couldn’t help the calming quip that left his trembling lips. “My decision not to cross you seems to be working out for me.”

 

“Drop anchor!” yelled the captain, the massive weight smacking onto the muddy ocean bottom, the fleet flagship held itself only a hundred yards from the city walls - just about to fall. Renly felt on top of the world. Standing just in the entranceway to his cabin, the sounds of battle filled his ears. What had looked nearly like defeat and was now just wisps of green flame and debris on the sea surface. Soon he would be King. Soon he would sit upon the Iron Throne.

“Husband!” cried out Margaery, trembling from apprehension. “You may be killed, being so close to the battle.” It was already killing her that Loras was fighting on the city walls.

Scoffing, Renly looked back at her. “That will not happen, wife. I will be King, and you Queen.” Confidence ringed his handsome face.

The words stabbed deep. Her passion with Robb Stark - however satisfying and amazing it was - hadn’t produced a child. She had bled one week before, and would have had to start over. The fortunes of House Tyrell under King Renly were vested on it.

Lady Brienne caught her eye. “Don’t worry, my Lady. I will make sure no harm comes to him.”

Her words were spoken too soon, for both jumped as a black wraith passed through the wooden walls of the ship - a wraith looking exactly like Tywin Lannister. Floating behind Renly, a translucent dagger formed and sliced through his resplendent Stag armor, impaling on his heart.

“NOOOOO!” Brienne cried, Margaery just stunned silent. The wraith shrieked and vanished just as two Baratheon guards stormed in. They saw Brienne, knelt at Renly’s side, and assumption took over.

“You’ll pay for this, bitch!” one snarled, charging. Brienne drew her blade. Margaery, recovering her wits, tried to explain but it was too late. Brienne killed both and stripped her armor off, plunging into the dark depths to make her escape. The Red Woman’s plan worked - the pretender was dead, and only four knew the truth.

It spread like wildfire. One Baratheon archer with sharp eyes noticed their leader’s fall outside Renly’s Kingsguard, and while those turned on Brienne of Tarth, in his panic the archer hollered to his unit: “The King has fallen!”

Panic and mass hysteria were the most contagious diseases in the human condition. Soon, even in the heat of battle, news of Renly’s demise had infected the Baratheon army. Already facing the determined defenders on the walls and being slammed into by a strategic envelopment under Tywin Lannister arriving on the scene, the news of their King’s death was too much. The army broke, fleeing as fast as their feet would take them. Tywin owned the field.

“Come back you cowards!” roared the normally suave Loras Tyrell, soon distracted by his final comrade’s torso being run in by the King’s sword - a lucky hit considering the blow was sloppy and made with a hand shaking from fear. The blow that was reserved for the great heir to Highgarden came from the Mountain. Revenge for the fated joust, Robert Baratheon’s last, was best served cold for Gregor Clegane. But it was served, Loras Tyrell’s face smashed in just as Stannis’ was.

Ten minutes later, the battle was over. Ninety thousand Baratheon and Tyrell forces had assaulted King’s Landing by the sea. Only fifteen thousand escaped, forty thousand captured and the rest dead on the beaches or in the water - Tyrion Lannister and the Lady Melisandre had delivered a great victory for King Joffrey, First of his Name. None south of the Riverlands could challenge his hegemony over the Seven Kingdoms.

And oh how the South would howl.

Chapter Text

Biting cold seeped through the thick cloth and furs, but Jon continued to inch ever forward. He slowly turned his head, making eye contact with Tormund Giantsbane. The redheaded wildling nodded, the dozen or so hunters hunkering down completely prone. A loud trumpet twenty or so feet to their front almost made Jon freeze, but the Night’s Watchman turned Free Folk hunter kept his cool. One must never spook a herd of mammoth - until the right moment. Each of the lumbering beasts fed off the sparse grassland west of Hardhome, enjoying the last crop before they migrated south - at least it was what they normally did. Furs covered in straw and face painted with dried mud, Jon and the others blended into the grass.

Through the stalks of grass, he could see Mance Rayner crawling in between the tree-like limbs of the mammoth herd. The former Night’s Watchman had gone fully Wildling, adapting to the position as the King north of the wall. In hunts, the Wildling clan chief always took point. As King, the role was only magnified.

It had been several months since Jon was allowed into the wildling camp as something greater than a prisoner. He had not wanted it to end up this way - for Halfhand to die while only Aemon, Sam, and Lord Commander Mormont thinking he was anything but a traitor, but it had worked. Mance had eventually deemed his sincerity genuine. ‘Which it is, to an extent.’ No information was forthcoming about the so-called white walkers, but the sheer size of the wildling - or Free Folk, as they preferred to call themselves - host at Hardhome stunned and terrified him. If a host that sized broke through the wall… Tormund and the other companion Jon had… come to know constantly bragged about the eventual march on the wall, but not much more than they would do it.

The warbling bird call began to pick up, Jon slowly looking upward at the crow - warging still confused the hells out of him. ‘Mance is in position.’ Time seemed to still, as it always did before the sword was about to fall. A fly taking off from a blade of grass, soft snow blowing in the breeze, a wisp of hair falling atop his eye. All were noticed in the mere seconds before it happened.

Each herd was led by a large bull, the lead bull. Fur usually grey with age, he had won the mantle of leadership through years of constant fighting and struggle against pretenders and the elements. Where he went, the others went. When he panicked, the herd panicked. Erupting from where he had crawled slowly and stealthily, Mance immediately went after the lead bull. It didn’t take much to enrage it, guttural cries and swipes with the spear. Quick on his feet to avoid the long tusks, Mance nicked the trunk with the spearpoint, causing the mammoth to let out a pained trumpet.

“HAAAAGGGGGHHHH!” Mance raised the spear, yelling at the top of his lungs as the massive bull rose atop its hind legs. The bull’s feet slammed on the ground, breaking into a gallop - joined by the entire herd, following their leader in a stampede. Quickly rolling out of the way, Mance blew on his whistle.

Leaping from his hiding spot, Jon let out a war whoop of his own, joining the other wildling hunters in their broken charge.

The chase brought the herd to a large gorge, chosen specifically to isolate the herd’s stragglers. In the van, the lead bull took the bait, Jon pumping his legs through the freezing air to keep up with the more experienced wildling hunters. Spotting the flickering flames of the campfire and flaming arrow - which fit perfectly with the fiery thatch of red hair on the archer’s head - Jon slowed to a trot as Ygritte released her projectile. It slammed into the old bull forming the rear, the pain distracting it and slowing it long enough for the wildling hunters to catch up.

With the rest of the herd disappearing from view, the ragged wings of the semicircle converged around the mammoth.

“Tormund! Make your throw!” The wildling hurled his spear with all his might at the beast’s heart, but it merely struck a glancing blow on the shoulder. Jinking and weaving with an agility not imagined for something with such a bulk, trying to take down the mammoth by spearthrow was likely impossible in Jon’s calculations. ‘There has to be another way.’ His mind quickly settled on a tactic by northern pikemen used at the Battle of the Trident against Targaryen heavy cavalry.

“HEEEYYYYY!” Charging directly in front of the mammoth to the bewildered shock of the other hunters, Jon thrust the spear until it smacked into flesh, drawing it back with a splatter of blood impacting on the snow. Sleek footed, he had darted back a respectable distance before the beast spotted him. A roar bellowing from its trumpet, the mammoth charged - instead of running, Jon held his ground. It was soon upon him, and he quickly jumped out of the way.

A sickening shriek left the beast’s mouth as it ran right on the spear embedded in the ground, stone tip following the path of least resistance into the heart. Ambling forward several steps, it collapsed on the ground dead.

“Son of a bitch.” Such was the least profane sentiment of surprise from of the hunters. Exhaustion seeping into him with a vengeance, Jon tried to rise but was unable to.

Tormund’s face contorted in a grudging yet warm respect. “You’re a crazy cunt, crow.” Laughing, he drew Jon up from the ground and smacked his back. Soon the other hunters joined him, gushing over the “Crazy Crow” and his insane bravery.

Taking a swig from his waterskin, Jon wiped some of the straw from his furs. “So what are we gonna do about the herd? Think they’ll leave the area?”

Tormund laughed. “You gotta wisen up, Crow. When we need em, the giants’ll take care of it.” As if controlled by the warrior’s words, the two massive humanoids arrived and began ripping chunks of the mammoth, ready to take them back to Hardhome. “You’d think those big ass cunts would help us here, but no… hunting’s too dirty for them.” He spat in the direction of the lumbering giants. Luckily, neither noticed him.

Beginning to catch his breath, muscles sore all over, Jon looked over to lock eyes with Ygritte. She smiled at him, warm and inviting. He smiled back.

 

“Robb!” In an instant, what was a happy occasion to celebrate an impending marriage descended into pure hell.

A thick arm wrapped around her waist, rough with ill intentions rather than gentle with passion. Acting on instinct, Catelyn forced her elbow straight into the unnamed man’s gut. A satisfactory groan was heard. Her eyes never left her numb, grieving son, kneeling alone among the bloodbath developing around him. “Wendel! Get Robb out of here!”

Suddenly, cold steel pressed against her throat. “The Lannisters send their regards.” Catelyn's blood turned to ice. ‘Bolton.’

Hauling Robb up, away from the still form of his murdered wife, Wendel Manderly gripped the Young Wolf in a tight arm lock while brandishing a carving knife menacingly in the other hand. “I did this,” Robb murmured, mind in shock. “She’s dead.”

“Snap out of it, Young Wolf!” yelled the Manderly heir, hurling the knife at a charging Frey cutthroat. All the exits were cut off… except one. Snarling from a swinging sword that sliced a deep gash in his belly and a shallower one in Robb’s side, he barrelled past another - barging into the latrine annex, door left open by a careless Frey. “Swim!” Punching Robb in the face, watching as the King in the North snapped out of his torpor. “Hold your nose and swim!” Wendel just managed to shove his king down the shit-smeared tunnel before an arrow pierced his heart.

Pushing Catelyn Stark into the grip of two burly Frey men, Roose Bolton shoved through milling men and stepped over puddles of blood to reach the latrine. Two men fired crossbow bolts down the hole, a futile gesture if he had ever seen one. Wrenching himself between them, Bolton stared down the offending, reeking hole. Nothing. “DAMN!” he screamed, slamming his fist against the stone wall. It would leave nasty cuts, but he didn’t care less.

“You’ve lost, traitor.” Bolton turned to see Catelyn Stark, face bruised and lip cut, but eyes shining with defiance. “As long as the Starks live, your masters will never rule the north.”

Seized by an uncharacteristic anger, he stormed across the hall and gripped her by the neck. “I will rule the north, no one else.” Her defiance remained. “You are lucky that Lord Baelish demanded you be taken alive. Otherwise, I would have made a real version of the Bolton sigil.” That of a flayed criminal, hanging on an Andrew’s cross. “Take her away.”

Already, the two crossbowmen were summoned before Walder Frey. “He’s dead,” one declared.

“Then show me his body,” rasped the aged Lord of the Twins.

The soldier gulped. “But my Lord, you can’t expect someone to survive down there…”

Snarling, Frey stuck a knife deep in the offending soldier’s heart. “Seven hells, are there any fools under my command that wouldn’t botch the simplest job!” Bolton watched him rant and fume with a dispassionate calm. Tywin Lannister entrusted them with three tasks: to kill Robb Stark, capture Catelyn (at the insistence of Lord Baelish), and the destruction of the bulk of the Stark bannermen. Execute all three, and the threat in the north would wither without a King for the lords to rally around, leaving everything ripe for Bolton to take over - and Robb Stark just escaped.

If the Freys were too decrepit and narrowly ambitious to deal with the situation - many people were when their carefully laid plans went awry - then Bolton would deal with it himself. “The wolf is dead, at least even your men couldn’t botch that.”

Currently screaming at his bastard, Frey turned violently, eyes angry. “My men are…”

“The most loutish, parasite-ridden incompetents in the entire Seven Kingdoms,” Bolton sneered. “But as your son-in-law, I have a duty to protect your hide as well as mine, so listen to what I have to say.”

Silence reigned in the hall, the smell of blood adding its metallic aroma to the air. Black Walder spoke up. “Perhaps we should listen to…”

“Shut up.” Frey narrowed his eyes. “So what do you propose we do?”

Bolton smiled. “Take one of these random corpses and slice off the head, one that someone stabbed a knife through the face. Then sew the head of the Young Wolf’s beast to it and parade it through your camp. No one, and especially Tywin Lannister, will know the difference.” The story would then be heralded far and wide that Robb Stark was dead, and Bolton wagered that no one would think a shit-smeared boy would be the King of the North. If he approached Winterfell, Bolton’s men would put an arrow in his heart, and everyone who knew his face were either dead or elsewhere. “Meanwhile, send the best and most discreet bounty hunters to find him and kill him.”

A sickly, twisted grin formed on Walder Frey’s face.

 

Light streamed in through the skylights, casting the cavernous throne room of the Meereen pyramid in a rather uneven illumination - part light part dark. Resisting the urge to demand a chair in the ironically throneless room, Daenerys stood regal as the next visitor was brought in. While in Westeros all Lords were seated when receiving anyone, finding it as a measure of control and domination, the opposite was true in the far lands of Essos. Atop her raised platform, one had to stand to be truly superior to the subjects below.

“Please state your business,” she announced, letting Missandei translate into High Valyrian. Dany could understand the language fluently, but her dealings with the slavers of Astapor proved the wisdom of having an interpreter. Unsullied guard flanked the room - there to protect her regardless of whether Jorah, Barristan, or Grey Worm were also present. Not that she really needed it. Strapped to her hip was Saracen, and Dany knew exactly how to use it.

The man before her was a mere peasant, and he reached into his cloak to pull out a charred lamb skull. “He says that he was tending his flock when a great winged beast appeared out of nowhere and devoured it all.” Missandei, who essentially was always at Daenerys’ side since she freed her from slavery, had concern in her eyes. Both knew what the man was talking about.

‘Oh Balerion, my sweet. Not again.’ Sighing, Dany clasped her hands together. “Was this beast black with red stripes?” Best to confirm.

After an exchange, the shepherd babbling fearfully in a very thick accent, Missandei’s eyes widened. “No, he says that it was mostly green in color.”

Careful to not show surprise, Dany was still shocked. “Tell... “ she cleared her throat. “Tell him he will be paid three times what his flock is worth, and see that he gets the money in gold.” Professing his thanks, an Unsullied guard escorted him out. Deflating, Dany allowed her mask to drop. “I thought for sure it would be Balerion, but Rhaegal?” Sure, the green dragon was often moody and sullen, but he and Edderon were usually well behaved compared to their black brother.

“I have heard that his handlers often find it hard for him to eat anything,” Missandei added, walking down from the raised dias. “I’m not sure about dragons, but I’ve seen humans and mammoth grow this way when they’re lonely.”

‘Lonely?’ The dragons had their brothers, and her. When she took the twins to visit them, the dragons cared for them as much as she did. But then, dragons were very spiritual, social creatures. The old Valyrians would always bond with one dragon for life - did Rhaegal seek a rider? Dany had a feeling that Balerion was destined to be her rider, but Eddaron wasn’t as moody as Rhaegal. ‘I hope that my brother isn’t Rhaegal’s destined rider…’

Two running feet along the stone floor brought her out of her musing. “Issa!”

A wide smile spread on her face. “Sweetlings. Come here!” With a warm tone only reserved for them, Daenerys allowed the twins to run straight into her arms. A little over two, they were already precocious and natural prodigies - a fitting mix of their parents. She looked up at Jorah, who was behind them. “Where is Doreah?”

Jorah chuckled. “No idea.”

Rolling her eyes with a smirk, she kissed their brows. “You shouldn’t be running in the hallways alone.”

“But it’s fun,” Rhaegar said, looking at her with his father’s expression.

“We were playing dragon.” Arya’s grey eyes joined him. Their looks made Dany melt. The Targaryen blood was strong in them, but Jon’s Stark blood was sturdy itself. Had she still been living amongst the Dothraki, there would have been some uncomfortable questions - but the horse warriors were back in the great grass sea, a contingent of ten thousand cavalry still attached to her in the city stables.

At that moment Doreah rushed in, wild eyed and panicking. “Mi’Lady, I cannot find…” Eyes settling on the two young Targaryens buried in their mother’s skirts, she visibly deflated. “Oh… there they are.” Giggles left the twins’ throats at their handmaid's disheveled state.

While Dany found it quite amusing as well, this behavior couldn’t be rewarded. “Stop it, sweetlings. You know better than to worry Doreah. Her heart could have stopped.”

At least this time, they looked ashamed - normally they had a mischievousness Dany was certain came from their father, in Arya more so than Rhaegar. Such was how Jon described his sister and brothers. “Sorry, Issa.” Both Valyrian and the common tongue came easy to them.

She could never stay mad at them for too long. Hugging them too her once more, Dany motioned for her personal handmaid. “Missandei, please help Doreah escort these two to their chambers.” Smirking at her, the Naathi motioned for the twins to follow her - which they thankfully did.

Turning to Jorah, Dany couldn’t help but huff. “Sometimes I think they have too much of their father in them.”

“Knowing the Stark clan, they can be quite adventurous. Ned Stark’s late sister was famous for it, Khaleesi.” Dany’s smile fell. ‘The one my brother kidnapped.’ The girl that started the entire rebellion. She decided to change the subject. “Did the Sons of the Harpy strike again?”

Jorah winced. “One of our supply convoys of beef from the grass see was ambushed, five men slaughtered, including two Dothraki riders. Your cavalry commanders want blood.”

An old Valyrian saying came to Dany’s mind. ‘A hand for a hand leaves the whole world burned.’ “Double the guards on the convoys, and randomly schedule them. Have the Second Sons patrol the outskirts of the city for any raiders.”

“If my Queen commands it, then it shall be done.” Two sets of eyes swiveled to see the confident, arrogant form of Daario Naharis. Since defecting to her and bringing 2,000 Second Sons with him, Dany had kept him around and in her circle of advisors - she had noticed his admiration and loyalty to her manifested themselves in other ways, furtive and appraising looks cast her way in as inconspicuous a manner as could be. Daenerys usually ignored it, but sometimes loneliness and an increasing hopelessness in ever seeing Jon again weakened her resolve.

“Good, I am glad that my authority isn’t challenged among those underneath me,” Dany replied, to a smirk from Daario. Jorah just scowled, no love lost between him and the sellsword - Dany reasoned it was parental overprotectiveness, though he knew she could handle herself.

Laughing, Daario sauntered up to her. “I shall see you later, my Queen.” Wiggling his brows, he left. Dany rolled her eyes, but found it somewhat charming in a brutish sort of way. ‘Compose yourself. You are a Queen.’

Hours later, Dany found herself on the balcony of her quarters. Even in the equatorial heat of the south, the sheer height of the pyramid brought an intense chilling breeze out from the sea. Dany tightened her light wool cloak around her. Setting her hands down on the cool stone, the vast expanse of the great city spread below her. For the first time in months Dany felt free, removed from the toil and agony of ruling. Free to be herself, to be the person that her long lost love adored.

A bellowing screech ripped her eyes from Meereen below to the tip of the pyramid above. Stretching his growing wings, now the same width as a small ship, Rhaegal’s green scales were instantly recognizable. Footclaws gripping on the stone, he let out yet another screech that echoed through the wind.

Smiling, Dany met his eyes. “Rhaegal, my sweetling.” Sniffing about, he crawled along the stone to the overhang - closer to her. Dany reached her hand out, palm open to rest against his scaly snout. Snorting, the green dragon’s eyes shut and he nuzzled her palm, for an instant. Lids flicking back, the yellow-black eyes shocked her. Dany’s bond with her son said it all.

Sadness. Loneliness. Lack of purpose.

“Sweetling…”

Bellowing a cry the loudest Daenerys had ever heard from him, Rhaegal ascended into the heavens. Gripping the stone, eyes trained on him, she watched as his green form disappeared into the clouds to the north. A gnawing pain tugged at her heart, as if this was the last time she’d ever see her son again.

“Your Grace,” Missandei called out from inside. “Is everything alright?”

Trying her best to calm the raging tempest in her soul, Dany knew that no one here could truly understand her. Wouldn’t truly care about her feelings and internal emptiness. Only one could, and he was halfway across the world. Perhaps she did need some mindless pleasure, if only to distract her. She knew her resolve weakened by the day. “No, I am alright.”

‘Oh Jon, I wish it was you here.’ Sighing, she turned and headed back into her chambers.

 

“THE KING IN THE NORTH!”

“THE KING IN THE NORTH!”

“THE KING IN THE NORTH!”

It took several seconds for her brain to comprehend it, but Arya quickly caught on. There was Robb, her brother, paraded as a corpse through the Frey camp. A direwolf head was sewn on the neck - mouth opening in a strangled scream, nothing came out. The loving and devastated sister warred with the hardened woman, each pulling her in different directions.

Leading their mounts, Gendry covered her eyes with his palm. Clegane, someone with far less sentimentality or empathy, snorted. “Well, that’s it then. Have to deal with you brats for a while longer.”

Arya heard nothing but the raucous cheers from the Frey men. “THREE CHEERS FOR THE YOUNG WOLF IN ALL HIS GLORY!”

Images flashing in Arya’s mind, there every time she closed her eyes or nodded off to sleep. Even Gendry couldn’t calm her down or banish the painful thoughts, and he had been with her since the beginning - since they fled King’s Landing. Clegane couldn’t care less about either of them, but his muscle and skill with a sword were why she didn’t just slit his throat and force Gendry to run away. They’d need him in case of danger…

Which she was walking right into. Common sense was ignored, all Arya hearing being their jeers about gutting Robb and his wife - her sister-in-law whom she never met. Sauntering right up to them before Gendry or Clegane could stop her, the innocent expression on her face, it took several moments before they all noticed her. “What do you want?”

“Can I have some food?”

“Fuck off.”

“But I’m hungry.” Childlike innocence could be a great asset.

“Which didn’t you understand, girl. The ‘Fuck,’ or the ‘Off?’” Spitting at her, the Frey cutthroat - Lord Walder wasn’t one who cared about having actual soldiers under his command - turned back to his meal. The last decision he ever made.

Her small knife coming out from the sheath, Arya used surprise to draw the man back by his hair. Down thrust the blade over and over again into the cutthroat’s chest and neck, his screams filling the forest. Up went his companions, one managing to grab at Arya.

“Oy, Suzie!” Turning around, letting go of Arya’s collar, the cutthroat’s last sight was Gendry’s enraged face. The hammer smashed into his side, shattering his ribs and sending one through the heart like a stake. Forgetting about their comrade under Arya’s knife, the other two charged at Gendry only for Clegane to run his sword through the slob’s gut. Blood gushing on the dried leaves and moss, the Hound easily batted away the other’s blade with a metallic clang and beheaded him. Barely breaking a sweat, his eyes turned to where Gendry was pulling a shrieking Arya off the first man’s corpse, face and chest a gaping mess from the knife blows.

“And what in seven hells was that?” The Hound’s voice dripped with a bored annoyance. Arya did not respond. Not paying either of them any attention, she wiped her knife on one of the corpses and put it back in her sheath. Rolling his eyes, Clegane sheathed his sword. “I ain’t gonna hit ya. Boy, do it.”

Gendry smacked Arya upside the head. The girl jerked her head up at him, jaw dropped in shock. Nothing was hurt - well, perhaps her own ego. “You just slapped me!”

“Cause that was stupid! And you could have died!” Gendry didn’t back down. “You’re too important to me.”

Arya huffed. “I’m not some sissy maiden who can’t think for herself.”

“Would you have done the same to me, had I done something insane?” The look on his face belied how right he was.

Unable to respond with more than a groan, Arya conceded the point. “Fine, whatever.” Something came to her mind. “Hey, Hound. Why did he have to do your dirty work?”

The Hound didn’t even look back, busy putting the Frey bannermen’s rations on his horse. “Cause you actually like him, wee Stark. Won’t be likely to stick a knife in his gut if he pisses you off.”

A moment’s silence passed before it was punctuated by a roaring laughter from the apprentice blacksmith. Arya glared at him, but Gendry didn’t even look remotely guilty.

“Why don’t you just go fuck already? Then you’d stop being a pain in my ass.” Gendry laughed harder, while Arya flushed red and turned away.

 

Butterflies darting from flower to flower, wings fluttering through the warm air of the capitol, the gardens of the Red Keep were a beautiful and tranquil sight. One of the few of those within King’s Landing, a city that fit the common trope of ‘Disease-filled cesspool.’ The last set of Kings from the weak and mad last Targaryens to Robert Baratheon, who allowed Petyr Baelish to spend the Realm’s fortune away to dazzle the masses with plays, festivals, jousts, and cheap grain while the city stagnated into filth. It wasn’t a problem for the elite, who ensconced themselves within the Red Keep, multi-story homes on hills guarded by cutthroats, or in villas dotting the rivers and coasts of the Crownlands. Meanwhile, the smallfolk had to endure the filth and disease.

Looking out at the city itself from the beauty of the garden, Tyrion Lannister couldn’t help but recall how things had gotten far, far worse. The Battle of Blackwater Bay had been a year ago, and the resentment the populace felt for the Boy King had changed to unadulterated joy once the siege was lifted and the food poured in again. Joffrey was hailed as a hero, Tyrion’s father - as the new Hand of the King - made sure the story spread of how Joffrey defeated Loras Tyrell in single combat, driving the Baratheon forces into the sea. The rumors that Renly died from… black magic were hushed up in the gauntlet of street celebrations.

This had died rather quickly. After weeks of hushed meetings between Tywin, Littlefinger, and the Great King - in which, in his capacity as Master of Coin, Tyrion had to submit various reports on the cost of what had to be a massive construction project - the royal directives had gone out. Taxes were increased, every treasure and all property held by the rebels that sided with Renly and Robb Stark seized. Thousands of tons of stone were ordered from every quarry in the known world, unloaded from the ships by conscripted urban poor. Initially they were promised wages and food, but it increasingly looked like slavery. Obscure laws were cited by Baelish declaring the King as ‘Ruler of all, the master of the people in the Kingdom,’ but the slavery comparisons stuck. Something big was being planned for the edge of the city, and barrels of wildfire were positioned in a line from the Red Keep to the building site for a massive avenue through the city.

And now all that stood in Joffrey’s way were gone.

“Tell me, Lady Melisandre,” Tyrion asked of his companion. “What do you make of the rumors that Robb Stark is not dead?”

Smirking slightly, the Red Woman glanced down at Tyrion. He suppressed a shiver. For a lover of beautiful women, this one turned his blood to ice. “If it is the will of the Lord of Light, then he shall live.”

While Tyrion would never have authorized such a despicable move - though it wasn’t shocking to know that the vile Walder Frey agreed to it - it wasn’t up to him. The King may have spent more time with Littlefinger than his own Hand or mother, but they still held sway over most policy that didn’t involve the special project in the capitol. ‘Whatever that is.’ Both Frey and Bolton insisted that Robb Stark was dead and hundreds saw his body sewn to a wolf’s head, but the head had not been confirmed by those on the Small Council. It was… a confusing situation. King Joffrey was happy though, celebrating by executing several ‘traitors.’ “Catelyn Stark hasn’t said anything, even after I brought young Sansa to her cell. Either she knew we were watching, or Robb is likely dead.”

“The fucker’s alive.” Both turned to Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, another unlikely hero to emerge from the fray. “I saw his momma. Looked strong, like the Queen. Mommas who lose kids always cry like babies.”

A chortle left Tyrion’s lips. “You have a way with words, Ser Bronn. A regular poet.” His illustrious companion snorted. “I do have another question for you,” he said to the Red Woman. “The Lord of Light. When he was last alive, his given name was Azor Ahai, no?”

“That he was,” Melisandre answered, heeled boots clicking on the stone.

“I have heard my nephew scream in his sleep on occasion.” The garden was deserted, Tyrion had made sure of that beforehand, but kept his voice low regardless. Little birds flew everywhere. “His rants vary, but always involve either ‘The mark,’ ‘Son of my predecessor,’ or ‘Azor Ahai.’ The second one explains why he ordered all of his father’s bastards murdered, but if he’s afraid of Azor Ahai, why do you serve him?”

A booming thunderclap, and the shockwave that followed, nearly sent Tyrion to his knees - resting his small form against a column to keep from toppling. Gripping the stalk of an orange tree with long fingers, a ghost of a smile rested on Melisandre’s face - no answer was forthcoming. In the distance, a gout of green-white flame cut across the great city. The planning and preparations were over. Construction had begun, a fitting symbol to the now unfettered absolute power that their King held over the realm.

‘Seven protect us.’

Chapter Text

“Easy does it! Easy does it!” The massive sled lurched forward slightly, nearly hacking off limbs and crushing bodies. “Hold it steady, you fucking lummox!” Tormund Giantsbane snarled at the giant. “I almost got me leg crushed! Keep that beast cunt in line.” He got a roar of answer from the bearded giant, but nothing else. No one messed with Tormund, even one 25 feet tall.

Making sure the towering lummox kept the mammoth calm, Jon went back to unloading sacks from the sled. “Those things make good beasts of burden,” he remarked offhandedly to his… friend? Tormund tolerated him well enough, not nearly as much as Ygritte - Jon shuddered at the thought of Tormund in that position - but aside from a general abrasiveness the relationship was more of a benign rivalry. Styr on the other hand… he’d eat Jon as soon as look at him.

Tormund simply snorted. “Aye, once you beat the wild out of em.” A belly laugh left his throat. “One thing about us north of the wall, ya can never beat the wild out.” Jon had to agree. The northerners were practically Essosian nobles compared to the Free Folk.

“I wouldn’t attempt to try,” Jon deadpanned. He placed the last pack down, filled with chopped firewood. Far better than the dried mammoth dung chips. They had plenty of those, but they smelled rancid - and from someone that grew up near stuffy northern stables, rancid for Jon was rancid.

“You better not, crow. I’d make a worse foe than a charging cunt beast.”

“Jon Snow barely survived that time, didn’t he?” Feeling a punch on the shoulder, Jon rolled his eyes. Some people expressed their affection in different ways. Some, such as Sansa, would kiss on the cheek. Some, such as Arya, gave off affection in the form of physical attack. Ygritte was among the latter. “Now excuse me Tormund, he’s mine now. Unless your shit hide has something else?” A half-mutter, half-growl left Tormund’s lips. Intelligible, but from how Ygritte pulled him along, Jon felt that it meant he didn’t need him anymore.

As night fell, the tent the two of them shared - chastity among the Free Folk were a recurring joke, much like the Dothraki - had a roaring fire going in the center. Jon hated himself for succumbing to his baser desires with Dany still out there, with his love for her still strong. ‘She’s better off without me though.’ A bastard was not fit for a queen. Fit for her bed perhaps, but not by her side. “I long to see the land beyond the wall,” mused Ygritte, allowing her hard exterior to slip off. “To see the forests where the leaves fall, where the snow doesn’t carpet the ground.” She sat next to him, a cup of steaming coffee - or whatever the wildling’s figured was coffee - gripped in her fingers. “To sit outside all night to watch the stars. The great hunter must look amazing while doing so.”

It took a while for Jon to realize what she was talking about. “We call it ‘Azor Ahai’ back home.” He put his hands close to the fire, seeking out the toasty warmth. “If you do go over the wall, my brother would probably hunt you all down.” It wasn’t personal, just a statement of fact. “Wildlings are hated for their raids and piracy, killing and stealing everything not nailed down.”

A low laugh left the wildling’s lips. “You still know nothing, Jon Snow.” Pouring yet another steaming helping into her clay cup, Ygritte looked Jon in the eye. “We don’t seek to get over the wall for greed. Our lives depend on it.”

Eying her warily, inwardly Jon filed away every word. “In what way? Life here is hard, but we’re all making due.”

“When winter comes, Jon Snow, it will be unlike any winter in a thousand seasons.” Pulling him to her, the two of them clung to each other. Holding the shaking Ygritte, all Jon could see when he closed his eyes was a pair of azure blue dots glowing in the distance.

‘Winter is coming.’ Did the motto of his House exemplify the answer well enough?

 

Hoofbeats filled the din of the small forest road - more of a sunken clearing through the trees rather. “What the bleedin’ fuck are you fucking about for?!” hollered the team leader. “Walder Frey isn’t paying us half our weight in gold to mill around like idiots.” He was paying the bounty hunters handsomely to find Robb Stark - and would have an even bigger reward for the team that brought him to the Twins dead or alive. Janos Clint could just taste that reward, and would slit a thousand throats to get it before the other teams did.

“Thought I heard something in the brambles,” replied the trooper, spear out as he peered through the bushes while still on horseback.

“It’s fucking nothing!” Clint screamed back. “We have a bead on the cunt. He’s headed to the Westernlands. Either you get on his tail or I kill you myself.” Scowling, the trooper nevertheless complied.

With the hoofbeats nothing but faint memories, Robb finally emerged. His heart was racing, eyes wide and scanning for any form of human life. ‘Nothing.’ Even alone, the former King in the North turned fugitive refused to let his guard down. Months of little sleep and constant panic left him near emaciated and fatigued. But he kept going.

Why, he did not know. He had essentially lost everything. His father’s title, his title, his land, his wife, his child… But something kept him going.

After managing to crawl out of the collected feces of the Twins - the bouts of vomiting had been intense afterwards - Robb had headed due south, deeper into the Riverlands. Frey and Bolton likely expected him to go north and stick on the banks of the Trident to get across, so he did the exact opposite. Now, the bounty hunters were following him here.

Waiting for nightfall, the cloudless night easily exposed the North Star. Robb knew his path: Castle Black. ‘If there’s any refuge for me, it’s with Jon.’ He only hoped his brother was still alive. Or that he’d stay alive long enough to find him.

 

Disaster had struck - the entire city was in uproar. An Unsullied commander, one well liked in his occupation district for his fairness to all sides, had been found murdered in an alley. Tips led to the whore that helped set up the killing, and other tips led Daario and Grey Worm to find the murderer hiding in the wall of an inn. In custody, the assassin was identified as the second son of a prominent nobleman, one of the 30 hardliners Dany had singled out to execute for their support of the slave crucifixions. And, causing her the most grief, he was a member of the Sons of the Harpy. Relegated to raiding supply convoys and killing freedmen, now they were more directly targeting the Targaryen forces.

Something had to be done, but her small council was divided. Ser Barristan reminded her to resist the same course of action as her father, to hold a trial. It went against her initial instinct that had led to the crucifictions and the burning of Astapor. Needless to say, many agreed with that initial instinct.

“A trial is just a waste of time, Mhysa. Due process…” Mossador protested, borrowing the word from the common tongue, albeit it being a rarely used one at that. “Means nothing to the Masters, or freedmen. All they understand is force!” His intelligence and passion for his fellow freedmen had impressed Daenerys (joining other top freedmen such as Grey Worm or Missandei), leading to his appointment to her council as a representative of the community. “He should be executed tomorrow.” Both Daario and Jorah nodded, agreeing with the sentiment.

Taking a drink from her water goblet, sunlight glinting from both the liquid and golden rim, Daenerys pondered the quandary. There was a dividing line, Mossador, Daario, and Jorah standing on the side of summary execution while Barristan, Hizdahr zo Loraq, and Hizdahr’s father in favor of a trial. Pleasing one side would alienate the other, and with the Sons of the Harpy running about that was dangerous. Ruling was not easy, and she had heard her brother Rhaegar often say that the reason no one placed a cushion on the Iron Throne was to remind a ruler of that fact. “Grey Worm.” Her Unsullied commander clicked his heels in acknowledgement. “You are a freedman. What say you?”

“If you wish for deterrence, killing him is the only way.”

“Khaleesi, may I speak.” Eyes turned to Missandei, who received a nod from her queen. “If deterrence is your goal, then agree with those arguing immediate death. But Ser Barristan makes a point about honor, and respect. I have been beside many leaders in my life - some less noble than others - but the only thing keeping them together was belief and respect in themselves. If you cannot abide by what you choose, then you do not deserve leadership, Khaleesi.” Silence rested in the conference chamber following Missandei’s blunt words, the interpreter having care to hang her head in humility. Daenerys glanced at her other advisors. Grey Worm seemed impressed, while the others were a mix of shocked and… uncertain. Barristan’s tale of her father, the Mad King, weighed heavily. ‘He had killed the two Starks without even a hint of legitimacy. The grandfather and uncle to my beloved. To my children.’ Could she live with herself if she made a decision similar to his in the most important respect? Daenerys did not know.

Luckily, one person spoke up at that time. “Your Grace, there may be an alternate avenue of decision,” said Theodosius, Barristan’s nephew. While mediocre as a soldier, he exhibited a genius in innovation and tactics. He and Daario were responsible for Yunkai’s fall, and certain modifications to weapons brought from the far east had greatly assisted the slave rebellion that put the Targaryen banner atop the Great Harpy. As such, Dany appointed him her Master of Science - it was rare he stepped out of his workshop ever since.

“Speak, Ser Theodosius.”

Given the floor, he looked her straight in the eye - confident, it impressed her greatly. “I believe that you must do the honorable thing, and have a trial for the prisoner.” Mossador glared at him with daggers in his eyes, Daario smirking, as if saying Theodosius was an idiot. “You must be shown as just, if only to counter the perception of your… ancestors once you return to Westeros.” He did have a knack for tactics, Dany admitted. “The judges must be three, one from the masters, one from the freedmen, and one not of Meereen.”

It seemed reasonable. “And how would you then deter further violence?”

“Not with the trial, your Grace. One must look elsewhere.” A small smirk rested on his face. “The Unsullied are too valuable to you to waste on garrison duty. They should be the tip of your spear, and have no source of replacement.” Grey Worm said nothing, but Dany knew it to be true. They were powerful, but irreplaceable in the short term. “The Second Sons… they are nothing but sellswords.”

At that, Daario was on his feet. “My men are the elite. I’d like to see you last one minute in a fight with the worst warrior among them.” The outburst caused Dany to frown. Daario was… sweet in his own way to her, but rarely got along well with her advisors. His skill on the battlefield and loyalty kept him in her esteem, however - such was what caused her, in a moment of weakness, to accept him in her bed. Missing Jon, wine proved itself a bad idea for loneliness. It was no question that he wanted it to happen again, but Dany rebuffed every hint thrown at her since.

“I meant no disrespect, Ser Daario,” Theodosius said, but the sparkle in his eye belying how he did intend to. “But they are sellswords. What Meereen needs to keep the Sons of the Harpy in line is something special. Something unique. I propose that we train and arm able bodied men in the freedman community.” He let the point sink in, a pregnant pause lasting for several moments. “As my illustrious colleague Mossador has said, the former slaves of Meereen are loyal to their Mhysa. I expect them to flock to the cause - less powerful than the Unsullied for sure, but an untapped pool of hundreds of thousands that can easily be replaced if lost.”

His cavalier regard for the replaceability of her people notwithstanding, Daenerys found the plan a welcome one. As the table descended into mindless squabbling, she noticed that the pro-trial side felt this to be an insult while the summary execution side wasn’t placated enough. “This solves nothing about the treatment the masters gave us!” Mossador hissed.

“I would think having your own men in arms would lessen your fears,” countered Theodosius.

“There will be a massive outcry. The people will be up in arms!” Loraq Senior wailed.

“If they weren’t already in arms, then we wouldn’t be here now would we?” asked Jorah.

“Enough!” Had she been alone or had less self control, Dany would have laughed merrily. “When neither side is satisfied, that means the plan is the right one. You may have your auxiliary force, Ser Theodosius.” Offering her a small smile, he bowed, eyes twinkling with ideas. “Ser Jorah, you, Mossador, and Loraq will be the judges in the prisoner’s trial, to be held tomorrow.”

“It is an honor to serve you in any respect, Khaleesi.” Jorah was on board, Loraq the younger seemed resigned to his fate, while Mossador glowered but swallowed the bitter pill. Dany resolved to have a talk with him before sunset.

The room emptying, Dany was left alone with Ser Barristan. The grizzled warrior had lost none of his skill, and quickly joined Jorah and Missandei as one of her top confidants. “That was not an easy decision to make, your Grace.” He found a spot on the stone wall to lean on, close to where she sat on the window ledge looking out at the city. “You did the right thing.”

“Your nephew made it easier to do so, in all fairness,” Dany replied with a wry grin. “The freedman levies will assist greatly when I finally land on Westeros.” Her eyes flickered back to the city. Above, she could see Edderon and Balerion soaring high in the sky. Her white-scaled child dove steeply to the sea - fishing. He was joined soon after by his brother. A tear pricked her eye. “Do you think Rhaegal is safe?” It had been months, and there was no sign of her child.

“I’m sure he is, your Grace.”

“I couldn’t bear to imagine him dead.” A horrible thought came to mind. “I will not lose any of my children, Ser Barristan.” The flash of Targaryen resolve glowed in her eyes.

Nodding, he placed a hand on his heart. “I will defend all of them with my life.” His own eyes softened. “Young Rhaegar… I didn’t know his father, but I knew Ned Stark. I see much of the Stark nobleness in him. He’s brave, but has honor.”

A warm feeling passed over Dany, remembering her Stark.

“He reminds me of your brother as well, Arya too. There isn’t a man I knew more closely than Prince Rhaegar - the stories they tell… it’s just not him.”

“Tell me about him, what kind of man he was.” All she had heard were either the normal horror stories or the skewed stories Viserys pushed on her.

A wistful smile crossed Barristan’s face. “He was a strong warrior, skilled at fighting. But he hated it. The Prince loved the simple arts, especially music. He would play his fiddle all day sometimes. Often, he and I would sneak into Flea Bottom in disguise and play for the children.” Dany beamed at the story, loving the side of her family not mired in conquest and madness. ‘I would live a life like that if it meant I could be with Jon,” she thought. Then, Barristan’s smile changed. “You need to talk to Ser Jorah.”

Daenerys cocked her head. “Jorah? Why?”

Standing, Barristan was back to pure formality. “I heard things at home, your Grace, things I have just now pieced together. Ask him where his real loyalties lie.” And with that, he walked out, leaving Dany to ponder his warning.

 

It was called the ‘Blue wind’ in the words of the Free Folk. Jon didn’t understand the meaning of it, and everyone laughed at him when he asked about it. Blizzard, swirling winds and snow drifts as far as the eye could see - which wasn’t far. Vision was restricted to only an arm’s length in front of the eyes at the worst point. Wildling tents were built for weather like this shrieking in from inland, allowing the hardened inhabitants of this godsforsaken land to ride it out. Dressed in the thickest furs, rations and Longclaw strapped to his back, the blue wind made a perfect cover for Jon to escape.

Snow clinging to his scraggly stubble, Jon took one last look back at Hardhome. The blizzard obscured… everything, but he could still make out the walls. His mission - if it could be called that - was a wash. Jon was now an expert on the Wild… Free Folk. Their culture, customs, lifestyle, future plans… everything. ‘Castle Black needs to know what’s coming.’ A whole army, dozens of tribes totaling nearly one hundred thousand wildlings descending on the wall. Only the best of preparations could even hope to grant victory to the Watch. On the other hand, no sight of the white walkers nor wights had been found. Whatever information he could draw out about the unknown specters had been gleaned from King Mance, Tormund, or… Ygritte.

Whether it was coincidence or the providence of the old gods, the women Jon seemed closest too were always the most difficult of the fairer sex. ‘First Dany, then Ygritte.’ Oh how Robb would have laughed, Arya and Bran too. A loud sigh left his lips, sound lost in the howling wind. In his time here Jon had grown close to her - even cared for her as a husband would a wife. Noble to a fault, he couldn’t bear to break her heart, which as strong as she was, his leaving would end up doing.

But his heart always belonged to another. For all his aloofness and insane bravery in the face of peril, Jon Snow remained in the thrall of Daenerys Targaryen - and always would be. Selfish as it was, his relationship with Ygritte was always just to banish the loneliness. He did care for her, but she would never be Dany. ‘And Dany can never be mine.’ A Queen could never belong to a bastard.

“I’m sorry,” he said into the vast whiteness, no one hearing him but the snow. “But I have to go home.” Trudging off into the wilderness, not one part of Jon realized that deep down, ‘home’ referred to Daenerys.

Waking up, the redheaded archer stretched under the thick furs. The patch next to her was empty. “Jon Snow?” she called out, looking around. Feeling the chill, Ygritte wrapped the furs around her slim, nude form. Feeling a bile rise from her gut, she peeked outside. There was nothing to be seen but snow - blowing, blinding snow.

“JON SNOW!”

Above, masked by the grey-white clouds of the angry heavens, a single crow circled the ground. Two milky eyes zeroed in on the lone figure - black form visible in the swirling white mass. Far away, its handler processed everything. The hue and cry would be raised momentarily. It was now a race, time and endurance all that mattered.

 

Even in what was still summer in most of the world but early autumn at this latitude, the chilly wind out from the great ocean penetrated the thin cloak. ‘Back in Westeros at last.’ For Viserys Targaryen, it was not as he expected it - at all. In his mind there had been blaring trumpets, massive crowds throwing confetti and flowers into the path of marching soldiers ahead of his golden chariot entering King’s Landing.

Instead, he had to draw the thin fabric tighter over himself, muttering low curses at White Harbor and House Manderly. Viserys hated the north, hated the cursed land and its inhabitants - especially one particular bastard. If he had his way, Viserys would kill Jon Snow himself. But first… ‘There is nothing left for me in Essos.’ Illyrio had abandoned him. The Iron Bank wouldn’t even entertain his claim. With the North in disarray after the death of Robb Stark - any Stark’s death brought a smile to his lips - the people would flock to their rightful king…

Not looking where he was trudging, Viserys was knocked to the ground. Hunched above him was what would be a handsome man in his prime apart from the hobbled gait, trembling form, and faraway eyes. He apparently led a group of horsemen.

“Reek!” demanded the leader. “Watch where you’re going. And who is this shit?” The heavy northern accent masked what Viserys figured was an authoritative demeanor. “Fegan, get him out of here.” Down descended a burly fellow with bulging muscles, marching to where Viserys cowered.

“What the hells?” The guard grabbed Viserys’ gloved hand, causing the fallen Prince to howl - the burns still hadn’t completely healed. “E’s got gold on ‘is arms.” Grabbing up the battered rucksack, he pulled out the glinting blade. “A pretty fine sword too.”

The leader dismounted, advancing. “Let me see that.” Inspecting the sword with pensive, peering eyes, Viserys felt a sinking dread as his milky eyes twinkled with recognition. “Reek, come forward.” The hobbled, broken shell of a man obeyed his master. “Tell me, what is the inscription on the sword?”

Trembling, shifting eyes avoiding eye contact with anyone, he finally spoke up in a meek yelp. “Fire and blood. It’s… Valyrian, but recognizable. It has a dragon head.”

Smiling, he patted the man’s head as one would pet a dog. “Good job Reek.” A malevolent grin spread out over Ramsay Bolton’s face. His mind raced with all that could be gained from this, once far-fetched notions now charging into the realm of the possible. “Well call me a bitch. Get the chains Reek, we’re going back to Winterfell. Looks like I found me a Targaryen.”

Chapter Text

Biting cold, freezing cold. Cold so vicious that it felt as if a fire devoid of warmth sliced through the very flesh of one’s being. Yet, Bran felt nothing but a gentle numbness. His legs, repaired and uninjured, glided like sleigh rails along the thickly matted snow. It was so serene. Soft snowflakes meandered through the air in their slow descent to the ground.

For the first time since his injury, Bran felt carefree. Unburdened by the intense pain and anguish done to him by Jamie Lannister.

Then, the already hellish cold plunged into an icy inferno, Bran facing blackness - only a pair of glowing blue eyes pierced the void.

Suddenly, his body thrown back in an intense rush, in a blur the snow disappeared in front of him to be replaced by the exact opposite. Rocks, sand, a red waste of a land as far as the eye could see - with a high tower of smooth stone directly ahead of him, surrounded by scraggly trees. “Brandon.” His head swiveled around, an ancient voice calling out for him. “You must find it. Go to the Dragon, for you must find it.”

Bran collapsed, everything spinning.

From the bed of furs, Bran’s eyes opened. Not a hair was out of place, sweat nonexistent. To any observer, the crippled Stark should have held a tranquil night of sleep when the opposite was true. Now awake, he drew the notice of Meera Reed, his companion and… friend. The others were sleeping, blissfully unaware what was about to transpire. “Bran. What’s wrong?” Though he was usually sullen and taciturn, Meera had been with them long enough to understand exactly what this mood meant.

“We have to go south.” His voice was low and monotone. Bran met her eyes. “We have to go to the Dragon Queen.”

 

Jon had always thought he’d make it. With a significant head start and the blizzard covering his tracks, all that was needed would be to survive the elements and he’d be back in Castle Black. However, he’d underestimated Free Folk skill and tenacity. They hadn’t lived off this desolate land and not grown strong from it. So in hindsight, it shouldn’t have surprised him to come face to face with a stony Ygritte, an arrow pointed at his head and a barely suppressed look of rage all over her face.

Sharp pain consumed him as a mammoth-leather boot slammed into his back before he could reach Longclaw - not that he would have, inviting an arrow through the eye. “This is what ya get for dragging me from my fire, crow!” Tolerating him he did, but Jon knew Tormund would have turned on him the second they were on opposite sides. They weren’t friends.

“Burn him alive!” yelled one Wildling hunter. Jon counted five, along with Tormund and Ygritte.

“Feed him to the dogs!”

“Tie him to a mammoth and make the beast run!”

Hefting him up, Tormund smirked. “You’re glad Styr didn’t find ya. I’m only plannin’ to beat ya to death.”

Suddenly an arrow zipped past their heads, Ygritte shouting. A body fell to the ground. Clad in rags, a cursory look identified the obvious dead flesh. “What the…”

Hands burst from under the snow, two grabbing onto the legs of wildling warriors and dragging them down. Soon torsos were exposed, corroded weapons slicing through the unarmored flesh of the hunters.

“The dead are here!” Ygritte screamed, notching an arrow and plugging another in the skull.

Snarling with rage, Tormund drew both his short battle axes akimbo and brained one before it could fully emerge from the snow. Another skeletal shape charged at him but a sharp kick to the leg made it fall, the axe removing the head entirely. The others had a far worse time of it, one wight hacking through the torso before Ygritte fell it. Only headshots working, she made each arrow count.

Rolling onto his back, two hands burst from the snow where Jon rested - then a rotting head, blue eyes finding him and mouth opening in a shriek. Drawing Longclaw, the shriek gurgled into silence as the Valyrian steel sliced through the face. Pain gone in the heat of battle, Jon leapt to his feet and joined the fray. No more emerged from the snow underneath, but reinforcements for the dead charged from nearby, swarming them. Jon flexibly dodged one which didn’t break its charge towards Tormund. Steel clashed with flesh and bone as he sent another undead corpse back to pure death. A skeleton dug its fingers into his skin, drawing blood. Its bones shattered from an enraged stab. One fresh wight seemed to possess some of its past fighting skills, the battered sword it carried clanging against Longclaw’s shining steel. That didn’t last long, and arrow smacking into its chest as Jon cut the torso in half. His eyes met Ygritte’s for a moment before both went back into the fighting.

Swinging one-handed, Longclaw decapitated a head. More kept coming. A mix of fresh corpses, decayed remains, and walking skeletons advanced with a singular determination to end them. With only four humans left, it was just like a cavalry charge was upon them. They’d be swarmed unless Jon got them together. “Hold together!” he screamed. “Form a square, back to back!”

One wildling tried to run toward them but was swarmed by five wights hacking away with their rusty weapons and clawed hands. Tormund and Ygritte made it, and formed a triangle back to back with Jon. Arrow after arrow left her bow, Tormund’s axes and Longclaw ripped into dead flesh. Another gnarled hand sliced his skin, this time at his shoulder. Stabbing straight forward, Jon impaled it through the chest and jerked upward, slicing the upper torso right up the middle. Another wight was batted aside right into the blade of Tormund’s axe, the wildling seconds later returning the favor for Longclaw. Hack. Stab. Slice. Parry. Hack again. Ice blue eyes dimmed out, bodies piling up.

Soon, Tormund was atop the last one. “Fucking! Die! You! Fucking! Cunt!” The axe pulverized its skull into a mashed splatter.

“Tormund!” Jon yelled, pulling him back. “Enough! They’re gone!”

“Don’t speak too soon.” Oddly muted, Ygritte pointed to the snowbanks and ridgefaces all around them. The dead were coming, in greater numbers.

Fingers tightening around the hilt, Jon held Longclaw firm and true. Ahead of him, a solid line of skeletal monsters charged. Every passing moment they closed the distance, putrid flesh surrounding all three humans in a ragged circle. “Looks like this is the end.”

Spitting a fleck of blood onto the ice white snow, Tormund nodded. “Aye. If I’m gonna die though, let’s fuck the cunts up.” His two axes were at the ready.

“Lets.” Ygritte notched another arrow onto her reflex bow, ready.

Closing his eyes for a moment, silver hair flashed through Jon’s mind. ‘Forgive me, Dany.’ His ears were filled with the strangled moans of the undead. ‘I tried to live for you.’

Past the swirling clouds, dark and angry even as the sun shone brightly in its unobstructed glory, he beat his leathery wings. For months he had pushed himself to the limit. Mother abandoned, brothers abandoned, the only home he had ever known abandoned, all that drove him forward was an urge. A sheer force of will that he knew was his calling - his destiny. Something was out there, someone that needed him and that he needed.

The rider. His rider. One with the blood of Old Valyria, same as him. It had been millennia since the first Freeholders had tamed his kind, and the instincts that predated the great Doom still burned bright. There was nothing that brought him to this desolate land but that urge, that inner homing beacon. It was faint, stronger here, but faint. An agonizing screech left his throat. What if he never found the one?

Suddenly the beacon bloomed intensely. A sense that only the bonded could hold marked the ground, filling him with that sense of purpose that had been so lacking. But there was pain as well - pain and fear. Terror. The one was in danger, shadowy shapes filling his eyes as if he saw them himself. Roaring the war cry of his kind, wings beat hard as he plunged into a steep dive. He could almost hear the order coming from his mother, from the one. The freezing air around his jaw superheated as the red-orange plume formed.

‘Dracarys.’

Teeth clenched in fury, Jon raised Longclaw, ready to slice downward at the shrieking ghoul racing toward him. A rusted sword was clutched in its hand, rotting jaw open and a deep blue in its eyes. One moment it was right upon him… and the other it disappeared in a gout of red-orange flame billowing out of the clouds like the wrath of the gods themselves. The fireball bloomed like a scorching flower, engulfight a sizable portion of the beasts. And then he saw it.

“What the fuck…?” Tormund captured exactly what Jon wanted to… but just wasn’t able to say out loud. Emerging from the clouds was a green beast. A dragon, there was no escaping it. A real fucking dragon! Roaring, another tongue of flame burst from its mouth as it banked around in a circle. The attackers were immediately immolated. Their ancient bones and decayed flesh were no match for the fire, going up like pitch and tar.

Dragon or not, crazed shrieks reminded them that their enemy had no breaking point. They just continued forward, a half dozen charging through the gaps in the dragonfire. One collapsed immediately from an arrow through an empty eye socket, while Tormund bellowed and smashed his axes across the head of one after the other.. Sharp steel flashed orange off the dragonfire as Jon sliced one through the torso. “Fuck you!” Channeling his inner Tormund, profanities flew from his mouth, Longclaw dicing another two.

And then the moans stopped, no sounds left but crackling fire. There were no wights left. They had won.

A loud roar brought the present situation crashing upon Jon. Beating its large wings, the dragon kicked up a cloud of snow as its clawed feet slammed into the ground. “Get back!” Tormund yelled, pushing Ygritte behind him. Jon could tell they wanted to run, but were too terrified to make a move. He wanted to run, but something was telling him not to. A voice in his head, one of instinct, banished all the fear from him - at least in part of his mind. There was nothing to fear, it said. The dragon wouldn’t hurt him.

Glancing to his right, Tormund was… shaking. Literally shaking. It would be hilarious to Jon if it wasn’t caused by a large dragon looking straight at him. “Of all… the ways I could die… being lunch for a fucking... dragon wasn’t one of em.” Raising his hand with one ax he gripped tightly, the green monster hissed and snapped his jaws.

“Stop,” Jon said, not addressing the beast but more like a hopeful begging - as if Arya and Bran were roughhousing with him and he wanted it to stop. However, Jon’s jaw nearly dropped when the dragon drew back slightly, a loud but… almost tranquil purring leaving its mouth. ‘Did it just… obey me.’ In a split second, Jon’s mind switched back to its insane bravery mode. “Tormund, Ygritte. I need you not to panic.” Slowly, he sheathed Longclaw.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Tormund yelled in a whisper as Jon inched forward to the beast. “Are you daft, crow?”

Jon wasn’t listening, all five senses directed to the dragon. It was large, twenty-five feet long at least with dark green scales and razor sharp teeth. A low hum left its lips, the smell of smoke wafting from it. For some reason, Jon felt as if he needed to speak to it. “Easy, I’m not here to hurt you…” Staring at the slit-like yellow eyes, something told him that it had a name. That he had a name… a specific name… “Rha… Rhaegal?” It was a one in a million guess, but the dragon hooted, lowering his head in what had to be a submissive gesture.

“Well I’ll be fucked.”

Not knowing where the name had come from, Jon just knew. As if it were instinct. “Easy Rhaegal.” Setting his palm on the beast’s snout, he watched Rhaegal close its eyes and purr - just like Ghost when Jon was petting him. He swore he could see into the dragon’s soul...

A muffled thump caused the spell to be broken. The curious look on Jon’s face turned to horror. “Ygritte!” Prone on the snow, when Jon reached her there was no color left in her face, eyes glassy and half closed. Dying. “Where are you hurt?” A cursory look found the middle of her furs soaked in blood, which was already starting to freeze.

“Doesn’t, hurt,” the wildling ground out. A hand reached out to slowly cup his cheek. “I love you, Jon Snow, but I know you love… another. Go to her.” She smiled weakly.

“You’ll be just fine,” he replied, not believing it himself.

What was almost a laugh left her lips. “You. Know nothing. Jon Snow….” Voice fading, her eyes closed for the last time.

Gently laying her in the snow, Jon shed a single tear for Ygritte. He did love her - Dany was his one true love, but a little place in his heart would remember the fierce Wildling girl that had been his constant companion for much of his recent life. She deserved better. She should have seen the other side of the wall - the Free Folk deserved to be safe, away from the monsters. He believed all of them now, and they deserved to not be cannon fodder in whatever being led the dead.

“We’re gonna need to burn her,” Tormund warned. Remembering the wight in the Lord Commander’s room - ‘It seems so long ago, where it began’ - Jon knew Tormund was right. ‘How will we get a fire for her…’

As if reading his mind - perhaps it was exactly that - Rhaegal let a puff of flame consume Ygritte, a fitting send off for the wild redhead. Staring at the dragon, Jon felt the meld of minds between them. The last time he felt this was on a dark, cold night with Ghost. He had stared at the growing dire wolf, feeling the connection between them grow as he connected with his mind. And now it was the same thing, the same feeling. Jon couldn’t explain it. It was unexplainable.

The last of the flickering fires were starting to die, leaving piles of ash and some charred bones remaining. Jon didn’t know anything about dragons - he’d now have to read everything about them in the Castle Black Library that he could find, which meant he’d have to tell Sam, who he felt could keep the secret - but dragonfire had to be the most powerful flame known to man. However big and powerful Rhaegal was, if more wights showed up he’d be overwhelmed. “We need to get out of here quickly, before those things come back.”

“Knowing what I’ve been told, they usually prowl in groups. Much as I’d rather not be your prisoner, don’t really have a choice in the matter now do I?” Since he’d be dead if it wasn’t for Jon, Tormund must have deployed all his gratitude - not much, but it was something. “But how are we gonna get to the wall without freezing to death?”

Looking at Jon, Rhaegal hooted, as if telling him something. Jon eyed him over. ‘You want to… fly us out of here?’ The green dragon twisted its neck, thin crests fluttering. His snout nudged Jon’s shoulder, again acting just like Ghost. ‘I’ll take that as a yes.’ Much as the thought should terrify him, Jon knew there was no other choice.

“Well, got any ideas, crow?”

Jon merely cocked his head, staring at Tormund. Waiting for the wildling to catch on.

Tormund blinked. “You want me to…” He pointed to Rhaegal, Jon’s face serious. “Oh no, no way in hell you crazy cunt. I would rather have my dick sucked by a giant than get on that fucking thing’s back.” Rhaegal growled, teeth baring at Tormund.

‘Easy boy.’ Jon was sure that the dragon would never be this easy to handle, especially for someone he just met, but the confusing bond they seemed to innately share and the situation they were all in must have been sensed. Dany did tell him that dragons were known to be very intelligent, at least in Targaryen lore. “Well Tormund,” Jon mused, squinting and looking off into the distance. “We’re days away from Hardhome and the blizzard isn’t going away soon. It’s either come with me on the dragon’s back, or go alone in the middle of wight country. Your choice.” Despite everything that happened, Jon couldn’t help but smirk when Tormund grumbled profanities but nodded.

Shoulder only coming up to Jon's eyes, the Night's Watchman exerted little effort to climb atop Rhaegal. His wounds stung and joints ached, snow burning into his skin. ‘At least you're warm,’ Jon thought, amused and grateful. Rhaegal responded with a grunt - as if thanking him. ‘Um, you're welcome.’

“I'm gonna die from fallin’ off this blasted dragon, and the crow is talking to himself.” Huffing in annoyance, at least Tormund’s uncharacteristic fear was amusing.

He wasn't sure how flying was, but Jon could guess. “Hold on tight.” Hand gripping the spiny ridge tightly, Jon whispered to Rhaegal. “Fly us south.”

Normally only responsive to Valyrian, the bond of his rider was so strong that Rhaegal heard the order loud and clear. A beat of the wings brought him to the air, the screams of his passengers lost in the currents.

Watching from a distance, a lone crow’s eyes morphed from a glassy white back to their normal hue. Everything that needed to be discovered was discovered. Plans would have to be changed, and delays made. Fate, for most at Hardhome, had irrevocably changed.

 

This was it. This was his moment - the weak, cowardly boy that earned his father’s disgust and loathing couldn’t come back. “Beast stay back!” He had to be strong, hold the sword with a firm resolve. Gilly and the baby depended on him, and only him, for survival. “You will not take them!”

Without a care in the world, its company of two dozen walking skeletons waiting in the background, the blue-grey beast clamped its hand over Sam’s sword. Squeezing, the steel shattered. A backhanded smack sent Sam flying into a tree.

“You can’t have him!” Gilly’s screams cleared his mind like a bolt of lightning. Despite the aches stabbing through him, he drew the one weapon left on his person - the dragonglass dagger.

Above, flying low over the trees, a sharp gaze caught a still. The unmistakable image of a white walker. Jon had never seen one, but it could be no other. ‘Bank around.’ The dragon obeyed.

Blue eyes shining in triumph, the white walker reached out to take the bundle in the girl’s arms when a snarling Sam charged. Even shocking him, the dagger sunk into the muted ice blue skin like it was butter. Screaming in pain and hate, the beast writhed for several moments before shattering into millions of tiny pieces.

Their commander dead, all at once the line of wights dropped their jaws in piercing screams, charging straight for Sam, Gilly, and the baby. Holding the dragonglass daggers, despite the utter hopelessness of the situation the Tarly outcast found his inner steel. “Stay behind me, Gilly.” They drew closer, blue eyes flashing. “Stay behind me!”

‘Rhaegal, light ‘em up!’ Jon held for dear life as the green dragon dove.

Dragonglas at the ready, in an instant the line of wights was vaporized. The red-orange fireball caused Sam to topple, knocking down Gilly in the process. Undisturbed and sleeping through the entire ordeal, the baby started to wail. Gilly scrambling to calm him down, as his lids fluttered open - aches all over his corpulent form - Sam stared in stupefied silence as a dragon emerged from the blackness to land before them. The shock amplified when he saw who was on the dragon’s back, or more accurately one of the persons on the dragon’s back.

Jon’s ragged boots hit the snow with a small puff. “Damn cunts,” cursed Tormund, gazing at the charred bodies. “They’re everywhere, and are gonna overrun Hardhome one of these days.”

“I’ve thought of that possibility, Tormund,” Jon shot back at him. A shriek left the dragon’s throat. “Rhaegal, heel.” Compliant with his rider, at least for now, he gurgled to warm his system. Gently running his palm along the scaly neck - a stirring of affection instinctively brought forth that he usually reserved for Ghost - Jon finally met eyes with Sam.

“What, but…” Sam gaped like a fish. “How… Jon… dragon…” Walking over to him, Jon knelt and set a hand on his shoulder. “How’d you get a dragon?”

“Deep breaths, Sam.” He sighed. “If it helps, I’m just as confused by the situation as you are.”

Chapter Text

It had taken five straining pairs of arms to dump the steer carcass onto the dirt floor of the abandoned barn, but from the way Rhaegal set upon it with gusto was worth it to Jon. It hadn’t been a month since the green dragon had flown into his life at just the right moment, but he almost felt like a… son to Jon. Slowly running a hand along his neck, Rhaegal had etched himself right alongside Ghost in his gallery of loved ones, non human lest he was.

“I still can’t fucking believe it.” Jon turned to glare at Grenn, who quickly shut up. Only Jon, Ghost, Sam, and Tormund could approach the dragon without complete and utter caution - and Rhaegal only tolerated Sam and Tormund. The brother in black knew he couldn’t take care of a dragon without more people than already knew, so in came Grenn, Pyp, and Finn. His brothers among the brotherhood, friends since the beginning, Jon knew he could trust them with his life. Along with them came a young boy, a northerner by the name of Ollie. His family was murdered by wildling bandits that had gotten over the wall - ones Jon had personally tracked down and killed upon his return. He was immediately loyal, and the only one among the group that watched the dragon with awe instead of suppressed terror.

Petting Rhaegal’s snout, Jon made his way to the door. “I’ll be back soon, Rhaegal.” Another death glare was in due for Pyp, who looked at him as if he sprouted two heads. ‘They looked at me like that when Ghost started to grow big, and this is much more bizarre.’ Exiting the barn, Jon turned to all of them. “Alright, now you can talk.”

“How in the fucking hell did you get a dragon?” Finn burst out. “I mean, of all the people that the long dead beasts of fire would go to…”

“Alright, alright… enough.” Jon was humble, but that went too far.

Tormund laughed. “He’s got a point, king crow.” Despite Alliser Thorne being the acting commander - Jon finding out that Mormont had died in a mutiny - Tormund still saw Jon as the big man in the Night’s Watch. Hiding out here as Rhaegal’s personal guard instead of being a prisoner in Castle Black, most of Jon’s cadre regarded him with suspicion, Ollie most of all. The redheaded warrior was an acquired taste, in Jon’s experience. “You crows should head back before the asshole starts asking questions. I’ll hold the fort here.” Clasping Tormund on the back, Jon and his group mounted their horses and galloped in the direction of Castle Black.

“Umm… I thought about it Jon,” Sam said, their horses slowing to a trot. “I looked at some books in the library…”

“Nothing shocking about that,” murmured Grenn teasingly, only to clam up following another glare from Jon. Everyone still remembered what happened during training with Ghost - Thorne and his loyalists hated the ‘pig,’ while the current circle were all friends.

“Only those with Valyrian blood had bonds with dragons, and those were quite deep. A dragon and his rider would connect for life.”

“Whooooo, Snow. Nothin’s getting over da wall now,” hooted Finn.

Jon rolled his eyes. “Shut up.”

“I have to ask,” Sam continued. “Do you have any Targaryen blood in you? Any Valyrian at all?”

He shook his head. “Nothing on the Stark side. My mother…” Perhaps she had Valyrian blood after all, but then his father had said she was of the north. ‘Oh father, why didn’t you just tell me?’ Jon would never know who gave birth to him - only being apart from Daenerys hurt him more. “I don’t know.”

“Has to be it. There’s no other explanation…”

“Enough Sam!” Jon cut him off. “Thorne doesn’t care about what you and I discovered about the white walkers. He won’t do anything to stop it, and is just going to battle with the wildling army till we’re all walking corpses.”

“They should all die,” Ollie muttered, still bitter about his family.”

“Ollie, it’s better to have them alive and fighting our common enemy than amongst the dead. We took down the swine that attacked your village already.” He quieted down, pondering Jon’s arguments. The lad didn’t know whether to believe Jon, but then again, Jon had a dragon. “Alliser hates me…”

“He hates all of us, Jon,” remarked Grenn.

Jon shook his head. “No, me especially, and he’s going to ignore any plan I come up with. We’ll be dead by the time he gives in.” He gripped the reins tight in his fist. “I’m going to have to run for Lord Commander.” The soon to be known fact that none thought he could succeed wouldn’t deter him.

 

A cloud of gloom had covered Highgarden since the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Their beloved Loras, heir to House Tyrell, was killed by King Joffrey according to the bards. The vast majority of the Tyrell Army perished on the city walls, or were crushed in the Battle of Bitterbridge. Held down by a holding force while Tywin Lannister moved to rescue the capitol, he marched back and defeated Mace Tyrell in a strategic envelopment that wiped out the other half of the combined army of the Reach. Only exhaustion and bankruptcy kept the Reach from falling right there with both its warden and heir dead, leaving the fair Rose of Highgarden and the Queen of Thorns to manage the battered domain following the disasters.

And now, a visitor from the capitol - an important one - was here. Someone that could change the course of the entire Realm.

“I understand how difficult it could be for you to trust me…”

Margaery, the Rose of Highgarden, scoffed. “That is an understatement. I know it was you that caused Renly’s death.”

“It had to be done,” Melisandre conceded. “For the sake of justice. Besides, I know you prefer another.” The statement caused Margaery to blink, the Red Woman turning to the iron matriarch of House Tyrell. “King Joffrey is ready to begin his project, but to do so he needs men and resources. Hand Tywin seeks to use the strengthened army to crush all Houses that opposed him, while Lord Baelish is planning to strip them of all riches to pay for their projects. Prince Doran of Dorne has formed an alliance despite the bad blood, his son Tristan betrothed to Princess Myrcella.”

“Dorne would never side with the Lannisters. Even someone as weak and spineless as Doran.”

A small smile curved on Melisandre’s face. “Lady Tyrell, you could easily have me killed as soon as look at me. Why would I lie to you?”

Oleanna narrowed her eyes. “Why are you here, then?”

“Because the Lord of Light wills it,” was the cryptic response.

Before either Tyrell could respond, a dispatch rider burst into the room. Much of the Tyrell Army had been destroyed, but there were still enough guards to man Highgarden. “My Lady, the Lannisters are moving!” he croaked in labored breaths. “Tywin Lannister is on the march. His advance guard has already entered the Reach.” The Queen of Thorns stayed sone faced, while Margaery began to panic.

Oaken cane smacking against the stone, Oleanna chuckled. “Dear Margaery, you must always plan five moves ahead. Our army is but a shadow of its former self after your brother and Renly lost it all either on the walls of King’s Landing or to Tywin Lannister’s pincer following that debacle.” She leaned her frame on a stone column flanking the window. “I have stashed fifteen of our grain transports in a small port north of Oldtown, just in case we needed to escape.”

Margaery felt numb, the level of denial that had endured since Renly’s death giving forth to glaring, chilling reality - and it petrified her. “We have nowhere to go, grandmother. Everyone we have is either allied with Joffrey or not a friend to us. Perhaps we should try to make peace, offer me to Joffrey in betrothal to keep him from coming after us…”

“Joffrey was always going to come after us! The Florents allied with him, and they need our resources for whatever gigantic project that madman thinks he needs to build.” Oleanna gripped her granddaughter’s shoulders, shaking her. “Use the mind I gave you! We will die, and with you the last of the Tyrell blood will die if we don’t leave! You will go! If I have to beat you till near death I will!” Faced with the wrath of the Queen of Thorns, aged but not yet beaten, Margaery’s protests collapsed. In time she would deploy her grandmother’s will - just not today, and not to said grandmother.

Watching the familial interaction from afar, Melisandre waited for quiet to settle before speaking. “There is one safe place for you, somewhere that will not be threatened by the Lannisters, by the golden false prophet.”

“And where is that?” Oleanna asked, sick of the riddles - she hated the prophetic claptrap.

Melisandre simply smiled. “The place I have foreseen, the place resided by who that was promised.”

 

Viserys was a light sleeper. It wasn’t by choice, but living on the run from Robert the Usurper’s dogs and, after Daenerys tossed him out of the Khalasar, the collected scum and criminality of society. Now, confined to the dreary cell in Winterfell Castle - ironic considering his hatred for the Stark family - such a skill came in handy to prepare her for whatever threats came his way. In this place, booted feet clacking on the stone floors sent a shiver of dread through Viserys’ body.

Door groaning as the key unlocked it and the hinges creaked, the presence of a hulking guard. He involuntarily cringed, spotting the truncheon hefted in his hands. “Get up!” The guard didn’t wait for Viserys to comply, barreling in and yanking him upright.

“Unhand me!” he mustered, defiant to the end. “I am the dragon!”

“Shut up!” came the responding hiss, guard pulling him out roughly.

The sunlight was soon hitting Viserys’ skin – trapped indoors for the last month, the shining orb in the sky was greatly welcome. Truncheon prodding onto his back, he stepped along freshly cut wood as he gazed at the teams of men repairing the partially burned castle. ‘So the Starks suffered a disaster? Good.’

Essentially throwing him inside one particular room, the guards shut it with a bang. Viserys glanced around furtively. A roaring fire cracking in the fireplace, room dark and cozy but sparse of furniture. Only a single table and two chairs decorated the room - with one being occupied. And sitting on it was the same man that captured him, still with that same satisfied grin on his face. The one that made Viserys’ blood freeze. “Welcome, Prince Viserys,” announced the man, mouth full of well cooked beef. “Come sit. I won’t kill you.” Eyes hardened. “I may if you don’t sit, though.” Viserys sat. The same broken, hunched over man shuffled over, setting another plate of food. It smelled delicious. “Thank you, Reek.”

Viserys took a bite, using whatever self control he had to not gobble it all down. “Who is that?”

“No one important. Used to be the heir to the Iron Islands, but not anymore.” Meeting Viserys’ eyes, he chuckled. “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Ramsay of House Bolton, heir to the Bolton title and future Warden of the North.”

Violet eyes inspected him warily. He didn’t have the noble air of a great aristocrat - even for the barren wasteland of the north. “I thought the Starks held Winterfell.”

“They did, but my father and I took it from them.” Ramsay laughed cheerily. “Nedd, Arya, Bran, Rickon, and Robb Stark are dead. Sansa and Catelyn are trapped in King’s Landing, and Jon Snow is stuck in Castle Black where he can’t bother anyone.”

“Good.” Anger boiled within Viserys. “You should have that Snow bastard killed.”

Ramsay’s eyebrow rose. “Oh? I’ll talk to my father about that.” Inside his mind was racing. ‘And why would you want that to happen?’ Whatever reason, he knew he could manipulate it.

“Forgive me, Bolton, but why am I here? Why haven’t you killed me, besides the fact that you couldn’t have the balls to kill the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms.”

Ramsay’s lips curled into the rather wolfish grin that Viserys had seen before. “You see, we are both in a bit of a quandary when it comes to our goals of power and victory. You have the legitimacy but not the resources. I have the resources but not the legitimacy.” There was a pregnant pause before he continued. “I am proposing an alliance. A bartering of sorts.”

“And what would we barter?” Viserys was starting to warm up to this place.

“Simple.” The grin widened into something approaching a sneer. “I’ll get you your throne. Afterwards, you give me your sister.”

 

Windows left open, the cool breeze wafted into the enormous bedchamber atop the Pyramid. The dank, stuffy heat was vented well and made the desert tropical landscape bearable. And even in such comfort, Daenerys’ body refused to drift off to sleep. Resting below the covers, staring at the ceiling, no change of position could ease her discomfort with the situation. Even as her hold on the city was becoming more and more secure by the day… her heart clenched in anguish - hidden anguish, but anguish nonetheless.

Twisting onto her side with a huff, her hair splayed out like a halo over the plush pillow. A hand reached out to ghost over the empty space to her left. So alone - the size of the bed only magnified how lonely and empty her life was. All the power in the world, all the glory of reclaiming for her House what rightfully belonged to it had no meaning if she was forced to enjoy the spoils alone and unloved. Daenerys closed her eyes, imagining that instead of an empty sheet her hand was running over the muscular shoulders of her love. ‘Oh Jon, I miss you so.’ Nearly four years since they last held each other and she still remembered everything about him. Dany forced herself to, not wanting him to be just another forgotten memory, one she knew of but couldn’t really discern anymore. ‘I wish you were here with your family, ruling with me. Being this Queen’s King.’

A gentle creaking of the door caused her to bolt upright in the bed. A hand involuntarily went for Saracen resting on the nightstand next to her. No assassin would take her down without a fight. “Show yourself.” Her voice was cold and even.

What responded was a soft, unmistakable voice. “Issa?”

Dany immediately melted, putting her sword back and softening her own voice. “Arya, sweetling? What are you doing, come here.” Even with the darkness, she extended her arms in a welcoming gesture. Whispering scuffles of bare feet - nearly inaudible - brought not only her precious daughter, but her handsome son as well. “My darlings, is something wrong?”

“Bad dream, Issa,” Rhaegar replied, his lip quivering. Arya nodded, indicating the same. Even the scions of two mighty families, of wolf and dragon, got scared.

Their childlike fear broke their mother’s heart. “Come here with Issa on the bed, sweetlings.” She couldn’t resist them at all, being nearly the perfect blend of their father and her - of Stark and Targaryen. “Oomph,” Dany grunted as Arya scrambled over her, settling into her left side as Rhaegar settled into her right. She chuckled softly at the coziness of it all, wrapping hands around both of them and embracing them tightly.

“Your Grace.” The door opened wider and a worried looking Grey Worm stuck his head in. Short sword out, he looked ready to do battle. “The twins are missing.”

Dany wanted to laugh. “Look at the bed, Grey Worm.” The knowing widening of his eyes was priceless.

“Oh. Well, good then,” he finally managed to say in heavily accented common tongue. “I will be nearby if you need anything, your grace.” With that, he closed the door to her chambers.

Settling into a comfortable collective position, Dany kissed each of her three-year old twins on the head. “Want to tell me what happened?” They shook their heads, tightening against her. “Alright, what would you want me to talk about.”

“Tell us about daddy,” Arya said.

“Was he really a great warrior like Uncle Jorah says?” Rhaegar asked.

Deep down, Dany knew that the twins would end up asking about their father. Given that Jorah was the only one aside from her that even knew of him - though Ned Stark was legend even halfway across the world - it was only natural he’d be the one to prompt their questions. In any case, Daenerys had no compunction to answer. Just that thinking of Jon brought a pained longing to her heart. “He is, sweetling. One of the best.” If Jon had joined the Night’s Watch as he wanted to, he had to be a great one. “Your daddy is one of the finest swordsmen in Westeros.”

“Where is he now?” Arya asked with wide eyes - they were a stormy grey, exactly like his. “Why isn’t he with us, Issa? Does he not want us?”

Dany stroked her silver hair, trying to comfort her daughter. “Of course not, sweetling.” How could she tell Arya or Rhaegar that Jon didn’t even know they existed? ‘If Jon knew, he’d be here. Renouncing his vows and putting his life at risk.’ Only Dany wished he were here as well, damn any consequences. “Daddy loves both of you, my sweet dragonwolves, but he is a Watcher on the Wall. A Stark has always served on the wall, protecting against the dangers of the icy north. Bad people, monsters, he fights to protect the realms of men…” She trailed off, noticing the soft breaths of her two children. They were both asleep, serene and curled up next to her. Soon she joined them, images of her long lost love flashing in her mind.

Chapter Text

The sigil of House Tyrell was a rose, a symbol of the most radiant beauty and perfection. Highgarden castle truly complied with such a daunting standard to live up to. Nestled on the banks of the Mander River, sparkling waters glinting in the sun as they flowed to the Western Ocean, the white castle walls oversaw all for miles around from atop a lone hill. Vibrant green and other colors dotted the slopes under the battlements - roofs equally colorful - from the apple, citrus, and magnolia trees carefully maintained by the groundskeepers. Across the landscape as far as the eye could see were the flat wheatfields of the breadbasket of Westeros, stalks fluttering in the tranquil breeze as the farmers tended their newest record harvest.

Once Tyrell but now watched over by the golden lion banners of House Lannister hung over the castle walls, Highgarden intrigued Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the King. Even with the sheer gloom and decay that infected the once shining example of Westerosi nobility following the deaths of their Lord and Heir, the rose gardens were carefully maintained and the grounds immaculate. Sullen from seeing countless smallfolk and prisoners rounded up for “retributive labor” - as Lord Baelish put it - by the hated Lannister armies of the despised King Joffrey, the groundskeepers never shirked from their duties. Intriguing, but ultimately one question that Tywin found quick to dismiss.

“My Lord,” stated Kevan Lannister, Tywin’s cousin and a trusted commander - it had been he who kept the Tyrell army pinned while Tywin marched to save King’s Landing from Renly Baratheon. “We have proof that the Red Woman was here.”

Tywin nodded, hands spread over the map table, face blank as stone. “She must have warned them then. Margaery and the Queen of Thorns could be anywhere at this point.” It was… unfortunate, but didn’t change the calculus one bit. The Reach was firmly in Royal hands.

Then again… there were always potential problems with any certainty. “While the rightful heirs to Highgarden are still at large, your hold over the Reach will always be in doubt, Lord Tywin.” Leaning casually on the far wall, Prince Oberyn Martell’s presence irritated Tywin to no end. Required to be included in any strategy conference due to leading the Dornish armies as a direct result of his brother’s illnesses, there was no love lost between them. Oberyn hated Tywin for the actions of the Mountain during Robert’s Rebellion, and the hate had only grown in the years since.

Nevertheless, Dorne was an ally of King Joffrey of House Baratheon, first of his name - only secure due to the lack of any other recourse and the betrothal of Tywin’s granddaughter to Prince Tristyn, but an alliance nonetheless. Dornish armies had invaded the Reach from the south, secured the fealty of House Tarly at Hornhill, and prevented any real resistance from forming along with the stronger Lannister pincer to the north. Hence Prince Oberyn. “They have no army, nor much treasure. The Tyrell coffers are only a small amount less than what our intelligence were forecasting.”

“Believe whatever makes you happy, Lord Lannister,” though flippant, Tywin could detect the hidden contempt in Oberyn’s tone. “Still, I will obey my brother’s commitments to the letter. I hope that certain… individuals in the capitol are as loyal to their official masters as I am.” Dropping the innuendo, he chuckled and headed off to find Elyria. ‘The girls of the Reach are beautiful indeed.’

Narrowing his eyes, Tywin shrugged it off. Oberyn could be blowing smoke out of his ass, but he would investigate upon getting back to King’s Landing. Currently, the Tyrell treasury would have to be loaded and shipped out. Plenty to ease the realm’s crushing debt and help pay for his grandson’s building projects.

 

Empty of all but the small council and the most loyal of all the Sovereignguards - having been renamed to highlight the changed nature of the King’s authority - the cavernous hollow of the throne room served to amplify the booming anger in the King’s voice. “How have they not been captured?!” Joffrey’s face was red, screaming his lungs out. The propaganda persona crafted by Littlefinger portrayed the King as the wise, precocious leader guiding the Realm to a new age of glory. With the vast majority of King Robert’s staff purged until only a few loyalists remained, Tyrion was one of the only people who knew the real Joffrey of House Baratheon, First of his Name. “I ordered her head on a pike!”

Figure hunched over, Littlefinger angled his body towards the Iron Throne. It was now policy to never gaze upon the sovereign. Something about the “mere mortal” eyes that weren’t fit to even behold the figure of their King. Tyrion couldn’t believe that his predictions of how his nephew would govern would be wrong - of how the “Vicious Idiot King” would outdo even his most terrifying nightmares. “All Highest, it appears that they were warned of the combined attack by Lord Tywin and Prince Oberyn by the Lady Melisandre…”

“I KNEW SHE’D BETRAY ME!” Joffrey thundered, standing from his throne. Aside from the guards, the King’s Fool, and a servant girl - meek and trembling as she and the Fool were the only persons who could set eyes on him, and Joffrey had a high turnover among personal servants - Baelish, Tyrion, Lord Varys, Maester Pycelle, and Queen Cersei were the only souls before him. “How could any of you not know that the bitch was set to save the Tyrell whores?!”

“If I may, All Highest.” Stepping forward, Tyrion found it far easier to avert his gaze than the others - he could feel Cersei’s dagger like eyes trained on him. “I am sure that Lord Baelish’s lack of oversight over the Red Witch wasn’t intentional.” The Imp felt a sense of schadenfreude at lessening Littlefinger’s loyal advisor image. “She had hidden her true intentions from all of us. On my orders, the Sovereignguard searched her room, and they found this letter addressed to you personally.” Tyrion had read it, and it made no sense to him:

Enjoy the fruits of your realm, King of Gold. The golden one will come so far, come so close to achieving the great victory and rule over all he sees, only to fall.

Azor Ahai is reborn. The Prince that is Promised will fulfill his destiny. The mark will find you, King of Gold. And with it, so shall the Lord of Light.

Joffrey’s gloved hand smacked the servant girl on the back of the head. “Bring it to me, whore!” Scurrying to Tyrion, matted hair covering her eyes from his vision, the frightened mouse of a thing gave the parchment to Joffrey. Out of the corner of his eye, Tyrion watched as Joffrey struggled to parse the lines - he had never been the best reader. But eventually he did, and it was as if all blood had drained from him.

Minutes passed before he spoke once more. “Find her, Varys.” His voice was low, as if all the anger had been replaced with dread. “Destroy her from existence.”

“As you wish, All Highest,” the Master of Whisperers replied.

“All Highest.” Cersei stepped forward - all happiness, whatever amount she had ever had, was gone with the deterioration of the relationship between her and her eldest son. Not even Jamie’s return had changed that. “Perhaps it is time to make sure your hold on the Realm is secured.” After an almost inaudible acknowledgement from Joffrey, she continued. “The Riverlands are under our control, as well as... Dorne.” From the way she ground out the last word, Tyrion knew that if Joffrey turned on him, Cersei wouldn’t bat an eye - she still hadn’t forgiven him for sending Myrcella away. “We need to secure the Vale, as well as the North.”

“Mother, I presumed that Grandfather’s deal with Lord Bolton gave us the North already.”

‘Where is she going with this?’ Cersei may have been an overly emotional bitch, but Tyrion would never claim she wasn’t smart. “The northerners are a wild lot, and what I propose would solidify the Vale as well. We give Lord Bolton’s son Sansa Stark.” Now this sounded like the Cersei Tyrion knew. With Robb Stark dead and the North vanquished, there was no need for Sansa to remain in the south.

Littlefinger approached, a bit frantically. “All Highest, allow me to accompany Lady Stark to the Eyrie and Winterfell. I can represent your interests in dealing with the Boltons and Arryns.”

“Very well,” Joffrey said, his voice still hesitant. “Anything else?”

Tyrion noticed Littlefinger recovering from his little episode over Sansa Stark. ‘He still loves Catelyn.’ Had it not been for him, the dwarf knew, all the Starks would have died at the Red Wedding. Baelish hated the wolves of Winterfell, but Sansa was all Tully, at least in looks. Tyrion pitied her, that being one of the reasons Joffrey despised him. “All Highest, the Iron Islands are still in rebellion against you, and have yet to submit.”

“You must kill them all.” Unlike the past literal screaming sessions, Joffrey’s heart wasn’t into the bloodthirsty command. ‘All this over the Red Woman?’ Everyone ignored it out of self-preservation, but Tyrion still pondered the turn of events.

“There is another way, All Highest. The brother of Balon Greyjoy has reached out to me, asking for the great King of Gold’s backing in ruling the Iron Islands for himself. He has offered his alliance, and a fleet of ships once the take over is complete.”

Firmness began to return to Joffrey, the idea of an ocean-going Navy to extend his power quite appealing. “Do what you need to do, Lord Littlefinger. Dismissed.” And with that, he whisked himself away, servant scurrying behind him. Leaving the throne room, Tyrion noticed Cersei talking with Pycelle. As soon as they locked eyes, her look blazed fire.

As soon as his sister was out of sight, Tyrion collapsed onto the stone wall. Breathing hard, the weight of every atrocity bearing down on him, it became unbearable. ‘That monster will destroy us all, corrupt us all.’ Baelish had unleashed a force that no one truly understood, he and the Mountain fitting Joffrey with the same self-confidence in himself that were possessed by Aegon the Conqueror and Robert Baratheon. While Aegon’s drive was ambition and Robert’s was torpor and gluttony, Joffrey’s was madness. With the initial thousands of smallfolk “serfs” gathering to begin labor on Joffrey’s monument to his own thirst for self-aggrandizement, death had become mortal.

“My Lion.” Shae’s gentle hands were like cool water to an overheated body. Tyrion’s breathing slowed, enough to bring his wits out of the cloud of terror that had engulfed him - a cloud not even alcohol could solve. “What is wrong?” Tyrion looked up, seeing the concern in her eyes.

Clarity dawned on him. “We have to leave. We have to escape this.”

“And I know just the place.” Neither had noticed Lord Varys approach right behind them.

 

Slamming the door shut to his private quarters, the King of Gold found himself sucking in labored breaths. The walls were closing in, crushing his chest like a vice. Not even torturing his servants, or his Fool, would break his mood. All the talks of his growing empire and consolidating the gains passed over him, the message from the Red Witch searing itself into his black soul.

Hunched over, sweat pouring down his brow, suddenly an arctic chill permeated the room. “No, it can’t be!” Turning, Joffrey was surrounded by the corpse of his father - same as years ago.

“The King of Gold, long shall he reign, no mortal man, no normal bane.”

“So I shall rule forever?” he asked hesitantly.

“The Lord of Light, the previous son, his rule will win, his time soon come.”

“How do I stop him?”
“A woman born of storm, fair of skin and eye, the golden face she sees, a realm divide.”

His mind was racing. “I must stop this woman. I must never see her.”

Blood seeped from his gutted belly. “The mark of the warrior, branded by one employed, one God she crowns, one God destroyed.”

An overwhelming headache blinded Joffrey, and a split second later, he opened his eyes. The specter of Robert Baratheon had vanished.

 

An arrow sailed past his head, embedding itself into the ground several yards away. Cursing, Robb Stark cracked the reins, urging his horse ever forward. ‘Almost, almost there.’ The icy towering sheet of the Wall loomed large in the distance, the huts of Mole’s Town only a hundred yards to his right. Robb could taste the safety of the battlements of Castle Black.

Trouble was, so did Walder Frey’s bounty hunters. They found his trail only days before. And like a dog with a bone, they weren’t giving it up. If Robb didn’t get to Castle Black quickly enough, his head would be in a basket heading for the Twins soon enough.

Behind him, the ragged line of horsemen charged across the unpaved, dirt road, clumps of grey-brown soil kicked up behind them. Mounted archers aimed their reflex bows, many just missing vital portions of Robb’s body. He urged the horse to go faster. The animal might be blown because of this, but with the dark walls of the castle looming nearer and nearer below the towering ice and stone carved by magic, it would only be a sprint to the finish.

“Kill him!” screamed the lead bounty hunter, watching as his quarry neared the still open gates of Castle Black. One of his archers readied his reflex bow to make one last shot when a javelin embedded itself into his midsection, toppling him from his horse. “All stop!” Obscenities tumbled from his lips as the castle gate swung shut.

Burly men in black cloaks muscled Robb Stark to the top of the castle walls. “Who are you?! What are you doing here?!” Eying him over, the Night’s Watchman hollered down the battlements. “Where is the Lord Commander?!”

“He’s here!” yelled the reply. Robb’s eyes widened, recognizing that voice. ‘Is that… the Lord Commander?’ Sure enough, Jon Snow emerged at the top of the stairs - older and bearing the scars of experience. Behind him was a young kid, and a red-bearded man in furs that had to be a wildling. Jon’s eyes widened at spotting Robb, then shifted back to the milling bounty hunters. His men tightened their bowstrings. “I am the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. What business do you have here?”

The lead hunter spat on the ground. “I bear the authority of Lord Walder Frey, Warden of the Riverlands. A dangerous fugitive and enemy of His Grace, Joffrey Baratheon, is within the castle. Return him to us at once.”

Glancing at Robb with a quizzical look on his face, Jon hardened his stare upon the bounty hunters. “Why does it seem that you never really had this fugitive in the first place for me to return him?” Nearly all of the brothers in black started laughing - even Robb managed a smirk. ‘Oh, I missed you Jon.’ “The Wall is a refuge for all willing to fight to hold it. If you dare to enter, it will be your heads decorating our battlements.” By the reactions of the watchmen, Jon’s threat was not an idle one.

By the looks of the reactions below, their foes thought the same. “You’ll regret this, bastard.” Making obscene gestures, one by one the bounty hunters galloped off.

Two Starks stared at each other, the first glimpse each had for the other man since that sunny summer’s day three years before. Both had changed, grown, hardened, suffered, lost… “Lord Commander,” Robb finally said, respect clouding his tone.

“Lord Stark,” Jon countered, nodding his head.

Emotion finally overcoming the two brothers, their arms wrapped around each other in a crushing, fraternal hug.

 

“Attention!” came the barking command in low Valyrian. The column of men - all freedman recruits from among the slums of Meereen - halted in perfect order. “Form left!” As if controlled by some unseen force, they swiveled into a row, a hundred wide and three deep. “Advance!” And with that they marched toward an imaginary foe hundreds of yards away on the parade ground. From her perch above on the lower balcony, traditionally used by Kings of Meereen to address their subjects while remaining inside the Great Pyramid, Daenerys watched her newest soldiers. “Magnificent, aren’t they?”

“Indeed, Khaleesi,” replied Ser Jorah, standing beside her. “They are far from the caliber of the Unsullied, but skilled soldiers they are.”

A small chuckle left Dany’s lips. “Amazing how Theodosius was able to whip them up into shape so quickly.” She could see the dashing figure below atop his horse, clad is light Westerosi garb emblazoned with the Targaryen sigil. It brought satisfaction to Dany seeing fluttering flags bearing the Three-headed Dragon interspersed among the men. It had also been Theodosius’ idea, to make the army one of the Targaryen realm rather than that of the individual factions fighting for her - the Unsullied had already adopted the same “color bearers,” but the wild Dothraki were resisting and the Second Sons absolutely refused.

“The program has been an overwhelming success, Khaleesi,” Missandei stated. “We were planning for conscription, but the sheer amount of volunteers made that unnecessary. Grey Worm told me that all of them are enthusiastic to fight for Mhysa.” Overhead, two loud screeches didn’t even turn heads among the marching soldiers - indifference to the presence of the two mighty dragons being one of the first things Theodosius and Grey Worm taught the recruits.

Dany glanced to the sky and smiled at Balerion and Edderon play-fighting above the city. Despite some teething problems - especially for Balerion, who had the nasty habit of attacking the livestock of the mountain sheep and cattle ranchers - they were beginning to exert their aggression through less dangerous means. They loved the twins, and their mother, Dany even starting to ride her New Black Dread. Although, she thought with sadness, the tempering of their anger may have been as a result of their brother’s disappearance. She missed Rhaegal. ‘The second of my loved ones to leave me.’

A thought occurred to Dany, one that she had been putting off - but now was as good a time as any. “Missandei, will you check on the twins. I believe it is time for their reading lessons.”

“Of course, Khaleesi,” the Narthi translator stated, bowing and stepping out. It was just her and Jorah now, alone.

“I heard things at home, your Grace, things I have just now pieced together. Ask him where his real loyalties lie.”

Ser Barristan’s words echoed in her head. What was she supposed to think - her oldest advisor, the closest person that she ever had to a father. Did he betray her? Dany could count on her fingers the number she could trust implicitly. ‘My babies, my children, Missandei, Grey Worm, Ser Barristan, Jon…’ Could she not even count on his loyalty? The grey-blue dress that fit her curves snugly suddenly felt constricting. It couldn’t be true.

Out with it. “Ser Jorah, I have been informed that you may not be as completely loyal to me as I have thought.”

Turning, Dany saw his breath hitch. ‘It is true.’ She felt like vomiting. “Khaleesi,” his eyes begged for forgiveness, “I was in a desperate state. Stateless and unwanted…”

“And so you turned against me? Gave your oath to another?” Her hand tightened on Saracen, always strapped to her hip. Suddenly it made sense. “What did you do for this person?”

Rooted in place, Jorah knew he had to come clean or face her wrath. “I sent him letters, of what transpired in your life. From the time we left Pentos to the time the twins were born…”

“Is that why Drogo was poisoned? Did Robert intend to poison me because of what you told him?” It took every bit of her willpower not to scream.

“Of course not, Khaleesi. It was not Robert whom I sent it to.”

“Then. Who?”

“Ned Stark.”

Silence descended over the two of them. Knees weak, Dany took a step back. Her jaw dropped. “Ned Stark?”

Jorah nodded. “He found me before your wedding.” His hand reached into a small pouch beneath his shirt, drawing out a piece of parchment. “He offered me this, a full pardon, in exchange for my oath to protect you.” Dany took the pardon in her hand, reading the contents. It was dated the day before her wedding. “He said that he had to protect his family. It wasn’t until the twins were born that I truly knew what he meant.”

Sitting, Dany felt tears prick at her eyes. “You are dismissed, Ser Jorah.” And he did, leaving her to ponder the munificence of someone supposed to be the arch nemesis of her family.

‘The grandfather of my children.’

 

Celebration should have been the mood at Winterfell, and for good reason. For the first time since Robb Stark departed for the South - soon to be King in the North - the castle’s Lord had finally returned to dwell within its halls. However, none of the usual throngs of happy subjects and wreaths of blue roses greeted Roose Bolton. As the man that killed their Lord, the pregnant Lady of Winterfell, and sent the beloved former Lady to the Lannister dungeons, Bolton was hated. Branded a traitor and an oathbreaker, the vilest of insults. No one would say it out loud, but the Boltons would have no love from their new subjects.

This fact was not the cause of Lord Roose’s sullen mood. Truth be told, he could care less what the smallfolk thought of him. If they so much as looked at him the wrong way, he’d have no compunction ordering his men to slaughter them as he did to the pregnant wife of Robb Stark. No, his anger was directed at something else entirely - or rather, someone. “Do you have any idea the jeopardy you have put our cause in?”

“Calm down, Lord Bolton,” Ramsay Bolton remarked back. His father had legitimized him as his heir soon after arriving at Winterfell - by the looks of things he was regretting it. “Do you not realize how much of an opportunity this is for us?” A hand gestured to the figure of Viserys Targaryen, once more clad in the royal garments suitable for a person of his stature. “He is the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“In exchange for your loyalty Lord Bolton,” Viserys said magnanimously - a rather hard tone for him to master. “I will grant you complete dominion over the North, as well as name you my hand.”

Roose regarded the Targaryen as one would regard a slug - Ramsay did too, but was more inconspicuous about it. “And you consider yourself in the same caliber as Tywin Lannister of Petyr Baelish?” He turned to his bastard son. “Obtaining power is noble, but only smartly! If King’s Landing found out about this, both our heads would be on a pike!”

Rage was bitten back. “I have spoken with Ned Karstark and Smalljon Umber, and they are both willing to back us in installing Viserys on the throne.” Not exactly, but who would begrudge a little white lie? “I am sure both the Freys and the Vale would back us, not to mention Dorne and the Reach.”

“I have prepared ravens to be sent at your command, my Lord,” said the new Maester, sent by the Citadel upon Maester Luwin’s death.

Narrowing his eyes, Roose sighed. “You are still my trueborn son, and I cannot undo it. You will still be my heir.” ‘Until a new son is born from my new wife.’ The words were left unsaid, but Ramsay understood them all the same.

“Of course... father.” Smiling warmly at Roose, a split second later the elder Bolton found a knife embedded between his ribs - impaling his heart. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. A cackling laugh left Ramsay, getting hard at the sight of his father’s shock. “Poor, naive Lord Bolton. So busy betraying others, couldn’t see how you were the one being betrayed.” Ramsay pulled out the knife, watching his father collapse lifeless on the stone tile.

“Reek, clean this up!” he yelled at what was once Theon Greyjoy. Wicked, twisted grin faded into a sad frown. “Maester, inform the men. Lord Roose Bolton has died. Poisoned, by his enemies.”

Swallowing, the Maester nodded. “Poisoned by his enemies.” Viserys couldn’t help but smirk. Now Ramsay was Warden of the North, and now - secretly - hand of the Targaryen King.

Chapter Text

Normally a boisterous cacophony of shouting and backslapping - comprised of essentially the dregs of the Seven Kingdoms, only during official duties would anyone expect the Brothers of the Night’s Watch to act in any disciplined sort of manner - the communal hall was instead quiet. Devoid of any real life. Growing up among the boisterous Northerners of Winterfell, Jon normally enjoyed the lively rough and tumble. But with his brooding nature, he relished his solitude. His father was the same way.

The whole matter reminded him of the meeting Jon had partaken in before his long infiltration mission north of the wall. Instead, now he was seated at the head of the table, the youngest Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch in three centuries. A great honor, but one he had never expected.

Glancing to his right, there was another eventuality he had never expected. Emotion surged through him at the sight of the brother he once thought dead. Any hit of protests by Thorne or his cronies had been silenced with a murderous glare, Robb being given immediate asylum among the brotherhood. Thanking all the gods for their grace in keeping his brother alive, Jon had no compunction including him in his own inner circle - having spent the last week locked up in the rooms Jon gave him, all felt he needed something to draw him out of what was haunting him. Joining them were Sam, Maester Aemon, and Tormund, the wily Wildling starting to grow on Jon. Much as he tried to deny it, it went both ways.

“I still can’t come to accept this, Jon,” Robb stated after a long silence. “White walkers and wights north of the wall, like the bedtime stories of our childhood? They’re just myths.” He then shrugged his shoulders. “Then again, I would have also thought one mad if he said my half-brother would end up having a tame dragon, so who am I to doubt the plausibility of this story.”

A hearty chuckle leaving his lips, Jon rubbed Ghost’s furry head, the direwolf resting beside him. “Believe me, brother, no one was more shocked than I… though Tormund nearly pissed himself.” The wildling sent him a murderous look in response. “But the threat is serious. Mance Rayder and others north of the Wall basically told me that the entire Wildling host is seeking to fight their way south because of the threat of the dead.”

Tormund nodded. “Aye, better to die trying to be free of them than end up part of the Army of the Dead.”

“So are they planning their attack?” Robb didn’t trust Tormund - no real Northerner would toward a wildling, too much bad blood. “With their numbers they could do it easily.”

“Mance isn’t stupid - King Crow over there,” he pointed at Jon. “Knows all of our plans. Unless one of the fucking fools is now in charge, and they wouldn’t because the Wildlings will only follow Mance, he’s waiting at Hardhome for another chance.”

“How far would they follow Mance?” Four pairs of eyes looked at Jon.

Meeting his eyes, Tormund shrugged. “Likely to their deaths if need be, though I can’t say for sure. Ya’ can’t tame a Free Folk.”

“Where are you going with this, Lord Commander?” asked Aemon, speaking up for the first time. No hostility was in his voice, only curiosity.

Sighing, Jon looked over all of them. “For 8,000 years the Night’s Watch has sworn to guard the Realms of Men, and for 8,000 years we have failed in that oath. The Free Folk, all of them, are part of the Realms of Men.”

Robb looked incredulous. “You can’t possibly believe that Jon! You’ve seen the wildlings rape and kill south of the wall. You’ve fought them since coming here…”

“And I’ve fought with them, brother!” Jon snapped back. “I know what the threat is, north of the wall. And it isn’t the Free Folk.” He turned to Tormund. “You may not be walking around in chains, but you are a prisoner of us all the same. What if I free you. Can you convince Mance to accept my proposal?”

“What proposal?”

Taking over - as one of the stewards, it was Sam’s job to go over logistics. “Essentially, we have enough land north of Last Hearth to settle thousands of people far away from any other northern domain. The ground is suitable for certain crops and is perfect for grazing… whatever you do graze”

“You will be allowed south of the wall, I will see to it. As long as the Free Folk agree to fight with us.”

A laugh left the red-bearded wildling. “The day I ask my comrades to fight with a crow, is the day they cut my guts out of my belly and make me eat them. They’ll never bend the knee to you.”

“I’m not asking them to. As far as I’m concerned, Tormund… we are equals.”

Leaning forward to stare at Jon, Robb exhaled deeply. “Jon, I know you. If whatever you saw north of the wall was enough to convince you of this, then even though I still can’t fathom it I will stand behind you.” Jon was grateful, eminently so. To have the great Young Wolf behind him, a brother’s love, was greater than most else.

Interrupting them, the door opened and Ollie walked in. “For you, Lord Commander. From a dispatch rider.” He handed Jon a sealed letter.

“Thank you, Ollie, you’re dismissed.” Breaking the seal, Jon’s face was impassive as he read the letter. “Hmmmm, looks like we have a new ally - and a new opportunity.”

“What is it, Jon?” Sam asked.

“Seems like a small fleet of ships has anchored at Eastwatch, the Lady Olenna Tyrell and Lady Margaery Tyrell among them.” An audible crack was heard through the room. Jon stared at Robb, who had snapped a metal spoon that he had been toying with in half from shock. From his reaction, Jon had his ideas about why. He couldn’t help but smirk. “Something you’re not telling me, brother?”

 

The cell was dark, yet the only one in the squalid prison that was made sure not to be damp and mold-ridden. It was a precaution that the Lannisters did not take – well ever. But Catelyn Stark viewed certain elements in the Red Keep as more partial to her survival than Cersei Lannister. The screams and smells of blood and piss from other rooms belied the manner that her goons usually treated the enemies of the King of Gold. None of the guards were allowed to beat her, but they were far from gentle, bruises often dotting her body. Stoic but using most of her Tully willpower to keep herself that way, most of the time she was curled in a ball in the corner of the cell. ‘How did this happen? Why have the gods forsaken us?’

At that point the door to the cell opened, and she braced for the upcoming strong hands gripping her limbs for forced-feedings. It didn’t seem like the time, but Catelyn had no sense of timing anymore. There was no sunlight, no clock, no sense of routine. But… none of that happened. There wasn’t even a voice, only a shadow obscuring the low light of the hallway. Catelyn’s lips curled in a growl, refusing to turn around. ‘Why has he come back?’

She had wrenched her gaze away as soon as she spotted him. “What are you doing here?” she spat. The one person she thought she could trust - thought that she could count on. He had fought against Ned, but that was likely Cersei’s doing, and Joffrey had been the one to kill him. But there was no earthly reason how he couldn’t have a hand in the Red Wedding.

For the first time in a long while, a sincere smile rested on Petyr Baelish’s face. “I am here to see you, Catelyn. To tell you something important.”

Catelyn turned away, putting her back to Littlefinger. “I have no interest in what your sadistic master has asked you to say to me.”

“It is about Sansa.” That did draw her attention.

The pain still infected her. Giving Sansa away to the Boltons - to the swine that betrayed them and could have very well tracked down and murdered her eldest son? And Littlefinger had the gall to request gratitude for his role in shepherding Sansa out of King’s Landing - out of the skillet and into the roaring flames. She’d be much more of a threat in the north than here. ‘Is this my punishment, dear gods above?’ A tear fell down her cheek as more footsteps entered the cell. ‘Was all of this retribution for my treatment of Jon?’ Catelyn had given that boy a hellish childhood, all for nothing - for a reason that ended up meaning nothing.

“Mother?”

Shocked at the voice, Catelyn turned around to be confronted by her daughter. “Sansa!” The young redhead ran into her mother’s embrace, the two of them sobbing. Despite being in the capitol for many months, this had been the first time she had seen Sansa since Ned departed with Robert those many years ago. “Thank the Gods that you’re alright.”

“We felt that you two should speak at least once before the time arrives.” Looking behind them, she could see an odd collection - Varys, Brienne of Tarth, and the brothers Lannister.

Looking her over, Catelyn could see her daughter wasn’t the same innocent, silly girl that left Winterfell. A hardness had been burned into her, adding untempered Valyrian steel to her gracefulness. She was inexperienced, but had all the tools to be a formidable political player.

It both made Catelyn proud and broke her heart.

“I will be sent back home, mother,” Sansa said with resignation in her voice. “I have to do it, get away from… Joffrey,” she hissed the last word. “At least I will be close to Castle Black. Do you think Jon could rescue me?” She seemed to have reasoned it, not immaturely hoped for it.

Catelyn managed a smile. “Yes, Sansa. Your brother would if he knows you’re there.” Sansa stared at her with wide eyes, hearing her mother refer to Jon this way. In the last years she had beat herself up inside for never accepting Jon as she did Robb, Bran, or Rickon. Sansa wished she could see him one more time, just to beg forgiveness - a tiny speck of emotion left in her otherwise hardened soul, and it seemed her mother felt the same way.

“We have to go, mi’lady,” Brienne stated.

Hugging one more time, mother and daughter separated. “Lady Brienne, remember what you promised to me?” The lady knight bowed, her vow to protect the Stark girls still solid.

Soon, it was just Catelyn and the three men. She purposefully ignored Jamie Lannister, who didn’t blame her. After making sure Tyrion could escape the Red Keep unseen, his job was done - Joffrey was about to have Tyrion purged and he couldn’t let his brother die. “Well then. I should be off before Cersei worries. Take care brother.”

“You as well, brother,” Tyrion called to his retreating form. “Lady Stark, we have to get you out of here at once.” The dwarf - the same dwarf she once tried to have killed - strode up to her. His face standing came to the same height as her sitting. “It isn’t a shock to know that my father and sister want you dead. He feels insulted that you cheated him out of killing the Young Wolf and that Littlefinger prevented your death.”

“And for some reason, Cersei wishes that all Starks die,” stated Varys in his flat tone. “Now that Baelish is escorting Sansa Stark north, any day now you are likely to receive a knife slashing through your throat. We would like to prevent that from happening.”

“I take it that this isn’t out of the goodness of your hearts,” Catelyn sneered.

Chuckling, Tyrion sat next to her. “I don’t know about him, but I had rather interesting travel with you the last time. What better company?” For all that she hated the Lannisters, Tyrion had a sort of drunkard-like charm about him.

 

“Somehow I expected the Night’s Watch’s domain to be decrepit and run down.” Olenna Tyrell ran her hand along the rotting beams of Eastwatch Castle. “Comforting to see they outdid my expectations.”

Chuckling, Margaery shook her head. “Well grandmother, not all of it failed to impress me.” The veritable matriarch of the Tyrell family followed her granddaughter’s eyes to the Wall, ice and stone towering above all but the clouds in immense glory.

“Built of magic long ago, dear granddaughter. The Night’s Watch had nothing to do with it.” On her own, she shifted her gaze to the anchored ships. Eastwatch Harbor - sparse as it was - gave the barks and grain transports a safe home with the choppy northern waves. With Essos either allied with Joffrey or too dangerous for them, and the Iron Islands essentially at war with everyone, the Wall was their only option. They had sent a messenger to Castle Black asking for asylum, and Olenna prayed to every god she knew to grant them salvation.

“Mi’Lady.” One of their most loyal bannermen, risen high in the ranks due to numerous losses on the battlefield but earning every single promotion, had approached them. “A rider from Castle Black has arrived, bearing a dispatch from Lord Commander Jon Snow.”

Margaery's eyebrow rose. “Ned Stark’s bastard boy?” A sharp mind like hers remembered plenty on matters of state. ‘And Robb Stark’s half-brother.’ Along with other, less pure reasons for remembering - though a pallor of sadness clouded her upon thinking of the deceased Young Wolf.

“Hmmm, not surprising,” Olenna mused. “The Brotherhood in Black makes no distinction there, and if he has even a fraction of Ned Stark’s brains and courage, he’d go far. What does the dispatch say?”

“It is addressed to the Lady Margaery, Mi’Lady.” Two perfectly manicured eyebrows rose. “It requests a parlay in exchange for control of your fleet of ships, and…” he seemed confused. “Lord Commander Snow wishes that it be as productive as the ‘Meeting at the coves,’ though he wouldn’t partake in the ‘same manner of diplomacy.’” The suggestions dripped with knowing innuendo.

Eyes widening till they almost covered the entire socket, there was no disguising what the innuendo meant. ‘Only two people in the world knew of that. One was here with her, and the other... ‘ He was alive, then.

Oleanna thought along the same lines, but was more circumspect. “We will parlay, but I want to hear his terms before we give him our ships.” Seemed that House Tyrell could still make it out of this hard time with something after all.

 

After what had to be days of jostling, ocean waves, and subsisting on dried beef and sour wine, the sound of a crowbar groaning against a wooden lid was music to Tyrion’s ears. Light soon poured in, temporarily blinding him. “Good morning,” Varys said in a cheery mood - or as close to a cheery mood as the emotionless eunuch could. He moved to the second crate, freeing Catelyn Stark.

Crawling out, Tyrion blinked rapidly until his eyes adjusted. “Given that we’re alive in Essos and not being decapitated by the Mountain, our great escape was a stirring success.” Shae, unrecognizable enough to escape having to be smuggled out, helped him up.

“Well, we managed to evade loyalist patrols, and Pentos guards - I have a friend that made sure of that.”

“Why am I not surprised,” Tyrion groaned, stretching. Even at his height, the crate was cramped - gods only knew how bad it was for Catelyn Stark. “The Master of Whisperers has little birds everywhere.” It was nice to breathe air that wasn’t reeking of stale wood. “On to Meereen, and the Targaryen queen.”

“However,” Varys allowed a... confused look to cross his face. Something had to be rather unexpected to rankle the Realm’s chief spymaster. “I did run into someone that… I didn’t think would have been found in Essos…” Varys trailed off as a group of four people, and one large wolf, stepped inside the warehouse.

Coughing from the remnants of the wooden stank, Catelyn looked up only for her eyes to widen. Could it be? Joy bubbled up inside her, but it was all too unforeseen. “Bran?”

The crippled young boy heard his long lost mother’s voice. “Mother.”

 

Sandals smacked against the dusty cobblestones as a surprised excitement dawned on the children’s faces. “Mhysa! Mhysa!” Both born into bondage, their delight at coming face to face with the silver-haired western queen that gave them freedom was unmatched.

Two Unsullied moved to block off the children, potential security risks as the Sons of the Harpy were known to use innocents as auxiliaries in their terrorist attacks. They caught them, breaking their runs. “Stand down, troopers,” Daenerys announced, mindful both of her image to the people and her need for security. A smile on her face, she reached between the guards and handed the younger child a single flower that had once decorated her hair. The beaming smiles of the children, before they scampered off, were priceless.

“I don’t see why you must do this,” Daario Naharis flippantly remarked as they continued walking along the street, hand on the sheathed hilt of his sickle. “There’s too much of a security risk for not staying in the Pyramid.”

Snorting, Dany shifted her eyes to the sellsword. “So narrowly focused, Commander. The only reason that I am the Queen is through consent of the governed. Had the former slaves not risen up, we wouldn’t have taken Meereen - they must know that their Queen loves them all, master and freedman.” With a beaming smile, she waved at a group of middle-class shopkeepers, apparently Targaryen loyalists from their reaction.

Daario allowed himself a scoff. “Royal power grows out of the blade of a sword, Daenerys. It is that simple.” He was loyal and proved his loyalty as a close confidant - still, Daario’s informal conversation did skirt the line. It implied to Dany that he considered them closer than they were. Saying nothing, Grey Worm appeared to think the same.

“You told me once that I could never survive fighting enemies within and without.” She gingerly stepped over a flattened piece of cattle dung - Dany made a mental note to order the creation of a sanitation department, creating jobs for freedmen and former master alike. A clean city was a calmer city. “When my enemies from without come knocking, I need Meereen behind me.”

Daario nodded, a wistful smile on his face. “I did say that, didn’t I? I was in the most… pleasant of places.”

Cheeks burning red, Dany finally remembered when he said it - the night they shared together. “Yes, it was. But it cannot happen again.”

“You say that now, but just wait.” Turning her head, Dany scowled at his cheeky grin - but the sound of sudden screams in the streets prevented her from saying anything about it.

A harried runner - clad in the generally slapdash uniform of the Second Sons - sprinted to Daario’s side and whispered something in his ear. The sellsword’s perpetual smirk morphed into a angered frown. “We’re heading back!” he yelled, pushing Dany back the way they came. Around them, Grey Worm and the Unsullied readied their spears.

“What’s going on?” Dany shouted, trying not to collapse over her feet as her one-time companion and loyal lieutenant was essentially shoving her forward. Panicked throngs of people were fleeing in the opposite direction - away from the Pyramid and Royal Quarter.

“Double time march!” The Unsullied formed into a two man wide column as they marched through a connecting tunnel, the Queen in the middle. “Sons of the Harpy.” Dany’s blood ran to ice - they’d been quiet lately, but it was too good to be true. “They slaughtered some of my men close to here. Reinforcements are on their way, but we need to get to…”

About a third of their light was cut off as the entrance and exit to the tunnel were suddenly blocked by the clang of doors slamming shut. From hidden alcoves they appeared. Flowing robes of nobility, golden masks shrouding their faces with an image of godly terror, two dozen knife-wielding foot soldiers of the Sons of the Harpy emerged into the void - their ultimate target, the Targaryen Queen, was tantalizingly in reach. And standing in their way were Daario and a mere seven Unsullied.

Blood gushed from wounds as spears pierced through unarmored cloth, but being trapped in close quarters took their toll on the Unsullied. Long and with its blade resting at the tip of the seven foot pole, a spear did not have the useful advantages of proximate flexibility that the short swords and daggers of the Harpies. The Unsullied troopers were elite in the use of their weapons, but the sheer swarming of Harpies smashed through the formation. Blades flew through the air, spears impacting with flesh as one by one the Unsullied fell. Grey Worm, the strongest warrior of all of them, impaled and slashed throats of countless enemies, but succumbed to the sheer numbers with a knife through the abdomen. Daario had better luck with his sickle, perfect for close quarter combat and fighting to keep a protective distance between the savage partisans and his Queen, but even he fell to superior numbers. Slashed across the chest, a sharp kick sent him head first into a stone column.

Heart beating out of her chest, mind retreating into a protective shell, Dany closed her eyes for a split second. Daario was down, her Unsullied soldiers dead, Grey Worm fighting for his life and losing. It was her and the Sons of the Harpy, golden-tunic clad noble youths salivating at killing her while her honored commander watched, helpless to do anything.

Reinforcements weren’t coming in time. Her children wouldn’t come in time. She was alone.

You are the Blood of the Dragon.

‘Blood of the dragon.’ Face like stone, but expression roaring like the Black Dread. Calmly and smoothly, she withdrew Saracen from her scabbard, the curved Valyrian steel glinting from the sparse rays of sunlight streaming in. Gripping the sharkskin hilt with both hands, she raised it, daring the hesitating line of expressionless gold masks to attack her.

Screeching a harpy-like war cry, one obviously young and brash guerilla fighter charged at her. Knife over his head, it was child’s play for Dany to sidestep him. Saracen slashed down, separating head from body. The line of the guerillas staggered a few inches, recalculating their approach. The diminutive, feminine queen had the heart of a dragon inside her - roaring with a fury without even opening her mouth.

Reigniting the war cry of the Harpy, the line surged forward in one swarm attack - but hemmed in by the narrow alcove, it negated any real advantage the swarming could give them. Dany quickly gutted one in the midsection, swirling around to catch another in the gut. Blood spurted onto her, sweat drenching her brow. Bells ringing all around them, the unarmored torsos under their golden tunics gave little protection to the honed metal of her ancestral homeland. Petite figure an asset rather than a liability, Dany jinked and weaved between two hulking guerillas, Saracen tasting blood as it sliced through a thigh as if it was butter. A quick spin brought a gurgling cry of anguish as the blade severed a spinal column.

Quickly noticing his Queen fighting for her life, Grey Worm rallied his will to fight for his. A surge of energy entering him once more, his spearpoint sliced through a Harpy’s unprotected neck. The four others surrounding him pulled back at the ferocity. One lunged but ran right into the spear. “ZA TARGARYANA!”

A dull sword - caked in grime but blade still plenty sharp - sliced across her abdomen. Dany cried out, a snarl following as Saracen cut up through the belly of a Harpy. Red tinting her vision, but sheer force of will propelling her forward, she impaled the steel into another. The thrashing body went limp as blood spurted out around the embedded hilt, almost superhuman strength maneuvering the body to take two sword slashes. An impromptu human shield.

Shrieks, guttural screams leaving the previously silent Harpies, suicidal courage and zeal brought them charging at the Dragon Queen once more. Only this time the fatigue and blood loss was starting to overpower her. Her blade sliced through cloth, flesh, and intestine once more before a knife slammed into her shoulder. Daenerys cried, another sword cutting across one of her legs. She collapsed onto her knees, grip on Saracen failing. Three menacing Harpies stood over her, knives at the ready. From the faint sounds of Grey Worm behind her, he was just now dispatching his last attacker.

Not enough time. Her children flashed before her eyes, now set to rule themselves. Resigned to her fate, Dany’s eyes slid shut as the Harpies raised their swords. The last image was of her love, handsome features bringing some comfort. ‘I’m sorry, Jon.’ She tried to survive for him.

And then the world exploded. Sent back nearly five feet from a sheer explosive force - almost dragonfire with bits of black smoke that crumbled the stone wall barely away from her - Dany’s ears rang. Cuts covered the length of her arm and legs, the wind knocked out of her. Shouts that seemed like whispers registered, dark, shadowy forms fanning out from the hole. One looked like Theodosius in his Targaryen battle armor, a cloak of his family billowing behind him.

“Kill any left alive!” he seemed to hollar, stabbing a wounded Harpy on the ground through the chest with his sword. Behind him, through the blinding light streaming in from the outside, rested a contraption Dany had never yet seen - mounted on a carriage like a small catapult, it was a tube of metal, glinting in the sun.

“MY QUEEN!” was the last thing she heard before slipping into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

A vast grassland, from the horizon to the bottom of the battlements. It seemed familiar to Dany, but also different. Unlike the vibrant green or golden tan of high stalks that carpeted the lands of the Great Grass Sea, this was a more muted grass. Drab yet no less alive. Eyes gazing about, a serene comfort cloaked Daenerys, as if she was home. She had never once seen this land, never once graced the unfamiliar battlements and walls of the rather functional castle - yet there was a familiarity to it that she couldn’t place.

“Where… where am I?”

“You’re where Jon was raised, my lady.” Startled, swiveling her head around, Dany was taken aback at the sight of Lord Eddard Stark - a small smile on his lips and a calm expression on his face. He was dead, so this couldn’t be real. “You’re in the north.”

“Winterfell.” It wasn’t a question, she knew.

“Aye. It ain’t much, but it’s home.” The two of them trained their eyes downward, at the courtyard. A group of boys were milling about, wrestling together. “My brothers and I, thick as thieves,” Ned laughed.

Dany felt a longing, a tug deep down inside her. With her childhood on the run, and the nature of her brother, she had never had the image of family harmony before her. Never really had a family. But at least she had the twins, who were as rambunctious as the Stark children before her. Their grandfather and great-uncles. “Was Jon like this? With his siblings?”

A merry laugh left Ned’s lips. “Oh yes, he, Robb, Bran, even Arya would scuffle every chance they got. Joined at the hip… whenever my wife wasn’t around.” A great sorrow crossed over his features. “My second greatest regret. I failed, and as a result Jon suffered.”

Tears welled in Dany’s eyes, remembering how Jon described the situation to her. How Catelyn Stark shunned him - causing many in Winterfell to do the same. How in an attempt to please her mother, Sansa would ignore Jon even though brother and sister did truly love and care for each other. It broke her heart - and apparently it broke Lord Stark’s as well.

“I told her. Told her the truth,” he mused cryptically. “But it was too late to help Jon in that way.”

Dany looked at him. “Told her about what?”

Ned’s emotional smile returned as a girl rode into the castle astride a horse - face fair, figure slender, features stunning, and hair wild and fierce. A veritable she-wolf. Dany stared at her. Her features were so much like Jon, a feminine version. “About her. About her son.”

Before Dany could reply, Ned turned to her. “Do not be sad, sweet Daenerys. You aren’t as alone as you think.” Whiteness enveloped everything around her...

Eyes flying open, Daenerys attempted to shoot upright but was stopped by a stinging pain in her abdomen. “Ahhhh,” she winced.

A comforting hand was placed on her shoulder. “Calm down, your Grace.” Dany looked up to see Missandei sitting next to the bed, watching over her. “You have to take it easy.”

“Where…” both the vivid dream and a general fatigue was dulling her senses. “What happened?”

“You’re in your chambers, your Grace. The Sons of the Harpy launched a revolt, killing many and burning parts of the city, but it was put down by General Theodosius and his auxiliaries.” Missandei placed a wet rag on her forehead. It felt amazing to the touch.

Dany swallowed, trying to eliminate the foul taste in her throat. “Who was injured?”

A flash of… hurt passed across Missandei’s eyes. “Grey Worm was badly wounded, and is bedridden. Daario’s head was bashed on a wall, and he hasn’t awoken - you took several gashes to the limbs and torso, but the maesters haven’t seen any sign of internal bleeding or infection.” She brought the silver-haired queen a goblet of water, which Dany gladly drank.

It was at that moment that she noticed a tight weight on her sides. Pulling back the covers, she saw two little forms curled up on either side of her.

“They couldn’t sleep without knowing their mother was alright,” Missandei told her with a small smile. “As soon as the maester said you were stable, I brought them to see you.”

“Thank you, Missandei.” With love in her eyes, she gently stroked Arya’s silver hair. Her children, all five of them, were what mattered most to her - along with Jon and the throne. They were the closest things she could have to her love, and she loved and treasured them more than anything.

“You aren’t as alone as you think.”

Laying back, Dany pondered what Ned Stark meant by that. ‘Did he mean the children? And who was that girl’s son?’ She knew Lord Stark had a sister, but he was the one her brother kidnapped, so that couldn’t be her. Fatigue overcoming her, Dany closed her eyes. The pondering could come later....

 

“You do drive a hard bargain, Lord Commander Snow,” the old woman remarked, cane clacking against the worn wood of the battlements.

Jon couldn’t help but give a modest ghost of a smirk. “It wasn’t easy, going up against the Queen of Thorns after all, but I’m glad that you see fit to assist in this important venture for the entire realm.”

Olenna Tyrell huffed. “Bringing wildlings south of the Wall. Armies of corpses led by genocidal ice monsters. Personally, I think you are insane, Jon Snow. But I am in no position to judge what you will use my fleet for, just bring it back.” She turned and jabbed a sharp nail in his chest.

“I plan to,” Jon replied. He looked behind the elder matriarch to the young rose, bowing slightly. “Lady Margaery. I am sure you are quite tired from your long journey. Allow Lord Stark to escort you to your quarters. They aren’t up to your standards, I’m sure, but it’s the best we could do.”

Smiling at Jon, Margaery shook her head. “It isn’t a problem.” Her eyes flickered to Robb, and then to the floor. “Are you sure you don’t need to rest, grandmother?”

“Nonsense. This one here still needs to show me the Tarly boy. No one is conducting any naval planning session with Ser Davos without me being there.” The determined scowl of a woman 40 years junior, Jon found himself nearly being dragged towards the meeting hall.

Now, it was only the two of them. The fallen Young Wolf and the wilting Rose of Highgarden, close to falling. “I guess I’ll bring you to your quarters,” Robb finally said quietly, exhaling deeply. This wasn’t like the famed Young Wolf, terror on the battlefield - but with all that had happened, especially between the two of them, he couldn’t help it. ‘You’re your father’s son.’

“Yes, that would be best.” The two walked side by side, not a word shared between them for interminable seconds. “I’m sorry about your wife,” Margaery offered. “The Freys should pay for what they did.”

“Aye,” Robb ground out, suppressing his grief. His time to mourn her had been in the days following his arrival at Castle Black. Both on his journey north and in the coming months, Robb knew he couldn’t afford to. ‘And now she is here.’ The Tyrell Rose had only gotten more beautiful in the years that passed, and the night they spent together was one of the few good memories of the years since his father left for King’s Landing.

Despite his brooding exterior - in ways worse and in ways better than Jon Snow, brothers but so different - and general gloom, Robb had only grown more handsome to the southern beauty. Reaching an unremarkable wooden door, Margaery gathered these was her quarters. “Thank you for the escort, Lord Stark.” She looked him in the eye. “If you need to talk, a widower to a widow, I’m always here.” Leaning up on her tiptoes, she pecked his rough cheek and disappeared inside.

Rubbing the spot with his fingers, Robb felt that unfamiliar spark - the one even Talisa couldn’t arouse in him.

 

To say that Cersei Lannister had been enraged that both Tyrion and Catelyn Stark had vanished would have been an understatement. Jamie cringed at the memory of her piercing shriek, one that broke glass and was joined with the near destruction of her furniture - the bedroom Cersei slept in had once been the Mad King’s study, and her brother could only speculate that the Targaryen Madness might have spiritually rubbed on his sister and lover. Tywin was just as mad, but he was more… self-controlled about it.

However, the only true madness ripping through King’s Landing was that of the King. His most Holy Highness. Joffrey, Jamie’s own son, though no one left alive besides he, Cersei, and perhaps Tyrion knew that. Ever since the Red Woman had disappeared - hells if Jamie knew what she mattered to either Joffrey or his father, the only two that really dealt with her - Joffrey had been distant, sequestered in his suite of rooms for most of the time. More and more young, female servants were forced into his employ, and he had spent much of his private discussions with a disgraced Maester named Qyburn and a former aristocrat turned proselytizer that called himself the High Sparrow. Qyburn was also chummy with Cersei, but the “High Sparrow” often spent hours talking with Joffrey. About what, Jamie didn’t know, but he had an inkling that certain edicts such as having everyone not within the Sovereignguard or Small Council to prostrate themselves to the King were ideas of the High Sparrow.

It all was eerily like the last days of the Mad King, though Jamie doubted he could raise a sword against his own son. Cersei would never forgive him.

A hand then gripped his shoulder, causing him to jerk back and half draw his sword. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Ser Jamie,” growled Meryn Trant, sword already menacingly out. ‘Damn it!’ thought Jamie with a scowl. He would have to double his retraining with Bronn.

“What do you want, slug?”

The sadistic freak only grunted. “The Queen Mother wishes you to come to her chambers, alone.” Narrowing his eyes, Jamie only nodded and pushed past the guard. He could damn well find his way to his sister’s chambers - he was intimately aware of it and its location after all.

Closing the door to the room behind him, making sure it was latched tight, Jamie found Cersei tucked in a rocking chair near the window. The same chair that she used to rock her children - their children - when they were mere babes. A forlorn look had planted itself on her face, blank eyes staring at the window. “Sister? Sweet?” Jamie was by her side, kneeling so that he could meet her face to face.

“We need to secure ourselves, brother,” she said, voice flat and distant. Her fair, well-defined features now directed itself at him. “Our son is a great man, Jamie. You have to know that.”

He had his doubts, but he would never voice them. “Of course he is, Cersei.”

“All of this, it’s caused by the advisors.” Her voice morphed into vitriol, something Jamie had seen slowly consuming her even before her marriage to Robert Baratheon. Only when they were together was she her old, vibrant self - but that was even rarer since that day in the Winterfell tower. “Baelish, the High Sparrow, our own deformed beast of a brother,” she spat. “Qyburn is decent, but Joffrey will only be safe from his own mind if he has his family. You, me, father, his siblings…”

She was clinging onto hope, something Jamie didn’t really have when it came to their son - containing the damage seemed the best avenue, but if Cersei could be right, he was willing to take the chance. “You’re right, dear. Lannisters stick together, and fuck everyone who isn’t us.”

The words bringing a triumphant grin to her face, Cersei smashed their lips together in a hungry kiss.

Nearly thirty minutes later, a sated blonde rolled off her lover, both naked and relaxed. “Gods,” Jamie gasped, trying to catch his breath.

“I tired my lion out, didn’t I?” Cersei purred with a grin, manicured finger tracing Jamie’s pec. “I summoned you here for something else, but you had to be so irresistible, didn’t you brother?”

“Not my intention, believe you me,” he laughed.

Suddenly growing serious, Cersei hugged him tight. “Bring our daughter back to us, Jamie. Make our family whole again.” The Kingslayer used his good arm to match her embrace, losing himself in the woman he loved more than anything. Whatever it took - just for a little while - to forget that she had just asked him to declare war on Dorne.

 

And this was more like it. The entire brotherhood not on sentry duty along the wall had been gathered in a great hall, making the raucous northern feasts looking like a garden party in the Reach. All that was missing were whores and drunken bars. “Brothers…” He attempted, but the yelling and shouting was too loud. Jon turned to Ollie and nodded. As his father’s pages had done during meetings in Winterfell, the young boy smacked the stone time with a long stick, cracks echoing through the hall. It got quiet very fast.

“Good,” Jon grinned, “Now I have your attention.” He brought his hands together, looking over all of the men. Like both his father and his predecessor, Jeor Mormont, he sought to be the fair leader but with a spine of steel. “Let’s bring this meeting to order.”

Almost immediately, Janos Slynt shot up. “Lord Commander,” he spat, as if hating referring to Jon in that manner. “I must demand that you cast out the defeated pretender from Castle Black.” He pointed directly at Robb, who sat next to Sam Tarly. “And the women traitors!” Neither Margaery nor Olenna were present at this meeting, but were new residents of the castle. “They do not belong here!”

“Oh shut it, coward!” heckled Grenn, smacking his cup on the table. “I wasn’t the one who hid in the woods when we took down the deserters.”

“Say that to my face, swine!” Slynt shouted, having to be held back by Thorne. Jon rolled his eyes. The moron probably counted on someone to stop the fight so he wouldn’t have to.

More banging on the stone by Ollie ended the shouting back and forth once more. “Enough! No one is being forced out as long as I am Lord Commander. Not at the behest of the unlawful Warden of the North or when the Tyrells have given us use of their fleet.” He and Robb shared a nod.

“For what reason do we need a fleet?” asked Thorne. Unlike his allies, he had some sense of civility. Hence why Jon appointed him First Ranger - that and his experience at fighting. With the old Bear dead, he was literally the best out of all of them. He was obedient and respectful… for now at least.

‘After this…?’ Leaning forward, Jon looked across the entire room. Only a few knew of what he planned - Ollie had been the hardest to convince, and while he was still loyal, he still was skeptical - and Jon knew what would happen.

As he finished, the chaos began. Over half of the Night’s Watch were enraged. “We let them through our gates? The gates we’ve defended for thousands of years?” asked one incredulously. Jon recognized him as one of his supporters. That just set out another back and forth among the men.

“Listen to me!” Up rose the Young Wolf, resolute in support of his brother. “There is no more honorable man than Jon Snow. If he says this is a threat to the world, then we must believe him.”

“For thousands of years,” opined Thorne. “We have fought the wildlings. They have killed us, burned our villages…”

“And we have burned thiers.”

Finn stood up. “I will follow you to the death, you know that. But is there another way?”

Sighing, Jon looked his friend in the eye. “We can either live with the Wildlings, or add them to the Army of the Dead.” More murmurs broke out, some starting to come around - the Night’s Watch had seen so many miraculous things north of the Wall. Couldn’t the white walkers be among them? “There is no argument here. Those are my orders.” He turned to Slynt. “Ser Janos, I want you to take over the grounds of Eastwatch.”

The bald visage of the former garrison commander visibly balked. “But that place is deserted! No one’s bothered to exist there until the Southerners set anchor.”

“Aye, best patch it up the best you can. If we’re to use it as an anchorage, it has to be as well fortified as Castle Black is. Take the chief builder and ten of his men with you...”

A sneer formed on his face. “I was charged with the defense of King’s Landing since before you soiled your swaddling clothes, bastard,” he spat. “Keep your damn Eastwatch. Send one of the mad fools who cast a stone for you.”

Grumbles and jeers came from the others. “Rumor has it,” Robb stated glibly. “That while Renly Baratheon attacked from Blackwater Bay, you were hidden in the wine cellar of the Red Keep.” Another round of jeers were sent at Janos Slynt’s expense, while he got as red as a ripe tomato, enraged.

Wishing he could laugh, Jon had to remain aloof at a time like this. “That is enough, Lord Stark.” His eyes narrowed, centering on Slynt. “That was not a request, that was - and is - an order. Gather your belongings and ride for Eastwatch. Now.”

Face contorted in revulsion, Slynt shot out from his bench. “Fuck you, bastard!” A defiant finger stabbed at him again and again. “I’m not going off to freeze my balls off for you, your defeated shit of a brother, or the damn Tyrell bitches, all so you can betray us all to bring wildling scum south of the wall! I will not have it!”

“So you refuse to obey my order?”

“Take. Your. Order,” Slynt hissed slowly. “And shove it up your bastard son of a traitor’s ass.”

Sensing Robb’s hands balling into fists, Jon felt his own wave of anger build up. A deathly, icy calm descended over Jon Snow. He knew what he had to do. “Pyp, Robb, Finn, take Janos outside. Ollie, fetch my sword.” The boy nodded as Jon stood. ‘Come to me,’ he shouted in his mind. While Sam had his theories, Jon still had no clue about why he had such a connection. But if he was going to ask his men to do what had been unthinkable for the Night’s Watch, he would show them that he was no ordinary Lord Commander and this was no ordinary time. ‘Come to me, and do not hurt anyone.’ He couldn’t help but smirk for a split second. ‘Just act scary.’

Pyp and Finn hauled Slynt out of his seat, who writhed and yelled in protest. When he almost escaped, Robb slammed his fist into Slynt’s side, not stopping the yelling or the writhing but lessening it. Thorne stood menacingly in the way of the door as Robb, Pyp, and Finn followed with a still squirming Slynt. A tense standoff ensued, the Young Wolf locking eyes with the Lead Ranger. Unluckily for Slynt, Thorne stood aside and allowed them to pass.

“He won’t dare touch me! I’m not afraid…” Slynt screamed but Jon ignored him, eyes flickering across the grounds of the castle. Men were milling about, his loyal soldiers setting up the chopping block for the coming punishment. Above on the bannister stood Olenna Tyrell, Margaery Tyrell, Tormund, and Ser Davos Seaworth - a capable man, Davos. Jon could tell. And there was the Red Witch. She gave him chills, the way she could see directly through him. But Jon couldn’t think about that, his connection growing stronger and stronger by the second.

What was a low murmuring among the milling crowd of Night’s Watchmen turned into stunned silence as a loud screech was heard. A dark green shape passed overhead, bat-like wings spread far across. Jon smiled as Rhaegal landed in the middle of the castle grounds, letting out his high-pierced adolescent shriek to the heavens. Hardened brothers of the black found fear etched into their faces, the tough-minded Tyrells and Ser Davos gaping. Even those that knew about him were knocked back, Robb and Sam flinching automatically. Only Jon stood firm - and the Red Witch. Walking up to Rhaegal to the shocked men, the dragon merely snorted and lowered his head submissively.

Putting his hand on the scaly snout, Jon rubbed up and down. ‘Rhaegal, stand down.’ The green dragon roared, but drew back, menacingly waiting right next to the platform. ‘Good boy.’ Running up the steps, as satisfactory as it would be to burn Slynt alive he couldn’t. ‘He who passes the sentence must swing the sword.’ Jon was his father’s son. As he passed Robb, he knew that his brother understood.

Grabbing Longclaw from Ollie, he drew it from his scabbard and handed it back to the boy. Now, Janos was shaking. Jon could smell piss from his direction. He was even more pitiful. “If you have any last words, say them now.”

Fear all over his face, Slynt began begging. “I’ll do what you will, you are my commander. I was wrong.” Jon raised the sword but then he cried, “MERCY!” The blade halted in midair. “I’m afraid. Please, I’ve always been afraid.” Barely a moment passed before Longclaw claimed yet another kill. Rhaegal raised his neck in an ear-splitting roar. Wings billowing, he ascended into the sky, leaving a stunned courtyard in his wake.

Watching as Janos Slynt’s head rolled away, Jon turned to the rest of his command. “Anyone else not willing to obey my orders?” There was silence. “Good, then let’s get the operation going.” Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Jon faced Robb.

His brother offered a small smile. “You made father proud, Jon.” Nodding, Jon turned slightly to the bannister, and could swear that Melisandre had a triumphant expression.

Looking away, Aemon Targaryen had a tear in his eye. There wasn’t a day that went by where the old Maester didn’t marvel at the fact that someone so dear to him was so close - a comfort to his aging soul, driving his will to live. But… what use was it? Did he deserve to know the truth? He was certainly old enough, and could be counted on to keep it a secret. With what news was dripping in about Essos, the Targaryen name was being established once more.

Most of all, he wanted to have his family back. A sigh leaving his lips, Aemon ducked back into his room.

 

“A dragon, a fucking dragon.”

“Snow could have burned poor Janos. He will burn us all!”

“What the fuck do we do? What the fuck do we do?!”

“Shut up, all of you!” Alliser Thorne felt a persistent throbbing in his head. It had appeared ever since Jon Snow was voted Lord Commander over him thanks to the deciding vote of that old bastard Aemon, but this latest development only made it worse. “This changes everything… and yet changes nothing.”

“We cannot go forward now that he has a dragon, Alliser.”

Thorne wanted to strangle the man for his stupidity. “This only makes it more important, but we will wait. That dragon won’t be close by forever.” The other men nodded

“Please, Lord Caryn,” Dany stated, gritting her teeth from within her closed lips. Despite a dose of milk of the poppy - not enough to make her groggy, but enough to dull the pain - her tightly bandaged wounds still ached, especially when she moved. Daenerys always believed that a throne had to be uncomfortable to remind the ruler that to rule was not for their personal glory. Yet that made sure she had to resist the urge to groan and curl into a ball due to the pain. “Please tell us about this new invention of yours.” The one that saved her life and that of Grey Worm and Daario, though the latter was still unconscious.

Bowing in front of his queen, the new Lord Commander of the Targaryen Combined Army - essentially comprised of the Unsullied corps, the Dothraki cavalry, and the Freedmen Auxiliaries - cleared his throat. “In my travels around the world, I came across a particularly useful invention while I explored the eastern lands. They have their own word for it, and translated as best as I can into the common tongue would be ‘gunpowder.’ It is a powerful, yet controllable, explosive.”

“And you use it with your metal tubes?” Dany asked. She normally wasn’t a technical person, preferring marital and political arts.

“Oh yes, my Queen. We’re using bronze for now, though I am still working on making them both lighter and more powerful.” He brought out schematics scribbled on parchment, handing it to Daenerys. “The powder and solid projectile goes in the muzzle here,” his fingers pointed out the specifications. “And are rammed down. A match ignites the powder at the breech, and fires the projectile. Far more powerful than a trebuchet, and far lethaler to both men and fortifications.” He grinned a cocky smile. “Give me fifty of them and I can take any castle in the known world.”

Nodding her head, Dany found that pleasing. While sort of enigmatic, never really socializing and spending all his free time in his quarters or the foundries of the city, she couldn’t deny that Theodosius was a brilliant thinker. Her dragons couldn’t be everywhere at once. Having a less powerful substitute for their destructive force would prove very beneficial. “How many have you made so far?”

With this, he looked downcast. “With my other projects eating away at my funds, my Queen, I’ve only made two prototypes.”

“You shall provide my army two hundred, General.”

Eyes widened, the normally self-assured commander - a trait of confidence shared with his uncle, no one ever doubting they would be ready for a fight - gulping. “Your Grace, I have made great progress in constructing the prototype, but there are still design flaws that need to be corrected before I could even…”

“Your Queen demands two hundred for her army,” Dany repeated, steel in her voice. A good plan executed now was better than a perfect plan executed later. She narrowed her eyes. “Or is there a reason as to why you cannot provide them to me?”

Wiping sweat off his brow, he shook his head. “Not at all, um, your Grace. The design does… work. I will get on it at once.”

“See that you do, general. You are dismissed.”

As Theodosius attempted to leave, he passed the court chamberlin, tasked with managing who would enter the throne room to see the Queen. He was a former master, now loyal to the Targaryen realm. “Your Grace, a group of travellers from Westeros seeks an audience with you.”

‘A group from Westeros?’ Dany shared a raised eyebrow with Missandei, who merely shrugged, and with Ser Barristan, who nodded. “What are their names?”

“One of them is Tyrion Lannister, your Grace. Travelling with Lord Varys of King’s Landing.” At the name Lannister, Dany tensed up. The same Lannisters that joined Robert the Usurper - that currently ruled Westeros. The ones that killed her niece and nephew. “Lord Varys bears a letter from Illyrio of Pentos, attesting to his harmlessness and trustworthiness.”

“Bring me the letter.” Taking it from the chamberlin’s hands, Dany recognized the writing as Illyrio’s. “Is that all of them?”

What the chamberlin answered made her tense even more, blood racing through her veins. “They travel with a Lady Catelyn Stark and her son, your Grace.”

Immediately, Barristan and Theodosius leaned down to her ear. “You have to kill the Lannister,” spat the younger General.

“I know Catelyn Stark, your Grace,” Barristan said, taken aback by his nephew’s vitriol. “Both she and Tyrion Lannister are the noblest of aristocrats.”

“Lies!”

He ignored his nephew’s outburst. “They will not harm you if you treat with them.”

“No, the Lannisters would only harm innocent children, and Catelyn Stark would only abuse a small boy that did nothing to her. The father of my children,” Dany spat.

Barristan blinked, shocked by her vitriol. “I assure you, your Grace, you must be mistaken. I would never imagine she would be a cruel woman.” Dany knew he was wrong, even if he didn’t know it himself. Her mind raced with ways that she could bring revenge on Jon’s childhood tormentor, from throwing her in the dungeons or feeding her to her dragons.

But she could almost see Jon’s sad face, the honorable man that she loved silently beseeching her not to give in to her dishonorable instincts. Sighing, she waved Barristan back and straightened her posture - oozing regal bearing. “Send them in.”

“You cannot do this!”

A glare cut Theodosius off. “Do not question me, general.” Seething, he stormed off, turning the corner as soon as the party entered - Dany resolved to order Barristan to get to the bottom of his rage, but more important things loomed.

“Presenting,” the chamberlin announced. “Tyrion Lannister,” a shaggy-haired dwarf with an intelligent, mischievous glint in his eye. “Lord Varys, Master of Whisperers,” a bald, rotund man with a expressionless mask. “Brandon Stark,” a young, crippled boy. “The Lady Meera Reed,” a young, pretty girl but in a hardened way. “And the Lady Catelyn Stark of House Tully and House Stark, Lady of Winterfell.” An older woman, pretty in a down to earth, tactful manner. Intelligent and spiritually exhausted. Not exactly the monster Dany had imagined. “There are others, but they weren’t deemed important…”

A wave of the hand shut him up. “Greetings,” Missandei stated. “You are in the presence of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. Rightful Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men. Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea. The Unburnt and Protector of the Realm.” The list of titles always wowed the weak minded, and based on their reactions none were such. “State your business.”

Catelyn Stark’s eyes met Dany’s, and both knew at that moment that the younger Queen knew everything. “Your Grace,” she said, curtsying. “My son, myself, Lord Tyrion, and Lord Varys request asylum in Meereen…”

“I am well aware of what loyalty Illyrio Mopatis gave to me,” the silver-haired Queen allowed after each of the three pleaded their cases, “but that doesn’t render my consideration of you any less skeptical, Lannister. Or you, Lord Varys. Both of you served the Usurper and his son with distinction.”

Unable to help himself, Tyrion laughed. An eyebrow rose on Dany’s forehead as the others looked at him in horror. “If by ‘with distinction’ your Grace, you mean ‘to the point that he was ready to execute us,’ then you would be correct.” He may have been a Lannister, but she liked his spunk.

“What my companion meant to say, your Grace,” interjected Varys, “Is that we are not trusted by Joffrey the Mad because of our actions. None of us want him on the throne, and only ask for the chance to prove ourselves worthy supporters of the Targaryen Dynasty as the esteemed Illyrio believes us to be.”

Closing her eyes and letting out a deep breath - much as Balerion or Edderon would do, both calming and menacing - before the violet orbs zeroed in on the guests. “If you do prove yourselves loyal, especially you Lannister, then you will be great assets to me. Therefore, you will be given quarters inside the Pyramid. My Unsullied will show you to your quarters.” The gaze softened at the young boy. His features were pure Stark, tugging at her heartstrings. But then she shifted to his mother, and the emotionlessness returned.

As they were led out by the Unsullied guards - mere ‘escorts’ after all - Dany stood. “Lady Stark.” The woman turned, visibly tensing at her voice. The Queen of Meereen may have been the Mother of Dragons, but her voice was like a searing ice. “Come to my solar. I have another matter that I need to discuss with you.”

Chapter Text

Catelyn Tully Stark was born into politics. Learning from the side of her father and her uncle the Blackfish - many used to say it was a shame that she were born a woman and her ineffectual brother Edmure born a man - as the wife of Lord Ned Stark and mother of King Robb Stark she had never lost her resolve. Even as bandits attacked her party while transporting Tyrion Lannister, ironically now her traveling companion under far different circumstances, she refused to give in to terror. Which only made it all the more shocking that she found herself trembling inwardly at the fiery gaze of a twenty-year old girl.

‘Not just any girl, the Targaryen Queen. The mother of dragons.’

“Let us dispose of any diplomatic bluster, Lady Stark,” Daenerys said icily. “Both of us know why our face to face meeting is fraught with tension, correct?”

There was no doubt that this girl wasn’t born to rule. “Yes, that is correct. Lord Stark…” her eyes closed for a moment, grieving once more for her dead husband - the husband that had always remained true and faithful to her. “The late Lord Stark told me everything.”

“My children are Jon’s.” Catelyn was partly surprised by this. Though she knew the Targaryen girl was pregnant - Ned had to have had a hand in having the horselord poisoned rather than her, knowing Robert’s vile obsession with killing every Targaryen over a lie he told himself - she had assumed they were half-Dothraki. ‘But they are dragons, mostly dragons but with strong wolf blood.’ “Does this pose a problem for you?”

“No.” Long last, the truth had purged all resentment from her system. It shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and it would long be Catelyn’s shame. “What are their names?”

Narrowing her eyes, Dany decided it was of no harm to tell her. “As rightful Queen, I legitimized both. Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Princess Arya Targaryen.” There was some amusement in how stunned Lady Stark was at the last name. “They are both half-northern in blood, so one deserved a northern name. Who better than Jon’s beloved sister.”

Oh how Catelyn missed her beloved youngest daughter, likely dead somewhere in a slum in King’s Landing. “You are more gracious a person than I was expecting, or that I deserve.”

“You made my Jon’s life the worst of all seven hells while he was growing up. Broke him as a person, all over his parentage.” Dany’s anger was an active volcano welling deep within her, about to explode. But she kept her cool. “An innocent baby.”

Catelyn said nothing - there was nothing she could say. She merely dipped her head in shame.

“I wanted to have my dragons burn you the moment I heard your name, but a wise man that I named my dragon Edderon after told me of my father. Of what he did to his father and brother.” Dany could still visualize the dinner in Illyrio’s hall as if it were yesterday. “I swore I would never be like him, and I won’t. For the sake of your son and Jon’s brother, I will spare you and welcome you, but if you treat Jon’s children as you treated Jon, I will have no qualms of ending your life.”

There was no hesitance in Daenerys’ tone, and Catelyn believed her. “I promise that will never happen again… I am truly remorseful, and deeply ashamed. It wasn’t even worth anything, given the true facts.”

A thin eyebrow rose. “Continue.”

Trembling slightly, emotions long buried from necessity let out at last, Catelyn clasped her hands together. “Ned… he kept a huge secret. One that seemed so far-fetched based on what is in the conventional wisdom, but he had proof. I didn’t believe it at first, but I know it to be the truth.” She took in Daenerys’ icy violet eyes - the Queen gave nothing away. It was quite humbling to have someone thirty years her junior outmatch her in every way. “About his sister, Lyanna, and your brother, Rhaegar.”

One of the last things she ever expected this to be about, surprise flickered on Dany’s face. ‘Rhaegar… my brother…’ And with the young Stark girl, all the stories… “My brother kidnapped and raped your sister-in-law, and she died in childbirth. I am not proud of it…”

“Please, your Grace,” Catelyn cut her off. “She did die in childbirth, but as the Crown Princess.” Eyes widened at that. “Lyanna was married to Rhaegar, documents hidden at Winterfell prove that. Ned showed them to me, before… he left.” The anguish of her misdeeds still ate away at Lady Stark, but this was the right course of action. “In Dorne, before she died in my late husband’s arms, she gave birth to a son. The trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen.” Even with years to digest it was still so incredible.

To Daenerys, it felt as if her entire world was spinning out of control. “A trueborn son?” Under primogeniture, a child of the eldest son always ranked higher in the line of succession than any sibling, boy or girl. If this child was alive, then he had a higher claim. Dany didn’t know whether to feel elated at another one of her blood or sick at the throne she had long fought for belonged to another… to a part-dragon, part-wolf just like her twins. Oh the irony. “Is this child alive?” she asked, heart clenched.

“Yes.” This way, being the one to tell the Mother of Dragons about her long-lost nephew, the father of her children, brought Catelyn face to face with what had burned within her for decades. “Lyanna promised her brother, my husband, to protect the child. Robert Baratheon and Tywin Lannister were determined to kill every Targaryen…”

“... to which they killed my niece and nephew, and forced my brother and I to flee Westeros.” The story was coming together for Dany - and one thought did emerge as to where it could end. ‘Is…?’ No. It couldn’t be. The gods could never be that kind to her.

Catelyn nodded. “Aye, they did. My husband was an honorable man.” Daenerys did not object, knowing this first hand. “Even if it meant that he had to seem a man of dishonor. Accept a permanent stain on his character. Call the trueborn heir his bastard son.”

One could hear a pin drop in the solar. Shock still, hands gripping the arms of her chair, the news hit Daenerys like an oncoming plains mammoth. “Jon.” The one word, one name - name of her live - left her lips like a whisper.

“Jon Snow, the boy I insanely hated out of petty jealousy and vicarious spite, is not Ned Stark’s bastard. He is Jaehaerys Targaryen, the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. The union of ice and fire, of dragon and wolf.” Her heart was heavy, watching the young woman before her react to news that turned an entire worldview upside down. But she had to know - if anyone deserved to know, it was Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons. The father of Jon’s children.

Lurching to her feet, Dany gripped the wooden back of her chair to avoid toppling over. Her windpipe clenched. Jon was her blood. Jon was a Targaryen, a Dragonwolf just like Rhaegar and Arya. ‘My nephew.’ The true heir to the throne, greater than the claims of her or her brother.

Knowing it wasn’t her place, Catelyn still stood. “Your Grace…”

“Leave me!” came the reply, as pure dragon as she was. Nodding, Catelyn obeyed.

Door slamming shut behind her, crack echoing through the room, Dany sucked in the fresh air lungful by lungful - letting it settle her system. Her heart raced, thoughts rapid. Everything had changed, and yet nothing did. Targaryens married within the family, hence her longstanding belief that she would have to marry Viserys… but no longer. Ever symbolic, the true Crown Prince would have been her likely husband if there had been no Rebellion… and gods or god or fate had brought them together anyway. Brought them to fall in love.

“Do not be sad, sweet Daenerys. You aren’t as alone as you think.”

“My love.” Slowly, surely, a smile formed on her face. A happy smile. Recognizing destiny, kind and benevolent. “Blood of my blood.”

 

The northern gales were surprisingly absent on this voyage. Normally beating upon any ship with a captain dumb enough to venture it out into these waters north of the wall - not that anything really ventured north of Karkold other than small fishing boats - Davos Seaworth was glad for the relative calm. Watching seasick landlubbers aboard boat was amusing and all, the wildling Tormund Giantsbane the worst of the lot, but in his vast experiences during his smuggling days found him in winds that would test even his iron stomach. Best avoid them, and pray for rain.

Shouting a command to three roustabouts manning the main sail, he went back to his fruitless searching. “Where is that boy?” Davos reasoned he should address the Lord Commander more respectfully, but he was a mere boy to him. ‘Hells, most of the power players here are mere youngsters.’ At least Stannis Baratheon was his age…

Speaking of youngsters, only a few feet ahead of him passed Margaery Tyrell. Even aboard ship she had a beauty to envy all women. “Good day, Ser Davos,” she said, smiling kindly. They had gotten quite used to each other on the voyage north from the Reach.

That made her perfect for his question. “Same to you, mi’Lady. Do you know where the Lord Commander is?”

“Ah yes.” She pointed to the bow. “Up ahead on the forecastle, alone and brooding. Do you happen to know where Lord Stark is?”

“In the stern, going over matters with Giantsbane.” He couldn’t help but smirk at how she sped off. If Jon Snow was the overall commander and Davos was the fleet commodore, Lady Margaery was in charge of the naval logistics. Normally scandalous for a woman to handle, she insisted and neither Jon nor Robb Stark objected - not that Davos would expect the latter to once it was fleshed out that she would stay aboard ship for the actual fun, given the way he looked at her. ‘Young love.’

Jon Snow was unlike any commander he knew. He was no king, yet could have been a great one - no demons like Stannis, overconfidence like Renly, gluttony like Robert, madness like the Mad King, and all of the former along with pure idiocy like Joffrey. The brooding, man of few words that the Bastard of Winterfell was made one under his command wish to fight for him. Was not afraid to get into the thick of the fray but also giving a damn about his men’s lives.

Perhaps Davos had found his proper patron.

“Ser Davos.”

Shaking himself out of his contemplation, Davos found Jon staring at him. “Forgive me, Lord Commander, for disturbing you.”

Black cloak covered shoulders shrugged. “Eh, better that you did.”

“Something eating away at you?”

“No…” Jon looked back at the sea. “Just thinking about those lost.”

Images of the Battle of Blackwater Bay flashed in Davos’ mind. Of the men that sailed off with Stannis to help Jon’s father in King’s Landing - including his own son - that were never seen again. “Can’t help that, but better to look at the future.”

“Aye.” Eyes bored intensely at the waves. “If we don’t rescue the free folk from the dead, then we’re doomed.” Davos stayed silent - he still thought the lad was daft there, but who was he to speak on that? He had seen the red witch. Jon looked at the onion knight. “Where is Lady Margaery?”

An amused snort. “Looking for your brother.”

Jon laughed. “I am sure something is up between them.” Those were the same looks he gave Dany and she gave him.

“I wouldn’t be a good analyst there,” Davos replied.

 

“Are you sure this is wise, marrying the Lady Stark? It would essentially mean declaring war on the Lannisters.”

“Perhaps it is time that we do so! That is my throne!”

“Calm down My King. Lord Karstark is just cautious, after all.” A pause. “Lady Stark will secure my hold on the North until it isn’t necessary anymore. I have assurances that we will not declare war yet, but we will. Once then, you will be proclaimed King with me as your hand.”

“And then we march south with the North, Vale, and Riverlands behind us!”

“I may have to tidy up some… loose ends,” the way he said it made Brienne of Tarth shiver from her hiding place. “But yes. Joffrey will die and you will be the sole King.”

Turning her attention from Podrick bringing hay to the horses, Brienne gazed back upon the tower of Winterfell. In there was the Lady Sansa, whom she had sworn before her mother and the Seven to protect with her life. It was only two weeks ago that Lord Baelish had married her off to Ramsay Bolton, after three months where he had seduced, married, and survived Lysa Arryn - her body falling down the Moon Door. Brienne had a feeling she was murdered, but couldn’t prove it.

Her mind replayed the overheard conversation again and again between Bolton, Karstark, and the mysterious silver-haired man. Was he a Targaryen? Had to be. ‘What in hells is going on?’ Sansa was in danger, she was sure of it, but the stubborn Stark had refused her help after her Aunt’s death and didn’t respond to her offer. But Brienne was patient. If the candle appeared in the tower as she had told Sansa, then she would save the girl.

Such was her duty.

 

Nothing much had changed in Hardhome since Jon Snow had left it during that fateful blizzard. It was just as scrappy and rough, domesticated mammoth hauling blocks of wood and supplies around the camp, wildling children running and fighting in jest, and the adults breaking their backs to eek out an existence at the top of the world. The large, central yurt where Mance Rayder ‘held court’ was thick with the pungent smoke from burning mammoth dung chips. Jon was used to it, and he and Tormund couldn’t help but share amusement over how both Robb and Margaery blanched at the smell. ‘They wanted to come ashore, after all.’ He insisted that Robb wait at shore and Margaery stay on the ships, but his brother wanted to back him up and the Rose of Highgarden insisted on representing the Tyrells.

However, there was a sense of defeat among the wildlings. Normally proud and untamed, a malaise had gripped Hardhome, one that Jon hated despite his Northern upbringing and Night’s Watch training. He should hate them all, but came to respect the Free Folk. Such was why he was here, currently at a loss of how to convince them of his plan.

“You talk about the fucking Wall, King Crow?” asked a female chieftain incredulously, a skilled archer if Jon remembered correctly. Jeers followed from most of the other chieftains, Mance staying quiet as ever on his ‘throne.’ “The wall was built to keep us out…”

Silent till now, Robb jumped in. “According to legend, Brandon the Builder constructed the Wall after the Long Night. As the Lord of Winterfell, the wildlings have caused great damage to the North.” ‘Easy brother,’ Jon wanted to say. It didn’t seem like a good idea to piss off their hosts. Robb, however, was more diplomatic than his history with the Freys gave him credit for. “But if the stories I have been told by all of you are true, then there was a greater threat, one that all of us should care about stopping.”

“When has a crow cared about us?” another chieftain growled, hardened gaze throwing daggers at Jon and the other Westerosi - yet after Tormund beat to death one who spat insults and tried to grope Margaery, basic decorum was adhered to, of a sort.

“In normal times we wouldn’t, I am ashamed to say. But the past is irrelevant now.” He looked them all over, making sure to meet eyes with all of them at least once. “The dead don’t see the difference between southerner, crow, or free folk. We’re just a threat to their goal and meat for their army.”

“And you think the… dragonglass would stop them?” asked another.

Jon nodded. “Aye, I’ve seen it happen.”

“Bullshit!”

“Who cares?! We’re sitting ducks here!” Tormund shouted. “Even a bunch of cunts would see living for a chance is preferable to being some corpse soldier!” Jon noticed Margaery smile slightly. The wildling may have been crude, but he got the point across. Even better, many were starting to come around, nodding at his statement. After admitting to killing Ygritte, the fate of Jon’s head had been questionable before Tormund defended him and told the true story. “I’ve served with Jon Snow. He may be a prissy southerner.” Robb couldn’t help but chortle at that. “But he fights hard, and is noble.” Tormund placed a hand on his shoulder. “I trusted him with my life, and he never gave me a reason to doubt it.”

Poised and dignified even someplace so far removed from the Reach, Margaery stepped forward. “House Tyrell is prepared to support Lord Commander Snow with its fleet of ships. Designed to haul grain, they will fit thousands of… Free Folk and their beasts of burden.” A slight boasting, but enough.

“There is considerable land lying fallow north of Last Hearth,” Robb added. “No one has used it for centuries, and I as the son and heir of the great Ned Stark join Jon Snow in pledging it to the Free Folk if they agree to common cause.”

More murmurs among the chieftains. “Better to trust King Crows and the soft lady than die here.” Even skeptics like the female chief were starting to agree.

“Fools.” The bald chieftain, apparent leader of the hardliners, sauntered menacingly up to the three Westerosi. “As soon as you all get aboard their ships, they’ll push your bodies into the Shivering Sea.” He passed by Jon, then Robb, then Margaery - who to her credit stood firm and unafraid, truly a woman stronger than her title as the Rose of Highgarden would suggest. Tormund ended up getting the worst look of all. “Take your ‘New Life,’ and your glass, and shove it up your arse.”

A loud growl filled the room. The head giant bared his maw at the chieftain. “Tormund!” His finger pointed at Jon. “Snow!” Grunting, he slammed an open fist against his barrel chest. “Go south, must!.” As ringing an endorsement as ever.

Silent through the whole discussion, deeply contemplative but with dark eyes aware of everything around him, Mance Rayder, King Beyond the Wall, stood tall. He walked right up to Jon Snow, staring him in the eyes. “I can tell whether someone is a liar, because I’ve dealt with many in my life.” His gaze shifted to the assembled chiefs. “Jon Snow was one of us. He proved himself, killing a mammoth single handedly. I know he tells the truth, he, the Lord Stark, and the Lady Tyrell. We will go south, and save ourselves!” There were scattered cheers, far from uniform, but it seemed to Jon that the hardest part was over.

Oh how he would rue that thought.

 

Samwell Tarly stared at the old man in disbelief - the Maester of Castle Black’s words defied all the odds. And yet they solved every unexplainable mystery that the disgraced scion of Hornhill ever encountered. ‘Jon’s hands. The dragon.’ Unburnt. Blood of the Dragon. He opened his mouth several times, but nothing came out. Jaw awkwardly flopping like a fish, it all seemed like some surreal joke nonetheless.

“Jon…” he finally croaked, “Is a Targaryen?” As for what went through his head when Maester Aemon asked for advice to soothe his ailing heart, to cleanse his soul of a secret…

The cold draft chilling his ancient bones to the core, Aemon nodded. “The long lost son of my great-great nephew.” Emotion clogged his voice, able to openly talk about the reason as to why he was never alone anymore. “A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing. I would have died long ago had I not known I was never alone since he arrived.”

“That is why the dragon obeys him… because he has Valyrian blood. The dragonriders of old…” Shock wearing off, Sam felt a slight excitement at this new discovery. And yet… “But his love for Daenerys Targaryen? She would be his aunt, correct?” Jon would not like that.

Aemon nodded. “Yes, though the same age that is what they are. But it is of no consequence,” he dismissed. “Had Robert Baratheon not rebelled, I have no doubt they would have married. Love may be the death of duty, but... “ he trailed off, remembering a prophecy he had once heard. ‘Ice and fire.’

Sam, less emotional and melancholy, came to quick conclusions. “He has to know. You have to tell him.” Aemon was silent. “Jon has existed his entire life feeling he is a bastard, when he is the true King of the Seven Kingdoms!” Good, bad, or indifferent, he was determined to let him know the truth.

Sighing, Aemon knew he had to. “I will tell him when he returns.” The room suddenly got much colder. It seemed as if something was planning to make that a challenge.

 

Hardhome was a blaze of activity. The to and fro of boats from the Tyrell grain fleet to the few jettys that the wildlings had built was a maze of crisscrossing paths and oars. Each small shuttle was filled to the brim with as many Free Folk as they could carry, the few large rafts moving the young mammoth beasts of burden that would serve their owners south of the wall. Jon had to commend the skill of Ser Davos on shore, Margaery on the boats, and the Tyrell crews. Without their fantastic work, the whole morning and early afternoon would have been a clusterfuck of epic proportions to get the irascible and untamed wildlings out.

His eyes settled on the female chieftain, bringing her children and comforting them as they wedged into a boat with fifteen other wildlings. Priorities were to the women, children, and skilled craftsmen with enough strong warriors to keep them all in line. They had reached the bare minimum to keep the Free Folk culture alive.

Even still… “How many have we got on board? Nine thousand out of how many?”

“Do I look like I can count?” Tormund shot back at him.

“Regardless, we’re leaving too many behind.”

“Free Folk are stubborn,” Mance stated flatly. “Took me twenty years to gather all the clans together. We’ll probably get twelve, seventeen thousand out of here with the remaining eight coming along later.”

Tormund snorted. “Lack of food will bring them around. The Dead have already turned nearly everything up here.”

Grabbing the dispatch from one of the sailors, Davos’ boots squelched through the frost-covered mud as he found Jon, Robb, and Tormund. “Lady Margaery says they’re at about a third capacity at this point.”

“Not enough,” Jon said, concerned.

“We’re prepared to abandon all the equipment and stores,” Tormund stated. “That can be replaced. Lives can’t.”

“Jon!” The Lord Commander turned to find Robb trotting up to him. “The chieftain of the Burned Men Clan has changed his mind, adding his four hundred to our total wishing to leave.”

A rare smile poked out onto his face. “Good, you and Finn get them prepared…”

Below the railing, the latest boatload began climbing the hung nets toward the deck. While most noblewomen of Westeros - aside from the majority who wouldn’t bother leaving their castles - wouldn’t sully themselves by dealing with smallfolk of any stripe, Margaery Tyrell was in the heat of the action. A soft hand reached out to help two small children climb over the top. “There you go, dears,” she said kindly.

“I want my mother,” one whined, holding back tears.

Margaery hugged them to her. “She’ll come soon, I promise.” She turned to Jon’s page, clad in a small black cloak of the brotherhood. “Ollie, get these two to one of the braziers, warm them up.”

Ollie’s face showed… displeasure at having to deal with wildlings in any manner besides killing them, but he obeyed.

Suddenly, Margaery felt an unnatural chill pierce to her very bone. The air around all must have dropped considerably. A cacophony erupted aboard ship as every dog began to bark, every mammoth stowed below decks letting out a trumpeting hoot that resonated in every ear.

Head turning slowly from where he and Robb were talking, Jon saw the ominous cloud of swirling ice and snow blowing over the rocky crags and toward the plain of Hardhome. “Seven Hells,” came the murmur.

“I thought we’d have more time,” Mance said beside him. And then the panic started. One by one, the shouts of fear and terror began to echo from beyond the wooden gates. “SHUT THEM!” Mance screamed, running as fast as his legs could carry him. “SHUT THE DAMN GATES!”

It was here. They were here. Of this Jon had no doubt, the dead had arrived. It was all up to them now, get as many out as possible before the jaw snapped shut and Hardhome was completely overwhelmed. The panic hadn’t yet reached the docks, but it would. “Davos!” he yelled. “You and the Tyrell men get as many onto the boats as you can!”

Fear of the unknown was etched into the sea dog’s eyes. “And yourself?”

“I’m staying. Robb, get on!”

“I’m with you Jon.” He drew his own sword. “Somebody’s gotta protect your ass.”

“If they get through the wall,” Tormund said. “We’re all dead.”

Jon knew this, knew the hopelessness of it all. “Night’s Watch! With me!” Even then… Running, he cleared his mind and searched for the connection. ‘Come to me, boy. I need you. We need you.’ His mind yelled with all its strength. ‘Come to me.’

Atop a mountain some ways away, a pair of lids shot back, eyes wide at the distress call from its rider. Leathery wings spread apart as the beast rose into the air. Dragonfire brewed in Rhaegal’s belly, ready to defend his father and rider to the death.

 

Chaos, terrible chaos. Wildling warriors dashed towards the wooden wall blocking the entire mass of dead from swarming the camp. No great barrier of ice and rock, nor even a simple stout stone wall, it was. The wood had already been penetrated in many places. Trickles of corpses, some fresh in death and others walking skeletons had clawed their way in and were killing indiscriminately. Jon swung Longclaw wildly, slicing a skull clean off before jinking and sending the Valyrian steel right into the breast of another.

A heaving breath filled with ice was sucked into his lungs as he dispatched the wild sword swing of another. He had lost Robb in the chaos. Tormund, Finn, Gren, the other chieftains… all were unknown to him in the frenzied fight. Giants stampeding through the camp, smashing corpse after corpse in their wake, were too big to lose track of - together the ragged line had held them at bay for the most part, but it was only a matter of time before the wall fell.

Two charged at him in a frenzy, jaws peeling rotting flesh as they opened in animal snarls. A swift kick sent one sprawling, Longclaw earning another kill when Jon brought it down upon the other’s head. An axe to the spine dispatched the other one. “Thought you could use a hand,” Mance Rayder said dryly.

“I had it under control.”

“Sure you did.” The King beyond the wall held up the bag of dragonglass blades. His gaze shifted. “Watch out!” Warned by Mance’s shout, Jon just manages to dart out of the way as a walker swings the sharp edge of an ice spear at his gut. Toppling to the ground in a heap, he watched helplessly as the King beyond the wall swings his own battle axe at the monster. It shattered upon contact, ice spear twirling above before striking home in Mance’s gut. With the lifeless body now upon the ground like a sack of grain, the similarly lifeless being swung at Jon. The Lord Commander brought Longclaw up, a vain attempt to parry…

CLANG!

To Jon’s wide eyes, and to the gaping jaw of the white walker, the Valyrian steel held firm - unbroken. Yelling a cry at the top of his lungs, Jon swing around, the ancient sword slicing through the beast’s midsection. It left nothing but ice.

Breathing deeply, Jon looked up at the ridge. A cluster of mounted men rested atop the rocks. Horses were dead, nothing more than rotting flesh or bone while their ice blue riders stared down below. The white walkers.

“It’s gonna fall!” Tormund - at least he thought it was Tormund, spoke true. The wooden wall collapsed from the sheer weight of the horde, snarling dead swarming over it like an ant colony after a dead caterpillar. It was then that the world erupted into flame, welcome heat hitting Jon’s skin. ‘Just in time. Good job, boy.’

Eyes centered on the figure that could only be his rider, Rhaegal used all his strength to spit dragonfire on the mob of tormentors set to do him harm. Jet after jet laced from his maw, the unprotected corpses falling like ants to a wave of water. A solid fence of flame, thin but solid, separated the snarling host from Jon and the others he was protecting. Twenty-five foot wings flapped in the air as he banked around. The fire wouldn’t last for long, and Rhaegal would hold them back as long as it took for his rider to escape to safety.

Hearing the exultant cheers from his men, feeling Robb try to guide him back as Tormund finished off another wight, a glint of sun caught Jon’s eye. To the left, atop the high crags with the other white walkers, walked the imposing figure. Skin as blue as ice, the pale crown atop his head made him indistinguishable to all. The terror of many a child’s horror tale. The Night King. Within his grasp rested a pointed spear, raising high. He hurled it into the air with all his strength.

Jaws dropped and eyes widened in terrible wonder as the spear struck true.

“NO!” A wave of pain slammed into Jon Snow, feeling the same burning cold and stabbing anguish that the spear had sliced into Rhaegal’s shoulder. Arm lashing out, three wights crumpled into broken heaps of bone and flesh as the Lord Commander’s legs pumped towards where his dragon was falling. The panicked cries of Robb and Tormund - along with the deep bellows of the giants - were faint in Jon’s mind. Like Ghost, Rhaegal was his. The dragon and he shared a connection, and he’d be damned to every hell if he didn’t save him.

The green dragon, now covered in mud, snow, and his own blood, had luckily landed on the inner side of the fires. It bought him time, currently spent weakly trying to dislodge a few corpses trying to crawl all over him. Hearing the pained shriek, Jon hurled Longclaw like a javelin into the back of a wight, Rhaegal’s jaws clamping down on the other. Grabbing the sword, Jon reached his beast’s head. “Easy, buddy. It’s almost over.” Rhaegal hooted weakly, nudging Jon’s side. A gaping but shallow cut across the dragon’s side underneath the wing oozed blood. It looked worse than it had to be, but unless Rhaegal could get to safety he was doomed. “We’re gonna get you out of here… somehow.”

Turning to face the ridgeline, Jon could see the Night King, now off his undead horse and staring down with another ice spear in his hands. Longclaw raised itself at the ready. “Just try it.”

Eyes meeting, the Night King let it fly…

Only for the Valyrian steel to shatter the ice into crystals, muted sun sparkling off them. He wouldn’t try that again, but with the fires dying out, if Jon couldn’t get Rhaegal out then the hordes of dead would do the job just as well. One group was just about to stampede over it.

Bellowing a gutteral war cry, the corpses were batted aside by a log-wielding Giant. One straggler was smashed by Tormund’s hand axe as Robb grabbed Jon’s cloak. “I’m not losing another brother, damn you! Come on!”

“Rhaegal!” Jon cried, the panic in his voice dying as a second giant gingerly lifted the dragon into his arms, as if carrying a child. ‘That works.’

Tormund grabbed his axe. “Stop fucking around, cunts! Let’s go!” The snarls grew ever louder as a second mass charged from atop the cliff. Sickening crunches impacted against the stone and dirt, but they kept coming. Robb literally hauled Jon out of there, them and Tormund falling into place behind the giant carrying Rhaegal while the other swung wildly with the log, covering them.

“Hurry!” True to his duty, Davos manned the last boat - with just enough room for the three survivors. The two brothers lept into the craft, boots scraping along the hull. Tormund followed, a skeleton on his back as he smacked onto the wood. Four swords smashed into the attacker, a small splash marking its watery grave while bigger splashes announced the giants wading into the bay. One held the moaning Rhaegal high above her head, both tall enough to walk along the muddy bottom. Through his connection, Jon breathed a sigh of relief. His dragon had made it.

Thousands of pairs of eyes watched the land, still with the dead and undead. The last futile screams echoed from the remaining dying. A sight not seen since the days of legend thousands of years before played out, the single figure of the Night King walking towards the jetty. His army parted for him, like waves clearing a path through a stormy sea. Glowing blue eyes locked with Jon’s, soulless anger at losing a promising specimen meeting resolute determination. Slowly, hauntingly, the Night King raised his arms.

Aboard ship, as Rhaegal was gently placed on the deck, Margaery Tyrell stared at the shore in terrified wonder - Ollie by her side in the same manner. On the boat, Davos and Robb mirrored the Rose of Highgarden’s expression. The Young Wolf spared a glance at Jon, who replied with a mournful gaze of confirmation. All at once, thousands of freshly dead Free Folk rose as one, fodder to the Night King’s army.

There was no doubting the threat now.

 

Lord Bolton,

Since my last letter, I have been informed by a reliable source that the dragon that Lord Commander Snow, Lady Tyrell, and Lord Stark have in their arsenal is dead. Killed by the cold North of the Wall. Yet they bring an army of wildlings to threaten the entire North.

He may have the support of the majority, but there are true brothers that fight for the Watch as I do. My men will do whatever they can to end this threat before it can truly form, but I implore you and the King to plan for if I fail.

Gods save the Targaryen Dynasty.

Ser Alliser Thorne

Chapter Text

“I can definitely see the Stark in them,” quipped Tyrion Lannister, watching Arya and Rhaegar playing happily in the corner of the solar. “You can easily tell the features of both families though.”

‘Not always,’ thought Catelyn, picturing the twins’ father. He was half Targaryen himself, but was pure Stark - such was what made Ned’s story so believable, what made her anger at the young boy so easy. Stark blood, more accurately his mother’s blood. Her gaze drifted to the children. They had taken to her almost from first sight, and they reminded her so much of her children that it was hard not to fall in love with them.

“What you did to Jon, no one can go back and change. If you do wish to repent, Lady Stark, you can start by giving our children the love that he deserved.”

The dragon queen had been clear, and Catelyn was determined to atone.

“I’ve arranged for your son’s transport to Qarth in a week’s time, Lady Stark,” Tyrion said. “I’m not sure why he’s going, though. His explanation did not make sense.”

Catelyn laughed. “Neither did I when he told me, though the Reeds managed to understand.” The significant history between the Reeds and the Starks, not to mention how Meera Reed looked at Bran when no one noticed... she trusted them.

“He’ll be well protected, I can assure you that.” A detachment of Unsullied and auxiliaries packed a hell of a punch. A frown crossed Tyrion’s face, remembering who the boy was. “Lady Stark… you have to know that I had nothing to do with what happened to him.”

Placing her knitting down, Catelyn nodded. “Aye. I know that now. I doubt you knew about your brother and sister… in the tower.” Both turned away, searching for something to change the subject. “I saw the Queen earlier. She looked quite happy.”

Jorah leaned back, eyes meeting Catelyn’s. “The Khaleesi has been walking on a cloud recently, deliriously happy.” A wistful smile appeared on his face as he thought of it. Daenerys deserved such happiness at all occasions, but such happiness was a rare occurrence in her life. “It was all following her conversation with you, Lady Stark.”

Eyes shifting back to the playing children, Catelyn was silent for a moment. “Oh? I am glad to hear that is the case.” She knew exactly why, and to tell the truth she should have realized it was likely. Neither she nor Jon had grown up together as Jon and his ‘siblings’ had, and even if they had this scenario would have happened. The Targaryens were far different from the other noble houses when it came to incest - not that the constant cousin-betrothing noble houses were much different. Seeing the mixed Stark/Targaryen twins laughing and enjoying their innocence, it drove home that Daenerys was celebrating her extra, far deeper connection to Jon than had been true before. ‘Preordained,’ as Ned had told her.

“What did you tell her, if you don’t mind me asking?” It had to do with the Stark bastard, her children’s father. Jorah was sure of it. He knew Dany well - knew what made her tick.

“I would like to know this as well.” Innately curious about his new Queen, Tyrion leaned forward.

Eyes flickering between the two, Catelyn knew that this - of all things - needed to be held close to the chest. “She wanted to know the truth about what had become of Jon Snow, understandable given her… their children. It freed her heart knowing that he was alive the last I heard.” It was not her place to disclose Jon’s true parentage - while the less that knew the better, given Robert’s obsession could extend to Joffrey or Tywin, it was Her Grace’s choice of whom to know.

By the look on the two men’s faces, neither believed her.

Luckily, she was saved by two tiny Targaryens. “Grandmother, lunch!” Little Arya looked at her with a beaming, innocent smile despite her bold nature. She definitely took after her namesake.

Being reminded of her own darling yet frustrating Arya both warmed and pained Catelyn, but she wore an uncharacteristic softness nonetheless. “Excuse me, gentlemen.”

“She’s hiding something,” Jorah concluded as soon as they were both alone.

Tyrion nodded. “Yes, most likely. We shall know the truth if the Queen sees fit, though.” Inwardly, the dwarf was chuckling. ‘The Dragon Queen and the bastard of Winterfell.’ He remembered the brooding, sullen youth from the feast long ago. ‘Wolf and Dragon… love is strange, sometimes.’

 

The first major blizzard of the year had just dissipated, an auspicious omen for the superstitious among the northerners. In more practical terms, it meant easier transport from the various castles and lordships across the realms - if by sea, river, or land, the lack of blistering winds allowed it to happen. Lord Ramsay Bolton sent the ravens out as soon as the air cleared, gathering the most powerful families north of the River Trident in the name of the Targaryen King… at least in theory.

At the head of the large map table, Viserys Targaryen stared at it in anger. “This is all the support we can marshal? You said you could rally all the northern lords!” he screamed at his hand.

Flashing his well worn mask at his King, Ramsay Bolton gestured to the map. “The Manderlys have been torpid ever since Lord Wyman lost his son at… it doesn’t matter. The Glovers are busy trying to retake Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn, and the Curwins…” Ramsay thought for a moment. “Actually they have no excuse for not showing up, apparently.”

“See that they are made an example of!” Viserys demanded. At long last he finally had a domain to rule - if not in name yet - and he wouldn’t let disobedient lords or Usurper’s dogs make him out to be a fool. His loyal Hand would see that his will was carried out.

Said ‘loyal Hand’ grinned. “It shall be done, your Grace. Even still, their forces were largely decimated in the War of the Four Kings. My armies and those of Lord Umber and Lord Karstark hold the best forces the North has to offer. The seven thousand total are augmented by the Frey armies.”

Attention turned to Walder Frey’s party, having journeyed from the Twins. “While I may have to keep several thousand remaining in the south to protect against incursions or uprisings, the combined armies of the Riverlands are a healthy nine thousand strong. This includes other loyal families.” Old and sharp, he disguised his contempt for the ‘King’ as mere elderly cantankerousness. Had Ramsay not loved a challenge he’d have envied him.

“Very good. I trust we can assault the Lannister swine quite soon then.”

The room was silent. “Your Grace,” began Ramsay, “I have reason to believe that Robb Stark is alive.”

“What?” Viserys took it more calmly than expected. “Well where is he?”

“North at Castle Black, a personal guest of Lord Commander Jon Snow.”

For some reason the mention of the Stark Bastard set him off. “JON SNOW IS STILL ALIVE?! Kill him! I want him dead! I COMMAND IT!”

‘Interesting.’ Ramsay was curious as to the enraged reaction, but would investigate later. “I have conceived of a special plan to deal with the Stark’s, your Grace, in case primary plans go awry. Rest assured, they will die.”

“See to it, then.” Without another word, Viserys stormed out of the hall.

As soon as the red/black cloaked wannabe King exited the map room, Smalljon Umber let out a snort. “And I thought your father was a cunt, Bolton.” A greenish loogie spat from his mouth to where Viserys had sat. “Takes every bit of my willpower to not bash his teeth in.”

The patented twisted grin of Ramsay’s curved on his face. “As satisfying as that would be, Lord Umber, you mustn't.” Hand to the King in all but name, he took in the dispositions on the ground. “Jon Snow, Robb Stark, and the Night’s Watch will be dealt with soon, so aside from the wildling invaders in the north who are of no real threat, our forces are prepared to take the fight into the rest of Westeros.”

“We are in no shape to fight the seasoned Lannister armies,” countered Black Walder. “The rebellion by the Blackfish already threatens our hold on Riverrun.” He swallowed, knowing that it was his task to keep the ancestral home of House Tully out of the hands of Catelyn Stark’s uncle. “Lord Baelish could procure us the Knights of the Vale…”

“He can’t be seen as consorting openly with Targaryens,” countered Ramsay. “It would threaten his position at King Joffrey’s side.”

Ned Karstark joined the conversation, having been silent. “I know Lord Royce. He won’t side with us unless ordered to.”

“Then we’re doomed to failure…”

“Shut up!” Ramsay was so close to losing his temper, but it retreated back into his grin - he’d expend his stress later, with Myranda and some unfortunate soul. ‘Perhaps another time with Sansa, keep her broken.’ The possibilities were endless, and he greatly enjoyed what he’d do when he finally had his hands on the Targaryen Dragon Queen. ‘The strongest are the most fun to break,’ as he always thought. “Joffrey, from what I know, is a fickle fool. Easily distracted.” Ramsay looked over all the men. “He’ll end up going on some goose chase for his special project. Once he’s distracted, we will strike.” A glass was raised. “To the… Targaryen dynasty.”

No one doubted his lack of sincerity, though there was a wonder if their King would think the toast quite real. “To the Targaryen Dynasty!” they joined him in cheering.

In the high tower, a single candle flickered.

 

“In and out, the Lannister says.” Steel swinging, the yellow-swaddled Dornish soldier - more reminiscent of an eastern sellsword than a Westerosi knight - groaned as Ser Bronn of the Blackwater’s sword impacted with his gut. “It would be quick and clean, the Lannister said.”

An arrow whizzed by Jamie’s head, the aristocrat knight, removing a knife from his belt and chucking it into the heart of the unlucky archer. ‘Should’ve fired from a distance.’ His bad arm wrapped around a slight, dainty figure. Princess Myrcella Baratheon, sister to the King and officially Jamie’s niece. “It wasn’t my fault our cover was blown.”

That honor belonged to Meryn Trant. Bronn and Jamie were just about to bluff their way past a guard checkpoint out of the inner palace, only for the hulking psychopath to embed his sword through the guard captain’s midsection. “Thank you, cuntface,” the hero of Blackwater Bay sneered. “Now all of fucking Sunspear is after us.” He dodged another arrow, this one from afar.

The three of them managed to sneak into Sunspear quite easily, only an unfortunate experience with a patrol on the outskirts - Jamie managed to hold his own despite the missing hand, which was a boost to his confidence even if not even close to his past skill - marring the infiltration. Getting his daughter away from Prince Tristan’s suites was child’s play. Now though, Oberyn Martell was leading the entire Princely guard battalion after the trio… “Hold on, sweetling,” remarked Jamie to his… daughter. “We’re almost there.”

“I’m scared, uncle. Couldn’t I have stayed with my betrothed.” The young girl was quite sheltered, for which Jamie thanked the gods.

“Not up to us, dearie,” quipped Bronn, cutting down another Dornish guard. “Blame dear old mommy.” Breaking down a door, the sound of crashing waves filled them with relief… only for it to sour immediately.

Standing right on the dock, drawing scared and nervous looks from the smallfolk rowers aboard the small boat, was Oberyn Martell - the famed Red Viper. Clutched in his hand was a golden royal spear, a scowl on his face. “Well, well. Jamie Lannister is in my grasp.” He chuckled. “I would have much rather had your father, or Ser Gregor. But you’ll do nicely.”

“Get behind me,” Jamie whispered harshly to Myrcella. The scared blonde nodded, face an ashen white. “Just let us go, Oberyn. We don’t have any quarrel with you. We just want to get my niece back to the capitol where she belongs.” He, Bronn, and Trant readied their swords, the former two wishing Oberyn would stand down while the latter looked eager to spill blood.

“She belongs with her intended, but that is of no concern to me.” He shrugged out of his cloak, tunic trim to his athletic body. “Twenty years ago, your father had the Mountain rape my sister, and then kill her and her children. I feel that justice is overdue, and I will not let such a chance at justice slip my fingers.” Leaping in the air, he spun sideways and lunged straight at Jamie...

The Prince of Dorne, despite being outnumbered three to one, fought like a man possessed. Fluid in his movements, a dancer matched with skilled brawlers, for every glancing wound received he inflicted four slicing assaults, sending Trant to the ground and Bronn into the water where he struggled to swim towards the reachable sides of the boat. Jamie, the main target of his rage, fought as well as he could with one good arm, but a feint to the left allowed the Red Viper to use his shaft to trip his legs. The Kingslayer collapsed onto the wood jetty, sword falling from his hand.

Spear twirling, Oberyn spat at Jamie’s prone form - ignoring the cries from Myrcella. “Your father had my sister raped! And killed her children. I hope he remembers her name when I send him his son’s head in a basket.” He raised the spear, a grin of triumph on his lips.

In his smugness, he did not pay attention to Jamie’s bad hand. Or it’s gold prosthetic. Lashing out, the heavy metal slammed into Oberyn’s foot. Pained screams joined with crunching bone as he fell to the ground. Behind him, Meryn Trant rose to his feet with sword in hand. Jamie’s eyes blinked away the pain of his earlier wounds - only to widen in horror. “NOOOOO!”

Too late. With a snarl, Trant thrust the sword right into Oberyn’s face. The handsome vesage that charmed many a woman out of her dress - and many a man out of his breeches - was no more, a mere gaping mass of bone, blood, and brains. Dead, a fate that Jamie would have killed to prevent.

As soon as their boat escaped the jetty, Jamie and Bronn both grabbed Trant and slammed him into the bottom of the boat. “What the fuck was that! What the fuck did you do?”

“The little bitch… in my… way,” he wheezed through Bronn’s hand around his throat.

“Do you just know what you’ve done, you sadistic halfwit. You didn’t kill some smallfolk or a sword teacher from Essos. That was the fucking Prince Oberyn of Dorne!” Frantic punches did not dislodge Bronn’s gras. “Your cunt brain will bring Dorne to war with us!”

The Kingslayer grasped his friend’s shoulder. Much as he would like Bronn to squeeze the life out of Trant, he did not want the responsibility of explaining to Joffrey why one of his favorite guards was dead. “Leave him.” Bronn complied, adding one last punch for good measure. Jamie slumped on one of the hard wooden planks that served as a seat. The exhaustion of a near constant thrill ride both from two days sneaking into the palace and a mad dash out of the palace before the sun could move a mere inch in the sky had finally crept up to him. Breathing deep, he heard the sound of soft sobs behind him.

“Uncle Jamie…” It was Myrcella, fear and trauma overwhelming her. Paternal instinct overcoming him, Jamie pulled her into his embrace. “Did I cause all this?”

Gently stroking her hair, Jamie let her shaking subside. “Not at all, sweetling. Not at all.” She was innocent in this - perhaps one of the only few left in this world that could claim that title.

“Well, at least I got to sample the best pussy Dorne had to offer.” Jamie scowled. Leave it to Bronn to ruin the moment.

On shore, Ellaria Sand - flanked by a troop of guards - came upon the still body. Screaming to the heavens, she fell to her knees and cradled her lover’s corpse in her arms, the still pooling blood now soaking her gossamer silks ignored. In her mind, a desire for revenge developed, one that would tear Dorne apart and have effects far beyond the sandy soil of the southernmost realm in the Seven Kingdoms.

 

“Is that the last of em?” Looking to her left, Margaery watched as Jon and a very handsome-looking Robb walked toward her. Their attention was then directed back to the courtyard as some remaining stragglers and Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg stepped through the ice tunnel, a trio of adolescent mammoth in the center. A grunt from Mag the mighty alerted his comrade, Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, outside the gate to Castle Black.

“If I understand the giant’s language, and I certainly do not.” Margaery smiled when Robb let out a soft chuckle. “Yes, all thirteen thousand have made it through the gates and safety.

Jon nodded. “Good.” He looked towards the winchlift. “Ollie! Tell them to close the gate!” An eye glanced at the other side of the castle, where Thorne and his group clustered. “They don’t look happy.”

“Fuck em.” Robb resisted the urge to spit in their direction. “We all saw the Army of the Dead. He didn’t.”

A shudder coursed through Margaery. “I still can’t believe it.” Olenna still didn’t, but trusted her granddaughter not to be a fool. “But thanks to you, Jon, that monster was denied thirteen thousand fresh soldiers.”

“I just wish I could have gotten out more…” A waddling form caught his attention. “Sam? Are Gilly and little Sam alright?”

The Tarly nobleman offered a small smile. “Oh yes. There was a tiny mishap with some of Thorne’s boys, but Ghost helped in that.” Ghost let out a happy bark, trotting over and licking Jon’s hand. He was almost fully grown, and stood a high as a large goat.

“Good boy, protecting Sam and Gilly.” The direwolf loved the praise, nuzzling Jon’s side. He was glad at least one of his dear companions was doing well at the moment. Lethargic and in pain from his injury, Rhaegal was nestled in the Castle stores, sleeping most of the time. It was painful for Jon to watch. “So what is it?”

“Aemon wants to talk to you.” Margaery then excused herself to speak with Ser Davos about the land for the wildlings, so Jon and Robb followed Sam.

Entering the Maester’s quarters, Jon shucked out of his cloak in the toasty warmth and placed it on the hook next to the door. “How is Rhaegal?” Having tasked Aemon with the dragon’s care, Jon was confident that the Targaryen would nurse him back to health - and quite a bit concerned at Rhaegal’s condition. One could say the dragon had become sort of like a child to him. “Are his wounds healing?”

“Rest assured, Lord Commander,” Aemon chuckled, finding Jon’s father-like concern amusing. “Dragons are mighty beasts. He’s taken a beating, but will heal as long as he has enough rest.” The relieved look on Jon’s face was worth it, the Lord Commander getting a slap on the back and a manly half-hug from his brother. A sigh left Aemon’s lips, the maester resting his old bones in a chair. “Frankly, it wasn’t because of Rhaegal that I requested this chat with you.” Nodding, Jon waited for either to speak but no words came out. One could hear a feather drop in the maester’s quarters.

Pursing his lips, it was Sam that broke the awkward silence. “Jon, Aemon and I know who your mother is.”

Blinking, Jon thought he didn’t hear Sam correctly. “What?” Surely he must have misheard…

“It is true,” the Maester drolled.

“But how is this possible?” Robb was just as stunned. “Father told no one.”

“Only that she was of the North.” Not a day went by that Jon didn’t silently beseech his father to have told him about her before he left for the south.

“That’s just it, Jon.” Sam’s hands were sweaty, meaty fingers fumbling together from nerves. “Aemon knows who your mother and father are.”

“My father is Eddard Stark.” Jon was in disbelief that this was up for contention.

Closing his eyes, Aemon felt a wave of sadness cloak over him at what he needed to do. “When you arrived, Lord Commander, your uncle gave me a letter written by Ned Stark, along with certain documents that told the truth. Lord Eddard Stark was not your father

“How dare you say that about him!” Robb yelled. His mother and Sansa may have wanted it that way, but he, Arya, Bran, and Rickon loved Jon and knew he was their beloved brother. A hand went for a dagger clipped to his belt. “He is a Stark.”

“Actually Robb… um… your last statement is true.” Sam was stammering, praying to any god that was out there that Jon wouldn’t be hurt too badly. “He is a Stark, but not one by name.”

Placing a hand on Jon’s shoulder, Aemon truly wished he could see his family’s face. “Son, your mother is Lyanna of House Stark. Your father is Rhaegar of House Targaryen - heir to the throne and my great-great nephew.”

It took a moment to register, time standing still and pure inertia carrying him forward - but then it hit. Harder than a punch to the gut. Harder than one of the Night King’s ice spears. Jon felt his knees buckle, collapsing into the chair. It couldn’t be true… it had to be a lie, but why would Aemon lie to him? Why would Sam lie to him. His mouth opened but all words died on his lips.

Next to him, the Young Wolf was ensnared in a half-ashen, half-enraged mood. “No! You lie!” Robb shook in fury, but also fear that it could be true… that Jon really wasn’t his brother. That their father had built their entire lives and the entire course of the Kingdom on a lie. “Jon is my brother! He cannot be a Targaryen! It’s impossible!”

‘Is it?’ Suddenly it made sense, all the mysteries explained. Jon, shaking, looked at his palms - scarred but unburnt. His inability to be burnt. Rhaegal - the deep connection he had with his dragon.

Daenerys, his magical connection with her. How they had fit together so perfectly… Jon knew it to be true. However far fetched it was, it had to be true.

He felt close to throwing up.

Robb was still arguing, fighting for Jon’s past identity - but it was increasingly hopeless. Even he was realizing what had to be the truth. “I saw the documents Benjen Stark gave to Maester Aemon,” Sam related. “I saw his unburnt hand long ago. We all saw him with Rhaegal. Jon is Jaehaerys Targaryen, son of the Crown Prince and Lyanna Stark. There was no kidnapping or rape, they were married. Jon is their trueborn son.”

“Father could not have lied! He was too honorable for that!”

“Had the Baratheon spies learned of this…” Aemon stated, voice weary with fatigue and emotion. “Jon would have been killed with the same brutality as Rhaegar’s other children.” He stared at Robb, and then at Jon. “Your father, Ned Stark, took on this responsibility. He was more honorable than any reputation could have foretold.”

“What honor? He fucking lied! Lied to mother, to me… to all of us!”

The pressure, the vice constricting his heart grew too much. Jon bolted out of his chair, hand over his chest. “I need to be alone.” With that he stormed out of the room. Ghost whined at his pain, but the door slammed shut before the direwolf could follow.

“Jon!” cried Robb, heart clenching for his brother. He attempted to follow but was stopped by the gnarled fingers of Maester Aemon.

“Let him be, for now, Young Wolf. He needs to process this.”

The former King in the North collapsed in his chair. “I still can’t believe this.” For his entire life, Jon had wanted to be like him, the trueborn son of Ned Stark - only now the dream was impossible.

Only to be replaced by a heritage far more illustrious. True King of the Seven Kingdoms. ‘Oh father, why didn’t you tell him?’ No response was forthcoming.

 

Swinging the saddle atop the horse, Theon turned to look at his childhood companion. “Sansa… I cannot stay. I belong at home.”

“Theon…” While the anger at him for his betrayal, for the Sack of Winterfell hadn’t truly gone away, he had saved her. It was Theon that decieved Myranda. When she and Brienne had nearly been trapped by unsuspecting Bolton bannermen, Theon had distracted them and allowed her and Podrick to hit them from the flank. She owed him her life, and he was essentially family - the only family she had since leaving her mother and watching Littlefinger chuck her Aunt out the moon door. “I cannot thank you enough. Please stay safe.” He offered her a weak smile, the first time he had since being taken prisoner.

Watching the fallen Greyjoy ride off, Sansa felt Brienne walk up next to her. “So if we ride for most of the day, we should be in White Harbor in two weeks. There, we can obtain a ship to Slaver’s Bay quite easily with the coin you stole from Winterfell…”

“We can’t go to White Harbor.” Voice pallid and emotionless - the memories of Ramsay’s pleasure still haunting her subconscious - Sansa turned to her… woman-at-arms. “There are only two choices for where to go, given the current feelings toward the Starks.” The vast majority of the world either wanted them dead or feared their presence would lead to death. Ramsay hadn’t said it outright, but the total lack of any familiar face aside from Theon hammered it home. “Anywhere populated in the North will kill us to curry favor with Ramsay and Viserys.”

The lady knight narrowed her eyes, pondering the truth of Sansa’s statements. “Which do you fear more?”

A valid question - one a bit complex. “Ramsay…” She shut her eyes, willing the pain to subside. “He is evil, but is smart. Viserys is an idiot but ill tempered and thuggish. If anyone was to do something brash and stupid, it is him. He’s the more dangerous in the short term.” It had been pure chaos since news had come that Dorne was mired in civil war - with the killing of Prince Oberyn by the Lannisters, his widow had launched a coup and killed the ruler. Now, she and her hardliners were battling the loyalists led by Prince Tristan, who were soon to be joined by the Lannister army marching down from the Reach. King’s Landing distracted, Viserys had emerged and proclaimed himself King along with the North and Riverlands behind him. In all the hustle and bustle of preparing everything, they had escaped. The power-hungry Viserys wouldn’t like any complications. Sansa remembered how he had beaten her for an off-hand comment, one Ramsay would have shrugged off - he was more brutal, but was discreet about it.

Brienne remembered the conversation that they had, between himself, Ramsay, and Lord Karstark. “He means to kill you as soon as he betrays the Lannisters and takes the throne. I overheard him, planning to take Viserys Targaryen’s sister as his queen once the Mad Prince is on the Iron Throne.”

‘Daenerys Targaryen.’ Jon’s love. Sansa nodded, the creamy skin of her face blank in acceptance. “And he’ll kill Viserys soon after, leaving him as King. Finding that royal fool was the best thing that could have happened to Ramsay. Made him a player for a much greater game.” Heading to White Harbor - though offering the greatest safety if they escaped to Slaver’s Bay and Jon’s lover - was impossible. Ramsay would have soldiers everywhere. “The only other option is to the north.”

“Castle Black?”

“Aye. To my brother.”

 

My son,

If you are reading this then I am not on this earth anymore, and either Benjen or Aemon have told you the truth about your heritage. After all that happened on Essos, all that has happened and come to light about the seven kingdoms, I would have told you myself if I had the chance. I beg your forgiveness for this and letting you live in unhappiness and illegitimacy because of a lie, and know that I only had what was best for you in my heart.

Tears welling in his eyes, Jon quickly wiped them away to avoid staining the old parchment. Even long dead it seemed as if Eddard Stark were speaking to him through the words. ‘Why, father… why didn’t you tell me?’ But could he still call Ned Stark his father? Wasn’t he his uncle instead? Fresh tears formed and blurred his vision once more. He wished he wasn’t weak, but on this he couldn’t help the onslaught of emotion. It was worse than the army of the dead.

Blinking, he read on.

All that was said in the stories are lies. I am witness to the truth, and in this letter I put to rest the one lie that I have ever told you. Your mother, my sister, fell in love with your father. They married in secret, and you are their trueborn son Jaehaerys Targaryen and the true Targaryen heir. If it weren’t for Robert and his failure to grasp that Lyanna truly despised him, the tragedy that followed wouldn’t have occurred.

Jon, I wish you did not have to grow up as a bastard, but the stain on my honor and the pain you endured allowed you to live. Robert was determined to kill every last Targaryen. Your half-sister and brother were killed as mere children as a result, and Daenerys and her brother forced to live on the run in Essos. I hate that I did this to you, but you deserved life.

The great Eddard Stark, honorable even when cunning and deceit would have helped him, had one stain on his honor. Laying with a woman not his wife - fathering a bastard. He had endured all that shame to protect his sister? His nephew, holding the oath sworn before the old Gods and the new. Even in his moment of great pain, Jon couldn’t feel anger at his… father.

He had sacrificed so much - all for Jon and his sister. The child that he loved as a father would and the sister that he loved as a caring brother would. Jon’s mother. “Mother…” She had been at Winterfell this whole time.

“Dany…”

Your connection with Daenerys… it was preordained, Jon. Had Robert and Tywin Lannister died in their vile rebellion, you two would have been betrothed. She is as much a natural Queen as you are a natural King. I know that I taught you honor, and am proud that you were such an excellent student. But please, Jon, your mother told me on her deathbed that she fell in love with her dragon the moment she saw him - looking at you in Essos, I realized the same about you. You take after her as much as you take after me and Rhaegar. Do not throw away what you have with her. Join with her and your loving siblings to restore this land to honor. To fulfill the prophecy. This is your destiny and your happiness.

Know that I love you, son. I loved you from the moment I held you in my arms, and I know that your mother and father felt the same way.

No matter what, you will always be Jon, my son. But remember who you are, and who you were born to be.

And who you were born to be with.

Eddard Stark

Lord of Winterfell

Your Ever Loving Father.

Letter dropping from his hand, the sheer weight of what had been told to him hit Jon like a stampeding mammoth. All his life, he had wanted to be a Stark like his brothers and sisters… but to learn he was not even that…

‘Not true. Half-Stark. Half-Targaryen.’ A trueborn Targaryen. Heir to the Seven Kingdoms, a greater claim than the Mad Prince and Daenerys.

‘Dany…’ She wanted that crown, fought cities and forged kingdoms to obtain it, and yet it mattered not. He was in line to rule. He did not want it. “I Do Not Want This!” he screamed to no one. He didn’t even want to be Lord Commander, only thrust in this position because no one cared about the threat of the dead. And his love for her, for his aunt. How could Jon ever feel the same way when it was his love for her and duty to keep his promise to her that drove him on?

And deep down, Jon had to come to terms with the fact that he viewed Daenerys no differently. Thinking about her, imagining her form nestled close to him heated his blood to intensity. She was his aunt, and yet he wanted her. ‘Am I without honor?’ he thought, or was Ned correct. Was his… father correct? “Mother,” he urged, looking up at the rafters. He finally knew who she was, not a nameless, faceless image but a real person. “Please, I need someone. Anyone. What do I do?”

The door swinging open shocked Jon out of his contemplation. “Lord Commander.” It was just Ollie, who paused for a moment at seeing his idol in such a disheveled state. “One of the wildlings, he says he knows your Uncle Benjen, that he’s still alive.”

Jon quickly shook away his sadness, bolting upright. “Benjen? Are you sure?” Someone who knew… someone who could give him real answers… about his mother.

“Said he was First Ranger.” Ollie smiled, glad he could give the closest person he had to a father these days some good news. “This way. Hurry!”

Thorne was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. “I’ve interrogated him a bit. He says he saw Benjen about the time of the last full moon near the ruins of Craster’s.”

“He could be lying,” Jon replied, hoping he wasn’t. Of all the stories he heard about Lyanna Stark, he wanted to know about his mother from someone who knew her. ‘My mother.’ “Where is he?”

“Over there.” Thorne pointed to past a milling crowd of men. Jon pushed through them, only to stop in his tracks.

A single burial cross, made of cheap wood, bathed in orange torchlight. One word was scrawled on it. ‘Traitor.’

Realization washed over Jon. Mind sharp, it dawned on him exactly what was going on - the ruse, the bait, the betrayal. His command. His brothers, betraying him and the Watch. Turning, ready to fight if need be, the sneering face of First Builder Othell Yarwyck lunged at him before a searing pain engulfed his gut. First the wind knocked out of him, and then pain.

“For the Watch.” Yarwyk withdrew the knife.

Looking over the others gathered around, mostly just milling there, only three others seemed to Jon to be participating. Ollie looked at it all in horror, Karl Tanner holding a knife to his throat. It was small comfort that his page hadn’t betrayed him. Small, but still comfort.

Another blow hit him, this time the knife bringing immediate pain. “For the watch,” hissed First Steward Bowen Marsh.

Throwing Ollie to the ground as if he meant nothing, the soulless face of Karl Tanner soon came to view. Jon resisted the urge to spit in the assassin’s face. How he hadn’t ended up mutinying at Craster’s home was a mystery. His knife sliced through Jon’s lower abdomen. “For the Watch.” Two others followed, mere footsoldiers but ones that were avid followers of Thorne. Their knives left Jon’s abdomen a gutted mess, blood soaking his entire tunic. Weak, Jon fell to his knees. He wanted to let go, to give in to the sweet, painless bliss… ‘You are a Stark. You are a… Targaryen.’ A wolf did not give in.

A dragon did not give in.

And lastly came Thorne, a flat, satisfied look planted on his face. Triumph, but not arrogance. The satisfaction of a goal completed. Fighting the pain, not allowing a bit of anguish to cross his face, Jon averted his gaze to Ollie. The boy was terrified, tears falling down his cheeks at seeing the one he looked up to the most in life so close to death. “Ollie.” Jon forced a smile, selfless to a fault. “It will be alright.”

“Not for you.” The last blow slammed into his heart. Thorne withdrew it, satisfied look still on his face. “For the Watch.”

In the distance, a roar of pure anguish left Rhaegal, muted by his injuries and the thick stone of Castle Black’s walls. Barely hearing it, Jon toppled into the snow. Blackness enveloping his vision, cold numbing the intense pain and wetness seeping into his clothes, Jon knew death was soon upon him. Willing every bit of mental strength, he pictured the radiant form of Dany.

His aunt.

His love.

And then nothing.

 

Erupting out of bed, Daenerys was drenched in sweat, breathing hard. Sleep had been uneventful, peaceful even - dreams of her love and of a happy future filling her subconscious mind with happiness and joy, emotions that were rare in her life and only came when he was there or when she dealt with the twins. Then suddenly… Pain. Terrible pain.

And then nothing. As if all meaning had been snuffed out, yanked out of her life.

Heart beating out of her chest, Dany stumbled out of bed. Her arms grabbed at anything to steady herself, sending goblets and candlesticks clattering to the floor. Tears streamed down her face. There was no knowledge of what had happened, only that something horrible had.

About Jon.

“My lady!” Missandei was at her side within moments, warned somehow of the problem by whom, Dany didn’t know. Steadying her by the shoulders, the advisor searched the Queen for any physical injuries. “Are you hurt?”

“Something… happened.” Her panicked breaths made it hard to speak. “My love… what…”

“You are correct.” The flat, drone-like voice of Brandon Stark stated from his ‘wheelchair,’ a special Meereenese invention that had been a gift from Dany to her love’s brother. “It is Jon. He has passed.” Dany knew him to be correct. She just knew.

The anguished screech from the royal chambers echoed across the entire city.

Chapter Text

“Come out of there, Stark.” Alliser Thorne sounded like he was enjoying this. Sword ready, the bulk of Grenn and Davos blocking the door while Ghost growled, Robb wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. “Come out and we’ll make sure to hand you over to King Viserys and Lord Bolton in one piece.”

In the back of the large cellar, Rhaegal hooted angrily, though his cries were weak and without fire. Since the Battle of Hardhome and especially since Jon’s death, the green dragon hadn’t been the same despite his healing injuries. “Looks like we’re fucked,” Olenna quipped, brushing off a stray piece of lint from her dress. “They outnumber us, Snow is dead, and the dragon isn’t even have fire anymore.” She was cut off from a menacing growl from Ghost.

“Shut it!” Robb yelled, ears perking up. “From the scuffling outside, looks like Margaery, Pyp, and Ollie came through.” After the chaos following Jon’s death, Robb quickly locked all he could trust in the cellar where Rhaegal rested with Jon’s body. The three were sent for reinforcements, and from Thorne’s profanity and the constant banging it looks like they had arrived. “Alright, on me. One, two, THREE!”

Chaos had gripped the grounds of Castle Black, but there was no fighting. Not in the least. The massive forms of giants Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun and Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg and the sheer bulk of the wildling host that Tormund arrived with quelled attempts by Thorne to drive them back. One was dumb enough to charge Tormund, but the warrior killed him easily. Drawing his sword at Tanner’s throat, Robb’s enraged scowl was tempered by the soft hand of Margaery Tyrell, unharmed and escorted here by the redheaded Free Folk leader. “Put down all your weapons. There is no need for any more bloodshed than has already been spilt.”

“Fuck you, cunt,” Tanner spat.

Ice drew blood, enough to hurt but not enough to cause much harm. “Give me a reason, traitor,” Robb hissed. “Give me a reason.” Unfortunately for his baser instincts, Tanner shut up.

The thwick of a drawstring was followed by a dull wet slap. Grunting, Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun pulled an arrow out of his thick arm. While the crossbow was designed to punch through armor, against a giant it was nothing but a mere insect sting if not hitting a vital area. The Night’s Watchman - a member of Thorne’s faction - suddenly lost his bravado. He wanted to flee, but his legs wouldn’t work as the giant stared at him. Without breaking a sweat, Wun grabbed the screaming watchman and smashed him against the wall, blood coating the stone he threw the limp sack of meat into the center. Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg let out a deep bellow, quelling any further funny business.

“You traitors!” Thorne snarled at his men.

“The only traitors here,” Margaery said icily, “Are the ones that drove knives in the back of their Lord Commander’s heart.”

 

Tormund in his face, axe clutched in his hand, Thorne refused to give an inch of ground - admirable in a way. “The Night’s Watch spent millennia defending Castle Black against the Wildlings!”

“Aye,” deadpanned Tormund. “Until today.” A loud cry shrieked in the air. Ollie, knife in hand, charged at Thorne to avenge Jon Snow. The big bulk of Samwell Tarly held the struggling boy back.

“Let me kill him!” Ollie yelled, but aside from that the violence had ended. Two large giants, a menacing white direwolf, and a weak yet still terrifying dragon joined with hundreds of Free Folk in quelling any dissent.

Soon, a group of stretcher bearers, watched the whole way by Robb, Davos, and the Wildlings - Wun and Mag proving to be the best of guards - moved Jon’s body to the Lord Commander’s quarters. Rhaegal whined in agony at the sight, while Ghost fell alongside the stretcher and nudged Jon’s hand in a desperate attempt to wake him up. Behind, dark blue fabric brushed the snow, Melisandre following with her hands clasped together.

The terror and fight or flight exhilaration of the moment finally passed, those that loved and cared for Jon were free to expel their emotions. Close to collapsing, Robb fell onto Margaery’s shoulder and sobbed. Despite the questioning look from Olenna, the Tyrell beauty wrapped her arms around the Young Wolf and comforted him. Gilly did the same for Sam, his thickset arms holding his de facto wife and child close to him. Maester Aemon was beyond tears but looked close to death, hand clutching his heart from his chair. Face morose, Davos stepped beside Melisandre, who was staring down at the body. “Do you think you have something… up your sleeve for this?”

The Red Woman didn’t look at him. “Saving a life is far more difficult than taking one.” She ran her hand along Jon’s wounds. “I will need something powerful. Something he can draw great strength from.”

Her head turned at the scraping of wood on stone. “I believe I have something for that,” Aemon rasped, heading for a large chest in a corner of the room.

 

Light, blinding light. It was all that Jon could see, narrowed eyes scanning his surroundings. It appeared as if he were standing on a cloud, looking out at an empty, sunny landscape.

“Hello, my son.”

Startled by the sudden voice, Jon swiveled around to find someone he hadn’t seen in quite a while. “Father?” Smiling warmly - allowing his affection for the boy he raised as his own to spring forth unencumbered - Ned Stark opened his arms wide in an easily understood gesture. Emotion overwhelming him, Jon returned the embrace. They grasped tightly, manly yet comfortingly at the same time. It felt as if he were a small child again, comforted by his father in the moments where Lady Stark was out of sight. He fought back tears.

“There there, son. It is alright.” Ned suppressed his tears as well. “You are safe.”

“Am I dead?” Jon pulled back and looked his father in the eye. Gone were the stress lines of leadership, the wrinkles of age - he looked like a man in his prime, which told Jon everything he needed. “This is the afterlife, isn’t it?”

Ned couldn’t lie to Jon. Not anymore. Never again. “Aye, this is it. And you have died, son.” The former Lord of Winterfell watched as sadness crossed Jon’s face, as if he had failed someone and hated himself for it. It tore Ned apart. “But it is not your time.”

Blinking away tears, Jon looked up at his father. “What do you mean?”

Smiling, Ned drew Jon to him with an arm around his shoulder. “Walk with me, son.” The two began a stroll off into the distance, quite an ordinary paternal moment. Wispy vapors were kicked up by their boots, solid under them. “You know now, don’t you?” There was no doubt about what he meant.

“Aye.” Jon nodded, twisting his head to look at his father. “Why didn’t you tell me, father? Why didn’t you tell me about my mother. That you are really my… uncle?” Emotion caking his voice, Jon knew that Ned had told him everything in his letter. But he wanted to hear it from him now that he had the chance.

Sighing, Ned looked genuinely remorseful. “I’m sorry, Jon. I should’ve told you before you went off to the wall. Seven hells, I should’ve told you as soon as we left Pentos, but you have to understand the depth of Robert’s madness.” Pain crossed his features. The pain of buying into a lie that took so much from him - that brought nothing but ruin. “He was so in love with your mother, but she hated him. Hated his whoring, his boorishness, his vices. But he was all oblivious to it - and so was I.” Ahead of them, the expanse of whiteness began to end, replaced by a horizon of vibrant green. “I should have known that she’d never allow herself to be kidnapped.” He chuckled. “Arya takes after her in that way.”

Jon couldn’t help but smile, thinking about his beloved sister. “Robert couldn’t accept it, could he?”

“Not in the slightest. He convinced my brother of the rape, he and Tywin Lannister spreading the story far and wide. The rest…” he trailed off. Jon knew what happened next. Ned turned and grasped Jon on the shoulder. “He would have killed you, Jon, just like your half-siblings. I had to keep that from happening. For you. For her…” He no longer stopped himself from softly sobbing. “I beg your forgiveness, for everything. For forcing you to grow up a bastard, but I had to keep you safe, Jon.”

Hearing his father, the great Eddard Stark, break down in front of him led Jon to do the same. Pent up emotion and pain was let out in full, the two of them embracing tightly - father to son. ‘I don’t care,’ Jon thought through his tears. ‘He is still my father.’ “I forgive you, father.” Seeing him in such a way, raw and visceral, freed his soul from the anguish over his crisis of identity. Ned would always be his father, and Jon understood.

After some time had passed, their burden leaching out, Ned pulled back with a small smile. “Come, there are two people that I want you to meet.” They had reached the edge of the clouds, Jon stepping onto the grass as one steps onto a sandy shoreline. A soft breeze whipped the blades around as it cooled Jon wonderfully. This truly was paradise. “This is the afterlife, but it is not yet your time. You are destined for far more Jon, but there is still one issue left to resolve.” Ned’s lips pursed. “It is about Daenerys, son.”

Jon sighed. “She is my aunt, father.”

“Aye, she is, but it doesn’t matter.” Walking side by side, they both looked every inch northern warriors. Ned was so proud of his son. Rounding the base of a gently sloping hill, he stopped, smiling. Jon looked at him with a puzzled glance until he spotted them too.

It was a man and a woman, hands clasped together in a show of affection. However, when they saw Jon, they broke apart in surprise and awe. The man was tall, hair cropped to about Robb’s length and broad shouldered - strength exuding from him. Clad in a warrior’s tunic, he nevertheless had the air of a gentle, soft-spoken man of great culture. The woman… she had the classic northern beauty. Wild and fierce, passionate and loving, the physical manifestation of the North. Wearing a dark blue dress, she reminded Jon of what Arya would be like in a decade or two.

In an instant, Jon knew who she was. “M…” He knew what he wanted to say, but could barely form the word. It was just so surreal. “Mother?”

Lids welling with tears of love, Lyanna Stark Targaryen nodded. Her mouth curled into a beaming smile. “My sweetling.” Unable to resist, Jon ran into her arms. All walls fell as he was a little boy again, seeking the comfort of his mother at long last. Feeling him bury his face in the crook of her neck, Lyanna sobbed joyously. “My baby boy.”

Her embrace felt warm, supreme comfort leaching into Jon’s system. Only when he was together with Dany did he feel this much at home - truly at home. It was all he ever wanted, the love of his mother. Jon didn’t even try to hide his emotion.

Feeling a hand on his shoulder, Jon turned his head to see the smiling man, tears in his eyes as well. “My son.” Lyanna reluctantly let him go, happily pushing him towards his real father. Rhaegar Targaryen, proud and strong, couldn’t hold himself back now that he finally met his beloved child. “You are a man.”

Jon knew who he was, by instinct. “Father?” Looking at Ned, the man who he always called father nodded, giving him permission. “Father.” Jon fell into the man’s embrace.

Rhaegar was crying openly now, holding his son tight. “I’m sorry, my son.” The Targaryen looked Jon in the eye. Dark violet met grey. “But you turned out so well.”

“We’re so proud of you, Jaehaerys… or Jon, whichever you prefer,” Lyanna beamed. “You’ve become the man I always dreamed you’d be.”

The name sounded so foreign to Jon’s ears - it was hard to imagine that it was what he was supposed to be, the Crown Prince of the great Targaryen Dynasty. Quite a change for a once humble bastard. He just smiled and hugged his parents once more. “This is all I ever wanted.”

“I know it is, son,” Rhaegar stated. “Much as I would want this never to end, it will soon.” A serious frown crossed his face. “Jon, great evil is threatening to wipe out all that is held dear. You have to be ready for it.”

Looking at his father, and then at the man he always called father. “What can I do? I’m just…” He stopped himself. It wasn’t true. “Everyone thinks I’m but a bastard. I couldn’t even command the Night’s Watch without my men betraying me.”

“Look at me, Jon.” Rhaegar could see much of himself in Jon, much as his physical appearance was mostly Lyanna and Ned. He was determined, fearless. A natural warrior and leader. “You are no ordinary person. You are the Prince that was Promised, the one destined to vanquish this evil. To succeed where I and all others failed. You and Daenerys.”

Fresh tears formed at the thought of his beloved. “But she is my aunt, father. How can I…”

A gentle hand stroked his cheek. “Do not worry about that, sweetling.” His mother smiled softly. “You love your dragon just as I love mine. There is no need to feel ashamed.”

Ned interjected himself, reluctant as he was to interrupt his sister and brother in law. “I knew she and you were connected the moment we arrived in Pentos. There is no doubt that she is the one for you, Jon.”

“I do love her.”

“Don’t let her slip out of your fingers. You’ll need her, Jon, for what comes. Fight it together.”

Rhaegar nodded. “Yours is the song of ice and fire.”

Suddenly everything started fading. “Our time is coming to an end,” Lyanna said sadly. “Just remember, Jon, that we love you and are with you.”

He hugged her one more time. “Please don’t leave me, mother.” Jon finally had the love he always wanted.

“Never. We will always be with you.” With his mother’s words ringing in his ears, the love of his parents in his heart, Jon felt the world beckoning him back. The light grew faint as it shrunk into the darkness.

 

Ramsay had always said that it was amusing to make the peasants scurry about in fear, like common slaves - watching him carry the dried logs to the nearly complete pyre, Viserys Targaryen agreed with his Hand. It was rather amusing. “Hurry it up!” he yelled. His hand throbbed underneath the gold glove, cracked and blackened skin itching and burning in pain. The pain was often unbearable, and it only spurred his anger and drive to show the world that he was the true king. “Hurry this up or you’ll be on the pyre as well!”

“Calm down, your Grace,” cautioned Ramsay, leaning in to whisper into Viserys’ ear. “This will begin soon, and then the traitor that sought to betray your swift ascension to the Iron Throne will get what is coming to him.” Inwardly, he simmered. Losing Sansa and his own servant had driven him to a rage not seen since he found out his father’s wife pregnant. Two servant girls has mysteriously ‘vanished’ as he and Myranda worked out their frustration. Not that he cared about Sansa or Reek in the slightest, but it was a loss of face - one he could not afford.

Today would reclaim that strength, and placate his ‘King’ at the same time. And everything was ready. Stepping forward, atop the dias while all other dignitaries, guards, and watchers were milling on the ground, Ramsay read off the charges. “Lord Curwin, you have been found guilty of treason against your leader, Viserys Targaryen, second of his name. Rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms. This sentence is death.”

A haughty snarl on his face, Lord Curwin spat in the direction of his King. An older man, greying at the temples, he was a capable leader and only managed to escape the Red Wedding due to commanding forces in the field. He knew the charges were trash and Ramsay knew that as well - the real reason he was about to be immolated was that he sent an emissary to the last meeting of the northern lords held by Ramsay rather than come himself, which enraged Viserys. “I will not dignify that mad cunt with any statement of mercy.”

Teeth clenching in anger, Viserys lost it. “Enough! BURN HIM!” The torch bearer hesitated, only stepping forward at a discrete nod from Ramsay. Lowering the torch, the tar covered kindling went up in a split second. Soon a roaring inferno took hold. Silent and defiant until the last, the flames eventually coaxed a scream out of Lord Curwin. Most shied away their eyes, some hardened and numb despite the terrifying scene. Ramsay projected a facade of indifference - he enjoyed this, but not openly.

Only Viserys did, a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.

“Exactly like the Mad King,” recounted Ramsay’s special guest a while later, Lord Curwin’s body now a charred skeleton. “I was old enough to remember him. His son has the same mad bloodlust about him. And he can’t control it.”

The last statement was obviously a compliment for Ramsay, and he allowed himself to accept it. “True, but he is my King and I will serve him. You understand this loyalty quite well, Lord Baelish.”

Littlefinger smirked. “Why yes, I do.” The massive distance from the north to King’s Landing had worked to his advantage. It wasn’t until Tywin Lannister’s forces - supplemented by every bannerman loyal to the Golden King - had already entered Dorne that the news of the Targaryen presence in the north reached Joffrey’s ears. It had been quite easy for Littlefinger to slip out of the Eyre on a ‘scouting mission’ before the angry orders that he take the entire Vale north to smash Viserys Targaryen arrived. “But with all the advice a King gets, he is often at a loss over what strategy to implement.”

“Can you guarantee us the Vale? Even with the Riverlands and the North behind us, not to mention the war in Dorne, the opposing force is elite.”

“Are you sure the Wildling host north of here isn’t a threat?” Littlefinger raised an eyebrow.

Ramsay grinned like a hyena. “We’ve taken care of that. Jon Snow is dead, and the Wildlings leaderless.”

Knowing that Sansa would likely head there, Littlefinger made a mental note to verify it for himself. “If you hold up your end of the bargain, then what could possibly prevent me from holding up mine?”

 

Eyes trained on her destination, she didn’t see the burly man until the front wheel of her pushcart nearly tripped him over. “Ooof,” only footwork of a far sprier man saved him from falling flat on his face. “Watch it! Cunt!” he snarled at the young girl.

“I’m sorry sir.” Arya allowed herself to flinch. “Would you like an Oyster? Only one silver per.” The former highborn daughter gave her best innocent look.

“I know what I’d like to buy,” the man’s companion said, dressed in the same loose clothes of a Braavosi laborer. He leered and grabbed Arya’s ass through the cheap dress she wore.

If Arya wanted to kill him, he’d be dead already with a knife through the throat - luckily for her cover, the first laborer intervened. “We’ll get some young cunt later, come on. You’re not making me fuckin’ late again.” Cursing under his breath, the groper nevertheless followed. Waiting until they were out of sight, Arya went back on her route.

“OYSTERS, CLAMS, AND COCKLES!” she called out to whomever passed her by on the dirty streets and algae lined canals of the bustling Essosi free city. Usually a delicacy of the rich that lived in the marble collonaded city center, the poor and middle class near the docks flocked to purchase the sea creatures, leaving her with a nice profit.

Perfect cover for an initiate of the Faceless Men.

“Will the girl tell me her name?” Low light from the few fires within the temple did not banish the dank blackness that encompassed the various faces mounted on the walls. Turning, the girl with no name saw the burlap-spun shift and long hair of the lead priest of the Many Faced God - bearing the name Jaqen H'ghar within the walls. The girl knew that the request was not one whatsoever.

Standing from her meditation, her eyesight had fully returned after months without. “The girl has no name.”

A pained cry left her throat as a staff smacked the open flesh of her upper calf, felling her. “The girl will answer correctly,” said the waif, sender legs stepping over the girl that had once been Arya Stark. From past experience and the sadistic grace in which she hefted the staff, the girl knew the Waif would hit her again.

“The girl has no name, lest whatever name the Many Faced God desires her to have.”

Nodding, satisfied, H’ghar steps toward her. He motioned her to stand before him. “And who was the girl before?” They had played this game before, and the girl knew exactly what to say. It had essentially become the truth after all.

“The girl was once Arya Stark, born to Lord Eddard Stark and Catelyn Tully Stark.”

“And what happened to her?”

Taking a deep breath, she answered unhesitatingly. “She is dead.”

Lips curling into that weak, reserved smile of his, H’ghar nodded once more. “Good, for you have provided the Many Faced God with enough offerings.” Her gaze drifted to a quartet of the faces decorating the wall. “It is good that Arya Stark is dead, for you will be journeying into her life one more time for a great offering to the temple...”

The names of her new targets still echoing in her ears, Arya darted her head behind her in one quick motion - eyes picking up everything important. No one was obviously following her. The Order wouldn’t be nearly as conspicuous in that manner, though as an initiate she had an eye for such things. It was reasonably safe in any case. Safe enough for Arya to take a left away from the main canal leading to the docks instead of a right towards it.

“OYSTERS, CLAMS, AND COCKLES!” Laborers and smiths in the forge district flocked to her for the cool, fresh seafood, many reaching out with soot-crusted hands without regard for hygiene. Rambunctious and iconoclast that she was, Arya still grimaced, the highborn lessons from her mother on general cleanliness one of the few she took to heart. Pushing the cart along, she put it to a stop right in front of a particular forge. By a certain junior blacksmith.

“Glad to see you’re not dead.” The young man, muscles bulging as he moved logs and bags of charcoal, didn’t make eye contact. He knew the drill.

Arya allowed herself a small snort. “Not smart to bet against me, after all we’ve been through.”

Gendry couldn’t help but chuckle for an instant. “True.” Eyes flickering to Arya and then back to his work, he couldn’t help but appreciate how much she had grown since the two of them - broken and destitute after a group of bandits attacked them and probably killed Sandor Clegane - had arrived in Braavos. He couldn’t help but miss her, but from what Gendry heard about the Faceless Men, it was best that they stay out of contact. Hence his job. But if she returned. “Something happened, didn’t it?”

‘He always was smarter than his origins predicted.’ Fat Robert wasn’t the sharpest tooth in the wolf’s mouth. “They want me to kill someone. Two people rather.”

“Who?”

“My brothers, Jon and Robb. The Boltons paid them.”

He didn’t have any outward expression, but lowered his voice all the same. “At least this means Robb is alive. Most think him killed at the Red Wedding.”

“This is serious, Gendry,” Arya hissed. She still didn’t look at him, selling a handful of cockles to a passing merchant. “I thought I had lost myself, lost my identity to the Order. This is why they gave me this assignment, to test me.”

Gendry snorted. “You’re not going to do it. I know you too well, Arya. You love your brothers and even your sister too much to truly hurt them - not that you’d likely admit it.” He laughed quietly.

Arya wanted to smack him - half-playfully of course. “I will not, but if not me then they’d send someone. That’s why I have to go.”

“And why I’m coming with you.” Gendry wouldn’t have said otherwise. He knew his destiny, and it was tied to the feisty tomboy of the north.

Sparing one glance, for the fleetest moment, Arya gave Gendry a genuine smile of affection. Through thick and thin from that horrible day where she witnessed her father executed while Sansa screamed for mercy beside a grinning Joffrey, he had been there for her. Hardened with years of suffering and experience, the bastard son of the late king Robert had been the one shining light through the darkness - ironically, the only other that came close was the Hound of all people, though his reluctant protection earned him a spot off her list.

He was the closest thing to the shining knight that Sansa had always swooned about. The feelings that occasionally bubbled up did terrify Arya.

However, she was a Faceless Man, so could easily suppress it when need be. Her gaze dropped to the filthy cobblestones. “There is a bulk carrier departing for King’s Landing noon three days hence from pier seven. I will expect you to be on it.” Heading back to her route, Arya didn’t need to look back at Gendry to know he would be there.

 

“Make sure they’re tied nice and tight, Grenn.” Scowl planted on his face, Robb looked each of the men in the eye.

One was visibly shaking. “This isn’t right.” He simpered in fear. “Black magic is an abomination.”

“Aye, but so is killing your own commander. Breaking his trust.” Anger and pain from his own experience with such betrayal bubbled up. The Young Wolf moved on.

“Please, tell my father that I died fighting the wildlings.”

Shaking his head, Robb glanced at Karl Tanner, who only smirked. “Mind if I have a little time with the Tyrell bitch before?”

Robb nearly attacked him, but Margaery stepped forward, calm and poised. Tanner grinned a wry smile before it turned into a grunt of pain - the knife wedging between the bones of his left foot.

Thorne just waited proudly, silent on his pole. “Anything to say?”

He looked down in disgust. “Nothing to the son of the Usurper’s dog.” Almost laughing, Robb instead walked away. Passing the still form of his cousin… brother, Jon was still his brother in every way - Robb heard the Valyrian chants of the Red Witch. “I’m not comfortable with this.” Despite growing up in the North, Robb shivered from the cold. Not just the cold. “Jon was raised among the old Gods, as was I.” The whole cult of Azor Ahai was just a perversion to him.

Margaery put a comforting hand on his shoulder - both ignored the slight electric shock passing between them. “And I was raised in the light of the Seven. We have to trust her, though. You want your brother to live, Robb.” Caring for him, she willed with all her strength that this would work. Jon was the right one to lead them against the dead, she knew it.

“Does anyone know if this would bloody work?” Leave it to the Queen of Thorns, swaddled in a bundle of furs, to put the question on everyone’s lips so bluntly.

Tormund spat on the ground. “I hope it does.”

“Oh, it will work.” Davos pointed at the Red Witch, who was clipping bits of hair from Jon’s locks to put in a small brazier. “I have seen that woman do things out of nightmares. Raising the dead is one of the… least complicated things the Lady Melisandre is capable of.”

“After what I saw north of the wall.” Margaery shuddered, “Nothing would surprise me.” Ollie nodded, torch in hand. His eyes were lined with tears for his father figure still lost to the cold realm of death.

“Bring forth the offerings.” Finished with her rituals, Melisandre watched as Finn, Grenn, and Pyp trudged forth through the snow - each held a single large object in their hands. Dragon eggs, three of them, as pure as when they had been a wedding present long before. Each protected by the patriarch of a nearly dead house when Benjen Stark gave them to him years before. Inspecting the eggs placed just to the side and lower edge of Jon’s corpse, Melisandre took a small knife out of her cloak. She slit two small cuts in Jon’s hands and the same for his feet, resting the palms and soles flat against the scales. It had to be perfect.

Stepping back, out of the way, she looked at each of the gathered. Robb, Margaery, Davos, Olenna, Sam, Aemon, Grenn, Pyp, Finn, and Tormund. “We are gathered in this frozen land, friends and family of the great Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and the Prince who was Promised.” At long last, after a lifetime of centuries searching, Melisandre knew she had found him. “The night is dark and full of terrors.”

“The night is dark and full of terrors.” No one ascribed to the cult of the Lord of Light, but all wanted Jon Snow to return.

Grabbing the torch from Ollie, Melisandre began chanting again in high Valyrian. Walking towards the prepared pyre, all watched her closely, red hair whipping behind her in the chilling wind. “Lord of Light, we ask you to bring your new form back to the land of the living. To return and deliver the earth to peace and safety once more.” She stopped at the point where the tar had been laid, a line directly to the pyre. “With this fire I proclaim you reborn!”

As soon as the torch hit the tar, the flame raced towards the waiting fuel source. Waves of heat slammed into the waiting persons, Melisandre obscured by the tall and crackling flames as wild and fierce as the red locks around her face. “I hope this works,” Robb whispered to Margaery.

“It’ll work.” Davos hadn’t lost any confidence. The time in the cave when the demon rose from the Red Witch never left his mind. All felt a chill in their bones - even the hardened Maester Aemon - when the haunting song left Melisandre’s throat. Melodic, uninterrupted. A steady stream of a chant so beautiful. A song so eerie.

The flames engulfed the body, heat warming the cold skin to scorching temperatures. Screams left the three traitors, licking flames beginning to catch on their cloaks and trousers. Primal instinct led them to seek flight, to escape, but the tight ropes prevented them from doing much but squirm and wail. Only Thorne remained silent, his will strong. Nothing but the hellish voice of the Red Witch filled his ears. Through the roaring fire it was an icicle stabbing through his ears, the sound of a demon. Head dropping to glance at Jon, his eyes widened.

In the last moments of his life, Alliser Thorne watched as all he once knew evaporated before him. Watched as the perfidy of his decisions became nothing but real.

Still for nearly three days, gaping wounds still open through his chest - each one fatal on their own - none of the flames left a single mark on Jon Snow’s body. The roar of the fire was punctuated by cracks, scales on the eggs sheared apart.

Three piercing shrieks - joined by a booming roar of fury from Rhaegal, still nursing his wounds at Castle Black - were heard by all as Jon Snow’s eyes flew open.

 

Such was an unlikely, unfathomable sight for most. One that a person would not expect when asked to conjure up the image of a dragon. Fierce, terrifying, vicious, destructive, those yes. But a great dragon purring contently as a small, delicate woman of sheer beauty gently stroked his snout was not on that list. In all fairness to those people, though, Daenerys Targaryen was probably one of the only people who engage in such behavior. Her hand softly glided along Balerion’s scales. Her child missed her, after a long time exploring the wilds of Old Valyria with his brother - Dany knew she should spend more time with them, and bring the twins along. They shared her lack of fear, being carefree with the massive beasts.

To her right, Edderon dozed peacefully. He was always the gentlest of the brothers, Balerion the fiercest with his adolescent mood swings and Rhaegal somewhere in the middle.

Rhaegal.

‘Jon.’

The pain hadn’t gone away, and while she had largely forced herself to snap out of her haze it wouldn’t budge. Dany had lost her love just after learning about the depths of their connection. Petting Balerion was soothing, but still inconvenient.

“They are magnificent creatures.” Startled from the noise, Dany turned and was faced with a low-lying mop of tousled hair.

“It is not wise to sneak up on a dragon, Lord Tyrion.” Her voice was only half serious. “But yes, they are magnificent.”

Chuckling, the imp headed towards her. “I’m afraid it isn’t ‘Lord,’ your Grace. My father is Lord Lannister, I am just a lowly servant of his. You’ll run into him soon, him being the leader of the Royal Armies. He’s probably laying waste to Dorne at the moment.” Close to Balerion - closer than he ever would have gotten had the great Mother of Dragons not been present - he made one further step only to draw back at an irritated grunt from the black-red beast.

“Settle down, Balerion, settle down.” With a soft motion of her hands, the dragon calmed down. “He is vicious, but not to my friends and allies.”

“I hope I can be counted among that list,” Tyrion stated. Dany only smiled. “I always wanted a dragon as a baby.” The memories came quickly for the dwarf. Melancholy, but few memories from his childhood were even happy enough to be called that. “I begged my father for one. ‘It doesn’t even have to be a big dragon,’ I told him, but alas, they were all gone.”

The story was both amusing and sad for Dany. “The last dragons were very small. Cat-sized if my brother is to be believed, due to them being chained up by my ancestors.” She stroked Balerion’s snout once more. “Dragons deserve to fly free. I made sure to train them so that they can be trusted with that.”

Looking at her, Tyrion chuckled. “I’d hope so.” He glanced back at the Pyramid. “I actually met Jon Snow, back at Winterfell. He… impressed me. Imps and bastards, we share a kinship in that fact.” Tensing, Dany almost countered that her beloved wasn’t a bastard, but held her tongue. “Peel away that, and he is almost the perfect match for you. Hardy Stark blood, cures the Targaryen madness.” The two talked for a while before Tyrion left, leaving Dany alone with her dragons.

In an instant the scaled skin tensed up. Reptilian eyes narrowing in fury, Balerion threw his head back sharply. The red-black dragon’s jaw opened wide and his roar boomed across the entire city. To his right Edderon added his higher-pitch shreik to the din, white scales contrasting with the blackness of the starry sky above. Flame erupting from their mouths and aimed for the sky, Daenerys backed away several paces. Tripping over the train of her dress, she trembled at her children’s sudden fury, scared of them for the first time in her life - she had never seen them like this, so agitated. So defiant.

So exultant.

And suddenly it came to her, The connection, one so deep in her bloodline dating back to the dragonriders of Old Valyria. One between a rider and his or her dragons - but something her brother had once told her about the great Aegon the Conqueror. A family legend. ‘Aegon and his sister-wives shared that connection, with each other. How they coordinated the Great Conquest from far and wide…’ Dragons were greatly spiritual, as near magical as could be. So too was said were great dragonriders.

Dany felt it in her bones. In her soul. The connection was so strong, their connection, that the vice gripping her heart evaporated in a split second. Jon was alive. Her love had come back to her. There was no doubt he had left this world, but by the gods’ blessing he had returned.

But he was in danger. Dany could feel his pain as if it was her own. He needed help. He needed her.

And she would go to him. Without a moment’s hesitation, Daenerys made her choice.

Chapter Text

Gently stroking the large scales of the beast’s snout, Rhaegal’s warm skin was welcome to Jon in the harsh cold of the north. He shivered, almost feeling the same all encompassing cold of death. It was shocking, emerging from that cold into a raging inferno - among other, far more shocking things. “Come on, boy. You can do it.” Jon gave the green dragon a smile. “Give me a little flame.” Cooing softly at his rider, Rhaegal opened his mouth… only for a puff of smoke and a cough to follow. He lowered his head, as if ashamed. Patting him reassuringly, Jon sighed. “Has it been like this since we returned?”

“He was too weak when he returned from north of the Wall, my Lord,” said Maester Aemon, sharing his fellow Targaryen’s pain. It had been determined by consensus that Jon’s death absolved him of his oath to the Night’s Watch. Finn had been voted Lord Commander, while many had settled on the title of ‘Lord’ for Jon at the urging of Robb and Margaery. “The wounds have healed for the most part, but no fire has left him even when the mutiny occurred.” Jon nodded. Ghost had gone into a frenzy when Jon had died - had Rhaegal been able to breath dragonfire, Thorne and the others would have been charred to a crisp far earlier.

“But there’s nothing physically wrong with him?” Davos implied, glancing at the Red Witch. The priestess had essentially become the spiritual advisor of Castle Black.

Face impassive, Melisandre walked up to Rhaegal. Only a few could approach the dragon’s head without getting a snarl. Somehow sensing that she was why Jon survived, Melisandre was one. “A dragon is intelligent and mystical. They bond to a rider for life, and his rider is clearly you, Jon Snow. But the dragonriders of Old Valyria raised them from hatching. Without the one present from hatching, I doubt he will ever breath fire.” She shrugged. “At least that is my best guess.”

A deep chuckle was heard. “I never would have expected it.” Tormund looked at the dragon that saved his life north of the Wall. “A heartbroken dragon.” Though his people were setting up on the land Jon promised them, he came by to Wintertown and the castle for supplies on occasion.

“Somehow that doesn’t often show up in the legends,” Davos deadpanned. Laughing softly, Jon’s hand stroked Rhaegal’s jaw. The dragon nuzzled it gently.

The sound of a single blow of the horn caused Jon to instinctively reach for Longclaw. ‘No one’s ranging beyond the wall, and the wildlings are all here or dead.’ Tense moments passed as he waited for a second horn… and inevitably the third. The tension gratefully passed as the southward lookout called out, “Open the gate!”

In rode three mounted figures, two of them in armor. The other… eyes wide and emotion rising, Jon stared at the third person. Tired, worse for wear, and shivering, her bright and vibrant red hair made no secret of who she was. ‘It can’t be…’ but she was.

Eyes zeroing on the figure she hadn’t seen since the Stark family was fully together all those years ago, Sansa’s heart hitched. He was older and grizzled from fighting, but one close look proved him the same selfless Jon she had remembered. She dismounted, the surrealness of the moment not keeping her from keeping a tight hold on her cloak. Ramsay didn’t let her dress well and she didn’t have the ability to change yet.

Not a word needed, as soon as he was close enough Sansa jumped into his arms. “Jon.” For the first time in years she finally felt safe. “I missed you, brother.” Jon just held her tighter. She had never been close to him as Arya was, yet he loved her all the same.

“Sansa?” Looking up from Jon’s tight embrace, the redhead’s jaw dropped. There was Robb, alive and well.

Jon letting her go for this, she ran into the awaiting hug from her second elder brother. “I thought you were dead.” Sansa couldn’t stop the errant tears from falling now, so filled with joy at the unexpected bonanza found at Castle Black. Both her older brothers, alive and well. Aged and hardened with the pain and anguish of life, but alive nonetheless. Overwhelmed with emotion, Sansa hugged Jon tightly once more. After so long in hell, watching nearly everyone she loved die or being torn away - of enduring horrors she could never have imagined - all she wanted was to be with her family again.

The loud grunting behind her drew her attention, yet what had been a mere cursory glance turned into a near panic. Eyes wide, she broke the embrace and backed away, terrified. In her emotion she just hadn’t noticed the large green dragon resting in the castle grounds, but she noticed now. “Jon… what… a dragon…” The beast cocked his head at her, curiously inspecting the human that his rider was apparently close to.

Jon sighed, guessing this was inevitable. Sansa deserved to know. ‘Aye, a dragon.”

“How is this possible?”

“There is something you should know, Sansa.” Meeting Jon’s eyes, Robb knew what their brother wanted to have happen - it would devastate Sansa most likely, but she both deserved the truth and could be trusted with it. “We should be in private for this.”

While Brienne and Podrick watered the horses, the three of them entered Jon’s quarters. Rising from her seat, Margaery Tyrell noticed the third person among the two brothers. “Sansa Stark.” They had met while her brother had been at the capital, in a time long ago. She moved to hug her as one would a friend. From the expression on Robb’s face, the family needed time alone. She nodded. “You look famished. I’ll have the cook make you a hot meal while I get some warmer clothes.” With that, she was out of the room.

Out of nowhere three bat-like shapes swooped down from the rafters above. Sansa shrieked while Robb only laughed - he had gotten used to the game the little ones played. They banked around and all landed on Jon, chirping excitedly at their father. Jon extended his left arm as a perch to join with his shoulders. Used to Robb, they sensed a strange presence. One screeched at her. “No,” Jon scolded. “Not Sansa.” The dragon lowered its head, chastised.

It took a comparative while for Sansa to overcome her shock. “You have more dragons?” There was no mistaking it. Resting on Jon were three dragons - small enough to clearly be infants.

Smiling at his children, Jon nodded. “Meet my children, Sansa.” His voice dripped with love. He cared for his dragons unconditionally. Exactly as with Dany, his siblings, Ghost, and Rhaegal.

Still looking unsure, and quite a bit scared, Robb couldn’t help but smirk. “They’re an acquired taste, but sweet in their own way, trust me.” They were generally kind to those close to Jon - gods help anyone else though.

“Let me introduce you. Girls, this is Sansa, your aunt.” The dragons stared at her intently. Jon pointed to one with light blue scales and grey hues. “This is Lyanarys.” ‘After Aunt Lyanna,’ Sansa thought. He shifted to one with lilac scales and hues of silver. “This is Rhaella, and last but not least.” He patted the head of an orange dragon with streaks of red, “Is Sansenya, named after my sister.”

Heart catching, Sansa felt her sisterly love and past guilt both rise. ‘I was such an ass to Jon, and yet he named a dragon after me all the same.’ She shook the thoughts away. While Sansa did intend to beg for forgiveness, there was a pressing matter to attend to. “I am touched, brother,” she said sincerely. “But I am still curious as to why you are in possession of dragons?!” It was so incomprehensible that it defied rational thought.

Jon could sense Sansa’s disbelief, and turned away. She had been so relieved - beyond relief, even - to see him after all these years. He couldn’t stand breaking her heart with the truth. Noticing their father’s discomfort, the dragons hooted and flew off him to curl on Ghost’s back for warmth as they were apt to do. The direwolf looked at the creatures, and then went back to his rest.

Sparing his brother the pain, Robb decided to tell him. “Sansa, please sit.” Taking a seat next to hers, he took Sansa’s hands in his. “Jon is not our brother.”

Blinking, Sansa thought she misheard him. “What?” the seriousness in Robb’s expression proved she had not. “Do not say that!” Robb had always been the closest to Jon… after Arya of course. “Don’t tell me you’ve let mother’s lies get to you as well. He is our brother!”

Much as it touched him to hear Sansa defend their bond, Jon knew he had to kill it. “It is true, sister. I am not a Stark.” Regardless of her furiously shaking head, he pressed on. “I am your cousin, son of Aunt Lyanna.”

“Aunt Lyanna?” If what he was saying was true, then at least they were still related - quite closely. “If not father, then who…” It couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t.

“Sister,” Robb said. “Jon is the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Aunt Lyanna. He is Jaehaerys Targaryen, the true heir to the throne.”

Gazing at Jon, tears in her eyes, she wanted to argue but knew at that moment that it had to be true. “Father lied to us…” she murmured. “You’re not our brother…” openly crying, she ignored their pleas and fled out the door, needing to be alone.

 

“This is suicide, your Grace.”

“The Lannister shits have all their forces in Dorne. We can afford to be bold initially, but our main focus should be King’s Landing.”

“Leaving the defenses of Meereen underequipped will hurt.”

“I wish I could say the North would rally to you, but I do not think they would revolt against the Boltons.”

“Khaleesi, I advise against this…”

“Biding our time and seeking alliances would be wiser.”

Closing her eyes, Daenerys felt a pounding migraine coming on. She had called the staff meeting of her advisors and generals to finalize plans for her long awaited invasion of Westeros, but it had collapsed quickly into anarchy. Grey Worm, Catelyn Stark, Jorah, Theodosius, Tyrion, Varys, and a recently recovered Daario all went at each other like arguing children, yelling and insults being arrows sailing back and forth. Sharing an annoyed look at Missandei, the interpreter grabbed her bronze-tipped staff and banged it on the stone floor. That got everyone’s attention. “Enough. The main goals are set, this is just to discuss details.”

“Your Grace, please reconsider,” stated Varys.

“Production on the cannon has… been slow, your Grace,” Theodosius confessed. “We only have fifteen, but if we land the entire force in Dorne, we can destroy Tywin Lannister’s army in a decisive battle.”

“Do not count the Lannister forces out too easily, Ser Theodosius,” Tyrion warned.

An accusatory finger pointing straight at Tyrion, Theodosius seethed. “If you wish to protect your father, I would sleep lightly lest you go into the eternal sleep.”

“General, you will not speak such a way in my presence,” hissed Dany. Grunting, the general stormed out. “There is no going back. We will land on Dragonstone while a smaller force will take White Harbor and march on Winterfell. Dismissed.” One by one the small council shuffled out. “Lord Tyrion.” The Imp stopped, turning as his Queen calling his name. “I would like a word in private with you.” Soon, it was just them in the map room. The Unsullied guards waited outside, and Saracen was tied to Dany’s hip. They were safe. “You don’t approve of my plan, do you?”

In his time at King’s Landing, Tyrion had seen every sycophant and bullshit artist tactic known to man or god. King Robert wanted nothing but the best of news so as not to distract him from his pleasures, and Joffrey was often fond of literally killing the messenger. Daenerys was not such a ruler, and he vowed not to put on airs. “No.” He sat in the chair closest to her. “While I would wait till we had more ships, that is not what concerns me. Why divide your forces? You should put everything into Dragonstone rather than risk attacking Ramsay Bolton in the North.”

Closing her eyes, Dany remembered the feeling that night with Balerion and Edderon. How she just knew - Jon was alive and needed her. “I appreciate your honesty, Lord Lannister. But I know why we must go about such tactics. Call it a Queenly hunch.”

Tyrion wasn’t arrogant enough to fancy himself a genius military tactician. ‘Jamie inherited father’s martial talents after all.’ “As you wish, your Grace.”

A smirk crawled onto Dany’s face. “My curiosity is peaked though. Why does Lord Theodosius have such an animosity towards your family?” Normally so well kept, since the Imp had arrived her master of industry had grown rather sullen and misanthropic. “Was it due to his uncle’s dismissal?”

Shaking his head, Tyrion laid his head back. “Oh no, this predates anything I have done or could do. Long before that, I’m afraid. His parents were Targaryen loyalists, and my father had them murdered in their sleep.”

Dany pursed her lips. “I see… It seems as if most of the world’s misfortunes can be traced to only a few of its people.”

Offering a sad look, Tyrion nodded. “Yes, it would appear so. Gods only knows how it would end.”

Entering the room of her children a fair amount of time later, Dany leaned on the door jam with a smile of happiness. The twins played happily on the floor, imagining they were Targaryen conquerors defending their realm. With the stress of it all, the planning of the invasion and worry over Jon, her beloved dragonwolves gave her the peace and joy she so longed after.

Soon, they noticed her. “Issa.” Rhaegar ran to her, hugging her skirts. “I saw father.”

Dany raised an eyebrow. “You did?” He nodded happily. “Where?” She was curious.

“We saw him,” Arya explained, tossing her silver hair back with an annoyed look at her brother. “In a dream, Issa.”

‘The same as mine, almost…’ It warmed her heart that they had the same connection with their father as she did. Hugging them both, Daenerys got on her knees to hold them close. “Soon my darlings. Soon, we will see your father.”

 

A harsh crackle of the whip resonated through the air. “Move you dogs!” The snarling command was then given in low Valyrian by yet another beefy overseer, this one Essosi. Packed together close in cattle pens, the shuffling mass of swarthy-skinned human beings proceeded forward.

Cloak over her head, Arya Stark cursed under her breath. “Welcome back to Westeros,” she remarked sardonically, in words so low only her companion could hear. To think the King’s Landing she had left was a paradise compared to this.

Gendry Waters looked at the sullen faces of the onlookers at the port - and then to the even more sullen faces of the milling slaves. Snagging premier hammock berths in the merchant ship from Braavos to King’s Landing, they had both heard the mass of humanity and the occasional hairless mammoth crammed in the holds below. “And I thought slavery was banned in Westeros.”

“Apparently not in Joffrey Baratheon’s Westeros,” Arya replied, spitting out the hated name. Be it Essosi denied the usual markets in Slaver’s Bay after Daenerys Targaryen emancipated their slaves, Dornish prisoners taken in Tywin’s goal to ‘Make Dorne Howl,’ or ordinary Westerosi peasants impressed as ‘bondservants’ by Lords eager to escape the crown’s high taxes, all enslaved at Joffrey’s decree. “He’s on the top of my list.”

“Be careful,” Gendry hissed. “Someone could be watching.” Arya failed to argue back. ‘He has a point.’

In the distance, one Dornish slave collapsed into the dust. The guards set upon him like vultures, whips and clubs brought to bear. When they finally dispersed, the man was completely still. His fate was likely better than when a young woman collapsed similarly - one overseer grabbed her by the hair and dragged her away. It didn’t take much thought for Arya to picture what was going on.

“Not as many smallfolk as before,” Gendry observed as they walked through the city center. Both looked up into the steadily rising shape in the distance. “No surprise why.”

“The sooner we get to the Mud Gate, the safer we’ll be.” Arya pulled the hood tighter over her head. The guard presence was just as intimidating, though they were nearly all strange fuckers with shaved heads and chains draped over their loose shifts.

A cluster of people was gathered at the old Sept of Baelor - newly decorated with a gold statue of King Joffrey. “People of the Realm!” called out an older man in a dirty shift. “We must give thanks to the great Golden King, God among men. The Seven sent him to this earth to bring us out of our wicked ways and toward enlightenment. It is through labor that we have salvation, it is through his generosity that we have hope…”

“Old fool.”

“More than that, Gendry. It’s… calculated. Joffrey’s madness is getting more intricate.” Arya spat on the ground. “Very dangerous.” They ducked down a side alley.

Only to notice a commotion up ahead. People were scrambling out of the way as if from a leper. “Uh oh.” Being over six feet, Gendry saw it first. The glistening heads of soldiers - Sovereignguards. “Hide!” grabbing Arya, he forced them into a deserted shop, nestling behind a heavy tarp. “We can’t make a sound”

Arya clenched her teeth. One sound and the guards could ferret them out. Through a small rip in the tarp she could see who was in the litter. ‘Cersei.’ Her fist clenched around Needle’s hilt. ‘You’ll get yours one day.’ Soon, however, they were gone - and Arya allowed herself to relax… and notice how close together she and Gendry were. Her breath hitched.

Before him was the girl that haunted his dreams for years. A spitfire since they met, she still had that fire within her - a fire that he found irresistible. Unable to fight it, Gendry quickly closed the distance with the she-wolf, locking their lips. It was chaste, but passionate. After a shocked moment he could feel her meld into the kiss before she pulled away.

Glancing down at the girl with a satisfied, happy grin, he noticed her shocked expression. “Something wrong, Lady Stark?” Something about the way he said the last, in a manner not at all for propriety's sake, made Arya blush bright red. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No…” she said. Arya didn’t want Gendry to think he acted improperly - he had been her only rock in the storm of the years since her father’s death. “It’s just…” she bit her lip. “I’ve never had one of those before.”

“Oh.” It was his turn to look a bit sheepish. The strong blacksmith with an uncertain look. It made Arya want to giggle. ‘Jon and Sansa would be laughing their asses right now if they saw.’

“Now that I think about it… I’d like to do it again sometime.” Leaning on her tiptoes, she pecked him on the lips, making him grin again. “But not until we get the hells out of this fucking city.” He nodded. The sounds of marching echoing in the distance, the two of them melted back into the crowds of smallfolk.

 

Resting atop the battlements, Jon enjoyed the moments of peace and quiet that he was rarely allowed to have. The twinkling stars of Azor Ahai’s belt gazed down upon him in the moonless sky. “Melisandre thinks that I am Azor Ahai reborn,” he mused. “What do you think, girl?” Curled up on his chest, Sansenya blinked at her father. “I know, doubtful. But then again, me being the true heir to the Realm would have been doubtful as well.”

Hooting, the infant dragon basked in the warmth of the fire. Unable to produce flame themselves, the cold affected them more than their larger brother. Stroking her head, Jon wondered what Daenerys would think of him. ‘Would she still love me, now that I am her nephew?’ He still loved her, gods he loved her. Dany’s silver hair and radiant smile haunted and blessed every dream of his, gave him the strength to continue. ‘I can only hope she still would.’

“Brooding as always?” Jon looked to his right to see his sister, smirking. He grinned as she sat down next to him. “Old habits are hard to break, aren’t they?” Clad in thick furs, she was no longer shivering. Bathed and well fed at Margaery’s orders, Sansa looked like a new woman.

“Aye.” Jon hand fed Sansenya a cube of meat. “I’m sure we picked up more than one new habit on the way.”

Eying the orange dragon warily, Sansa sighed. “I wish we had never left Winterfell, that father never left.” She shuddered at her younger self’s hopeless infatuation with Joffrey. “I keep wanting to go back and scream ‘Don’t go, you idiot!’”

Jon chuckled. “Things have definitely changed since then.”

Staring at the sky, then at the dragon and back at the sky, Sansa reflected on everything she now knew. “Of all that I expected when deciding to come to Castle Black, finding Robb alive and you a Targaryen with four dragons were not among them.” The sadness welled in her, that Jon wasn’t her biological brother. “I’m sorry for the hurt you must have felt.”

“It did hurt at first.” The loving faces of his mother and father - both Ned and Rhaegar - comforted him, knowing that they loved him more than anything. He laughed grimly. “You always used to say that I wasn’t your real brother. Now it’s true.”

Grabbing his shoulder, Sansa looked Jon in the eye. “You are my real brother, Jon.” She pulled him into a hug, silently begging for him to believe her. “I love you, brother. We’ll always be siblings, even if you happen to be the true King.” Both laughed softly, that fact so profound it was amusing.

A slight screech drew both of their attention. “Looks like someone is feeling left out,” Jon said.

Chirping at her namesake, Sansenya leapt from Jon’s shoulder to Sansa’s. “She is cute, once you get used to her,” laughed Sansa, slowly reaching out with a finger to stroke the orange dragon’s tiny head. Sansenya chirped once more, nuzzling the digit. “You’d think dragons would be of ill temper.”

“They are… with most.” Jon had learned that the hard way for the most part, Rhaegal once nearly biting off Pyp’s hand before he intervened. Luckily, the large beast had given him enough experience to better discipline the girls. “Sansenya is the most docile of the lot, although that is relative. If Davos hadn’t had some of his fingers amputated…” he trailed off. Sansa only laughed again, petting the dragon on the head. Jon was glad to see her so carefree. “She was always the proudest and haughtiest, which is why I thought of you when naming her.”

“Shut up.” The two shared a grin, the long dormant sibling bond finally emerging in full. In the break in their conversation, Sansa couldn’t help but feel the regret and shame rise up. It had not diminished one iota since learning about Jon’s heritage. “Jon… after father… and especially after we thought Robb…” Just the memories were too painful for her, her raw soul open and vulnerable now that she was in private with family. Jon understood - their family had suffered so much since Joffrey… hells, since Robert’s Rebellion. “I always imagined a time would come where you would rescue me from that hell.”

“You’re smart, Sansa. You found your own way out.”

“Not when I was that young.”

Tossing another cooked piece of meat for Sansenya, Jon patted Sansa’s knee comfortingly. “I would have come if I could.”

“I know.” She bit back tears. “You were always a good brother, loving us. Even when I was such an ass to you.”

“Sansa, we were children…”

“Don’t make excuses.” The orange dragon cocked her head at her father and namesake, curious as to why they were arguing. “I was terrible to you much of the time, admit it.”

He chuckled at her determination. “You were occasionally awful.” Chewing on a skewered chunk of chicken, the memories of his brooding childhood returning. “I mustn't have been easy for you to relate with, thinking I was a bastard and all.”

“Even if you were, that didn’t make it right. Arya, Robb… none cared. Mother should have been better. I should have…” Remembering the servants talking, the gossip between her and Jayne Poole about him - and he was the true King the whole time. The best blood in the entire seven Kingdoms, Valyrian nobility and Northern royalty. ‘And yet he’s still Jon.’ “I’m sorry, Jon. For all of it.” Sansa placed her hand on his. “Forgive me.”

“There’s nothing to forgive…”

“Forgive me.”

Jon smiled. “Alright, I forgive you.” Leaning in, they pulled each other into a warm, filial hug. “You remind me of father, just as stubborn and determined.”

She beamed at the praise. “He may be your uncle, but you take after him greatly as well. You share his sense of honor, and his bravery.”

“Father was like that. So was Rhaegar Targaryen.” The image of the proud, warm-hearted warrior came to his mind.

“It is still shocking,” Sansa mused. “The stories we were all told about Rhaegar and Aunt Lyanna were all lies.” Her mouth curled into a scowl. “Fucking Robert. Fucking Lannisters. From what you’ve told Robb and me, Rhaegar was a good man. Nothing like Joffrey… or Ramsay.” Her mentioning the current occupant of Winterfell made Jon wince. The courier’s letter still crinkled in his pocket. Only he knew of its arrival, and he decided not to show it to Sansa until going it over himself. However, Sansa hadn’t gone through her struggles without picking up on a few things. “Jon… what are you hiding from me?”

“It’s nothing…”

“Don’t lie to me, Jon.”

Resigned, Jon removed the rolled paper and broke the wax, flayed man seal. Sansa’s breath hitched, that seal completely recognizable. “I received this early in the morning. I hadn’t the stomach to read it.” Unfurling the letter, he began to read. “‘To the traitor Jon Snow, bastard son of the Usurper’s dog,’” he looked puzzled at that line. “‘The one who let the Wildlings south of the Wall. Winterfell is mine, bastard, come and see. Your brother Rickon is in my dungeon…” His breath hitched. “His direwolf pelt lies on the floor of my King. Hand yourself and your dragon to my King and my bride back to me and I will spare both your brothers, your men, the Tyrell whores, and your wildling lovers. Do not, and you will watch as I skin them all alive. As…” Jon trailed off.

“Jon.”

“It’s just more of the same.”

“Read it.” Her firmness left no wiggle room.

Gulping, Jon continued, wishing he could have Sansenya, Rhaella, and Lyanarys disembowel him. “As my men rape your sister over and over. As my dogs devour your brothers, and then my King will turn your dragon against you, bastard.’” Jon scoffed, as if Ramsay thought he knew the truth.

Sansa felt her blood boiling. Now, having escaped her own hell and reunited in the loving embrace of her beloved brothers, her fear and trauma at the hands of Ramsay and Viserys was replaced with a white-hot anger. From its perch on her back, Sansenya screeched, feeling the rage from her namesake.

“‘Signed, Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell and Hand to King Viserys Targaryen, Second of his name…’ oh that’s just fucking perfect.” Jon’s rolled his eyes. “Of course he has to show up.”

Raising an eyebrow, Sansa looked puzzled. “You know him?” The gears in her mind turned. “When you were with father in Essos… you met Daenerys Targaryen and… oh.”

Jon nodded. “Yep. Back when he was merely pretending to be a King. We didn’t hit it off.” His sister’s look clearly demanded an explanation. “I sort of knocked him on his royal ass while sparring.” Jon couldn’t help but smirk at the memory.

Blinking, Sansa’s lips curled upward as merry laughter left her mouth. The dragon chirped and lept to the ground as she rocked in mirth. It had been so long that she had felt even a bit carefree and she loved her brother - for that was what he was - for giving that back to her. Laughter was a rare commodity in Joffrey’s capitol and in Ramsay’s Winterfell. It was only with Jon or Robb that she could feel safe and not guarded enough to indulge in it. “The tantrum following must have been quite amusing.”

“It was.” Jon laughed with her. Craning his neck to see the grounds, a look of melancholy crossed his face. “What will we do? As long as Viserys and Ramsay have Winterfell then they can kill us all.”

“It’s obvious, we take it back.”

“With what?” Jon extended his hands. “Much as I would like to go and tell the Boltons to pack up and leave, I don’t have an army.”

Her eyes narrowed in determination. “You have Wildings, dragons…”

“Rhaegal can’t spit fire and the others are mere hatchlings.” He gestured to Sansenya, barely the size of a small dog. “The Wildlings don’t follow me. We can’t attack Winterfell with the mere hundreds we have now, Sansa.”

Sansa stood. “As long as Viserys can hold grandiose notions of being a King and Ramsay holds Winterfell we are not safe. They are not safe. Winterfell is our home Jon. Ours. And Robb’s. And Arya’s, and Bran’s, and Rickon’s, and Father’s, and both our Mothers’. We have to fight for it.”

Heart heavy, soul weary, Jon stood as well. “I’m tired of fighting.” Despite being a mere twenty-one, his eyes looked decades older. “I’ve killed men, monsters, women… even myself. I left the woman that I love with all my heart in the other side of the world, and I most likely will never see her again. All I want is peace, Sansa. Peace.”

Wordlessly, Sansa hugged him. “So do I, Jon. So do I.” The pair stood there, motionlessly, for several moments. “But if we do not fight, then we will never have it.”

“Yours is the song of ice and fire.”

“If I am the true King,” he finally said, pulling back. “Then perhaps I should claim my birthright.” Sansa’s resulting grin matched the fire of her hair.

Chapter Text

It was a festive mood in the great hall of Winterfell. The long tables had been taken out and replaced with one circular table. Their King - Viserys III Targaryen - was absent, drunk from the latest bout of pain in his arm. Better, thought Lord Ramsay Bolton, Hand of the King. ‘The vicious oaf would just fuck everything up.’ Not that Ramsay wasn’t vicious, but he was smart. Raising a mug of ale in a cheer, once the hubbub died down he stood up. “Life goes on, my friends.” His face was all smiles. “As life moves at a fast pace, we should all enjoy things.” Ramsay leaned down to kiss the cheek of Myranda, his lover and partner in crime. “One thing this lovely lady has introduced me too…” He picked up a staff. “Stickfighting.”

Laughs came from the others, which Ramsay joined in. “No, it’s quite intriguing. They do it in Essos.” He began to walk around the table slowly, passing the allied lords. “Good for tiny men such as myself.” More laughs. His grin never faltered. “With the war we are facing, we’ll need every advantage. Our enemies… we have more, not just ‘King’ Joffrey or the other lioncunts he keeps around, but also to the North.” News that Jon Snow, Robb Stark, Margaery Tyrell, and Sansa Stark - his own wife - were massing an army of Wildlings and Northerners to take back Winterfell had spread far and wide.

“And then, in war but also in peace, we need to prioritize loyalty.” The assembled Lords and commanders cheered, quintessentially northern in their garrulousness. “Loyalty of a Lord to his King. Of a Hand to his King, and of a King to his men. The latter is the most important, but can only be achieved if the first two are followed to the letter.” He grinned, gesturing with his arms. “Wouldn’t you agree, my friends? Because when loyalty is not given by subordinates, we get abominations - such as Cersei Lannister running nations.”

Agreeable laughter echoed from the lords, the Lannister Bitch one all could hate. One of the amused diners was an older lord, pledged to Ramsay and Viserys but as of yet undecided on who to support in the coming power struggle. As the Hand to the King stopped behind him, the Lord had no idea that Ramsay knew of this.

Grin morphing into a snarl in but a split-second, Ramsay raised the staff. With a snarl he smashed it against the head of the Lord. Face transformed into the sadistic demon he truly was, Ramsay hit him over and over.

“Fuck.”

“Seven Hells.”

The murmurs and cursing of his allies not even registered, Ramsay only stopped when the audible crack of the obviously dead lord’s skull caved the brain in. Tossing the brain and blood covered staff onto the table, he took a few breaths before the smile returned. “Loyalty. It is the most important thing.” He calmly went back to his seat as human blood pooled on the table.

 

Already, Daenerys found her two senior advisors waiting for her in her solar. “Lady Stark. Hand Lannister.” With Catelyn’s loving treatment of the twins and her sharp mind, Dany was growing to value her counsel - same with Tyrion, who she had made her Hand not two weeks prior.

Hearing their greetings, the queen’s mind was still replaying the conversation she had had not ten minutes before.

“You are not going to Westeros, Daario. I need you here in Meereen. The city is on a knife’s edge, and I need someone I trust to protect it and its people.”

“Fuck Meereen, and fuck the people. They are not who I swore myself to.”

It hadn’t been something she looked forward to, crushing Daario’s hopes like that. He was a strong ally of hers and challenging company, but it had to be done. Both for her as a Queen and for her as a woman. ‘He just has to get over our night together.’ So far Daario refused to, though he hadn’t really said anything since he was wounded.

“The army is readying itself at a fast pace.” Tyrion balanced a chalice in his hand, filled with wine. “The Dothraki already have their horses prepared to disembark, and fifteen thousand freedmen auxiliaries are fully trained and eager to fight.” He did not mention how General Theodosius nearly punched him when he visited to get the information.

Staring out the window at her armada, hundreds of ships ready to take the largest army ever assembled to Westeros, Daenerys’ gaze rested on one of them. One with a Kraken emblazoned on the foresail. “And what do you advise regarding the Iron Islanders? Their offer is very generous, and the woman would be far better to be on the throne for me than the uncle they speak of.” She turned, finding Catelyn shifting uncomfortably. “On the other hand the man, Theon was it… did raid your home and kill nearly everyone in your keep. He nearly killed your two sons.” Fire burned in her violet orbs. “An attack on the family of my children is an attack on me.”

Seeing Catelyn’s indecision, Tyrion chimed in as the voice of reason. “As satisfying as it would be to engage in vengeance, ladies, you must remember that your children are alive.”

“Only one is confirmed to be alive, Tyrion.” Dany hadn’t felt safe sending Bran to Qarth, but the boy was oddly persistent - he was well protected, in any case.

“The deal Yara Greyjoy presented us in the past week is generous, as you have said, your Grace. Petty vengeance in the place of sound strategy does not ever work, as you know personally, Lady Stark.” Of course she remembered, given that having Tyrion captured at knifepoint for allegedly setting an assassination attempt on Bran Stark nearly caused Ned’s death sooner than it happened in reality. Tyrion hoped she had learned that lesson.

Pursing her lips, Catelyn sighed. “Bran is alive, and I know that he did not murder Rickon. From what he told me of Ramsay Bolton’s… proclivities. He’s suffered enough. Theon’s redemption was saving Sansa.”

“He could be lying.”

Catelyn shook her head. “I could tell he wasn’t. Take the offer from the Greyjoy’s. You need the ships. Iron Island caravels and carracks are the best there are at battle. While the troops are being unloaded at Dragonstone, they can screen the landings.”

Nodding, Dany sat on one of the couches. “Very well. They will be spared and welcomed onto the war council, for now. I still don’t trust them.” She had a feeling Jon would punch Theon in the teeth before even saying one word. It made her smirk.

“Speaking of the war council, how did your meeting with the sellsword captain go?” Tyrion watched her with a raised eyebrow. “Did you let him down gently?”

Dany narrowed her eyes. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

A laugh escaped the Imp’s lips. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you. Half puppy dog and half hungry wolf.” Filling the wine cup in his hand with more of the straw-colored liquid - the white vintage was better than Dornish red, though he’d drink horse piss wine if it was the only vintage available - he took a hearty sip. “As your Hand, it is best that I know these things.”

Clasping her fingers together, Dany closed her eyes and exhaled. “Yes, I dallied with him once. It was a mistake then but I am fond with Daario Naharis as a commander. I told him that I wished him to stay in Meereen, to hold it in case the Masters shake themselves out of their torpor and attack. Then, he confessed his love for me.” It was… sweet, but she had no feelings for him in the slightest. Her heart belonged to another.

“He won’t be the first one to love you, your Grace, nor will he be the last.” He drank another gulp. “You are a Queen, and are planning to be Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. You will need to make alliances through marriage. That will win you the Realm, more than any show of military might.”

Her jaw set in determination. “There is only one I will marry. Jon Snow, the father of my children.”

“He would help bind the north to her,” Catelyn noted, expecting Tyrion’s counterpoints.

“I did consider him first, and he’s a top candidate given what I remember of him, your Grace. However, love cannot take the place of strategy and duty. Much as it would pain me to hurt you in this way.” Tyrion, being lucky in finding and keeping the woman that he loved but having endured a marriage based on politics, wished not to hurt his new Queen. He had grown to care for her. “But, marrying a bastard could jeopardize your standing.”

Instead of blowing up, Dany only smirked. She nodded at Catelyn, who smiled softly. “Tyrion, it is time I inform you of the truth.” He leaned forward, curious as to what she could mean. “Jon Snow isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard.”

This, Tyrion did not expect. “Um… so who’s child is he?”

“He is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, the trueborn son.”

Blinking in disbelief, Tyrion shifted his gaze to Catelyn Stark. “Aye, it is true. I was shown the marriage documents by Ned himself. Rhaegar and Lyanna were lawfully husband and wife.” The guilt still ate at her. “After Lyanna died, Ned took him as his own to protect the Targaryen child from Robert Baratheon’s wrath.”

Silence reigned for the moment, two sets of feminine eyes set upon the Lannister dwarf - gauging his reaction. The curly beard and mustache hid it for a moment, but soon the immense grin that began to form erupted into raucous laughter. Wine spilled over the floor as he shook with mirth. “Oh Eddard Stark,” he wheezed between chuckles. “Just when I thought you couldn’t be more honorable.” Tyrion struggled to compose himself. “Pretending to have a bastard and dishonoring yourself in order to protect your beloved sister’s child from a fat tyrant bent on killing all Targaryens? If it weren’t Ned Stark I wouldn’t believe it.”

“So you believe it?” Catelyn asked, a bit surprised by his… unexpected reaction.

“Yes.” Gulping down the last of his wine, Tyrion had managed to regain composure. “Believe me, if you were trying to lie then this wouldn’t have been it.” He sat back down, a hand on his stomach. “Well, this… clearly changes things. The incest issue isn’t a problem for your House, so that problem isn’t a problem at all. Being the heir to the Seven Kingdoms and having Stark blood makes him… he has the most noble blood in all the Realm. Targaryen and Stark. I suppose you can get both political benefits and marry for love, your Grace.”

The beaming smile of a woman in love returned to Dany, just as it had when she found out the truth about Jon. “Yes, honored Hand, I am lucky.” She rose. “Excuse me, I will be visiting my children.”

As soon as she had left the room, Tyrion started laughing again. “Jon Snow… oh Robert, you fat cunt. If only you knew.”

Catelyn scowled. “Joffrey will be just as determined to be rid of him.”

“That is true, only I doubt Jon Snow would let him without a fight.”

 

“You don’t have to be here,” Robb whispered to his sister as the opposing party galloped ever forward. Behind the hills, the tops of Winterfell’s towers were just visible. Nestled in the van of the collection of lords and commanders - Davos, Tormund, Brienne, the Blackfish, Lyanna Mormont, and others, all collected through the cajolling and wheedling that they could bring to bear (Sansa and Davos had proven quite adept at diplomatic dealing). Securing the Blackfish had been a coup, but the neutrality of the Glovers, Manderys, and Curwins really set them back. The two Starks watched as the fluttering flayed man and three-headed dragon banners approached.

“No.” Sansa’s voice was as hard as steel. “I have to.”

After what seemed like hours, the Targaryen/Bolton party reached the Starks. Tension permeated the air. “My beloved wife,” Ramsay finally said, eyes settling on Sansa. “I’ve missed you terribly.” He turned to look at Robb. “Thank you for returning Lady Bolton to me safely.” Almost manic in his enjoyment of this moment, Ramsay looked at each member of the opposing party. He shared a laugh with his King, Viserys looking as haughty as ever. “So, where is your bastard commander?” He giggled, although anything out of his lips sounded sinister.

“He probably ran away, Hand,” Viserys laughed, though it was anything but sinister. He rested his gloved hand against the gold cast of his left. “Fled like the cowardly bastard he is.”

Allowing herself a smirk, Sansa looked back at the horizon. There was a small, low-flying speck. “Actually, he should be here quite soon…” A loud shriek - deep and booming - resonated across the plain. All the Bolton allies but Ramsay flinched while the Stark men grinned. Flapping hard, low off the ground, swooped in the green form of Rhaegal. Perched on his back was Jon Snow, dressed every inch a Stark warrior.

Planting himself on the ground, Rhaegal let out an ear-splitting roar. His rider held on with the skill of an expert. ‘Rhaegal, sit.’ One grunt left the beast’s maw and he relaxed on the ground, narrow eyes blazing at his rider’s foes. Jon gazed at each of the men opposing him. Some, like Viserys - much to Jon’s chagrin and amusement - were visibly cowering. Others, like Smalljon Umber, flinched but recovered their icy contempt for their enemies.

Ramsay, on the other hand, wasn’t perturbed at all. On the contrary - much to Sansa’s annoyance, though she kept it hidden behind narrowed eyes - his mania seemed increased. “Oh wonderful, the rumors were true.” He giggled again. “I always wanted to see a dragon… not that it will matter to you.” A grin spread across his face. “Had the beast been able to breathe fire, you would have taken Winterfell already. I’m sure you would have convinced him of that, dear wife.”

Sansa merely shot daggers at him, impassive and waiting for Jon to start. Stroking Rhaegal’s neck - more to calm his own anger than the green dragon’s - Jon let the silence stretch out the tension. “State your terms, Lord Bolton. Or should I address the Mad Prince instead?” Jon suppressed a smirk as Viserys nearly turned purple at the old insult.

Biting back profanities, the interloper King tried to recover his regal composure. In reality, it just looked ridiculous. “It doesn’t matter bastard. My Hand will inform you of my terms, which are lenient considering what you deserve. Hand, you may proceed.”

“Alright.” Ramsay was giddy. “Dismount and kneel before the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms, and the King will grant his clemency to all of you traitors. For he is a man of mercy.” The grin never vanished. “Oh, and the King will be wanting that dragon, and I my wife. They belong to their rightful masters, not a bastard son of a fallen Lord and a southern whore.”

‘If only you knew,’ Jon thought.

Ramsay continued, smirking darkly. “Also, His Grace will release your younger brother as an act of mercy.”

“How do we know you have him?” Robb asked. At that point, Smalljon Umber tossed the rotting head of a direwolf. That put an end to that.

“There is no need for a battle.” Jon played the haughty, nonplussed monarch better than Viserys ever could. ‘Why not, I have Targaryen and Stark blood.’ Two royal lines. “You and me, fight to the death. Like the old ways.”

“You can throw the Mad Prince in as well.” Robb chuckled dryly. “From what I hear, it would still be one-on-one.” The Stark forces couldn’t help but laugh at Viserys’ expense, the Bolton commanders suppressing their smirks and snickers.

Ramsay ignored it, agreeing silently. “He’s good.” He looked at both Robb and Sansa. “Your bastard brother is good, and from what I hear, a great swordsman. I don’t know if I can beat him, but I do know that the armies of the rightful King will slaughter you. Not a hard choice to make.”

Eyes narrowing once more, Sansa looked him straight in the eye. “You’re going to die tomorrow, Lord Bolton. You and your false King.” Urging her horse, she galloped away.

With Sansa gone, Ramsay couldn’t hold his manic glee. “You are fine men.” Giggles left him. “My hounds will love to feast on you. I haven’t fed them in seven days. They are hungry. Wouldn’t it be quite the sight, my King?”

Grinning, Viserys spoke himself - the fact that he let Ramsay steal the dominance of the conversation obvious to all but him. “Do thank you for taking care of that dragon, bastard. I shall need it for my reign.” As if sensing the words from the interloper, Rhaegal growled menacingly. “Don’t worry about your sister though, my Hand will only use her as long as she is useful.” Laughing, he glanced at Ramsay. Jon could sense the contempt from the Bolton Lord, and could sense that Viserys was too stupid to pick up on it - not that it surprised him. “As I told her long ago, I would let the whole world fuck her if it gave me my throne.”

It took all of Jon’s strength and self-confidence not to murder Viserys where he stood. Dany. Viserys had sold Dany to the same monster that his sister had been enslaved to. At that moment Jon knew what was going to come. There would be no deals, no treaties. This was no ordinary war, with a conquered and conqueror. Only a victor and a corpse.

 

Flickering torches banished the darkness from Winterfell’s courtyard, the black sky waiting above the light as a shroud threatening a malevolent descent. Ramsay Bolton, gazing at the dazzling array of flayed man banners of his House - he ignored the Targaryen three-headed dragons, finding them as irrelevant as his supposed ruler - gingerly avoided the ice slicks that dotted the ground. Marching men melted the snow, and since there were a lot of them there were a lot of re-frozen ice patches that caused quite a few injuries.

Shaking his hand at the struggling servants dragging a huge contraption on wheels, he made his way over to his King. “You summoned me, your Grace?” Innocence dripped from his tongue.

Clutching the golden sheath covering his claw of a hand, the blackened skin inside itching and hurting, the mix of pain and alcohol in his system was causing the Targaryen interloper to rage. “He has a dragon! That half-breed northern bastard cur has a dragon!” Viserys’ eyes blazed madness. It was clear which side the coin had fallen on. “My horselord slut sister is behind this, I know it! They fucked each other and now she sent him a dragon! A dragon meant for me!”

That said dragon looked as if it wanted to eat Viserys alive amused Ramsay to no end, but he declined to state it. “Do not worry, your Grace. The dragon was wounded north of the Wall, and so is no threat. Our allies from the Riverlands have ensured this.” He motioned to Black Walder Rivers, the bastard son of Walder Frey and in co-command of Viserys’ army.

Pulling the tarp off, the King blinked at what looked like a giant crossbow. “What the hells is this?”

“It is a scorpion, your Grace. Tywin Lannister was having them designed in King’s Landing for when your sister deploys her dragons in a potential war. I managed to purchase three smaller ones before you were formally announced as King.” Black Walder hefted a thin spear-bolt. “It fires this at high speeds, ensuring both accuracy and penetrating ability.”

“I want the dragon alive, Hand!” Viserys snarled.

‘Thinking I’d kill the dragon, as if I’m as stupid as you?’ Ramsay only smiled at his ‘King.’ “Of course, your Grace. The bolt is only to weaken the beast.” He reached into a box, two bannermen having pried it open when they walked in. Out came a grappling hook, long and with a stout rope tied at the end. “We’ll wheel these bastards close once the beast cannot move

Running his hand along the wood, Viserys grinned like a hyena. “This pleases me.” A look of puzzlement crossed his face. “But how will we get the dragon close enough to take it down? Jon Snow won’t charge at us, will he?”

Even the fool could have moments of sanity, Ramsay figured. He gestured to the kennel, lips contorting into that same sadistic smirk. “Leave that to me, my King.”

 

It was dank in the command tent. Darkness having fallen long before in the early dusk of winter, the light and warmth given off by the fires only filled the space within the canvas walls with smoke and musk. Most were used to it, however, the Northmen and Free Folk especially. It didn’t stop any from the planning at hand.

“Our scouts have picked up activity on the Kingsroad,” Davos breathed. “The Freys have arrived, led by Black Walder.”

“Damn,” said the Blackfish. “Of all those backstabbing weasels, he’s the most capable on the field - though that isn’t saying much.” Jon cast an eye on his siblings’ uncle. The men he brought with him nearly turned the tide, but the Freys threw that advantaged down the latrine. “So what do we now have?”

Grabbing a large staff tipped with a wooden block, Robb began moving pieces into position. The last time he had gone over something like this had been prior to the Red Wedding - and that hadn’t gone well at all. He prayed daily that it wouldn’t happen to Jon. “We have thirty-five hundred Wildlings,” he nodded at Tormund, who had delivered bigly. “One hundred-fifty Tyrell pikemen, four hundred assorted horsemen from the northern houses, and nine hundred Tully infantry.” He watched as Davos moved the enemy into position. “Meanwhile, the Boltons, Umbers, and Karstarks have over five thousand men on their own, and the Freys - conservatively - probably boosted that number by four thousand.”

“So we’re outnumbered by three thousand. Especially on cavalry.” Leaning on the table, arms spreading out, Jon felt the long odds hitting him. “We need to have them come to us.”

“Speak for yourself, King Crow.” Tormund crossed his arms. “Mounted knights will cut us down like a knife through meat.”

“That’s why I’m having our men dig trenches on either side, which’ll protect our sides. If we can get them to attack, they can tire themselves on our defenses long enough for the Tully infantry to swing around and hit them on the flank. Envelopment.”

Lyanna Mormont huffed. “We could have doubly enveloped if the Glovers hadn’t wimped out.”

“Aye, but the plan is the best we have. If we hold, victory is ours.” As the commanders and Lords left the tent, Jon reflected on how little he believed himself.

Soon, it was just him, Robb, and Sansa. Arguably the only Starks left alive. It was… surreal. Standing for the first time since the meeting began, Sansa looked at Jon with a weary look. “Brother, I fear you have made a terrible error.”

“Sansa, Jon needs his sleep for the coming fight…”

“Robb, we should hear her out.” Jon was not going to be the person that allowed no question to his leadership from those he could trust. “The plans could be better, but we did what we could…”

“You met Ramsay for but one conversation. I’ve lived with him, known him in ways you could never fathom or stomach. You are playing right into his hands.”

Eyes darting from Sansa, to Robb, to the table, and back to Sansa, Jon sighed. “I know Viserys, Sansa. I’ve spent the same time with him, as Robb did with the Freys. He is a fool and will blunder into our trap.”

A frustrated chuckle left Sansa’s lips. “If you think that pompous fool is in charge… Ramsay is the one here. He manipulates people, enjoys manipulating people. Ramsay never falls for tricks, he is the master trickster.”

“His numerical superiority makes him overconfident,” Robb interjected.

“You don’t know him.”

“Then how do we get Rickon back, Sansa?” Robb’s face was plastered with emotion.

Sorrow and pain crossing over Sansa’s face, she forced it behind her mask. “You’ll never get him back. Give up thinking that you will, he’s Ned Stark’s trueborn son. He’s a greater threat to Ramsay than a bastard, a fallen King, or a girl.” She looked straight into Jon’s eyes. “Jon, do not fall for his tricks.”

Stepping forward, Jon put his hand on her shoulder. “Sister, I know what you are trying to say, but I haven’t played with sticks in the time we were apart. I’ve fought worse than Ramsay Bolton. I’ve defeated worse than Ramsay Bolton.” He gestured to the table. “We’ve pleaded with every house and we’re lucky to have this many men, to have a dragon that can at least fight on the ground. Every day he grows stronger, so we can’t delay. There is no better time to strike.”

“It’s not enough!”

“It’s all we have!”

Silence fell over the three of them… two of them, Jon noticing that Robb had stepped out - for what reason he couldn’t fathom. Sansa stared at him, eyes cold with resigned sorrow. “Jon, if Ramsay wins…” she bit her lip. “I don’t intend to be taken alive.” The rightful King watched as she left the tent.

‘There’s only one avenue left to me,’ she resigned herself to make her deal with the devil, a tear falling to the snow below at the situation her family found itself in.

Gazing blankly at the various unit designations on the map, Jon lashed out. His fist slammed on the intricate colors and squiggles. Everything was falling apart, defeat was likely. “I can’t even protect my own family.” He wondered if this was what his father thought. What both thought, Rhaegar on the floodplains of the River Trident or Ned in the Tower of Joy - hells, even Robb at the Red Wedding. “Gods damn it!” Jon needed air. He needed to feel the cold.

The freezing winds hit him like a relieving cup of water on a hot day. No matter how much dragonblood coursed through his veins, there was no doubt that Jon was a northerner through and through. ‘Ice as well as fire.’ Cold focused his mind. Cold was his element, and only Tormund could challenge him for fighting experience in icy weather. Jon looked at the maze of tents. These were strong men, hardened men. They could win.

“You have to promise me something... “ Jon’s ears picked up muffled voices. Peeking round the tent, he made out two figures. One was his brother. “If something happens to me, to Jon, I need you to get Sansa and the dragons. Take them to Eastwatch and sail for Slaver’s Bay, Margaery.” Margaery, so that’s where Robb went.

“Why there?”

“Because that’s where my mother is. Ask for her, and for Queen Daenerys.” Jon’s heart hitched at the mentioning of Slaver’s Bay. “They will keep you safe. I... “ Emotion clouded Robb’s voice. “I’ve lost so much already. I can’t lose Sansa to that madman… I can’t lose you…” Seeing the two of them embrace, lips touching comfortingly, Jon allowed his brother privacy. There was no way he’d intrude in such an intimate moment. He had noticed the stolen glances between the two, and silently wished his brother well - Robb deserved a second chance at love.

‘Dany.’ If there was anyone that could help him in this fight, it was her. Staggering to the edge of the encampment, Jon took in the inhospitable northern wilderness - his home - in despair. “Why didn’t I contact her?” Sam had alluded to it. Sansa had basically said it back at Castle Black. Perhaps it was disbelief, perhaps he figured she wouldn’t love him anymore… perhaps even after everything he now knew Jon still felt himself unworthy. And now, it was too late.

“Lord Snow.” Or was it? Striding next to him, Melisandre looked out to the same expanse of wilderness as he did. “Calming yourself before your victory?”

“I admire your optimism.” A bird passed overhead, a crow. “Did you see that in the future?”

“I follow the signs the Lord of Light gives me. And everything he shows points to a great victory by the Prince that was Promised.”

Despite his doubt in what the Red Woman preached, both his true mother and father believed just the same. They were convinced he was Azor Ahai reborn and told him as much. Even still, a question popped to mind. “You said dragons are very mystical creatures. Is it the same with dragonriders?”

She glanced at him. “I’m confused at what you request, my King.”

“Can a dragonrider communicate with another? The same way they communicate with their dragon?” Jon hung on the hope. The last hope for victory, no matter what Melisandre’s god said.

Blinking, the Red Witch pondered it. “I have heard stories told of Old Valyria. The bond between dragon and rider is forged by a special connection, which is only why a dragon can connect with their birther and their rider. If riders have a connection between each other, then their connection would have to be strong.”

Hanging his head, Jon stared south at where his childhood home rested - unable to see it through the hills and woods but almost making out the tallest spire of the castle’s tower. “Melisandre.”

“Yes, my Lord?”

“If I am to die on the field of battle…” Sighing deeply, closing his eyes for but a moment, Jon felt the weight of it all falling upon him. All he wanted was peace. For it to be over. His being resurrected before was a sign, but did he want to perpetually cheat death? ‘I’ll leave it to the gods to decide.’ “Do not attempt to bring me back.”

Eyes widening for a split second, the Red Witch eventually nodded. “I can make that promise, Lord Jon Snow, because it will not happen. You will be victorious.”

“You seem to be the only confident one,” Jon chuckled. Either that or break down.

“The Prince Promised has destiny to fulfill. It will not end on a simple battlefield outside Winterfell castle.” With that, she strode away, leaving Jon alone with himself. A place Jon was quite familiar with.

The Red Witch’s words swirled in his mind. ‘Could he communicate with her?’ it was obvious that he and Rhaegal had a connection - dragon to dragonrider - and that connection was shared with his children. But would such an action with Dany be a stretch?

Sansa was right though. Their army was vastly outnumbered now that the Frey forces joined up with Ramsay. The armies of Viserys Targaryen were superior to theirs in every way, only a fool would deny it. Much as he wished it were different, much as he would like to hug Sansa and tell her that they would win, Jon couldn’t. He’d be dead on the field once the battle concluded if a miracle didn’t occur.

There was nothing to lose for trying.

Kneeling in the snow, eyes closed yet head angled towards the partially obscured stars, Jon focused his mind. “Dany, my love.” The words of affection, so long banished from the isolation and fundamental loneliness of his vows and his position in the North, tumbled out. They felt strange to the tongue, yet supremely right at the same time. “If you can hear me, please. We are in peril, and need your help. I need your help.”

Nothing but the harsh wind replied to his plea.

 

Hands on the railing, silver hair whipping in the steady breeze, Dany watched her two children with a smile. From their time on the open ocean, Balerion and Edderon had grown to be excellent fishermen. Their long necks and the gusty winds allowed them to glide over the water and ambush the large fish from above. She loved to see them so happy and carefree - though the longing for the still missing Rhaegal still gnawed at her.

“Your Grace.” Dany turned her head to see Missandei step up to her. “I can report that the twins are safely ashore at Dragonstone. The raven from Lord Varys arrived barely ten minutes ago.”

A sigh left her lips. “Thank the gods.” Daenerys missed her babies desperately - they hadn’t left her side since they were born, though she was sure they’d be protected. But when she found Jon again, it would be best if he knew what he was expecting before they met for the first time. She hoped that he wouldn’t be angry.

Placing a tanned hand over her lilly-white one, Missandei smiled. “Don’t worry, if he’s as amazing as you make him out to be, then he’ll love them.” Dany looked at her gratefully, silently thanking her for the comfort.

Suddenly, an unseen flash hit Dany. Her eyes opened wide. “Jon.” It was as if she heard his words standing right next to him. Every word.

Chapter Text

“You can’t!” A frazzled, frustrated Tyrion Lannister ran his hand through his shaggy hair in supreme frustration. “The most important woman in the world can’t run off into the unknown because of some daydream.”

Clad in a white coat lashed tightly over her thick, woolen dress and Saracen clipped to her hip, Daenerys wasn’t about to explain the innate bond of a dragonrider. Such only went over the heads of a non-Valyrian. “He is in danger, Tyrion.” She silently called on her children, eyes searching for them above the fleet. “I am not going to let the father of my children die.” Her voice was as firm as steel. “Not when I am so close to having him back.”

“We’re close to shore,” exclaimed Catelyn Stark, pointing to the sandy beach and forests of the northern coast. Theon had charted them to be fifty miles north of White Harbor. “At least head there with the legion of Unsullied if you think Jon’s life is in danger.”

Through the clouds dived the massive beasts. Almost fully grown, they dwarfed even many of the Ironborn ships. “There is no time, Lady Stark. If there’s any help to be gotten from me flying to him, then it is worth it.”

“Will you rule if you’re dead? Will you break the wheel if you’re dead?” Tyrion beseeched the Queen to listen.

Dany wheeled around, anger and fear all over her face. “Then what would you have me do?”

Inhaling a deep breath, Tyrion hoped the Queen would see reason. “My nephew, he is determined to rule the world as a god. He’ll lay waste to anything between him and that goal. You’re the only one who can stop him.”

“If you die,” Catelyn pleaded. “Then all is lost. Everything, all of us, it’ll be over before it even began.”

A massive vessel, converted from shipping heavy grain milling tools and bulk goods from King’s Landing to Meereen, the fo'castle was large enough to hold the massive bulk of Balerion. Running a hand along his snout, Dany began climbing onto his back. Edderon circled close above them. “If I let Jon die out there,” she turned, looking them both in the eye. “Then there’s no point in any of it. I’ll be just as bad as Joffrey.”

Mounting Balerion, he let out a piercing bellow and vaulted into the sky. The wind whipped through Dany’s braided hair as her two children ascended ever heavenward.

‘I’m coming, my love. I’m coming.’

 

Howling winds shrieking through the gorge-lined valley, Lord Petyr Baelish looked back at the Eyre. It grew ever smaller as the riding party inched along the mountain trail for the Kingsroad, their leader returning to the capitol. He would miss the place. Not for the inhabitants nor the luxuries, but the sense of having his own personal fiefdom in the realm. In King’s Landing, he was but a manager for the mad, vicious god-king that all served. ‘Not forever. Soon.’

“My Lord!” A courier rode up to him, the banner of Arryn gripped in his left hand. A dispatch was held in his right. “It bears the royal seal, mi’Lord.”

Tipping his hand, Littlefinger broke the seal of the Chimera - no self respecting god-King would resort to a mere stag or lion for his sigil. Joffrey demanded something grander, and the part-lion, part-eagle, part-snake with antlers on its head was chosen. He unfurled the message.

Under orders of the almighty god-King Joffrey, you are to deploy the Knights of the Vale to crush the northern insurrection led by the bastard traitor Ramsay Bolton and the Targaryen usurper.

Qyburn, Master of Whisperers

Grinning, Littlefinger locked eyes with the courier. “Send a message back to the capitol that I have done as the almighty requested.”

“At once, my Lord.” And he galloped off.

Littlefinger chuckled quietly. “Why not?” he said to no one in particular. “It technically is true.” None had to know the circumstances of why he sent the men north, or the now burned letter he had received that led him to do it. One way or another, Petyr Baelish always got ahead.

 

An eerie silence clouded the plains of Winterfell. In the distance loomed the grey battlements and towers, almost ghostlike to those that were prepared to die over who would dwell within. Surreal acceptance and thinly veiled fear gripped the wildlings, northmen, and riverdwellers within the ranks of Jon Snow’s army, but in their commander the sight of who had been led on a rope before all left him with a different kind of fear.

“Seven hells,” breathed Robb, feeling the same fear. Jon shouldn’t go for it, but the similar move would have been his top choice. At least his brother had a dragon.

Rhaegal chafed underneath Jon, picking up on his rider’s emotions. When the boy - Rickon Stark, long missing - began to run with arrows following him, the dragon expected Jon’s urging to follow. He spread his wings, laboring to keep even the slightest bit airborne.

Sheathing another arrow onto the bowstring, Ramsay felt his massive hard on straining against his pants. He let it fly, purposely missing the delightfully scared boy by nearly three yards.

“Come on. Hit him already!” Patience was not Viserys’ strong suit. This was his moment, finally at the head of a powerful fighting force of elite men. With the Bolton hoplites, Karstark cavalry, Umber men-at-arms, and Frey irregulars, he would take the Seven Kingdoms. If his damn Hand would fight.

Suppressing an urge to bury his steel-tipped arrow in his King, Ramsay looked to his side. An amused glint shone in his eye. “Ready when you are, darling.” Returning his smirk, Myranda signaled for the tarp to be removed, exposing the Scorpion to the open air. Wheeling it forward, she took careful aim…

‘Down.’ Wings flapping wildly, straining to keep in the air, Rhaegal obeyed his rider and went for a bumpy landing. Sweat poured down Jon’s brow despite the cold. Seeing the small form of his brother and another arrow land only three feet to his right, he grabbed onto one of the green dragon’s neck spines and leaned down. Jon stuck out his gloved hand. ‘Come on Rickon. Run. RUN!’

Terror all over his face, Rickon reached out for salvation. Rhaegal roared as another arrow began its downward plunge. Jon strained as far as he could safely go. Fingertips came closer and closer… contact!. With all his strength Jon heaved his young brother onto the back of his dragon, feeling his clenching heart finally relax. ‘Rhaegal, get us back to our forces.’ The dragon gave a grunt of approval, beginning to power back into the low air.

“Fire!”

Winches cranked all the way back, the scorpion’s torsion-based firing mechanism released. The steel-tipped dart shot out at a high velocity, speed and aerodynamic shape ensuring accuracy. Myranda’s aim was true. Dead center for the shoulder joint between the torso and the left wing…

The bolt slammed into Rhaegal out of nowhere. It was as if a sledgehammer rocked the massive beast, a shriek of agony resonating across the battlefield. Jon, nearly jostled off his dragon, held Rickon tightly and gripped the spines as if his life depended on it. They all felt the jolt as Rhaegal slammed into the ground - it was on his feet, but a hard landing.

Myranda whooped, lasciviously gyrating her pelvis in celebration of her well-aimed shot. Noticing his King finally happy again, Ramsay did not rest on his laurels. “The dragon is still mobile. Hit him again!” Mechanists dashed forward to reload and reposition the scorpion.

Pushing up, resuming his upright stance, the dizziness clouded Jon’s vision. He had no idea of what was afoot except that it would undoubtedly happen again. ‘Run, Rhaegal. Run.’ But just as the dragon turned to crawl back to the Stark lines, a second bolt slammed into his right leg, falling him again. There was now a persistent limp.

“The dragon is disabled!” Ramsay signaled to his signaller. “Full charge! I want Jon Snow’s head!” With two sharp blows of the horn, the Bolton and Karstark cavalry erupted out of their positions.

None of this was ignored in the Stark lines. “Protect your commander!” screamed Robb, unsheathing his sword, he could see his signaller giving the orders. Podrick and Brienne by his side, deep bellows from Mag and Wun, the Stark line surged forward.

Sensing Rhaegal’s pain through their connection, Jon immediately hopped off the dragon’s neck to inspect the damage. Two bolts protruded spitefully out of the scaly skin. He quickly pulled them out - luckily, they weren’t barbed and slid out easily. Rhaegal whined loudly but seemed better. The limp remained, however.

“Jon!” Looking up, Jon found Rickon frantically pointing behind him. At the sight before him, Jon could clearly see what spooked his brother. A wall of men and horses, banners of Bolton, Karstark, and Frey fluttering in the air as they surged forward. At the rate they were coming, Jon and Rhaegal would be enveloped in less than a minute.

“Rickon, get to our lines! Do not stop running!” His brother did as he was told, scrambling off the green dragon’s back and racing away. “Do not stop!”

Meeting Rhaegal’s eyes, Jon placed a gloved hand on his snout. “I’m sorry, my friend,” he offered. The green beast purred low and soft, as if absolving him of blame. Turning back to the enemy forces, Jon unbuckled his scabbard. Longclaw emerged in a fluid motion, scabbard falling to the the muddy ground. The Valyrian steel shone in the overcasted light. Time seemed to slow to a crawl for Jon, noticing the smallest things in a surreal yet vivid picture. He could make out the individual faces of the charging enemy, raising his sword to go down like a warrior...

Only for his own cavalry to shoot past him and slam into the enemy line. A colliding of flesh, steel, and wood all together. Lances ran through men, spurting blood and guts over the trodden ground. Bodies were thrown back off their horses in twisted, mangled heaps. It was as if all order and control around Jon descended into a charnelhouse of slaughter and chaos. Crimson liquid spattered his face, the coppery smell hitting his nose. It didn’t take long for the stench of death to descend over the field, the cold helping somewhat. A flash of steel shook him from his reverie, Jon raising Longclaw to block the blow heading his way.

“Nock!” Davos shouted, watching the archers draw their bowstrings. In the maze, he couldn’t make out the difference between friend and foe. “Damn!” ‘Can’t take down our own men.’

On the opposite side, Ramsay had no such compunctions. “Nock! Loose!” The arrows sailed through the air, impacting both the Stark forces and his own without mercy.

“The only dead of our own will be peasants,” scoffed Viserys Targaryen, laughing.

Gaze shifting to the side, Davos spotted a target. “Shift right! Shift right! Loose!” Over a hundred arrows arced up and then down, impacting into the Frey lines. More an unarmored mob with weapons and ferocity, the sheer weight staggered from the volley mere moments before they smashed into the better armed but outnumbered Tully dismounted men-at-arms - the desperate flanking maneuver ended as quickly as it began, but the Blackfish held his men against their sworn enemies with a righteous fury. The Tyrell pikemen formed the center as they hacked their way through the numerous cutthroats. They may have been blocked from reaching the others by the Frey host, but they’d take down as many as they could. If the Frey soldiers were good for one thing it was plentiful sword fodder.

The blow was easily dispatched, and Jon slammed his sword across the small shield. Wood gave way to the Valyrian steel, followed by a jab for the throat. Arteries and windpipe severed leaving a gurgling sound around the tip as the soldier fell. Recovering his bearings, Jon raised Longclaw and sliced it across the front of a Bolton cavalryman. Crimson blood spurted over his uniform as he collapsed to the ground, his horse continuing its panicked gallop. Men mounted and men dismounted engaging in brutal hand to hand combat, Jon swerved out of the way before a Karstark knight ran him over with a lance - only for the knight to have his head removed by a Hornwood sword. He jinked again, Longclaw slicing an arm clean off a dismounted Bolton knight. Whooshes reaching his ears, Jon crouched while arrows pockmarked the dirt around him. Threat over, he managed to reach a Mazin soldier and save him from an enraged Bolton. Blood dotted his leather vest as Jon removed Longclaw from the man’s gut. “Get to Tormund…” he barked until an arrow slammed into the man’s eye. “Fuck!”

“WILDLING LOVER!” Out of nowhere charged a Bolton trooper with his axe raised high. Jon readied Longclaw to taste blood once more. He could see the color in the trooper’s eyes when a riderless horse, tongue out in pure panic, slammed into the trooper in its frenzied flight. What was left was a screaming heap, white bone protruding out of torn flesh. “MAMA! MAMA!” Snarling, Jon drove his blade into the trooper’s gut.

When Rhaegal roared, the whole battlefield heard him. His claws and teeth were stained with blood and flesh. Bolton and Karstark men gave him a wide berth, but that didn’t stop the green dragon from toppling horsemen with his thick tail, using his heavy head to smash unlucky men into the ground like pulp. One was plucked from his horse, screaming in primal terror as Rhaegal tossed him into the air and chomped, lower half disappearing down his gullet.

So consumed was he in his contribution to the orgy of blood around him, the two knights charging him didn’t register until two horses - one snow white and the other a dark chestnut - raced past him. The enemy knights were no longer a threat. “Just like always,” Robb spat, leaping from his horse and tossing away the bloody, broken lance. “I have to clean up your messes.”

Ice and Longclaw dispatched two more troopers, the former slicing the head clean off while the latter batted aside a wild swing before cutting open the gut. The brothers fought back to back, glinting Valyrian steel soiled with red. Another Karstark trooper found his head caved in by Brienne, joining the trio by smashing her mailed fist into an attacker meant for Jon. Her normally coiffed hair was wild and stained, sweat and blood from a cut to the forehead matting much of it to her skin. Still holding her shield, it came in handy as more Bolton arrows joined the party.

Davos cursed mentally. “We’re just sitting with our dicks in our hands.” He drew his sword. “Charge!” The archers surged forward, ready to join their brothers.

Eyes focused like sunlight on the dragon, Viserys chafed in the saddle - the pain in his hand was ignored with his blood up. “Send them in! Now Hand! I will not lose my dragon.”

Ramsay nodded to Myranda. “Go with Smalljon, and keep the beast away from the main mass.” He turned to the burly nobleman. “Smalljon, you’re up!”

A grin crossed the bearded face. “Who holds the north?!” A whoop left the throats of the Bolton hoplites. “WHO HOLDS THE NORTH?!” The whoop was louder. “Forward! Keep formation! Umbers with me!” The second line surged forward, organized as opposed to the cavalry charge.

Watching a man hurled screaming through the air - inwardly grinning at Rhaegal’s fighting spirit - Jon ran another through with Longclaw. “Where are the fucking Tullys!” he yelled, Robb slashing an axe-wielder right through the middle.

Brienne was giving back as good as any man could have. Even yet, her clothes were soaked with blood and her armor was dented and pierced all over with shallow punctures. A broken off arrow was embedded just above her breast, but she didn’t feel a thing. “The Freys are blocking them off!” She removed a lance embedded in the ground and hurled it into one of the few remaining mounted knights.

Suddenly Jon was knocked on his belly, something heavy on his back. Try as he might he couldn’t shake it off at first. ‘This is it.’ But then, wet liquid began to pool and he shrugged the weight off - a corpse with an axe buried in his skull. There was no doubt who did it. “You’re not leaving us behind, King Crow,” grumbled Tormund, pulling Jon up.

“No! No, please!” The wounded Bolton trooper’s pleas were ignored as Tun smashed him with his massive foot, at the van of Marg and the entire Wildling host. They had arrived for the battle.

“Bloody hell?” Awe and fear paralyzed the entire Stark army as the Bolton phalanx arrived, marching quickly and ahead of the ragged line of Umber warriors. They split into a fork, moving to surround the Wildlings. “Attack outward!” Jon screamed, but the intimidating sight of the flayed man shields only forced the Free Folk inward, bunched together. Disaster.

Grinning, Ramsay nudged his King on the arm. “Magnificent, isn’t it?”

Viserys was not at all disappointed. “With this army, I’ll be dining in Casterly Rock by month’s end.”

The Bolton Phalanx locked their shields, forming an impenetrable wall on three sides. With the Tully’s and Tyrells blocked by the Frey host, and Rhaegal blocked off by a separate hoplite detachment, there was no denying it. The Starks were surrounded.

 

“Is there any reason why Lord Baelish isn’t here?” Sansa could barely hear her own yell over the fast galloping horses. Scouts had reported the battle had been joined, and so the relief force picked up the pace. If they got to the battlefield too late…

Yelling at his men to keep the advance steady and stick to formation, ‘Bronze Yohn’ Royce shrugged on the saddle. “Said King Joffrey demanded he return to the Capitol.” He cracked the reins and forced his way to the front, managing the formation.

Turning to Margaery, riding expertly beside her, Sansa raised an eyebrow. “I hope Joffrey doesn’t cut out his tongue, or worse.” She wouldn’t put anything past him at this point. Even Ramsay - damn him - had limits to his cruelty. “The Lannister’s couldn’t have known what transpired.” Littlefinger had used every bit of his skill and cunning to meet with Sansa without anyone being abreast of it, especially not Joffrey’s agents. It was through that meeting that the redhead was given the ability to arrange today’s relief force.

“Be careful. I’ve met Baelish once and heard his reputation.” Margaery did not want to see her friend hurt - nor her friend’s family, especially her handsome older brother. “If he’s not playing all the sides against the other, I would be shocked.”

“Perhaps.” Around them, shouts and scuffling from the knights drew Sansa’s attention. A black shape passed overhead. One she was familiar with thanks to her brother.

“Gods in heaven,” the Tyrell Rose breathed.

Regardless of her new view of Jon, a small part being old Sansa persisted in doubting Jon about having met the Dragon Queen - one all in King’s Landing had feared. There was no doubting it now.

“Ramsay is fucked,” Margaery said matter of factly.

Sansa couldn’t help the smile that crossed her face.

 

“Fire again!” Whooshing filled the air as the thick rope shot out from the Scorpion. A group of men, built like oxen and insanely brave, grabbed at the loose line while the attached grappling hook dug into scaly flesh. “Keep him down! Keep him down!” Myranda shouted at her command, clusters of pikemen surrounding the green beast. Even wounded and isolated from any assistance, the massive dragon was no easy conquest.

Crushing yet another Bolton bannerman with his powerful jaws and sharp teeth, Rhaegal hooted in pain as the fifth mooring line brought him ever closer to being subdued. Restricting his range of motion even the slightest bit. Piles of bloody corpses and torn up body parts ringed him. He called out in terror, begging for his rider to save him.

Marching inward two steps, the hoplites of the Bolton phalanx impaled dozens of wildling warriors among the thousands they had trapped. With shields sparse, the fur clad fighters were sitting ducks. As the echoing shouts from the top of the mountain of dead signaled the arrival of House Umber, Jon grabbed Robb. “You and Brienne smash the phalanx. I’ll deal with Umber. Go!”

“Run at the phalanx!” Robb shouted, wading through to charge between the spears. A thrust of Ice drew blood, while Brienne swung her blade with such ferocity that it split both the flayed man shield and the skull of its holder in half. Tormund and the other Widlings followed the crazed northerner, their nimble, unarmored forms perfect to weave through the pikes. Tormund pulled down a shield and drove his axe through the hoplite’s shoulder. On the other side, Wun batted the pikes aside and began pulling men to their deaths. Mag grasped a bundle of at least five pikes, ripping them from their owners and using them as a single club against the phalanx. But despite it all - including watching Wun rip a screaming hoplite in half - the hoplites refused to bend. Sheer mass of the men behind kept it from buckling. Well-trained and drilled, hardened vets of the War of the Four Kings, a new man quickly replaced every one killed. Onward marched the phalanx.

Still outnumbered over three to one, the beleaguered Tullys formed an inverted V with the Tyrell pikemen at the head. “Push through!” yelled the Blackfish, hoping by sheer momentum that he could hack his way through the Freys and hit the phalanx from the rear. However, the Frey horde was too large and too concentrated in the center, the wedge tapering out in the sheer mass of bodies. Running through a brute with only five teeth to his name, the Blackfish met the eyes of Black Walder. If he couldn’t get the patriarch himself, then his bastard would do. “Black Walder!” Nearly twice his senior, the old man bulldozed through three men as his blade clashed with the opposing commanders.

Atop the hill, Viserys grew impatient once more. “Damn fools. Tell them to finish the bastards off.”

“Calm yourself my King,” soothed Ramsay, his cock straining his breeches at all the death and carnage. He’d fuck Myranda hard, tonight. “It will be done. Pay attention to your dragon.”

Calming his innate panic, Viserys was indeed mollified. Another grappling hook dug into Rhaegal’s wing. Upon pulling by the roustabouts, Myranda grinning in triumph, the dragon’s wing fingers gave way and he collapsed to the ground, screeching and thrashing with his jaws to kill any Bolton that got near.

Parrying an Umber thrust, Jon slashed a diagonal cut across the attacker’s chest. What remained of the exhausted northern men-at-arms clashed with the rested soldiers of House Umber, the northern brethren abandoning all brotherly amity in a fury of petty feuds and betrayed rage. Davos’ archers fired their arrows over open sights, felling a dozen Umbers at point blank range. Smaljon dueled with Podrick and wounded him, but a mass of frenzied Wildlings separated them before he could finish the job. He soon came face to face with Tormund.

The fleeing was a flood, shoving Jon to the ground. Panicked feet trampled all over him. Robb and Brienne had to have failed, the demoralizing whoops of the hoplites everpresent. Even Wun, Mag, and Rhaegal’s bellows were beginning to slacken. Straining, dirt and blood splattered all over his fatigued and battered body, Jon struggled to breathe among the packed mass of four thousand writhing bodies.

Piercing through the unusual quiet, a dark shape shot by high above. Time stood still, hundreds of individual clashes pausing as every man so engaged watched the bat-like specter hug the bottom of the clouds sheathing the landscape. Jon knew exactly what it was. As a dragonrider he couldn’t mistake the massive dragon for anything else. It’s black body banked over the battlefield, and Jon’s eyes zeroed wide to the silver-haired rider. “Dany?”

From the packed mass of the soldiers below, with trumpets blaring Dany knew she had arrived just in time. Tears of finding Jon in the heat of battle - through their connection, she found him instantly - were blinked back. Now was not the time. ‘I’m here, my love.’

While the horns blared louder and louder, Tormund drew back his head and smashed Smalljon Umber with it, using the distraction to rip off the Lord’s ear with his teeth. A piercing scream left Smalljon before Robb decapitated the disfigured head with Ice. “FORWARD!”

“CHARGE!” There was no mistaking it. Two dragons circling above, columns of knights bearing the banners of the Vale surged as one unit, bloodlust up to strike a blow for their land and their honor. Atop the hill, Lord Yohn Royce at her side, Sansa couldn’t believe her luck. She shared a glance with Margaery, who smiled. Both then looked up at the dragons in the air - the one uncertainty as the tide most definitely turned.

Drawn by sight, scent, and innate connection to his long lost brother, Balerion’s roar was unlike anything Daenerys had ever heard. Triumphant, relieved. Her gaze found her child as well. She lit up. “Rhaegal!” Only she could hear the word over the roar of the wind and dragon - but Rhaegal heard it loud and clear.

Roaring of his own accord, strength seeped back into Rhaegal’s body. A stoking heat not felt since the jagged spear of the Night King first made contact with the green dragon’s flesh filled him. Watching the men strain to keep the beast down after the vigorous thrashing returned, Myranda could see the first speck of orange-red ignite within his mouth. “Men! Load a bolt…” Her sentence cut off as a tongue of flame shot out from Rhaegal’s maw and engulfed her completely, spreading to the roustabouts that held him down. He burned all that tormented him with an enraged fury.

The rally of her child filling Daenerys with determination, she angled Balerion down for where Wun and Mag marshaled their tired, wounded bodies with a new vigor at the phalanx. Out of the corner of her eye she could just make out Jon leading his men over the pile of dead. “Dracarys!” The gout of flame singed the tips of the two giants’ hair as the hoplites in front disappeared into the inferno. Warmth banished the unnatural chill away, Dany basking in the feeling.

“URRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!” The bellowing cry that left their throats was joined by the entire Stark army.

Horse stepping back involuntarily, Viserys blinked. “Wha… what?” One moment, he had been on the verge of complete glory… and now it was falling apart completely. “Daenerys?” It still hadn’t cliqued.

Watching his lover immolated, while still outwardly cool Ramsay was entering damage control mode inside. “Archers! Nock! Aim for the knights!” If he could hurt the Vale charge perhaps his Phalanx could manage to swing back…

“FUCK!”

“RUN AWAY!”

A flash of white and grey caught Ramsay’s eye before a searing heat erupted not twenty feet from him. Horses panicking in fear, Viserys toppled from his into the mud below in an undignified heap. Ramsay, more skilled as a horseman, managed to quiet the beast and was able to see the white dragon glide by. Flame erupted in a continuous stream as Edderon charred to death at least a third of his archers - the rest fleeing as fast as their feet could take them. Even the most hardened of soldiers had their breaking point.

His eyes turned back to the thatch of red hair in the distance. His wife. Sansa noticed this through the wreath of flames, barely having shifted from gazing at her ‘husband’ since she and Lord Royce crested the hill. The Vale knights had split into two columns, one House Arryn and one House Royce. The Arryn column slammed into the unprotected rear of the Bolton phalanx. All attention kept to the front, they had nothing defending behind them and were slaughtered by lance and sword. House Royce’s column wheeled around the phalanx’s semicircle, right into the flank of the Frey horde. Barely armored as it was, against the steel tipped weapons of the Knights of the Vale they were nothing more than beasts to the slaughter - the Blackfish used the distraction to run his sword through Black Walder’s gut, destroying whatever discipline House Frey had. A smirk crossed Sansa’s lips, the meaning easy to decipher.

Resigned, Ramsay motioned for his retinue to ride back to the castle. Nearly left behind, Viserys only managed to scramble back onto his horse in time to catch up in a hurried gallop. “Do something, Hand! Stop them! You said that the Vale would declare for me! Save my army!”

“Fucking shut up!” Ramsay snarled. “My King,” he added with venom. The Targaryen obeyed, shockingly chastised.

Winging a blast of fire into a cluster of Frey men, Dany led Balerion into a looping bank worthy of the best dragonriders. The stench of fetid death and charred corpses wafted to even this height. The battle was clearly won, any sort of coordination among the Bolton ranks broken. Many clusters were even surrendering, seeking whatever mercy their foes would toss their way. A screech from the black dragon focused her attention. There was Jon, a wildling and two giants by his side as they charged toward the castle… was that Winterfell? It seemed far drearier than Jon had always described it, but from what she could tell Jon hadn’t been in it for a long time. Urging Balerion towards the castle walls, Dany was determined to finish this once and for all.

“Close the gate!” Men were dashing about, the courtyard in sheer chaos. Such had changed so massively since the day Robert Baratheon had arrived - not even one person from that time was even present within the walls. “Mi’Lord, where’s our army?” asked the garrison commander.

“Dead on the battlefield, though their army’s little better,” Ramsay replied evenly. “It appears the Dragon Queen has arrived.” Viserys, alone and shellshocked, was merely muttering to himself. “We still have Winterfell, and if the Dragon Queen is in charge we can exchange that puissant fool to her in exchange for…” His words were interrupted by two bellowed war cries. The sentry opened his mouth to shout when a pike ran him through the middle. Grabbing a bow and quiver of his own, Ramsay barked at his remaining men. Get atop the battlements! Fire on any that come close!”

Archers scrambled atop the walls and mantlets, some firing and some shouting for reinforcements. A loud slam echoed, rattling the gate on its hinges - followed by another and another. “Two giant cunts! We need more men…” And in a split second the battlements disappeared in a gout of flame. Men charred into ash-crusted skeletons on the spot or writhed in agony, the pork-like smell of burned, acrid flesh joining the plethora of smells in the Winterfell courtyard.

In a flash the wooden gate burst into hundreds of flaming shards. The fireball blossomed, smoke and flame shrouding the entrance to the castle. Many knocked over from the blast wave, even the most hardened soldiers pissed themselves as an immense black dragon - a silver-haired Queen Visenya reincarnated perched atop its neck with a glinting blade in her arm - mounted the battlements. His maw opened and unleashed an ear-splitting roar while two giants and two dozen free folk and northern warriors poured in. Arrows flew and swords clashed. A minute hadn’t even passed before all the Bolton resisters were dead or surrendering.

Eyes darting from Robb, to Jon, to Mag, to Tormund, to the still mounted Daenerys, and to Jon again, Ramsay chuckled. “Well, Snow. I think I’ll take up that old offer of yours. Us, one on one.” He quickly nocked an arrow.

Heart clenching for a moment as Ramsay let an arrow fly, Dany calmed herself at seeing Jon block the bolts from hitting him. Plopping on the ground, her boots squelching in the mud, she focused on the surprising sight of her own brother. Viserys was dressed regally but looked just as craven and terrified as the last time she had seen him. What a disgrace to House Targaryen - but he could wait, Jon would come first.

Fist flying into Ramsay’s face, every punch flashed an image into his red tinged eyes. Sansa’s abuse. Robb nearly getting his throat slit. Rickon just escaping death. All the pain and anger now being taken out on Ramsay Bolton. “Jon, stop!” Robb attempted to yank him by the shoulder but he shrugged him off, still punching and leaving the once grinning face a blood-soaked mess.

“Jon.” Sansa, her voice a carbon copy of Catelyn’s but without the loathing, finally drew his attention. Their eyes met. She wanted him dead, but not this way. “Enough. Someone is here for you.” The Dragon Queen had arrived, and Dany knew her long suffering brother deserved this.

Jaw not working, shaking all over, Viserys felt as if his whole world was crashing down in a massive earthquake toppling the stone walls. “No. No! This is impossible!” He screamed to the heavens. “You are my slut sister, and you are a bastard son of a traitor! I am the King! THE TRUE KING! THE TRUE…” A fist slammed into his face, knocking him out cold.

“Shut it!” Tormund growled, spitting on his face.

Eyes turning away from the bleeding form of Ramsay Bolton, deep breaths and the huffing pants of a large dragon sapped the rage from Jon’s system. Turning, his grey eyes locked with pure violet - the violet that had haunted and graced his dreams for years. Violet that could belong to only one woman. For the first time, Jon truly grasped what had just happened. Who had just arrived.

His gaze hadn’t lost its effect on Daenerys Targaryen. Not after many years. The handsome boy that she had last seen at her wedding to Drogo was replaced by a man. A grizzled man, covered in blood and gore and the scars of many campaigns and battles. He enchanted her all the same - just like before. A shiver passed through Dany at Jon’s stunned, intense stare.

She was here. She really was here. At that moment, everything else mattered nothing to Jon. Only the ethereal beauty finally back in his life. “Dany.”

Tears filled Dany’s lids. “Jon.”

All else cast to the wayside, their legs effortlessly carried them closer and closer until they slammed together in a crushing embrace. Jon lifted her in his arms, eyes closed as the warmth he had missed for so long finally hit his skin again. The dragon queen buried her face in his neck, Dany caring not that it was covered in grime and flecks of blood. She felt at home. At last, she was where she belonged.

Not letting her go, Jon pulled back to gaze into her eyes. Deftly removing his glove, he cupped her porcelain cheek. Dany sighed dreamily as she nuzzled the palm. Without words, they closed the gap and crashed their lips together.

Chapter Text

The fires were everywhere. Deep within Sunspear, the stench of smoke and death hung in the air as the Lannister armies engaged in an orgy of rape and murder. Her loose tunic and headscarf caked in blood and greasy black soot, Tyene Sand scrambled through the winding alleys and corridors of her native city. Her long daggers had slayed many a Lannister - but it wasn’t enough. Never enough. All thoughts of victory were gone when the Grey Lion broke through into the Princely Palace. Now, there was only survival on the mind of the last member of her family true to Dorne. Not a puppet of the Chimera.

“This way, my Lady,” the lead guard urged. They were dressed in the attire of simple peasants - the hope was to melt away into the countryside and fight an irregular war until Dorne was free. Such thoughts seemed hopeless to Tyene. She had once thought that the true Dornish patriots, ones that loved her father Oberyn and her aunt Elia and hated the Lannisters for murdering them, would vanquish Joffrey’s army. It didn’t come to pass, the Lannister armies instead making Dorne howl. There was less of a chance that they could win now with much of their population enslaved in King’s Landing and with her cousin Tristane as Joffrey’s puppet. But it was still a chance.

Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand of the God-King and Supreme Commander of the Army of the Holy Chimera, had many names. The Indomitable, dating from when he was Hand to King Aerys. The Grey Lion, dating from when he saved King’s Landing during the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Now, with the campaign through the southernmost tip of Westeros leaving death, slavery, and burnt out fields and forests in its wake, he drew a new name. The Doom of Dorne. Tyene remembered when he had entered the palace just as she, her mother, and her sisters readied to escape. Standing before them, he looked every inch the doom.

“Elyria Sand,” he had said, bowing slightly. “It is an honor to accept the surrender of such a lovely woman.” His sparkling green eyes remained in Tyene’s mind, their color no less piercing with age. She and her sisters had fought him… fought the Mountain. They had felled Tywin’s dog, wounding him grievously for what he did to Elia, but Tywin Killed Nymeria and Obara, capturing her mother. Tyene had barely escaped the palace alive.

They reached a small gate, an individual-sized carving in the city walls used for patrols. “There are men waiting several miles away, just beyond the mountain cliff face…” A knife cut off the guard’s sentence, slicing through his neck and causing bright crimson liquid to splatter over Tyene’s clothes. The other guard turned but another blade sliced his head clean off.

“Going somewhere, my lady?” asked Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, the ghost of a smirk on his face. His leather fighting tunic and loose chainmail were just as dirty and bloodstained as Tyene’s, sword bloody. He had been fighting hard as well.

“Not before I send you to hell,” she snarled, charging him. Bronn was forced back, sword shifting quickly to block the dual parries and slashes. He jerked forward, putting Tyene off balance. But this lasted by a moment, the agile woman twirling with the grace of a dancer and continuing her frenzied attacks.

Blocking a downward slash by Bronn with crossed blades, Tyene shifted them apart and twisted. Bronn’s sword clattered to the ground leaving him bereft of weapons. What Tyene didn’t count on was the Hero of the Blackwater finding this perfectly fine. Out of nowhere came a front kick, felling the Sand Snake, wind knocked out of her. By the time she caught her breath and began to reach for her daggers, sharp steel poked at her windpipe.

Blade at her neck, Bronn knew he could end this girl’s life with just the flick of his wrist. But behind the anger, the hate, there was only fear. A scared girl that had lost her family - something eerily familiar to Bronn. And so time stood still. No move to end her life, no move to spare it. Just a hanging status quo, tension in the air so thick a knife could slice through it.

Commotion in the alley behind broke the reverie. He quickly made a decision. “Go.”

Tyene blinked. “What?”

“For fuck’s sake,” Bronn hissed in frustration. “Unless ya want Tywin Lannister to put yer head on a pike next to your sisters, go!.”

Scrambling to her feet, Tyene was just about to disappear into the woods when she turned. “Why?” Her curiosity got the better of her.

Breathing deep, Bronn shrugged. “Got a weakness for Dornish girls, I guess. Now get.” Her moment’s amusement before she ran off into the brush made him chuckle. ‘Now that’s a lady for me.’

Just then, a squad of soldiers burst out of the city. House Tarly by their sigils. “Any more, my Lord?” one asked Bronn, gesturing to the corpses.

Bronn gazed out at the woods one last time. “No. Just two fuckers trying to flee. Keep five men at the gate. The rest of you with me.” Back into the chaos.

 

“Much colder than I remember.” Tyrion looked out at the expansive snowfall pockmarked with circles and ovals of winter grass. A beautiful sheet of white marred by hardy life. The Lannister knew his father and sister would see it as an apt metaphor for the North - beautiful desolation made ugly by the people that lived in it. “I hate to sound like a droll punmaster, but dare I say that ‘Winter is Coming.’”

Catelyn Stark rolled her eyes. “Don’t you have someone else to annoy? Missandei perhaps?” The wave of her hand cast the attention to the Naathi translator, trying to get Tyrion out of her hair. She now knew he had nothing to do with Bran’s near death, but he could still be most irritating.

He cast her eyes at the translator, who’s sullen frown remained. “I wouldn’t bother a lovely woman pining for her lover. I’m not my sister, Lady Stark.” A battalion of Unsullied marched with them as the Queen’s personal bodyguard, but Grey Worm wasn’t among them - he stayed with the bulk of them at Dragonstone to help Varys, Jorah, and Theodosius coordinate the main army. Missandei hadn’t been the same since. ‘A man with no cock can enchant a woman so?’ Tyrion resolved to pick the reserved warrior’s brain for some secrets to try out on Shae later on.

“One of the Dothraki then?” Gods save her from the Imp.

Swigging from his canteen, he grimaced at the sour ale but was grateful for the warmth. “The Dothraki? They’d have me chained and dancing for their amusement within five minutes.” It was ironic, finding himself in the same inner circle as the woman that nearly had him thrown out of the Moon Gate at the Eyrie. “With Varys in Dragonstone, who else to receive the honor of my superb wit.”

“Aren’t most of the people who compliment your ‘superb wit’ people you pay for their company?”

Tyrion mimed an arrow to his chest. “Oh, thy hath wounded me.” He drained the canteen, but decided not to refill it. He wanted to be sharp once the convoy reached Winterfell and the man that had won over his Queen’s heart. Ahead rode three hundred Dothraki led by Daenerys’ bloodriders, shivering underneath their thick pelts. Behind him and the Unsullied marched nearly a thousand freedmen auxiliaries. The possible alliance with the North would be sealed with the gift of needed troops.

The possible alliance… “Given what the Mad King did to the Starks, the Northern houses will not take kindly to our Queen.” Grudges among the north ran deep. “They didn’t support Renly’s claim - instead proclaiming your son King in the North. That will cause headaches for us to deal with.” More on the North than on Daenerys. With her love for Jon Snow - Jaehaerys Targaryen - she’d be far more agreeable than any Glovers, Manderlys, or Karstarks.

Closing her eyes, the topic unnerved her more than his previous irritation. It hit too close to home. To her dishonor. “Perhaps I or my children will help defuse the situation. Queen Daenerys is not the Mad King, and a personal touch could go a long way.” A gust of wind slammed into them from the north. The Essosi shivered, but Catelyn took it in stride. “Her marrying a northerner would help.”

“Considering a marriage to Jon Snow, are we? Premature it would… oh fuck it. If they’re already married when we get to Winterfell I wouldn’t be surprised.” The Queen had a knack of getting what she wanted. She wanted nothing more than Jon Snow. “If he were to get a title, that would actually help considerably. King in the North perhaps?”

“My son Robb is King in the North.”

Scuffling from two of the Dothraki distracted Tyrion for the moment. One probably bumped into another and it escalated into a fight to the death - which their clan elder was trying to stop. ‘Oh the simpler people of the plains and the hills.’ “I mean no disrespect to him, Lady Stark, but the Northern Lords proclaim a King in the North by acclamation. After the Red Wedding do you think he could ever resume his title? Or that he would want it?” From the way she looked away, Tyrion knew he had gotten the point across.

Staring at the white sheet that had blanketed the northern plains, Catelyn felt the harsh cold. “I still remember the day that Ned brought him to Winterfell, from the south. No mother, and saying he had strayed and that this baby boy was his bastard. I loved Ned, and it killed me to think he had betrayed me.” The memories tumbled through her head. “When I was pregnant with Sansa, Jon fell sick. I remember praying to the Old Gods and the New to take him. To let him die. And he grew worse, and I realized what I… the evil I had done - all because of Ned’s mistake. So I prayed again to save him, promising that I would raise him as my own. The Gods kept their promise… but I didn’t. All that had happened to my family since was because I couldn’t give mercy to a motherless boy.”

Tyrion was silent, chafing in his seat. What could he say to that? What could anyone say to that?

Lady Stark laughed humorously. “And now, not only is Jon leading the North, he is really the trueborn heir to the Seven Kingdoms. Ned was true to me this whole time.” A tear fell from her eye. “All that had happened… was all for nothing.” Cracking the reins, she galloped ahead of the Lannister, wishing to be alone.

“Lord Tyrion.” The Imp turned quickly, finding Missandei having roused from her lonely contemplation. “You have met this Jon Snow, correct?” She had heard the Lady Daenerys talk about him countless times, to both her and the children, but wanted to know what he was like in his homeland. More about the real person that had her lady’s heart.

Making him think a bit, Tyrion searched through his mind for the few moments he had spent with Jon Snow. ‘If I had known he was Rhaegar’s son, I would have glued my cheek to his hip.’ “He was… just like Ned Stark in a way. Brooding and withdrawn, but with a noble heart. I could tell he wanted to do the right thing.”

His words seemed to lighten a bit of her melancholy. “In my life, every highborn that I met only cared about their power or their class. The Lady Daenerys was the exception - if she wishes me to serve Lord Snow as well, I will do so. But… I am glad that he will likely make me want to serve him.”

Tyrion nodded. “All of us could stand to be more like them.” He pulled the cloak tighter over him. ‘Beastly cold.’

 

Only a week before, Daenerys had imagined Dragonstone to be immensely cold - now, teeth chattering even with the warmth of the fire within the hearth and the woollen dress, she couldn’t manage to get any warmth into her body. All that kept her from making Balerion douse her with dragonfire was the black cloak draped around her form. A contented smile crossed her face. Eyes fluttered closed as she inhaled the deep scent she had long missed. ‘Jon.’ Noticing her woefully underdressed for the North, he had draped his Night’s Watch cloak around Dany’s body. ‘So loving. So caring.’ It was just like him to do so, and she hadn’t taken it off since.

Dany absentmindedly stroked Ghost’s soft, white fur, the reflections of the momentous day still weighing on her. To say that the reception she had gotten after her passionate kiss with Jon - quite anticlimactic after storming Winterfell atop Balerion - was tense would be putting it mildly. Ghost had been the most enthusiastic, practically leaping on the woman he had known so long ago when just a pup and licking her face. He hadn’t left her side since, likely guarding his master’s most important asset Dany thought with a happy sigh. Rhaegal… it had been an unexpected delight to see her child alive and having taken Jon as his rider. The green dragon lost no love for his mother, though was more keen to fly off with his brothers after the battle.

“Would you like some tea, your Grace?” Looking up, Dany saw Margaery Tyrell smiling, two steaming cups in her hands. “The servants brought us a pot. I think it would warm you up.”

Dany smiled. “Thank you, Lady Margaery.” The warm liquid spread heat as it slid down her throat. The Tyrell rose had welcomed her the most warmly, essentially taking charge of the household when Jon excused himself to handle prisoners and the elimination of all Bolton detritus in the castle with his brother and sister. Ser Davos and Lady Brienne had been cordial, while the wildling - Tormund Giantsbane if Dany remembered his name - made her laugh with his inappropriate cracks about Jon “Working off his battle energy” with her. Little Rickon was a delight, having taken to Dany almost immediately despite all he had been through. All that bothered the Dragon Queen was Sansa and Robb, though their hesitancy was only natural.

“Where is my brother?” Dany asked Margaery. That Viserys was here intrigued her. She never thought he could manage to marshall a bum fight in a brothel, let alone wrangle an actual army by himself.

Margaery’s eyes narrowed. “I wouldn’t know, nor do I want to know where that slug is. Jon or Robb would…” At that moment the three Starks walked in, conversing about someone named Sam arriving with an important package left in the Lord’s chamber. It ended when they saw Dany.

“Lord Jon,” Dany said. “Lord Robb. Lady Sansa.” Sansa immediately excused herself, not scowling but closed off. Robb gave her a small smile while Jon, handsome as ever, merely looked at the floor sheepishly.

Margaery got the hint that Dany radiated. “Robb, let’s find our chamber.” The word choice was not lost on any of them, but a story for another day. Soon it was just them left.

“Daenerys.” Jon reached out his hand. “Let me escort you to the Lord’s chamber.”

His gravelly voice sent shivers down her body. Dany smiled and gladly took it. It was surreal as Jon led her through the halls of the northern castle. Darkness had fallen outside, only torches keeping the black of night at bay. She looked back at Jon, drinking in his sight. He had grown, muscles firm and face pocked with the scars of a hard life. The same scars as hers, though external rather than internal. ‘Oh, my love. What have we gone through while apart?’ Dany had every intention of sharing all of what they had been through, but not tonight.

Jon couldn’t look at Daenerys. To do so would have left him speechless at her beauty. He was a warrior, not the same sixteen year old tongue tied in front of the most gorgeous woman on earth. The hand he kept glued to the small of her back sent electric tingles along his skin. Gulping, he found his father’s former chamber. The room fit for a Queen. “Here we are, Daenerys.”

Biting her lip, Dany waited by the door to the Lord of Winterfell’s chambers. ‘Why is he hesitating?’ she thought. She wished to act regally until they were alone in their room, but gods. Just being close to Jon was stoking her to the point of combustion. Her dragonwolf would be the death of her. But then, his hand left its perch on the small of her back. Daenerys immediately felt an unnatural chill where it had been.

“Good night, your Grace.” Every part of him wanted to sweep Dany into his arms after the passionate kiss they shared and… reacquaint themselves - but propreity stopped him. Jon turned and began along the corridor. She was no longer a young girl, but a Queen. The rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms and a Targaryen. With his hope to unite the Northern Lords to deal with the Army of the Dead, what message would it send if he slept with a Targaryen immediately upon her arrival? What message would it send if she slept with a mere bastard...

Sadness overwhelmed Dany, joining with her loneliness. He had just left her alone, withdrawing back into his brooding self. Just like when they first kissed in Pentos. ‘No, I did journey on dragonback to the North to have Jon withdraw into his insecurity.’ A weak girl allowed herself to be lonely. The Dragon Queen took what she wanted.

Stopping in his tracks, Jon realized he was still thinking of himself as a bastard. A damn bastard with no birthright. But he had every birthright, Jaehaerys Targaryen - Targaryen and Stark. He loved Daenerys and did deserve her. She did deserve him, and wanted him. “Dany,” he said lovingly, turning… only for her to leap into his arms.

“Jon!” Dany kissed him, kissed him with the pent up fervor of years of desire. She melded into him, caring not one bit about propriety. No one could disturb their happy reunion now.

He lost himself in her, feeling the hole in his heart disappear. He had his dragon back, the beautiful enchantress that haunted his dreams.

An unnatural giggle left Dany’s lips as Jon hefted her into his arms, carrying her horizontally. She wrapped her arms around his neck, enjoying the closeness. It had all returned - the same feelings and affection from before. Time had separated them, but hadn’t dampened what they felt for each other. ‘Blood of my blood.’ This man was destined to be hers. Watching him nudging the door open with her leg, Daenerys lavished Jon’s strong jaw with little kisses. Now they weren’t Queen and Commander, but two reunited lovers reconnecting

As the wooden door closed with a thud behind them, a sound hit Dany’s ears that she hadn’t heard in nearly four years. Surprised, she looked at Jon - her love shrugged, smiling sheepishly. He set her down just as the three dragon hatchlings dove down from the rafters, screeching up a storm. They flocked around Jon in a joyous frenzy. “Hello girls,” he said, chuckling awkwardly. “Yes, daddy’s back safe and sound.” The dragons chirped and nuzzled him with their snouts - like Balerion, Rhaegal, and Edderon used to.

Reassuring his daughters that he had returned, Jon looked at his long lost love gaze upon the sight in pleased wonder. “You reacted better than Sansa did when she first met them.” With the blood of the dragon, she wouldn’t be as shocked.

“Of course.” She cleared her throat, the emotions threatening to overwhelm her. “I just wasn’t expecting more… I thought my dragons were the only ones.”

“I was surprised myself, believe me.” Noticing Dany for the first time, each dragon stared intently at her. Suddenly they all leapt from Jon. Circling the silver-haired Queen, they excitedly landed and nuzzled her as well - Dany laughed merrily at the attention. “Allow me to introduce you. This is Sansenya, after my sister.” Moving his finger to the other dragons, his smile suddenly fell. Jon hesitated, nervousness seizing him. “This is Lyanarys, after my mother. And Rhaella… after my grandmother.” The last words hung in the air, silence between them other than the chirping dragons.

Biting her lip, Daenerys met Jon’s gaze. “So you know? You know the truth?”

Realizing that Dany knew as well, Jon let out a sigh. “Aye, I do.” It did not need to be articulated, what they both meant. “My father… Ned Stark, told me by way of a letter he left with my uncle at the Wall. Same as with the dragon eggs, a present from my father… my real father to my mother.” A tear left his eye, memories of their loving smiles and warm embraces from when he had died. He shifted back to Dany, who was wearing an unreadable expression. “Dany? Does this bother you?”

She shook her head, joy spreading across her face. Soft yet firm hands grasped his. “Blood of my blood.” Dany had never truly believed in Gods, or fate, but seeing the one she so loved turn out to be someone so close… so intertwined in their destinies - it proved to her there was something higher in the world. “Jaehaerys Targaryen. My family, one who does love and care for me.” Tears ran down her face. “We are meant to be together, Jon.” Dany could notice a sadness in his eyes. “Are you bothered by it?” Her heart clenched at the thought that he might.

Jon sighed. “It was hard at first, Dany…” A flash of pain and heartbreak crossed her violet eyes. “No… not like that.” Jon cursed internally, hating himself for starting that way. Raising her hand, he kissed it lovingly, feeling her relax. “I loved my father, more than anything. It killed me not to be his son. Then I was…” He paused, not wanting to tell Dany of his death like this. “I saw him, and my real parents in a vision. They told me it was alright. That we were destined to be together.” Now it was his turn to softly cry. It should have felt weak, but for the first time in his life he felt truly safe with someone. To let go and be loved. “I love you, Dany. You are my family.”

Warmth and tenderness filled Dany at that moment, the Dragon Queen falling deeper in love with her beloved northerner. “Oh, Jon. My family.” Stroking her thumb across the rough skin of his hand, Dany moved to embrace him. “I never really had a family, Jon. My mother died giving birth to me, and my brother was cruel with bitterness. He told me upon my learning about Drogo, that he would sell me as a whore to the entire Dothraki horde for his throne - then he’d take me for himself to make a pure heir.” Dany felt Jon tense. He didn’t have to speak for her to know that he was planning to kill Viserys at this point. “My love.” She pressed her lips to his, calming him. A tender look crossed her face, softly reaching up to cup his cheek. His close beard prickled her skin. “I know you would never do that to me. We are meant to be together, this only proves it.”

Jon pulled her back into him. “You will never know that pain again, I swear it. I’m your family, as are Robb, Sansa, and Rickon. You’ll always have love.” He hoped the words, mushy as they sounded to him were calming for her - what did he know of romance and feminine wants? His time with Dany had been short and Ygritte was not one for that.

A loud roar caught their attention. The three dragons began screeching in response, taking flight and diving out the window. “Looking for their brothers.” Smiling wide, the Dragon Queen crossed the small distance between their heads and crashed their lips together. “The best things that happen to us,” Dany said between deep kisses, “Me coming to you, ending up in your room.”

“Our first night together,” Jon mumbled happily against her lips, remembering those same words. “It is now the first of many.” He let out a groan as the nimble fingers of his dragon ghosted on his chest underneath his tunic.

Desire and hunger coursed through her system at his hard muscles. It was a foreign feeling after so long, but feeling Jon’s tongue dance with hers and his body close against hers brought the memories and familiarity crashing back. “Mmmm,” she purred as he began to caress her sides. “My dragonwolf.” Her core clenched at the intensity and passion that Jon exuded when with her. She wanted more. She needed more. Reaching for his tunic, Daenerys quickly slipped it off him to finally get skin to skin…

By the time Jon finally realized what had happened, the strangled gasp had already left Dany’s mouth. ‘Shit.’ Eyes wide and centered on his scars - the scars of that fateful night - her hand flew to cover her mouth. He could see the tears cloud the lovely violet orbs. “I didn’t intend for you to find out this way,” he offered sadly. Jon had planned to ease her into it, but when in bed the Dragon Queen was… irresistible.

“It wasn’t just a dream,” she murmured, gasping again. “You really did die.” There weren’t many weaknesses for Daenerys Targaryen, the scared and meek girl hardened and honed by experience. Jon was one of them however, and the Mother of Dragons melted aside as the truth about her love was unearthed. Dany allowed Jon to pull her into an embrace, clutching to him desperately and burying her face in his warm chest. “I did lose you that night.”

‘She felt it.’ Jon wasn’t surprised. As the battle showed, their connection was strong. “Dany…” He rubbed circles in her back, trying to calm her. “I’m here. Listen to my heartbeat. I’m alive.”

Daenerys could hear it, feel it thudding against her cheek. It soothed her sobs. She clutched at him ever tighter. “I could have never gotten to have you again.” ‘But I did.’ The skin under here eyes streaked with tears, Dany pulled back. A trembling finger moved to trace the most prominent scar. Right over his heart, courtesy of Alliser Thorne. “H… how?” Who did the Targaryen Queen have to feed to Balerion for nearly taking her dragonwolf from her.

Guiding her to sit on the bed, Jon kept her close to him. “I brought the Wildlings south of the wall, and some of the men didn’t agree.” Dany looked up at him, listening intently. “The Night’s Watch… we’ve fought the Wildlings for millennia. And I let them south. It… caused a lot of disagreement and the former Lord Commander stabbed me through the heart. Robb executed him.”

“But how did you live?” His heartbeat calmed her, soothed her sadness.

“The red witch brought me back with fire, and thus the dragons were born.” Jon kissed the top of her head.

Dany gave him an astonished look, one filled with awe and love. “The unburnt.” No words were ever needed between them at this moment. At this point, only one thing could reassure them that each was there to stay. Together, forever. While previous movements were rushed and desperate, the kiss now shared was slow and needy. One of reassurance as well as lust. Dany’s hands weaved into Jon’s dark hair, grabbing onto the thick strands.

Tongue dancing with hers, Jon moved to the tight, woolen dress still draping her form. Unbuttoning the clasps deftly, soon her skin was bare to him. Gods, the years had left her even more beautiful than before. “Dany.”

Her hands tugged on his breeches. “Off,” Dany said in a commanding, low voice. “Get them off, Jon.”

“Anything for my Queen,” he replied, stoking the flames of desire ever hotter inside Daenerys. Whatever clothes left on melted away, leaving them both naked and intertwined sensually. “I missed these, my dragon.” Jon smirked, kneading her breasts.

“Mmmmm, they missed you… oh Jon!” He had taken a nipple in his mouth, latching on like a newborn babe. Her fingers tangled in his hair. “Gods, don’t stop.”

Stop he didn’t. The two lovers lost themselves in each other. Bodies tangled together, they rolled around on the bed in their passion. After lavishing her breasts, Jon rolled back on top of her and stared into the amethyst eyes he loved so much. Her hair glistening in the low light of the crackling fireplace - she was breathtaking. “Dany. My queen.”

Daenerys ran a hand along his shoulder, marveling at the strong and virile man above her. His expression was one of rapture and love. “My King… please.” Fusing their lips together, Jon wasted no time in pushing inside her. Dany moaned into Jon’s mouth. ‘Yes! Fuck, yes!’ It had been so long, but worth it. Finally having Jon inside her, where he belonged. The one man she ever loved.

“Fuck, Dany,” Jun mumbled as they kissed desperately. He began to rock inside her, feeling her tight walls constrict around him. She was so wet, so desperate for him. Had Daenerys Targaryen demanded anything of him at this moment he would have given in. Such was the hold she had on Jon Snow. Breaking their kiss, he began to lick her neck, coaxing a deep moan that drove him wild.

The sensations made Dany see dragonfire. “Oh, oh, oh.” Her love was claiming her, making her his - she always was, even when Drogo and Daario shared her bed. They were nothing, compared to Jon Snow. Jaehaerys Targaryen. “Please. Harder, my dragonwolf.” Dany wouldn’t last long. Neither would Jon, both missing this so much. She pulled his hair back and resumed their hungry kiss. A scream echoed down his throat as Jon picked up the pace. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’ Her walls spasmed. “Jon!” The flame enveloped her in warmth and pleasure.

Her climax triggered his, Jon feeling his seed empty rapturously into his Queen. They kissed the whole time, riding out their pleasure wrapped together. But soon the kiss was broken, both panting from the ride. Letting out a groan into the soft, flushed skin of his lover’s neck, Jon lazily rolled to the side. Acting quickly in the chilled room, he pulled the furs to cover the both of them. Dany breathed a happy sigh and curled up against him. Holding each other. Burying his face in her silver locks to inhale her scent. It felt so… right.

Basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking, Dany pressed her entire body to his under the covers. The warmth radiating off their skin banished the northern chill. She ached to be close to him in every way. “My dragonwolf, if you are to be a proper Targaryen King, there will be something you need to learn.”

“I already know how to ride a dragon, my queen.” The husky way he said it sent shivers down her spine. “Both types.”

Furrowing her brows, it took a moment for Daenerys to understand his innuendo. She flushed, smacking him on the chest. “Stop it.” Dany couldn’t help her laugh. It was just delightfully intimate and loving between them. “You’re going to have to learn Valyrian.”

“Will my tutor be you, or someone else?” Jon asked innocently. She peered up at him, curious. “I doubt you would find it honorable for me to try and distract someone else.” His voice was flat, but his grey eyes danced with amusement.

She smacked his chest. “Shut up.” They both smiled, Dany leaning up to begin a sensual, slow kiss - one of their shared love. Only for it to break upon his wide yawn. “Tired, my dragonwolf?”

“Ayyyyee,” he lazily drawled. “Battle does that to a person, my dragon.”

Snuggling into his chest, a feeling so long missed, Dany kissed his scar. “I love you, Jon. No matter where I was - the Great Grass Sea, Astapor, Meereen - I never stopped.”

Drowsiness overcoming him, Jon held her tightly. “I love you too, Dany. North of the wall, on those dark nights, you were the one thing that kept me alive. That kept me going.” The last thing he felt before the darkness of sleep coaxed him into it was the feel of Daenerys Targaryen’s smile against his chest.

 

Eyes sliding open, Dany peered into the darkness of the Lord’s bedroom. The fire had died sometime in the night and left the room quite cold. It was a foreign feeling to her, having lived all her life in warm climes. However, the thick blankets and something warm to nestle beside kept the chill at bay.

Through the low moonlight she stared at the sleeping form of her beloved. Daenerys softly cupped his cheek, Jon’s soft breathing causing her heart to catch. He was out cold, the exertions of the battle and their lovemaking draining even his youthful stamina. In sleep, the true heir to the Seven Kingdoms looked so peaceful. So relaxed and unburdened. Leaning up, Dany kissed his jaw. “My beloved.” No victory, no crown could compare to the feeling of being with Jon Snow. Once they were both reunited with the twins, her family would be complete.

Slowly, carefully, Daenerys inched her way out of the bed. Jon’s strong arm wrapped around her made it difficult. She managed however, instantly feeling both the cold and the loneliness - not to mention the soreness between her legs in which she grinned slightly at. Slipping her dress and Jon’s warm cloak over her nude form, Dany watched as Jon turned onto his side, hugging the pillow. “Mmmm, Dany,” he mumbled in his sleep. ‘Oh, my love.’ Even in his sleep he couldn’t stop thinking about her.

Stepping out of the door, Dany took one more look at her sleeping dragonwolf. She hated to leave him even for a moment, but there was something she needed to do.

Curled up by the door, Ghost’s furry white head quickly perked up when Dany entered the hallway. Better than any guard - a pony-sized direwolf. The silver-haired Targaryen ruffled his head, Ghost’s ears tilting back in relaxed delight. “Stay here, boy. Protect him for me.” The direwolf licked her hand. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Grabbing a torch mounted on the wall, Daenerys proceeded down the hallway.

Nearly five minutes later, Dany cursed in Valyrian under her breath. The corridors of Winterfell were tight and winding, unlike the spacious, airy passageways of the Great Pyramid of Meereen. ‘Is that the same lantern that I passed twice…’ Further curses tumbled out as she headed for a new corner, frustrated at the prospect of twisting and turning all night through the…

Twin gasps echoed, Dany turning the corner to nearly run into someone. Stepping back several paces, her fear dampened at the sight of red hair. “Lady Sansa.”

Breathing deeply, Sansa nevertheless recovered her bearings and curtseyed - noble training kicking in. “Your Grace.” She couldn’t help but noticing Jon’s cloak around the Dragon Queen and what it signified. ‘Good, he deserves to be happy.’

A soft hand guided Sansa upright once more. “No need for formalities. You’re Jon’s sister. You may call me Daenerys.” This was the woman who would be her sister when she and Jon were eventually wed - the thought sent joy through her system.

The Dragon Queen was nothing like what Sansa had imagined Targaryens to be. Of course the conquering dragonrider showed up on the battlefield, but the vicious monster - like Viserys - was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Targaryen before her was caring and loving. Someone she could tell was worthy of her beloved brother. It would take a while for her to open up, or to fully trust Dany as Jon did, but Sansa resolved she could try. “Alright, Daenerys. Please call me Sansa, in that case.” She smiled softly.

Dany returned the smile. Looking back at the corridor, she let out a defeated sigh. “I seem to have gotten lost.”

Imagining the great Daenerys Targaryen befuddled by simple corridors caused Sansa to giggle. “Believe me, if I didn’t grow up here I’d be hopelessly lost as well. Where are you heading?”

“To find my brother.” Dany scowled. “I need to see him.”

The scowl was returned by Sansa, any friendliness draining from her eyes. It… was so familiar to Daenerys. She had seen it in the mirror many times. Haunted. Bitter. “He’s locked up in the kennels with Ramsay. I’ll take you.” Side by side, the two women stalked through the corridors. Not a sound echoed but the flicker of torches and the soft patter of their boots. “Your brother, was he always such an asshole?”

Sansa’s blunt question caused Dany to snort. “Not always. He was very kind in youth, but years of poverty and blind ambition made him bitter. Cruel even.”

“Did he…” Sansa wasn’t sure why she was probing… perhaps she wanted someone who understood her pain. Jon and Robb loved her and would kill Ramsay if she asked, but they didn’t understand. “Did he hurt you?”

Dany closed her eyes, breathing deeply. “He used to, if I disobeyed or disturbed him. He’d also say how he would force me to bear his ‘pure’ children.” The memory hurt, but Dany steeled herself. She wasn’t that scared girl anymore.

“So did Ramsay.” Dany swiveled her head, shocked. ‘So that’s what it was.’ The silver-haired queen had known it was so familiar. “He… enjoyed it.”

“I’m sorry, Sansa.”

The redhead shrugged. “He’s going to die tonight, so it doesn’t matter. What really hurts is my family. Jon, Robb, and Rickon are alive, but Arya isn’t. Bran isn’t.” A tear fell from her cheek.

‘Bran, oh Gods…’ Dany had forgotten about him. “Your brother is alive.” Sansa’s eyes lit up. “Your mother… she arrived in Meereen. Bran was with her.”

A desperate hand clutched her arm. “Bran is alive, and coming here?”

“No.” Some of the excitement fell, but the relief was still there. “But he’s alive and well in Essos. It slipped my mind, but… I’ll tell Jon after.” They entered the snowy courtyard, Dany tightening Jon’s cloak around her.

Just as they were ten feet away from the kennels, Sansa tugged on Dany’s arm, holding her back. “Is there something else you haven’t told my brother, Daenerys?” She crossed her arms, scowling.

Biting her lip, Dany could tell that the northern woman could see right through her. They were alike, strong women born through hardship. It bequeathed to them a keen understanding of the other. She couldn’t hide this from Sansa. Given they were basically family, Dany didn’t want to.

“I’m waiting.” Her eyes were cold.

“Jon…” Dany sighed. “Jon has children.” Blue eyes widened, Sansa’s jaw dropping. She obviously hadn’t expected that. “After he left Pentos, I found out I was with child - I bore him twins.”

Sansa didn’t know what to say. She’d thought the Dragon queen would have had some political betrothal or a lover back in Essos, not that Jon would be a father. “Are you sure they’re his? You were married to the Dothraki leader.” It had been the talk of King’s Landing a month before Joffrey became king.

A wide, dreamy smile formed on Dany’s face. “They look so much like him.” The smile fell when she noticed Sansa still scowling. “With all that happened… it just didn’t seem like the right time to burden him.” Dany felt terrible, but with Jon’s nature she needed to tell him when he couldn’t panic or hate himself.

Opening her mouth to scold the Dragon Queen, Sansa shut up. The more she thought about it, Dany was right. Jon would brood and hate himself, and he needed his rest and happiness after the battle. “I understand… but you need to tell him tomorrow - or I will.” Her voice was as firm as Valyrian steel. The frown changed to a soft smile when Dany nodded. “I was an aunt all this time. What are their names?”

Joy filled Dany, imagining their father playing with them in Dragonstone - which would happen soon. “Rhaegar after my brother… and his father, and Arya after his other sister.”

Sansa chuckled. “I get his dragon and Arya gets his daughter. I guess I know where the pecking order stands.”

“The dragons are our children, Sansa. They are as much mine as the twins. By naming Sansenya, Jon shows how much he loves both his sisters.” The two smiled at each other, before a groan from the kennels caught their attention. “Shall we?” Sansa nodded decisively.

Blinking, lids heavy with pain and fatigue, Ramsay lifted his head. It felt as if a bag of stone was holding it down. Trying to wipe away the muck coating his face, his arms wouldn’t move. “What… the fuck…” They were bound He gazed around in the blurry surroundings. “Sansa?” There she was, standing in front of him - the Dragon Queen beside her. “So you’ve brought a guest, dearest wife.”

“You are a disgrace to our House, slut sister.” In a locked adjoining cell was Viserys. The cell happened to be the most rancid and shit-filled. It was clear they had been arguing for some time before he woke up. Spitting at her, Viserys did his best to look regal in the shit-lined cell. “First you rule over horse barbarians, and then slaves, and now you sully the bloodline with the bastard son of the Usurper’s dog and some Stormlands whore!”

It was obvious to Sansa that the Dragon Queen loved her brother, loved him desperately. Rumors of her exploits in Essos and how Daenerys loved her people there - even those enslaved. One in particular came to mind, how she had the cruellest masters in Meereen crucified for doing the same to young slave girls. Sansa waited for the inner Dragon to release itself at Viserys’ insulting ways. ‘Gods know he deserves it.’

To her surprise, Daenerys’ lips morphed into dark smirk. Sansa raised an eyebrow. ‘Why does she… oh.’ She smirked as well. “You are mistaken, beloved brother, on the third. Jon is no bastard.”

“What are you talking about?” Viserys asked, rage clouded by puzzlement. Ramsay was listening intently.

Still smirking, Daenerys looked at Sansa, permitting her to do the honors. The former Lady of Winterfell eagerly took the task. “Jon is trueborn, the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, your older brother and Crown Prince.” The sight of the paling Prince Viserys made her feel oddly content. “He is the true King of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“So you see, dearest brother, Jon is what you could never be. Both the best of blood - Valyrian nobility and the Kings in the North - and the best in leadership.” The Dragon Queen leaned close to the bars, violet eyes blazing dragonfire. She could tell he knew it to be true, by how he shook from the terror of his birthright ripped away. “You are nothing, compared to him. You are no Targaryen, no King.”

Silence reigned for what seemed like an hour. Suddenly a giddy laugh pierced the void. “Oh my Gods!” Had Ramsay not been tied to his chair, he likely would have bawled over in pure mirth. “You dumb, fucking cunt.” He hadn’t laughed so hard since torturing Theon Greyjoy. “You know, when I was planning on killing you as soon as I had a baby with Targaryen blood.” The train of thought was punctuated with even more laughter. Viserys stared at Ramsay, eyes wide as saucers at how deeply he had been deceived. “I thought no one could stand in front of me to take the Iron Throne. But there was one… the Stark bastard… and not even a bastard…” The giggles continued, eyes boring in on the two women. “I could die happy knowing that no matter what, my king, that you’ll never know one day of ruling.”

“Die happy, Ramsay?” Daenerys watched as Sansa’s satisfied smirk fell, facade returning. She scowled as well, looking at the man who nearly butchered her beloved. “Your House will die. Your name will be forgotten, a mere afterthought in the story of how the Starks and Targaryens reclaimed their realm. But if you insist…” Something dark swirled in those blue eyes. “I will oblige you.” Reaching for an axe handle, she hit the bars with a resounding clang.

Our trotted several large dogs, fur black and dark grey. They circled their master. Ramsay chuckled. “My hounds would never harm me.”

“You didn’t feed them for seven days, you said so yourself.”

“They are loyal beasts.”

“Valar Morghulis, Ramsay Bolton.” Dany watched as the dogs sniffed at him with the same righteous judgement that found the vicious masters crucified, ignoring his commands to heel. “All men must die, and the evil always pay the price eventually.” She was proven right when the dogs lunged forward, starved bites ripping at their master’s body.

Silently, the two women walked away, a bond forged between them. Huddled in the corner of his cell, Viserys closed his eyes, the screams and engorged barks ringing in his ears.

 

“Stop looking like you want to collapse drunk,” Walder Frey snarled at his two guards. It was dank in the empty great hall, flickering torchlight stille leaving a dark pallor over the Lord of the Riverlands - he wasn’t looking forward to what he’d have to do to keep that title. “Seven fucking hells, after my idiot bastard killed off my best men, I have to walk around with you two cunts keeping the assassins off my back.” Though nothing would compare to the indignity of having to crawl back to Tywin Lannister now that the Bolton bastard and his Targaryen idiot failed.

“Yes, my Lord,” one guard murmured. The other stood mute.

At least Jon Snow couldn’t head south without the Twins. ‘And if the dragon bitch does anything, I’ll burn it all down.’ Perhaps making the Blackfish besiege his own castle would be in order. ‘I might have him watch as his nephew is gutted from the battlements.’ The prospect made the old Lord grin. “Where’s my dinner!” The grin didn’t last long.

Out scurried a servant girl with a plate in hand. “I’m sorry, my Lord.”

“About damn time,” Frey croaked, salivating at the steaming meat pie. “I’m bloody starving here, useless cunt.” The girl put it on his plate, placing a knife and fork behind it. “Where’s my damn son? If he’s putting his cock in some servant girl’s bumhole again…”

“He is here, my Lord.” The girl then said. A confused look crossed Walder Frey’s face before the girl pointed to the pie. “Right, here.” One guard leaned over in curiosity, the other still and mute. Pulling the crust aside, Frey uncovered a thumb amongst the ground meat.

Bile rose in his throat. “What…”

“It was hard to do,” the girl droned, “Grinding him up. He put up a fight, and his flesh was stringy. Then again, you Freys aren’t the healthiest of noble houses.” The curious guard moved to draw his sword, but the other drew a hammer far quicker and bashed in his skull. A thud resonated as the corpse fell to the ground, Frey’s eyes darting in panic between the surviving guard and the serving girl.

His eyes widened in terror when the girl reached for her chin and… pulled off her face. Underneath was a younger girl with short hair, wearing a small smirk of triumph. “My name is Arya Stark of Winterfell. I wanted the last thing you ever see, Lord Frey, to be a Stark smiling above you.” Attempting to flee, the guard behind Walder Frey gripped his shoulders tightly, holding him in place.

Without a shred of remorse or hesitation, Arya drew her blade and sliced across the Lord of the Riverlands’ throat. Blood spurted out, air sputtering from his lungs creating frothy red bubbles. Soon the struggles stopped, the last gasp of Walder Frey echoing through the hall at the height of his power.

Looking down at Arya, Gendry nodded. “Winter has come for House Frey.”

Arya smiled at her lover. “The north remembers.”

Chapter Text

Feeling the sun’s rays stab through the window shades, Jon’s eyes fluttered open. Blinking away the grogginess, but once he did he couldn’t help the small smile on his face. Curled up next to him was Daenerys - his dragon - half on top of him and clutching his chest tightly. Gently stroking her back, Jon’s eyes raked over the naked form in his bed. She was so beautiful, so perfect. He felt blessed by the old gods and the new to have her beside him once more.

“It’s not polite to stare at your Queen.”

“Oh?” Jon smirked, watching Dany try to appear asleep and regal. Moving his hands to clutch her waist, Jon pulled her on top of him, earning a slight yelp. “Now you’re awake, my Queen.”

Yawning, Dany nuzzled her head on Jon’s chest. ‘The best pillow in the Seven Kingdoms.’ Gently, she kissed the scar over his heart - the injury that almost killed him. She resolved to kiss it at least once a day, remind herself that Jon wasn’t going anywhere. “I could get used to this.”

“And what would that be, my dragon?” Silver hair down and forming a halo around her face, she looked like an angel.

Running her hand along Jon’s jaw, Dany marveled at the kind, strong, honorable man she had fallen for. “Being with you. Blood of my blood. My one and only.” The father of her children… children he didn’t even know existed. “You need to tell him tomorrow - or I will.” Sansa’s words echoed in Dany’s mind. She didn’t plan on telling him about her visit to Viserys - too much for him to worry about. ‘But he needs to know about the twins. Our twins.’ Dany knew he’d be an amazing father. “Jon.”

“Mmmm hmmm?” Feeling randy, Jon was busy thumbing her nipples.

“Oh…” Dany willed herself to focus. “Jon… I have to tell you something.” While she loved his touch and his relaxed, loving attitude - a welcome change from his normal brooding and self-doubt - she had to tell him. “Stop.” Her hands grabbed his wrists, bringing them down.

“This must be serious,” Jon frowned.

“Did… did you ever hear any news about me in Winterfell or Castle Black?” She bit her lip.

“Not much. I knew some about the capture of Meereen, and that you had dragons after Rhaegal came to me, but that’s it. Why?”

Dany sighed. “When I was… with the Dothraki, I fell pregnant with twins.” She saw Jon’s eyes widen. ‘Out with it, Daenerys.’ “They are yours, Jon. You are a father.”

Of all that Daenerys could have told him, the fact that he had fathered children with her without even knowing it hadn’t been one he imagined. ‘Bastards named Snow… or Blackfyre.’ Ice formed in his veins. They had only slept together for a grand total of a few days, but in doing so he had fathered bastards. Something he had sworn never to do… to never burden any woman or any child with that disgrace.

“Jon… my love…” Dany gripped his chin. “Listen to your Queen. Don’t.” Tears threatened to form at the self-hatred on his features. “Please.”

“I fathered bastards…”

“No!” She kissed him, willing the thoughts away from his mind. “They are the legitimate prince and princess, my love. My children.” She took his hand and placed it over her belly, where the twins had once been. “Our children.” Her thumbs stroked his stubble-covered cheeks, feeling his tension slowly dissipate. “They know nothing but love, I promise.”

Looking at her, at Dany, Jon knew she told the truth - but it was still hard. Everything he had vowed… why he stayed a virgin for so long while Robb and Theon enjoyed their times in Wintertown, had been shattered. “I never got to see them. Dany… you know if I knew that I would have…”

“Yes, Jon. I know you would.”

“What are their names?”

“Arya and Rhaegar.” When Dany smiled and told him, Jon felt his heart clench. ‘Arya and Rhaegar. After my sister and father.’ Quite fitting, and names that showed how much Dany had loved him as far as they had been from each other. Catching his look of love, Dany slammed their lips together, the kiss quickly becoming heated.

Their tongues tangling together, Jon groaned as Dany’s lips trailed from his mouth to his chin and neck. “Dany… ahhh… can I ask you something?”

“You may, Jon Snow,” she purred, attacking his neck with licks and bites.

“Were you… ever betrothed to anyone in Essos?” It had been bothering him.

Not wanting him to dwell on it, Dany reached down to stroke his hard cock. “No.” She sucked on his pulse, smirking as his length twitched in her grasp.

Jon was about to lose control. “Well… I ask because, mmmm, you’ll need to make alliances.”

“Tyrion said the same, that marriage is the best tool.” Suddenly she understood where he was getting at. Amethyst eyes stared up at him. “Are you seeking a betrothal with me, Jon Snow?”

He nodded. “It would help with the North, my Queen.” In his brooding way, the betrothal was on the table.

Dany lunged forward and kissed him. ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ She poured every bit of love and emotion into the kiss. “I accept.” Grinning madly, the silver-haired queen kissed down his body. She had always wanted to do this to Jon - now her betrothed. “Let us celebrate, my King.”

Jon could have sworn his eyes rolled back into his head when Dany’s tongue licked a trail up his length. Tossing aside the furs, any concern about the cold was dashed by his need to see his betrothed. “Dany… gods.” Her violet eyes twinkled at him as she hungrily took the whole length into her mouth, bobbing up and down. Jon felt himself get closer and closer to release… and he needed to be inside her.

An unqueenly squeal left Dany’s lips as Jon hauled her back up to straddle his waist. The squeal turned into a luxurious, wanton moan when he slid inside her. “Fucking hells, Jon.” The coarseness of the Dothraki hadn’t left her vocabulary. Some highborn ladies were quite prudish. Not the mother of dragons. Grabbing Jon’s hands, she brought them to cup her breasts as she raised and lowered herself on his cock. Their eyes met. ‘Love comes in at the eyes.’“You feel so good inside me, my King.” Oh, how she loved him so.

The fire that she ignited within him made his Targaryen heritage feel far more apparent. Heat surged between them as Jon began to thrust up, earning a scream from her. He was close, and wanted her to be close. “My Queen,” he breathed, pinching her nipples.

That did it. “JON!”

“Dany!” Grunting, he shot his seed deep inside his dragon, continuing to pound away to lengthen her release. She collapsed onto him, pushing her tongue into his mouth in a languid kiss He pulled the furs back onto her trembling skin.

Mewling contently, Dany stroked the planes of his chest. Jon knew exactly how to turn her into jelly. How to give her the purest pleasure she had ever known. “I missed this so much.” Kissing his cheek, loving how his beard tickled her lips, Daenerys noticed Jon staring out at nothing in particular. “What are you thinking about, my King?”

Jon sighed. “I still can’t believe I’m a father - to children without wings and scales.” He kissed her forehead. “What… do they look like?” Emotion caused his voice to waver. The northerner hadn’t even seen them and he loved them already.

Her heart melted at how Jon asked about their children. Daenerys knew he’d be a wonderful father - it was one of the reasons she loved him so. “Rhaegar has my eyes and your hair, while Arya has my hair and your eyes. Otherwise, they look like a mix of both of us.” She rested her head on his chest, right over his scar. “They speak both Valyrian and the common tongue, precocious, strong, and kind at the same time. Myself, Lady Catelyn, Jorah Mormont - we told them about you, Jon. They love their father.”

“I want… I have to see them… but we can’t. Not yet.” There was just so much to do, to get the northern lords together and try with Sansa and Robb to get them to ally with the Targaryen queen. It hurt him, but Maester Aemon’s words came to mind. ‘Love is the death of duty.’

A small chuckle left Dany’s lips. It morphed into happy laughter at the puzzled look on her dragonwolf’s face. “Jon, my love, you do realize we have dragons.” Watching the realization come over him was quite amusing. Traveling across continents was far easier on dragonback. “Tyrion will probably want a meeting after he arrives between your advisors and mine. After that, we’ll leave.” She kissed him again. “Besides, I’ll need to coordinate things in Dragonstone anyway.”

“That you do.” Jon brought their lips back together - it started sweet, but their lack of clothes and intense desire led one thing to another. In no time they were kissing unabashedly, rolling around on the bed. “Do we have to rise this minute?”

Dany moaned. “Not yet… oh…” She moaned as Jon slipped back inside her. “I think we have some time.” Closing her eyes, Daenerys let her beloved King take her to the stars once more.

 

Cup clutched between his bony fingers, Pyat Pree placed it in front of Bran’s mouth. “You are quite the boy, Brandon of House Stark. Great magic resides within you. Not much is needed.” The shade of the evening only filled a fourth of what it would for any other warlock. As Bran drank it, his lips turned only the faintest shade of blue.

Finishing it, the grimace on Bran’s face refused to go away. “Couldn’t you stir some sugar into it or something?” Since King Xoro Xhoran Doxos granted he and his party both room in Qarth and the ability to study with the warlocks in the House of the Undying, the one thing that drove Bran insane was the foul drink.

“To do so would dilute its abilities, young Stark,” the warlock replied. “Now let us begin.”

Bran turned to Meera - she hadn’t really left his side since they arrived, given that Hodor now knew how to deal with Jojen’s affliction. “You can wait by the door if you want, Meera.”

“No!” Meera grabbed Bran’s shoulder, rooting herself in place. “I stay with him.” She didn’t trust the wraith-like warlock as far as she could throw him. He had ulterior motives - was hiding something. There was no doubt in her mind of this.

Said wraith-like face curled into a supposedly friendly smile - more like a malevolent sneer. “But of course. The magic is more powerful when proximate feelings of care and love exist. Focuses the soul.”

At the word ‘love,’ a blush formed on Meera’s tough exterior and she backed away from Bran, waiting patiently a few steps away.

Pyat Pree stepped forward and looked into Bran’s eyes. His face mere inches from Bran’s. “Trust in your power. Trust in the magic flowing within. Lose yourself in your vision…”

The voice of the chief warlock grew fainter and fainter. Blackness enveloped Bran’s vision, his eyes rolling back into his head.

Waiting amongst the scorched ground and ripped up trees was an old man - one Bran had seen countless times in his dreams. In his visions. The one thing about them he wouldn’t tell the warlocks, for what reason even he didn’t know. “Hello again, Brandon Stark.” The old man’s expression was one of a lifetime of pain, loneliness, and wisdom, but he looked genuinely pleased for Bran to be there. “Your time with me isn’t long, us being so far apart. We must make the most of it, then.”

Bran stepped toward him, gliding across the ground. “Who are you?” It wasn’t like before, when he hadn’t been crippled. Here everything just seemed surreal - as if he were floating.

A wistful smile crossed the old man’s lips. “In due time.” He pointed around him. “What do you see?”

Shuddering, Bran felt a dark chill fill his body - odd, since the day outside looked as hot as a day could be. It was soon clear why. What had once been a vibrant landscape had changed into a scene of death. Ash and bones littered the ground as far as the eye could see. Human bones. Ox bones. Giant skeletons of mammoth. All jumbled together. There were even fresh corpses and corpses in various stages of rot, vultures and rats picking at them. “Where are we?”

“The center of the world.” A massive horn sounded off in the distance, and it was then that Bran saw it. A towering structure, one that shouldn’t have been as massive as it was in such a small time. But there it loomed, casting much of the landscape dark in its shadow.

“King’s Landing?”

“Yes. Once great, now a den of great evil.” A massive ramp led up to the pyramid - stone faces enveloping the small mountain that served as its base - as it was slowly being erected. Thousands of slaves and dozens of plains mammoth lugged giant blocks of stone, thousands of other slaves putting them into place. “The mountain of the God-king.”

Seeing the gleaming golden statue atop the pyramid, Bran nodded, recognizing the face from long ago. “The head of the Chimera.”

 

Wiping a sheen of sweat off his brow, Sandor Clegane grimaced as a Faith Militant with a sadistic sneer smacked him across the back. “No slacking!” Clegane gritted his teeth and placed two hands back on the rope slung over his back - muscles strained as he added his strength to the thirty labor slaves dragging the massive stone block up the ramp of the pyramid. Five years before, the cunt militant would have had his head caved in by the Hound. Now…

“How you talked me into this I don’t have a fucking clue,” he growled at his companion, right next to him.

Beric Dondarrion laughed, humming happily as he helped pull the block. “What better place for the Lord of Light to take us than here.” Beric and Thoros of Myr had found Clegane after Arya Stark left him to die - and brought him back to the capitol. Thoros had a vision, apparently, while Beric said the best place to hide was in plain sight. Clegane didn’t believe in Beric’s insane ‘Red God,’ but the latter did make some sense even though he wouldn’t admit it. “Don’t you want to serve your god-King?”

Sandor just glared at him. ‘Serving that fucking cunt once was enough for me.’

A commotion halted the line, overseers rushing down the ramp. A mammoth tied to one of the massive stone hauls had collapsed. Its anguished cries told Clegane all he needed to know - it was dying, exhaustion and fatigue taking its toll. The overseers were having none of it, one of them bringing his whip down on the beast again and again. “Fuckin’ bastards,” he muttered under his breath.

“Didn’t take you for an animal lover.” Sometimes Beric’s teasing humor made Clegane want to kill him. It would be easy enough.

“Cruelty for cruelty’s sake is for cunts - like my brother.” When the Hound killed someone, he did it quickly.

The throng still blocked by the now dead mammoth, Faith Militant and Essosi overseers began grabbing up other slaves to help them unharness the beast. “So, what do the cunts say about Joffrey?” Clegane asked in a low whisper. He gestured to the procession nearing the base of the ramp, the Sept of the Chimera in the background. Guards, nobles, and high priests clustered marching in formation and the High Sparrow leading. In the center was a massive litter held aloft by hulking slaves. Meryn Trant and Qyburn, Master of Whisperers, walked on either side. Nestled within several layers of red and gold gauzy fabric was the god-King himself. At Beric’s look, the Hound shrugged. “Curious.”

Beric laughed again. “Some say he came from the stars. Others say that the gods themselves swept down from the heavens to place him in his mother’s womb.”

Clegane blinked before bursting out into a belly chuckle. ‘If they only knew…’ He spat on the dusty ground. “Fucking idiots. If that little shit came from the stars, then this,” he pointed to his burned skin, “Is a beauty mark.”

“You’ve always had a certain prettiness about you, Sandor,” Beric replied glibly, earning a death glare.

At that point, Meryn Trant hollered. “HAIL THE KING!” The slaves dropped to their knees, setting the litter to the ground. A great horn resounded, Brother Ansel Lannister blowing through the massive instrument whose boom could be heard clear to Dragonstone.

What happened next was conditioned into every living person in King’s Landing since it had been decreed the year before. Driven in to a point where it was instinctive. Sandor and Beric scrambled off their knees and onto their bellies. Over one and a quarter million inhabitants - two hundred-fifty thousand slaves - prostrated themselves prone in a wide circle centered around the litter. Any that didn’t would be sacrificed to the god-King, which made for great motivation. Sandor found the whole thing insane, but he also did not want to die for Joffrey of all people. All but the rustle of the wind and the occasional grunt of a mammoth was heard once the horn fell silent.

Soon, the only one left standing was the High Sparrow himself. This alone signified him as one with the utmost power in the Realm of the Chimera, a high honor one wouldn’t have expected based on his homespun shift and unkempt features. Hands still crossed over his chest, the High Sparrow hurried over to the grand litter where his sovereign sat. He weaved through the knelt retinue and sovereignguards, squeezing between the bowed Qyburn and Meryn Trant. Penitent, the High Sparrow fell to his knees and shielded his eyes in the god-King’s presence.

A bony hand extended out, nudging aside the flimsy gauze. The fingers were tipped with golden fingerclaws styled after the great beast that was his sigil. Narrowed eyes scrutinized the monument ahead of him through the gauze and the veil of golden silk that draped his entire form. “Why aren’t they working harder?!” snarled Joffrey.

Only the High Sparrow was permitted look at Joffrey directly. His hands remained in front of his face, eyes peering through the slits between his fingers. “What would you have me do, all Highest?”

A savage grin curled on Joffrey’s face, clawed hands forming a fist. “Sacrifice one!”

Nodding in understanding, the High Sparrow rose and scurried back to the head of the column. This had happened before, and his conscience had always been satisfied that the will of the Seven was being carried out by their child. The manifestation of their divine providence on a world so wicked. “The god-King is displeased with the lack of progress.” Impurity of the soul was to blame, and so the evil specters needed to be cast forth to reclaim purity. “Bring his Highest an offering.”

Clegane kept his head low, as did Beric. This had happened a few times before, and the sadists that comprised the Faith Militant and overseers always picked someone who’s head poked up…

“Her!”

Turning his head, Clegane watched as an overseer whipped through the cluster of slaves to reach a comely young woman. She started to shriek in terror as the Faith Militants hefted her up and carried her to the side of the ramp. “Oh Holy Seven, at the command of your child on this Earth, we seek your forgiveness and grace with this offering.” The High Sparrow raised his arms. And such was the last Sandor saw of the girl, her mouth open in a scream of terror as the Militants tossed her over the side. Screams that ended with a sickening crunch.

One sharp blow of the horn brought everyone up - back to work as Joffrey’s party headed back to the Red Keep. “Another day in King’s Landing,” Beric quipped.

“Fuck King’s Landing,” spat Clegane, grabbing his hold on the rope.

 

“Twin children, a boy and a girl?” Once Jon knew the secret wasn’t one that needed to be kept within the little family. Sansa found out Jon knew, so she told Robb. Jon told Davos, the Lady Melisandre heard it from somewhere, and Robb had obviously told Margaery. “Your three dragons are famous the world over, but the future of House Targaryen isn’t? I find that odd.”

Dany laughed - the Rose of Highgarden had a way of making one like her. Along with Sansa, the three were quickly growing close in the three days since having arrived at Winterfell. “I make sure they stay out of the spotlight for now. The dragons can protect themselves, obviously. My twins… not till they’re older.” The Dragon Queen had experience detecting manipulators from the genuine article and, at least in this case, Margaery Tyrell was the latter. She had lost just as much as herself or Sansa had.

The three of them waited in the courtyard, servants and bannermen rushing about for the impending arrival of Daenerys’ entourage. “Jon must have been elated, though it’s hard to imagine him without a brooding scowl on his face.” Margaery mimed one, and it was quite close. A small laugh was shared by all, in innocent fun. One never knew when it could all go to seven hells.

“He never wanted children,” Sansa said once the laughter died down. “Never thought anyone would love him enough to marry him.”

Margaery frowned, looking at where the object of their discussion stood, arguing with Robb and Davos over something. “He’s a good catch, apart from being a bastard… not that it matters anymore. If he truly is going to be King in the North, then he’d make a great choice for you, Daenerys.”

“Yes he would,” Dany replied, beaming. “And one was already made.” The three women shared matching smiles, muted as though Sansa’s was. It would take a while for her to open up fully, though Dany was glad of the bond they had forged. “I presume something between you and the other Stark brother will be brewing? A match between the North and the Reach is quite desirable.”

A blush formed on Margaery’s face. It wasn’t just news of Jon and Dany sharing a room that had gone through the rumor mills of Wintertown. Dany had heard of the other coupling talked about when she, Sansa, and Margaery visited the smallfolk in the village the previous day. “We haven't’ gotten that far, yet. But I’m sure grandmother is plotting something.”

“Olenna is both scary and one to admire,” Sansa replied, a sentiment the other two ladies shared.

From the tower blared a horn. “Column approaching! Targaryen banners!” At once the entire courtyard moved into rows in order of importance - quite the deja vu for many. This time, however, Jon was in the front. Dany slid by his side, hand finding his underneath their cloaks.

The reunions were cordial and pleasant in some respects - Tyrion and Jon sharing quips like old comrades - and heartfelt in others. The three Stark children all embraced their mother immediately, Catelyn falling to tears at the sight of little Rickon, who she long thought dead. Things became tense when she and Jon locked eyes, though Jon’s honor and her deep curtsey diffused much of it… for now at least.

Dismounting from her horse, Missandei quickly found her Queen - who immediately hugged her. “My queen, I am profoundly glad that you are alright. I was gravely worried.” Eyes darted to Ghost, slightly fearful of the white beast. ‘First the dragons and now this…’

“No need, Missandei. I have my dragons.” Daenerys grinned. “All of them. Plus Ghost here.” The large direwolf nuzzled against Dany’s side. “He is harmless, I assure you,” Dany said, seeing her aide relax. Both their gazes were drawn back to Jon Snow, who was currently conversing with Robb, Sansa, and Catelyn in hushed tones.

The translator did not miss the deep longing in her Queen’s gaze. She turned her head back to the enigmatic northerner. “If it is within my place, your Grace, I understand what you see in Jon Snow.” Inspecting eyes did a once over, and liked what they saw. “He is… quite handsome.” Missandei’s gaze then fell on Robb Stark. “Perhaps it is a trait of the men of House Stark.”

Dany chuckled. “Oh yes.” Jon’s northern looks never ceased to light dragonfire in her core. “Wait, I thought something happened between you and Grey Worm…?” It wasn’t hard to realize the two were captivated with each other - even given the Unsullied Commander’s dourness.

“Many things, happened,” smirked the translator, blushing.

The smirk was returned. ‘Oh, I love when Jon does those things…’ “But then why the wandering eyes for Robb Stark?”

“There is an old saying on Naath, Khaleesi. A person can never be too old or too in love to look. Besides, he only has eyes for the Tyrell woman.” Laughing with Missandei, Daenerys had to admit it made sense. The Starks had attractive northern features about them, and for Robb and Sansa - Rickon too - their Tully blood made for a nice combination. But Jon… she shuddered with desire as he looked at her with a small smile. ‘The things that man does to me.’ Dany smiled back when Jon bade farewell to his siblings and began trudging towards her.

Reaching the two women, Jon bowed slightly. “Lady Missandei, welcome to Winterfell.” He could tell that she was important and loyal to Dany, and thus had no problem in his mind.

“Thank you, Lord Snow. And thank you once more for protecting Queen Daenerys.” For the woman that freed her from bondage, Missandei would owe everything to.

Dany stifled a laugh at Jon’s taciturn look. “I think she protected me, rather. The Queen is a remarkable woman.”

“That she is.” Missandei already liked Jon Snow. ‘He compliments Daenerys well.’

Turning back to Dany, Jon adopted his leader mask. “Lord Tyrion wants to call a strategy meeting before, and I quote ‘I get hopelessly drunk after two days’ riding.’” Dany rolled her eyes. It sounded like Tyrion alright.

“I’ll find my way there, Khaleesi.” Missandei headed for Catelyn Stark, eyes twinkling at providing the lovestruck pair another moment alone.

Slipping in next to him, Daenerys looked at Rhaegal. He had just began to wake up, jaw opening in a large yawn that made her giggle. The queen was in a purely good mood for the first time in forever and wasn’t letting go of it. “You don’t know how happy it makes me.”

“What?” It took a moment for Jon to realize she was talking to him.

Smiling, Dany looked at Jon. “To see Rhaegal is safe.” She wrapped her arms around his neck - once all the northern lords arrived, it would be a while till they could be openly affectionate. “To see you bonded with him.”

Jon gave a sheepish, modest look, shrugging. “The dragon saved me from some tough scrapes, and I him.” He knew she needed to know about the injuries he sustained from the Night King, but that was best served all at once at the meeting.

“You are his rider, Jon. That is no usual bond.” Just then, Rhaegal roared and took off, replaced in the Winterfell courtyard by his larger brother. Looking for his mother and rider, Balerion roared louder and deeper, drawing all attention. He stopped in front of Jon menacingly, sizing up the newcomer. Dany watched, terrified something might happen, but relaxed slightly when Jon stood his ground. The mighty Dread Reborn never harmed Arya and Rhaegar, and from the way he peered at Jon wasn’t about to harm their Targaryen father.

Fearless - well… mostly fearless - Jon slowly placed his hand on Balerion’s snout. He had done this with Rhaegal hundreds of times, but for the larger and more imposing dragon… Growling, large nostrils sniffing the new human, Balerion grunted and then darted his tongue out to lick Jon’s face. A roar then bellowed out as he took to the sky to find his brothers.

Jon stood there, face covered in slobber. “What just happened?” He began to wipe his face clean.

Stunned for a moment, slowly a wide smile curled onto Dany’s face as she approached Jon. “He loves you.” Laughing joyously, the dragon queen threw her arms around him. “He barely even lets Missandei touch him. Aside from me, the only ones Balerion loves are our twins… and you, my beloved dragonwolf.” If there was a need for yet another sign that they were meant to be, this was it.

Chuckling, Jon kissed her. “Shall we, my Queen?” He extended his hand for her to take.

Pale hand slipping within his, Dany nodded. “Lead the way.”

Stepping through the courtyard, a thought came to Jon once they reached the stairs. A thought that twisted his insides. ‘What if she doesn’t believe me about the dead?’ He doubted most would… hell, Robb was a northerner, and it took him seeing the Night King at Hardhome to realize the threat was real. For someone that hadn’t stepped one foot in Westeros her whole life… ‘Tyrion didn’t believe it when Benjen told him.’

What would happen if Dany didn’t believe him? Didn’t believe Robb, Margeary, or Davos? After all they were to each other, after their unofficial betrothal, only to lead to a schism between the North and the Targaryen forces. Whether it was decided to take on Joffrey first, or the Army of the Dead, to have Dany not even considering the threat of the dead would be too disastrous. Even with the Riverlands and the Vale he didn’t have enough men. Not nearly enough. Jon had to convince her - he had to.

Daenerys moved to enter the planning room when she was tugged back. She was met by Jon’s intense gaze, grey eyes swirling with a silent plea. “Jon, wha…” Her words were cut off.

“I need you to promise me something, Dany. Promise that you’ll trust me in there.”

“Of course, Jon. Why wouldn’t I…”

“No, I need you to trust me.” Voice low, he was begging. “In there you will hear unbelievable things, and I need to know that you’ll believe me.” Jon cupped her cheek, willing to see implicit trust in her lovely features. “Please.”

Heart clenching, close enough that her forehead leaned against his, Dany knew that her dragonwolf would never lie to her. “I promise, Jon.” Relief crossing his face, he brought their lips together in a sweet kiss. Hands weaved tightly together, he threw open the thick, wooden door and led her inside.

The cluster of men and women all stood from their seats as the Queen and the leader of the Army of the North walked in. Jon immediately noticed the table had been replaced with a large map-table of Westeros. ‘For Ramsay and Viserys to plot their conquest of the Seven Kingdoms,’ he thought bitterly. It wasn’t a worry now - though there were far bigger worries for all of them. Taking a seat at the head of the table, Jon immediately missed Dany’s closeness when she rounded to the opposite end. It was for the best since they were still officially two different sides in the great Game of Thrones, he conceded.

Dany looked at each of the men and women in the map room. All of a sudden - lost in the chaos of battle and elation in being with Jon again - the weight of it all had descended upon her. An errant hand glided along the lines representing her homeland. The homeland she hadn’t set foot on since she was but a baby. Her eyes fell on Jon once more. ‘Together, we will conquer the Seven Kingdoms. My beloved and I.’ “So, shall we begin?” On one side sat Catelyn, the Blackfish, Tyrion, Missandei, Olenna Tyrell, and Ser Davos. On the other rested Sansa, Robb, Margaery Tyrell, Tormund, and Lyanna Mormont. In the corner, on a plain stool, sat the Lady Melisandre. Quiet, but her piercing eyes seeing all.

“If I may, your Grace.” Tyrion, drumming his hands on the table, looked at Jon and then at his Queen. “When Queen Daenerys told me of her plan to send her forces to the North, I was skeptical of how any ruler of the North would bend the knee - even to one he loves. However, new developments... “ It was unsaid as to what those were. Everyone at the table knew of it and could be trusted to keep the secret. “...have made that whole business irrelevant.”

“One cannot expect the northern houses to fully bend the knee to a Targaryen,” Sansa voiced. “I’m not trying to insult you, your Grace, but that is a fact - considering our history.”

Daenerys nodded. “I take no offense, Lady Sansa. While I seek to reclaim my family’s birthright, I do not wish to subjugate the North as my brother did.” She looked at Jon, both warmth and a steely determination in her eyes. A dragon, menacing and passionate at the same time. “The real threat is Joffrey Baratheon and his rule to the south, the North being an ally that I need. As a result, Lord Snow and I have contracted a betrothal as a signal of my good intentions.”

Whispers broke out, some a bit shocked though Jon noticed his siblings and Margaery silently congratulating him in their own way. “We plan on announcing it openly once all the Northern Lords arrive, but we feel that our trusted advisors deserve to know.”

Catelyn Stark couldn’t meet her Queen’s gaze - her chamber had been right next to the lord’s chamber, and she had heard every sound. “It would have been better to discuss this before…”

“Oh do shut up,” Olenna remarked offhandedly. “I highly doubt that you didn’t consider the probability of this from the beginning, Lord Tyrion.” Not one for bullshit, the Queen of Thorns.

“Right, my apologies.” The Imp knew when he had been bested in the game of wit. “This betrothal is the right thing for our cause, but it means little in the scheme of things because Jon has no title.” At Daenerys’ frown, he clarified. “For such a marriage to have the unifying ties that we hope for, at the very least Lord Snow needs a Lordship… preferably, given the northern antipathy towards the Targaryens, his own Kingdom.”

“Yes.” Lyanna Mormont spoke firmly, almost like a younger version of the Tyrell matriarch. “We northerners are proud and will not submit in the face of what the Mad King did to Lord Rickard Stark - I’m not sure I could.” She looked in the direction of Daenerys.

“I wouldn’t ask you to overlook it, Lady Mormont.” Dany admired her spunk.

Nodding in thanks, Lyanna continued. “I don’t care what name he is. The north needs an equal to represent us and he is it. He must be King in the North. If you, Queen Daenerys, accede to him being proclaimed such, the Northern houses will stand behind you in the coming fight.”

For someone who had fought living corpses, who had marshalled an army of dragons and giants, it stood to reason that nothing could truly hit Jon with disbelief - but this did. ‘King in the North?’ Daenerys stared at him intently, no doubt imagining them ruling to world together. It seemed so surreal to Jon, though. He barely wanted to be Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Now they were discussing him ruling over the whole of Westeros and leapfrogging to that by taking the Crown of Winter…

“Securing the North will allow us to march for King’s Landing immediately.”

“The Reach and Dorne should be rallied to our side.”

“We have to take Joffrey at once.”

Hearing the various proposals from Dany’s political advisors, along with those by his own that were not at Hardhome with him focused Jon’s soul. None of this mattered. Kings and oaths and Houses, it all meant nothing with the survival of humanity on the line. He knew his priorities - and the pettiness only made him angry.

A resounding smack echoed in the room from where Jon slammed his fist against the wood. It was shocking, given the normally cool and calm demeanor of the dour northerner. Many seemed to think him mad. Daenerys saw something different - something that filled her with joy. ‘Don’t wake the dragon,’ as her brother always said. He wasn’t a dragon, but her beloved was. “This means nothing. We must focus on the true enemy to the north.”

Tyrion blinked. “True enemy to the north… you just defeated the true enemy to the north and he rots in Winterfell’s dungeon. Joffrey, on the other hand, is both alive and in possession of a massive army. He will stop at nothing until our heads are mounted on pikes outside the Red Keep…”

“Every man, woman, and child on this earth will die by the end of winter if we don’t fight the Dead!”

A moment’s silence ensued, half of those present puzzled and the other half grimly determined. His love was - sadly for him - among the former. “I’m sorry, Lord Snow,” Missandei said. “But is that a figure of speech… or a euphemism?”

“Not a euphemism, Lady Missandei. I’ve seen the Army of the Dead. The Night King is real. The Long Night was real and it will happen again once the dead cross the Wall.”

“Oh not this again.” Tyrion laughed, rolling his eyes. “First your uncle at Castle Black and now you. I know you fought north of the Wall, Jon Snow, but we don’t have time to believe in myths and legends…”

“Lord Tyrion.” Jon had opened his mouth to retort, but Dany had spoken first. “Do you consider my betrothed to be trustworthy?”

Tyrion blinked. He hadn’t expected his queen to challenge him directly - though he should have. “He was raised by Ned Stark, so I would.”

Daenerys sighed. She found it hard to believe as well, but the vision from long ago - after her labor with Arya and Rhaegar. It haunted her, matching exactly what Jon had just said. Ice crept along her skin. Even her innate dragonfire couldn’t banish it.

“The Night King is real, I’ve seen it.” Davos stood with his leader. “So has every one of the Free Folk, Lord Robb, and Lady Margaery.”

Jon had to make them understand. “He will destroy everything. Targaryen, Stark, Lannister, or Baratheon, names mean nothing to him - just more meat for his army. Only fire, dragonglass, and Valyrian steel can destroy them, which is why your dragons are so important.” Even then, everyone looked skeptical… even Daenerys.

“It is not hard to understand that men tend to disbelieve what they do not see… or wish not to see.” Formerly quiet, all eyes turned to Melisandre. “The prophecy foretold of the Prince that was Promised, and of a Princess that will ride alongside him to the ultimate victory.” She walked around the table, her eyes deep and piercing. “I knew from the moment I saw him that Jon Snow… Jaehaerys Targaryen was this Prince, and from her triumphant entry onto the battlefield, Queen Daenerys was destined to be his companion through the Long Night. Certainty comes rarely, but for this I am certain.”

“I’m certain you do believe this, Lady Melisandre,” Tyrion began. “But…”

A curt laugh from Jon interrupted. “I’m sorry Lord Tyrion. I just remembered my father once saying that everything said before the word ‘but’ is ‘horseshit.’” Chuckles and stifled snickers echoed through the room - Sansa, Robb, the Blackfish, Olenna, and even Daenerys amused at the quip.

Tyrion, a man of great humor, laughed. “A wise saying, so I will get to the point. Belief in these intangible points is one thing, and I do find you trustworthy Jon Snow, but concrete knowledge is another. My nephew is a monster, and his goal is to rule over Westeros as a living God. He’s surrounded by a new High Septon that essentially stokes this behavior. Before long he will destroy this entire land if we don’t stop him. Only the Dragon Queen can stop him, and we must concentrate on that above all else!”

Looking around the room, and then to Dany, Jon allowed for a pregnant pause. Turning back to Tyrion, he locked eyes with the dwarf. What he then said made ice course through Dany’s veins. “If we don’t deal with the Army of the Dead, then she’ll be the Queen of a graveyard.”

One could hear a pin drop in the map room. Dany stared at Jon, the icy chill soaking even the thick Night’s Watch cloak she still possessed. ‘Could this Army of the Dead be real?’ Even for someone who hatched dragons it seemed so far fetched. ‘Jon begged you to promise to believe him.’ Daenerys had seen the earnestness, the desperation in Jon’s eyes prior to entering the room. He would never lie to her.

She would rather it be a lie. The prospect of facing both the second Mad King and an army of ice monsters was daunting to say the least.

It was Sansa that broke the heated, accusatory silence. “The Wall will serve as enough protection until the other lords arrive. Joffrey’s army is likely still in Dorne and will take months to move into position. We have the time to adequately determine which threat is more pressing.”

“Agreed,” replied the Blackfish, both he and Catelyn impressed of how resolute the young girl was. A Stark’s fortitude and a Tully’s cunning. “The Vale mountains and Riverrun will anchor us against a Lannister assault. I’ll secure it and make sure the Freys get what they deserve.” Fists clenched, Brynden Tully exited the room - soon, the others followed suit, leaving just Jon and Daenerys.

Seeing her staring at the thick line representing the Wall, Jon rounded the table to stand next to his betrothed. “So do you believe me, Dany?”

Daenerys closed her eyes, fingers tracing the Wall symbol. “Yes, though I don’t want to.”

“Neither do I.” Drawing her silently into his arms, Jon placed a kiss on her forehead. ‘I will keep her safe,” he thought. ‘Be it Joffrey or the Night King, I will not let them hurt Dany or my family.’

 

Lacing up the rope that served to keep his trousers from falling around his ankles, the Hound returned from the privy to find someone curled in his cot. “Hey, buddy. That’s my cot.” He always served to ask nicely the first time…

“Fuck off. First come first serve.” Sandor’s lips curled in disgust. ‘Dornish cunt.’ In the communal slave pens dotting the plains west of King’s Landing that housed about two thousand each, only one hundred or so cots and hammocks had been distributed. The man was right, they were first come first serve… technically. There was a reason this one was the property of Sandor Clegane, and it was always the recent arrivals from Dorne or Astapor that didn’t realize it.

‘Seven Hells, and to think I had a good two weeks.’ “I’m gonna ask you one more time, get your ass out of my cot, or I’ll make you wish ya did.” A group of about three dozen were already crowding around to watch the coming show.

The Dornish newcomer didn’t get the message. “What part of fuck off do you not understand?” His back remained to Clegane.”

“Well,” Sandor replied in a glib tone. “I did ask nicely.” Growling, he hefted the bastard up into his arms, holding the now cursing and writing man high above his head. “Enjoy.” Without fanfare he dumped the squatter onto one of the roaring firepits, backing away quickly to avoid the hated flames. It took a moment for the Dornishman to regain his composure, but soon he was screaming and scrambling to get out of the flames before they burned him too severely.

Whistling, Sandor plopped back into HIS cot. “I tried to warn him,” Thoros of Myr said from the cot to Clegane’s left.

“Dornish are all the same,” Sandor grumbled. “At your throat or at your feet. You’d think after Tywin crushed them all that they’d learn, but no such luck.”

“You have a gentle bedside manner, my friend.”

Cocking his eyebrow, Clegane stared at his somewhat acquaintance. “Why so cheerful, Thoros? I expect it from Dondarrion, but not from your scraggly mug.”

Thoros snorted. “I’m offended. I’m usually quite cheerful.” ‘Beric is right.’ The Hound’s scowl was amusing. “But yes, I did manage to gain release.”

That was surprising to Sandor. Not the dirty innuendo, but what it actually meant. ‘Release… he managed to conduct an escape.’ “Where?”

The former knight turned secret priest grinned. “To the one promised.”

 

Ruffling his brother’s shaggy hair, Jon hugged Rickon tightly. “Do take care of yourself. Listen to the maester’s lessons, alright?”

“Don’t leave, Jon.” The youngest Stark - barely young enough to handle the trauma of the last six years - hadn’t taken the idea of Jon heading to Dragonstone very well. “I don’t want to lose you now.”

Hugging him again, Jon pointed to the three milling dragons. “See those there. They’ll make sure I get to come back, alright?” Tears in his eyes, Rickon nodded and kept his composure. “Now run off to your mother.” It was best that he not stress himself, and once he was gone Jon turned to Robb. “You’re the Lord of Winterfell again, Robb. Take care of the place and make sure the ravens go out to the other Northern houses.”

“You can count on it.” The already had houses Hornwood, Mazin, and Mormont as well as the Vale lords and Brynden Tully. Once the rest arrived it would be time to unite against the common enemies. “I’ll keep you informed on when Sam and Aemon arrive from Castle Black.”

Jon nodded. Looking at Sansa, he hugged her last. “I’ll watch over the little ones, brother,” she said warmly. For some reason, the young dragons were the most agreeable with Sansa - aside from their mother and father of course. “And I’ll keep the lord’s chamber well kept when you return.”

The former Lord Commander looked puzzled. “It’s rightfully Robb’s, or yours. I couldn’t…”

“You are a Stark, Jon,” Sansa said with sincerity. “You have just as much wolf as dragon.”

“Don’t sell yourself lightly brother. The battle would have been lost without your fortitude.”

“Daenerys and the knights of the Vale…”

“Had Ramsay held his hoplites back, they could have butchered the charging knights. An the scorpions would have been hell on Daenerys’ dragons.”

Jon didn’t know where Sansa got her military knowledge, but it was spot on. ‘The knights of the Vale…’ “Can we trust Littlefinger? He is heading back to King’s Landing.”

“We can’t trust him fully,” she replied after a moment’s thought. “But we’d be fools to think of him as a pawn of Joffrey either.” A thought popped in Sansa’s head. “Jon, before you leave. A raven came from the Citadel. A white one. Winter is here.”

Feeling the snowflakes hit his skin, Jon laughed softly. “Father always promised, didn’t he?” The three Starks shared wistful, fond smiles of the man now gone - it was in this form that Daenerys approached them. She was dressed in her riding finery, and Jon’s cloak.

“Thank you,” she said to her two soon to be siblings. “For all that you’ve done for myself and my retinue.”

“It should be us that thank you, your Grace,” said Robb, bowing his head slightly. Sansa nodded as well. “Tell our niece and nephew their aunt and uncle love them.”

Dany beamed at the two Starks. “Of course.” Taking Jon’s hand, she led him to the waiting dragons. “I’m glad they’ve warmed up to me.”

“I told you, my Queen,” Jon replied. “They are your family now.”

Kissing his cheek, Dany broke off to head to Balerion. A grin formed on her lips - the queen was certain Jon’s eyes were rooted to her backside. “Dragons know commands from their riders, but will better respond to Valyrian.”

“And what Valyrian word do you say to get them to fly?”

Dany climbed atop the red-black dragon as a Dothraki warrior would mount a horse. “To get them airborne, ‘Sōvēs.’ You can use ‘Valahd’ for if you want them to go faster in the air.”

Jon furrowed his brows, standing next to Rhaegal’s large shoulder. “Sōvēs,” he mused out loud. He was sure he butchered the beautiful Valyrian command. From the rapidly forming smile and amused glint in his love’s eye, Jon knew he had. “I didn’t butcher it that badly.”

“You did, with that Northern accent of yours.” Dany laughed merrily, taking pleasure in these sweet moments with her dragonwolf. She slid onto Balerion, hearing him growl contentedly from the contact with his mother.

Settling in on Rhaegal’s back, Jon leaned forward and rubbed his neck. “Ready, boy?” The green dragon hooted in response. “I hope you are, cause I don’t know if I am.” The former Lord Commander had ridden Rhaegal before - plenty of times - but aside from his first flight over the wall with Tormund, Sam, Gilly, and Little Sam he had kept it at low altitude to familiarize himself with dragonback riding. Crossing much of Westeros was another thing entirely…

Casting a look across to Balerion, Jon caught Dany’s eyes. She smiled at him. A smile of pure, unadulterated love. Jon still couldn’t believe it. The most desirable, unattainable beauty on the earth had fallen for him. Fallen for Jon Snow back when he was nothing but the unwanted bastard of Winterfell. ‘If she could love me and trust me, then I can trust myself.’ Another hoot left Rhaegal’s throat, joined by Balerion and Edderon. His children comforting him.

“Ready, Jon?” Dany yelled out to him.

“Aye.” A roar boomed across the snowy fields as Balerion charged into the air, Edderon right after. He looked toward Rhaegal’s face. The dragon turned his head back to look at his rider. “Sōvēs.” Gripping the neck spines tight, it served him well when Rhaegal lurched into the sky.

Chapter Text

If there was any advantage in having wolfblood mixed with that of the dragon, Jon knew it had to be his adaptation to the cold climes of the north. Now, high above in the clouds with hands wrapped tightly onto Rhaegal’s neck, the skies were not so different to the swirling snows of Winterfell winter. The same chill. The same blistering wind. All were alike, and Jon’s hardy northern blood made him suited for it.

Gazing across the expanse of air, bits of wispy clouds separating them, was his beloved. Straddling Balerion with the ease of an expert, Daenerys looked breathtaking. The consummate Targaryen Queen more at home on dragonback than anywhere else. ‘Well, perhaps more at home in our bed,’ Jon couldn’t help but think. Regal and fiery, the perfect combination in both ruling and intimate life. ‘Gods, I love her.’

Her head turning, she met his gaze and smiled, pointing down. Sure enough, the sparkling waves were crashing against a rather large island. ‘Dragonstone.’ Where his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror planned his invasion of Westeros. ‘Down, boy.’ Roaring - twin roars coming from his brothers - Rhaegal descended rapidly. The green fields grew bigger and bigger the faster he descended, Jon involuntarily bracing for an impact… that never came. At a last gasp the green dragon flapped his wings with a powerful gust, arresting his descent until it was no more than a thud on the ground.

Compared to Dany’s graceful slide down Balerion’s shoulder, Jon’s dismount was more of a barely-controlled fall. Merry laughter rang behind him. “Don’t laugh. Before now I’ve only ridden Rhaegal once at above tree height.” His cheeks flushed red.

Seeing the blush, Daenerys thought it was adorable. ‘My Dragonwolf, not so dour after all.’ “You did amazingly, Jon.” Hugging him, she felt Jon relax as she kissed his cheek. “You have the blood of Valyrian dragonriders in your veins. All you need is practice.”

“Most likely,” Jon replied, kissing her on the lips. Pressing against her lithe body sure did wonders for the chill still in his system.

Heavy breathing drew Jon’s attention, and sure enough there was Rhaegal. His slit eyes gazed at him. If the beast had been human Jon would have identified it as the way he used to look at his father. Behind, both Balerion and Edderon hooted, sort of like Robb and Arya trying to get him to join in a game. Chuckling - Daenerys smiled at the sound of Jon’s laughter, finding it refreshing and beautiful - Jon petted the dragon’s nose. “Go be with your brothers.”

Snorting, Rhaegal turned to Daenerys - who did the same. He then hooted back, the three dragons lifting off into the air together. “He has a strong bond to you, my love,” Dany said, resting her arm over his shoulder and leaning on it. “No wonder he travelled across the seas to find you.”

“Yes.” Jon felt it could be from enduring near death at the hands of the Night King, but did not want to hurt Dany with such a memory. She was spooked about the White Walkers already.

“Khaleesi?” Both turned to see several people and a troop of Unsullied guards arriving at the cliff face. In the van was Jorah Mormont. “I take it the battle was won, then?”

“Yes, a close run thing,” Dany said. “But a victory. We have an alliance, the North, the Vale, and the Riverlands… more or less.” Turning to the Unsullied, she began speaking in Valyrian. Jon didn’t follow, though he planned on asking Missandei to teach him as soon as they returned to Winterfell. A Targaryen that didn’t know Valyrian was the same as a Stark who couldn’t walk in the snow.

Shifting his eyes, Jon was then face to face with Ser Jorah. “You served at the Wall, with my father, yes?”

“Jorah Mormont.” Jon knew who this man was at first glance. He looked just like the Old Bear. “I was his personal steward. He was a great man.”

Jorah’s eyes glassed over, the hardened knight seeing fond memories flashing before his eyes. “My father… he no longer lives, does he?”

“No.” Jon shook his head, sharing Jorah’s sense of loss. Jeor Mormont had been his mentor, a hero in his eyes. “He died bravely, trying to save his men. Lyanna now rules Bear Island.”

“Maege’s daughter? Knowing her, Lyanna’s probably a spitfire.” Jorah grinned.

“That is an understatement.” Seeing the knight’s eyes falling to the sword strapped to his hip, Jon place his hand on the pommel. “I saved his life, from a monster. He gave me his sword, Longclaw, that was supposed to go to his heir…”

A raised hand stopped him. “If my father thought you should have it, then as his son I must respect it. I brought disgrace to House Mormont, and the man who won the heart of Daenerys Targaryen has proven himself far worthier of the sword than I could ever be.” The two nodded simultaneously, one northerner to another. High honor, the way of their land.

Finished speaking with Daenerys, the stone-faced Essosi stepped forward. Jon felt he wouldn’t want to face this one in battle. “You Jon Snow.”

“Aye. You must be Greyworm.”

Greyworm nodded. “Thank you for protecting Queen Daenerys. You have gratitude from I.”

Jon shrugged. “I’d say it was she that protected me, but thank you.”

Cutting in, laughing, Dany grabbed Jon’s hand. “Come, Lord Snow. Time to meet the Prince and Princess.”

Feet clattering along the grey floors, Jon ran his hands along the intricate murals that decorated the walls. Images of history, of the Valyrian Empire and the Freehold that followed it. Of Aegon’s conquests. Of the history of the Targaryen family. His family. It hadn’t yet sunken in completely - he wasn’t just a Stark, but a Targaryen as well. A wolf and a dragon, the mix of two great houses. Of fire and ice. Once barely in possession of an identity at all, now he had two, the absolute best of all noble blood in his veins. Betrothed to a dragonrider and with two children from her that he never even met - more dragon than wolf. It was overwhelming.

“Hey…” His deep musings were broken by Dany, cupping his cheek. “Why are you brooding, Jon?”

“Nothing, just…” He looked outside to where the dragons were circling. “Nothing.”

Firm hands brought him back to her. “You’re just as much a Stark as you are a Targaryen, Jon.” Dany smiled. “They are still your family.” He smiled as well. His beloved knew exactly what to say.

Muffled Dothraki curses and scuffling sandals broke them from their enchanted moment. “Where are those two, I’m going to…” A pretty woman with olive skin turned the corner and ran straight into Jon and Daenerys. “Your Grace.” She bowed. “I did not know you returned.”

“Calm down, Doreah,” Dany remarked. “This is Jon Snow, my betrothed.” The handmaid's eyes went wide. “We have come to see our children.” Her subtle focus on ‘our’ only made Jon’s heart clench. She wasn’t hiding them at all, broadcasting their relationship with pride.

“Well… you see.” The Dothraki former slave almost wanted to die - there was no telling if the Queen would have her dragons do the deed quite soon. “I’m not sure where they are.”

Doreah’s panic was starting to affect Daenerys when the sound of childlike laughter echoed faintly through the halls. Jon felt his heart clench, hearing the joyful voices. “I’ve got you, Torrhen Stark,” came a girlish voice. “Bend the knee!”

“The King of the North never bends the knee,” replied a boy, trying to sound noble but interspersed with giggles. “You will feel the wrath of winter, Visenya.” From the looks of it they were having a grand old time, reminding Jon of the days when he and Robb, and then Bran and Arya played around in the courtyard at Winterfell. Happy memories.

At that point the sources of the voices ran into view, laughing and smiling as they playacted their fight. “Told you the dragon would defeat you,” giggled the girl.

“The direwolf will rise again… Issa!” The boy - Rhaegar, saw his mother and beamed. Moving to run into her arms, the prince instead ended up running smack into Arya instead. “Watch it Arry!” He rubbed his shoulder.

But Arya didn’t hear him. Ignoring her nursemaid - ignoring her mother, who she had been initially excited to see once more, to concentrate on the man in a black leather tunic and with tied up raven hair. He was so familiar to her, but she just couldn’t place him.

Feeling his body sag, heart beating out of his chest, emotion swirled through Jon. For the second time of his life he felt like crying. Upon first glance there was no doubt they were his children - half him and half Daenerys. Rhaegar had the same Targaryen looks as his true father, but with the northern resoluteness that characterized himself, Robb, and his other father Ned Stark. Arya looked just like a mixture of his beloved and her namesake whom Jon also loved dearly. They were perfect, his children. ‘I’m your father.’ Jon wanted to say it, tell them who he was, but the emotion of seeing them for the first time was so overwhelming that he was just silent.

‘That man… I’ve seen him before.’ An image came to Arya’s mind, one cloudy and dreamlike… Suddenly she gasped, little grey eyes widening. She looked at the man, and then her mother, who was smiling and tearing up at the same time. ‘Fa… father?’

Rhaegar caught on then and there, eyes widening as well. “Father?”

Noticing Jon was lost for words - hitching his breath and trying to stop the tears from forming in his eyes, and for once the douer northerner was losing - Daenerys nodded. “It’s your father.”

“Father!”

“Father!”

As if automatically, Jon fell to his knees and opened his arms wide just as two bundles slammed into him. He closed around them in a tight embrace. There was no stopping the tears anymore, his normal brooding nature vanishing from the icy stabbing at not being there for his children’s lives and the rays of warmth at finally being with them banishing the ice away. “Your father’s here, my sweetlings.”

Arya buried her face into his chest, inhaling his spicy northern scent and feeling fully safe and secure. “I knew you’d come.”

“Stay with us, Papa. Don’t ever leave,” Rhaegar pleaded.

“Never. Daddy’s here, now. Daddy will never leave.”

Openly crying, Dany watched the scene tenderly. A stray hand wiped the tears from her lids. It was this - this right here that meant more to her than any throne or crown or kingdom. Family. Her family. Her beloved Jon and her dear children. Their children. ‘Together at last.’ Then, a strong hand encircled her wrist and yanked her down. Yelping softly, soon it was her that was nestled in the embrace as well. All kneeling. Jon’s face buried in her hair. The twins sandwiched between them.

It had been on Dragonstone where Daenerys Targaryen found her family wrenched away from her. It was now on Dragonstone where she found her family reborn.

 

“You see here?” one of the wildlings - Tormund if her memory was correct - said, pointing to a large wooden pike nearly half a foot in diameter. “The damn Boltons would have ridden right through us with their horses had the other southerners not stopped them.”

A smirk formed on Sansa’s face - it was amusing to hear the likes of the Starks or the Hornwoods referred to as ‘Southerners.’ To the Free Folk, anyone living south of the wall was a southernern. “Go on, Tormund,” Ser Davos asked.

Grinning, he picked up the pike with both hands. “Those cocksuckers with the spears…”

“Hoplites. They’re called hoplites,” Davos offered, jovially.

“Whatever.” Many of the wildlings had tried to murder the Bolton prisoners - there had been many - to settle the score that they caused. Since they were lacking a house to serve at the moment, Tyrion had suggested to Jon, Robb, Daenerys, and Sansa that they be sent to Meereen as a reinforcement… at least until they redeemed themselves. Having bent the knee to both House Stark and the Dragon Queen, the new Stark bannermen had been sent to White Harbor to take the voyage to Slaver’s Bay. “Their spears nearly stopped old Mag over there.” The grizzled giant grinned, grunting softly. Being a giant, the soft grunt was rather loud. “If a weak cunt of a spear could do that, imagine what these bitches could do to horsemen.”

They did look impressively stout and deadly, Sansa noted. “I like it. Have the Free Folk warriors equipped with them.” At Tormund’s nod, she turned and left the armory.

Just as the outdoor chill hit her, Sansa heard a familiar flutter and screech, followed by something perching on her shoulder. A small smile crossed her face. “Hello, girl.” Sansenya chirped happily, nuzzling her small but growing head on her namesake’s offered finger. “You are growing quite well. Your parents would be happy.” Emitting a low whine, the orange dragon lowered her head. Sansa figured it was as close to a look of sadness as a dragon could give. “I know. I miss him too.” Even surrounded by soldiers and loyal guards, Sansa didn’t feel completely safe from evil such as Ramsay unless both Jon and Robb were present.

Hearing twin screeches upon reaching the stairs to the balcony, she extended her left arm in expectation. Sure enough, Rhealla and Lyanarys, perched themselves on her, hissing and snapping their jaws at each other. “Enough,” Sansa told them sternly, and they obeyed. They seemed to have an attachment to Sansa, not loving her as deeply as they did their parents but allowing her to touch them and obeying her commands - only Robb, Margaery, and Missandei shared such a skill, and they were all out inspecting the Dothraki and Unsullied. Sansa was sure Jon’s twins would be more… agreeable since they wouldn’t grow up with the capacity to spit dragonfire.

‘Jon has children.’ It still shocked her to think about it, that he was a father and she was an aunt. Looking down at the courtyard, where the memories returned of him playing with Robb, Bran, and Arya while she sewed and minded her lessons inside. ‘Where I shunned him.’ Guilt and bitterness filled her, the dragons sensing it and quieting down. At least now Sansa had a chance. Jon loved her all the same, and deep down Sansa always had as well. ‘He’ll be a great father, I know that…’

“Sansa.”

The acting lady of Winterfell turned, face still stone. “Mother.” Upon the sight of her the dragons hissed and took off. They didn’t like Catelyn, as if having a sixth sense about the past. It was mirrored in Sansa’s icy gaze. The warmth and joy of their reunion had dissipated and the recent anger bubbled forth. ‘But a good lady wears a mask when in public.’ “Any news from Uncle Brynden?”

“Yes. He’s reached Moat Cailin and scouts reported that the Twins are open.”

This drew Sansa’s attention. “What?” They had given her great-uncle a third of the Vale Knights to deal with whatever remaining forces Walder Frey had, expecting a tough fight. Now the most strategic bridge in the Seven Kingdoms was open and undefended. “Did he flee south like a rat off a sinking ship?”

Catelyn shook her head. “Apparently, the entirety of House Frey was massacred by unknown parties. Lord Walder’s throat slit, his eldest son mutilated, and the rest poisoned. Whatever Frey men remained melted away into the countryside.”

Sansa shared her mother’s look - the look of justice being served. “Good. He can rot in hell.” A thought occurred to her. “Is Uncle Edmure alive?”

“Yes.” Her mother seemed quite genuinely relieved by that. “He was freed by the scouts and reunited with his wife and son.”

“Send a raven to Moat Cailin. Tell Uncle Brynden to march to Riverrun immediately and secure it before any of the Lannister-allied houses do.” If they held the castle then the land routes to the Vale would be open, and it would essentially secure everything north of the River Trident for Jon and Daenerys. Sansa knew it, and she bet that Tywin Lannister knew it as well.

Her mother seemed impressed and swelled with stoic pride. “Of course my Lady.” The pride only provoked another steely glare. Catelyn knew it too well, the glare that Daenerys sent her way for the first month in Meereen - the one Robb cast her as well. Now that all knew the truth, the reckoning for her actions had come, and it was all deserved. “Sansa…”

“When did you know?” For all her anger at her mother - for not only shunning Jon but for essentially making herself shun Jon as well - she remained composed. The words carried no emotion. “The truth about him, I mean?”

The elder woman closed her eyes. “The night of the feast, when the King arrived. Your father and uncle Benjen told me.”

“No wonder you allowed him by Bran’s bedside… rather than send him away.” That had been odd to Sansa at the time. For the young girl she had been, it had caused her to be nicer to Jon as well before they left. “I just can’t understand why father didn’t tell you at least… not that it justified what you did.”

“It didn’t.” Catelyn knew she deserved every bit of this from her children. She admired it actually, how close they were with their brother. Robb had grown humble, strategic - a true Lord. Sansa had become the definition of a lady, poised and calculating. ‘If only it hadn’t turned out the way it did.’ It hadn’t been the first time that she prayed to the gods for the chance to change things.

Looking back at the courtyard, the perch on the balcony was always the calmest part of the castle for Sansa. Mostly because of all the memories it brought. When her niece and nephew would come, she smiled inwardly at the joy it would bring. Such joy had been missing for so long in this place. “Jon has already forgiven you. Daenerys, Robb, and I haven’t but he has. Likely tells all of us who the better one is. The one fit to rule.”

Catelyn closed her eyes, the arctic wind blowing against her face. “Yes, it does.’

Sliding the whetstone along the sharp steel - dulled by constant use on the battlefield - Podrick Payne kept darting back to the two women on the balcony. To one of them in particular. His time with Brienne had tempered his innate shyness, and the incident with the whores Tyrion and Bronn acquired for him did increase his confidence, but when in the company of the fiery-haired northerner it had all come back. There wasn’t a more breathtaking sight.

“Oy, boy.” The sword dropped onto the ground, the whetstone following with a clang onto the steel at the startling voice. Podrick felt a strong hand smack into his back as Tormund Giantsbane sat down next to him. “You look distracted, lad. Is it a girl?”

Podrick blinked, not knowing what to say in these situations. While battle could drum bad fighting skills out of a youth, only experience with women not your family, knight, or paid companion could overcome youthful shyness. “Um… I… well…”

Another belly laugh left the wildling. “There’s only two things that can get a man this distracted. Food for one that’s starvin’ and a pretty lady.” Podrick’s flickering eyes betrayed him, and Tormund traced them to the balcony where the lone woman rested - Catelyn having retired to the solar. “Ah, the King Crow’s sister. Good choice. Us gingers are beautiful, kissed by fire.”

Trying to stammer a reply, Podrick failed to make a noise. Instead he grabbed the sword and went back to sharpening it. There was no way he would discuss his secret longing with the boisterous wildling. One word to Lord Snow and Longclaw would be thrust up his gut for even thinking about his sister.

The wildling never got the hint. “With a woman, boy, you have to go in strong. Like with my woman. A great golden beauty, taller than any woman alive…”

There was no mistaking who Tormund referred to. “Lady Brienne?” This was news to him, some of Lord Tyrion’s fondness for gossip having transferred to his former squire. “You’re… with her?”

“Not yet, but I’ve seen the way she looks at me.” ‘Contemptuously,’ thought Podrick as the wildling began to opine about having giant babies with her. The young squire wondered if Tormund’s feelings - though far more boisterous and exaggerated - were essentially what his were in regards to the Lady Sansa. She was the daughter of the great house, blood impeccable on both sides. He was just a simple squire, unfit no matter how many times he saved her.

Looking up, Sansa had gone in. Hearing Tormund still talking, Podrick sighed and went back to sharpening his blade.

 

“Father?” Setting the precious bundle in his bed, Jon gently ruffled his hair. Rhaegar was a hellion, tiring himself out with all the running he had done with his sister - it took all of Jon’s Night’s Watch endurance to keep up. ‘Just like Bran… before his fall.’ A sudden protective urge sprang forth like a growling wolf. A wolf protecting its cubs. “The snow, is it everywhere?”

He smiled, kissing his son’s brow. “It covers everything. Quite annoying actually, but it protects us from outsiders. Northerners call it General Winter.”

“I can’t wait to see snow.” Propping his hands under his head, Rhaegar’s violet eyes met Jon’s - they were exactly like Dany’s. “Are there Direwolves there? Packs of them.” A yawn formed, sleep beginning to overcome the little Prince as he snuggled on his pillow.

Covering him up with the blanket, Jon stroked his cheek. “No packs, but I do have a direwolf. His name’s Ghost, with fur as white as snow.” A smile curled on his son’s face as he fell into the gentle embrace of sleep. Wiping away a tear, Jon turned and walked to the other bed. “Good night, my sweetling.” Arya never ceased to make his heart clench, looking the perfect mix between his mother and his beloved.

“Stay with us, poppa,” she softly cried, reaching for his cheek. Her fingers stroked Jon’s prickly beard. “Don’t go.”

Jon kissed her cheek. “I’ll be right in the next room.” Both Visenya and Rhaenys had been protective mother dragons from what Dany had told him. The King’s chamber in Dragonstone castle had been built with a doorway to the nursery in case either Queen had to rush to their children. “Momma and poppa will be here in a heartbeat if you call.”

Eyes fluttering shut, Arya nodded. “Love you poppa.” Then she was asleep like her brother.

Heading for the door, Jon couldn’t stop the few tears from hitting the stone floor. “Love you too, sweetling.”

 

Where once the great throne room had been filled with color and light, to Jamie Lannister it now reminded him of the darkest of dungeons. His Divine Majesty, the Golden Chimera prefered to hold his infrequent - bordering on never, which was the case for his attendance at the small council - sessions of court at night. Only a smattering of candles banished away the darkness and the once vibrant stained glass had been bricked over, while two braziers gave the area around the Iron Throne itself any light. Rumor was that the King more frequently held meetings in the dungeon itself, but Jamie had luckily never been summoned. Those that were alleged to have never returned.

Naturally, his eyes fell on Cersei - her bewitching golden hair standing out among the darkness. Armored boots clacking on the stone floors, he quickly arrived at her side and kissed her cheek from behind. “Sister.” Jamie noticed her tensing up before relaxing at the sound of his voice. It pained him.

“Brother,” she replied, outwardly reserved but with a hint of warmth. Though she would always be beautiful to him, Jamie hated the state she was in. Her eyes were sunken, from stress rather than hunger though her appetite wasn’t the best. Cersei looked years older than she was, and there was a nervousness about her that threatened to break her. Before she had strode through the Red Keep as if she owned it, but now - even when their father was there - the walls had ears.

And the King was their son. “Do you know why we were summoned here?” Besides them, there was a nervous, hunchbacked Pycelle, Iron Bank representative Tycho Nestoris, and Littlefinger - who was, in his own unctuous way, looking nervous.

“No one tells me much anymore, but my sources tell me that the problem in the North has been taken care of.”

“Well that should be good news, right?” The victory at Sunspear had been heralded with a week’s thanksgiving. “Why hasn’t Joffrey hailed it?” They spoke in hushed tones.

Cersei gave him a pained grimace. “Bolton and Viserys Targaryen were defeated by Ned Stark’s bastard son, an alive Robb Stark, the Vale Knights that switched sides, and the Dragon Queen.” Jamie grimaced as well. The eventuality that their father had been warning of and preparing for had finally come.

Unlike when the King sounded his arrival to the whole city, a simple gong heralded his presence in the throne room. Cersei fell to her knees, as did Jamie and all the others. It was a privilege of Joffrey’s munificence and trust - the most anyone had seen him give to his family since making Tywin his Supreme Commander of the Armies following the Battle of Blackwater Bay - the ability to merely be on one’s knees in his presence rather than prostrate himself. It rankled Jamie, but he said nothing.

As the ringing of the gong still echoed through the throne room, in walked the royal procession. In the van was the High Sparrow, arms crossed over his chest as always. Surrounded by his guards was the King, draped in a veil of silk that obscured his face. Waddling along was the fat form of Dontos Hollard, the King’s fool and the only person besides the blind servant girls that attended to the King who was permitted to look upon Joffrey. Rounding out the rear was the ever-scheming vestige of Qyburn. Jamie didn’t trust him when the false Maester brought him back from the Riverlands with Brienne of Tarth, and the feeling had only grown since.

“This evening,” began the High Sparrow, as he did on all private meetings of the small council. “We implore the Seven to hear our thanks for the gift of their child upon this earth.”

“We say our thanks before the Seven,” everyone repeated. ‘What happened to my son?’ Jamie thought. Cersei blamed it all on the High Septon, Tywin on Qyburn, but Jamie thought differently. ‘He was always cruel, but it was Littlefinger that planted the seed.’ Since then the madness had just grown and grown.

Taking a seat on the Iron Throne, a cushion placed there for his comfort, Joffrey peered at each person. “Let us begin. Pycelle,” he barked. “Why is it getting colder? I had to wear additional clothes this morning.”

“Forgive me, all highest,” bumbled the old man. “But the Citadel has said that winter has arrived.”

Joffrey hissed. “One day I will control the weather to prevent this. Right, Sparrow?”

“Of course. The Seven are kind to their child.”

Likely preening under his veil, Joffrey next turned to Littlefinger. “Lord Baelish, has the dragonspawn been drawn and quartered for his rebellion by the Vale?”

Trembling, Baelish nodded. “That rebellion was put down, but I beg your forgiveness for informing you, your highest, that another rebellion has formed.” There was silence. Gulping, he continued. “The Dragon Queen has returned from Meereen and landed in the North. She has joined the forces there, deposed her brother, and allied with the treasonous Vale knights to oppose you.”

“WHAT?!” Under the gauzy fabric, Joffrey felt his heart beating out of his chest. The walls were closing in. Enemies everywhere, dangerous and ready to pounce. He didn’t feel safe, not even with the swords of the Mountain, Meryn Trant, and thousands of completely loyal Faith Militants. And his army… “WHERE IS TYWIN! WHERE IS MY ARMY!”

“He is in Dorne, my son. Fighting to keep your kingdom intact…”

“HE NEEDS TO BE HERE!”

“If I may, all highest?” The Chimera’s withering gaze, made all the more mighty and terrifying by the fabric white as sun-washed bone covering it, fell on Littlefinger. “A detachment of heavy cavalry and light men-at-arms has arrived in port today, under the command of Randyll Tarly.”

There was silence from the King. “Is he a fool?” The contemptuous scowl fell on Ser Dontos, still sitting in the corner.

“His record is distinguished. Combined with the men we have in the Crownlands and Westerlands, you’ll have an army of over forty thousand,” Littlefinger said, voice dripping with oiled words. One must only make the sovereign’s last thought of you a grateful one. All other mistakes would be forgiven. A sidelong look at the Lannister twins only proved that it was not the Chimera that could burn him.

“And the dragons?”

It was Qyburn that answered the King. “The scorpions have been delivered to all formations, all Highest. They were effective in the battle at Winterfell, and will be even greater in a more concentrated formation. Attack now, while surprise is still on your side.”

“Yes, they must attack at once. But not Tarly.” A finger pointed below the dias. “You, uncle.”

“All Highest?” Jamie was confused. “I am your loyal guard, sworn to protect you from all harm.” ‘My son as well.’ His son… a monster. It wasn’t because of Joffrey that he served loyally.

Snapping his fingers at Trant and Blount, they scrambled down the steps and began stripping the Kingsguard markers from Jamie’s armor. “You are now a general in my army. Go forth and destroy the North as I should have done when I thought Robb Stark to be killed.” Blood boiled within him. “Turn every settlement to the fire. Burn it all to ash!”

“No! You can’t!” Cersei couldn’t get the images from her mind as soon as her son said for Jamie to head north. Images of Jamie beheaded, impaled, a large dragon burning him alive at the hands of the Targaryen queen. He had barely survived one foray into the north. Breaking protocol, she climbed the steps and grabbed his shoulders. “Don’t do this my son, do not risk your family…”

A backhanded slap sent her falling. “Do not touch me!” Joffrey snarled. “You may be my mother, but you are a mere mortal! I am a god!”

At the beginning of her son’s reign, Cersei had seen his outbursts as those of a child - a cruel child, but one still innocent of the evil gripping the world. But now, one look in his eyes… not that she could see them directly anymore… only made it clear to her the monster that he had become. ‘No! He is still my child. My eldest.’ No mother stopped loving her child no matter what he became.

But Cersei was afraid of him, nonetheless.

“Shall I teach this one a lesson, not to disrespect her King?” From the growling in Meryn Trant’s voice, it sounded like he’d enjoy it.

Before Jamie could do something incredibly stupid to protect her, it was the High Sparrow that interceded. “Discord among the righteous only benefits the wicked, all Highest.” Humble, penitent before his god, the former nobleman knew the imperfect King only needed the right guiding hand. “The Queen Mother’s heart is in the right place, so perhaps a private refresher on the true meaning of the faith is all that is needed.” Still as a statue for agonizingly long minutes, Joffrey finally waved his clawed hands. Trant stepped away from Cersei, allowing Jamie to kneel next to her. “She should rest now, your highest.”

“Of course.” His tone had softened, mollified that the threats were ending. “Mother, see to it that you have that looked at.”

It would be the only thing close to an apology Cersei knew would be given. “Thank you… all highest.”

Turning to the High Sparrow to dismiss the meeting, Joffrey involuntarily staggered back. ‘Here, he’s here!’ The ghostly vestige of Robert Baratheon. Instead of the mottled grey of a corpse, he was ethereal. Pale, but blood still dripped to the ground. “No.” His voice was filled with terror. “No…”

“Woman born of storm, fair of eye…”

“It’s her, isn’t it?” All around him waited silently, breath bated with concern but no one willing to risk provoking his wrath. “The Dragon Queen.”

“Golden face she sees, a realm divide.”

Nearly falling over, only the helpful arms of Meryn Trant studied him. “Master of Whisperers. Where is the Dragon Queen.”

“My little birds have her in Dragonstone, your highest. With her two children.”

“Kill her. I want her dead! SHE MUST NEVER SEE ME!” If such a request puzzled those in the room, none voiced it. They knew better.

Qyburn allowed a smile. “I have already seen to it your highest. From a person desperate to prove his loyalty towards you.”

“A great crime, to harm a woman and child,” opined the High Sparrow. “But it is necessary for those that have defied the will of the Seven’s chosen one on this earth.” Nothing but the flickering candles answered him.

 

“This is suicide, my Lady.”

It was still surreal to be called that - hells, it was still surreal for Tyene Sand to be in the very situation she was in. Staring at the stars through the vision slit, it truly hammered home how isolated and weak she was at the moment.

“We are having trouble with procuring replacements and reinforcements,” said another one of her generals. In the chaos and vacuum that Tywin’s march through Dorne had brought, most of the populace had flocked to Trystane’s government - for security and bread if nothing else. What men and women they had were scattered among the wilderness in isolated hillside dugouts and tunnels such as this one where Tywin’s men couldn’t root them out. “How will we inspire the populace if you leave?”

“And how will we hope to win without allies?” she hissed back. “We were always loyal to the Targaryens. Now that the Dragon Queen has arrived in Westeros, she is the only hope to shake off the yoke.”

It made her generals uneasy. “Our loyalty to you, as to your father, is unquestioned. But how can you place confidence in the family that betrayed Elia Martell for some wolf-bitch from the north?”

Tyene grimaced. “So we let the Lannisters, who killed Elia and her children and enslaved many Dornish, rule us because the Dragon Queen’s brother fell in love with a northerner?” There was silence. “Can you transport me to Dragonstone?”

“Yes, my Lady.”

“Then do it.”

 

A loud moan left Dany’s throat, mouth opened in a wide gasp. “Oh Jon, seven hells. Mmmm…”

Hair still tied in his bun, Jon poked out from his perch between her legs. “Did you say something, my Queen?” He was just as bare as she was.

Her eyes blazed dragonfire at him. “Get back down there, my King.” Fingers curled into his raven locks and urged him back with the determined fury and passion of a dragon - back to the wondrous things he was doing with his mouth and tongue. As soon as the wet organ touched her even wetter core, Dany moaned loud enough that even the dragons fishing in the seas surrounding Dragonstone could hear. “My gods, how are you doing this to me?”

Jon couldn’t help but smirk, licking up a trail along her slit. Such was their new routine since that first night at Winterfell - making up for lost time. They would retire to their chambers. Always together, their positions august enough not to raise protest along with the raised eyebrows, yet news of their betrothal helped smooth any issues. Once there they would undress the other, lovingly or frantically, always passionate. And then Jon would carry his betrothed to bed - or she would push him on the bed. This time instead of pushing inside her, Jon had the hungry urge to feast on her.

“Unnnhhh…” At first Dany did not have a clue as to what Jon was doing, kissing down her body. The Dothraki didn’t do this, nor did those she knew in Essos. ‘Gods, they are missing out.’ His tongue parted through her folds in its mission. The heat ever present inside her rose to new heights. “Don’t. Stop.”

“You do not rule over this bed, your Grace,” he said in his dark, husky wolf growl. Savoring her taste, Jon already knew he couldn’t get enough of his dragon. Ygritte had been musky and delicious in her own way, but Daenerys was something else. Her moans spurred him forward, drove his lust and hunger. Spreading apart her folds, Jon plunged his tongue as deep as he could.

Daenerys was sure Balerion had enveloped her in a tongue of flame. A scream left her lips, fingers pulling so hard on Jon’s hair that they freed his locks from the loose bun. The pleasure was so intense that she slipped into High Valyrian without even knowing it. “Kessa. Tolī. Oh Jon. Nyke jorrāelagon ziry.” His tongue doubled its pace, Jon likely turned on from her babbling. Swiping over a particular spot inside her - one that never ceased to erupt dragonfire within her when they made love - Dany shattered to her one and only King. “JON!”

Lapping up the gush of wetness pouring out of Dany’s core, Jon grinned in satisfaction. Nothing like making the indomitable Dragon Queen a limp rag to stroke one’s ego. Quite a change from his normal stoic humility. ‘Only for Dany,’ he thought. Kissing her navel, he looked up to find one pale arm dashed about her face, mouth open in a silent gasp as she trembled from the aftershocks. “So was this to your Grace’s satisfaction?”

“Gods, Jon.” Able to open her eyes finally, they bored into her dragonwolf’s grey orbs. “How did you learn to do that… so well?”

“The Lord’s Kiss, you mean? All I need is the motivation, Daenerys Stormborn.”

“Come here. You’re too far away.” Jon was happy to oblige, pulling himself up to her and placing a kiss over her mouth. Crushing their bodies tightly together, leg wrapped around his and arms looped over his back, Dany continued the languid kiss. “I love you, Jon.”

“I love you too, Dany.” Giving her a break before he would send her to the stars once more, Jon allowed the events of the day to fully sink in. “I really am a father…” He rolled over onto his back. The comfortable temperatures of the island, chilly but warm compared to the north, precluded his need for a blanket - goose down rather than the northern furs.

“Yes you are.” Dany perched herself on her elbow, admiring the fine specimen that was the man she loved. “Two children and six dragons. They all love you, Jon.”

That rare, loving smile crossed Jon’s lips. “I love them too.” He pushed back on his side and cupped Dany’s cheek. “And their mother.” Jon watched with rapture as she leaned into his palm, eyes fluttering in contented joy. “I will never leave any of you again. I promise.”

When Dany thought he could never get any sexier or more amazing, her dragonwolf went and said something like that. “Together, my love. Forever.” Arms pulling him close, Daenerys felt she couldn’t stand another moment without his touch. “When I take back the Iron Throne from Joffrey, I want you by my side. To rule with me.”

Jon sighed. “You don’t have to. I never wanted even a lordship, let alone the crown.” He looked at her. “You’ve planned so long to have the throne. Fought hard for it. It’s yours.”

“Jon…” The fact he would so willingly give her his birthright only proved to her that he was the man she needed. The King the realm needed. “My love, I don’t want the throne unless you rule alongside me. The endless spokes of families on the wheel that keeps turning… we will break it. Together.” She placed her hand on his shoulder. “Blood of my blood, it is the both of us that will leave this world better than the one we inherited. As equals.”

“I never thought I would be… I was a mere bastard. Content to live at the Wall for the rest of my days. And now I’m the rightful King of the Seven Kingdoms?” Pulling away, Dany saw insecurity, self-doubt in his eyes. “Do I really deserve it? I was merely Lord Commander and my men killed me for it.”

“You do deserve it, Jon. There’s no one who deserves it more.” She kissed his cheek. “Rhaegar will learn to be a King from the best, for you already are a great leader, Jon.” Lips placing a flurry of kisses on his cheeks, nose, eye, and forehead, Dany hugged Jon tightly. “I’ve been dreaming of this day. All four of our family, together… forever.” She kissed him, cupping his face.

“Five,” Jon mumbled against her mouth, mirroring her kiss. Feeling her pull back, a puzzled look in her violet orbs, Jon realized he hadn’t told her. ‘How did I not tell her?’ He had planned to tell her the morning after the battle… but she beat him to it with the news of the twins. “There are five living Targaryens.”

“Viserys is not a Targaryen.” The Dragon Queen returned, face stony and voice tinged with anger. “As Queen, I’ve decided to revoke his legitimacy as punishment for his crimes. He is no Targaryen.”

“Ugh…” Jon rolled his eyes. “First off, thank you for reminding me that I’m related to that slug.” Dany snorted, amused. ‘At least my father was a great man - and Dany…’ He placed his palm on her soft cheek, stroking the milky skin with his thumb. “There are five Targaryens, my dragon. Your great-uncle Aemon.”

Dany stared at him, mouth slack. “My great-uncle… Aegon V’s brother?” Jon nodded. “H… how do you know him?”

Gently stroking her back, it brought Jon great joy to see his love reunited completely with a family long thought dead. ‘Now I know why Maester Aemon always kept me close.’ “Aemon was… well is the Maester at Castle Black. He’s very old and essentially blind, but his mind is sharp and will strong. My…” Jon’s breath hitched for a moment. “My uncle Benjen told him about my heritage, and he told me right before…” His eyes moved to the scar on his heart - where Dany rested her hand.

“I… I thought all Targaryens had been killed but Viserys and I…” Tears welled in Dany’s eyes.

Jon kissed the tears away. “Aemon is coming down from Castle Black with Sam Tarly, a good friend of mine. You’ll see him when we return.” He leaned up to kiss her forehead. “He loves you, you know. Whatever information that came in from Meereen and Essos, he would pour over it.”

“Our family lives.” She had always thought that… given her brother’s humiliating stain on the house, she and the twins were the last Dragons. Not anymore. She had her beloved dragonwolf, and now her great-uncle as well. “I love you so much, Jon.” She buried her head in his dark, northern hair. “You’ve brought nothing but light and joy into my life since we’ve met.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Dany.” Feeling her snuggle against him, Jon smiled. “You and Aemon will get along, and the same with Sam.”

“Mmmm, are you and he close?”

“He’s my best friend, at the wall. Sam was born of a noble house in the Reach, but his father hated him because he was bookish rather than athletic. He actually wasn’t shocked of my parentage.”

“And why is that, my love?”

At that moment Jon felt a chill on his skin, recalling that moment when he had faced a wight for the first time. It’s mottled grey skin, glowing blue eyes. “One of the dead had gotten into the Lord Commander’s quarters… Ser Jorah’s father. I had lost my sword trying to defend against it, and the monster was strangling me.” He felt his queen tighten her hold on him. “The Lord Commander then entered with Ghost, allowing me to break free, and I grabbed a lantern and managed to burn it alive… the fire didn’t burn my hand.”

Staring at him, Dany saw Jon in a new light - the same as she had when his… their daughters first showed themselves to her. “The unburnt.” Just as she did, Jon had braved the flames and came out without a scratch. Blood of the dragon. “Fire made flesh.” Taking his hand, Daenerys kissed the palm lovingly.

Jon smiled before fire blazed in her violet eyes and he soon found himself pinned to the bed. “Dany?”

Keeping his hands pinned above his head, Dany kissed Jon hard and moved to suck on his neck. “You and me, Jon.” She bit his shoulder. “The Iron Throne is ours… We will rule together, for our family... all of us.” Her lips returned to his. “My King.” Jon flipped his betrothed over, the couple lost in their desire.

Chapter Text

Spoon slicing through the ground meat and cheese like it was butter, Arya brought the steaming concoction back to her mouth. “This is delicious, Hot Pie.” Glancing across the table, she watched a smile form on the face of her older yet still portly friend. “What do you put in this? Some kind of Riverlands herb or something?”

“A good cook never reveals his recipes till he dies or retires,” chuckled Hot Pie, seated across from Arya and Gendry.

The former blacksmith’s apprentice swallowed. “You’ve honestly become a better cook since we last saw you, and I don’t know how that’s possible.”

Shrugging bashfully, Hot Pie motioned to Arya. “We’ve all changed. Can’t believe I thought you were a boy once, Arry. You’ve grown very pretty.” Arya - not one to express her emotions - couldn’t help but blush while Gendry scowled. “I knew you two would get together. The Brotherhood actually had a pool going on over when. I believe… Beric Dondarrion would have won the prize.” Gendry cracked up while Arya just snickered softly. “So are you going back to Winterfell.”

Humor gone at the mention of her childhood home, Arya pursed her lips in a puzzled grimace. “Why would we go there? Viserys Targaryen and the Boltons have it.” After hearing what the swine did after the Red Wedding, Arya had added them all to her list. However, she was additionally puzzled when Hot Pie leaned in.

“Well didn’t you two hear? The Boltons are dead.” Both Arya and Gendry were silent, so Hot Pie continued. “Viserys declared war on the Crown, but then Jon Snow came down from Castle Black with a Wildling Army and a dragon and won the Battle of the Bastards.”

Hearing Jon’s name focused Arya completely - it was if a sledgehammer had hit her. ‘Jon. My brother. Alive.’ She hadn’t heard anything remotely concerning him since he had given her Needle in her room, though Arya had thought about him considerably. And here he was, in control of the North. His home. Her home.

“Wait, a dragon?” Gendry’s disbelief snapped her out of their reverie. “Don’t be an idiot. There hasn’t been one for centuries.”

Hot Pie bristled. “It’s true. Everyone’s talking about it!”

“And I remember everyone in Flea Bottom talking about Cersei Lannister having a secret cock. Doesn’t make it true… ow.” Gendry rubbed his shin from where Arya had kicked him.

“Shut up,” she said, only half serious. Gendry had learned early on that being with Arya meant getting thumped about half the time - it was how she expressed affection. “Who did you hear it from?”

“Tully bannermen mostly. They’ve been flocking toward Riverrun after the Freys were assassinated…” He eyed Arya wearily, still shocked the young, tiny girl had done that. “And not just one dragon. There are three in Winterfell.” He pounded his fist on the table as if to punctuate his point.

“Three? Now you’re just shittin’ us, mate.” Gendry took a big spoonful of pie, glad to satiate his hunger. Traveling on the Kingsroad without much money didn’t include plentiful food.

“Yes. Right in the middle of the battle, in swooped the Dragon Queen on her own dragon.”

It didn’t shame Arya to feel a sense of childlike exhilaration run through her at the image. A modern day Visenya or Nymeria charging forth dragonback, just like she had idolized during childhood play at Winterfell. And now, her beloved brother Jon had taken back her home along with the Dragon Queen - which meant the new Nymeria was an ally of his. ‘A safe haven.’ Likely the first since her father had been captured. “Gendry…”

“Before you say that you’re going to Winterfell and there’s not a fucking thing I can do to stop you, I’ll save you the trouble by agreeing to go.” The blacksmith smiled as Arya’s eyes lit up. She may have been ruthless and cold most of the time, but he could always make her eyes sparkle. “Hot Pie, you up to it? Good cooks are like blacksmiths, they are in demand everywhere.”

Mounting her horse, Arya looked back at Gendry and Hot Pie. The latter had demurred, but it wasn’t long since they left the inn till he ran out to join them. ‘Bonds of friendship.’

Wind rustling through the woods, carrying the icy chill of winter even in the Riverlands, Arya clutched the reins tighter. She was going home - to Jon, now allied with the Dragon Queen. Now with dragons. ‘With enemies the same as my own.’ With Walder Frey dead and the Hound largely having redeemed himself, there still remained many on her list. Closing her eyes as she rode behind Gendry, she began repeating the names just like old Yoren taught her. The names she would eventually all give to the Many-Faced God.

“Joffrey, Cersei, Meryn Trant, Ilyn Payne, Littlefinger, the Mountain, Amory Lorch, the Waif, Tycho Nestoris, Viserys Targaryen.” Dutifully, religiously, she began again. “Joffrey…”

 

Groaning, Jon’s eyes fluttered open to a warm pleasure spreading through his lower body. There, at the foot of the bed, was the mighty Dragon Queen with her lips around his cock. Her eyes twinkled as they stared at him. “Oh good,” she said, lips leaving the head with a pop. “You’re awake.” A long tongue darted out and licked hungrily from the tip to the base.

“Dany…” The ministrations of his Queen reducing the White Wolf to a limp rag, all he could do was gasp and grab Dany’s head. His fingers weaved into her hair. Only she could reduce him to this state - and by the smirk on her lips, she knew it.

“I was getting dressed for the small council meeting soon, but you looked so delicious that I couldn’t help myself.” Dany loved doing this to Jon. She loved Jon - more than anything. The groans coming from his mouth spurred her forward. “Give me your release, my soon-to-be King. Shatter into your Queen’s mouth.” With that, Dany sucked his tip and took him deep.

“Fuck!” Jon felt his cock erupt into her mouth, Dany’s tongue swiping over him to prolong the pleasure. “Thank you…” he panted. “For that.”

Licking the remainder of his juices from her lips, black wool and leather dress making her look every inch a warrior queen, Dany leaned down to kiss him softly. “Anything for you, my love. Now get dressed for the meeting.” She kissed him once more and rolled off him. “The children are with Doreah, and the small council is expecting us.”

He stared at her incredulously. “Now hold on. It’s my turn now.”

Dany stood up anyway, scooting to the edge. “No time, Jon. We’re already skirting our punctuality. However, her eyes slithered shut when his arms wrapped around her. Palming her breasts through her dress, Jon’s mouth lavished open-mouthed kisses on her neck. “Jon… mmmmmm…” She felt him smile against her skin. His beard tickled her skin. But while she would have loved to just fall into bed and let him ravish her, they couldn’t. “Not… now.” Forcing herself from his grasp, she stood up. “Later,” she offered with a smile, leaving the chamber.

Chuckling to himself, Jon shook his head. “Little tease,” he said to Ghost… only Ghost wasn’t there. Sighing, he scrambled out of the bed and reached for his breeches. He just finished strapping his direwolf-emblazoned leather tunic on when there was a knock at the door. “Enter.”

The door swung open and in walked an older man. His white hair and beard were cropped close, clad in similar leather armor and a warm smile on his face - one weathered with the weight of experience and loss. Jon recognized the same look, one he wore often in the mirror. “My Lord,” he bowed. “I am Ser Barristan Selmy. The Queen asked me to be your personal guard while you are on Dragonstone.”

Jon blinked, taken aback. The great Barristan Selmy, legendary Kingsguard and someone Jon had often idolized as a child. Willing himself to move, he took the proffered hand. “Well, I wouldn’t be able to find someone more skilled to keep me safe, Ser Barristan. It is an honor.”

“The honor is mine, my Lord. I served your father… Rhaegar. He was one of the finest men I have ever known.” Guilt welled in Ser Barristan’s eyes. “I was unable to save him on the field of battle, so I understand if you wish to dismiss me from your service.”

Pondering the old man’s words, Jon finally met his eyes. “Ser, if Queen Daenerys saw fit to assign you to me, then you have proven yourself worthy.”

The Knight smiled wanly. “The Dragon Queen is a remarkable woman, and from what I’ve heard you are just the same. The Seven Kingdoms are in good hands.” Nodding, Barristan just paces behind, Jon slipped Longclaw into the scabbard and headed for where the council was meeting.

Striding through the winding corridors and large hallways, Jon’s eyes darted to a row of windows open to a sort of inner courtyard a floor below. There were the twins, taking outside lessons from a bearded tutor while Doreah kept her eye on them. Seeing their smiling faces, rapt with attention to the lessons before them, Jon couldn’t help but feel his heart burst with love. His children, part of him and part of Dany. If there was anything that he was now fighting for… it was those two darlings in the courtyard.

“They always asked about you.” Jon felt Ser Barristan’s hand on his shoulder. “I didn’t know what to say, so I told them about your father, Ned Stark. But Queen Daenerys always told them stories about you, how you were someone they could be proud of.”

Some self-deprecating comment rose to his lips but Jon bit it back. Much as his old personality was hard to change, he knew Dany despised it. If he was to be a King, he had to be more regal. “I shall strive to be exactly that.”

The map room hadn’t changed since Aegon the Conqueror had planned the invasion of Westeros with his sister-wives. It had the look of a dark cave, braizers and candlesticks providing the needed yet low light with dark clouds forming above through the maw-like opening of the window. Mounted in the middle was the famous table, granite surface sculpted with a terrain map of the entirety of Westeros - Dorne to the Land of Always Winter. Known military concentrations were marked, clusters in Dorne and in and around Winterfell.

All present bowed to Jon as he walked in. “My Lord,” said Lord Varys, the first from the door. “An honor to meet the son of Prince Rhaegar.” Jon shook his hand, taking the blank stare in the Spider’s eyes. This was not a man to trifle with, fat eunuch or not. Someone to respect but not trust fully until further notice.

“Jon Snow.” General Theodosius was next, expression friendly but with a hint of pain in his eyes - one Jon had seen in Robb’s ever since they reunited. “I look forward to the many battles ahead.” The Dothraki bloodriders weren’t as impressed, looking him over as if a curious, puny insect. Grey Worm was cordial and slightly trusting, but Jon noticed the Unsullied commander was still sizing him up. And lastly, Dany, as radiant as ever...

Sharing a tender look with his betrothed, it immediately iced over when the Greyjoys entered the map room. Jon leveled his gaze at the old ward of Winterfell. Theon Greyjoy. He registered Dany grasping his hand, trying to keep him from doing anything rash but it was too late. His legs were already carrying him to the Ironborn Prince.

To his credit, Theon had a posture of remorse and barely concealed pain. “Jon.” He offered, eyes guilty but still meeting those of the northerner that was rounding the massive table. “How’s Sansa? Is she safe…” Theon was cut off when a fist slammed in his face.

Dany gasped, watching as Jon wordlessly grabbed Theon by the straps of his armor. The dragon had been woken, her King taking his own personal vengeance on a threat to his family. But fear filled her as Yara moved for the sword on her hip - Ser Barristan noticing this and placing his hand on the hilt of his own sword to protect Jon. Yes, Theon betrayed the Starks, but he was an ally that Dany could not afford to lose… nor could she bear it if Jon was hurt.

However, as soon as the dragon was unleashed did the wolf return, menacing but reserved in its icy rage. “What you did for Sansa…” Images… imagined horror stories of what Ramsay had to have done to his sister… flashed in his mind. “What you did for her, is the only reason that my fist wasn’t a sword.” Theon nodded, understanding and not resisting. Shoving him back, Jon calmly walked by a relieved Barristan - Yara relieved and guarded as well, eyes glaring daggers at Jon’s back - and took his position beside Dany, hands placed flat on the edge of the table.

“Perhaps we should begin,” offered Varys, voice flat and monotone.

The topic before them was generally the same as the one in the north. The announcement of the betrothal and the Army of the Dead, followed by how the Targaryen Armies should proceed against the Lannisters. As Jon predicted, the matter soon descended into a heated debate.

“You need to attack King’s Landing now!” Perhaps the subtlety and intrigue normally characterizing grand political power plays were a thing of the past within the Dragon Queen’s Small Council - at least her War Council. Yara made a decisive slash with her finger from Dragonstone to King’s Landing, and then from the North to King’s Landing. “Burn the Red Keep to the ground with your dragons, then deal with Tywin Lannister once you hold the capitol.” Once translated, the Dothraki all voiced their loud, boisterous agreement by smacking their chests with their fists.

There was disagreement from Theodosius. “The Capitol is but a point on the map. An eyesore if there ever was one. We don’t need it but they do. Blockade it from the sea with everything we have before the damn Ironborn under Euron Greyjoy arrive, and put the rest under siege with every soldier you and the north has to offer. Make Tywin come to you.” He slammed his hand down on the ridged stone representing Dorne. Jon could see the righteous fury in his eyes. “Tywin is the goal. Not any fixed point in the map. Destroy his army and Joffrey is powerless.”

The arguments continued along those lines, though all agreed that she should go on the offensive immediately and wipe out the enemy in one campaign with all she had. Only Varys and Jon remained silent. The former sat quietly, taking everything in. The northerner merely studied the map, shifted his eyes to glance at Dany for a stolen moment, then went back to the map.

She placed a hand on him. “We are at war,” Dany said when he finally looked at her, broken from his brooding. “My forces are dispersed across the world. My advisors are all divided on what direction to advance in.” There was nothing but steel in her tone, the dragon in full force. “What do you think I should do?”

“Daenerys.” Hearing the slight tinge of affection and familiarity in his voice, her anger and steel melted. Jon visibly chafed, opening and closing his mouth as if trying to find the right words for the moment. A politician or orator he wasn’t - but a leader he was, nonetheless. “You have done… incredible things,” he finally began. “Things that no one would have ever thought possible. Bringing emancipation to the slaves, commanding an army of Dothraki and free Unsullied from Astapor to Winterfell, joining the Targaryen dragon with the Stark direwolf.” The last brought a very hint of a smile, one he reserved only for her and his siblings. Those that he loved. To all others, he was the brooding, icy wolf - but one that would raise his inner dragon if need be.

“Although none of us are doubting such extraordinary things, Lord Snow, the art of military tactics cannot…”

“Let him finish speaking, General Theodosius,” Dany interrupted icily. The general quieted, sufficiently chastised. “Continue, Jon.” There was symbolism in her use of his first name. The others may have been advisors - trusted advisors - but Jon Snow was her partner. Her equal.

Looking at the commanders and politicians around the table, Jon met each’s eyes to ensure that he was not that kind of arrogant leader. But rather one of humility. Loud roars from outside echoed, the dragons voicing their displeasure with the lightning and thunder preceding the coming rainstorms. “No one thought dragons would ever come back to Westeros. I rode one into battle and I was still in disbelief.” His gaze returning upon her, Jon covered her hand resting on the table with his. “You made the impossible happen. The people that follow you and will follow you believe that you make the impossible happen. To bring them a life better than the shit one they’ve lived or the hellish one that Joffrey would give them. Burning your way to victory would destroy that. Would make you into no different than the Kings that ruled before you.”

Many did not find themselves impressed by Jon’s plea to mercy and honor. “Pretty words do not win battles, weakling.” One of the bloodriders remarked dismissively. “Only killing wins battles, and the sky monsters are the best killers.”

“What is the use of winning battles if there is no foundation for what comes after?” Jon asked, leading for the bloodrider to snort. Worrying about consequences wasn’t the Dothraki way. They raided, took what they wanted, and left. “We need the people to stand behind Daenerys if we are to break the cycle of rule by fear that has gripped the Seven Kingdoms by Kings for generations. What better way to do that than to fight the true enemy of all of humanity?” He jabbed his finger into the Land of Always Winter on the map.

General Theodosius remained skeptical. “While I appreciate your honor and zeal for your cause, Lord Snow, what proof do we have that this ‘Army of the Dead’ even exists?”

“I have seen it with my own eyes. Every living thing that dies can be risen into the Night King’s army. What honor do we have if we squabble like children and allow the true enemy to smite us all down?”

“Your honor did not serve your father, Jon Snow,” hissed Yara. It reminded Jon of Theon from before, when he was just the ward of Winterfell. His sister was smarter, but just as crude and ill tempered. “Having honor is bad strategy.”

Grimacing, Jon’s fists clenched. The wolf in him was fighting the dragon equally within him. “I’m sorry, but the Ironborn grand strategy for the War of the Four Kings. How many castles do they still control on the mainland? What lands does Balon Greyjoy now rule?” The words were delivered flatly, but there was no mistaking the caustic effect. Yara crossed her arms, scowling. Theon said nothing, eyes averted.

Silence hung in the map room before Daenerys broke it. “Lord Varys?”

Quiet the whole time, the Spider had been taking in everything said around him - the tactic that led him to survive serving four monarchs in his lifetime. “I serve the realm, your Grace. The people. I know you are the queen that will deliver for them and not for yourself or the lords or your close allies, and from what I know of Lord Snow I feel the same about him.” His little birds reached everywhere, and aside from the deepest secrets such as Jon’s true parentage, he knew most of the comings and goings of the world. “I am not of knowledge of the dead beyond the wall, but if you seek the betterment of the people of Westeros, you cannot act like Joffrey. Jon Snow is right in this regard.”

Dany closed her eyes, making her decision. “We will not attack King’s Landing,” she commanded, her tone leaving no room for further argument. “I am not my father. As to whether we attack the Lannister armies or focus on the Army of the Dead…”

The meeting was broken by a Bloodrider, brusquely barging inside and marching straight to Dany. Conversing in Dothraki back and forth, Daenerys nodded. “Jon, Lord Varys, to the throne room. It appears we have a visitor.”

 

It was certainly imposing. Lady Tyene Sand wasn’t someone of low birth who would be awed into silence by the shittiest castle owned by the lowest Lord in the Seven Kingdoms - Prince Oberyn hadn’t bothered with the distinction between trueborn and bastard, raising his bastards as his own and availing them to the best Dorne had to offer, be they luxuries or melee instructors. Growing up in a childhood filled with gilded palaces and hallways of travertine and pink marble, Tyene nevertheless felt slightly intimidated at the majesty of Dragonstone. This was no grandiose monstrosity to satiate a gluttonous King’s garish taste, but rather the imposing palace fit for a conqueror. And Aegon and his sister-wives were by far the greatest single conquerors in history.

Being led in by the Unsullied guards that had first captured her at shore, clad in simple gold and brown combat attire of a Dornish rebel, Tyene found herself gazing at the figure seated on the throne. Silver haired. The descendent of Aegon the Conqueror, set about on her own campaign of conquest and subjugation.

Without Missandei, it was up to Lord Varys to announce Dany’s presence in the throne room. "You stand in the presence of Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Rightful Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men. Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. Mother of Dragons and Queen of Meereen. The Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, The Unburnt, The Breaker of Chains."

As the titles were recited, Tyene noticed the Queen standing stone-faced. An emotionless scowl - apart from a sort of default regal contempt that Tyene recognized - was all that existed of outward features. The Dragon Queen was striking and of small build but there was no doubt of the determination of a conqueror. She was the embodiment of the Targaryen motto: Fire and Blood. None of this surprised the daughter of Dorne.

No, what piqued her curiosity was the man standing next to the throne. Far too tall to be the distinctive form of Tyrion Lannister, the Queen’s Hand, was this one. ‘A northerner,’ she thought dismissively. The brooding features, dark hair, and no nonsense build gave it away, and any member of House Martell would be dismissive of them since Lyanna Stark had caused Rhaegar Targaryen to betray her aunt Elia. However, by being next to the Queen he must have commanded great respect in Daenerys’ eyes, so Tyene had to be weary.

“Speak,” Daenerys offered, gesturing to Tyene. She didn’t look much older than herself or Jon. Glancing at her beloved, Dany remembered how she had said the generation of their parents had brought everything to near ruin with their squabbles and jockeying for power. ‘It is up to the young to set the world to rights.’

Dipping her head in respect, Tyene pushed her headscarf down to reveal her short locks. No one showing respect to a monarch would keep their head covered unless they were an armed guard. “Your Grace, I am Tyene Sand. Daughter of Oberyn Martell and the Lady Ellaria Sand.”

Dany pursed her lips. “Yes, I heard about the sack of Sunspear. My condolences on the loss of your mother and sisters.” Losing the potential for an alliance with Dorne stung, namely for the ability to force Tywin to fight on two fronts.

Tears of grief threatened to well in her eyes but Tyene fought them off. Her mother barely mourned her father, instead choosing to honor his memory by avenging his death. ‘So to will I, for Obara, Nymeria, and my parents.’ “They fought as honorable Dornish warriors and statesmen. I would be honored to live up to their example.”

At that moment the northerner leaned in to whisper something to the Queen. The Queen responded in hush tones, and Tyene did not fail to catch the tenderness by which Daenerys Targaryen regarded the man. ‘Her lover? Betrothed?’ Was that how she intended to ally with the North. A reminder of the circumstances of her sibling, Rhaegar, angered Tyene but her quarrel was not with them. “Tell us, Lady Tyene,” the northerner finally responded. “Your cousin Trystane rules Dorne as of now. As family he is likely to grant you a pardon, so why do you seek Queen Daenerys’ counsel rather than his?”

“Because he is weak, nothing more than a puppet of the Lannisters.” Eying him with distaste, she shifted to the Dragon Queen. “You and I share a common enemy, your Grace. We both wish to see the Lannisters burn.”

“That is correct, we both have enemies within House Lannister,” Daenerys began. “However, the question wasn’t asked by me, it was asked by Lord Jon Snow. In the future, Tyene Sand,” she remarked coldly. “You will address my betrothed with the respect and honor he deserves.”

Jon Snow. ‘Eddard Stark’s bastard.’ The nephew of the woman that so disgraced her aunt Elia. Someone who’s family Tyene would have to forgive if she were to gain her desired goal. “Forgive me, Lord Snow. I meant no disrespect.”

To Tyene’s surprise - though it shouldn’t have been, given the infamous Stark honor - Jon seemed to shrug any grudge off. “What is it that you are seeking, Lady Tyene?”

“An alliance between Free Dorne and the Dragon Queen. One to destroy the false King Joffrey and liberate my homeland.”

Dany’s eyes narrowed. “And to do so you are willing to bend the knee?”

“Yes.”

Meeting Jon’s gaze, Dany gestured to him to lean in. “This is our chance to bring Dorne into the fold, my love,” she whispered.

“I’m not sure if she’s trustworthy, Dany. And it wouldn’t be easy. People tend to follow those in control of the cities.”

“So we shouldn’t take her offer?”

“I didn’t say that. Tyene Sand isn’t going anywhere. Keep her close and see if she can be trusted before legitimizing her claim.” There was no doubt that Dany would if she so chose - she had planned to do so to Jon before finding out he was already legitimate.

Watching Jon step back, Dany planted the mask back onto her face - though this time a bit more cordial. “Well, you must be tired from your long journey. My guards will escort you to your rooms while Lord Snow and I consult further on your offer.” As Tyene was led away, she couldn’t help but wonder if she was a guest or, rather, a prisoner.

 

Feeling the sun’s rays warm her cheeks, Sansa was glad for the break in the snowfall. Temperatures were still nowhere near enough to melt even a portion of the white blanket that covered the ground though. But this allowed the snowdrifts to be shoveled away and clear the roads, perfect as to the gathering of new forces in and around Winterfell. The northern lords would soon arrive, and they already had an important visitor. One she was currently helping out of the sleigh.

“Don’t worry about me, young lady.” Smiling toothlessly, Maester Aemon Targaryen peered at her with almost blind eyes. “My body may be old but I have the spirit of a man much younger. Help the young mother and her child.”

“It’s fine, Maester Aemon, I’ve got her,” laughed Sam, guiding Gilly and the adorable toddler swaddled in her arms down from the sleigh. “Lady Sansa,” he greeted, bowing slightly.

Sansa smiled. Jon was right, the awkward, bashful attitude was quite endearing to people that didn’t have the personality of an asshole. “Sam, it’s good to see you and Lady Gilly again.” They had gotten along decently at Castle Black, Gilly having a heart of gold and Sam’s intellectual heft proving a great asset.

“Do you know where the Winterfell library is? I need to see Jon about something.”

“Now, now, Samwell,” chided Aemon. “You’ve just arrived. Settle your family down first.”

The whole scene was amusing to Sansa, who couldn’t help the small grin on her face. “Maester Wolkan will take you to your rooms. Jon isn’t here at the moment, but at Dragonstone with Queen Daenerys.”

Distracted slightly by a gurgle from Little Sam, Sam nevertheless insisted. “I need to send a message to Jon at Dragonstone. There was a text at the library in Castle Black that I just discovered that alludes to something very important.”

“Very well. Maester, I need you to prepare a raven…”

“FUCK!” Head snapping around, Sansa only just saw a rapidly moving blur before she was brusquely shoved to the ground, a heavy weight on top of her. Blinking in confusion and fear, a flash of Ramsay mounting her with a disgusting leer on his face filled her mind and she screamed. ‘NO! NOT AGAIN!’ her thoughts shrieked as she lashed out with her fists. But a crash to her left abruptly brought her out. Turning, Sansa saw the sleigh hit the walls of the castle.

Finally looking up, there was Podrick Payne, sheepish and with a bruise on his right cheek. He extended a hand and pulled her up. “Forgive me, my Lady, but you were about to be crushed.”

Breathing hard, Sansa only nodded. She faintly felt Margaery rushing over, looking her over for any injuries. “No… thank you.” Offering him a smile, at that moment the lowly squire seemed to her the dashing knight she had always hoped to meet - he may have been young and awkward, but he was brave. “Thank you, Podrick. I am in your debt.”

A small smile curled on his face. “No, my Lady. It was my duty.” Turning, he trotted off to wherever he was supposed to be. ‘At least there are some good men left in the world not related to me,’ Sansa couldn’t help but think.

“My Lady.” Blinking, her reflexes still a bit sluggish from her brush with death, Sansa took a moment before registering Maester Wolkan. “Dispatch from Lord Snow in Dragonstone. Arrived by raven just this hour.”

Nodding, she took the rolled up paper. “Thank you, Maester.” Watching him lumber away, she unfolded it with Margaery and Olenna waiting. Her eyes narrowed, rapidly perusing the message. “There’s division in the camp there as well. Queen Daenerys’ generals and… the Greyjoys…” ‘Theon made it,’ she thought. Sansa still didn’t forgive him completely, and Robb probably wanted to gut him like a fish, but she was glad that he made it to his sister. “Want to go for King’s Landing immediately, while Jon still thinks the Dead are more important.”

Olenna snorted, having ambled in after her granddaughter. “Maybe if Tywin was in charge… Hells, even that cunt Littlefinger. Joffrey and the ‘High Sparrow’ are insane and Cersei has the trustworthiness of a jackal. They have to be taken out first.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you.” Sansa went back to the message. “Seven Hells. The Dragon Queen is moving her forces to the mainland in order to consolidate a single front against both the Lannisters and the Dead. Seven thousand Unsullied and fifteen thousand auxiliaries departing for White Harbor, while thirty-five thousand Dothraki cavalry are to be ferried to Gulltown in the Vale. Oh this is just perfect.” Rolling her eyes, Sansa unceremoniously crumpled the message in her hand. “More mouths to feed in Winterfell…

“...And what message will this send to the Lords of the North, Vale, and Riverlands for both an Essosi army and a Dothraki horde to set foot on Westerosi soil,” Margaery finished for her. That was just the point. It wouldn’t. There were two natural boogeymen for the people of the Seven Kingdoms to scare their children and have nightmares about: the White Walkers and the Dothraki - not to mention the general distaste for slaves, which was technically what the Unsullied and the Meereenese regulars had been.

Jon - and by extension, Sansa - had his work cut out for him when he returned. Especially now that he was both a Targaryen and betrothed to one.

 

“And this mammoth had fur?” Curled up on either side of him, both Arya and Rhaegar were engrossed in the tales of their father north of the wall - not that Dany had seen them tire of anything in regards to their father. She hadn’t either, leading to some rather… pleasurable experiences for the both of them. Noticing the familiar sparkle in her eye, Jon smirked.

‘That woman will be the death of me.’ While they were spending time with their children - he was glad that Dany shared his distaste of the ‘hand the children off to a nursemaid’ method of parenting common among noble families - was not the place to make sexual innuendo. Not when neither could do anything about it. “In the far north the mammoth are covered in woolly fur. The Free Folk and giants make their thick coats from it.” It brought a warmth to his heart to see the twins hang onto his every word. “They have large hunts, where a single warrior is entrusted with throwing the spear that takes down the beast. Last time it was held, I was that warrior.”

“You, poppa?” Arya’s eyes widened in shock.

“Of course it was poppa. He’s the greatest warrior ever.,” her brother declared.

Family. Such was what Daenerys wanted more than anything - more than even the Iron Throne. Here, with her love and her children without the worries of battle or ruling, this was what she craved. Where she most belonged.

What happiness and tranquility the dragonpack had was shattered as a distant explosion rocked the castle walls. Frightened murmurs left the children’s throats as Dany froze, eyes wide. Jon’s reflexes were far more honed from his years at the Wall. Longclaw out before a word could be said, he motioned for Dany to move the children away from the door. ‘I wish Ghost were here,” he thought bitterly as he moved to cover the entrance. When it burst open the blade rose to strike…

Only for Jon to lower it when Grey Worm appeared. His face was flustered, the slightest hint of panic marring his usual scowl. “My Queen,” he began in Valyrian. Then noticing that Jon was there, he switched to his still halting common tongue. “A large raiding party assaulting castle from the sea. Yara Greyjoy says they Ironborn.”

Curses left Jon’s mouth. Of course the other side of the Iron Islands civil war would eventually do Joffrey’s bidding - or at least try to take out their rivals. “How many?”

“I’m not sure. Fifty or so.”

‘And most of our army is holed up in camp or on the ships in this rain. Fucking hells.’ The enemy picked the best time to attack. Jon sheathed Longclaw but donned his armor. “Are the Unsullied garrison and Yara’s men holding them off?” Grey Worm nodded. “I need several men guarding this room, quickly.”

“Jon…” Dany clutched the trembling twins close, neither of them fully grasping what was going on but picking up on the tension. ‘Please, don’t be the hero…’

He strode over, kissing Arya and Rhaegar’s foreheads before placing a deep kiss on Dany’s lips. “Stay with the twins. I’ll be back soon.” Jon offered a small smile and then was off with Grey Worm.

“Issa, will poppa be safe?” A pair of piercing grey eyes stared at her, small versions of her love’s. Dany nodded at her, holding them close. The door opened again revealing Doreah and four Unsullied. The handmaiden ushered the twins into the nursery, Dany staying behind while the guards divided in half between the room. Sighing, she sad facing the crackling fire, praying to whatever god was listening to keep Jon safe.

“I thought he’d never leave.”

Blood turning to ice, Dany’s head jerked back to see a dark shadow perched in the window ledge. A grappling hook gripped the overhang - how none of them heard anything was a mystery. The guards dropped their spears in defensive stance, sharp tips pointed right at the intruder.

The figure stepped out of the shadows to reveal a large, muscular man. “My, my, I admire his taste.” His Ironborn coat was soaked from the sea spray. Close beard covering his perpetual half-grin, half-snarl, he towered over her, gaze hungry. Whereas Jon radiated warmth, this one was menacing. Malevolent. “I suspect he went to where my idiot niece and nephew are.”

‘Ironborn coat… niece and nephew…’ Dany quickly put it together. “Euron Greyjoy.”

“You catch on quick.” His eyes darted to the nursery, twinkling as if they discovered buried treasure. “While I love the company of a pretty woman, I have places to be. Hand over the brats and I won’t bother you or the bastard again.” Crashes and a scream from Doreah saw three more Ironborn enter through the windows for the nursery - only Euron remained in the massive bedchamber/solar.

Dany’s eyes blazed dragonfire. “You will die before you have them.” Hand darting to grab Saracen off a table, the blade glinted in the firelight as she drew it.

Euron sneered, grunting in triumph. “Feisty.” He drew his own short sword. “I like that in a woman.” The blade flashed as he lunged...

Chapter Text

“THE GATE WON’T HOLD!” screamed Theon, firing an arrow through one of the firing slits. “Fucking rain!” Several snarls left the Dothraki bloodriders while the Unsullied remained silent, muscles straining to keep the heavy wooden doors shut against the relentless strain. It was this scene that Jon and Greyworm wandered into. “Jon! They’ve got a fucking battering ram to the gate!”

“How in Seven Hells did they get close enough to the gate?” Didn’t the defenders have archers manning the walls?

One of the Dothraki archers collapsed with an unmanly shriek, an arrow embedded in his heart. Grabbing another Dothraki by the scruff of his leather jerkin, Yara shoved the bow into his hands and pushed him into position. “It’s the rain, Lord Snow. Can’t see your cunthair through the fucking storm.” Another bang resonated from the door. “FUCK YOU!”

“The door won’t hold much longer, Lord Snow,” remarked Greyworm. Assessing the situation, Jon agreed. Whomever had attacked them, they picked the best night - though if Joffrey wanted to kill the queen or capture the castle he was using too many or two few men respectively. ‘What is his angle?’ The Ironborn would break through, so they had to prepare for it.

There was only one way to do that. “Fall back!” Jon yelled, taking charge of the situation. The Unsullied compiled while it took several moments for the Dothraki and Ironborn to get into good order. “Nock!” If the damn invaders were to get in, they’d meet withering fire. Arrows slid into position as hands drew bowstrings back.

A twang ran out as one arrow sailed and hit the door, the repetitive bang of the of the battering ram already cracking the jam. One Ironborn youth had the decency to look sheepish and embarrassed.

Jon grimaced. “Does nock mean loose?” He looked at the entire line. “DOES NOCK MEAN FUCKING LOOSE?”

“NO!” cried the men. The door was about to give way.

“Men, with me!” Jon raised Longclaw in the air, just as he had at Hardhome and Winterfell. Joffrey may have let others do his dirty work, but Jon Snow fought alongside his men. “Let’s tear em the fuck apart!” Undulating Dothraki chants joining with the low Ironborn howls and Unsullied clattering their spears against their shields, the battering rams smashed through the gate. Ironborn rushing in, they were met with arrows and the charging defenders slamming into them.

Spurts of blood marred the muraled walls as the arrows hit home. Steel met steel as the Ironborn fought the Targaryen soldiers. Shrieks left the Dothraki, in their element with blood lust and carnage. The Unsullied stayed in formation, using their spears and shields not unlike the Bolton hoplites to keep none of the invaders from charging deeper into the complex. ‘Why are they attacking here?’ Jon still wondered even as Longclaw parried a wild stab before slashing through leather armor as if it were paper. One Ironborn screamed obscenities as he charged, Jon blocking the axe’s downward swing before he kicked him in the groin.

‘...to distract from their main objective,’ he finished, driving his sword through the gap in the armor of the felled Ironborn. Jon’s eyes widened in realization. “DAENERYS!” He didn’t even hesitate to take off back to the royal chambers.

“Lord Snow!” Greyworm called out, slamming his shield to push back another soldier into the waiting blade of Yara Greyjoy.

“Go! Cockless cunt, we’ve got this!” Lashing out at another one of her comrades turned blood rivals, the salt throne pretender noticed the Unsullied commander following his future king through the corners of her eyes. “Come on fuckers, you gonna let a fucking girl show you up?!” With a guttural battle cry the Targaryen forces charged their attackers.

 

Thunder booming close to shore, Tyene involuntarily backed away from the window. There wasn’t much that the combat-trained noblewoman had to fear, but for some reason thunderstorms were on that list. She flicked her hair with nervous energy. ‘Why can’t it just end?’ Gods, how her sisters had teased her endlessly about it - thinking about her sisters just brought another bout of melancholy upon her. They deserved better ends. They deserved to be avenged.

‘And how will you do that while you’re locked up in this room?’ she thought angrily. If she had been the queen, then this protective measure would make sense to her. Tyene, however, hated it nonetheless. She was given every comfort, but being restricted by guards wherever she went still constituted imprisonment in her eyes. ‘If only I can make her understand my sincerity…’

Suddenly, a pair of grappling hooks scraped against the stone windowsill. Not long after two hulking men with leather armor emblazoned with the kraken hauled themselves in. Swords at the ready and hard scowls on their faces, when their eyes fell on Tyene the Ironborn soldiers’ expressions morphed into lustful leers. Tyene wanted to spit in disgust - both at them and the fact the Unsullied had confiscated her twin blades. “Well well, what do we have here?”

“Drowned god, I fucking love this job,” hooted another, literally drooling. “So what’ll it be, cunt? Gonna make it easy on yourself, cause one way or the other you’re gonna get the fuck of your life.” Dropping his sword, he began loosening his trousers.

‘And these are supposed to be the top naval fighters in the world?’ Not when they thought with their little head, Tyene supposed. Well, it worked to her advantage. ‘Like momma taught us…’ “I don’t think big men like you have ever sampled Dornish pussy.” Her voice dripped seduction, accent pronounced and deep.

“Ah, a Dornish cunt. I heard they were the best… ulgh…” Distracted by his lust, he hadn’t noticed Tyene managing to dart forward and take his knife. One quick series of moves and blood poured from the cut in his throat, sprinkling the surviving Sand Snake with crimson specks of blood. The other raised his sword but Tyene was quicker. Aim true, the knife shot forth and embedded itself in the Ironborn’s heart. Eyes widening, he collapsed in a boneless heap.

Racing to the door, Tyene pulled it open to find the two Dothraki guards dead on the floor, chests sliced open. An Ironborn corpse joined them, slit throat pooling blood all over the floor. Screams and clanging metal echoed through the hallway. Instinctively, she grabbed a second knife from one of the corpses and darted through the cavernous corridor to the heart of the action.

 

Ser Jorah, after all that had humbled him in his life, wasn’t often gripped with rage. Having your wife betray you after causing you to commit acts that brought either exile or death did that to a person. Eyes white hot as he brought his sword down at the Ironborn brute that threatened the innocent children of his Queen, the suppressed anger of years and years erupted in an inferno. To his left an Unsullied fell, head sliced clean off by an attacker while the two remaining formed a protective screen around the Prince and Princess - who were huddling under the latter’s bed in pure fear. To his right a brute jumped upon Doreah, who was clawing at him in terror. With another howl he brought the sword down to slice off the Ironborn’s hand.

Far from felling him, the berserker only grew angrier and charged right into Jorah’s chest, slamming them both against the nursery door. The flimsy wood caved and sent the Bear Island knight to the ground. Shoulder twinging with stabbing pain, cloudy eyes noticed the one handed berserker grab a knife from his belt to finish the job. Jorah waited for the inevitable. “Forgive me Khaleesi…”

A gurgling sound then escaped from the Ironborn’s mouth, knife protruding from his throat. A lithe figure stood behind. “Ser Jorah,” the figure said in accented common tongue.

“Lady Tyene.” A pained grunt left his lips as he hauled himself up. Movement behind her caught his eye. “Watch out!” He raised his sword to take on the attacker who had kicked Tyene in the chest.

Quick on her feet and nimble, the Sand Snake wiggled her body and leapt back upright, lashing out with a round kick to the Ironborn’s temple. Crying out in pain, he stumbled back, allowing her the opening to charge back into the nursery. Sword in hand, Jorah charged right behind her.

Blade slicing downward, Euron chopped the spearpoint off the Unsullied trooper’s weapon before grabbing the broken staff. “AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!” he snarled, running his enemy through with his sword. A grin crossed his bloodlusted face. “Looks like it’s just you and me, gorgeous.” Tossing his blade from hand to hand, he spread his arms, taunthing the Dragon Queen.

Sweat ran down Dany’s brow. Bruises covered her body from Euron’s blows, dress sliced and splotched with her own blood. Nevertheless, she raised Saracen, not backing down.

His grin widened. “It’s gonna be fun making such a strong cunt my slave.”

“A dragon is no slave,” she roared, darting forward. Daario Naharis had taught her the nimble fighting styles of Essosi sellswords. Sidestepping the brute strength-heavy downward blows Euron sent against her, Dany sliced across Euron’s chest.

“ARGGGGG! Fucking bitch!” Snarling, he backhanded her hard against the cheek, sending Dany to slam against the stone wall. She cried in pain, stone bruising her already battered body. Grimy fingers wiped blood from the edge of his chin. “Not bad for a lady,” Euron chuckled darkly. He hovered over her like a demon, Dany backing herself against the wall - no blade, no dragons, she felt naked and defenseless.

The tiny girl open to her brother’s abuse. “Please,” she heard herself say, voice the same as the frightened girl. Before her crown. Before her dragons. Before Jon. “Please don’t hurt me.”

Smirk darkening, Euron stepped closer. “Trust me, all bitches love it.” His hand moved to loosen his trousers.

A loud thump then echoed through the room. What followed was even louder, bringing down the door with a resounding crash. In dashed a cloaked figure, Valyrian Steel sword glinting in the firelight. ‘Jon.’ Behind him was the leather-armored form of Greyworm.

Gazing upon the scene, it didn’t take long for Jon to put two and two together. A cry escaped his throat - one only describable as a combination of a dragon’s roar and a wolf’s snarl. Setting upon the Ironborn King, Euron only just deflected the blade before it could split his skull in half. He hissed from the pain of Greyworm’s spear grazing his abdomen. Eyes blazing with Targaryen fire, Jon brought Longclaw down again and again with righteous fury. A lucky blow sliced the Ironborn sword in half, a kick to the chest knocking the wind out of Euron and sending him to the ground.

“You dare to harm my family?” Jon growled, pointing his sword downward at the Ironborn’s stomach. “Winter has come for you, Euron Greyjoy.” He readied to pierce the swine’s heart.

Rage blinding him, Jon failed to notice Euron’s legs until one had swept across his legs, felling him. Euron grabbed a sword from a fallen comrade but found Greyworm on him with short sword drawn. It was easily parried, his bulk managing to push greyworm back as Jon scrambled back to his feet.

Eyes locking with his tormentor, Jon registered a hyena-like grin being sent his way. The grin of a man that had nearly stabbed his betrothed through the middle and abducted his children. Snarling, every inch the White Wolf and Grey Dragon, Jon charged. He swung Longclaw with murderous force, but Euron was far too nimble. Out he leapt into the void - the Valyrian steel smacked against the stone, chipping it. Jon peered out into the darkness, fierce rain soaking his hair and matting the strands on his forehead in the few seconds prior to withdrawing back in. One of the Unsullied wordlessly handed him a cloth. “Thank you,” Jon offered, using it to dry off as best he could. Euron had to have died from the fall… probably, but he had the look of a survivor. The dragons would be of no use, not in this weather. Rhaegal had enough trouble in snow, let along this. “Greyworm, get a patrol and kill any Ironborn or find any corpses,” he ordered, sheathing Longclaw. “Now!” Slamming his fist against his open palm, Greyworm immediately complied - respecting Jon far more after the northerner proved himself in defending his Queen.

Looking at Daenerys, the couple wordlessly walked into the other’s embrace, the Queen burying her face in his neck and he kissing her brow. They held each other desperately, squeezing tight - all that could pry them apart were two soft voices. “Poppa.” Breaking the embrace, Jon stormed with a look of panic into the nursery with Dany hot on his heels. His gaze immediately found the twins. Neither he nor Dany cared about anything else as they rushed to embrace them. Tears fell from the Targaryen heirs, proud royals but children nonetheless. It took all of Jon’s strength not to join them in sobs - although these were of horrified relief.

“Hush, sweetlings,” Dany cooed, remaining strong for their sake. “Let’s get you out of here.” Allowing Jon to heft them up, one in each hand, Dany watched as they buried their faces into his leather tunic. She soon thanked the Gods for that. Ironborn and Unsullied corpses littered the floor, grisly wounds still spilling blood on the stone and one head severed off its body. Poor Doreah lay slumped on the wall, face still frozen in fear in the paleness of blood loss. A long cut across her throat explained why. ‘Oh Doreah.” Only she and Ser Jorah had been with her through it all.

The lone figures remaining were Jorah and Lady Tyene. Both’s blades were drenched in crimson liquid, clothes and armor ripped. Two pairs of eyes, one grey and one violet, met them in a silent, desperate expression. ‘Thank you.’

Joffrey Baratheon may have brought the stench of death to Dragonstone to finish off the last of Rhaella’s brood, but the heirs were safe. The Dragon Queen was safe. The Dragonwolf was safe. And filled with a terrible resolve.

 

Reaching out to brush another crinkly page in the decades-old transcription of a centuries-old text, Samwell Tarly suddenly found himself engulfed in darkness. A quick check found that the candle had burned out without him even noticing. “Damn it,” he murmured, reaching into his Night’s Watch cloak - nothing was better to keep out the cold, and the drafts that blew through the stout walls of Winterfell could barely compare to the massive gusts from atop the Wall - for the spare he always carried.

The heir to Hornhill turned brother of the Night’s Watch turned ametuer Maester felt naturally at home within the dusty walls of the Winterfell library. Ignored by the Ironborn when they burned most of the castle and subsequently ignored by the Boltons - Roose hadn’t run the castle for long and Ramsay had no use for books - the arrival of Sam finally found the dust wiped from the texts and the words within perused for the good of the Stark cause. It was at least three times as big as the library at Castle Black. Sam hoped that it would shed more light on the issue he had nearly figured out. The fight against the Dead was still running into a stone wall despite six dragons at Jon and Daenerys’ disposal, but perhaps what he found could help keep the disparate factions and Lords in line.

Fishing out the spare candle, he peered around for the holder and match when his arm accidently spilled melted wax all over his cloak and notes. “Seven Hells,” Sam cursed, the coarseness of the Night’s Watch still tempered by his gentle nature. Scribbled with countless ideas and thoughts about pressing problems, he moved to furiously wipe the wax off. Books and papers fell to the floor from his clumsy efforts.

A low orange light suddenly appeared. “Here he is. You were right.” Sam turned his face to find Lady Sansa, placing a lantern on the table and kneeling to help pick up his papers.

“No need for that, mi’Lady,” he stammered, scrambling to do it himself.

Sansa waved him off. “It’s fine, Samwell.” Jon had never left work to his subordinates out of expectation. It appeared that it was a Stark trait, humble even with their noble birth.

Gilly, however, had annoyance written all over her face. “There you are, dumb git.” One hand gripping Little Sam tightly, she extended the other to smack the back of his head. “Our son wakes up in the middle of the night missing his daddy, and I find the other side of our bed cold and you in the damn library.” She was clad in a rumpled northern-style dress, likely hastily thrown on. They were plain compared to the elaborate silk or cotton gowns his mother or sister wore, but Sam still thought she looked breathtaking in them. “If it wasn’t for Lady Sansa, then I would be completely lost.”

“Oh…” Sam felt his… paramour for lack of a better word, place his adopted son in his arms. The two-year old sleepily smiled at him, snuggling into his warm cloak. It warmed Sam’s heart, the former heir never thinking that someone so disgraceful or hated by his father would ever attract anyone not by coin. But here Gilly was, with a child that was essentially his no less. “I’m sorry, Gilly.” Sam watched her soften. “And forgive me, my Lady. It was not my intention to deprive you of sleep.”

The redhead waved him off. “Nonsense. I… wasn’t sleeping anyway.” Aside from that first night at Castle Black following her escape, Sansa couldn’t remember a night in recent years when she had truly slept soundlessly. Too many nightmares. Ramsay, Joffrey, her father’s death… they all rushed back vividly following her flashback a week before. And that was due to Squire Payne’s great kindness.

“Been there,” Sam replied with sympathy. By now Little Sam had fallen asleep in his arms and Gilly was helping him clean up the wax. “I’ve been trying to solve Jon and Queen Daenerys’ budding problem with stubborn groups such as the Northern Lords or potentially Dorne.” The North never enjoyed being under the southern yoke, and the Martell words were ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.’ Such sentiment would likely be found all over the territory that Jon and Daenerys would claim together. “There’s something I’ve confirmed in ancient history that may work.”

“Please elaborate.” Sansa slid into the bench seat next to Sam, peering at the texts. Officially in Jon’s absence, though he held no title apart from the respect he won on the battlefield as the liberator of the North from Viserys Targaryen, Robb as Lord of Winterfell was in charge. However, the weight of his past had crashed down upon him. Her brother sullen and increasingly isolated, it was Sansa that took up the mantle of Lady of Winterfell alongside her rank as Jon’s unofficial Hand.

Leafing through the book in front of him, Sam found the passage that illuminated it all for him. “Alright, Maester Aemon kept a decent collection of items on Valyrian history - given his ancestry, not surprising.”

“Valyrian…” On Gilly’s tongue, wilding accent and all, the word sounded quite foreign. “Isn’t that where the Queen is from?”

“Yes, although centuries removed that is.” Sam pointed to a particular passage. “What I didn’t know was that before the Valyrian Freehold there was an entity called the Valyrian Empire. Quite short-lived.”

“Empire?” Sansa furrowed her brows. “I’ve never heard of such a word.”

“Neither did I, and the books at Castle Black didn’t contain any explanation of how it was founded, only of how it collapsed.” He patted the text below him in triumph. “This explains it, and the key to how it will help the royal couple lies in how the Valyrian King dealt with the constant rebellions of the Ghiscari people…”

 

Arya Stark felt annoyance course through her icy veins. Here she was, a daughter of the North, shivering and huddling close to the fire she was supposed to stoke like a King’s Landing maiden. ‘Northerners are supposed to be used to the cold. Firm up, Arya.’ The former faceless man hated that she had to keep her palms right at the edge of the flames to keep the frostbite away - or at least the sensation of impending frostbite away. The fact that the nineteen year-old girl probably never experienced a true winter in her memory did not register through her annoyance.

Her shivering body may have kept her focus on the fire, but Arya’s honed senses weren’t dulled one bit - especially not enough to miss the slight crunch of booted feet on soft snow. “You’re lucky that I love you and know your footsteps, Gendry Waters,” she said flatly, but with an amused smirk. “Or else it wouldn’t end pretty, sneaking up on me like that.”

The smirk grew wider as two arms circled around her waist. “One day I’ll sneak up on you, Arry.” His Flea Bottom accent contrasted plainly with her Northern lilt.

Lips pressed against the skin of her neck, coaxing a low moan from Arya. “Mmmm, keep telling yourself that.” With so much hell in her life, she lived for these small moments of affection with the one person that had been by her side for all of it.

“AAHHHHHHH!” Keen as their senses were to danger - though even a deaf man would likely have heard the screaming - Arya drew needle and Gendry grabbed his hammer, both tensing in fighting stance.

“Hot Pie?” Arya called out.

Twigs snapping and leaves crackling, the aforementioned cook came sprinting out through the woods. Brambles smacked into him but he did not seem to notice, face contorted in fear as he lumbered swiftly towards his comapanions. “MONSTER!”

Arya’s eyes widened when out from the brambles bounded a large grey-white beast. Almost as tall as her, its fangs were bared and ears pulled back in anger. A low, snarl-like growl left its mouth. ‘Direwolf.’ The fierce creature native to the North and the sigil of House Stark. But there were no direwolves in the Riverlands. “Motherfucker,” she heard Gendry murmur, readying his hammer to take the beast down while Hot Pie hid behind them. She had seen the move before, a quick strike to the top of the skull…

Recognition flashed in her eyes. ‘Is that?’ Gendry moved to strike the snarling beast. “WAIT!” The direwolf quieted while Gendry faltered, gazing at Arya as if she sprouted two heads. Setting Needle upon the ground, Arya softly approached. ‘There is only one Direwolf in the Riverlands.’ A small smile of hope crossed her face. “Nymeria?”

“Arya, what are you doing?!” Gendry hissed, horror over his face as the woman he loved got on her knees before the beast. “You’ll get yourself killed!”

Pushing him out of her mind for the moment, Arya’s eyes locked on the direwolf’s. “I know we had to part, girl, but I’m back. I am heading back home… to Winterfell. My brother is there, and your brother is probably with him.” Slowly, taking note of the direwolf’s bared teeth though it wasn’t growling anymore, she raised her upturned palm. “Come with us. Come home, girl.”

Growling once more, Nymeria stepped slowly to Arya. Her head met hers, yellow-rimmed eyes dark and menacing. Trying to keep her breath even, Arya didn’t say a word as the large snout took several large sniffs. Then the direwolf seemed to deflate all of her tension. Tongue darting out, Nymeria began happily licking her long lost owner. But no proper direwolf ever forgot a scent.

Joyful laughs left Arya’s lips. “Stop it girl… that tickles.” Grabbing Nymeria’s fur, she began tickling her neck as the licks kept coming.

“Well I’ll be damned.” Gendry snorted, a ghost of a grin on his face. ‘That girl continues to surprise me,’ the apprentice blacksmith thought. A thud behind him showed the different reaction from Hot Pie. Luckily, the snow managed to soften his fall, fainting from the fear rapidly leaving his body. Gendry’s grin only widened. “Hell of a life.”

 

The howling wind could be heard even from deep within the crypts. Keeping her fur cloak tight over her body, Margaery Tyrell at least drew comfort in being out of the sleet outside. ‘Damn northern blizzards.’ Growing up her entire life in the sunny plains of Highgarden, it amazed her how people like her lover could even stand a week in these conditions.

Speaking of her lover… “I knew I could find you here.” After bringing up the courage to ask Sansa where he had been disappearing in the middle of the night, she had told her.

Turning his head slightly to signify he registered her presence, Robb Stark turned back to the specific crypt. “I’m sorry. I’ll be up soon, you didn’t have to come.”

“It’s alright.” Striding to right beside him, Margaery took a moment to study the enigmatic former King of the North. His looks hadn’t changed a bit from their… indiscretion at Renly’s camp at Storm’s End. Shaggy brown hair, chiseled jaw, muscular body - he was a very attractive man, combining the brooding Stark charm with fairer Tully beauty. Reaching out to trace a finger along his jaw, watching as he closed his eyes at her touch, she could sense the changes. Before he had been innocent, brash, inexperienced to the greater games of the world. In all fairness, so had she. But it weighed on him far more. Looking at the crypt, she realized why. “I didn’t know she was buried here.”

A sad smile formed on Robb’s face. He stared at the inscription. Talisa Stark, Queen of the North. There was no statue yet, but the sarcophagus was only a week old. “Some surviving Stark bannermen found her in the river and took her to Wintertown. I made sure she had the burial of a queen.”

“She must have been lovely.” Some would have been jealous, but with the loss of many in her family, Margaery understood. Seeing a tear fall from Robb’s cheek, she drew him into a hug. “Don’t cry, Robb.”

“It was my fault.” With the threat of the Bolton’s gone, his guilt had returned full force. “She needed me to protect her. My people needed me to protect them, and I failed.”

Margaery softly stroked his back. “You were betrayed, Robb. We all miscalculate, but in the end it was treachery and not stupidity that caused this.” Cupping his cheeks, she kissed him. “Would Talisa want you to destroy yourself?”

He sighed. “No.” Gazing into her eyes, he brought their lips back together. “Thank you, Margaery. I love you.”

She couldn’t help but smile widely. “And I you.” Hugging him close, she thanked the Seven for the second chance.

 

Fingers curling around the golden goblet resting on the table, Tywin Lannister poured himself another cup. The wine was watered while the bottles serving his guests weren’t - it was a shame to dilute the fine Dornish red, but the political advantage of the family came before personal comforts. “I trust your sea voyage was uneventful.”

“It was,” replied Razdal mo Eraz, sipping at the wine. “Luckily, most of the Dragon whore’s fleet is anchored at Dragonstone or White Harbor.”

Belicho Paenymion, dressed in the colors of Volantis, was slightly drunk. “The Ironborn did an excellent job of screening, though I do warn you that eleven transports managed to slip through the blockade and are heading to Slaver’s Bay as we speak.” Blunt in the way only an inebriated mind would be in diplomatic parlay.

“Oh?” Tywin smiled. “So she is sending Westerosi forces to Meereen I would assume. That would mean the alliance with the North has been established.” Glancing out at the gardens around him, Tywin had to admire the late Doran Martell’s taste. They truly were beautiful. Hating the Martells that he did, Tywin was the bigger man to admit it. “The harbors in Westeros are very active, both her moving troops to the North and our forces heading back to King’s Landing. I’m afraid we won’t have the manpower to spare.”

Unlike his more ‘cultured’ colleagues, the low born slave trader Yezzan zo Qaggaz hadn’t drank a drop. Tywin admired that. “It is not manpower we seek, but mere… assistance.” He handed a scroll to the Lannister Lord. “This is our formal offer to the great King. We both have a dragon infestation, and are in need of proper slaves.”

“You have slaves.” The practice personally didn’t bother Tywin, even though his grandson’s… efforts made no sense to him.

Eraz frowned. “Uppity slaves, as we call them. However, the construction projects of King’s Landing are perfect for them.”

“We can take care of an important part of the Dragon whore’s empire for you, and provide a profitable alliance.” Qaggaz gestured to the scroll.

Tywin skimmed through it, liking what he read. He raised his cup. “A toast, to the Reign of the Dragon Queen. Short as it will be.” A toast that was shared by the three guests.

Chapter Text

“Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for your actions that night, Lady Sand.” Atop the Black Throne of Aegon the Conqueror before his formation of a united Westeros, the munificent smile on Daenerys’ face was completely genuine. Had it not been for Tyene Sand, Jorah would have died and Euron would have probably taken the twins - her fists clenched at the thought of him. No body had been found by the search teams. ‘He got away!’ If she ever found the Ironborn again, Dany vowed to have Balerion burn him alive.

As it stood, she owed the Dornish resistance leader a huge debt. One she hoped to repay.

Tyene, on her part, curtseyed modestly. “Anyone with a sense of morality and honor would have done the same, your Grace.” She swallowed, remembering what her mother had made her vow after Oberyn’s dead. “The innocent among us do not deserve to be harmed.” ‘I understand that now.’ “You need not reward me.”

“But I shall.” Straightening her back, Dany radiated power and prestige, black woolen dress with a red trim and a silver dragon pendant around her neck. There was no denying she was a queen. Violet eyes quickly made Varys’, the rotund eunuch nodding ever so slightly. Advice and confirmation was what advisors were for - but this decision was hers and Jon’s. “And if the future King was here, he would agree. Tyene Sand, do you bend the knee and swear allegiance to me?”

Without hesitation, Tyene did so. The Martell creed was ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,’ but Tywin Lannister’s campaign of rape and death had driven them to desperation. Daenerys Targaryen would be a kind ruler, a benevolent one. “I swear myself and my people to Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, first of her name.”

Rising from her throne, Ser Jorah and Greyworm not far behind in protective pose, Daenerys slowly walked until her toes were mere inches from Tyene’s hand resting on the smooth granite floor. “As the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms,” she began, placing her palm on the Sand Snake’s shoulder. “I hereby legitimize you with the name of your father and his house, and name you the rightful heir to your family’s title. Rise, Tyene of House Martell, second of your name, rightful Princess of Dorne and Lady of Sunspear.”

Eyes bugging out in shock, Tyene stood. All composure had left her as her jaw was slack. ‘Legitimized… me?’ Never in any of the various scenarios did she ever imagine this to be one of them. Not only to be the pretender to the throne of Dorne against her cousin, but as a legitimized daughter of Prince Oberyn. “My Queen, you overwhelm me with this honor.” Still standing, Tyene nevertheless kept her eyes downcast. She was taller than the Dragon Queen but still felt her inferior in every way.

A soft, melodic laugh left Daenerys, grasping Tyene’s hands. “It was my betrothed, Jon Snow, that suggested it. He is just as grateful to you for saving our children, the Crown Prince and Princess, regardless of him not being able to attend this audience.”

“Please extend such to his Grace as well.” She returned the Queen’s smile. “He and I are not dissimilar, since Lord Snow and I share a common status at birth.”

“Watch yourself,” hissed Greyworm, face in a deeper scowl than usual. The Unsullied commander had grown an immense respect and gratitude to Jon after he saved Dany from Euron, almost as if he was glad for her to have a man that would protect her.

Tyene, though, lowered her head. “Forgive me my Queen, I did not mean offense.” Being a bastard was less of a stigma in Dorne. She was sincerely trying to form a bond.

“It is alright,” Daenerys said. “Jon has come to terms with his ancestry, considering it is not something to have little pride for.” Now was not the time to reveal the truth, much as the truth made Dany swell with happiness. “Most of my advisors have departed for Winterfell, to secure our new alliance. As the Princess and Warden of Dorne, I hope you attend.”

Grinning, she curtseyed again. “At your command, my Queen.”

It was surreal for Daenerys. Boots clacking on the granite floors, intricate carvings of ancient Valyrian conquests adorning the walls, she was in awe at how far she came. As long as she had rested her feet on the grass and snow of her ancestral homeland, for the girl that had lived on Essos for the vast majority of her life it still was hard to fathom. She was home. Daenerys Targaryen had returned to reclaim her title.

And the voices she began to faintly hear proved that it wasn’t just her title she was fighting for. “Poppa, are the bad men still out there?” Dany heard the fear in their voices.

She wouldn’t be fighting for her title alone, either. “They won’t hurt you, my sweet daughter.” Jon’s tone seemed flat, but it was actually brimming with emotion. Most couldn’t be able to tell, but Daenerys could. “I would do anything to protect both of you. Your mother, your aunts and uncles, our dragons, my direwolf…”

“Will we get to meet the direwolf, poppa?” A small smile curved on her lips at Rhaegar’s childhood enthusiasm. They would be alright, despite the trauma of Euron’s raid.

Dany heard Jon laugh. “Of course. He’ll love both of you. Don’t be scared of him, he only harms enemies of the Starks.”

“We’re Starks, right?” Arya seemed adamant. “Momma is a dragon, but you’re a wolf. We’re dragonwolves.”

“You are. My dragonwolves.” After some muffled sounds and two kisses, Jon entered their chambers. Black circles under his eyes, he rolled his shoulders and groaned in melancholy. About to stomp tiredly to the bed, he looked up and stopped in his tracks at the sight of his betrothed. “Dany… I didn’t hear you come in.”

Wordlessly, Daenerys walked into his chest and hugged him tightly. “How are they?” she asked, face buried in his chest.

Jon sighed, wrapping his arms around his beloved. “Getting better.” It had been her idea, allowing him to watch over the children for the last days. He deserved to know the blood of their blood - bond with them as deeply as Dany had. Running his fingers gently along her spine, Jon enjoyed the contented purrs against his chest. “They’re happy during the day, but still have nightmares.” He felt Dany grow hotter from each word he said.

“I will burn Euron Greyjoy alive.” She had every intention of having Balerion do the deed. “Him and Joffrey both.”

Tightening his hold, Jon used his inner ice to cool the fire. The wolf warring against the dragon. Steel versus passion. His beloved was all fire, while he had Stark blood to temper the Targaryen. “Daenerys… I cannot lose my family.” He pulled back, exposing him at his most raw. “Arya, Rhaegar, Sansa, Robb… If I lost even one of you…”

Heart breaking at his pain, she kissed him. “You will not lose us. You have Longclaw, I have Saracen, and we both have armies and dragons.” Daenerys wished she felt as confident as she sounded. “We will relocate to Winterfell. It’ll be safer for the children there.”

“Until the Night King comes.” Nowhere could his family be safe, all corners of the world either in Joffrey’s reach the Night King’s. He could not take both at the same time, not even with six dragons and tens of thousands of men. “Daenerys, do you believe me about the Army of the Dead.” Jon grabbed her waist. “I need you to believe me.”

The chill in his gaze left Daenerys colder than she had ever been. “I believe you.”

It was Jon who then kissed her. “The Night King is the greatest threat to mankind, but the Wall shields us from him. I can’t see how he gets through, not at this time. Joffrey, though, is an imminent threat.” Images of Euron nearly atop Dany were seared into his memory. “He will never stop. Tyrion is right. The only way to obtain our united front is for him to die - for us to kill him and take the Seven Kingdoms.”

Daenerys smirked darkly. “We will end his horrid reign. You and me, my love.” The exhilaration morphed into a gasp of lust as Jon ran his hand along her stomach. Searing their lips together in a passionate kiss, the two royals fell onto the bed.

“I need you Jon,” Dany gasped. The mood changed suddenly to frantic lust - Jon from a wolf to a dragon in a heartbeat and she loved it. His lips blazed a trail of licks and bites down her neck and shoulders, sucking at her flesh. “Don’t make me wait.”

Jon shoved his trousers down without even bothering to unfasten them. Unperturbed by the ripping fabric, he hiked her dress to find nothing beneath it. “No underclothes?” he asked her, eyes meeting hers, which were so dark a violet to be almost black.

Nodding, she wrapped her legs around his hips, urging him inside her. “Ahhhh.” Her dragonwolf always stretched her going in. It defied logic but Dany grew even wetter. “Take your dragon, Jon. Make her roar.”

Growling, Jon slammed their lips together as he began a furious pace. A groan bubbled up from deep within him, her walls deliciously tight around his length. ‘Gods, she is perfect.’ Jon wanted to shatter her beneath him. To tame the ferocious Dragon Queen till she was nothing but a limp rag. The sounds of their hips smacking together again and again mixed with the ripping of fabric, her hands tearing his tunic apart from sheer lust and nails digging into his back. Pulling out to only slam into her again, Jon realized that she was wearing too much.

A gasp left Dany as her betrothed ripped the top of her dress, exposing her breasts to his hungry mouth. “Jooooonnnn…” she moaned, him latching onto a nipple as he continued to fuck her harder and harder. Daenerys ran her nails down his back, screaming as she suddenly tumbled over the edge. “FUCK, JON!”

Pumping harder into her to draw out her climax, Jon couldn’t help but wince at the sting. Once the cloud of contentment dissipated, Dany looked at him with concern. “You scratched up my back, Dany,” he chuckled.

Dany smirked, rolling them over until she was straddling his still hard cock. “Let me make it up to you, my King.”

 

Rows and rows of golden armor, the glare of the sun reflected off the metal nearly blinding for miles around. Chimera, Lion, Archer, and other banners from various Westerlands and Stormlands houses fluttered in the breeze. It seemed as if all of Westeros was marching to war against the Dragon Queen and the Northern Bastard.

Cersei Lannister knew better. Though impressive and vast, the total size was no larger than thirty thousand. A considerable amount, especially with the hope of reinforcement at Harrenhal by the loyal Lords of the Riverlands, but nothing comparing to the Dothraki Horde or tthe main Lannister army.

Despite the threat the Dragon Queen and her bastard lover posed to her son’s rule, Cersei cared not about it. No, her attention was riveted to something else entirely. Elite Lannister heavy infantry in the van, directly behind were the army’s commanders. Lord Randyll Tarly, Lord Paramount of the Reach. His son and heir Dickon Tarly, Randyll’s initial heir having proved unworthy. Lord Selwyn Tarth of Evenfall Hall, sworn to Lord of the Stormlands Tommen Baratheon despite his daughter and heir being sworn to Sansa Stark. Lord Leo Lefford of Golden Tooth, one of her father’s best subordinates from the Westerlands. And finally, atop a snow white stallion was Jamie Lannister, former Kingsguard and heir to House Lannister. The one who drew Cersei’s rapt attention, eyes riveted on the faint but instantly recognizable form of him.

A tear flowed down Cersei’s cheek, burning a hot rivulet along the pale skin. “Jamie.” Watching him march off to war was hell on her. ‘Never enough time. Never enough.’ Their moments together were always fleeting. Robert, drunk and smelling of the perfume of various whores, stumbling in her bed every now and again. Whenever their father visited it was impossible. And then Jamie’s capture and what followed. ‘I was such a fool.’ Blind in her anger at being left alone for so long, alone to suffer the wrath of war and her son’s gripping madness, she had spurned Jamie.

‘Damn me. Damn…’ She caught her thoughts, stopped from condemning her firstborn to eternal damnation in each hell. But it was hard, watching him and his madness. Knowing that each step he took from it brought her closer and closer to breaking her love for him. Cersei had learned a lot as her son devolved into something akin to a beast. Learned of the madness within her as well. Jamie helped her, he comforted her. She needed him and now he was gone.

Unlike before, she would not cry over him but welcome him when he returned. Picking herself up, Cersei wiped the tears away and headed down from the balcony to her quarters.

An old man blocked the middle of the hallway. Clad in a dirty burlap shift, brown and marred with dirt, he gingerly moved a wet rag across the stone. Back and forth, back and forth. Water sloshing as he wiped away the grime. Cersei paid him no attention aside from annoyance. There were no guards to protect her at this moment - they were rarely there anymore, likely a sign of how far she’d fallen in her son’s favor - so she addressed him herself. “Out of the way.” Instead he stood, and her eyes widened and fists clenched. “High Sparrow.”

Smiling wanly, the once wicked man gentlemanly stepped aside. “Of course, Queen Mother. Do pass by. No need to mind me.”

Most of the small council’s motivations were easy for Cersei to figure out. Littlefinger’s was power. Qyburn’s was knowledge. Pycelle’s was luxury. The High Sparrow, arguably the second most powerful figure in the Seven Kingdoms, was an enigma to her. Someone she both feared and regarded as beneath contempt. ‘Ridiculous, he could live in a gold palace but chooses to wash the floors.’ She forced herself to be polite. “Thank you.”

He held up an extra rag. “If you so desire, cleaning the floors works wonders to clean the spirit.”

Her eyes glared at the rag with disdain. “A man of the people? Is that your game? Is that why my son keeps you around?”

“Dearest Queen Mother, do you take me for someone so petty and cynical?” He bent to grab another bucket, sloshing some of the soapy liquid onto the stone. “My only desire is to serve the gods.”

“Do not expect me to be that naive,” Cersei spat. “Is it gold you want? Or women? Give me my son back, free from his madness, and I will ensure you more luxuries than you could ever desire.”

A slight chuckle left his lips. The High Sparrow looked anything but intimidating, but Cersei could see there was steel underneath the aging frame. “Baelor the Blessed tried to bring piety and honor back to this land, but he failed because those around him viewed his piety as madness.” Cersei blinked, the old man believing the long held rumor that Baelor died not of starvation, but of poison by his family and advisors. A martyr rather than a zealous idiot. “The great King has his zeal and passion, passion that will bring the Faith of the Seven back to this land after so long ignored.”

Laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, it began to die out once Cersei realized he was serious. “You are no better than I, High Sparrow. At least I admit that I act from my family’s best interest.”

“I remind myself of my humility whenever I can, and serve your son because he is chosen by the Seven. He understands this.” Standing tall, his piercing green eyes bored into Cersei’s. “Selfishness among the great houses is the reason our beautiful land is in such a sorry state. We must all make sacrifices, offer our hearts and bodies to the Seven. And we must all be punished for our crimes, from the lowliest street urchin to the highborn children of Tywin Lannister. Whatever high crimes against the Gods they commit.”

Cersei’s blood turned to ice. ‘Does he know?’ No one really knew. Ned Stark and Stannis were dead, Tywin refused to believe the rumors, Jamie would never tell a soul, and the other small council members were too terrified of Joffrey. ‘How could he know?’ “You have no proof of any crimes of mine, nor Jamie’s.” She said, finally. “Try not to yank the lion’s tail unless you have a plan for the teeth.”

The High Sparrow went back to his task. “Enjoy the day, Queen Mother. I shall pray for your brother’s safety.” Eyes narrowed, Cersei simply walked away.

 

Dashing through the halls of Winterfell in a slow jog, Podrick Payne’s brow was furrowed in a slight panic. Dragons spotted far off, the hue and cry had already been made to prepare for their arrival. As such, he forgot to knock on the door of the room he sought to enter. “Lady Stark, we’ve spotted... “ At the sight before him, a bright red blush formed on his face and he turned away, mortified. “Forgive me, my Lady.”

Clad in her sleeping shift, Sansa had been brushing her hair at her vanity table when Podrick burst in, initially startling her into a little jump. Eyes grew wide in irrational fear, sweat beginning to mat her skin - Ramsay’s favorite pastime was bursting in on her like this. The culprit was visible through her mirror. “Pordrick, get out!” Hearing the door shut closed, she brought her hand to her heart, feeling it beat nearly out of her chest. Sansa closed her eyes and willed away another flashback. ‘If anyone isn’t Ramsay, it’s Podrick.’ It was quite obvious the awkward squire was just in a hurry and nothing sinister was going on, but her mind still went there.

‘Yet he would never have been in a hurry if it wasn’t important.’ Sliding her grey dress over her form, she made her way to the door. ‘He’s not Ramsay. Ramsay is dead.’ As Sansa imagined he’d likely do, he was pacing and cursing himself under his breath - seeing her, he went white. “Lady Sansa, please forgive me. I shouldn’t have…”

Sansa held up a hand. “It’s fine Podrick. Just please knock next time.” She couldn’t help but smile at his frantic nod. It was oddly endearing. “What is happening?” The sounds of a hustle and bustle were resonating through the castle walls.

“Lord Snow and Queen Daenerys’ dragons were spotted heading to Winterfell.” Brienne and Robb had already alerted the entire castle.

‘Jon is back.’ The thought made her smile wider. She couldn’t wait to lift another worrisome problem from his shoulders. “Let’s go then, everyone in the courtyard.”

All the inhabitants of Winterfell were assembled in the courtyard, air cold as ever but with the rare sun shining brightly above. Just like before. Of course, Sansa, Robb, Catelyn, and Rickon were the only ones left that remembered the fateful morning when Robert Baratheon and his retinue arrived. The visit that started it all. Started the wars and massacres and tyrannies. Yet they endured. ‘When one wolf dies, the pack survives.’ Eddard Stark had passed into the next world, yet his pack remained strong - and even grown by three members, four if Aemon was counted.

Glancing at him, separated by Sam, Gilly, and little Sam, Sansa leaned in to whisper to the rotund highborn. “He seems nervous.”

Sam chuckled. “He is meeting his long lost great niece. Aside from Jon he’s never seen a family member in decades.” He leaned down to ruffle his son’s hair, coaxing a giggle from the boy. “Jon doesn’t count, cause he thought himself a bastard for most of it.”

To her left was Catelyn, Rickon, Robb, Margaery, Davos, Tyrion, Melisandre, and the rest of the line, many else behind them. “Another King arriving in our home,” Catelyn remarked.

“Our true King,” Sansa said. It was different. Before, the arrival of the guests of honor led to great sorrow. Now, the arrival of the guests of honor would lead to the renaissance of the world. Of this Sansa was uncharacteristically optimistic. She didn’t have faith in most, but she did in Jon. “Our true King and Queen, mother.” Catelyn remained silent, resigned to the coolness from her eldest children.

Twin roars echoed through the air as dark shapes shot across the skies over Winterfell. Many jumped, but the Starks and nobles stood firm. Dragons were fearsome and awe-inspiring. Their riders were the benevolent Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. If anything, the dragons would bring only safety to them. Circling, they gradually lowered in the air until the hooting beasts hit the ground with a thud, folding their wings.

Jon descended first. Longclaw at his hip, drey Stark direwolf hanging across his neck and a red Targaryen dragon emblazoned on his black armored tunic, he looked every inch the cross of ice and fire. Before even greeting anyone, he moved to help Daenerys from her dragon. She was dressed similarly, in a northern gown colored in red and black. Sansa, as the acting Lady, was the first to move towards them. “Lord Snow… Queen Daenerys.” She curtseyed.

Looking at her like she sprouted two heads, Jon chortled. “Seven hells, we haven’t been gone that long, sister.” And with that he scooped her into a brotherly hug.

Laughs erupting all around, the formality of the situation lifted and a throng of people crowded among the royals. “Jon, good to see you in one piece.” Robb thumped him on the back. “Thank you for preventing the Dothraki from tearing him limb from limb,” he quipped to Daenerys.

“They won’t, yet,” she smirked at Jon, earning another chorus of laughs. Greetings exchanged all around, the pack was still as close as ever. “Oh, Jon. Shouldn’t we…”

Beaming, the same smile that Ned used to wear when watching his children spar, Jon waved over two small forms. They had hung back near the dragons, but now stood close to their mother and father. “Everyone, this is Rheagar and Arya. Crown Prince and Princess.” They looked everyone over, smiling at Catelyn. She smiled back, happy to see them again.

Robb, first to react, knelt before them. “Hello, your graces.”

“Uncle Robb?” Arya said hesitantly, looking up at her father to ensure that she got it right. Jon nodded. The ice broken, soon the entire Stark pack was fawning over their youngest members.

“Direwolf!” The twins’ eyes lit up as Ghost trotted out. Sparing his father and mother a lick to the palm, he basked in the attention of the twins. They shared the same smells as both Jon and Dany, screaming ‘friend’ at the highest volume. The young dragons soon joined, excited at the return of so many of their loved ones. Once again, happiness returned to Winterfell after such a long absence.

Squeezing Jon’s hand, both of them enjoying the sight of their children - all of them - enjoying life together, Dany heard a throat clear. “My lady.” The voice was old, worn out with over a century of pain and experience. Her breath hitched. Something in her told Daenerys exactly who it was.

Turning around, she came face to face with Maester Aemon. Aemon Targaryen. Toothless, stooped over, hair grey, and wrinkles marring his skin, the eyes remained a bright amethyst. As bright as when he was in his prime. “Uncle…”

A tear fell down his cheek, Ameon reaching up to slowly slide his hand down her face. Daenerys remembered Jon warning of his near blindness, so she didn’t mind. Her family, together at last. “You look just like your mother.”

 

The rooms provided were not significant - a mere infinitesimal fraction of the King of Qarth palace. A sitting room, a latrine, a room for bathing, and a single spacious bedroom, all for Brandon Stark’s entire retinue and guards. There was little moonlight from the crescent above, but he could see perfectly. Jojen resting on a cot in the corner brought in for his use. Hodor snoring on the plush chair, something far more comfortable than any bed he had ever used. And right next to him on the large bed, separated by two feet of space, was Meera. As the only woman, Bran’s more gentlemanly urgings had led him to offer her the most comfortable position. It amused him to see her long blush before she accepted.

We must speak, young Stark.

Hitting him like a mounted charge, the flash of light momentarily filled Bran’s eyes before the darkness returned. It was him… the one from his visions. Disappearing since joining him at the outskirts of Joffrey’s capitol, now he demanded an audience in the middle of the night.

Wiggling out from under the heavy covers - an insistence of his that drove Meera insane, given the far-southern heat of Qarth - Bran reached for the small ceramic bottle on the nightstand. It looked like any potion bottle, but inside it contained shade of the evening.

The blue liquid was strictly prohibited outside the Warlocks’ private stocks, but Bran knew the risk was worth it to have some by his side. Drinking about half of it, he wondered quietly if it would work outside the House of the Undying. Something about the magical energy present in an apprentice warlock only in certain places… a rush of dark blurs belied what Pyat Pree called his innate power.

A mist surrounded Bran, humidity drenching his skin with a soaked pallor as he glanced around him. “Hello?” Nothing, not even an echo. “Is anyone there?”

Another swivel found the cloaked figure of the man in his dreams, old and gnarled. Bran yelped and almost fell, but caught himself. A raven circled above the man’s head. His face was set into a grimace. No warmth to be found. “Danger lurks everywhere.”

"Wha…" Before he could even ask his question the world began to spin around Bran. Faint cries rang in his ear, as if he was passing by at high speed. Holding up his hands, a wave passed through him as he came to a halt. It was a cozy tent, log fire crackling in the fireplace. Stag banners fluttered lazily, though these had no crown between their antlers.

A muscular figure clad in armor - oddly familiar for some reason - swept past Bran as if he didn't exist at all. Stepping forward, the young Warlock watched as the man gulped down a cup of mead, unfurling a letter that was gripped tightly in his hand. Reading with great difficulty, the man shook, white as a ghost. Bran could only just pick out one of the lines of the letter...

Robert, I have tried desperately to do my duty as my father requested of me, but I cannot. Your very touch fills me with revulsion, knowing that not hours before it was on the bare skin of some whore. Rhaegar would never dishonor me so, and it wouldn't matter if you were King and he a peasant for I would always choose him...

'Robert... King Robert?' True enough, the figure was the Usurper himself, minus about fifty pounds. With an enraged snarl he tossed the letter into the fire. "Ned! Ned!" he screamed out into the world. "She's not here. I don't know where she could have gone."

Head pounding, Bran found himself shooting into the blackened air. One vision to another. He was now in an alcove, somewhere in an ornate building of red brick and marble. “You must take this, place it in his evening wine. A Dornish white would cover the taste.” A man, swathed in expensive cottons and silks. Clipped to his belt was a gold-hilted Valyrian steel blade. One Bran recognized immediately.

“And then we can be together?” said the other figure, a woman.

“Of course.” He kissed her brow. “The fat one will have no choice but to pick him as his Hand. That is when I will strike.” There was more but Bran heard not. His eyes rolled into his skull, transported to yet another vision.

The torches flickered in the darkness. Bran found himself somewhere familiar, the hallways of the great pyramid of Meereen. A wail, which quickly morphed into a girlish giggle echoed in Bran’s ear. “Oh Jon… Your Queen commands you to be here.” Further giggles left Daenerys Targaryen’s lips, an empty chalice of wine in her hand. Had she tried to drink away her loneliness?

“My Queen?” Entering through the doorway, there was the sellsword. Bran didn’t remember his name, but remembered his smug attitude and skill at combat. “Are you alright?” Beaming, face flushed with inebriated serenity, Dany attempted to stand but stumbled. “My Queen!” The sellsword caught her in his arms, holding her. Quite closely.

“Mmmmm…” Dany’s eyes peered at the man holding her. “Jon, is that you?”

Silence held for several long moments. “It’s me,” the sellsword finally said.

Giggles erupted as Dany haphazardly flung her arms around his neck, convinced in her drunken state that he was her beloved. “Take me to bed, my wolf.” Bran wanted to yell the truth as they moved away but he found the irresistible force pulling him back.

“She failed!” someone spat, faces and shapes obscured by the shadows. All around Bran rested heads, mounted on the walls and eyes closed in a serene death. “The girl is still Arya Stark.” ‘Arya?’

A sigh followed. “She had potential, great potential, but a girl does not get a third chance.” A pregnant pause. “A waif knows what to do…”

The image evaporated in a flash, replaced by a dingy tavern room. It stank of piss and spilled beer. The light was low, but such accommodations did not discourage the heated conversation by those seated at the table mounted in the middle of the room.

“How can you still be under contract? Meereen has fallen!”

“You weren’t taken to Westeros, Naharis. What is a sellsword who isn’t being paid to fight?”

Sitting in the middle of the cluster of men was the sellsword, face set in stone. “I have sworn my loyalty to Queen Daenerys Targaryen.” His statement was plain, but Bran detected a sadness behind it. The resentment of a lover spurned? “My word is my bond.”

“Of course, your oath is so valuable. That is why you killed your commanders at Yunkai after swearing an oath to them.”

Before the sellsword could draw his blade, another spoke. “Shut it, Tazal.” An older man, rough and wise, bore his eyes into the other. “Daario, the Dragon Queen seeks to end the chaos in the world. We thrive on chaos. She will bring ruin to all sellswords.”

“What would you have me do, Strickland? Betray her?”

“No, stay loyal to your own kind.”

The remaining words and voices grew faint as the old man stepped in front of Bran. “For the great ones. The Lightbringers. Grave danger lurks everywhere.” Before Bran could speak further light enveloped him.

Sweat drenching his sleepwear, a loose shift that drew favor in Qarth, Bran sucked in gulps of air as he returned to the conscious realm. His head spun. ‘Danger… it surrounds Jon.’ Instinct told him that the Targaryen queen was now with his brother… cousin, and they were both surrounded by sharks and snakes. But what could he do? An apprentice Warlock halfway around the world, only rare visions allowing him to peer into what he sought. Bran groaned in futility.

“Bran…” came a sleepy voice to his left. “What’s wrong?” Leaning over him, Meera looked him over with concerned eyes. “Please try to get some sleep before training tomorrow.” Nodding, Bran watched her snuggle into the covers, serene. It was a beautiful sight, something he hoped wouldn’t be corrupted with what was to come.

‘Jon, Daenerys, be prepared.’

 

“I must say, Lord Snow, never have I seen our Queen so… serene.” Felt boots crunching on the patches of dust-like snow that marred the stone floors - though many in the north would consider the white substance the epitome of beauty and purity - Tyrion Lannister craned his neck to look up at his future King. “I would have to ask Ser Jorah, but it is a decent assumption that it be true years before I even met her.”

Arm strung on the parapet, Jon smiled at the sight of his betrothed. She was engaged in animated conversation with Maester Aemon, the two walking in tandem through the empty courtyard. Two dragons reunited - while Jon was one, he knew his looks were fully that of a wolf while both Dany’s and Aemon’s were classically Valyrian. While Maester Aemon had a joy about him that brought his aged form galloping back to life, it was Daenerys that entranced Jon. Surrounded by the family that had so eluded her entire life, Tyrion was right. She was happy.

At the longing look on his face, Sansa couldn’t help but cover her lips in suppressed mirth. “Lord Tyrion, I believe we all know the cause for her Grace’s newfound happiness.” Though she did not trust him completely, Tyrion had a decent heart and wasn’t cruel. Daenerys trusted him and she had began to trust Daenerys. Still, if he was there to give advice to Jon, Sansa found no reason why she shouldn’t be present as well. Happy shouts drew her attention, and coaxed a genuine smile. “The children are enjoying themselves.”

“Darest I say that the Prince and Princess haven’t seen snow before.” Tyrion chuckled, watching Arya and Rhaegar tossing snowballs at each other. “They have taken to their father’s ancestral home quite well.”

Jon laughed. “Aye, they have.” He felt happiness course through him watching the twins tackle their mother, all three of them laughing merrily. Something not seen in House Targaryen in decades. Perhaps it was the Stark influence.

“It is good to enjoy these times while they last, brother,” Sansa remarked.

As the twins began to throw sticks for Ghost to catch, Jon sighed. ‘I almost lost them.’ Joffrey Baratheon lurked to the south, a malevolent shadow ready to strike at the ones Jon loved the most. ‘And the greatest shadow is still to the north.’ Fists clenched. The threats existed but Jon wasn’t a simple brother of the Night’s Watch anymore. He was the heir to Rhaegar Targaryen, the rightful King and betrothed to the Dragon Queen. “When do the northern lords arrive?” The Vale lords were already at Winterfell and Catelyn could speak for the Tullys.

Sansa detected an icy steel to his voice. ‘The wolf in him.’ “Lord Hornwood has returned, and I received a raven from Deepwood Motte saying that the Glovers will be here by the end of the week. They should all be here by then, I believe.” It was not an exact science, but the Northern word was its bond. If the lords said they were coming, then they were coming.

“They will not take the news of our betrothal well,” Jon remarked acidly. Resignation was on his face. “I cannot begin to think what they will say about my heritage.”

“You are a Stark.” Sansa wanted to pull Jon’s hair out if he said it again. “Aunt Lyanna’s blood runs in your veins just as much as Rhaegar’s. The fact that you have Targaryen blood is an asset.”

“I agree with Lady Stark.” Tyrion was impressed. She may have been a late bloomer, but the years of hardship had shaped Sansa Stark to be the true inheritor to her mother’s cunning. “With Rickon just a boy and your older brother’s… let’s just say his past tenure as King will leave many to seek new blood. As the trueborn son of Lyanna Stark, who even I heard was beloved in the North, I don’t think they would ever hold it against you as long as you take the Stark name.”

Jon blinked. “First, if I’m a legitimate Targaryen, wouldn’t taking the Stark name mean I renounce the title to the Seven Kingdoms?” While the old Jon would have jumped head first at the chance to claim the Stark name as his own, what reason would Tyrion want for such if Dany wished him to rule by her side as a Targaryen King. ‘You know nothing, Jon Snow.’ Ygritte’s taunting voice in his head reminded him that it could be for some valid reason. “Second, I doubt the Northern Lords would accept Daenerys as their queen, marriage to me or not.”

A sigh left the Imp’s lips. “Yes, that is an issue. While they will undoubtedly be loyal to you, even my nephew and the… problems to the north may not be enough to have them abandon their irrational hatred of the Targaryens.”

“Irrational as in how the Mad King burned their Liege Lord alive and had his eldest son strangled to death?” Watching Tyrion wilt slightly, Sansa softened her tone. “But if we show Lyanna wasn’t raped… and there’s something that could be done, Jon.” Her eyes sparkled, a bright contrast with their usual emotionless pallor. “One that would allow you to remain King in the North while also having Daenerys rule over the Seven Kingdoms.”

“And how would we manage that? Not easy to keep your kingship if you must bend the knee,” Jon remarked sarcastically.

“Sam told us something about the history of Valyria. You would be both King in the North… and alongside Daenerys... Emperor.”

Jon raised an eyebrow. “Emperor?” Hearing Sansa and Tyrion explain it to him, the brooding northerner couldn’t help but feel his doubts dissipate as to the feasibility of it all. But… it was then that he realized all his concern had been masking something else - something deeper. He would have gladly fought for his and Dany’s birthright with the same passion as he fought to save the Wildlings or reclaim Winterfell, but… “I don’t want to rule. I never did.” He turned away. “I am not an autocrat. I try to be honorable, but it isn’t enough.” ‘I tried, but was killed anyway.’

Stroking his beard, Tyrion wracked his brain for a line of thought that would persuade his reluctant ruler. ‘The King shits and the Hand wipes.’ Although this was less wiping than preventing the King from shitting over himself. “Lord Snow… what has past tradition gotten us? Mad Kings? Idiot Kings? Slavery? Rebellions? Never ending war? You do not wish to rule, but doesn’t that prove to the world that you are the one to accept the challenge? That her Grace is the one to join you in challenging the old order?” He watched as Jon’s lips pursed, eyes closing.

“Jon.” Sansa set a comforting hand on her brother, rubbing his back softly. “Sometimes, Jon.” She took a deep breath, her experiences coming to mind. “The only way to set things right is to break with the past. If we are to survive this coming war against the Night King, you and Daenerys are the only ones that can shrug off the hatreds of yesterday.” It was profound - it was as if just yesterday that Sansa remembered begging her mother that father betroth her to Joffrey. They had all changed.

Digesting both their words, Jon glanced back at the courtyard. Dany was kissing each of the twins’ cheeks, love written on her face as she poured her love onto them. After conversing with Aemon, Catelyn Stark took the kids with her, saying something about their lessons. Ghost trotting behind them, Jon heard both Rhaegar and Arya calling her “Grandmother.”

‘Grandmother.’ The woman that had tormented, ridiculed, and disparaged him since birth was now the grandmother to his children. Feeling the bitterness rise up, Jon let it melt away when he saw Catelyn's face. She loved the twins. Loved them like her own, it was written all over her face. Jon hadn’t yet confronted her about the past - he simply wanted to just avoid the issue - but with the bitterness remaining inside him it didn’t seem to be reciprocated. Whatever resentment had left her, and for something so profound it couldn’t have just been learning of his heritage. “Aye. Perhaps we do need to break the hatreds of yesterday.”

Chapter Text

“Mmmmm.” Semi-awake, Daenerys Targaryen flipped from her left to her right, arm plopping onto her bedmate.

Or at least to where her bedmate was supposed to be. Though his masculine, smoky scent still wafted into her nostrils, Dany’s touch was instead greeted by a pillow tugged against her. ‘Well shit.’

Groaning quietly, Dany rolled onto her back and stretched, fingers brushing the headboard. If it had been the morning it wouldn’t have surprised her much - neither snow nor sleet could keep Jon from his essentially Kingly duties around Winterfell. His sense of duty was one of the things she loved most about him, though them always waking up together had become such a pleasant new tradition.

Faculties slowly returning, Dany’s ears picked up the crackling of the fireplace. ‘The fire always burns out by morning.’ Scooting till she was sitting up, there was Jon. He sat silently in front of the flames, shaggy black curls visible atop the back of the plush chair. Daenerys could tell he was brooding darkly without even seeing his face. Quietly, she slipped out of the bed and draped a thick woolen robe over her nude form.

Jon didn’t notice her, at least she figured he didn’t. Behind him, Dany wrapped her arms around his neck. He tensed. “Can’t sleep?” she asked, kissing the crown of his head.

“Aye.” Thoughts dark, a sense of relief spread through Jon’s body at her touch. “Go back to bed, Dany. No need to get up on my account.” He didn’t want to worry her - he’d kept his fears and worries to himself long enough to be used to it.

What Jon didn’t count on was the stubbornness of a dragon. Sighing, Dany disentangled her arms from his neck and grabbed a second chair. It was lighter but still cushioned, making it easy to slide it close to the other. Wordlessly, she sat upon it and cuddled close to Jon, resting her head on his shoulder. “It’s hard to sleep in an empty bed anymore,” she whispered, fitting their fingers together. “A Queen needs her King.”

Raising her hand, Jon dropped a loving kiss to the pale flesh. “A King needs his Queen.” He never understood why so many great men could cause their wives great pain by taking mistresses, his own ancestors included. He gazed upon her as if she were the Maiden herself. Not only the problem of bastards, but Jon could never feel for anyone what he felt for Dany. “It’s always better to have loving company” ‘Mostly…”

“I thought you had Ghost for that,” Dany teased lightly, snuggling against the crook of his neck.

Jon chuckled tiredly. “When my brother…” ‘Cousin.’ “Bran was on his sickbed, his direwolf protected him from an assassin. Ghost will do the same for our children.” His gaze drifted back to the fire, unreadable. “If I must be alone, so be it.”

Dany squeezed his hand. “I love you, Jon.”

“And I you, Dany.”

She looked up at him, taking in the tired, haunted eyes. Slowly, she reached up to cup his cheek. “What happened, Jon? Why aren’t you in bed with me?”

“It’s nothing… just a dream.” Jon was grateful that Dany had not seen him wake a while ago. Sweat coating his body like a sheen, lungs sucking in gulps of air as if a drowning man, it had been brutal. “Only a dream.”

“Only a dream?” Dany didn’t believe him for a moment. Rather than anger or annoyance, she merely kissed his jaw, his close-cropped beard tickling her nose. Her other hand shifted to rub his chest, the Dragon Queen loving the feel of her Dragonwolf’s skin. “It couldn’t be just a dream if you’re here. What troubles you, my love?” Dany could feel him relaxing from her touch.

Turning towards her, Jon’s breath hitched at Daenerys’ tender gaze. Silver hair ethereal in the orange-red firelight, she looked so beautiful, so loving. She really did love him so. Jon could always trust her.

‘But I want to keep her safe.’ He felt the intense urge to protect her from everything.

‘She’s the Dragon Queen. Let her help you.’ For some reason, the second voice in his head sounded like Sansa. “It was the Night King. He was in my dreams.” A shiver coursed through his body. He could still feel the icy cold draping over him.

Dany hugged him tighter. “Oh Jon.” Her hand found his heart, feeling the tension dissipate. “What happened?”

Dropping his head, Jon rested it on hers. The scent of her hair, of her, calmed him. “I saw him south of the Wall. In Winterfell, in Dragonstone. He… he turned everyone. My siblings, my children… you.” A tear fell down his cheek. “I had Longclaw in my hand, but… I just couldn’t…” Such is what brought him to the fire. Back to what his Targaryen blood was. ‘Fire made flesh.’

Naturally hot, it wasn’t often that Daenerys felt cold. Cold from within herself. The cold that seeped into her very bones. Now was one of those times. The tale of the Long Night hadn’t been one that Viserys taught her during their childhood, but Sansa had filled her in on it - Margaery on the details of Hardhome, where she had seen it… seen him. “How did it happen? With Rhaegal?” Margaery had been vague, while Robb said it wasn’t his place to tell her. She sensed his reluctance. “I need to know.”

Resigned, Jon knew he had to tell her. It was painful, for Rhaegal was his dragon. Daenerys’ child, but he was his rider. “We were at Hardhome, rescuing the Free Folk when they attacked. The dead swarmed the wall, charged off the cliffs hemming us in.” Flashes of the bloodthirsty mob filled his mind. “We killed hundreds but they just kept coming. Nothing stopped them - no pain, no fear. They would never stop, never halt until every living thing in their path was dead.”

The chill deepened within Daenerys. ‘How could anyone survive that?’ She thanked the gods that her Jon had.

“I called to Rhaegal, and he came.” Dany squeezed his hand - Jon understood the dragon’s bond even then. “He saved me, but the Night King…” Jon remembered the horror of that moment as if it were mere minutes before. “He took a spear, made of enchanted ice, and tossed it. Rhaegal was sliced through his shoulder. One inch to the left and…” He didn’t go on, sensing Dany’s soft sobs. “It’s alright, Dany.” He kissed her. “Mag and Wun helped me get him out, and I destroyed another ice spear. Valyrian steel, that stops them.” His hands softly caressed her. “I would never let anything happen to our family. Ever.”

“I know,” Daenerys murmured into his neck. Pulling back, she kissed him, slow and loving. “We will stop them all, Jon. We are dragons. We make the impossible happen.”

In that moment, Jon believed her.

 

Bright red adorning his youthful cheeks, Daenerys used all her control to maintain a regal air - the amused giggle threatened to bubble up at the sight of Jon’s young squire. She figured that Ollie had only dealt with other men while up at the wall. Now though, his face was ripe red and eyes straining not to look at the nude Dragon Queen resting on the bed, thankfully covered by the furs. Dany imagined that the boy would have fainted had the furs not been there. Seeing Dany in the aftermath of the passionate lovemaking filling the room with moans and grunts not a quarter of an hour before. ‘Was Jon this way at his age?’ Then she remembered how he had been in Pentos at first. It was adorable, Jon’s modesty and gentlemanliness.

Tightening the buckle of his scabbard around his waist, Jon felt Ollie fastening the last of the straps of his leather tunic. “Thank you, Ollie. Why don’t you get some breakfast now.”

Relief flooding his face, the squire to the soon to be Emperor bowed. “Thank you, my Lord. Your Grace.”

As soon as the door closed the two shared simultaneous laughter. “Did you have to do that to the poor boy?” Jon asked his betrothed. Unlike Ollie, he didn’t suppress his lustful glances directed to the Dragon Queen.

‘Jon should laugh more.’ Her Dragonwolf changed into a serene, joyous individual when he laughed or smiled. It wasn’t something Jon shared with many, only his siblings… and her. Dany felt honored. “Oh come now, Jon Snow. Missandei has seen me naked plenty of times.” The Dothraki didn’t care for modesty, and it rubbed off on Dany. “You Northerners and your modesty.”

“And yet the Dragon Queen’s heart was captured by a northerner.” Jon enjoyed the beaming smile on her face. Daenerys was something else - the indomitable Dragon Queen among her subjects or small councils, a loving and sweet woman when with their family, and a confident seductress when alone with him. Moving to take Longclaw, he noticed the glinting Valyrian steel of her blade resting next to it. “Ser Jorah told me that you’ve greatly improved since we last trained in Pentos.”

“I should hope so,” Dany replied, smiling at Jon. No one could deny he was handsome in the garb of a Northern warrior. ‘And he’s mine,’ roared her inner dragone. “I could use some more practice though. My enemies are strong so I will need to hone my flexibility and speed.”

Jon nodded. “I know just the teacher.” Another rare smile was cast her way. “Perhaps I should have the smiths fashion you a set of armor. One befitting a proper Valyrian warrior Queen.”

“Not bad of an idea, my love.” The image of Ramsay Bolton’s men pissing themselves in terror of her atop Balerion came to mind. “I dare any of our enemies not to be intimidated by the Royal Pair atop their dragons.”

“Quite true, though I was thinking of something else.” Sitting on the bed, Jon leaned down until his breath was hot on her ear. “Imagining you dressed as Visenya of old does things to me.”

Daenerys couldn’t help her moan, arousal coursing through her body despite the ravishing Jon had given her not long before. “And what would that do to you?” She loved when he was sensual like this. The husky northern brogue made her quiver with delight.

 

He dropped his voice even lower, a veritable wolf growl into the ear of the dragon. “To take my Dragon Queen until she roars my name.” Licking the shell of her ear, Jon’s hands pulled the furs away to ghost down her perfect, naked body to where he loved the most…

The knocking at the door echoed loudly through the room. “Should I have my bloodriders get rid of them?” One look in her eyes told him that Dany was seriously considering it.

“Khaleesi?”

Missandei’s soft voice through the door made Jon chuckle. Though he wished to make Dany shatter under him once more, duty called. “Later, my Queen. I have a surprise for the twins planned for this morning.” Dany’s gaze softening, Jon hitched Longclaw to his belt and opened the door, coming face to face with his Queen’s handmaid. “Lady Missandei.”

Jumping slightly, the translator was shocked at the presence of the future King - normally he had gotten dressed and left before she arrived. Missandei glanced at the flushed form of her Queen, and then back at Jon. “My Lord.” Her tone was neutral and respectful, but her eyes twinkled with mirth. Stepping aside to allow him leave, she strode to prepare Daenerys’ wardrobe. Observant looks picked out several fresh bite splotches marring the Dragon Queen’s milky skin. “New ones, your Grace?”

Dany felt no shame, grinning. “Absolutely.” A content, faraway look crossed her face, remembering how each and every one happened.

“It doesn’t surprise me, your Grace.” Grabbing a woolen northern dress, vibrant in a light, sky blue. It added color to the drab greys and blacks common in the north, while making Dany look less intimidating - the dragons and giants were intimidating enough. “From what I’ve seen, it is the quiet, brooding types that make the most passionate, skilled lovers.”

Chuckling, Dany donned her undergarments just as Missandei sheathed the dress from top. “Mmmm, you are right about that.” The northern garment was warm and thick, but fit her like a glove. “Is that how it is with Grey Worm? He’s quiet and rather brooding.” The translator simply blushed.

All around him, Jon could see the life returning to Winterfell. Whatever traces of Bolton rule was gone, thank the Gods - the surviving trinkets and decorations that hung here during his childhood were back. In a way, things were happier now with the Starks back in control. ‘Dany is here, and I know my destiny.’ He was no bastard anymore, but a King.

The small solar that belonged to the Lady of Winterfell boasted a loving sight to Jon. “Poppa!” Dashing over in a blur, two sets of arms encircling his waist. Laughing merrily, Jon ruffled their hair. “Poppa, come join us,” Arya said, looking up at him. “Aunt Sansa was telling us the story of our ancestor, Bran the Builder.”

Jon found Sansa, one eyebrow raised in questioning. She smiled at him. “They wanted to know about where their father served. Who better to tell Old Nan’s stories to them?” The littlest members of the pack were settling in quite nicely, eager to both watch Jon and Robb spar and to hear stories from their aunt. Davos was already making arrangements to find Rhaegar a master at arms to teach him to fight, though if Arya was anything like her namesake, Jon would be hard pressed to stop her from joining in.

“Good,” he finally answered. “The Crown Prince and Princess should know the history of their ancestors.” Outside, the longer night had passed and was replaced by the morning sun - sky still unseasonably cloudless. ‘Perfect riding weather.’ “Sweetlings, you are Wolves of the North as much as you are Dragons of Valyria.”

“Of course, poppa,” they both answered in unison. Unlike himself, each was an equal parts mixture of Targaryen and Stark. No one could deny their resemblance to either Jon or Dany.

“Your uncles and I are going to survey the fields and Wolfswood. Would you like to join, to see the lands of your Stark ancestors.” To put it mildly, the twins rushed to their rooms for their fur cloaks.

Needles clutched in her hands as they expertly weaved, Sansa shook her head with a grin. “Always in such a rush. Must be the Targaryen dragon in them. Fire and blood, all passion.” Such would temper into steel with growth and experience, as it had with their mother. “Were they like this in Meereen, mother?”

Quiet in the background, perusing raven reports from her uncle at Riverrun, Catelyn Stark’s head shot up. “Yes, they were. Always curious and eager to learn. Ser Barristan said it reminded him of… Jon’s father.” It had been quite awkward for the former Lady of Winterfell, given Robb and Sansa’s frosty demeanor towards her and the latter having essentially taken over as Lady in her stead - Catelyn had been in discussions with Olenna Tyrell for a betrothal between Robb and Margaery, her eldest needing a bride. Last time hadn’t gone well for him at all, but the Rose of Highgarden was the best match possible and they were smitten with each other, Jon’s consent being all that was needed. In the meantime, Catelyn was also preoccupying herself as the representative for her uncle and recently freed brother.

Eyes meeting for the first time in a long while, the soft and guilty look in Catelyn’s was matched with an icy one in Jon’s. “I am glad my children inherited their grandfather’s intelligence, Lady Stark.” He may have forgiven but certainly hadn’t forgotten.

 

If anything mollified General Theodosius Caryn, it was that the Essosi levies looked to be far more miserable than he. Robbed of a toasty fire, the fur cloak coating his armor couldn’t keep the icy winds from his body. He had never been north of Riverrun, but had traveled to the tundra isle of Ibben years before - at least he had something to compare it to. Swaddled in whatever they could procure, be it fur, wool, cotton, or burlap tarps, his soldiers shivered in utter misery.

“Keep to the banners, that’s it!” Spurring the horse into a gallop, Theodosius rode along the massive throng that had departed White Harbor the previous day. The Unsullied, cold as they were, held formation. Harder to control were the levees - the volunteers procured from the freedmen and lower class masters of Meereen. “Keep going. The quicker you march, the quicker you’ll be at the campfires in the Neck!” Most didn’t care what the Neck was, but they heard ‘campfire.’

“Those boys would be lucky to last a northern winter.” Turning on his horse, Theodosius met the rotund form of Lord Wyman Manderly. “Never send a Ghiscari to do a Northman’s fight.”

“Good thing they won’t be headed to Winterfell.” Unlike himself, the Manderly host that was marching for the grand meetin, and Grey Worm’s personal Unsullied cohort, the majority of the Royal Targaryen Army would be headed to the Neck and then the now open Twins - he felt no sympathy for the Freys, both dishonorable cunts and Lannister allies. “The Riverlands weather will acclimate them well enough.”

Lord Manderly shrugged. “They’ll need it if they want to face the Lannisters.”

Fists clenched the reins tight, undoubtedly squeezed white underneath the thick gloves. “They will defeat the Lannisters. I’ve sworn to that.” Flashes of fire burned in his vision, both warnings of the future and memories of the past.

The northerner furrowed his brows, large mass shifting beneath the mermaid engraved breastplate. “Wait… Caryn. Now I remember.” He smacked his chubby leg. “Your family fought for the Reynes and Tarbecks at Castamere. No wonder you hate the Lannisters.” Pursing his lips, he glanced back at the hard faced men marching with him. “You’d be in good company with any northman. Queen Daenerys better not let her wee Hand get alone with any of my men, all due warning.” With that, he galloped off.

Such company did not offer solace. Fire and death following even the quickest blink, Theodosius resigned himself to a hellish night ahead of him. ‘Maybe I’ll borrow from the Imp and drink myself to a stupor.’ It had to be a damn Lannister that had all the right ideas.

 

Many years had past since Jon had last experienced a true northern winter. Arya had just been born, and he and Robb were far too young to truly grasp the majesty of their homeland. Jon was determined to show his children the true majesty of the Stark homeland early on. They were mighty dragons, but they were wolves as well. “There is the Wolfswood, sweetlings.” He pointed to the line of still green trees, contrasting with the snow. “It stretches all the way to the western sea.”

Atop their horses as skillfully as any armored knight - Jon wasn’t surprised, Dothraki training and all that - the Twins gazed in awe at their father’s homeland. “Is that the plain, father? Where you defeated the Usurper Ramsay Bolton?” Rhaegar gestured to the snow-covered flat ground stretching on the northern approach of the castle.

“Aye.” Robb chimed in. Wun Wun’s massive figure crossed his arms, the Dothraki bloodriders assigned to protect the princes attention riveted - they did not understand much of the common tongue, but they did hear ‘Ramsay Bolton’ loud and clear. Young Rickon seemed to shrink away, the conversation touching on a sore subject for him. “Jon charged in on Rhaegal to save your Uncle Rickon, but the Boltons wounded the dragon so Jon stayed to fight.”

“A Usurper wounded Rhaegal?” Rhaegar was shocked. “A dragon is invincible!”

Urging his horse, a stout northern mare from Bear Island, Jon trotted beside his son. “Rhaegar, nothing nor no one is invincible.” He wrapped an arm around the boy’s shoulders, just like Ned used to do with him. “It was true that Rhaegar was wounded and thus vulnerable, but especially in battle, you must be careful and vigilant. A good fighter and King knows this, understood?” Jon gently prodded.

“Yes poppa.”

“But father isn’t vulnerable to anything.” Arya sounded quite like her mother at that moment, standing straight and with a patrician set in her jaw. Supremely confident in her father as Dany was in him.

Before Jon could respond, an as yet silent voice boomed. “Come now, Little Crow, the times I pulled this one out of trouble could fit in a big, fat southern book of yours.” Grinning under his unkempt red beard, Tormund went to Arya and pointed to the center of the field. “That’s where my axe saved the King Crow’s bacon from some southern cu… idiot.” Jon, irritated as he was, had to give the wildling credit for censoring himself for the twins’ benefit.

Furrowing her brows, Arya was puzzled. “What’s ‘King Crow’ mean?”

The wildling chuckled. “Your daddy’s black cloak looks like a crow from far away. Even more so for the King of the Crows, cause he flies now.” Tormund chortled at his own joke, earning a glare from Jon.

Giggles left his daughter’s lips, so Jon figured the embarrassment was worthwhile. “That’s funny, poppa.” Her gaze returned to the landscape around her. “So much snow,” Arya said in awe. Growing up in Essos, Jon doubted she ever experienced even a cool day.

“Much snow?” A dismissive grunt came from the lone giant among them. Wun Wun remained in Winterfell while his family stayed in the Gift, while Mag Mar had journeyed north of the Wall to see if any giants remained among the living. His hand gestured across the wide expanse around them. “Small snow.”

Noticing the puzzled expressions of his kids - hells, on all faces present excluding Tormund - Jon took an amused pity on them. “He means that this snowfall is nothing compared to what is north of the Wall.” Months among the free folk had left him almost fluent in the guttural, broken giantspeak used to communicate. “When you are King, Rhaegar, this whole land will be entrusted to you - and the Warden of the North you seek to appoint. It is vital that you choose your subordinates wisely, persons both strong and fair with a love for the common people as your mother has.”

Rhaegar mulled it over, jaw tense in thought.“Uncle Robb, will you be the loyal Warden of the North during my rule?”

Robb laughed. “It would be an honor to serve you, my Prince…”

He was cut off by Arya. “Silly brother. He’ll be poppa’s Warden of the North. Yours will be his son with Aunt Margaery.” Jon stifled his belly chortle - as did Rickon - at the reddening of his brother’s face. The two of them weren’t subtle in their obvious affection for each other.

Gazing out at the castle, it was only thanks to his ranging instincts that he heard the galloping hooves behind him. “My Lord.” Urging his horse to turn, Jon spotted one of his bannermen - one of the new ones raised from the Bolton prisoners who hadn’t been sent to Meereen.

A growl came from Ghost, instantly suspicious of strangers. “Ghost, heel,” Jon ordered. Whimpering, the direwolf doubled back with his tail between his legs, settling close to Rhaegar. The Crown Prince leaned down from his horse to ruffle Ghost’s fur - he emitted a contented hum. Jon shared a smirk with Robb before turning back to the messenger. “What is this about, then?”

Gulping, the bannerman’s only comfort was that it was the White Wolf’s direwolf and not his dragon - or the Queen’s dragons. Glancing up at Wun’s towering form did him no favors though. “Horses to the west, my Lord. Banners bearing the fist sigil.”

“The fist sigil, House Glover.” Arya’s eyes met her father’s. “Right, poppa?”

Rhaegar, not one to allow his twin sister to show him up, added his own remembered fact. “From Deepwood Motte, poppa.” Arya glared at him with annoyance, while her brother only preened.

Jon couldn’t help the chuckle leaving his lips. ‘Exactly like Bran and Arya.’ “Aye. Good memory my Prince, Princess,” Robb said, praising the each of them. The twins beamed, feeling ten feet tall.

“Shall we go meet them, poppa?” Rhaegar asked.

Glancing west, Jon could just make out the tops of the banners. “I don’t see why not. With me, men.” ‘Best that Robb and I greet them first.’ All wanted to avoid any confrontations with Dany or her dragons before the official banquet.

Lord Robett Glover was just as hard and weathered as when he denied Jon his fealty in facing Ramsay Bolton. “Jon Snow,” he said rather bitingly. The massive giant towering before him joined Tormund in reminding the old Lord why he hadn’t sided with Jon in the Battle of the Bastards. “Robb Stark.”

Pursing his lips, Robb said nothing even as Jon began to simmer. His lack of respect was quite well earned, and he would have to fight harder than ever before to win it back. However, he had a champion. “You will call my father and uncle their proper titles, Lord Glover.” Dozens of pairs of eyeballs darted to young Arya. Like Lyanna Mormont, she possessed a steel beyond her young years.

Silent, Lord Glover blinked. “Who are you?”

Jon trotted his horse till he was mere feet from the northern lord. “Allow me to properly introduce you, Lord Glover. These are Crown Prince Rhaegar and Princess Arya Targaryen of the Seven Kingdoms, children of Queen Daenerys Stormborn and myself.” Jon’s fiery gaze made clear that the dragon would be woken if any in the Glover party tried anything.

Thankfully, the old Lord merely bowed. “Forgive me, princess. It is no way for a guest to behave to his host - we are not Freys.”

Calming down, Jon allowed graciousness for Lord Glover. “Come to the castle. You must need some food and rest.” Swelling with pride at his children, Jon just knew at that moment that he wouldn’t need to worry about the Targaryen madness with them.

 

There wasn’t much that usually cowed or humbled Daenerys - though she did her best to rein in her more arrogant or hubristic inclinations. The ancient, blood-red visage of the Weirwood tree nevertheless managed to do so. Daenerys couldn’t explain it, but she could feel a mystic energy leaving it. The Weirwood awed her, the Godswood imbuing her with a spiritual penitence never before felt.

Still… “You’re sure that the marriage must be of the old faith?” Much as she wished to marry Jon - every part of her craved it desperately - Dany disliked redundancy. “I would prefer our wedding and coronation to be at the same time.” It went unsaid that she approved of Sam and Sansa’s suggestion of Empire.

“Absolutely sure, Daenerys.” Northern hardiness aside, Sansa nevertheless cupped her nose with her hands, channeling her warm breath upward. Surrounding them were Brienne and the Dothraki bloodriders, protecting the three women from any threat. “Even if the northern lords, accept you as their ruler alongside Jon, an extra dose of humility will go a long way. Show you aren’t a conqueror, but a protector.”

By all accounts, mostly from her long conversations in bed with Jon, Sansa had been a typical romantic teenager with her head in the clouds at the same time Dany was a weak girl being sold to the Dothraki. And now here they were, a Queen and - in all intents and purposes - a Hand to a King. Daenerys was impressed. “I will be their Queen as much as I will be their Empress. They need not be afraid of me.”

Sansa gave her a smile. “It isn’t you they are afraid of, but rather the specter of the Mad King or the Mad Prince.” From his short rule as ‘King of the Seven Kingdoms,’ Viserys made a serious bid for their father’s legacy. “Learning of your… punishment for him would help greatly if it comes from you personally.” The conversation where Dany informed him of his status as a Blackfyre had gone just as badly and just as oddly amusing as one would think.

“Although there is one part that confuses me.” Margaery had learned directly from the most cunning manipulator in the Seven Kingdoms not named Tywin Lannister. Her life had been hard, but wasn’t a trial by fire nature as was Dany and Sansa’s. “Hypothetically, if Robb and I were to marry…” Based on internal developments, it was an all but certainty. “We would conduct both ceremonies before the old gods and the Seven at once. Why have one at the coronation?”

“If we are to create a whole new crown for each other, we must be married as equals.” Daenerys would not stand for Jon to be considered at a lower station than her. Following their coronation, they would be wed in the eyes of the Seven, cementing their status as equals. To rule and protect their empire together.

The magnitude suddenly hit Daenerys. ‘I’m getting married…’ Political dynamics and the importance of alliances didn’t really faze the Dragon Queen. Daenerys had married before for political reasons, and while her then-husband ultimately did not treat her badly it was still loveless. ‘I’m marrying Jon.’ It was different with Jon - the stars had aligned perfectly. Not only was Jon - as Tyrion put it, “The best damn bachelor in all of the seven Kingdoms” - the upcoming marriage was a love match. No noblewoman could ever hope for half as much. ‘How do I deserve this blessing from the Gods?’ Daenerys had no answers.

A rustle in the grove barely merited a second glance by the party. A second, louder rustle drew attention, Brienne tensing while the Dothraki bloodriders preemptively forming a loose defensive screen around their Queen and her companions. When a branch snapped, a full alert was triggered. “Stay back,” Brienne cautioned Sansa, blade drawn.

Dany felt her heart beating, hand on Saracen. “Raiders?” asked Margeary to no one in particular. There had been scattered reports of Bolton diehards causing havoc closer to the Dreadfort, but nothing this close to Winterfell - everyone here was a Stark loyalist. Sansa quickly drew her dagger, not intending to ever be captured again.

With the snapping twigs growing louder and closer, Daenerys turned to her bloodriders. “Qhoro, flush out the intruder,” she barked in Dothraki.

The words were obvious enough when the long-braided bloodrider snarled and headed to the grove with his Arkh raised. “Come out, Andal,” he said in halting common tongue, picking up some from Ser Jorah. “You cannot hope to… kill Queen Daenerys.” He disappeared through the thick leaves…

Only to reappear after a tense silence, a massive grey-white beast growling with teeth bared. It was as big as Ghost - actually, exactly like Ghost except for the color to the shock of all present, Sansa especially. ‘But there are no Direwolves south of the Wall…’ “Oh, if I were seeking to kill you, you’d be dead already.”

Voice hitting Sansa like a charging ox, it was as if a long-dead spirit was facing her. Out of the woods then emerged three figures clothed in warm furs, but only one drew the Lady of Winterfell’s attention. Much older and far too experienced in the realities of life, but there was no denying it. Even still, utter shock still tinged Sansa’s tone. “Arya?!”

Dany’s eyes widened. ‘Jon’s sister?’ There had been a sort of tenderness by which Jon had talked about her, more so than his other siblings. Such had been her driving motive in naming her daughter - after the sister so dear to Jon’s heart. Of a wild, headstrong, yet sensitive girl that burrowed her way into one’s heart and never left. And here was Arya Stark in the flesh. Emotional reunion bringing out all that Jon had said about her, Dany could detect a hardness within her, a stoicism earned as hers and Sansa’s had - the past years had affected them all.

“Sansa…” Both Gendry and Hot Pie stepped back, content to let the reunion play out. Even Nymeria gave the sisters a wide berth. “I’m home.” Eyes flickered to the other women. “Who are they?”

Initial shock wearing off, Sansa tried to remain composed. “This is Lady Margaery Tyrell, and Queen Daenerys Targaryen, the Dragon Queen and Jon’s betrothed.”

Eyes widening at who she was standing before, Arya bowed. “Your Grace.” She had no love for protocol, but did for those she respected. What followed was clearly her personality. “Do I have to call you Lady Stark, now?”

Amazingly, Sansa kept a straight face. “Yes.” Smiles then broadened on their lips, the two sisters embracing tightly. “Welcome home, sister.”

 

“Open the gate!” called out the guards as the party arrived at the castle. If they were shocked to see another massive direwolf, they didn’t show it - a castle full of dragons and giants largely took away their capacity to be shocked.

Riveted to the massive direwolf banners strung over the castle, Arya felt every bit of the surreal nature of the moment. “Rickon… Robb… but I saw Greywind’s head on his body.” The memory was still a hard one to swallow.

“Lies,” spat Sansa. “For Walder Frey and Roose Bolton to curry favor with Joffrey.”

Dany nodded. “And your brother Bran is alive as well. He’s safe in Essos under the care of my soldiers.”

And so through all of it, the fighting and the chaos, all of Ned Stark’s brood had lived. “It just seems so good to be true,” the young girl confessed. Arya scowled. “I’m still glad the Freys are dead.” ‘As will the rest on my list.’ Changing the subject, she turned to Dany. “So you’re marrying my brother?”

Feeling it wasn’t the time or place to confess the truth, Daenerys punted. “Yes, we will be married.”

“He couldn’t stop thinking about you, before he left for the Wall. I can tell you love each other, but if you hurt him I will kill you.” The iron set of her jaw belied Arya’s seriousness.

“Your Grace,” Catelyn began, just happening to be walking the grounds upon their arrival. “We must…” She stopped in her tracks, jaw slack. “Arya?”

“Mother.” In no time the young woman was swept in a motherly embrace. The two had driven the other mad, but at that moment there was nothing but love and anguish. “I thought you died at the Twins.” Only soft sobs left Catelyn as she wrapped her arms tightly around her daughter. While she could have stayed buried in her mother’s skirts for hours, Arya was still nervously excited. Her head swivelled around the courtyard, looking for someone specific. “Where is Jon?” All the last years of her life led up to this moment, and the one person she most wanted to see again was nowhere to be found.

Even Daenerys was slightly concerned. “He was supposed to arrive…”

Any worries as to his whereabouts were buried when the gate was opened. “Make way for the Lord!” called one of the bannermen, a large party of horsemen entering. Dany could see the banners of House Glover mixed in with the Stark Direwolf, and at the vanguard was Jon. “Maester Wolkan, have the stewards get our guests settled in. Get the horses in the stables and…” Eyes searching for Daenerys, needing to see her, Jon began to smile at her but noticed the small warrior to her left. He stared in stunned silence, a look shared by Robb, Rickon, and even Lady Brienne.

“Poppa, who’s that?” Arya’s namesake asked inquisitively, her and her brother confused atop their horses.

Their father didn’t hear them, dismounting with his gaze never leaving Arya. She had changed just as all of them had, in many facets even more so, but there was no denying that it was her. His eyes shone, twinkling with unadulterated joy. It was done, his family confirmed safe and alive. “Is it really you?” Jon finally said.

If her normal stoicism had been sorely tested at the reunion with her mother and siblings, seeing Jon after so long was the emotional equivalent of a blast of dragonfire. Lip quivering, a single tear fell from her cheek. Breaking out into a run, she leapt into his embrace, burying her face into his tunic. There would undoubtedly be emotional reunions with Robb and Rickon - not to mention when she met her niece and nephew - but for now all her attention was reserved for her brother.

Voice a mix of laughter and tears, Jon noticed the narrow point clipped to his sister’s belt. “You kept it?” Disappeared for so long, the same sword he had personally made for her still remained in her possession.

Arya grinned. “You gave it to me. Of course I’d keep it.” Another merry laugh left Jon’s lips as he twirled his sister around. Knowing that Bran was safe in Essos, the Starks were finally together. Winterfell was whole again.

Chapter Text

Nothing but the low firelight and a few scattered candles illuminating the room, Jon watched as Ser Barristan Selmy shivered under his cloak. “Cold, Ser Barristan?” he asked with an amused grin - the grin northerners only directed at unacclimated southerners.

Barristan rubbed his hands together. “Too used to the heat of Essos, your Grace.” The two of them were alone in Jon’s quarters, Barristan providing needed company prior to the meeting. Glancing down, he smiled slightly as Jon slowly slid the whetstone down Longclaw’s edge. “Your father always had a saying, take keep of your belongings and your belongings will take keep of you.”

“That is wise.” Jon gently ran his finger down the Valyrian steel edge - sharp and deadly. “When Joffrey was at Winterfell, his sword was always dull and splotched. Bodes well for me, I would think.”

“Yes, your Grace. Baratheon fighting skill did not find its way to him.” Barristan detected the weariness in his King’s voice. “You do not wish to fight, do you?”

Jon sighed. “I detest fighting. It seems such is all I’ve done throughout my life, but nothing fills me with joy more than thinking of peace with Daenerys by my side. I would give up my birthright in a heartbeat for that.”

“Your father thought the same way.” A wistful smile crossed his face. “Oftentimes, he and I would sneak out in disguise to Flea Bottom. He’d play his harp for the smallfolk - I had never seen him so serene, though he did say that it wasn’t complete until he could bring his love to sing with him. Something told me that he didn’t mean Elia Martell.”

“He was a cultured man, my father?” Jon wanted to learn everything about the enigmatic Rhaegar Targaryen.

“Oh yes.” Watching as Jon sheathed his sword, the old knight enjoyed the fond memories. “He would often bring the best painters, sculptors, and architects to the capitol. Wanted to devote his reign to turn a nation of stone into marble, but the Rebellion got in the way.”

“I hope that I could complete his dream.” Closing his eyes, Jon remembered the silver-haired man in the garden of the afterlife. His strength and love shining through. ‘Father…’ “I met him… my father.”

Ser Barristan blinked, confused. “How, your Grace?” After seeing dragons ascend to the skies, giants walk amongst the North, and the long lost son of his beloved Prince, the old knight disbelieved nothing anymore.

“When I... died and was resurrected.” He saw Barristan nod wordlessly - his kingsguard had seen the scars, one of a few that did. “My mother too. All my life I thought he was nothing but some monster, but he was my…” Jon wished he had known him, had grown in the Red Keep not for any trappings of royalty, but simply for his mother and father in his life. ‘Dany and I would still be together. I know this.’

Suddenly, he began to chuckle. Barristan raised an eyebrow. “Something humorous, your Grace?”

“Tell me something, Ser Barristan. Did you ever know a man named Alliser Thorne?”

Pursing his lips, the old knight searched his brain. “The name is familiar. I seem to recall a young and idealistic knight in the ranks, marching to battle at the Trident. Why?”

“He was a brother of the Night’s Watch when I met him, older and bitter - hated me for being Ned Stark’s son. Ended up stabbing me in the heart for bringing the Wildlings south of the Wall.” Another chuckle left his lips, mindlessly patting the scar on his chest. “Ironic, if he had known who I was…”

“I would have killed him myself had I been there, your Grace. Not even hate for the Usurper could condone murdering your own commander.” He patted his old ward’s son on the shoulder. “Your father would have been very proud of you, proud of your honor. He always admired that of the Starks - it doesn’t shock me that he fell for the She-wolf.” A knocking at the door drew his attention, Jon hearing him walk towards the entrance and opening it. “Lady Arya.”

“May I enter, Ser Barristan?” ‘My sister.’ Jon really needed to develop a system to differentiate his daughter and his sister. “May I speak with Jon, alone?”

“Wait outside, Ser Barristan. This won’t be long.”

“Of course, your Grace.” It was just the two of them, now.

Needle still clipped to her side, Arya stood straight as a knight. “Brother.”

Jon hid his smirk. “Wouldn’t ‘cousin’ be more accurate?” He expected the fist that slammed into his shoulder.

“Shut up.” She hadn’t taken the news well at all, but managed to tolerate the change once it became clear no actual status changed. “You’re my brother, and damn nothing will change that no matter how much of an ass you are… my King,” she cheekily added for good measure.

“If you want me to call you ‘sister,’ then no formal shit with me. I’m proud to be ‘Jon’ to you.” Grinning, Jon gave his little sister a once over. ‘Not the same little sister anymore.’ While the same loving and wild Arya shined when alone among the family, everywhere else was replaced with a completely different person. Hardened, haunted, dead - a living White Walker. It chilled him to the core. “You’ve changed since the last time.”

“So have you, Jaehaerys.” She cast her eyes at the lilac dragon rousing from her sleep on Jon’s bed. “Of all that I imagined you doing, riding a grown dragon and raising three infant dragons were not among them.” Walking over to the bed, Arya cautiously reached out to scratch the underside of the dragon’s jaw. Wearily inspecting the offered hand, Rhaella snapped her jaws once before letting out a contented hum as Arya’s fingers stroked her. “She likes me.”

“She is my daughter, and she knows who her family is.” Dragons were very intelligent, and his were raised among wolves to be used to them. Just as Ghost was drawn to Dany, even her dragons were docile to the Starks. They often fell asleep on Ghost’s back or curled up on his siblings’ stomachs to keep warm. “Once you learn caution, they’re like Ghost and Nymeria when they were pups.”

Nuzzling her hand, Rhaella yawned and flapped off to the rafters. “You named her after your grandmother… and the others after Aunt Lyanna and Sansa.” Arya watched as Jon nodded. “And Daenerys named your daughter after me.” She didn’t know which had been more of a surprise, learning Jon had children with the Dragon Queen or learning one of the little dragonwolves that had immediately taken to her like a fish to water was her namesake.

“I can only imagine that Daenerys wanted to have one of our twins to have a northern name, and chose one so near and dear to me.” He couldn’t help but smile at her looking away, lip quivering. She didn’t seem as hardened as she portrayed herself to be. “Sansa is already training her to be a powerful lady, but I can see her looking at Robb and Rhaegar’s swordsmanship lessons longingly - reminds me of someone.” Jon laughed as Arya curtseyed with a smirk. “Now I wouldn’t want to put my daughter in danger fighting a man…”

“Oh please, I could take you on any time,” she mocked.

“I may have to take you up on that. Would you teach Arya how to… water dance as you call it?” He could just imagine how his daughter’s eyes would sparkle in joy if he delivered her aunt as an instructor.

Smiling, Arya nodded. “It would be my honor.” Something came to her mind. “Jon… about Gendry.”

“You love him, don’t you?” Jon’s jaw set, leaning forward.

“Yes.” She wasn’t sure how he would react to the truth. “He’s the bastard of Robert Baratheon.”

This was not something he expected. “You’re saying he is the son of the Usurper. The man that had my half-siblings murdered and would have personally killed Daenerys and myself had he been given the chance?”

Arya glared at him. “I thought you of all people would understand.”

Hearing her biting words, Jon did understand. His anger at the loss of his Targaryen family and Daenerys’ dangerous childhood did not extend to poor Gendry Waters - he had no control over it. Those that were at fault were either dead or south in Joffrey’s kingdom. “I trust King Robert wasn’t as honorable as father was with his ‘bastard.’”

“Gendry didn’t even know until he heard a goldcloak brag.”

One eyebrow rose. “Do I need to have a conversation with this Gendry? Make sure he knows the fate of those that harm my family… owww!” He felt another twinge of pain in his shoulder.

Hitting him again for good measure, Arya rolled her eyes. “You deserved that, Jon. Don’t you dare do that, I can take care of myself.” She patted Needle for good measure before her gaze softened. “Besides, he would never hurt me.” The ‘Wild wolf’ bit her lip, wondering how all her experiences and training abandoned her and left a nervous and frightened girl in front of her brother. “He wants my hand, but only if you would agree.” It happened the night when they arrived at Winterfell, the moment still surreal to Arya. “I love you brother, and also want your blessing.” He hadn’t said anything, face impassive as ice. “Jon, please say something.”

Pursing his lips, Dany had told him that this was inevitable after one day. “I still can’t help seeing you as that little girl who couldn’t get Nymeria to fetch her gloves.” Chuckling at the memory, he looked up at her. “We will have to legitimize him, for a Stark cannot marry a commoner.” It took a moment, but suddenly Arya’s face lit up. She threw herself into Jon’s arms. For once, girlish speak and mannerisms tumbled from her lips in enthusiastic gratitude. “But, he will have to prove himself to me before I make it official.”

Arya laughed. “Of course, but your sister will always know how soft you are, my King.” At that moment Rhaella fluttered her wings and landed on Arya’s shoulder, chirping. “Isn’t your father a softie?” The dragon chirped once more.

 

The howling winds had obscured nearly all traces of sunlight. Winter claimed the majestic northern lands underneath its freezing shroud. For Daenerys, it was an inauspicious omen. To a Dragon of Valyria such was inhospitable - the cold seeped to her very bones, Dany lacking the dragonfire of her non-human children to at least keep an ounce of comfort.

‘The north nearly claimed Aegon the Conqueror. Will another dragon fall to it?’

“You forget, my Queen, that Jon Snow withstood the north’s full fury, not only emerging in triumph but also as its leader.”

Shocked slightly at the sudden voice, Dany hadn’t noticed the steps of the Red Witch through the wails of the northern blizzard. ‘Did I speak out loud?’ “Jon isn’t the leader of the northmen yet.” She looked out at the snow-covered fields. “And if the omens indicate anything, he may never be.”

The northern winter was more inhospitable for Melisandre than even Daenerys. Red locks and sharp features pure fire, the priestess of R'hllor nevertheless looked to be in her element. “You should have faith, my Queen. The history of your homeland easily provides a solution, apparent even a political ameteur such as myself.”

It was almost divine providence to Dany, for the solution to be found out of her history. Her people. She still remembered as Sam explained it all to her. Centuries before the Doom of Valyria and even the Valyrian Freehold, the King began the expansion of his realm. The first conquests were the Ghiscari, but they rebelled at every opportunity. Finally, the conquering King’s son made a change. He created what he called an ‘Empire,’ where the Ghiscaris were able to rule themselves but with him as their King. All Ghiscari internal affairs were governed by Ghiscaris, but the ‘Emperor’ of Valyria still maintained control to unite all domains of his realm. She hoped, she prayed that the northern Lords would accept this arraignment.

“Do you know,” Melisandre said in the silence, “the prophecy of the Prince that was Promised?” Dany nodded. “The proper High Valyrian word is genderless, but after talking to your translator, I also think that there could have been a mistranslation.” This drew Dany’s attention, the Red Woman blurred by the snow. “The prophecy was originally spoken in a far more ancient Valyrian dialect - one where pluralities were often the same as the singular. Not only genderless, but lacking in singularity as well.” She placed her fingers onto the cold stone. “I may not know the future, Daenerys Targaryen, but I do know that you and Jon Snow are not yet to fade into the night.” The words hung, Dany parsing through their deep meaning.

A throat clearing caught her attention, Dany turning to find Missandei waiting for them. “My Queen, they are ready for you.” Even with her official facade, Daenerys noticed the extra sparkle in her eye now that Grey Worm was back.

‘Oh Jon, at least I’ll be by your side this time.’ The many times she wished for his presence during the struggles of her life, merely to lift her spirits, both scared her and filled her with joy that he would always be there from now on. ‘Ice and fire.’ Both different, but at the purest forms, stronger together. “I am as well. Lead the way.”

 

Pulling the furs tighter around his body, Jon glanced at the roaring fires set by the servants. Unlike the grand castles of the South, Winterfell had the sturdy Northern design meant to keep any heat within its thick walls. Still, it took his entire willpower and experience north of the Wall to keep from shivering.

He sat at the head of the table, occupied by his father during the feast so long before - the place of honor. To his left sat Sansa while Rickon sat to her left - Brienne and Podrick behind. To his right the fourth chair between himself and Robb and Arya remained empty, a fact that seemed to go over the head of most of the bickering lords and knights in the great hall, but one that perceptive eyes such as Lyanna Mormont and Tyene Martell appeared to notice. By the barely suppressed smirk on Sansa’s face and the more open ones on Arya and Robb’s, they had an inkling as to who Jon had reserved it for.

A worried frown formed on his face when the Red Woman slipped through the main door, quietly finding a dark alcove to settle down in. ‘Where is she?’ was the delay an acceptable one or was there trouble afoot? “Do I have to worry?” Jon remarked softly, to no one in particular.

“Calm down, brother,” Sansa told him, equally soft but with a stern undercurrent. “Don’t work yourself into a rage. She’ll be here.” Both siblings turned back to the assembled guests. Even the massive great hall struggled to fit everyone. Tormund and the chiefs of the free folk clans, joined by the Knights of Vale and the Vale hill tribes. Each of the northern houses - minus the now extinct House Bolton - from the mighty Manderlys to the small coastal houses southwest of the Gift. Lady Catelyn headed the houses of the Riverlands, only a third of them joining the Stark cause. Rounding out the Westerosi were the Tyrells, Tyene Martell, Theodosius Caryn, and Sam Tarly. The fourth table hosted the Dothraki screamers, Unsullied captains, and minor Ghiscari nobility that had traveled with Dany from Meereen. Sitting at the head of that table were Varys and Grey Worm, Tyrion’s place noticeably empty.

Before the delay grew unbearable, the doors at the far end swung open, two newly-raised Stark bannermen holding them in place. The entire hall quiet, Jon’s eyes sparkling with happiness at. Missandei and Tyrion to either side of her and Ser Jorah behind, Daenerys looked radiant. The chaffron dress and eggshell furs only amplified her pale beauty. She looked every inch a queen, his queen - but had a sort of subdued quality among the northern lords, regally recognizing that this was their domain. It warmed Jon’s heart to see how she cared so much.

Whispered murmurings broke out among the lords when Daenerys headed for the Stark table. Tyrion sat next to Grey Worm, fending off glares from Theodosius and the Northerners. Jorah, finally at home among his fellow northerners, took a seat with Lady Lyanna - The last of the Mormonts. Missandei standing behind, Dany approached the empty place to Jon’s right. Catching his siblings greeting her with warm glances, Jon reached back and pulled out the sturdy wood chair for Dany to take. As both sat, she shot him a quick smile. The simple glimmer of love in her violet eyes banished the cold from his body.

They symbolism was evident for all. One that Jon, Robb, Arya, and Sansa all agreed to risk. Daenerys Targaryen was considered not as a visiting lord, but as family. One of the Starks.

“Now that all are present,” Sansa said, her voice steeled. “We can begin.” She stood, no more an innocent maiden. “All of you old enough to know the year of my birth, or the years far before Robert’s Rebellion, remember when the Realm was at peace. Such is lacking now with the threats to all sides of us. My brother, Jon Snow of House Stark, asks for your audience to face this common threat together.” It was northern custom, for someone of great respect to present the liege lord. Jon could think of no one more deserving than Sansa for that role.

Pushing up from his chair, Jon nodded at his sister. “Thank you, Lady Stark.” Daenerys could see his eyes weary. Humility wasn’t the hallmark of the dragon, but perhaps the Targaryens could have benefited with a little wolf in them. “I come to all of you with an open mind. To listen to your concerns - but I stress that in the face of what’s to come, unity is desired above all.”

It was Lord Glover that addressed the mammoth in the room. “Lord Snow, do you know who this is?” He pointed at Dany, glare hard as stone. “I find it inappropriate that the Mad King’s daughter is allowed in an assembly of the north.”

Restraining his temptation to shout in anger, Jon heard Dany softly sigh next to him. However, it was Sansa that spoke up first. “If there is anyone that belongs here, it is Queen Daenerys.”

“Quite true,” added Robb. “It was thanks to her that Ramsay Bolton and the Mad Prince were defeated. We owe her our thanks.”

“Thanks for what?” demanded Lord Cerwyn. “Her father burning your grandfather and uncle alive? Her brother doing the same thing to those who wouldn’t bend the knee to him?” A low chorus of agreement came from many, causing the three Starks to shoot her an apologetic glance. Daenerys merely sat there, taking the abuse. She was a queen, the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains - she’d been through worse.

To Jon’s left stood Lord Yohn Royce of the Vale. “I must agree with my honorable comrades. We rose against the Mad King for a reason, the Targaryens long the enemies of the North and the Vale. They are not welcome here, nor must I add are another member of this so-called congress.” Royce leveled a haughty finger at the wilding chieftains, beards long and ragged. “I must issue my protest that the Knights of the Vale be included on the same level as Wildling invaders.”

Bracing for a furious reaction that Wildlings were known to exhibit, Jon was mildly surprised when Tormund answered rather calmly. “We didn’t invade. We were invited.”

“Not by me.” The chamber erupted in an uproar of the Lords, Knights, and Maesters arguing amongst themselves. Many targeted Tyrion as the lone Lannister, few arguing in his favor due to the indifference thrown by the Esossi officers, loyal behind their Lannister-hating commander. A few were directed at Tyene Martell for her cousin’s backing of Joffrey, only for the former Sand Snake to give back as good as she got. Sansa pursed her lips while Robb ran a hand down his head. There was an old saying that two northerners couldn’t go five minutes without an argument and fight breaking out, and this seemed to hold true today.

“We would have all died if it wasn’t for them!”

“No friend of ours supports a Lannister!”

“The North has spent centuries fighting the Wildlings!”

“How can we trust someone that brought a slave-trader back to our lands!” That comment brought Lyanna Mormont’s sharp tongue out in defense of her uncle, Ser Jorah merely keeping a stony silence.

“Do shut up, all of you,” the Queen of Thorns spat. “I feel like I’m in the damned nursery again.”

Having enough, Jon stood, pounding his palm against the table. “Please, Lords. The Knights of the Vale, the northmen, the Free Folk, the Unsullied, we all fight together to defend the North.” He looked towards Dany, the piercing gaze in his eyes making her heart flutter. “My father, Ned Stark, always said that one’s true friends were found on the battlefield.”

“But the battle is over!” announced Lord Cerwyn. “The Boltons are defeated. The Mad Prince is in chains. Winter has come, and if the Maesters are right it will be the coldest in a thousand years.” He pointed at the Stark table. “You claim to care for us all, but only seem to require our forces to mass together for the Mad King’s daughter. Let her foreign hordes fight for her, while we be with our families to ride out the coming storm.”

Watching him sit, Jon met the eyes of all the assembled Lords. “Aye, this battle is over, but the war has just begun. Joffrey Baratheon,” hisses erupted, drawing rare accord between those present. “Masses the combined forces of the South to fight us, an army that conquered Dorne in mere months. And the true threat continues to loom to the north. I promise all of you, my Lords, the true enemy will not wait, for he brings the storm.”

A long silence hung over those present, parsing Jon’s words. “Are you talking about the Long Night?” asked Lord Royce. “That’s nothing but a legend. A child’s fairytale.”

“Fairy tales do not threaten the entirety of humanity, my Lord.” Emerging from the shadows, the fiery red hair and cloak of Melisandre gave her a sinister air. “When their kind was banished to the Land of Alw