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Tales from the Tower in the Prince's Pass

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Elaena Targaryen is thirty-nine years old and she does not have the patience to suffer fools. Perhaps, if she was still young, she might be soft on a particularly handsome fool but now that she has gray in her golden streak, she does not feel the same need to be so polite or to attract a handsome knight. She has outlived her father by three years. She has outlived her mother, her father, her brothers, her sisters. All she has is her extended family and her seven children.

She has her mind and her wit which has been her two greatest assets. Her name and her House have helped, as well. She will always be a Targaryen and now she is their matriarch, even the Queen, Mariah kisses her cheek and calls her Aunt, looks to her for wisdom and advice. Mariah is only five years younger than she and a Princess, as well as a Queen.

Elaena wishes Daena was still alive. Though she and her eldest sister fought about everything, she misses her spirited nature and her willfulness. She misses having a good heated argument. No one will argue with her anymore. Either they are too polite, too dull, or like Brynden, too smart to argue with her. Daena would have argued with her. She did all the way up until she was coughing blood on her deathbed.

Elaena also wishes Naerys was alive. She would have wanted to see her daughter wed. Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding at Sunspear was a gaudy affair, full of overly extravagant and spicy food. The Prince of Dorne had elephants and paraded them through the streets. It was all excessive. When King Daeron and the Prince of Dorne clasped each other like long-lost brothers underneath the giant statue of her dull brother, Baelor, she groaned out loud. She actually felt a flush of shame at that. After all, peace in the Seven Kingdoms was a fine thing, a good thing. It was the performance that killed her.

In celebration of Daeron II’s peaceful and prosperous reign, as well of his love of Dorne, he had commanded a summer palace be built in the Dornish Marches. To further highlight that his realm was at peace, Daeron had very little defensives built, no walls, no parapets. There was a moat of sorts, but only in the front. It was more of a pool for beauty, for reflection. There were walls of windows and gardens and sculptures, Though Elaena thought it was lovely to look at, it was impractical and costly.

She had argued with Daeron about why he must build the thing. After all, she was Maester of the Coin in all but name. She prided herself on knowing where every copper coin went from the King’s coffers. Elaena was good at investing and cutting corners where she could. It had been wasteful. She had told him such a few moons ago at Summerhall.

Daeron had spoken in his quiet and commanding voice, reminding her of her cousin Aemon, “Aunt, I appreciate your concern but I am as frugal as I can be. Let me be frivolous while I am still young.”

She had wanted to tell him he was only three years younger than her and she would not use youth as an excuse. Instead, she said nothing but continued mumbling to herself as she gathered up scrolls and parchment when she heard a voice, “Surely someone as lovely as you, believe in beauty for beauty’s sake.”

It was the first time she noticed Lord Michael Manwoody. He was one of the many Dornishman at Daeron’s court. However, unlike most of the Dornishmen at Daeron’s court, he was dressed appropriately and did not try to seem exotic or shocking. In fact, Lord Manwoody seemed ordinary. He was not exceptionally good- looking. He was not scandalous or dangerous. He was not exceedingly wealthy or grandiose in anyway. He didn’t brag or gamble or drink to excess. He was not cruel. He was reasonably good with a sword but he did not play at tourneys.

So for all practical reasons, Elaena Targaryen would not have looked twice at him. He was not her type of man. Furthermore, she was in mourning, her husband of eleven years had died not three moons ago, However, she had started to talk to this mouse brown-haired man with golden brown eyes and found him intelligent, funny and kind. She had wanted to find out more about him out of curiosity than interest.

That night after dinner, Michael played the harp in the Queen’s Hall, a smaller room for the ever-growing Court of Daeron the Good to gather. When he played, the song was so sweet that Elaena felt tears creep from the corners of her eyes.

Elaena did not like silly things. When she was young, she had loved a man, a wild, wanton, dangerous man who wore his scars like they were his honor. She had loved him so much that she had thrown away all her good sense to be in his arms and would have married him but he was lost at sea and never returned to her, leaving her with a ruined reputation and twins. However, it had also left her with an aching broken heart that would never mend. The whole experience had taught her to not love men. She tolerated them, respected them, occasionally desired them, and sometimes she manipulated them, but never loved them, not rich, old Ossifer Plumm, not kind, handsome, dashing Ronnel Penrose, not anyone.

So, when she had approached plain, ordinary Michael Manwoody the next day in the gardens at Summerhall and made simple conversation about the Dornish Marches and her desire to see the Red Mountains of Dorne, she did not really understand what her motives were. When he had said, he would be happy to take her the next day to the Manwoody lands through the Red Mountains all the way to Kingsgrave, she could not really understand why she said yes.

So, as they rode into the Prince’s Pass with a few soldiers and two supply wagons, Elaena thought on her motives. She was twice widowed mother of seven. She did not need a husband and she was done with having children. Yet, here she was riding on horseback from Summerhall to Kingsgrave. She took her two youngest sons, Viserys, who was twelve and Robin, ten, and her second eldest daughter, Laena who was nine. Laena reminded her of her sister Daena and would not stay with the smaller children and their nurse, threatening to follow after them if they left her in the nursery. After a day of riding, she wondered if Laena might have rather stay at Summerhall. Michael had told her it was less than a days ride to a tower in the Prince’s Pass on the edge of Manwoody lands they could stay for the night. The next day they would be at Kingsgrave.

Elaena had wanted to let him know that she had crossed these mountains several times, but she did not. Lord Manwoody seemed so eager, so excited for her to see it. He loved his castle, his land, his people and he was proud of it. She appreciated that about him. He also was kind with her children, teaching them how to wear the turban-like head covering worn in the deserts of Dorne, even making one for Laena. He took time to explain things to the children with such excitement. Elaena wondered if he was a child.

As they rode through the Prince’s Pass, she was pleased at how her children’s faces lit up by the beautiful scenery in the mountains. Laena asked, “My Lord, why are the mountains in the Dornish Marches red? I have heard my nurse say it is from the blood that has been spilled here.”

Michael answered with a smile, “Your nurse is repeating a story that is often told but untrue. The mountains are red due to the color of clay that the mountains are made up of. It is really quite interesting. It is a certain type of clay found here in Westeros, though I believe it can be found in Essos as well.”

The sun was still over the mountains but had started to dip below the western ridge when they came upon a large squat tower. There was a half a wall, standing on one side, more ruin than defense with a pear tree growing from it. There were several houses around a small spring that flowed in a pretty river down the mountain. As they dismounted, Lord Michael spoke, “Originally, one of the Kings of the Stone and Sky, a Fowler King when the First Men still ruled the Seven Kingdoms had thought to make an outpost, a tower to watch the Carons and the other threats to the North. When House Manwoody slew a King of the Reach, the Kings of Stone and Sky gave us all the lands we now hold, including this tower.”

As they walk up the stone path, Elaena sees runes above the door, carved in the stone around the doorway. She notices how it has been oiled to keep it preserved. Lord Michael cares for his things, including ugly ancient towers.

Viserys asks the question Elaena thinks, “What do the runes mean, Lord Manwoody?”

“I do not know the language of the First Men. Much of their language was lost, but my Grandfather told me that it was a song they would sing when they were victorious in battle. It is a song of praise and thanksgiving.”

She smiles at him as they enter the tower. He looks at her, “As you can tell, it is small. It will be rough goings tonight. I apologize this is no Summerhall, no Red Keep.”

Elaena laughs, “We are durable, sturdy. Targaryens were sheepherders once. Do not worry. We are the poorer cousins. We will be fine in your tower. ”

Michael gives her a tour of the castle and shows her to her rooms. I gave you the balcony that faces to the North. They say you can hear the Singing Towers of Nightsong on some nights. I would not have you miss that.”

Elaena looks at the room. She sees the fine pillows, the silk curtains, the Myrish carpet. This is the Lord’s chambers and smiles, “I do not want to take the biggest rooms or push you from your rooms. Where will you sleep, my lord?”

Michael Manwoody does not take the bait. He smiles, “My lady, I usually sleep across the hall. The rooms are just as big but I have a better view of the stars.”

At dinner, they have roasted honey chicken and pepper sauce, iced pears with cheese, mushrooms, and potatoes roasted in butter and sour Dornish red wine. Across the small room that they eat, she listens to him tell stories to the children. “There is a story told that there was a great wizard or a seer of the First Men. He was as fast as a mountain lion, as strong as a bear, as fierce as a bull. He also held great knowledge and magic. It was said he came here and struck the ground with his staff and from the hole, the spring bubbled from the ground. It was said he issued a prophecy here. That a hero would be born here who would be a man of legends and great power and save his people.”

“This place?” Elaena asks, teasing him. She feels the color of the wine burn her cheeks. She likes him, more than she would like.

He smiles and it is as warm and sweet as butter on her bread. She wonders what he might look like in her bed. She doesn't think he will disappoint her. “I have been told that story a hundred times. Believe it or not, that is the legend.”

Elaena laughed, “Do not tell Aerys. He will learn the language of your ancestors just to make sure this man cannot be translated as dragons.”

Laena asks him to play a song for them. He takes his harp and plays Dornishman’s Wife and then he plays a Rhoynish song that Elaena has not heard before. She promises herself that one day he will play her that song and tell her what all the words mean.
Later, when the children are asleep and only the guards are awake, Elaena crosses the hallway in her slippered feet. She knocks twice before she opens the door.

Elaena finds him in just his sleeping shirt, outside on the balcony with a spyglass and charts on the table with quills and ink, absently looking at the paper. When he sees her, Michael stands, “My lady, is everything well?”

She smiled. Lord Michael puts the quill down and she noticed his hands were stained with ink. “All is well, Michael. I just keep thinking about that song you played for us tonight. I have never heard anything as lovely.”

“I am glad it pleased you.”

Elaena was only in her dressing gown and if he noticed, he made no move toward her. She was not used to a man who didn’t treat her like she was an object to be pawed and preened, to be seduced and taken, to be possessed. Suddenly, she felt awkward and underdressed. Elaena touched the papers on the table. “My lord, What are you doing?”

“I am charting stars.”

He looked back to the sky in the darkness. She came behind him and touched his hips. When he turned to look at her, his ordinary features looked less ordinary. He had a nice jaw and a strong nose. His hands were strong and his fingers long. She leaned against him, whispering in his ear, “I could help you chart your stars or we could go to bed and enjoy other natural wonders.”

He puts his hand on her hips, pulling her against him. In a rough fluid movement, he kissed her neck. Michael speaks against her neck “Are you certain, Elaena? I do not want to bed you for just this night, but for all the rest of the nights that I breathe.”

It was the first time he called her by her name with no title. He had a slight Dornish accent and when he said her name, it sounded as if she was a different person, a different woman who might want different things. When she looked in his golden brown eyes, she saw no danger, no excess, but she saw desire and intelligence.

She kissed him and spoke, “I am certain, Michael. More certain than I have been in years.”

That night was the first of many she would spend in his bed.

On the day of their wedding at Summerhall, Lord Michael Manwoody bequeathed the tower to the House Targaryen, in perpetuity, as a token of gratitude for what they had given to him, his wife and true love. Elena said he was foolish to give property away to the crown but she loved him for it anyway. Throughout the reign of Daeron II and Aerys I, it was known as Elaena's tower and many Targaryens stayed there, enjoying the rugged outdoors, the expansive night sky, and the peace and solitude away from Court.

Chapter Text

People often commented on Maekar’s age and being the youngest of all the Princes. Maekar had turned fifteen this year and even if Maekar was bored of waiting, he would not show it. He would not have someone comment on how the young were always impatient. He did not want to be reminded of his youth.

They were waiting for the party from Starfall to come. Aunt Elaena had gone to escort House Dayne to Summerhall. He had grown bored waiting and begged father to go to Elaena’s Tower to wait for them in the Prince’s Pass. He had been surprised his father had relented and taken him to the tower to wait, so they might be a day closer.

Aunt Elaena loved her tower. She had spent some money repairing and renovating it and she would not resist a chance to show it off. Maekar could remember when Uncle Michael had given the tower to father. Aunt Elaena had added rooms and a garden, as well as a wall around the garden. The small hamlet had become a thriving little village, made busy by the Targaryens as well as the Dornish trade in Daeron’s II reign.

His father had smiled and said, “You are eager to meet your betrothed. That is a good sign.”

Maekar had wanted to protest. He did not care about the girl that much. He had never met her. He had a small portrait of her and she was pretty but not beautiful. Maekar didn’t really care to get married. He just did it because his father had commanded it and he was dutiful. Baelor had married a Dondarrion girl. Rhaegal had married an Arryn. Aerys was supposed to marry a Hightower but she died in the spring of a fever. He had recently been betrothed to a Penrose. Maekar had been promised to a Dayne. Maekar had heard it rumored that his father was doing this because there were whispers of a rebellion, of his Uncle Daemon Blackfyre boasting he would be a better king, that he was the rightful king, the true son of Aegon IV.

Maekar did not really care why his father was doing this. He had spent his life competing with his three older brothers. If marriage would make him appear older and more a man to his father, Maekar would marry whomever his father chose.

So, on a nice summer morning, the King and his youngest son rode out with a few of the Kingsguard and some soldiers toward the tower. Maekar had thought to himself how nice it had been to ride alone for a whole day, just him and his father.

Maekar had never felt like he had his father’s time or attention. The Seven Kingdoms kept the King busy. King Daeron II had spent a great deal of time trying to undo the damage his father, Aegon IV had done to the realm. When he wasn’t busy with that, King Daeron had brothers and sisters that seemed to take a great deal of time and money. When they were not filling his father’s time, Maekar had three other brothers who would compete for the remaining time.

Baelor often had Father’s attention because of his skill with a sword and a lance. Baelor’s mind was almost as quick as Aerys and Father loved Baelor best. Aerys took father’s attention discussing inventions and technology or books. Rhaegal was sick and artistic and Father often spent time with him, hoping to help him out of the darkness of his spells. This left little time for Maekar who was good with a sword and a lance but had no time for books.

Once when Maekar was small, he had the pox. He fell very ill and the Maester had thought he might die. When he woke from his fever and illness, his father was at his bedside, sleeping. He had remembered looking at his father sleeping in the chair, thinking that of all the things his father had to do to keep the Seven Kingdoms and his large family running smoothly. King Daeron II had stopped all of them and sat at the bedside of his sick son. He had looked at his Father for a long time, noticing the features of the King that looked like him and the things that did not. He remembered thinking, even if his father was not physically strong, he was kind and wise and Maekar thought he looked like exactly what a King should.

His father had woke and seen him. Father touched his forehead and kissed him. “I thought I lost you like your mother. Maekar your fever has broken. You look like my Uncle Aemon and you will be as strong as the Dragonknight. The people will love you as well. My strong boy.”

Maekar had been told the story of when he was born. His father had wanted to name him Aemon. But he had not because it was rumored that King Daeron was a bastard of his Uncle Aemon. Daeron had not wanted anyone to make even more false accusations, so he had named him Maekar.

 

Maekar and his father arrived at the tower just as Elaena and the Starfall entourage arrived. The tower was a bustle of pages, maids, and servants caring for horse, cooking and carrying trunks around the tower. They met his Aunt in the Hall. Aunt Elaena seemed lovely in her black riding dress with her silver hair in a braid. She spoke as she took off her gloves. “Lord Dayne had several daughters that were suitable. I chose Dyanna because I thought she would suit you. She is his third daughter and I tell you it caused a raucous at Starfall that she would be wed before her elder sisters. Lady Dyanna Dayne of Starfall, I would like to introduce you to your betrothed, Prince Maekar Targaryen.”

Maekar looked at Dyanna. She was not beautiful like Baelor’s wife, Jena. She did not have classic Targaryen silver hair like Rhaegal’s bride or Aerys’ betrothed. Dyanna had sandy blonde hair but her eyes were so big and so deep violet, he could not tell if the were purple or blue but they looked like the edges of the darkening sky as night crept toward the castle. Besides her eyes, she seemed plain. Maekar thought her nose turned up slightly and her lips were too full and she laughed too much.

He wondered what about this girl would make his Aunt chose her for him. Perhaps, it was a slight. What did it matter what his bride looked like? After all, Maekar was the fourth son, the least likely to be on the throne. He was the fourth son and he mattered little to anyone. Maekar promised himself he would not let it bother him. After all, what difference did it make who he married? The court was a big place. He could leave her in King’s Landing and reside at Summerhall.

At lunch, Aunt Eleana spoke to Maekar, “Dyanna was talking about how she would like to see the gardens before we set out tomorrow. Maekar, why don't you show her around? After all, you of all my nephews have spent the most time learning the foliage of the Red Mountains with your Uncle Michael. It will give you a chance to get acquainted and maybe you will stop brooding.”

Maekar took her to the garden and showed her the trees and the flowers. He held her arm because he was supposed and walked along the path, wondering when he could leave her. He wished Uncle Michael was here and not in Tyrosh on the King’s business. Uncle Michael had always made time for him. Uncle Michael and Maekar would often come to Kingsgrave or the tower to hunt or hawk, to chart stars or just hike the mountains. Uncle Michael would help him if he was here with this girl.

Dyanna looked at him, “Do you like to dance, my Prince?”

“No, my Lady,” he said.

She giggled and spoke, “Everyone likes to dance, even those who aren’t any good at it.”

Maekar persisted, “Well, I don't.”

“Why?” Dyanna asked.

“I don't know it seems foolish.”

“You are probably no good at it or maybe you just haven't had the right partner. I love dancing! Take my hand. I will show you how.”

Maekar was used to taking orders. Obediently, he took her hand and let her place his other on her hip. For a second, he wondered if she meant to dance in the garden like a madwoman. He looked around to see if anyone was watching.

Dyanna spoke, “Look at me, not your feet.”

Maekar looked at her, wondering how big her eyes were and how pretty the color was. She smiled at him briefly and then the girl started going through the motions. Maekar realized immediately she was graceful and a good dancer. She was light and quick in his arms. She continued with her questions, “If you do not like dancing, do you like tourneys?”

 

Maekar smiled at her, “I have only participated in a few. Father wouldn't let me until after my fifteenth name day. He was worried. He is always worried that Baelor or I will get hurt.”

“How did you do?”

“I did well enough though Baelor came in first in the lists. I was fourth.”

She smiled at him gently. She could hear the edge of bitterness in his voice as clear as a bell and Maekar cleared his throat. She spoke gently and he liked the sound of her voice, “The whole realm loves Baelor Breakspear.”

“Tis true,” he said.

Dyanna stopped her steps but kept his hand in hers. Maekar didn’t know if he should take his hand from her hip but he didn’t. He liked the feel of her waist beneath his hand and did not want to release her.

She spoke to him, looking into his eyes, “My elder sister, Daena, is said to be the prettiest maiden in the Seven Kingdoms. It is said she is as pretty as Queen Naerys, or Shiera Seastar. Men have killed themselves for her, either in duels for her hand or because she has spurned them. My brother is the Sword of Morning and holds Dawn. Arden is Baelor’s best friend. He will be legendary. My second sister, Baela, has dreams of the future as well as can sing like a bird. I thought for sure Aunt Elaena would pick Daena or Baela but she chose me. Perhaps, she chose wisely.”

 

Maekar looked at his future bride. She was not plain. In fact, this close to her, she was lovely. He spoke, “Perhaps, we are more alike than I thought at first.”

He released her feeling awkward that he had not done so yet. Trying to change the subject and afraid he was blushing, Maekar asked a question and pointed to the apple tree nearby. “Do you like apples?”

“Yes, we do not get apples often at Starfall. The climate is too warm. I love them though.”

Maekar nodded in agreement, “I do, too."

The apple tree stands in the middle of the garden and the apples are golden and sweet and swing from the high branches. The tree is huge next to the spring that bubbles from the ground. Maekar loves the apple tree more than all the things in the garden. He helped Uncle Michael plant it three years ago. No one knows how it has grown so big in such a short time. Maekar tells her “They say this is a magic tree but I think they say that to tease us. “

She speaks, “A magic tree filled with golden apples.”

He smiles in wonder how easy it is to talk to her, “There was supposed to be a tree in Old Valyria that had golden apples and one bite would feed a man for a whole day and he would not tire, Two bites and he would not need food for a week and be as strong as ten men. Three bites and he would know all the things a man could know and he would be undefeatable. “

She touched the tree trunk, “I know the story. I think you forget we are cousins.”

Maekar continues, “Anyway, one of the only things in this garden was this tiny apple tree more of a bush than a tree. My Uncle told her that it was grown for an apple seed brought from Valyria, from that legendary tree. My Aunt had it dug up and put closer to the spring and look how well it has grown.”

Skeptical, Dyanna asked, “How would an apple seed from Valyria get to a mountain in Dorne?”

Maekar shrugged.

She continued, “How many years ago did they move the tree?”

Maekar spoke, “No more than two or three.”

Suddenly, she laughed, “Surely, you tease me, Maekar Targaryen.”

Maekar grumbled, “I do not tease.”

“So, how did it grow so big?”

“Could be the spring? The soil the gardeners have replaced? Or it could be magic?” Maekar placed his hand next to hers on the trunk.

She put both hands on the tree trunk. “I think your magic apples look delicious and tempting. Maekar, I think I will get one. Would you like one?”

 

Maekar spoke quickly, “I do not think my Aunt or Father would think it appropriate to allow you to climb a tree.”

“Do I look like I care?” Her big blue-purple eyes were challenging him and her smile was warm, inviting temptation.

“Give me a boost,” she said.

He looked at he body wondering where he could put his hands to lift her up. He felt a sense of heat and desire at the thought of it. She looked at him, realizing he was not familiar with girls. “Thread your fingers together and I will step on them and reach the branch.”

Maekar did as he was told and with the grace of a dancer, she climbed the tree. When she was just a bit higher than he could reach on his tiptoes, she straddled a branch and started gathering apples, reaching high and using her skirt as a basket. Her thigh was exposed and Maekar saw the dagger tied to her thigh. It is a Dornish dagger with the Rhoynish curve. Her pale thigh is exposed and Maekar feels a rush in his heart and a tightness. He wonders what it would be like to touch the skin there.

 

Maekar realizes he must have been staring at her legs for too long. Dyanna is blushing and reaches to try and cover it. She speaks, “In case, you are dangerous.”

He smiles as he helps her climb down. Her skirt is full of apples. He says, “I am not.”

She hands him an apple and takes a big bite of her own, speaking while she munches happily, “We shall see.”

Maekar thinks that his betrothed might be better than his brother’s wives and his Aunt Elaena might be the wisest woman in the Seven Kingdoms after all. He did not see his father watching from the tower’s balcony with a smile on his face.

Chapter Text

Brynden wakes. It is dark in the room and he reaches to touch Shiera. She is not in bed. He rubs his eye. His other is useless, empty, long gone. There are a few candles sputtering out by the bed and the fire is quietly dying in the fireplace. He sits up and looks around the room. Shiera was not here. He places his palm against the ruffled sheets where she was sleeping beside him. It is still warm.

Brynden had been worn out after traveling the past week. When he had reached Summerhall to find her, she had said they must go to Elaena’s tower and they had left within the hour. They had reached the tower by nightfall, eaten, washed and made love. After they had made love, he had promptly fallen asleep. He wonders absently if she had given him something to sleep or if he is beyond exhausted. He is always tired now. After Redgrass Field, he always felt tired and as the Master of Whisperers, there was always too many whispers about Blackfyres and their supporters and him being a Kinslayer.

Brynden had had trouble the last few years at sleeping. There are too many dreams, too many thoughts, and doubts. Perhaps, Elaena was right and the mountain air was a cure to his sleeping woes. He steps out on the balcony on this warm night. This balcony overlooks the garden. He sees Shiera naked in the garden, arms raised in the moonlight, casting spells in an ancient tongue on the garden wall.

Wordlessly, he walks to the garden past his soldiers, past the servants. None of them met his gaze. He is rumored to use magic and it is apparent that Shiera does. It is said she practices dark arts. It is said that he has a thousand and one eyes. They are almost monsters, the two of them. He wonders why she would do this here.

Brynden walked outside, past the soldiers she was guarding her. He raises his hand to them for them to make no movement and continues to the garden wall. He speaks to her, What are you doing? Giving a show? I would have purchased a ticket.”

Shiera is out of breath. The magic has been strong and he can feel it beating from the walls with a heartbeat of its own. She has cuts from the dagger on her thighs and hands. It has been blood magic. She speaks, breathless in her husky voice, “I am certain this is the place.”

He has her robe in his hand but he makes no move toward her. She must finish her spell. He will not come too close until she is done He speaks as she finishes the last words. “Are you? When did you see visions and make prophecies? “

Shiera turns toward him, stumbling. She is tired. Her silver-golden hair spills over her shoulders and down her back. The only thing she has on is her necklace of emeralds and sapphires. She never takes that off. He helps her, steadies her. She speaks, “Do not tease me! You have learned things since we have started studying… many things. I also have my ways of knowing.”

He touches the wall where she has drawn a symbol on the walls in her own blood. He makes sure not to touch the symbol. He asks her, “What magic is this? Why have you done this?”

Shiera spoke, “The mage from Asshai has said this is the place where the dragon will be born, the dragon who will save the world. Only fire can defeat ice. Only fire can burn winter away. The magic is old. It will keep those within safe from outside harm, even after the physical walls crumble. It will make this place hard to find if the seeker is uncertain what they seek. It will keep those it needs to safe until help comes. This is the place. I feel it.”

Brynden does not like it when she becomes so caught up in Aerys’ mages and prophets. He looks at the wounds on her arms and thighs. Some are deep and it worries him. He helps her put her robe on.

“Come back to bed, Sheira. Let the future worry about itself. We need to get you a bath.”

After her bath and her wounds are tended, Sheira is sleeping gently in his arms. But, Brynden cannot sleep. The magic she has cast is so strong. It is thriving, beating force burned in the walls, burned in the ground, beating out a will and force of protection. He cannot hear anything but it. It sounds like a war drum.

Chapter Text

Baelor Breakspear is thirty years old. He has been the Hand of the King for four years. His wife was a good woman, loyal and faithful, kind and pious. Jena Dondarrion Targaryen bore him six children. The sixth one killed her. Out of all six, only Valarr, who is twelve, and Matarys, who is six, survived, The rest died in infancy or came from her body, cold and blue.

Jena was a good wife and Baelor cared for her. She has been dead for four years. Jena and his last child died a fortnight before the Battle of Redgrass Field. Everyone had said it was an ill omen. However, Baelor had defeated the Blackfyres, even in his grief.

His father, King Daeron the Good, had chosen wives for each of his sons, picked them with careful consideration. Jena was chosen to soothe the Marcher lords. After all, it was well-known that Daeron favored the Dornish. His wife had been Dornish and Mariah Martell had influenced Daeron. Daeron’s Court was full of Dornish nobles and the Marcher lords chafed at how high Dorne had risen. To marry the next King to a Marcher lord’s daughter would bring balance.

At sixteen, Baelor, the Prince of Dragonstone, had wed her in the Sept of Baelor. It had been a grand affair. On his wedding day, Baelor had told his father though Lady Jena was comely, but that he did not love her and never would. His father, Daeron, had told him that respect and care went much further than desire and affection in marriage. That was all that was said. Baelor was the Prince of Dragonstone and the Iron Throne needed an heir.

In those days, the early years of his reign, King Daeron II had come to the throne and found a great many relatives, causing troubles and conflict amongst themselves and around the Seven Kingdoms. Daeron’s solution had been to marry them off. There had been so many weddings in those years that it was joked that the bells at the Sept of Baelor never stopped ringing for the first five years of Daeron the Good’s reign.

Jena had golden brown hair and a warm laugh and eyes, as blue as a mountain sky. She had been a small slight thing. His own mother, Queen Mariah, had been critical of Jena whispering to him, “She will never get a baby out. You will be looking for a new wife soon.”

She had been wrong. Jena had pushed six children out and left behind two big healthy boys, an heir and a spare.

 

Occasionally, Baelor comes here to Elaena’s Tower to escape. After all, there is so much to do in King’s Landing, he can only rarely get to the Tower. So, when he can escape from the watchful eyes of his sons, the requests of an ever-growing family, the constant demands of helping rule the realm, he goes to this tower. Baelor tells his father that he comes here to go hunting. However, he makes sure to bring his aunt, Gwenys. Most never question why he brings her. After all, there are so many Targaryens, even the staff cannot keep track of them.

Lady Gwenys Rivers is often away from Court. She has a small keep outside of Pennytree and Lady Gwenys keeps her own counsel. Gwenys is well-loved by the smallfolk, a patron to musicians, artists, and minstrels, as well as generous in alms to the poor. She is a known healer and many say she is the reason that in two years, not a single woman has died in childbirth in Pennytree.

Gwenys was the opposite of Jena. She is all curves and curls. Gwenys is the classic silver Targaryen beauty, but she is as wild as the First Men with her bow and basket of healing herbs. Sometimes, when she is above him in bed, he is certain she is Rhaenys, wife to Aegon the Conqueror, reborn. It is a shame there are no dragons because she would be a fearless dragon rider.

Baelor savors the slope of her back and the thickness of her breast, the curves of her thighs and hips, and the way her dresses press deliciously against her body. So, as Baelor stretches in the dawn with Gwenys beside him in bed, he presses a kiss on her shoulder and whispers, “Gwenys, I love you.”

Baelor is not a man given to lies or exaggeration. He has loved Gwenys for years and yet, still, he always did his duty. He never was false to Jena or gave her any reason to believe he disrespected her in any way. After all, Jena was the mother of his sons.

So, it makes the last three years, all the more precious to him. After all, Baelor can tell Gwenys he loves her, here in the Elaena’s tower.

She stirs next to him. Her silver hair is laid out upon the pillow. His father does not know. His sons do not know. Bloodraven knows, but they do not speak of it.

Gwenys had been married to Lord Bracken’s son but he fell at Redgrass Field. She returned to the Red Keep to await the King's command on who she should marry. Two years ago, the King had brought up potential lords to wed the Lady Gwenys, but the Hand of the King had found an issue with each and every one of them. After that, the Hand of the King, Baelor, helped Lady Gwenys acquire the rights to the keep in Pennytree. After all, out of the King’s sight kept her out of the King’s mind.

There are some at Court who say Prince Baelor should marry and have more sons. After all, he is the Prince of Dragonstone and still young. There are some who whisper that Baelor is too common, too Dornish. Baelor has dark hair and dark eyes. He has none of the Valyrian features. He does not have visions, madness, or dragon dreams. Sometimes, he is given to brooding but it is nothing compared to his brother, Maekar’s moodiness. He is unremarkable as Targaryens go.

When he was a child, his Great Uncle Aemon was more of a grandfather to him than his grandfather. After all, Aegon IV was busy with gluttony, debauchery, and lust. But Uncle Aemon, the Dragonknight, would gather him in his arms and play as a grandfather would. At six, Uncle Aemon the Lord Commander had shown him how to hold a sword. The knight had spoken to him gently, “Baelor, you will be King someday and you must know how to fight. You must know how to lead your men. You must be brave and true, even when you are afraid.”

Even at six, Baelor had asked Ser Aemon, “Should I be King, Uncle? I do not look like my baby brothers with their silver hair and purple eyes. Daemon, Daenerys, even Gwenys has the Targaryen look, but I do not. Perhaps, I do not deserve to be King.”

Aemon had hugged him and spoken, “Baelor, a Dragon can have many colors. Do not doubt who you are. Your Valyrian blood will shine through your actions and deeds.”

Perhaps, this fierce love he had for Gwenys was just his Targaryen blood. Maybe, it was his only Targaryen trait. As far back as he knew her, Baelor desired and loved her. No matter how he had resisted Gwenys had been in his thoughts. After Redgrass Field, Gwenys had come to the battlefield, risking terrible harm to find him. She had come to his tent, kissing him passionately. Baelor had commanded his men to leave the tent, even as she undressed. Gwenys had wrapped her arms around him, touching his face, “I dreamed you fell. That a dragon and a giant killed you. I swore it was Daemon and Bittersteel. I had to come to find you.”

Baelor had teased her, even as his heart quicken, looking at her naked before him. “You are not Brynden. Gwenys, your dreams do not come true.”

Silver hair spilled over her shoulders as Gwenys had kissed him, climbing in his lap. At first, Baelor had thought to resist that she had been newly widowed and this was grief. But desire overtook reason and he could see her dead husband's cruelty, still bruising her arms and thighs. Baelor had wished to kill her husband again. That was the first night they had made love.

After that, Baelor found he could not stop kissing her and he wondered how he had ever been strong enough to resist the pull of his desire.

Of course, the truth of it is Gwenys is a liability. Targaryens do not marry their aunts anymore. It has fallen out of fashion along with their dragons and their exceptionalism. After all, incest made Daemon Blackfyre. Now, the Targaryens must be like other Great Houses. They must make alliances with weddings. Sisters are not for wives but alliances. All of Daeron sons and grandsons will marry to strengthen the realm. None of them will marry anyone closer than a second cousin. Good King Daeron II has forbidden it.

Of course, tonight she told him something that could break apart the realm. She is pregnant with his child. Gwenys could see the trouble break his face, as soon as she spoke the words. “No one will ever know you are the father. I can raise it alone, a bastard.”

Then, Gwenys had started to cry that he was not happy. Baelor had gathered her in his arms, kissing her and speaking gentle words. In her arms, the Seven Kingdoms seemed far away and duty disappeared. But as she slept, Baelor was left with his troubled thoughts and what it meant for the realm.

Chapter Text

Maekar knows her better than her oldest friend. His wife’s oldest friend is a cousin named Clarissa Dayne but Maekar knows Dyanna better.

Dyanna loves the color of purple, deep and dark like his eyes, like the eyes of most of their children. She calls the color Royal. It started as a jest, to tease him but now all the flowers in her room are purple. There are no flowers here in this tower. He wants to bring her back to her rooms at Summerhall.

Maekar knows hundreds of things about his wife and for some reason, he cannot stop listing them in his head in hundreds of different ways. Maekar and his wife, Dyanna were born on the same day one month apart. Maekar knows that Dyanna is never cold even in the dead of winter. He knows how she loves spicy foods, roasted peppers, ginger cookies, Dornish snake, seared and so spicy tears would squeeze from your eyes. Even now she craves the heat of spicy food. He has sent men to Lord Wyl’s and Lord Manwoody’s to see if they have the spices, peppers, or even snake that they might cook for Maekar’s wife.

Lady Dyanna is so very ill now that the servants have grown concerned and seek to bring the gentle lady some comfort. She would laugh to hear her called gentle but she is. Dyanna remembers the name of the family of the servants, their cares and worries, the things she can give them that they enjoy. She goes not think she is gentle but her spirit is generous and loving. After all, she loves Maekar and he is the most unlovable of all of Daeron’s sons.

He cannot believe she is dying. After all, they have four sons, one is still a toddler and two daughters, one is still an infant. Dyanna is too young to die.

Maekar loves the way she would hold the children two at a time. Sometimes, even three. Once, he caught her consoling Daeron, holding Daella and Aegon, while Aemon crawled in her lap. Instead of reprimanding them or getting cross, Dyanna laughed. She is never cross or upset at the children, only concerned. Sometimes, he wanted to ask her how she would not get angry or upset. He never has and now, he feels there is too little time to waste on silly questions.

 

Maekar is very worried about his wife. Maekar loves his wife very much. He wanted her to stay in Summerhall with the Maesters, the healers, and even a wizard that Aerys sent to help. Summerhall has huge roaring fires in fireplaces and warm baths. This tower has none of that. This tower is simple, too simple for his wife who he loves and who is dying.

 

Dyanna is never cold, even in winter but she loves fires. Lately, she cannot get warm. No matter how many blankets or how big the fire, Dyanna is shivering. Last night, even as he had covered her with furs and thick quilts, he saw her legs shiver. She is getting so thin that he feels that she is all bones. But she is too thin and she will not eat. Her hands and feet are always cold. But she begged him to come.

“We must show the children the apple tree. We must show them where we fell in love.”

Maekar wants to say Do not go. He wants to say it but he is not a man to say foolish things so he does not speak.

When her milk stopped for Rhae, suddenly, when she first took sick, Maekar did not know who cried more Dyanna or the infant. Maekar had tried to reassure her, “None of our children will ever go hungry. They will not want for anything. I am their father and the King is their Grandfather. They will be well.”

Dyanna had smiled but he had seen doubt or pain in her eyes. He wishes he could ask her what she thinks he won’t be able to give them. But he is not a sentimental man given to foolish notions and he does not know how to ask her and not appear foolish.

Dyanna has brought all the children with her. All of them, and their nurses and the staff. They have overrun this small tower. The dry cool mountain air was supposed to help her. The altitude, the solitude, the waters from the spring. Each member of his family had a different reason why she must come. Even Aunt Elaena had said, “Take her there, Maekar. It may not cure her but it will calm her.”

But in the end, Maekar had only come because Dyanna had wanted it. In his mind, that was reason enough.

Maekar loved how smart she was and how she might stay up all night reading. Or how proud he was that both Baelor and his father might ask her opinion. Even shifty Bloodraven would listen to Dyanna when she spoke. It made Maekar proud.

There are so many things special about Dyanna. She is smart and she is pretty but Dyanna is a fine archer and good enough with a sword. Dyanna is good with animals and can train the most badly behaved hounds. She has even helped the Master of Horse. Of course, once they were married, she had to be more careful. She has spent so much of their time together pregnant. He knows it has been hard on her body and spirit. He has tried to not always make her pregnant but even when he tries to abstain, Dyanna would beg him to come to their bed and make love to her.

 

Her favorite animals are seals, like the ones in the harbor by the Torrentine though she absolutely loves mountain lions, as well. They saw one on the ridge while they traveled here. She had teased him, “Perhaps that is the Old Gods of Dorne come to take me home.”

She knows much of the First Men in Dorne, before the Rhoynish, and how they worshipped, snake, scorpion, tree, rock, star, and mountain lion. She has an irreverent nature. Maekar blames her Dornish upbringing. But even though she is given to laughter and joy, he knows how she would sometimes get anxious at court, but never at Summerhall. He is the same. Summerhall is their refuge.

When they arrived here, his brother, Baelor had been her. Baelor had not seen Dyanna is a year. But when he saw her, Baelor looked at his brother and said, “I will stay.”

 

Maekar had wanted to tell him to go away and leave him with his grief and goodbyes but Daeron and Aemon had been glad to see him. It had been the first time that Daeron had stopped crying or talking of his dreams. Before Dyanna had even delivered Rhae, Daeron had told them of his dream of his mother’s grave in the mountains. The boy would not be calmed. As Dyanna grew sicker, Daeron grew more anxious. Maekar had threatened to beat him but the boy still talked of his dreams.

Then, before they had left Summerhall, he had caught Aerion hurting a puppy. Baelor had been one more person who could keep an eye on all the children. Maekar should have refused to bring all the children here. This was foolishness. But he could not refuse Dyanna anything. This trip was a fool's errand.

 

Now, Maekar carves an M+D in the old tree as the children watch with Dyanna, the tree she climbed to steal them apples all those years ago. Baby Aegon is in her lap. Daeron is watching his mother but he is sitting on the grass, pretending he is not crying. Daella sits beside her mother and Aemon holds her hand. Even though he is only four, Aemon is like his eldest child. He never cries. Rhae is napping in the care of her nurse. Aerion is being punished in his room for pinching little Aegon. He thinks to himself that he has named all his sons after Targaryen heroes. His brothers have given all their children new names, names that their children can make whatever destinies they want. Maekar has saddled his children with legends to try and fill. Perhaps, that is part of the reason Dyanna is worried for the children.

Maekar hopes Daeron will grow stronger and Aerion will stop hurting the weak. He has more and more fears. Watching Dyanna get sicker, he feels weak. It is not a feeling he is comfortable with.

Right now, Dyanna is clapping, happy, in the garden they first met.

“Wonderful,” Dyanna says. Maekar turns. He feels the smile on his face. Daeron is smiling, Daella, Aemon, even little Aegon. Everyone is happy. Suddenly, she coughs a harsh, wet sound. Blood stains her lips and the cloth that she held to her mouth. Maekar moves Aegon to the grass and calls for her maids, taking her hands in hers. Aegon bursts into tears as does Daeron.

Maekar is scared. He has faced armies, swords, death, court intrigue, but this is his worse fear come true.

However, fear, like most emotions for Maekar, turns to anger. He is angry, He has only had thirteen years with this woman who he loves. Thirteen years is not enough time. Thirteen years is enough time to have six children. Thirteen years is enough to know all her secrets, all her hopes, all her likes, and dislikes. But thirteen years is not a lifetime and he does not want to live the rest of his life without her.