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A Dream of Dragons

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Prologue

“Children don’t grow up looking at perfect parents. Rather, using their imperfect parents as anti-teachers, children nourish a spirit of independence.”

Alex Cazellnu.

 

Jon

The sound of drums, lutes and harps filled the tavern with jolly tunes that made his head hurt. The wine was not much better, bitter and stale on the tongue. Even now he missed the musky taste of ale his Uncle Benjen had allowed him to drink on feast days.

“Why are you staring at the wall, my boy?” Ser Frankly Flowers, the Bastard of Cider Hall asked him across the table. He was a big-bellied, shambling hulk of a man with a seamed face crisscrossed with old scars. Especially, his right ear was ugly to behold. It looked as if Ghost had chewed it off and missed the left one. His many scars were evidence of his twelve years of service in the Golden Company. Jon often felt around him like a babe in swaddling clothes, though he had served for three years, from the age of twelve. “Look here!”

Jon sighed and put his blade away. Craning his neck he turned around and found his companion flanked by two pleasure slaves. One was a big-breasted woman of twenty and the other a young freckled girl of ten and three. It was hard to stare in their faces when they were dressed in nothing more than translucent shifts and shawls. Even Jon had a hard time to avoid those rosy nipples staring him right in the face.

“I see teats,” he confirmed and rose to his feet. They had ridden all day and his weary bones longed for the comfort of his bed. It was the excitement that had kept him awake for so long. Tomorrow he would finally meet his two last relatives Prince, Viserys and Princess Daenerys Targaryen. He had waited for this day for many years. ”I am sure your mother had them too. Mayhaps you miss them so much that you have to stare at their teats all night, Sir?”

“Fuck you, you little runt!” Ser Franklyn he cursed in a slurred voice and slammed his hand on the table. The wood rattled and the bottles nearly fell to the ground. “I am trying to do you a favour and you thank me with nasty comments!”

Jon laughed. He knew that Ser Franklyn was only teasing him. Jon had been incredibly frightened when he first made his acquaintance, but after three years he had realized what a loyal friend he could be. More than once he had saved Jon’s neck during a heated battle. If anything he was part of the reason Jon was still alive.

“My bed is waiting,” Jon added and made his way to the door, but stopped before opening it. He turned around and threw the man a mocking smile. ”And don’t drink too much. I can’t have you vomiting over Prince Viserys’ boots or this magister harbouring him might send us on our way before we have even spoken a single word.”

Jon heard Ser Frankly’s snort. ”Prince Viserys’ my ass! I only agreed to this, because Griff asked me to keep your pretty little head safe.:.”

“Kill me…,” he heard the groaning voice of Young John Mudd or simply Muddy. It was a more than fitting name. His was a weathered face littered with scars and his crude mouth was only surpassed by his brutality on the battlefield. No one had killed more man with his dagger than Muddy. ”My bowels are threatening to crawl out of my mouth…”

And yet he had one weakness. Wine didn’t become him, though he often claimed the contrary. One or two cups were enough to send him on the privy for hours.

“There is no saving from stupidity. Ser Franklyn told me to keep away from the wine,” Jon remarked sarcastically and knelt down to brush his hand through Ghost’s fur. Jon marvelled at its softness and smiled when the wolf lifted his head. His ruby eyes glittered in the candlelight as they beheld Muddy’s attempt to keep his food inside his stomach. It was an endeavour doomed to fail.

“I am going to sleep,” Jon added and pulled off his cloak, followed by his leather armour and boots. The bed was made of hay, but it was pleasant enough. ”Wake me at dawn or when your bowels have finally crawled out of your mouth...”

“Fuck you, Jon!” came the prompt reply, but uttered by Muddy this was practically a polite way of bidding him goodnight. ”Fuck you!”

Jon ignored the groaning sounds behind him and pulled the blanket over his shoulder. Ghost joined him soon, his warm body moving against his. Carefully, Jon placed his blade next to his sleeping place and slipped his hand inside the vest of his cloak. There he kept his most valuable possession, a small ruby torn from his father’s armour during the battle of the Trident. Jon had pictured the battle a hundred times. Inside the rushing waters of the river stood two men, hacking and slashing at each other, their polished armour glimmering in the dying sunlight. One was garbed in black armour, hundreds of rubies glittering on his chest. The other man, tall and strong like a giant, wore silver amour, his horned helmet even more frightening than his massive war hammer. At times Jon saw the moment of his father’s doom as clearly as if it had happened right in front of his eyes. First the mighty war hammer collided with his chest and then came the death blow, right into his face. Then blood would run down his chin and to taint the river below, followed by a stream of rubies and the blood of the men fighting in this ill-fated battle.

The pain was also there, a dull clenching motion around his heart. For the first eight years of his life he had called his Uncle Eddard father, but then he received the truth from his Uncle Benjen’s mouth. It was this truth that had changed his life irrevocably and led him here to Essos, to the Golden Company and his fate.

Being so close to his goal, he thanked the gods of his forbearers and kissed the ruby. Then he turned around, closed his eyes and dreamed of dragons.

Daenerys

Daenerys clutched the bedding to her chest to hide her naked bosom. Viserys had seen her nakedness before, but now she didn’t want him to see her. She felt shame, though she didn’t know why.

Her Lady Mother had prepared her for this day, for her duty, now she felt only disappointment. The colourful descriptions of the other girls gave her high expectations, but it was nothing more than an uncomfortable rumble beneath the sheets that Viserys had imposed on her.

More than once she heard him boast about his prowess in bed, but Daenerys saw none of it tonight. He had fumbled her breasts, thrust inside her, before he spilled his seed in her.

Truly, it was a grave disappointment.

“Put the bedding away!” her brother demanded again and stared at her from the table next to the window, a golden cup of wine placed on the table beside him. ”I want to see you.”

Daenerys shivered when she heard the dangerous tone ringing in his voice. She didn’t want to wake the dragon, but she needed to know.

“Will I be your wife?” she asked determinedly. ”Will we finally go home?”

Her brother gave a high-pitched laugh that belied his amusement.

“I promised nothing,” he replied in a sing-song voice and sipped on his cup. ”Don’t play stupid. We cannot go home without an army.”

“I am not stupid,” she snapped at him as she crawled out of bed to pull on her dress. Her Lady Mother had taken great care to educate her in languages and history. What right does he have to call me stupid? ”We have been staying in the Magister’s house for nearly a year and we still have no army. We could go back to Volantis…I heard the Second Sons lost another contract to the Golden Company. They might be desperate enough to help us with our cause. We could even sell the Magister’s gifts…,” she continued but was silenced by Viserys’ angered gaze.

“Who are you?” he asked her in a shrieking voice.

“I am your future Queen,” she reminded of his promises and fastened the strings of her dress. ”I gave you my maidenhead.”

When she turned around she found him standing in front of her, his long fingers brushing over her neck and cheek.

“And does a dutiful Queen council her King on such matters?” he asked, his grip tightening on her neck. Daenerys was barely able to breathe. ”Does she?”

She shook her head, tears filling her eyes. She hated begging, but her brother the King demanded it.

“No…” she gasped and let her go. Daenerys felt dizzy as she leaned against the bed and rubbed her neck. Anger stirred in her heart, but she didn’t want to wake the dragon. She had tasted enough disappointments for one day.

Behind her she heard the creaking of the door and when she turned around she spotted one of the servant girls. Mariah was her name. Daenerys liked playing with her.

“Did you bring the tea?” Viserys asked the girl. Mariah kept her gaze fixed on the ground as she stepped forward and placed a cup of steaming tea on the nearby table. Daenerys stared at the cup while Mariah had used the moment to slip out of the room. Like most of the servants she was afraid of her brother’s terrible rages.

“What is this?” she asked in a trembling voice.

“Tansy,” Viserys informed her and started to fasten his cloak. ”I want you to drink this. I doubt your husband would appreciate it if I put a child inside you. There will be plenty of time for this once I have retaken my crown.”

Daenerys’ heart filled with fear.

“Husband? Who?”

“A Dothraki horselord by the name of Khal Drogo,” he explained and picked up the steaming cup. ”The Magister assured me that he will give me an army in exchange for your hand in marriage. Forty-thousand Dothraki warriors will be at my command when I return to retake my crown.”

Daenerys clutched her throat in fear. She had heard many stories about the Dothraki horselords, few of them good.

“And what of me?” she asked and winced at her strained voice. ”I doubt this horselord will return me to you once he put several babes in me.”

“Oh, don’t fret, sweet sister,” he assured her almost sweetly and leaned down to kiss her cheek. ”The Khal only craves for a son of kingsblood. Give him one and we shall have our army. I am sure he will not refuse to hand you back to me once the deal is done. I have the word of our host.”

Daenerys shook her head. She didn’t want to marry some horselord nor could she bring herself to trust this Magister Illyrio.

“Words are wind,” she reminded him of all the false promises that had been given to them over the last years. ”I don’t trust this magister. Mother would have agreed with me if she was still alive. She would have never…,” she continued, but was silenced by a slap on her cheek.

Viserys grabbed her hair before she was able to get back to her feet and pulled hard.

“Mother is dead and gone. It was your birth that weakened her health…you killed her. You owe me a mother. Now drink that tea or I am going to force it down your throat,” her brother whispered in her ear and twisted hard. She suppressed a whimper and felt the urge to scratch out his eyes. She had loved him once, the brother who used to tell her stories of dragons and knights, but this was no longer the sweet brother she had known. Her brother Viserys perished on the day of her mother’s death four years ago. ”Is that understood, sweet sister?”

“Aye…Aye,” she forced the answer over lips and stumbled towards the table. With trembling hands she lifted the cup and brought it to her lips. The bitter taste made her want to gag and poisoned her heart against her brother.

You will pay for this.

Jon

Prince Viserys received them in the Magister’s solar, a long tiled room decorated with countless trinkets and artefacts that reminded visitors of his wealth and power.

Going by his greasy smile, the Magister seemed pleased by their presence. He lay sprawled on a large cushioned canopy, grapes, peaches, nuts, cheese and other delicacies placed on a bowl in front of him. The silken pink robe wrapped around his massive body made him look like a large babe.

Not far from him, placed on a gilded throne sat Prince Viserys. Jon kept his gaze lowered, but was still able to take in his features. His Uncle’s skin was pale, his face sharp, his hair silver and his eyes lilac like the petals of a flower. Yet there was something off-putting in the way he lounged in his chair and watched their approach. Jon didn’t know what it was, but his feverish gaze gave him a rather sickly appearance.

So this is my Uncle, Jon though and wondered if his father had looked like him. He had asked his Uncle Eddard to describe him, but was unable to do so. Even Lord Connington’s descriptions of his father sounded more like an embellishment than reality. Mother would know, he was sure, but he hadn’t seen her since he was a young boy. That was before he knew that she was his mother and not Ashara Dayne like so many of the servants had guessed. Not that Jon blamed them. It had been the only possible explanation for his dark purple eyes. As a child he hated these eyes, because they drew everyone’s attention on him. Now he took comfort in them. It was one of the few things his father had left him.

 “Welcome! Welcome!” the Magister greeted them and lifted his cup. ”I am pleased to introduce the brave men of the Golden Company to you, your Grace.”

Prince Viserys eyed them with a scrutinizing look. His right hand rested on the handle of his chair and his other hand played with the lock of the silver-haired girl seated on a cushioned seat beside his feet. Jon had a hard time keeping his gaze fixed on the ground at the sight of this beautiful girl. He knew that he had an Aunt, barely a year younger than him, but he didn’t expect her to look this young. Her face still showed the plumpness of youth, framed by long silver hair that curled all the way down to her lap. Yet it were her large violet eyes that mesmerized him the most. They looked like amethysts.

“I can see them,” his Uncle sneered and narrowed his eyes in distrust when Jon, Ser Franklyn and Muddy dropped to their knees before him. ”But I can scarcely believe that these men are the best the Golden Company can offer. The two younger ones look like they barely out of their swaddling clothes. At least Mormont is a grown man, though he looks just as hideous as this one.”

“I am going to show you…,” Muddy muttered quietly, but he was promptly silenced by Ser Franklyn’s sharp look. Jon felt the urge to kick him, but his Uncle’s attention was resting on them and he looked more than impatient.

“My name is Ser Jon,” he introduced himself and lifted his gaze to look at his Uncle. ”And my two loyal companions are Ser Franklyn Flowers and Young John Mudd. We came all the way from Myr to serve your cause, your Grace.”

“Very well,” his Uncle acknowledged and craned his head to look at the fat magister. ”I shall give you a chance to prove your loyalty to me, but I have no use for two green boys. Ser Franklyn may serve me. The other two may serve my sister…she will be in need of two nursemaids once she weds the Khal.”

Khal, Jon muttered to himself. They heard nothing of a marriage to a Khal, only that the magister was in need of capable swords for his honorary guest Prince Viserys. Why would my Uncle wed his own blood to a filthy horselord? Nobody could deny the Dothraki’s courage in battle, but they were far below a Princess of House Targaryen. Half of Westerns will laugh at his Uncle if he locks himself in such an allegiance.

“I care not who I serve as long as I receive my promised payment,” Ser Franklyn informed his Uncle without much bravado.

His Uncle frowned.

“I only hope that you are as fearsome as a fighter as you are hideous, Sir Franklyn.”

Any other man would have received Ser Franklyn’s sword up his arse. Truly, his Uncle should count himself lucky that coin was more important to his companion than his lack of beauty.

“We came to serve,” Jon declared and turned his head to look at his young Aunt. He expected to see fear in her eyes or perhaps caution, but she simply stared at him and his two companions as if they were some oddity in a circus. ”Whoever you deem fit, your Grace.”

A ghost of a smile tugged on his Uncle’s lips.

“At least they are obedient,” he remarked to the fat magister.”Mayhaps I was wrong to judge them?”

The magister laughed, wine running down his neck.

“Oh, I couldn’t agree more with you, my King! Look at their scars…those are men used to hardship. Besides, the Princess is in dire need of other companions than the Khal’s bloodriders. We can’t have the Princess turn into a barbarian Queen, can’t we, your Grace?”

Then why are you are even considering this marriage, Jon wanted to add, but kept his mouth shut. What he saw of Prince Viserys was not encouraging. He had hoped to find a King worthy of a crown, but this man was nothing more than a pompous fool. No wonder half of Essos laughed about him. No wonder Griff refused to support him.

And yet he couldn’t help but to feel for the girl. She was like his mother, about to be sold off.

“I wholeheartedly agree!” his Uncle exclaimed and leaned back in his chair to pat his sister’s head. ”My sweet sister shall be my Queen after she birthed the Khal a son.”

He is mad, Jon thought later as he sat in his chamber and observed the moving of the stars through the window. It was a well-furnished room, filled with feather-beds, wax candles and Myrish carpets. It was a room fit for a King, but only helped to increase Jon’s discomfort.

Ghost seemed to share his feelings. He ran in circles, his ruby eyes restless.

Muddy and Ser Franklyn were different. Ser Franklyn devoured his lobster with great gusto while Muddy shuffled cake and pudding into his mouth as if his life depended on it.

“Why the dour look, Jon?” Ser Franklyn inquired. ”Did his Grace disappoint you? You should have listened to me. There is a reason they call him the Beggar King, though the Fool would be a far more appropriate name….He thinks the Dothraki will cross the Narrow Sea…Gods it’s more likely that Maelys the Monstrous returns from the dead. Well, the coin is plenty and the food is good. I shall not complain…”

Jon didn’t hear the rest of his words as he had stepped out on the terrace, leading to the lush gardens, surrounded by high stone walls. Palm trees, ciders and other exotic trees grew there, though it couldn’t compare to the godswood in Winterfell.

“Ghost!” he called out to his wolf and made his way down the stone steps leading to a rectangular pond covered with water lilies. Ghost liked to swim, but he was nowhere to be seen. ”Where the bloody hell did you go?”

“Ghost!” he shouted again, but was startled by the shriek of a girl. Jon whirled around and promptly found the owner of this voice and the source of the mischief. It didn’t surprise him when it turned out to be Ghost.

The girl garbed in the yellow dress of a servant girl, backed away from his wolf, her hands raised above her head as if to protect herself from a possible attack.

“Ghost!” he admonished the wolf and whistled. ”Come here, boy. You are frightening the girl.”

“I am not frightened…” the girl assured him in a proud voice and pulled herself back to her feet. Yet she trembled like a leaf in the wind when Ghost moved closer. ”I am not…” she trailed off and nearly jumped in the air when the wolf leaned down to lick her hand. The abrupt movement loosened her head covering and revealed the silver hair beneath.

“It’s you…,” he remarked, a bit rattled by his Aunt’s sudden appearance. ”Please forgive Ghost’s bad manners. He likes to startle people with his sudden appearances.”

She stared at the wolf and then at Jon.

“As do I,” she replied quickly and re-fastened her head covering. ”But I need to go. I bid you goodnight…you…and Ghost.”

Then she slipped away, back to the main house. Jon wondered what she had been doing out here alone, but then he couldn’t claim to know her. She may be his blood, but she was also a stranger.

The wedding was staged on a ploughed field behind the high walls of Pentos.

The Dothraki believe that all things of importance in a man’s life must be done beneath the open sky, Ser Jorah Momont had told him at the beginning of the celebrations.

The ceremony began at dawn and continued way past dusk, a never ending evening of drinking and fighting. Everywhere he looked he found men and women garbed in painted vests and horsehair leggings held together by bronze belts.

Jon observed their bloody battles in silence, but averted his gaze when the winner of said battle mounted the next girl available. As a sellsword he had beheld decapitated men and women, charred villages, bloated bodies and many more grizzly sights, but seeing someone submitted in such a manner made him recall his own ghosts. Even now, three years after the event, he felt their touch on his skin. At night, he sometimes woke drenched in sweat and trembling like a leaf. It will get better, Ser Franklyn had assured him more than once. Once you have buried yourself in a handful of girls you will forget about that incident.

Yet here he was, sick at the sight that made most men shrug with their shoulders. Muddy gave him a worried look as he continue to gorge on the roasted horseflesh minced with honey and pepper, before washing it down with fermented milk. Normally, Jon would have teased him for it, but he lost his taste for jokes when he laid eyes on his Uncle and the fat magister. He gorged on a piece of meat, grease dotting his chin and beard. His Uncle grinned and continued to whisper into Ser Jorah’s ear. He and Ser Franklyn were now his sworn swords, though his Uncle Viserys was a fool if he thought he could command the bastard of Cider Hall.

Ser Jorah was a different matter. Jon had left Winterfell to live with his Uncle Benjen when he was eight years old and wasn’t there when Ser Jorah was dragged before his Uncle Eddard to face his crimes. He had sold his own people into slavery to satisfy his wife’s tastes in silk and gold. Naturally, his Uncle intended to behead him, old knight fled to Essos before it could come to that. Now he was here and Jon couldn’t shrug off the feeling that he had recognized his Stark features.

Further down to the left sat Ser Frankly, who poured himself the third cup of wine. He always was a heavy drinker, but it had never harmed his ability in battle.

Jon followed his example and craned his neck to look at the Khal and his Aunt. Not far from them sat the bloodriders, sworn to protect the Khal’s new bride. None of them spoke the Common Tongue, but Ser Jorah had relayed their names to them. There were Rakharo and Aggo who engaged in some sort drinking competition that involved daggers while Jhogo the youngest among them continued to fumble around with one of the pleasure slaves.

Doreah, she was called. Another gift granted to his Uncle by this generous magister. She was a pleasure slave from Lys and endowed with their famous beauty. Her golden hair glimmered like beaten gold and her blue eyes were reminiscent of the summer sea. The other girls were called Irri and Jhiqui, sun-kissed beauties from the east. Like Doreah they were meant to serve as the Princess’ handmaids and they seemed to take their new task very seriously as they were already fluttering around her, serving her food and wine.

The Princess looked less elated, though she was not anything less beautiful. Her hair was a shroud of moonlight curling over her shoulders like molten silver. Her eyes looked even wider as if ready to burst out of her head.

I am not frightened, she had told him after facing Ghost. Not many a man could claim that and even now she sat there and endured this travesty. The only thing tainting her innocence was the pained smile curling on her lips. It was as feigned as the fat magister’s smiles.

Jon took another sip from his cup and directed his attention to the Khal. He was a mighty warrior of imposing statue, his long braid of black hair dotted with numerous bells that rang with every movement of his head.

Jon felt the urge to grab for his blade and to take his Aunt away from this cursed place. I could do it, he thought. I could kill the Khal, but not his whole khalasar. Jon knew not much about Dothraki culture, but he knew that his bloodriders would be sworn to avenge their Khal.

“Jon,” he heard Muddy’s raspy voice and felt the touch of his hand on his shoulder. ”The girl has no reason to trust us. Bide your time and we will get her away. Now drink up. It will help. For tonight I will keep to the fermented horse milk.”

Jon nodded his head, his hand clenching and unclenching around the hilt of his sword as the sun continued to descend in the east, painting the sky in a bloody glimmer. When the first stars appeared on the distant horizon the sound of drums halted.

One after another the guests presented their gifts to the bride. Viserys lined up the three girls meant to serve as the Princess’ handmaids and received not even a smile from his sister’s lips.

Then it was their turn to present their gifts. Ser Jorah Mormont came first and handed the Princess a stack of old books.

“It is not much, Princess,” he declared and laid the stack of books beneath her feet. She thanked him, but didn’t smile.

Only when she beheld the magister’s gift did her blank expression change. Inside a wooden box, made of white ciderwood, lay three eggs, each more colourful than the next. Jon gasped at the sight, his heart beat speeding up. More than once he had dreamed of riding such dragons, but seeing these eggs was probably the closest he will ever get to a real dragon.

“These eggs hail from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai.”

The Princess touched the eggs in wonder. Jon felt the uncontrollably urge to do the same, but clutched instead his sword hilt. Mayhaps I misjudged the magister? Why else would he gift my Aunt such priceless eggs?

At last Jon came forward to present their gifts. They had purchased them quickly, unaware of the impeding wedding. It was not much, a pair of silken dresses, slippers and a small encrusted dagger. It felt like an empty gift, but suddenly an idea started to bloom in his mind.

“I have one more gift,” he declared quietly and slipped his hand in the vest of his cloak. It was his most precious possession that had accompanied him through many a bloody battle. Seeing her fearful expression, he realized that she had more need of it than he did.

“Here…” he said and placed the ruby in her slender hands. Slowly, she opened her hand and eyed his gift with curiosity. ”It is a ruby taken from Prince Rhaegar’s armour. I ask you not to show it to his Grace, but I assure you it was given to me by someone loyal to your cause.”

The Princess gasped and clutched the ruby to her chest. Her eyes glistened with tears. She had avoided him so far and now was the first time she was looking at him directly. Jon’s heart stopped at the sight and as subtly as possible he lowered his gaze.

“Who is this person loyal to our cause?” she asked him in a soft, but determined voice. The Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, he wanted to answer. My mother. Your brother’s second wife.

Instead he smiled at her and rose back to his feet.

“I will tell you some day, Princess. I promise.”

She swallowed down her obvious disappointment and nodded her head in understanding.

“I will not forget your promise,“ she replied with a weak smile.

Jon gave her a tight smile, called for Ghost and left. He had no intention to behold the rest of this travesty, the frustration clenching around his heart keeping him awake. He was barely four when his mother had left him to wed Robert Baratheon. To protect you, his Uncle Eddard had told him, but Jon didn’t care for his own safety. It was not worth the price his mother paid, to wed to a man she hated, the very same man who slew his father.

Jon forgave his Uncle Eddard for his lies, but had yet to forgive him for sending his mother away. Mayhaps he would never be able to forgive him for this betrayal, but it was nothing compared to the hatred held for his other Uncle, Prince Viserys.

My time will come, he thought and sharpened his blade. My time will come.

Chapter Text

Daenerys

The water was like a balm on her bruised calves. They had left Pentos weeks ago and were now steadily moving through the outskirts of towards Qohor. Ser Jorah, one of her brother’s swords had promised her an endless plain of coloured grass, but so far she had only seen an endless sea of fir trees. Along the way the horde had pillaged and burned several villages, but the bloodriders and her sworn swords didn’t allow her to witness the killings. Her brother Viserys, on the other hand, had observed everything from an elevated hill and had bragged all morning how he would do the same to their enemies.

Even now, half-covered in the cool waters of the river, she saw him strutting around like a sergeant inspecting his soldiers.

Not wanting to behold his face, she dipped her head in the water and emerged from the river, naked as her name day to receive her robes from her faithful handmaids. Shame filled her when Irri had to help her slip into the painted vest and horse grass leggings. That the Khal tended to mount her like a stallion a mare didn’t ease the pain. Yet it were not the blisters or the tears that caused her the greatest pain. It was the shame that cut the deepest. The shame her brother caused her by throwing her away like some piece of meat.

You are a Princess of House Targaryen, her Lady Mother had reminded her whenever they thought they wouldn’t make it through the next moon. And one day you and your brother shall retake what was once ours.

“Let us sit by the river…it is a good place,” Irri suggested gently and helped her walk over the stones, lining the riverside. There they sat down on a small patch of green grass, the pleasant breeze coming from the west almost pleasant on her skin.

It was a good place. From there they had a good view over the river and the horde. The riverside was crowded with women, children and warriors. Some ref-filled their water skins and others washed their clothing. Only the children seemed to see the refreshing water as a good opportunity for play. Not far from them a handful of boys splashed water at each other, their shrill cries echoing in her ears.

“Look, the sellswords!” Jhiqui remarked and pointed at the slight curve of the river bend. Daenerys raised her head and found them half-emerged in the waters of the river. The oldest of the three men, a knight by the name of Ser Franklyn, had his back turned to her and the one commonly called Muddy was splashing water at his hideous companion. Jon, the youngest member of the group, continued to wash his massive white wolf.

Daenerys’ heart had nearly stopped when she first laid eyes on the massive beast, but by now she had learned that the wolf was as gentle as a summer breeze. In her presence he hardly ever growled or bared his teeth, though she had no doubt that he would be able to take on any enemy. His owner was even stranger. He hardly spoke and when a word finally left his mouth he spoke in an iron tone that left no room for doubts. It was a contradiction.

Most of his time was spent watching the Dothraki warriors as if to study every detail of their movements and on other days he sat with his wolf and sharpened his blade. Daenerys had yet to see him use it, but she doubted that he was as green as her brother claimed. Even from here she saw the scars that littered his body. He was no doubt someone who had seen battle, though he was much younger than her brother.

“The one with the beast has a beautiful body,” Doreah remarked with a knowing smile and jerked her head at the young man. Like the other men he wore not more than his loincloth, though that was nothing compared to the Dothraki warriors who strutted around naked.

“His beast scares me,” Irri added shyly.

“Ghost is a soft-hearted beast. You have no need to fear him when I am near you. A dragon does not have to fear the wolf,” Daenerys assured her and took in the appearance of the young knight. Nobody could deny that he was well-build, though he had yet to fully grow into the body of a man. Yet it was not his body she found alluring, but his eyes. Her Lady Mother passed away four years ago, but even now she recalled her dark purple eyes, eyes this young man seemed to share with her. My forbearers were not the only ones graced with such eyes, she thought. Ser Jorah had said that he might be Eddard Stark’s bastard and that he might have fathered him on a woman of Valyrian blood, though that doesn’t explain why he gifted me the ruby.

I assure you the ruby was given to me by someone loyal to your cause, he had told her and had filled her mind with even more questions. Viserys and her had ventured throughout all of Essos in search of men willing to take up arms for their cause, but found only mockery and misery. Viserys had claimed that it was her birth that weakened their mother’s health, but Daenerys knew that this was another one of his lies. Her Lady Mother had suffered much misfortune in her life and was not easily shaken. It was the shame that had killed her and not her weak health. It was just another lie Viserys made up to justify his cruelty towards others.

I need to get away from here, she thought and averted her gaze from the men in the river. These sellswords were not loyal to the Khal’s cause, but she wasn’t sure if she could trust them. She had to tread carefully, though feared the passing of time just as much as to get with child. She had felt more than relived when her moonblood, though her handmaids were less pleased. Bearing a son to the Khal would bind them forever to their cause and she decided that she would have no part in supporting her brother’s foolish plan. The day he sold her was the day he stopped being her brother.

“Khaleesi,” Irri whispered in her ear. ”The horde is moving. We should go back to our horses. The bloodriders will be waiting for us…and the two sellswords.”

Daenerys nodded her head in understanding and leaned on Doreah’s arm to pull herself back to her feet.

Her horse was a pale filly she had called Silver. It was a beautiful gift, but it couldn’t wash the bitterness in her heart. Sometimes, when she was able to find sleep, she dreamed that her horse would transform into a massive dragon with silver wings, ready to devour her enemies. Sometimes, it was the usurper who died, though she didn’t even know what he looked like. On other days it was her brother who was torn apart by the sharp fangs of her dragon, his shrill screams echoing in her ears. It was a dream, nothing more than a figment of her imagination and yet she had three precious eggs. Deana the Seer had the gift and foresaw the Doom of Valyria. Mayhaps I was blessed with a similar gift?

The road ahead proved as unpleasant as before. Every movement hurt and she tried to direct her attention elsewhere. She spoke with her handmaids, trying to master the Dothraki tongue, counted the trees or watched the two sellswords, riding behind her. More than once she caught the one called Muddy staring at Doreah. The other one kept his gaze fixed on his massive white wolf prowling next to his horse. At times Daenerys wondered why he had need of a horse when he owned such a massive wolf. Daenerys herself could have easily fitted on the animal’s back.

I should ask him, she thought and recalled their first meeting in Magister Illyrio’s mansion. She had dressed herself as a servant girl, hoping to escape her marriage. And he might be able to help me.

“Stay here,” she told her handmaids. ”I wish to speak with the sellsword.”

“As you wish Khaleesi,” they replied in unison and she urged her horse towards the two sellswords. The one called Muddy gave her dumb look and the one called Jon dropped his head in greeting. He didn’t smile, his face concealed by a blank expression. It was obvious that he disliked being here.

“How may be of service, Princess?” he inquired in a polite tone, his voice softer than anticipated.

“Princess,” she repeated softly. “The Dothraki call me Khaleesi. I think they would prefer if you called me by their chosen title.”

“What do you prefer?” he asked in return.

Princess, she wanted to reply, but kept her opinion to herself.

“It doesn’t matter,” she replied and pursed her lips. His was a long unreadable face that allowed no hint of emotion. She wondered if it would crack if he dared to smile. ”There is something else I want to know. Ser Jorah implied to my brother that you are Eddard Stark’s bastard son. Is it true that your father serves the usurper?”

“Lord Eddard Stark…my father…serves the current King,” he replied honestly, though he didn’t seem pleased about this fact. ”But I haven’t seen him in three years. I ran away from home when I was nothing more than a green boy.”

“Why did you run away?”

“I concerned my mother,” he replied hesitatingly. ”Not something I want to talk about, but I think I understand what you are trying to say. I assure you…I am no spy nor do I hold much love for the King or...the usurper. He is my enemy, though I cannot claim to love your father the Mad King either…,” he trailed off, his gaze resting on her.

The Mad King, she thought and recalled all the great things her brother Viserys had told her about their father.

Her Lady Mother was different. She always  avoided speaking about her father.

His cruelty was his downfall, was all she had told Daenerys after she decided the press the issue. Sadly, your Lord Father was no man to be admired.

Even now she recalled her bitter tears. Daenerys never dared to ask her again.

“What earned him the name Mad King?” she asked, both fearful and curious. ”My brother never fails to speak fondly of my Lord Father.”

“He killed my Uncle and Grandfather,” he explained solemnly, but didn’t avert his gaze. She didn’t know why, but he seemed to like staring at her eyes. ”Did you hear about their deaths, Princess?”

She nodded her head in confirmation.

“My brother claims they received their due punishment. They threatened the life of a Prince of House Targaryen.”

“My Uncle did,” Jon corrected her gently. ”He wanted to retrieve his sister. He acted foolishly, but he didn’t deserve his fate. My Grandfather only came to help his son and ended up burned alive while my Uncle was forced to watch. Such was the justice of the Mad King. Still, I hold no love for the usurper. Mayhaps, one of these days I will tell you my reasons, Khalessi.”

Daenerys shivered, but she should have known better than to believe her brother.

“Why not?”

He gave her a weak smile.

“Not the right time. Believe me, it would only upset you.”

She felt disappointed and decided to change the topic.

“And your mother?” she inquired and searched his face. She liked looking at his eyes. They reminded her of her mother and filled her with warmth. ”Did she give you these strange eyes? Was she perhaps of Valyrian blood?”

He gave her a pained smile.

“I fear I can’t tell you about that either.”

“It is just…my Lady Mother had similar eyes,” she countered quickly and led her horse closer. She watched him closely and saw a flicker of surprise washing over his long face.

“I see,” he acknowledged. ”Sadly, I never had the honour to meet your mother Queen Rhaella. I heard she was a gracious woman.”

“She was,” she confirmed and looked away. Thinking of her mother made her sad and she didn’t want him to see her tears. ”But she died four years ago. Her death broke my brother…he loved her dearly.”

“He is still a piece of shit,” he muttered, his voice laced with anger. ”And his plan is doomed to fail. Even the lords still loyal to your family might flock to the usurper if he brings a horde of Dothraki to Westeros.”

Daenerys should have reprimanded him for his choice of words, but it felt good to hear someone speak the truth. It also gave her the courage to pose the question she had wanted to ask him all along.

“This person loyal to our cause,” she whispered. ”Did he send you to find us?”

“Not directly,” he replied and abruptly averted his gaze. He looked conflicted. ”But he would protect you. This I know.”

Daenerys didn’t know what to make of his words, but it was better than nothing.

“What about my brother?”

Jon scoffed.

“As I said…your brother is a man doomed to fail. He will never sit the Iron Throne.”

“No,” she replied and recalled the day he took her maidenhead. It made it easy to hate him. No, I am done helping him. He can stay with the Dothraki if he likes them so much.

“What about me?” she asked and kept her voice intentionally low. None of the bloodriders spoke well enough to understand what they were saying, but she didn’t want to take an unnecessary risk. ”Would you be able to bring me to this loyal subject?”

He neither smiled nor frowned.

He simply lowered his head and whispered his answer.

“Certainly, Princess, though we need to tread carefully. Your husband’s warriors know these lands better than anyone. We should leave once we have passed Vaes Dothrak. I have an idea....”

He is not my husband, she wanted to answer, but kept her thoughts to herself.

“I understand,” she replied and looked around, making sure nobody had listened to their conversation. ”We need to tread carefully.”

Then she lowered her head in greeting and led her horse back to her handmaids.

What the young knight had told her was true. They couldn’t just ride off and hope for the best. The bloodriders were quick as the wind. It would mean their death.

The sun had disappeared behind the horizon when they made camp in a barren valley. A starless sky spread over the sky as Irri and Jhiqui helped her wash and dress. Doreah had left earlier, to fetch their supper and had yet to return.

Thus Irri spent the rest of the night educating her in the tongue of the Dothraki. The Khal avoided her presence tonight, to celebrate his victory. He had enough women ready to satisfy his need. Daenerys was only meant to be mounted and to bear his heir. She had taken two wives before her, but both of them failed to deliver an heir or perished in doing so.

His seed his cursed, she was convinced and watched the movement of the flames. At last, Doreah returned, but without the promised supper.

Daenerys gasped when she saw her bruised face and her tattered robe.

“What happened?” she asked the teary-eyed girl and brushed her hand over her bleeding cheek. ”Who did this?”

“The Prince…,” she stuttered, tears rolling down her cheeks. ”I displeased him. I told him that I am to fetch our supper, but he didn’t listen.”

“Why didn’t you call for the bloodriders?” she asked her gently and directed her towards the fire.

“Get fresh water to clean the wound!” she told Irri, who didn’t hesitate to fulfil her task.

Jhiqui brought fresh lines. Daenerys gave her a warm smile and dipped the cloth in the water, before she brushed it over Doreah’s face.

“I had worse…,” the girl assured her, but Daenerys wanted to hear no apology. A King ought to be kind and gentle, not cruel and vicious like her brother.

“I should have his head for this…,” she muttered to herself.

“Khaleesi…,” she protested, but Daenerys shook her head and helped her with her dress. It was not hard to deduce what her brother did to her.

“This is no empty threat,” she told the girl and helped her to wash the blood away. ”This I promise.”

Doreah smiled, her eyes wet with tears and made her way back to her sleeping place. Daenerys watched in silence as she rummaged through her belongings to retrieve a bundle of herbs. Carefully, she picked a leaf from the bundle, rubbed it between her hands and put it into her mouth. “What use does this plant have?”

“To keep babes away,” Doreah explained and touched her stomach. ”The herb is not as good as tansy…it gives you headaches and a sour stomach, but it is easy to find in these lands.”

Daenerys nodded her head in silence and recalled where Doreah had plucked these leaves.

It will have to serve, she thought and brushed her fears away. She could no longer cower in the darkness. She had to seek the light.

If I look back I am lost.

Chapter Text

Lyanna

The sound of the bells made her shiver, but Maester Cressen remained calm and continued with his work. Ever carefully, his pale grey eyes continued to examine the babe in his arms. Lyanna had born Robert six children, three of whom had perished shortly after birth and two who didn’t even make it beyond their third year. Their fifth was the promised boy Robert had hoped for all these years. They named him Rickard, for her late father, but he perished from a fever.

Robert still grieved for the boy and buried his fears in wine and whores. Lyanna had also grieved for the boy in her own way, but she shed no tears. For a long time she had been convinced that she would never bear a healthy child, but here was her daughter Cassana, a plump and black-haired babe of Baratheon blood. Nobody could deny her parentage, though Lyanna whished every day that her child was not of Baratheon blood.

At least she is not a boy, she thought and leaned closer. The babe’s face was round, her blue eyes wide in wonder. Lyanna couldn’t help but to love her, though she couldn’t say the same about the King.

She has Jon’s nose, she thought. Sadness filled her heart whenever she thought of Rhaegar’s son. He and his half-sister shared few similarities, safe for their nose, but that didn’t matter to her. Sometimes, she even pretended that this babe was her lost son…

“The Princess is healthy,” Maester Cressen declared at last and lifted the babe in her arms. Again the bells tolled and the walls trembled. ”I see no problems.”

She had known Jon Arryn for fourteen years and his sudden death was more than a surprise. He always had a good constitution but it was no use against his bowel disease. I tried my best, Grand Maester Pycelle had apologized to Robert, but her husband didn’t care. The old Grand Maester had lost five of their children, but the death of Jon Arryn was the last straw. A day later the old man was finally sent into retirement and now her husband was desperately trying to bribe the Maesters of the Citadel to make Maester Cressen his successor.

Cressen would never disappoint me, Robert had told her not long ago. And with his help we might yet beget a boy.

Lyanna doubted that. Her daughter’s birth was more than perilous and it had taken them three years to conceive her. There would be no more children and Lyanna was glad or it. Her plans didn’t allow for a boy from Robert’s body, no matter how much he wished for them.

Her hatred for Robert had dulled over the years, but she didn’t forget the promise she made before the heart tree of Winterfell.

Rhaegar’s son will sit the Iron Throne, she reminded herself almost daily of her promise, but every year it became more of a burden to bear. She had been determined to hate Robert, Jon Arryn, Renly, Stannis and all the others associated with the downfall of Rhaegar’s family, but it was far easier to hate someone from the distance.

Robert was a misguided fool when he toppled the previous dynasty. Her rape and abduction was another lie she had to uphold to protect her son, but it didn’t make it any easier to bear the guilt that burdened her heart.

In truth, she never wanted to be a Queen. She ran off brazenly with her Dragon Prince, but she never wanted a crown. Rhaegar had promised her this crown, but she never took him seriously. I only want your love, she had told him more than once. I don’t envy your Dornish Princess for her crown. I don’t care as long as I can be your love.

That Rhaegar’s father could murder her brother and father, that the Dornish Princess and her poor children could perish by Lannister hands and that she could end up as Queen was not something she ever expected to happen. Looking at Robert she couldn’t help but to think that he never expected to be King either. Even in his early years it became clear that Robert held no interest in ruling. Sitting in a dusty room and listening to petitions was no occupation for a man like him.

My bother would have made a fine sellsword, Lord Stannis had remarked more than once. Robert and Lord Stannis never gotten along and yet more than now Robert would have needed his brother’s honest council. Lord Stannis was no pleasant man, but he never hesitated to give Robert the hard truth. The same couldn’t be said about Jon Arryn. He was a good man and true, but his fondness for Robert always blinded him.

Not that it matters, she thought. Lord Stannis is gone. Lord Arryn is gone. Only I remain.

“Your Grace,” Lady Margaery’s sweet voice called her back to the present. ”We ought to return the Princess to her nursemaid. She looks hungry.”

“Of course,” she replied and lifted the babe in Lady Margaery’s arms. She was a beautiful girl, graced with a heart-shaped face and soft brown hair. Her nephew Robb was lucky to call such a lady his own. ”I thank you for the reminder, my Lady.”

Thus she gathered he silken skirt and graced the old Maester with a warm smile.

“We will take our leave, good Maester. I thank you for your time.”

“I am always prepared to serve, your Grace,” she heard his strained voice echoing in her ears, as she followed after Lady Margaery.

Lyanna usually had five or six ladies attending to her, but three of her ladies had ended up married by the end of the last year and she had yet to replace them. All that was left to her were her two handmaids, Lady Margaery Tyrell and of course Lady Shireen Baratheon, Lord Stannis Baratheon’s and Lady Cersei Lannister’s oldest child.

Like so often, she found the girl seated on the colored carpet, her head buried in a dusty tome.

“Forgive me, your Grace,” the girl chirped shyly as she lifted her head to meet Lyanna’s gaze. She was a beautiful girl, her face delicate and framed by smooth dark hair that fell over her shoulders like a shroud of dark silk. Her only stain of beauty was her scarred cheek, the result of a greyscale infection in her early childhood. Her survival was a sheer miracle, but that couldn’t convince Cersei Lannister to love the girl. “I didn’t hear your entrance.”

My Lady mother only cares for beautiful and healthy things, the girl had told her once. She thinks I could make my brother sick.

Thus the girl ended up here, among her ladies-in-waiting. Over time, Lyanna had come to care for the girl, though she couldn’t deny that there was a deeper reason for her kindness. There were many ladies Lyanna had considered as a potential match for her son, but this shy little girl would be the most suitable of all. She may have greyscale, but a unification of House Baratheon and House Targaryen could prevent much bloodshed. Stannis had a son, but even Robert held little love for Cersei Lannister’s golden-haired bastard and Renly lost his brother’s favor when he refused the match Robert intended for him.

My brother won’t decide who I put into my bed, he had told Robert in their last fight and had promptly stormed off to Dragonstone. This incident took place two moons ago and he had yet to return to court.

“Don’t fret child,” she assured the girl and made her way to the anteroom. There waited her nursemaid, a plump woman named Molly. When she returned to the solar, the girl had put the tome away and greeted her with a smile.

”Did something happen during our absence?”

“Aye,” the girl confirmed quickly and rose to her feet. “My Uncle the King asked for your attendance, your Grace. He awaits you in the Throne Room.”

Lyanna was stunned. This could only mean that Robert decided to return from his day-long visit to the brothel and decided to take up the work Jon Arryn had left him.

“I see,” she replied and turned around to look at Lady Margaery Tyrell. ”You heard Lady Shireen. The King awaits me. You will take care of everything, will you, my Lady?”

“Of course,” Lyanna heard Lady Margaerys’ prompt answer, before she made her way to the Throne Room.

It was a seldom thing to see Robert seated on the Iron Throne. He hated hearing petitions, but he had yet to name a new Hand of the King.

“There you are,” Robert grumbled, a ghost of a smile curling on his lips. In his youth he was a strong and athletic man, but there was little left of this man. He wasn’t exactly fat, but his body had grown soft and his once dark hair was streaked with grey.”I have been waiting for you. Did my brother’s dimwitted child fail to inform you?”

“She is not dimwitted,” Lyanna chided him as she stepped closer and met him at the bottom of the steps leading up to the Iron throne. ”Lady Shireen is just a wee bit too shy.”

“Shy?” he asked and wrinkled his thick brows. He sounded amused. A good sign, given that he had spent a whole day drinking and whoring. ”The girl has the blood of a stag and a lion, but acts like a mouse. Stannis was a grim fucker and his wife is a miserable cunt, but neither of them ever showed fear in my presence. Am I so bloody frightening?”

“You can be frightening,” she replied teasingly and earned herself a weak smile. Not that she cared for it, but it was better to be on Robert’s good side. ”But I doubt that is why you called me here, your Grace.”

“No, of course not,” he replied and staggered down the steps. His breath was heavy with the smell of wine, but it could be worse. ”But I finally made a decision…I need a new Hand.”

“Very wise,” she replied and followed after him, into a private chamber. ”Who do you have in mind?”

“Who you ask, woman?” he asked in amusement and started to pour fresh wine in his cup. ”There can be no other than your brother. Ned will be my Hand.”

Lyanna didn’t believe her ears. She always knew that Robert loved her brother more than his trueborn brothers, but Ned was not capable of holding this office. He was a good and honorable man, but this office demanded more than honour.

“Of course,” she agreed at last. There was no use to disagree with Robert. It would be like running against a stone wall. ”Ned won’t refuse you. When do you intend to call him to King’s Landing?”

Robert drowned his cup and grinned broadly.

“We won’t simply call him. We will go to Winterfell.”

“Winterfell?” she asked in utter disbelief. “Truly?”

Robert laughed.

“Why are you so surprised, wife? You say that Ned won’t refuse me, but I know him better than that. He won’t come until I drag his frozen ass back to King’s Landing. I also think it is best if we take the Tyrell girl with us. It seems Ned’s boy will get his bride earlier than anticipated.”

Lyanna suppressed a laugh.

“I doubt Margaery will mind, but we need to inform Lord Willas Tyrell of our intentions or he might take offence.”

“Of course…of course,” he mumbled and filled her cup. ”I will leave that all to you…like always.”

“Like always,” Lyanna confirmed and took a sip from the sweet wine. Her heart beat quicken when she thought of home. It had been so long since she felt the touch of snow on her skin or saw a real weirwood tree. She knew that her son wouldn’t be waiting for her in Winterfell, but she also longed to see her nieces and nephews.

Aye, it is time go home.

Chapter Text

Jon

The enemy’s sword, the famous curved blade of the Dothraki, had nearly brushed his cheek. As quickly as possible, he moved backwards and parried the next blow, the rattling sound of metal filling his ears.

His enemy was a sun-kissed Dothraki warrior and strong as a bear. Jon had underestimated his stealth. Your hastiness will be your death, Griff had told him more than once during their drills. He was a heartless taskmaster, but trained Jon well.

With a quick movement he parried the next blow to his left side, made a step backwards and gathered his strength to deal his enemy a savage blow to the right side. It was his enemies’ weaker side, so much Jon had deduced after their first exchange of blows. The cause for the man’s predicament was a nasty scar that spread over his shoulder in rippling pattern. It must have been a painful.

The grunt of his enemy assured him and the sweat running down the warrior’s cheeks encouraged him only more. He lifted his blade and aimed for the man’s shoulder. The young warrior barely managed to stop him, his dark eyes wide in surprise.

The man grumbled something under his breath and then the blades parted again. They walked around each other, the midday sun burning down on them as they continued to exchange blows.

Time to end this, Jon thought and gritted his teeth as his opponent brought down his blade. Jon absorbed the hit, stepped backwards and pretended to stumble. It was a dirty trick, but survival was more important than honor. Jon learned this in his first year of service.

Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly and Rhaegar died, he recalled the familiar rhyme. Back then he didn’t know that Prince Rhaegar was his father. Now he felt only sadness whenever he heard these words.

I will not be like him, he reminded himself and ducked, his enemy’s blade brushing over his head while Jon used the moment to bury his blade in the warrior’s calf. A grunt of pain escaped he young man’s mouth and fell forward. Jon quickly rose to his feet and twisted the young man’s blade out of his hand. The young warrior struggled, but Jon kicked his feet and managed to unman him.

Jon’s heart continued to beat wildly as she stared down at the wounded man. He tried to move, but his bleeding leg prevented him from getting back to his feet. It was a painful sight.

It was the Khal’s grumbling voice that snapped back to the present. Jon was trying to understand what he was saying to him.

“The Khal bids you to kill him,” Irri translated in the absence of Ser Jorah. He had been sent on an errant and only Ser Frankly remained to guard his Uncle. He was also there, his lilac eyes narrowed in disgust at the sight of his survival. Sorry to disappoint you, Uncle. ”He has no use for weak weaklings.”

Jon felt torn. It was one thing to kill a man on the battlefield and another thing to kill a man in a mock battle.

Yet that wasn’t the only reason. The young man could go far if he would be able to overcome his weakness.

“He is no weakling. Tell him, we of the Golden Company do not punish survival,” he told Irri, who gave him a fearful look in return.

The Khal had listened in silence and narrowed his dark eyes. His grumbled words meant nothing to Jon and thus he had to rely on Irri.

“The Khal wants to know how many man you have killed.”

Jon frowned and realized what the Khal was really asking. Every one of the bells braided into his hair represented a past battle. It was a queer way to remember one’s bloody deeds. The men of the Golden Company had a similar practice. They wore warrior rings, which represented their years of service.

Ser Frankly had twelve of them and wore them proudly. Muddy had only six, though he had grown up among exiles of the Golden Company. First he had served as a latrine digger and later as a page boy for an exiled knight that had died in a past struggle. While bleeding in a puddle of mud he knighted Muddy Young Ser John Mudd. Jon had three rings, but never wore them. He always found it unpractical.

“I never counted them,” he replied at last.

Surprisingly, the Khal started to laugh and grumbled a quick answer.

“The Khal finds you amusing, but reminds you that you are among the Dothraki. He asks you again...kill the weakling.”

Jon gritted his teeth and felt the urge to refuse, but his Aunt’s fearful look stopped him. Forget your damn pride.

“I understand,” he replied in the language of the Dothraki and lowered his head in acceptance. Quickly, he unsheathed his blade and cut the man’s throat. It was a quick death. The young made not even the slightest noise.

“It is done,” Jon replied in Dothraki and was about to return to Muddy’s side, but Irri’s soft voice stopped him.

“It is not done,” she told him. ”The Khal says you have to take one of his bells. The Khal wants you to braid the bell into your hair. That way you won’t forget that you killed this man.”

Jon frowned and the Khal and his warriors laughed.

He was nothing more than a source of amusement for them.

Jon gritted his teeth and made his way back to the unmoving man. With a quick movement of his sword he cut off a bell and slipped it in the vest of his cloak.

Then he shifted his attention back to Irri.

“I am thankful for this honor,” he muttered, minding his manners, before making his way back to Muddy and the bloodriders. Shortly after, the Khal’s court of warriors started to disperse. Jon and Muddy remained with the bloodriders to wait for his Aunt.

Quietly, Jon and observed the heated fight between his Aunt and his Uncle. Even from afar they heard his Uncle’s shrieking voice.

“The Khal ought to remove Eddard Stark’s cursed bastard from our midst!”

Ser Jorah must have informed him. Damn traitor. My Uncle should have cut off his head.

“Keep your voice down,” his Aunt replied firmly and turned to look at Ser Franklyn. ”Would you be so kind to escort my brother back to his tent, Sir? He doesn’t feel well…” she said, but was cut off by Ser Franklyn.

“I only take orders from the King,” he snapped at his Aunt. A smile curled on his Uncle’s lips as he heard this.

Jon suppressed a laugh. It seemed Ser Franklyn managed to fulfill his task of getting into his Uncle’s good graces.

“Well spoken, Ser Franklyn!” his Uncle agreed. ”Now let us leave this place. My sister may stay with the usurper dog’s seed.”

“It seems our brown apple takes pleasure in his task,” Muddy remarked and showed his unruly teeth. ”I think he sees it as a way of taking revenge against the Targaryens.”

“I am one of them,” Jon reminded his friend.

Muddy nodded his head and patted his shoulder.

“Aye, but most would think you a bastard,” Muddy whispered in his ear. ”You could very well wear the name Blackfyre. Besides, we are all desperate to go to Westeros. Griff won’t refuse you if you manage to bring the Princess to him. He might dislike her brother, but the girl seems fine enough. Then you can wed her and we will win us a crown.”

Jon elbowed him hard.

“Not here!” he snapped at Muddy and pulled him closer to whisper in his ear. ”And I have no intention to use her like that. Whatever happens in the future…she is my blood and I will make sure that she is treated as befits her station.”

Muddy sighed deeply.

“Then you ought to stop looking at her like that…,” he remarked teasingly and received a hard shove that sent him tumbling to the ground.

Muddy cursed as he tried to get back to his feet.

“Fuck you, Jon. What was that for?”

“For being a pest,” he snapped back and tensed when he noticed his Aunt’s approach in company of her handmaids. Irri and Jhiqui ignored him. Only Doreah looked at him, her blue eyes following after him as he passed.

“Ser Jon,” his Aunt greeted him warmly. ”The Khal invites you to eat with him tonight.”

“A great honor,” Jon answered politely, but wanted to refuse until he noticed his Aunt’s hopeful look. ”Very well. I shall eat with the Khal.”

She smiled and left in company of her handmaids.

Jon couldn’t help but to notice how much she had changed. She was no longer garbed in the silken dresses she had worn in the Magister’s palace. These days she wore a painted vest, horsehair leggings and her silver hair was kept in a long braid. Yet it didn’t escape him how sickly she looked. Her face was pale and her violet eyes held a reddish glimmer as if she suffered from a fever. It made him wonder if that was the reason she had seen her gathering herbs in company of her handmaids.

I will ask her about it later, Jon decided and returned to his horse. It was a black beauty that had accompanied throughout all his past campaigns. Jon called it Vhagar, after Queen Visenya’s dragon, one of Arya’s childhood heroes. He often wondered if she was still trying to be a knight or if Lady Stark and Septa Mordane managed to curb her temper.

After he had finished his work he went to wash himself properly and asked Muddy to tie that silly bell into his hair.

“You sound like a cow,” Muddy japed and earned himself an amused smile.

“You are just jealous,” Jon countered quickly. ”You teased me about my Aunt, but you spent all day staring at her handmaid Doreah.”

Muddy grinned.

“Have you seen her?”

“I have…she is beautiful,” Jon confirmed, fastened his blade and called Ghost to his side. It didn’t take long before Ghost appeared. ”Now get moving.”

“As you wish, your Gra…,” Muddy muttered, but was cut off by Jon’s kick towards his groins. It was a clear threat, but Muddy was simply amused.

“Fuck you, Jon!”

“Fuck you!” Jon returned teasingly and took his leave. The camp before him was alive with activity. Dothraki women braided their hairs, a handful of boys practiced with their bows and a group of warriors fought in the middle of the street.

They watched him with suspicion as he entered the Khal’s tent. It was spacious and made of a shiny silken material that was worthy of a King. Mayhaps that was the reason the Khal wanted her.

Every King needed a Queen at his side. A Khal was the King of his khalasar, though he was not chosen by blood.

Jon came to Pentos to find a worthy King, but only found his mad Uncle and his unfortunate Aunt. Seeing her seated beneath the Khal’s feet set his insides aflame. Nothing got better. She only changed the owner and yet he couldn’t deny that there was iron beneath those soft features. Mayhaps it was always there and I just didn’t see it.

As always, the Khal was surrounded by his warriors, his drinking horn in one hand and his other hand resting on his curved blade.

Jon was assigned a seat on the opposing side of the table, a soft cushion the only thing that separated him from the hard floor.

On the table he found all kinds of Dothraki dishes: Roasted horse meat, fire grass, spiced paprika, honeyed goat, fresh nuts, wild vegetables and sweetened fruits.

Irri, who he assumed was there to play role of the translator, promptly filled his drinking horn with wine. Doreah was also there, a warm smile curling on her lips as her gaze fell on Jon.

It was not the first time he noticed her looks, but he wasn’t sure if he should feel flattered or not. He was no maid nor did he have the tendency to indulge in woman, but the girl in front of him was still a pleasure slave. He preferred freeborn woman, though it was hard to find them in sellsword circles. Only Ser Frankly knew his reasons, but even he had urged him numerous times to seek out the company of women. To banish away your nightmares, my boy, Ser Franklyn would say. To forget the scars the slavers left me. He was but a boy when they captured him and it lasted only for a few moons, but the shame was still there. He killed the slavers who had humiliated him, but it didn’t help to ease his pain

Not now, Jon reminded himself and banished these memories away. This is the past. The future awaits.

Jon’s bell rang softly as he moved to take his seat. He tried his best not to frown. He felt like a fool.

Only when his Aunt had turned around to smile at him did he forget his discomfort. It was the second honest smile he had given him since their first meeting. The first real smile he had received on her wedding day, after he had given her his father’s ruby.

“Jon Snow,” his Aunt declared loudly and roused the Khal’s attention. His dark eyes narrowed as they fixed on Jon.

“Snow…” he mumbled and growled a stream of incoherent words at Irri.

“The Khal thinks your name odd,” the girl explained and looked back at him with her large brown eyes. Doreah had also moved closer. He could feel the heat radiating from her body.

“Jon,” his Aunt called him back from the present moment. “The Khal spoke.”

“I heard him,” Jon said confirmed. ”Snow…that is the name of a bastard.”

“Bastard,” the Khal mumbled and growled another question at Irri.

“The Khal wants to know what that means.”

“I means my father and mother were not wed. It means I have no right to my father’s inheritance. It means I am cursed by the Faith of the Seven…they believe that bastards are wicked of heart and wanton in their passions.”

The Khal continued to sip from his cup as he listened to Irri’s translation.

“The Khal thinks your people are fools. Blood matters not. The Dothraki only believe in strength.”

You ought to tell that Lady Stark, Jon thought in amusement. She would have a fit.

“I understand,” Jon replied in Dothraki and lifted his head to get a glimpse at his Aunt. She was silent, her dark violet eyes as bright as amethysts. She didn’t smile, but she carefully lifted her hand as if to bring her cup to her lips, though she didn’t drink. No, here motivation became only clear when he noticed a silver bracelet on her arm, the red ruby he had gifted her prominently displayed.

He didn’t expect the jolt of warmth that washed over him in that moment. He felt slightly dizzy and averted his gaze.

“The Khal is pleased to hear your words,” Irri added quietly. ”He also wants you to ride with his warriors when they attack the next village. He wants you to behold the might of the Dothraki.”

“I understand,” Jon confirmed in Dothraki. It wasn’t like he could have refused.

The rest of the night was spent drinking and eating. Jon tasted the roasted meat and the fruits, but only because he didn’t want to sound impolite. His Aunt wasn’t better. She ate less than a mouse.

He felt the urge to ask her about it, but now was not the right moment. He waited until they had left the Khal’s tent behind them.

“You look pale, Princess,” he said in High Valyrian and braced himself for her reaction. Griff forced him to learn it, but he had no confidence in his languages skills. The words rolling from his lips sounded clumsy and forced. ”Are you sick? I saw you gathering herbs…”

She tensed and slowed down her pace.

“You can speak High Valyrian?”she asked, her voice laced with surprise.

Jon shrugged his shoulders.

“A little…it is hard to get by in Essos without High Valyrian. Still, I prefer bastard Valyrian…it is easier to pronounce.”

“It isn’t that bad,” she assured him in High Valyrian, a ghost of a smile curling on her pale lips. ”And the herbs…they are not meant to heal my sickness…they are the cause of my sickness.”

Jon was shocked.

“But why…,” he was about to ask, but she put one finger to her lips and placed her hand on her stomach. ”The herbs keep other ailments away,” she added in High Valyrian and quickly dropped her hand to her side, before her handmaids or the bloodriders could have seen her gesture.

It only reminded him of what he already knew. They needed to get away as soon as possible.

“It will take another week before we arrive at Vaes Dothrak. We should make plans.”

“I will be ready,” she replied determinedly. ”What is your plan?”

“We could flee through the Red Waste. The horde of Dothraki wouldn’t be able to follow us there. They might be able to send a handful of men after us, but I think we would be able to handle them. It is risky, but the only way.”

She swallowed hard, but nodded her head in confirmation.

“Everything is better than to stay here,” she said and searched his gaze. Suddenly, she looked again like the soft-featured girl he had seen in Pentos.”What about my brother?”

Jon exhaled deeply, before he gave his answer. This would be the most difficult part.

“We need to kill him and Ser Jorah. They are an unnecessary risk.”

Jon didn’t know here well enough to say what she felt. It was clear that she held a grudge against her brother, but she didn’t seem very enthusiastic to hear his suggestion.

“Viserys betrayed me, but he is still my blood. I am not sure if I can bring myself to kill him…I would be a Kingslayer.”

“Ser Frankly and I will do it,” he assured her. ”I told him to befriend your brother. It won’t be hard to end him.”

“He is spying on him?” she asked, her voice laced with surprise.

“Aye,” Jon confirmed and searched her gaze. ”But it is the only way. I know it is a difficult decision, but I see it this way: your brother will only hold you back. You need to free yourself from him or we all are doomed to remain here forever.”

She didn’t flinch nor did she reprimand him for his open words. She remained utterly still as if to ponder over his words.

“I will think about it,” she replied at last. ”You will have my answer once we reach Vaes Dothrak. You have my promise.”

Jon was not happy with her answer, but it was better than nothing. He could also understand her hesitation. His Uncle was a piece of shit, but killing one’s brother was no easy thing to do.

“I don’t need your promise, Princess” he replied and graced her with a smile. ”Your word is enough.”

A trembling smile passed her lips and a soft expression washed over her even-shaped face.

“We will speak again,” she added and exhaled deeply. Then she smiled again. ”Soon.”

“Soon,” he promised and took his leave, her warm smile still etched into his head. It left him with a warm feeling he couldn’t put into words.

Ghost met him along the way, his mouth bloody from his last hunt.

“Did you have to go hunting again?” he asked and knelt down to brush his hand over his soft fur.

He sighed deeply.

”It seems I will have to wash you again, boy.”

“Your wolf is pretty,” a familiar and soft-spoken voice remarked. ”He has pretty eyes like you.”

Jon turned around and found Doreah at the entrance of his tent.

The girls in the North had always avoided him, fearing he might steal their maidenhead. The rest had fawned over Robb, the heir. But Essos was different than Westeros and Jon was no bastard no matter how long his Uncle Eddard tried to uphold this lie.

“And you have pretty hair,” he replied, for the lack of a better answer. He was no bleeding poet like Muddy, though he tried to remember his courtesies. Girls like it when you call their name pretty, Sansa had told him once. “Doreah is also a pretty name.”

“You are quite the poet,” she japed and knelt down next to him, her arms crossed in front of her as she regarded the Ghost. ”There is something I have been wondering…Do you prefer boys?”

“No,” Jon replied quickly, surprised that she would ask him such a direct question. ”Gods no…I like girls.”

“Then why are you running away from me?” she asked and moved closer, her breath brushing over his cheek. Close up, she was even more beautiful, but it was not her face he saw in his waking hours. The hair was too golden and her eyes were blue instead of the deep violet color he wanted to see.

And yet he couldn’t deny that he felt aroused by her presence. His groin twitched as she brushed her hand over his cheek. Her hands were rough, affected by the daily work of a slave.

Uncle Eddard would be ashamed of me, he realized then. It was the first time in a very long time that he thought of him. He would be ashamed of me for serving a Dothraki lord. I am not better than Ser Jorah.

All lust he might have felt melted away snow at the arrival of spring.

“I like girls,” he repeated and brushed her hand away. He did it gently, but he saw the hurt in her blue eyes. Then he pulled down the collar of his tunic. There engraved on his neck was the tattoo the slavers had branded into his skin. ”I was ten and two when they captured me. I know how cruel they can be. I don’t want to sleep with you, because it would make me feel as I am one of them…” he continued, but was silenced by the slap on his face.

“You are a fool,” she told him in a trembling voice. ”I came freely.”

His cheek burned and he stared back at her in bewilderment.

Then she turned around and left him sitting there like a fool.

Chapter Text

Lyanna

The godswood of Winterfell was filled to the brim, the soft moonlight falling through the thick canopy of the heart tree. For Lyanna it felt like a dream come true to be here in Winterfell and to paying witness to her nephew’s wedding to Lady Margaery Tyrell.

Lyanna had considered a possible bride for her son, but then her nephew came to court and won the heart of Lord Mace Tyrell’s only daughter. That the girl was dear to her heart made this wedding only more joyful. Margaery Tyrell always had a kind word for her and guarded her daughter like a dragon its treasure.

I will miss her, she thought and smiled as Lady Margaery entered the godswood at the side of her older brother, Ser Garlan Tyrell.

Her dress was made of soft white wool, a veil of silver and a cloak trimmed with grey pelt. Even her hair was braided in the Northern style.

Her nephew looked also handsome. He wore grey doublet, black breeches and polished boots. His auburn hair and his bright blue eyes betrayed little of his Stark heritage, but his smile reminded her of her brother Brandon. Just looking at him was painful, but she quickly banished away these feelings from her mind. Today should be happy day.

“Who comes before the gods tonight?” Ned’s quite voice echoed over the godswood and mixed with the rustling leaves.

“Lady Margaery Tyrell comes to be wed…a woman grown, trueborn and noble. She comes to receive the blessings of the gods,” Ser Garlan Tyrell announced in a clear voice. He was a tall and handsome man, but lacked the soft features of his younger brother Loras.

Behind Lady Margaery followed Lady Shireen Baratheon, Lady Wylla Manderly, Arya and Sansa. All of them had donned in white dressed made of fine wool, fresh flowers from the glass gardens woven into her hair. They all gave the impression of proper ladies, safe for Arya, who waved at Lyanna as she passed, a mischievous smile playing on her lips.

Lyanna stifled a laugh. To look at her young niece was like looking at a mirror.

“Who comes to claim her?” Ned asked loudly.

“I, Robb Stark, the heir of Winterfell and the North,” her nephew replied in an anxious voice and stepped forward to receive the hand of his bride.

“Who gives her?” Ned asked, his grey eyes fixed on Ser Garlan Tyrell. Their reunion was brief and detached, but that was no surprise to her. They parted on bad terms. Lyanna had felt betrayed that Ned urged her to wed a man she hated and Ned had been angered by her stubborn refusal. Now she was back home and didn’t know what to feel or think. All she knew was that Jon ran away, but why and how it happened was something that she feared to hear.

“Ser GarlanTyrell, brother of Lord Willas Tyrell, the Lord of the Reach,” Ser Garlan Tyrell replied and placed his sister’s slender hand over her nephew’s.

Ned’s grey eyes flickered from his Robb to Lady Margaery Tyrell.

“Do you take this man?”

“I take this man,” she replied with a bright smile and squeezed her nephew’s hand. Carefully, her nephew removed Lady Margaery’s silken cloak from her shoulders. It was made of a green silk and embellished with a golden rose. Then he lifted his grey cloak on her shoulders.

It made her think of her own wedding. It had been a bright spring day full of sunshine and the smell of flowers in the air. She had been so blinded by her infatuation that she had forgotten the rest of the world around her. When the word of her father’s and brother’s death had reached her she had been long wed and carried her son in her womb. She had pleased with Rhaegar to come forth with the truth, but now she knew that Robert would have killed the child in her womb.

It was a pretty dream, Rhaegar, she thought and took in her brother Benjen and his wife Lady Wylla. In her arms the young woman carried her freshly-born babe, a boy named Rickard. And yet I will keep the promise I gave to the gods before this tree. The Targaryens shall rule once more even if it is the last thing I do.

“You may now kneel to receive the blessing of the gods,” Ned added gently and smiled as his son and his bride knelt before the heart tree. A moment of silent prayer followed. Only the sound of the wind and the hushed whispers of the guests could be heard.

Finally, the groom and his bride rose back to their feet. Margaery gave smiled warmly and kissed her husband longer than appropriate.

The clapping of the guests broke the silence and soon everyone was walking back to the Great Hall.

“What a fine boy!” Robert complimented Ned, his arm slung around her brother’s shoulder. He grinned broadly, more so than usual. He looked elated to be here in Winterfell. ”Your son’s bride can count herself lucky if you know what I mean, eh?”

The festivities only helped to increase his taste for wine. Maester Cressen had told Robert to measure his consumption, but he showed little interest in heading the old man’s words. He emptied one cup after another.

Lyanna observed everything from her seat at the high table. She was seated next to her good-sisters Lady Catelyn Stark and Lady Wylla Manderly. As expected, the young woman was occupied with her babe, Benjen hovering over her like a shadow.

It eased her heart to see him happy. More than once Ned had tried to get Benjen wed, but it took Lady Wylla Manderly to convince her brother.

“I must thank you again, your Grace,” Lady Catelyn repeated for the third time that day. ”My son owes his happiness to you.”

“I didn’t do anything,” she replied quickly and averted her gaze. Just looking at the woman filled her with resentment. It was to be expected that she disliked the presence of Ned’s bastard son among her trueborn children, but Lyanna couldn’t forget the cold looks she used to give her son whenever the nursemaid carried him in the room. ”Robert wanted Lady Margaery wed to a loyal subject. Still, we both know that this match is more than just a political arrangement. Important is that Robb and Lady Margaery are happy.”

“I agree,” Lady Catelyn replied quietly and lifted her cup to her lips. ”I saw your little Princess…the children were delighted to have her here. It must be a great relief for you to have her, your Grace. All my mother’s pregnancies were problematic, but she eventually had Edmure, a healthy boy.” And died a few weeks later, she wanted to add, but kept that to herself.

“I had a son,” she replied instead. ”His name was Rickard.” And another son named Jon.

“We heard about the boy’s death,” Lady Catelyn remarked sadly. ”Ned was most distraught to hear it.” Was he also distraught when my son ran away to Essos, she wondered and suppressed the tender stirrings of rage inside her heart. I hope he did.

“Robert was also distraught,” she added after a moment of silence had passed between them. He had drowned himself in wine and whores until Lord Stannis dragged him back to the Red Keep. It was the first time she felt pity for him. She had never loved him, but he had loved their son. “But he is not the kind of man who lingers in the past.”

“That is good, isn’t it?” Lady Catelyn asked and looked as if she was at a loss of words. ”And in time you will surely be blessed with a son. You are young and healthy.”

“Mayhaps,” Lyanna replied vaguely.” If the gods are kind…”

“If the gods are kind,” Lady Catelyn repeated and shifted her attention back to the happy bride and her groom. ”May the gods bless them too.”

“May the gods bless them,” Lyanna agreed and drank deeply. In the distance she spotted her niece Sansa, who danced with Ser Garlan Tyrell. He seemed to enjoy her presence, because he grinned from one ear to the other.

Arya danced with her younger brother Bran, who seemed most bored by the slow song.

It was an old song common to the Mountain Clans and partly written in the Old Tongue, yet that didn’t seem to bother Robert’s men.

They sang along until the minstrel grew bored and played a catchier tune.

Three times he played the Bear and the Maiden Fair, followed by the Dornishman’s wife and Brave Danny Flint, before one particular drunken lord called for the bedding ceremony.

Promptly, the men assembled around Lady Margaery, lifted her into the air and carried her out of the hall. Robb followed suit, surrounded by a flock of laughing girls. Lady Shireen smiled at Lyanna as she passed.

“That’s Lord Stannis daughter, isn’t she?” Lady Catelyn asked. ”She looks rather sad.”

“Her mother ignores her existence and her father is dead,” Lyanna confirmed. ”She has every reason to be sad.”

“We heard about it,” Lady Catelyn added. ”I am sure my daughter’s presence would help to lighten the girl’s mood.”

Has Ned already agreed, she wondered and felt a hint of fear washing over her. I need to convince him otherwise. King’s Landing is no place for him.

“I see no reason why not,” Lyanna replied and feigned a smile. ”They are lovely girls. I would be pleased to have them as my ladies should Ned agree to Robert’s offer.”

“Of course he will agree,” Lady Catelyn replied in a tone that left no room for further questions. ”He will do his duty.

Duty, Lyanna thought inwardly. It was a more than terrifying word for her. Men like her father use it all the time to justify selling off their daughters like goats. It was a word she despised.

“I see,” Lyanna replied, emptied her cup and rose to her feet. I need to speak to Ned. ”As I said…I would be pleased to have daughters as my ladies.”

Then she slipped away to seek out Benjen and Ned. It was time to talk. Robert was already deep in his cups and she doubted he is going to miss her presence when he had two girls in his lap to shower him with attention.

She found brother’s outside of the hall, a cup of mulled wine in their hands.

“I would like to go to the crypts,” she told them. ”To talk.”

Ned’s smile vanished instantly and Benjen nodded his head.

The air pierced her skin as they made their way to the crypts. Lyanna hadn’t been her since her departure from Winterfell, but she shuddered at the thought of facing her ghosts.

Yet it was the only place where they could speak their mind without being overheard.

They didn’t speak as Ned opened the door, the torch in Benjen’s hand their only guide through the darkness around them.

The silence followed them all the way down to her father’s and brother’s graves. Lyanna didn’t answer immediately and took in their statues. Bran’s statue didn’t suit him at all. He was a man of quick smiles and never carried himself in such a solemn manner. Her father looked as he had in life: grim and unyielding to anyone one’s wishes, but his own.

Then she exhaled deeply and turned around to face her brothers, especially Ned.

“What happened between you and Jon?” she asked him straight to the point.

A pained expression crossed Ned’s face.

“He had an argument with Cat and wanted to run off to the Night’s Watch. Benjen made it worse by telling him the truth…,” he explained.

“What was the argument about?”

Ned averted his gaze, but Lyanna didn’t allow him to slip away. She stepped towards him and touched his shoulder.

“Tell me.”

“The source of the argument was his mother…Cat said unkind things about her…she called her a whore. It was very unpleasant.”

“Then I am pleased that Benjen told him the truth,” she added in a salty tone, but kept her true thoughts to herself. She didn’t come her to start a fight. ”Yet that still doesn’t explain why he ran away.”

“Telling him the truth made it only worse,” Ned explained and brushed his hair out of his face. ”He accused me of sending you away.”

“You did,” she countered colder than she intended. ”You agreed with Jon Arryn, didn’t you? And you asked me to leave, didn’t you? Jon’s estimation isn’t completely wrong. None of this would have happened if I had stayed here in Winterfell…where I belong.”

“None of this would have happened if you had simply done your duty,” he added in a firm tone. Lyanna was stunned by his forwardness. Even after her return to Winterfell he had never spoken this openly. She didn’t even fault him for it, but it couldn’t still the anger his words stirred inside her.

“Duty,” she repeated. ”My betrothal to Robert had nothing to do with duty. It was you, moreso than father, who wanted to see me wed to your precious Robert. Brandon at least defended me, but you remained quiet as always. Truly, the Quiet Wolf was always a fitting name for you, brother.”

“I know duty…I wed Catelyn even though I barely knew her,” he countered angrily.

“Aye, you did,” she snapped back and met his piercing gaze. Ned was not a man who lost his temper easily, but it seemed she hit his wound point. ”Cat came to love you, but not everyone is as lucky as you. Look at her sister. I have never seen a more miserable woman in my entire life…” he continued, but was cut off by Ned.

“Stop bringing my wife’s family into this!” he growled. ”The loss of her babes made her bitter…,” he added, but Lyanna wanted to hear none of it.

“And why did she lose them?” she demanded to know. ”You know why…” she wanted to add, but was interrupted by Benjen’s booming voice.

“Enough! We came here to speak about Jon and not to whine about the past!”

Lyanna stared back at her brother in silence and so did Ned. To hear Benjen shout at Ned and her was new.

“Benjen is right,” Ned admitted and gave her a weary look. ”We shouldn’t be arguing about the past. You came here hear about Jon. Benjen can tell you more.”

“Lya,” Benjen addressed her in a calm voice and touched her shoulder. ”It wasn’t Ned’s fault. I should have known better than to tell him the truth. I hoped taking him to White Habour and making him my squire would help to ease his pain. He seemed happy at first, but then he was suddenly gone. All I know is that he is alive. He sent me a letter and informed that he is going to seek out his blood. That was six moon ago.”

“Six moons…to seek out his blood,” she muttered to herself and shuddered. ”Gods…not even Robert knows about their whereabouts.”

“Even more reason for me to become his Hand. I know you don’t like the idea, but that way I can keep an eye on Jon,” Ned added in an irritated tone.

Lyanna wrinkled her brows.

“You know that I disapprove?”

“Of course I know,” Ned replied matter-of-factly. ”You would have asked me personally if you wanted me to become his Hand. I know you better than that, sister.”

“I still don’t want you to be his Hand,” she countered bluntly. ”King’s Landing is not like the North. You don’t belong there.”

“I know that,” Ned grumbled stubbornly. ”But Robert needs me.”

“Robert only wants to make you Hand, because he desperately wants to re-live his youth. He doesn’t need his childhood friend, but a firm Hand that isn’t afraid to put him in his place. Lord Stannis was such a man and Jon Arryn another, but even these two often failed when it came to overcome Robert’s stubborn ideas.”

Ned’s determined look told her that he had no intention to back down.

“I think I have argued enough for one night,” he replied stiffly and walked in the direction of the teps.

Stubborn fool, she wanted to call after him, but she knew it would be no use. Ned’s adherence to duty was only surpassed by his stubborn adherence to his ideals.

We are more alike than he wants to admit, she mused and shook her head.

“Have trust in him,” Benjen offered gently. ”Ned has his faults, but he protected Jon all these years.”

“I know that,” she replied and bit her lips, but it couldn’t ease the pain in her heart. ”But I won’t be able to find peace until he is back in my arms.”

Chapter Text

Daenerys

They watched the battle from a hill, overseeing the plain below. Far off in the distance she saw the black smoke rising into the milky sky. They had been en route to Vaes Dothrak when the Khal received word of another horde. This is Khal Drogo’s territory, Ser Jorah had informed her shortly after. And he is going to defend it against all enemies, foreign or familiar.

Daenerys cared little what her husband did, but she played along to keep up appearances. There could be no doubt about her loyalties if she wanted to make her escape.

“It begins!” her brother’s excited voice snapped her out of her reverie. Daenerys angled hear head to look at him. He smiled like a little boy on his nameday as he watched the two hordes meeting each in battle. “Watch how fearsome they are, sweet sister!”

Daenerys swallowed hard as the war cries of the Dothraki screamers echoed in her ears. It was a terrifying sound that made her shudder down to the marrow of her bones. No wonder Viserys loves them. They are what he wishes to be, fearsome like a dragon.

And he could be fearsome, but only against those weaker than him. Daenerys was one of his past victims and Doreah another one, but he would never be able to hold his own in a real fight.

“I can see it,” she replied quietly and watched as a cloud of dust settled over the barren plain.

“I hope they all make it back alive,” Irri chirped fearfully as she beheld the ranging battle.

“I am sure they will,” Doreah added.

“The Bloodriders are fearsome. Ser Jon and Muddy are also…,” Jhiqui wanted to add, but was promptly silenced by Viserys’ angered voice.

“The bastard ought to go back where he came from!” he snarled at her handmaid, who back away in a fear. ”I say it again. The Khal ought to send him on his way. Don’t you agree, Mormont?”

“Certainly, your Grace,” Ser Jorah answered in a heavy voice. He looked unhappy that he had to remain here to guard Viserys while the two younger sellswords were allowed to participate in the battle. Daenerys didn’t know why, it seems her brother took some odd liking to the man from the North. That the man disliked Jon’ father with equal passion seemed to reassure him of his loyalty or that was at least what Daenerys believed.

“The Khal seems to like him,” Daenerys replied bitingly. Her younger self would have never dared to speak like that, but her heart was no longer filled with fear. ”I doubt he will leave us anytime soon.”

“The boy is still green behind the ears,” Ser Franklyn snorted. ”I kicked his ass numerous times. Even Muddy could best him in battle.

“Did you hear what Ser Franklyn said, sweet sister?” her brother asked in a snickering tone. ”The bastard is lucky if he makes it back alive.”

Daenerys gritted her teeth and looked over to Ser Jorah, who had observed their exchange in grim silence.

“Ser Jon defeated the Dothraki warrior. Even you admitted that he was a fearsome enemy, Ser Jorah.”

Ser Jorah shrugged his shoulders. He looked conflicted as if he didn’t know who he wanted to please.

“This Dothraki warrior was young,” replied and made her brother smile.

“Your pet won’t see the next sunset.”

As always, her brother’s predictions turned out to be wrong. Both Muddy and Ser Jon returned in company of the Bloodriders. They were covered in dust and blood, but were alive. Ghost looked even worse. His mouth was full of blood.

“What happened to you?” she asked wolf. Her Silver reared, probably alarmed by the heavy scent of blood. Daenerys calmed her with a pat on the back.

“Ghost tore a horse apart,” Jon informed her and brushed the blood from his face. ”He will need a good wash.”

Daenerys felt the urge to laugh, but bit her lips. She couldn’t show too much openness. It was bad enough that her brother developed some sort of dislike for the young man in front of her.

“I see,” she replied in a subdued voice. ”Well, I am pleased to see that you two made it out alive,” she added and jerked her head at Muddy.

The young man gave her a quick smile, blood running down his cheek from a cut above his brow.

Viserys wrinkled his nose.

“Come along, Ser Franklyn. The smell of traitor’s blood is making me sick. Let us return to the camp. Ser Jorah will inform the Khal that I intend to speak with him later.”

“I understand, your Grace,” Ser Jorah agreed and soon her brother departed in company of Ser Frankly.

We have to kill him, Jon had told her not long ago. She had promised to give him her answer when they reach Vaes Dothrak, but her heart as still torn. She hated Viserys for what he did to her, but her mother loved him dearly.

Shortly after, she and her handmaids made their way to the town, Jon riding before her and Muddy behind her three handmaids. The bloodriders flanked them, their grumbling Dothraki slang, echoing in her ears as they rode through the trampled grass.

A feeling of dread washed over her as they neared the burned village. The walls that remained were black and had collapsed through the heat. The fields of rye and barley looked like scorched earth, littered with dead men and horses alike. Birds circled above their heads, waiting to prey on the corpses. Those who managed to survived were killed by the mercy men, men armed with axes, tasked to kill anyone still moving.

Daenerys tried not to avert her gaze, but the sweet smell of death followed her everywhere she went. It made her want to rinse her nose with fresh pepper mint.

The women, children and old people that survived the massacre didn’t fare better. The Dothraki riders drove them together like a horde of sheep. Even from the distance she could hear the sound of the wailing children.

Viserys laughed, probably imagining how the Dothraki would deal with his enemies. Daenerys held no love for the Lannisters, Baratheons and Starks for their part in the rebellion, but there wouldn’t be anyone to rule if Viserys punished everyone.

“The Dothraki call these men Lamb Men,” Ser Jorah explained to her brother. ”They will bring a good price on the slave market. They are known to be obedient and hard-working.”

Daenerys forced a smile over her lips and dropped her gaze to the ground. She wanted to hide her disgust. Viserys might not care if his army was built on the back of slaves, but she did.

I might not be branded, she thought bitterly. But I was always your slave, brother.

Her Lady Mother would have disagreed with her and reminded her of her duty, but her mother had also believed that Viserys would become a great King.

Viserys is our King, she had told Daenerys more than once. We have to believe in him. He is all that is left of House Targaryen.

I am also a dragon, she whispered to her dead mother and wondered if she hated her for her loss of faith. I am only a girl, but also a dragon.

“Nothing will grow here for at least a year,” Ser Jon remarked in a sullen voice.

Daenerys lifted her head and searched his gaze. His dark purple eyes were fixed on the burning village. He looked very upset, his hand twitching as he led his horse over a heap of corpses.

“You are probably right…,” she agreed quietly.

He didn’t look at her as they rode in silence along the downtrodden path leading to the village.

“Did the Khal lose many men?” she inquired after a while.

“The Khal slew two Khals…Khal Ogo died first and his son Fogo followed him into an early grave.”

Daenerys nodded her head and was about to speak when she heard the wail of a girl.

She stopped her horse and looked around to search for the owner of the voice. There, in one of the trampled barely field was a girl, barely older than her, being mounted by two Dothraki screamers.

“Khaleesi…,” she heard Irri’s voice ringing in her ear, but she didn’t hear her. The girl’s bloodcurdling cries drowned out everything around her.

“Please,” she told Jon, Muddy and the bloodriders. ”Please make them stop.”

Muddy gave her a dumb look, Jon’s face was unreadable as ever and her bloodriders stared back at her in confusion.

“Make them stop!” she shouted at them in Dothraki. ”Help the girl!”

The bloodriders continued to stare back at her in confusion.

“Khaleesi!” Ser Jorah’s said in a warming tone, his thick brows furrowed. ”This is how it has always been done. These men are only claiming their rightful reward.”

“Rightful reward!” Ser Jon scoffed in a hostile voice. ”What for?”

Daenerys winced at the tone of his voice. She had never heard him speak thus openly.

“You understand nothing…,” Ser Jorah countered, but Daenerys cut him off.

“You will do as I say!” she repeated her command, louder and like Viserys would have done it. Then she craned her neck to look at Irri.

“Tell my bloodriders that I want this girl for my own! Tell them that I want all the women and children for my own! Touch them or I will have you all punished!”

Irri relayed words and the bloodriders started to mumble to each other. They looked very displeased.

Jhoqo who spoke the best, answered.

“We cannot follow your command, Khaleesi. You have yet to be approved of by the Dosh Khaleen,” he explained and lowered his head in apologetic gesture.

Of course, she thought. I am nothing more than a war price. I have no power.

“No, but I will do it,” Jon declared and waved his hand at Ghost to stay put. ”Will you lend me a hand, Muddy?” he asked his friend in passing and slipped his blade out of his scabbard.

“Fuck, this will end badly for us…,” Muddy muttered to himself, but he still followed after Jon like a loyal shadow.

The bloodriders stared in disbelief, but didn’t stop him either.

“You have to stop him!” Ser Jorah shouted at her and made an attempt to follow after Jon, but was stopped by Ghost. ”He is going to get us all killed…go away you beast!”

“Calm yourself, Ser Jorah!” she snapped at him. ”Ghost is good.”

“Good or not,” he grumbled. ”The boy is breaking the Dothraki law…,”

Daenerys ignored him, her gaze fixed on Jon and Muddy.

The Dothraki screamer mounting the girl was gutted by Jon’s sword, before he had even noticed his presence. The second one, a much bigger warrior, freed his curved blade and parried Jon’s attack while Muddy fought off the third one, the youngest among the group.

It was Ser Jorah who put an end to the quarrel before it could get out of hand. They grumbled and shouted at each other in the Dothraki tongue, before they finally left the girl alone.

As they passed her by one of them spat on the ground. He cursed me.

She tried to appear unaffected, but trembled. I made an enemy.

“The girl is yours, Khaleesi,” Ser Jorah declared upon his return. ”But I doubt Khal will be pleased.”

“And the others?” she dared to ask, but Ser Jorah’s blank look told her everything she needed to know. She didn’t ask again and searched for Jon, who looked as if he was read to burst with anger, Muddy’s hand resting on his shoulder.

I cannot endanger him, she told herself and swallowed down her hurt pride. Not again.

“Doreah, please take care of the girl,” she told her handmaid, before she turned back to Ser Jorah.”We should move on.”

The smell of burned flesh filled her nostrils as they arrived at a large courtyard that might have once been a marketplace. Behind it rose a temple made of mud and clay. Its walls were black and everywhere she looked she saw severed heads. It was a grizzly sight.

When they stepped before the Khal the same warrior that had cursed her was already there.

Daenerys gritted her teeth and braced herself for the coming disaster.

The Khal listened in silence to the growling warrior. Daenerys understood only bits and pieces, but Irri was kind enough to translate what he had said.

“This one is named Mago and he says that you took his spoils of war. He wants the girl.”

Mago continued to curse until the Khal silenced him with a wave of his hand.

Then the Khal growled his answer at Irri.

“The Khal wants to know why you commanded your swords to attack Mago and took his price. By Dothraki law the girl belongs to him. You have yet to be blessed by the Dosh Khaleen and thus you have no right to command the Dothraki warriors to break the law. Only the Khal can do that. Give Mago his price and the Khal will give you as many slaves as you wish.”

“I want the girl,” she replied in Dothraki. The girl in Doreah’s arms was trembling like a leaf, tears running down her cheek. Mago will kill her if I allow him to take her, she knew. ”I have no right to command the bloodriders, but two of my sworn swords are not of the Dothraki.”

Irri translated and Mago broke out into another round of curses until the Khal silenced him again.

“Your word stands against Mago’s word. There is only way to settle such a dispute…A battle before the gods. One of your warriors fights against Mago. If he wins you may keep the girl,” Irri relayed the Khal’s words to them.

“Battle before the gods,” Daenerys repeated and was at a loss of words.

“All women,” Jon corrected the Khal in broken Dothraki, his voice taking an iron tone that left no room for further questions. ”The Khaleesi claimed all women and children.”

Irri translated his words and Daenerys felt the urge to shout at Jon. This was madness. She didn’t want him to die for her sake. Not now…

At last the Khal answered. Surprisingly, he sounded very amused, though that could have just been her imagination.

“The Khal thinks you are a fool to challenge Mago, but your wish shall be granted. The Khal thirsts to see a good fight. The battle shall be held at sunset.

“I understand,” Jon answered in Dothraki and met Mago’s gaze. ”We shall fight.”

More and more people assembled in the courtyard to behold the impending fight. Torches were lit and blades were sharpened, before Mago and Jon took their respective positions.

The Khal sat among his warriors and Daenerys was seated below his feet on a soft cushion, her handmaids not far. Not much to her surprise, Viserys appeared as well and going by his excited smile she knew why he came.

“All will be well,” Muddy whispered. “The only one who had ever managed to give Jon a beating was Griff.”

Daenerys didn’t know who this Griff was, but just by looking at Mago filled her with fear. He was a massive man and at least ten years older than Jon. His arms were as thick as tree stamps and the scars that littered his shoulder and arm betrayed his experience.

Silence reigned as the battle began.

Ever slowly, the two competitors encircled one another, before they exchanged the first blows as if to measure their opponent. Daenerys had seen Jon fight before. This time he fought almost hesitant. He managed to parry each blows, but didn’t retaliate as aggressively as she expected.

Mago seemed interpret this as a weakness and started to increase the pace of his attacks. He dealt Jon a quick barrage of blows that made their blades sing.

Thus it continued, the blades moving against each other like lovers, their grunts echoing over the courtyard. Jon met every blow with a quick movement of his blade, but Mago proved no easy enemy. His heated cuts didn’t allow for a moment of rest. Jon’s breathing was labored and sweat was glistening on his face.

Mago didn’t look much better. After several minutes of fighting his face had turned beat red, sweat glimmering on his brow and cheeks. He gasped as Jon cut into his shoulder and promptly slashed his blade forward. This must have surprised Jon, for he proved far too slow. The cut didn’t go deep, but fresh blood was soon trailing down his thigh like fresh summer wine.

Seeing that he had managed to draw blood from his enemy, Mago growled an insult at Jon aimed for his head. Daenerys stifled a gasp, but Jon must have foreseen his intentions, because he quickly ducked out of the way and curved around his enemy. For the blink of a moment she believed to see a hint of fear in Mago’s dark eyes, but that didn’t keep him from retaliating. Jon’s sharp blade graced Mago’s chest, but the fighting continued.

Left and right, Jon rained strikes at the Dothraki warrior. It was like a dance that seemed to last forever. Mago shouted at Jon, mocking and cursing him in Dothraki, but he seemed blind to everything else around him. Again the blades met, left and right, up and down. It all happened so quickly that Daenerys barely able to follow their movements.

Mago grew more and more impatient, his face a grimace of rage. Shouting at the top of lungs he hammered his blade down at Jon, who tried his best to stem his boyish body against the giant.

With gritted teeth he tried to repel the next attack, but was a heartbeat to slow. His side, she thought. It must ail him.

The next blow tore a shuddering cry from Jon’s mouth and Daenerys’ heart nearly stopped when Jon’s blade slipped out of his hand.

She saw the hint of a smile playing on Mago’s lips as he was about to bring down his blade. It all happened so quickly, but somehow Jon had managed to straighten himself and had grabbed Mago’s arm, pressing all his weight against his enemy. Mago cursed and spat at Jon, but refuse to move, the blade still hovering above him. Jon gave a loud cry, his face scrunched up in anger, as he wrenched Mago’s arm backwards.

Daenerys’ heard the sound of cracking bones and Mago’s ear-piercing wail of pain.

Make it end, was all she could think. Make it end.

And as if Jon had been able to read her mind, he slipped out his dagger and slashed the blade into Mago’s neck.

A gurgle left the man’s mouth and warm blood splattered his chest and lower body. Then he collapsed like puppet without strings.

It was done.

Chapter Text

Jon

Jon gritted his teeth as the plump woman continued to sew his wound. Her stitches were small and precise, the work of a gifted healer. The Golden Company had several healers, among them even a Maester who had fled the Citadel to explore the world.

Yet the lack of milk of the poppy made the stitching even more painful. Not that the woman seemed to care. She continued with her work without hesitation.

Daenerys observed the woman’s work closely, but remained silent throughout the whole process. Occasionally, she lifted her gaze to look at him, her violet eyes filled with warmth. Every time it happened his heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t been sure if she felt the same way, but now he was beginning to believe that she did. The stolen looks and her smiles might be nothing more than illusions, but it certainly were pleasant illusions.

“It is done,” the plump woman declared at last and shifted her attention back to his Aunt. “Now we have to wait and see.”

“I thank you,” his Aunt replied and graced the woman with a tense smile.

“I thank you as well,” Jon added and pulled on his tunic. The movement hurt, but that was to be expected. I was not careful enough. Griff would have reprimanded me if he was here. “Your stitching is very precise. Who thought you?”

The woman neither smiled nor frowned.

“I am Mirri Maz Durr and I served as a godswife in the temple of the Great Shepard. I am a maegi, a woman who practices healing and magic.”

“She is one of the women you saved,” Daenerys added softly. ”She said she was thought by a Maester from the Citadel.”

Jon was stunned and eyed her more closely. She looked like most of the Lamb men, sun-kissed and graced with almond-shaped black eyes.

“That must have been a strange Maester,” he remarked. ”They are not known to teach women.”

If she was insulted by his words it didn’t show on her face.

“His name was Marwyn,” she replied calmly and started to gather her belongings. ”I haven’t met many Maesters. I cannot say if he was different than others. I only know that he was a learned man who thought me much.”

“And we are glad that he did,” Daenerys added and shifted her attention to Doreah, who was doing needlework. Jhiqui and Irri were not far. Irri was cooking sweat grass while Jhiqui was roasting the meat.

“Doreah will give you food for yourself and the other women,” Daenerys explained. ”It is not much, but your reward for a work well-done. We shall speak soon.”

“I as you say, Khaleesi,” Doreah replied quickly and rose to her feet.

The maegi lowered her head and eyed him in passing. Jon didn’t like her piercing black eyes. It felt as if she was able to read his mind.

“I thank you,” the maegi replied at last and followed after Doreah. “I will now take my leave from you.”

Jon had the feeling that she didn’t take much pleasure in the offered food. Not that he faulted her for it. Her people were murdered, raped and killed by the Dothraki horde. She had every reason to hate them.

And I participated in this butchery, Jon thought, but banished away these feelings of guilt. He had already killed too many men to call himself innocent, but that was the life he chose.

“I should go as well,” he added then and was about to rise to his feet, but his Aunt’s quiet voice stopped him.

“Stay and eat with us,” she asked of him in High Valyrian. ”We need to speak.”

“Very well,” he replied and nodded his head. ”I will stay.”

“Wonderful,” she said and went to help her handmaids. It didn’t take long until Jhiqui and Irri were finished with the preparations. They ate in silence while Daenerys’ returned to Jon’s side.

“The bloodriders are outside,” she told Jon and handed him a bowl filled with food. It was a simple meal, consisting of roasted horse, sweet grass and onions. “They won’t mind if we talk as long as you leave before sunset.”

Jon nodded his head and took in the cave the Khal had assigned to his Aunt as her dwelling place. It had taken another day to reach Vaes Dothrak, a city without walls or stone buildings, though certainly more crowded than the North. Jon had counted thousands of people and twice as many horses.

All in all, it was a very well-furnished cave. The floor was covered in rich carpets and the walls decorated with innumerous war trophies.

“I promised that I would give you my answer regarding my brother’s fate…,” she said after she had chewed a piece of meat. She didn’t look at him, but Jon noticed the pained expression on her face. ”I don’t like it, but I agree. We need to get rid of him or we won’t be able to get away. He would never leave me alone.”

Jon was relieved to hear her answer. It would make things much easier for them.

“I thank you,” Jon replied and wished he could just reach over and squeeze her hand. ”I know it is a hard decision to make, but you deserve more than to be stuck here. I will do it…it will be a quick death.”

Daenerys grimaced and placed her bowl on the ground. Then she picked up her cup and drank deeply.

Her grimace only intensified as she continued to drink.

“Is the wine too bitter?” he asked.

She emptied the cup and placed it back on the ground. She looked paler than before, but graced him with a weak smile.

“The wine is bitter, because I mixed my squashed herbs into it. I will be glad when I can stop taking them.”

“We will leave soon…I promise,” he assured her, but she silenced him with a shake of her head.

“I will do it myself,” she declared with grim determination.”Viserys is my demon to face. You already risked enough for my sake.”

Jon couldn’t believe his hears.

“But…,” he protested, but her determined look silenced him.

“Viserys is my brother and what happened between us doesn’t concern you. It has to be me,” she insisted and pulled her knees to her chest. It made her look younger than she was, but it also woke this dangerous feeling that had been stirring in his heart since the day he met her. It made difficult to refuse her.

“I understand,” he replied at last. ”And Ser Jorah?”

“Isn’t it enough that I have to kill my own brother?” she asked and bit her lips.”Ser Jorah never harmed me…I don’t want his blood on my hands.”

“He is a slaver,” Jon insisted and tried to hide his anger. ”My Uncle would kill him if he ever dared to return to the North.”

“That may be,” she countered stubbornly. ”But I am not the Lord Paramount of the North. I have no right to judge him.”

“You are the blood of the dragon,” he countered and tried to hide his displeasure. ”Your forbearers were Kings. You have every right to judge him.”

“I can’t,” she insisted and lowered her gaze. A moment of silence passed between them, before she lifted her gaze and spoke again. ”I will not kill him…I will send him away once my brother is dealt with. Is that a compromise you can agree to?”

Jon sighed deeply and nodded his head. He didn’t want to fight with her. They had to stand united.

“I agree,” he replied unwillingly and brushed his hand over the tattoo on his neck. ”I don’t like it, but I agree. It is not easy for me to forgive him…for what he did to his own people.”

“He sold his own people?” she asked and gave him a curious look. ”Do you know why?”

“To sate his wife’s wish for fine garments and jewels,” Jon answered and craned his neck to search her gaze. ”That is at least what my Uncle told me. I know you don’t like him, but he rarely lies.”

“I believe you,” she assured him in a quiet voice. ”And I thank you for accepting my wish…which brings me back to the topic at hand...Do you know what happens when a Khal dies?”

Jon shrugged his shoulders.

“I suppose a new Khal is chosen given that the current one…lacks an heir.”

“Not necessarily.” she explained, a ghost of a smile curling on her lips. ”The Dothraki don’t have such peaceful traditions. Upon a Khan’s death it is common that his bloodriders fight for the right of succession.”

“That makes sense,” Jon replied and pondered over her words. The realization came suddenly and he couldn’t help but to smile. ”It would certainly lead to chaos and I doubt the Dothraki bloodriders would have time to worry about us if they fighting each other…but the question remains: How will we get rid of the Khal? I, Muddy and Ser Franklyn might be able to take him down, but we can’t take on all his bloodriders.”

“I know a way,” his Aunt whispered as if she was afraid anyone could overhear them, though none of the Dothraki spoke High Valyrian. ”But I doubt you will like my plan...”

He gave her an encouraging smile.

“First I need to hear your plan…”

Chapter Text

Rhaenys

The soft sound of her harp painted happy smiles on Lorenza’s and Dorea’s lips. She continued to play a while longer, until Dorea started to wave her hand and a laughing Lorenza elbowed her sister to stop.

Rhaenys stopped and graced them each with a smile.

“Alys is asleep, sister,” Dorea chirped and pointed at the sleeping child in the crib. Her daughter Alysanne or commonly dubbed Alys was barely a moon old, but gifted with a particularly loud mouth. Now she was finally sleepy. The poor nursemaid deserved some rested and Rhaenys was also invited to take supper with her Uncle Prince Doran Martell. It was not often that he left the Water Gardens and given that their last quarrel was particularly troublesome since it concerned her daughter and her “supposed” father.

“Rella,” Lorenza added in a whispery voice and pulled on the sleeve of her dress. ”Did you hear? Alys is asleep…”

“Aye,” she replied and smoothed her hand over Dorea’s tousled mane of black hair. The girl leaned into her touch and her slanted black eyes stared back at her. It were her Uncle’s eyes and her late mother’s eyes. Rheanys was half a dragon, but it hardly showed in her Dornish features. Truly, she should count herself lucky. Her lack of Targaryen traits made it easy for her to disappear among her Uncle’s many bastard daughters. Nobody had ever voiced his doubts that she was Sarella Sand. ”I heard you Rea.”

Rhaenys put her finger to her lips and leaned over the crib to take a last glimpse at the sleeping child. Rhaenys loved looking at her. She was graced with silver hair and whenever she opened her eyes a pair of bright violet eyes was looking back at her. Rhaenys’ was only three when her father perished at the River Trident, but she still recalled his dark purple eyes and his long silver hair as if it was yesterday. Especially, his silver hair had always fascinated her, because it had looked so different than her own.

Alys’s hair was so very similar, almost soft like silk. Only her eyes were different. She had her father’s eyes, a deep violet so common among the Dayne family.

She placed a kiss on the babes head and led her two younger sisters out to the gardens. It was a deliriously hot day, the sun bright and the sky incredibly blue. The smell of flowers filled her nostrils as they stepped through the courtyard and passed the guards. The next courtyard was even bigger, the towers of Sunspear piercing the blue sky above.

The guards placed at the door opened it for them and they slipped inside, where it was cooler and the air was less stifling. Rhaenys was not surprised to find Lady Ellaria garbed in her finest silks. It was not often that she took supper with her Uncle Prince Doran.

“There you are, sweetling,” she greeted her with a kiss on the cheek and jerked her head at the dress laid out on the table. It was made of fine silk, trimmed with gold and silver treads. ”Your dress is ready.”

“I thank you, my Lady,” she replied and started to undress herself with the help of her sisters. When they were finished Ellaria eyed her from head to toe and chose the right kind of jewels to accompany her dress.

“Why can’t we go with you?” Rhea asked her mother.

“This is a formal supper,” Lady Ellaria explained calmly and fastened the orange veil on Rhaenys’ head. ”And no place for naughty little girls.”

“I am not little!” Lorenza protested and pouted. ”I am old enough.”

“For me you will always be my little girl,” Lady Ellaria added and patted her daughter’s head. Then she clapped in her hands and called her ladies to her.

“Please make sure that my daughters take supper and go to bed,” she told them and waved her hand at Rhaenys, indicating to follow after her.

As she followed after Lady Ellaria out to the balcony she heard the song of a cuckoo bird. The heavy fragrances of lotus flowers filled her nose as they stepped through the soft grass, towards her Uncle’s residence. By now the sky had taken a purple colour the first stars visible on the distant horizon. When she was a little girl she held a particular fascination with the stars and read every book she could find about the matter. She had tried to teach Bran the constellations, but he had lacked the patience for such things. He always preferred his wild horses and his sword over dusty books.

These thoughts never failed to fill her with sadness, but now was not the time to dwell on it.

“Are you well, sweetling?” Lady Ellaria’s soft-spoken voice called her back to the presence.

Rhaenys nodded her head in confirmation.

“I am well,” she assured her and followed after her. It was time to face her Uncle Doran.

Her Doran Uncle’s solar was a wide and spacious room, furnished with a long table made of ciderwood, flowers and colourful painting. Beneath her feet lay rich Myrish carpets and the high narrow windows filled the room with a golden glimmer.

“Welcome,” her Uncle Doran greeted her in his usual calm voice. “Thank you for bringing my niece, my Lady,” he added and nodded his head at Lady Ellaria.

Her Uncle Oberyn was also there and waved his hand at her, but remained silent.

“I am pleased to see you again, Uncle,” she replied politely and dipped her head.

He hadn’t changed much since she last laid eyes on him. His gout seemed as bad as always, his feet red and swollen. Outside he would usually cover his feet with blankets, but here inside he bared his suffering to her eyes. She also counted a few more grey strands, but that could only be her imagination.

“We need to speak,” he replied pensively and waved his hand at one of the servants. The young man was quick to pull out the chair for her and she took a seat next to her Uncle Oberyn. “But first we eat.”

He bared his white teeth and sipped from his cup of wine. He lounged in his chair as if he was an unruly boy instead of a grown man. His behaviour earned him a playful slap on the shoulder from Lady Ellaria.

Soon after the servants were called and supper was served, it was a fine meal, consisting of roasted peacock, garnished vegetables and a white sauce.

They ate in silence, though her Uncle Oberyn regaled them with anecdotes about his travel to Hellholt, the seat of Lady Ellaria’s grandfather. As usual, the tales were not meant for the ears of a gentle-hearted lady like her, but her Uncle Oberyn never cared about such trivialities.

Only when Lady Ellaria gave him a chiding look did he stop. By then the last dish had arrived, fresh oranges from the Water Gardens, her Uncle Doran’s favourite dish.

“What do you want to speak about, Uncle?” she asked after she had peeled and cut her orange.

“We are here to speak about the news I received from Ser Brandon,” he replied matter-of-factly and searched her gaze. ”It seems the King has chosen a new Hand…Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell.”

Rhaenys’ wasn’t surprised. Everyone knew that they were old friends.

“And is this going to help our cause?” Her Uncle Oberyn inquired hopefully.

“Mayhaps,” her Uncle Doran replied. ”We will have to wait and see…but there is more. There will be a tourney and according to Ser Brandon’s information the Mountain will also partake in it.”

Rhaenys was stunned and her Uncle Oberyn nearly dropped his cup.

“Brother…,” her Uncle Oberyn said and rose to his feet.”Are you sure?”

“Aye, I am sure,” his Uncle Doran replied quickly. ”And I want you to attend this tourney.”

It surprised her to hear such a command from her Uncle Doran’s lips.

Her Uncle Oberyn seemed to share her disbelief.

“Are you dying, brother?” he asked and received a slap on the shoulder by Lady Ellaria. ”Is there something you are not telling us? Should we be concerned?”

“Certainly not,” her Uncle Doran replied and took a sip from his cup. ”You have my blessing to kill him, but there is another reason I am sending you there. I want you to send the usurper into an early grave.”

“Why?” Rhaenys asked, suspicious of her Uncle’s sudden course of action. Throughout all these years she had waited for him to act, but now he was suddenly prepared to give his blessings. ”Why now?”

“The time is ripe,” he explained and lifted his head to look at her.

“Why is it ripe now?” Rhaenys asked anxiously. ”Are you finally going to send for my Uncle and Aunt?”

“I decided against the match with Viserys,” he informed her bluntly. ”There is someone else who I want you to marry.”

Rheanys balled her fists in her silken dress.

“Who?”

“Renly Baratheon,” her Uncle informed her and re-filled his cup.” He will most likely challenge Tywin Lannister’s grandson for the crown and then we will sweep in to offer our help. It is our best way to seat you on the Iron Throne.”

Rhaenys swallowed hard and her heart stirred in defiance.

“I don’t want to wed into a family that helped killing my father,” she replied stiffly. “Besides, my Uncle Viserys has the stronger claim…he is the last male heir of house Targaryen.”

“He is the son of the Mad King,” her Uncle Doran countered in displeasure. He never likened it when she questioned his decisions. ”The Targaryens lost the war…your father threw it all away for the Northern whore. Or have you forgotten about that? Renly Baratheon and his brother the usurper are not on good terms and it is very likely that the Stormlords would follow him in the case of war. None of them likes the Lannister’s growing influence over the Stormlands. It is only a matter of time, before hell will break lose…”

“Viserys is not at fault for what my father did,” she insisted and searched her Uncle Oberyn’s face. Going by his furrowed brows, she knew that he didn’t approve of Uncle Doran’s idea. ”And there is also my Aunt. Do you intend to let her rot in Essos until the end of her days?”

“Of course not,” he informed her and angled his head to look at her Uncle Oberyn. ”Do not look at me like that, brother. I don’t love the Baratheon’s, but it could unite the two houses and prevent further wars. Besides, we have a common enemy…the Lannisters. Renly could give us Tywin’s head. Killing the Mountain is only half a consolation when it was Tywin Lannister who gave the order.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Rhaenys replied stubbornly. ”What about Viserys and Daenerys?”

“Viserys will have to die or join the Night’s Watch, but your Aunt could be useful. We will wed her to Quentyn.”

Rhaenys didn’t belief her ears.

“Viserys is my blood,” she began, but was cut off by her Uncle Oberyn.

“And showed signs of madness since early childhood,” he argued. ”In regards to Renly…I don’t like the sound of that, brother.”

“I knew that beforehand,” her Uncle Doran replied and gave his brother a weary smile. ”But it is the only way to put a crown on Rhaenys’ head.”

Rhaenys shuddered. She wanted to see Tywin gone, but killing her own blood was not something she could agree.

“Has it ever occurred to you that I don’t want the crown, Uncle?” she asked him straight to the point. It was the first time she voiced such thoughts openly, but she also didn’t believe that her Uncle Doran would ever consider wedding her to Renly Baratheon.

His dark eyes narrowed in obvious displeasure. He gave her the same disappointed look he had been giving her throughout her whole childhood.

“Your mother wouldn’t have balked at doing her duty,” he accused her. ”You owe her to take back your brother’s crown.”

“My brother is dead and gone. This isn’t about duty…it is about putting someone of Martell blood on the throne. It is the same reason my grandmother sold my mother to the Targaryens…all this death for this bloody crown,” she replied and picked up her Uncle’s cup. ”I hereby refuse the crown and declare my support for my Uncle Viserys, the trueborn heir of House Targaryen.

Then she drowned her cup and fell back into her chair. Her Uncle Doran didn’t answer and ignored her like one would a troublesome child.

Only after he had cut his second orange did he break the tense silence that had settled over them.

“You will stop talking like that once you have abandoned your silly infatuation with the Stark bastard,” his Uncle Doran said in a tone that left no room for further questions.

Then he waved his hand at the guards.

“I am tired…I will now take my leave from you. Goodnight.”

Thus the two guards wheeled her Uncle out of the room.

Rhaenys didn’t remain and stormed out of the room. She needed fresh air to calm herself.

By the time she stepped outsides the sky was covered in a black cloth of silk and dotted with numerous stars.

A calm breeze was blowing through the gardens and made the grass sway. The smell of salt from the sea mixed with the smell of the lotus flowers.

“I will not wed a Baratheon,” she repeated when she noticed her Uncle Oberyn’s presence. ”Never!”

Tears burned in her eyes and she averted her gaze to hide them.

“I don’t support the idea,” her Uncle Oberyn replied, his voice almost soft. ”But my brother is not wrong…and I doubt we will get to Tywin without a crown on your head.”

When he touched her shoulder she brushed it away.

“I don’t want to speak about crowns,” she replied and winced at the coldness of her voice. ”Let us speak about something else…I want to be there when the Mountain dies. I want to accompany you to King’s Landing.”

“Rhaenys…,” he began and fell silent. She heard the doubt ringing in his voice. ”My brother will not allow it…,” he trailed off.

“Since when has that ever stopped you?” she asked him and turned around. ”What do you say?”

He sighed heavily and shrugged his shoulders.

“How could I refuse you when you are looking at me like that?”

Chapter Text

Daenerys

The world around her was nothing more than a blurred glimmer. Sweat rolled down her cheeks as she led her horse through the barren landscape. Slowly, she lifted her hand, brushed the sweat from her brow and angled her head to look out the Khal.

As always, the Khal rode at the head of the column, but he lacked his usual regal bearing. His shoulders were slumped and his face showed a grimace of pain. His stomach had ailed him in the morning and his state had only worsened over the last hours.

It seems the maegi’s poison is really working, she realized. Only a day ago she mixed it with the Dornish Red Viserys had acquired. His gift was meant to flatter the Khal and now it would bring about his end.

Despite the Khal’s state they continued their travel through this unforgiving landscape, lacking both water and shade.

Every sway of the Khal’s body caused unease among his men. The Dothraki abhor weakness, she knew. And his bloodriders will kill start killing each once the Khal has taken his last breath.

Soon, she told herself and searched for Jon’s gaze. He was riding before her, his grow glistening with sweat. He was also a little pale, but he had assured her more than once that he was well.

Jon noticed her staring and slowed down his horse.

“Can I help you, Princess?” he asked in a strained voice, his dark eyes slightly glassy.

“I would prefer it if you would call me Daenerys,” she whispered in High Valyrian. ”You look rather pale? Are you well?”

“You shouldn’t worry about me,” he replied through clenched teeth. “Our escape is more important.”

She wanted to protest and felt the urge to lean over to touch his hand. She bit her lips to banish away these feelings and directed her horse back to her handmaids. They all looked affected by the heat, their skin flushed from the bright sun.

It was midday when the Khal collapsed from his horse. Within a heartbeat the entire horde stopped its march.

“What is going on?” she heard her brother’s annoyed voice. ”Why is he sprawled on the ground?”

Daenerys felt the urge to throttle her Viserys, but the Khal’s bloodriders were observing her from the distance. Not long ago they had refused to follow her orders and now they were giving here these expectant looks.

“Why are you not answering?” Viserys demanded to know and made an attempt to move his horse towards her, but Ser Muddy blocked his path. This only increased her brother’s rage. ”You dare to block the path of your rightful King, dirty peasant?”

“I am a bloody exile, your Grace,” Muddy replied indifferently and freed his blade. ”And I don’t give a flying fuck about your titles. Now move back into the row or I will drive that blade up your royal arse.”

Viserys’ grimaced and his gloved hands tightened on the reins of his horse.

“Ser Jorah! Ser Franklyn!” he called for his sworn swords. ”Put this rude peasant in his place.”

The young Daenerys would have cowered in fear, but she didn’t even flinch when she answered.

“There will be no fighting,” she informed her brother. ”We have more important things to do than to kill each other,” she added and angled her head to look at Irri. ”Tell the bloodriders that we need to make camp here. If we are lucky the Khal will recover and we will be able to continue at sunrise.”

Irri did as she was asked and relayed her words to the bloodriders.

“I will not stand for this!” Viserys made use of the moment to make his displeasure known and was promptly silenced by the tip of a curved blade pointing at his neck. It was Cohollo, one of Khal Drogo’s oldest bloodriders.

“Go away,” Cohollo grumbled at her brother. “Or you die, fool.”

“You wouldn’t dare…,” Viserys seethed, but his lilac eyes betrayed his fear. Again her brother proved a coward. ”Well, I won’t fight with savages. Good day.”

Then he wheeled his horse around and left, Ser Jorah and Ser Franklyn following after him.

“This is no good place to make camp, Khaleesi,” Cohollo informed her after Viserys had left in company of his sworn shields.

Daenerys nodded her head in understanding.

“I know,” she replied in broken Dothraki. ”But the Khal needs rest.”

“You have no right to command us!” Qotho, one of the Khal’s most terrifying bloodriders, growled. “You are not the Khal!”

Daenerys expected that, but it didn’t help to ease her fears.

“I am not the Khal,” she confirmed and met Cohollo’s gaze.” But who else can command when the Khal is not able to do it?”

She felt relief washing over her when she read approval on Cohollo’s face.

“The Khaleesi speaks true,” Cohollo declared. “We will make camp here.”

“Why are you listening to the whore?” Qotho asked Cohollo. ”She has no right.”

“Be silent, fool!” Cohollo growled at the younger man. ”I am the oldest…my word has more strength than yours.”

The other bloodriders seemed to agree with Cohollo. They unsheathed their blades after Qotho had freed his own blade, as if to challenge Cohollo.

Seeing that he was outnumbered he sheathed his blade and moved back to his horse.

Jon’s dark eyes followed after the warrior, before returning back to her.

Daenerys sighed deeply. Then she smiled and shifted her attention back to Cohollo and the other bloodriders.

“Let’s make camp.”

Once the bloodriders had started with their work she shifted her attention back to Muddy.

“Bring the maegi here,” she told him. ”We need her wisdom.”

“The bloodriders won’t like her presence,” Jon remarked in High Valyrian. “We need to be careful.”

“I know,” she replied. “But it is the only way to make this mummery believable.”

Jon nodded his head and fell silent. Not long after the bloodriders carried the Khal inside and placed him on the carpet Doreah and Irri had spread over the floor.

Jon had sat down at the entrance of the tent and observed the bloodriders circling their horses around the tent. Only when Doreah offered him a sip from her waterskin did he stop his watch.

While Irri and Jhiqui continued to strip off the Khal’s clothes she made her way to Jon and Doreah.

“Are the rations ready?” she asked Doreah in Bastard Valyrian. It was the language she spoke best. She had informed Doreah, Irri and Jhiqui about her plans, but even her words of encouragement hadn’t been enough to calm their fears. And yet they didn’t refuse to help her. Esepcially, Doreah seemed eager to leave.

“Aye,” Doreah confirmed and dipped her head. ”Everything is ready.”

“Good,” Jon added in Bastard Valyrian and pulled himself back to his feet. He swayed a little as if he was drunk. ”Let’s hope everything will work out as we planned…”

Daenerys grabbed his arm and steadied him, but he didn’t hesitate to brush her hand away.

“Not here,” he told her in High Valyrian and frowned. ”Not here…”

“All will be well,” she assured him quietly and averted her gaze. She was surprised when his hand brushed her side, his touch almost feather light. Daenerys trembled. “I hope so.”

She had no time to ponder his words, because Muddy returned in company of the maegi.

“Here we are,” Muddy announced in an amused tone. She envied him for his ability to smile in such a situation. Cohollo appeared soon after in company of two other bloodriders. His expression betrayed his displeasure about the maegi’s presence.

“The Khal is sick,” she explained in the Dothraki tongue. “She may be able to tell us what ails him.”

“She is a maegi,” Cohollo grumbled. “I will stay here to watch her. She cannot be trusted.”

“Of course,” Daenerys agreed and craned her neck to look at the maegi.

“Can you tell us what ails him?”

“I will try,” the maegi replied and didn’t hesitate to go to work. Her face showed not even the hint of an emotion as she continued to inspect the Khal’s unmoving body.

“Tell us,” Daenerys prodded hesitatingly and lifted her gaze to look at Cohollo and the other bloodriders. “What can you see?”

“He was poisoned,” the maegi declared at last. “Someone must have poisoned him.”

“Poisoned?” Daenerys asked with feigned surprise. It was not hard for her to appear shocked. She even trembled, though her fear had different reasons than the Cohollo and his bloodriders might expect. “Are you sure?”

“It is certain,” the maegi confirmed. “His tongue is swollen and his stomach ails him. I may be able to help him if we can determine the poison.”

Cohollo frowned and looked at Daenerys.

“When did the Khal’s illness start?”

“A day ago…after…after,” Daenerys stuttered and clutched her chest. She thought of her dead mother and what lay ahead to conjure tears to her eyes. ”No it can’t be! He would never dare to do that…”

“Who?” Cohollo asked impatiently. ”Who are you referring to, Khaleesi?”

“My brother,” she stuttered and averted her gaze. She feared he might be able to read her lie. “The Khal drank from the wine my brother gifted him. Shortly after the Khal’s stomach aches started…It cannot be…”

“The fool does nothing but moan and complain,” Cohollo muttered angrily. “And he begrudges you, Khaleesi.”

“Haggo speaks true,” Jhoqo added his voice. “I heard him curse you more than once.”

Daenerys swallowed hard and gave him a hesitant nod.

“Then go and investigate if you must,” she told Cohollo, who seemed mightily pleased with her answer. The other bloodriders seemed just as eager. They were wild dogs, hoping for a way to still their anger.

“As you say, Khaleesi,” Cohollo replied and patted Jhoqo’s shoulder. “You will stay and keep a look at the maegi. Kill her if she casts spells.”

Jhoqo dipped his head and placed himself at the entrance of the tent after Cohollo and his other companion had left.

Daenerys breathed deeply and knelt down next to the box in which she kept her dragon eggs. They glittered like diamonds as she touched their rough surface. They were boiling hot, but her hands remained unharmed.

“The Khal will not make it through the night,” the maegi whispered to her in Bastard Valyrian. “We need to leave tonight. I expect you to keep your promise, Khaleesi.”

“I will keep my promise to you,” she replied and gave Jhoqo an assuring look. “The women you named will be saved and accompany us. I wish I could save all of them, but that would only hinder our escape.”

“Of course,” Daenerys whispered her answer and left the maegi to her work. It felt as if an eternity had passed until Cohollo returned in company of Ser Jorah and Ser Franklyn. Cohollo’s companions also brought Viserys, who gave the appearance of a trapped animal.

“What is the meaning of this?” Viserys asked in a shrieking voice, his face deeply flushed. ”Why was I roused from my sleep?”

Daenerys rose to her feet and hardened her heart against her brother.

“The wine you gifted to the Khal was poisoned,” she explained coldly.

Viserys looked as if someone had poured a bucket of cold water over his head.

“The whore is lying!” Viserys shrieked and tried to free himself from their tight grip. “She is lying!”

His fearful gaze flickered to Ser Jorah and Ser Franklyn.

“Tell them! Ser Jorah! Ser Franklyn!”

Nobody spoke out for her brother. Ser Jorah remained silent, a grim expression plastered on his face. Yet it was Ser Franklyn who gave her brother the deathblow. He exchanged a quick glance with Cohollo, before he pulled a bundle of plants out of the vest of his cloak. “More than once the Prince made his displeasure known to me and Ser Jorah. He was angered that the Khal didn’t indulge his wish for Kingship,” he explained and Irri quickly translated his words.

Viserys roared with anger and desperately tried to free himself.

“Traitors! Traitors! Traitors!”

“Tell us,” Daenerys prodded after Ser Franklyn had handed her the bundle of herbs. “Could this be the source of the Khal’s illness?”

The maegi picked up the herbs and sniffed. A moment of silence followed before she gave her damning verdict.

“There is no doubt…this is the source of the Khal’s illness,” the maegi explained and met Daenerys’ gaze. “I will do my best to help the Khal, but only time will tell…”

Cohollo who had listened in silence unsheathed his blade.

“He has to die, Khaleesi!” he demanded angrily and pointed the tip of his blade at Viserys. “He harmed the Khal.”

Daenerys stared back at her brother, who was shaking like a leaf. It was the first time she saw him truly afraid.

She wished for a heart of stone, but her insides clenched painfully when she heard his pleading voice.

“Dany!” he begged. “Please!”

Did you listen to my pleadings, she wanted to ask him, but remained silent. Did you listen to me when I asked you to forgo the marriage with the Khal?

It was the last push she needed and gave Cohollo a trembling nod.

“Aye, he needs to pay.”

Daenerys couldn’t bring herself to look at Viserys when he died.

Her gaze met Jon’s across the room, his dark purple eyes piercing into hers.

His face was pale like ash, his lips a thin line and his hair falling around his long face like a pair of raven feathers.

It is done, she read on his grim face. It is done.

Yet Daenerys felt no relief.

“I want him burned,” she told Cohollo afterwards. “That is how it is done in my family.”

Neither the bloodriders nor Cohollo refused her wish. At last she called Ser Jorah before her.

“Ser Jorah,” she greeted him and placed a bag of gold coins in front of him. “You served my brother, though he never showed you respect. Here the promised gold. I am freeing you from your service.”

Ser Jorah paled visibly.

“Khaleesi…I,” he stuttered, but she intended to keep her promise to Jon.

“You are now freed from your obligation. I ask you to leave.”

“But…,” he protested, but Daenerys remained firm and gave the elderly knight a piercing look.

“That was an order, Ser Jorah.”

The elderly night looked as if she had pierced him with a dagger, but didn’t speak out again.

“As you wish, Khaleesi,” he replied, picked the bag of gold coins from the ground and left. “As you wish, Khaleesi.”

It was Doreah’s touch on her shoulder called her back to the present.

“I shouldn’t have doubted your word, Khaleesi,” her handmaid whispered and smiled. “All is ready…we will soon leave this place.”

Daenerys returned her smile.

“Aye, we will finally leave this place.”

The air was hot and stifling, the world before her a glimmering landscape of sand and swaying grass.

They had ridden a whole day without rest. By now her backside felt numb and she longed for sleep. Her companions didn’t look better. Doreah’s skin was red flushed while Irri and Jhiqui had barely spoken a word since their departure. Even Muddy was silent, his dark brown eyes narrowed as they scoured the horizon for a potential enemy. Jon looked by far the worst. His face was ashen pale, his eyes feverish and glassy. Daenerys had asked him more than once if he was in need of rest, but he refused every time, claiming that everything was well.

Yet just by looking at him she knew he was lying. His shoulders were slumped, his purple gaze empty as he stared into the distance. Now and then he flexed his hand or trembled from the movement of the horse.

“Jon!” she called out to him, her voice drowned out by the howling wind. ”Jon!”

Finally, he lifted his head. He is sluggish movement proved her suspicions. Her heart started to hammer violently against her ribcage when she thought about losing him.

“Aye,” he replied in a strained voice. ”I heard you.”

Daenerys exhaled deeply and handed him her waterskin.

“Drink!” she told him. “You look drained.”

His dry lips quirked into a smile, but he shook his head.

“You will need it,” he croaked. ”Keep it.”

Daenerys ignored him and offered him the waterskin again. ”That’s a command! Drink!”

Finally, he took the waterskin and drank greedily, the water running down his chin.

“I thank you,” he replied quietly and handed her the waterskin back. She nodded her head and exchanged a quiet look with Muddy. He didn’t smile, his brows furrowed with worry.

“Jon,” he called out to his companion. ”How are you feeling?”

Jon barely registered Muddy’s words. Only after his friend had leaned closer to touch his shoulder did he react. He looked very disoriented.

It was the last straw for Daenerys. Something is wrong.

She halted her horse and turned around to search for Ser Franklyn’s gaze.

“We will stop here,” she declared in a commanding voice. ”Jon needs rest."

Ser Frankly quickly urged his horse towards her.

“This is not a proper place to make camp,” he countered and frowned when he took in Jon’s swaying figure. ”But you are right. The boy is not well. We should rest.”

Daenerys sighed in relief and turned back to Ser Muddy.

“Please inform the maegi that we are going to make camp here,” she explained quietly and noticed the young man’s discomfort with the task.

Still, he didn’t protest and set out to inform the maegi and the dozen women and girls they had taken with them. They supposedly belonged to her village and Daenerys had promised her to save them in exchange for her help. Among them was also the girl Mago intended to claim for his own.

Then she shifted her attention back to her handmaids.

“Doreah, I need your help with Jon,” she whispered.”Irri and Jhiqui, please help Ser Franklyn with the tents and the horses.”

“At once, Khaleesi,” Irri and Jhiqui replied in unison while Doreah followed after her.

“Jon,” she whispered as she led her horse towards him. ”We are making camp.”

He gave her a bewildered look as if he didn’t quite understand what she had said.

“We should continue…,” he protested, but she ignored him. She crawled from her Silver and grabbed the reins of his horse. ”We all need rest...we will continue tomorrow.”

“The Princess speaks true,” Ser Franklyn added. ”You are not the only one who looks like shit. Besides, I promised Griff to take care of you and you know how frightening he can be if he is displeased…”

“Aye, he can be quite frightening,” Jon muttered weakly and leaned on her arm as she helped him climb from his horse.

“Now come along,” she prodded and helped him walk. Doreah added her strength and took his other shoulder. Once Irri and Jhiqui had erected the tent they led him inside.

They helped him pull off his cloak and boots. It surprised her that he didn’t protest again.

When she touched his brow she knew why. He was burning with fever.

Not caring, she uncorked her waterskin and tore a piece of cloth from her shoulder. Carefully, she dipped the cloth in the water and brushed it over Jon’s head.

He sighed and his eyes fluttered close.

“Let us take a look at the wound,” Doreah suggested.

“Aye,” Daenerys agreed, though in truth she feared looking at the wound. ”Let us take a look.”

With a bit of effort Doreah helped her to pull off the leather armour. Daenerys exhaled deeply, before she brushed up Jon’s tunic to reveal the wound the maegi had sewn together.

The smell wafting off the wound was pungent, the flesh around it wet and swollen. She bit her lips at the sight, but tried not to frighten Doreah. Daenerys didn’t understand much about these things, but it was no pleasant sight.

Guilt filled her heart. She had been so occupied with her plots that she didn’t notice his state. I should have been more insistent, she thought and lifted her gaze when the maegi entered the tent.

“The wound is swollen,” she informed the maegi. ”Can you help him?”

The maegi took in Jon’s wound and shook her head.

“I could gather herbs,” the maegi offered. ”But I cannot promise you that it will help. If it gets worse he will suffer greatly.”

Daenerys clutched her chest.

“No,” she stuttered, anger stirring in her gut at the words of the maegi. ”He is strong…he defeated Mago. He will survive this as well.”

“Strength has nothing to do with it, child,” the maegi explained. ”Even the strongest of warrior can perish from such a wound. First comes the fever, then comes the chill and at last it taints the blood.”

Daenerys cared not for her predictions. Jon was still alive and breathing.

“Gather the herbs!” she repeated her request. ”He saved you...you owe him.”

The rest she left unspoken and turned around to look at Jon’s unmoving form.

The maegi remained unmoved, but lowered her head in understanding.

“I will do as you say, child,” she replied at last. ”It will take a while, but I will do my best.”

“Thank you,” Daenerys replied in relief. ”Is there something I can do to help?”

“Give him water and make him eat,” the maegi replied and slipped out of the tent.

Daenerys didn’t hesitate to retrieve the dried meat and returned to Jon’s side.

Doreah was dribbling water on Jon’s head and cheeks, but only when Daenerys touched his cheek did he open his eyes.

“Hot,” he croaked. ”Did you dip your hand in a volcano?”

A hoarse laugh escaped her lips. ”I am a dragon…Have you forgotten?”

“I am also a dragon,” he whispered weakly and smiled as he angled his head to kiss her fingertips. I should have told you a long time ago.”

“First you need to eat,” she explained and pulled away her hand. Then she started to pick apart the pieces of dried meat.

“Do you want me to do it?” Doreah inquired.

“No,” Daenerys replied and jerked hear head at the entrance of the tent. “Help the others. I will take care of everything.”

“Very well,” the Doreah replied and left.

“Here,” she whispered and held a small piece of meat to his lips. “Eat…it will give you strength.”

He did as she had asked of him, but he refused.

“I am not…hungry,” he explained and lifted his hand to touch hers. ”I need water…the water you will need. If it gets worse…end it…you need to go.”

“No,” she replied firmly and leaned down to cradle his gaunt face between her hands. “No, you won’t die….” she added and leaned down to place her lips on his before he was able to mutter a word of protest. His lips felt dry and hot, like the scorched earth the Dothraki horde had left behind wherever they passed. He didn’t protest and pulled her closer, his hand brushing over her shoulder. His touch left her trembling and she felt desire pooling between her legs. She wanted him, but now was not the time for such things.

“Your lips are hot too,” he whispered against hers and buried his fingernails in her shoulder. ”Please kiss me again.”

She leaned closer and brushed her lips over his, her body pressed against his, but not too close. She was afraid to brush against his wound and yet she could feel his manhood stir.

“Does it feel good?” she whispered against his cheek and snaked her hand in his breeches to stroke him while she continued to kiss him. His answer came in form of a soft moan and his fingernails gracing over her shoulder. He didn’t answer and kissed her more fiercely, losing himself to her touch. Then he shuddered, an expression of relief washing over his face.

His breathing was still labored as she went to wash her hands, but he seemed calmer when she returned to offer him water.

He drank, but not much, his hand searching for her hair.

“I shouldn’t have done that…,” he whimpered, his purple eyes narrowed in concentration. ”I still need to tell you…I lied.”

“I wanted to do it,” she replied and touched his cheek. ”I want you.”

A pained expression washed over his face, tears glistening in his dark eyes.

“I still lied.”

“Then, tell me,” she prodded gently. ”Tell me…it can’t be so bad.”

“It’s about who I am,” he explained, his voice barely above a whisper. Daenerys had to lean close to his mouth to hear him properly. ”I am not Eddard Stark’s bastard…it was a lie.”

Daenerys was stunned by his answer, but also slightly relieved. She couldn’t care less if he was the bastard of a lord or a tavern girl. Viserys had been a King and proved vicious and cruel. Blood said nothing about a person’s character.

“I don’t care…,” she assured him and smiled. Yet her words didn’t seem to grant him the relief she had hoped to give him.

He shook his head, his face paler than curdled mild as he brushed his hand over the ruby on her wrist.

“The ruby…he belonged to my true father,” he stuttered and trembled in her arms. She didn’t understand what he was trying to say and searched for Jon’s cloak.

“I don’t understand…you said the ruby belonged to my brother,” she repeated what he had told her and covered him with the cloak. Her heart was hammering violently against her ribcage as she awaited his answer.

“You heard right…Prince Rhaegar was my father,” he whispered and tightened his grip on her arm as if he was afraid she might run away. And my mother…is Lyanna Stark.”

“Lyanna Stark…,” she repeated in utter disbelief. “But she wed the usurper…Viserys always called her the whore who bewitched our brother.”

“Viserys was a fool,” he replied and coughed. ”My mother ran away with my brother…he loved her and she loved him.”

It made no sense, but Daenerys saw no reason why he would lie to her.

“But why did she wed the usurper?” she asked and bit her lips in anticipation of his answer.

“She didn’t have a choice…Robert Baratheon was always obsessed with her…my Uncle was afraid that he could find out about me…you know what happened to my brother and sister…they were butchered in their cribs.”

Daenerys couldn’t speak, her mouth opening and closing.

“I should have told you sooner, but every time I found another excuse…,” he tried to explain. He coughed again and dropped his hand to the ground.

His gesture frightened her more than the truth he had revealed.

She grabbed his hand and rubbed it between her hands.

“It is alright,” she lied, though she wasn’t exactly angry. In truth, she didn’t know what to feel. She felt happiness and sadness, confusion and understanding.

“That’s why you have my mother’s eyes,” she added and smiled when she laid eyes on them. ”She always said that my brother had her eyes…,” she trailed off, but was cut off by Jon.

“Do you hate me?” he asked straight to the point. ”I don’t want to go being hated by my relative…”

It felt as if an arrow had pierced her heart, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“No…I don’t hate you,” she assured him and trembled. ”I just wish you told me sooner…I would have wanted to see Viserys’ dumb face …,” she trailed off.

“I will tell him if I meet him in hell,” he replied and coughed again.

She squeezed his hand and was about to chide him for his inappropriate jape when the flap of the tent opened and the maegi appeared. Doreah was also there, lingering there at the entrance of the tent.

“Look,” she told Jon and waved her hand at the maegi. ”You are finally getting help…next time you will think twice before playing the hero.”

“I have the tea,” the maegi informed her and handed her a bowl. The smell unpleasant, but she couldn’t care less if it helped Jon.

“I thank you,” she replied. ”I will make him drink…thank you.”

“I cannot promise that it will help…,” the maegi replied coldly and left.

“Do you want me to stay?” Doreah inquired in a worried tone.

“No,” Daenerys replied. ”Rest and keep the others away. Tell them I will take care of it.”

She didn’t hear Doreah’s answer.

“Here,” she told Jon and brought the bowl to his lips. ”It might smell like shit, but it will help.”

He laughed and drank slowly. Daenerys didn’t know how he managed to do it without gagging.

“It is half as bad,” he assured her and stretched out his trembling hand to touch her shoulder. ”Will you stay?”

“Aye,” she promised and slipped beneath the cloak she had spread over him.”I will stay.”

He smiled and closed his eyes as she snuggled closer.

She dreamed she was a dragon, her white wings spread over the grey sky and her eyes red like rubies. Her hot flame bathed her enemies in crimson fire and swallowed them skin and bones. It was a marvelous feeling and she wished she could continue like this forever, but then it happened. Something sharp and cold pierced her heart and she fell from the sky into the frozen river below. The ice around her cracked and her skin burned from the cold water touching her skin. It swallowed her whole, turning her limps numb and stealing her breath. She gasped for air, choking as her lungs filled with water and all warmth left her…

She felt something wet touching her cheek when she opened her eyes. It was Ghost, his ruby eyes staring back at her. His whined softly and Jon stirred beside her. He trembled as If he had caught a terrible chill, his breathing labored and heavy.

“Jon,” she whispered and touched his brow, his dark purple eyes impossible wide. ”What is it?”

Daenerys trembled when she noticed how freezing cold he was. Panic gripped her, clenching around her heart like a tight noose.

He whispered something in return, but she had to lean down to understand him.

“Ghost,” he whispered faintly and gasped for air. ”Ghost…”

Then he shuddered and moved no more.

Chapter Text

Jon

The sound of a harp filled his ears as he walked along the muddy trail leading towards the ruin looming ahead. It was nothing more than a carcass of stone walls, bathed in soft streams of moonlight, falling around it like a curtain.

The music grew louder as Jon fought his way through the thick foliage. Whoever played this harp might be able to tell him how he got here.

The last thing he recalled was swallowing the maegi’s disgusting tea. Is this death, he wondered and brushed away another twig, before he reached a large courtyard surrounded by half-collapsed walls. An old cypress tree stood there, its bark old and crooked. As he walked along the collapsed walls he found rose vines snaking their way through stone and mortar alike. Yet it were not the roses that caught his attention, but the images of countless dragons casting their colourful flames over the wall.

Again the sound of the harp touched his ears. He left the colourful depictions behind him and stepped through a large curved door, leading inside the palace. Above the door pronged a dragon head, its eyes made of red rubies. It felt as if the dragon was watching him as he stepped through the gate and reached some an anteroom. Here he found no colourful depictions, only scorched walls as if a blazing hot flame had touched them.

The sound of the harp and Jon’s footfalls moving against the ground was the only sound in this deserted place. He was glad that the sealing was gone, because the moonlight provided him with enough light to find his way. He moved along the hall, listening to the sound of the harp and climbed up the blackened stairs leading to a gallery. He ended up in another, even larger room. There he found a large narrow hall. Its walls sat on curved pillars that might have once held a beautiful ceiling. Jon imagined even more precious depictions, but his attention was directed elsewhere when a flock of birds soared over the open ceiling.

“You finally came,” an unfamiliar voice filled his ears. The voice was firm, but not without softness.

Jon turned around and found the owner of the voice. There beneath a collapsed pillar sat a young man, not much older than twenty. Jon was unable to make out his features, but his lips were curled in a smile. Ghostly and beautiful, that is how he would describe the man’s appearance. His even-shaped face was framed by pale silver hair, but the harp in his lap looked even more precious. It was made of fine dark cherry wood and silver strings.

“Father,” Jon gasped, his words echoing back at him through the hall. He stood frozen to the ground, unable to move. He didn’t know to say.

The man with the silver hair rose to his feet and left the harp behind, allowing it to rest on a heather bush that had grown through the large narrow window above his head.

Jon searched for familiarities in the man’s face. He saw bits and pieces of Viserys, but also Daenerys. He certainly lacked Jon’s long face, but it was true what Daenerys had told him. They shared the same eyes.

“Jon,” said the man, who he believed to be his father, his voice unsure and unnaturally soft. “That is the name Lya gave you, isn’t it?”

Jon’s heart nearly stopped when he heard this. He didn’t know if he should cry or laugh.

“Aye, she called me Jon to protect me,” he confirmed and stepped closer. His feet felt weak like pudding and he trembled. “Did you have a different name in mind?”

His father nodded his head, a grimace of pain washing over his even-shaped features.

“Jaehaerys for a boy,” his father explained and sat down on one of the steps leading up to the gallery. “And Visenya for a girl.”

“Jaehaerys,” Jon stuttered and laughed, tears burning in his eyes. “That’s quite the mouthful…Please don’t be insulted, but I prefer Jon.”

“Jon is a fine name,” his father agreed and swept his gaze over the empty hall. “Do you know the name of this place?”

Jon had his suspicions, but he wasn’t sure.

“Is this Summerhall?”

“Aye, this is indeed Summerhall,” his father confirmed and jerked his head at the empty space next to him. “Please sit down and let us speak. I have been waiting for you and we don’t have much time to waste.”

“You have been waiting for me?” Jon asked in confusion and took a seat next to his father. Seeing him up close, he looked even more like a ghost. His face was white like paper, his dark purple eyes unnaturally bright. “All these years?”

“Time means nothing for the dead,” his father explained and waved his hand. “My mother told me that King Aegon the Unlikely loved this palace…Have you heard what happened here? Did Lya tell you about the Tragedy of Summerhall?”

His questions stunned Jon.

“You don’t know what happened after your death?”

His father shook his head.

“I know only bits and pieces…”

Jon sighed deeply and braced himself for his father’s reaction.

“I grew up in Winterfell. I was four years old when my mother had to leave me. I haven’t seen her ever since…she is now wed to Robert Baratheon,” he forced the words over his lips.

“This I heard,” his father replied, his voice laced with suppressed anger. “And it pains me to hear that you couldn’t be with her, but I suppose that is the price I have to pay.”

“I wanted to retake the throne and free mother,” Jon admitted sadly. “I failed.”

The expression on his father’s face could only be described as sad.

“You didn’t fail me,” his father assured him and leaned over to touch his hand. His touch felt cold, but Jon didn’t care. Just being here filled him with happiness. “You have no obligation…what happened was my responsibility, not yours.”

“I wanted to do it,” Jon insisted stubbornly. “I wanted to save mother.”

“Are you sure your mother is the kind of person who is in need of saving?” his father asked teasingly and folded his hands in his lap. “What do you know about the Rebellion?”

“Not much,” Jon admitted. “Only what my Uncle Eddard told me. That you ran away with mother and that King Aerys killed my Grandfather Rickard and Uncle Brandon.”

Surprisingly, his father started to smile. It was a bitter smile, devoid of happiness.

“You may call him by his true title…the Mad King,” his father corrected him. “Even I used to call him by this name, though never to his face. Silent curses were my only weapon against him.”

“They say you wanted to depose him,” Jon countered hopefully.

“Aye,” his father confirmed and sighed deeply. ”But that was another failure…one among many failures. Since you know so little about the past I think it would be best if we start at the beginning. What do you know about my father’s madness?”

“They say his madness started after the Defiance of Duskendale,” Jon revealed his sparse knowledge about his grandfather’s reign.

“You are not wrong,” his father replied and paused for a moment, before he continued to speak. “He only became the Mad King after the Defiance of Duskendale, but he always had a jealous and prideful streak. He desired Lady Joanna Lannister and couldn’t accept that Lord Tywin had something he the King couldn’t have. It was spurned love and pride that destroyed their friendship. I would say that my father’s downfall began on the day he started to despise Lord Tywin Lannister. Yet the person who suffered the most under my father’s cruelty was my Lady Mother. My grandfather King Jaehaerys sealed her fate when he forced her to wed my father…,” He trailed off and fell silent.

Then he averted his gaze as if to ponder his next words, before he finally continued to speak.

“Do you perhaps know why my grandfather forced her to wed my father?”

“No,” Jon replied, but doubted that his father expected a positive answer. “I don’t know.”

His father grimaced and answered in a strained voice.

“It was Prince Duncan’s wife Jenny of Oldstones who brought a woods witch to court. This witch prophesied that a promised prince would be born from his line, destined to bring about eternal spring.”

“Eternal spring?” Jon asked and wrinkled his brows in confusion. “And he believed the words of this woods witch?”

His father nodded his head, his long silver hair swaying around his face like a white shroud.

“Does that surprise you?” he asked after a moment of silence had passed between them. “Several members our forefather’s had the sight. Deana the Seer was the first and Aemon Blackfyre another…I also had this gift. It started when I was a little boy…more than once I had visions of the burning of Summerhall or my father’s suffering at traitor’s hands. They did unspeakable things to him, though that doesn’t make me hate him anything less for what he did to my mother.”

“How can you be sure that it were visions and not simply dreams?” Jon asked sceptically.

His father smiled wryly and brushed his hair out of his face.

“The one about my father…I saw this vision before it happened. There were other visions over the years…one more frightening than the next…I saw a world cast in snow and ice. I saw a world of dead men ruled by a King with eyes as blue as frost. Believe me…I never asked to behold these visions.”

“I can only imagine,” Jon said and shuddered. He didn’t know what to make of these supposed visions, but his father sounded so convinced that he couldn’t bring himself to doubt him.

“Did you ever tell anyone about these visions?” Jon asked, and searched his father’s face.

“Only Elia and later Lya,” he replied, his voice laced with sadness. “Elia laughed at me, calling me a fool. She held no interest in such tales. Lya was different…she believed me. It was such a relief for me…often I feared I was going mad.”

Jon realized that he had touched upon an old wound. He sensed that his father was not yet prepared to speak about Princess Elia.

“And this promised prince?” he asked his father. “Did you also believe in this prophecy?”

His father averted his gaze as if he was deeply ashamed of himself.

“I always had my doubts,” he admitted. “But I couldn’t help to search for answers.”

“And did you find answers to your questions…” Jon prodded gently and searched his father’s face.

“I did,” he replied, the sound of his voice as quiet as a whisper. “I found answer…too many of them…one more terrifying than the next.”

Jon felt his skin prickle.

“What was so terrifying about them?” he asked in a hushed whisper.

Finally, his father lifted his head to look at him.

“The beginning of my father’s downfall was his quarrel with Lord Tywin, but our family’s downfall began with the death of the dragons.”

“The Dance of Dragons,” Jon offered, but his father shook his head.

“Our forefathers certainly lent a helping hand, but I don’t believe it was lack of freedom that brought about the dragons’ demise. No, the pettiness of learned men was at work here. I have no proof for this, but there are hints that the Maesters of the Citadel know more about the death of the dragons than they want to admit. Not that it matters. Every person that could have been involved in this conspiracy is long dead.”

“But why?” Jon asked in utter disbelief.

“I don’t know…perhaps my family’s power scared them,” his father replied. “But I doubt we will ever know the full truth. All I know is that the Maesters are hiding away knowledge that should be open to everyone.”

“How do you know? Did you see this knowledge?”

“Aye,” his father confirmed. “I was a mere boy of ten when I first visited the Citadel. My love for books was known far and wide…thus I was invited to behold their grand library. It was there that I made the acquaintance of a young Maester…the other acolytes called him Marwyn the Fool, but I soon learned that he was much more than a fool. He showed me the real treasures of the Citadel, the locked-away tomes that are not meant for the eyes of common men.”

“Did this Marwyn share your belief in this conspiracy?”

“Aye, he did,” his father confirmed. “But he also gave me the answers I was desperately searching for. I found records of prophecies, transcripts of ancient tales and spell books. You see…the Tragedy of Summerhall wasn’t meant to be the day of my birth, but the day of my death. My mother and I were meant to be blood sacrifices to wake dragons from stone. The worshipper’s of R’hllor also believe in the inevitable return of a promised prince, though some of them call him Azor Ahai. When the red stars bleeds and the darkness gathers Azor Ahai shall be reborn amidst smoke and salt…Some texts also speak of dragons hatched from stone. I think it was this part that caused King Aegon to employ Red Priests in his service. They filled his head with all kinds of hopes, but sadly his efforts were all for nought. Ser Duncan the Tall prevented the blood sacrifice and ended up killing his King.”

Jon was shocked and barely able to bring a word over his lips.

“The said that King Aegon was good…I cannot believe that he would do that.”

His father shrugged his shoulders.

“He was a good man, but even good men can be led astray by desperation…I consider myself one of these men. All my life I asked myself? Why did I survive while all these people perished? Why am I plagued by these terrible visions? Who is this prince and more importantly why is he necessary?”

Jon understood what he was trying to say. He had been asking himself similar question since he had found out about his true birth. Was he a Targaryen or a Snow? Was he a bastard or a Prince?

“You said that you found answers to these questions,” Jon reminded his father.

“Aye, I did,” his father replied in a heavy voice. “I paid several visits to the Citadel and read every book I could find. What I found was plentiful, but also confusing. All over Essos there are different names for this Azor Ahai…Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar, Neferion and Edric Shadowchaser, yet all of them repeat a similar tale…they speak of a great calamity that befell the world…the Long Night. These tails fit my terrifying visions.”

“The Long Night,” Jon repeated excitedly. “I heard about this. Our nursemaid in Winterfell used to tell us stories about the Others and the Last Hero, who ended the Long Night.”

His father gave him the brightest of smiles.

“Aye, but the tales from Essos claim the same thing about Azor Ahai. They say he wielded a flaming sword named Lightbringer, forged in the lifeblood of his lover that was able to banish away the darkness that had fallen over the world. Surprisingly, the worshippers of R’hllor believe that this Azor Azhai defeated an enemy called the Great Other. They call him a god of death, evil, cold and darkness. Some texts don’t even call him a god, others a demon, but whatever he really was…I doubt it was good.”

“I see,” Jon replied and fell silent. He could certainly see the similarities, but he couldn’t help but to remain sceptical. Not that it mattered. He was dead and nobody would ever hear about these secrets. It made it easier for him to be honest with his father.

“You said my mother believed in your visions,” he said and cleared his throat. “But where is the connection to the Rebellion?”

His father fell silent as if to ponder his next words, before he continued to speak.

“I told you about my visions,” his father repeated hesitatingly. “I had beheld this vision more than once. I saw three dragons and three riders…one girl looked like Elia, one girl looked like my mother and the boy…he had my eyes…your eyes. At first I believed that Rhaenys would be the first rider, Aegon the second rider and that my third child would be this silver-haired girl that shared my mother’s features.”

“A third one?” Jon asked, trying to understand what his father had told him. Anger stirred inside him when the implications became clear to him. “Is that why you ran away with my mother? Was that all she was good for? To birth you another child because Princess Elia could only give you two?”

“No,” his father replied firmly and met his gaze. “I loved your mother and admired her courage. I believed we were fated to be together. That is why I crowned her at the tourney…I wanted to marry her, but she refused me the first time.

“She refused you,” Jon repeated. “But my Uncles told me that she ran away with you.”

His father nodded his head in confirmation. He looked weary, as if all this talk had tired him out.

“It does not surprise me that she didn’t tell them the full truth. Lya was always too proud for her own good,” he muttered quietly and broke into a smile. “Have you heard about the Knight of the Laughing Tree?”

“I have,” Jon confirmed, relieved that there was at least one piece of information he could claim to know about. “Uncle Benjen told me all about it. That’s how you met my mother. He said that the Mad King tasked you to find a hedge knight that called himself the Knight of the Laughing Tree.”

“Aye,” his father replied and grimaced. “My father feared everyone around him. It was no surprise that he considered this harmless hedge knight a traitor. Well, I brought him your mother’s shield, but that was not enough to satisfy his paranoid mind. I should have known better, been more watchful…”

“What happened?” Jon inquired, with growing anxiety. “What did the Mad King do?”

“I don’t know how he found out that Lyanna was the hedge knight, but he sent men after her when she was travelling to Riverrun to attend your Uncle Brandon’s wedding to Lady Catelyn Tully. I was able to save her, but father’s foolish henchmen had ridden under the Targaryen banner. Her brother Brandon probably believed her taken by my hands, because I crowned her at the tourney...” his father continued to explain, but Jon couldn’t help but to interrupt him.

“Then why didn’t you come forward and told the truth?” Jon asked. I am sure my grandfather would have understood…,” he continued, but his father’s shaking head silenced him.

“Your grandfather was not as innocent as you believe him to be. I had no reason to trust him,” his father countered, his voice taking an almost hostile tone. “There were rumours that your grandfather Rickard, Jon Arryn and Hoster Tully were conspiring to place Robert Baratheon on the throne. Even Varys, my father’s Master of Whisperers believed these rumours and so did my Lord Father. That may also be the reason why he gave Rickard Stark such a cruel death…my father probably believed that he was purging another traitor. Not that it matters now. I hold no love for your grandfather, but I regret what happened to him and his son. Brandon Stark was a courageous man…he didn’t deserve the fate he got.”

Jon was speechless. What his father had told him went against everything he knew.

“So my mother lied because she didn’t want my Uncle to know about the abduction?”

“Perhaps,” his father replied weakly and shrugged his shoulders. “But the running away part was no complete lie. Lyanna chose to stay with me and I chose to stay with her. At the time I saw it like this…I had foiled my father’s plans and he would surely take my head if I dared to return to court. So I hid away, trying to cook up a plan. I thought…Mayhaps Rickard Stark will forget his ambitions if I offer to make Lyanna my Queen, something I wanted to do anyway. Your mother was not convinced that it would work, but she loved me and eventually agreed. We got wed in haste and intended to hide in Dorne until the storms had calmed. Then I intended to reveal my true intentions to your grandfather, but my plans were foiled when my father demanded Eddard Stark’s and Robert Baratheon’s heads. The Rebellion was already in full swing when I and Lyanna heard of Lord Rickard’s and Brandon’s deaths. Eventually, I returned on my father’s order, because he decided that he had need of me now that everything around him was falling apart. The rest you know.”

“The rest I know,” Jon replied and felt no hint of relief. He had always believed that hearing the full truth would make it easier to bear. It was another delusion.

 “And Princess Elia and my siblings?” Jon finally asked the question he had wanted to ask him all along, but was not brave enough to pose. “Did you not love her at least a bit?”

“I loved Rhaenys and Aegon,” his father replied, a pained expression crossing over his face. He didn’t look at Jon, his gaze fixed on one of the many black walls. “I was fond of Elia…but at times I couldn’t help but to resent her, because I felt she was another burden my father had placed on my shoulders. Do not think I liked putting children in her or seeing her suffer…I took no pleasure from this nor did Elia, but people expected of us to play our parts and for a while it worked, until Elia’s fragile health started to show. After Rhaenys I refused to share her bed, because I didn’t want her blood on my hands. I saw how much my mother had suffered bearing her many dead babes and I didn’t want to impose that on Elia again. I asked her to take a mistress, but she didn’t agree. Bringing honour to her family was always more important than survival. She even went to my Lord Father and complained that I refused her bed. Not long after my Lord Father had commanded me to do my duty Aegon was conceived. When I met your mother knew that I couldn’t continue living like this. I thought it best for both of us if Elia retired to Dorne. Aegon would still be my heir and Lyanna my Queen. I would have even been prepared to grand Dorne independence if it had helped to calm Doran Martell’s wrath. It is true…I used my belief in prophecies and my love for Lya as way to justify my actions, but I never expected it would end like this…I admit…I was a fool.”

For a long time Jon didn’t know what to say. Yet he felt no anger, only sadness.

“The Mountain killed them,” Jon countered and gave his father an assuring smile. “And Tywin Lannister’s greed for power.”

“It matters not,” his father replied, his form growing ever dimmer. His body looked like the moonlight falling through the open sealing. “I can only give you this warning: beware of those who give you prophecies. Choose your own path. Do not commit the same follies as I did.”

“What is happening?” Jon asked, as the world around him started to disappear.

His father gave him a warm smile.

“It is time for you to return.”

“But…I am dead…,” he protested, but was silenced by his father’s shaking head.

“This place is not the beyond. It is a limbo…my limbo. I chose to remain here until the person I am waiting for returns to my side.”

Who, Jon was about to ask, but when he noticed the tears glistening in his father’s eyes he received his answer. Mother.

“Farewell,” was the last thing he heard from his father’s lips, before he was swallowed by the darkness.

When he woke it felt as if no longer inhabited his own skin. It felt as if there was another presence lingering alongside his mind. It was a familiar presence, wild and untamed like a wolf. Ghost.

Slowly he looked around, but was unable to move his body. He was used to two feet not four pawns.

I shouldn’t be here, he thought and felt Ghost’s lingering presence at the edge of his mind. This is wrong.

“Khaleesi,” he heard Doreah’s voice ringing through the tent. “The pyre is ready.”

“I heard you,” Daenerys’ strained voice replied. “I am coming.”

Jon sat back down and angled his head to search for Daenerys.

He found Daenerys seated next to Irri and Jhiqui. She looked very distraught, her silver hair falling like tatters around her shoulders. Her face looked also different. It was far too thin as if she hadn’t seen a proper meal in days, her eyes were red-rimmed from crying.

The sight pierced his heart. Yet he had no mouth to speak. He only managed a soft whine.

“Let me help you,” Doreah offered, but Daenerys brushed her hand away.

“I can walk on my own,” Daenerys informed Doreah and rose to her feet. She walked towards the entrance of the tent, but stopped at the last moment, her eyes flickering back to the wooden box that harboured her dragon eggs.

“Irri…Jhiqui,” she addressed the other two girls. “Would you carry the box?”

“At once, Khaleesi!” they replied in unison and went to retrieve the box. Jon used the moment to move Ghost’s body towards Daenerys. He might not be able to speak, but he was still able to touch her.

He gave another soft whine and brushed his head against her bare hand.

This time he managed to get her attention.

“Oh, Ghost,” she said and brushed her hand over his head. “I didn’t see you.”

I am not Ghost, he wanted to say and licked her hand. I am Jon.

She gave him a trembling smile, tears glistening in her eyes.

“Come,” she replied softly and pointed at the entrance of the tent. “As Doreah rightly said…the pyre is ready.”

Jon’s heartbeat quickened as he followed after her. It was close to sunset, the sky coloured in rich burgundy and covered with glittering stars.

It was a simple wooden pyre, arranged in a square form, the middle filled with brush, shortened branches and sheaves. The sight made him uncomfortable.

His father had told him that he was meant to return, but it seemed that this was another miscalculation. There was no denying the truth. There was his body, placed atop the wooden pyre.

I am dead, he knew and managed a sorrowful howl, I am dead.

“Everything is ready, Princess,” Muddy said. His voice sounded strangely subdued and was devoid of its usual mirth.

Daenerys gave a quiet nod and picked the eggs from the wooden box.

Then she placed them on the pyre and shifted her attention back to Muddy.

What are you doing, Jon wanted to scream at her, but only managed a sorrowful howl. Daenerys gave him a sad smile and knelt down to place a kiss on Ghost’s head.

“I know,” she whispered and turned back to Muddy. She hesitated for a moment, before she spoke.

“As Ser Franklyn to get the maegi here,” she demanded, her voice suddenly hard and cold.

“Princess…,” he opened his mouth in protest, but Daenerys’ piercing gaze silenced him.

“Jon died because of her,” she replied. “Bring her!”

“Aye,” Muddy muttered and left. “I will get the maegi.”

Jon didn’t understand what the maegi had done, but he didn’t care. He wanted to do something to make it easier for Daenerys.

He moved closer and licked her hand.

She smiled again, but didn’t answer, her eyes fixed on the distant horizon.

Not long after Ser Franklyn and Ser Muddy returned in company of the maegi. They had bound her and led her towards the pyre.

She didn’t even struggle, her face a mask of indifference.

“I gave the boy a painless death,” she told Daenerys as Ser Franklyn bound her to the pyre. “I would have suffered needlessly.”

“I told you to help him!” Daenerys retorted in a pained voice. “Not to kill him! You betrayed my trust!”

A hint of fear glimmered in the maegi’s eyes, but she remained cold as ever.

“You are a foolish girl,” she said and jerked her head at the eggs. “Your eggs will only be destroyed. Free me and I will show you how to hatch them. I can give you power beyond your imagination.”

“I won’t trust you again,” Daenerys muttered angrily and looked back at Ser Franklyn. “Ser Franklyn. Gag her…I want to hear no curses from her mouth.”

“My pleasure,” Ser Franklyn answered and didn’t hesitate to follow the Princess’ command. His face was unreadable as ever, but Jon saw the signs of anger simmering beneath his blank face.

When it was done he stepped down from the pyre and Muddy handed Daenerys a burning torch.

Jon felt fear. He wondered about his future. Will I remain locked up in Ghost’s body forever?

The maegi tried to speak, but Daenerys ignored her and shifted her attention back to her companions.

“Leave me now,” she demanded of them. “Please.”

Jon read confusion and disapproval on their faces, but none of them protested. They disappeared one after another, leaving only him and Daenerys.

Once they were gone Daenerys thrust the burning torch in the pyre.

It didn’t take long before the flames started to spread over the wooden structure, rising into the sky.

Daenerys’ gaze was fixed on pyre, her slender form illuminated by the flames.

It was too late when he realized what she meant to do. She was already half-emerged in the flames when he tried to storm after her.

Panic washed over him as the flames touched his skin. As if woken from slumber Ghost’s mind stirred and regained the control over his body. Jon could do nothing, but to watch the flames. He tried more than once to regain control, but he was helpless like a babe lying on its back.

Higher and higher the flames rose, taking the form of a mighty fist, before the pyre collapsed in it itself. He felt the impact. His chest felt heavy and he was unable to breathe. The world before him grew blurred, as if everything around him was a mere dream.

Is this death, he wondered and felt the heat brushing over his skin. Why am I still here?

The silence was broken by a loud crack. A second crack followed and another one, even louder than the one before.

When he opened his eyes he found himself naked and covered in ash. The ash looked like fresh-fallen snow, swirling around him like dust.

The smoke made him cough as he tried to walk. On the ground he spotted scorched pieces of wood, burnt bones, but no sign of Daenerys.

He didn’t know why, but he was sure that these bones didn’t belong to her.

She can’t be dead, he thought as he walked through the plumes of smoke. Tears burned in his eyes as he found something stirring among the moving clouds of ash and smoke.

He didn’t recognize her immediately. She was as naked as her nameday, her silver hair gone, yet she was untouched by the flames. On her shoulder, lap and arm sat three small creatures, their fragile wings spread wide. They shrieked, filling the world with a wondrous song.

Dragons, Jon realized in wonder and stepped towards Daenerys. It can’t be true.

I should be dead, he thought and realized that his heart was beating again. But my heart is still beating. She is not a dream or vision. She is alive.

The realization gave him the courage he needed.

“Daenerys,” he whispered, his voice strained and foreign to his ears.

“Jon?” Daenerys asked, her purple eyes wide as she regarded him through the swirling ash.

Jon heard Ghost’s howl, the chirping of the dragons and the sound of the wind howling over the barren landscape.

Jon didn’t know what to say. His throat felt incredibly dry.

Lacking the words, he stepped towards her.

When he tried to embrace her, she smelled of ash and smoke. He felt her warmth as he pressed his lips lightly against hers.

She smiled, her hand tracing across his cheek.

“You are back.”

He squeezed her hand, still resting on his cheek, the green and golden-scaled creature on her shoulder staring back at him.

“Aye, I am back where I belong.”

Chapter Text

Lyanna

Lyanna tried her best to braid Arya’s hair, but this task proved more difficult than anticipated.

“Arya,” she grumbled and dropped the strands of hair. “Keep still or we are going to sit here all evening.”

Arya chuckled and pointed at Sansa, who hovered over Cassana’s crib and was speaking to her in baby-like gibberish. Not much to Lyanna’s surprise her niece Sansa was quite taken with her daughter. Only Lyanna and the nursemaid spent more time with Cassana.

“I think Sansa has gone mad,” Arya whispered to Lyanna. “She is talking like Hodor.”

Lyanna bit back a laugh, but didn’t neglect to chide her niece for her inappropriate remark.

“Hodor is actually called Wylis,” she explained to her niece and grabbed her shoulders, keeping her still. “And a long time ago he was even able to talk like everyone else.”

“What happened to him?” her niece asked in disbelief and turned around to look at her.

“I will tell you if you keep still,” Lyanna promised. “But first we will braid your hair and make you look like a pretty little lady.”

“That’s no use anyway,” Arya replied, her voice laced with sadness. “I am not pretty enough to be a lady.”

Lyanna was stunned to hear such words from Arya’s mouth and stopped her work.

“Who told you that?”

“Jeyne Poole,” Arya whispered to Lyanna, because said girl was seated near the hearth and was holding a conversation with Lady Shireen Baratheon and Lady Talla Tarly.  “She says that I have a horseface.”

Lyanna certainly disapproved, but she couldn’t help but to chuckle.

“That’s not funny!” Arya complained, a bit louder than expected and only calmed down after Lyanna had placed her hand on her shoulder.

Then Lyanna leaned closer and whispered into her ear.

“Calm your wrath, niece. I wasn’t laughing about you. It is just…My brother Brandon also used to call me horse face…He claimed I would never find a husband.”

Arya’s eyes widened in surprise.

“And you are not trying to fool me?”

“Of course not,” Lyanna assured her and pulled on Arya’s half-braided hair. “Now hold still and let me finish my work.”

“Very well,” Arya replied and held still as Lyanna wound the braid around her head and fixed it with a hairpin. Then she picked a white flower from the basket placed on the table and fastened it in Arya's hair.

“You look pretty,” Lyanna assured her and graced her niece with a smile. “It doesn’t matter what the other ladies say.”

“Good,” Arya replied almost shyly. “Now tell me about Hodor.”

Lyanna shrugged her shoulders.

“Nobody really knows what happened to him. Maester Walys believed that something must have damaged his head. He even wanted to cut him open, but Old Nan threatened him with death if he ever dared to touch her blood.”

Arya looked disappointed, but accepted her explanation. Lyanna was pleased about this victory and fastened her cloak around her shoulders, before making her way back to Sansa, who was still talking to Cassana.

Her little girl stared back at Sansa with wide blue eyes as if she didn’t know what to make of her niece's strange speech.

“Sansa,” Lyanna addressed her niece and placed a hand on her shoulder. “It is time to go. The feast waits...”

Her niece’s face lightened up like a room full of candles, her blue eyes as bright as the summer sky.

Sansa was a true beauty. Her auburn hair and full figure promised a great many admirers, though Lyanna couldn’t help but to fear for the girl. Men do not always have good intentions towards soft-hearted ladies like Sansa.

“Of course, your Grace,” Sansa replied formally as ever, rose to her feet and brushed out her dress. Lyanna had corrected her niece more than once, but it was no use. Sansa was insistent on using her title.

With both her nieces in tow Lyanna made her way back to the rest of her entourage, one girl prettier than the next. Lady Shireen Baratheon was garbed in a glimmering blue dress, her dark hair tied up in two bows and decorated with pale flowers. Lady Jeyne Poole wore a grey dress, though simpler than Sansa's. Looking at them, as they walked arm in arm, one could have thought that Jeyne Poole was Sansa’s real sister.  Yet it was Lady Talla Tarly wore the most colorful dress. It was made of orange, red and pink silk. Just looking at the dress made Lyanna’s eyes burn. Arya, who was holding unto Lyanna’s arm, started to chuckle when she laid eyes on the girl’s amusing hair bun. It was massive and decorated with all kind of fruits.

“She looks like a fruit basket,” Arya whispered and received a playful slap on her shoulder.

“That’s not nice to say,” Lyanna chided her niece and pulled her along. “Lady Talla’s mother sent this imposing dress, because her betrothed will be attending the tourney…Lord Willas Tyrell.”

Arya giggled.

“I hope he likes fruits,” Arya joked, before running after the other ladies.

Lyanna tried to catch her, but Arya was already gone. Her heart skipped a beat when she heard the girl’s laughter. When Lyanna closed her eyes Arya sounded a bit like Jon when he was a little boy. He had always liked it when she played with him. Sometimes she would storm after him through the whole castle, startling servants and guards alike. It was a bittersweet memory she buried deep in her heart.

“Aunt Lyanna!” Arya’s child-like voice snapped her back to the present. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing…I am coming,” Lyanna replied weakly, pulled up her skirt and followed after the girls.

They were brought to the tourney grounds in a litter, silken shrouds of Myrish silk hiding them from prying looks. Lyanna had long stopped caring about the other courtiers. After she had come to court everyone had treated her as if she was some sort of damaged plant, walking on tip toes and speaking in hushed voices whenever she entered a room. It was always the same and the only reason she listened was to keep an eye on brewing plots.

Much to her brother’s displeasure Robert had wasted a good amount of gold dragons on this so called Tourney of the Hand.  Lyanna had long stopped caring about tourneys, but this one was meant to be special. The Mountain was partaking in the melee, probably lured by the hefty sum she had asked Robert to grant to the winner of this competition. Now she could only hope that the Dornish would go for the bait she had laid out for them.

Soon the Mountain will be rolling in his grave, she was sure and decided she would enjoy the sight. As a wedding gift she had demanded Amory Lorch’s and the Mountain’s heads. Robert, happy that she had finally given in to his pestering, would have granted her this wish without hesitation weren’t it for Lord Tywin Lannister's refusal. While the old Lion didn’t hesitate to give up Armory Lorch, he refused to hand over his loyal bannerman. In the end it was Lord Jon Arryn who convinced Robert to let go of the matter.

Well, soon Lord Tywin will have need of another watch dog, she thought and helped Arya out of the litter. Next came Lady Shireen, a shy smile curling on her lips as she followed after Lyanna.

Not far behind them walked Ser Jaime Lannister and a handful of gold cloaks.

Lady Shireen threw a shy glance at the man who was commonly called the Kingslayer and also her Uncle.

“Uncle,” the girl chirped and graced him with a smile. “It is a pleasure to see you.”

Ser Jaime returned her smile and dipped his head in greeting.

“You look very pretty, niece. Just like your mother,” he replied in passing and decided to lead the way.

Shireen stared after him in wonder. She looked like a beggar that had been showered with gold.

“I thank you…Uncle,” Lady Shireen stuttered and took Lyanna’s hand.

The King’s pavilion was overflowing with guests. Left and right stood tables, filled with so much food, one could have fed the entire population of Flea Bottom. She counted thirty different cakes and eight peacocks, apples and other fruits stuffed in every hole.

Loud music filled her ears, a fool leapt from the table and made a handful of summersaults, piping a jolly tune as he hopped on the next table.

Sansa, Jeyne Poole and Lady Talla laughed and clapped.  Arya was more interested in the flame caster, entertaining a flock of ladies with his fiery talents.

“Patchface’s motely had a similar color,” Lady Shireen remarked, her voice laced with sadness, despite the smile curling on her lips.

“Who or what is a Patchface?” Arya asked curiously, as they were led to the high table.

“He was my fool and friend,” Lady Shireen explained softly and took her seat next to Lady Talla. The girls were seated a little below Lyanna, but close enough that she was able to overhear their conversations.

“What happened to him?” Arya asked and averted her gaze, obviously sensing Lady Shireen's sadness.

“He was executed,” Lady Shireen explained shakily.

“You are joking, aren’t you?” Arya asked in disbelief. “What could a fool do wrong? Did he tell a bad joke?”

Lady Shireen swallowed hard and shrugged her shoulders.

“No, but he frightened my little brother,” she explained and cast her gaze to the colorful carpets spread over the ground. “Durran had him set on fire and thrown from the highest tower.”

“Now you are really joking with me?” Arya asked. “Isn’t your brother younger than you?”

“He is ten,” Lady Shireen confirmed and balled her fist. “But he is the Lord of the Stormlands and my Lady Mother always supports him in his decisions. Killing Patchface was the first thing he did…he always hated my fool.”

For the first time since coming to King’s Landing Arya was completely silent.

Lyanna was about to open her mouth, but Robert’s booming voice called her to attention.

“Lyanna!” he exclaimed and touched her arm. “Renly is here.”

Lyanna lifted her head and indeed…there was Renly. His sudden appearance was a surprise, yet she doubted he came here to apologize. The Lord of Dragonstone was far too proud for that.

“Look who is coming back,” Robert’s boisterous voice greeted Renly along the way. “Have you finally realized your folly, brother?”

Renly’s face could only be described as annoyed, despite the feigned smile playing on his lips. He was a handsome man and dressed more fashionably than half of her ladies.

Not that Renly was in need of fine clothing. No, Renly Baratheon possessed a well-shaped face, shiny black hair and a pair of blue eyes that could have won him every lady’s heart.  And yet she had never seen him in company of a lady. His confidant was Ser Loras Tyrell, who had served as his squire. Lyanna asked Margaery more than once about her brother’s relations with Renly, but she always managed to dodge these questions.

Lyanna had her own suspicions, but a close relationship with Loras Tyrell was no proof of Renly’s inclinations. Robert certainly didn’t think so and Lyanna also had her doubts. Renly may have refused every match Robert had intended for him, but he personally asked Robert for the hand of Lady Margaery Tyrell. Sadly for him, by then Robert had already promised Lady Margaery’s hand to her nephew Robb. As so often, Renly was upset, claiming that his brother didn’t value him as much as he should. It was an old tale, though even Lyanna understood why Renly was so interested in Lady Margaery. The Tyrells were rich and could have given him the crown he was longing for. Lyanna was glad that she proved quicker in this matter. The Tyrell had been Targaryen loyalists and she hoped they might remember their past allegiance when the time came.

“Brother,” Renly greeted his brother the King and bowed his head. “I am pleased to see you in good health.”

Then he shifted his attention to Lyanna and her ladies. “And you, your Grace and you…dear niece. You and your companions look very pretty.”

“It also pleases me to see you, Uncle,” Lady Shireen managed to stutter and blushed.

“I share Lady Shireen’s joy,” Lyanna added politely and met his blue gaze. “It is good to have you back, my Lord. Lord Baelish’s japes cannot compare to your wit. You were sorely missed.”

“Well, I am back to take up my responsibilities, your Grace,” Renly replied and graced Lyanna with a smile that could have cut glass. “I heard we have a new Hand. I am surprised to find him missing.”

“Ned is not feeling well,” Lyanna informed Renly, but Robert didn’t hesitate to give him the blunt truth.

“The fool says that he doesn’t like tourneys,” Robert grumbled and lifted his cup to his lips. Yet the smile on his lips told her that he was not really angry with Ned. “You will see him soon enough…it will be as if Jon Arryn never left.”

Renly smiled, though it didn’t quite reach his face.

“It is good to hear that you found a worthy replacement, brother.”

“Worthy replacement,” Robert mumbled and howled with laughter. “A pain in the ass is a better description, but I knew that beforehand when I appointed him. I quite agree… Ned will do well.”

“Good to hear that you are pleased, brother,” Renly added and lowered his head, indicating that he wanted to take his leave. “I am rather tired. We shall see each other tomorrow.”

“Go then,” Robert grumbled. “But there is still the matter of Lord Sunglass’s daughter that needs to be addressed.”

Renly gave a tense nod and lowered his head in acknowledgement.

“Certainly, your Grace.”

More and more courtiers came to see Robert while Lyanna entertained her ladies. She introduced them to courtiers and encouraged them to dance. By midnight they looked so weary that Lyanna asked Ser Jaime to accompany them back to the Red Keep. Lyanna remained and barely listened to the bootlickers that came to flatter Robert with false compliments. Half of them wanted to see him dead, but she was sure Robert knew that.

Only after she had heard the mention of the name “Brandon” was she roused out of her stupor.

Seeing her confused look the page boy repeated his request to Robert.

“A Ser Brandon Sand wishes to speak to you and the Queen, your Grace.”

“Sand,” Lyanna repeated as she met Robert’s gaze. “It must be Brandon’s boy…the one he fathered on Lady Ashara Dayne. Ned mentioned that he was called Brandon.”

Her heart started to hammer violently. She he had known about the boy’s existence, but contacting him in Dorne proved impossible.

“Brandon’s boy you say,” Robert repeated and stroked his beard. “I completely forgot about him. Of course we will see him.”

“Of course,” Lyanna agreed and straightened herself. She hadn’t been prepared for this meeting. “We will see him.”

“You heard the Queen,” Robert said and waved his hand. “Bring him here.”

“He is not alone, your Grace,” the page boy, a nephew of Lord Estermont, replied. “There is a lady in his company….Lady Sarella Sand. She is Prince Oberyn Martell’s daughter.”

“I am not afraid of the Viper’s bastard,” Robert grumbled. “And the girl can’t be so bad if Brandon’s boy likes her. Bring them here.”

“Of course!” the page boy confirmed and rushed off to find Brandon and his Dornish Lady. "Of course!"

“It is my pleasure to meet you, your Grace,” the young man named Ser Brandon Sand greeted and lowered his head. Then he lifted his head and graced Lyanna with a warm smile. “I am pleased to meet you…,” he continued, but Lyanna couldn’t help but to cut him off.

“I am your Aunt,” she corrected him and took in his appearance. Seeing his longish face one couldn’t deny that he was of Stark blood, but his deep violet eyes and his black hair were a proof of the Dayne blood running through his veins. “You are my brother’s blood and I regret that we haven’t been able to meet until now...but I would prefer if you called me Aunt.”

The warm smile disappeared and a more serious expression took hold of his face. Lyanna would have described it as sad, but then she couldn’t claim to know him.

“I regret it too, Aunt,” Ser Brandon replied and squeezed his Lady’s hand. “May I introduce my Lady…Lady Sarella Sand.”

Brandon’s Lady was certainly a pretty girl, graced with sun-kissed skin and black hair that was neatly braided out of her face. Her slanted black eyes were equally dark and her lips were painted in the brightest crimson. Her dress was simple, but dyed in orange, yellow and red, the colours of House Martell. Lady Catelyn Stark would have thrown a fit if her son Jon had dared to wear the colors of House Stark, but it seemed it was true what they said about the Dornish. They are fond of their bastards.

“I am pleased to meet you, your Grace,” the young girl replied stiffly, her dark eyes barely leaving the ground.

Robert didn’t seem to notice the girl’s discomfort and eyed her without any hint of shame.

“A pretty girl,” he complimented Brandon. “You are lucky man…and a knight too. Who knighted you?”

“Prince Oberyn Martell…I served as his squire,” Ser Brandon explained politely, his violet eyes darting to Lyanna. He looked curious, but also slightly nervous.

 “You are truly Brandon’s boy!” Robert exclaimed and laughed. “Straight to the point like his father…Are you going to partake in the tilt?”

Ser Brandon shook his head.

“I hold not much interest in jousting, your Grace,” Ser Brandon explained and his violet eyes flickered back to Robert. “I am going to partake in the melee…at Prince Oberyn’s side.”

Lyanna knew then that this wasn’t just a meeting between family members. The Viper sent him, she was sure and swallowed hard. Probably to spy on us or worse…

“Of course you are,” Robert said and grinned. “You are Brandon’s boy…not one of these pampered boys poking each other with their wooden sticks…Don’t you agree, Lyanna?”

Lyanna put her mask in place and smiled.

“I have to agree with the King…I am sure Brandon would be very proud of you,” she added sweetly. “Mayhaps one of these days you and your lady would like to take supper with us? Your cousins Lady Sansa and Lady Arya Stark would also be there if you wish to see them.”

The young man’s face lightened up. This was a true smile. He is very happy about this meeting, she realized at once. Mayhaps I misjudged the situation…

“It would be my pleasure, Aunt Lyanna.”

Lyanna nodded her head in confirmation and swallowed hard.

Yet she knew that she needed to be careful. Trust no one, was the first thing she had learned after coming to King’s Landing. The boy in front of her might be Brandon’s blood, but that made him even more dangerous.

Chapter Text

Daenerys

Daenerys watched the bleeding star piercing the sky, like a blade cutting through flesh.

“It looks like a sword,” Jon added, his voice slightly strained. Sweat was glistening on his cheeks and his skin was burned from the bright sunlight.  The sun was slowly descending in the east and the crooked trees littering the barren landscape cast large shadows over the ground. “A flaming sword.”

Daenerys was surprised that he spoke at all given how shocked he had been when he stepped from the pyre. Maybe it was the fact that he had to borrow clothing from Muddy, but there was something haunted about him, as if he had cast away his boyish façade and became a man.

“Aye,” she agreed and nodded her head in confirmation. She wanted to say so much more, but she also wanted to give him time to make sense about the past events. “A terrifying sight.”

“Mayhaps,” Jon agreed and craned his neck, his dark eyes narrowed against the bright sun. “But it could also be a sign…I think we should follow the star.”

Daenerys was surprised to hear such words from his mouth. She never took him as the superstitious sort, but then she hardly knew him.

There is much we need to talk about, she thought and met Ser Franklyn’s gaze.

The grim man shrugged his shoulders and brushed the sweat from his brow.

“I don’t know about that, but I know that we will all die if we don’t find water.”

Daenerys nodded her head in understanding and angled her head to look at her handmaids. They looked weary from the hard travel, their cheeks burned and their lips dry like the barren landscape surrounding them.

I should have been more watchful, she knew and recalled how the maegi’s girls had run off with part of their rations while Daenerys had been occupied with Jon’s funeral.

“You have my approval…let’s move on,” Muddy muttered.  Two of the dragons, who she carried in a basket bound to her horse, stirred at sound of her voice. Only the dragon on her shoulder remained silent, his hot head nestled against her cheek.

All three of them were wee things, graced with soft wings and chirping voices that reminded her of songbirds. Yet they were the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

“Of course,” Jon added and led his horse closer to hers, his eyes falling on the dragon on her shoulder. He even smiled, but it hardly reached his face. There was a strange melancholy about him since he had stepped from the pyre.

“They are beautiful, aren’t they?” she asked him and graced him with a warm smile. Her gesture achieved what she intended. Jon’s features softened and he nodded his head in agreement.

“I never thought I would ever see a living dragon,” Jon replied, his voice full of awe as the dragon on her shoulder opened his ruby eyes.

“One of them will be yours,” she informed him and received a stunned look. You are the blood of the dragon, she wanted to remind him, but she knew that it would be no use. He was not like her brother, harping on about his birthright. He was different and that is what she liked about him. It made her think of the day of his death, of his kisses and how she had touched him…

“Daenerys…,” he began and opened his mouth in protest, but she silenced him with another smile. “I have already chosen a name for my dragon. I want to hear your opinion on names for the other dragons.”

He nodded his head and gave her a curious look.

“What name did you choose?”

“Rhaelion for my Lady Mother,” she explained proudly.

“A good name,” Jon agreed solemnly, his dark eyes darting back to the dragon. “For a gracious beast.”

“Indeed,” Daenerys agreed and gave him a hopeful smile. “What about the others? Do you have a suggestion?”

Jon shrugged his shoulders.

“I will think about it,” he replied and nudged his feet in the sides of his horse. “I promise.”

His words still echoed in her ears as she joined her handmaids. They rode for several hours, the world starting to blur before her eyes until Muddy’s voice roused her out of her stupor.

“There!” He exclaimed, his voice raw. “I can see something!”

“Calm yourself!” Ser Franklyn grumbled.

The ugly man grimaced and shielded his eyes against the dying sunlight as he scanned the landscape. Daenerys did the same, hoping for a sign of salvation.

“Fuck me!” Ser Franklyn exclaimed suddenly and stopped his horse. “That’s a fucking wall…a city perhaps…though whether it is inhabited is another question.”

“Then we should hurry,” Jon added, his voice laced with obvious relief. “Nightfall is close and we are all in dire need of rest.”

Daenerys could only agree and gave her handmaids an encouraging smile. Especially, Doreah was in need of rest, her pale skin littered with blisters. She needs rest, she knew. And water.

They rode for another hour, when they finally laid eyes on the promised city walls. The walls were pale like milk, a strange glimmer hovering over it as if it was a mirage instead of reality

“It looks like a dream,” Doreah remarked weakly. “A beautiful dream.”

“Aye,” Daenerys agreed, opened her water skin and handed it to Doreah. “Drink…we will soon have plenty of water.”

Doreah didn’t protest and drank greedily.

Arriving at the city she couldn’t help but to notice the cracked and crumbling walls. As they continued to move deeper into the city, they found no living soul. All they found was a maze of alleys and abandoned houses. The color of these houses had long faded, but she noticed the scars from a fire.

It was quiet clear what had happened here. This city was sacked and destroyed.

Night had fallen when they made camp near an alcove that must have once belonged to the gardens of a destroyed mansion. There was nothing left of the main building other than the scorched pillars and collapsed walls. Only the gardens were still intact. There they found ciders, cypress, olive trees and a pool filled with water.

She had a hard time keeping her tears at bay when Jon and Muddy showed her the water.

We are going to make it, she was sure and even Jon smiled and drank half a pot of water on his own.

Sated, they went to work. Jon and Muddy watered the horses, Ser Franklyn stirred the fire to life, Jhiqui and Irri went to gather olives and figs from the nearby trees, and Daenerys took care of the dragons and Doreah.

Daenerys fed them small pieces of roasted meat while Doreah nibbled on a piece of fruit. She looked much better now that she had consumed water and was protected from the sun.

“See…I told you that we would find water,” she remarked and touched Doreah’s shoulder. Her skin was unnaturally hot, but the smile curling on her lips gave her the reassurance he needed.

“I shouldn’t have doubted you, Khaleesi,” Doreah muttered and chewed slowly.

“Daenerys,” she corrected Doreah. “Please…call me by my given name.”

“Daenerys,” Doreah repeated and lifted her head. “Jon and Muddy have returned.”

Muddy grinned proudly when he placed a handful of olives in Doreah’s hand.

“Fresh and meaty,” he told Doreah. “They will give you strength.”

Daenerys smiled and watched as Rhaelion crawled up her arm to pick the piece of meat from her hand.

“Good work!” she complimented the dragon, who made a chirping sound. Then he hopped from her shoulder and joined his cream-coloured brother, resting beneath the cypress tree.

The green and bronze dragon lifted his head when he noticed Jon’s approach.

“Jon,” she said and stretched out her hand, offering him a piece of roasted meat. “Try it…I am sure they will like you.”

“I am only half a dragon,” Jon replied skeptically and picked the piece of meat from her hand. Then he grouched down in front of the dragon and held it above his head.

The dragon’s eyes opened wide and within the blink of a moment he had devoured the piece of meat. Jon received a chirp and fell back on his ass when the dragon moved towards him.

 “Let him,” Daenerys encouraged Jon. “He only wants to get to know you.”

“Are you sure?” Jon asked and stretched out his hand.

“I am sure,” she confirmed and watched as he brushed his hand over the dragon’s head.  The dragon seemed to appreciate the attention and brushed his head against his arm. Daenerys couldn’t help but to chuckle. “See, I told you. He likes you.”

“Griff is going to piss himself when he sees the dragons,” Muddy remarked and tore a piece of meat apart, before sticking it into his mouth.

“This Griff,” she remarked and lifted her head to look at Jon, who had seated himself in the on beside her. He was sharpening his blade while Ser Franklyn was stirring the fire. “You mentioned that he served my brother Rhaegar…” she trailed off.

“Aye,” Jon confirmed and met her gaze. “His real name is Jon Connington, formerly the Lord of Griffin Roost. He is a grim man, but a captain of the Golden Company…He can help us retake the Iron Throne.”

“My brother tried to recruit the Golden Company, “ she replied, unable to hide her bitterness. “They laughed at him.”

Jon nodded his head.

“I heard about it.”

She was more than stunned. So this Griff was there.

“He was there?” she demanded to know, unable to contain her anger. “You say this man is loyal…Where was his loyalty back then?”

“Lord Connington hated your father,” Jon replied bluntly, but averted his gaze. “He said that your brother reminded him too much of King Aerys to support him.”

Daenerys trembled and searched his gaze. She read sadness…and guilt.

“And my mother?” she demanded to know. “Was she not worth serving?”

Jon met her gaze and grimaced.

“Serving your Lady Mother would have meant serving Viserys,” Jon explained and swallowed hard. “He told me once…the King I wanted to serve died…He has his failures but he loved my father dearly.”

Daenerys didn’t care how much this man had loved her brother.  Blazing anger stirred inside when she recalled her Lady Mother’s suffering.

“Rhaegar is long dead!” she shouted and rose to her feet. “He could have helped us…mayhaps then my Lady Mother would still be alive and my brother Viserys wouldn’t have turned mad.”

“He always showed such signs,” Jon countered almost softly. “At least that is what Lord Connington told me when I set out to find you. He was right about your brother, but that doesn’t mean I approve of his past behavior. Still, he can help us to get an army. Ten thousand men…there is no better sellsword company than the Golden Company.”

She knew that he was right, but the pain was still there, setting her heart aflame.

“The men of the Golden Company are known Blackfyre supporters,” she snapped, unable to think clearly. “Mayhaps you are one of them!”

She didn’t look at him as she rushed off through the greenery and stepped through a cracked wall. A flock of birds soared above her head as she walked through the remains of the garden. There she found the large pond, filled with cool water.

She longed to discard her clothing to take a bath. Only a few days ago her moonblood had come and the smell was still there.

Still, she pulled off her painted vest, horsegrass leggings and sandals. She used the water to wash herself as best as possible, but didn’t dare step into the pool. The water was far too valuable to be wasted.

She didn’t dress and pulled her cloak over her shoulders as she sat down beneath a tree. She knew she needed to return, but what Jon had told her hurt her deeply. She also felt ashamed of her behavior.

I shouldn’t have shouted at him.

“Daenerys,” she heard Jon’s voice ringing in her ears. His voice was laced with regret.

“Dany,” she corrected, tears burning in her eyes. “Viserys called me that before he died. He always had a prideful streak, but he was not always evil. He loved our Lady Mother…he used to tell me stories …he used to tell me that I would be his Queen. Then he betrayed me…he took my maidenhead and sold me off. “That’s why I agreed to kill him. I took my revenge.”

Jon nodded his head and knelt down beside her.

“Ser Franklyn told me about it…your brother liked to brag about it in front of him and Ser Jorah.”

“I suppose…I shouldn’t be surprised,” she said and laughed bitter. “Viserys was my blood, but a fool.”

“I am also your blood. What I told you is true…I am Rhaegar’s son…I am no Blackfyre,” he replied and touched her hand. “I am not forcing you to come with me. I can ask Lord Connington to give you gold or to find a safe place for you. Once I have retaken the throne you could return home…,” he continued, but she cut him off.

“You are a fool,” she snapped. She wouldn’t allow this Griff to destroy her happiness. “I don’t want to leave you…I just can’t bring myself to like this Jon Connington.”

She noticed how he wanted to pull his hand away, but she grabbed it, before he was able to do so.

“I told you,” she replied in a hoarse voice. “I want you…I thought you felt the same way.”

“I do,” he assured her quickly, his dark eyes blown as he leaned closer to brush his hand over her cloak. “What makes you think otherwise?”

“You are so cold,” she remarked and shuddered, when his hand touched her neck. “What happened to you?”

He swallowed hard and searched her face.

“I saw my father…I spoke to him. That’s what happened.”

Daenerys thought she misheard, but then Jon had risen from the dead and she herself survived a burning pyre.

“And was that so terrible? I would do anything to speak to my Lady Mother...”

“No,” he admitted, his voice barely above a whisper. “I just…Father told me so much. It will take me a while to make sense of it all.”

Her heart softened when she heard this and she wrapped her arms around his shoulder. He smelled of sweat, dust and roasted meat.

“You don’t have to tell me now,” she assured him and kissed his cheek. “And I will come with you to meet this Jon Connington, but don’t expect me to like him.”

“I doubt he expects you to like him,” Jon whispered and touched her cheek. “But he is a capable man.”

She nodded her head, no longer caring about this Jon Connington. The anger was still there, but this felt right. There was still so much she needed to find out about Jon, but even Old Valyria wasn’t built within a day, though it certainly was destroyed in one terrible night.

She had something different in mind, a jolt of desire thrumming through her body as his other hand graced over her neck.

She didn’t hesitate to lean down to kiss him. He responded cautiously, then eagerly deepening the kiss. His lips parted hers as she discarded her cloak, leaving her naked.

She pulled back and eyed her from head to toe.

“You are beautiful beyond dreams,” he whispered. He was not the first man to compliment her, but he had said it with such warmth that she couldn’t help but to kiss him again.

His breath left his mouth in quick puffs of air, but his hands roamed all over her body, fondling her breasts.

“You are still dressed,” she remarked between heated kisses and started pulling on his tunic. He didn’t protest and started to help her pull off one garment after another.

He was also beautiful, despite the scars littering his body.

She tore a moan from his lips as she touched him, stroking him as she had done before. He kissed her fiercely, his fingernails digging into her shoulder.

Not long after he brushed her hand away, his breathing ragged as he looked down at her.

“Lie down…,” he prodded gently. “Let me return the favor…if you like.”

She didn’t know what he meant to do, but complied happily. Warmth was pooling between her legs as he leaned over her thighs. His hand brushed her womanhood, a gasp escaping her lips. Doreah had done this before, but she didn’t expect it when Jon started kissing her between her legs. It was a foreign feeling that spread over her, like a ship overwhelmed by a storm.

She bit her lips as another wave of pleasure washed over her.

Her breathing was still labored as Jon leaned over her and graced her with a smile.

The sight of his smile renewed her desire for him. She quickly pulled herself up and slung her right feet over his hip, pressing him down on the ground.

“Daenerys…!” he gasped, surprise evident on his face. She enjoyed that even more than hearing him gasp with pleasure.

“Dany,” she corrected him again. “My Lady Mother also liked to call me Dany…not only Viserys.”

“Jaehaerys,” he whispered and squeezed her hand.  “That’s the name my father would have chosen for me.”

“A fine name, but I also like your other name…Jon,” she replied and lifted herself atop of him. It was a strange feeling and it took her a moment to get used to it.

Her eyes closed for a brief moment as she started to move her hips in a clumsy manner. Jon grabbed her hip and the other grabbed the grass, his head falling backwards and a ragged breath leaving his mouth.

Daenerys bit her lips, one hand touching his cheek as she continued to move. He finally opened his eyes and looked at her.

She felt him deep inside her, her breathing growing laboured. She shuddered, losing herself to the sensation. It took all her effort not to close her eyes.

She bit her lips, the tight sensation inside her bursting forward. A heavy sigh escaped her lips and she collapsed on top of him.

Jon leaned closer and kissed her again, his cock still sheathed inside her. His lips brushed over her neck as he thrust inside her a handful more times, before he found his own release.

She held him close as he continued to tremble, not wanting him to leave.

Once he had calmed, his hand touched her shoulder blades.

“We should get dressed,” he whispered, his voice heavy.

She nodded her head touched his neck, where he had this strange marking. She had spent enough time in the Free Cities to know what it meant.

“That’s the real reason you hated Ser Jorah so much, isn’t it?”

His eyes widened.

“I admit…I cannot stand the presence of men like him,” Jon replied through clenched teeth and averted his gaze. “The slavers in Essos grew up with these vile customs, but Ser Jorah knew that it was a crime and he did it anyway…that’s much worse.”

“I don’t think your anger is meant for Ser Jorah,” she countered and pointed at the slave marking. “If you don’t mind me asking…What happened to you?”

He angled his head, his dark eyes piercing into hers.

“I have to be very drunk to tell this tale…please don’t ask me again. I will tell you everything you want to know, but not that.”

She sighed deeply and let it go. There was no use to force.

“I liked what we did,” she said instead. “Did you like it too?”

“Of course,” he said in utter surprise, as if she had asked a very silly question. “I am just confused…my death…It is hard to make sense of it all…I said I am going to retake the throne...What if I am going to fail?”

“Then we will fail together,” she assured him and kissed his cheek. “I am even prepared to endure the sight of this Jon Connington.”

His chuckle assured her and he would his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer.

“Jon Connington would kill me for if he ever finds out what we just did.”

“We could marry,” she offered in return. “It would make sense.”

Jon shook his head. Then he freed himself from her embrace and started to pull on his clothing.

“I want you to marry me, because that’s what you want, not because it makes sense. It is bad enough that I had to watch how while Viserys sold you off to this Khal. I should have killed him on your wedding day, but we all would have died if I dared to do that. That’s also the reason I am pursuing the crown…I need power if I want get my mother back…” he trailed off.

After he had finished dressing he gave her a gentle smile.

“But to answer your previous question,” he said. “I know that I want to marry you, but I want you to be sure that this is really what you want. My father wed a woman he didn’t love and it brought only misery upon our family. I don’t want to see you miserable…that’s all.”

Chapter Text

Rhaenys

Rheanys watched in tense anticipation as the knights assembled on each side of the courtyard. Her Uncle was easily recognizable by his dark amour, an orange cloak fastened around his shoulder with a golden pin. Armed with spear and shield, he sat mounted on a black stead, waiting for the beginning of the melee. As promised, Bran was at his side. He wore polished plate armor and a white cloak embellished with a lilac sword and a falling star, the swapped colours House Dayne, marking him as a bastard.

There were many more knights: Ser Ronald Waynwood, Ser Creighton Redfort, Ser Lyle Crakehall, Ser Steffon Swyft, a knight sworn to House Nightsong, one of Walder Frey’s many sons, Ser Gregor Clegane, commonly known as the Mountain, and so on.

Rhaenys had heard countless stories about him, but seeing him with her own eyes made her heart freeze. This man wasn’t just big, he was immense. One could have very well called him a giant made of steel.

“Calm yourself,” Tyene whispered in her ear and touched her shoulder. “Father knows what he is doing.”

“Tyene speaks true,” Obara added, lounging in her seat as if she was in a tavern. “And Brandon’s not bad either. The days I sent him flying on his ass are long gone.”

“And Father’s gift shall give the monster the most gruesome kind of death,” Nym promised, a smile curling on her crimson lips.

Rhaenys nodded her head and exhaled deeply..

It was the perfect day for a tourney. A slate blue sky spread above them like a silken cloth and a pleasant breeze helped to ease the heat of the midday sun.

Rhaenys shivered as the sound of a horn broke the silence that had fallen over the crowd. She couldn’t help but to grab the wooden railing as the mounted riders urged their horses at one another. Within the blink of a moment the yard was filled with the sound of horse hooves and the clinking of steel. The weapons were blunted, but that didn’t change the ferocity of the battle.

Rhaenys did her best to follow Bran’s movement, her sight blurred by the whirled up-dust. He moved his horse as capable as ever and it didn’t take long before he unhorsed his first enemy. Bran had come upon Ser Roland Waynwood with the swiftness of a sandstorm. Ser Ronald was able to parry Bran’s spear trust, but he had recognized too late that this was attack only a feint. Bran wheeled quickly his horse around and slashed the blunted tip of his spear against Ser Ronald’s shoulder. The knight from the Vale lost his balance, landed in the dust and disappeared among the chaos of the battle.

Bran didn’t waste any time to engage his next enemy, Ser Steffon Swyft. They exchanged a handful of slashes, before Bran managed to drive the tip of his spear into his side. The man grabbed the spear, trying to pull Bran from his horse.

Drop the damn spear, Rhaenys shouted inwardly and as if Bran heard her plea he let go, urged his horse around his enemy and freed his sword. Ser Swyft was barely able to lift his shield, before Brandon had dealt him a savage blow to the head. Like a man to deep in his cups he collapsed from his horse.

Rhaenys sighed in relief and rose to her feet to get a better look. By now several other knights had been eliminated. She saw the knight from House Frey sprawled on the ground, one of his squires swarming around him like a flock of bees.

Ser Lyle Crakehall didn’t fare any better. Her Uncle Oberyn sent him flying from his horse after bashing his spear against the man’s head. It feels as if someone is trying to crack your skull, Bran had described to her the feeling of a blunt force colliding with one’s helmet.

When Rhaenys had first laid eyes on Ser Lyle Crakehall she believed him to be the Mountain, but now she felt like a fool. Ser Lyle Crakehall was a mouse compared to the Mountain.

Even in a mock battle the Mountain showed no mercy. Rhaenys couldn’t help but to flinch when he had dealt Ser Creighton a savage blow to the shoulder. Had his sword been sharpened the young man would have surely lost his arm. The knight from House Nightfall didn’t fare any better. The Mountain parried his blow easily and bashed his shield with such a force in the man’s body that he was hurled backwards as if he was nothing more than child.

Gods be good, she thought and forced herself to look at the Mountain. She shivered as he urged his horse past their seats, already eying his next enemy. Only then did she realize that Bran was urging his horse towards him, his sword raised for the next attack. Seeing his enemy, the Mountain lifted his shield and parried the blow, his sword coming down on Bran’s head.

Yet the giant of steel proved much slower. Bran managed to parry the next attack and didn’t hesitate to retaliate. He aimed a blow at the man’s throat, but the blunt sword glanced off the Mountain’s steel gorget with a screeching sound that left Rhaenys laboring for air. The monster didn’t hesitate to retaliate and bashed his shield backwards. Bran lifted his own shield in time, but the strength of the attack must have caught him off guard. He had nearly slipped out of his saddle, though that was not the end of it. Rhaenys watched in horror as the massive giant bashed his sword against Bran’s helmet, filling the air with a clinking sound. Like a child he was hurled backwards, his feet still fixed in the stirrups of his horse.

Get away, she wanted to shout as the Mountain wheeled his horse around, towards Bran, who had lost both his sword and shield.

Yet Brandon didn’t move his horse.

What are you doing, she thought, but when her Uncle’s spear touched the Mountain’s shoulder she knew all would be well.

Within the blink of a moment the Mountain’s attention was focused elsewhere as her Uncle was bombarding the steel giant with a barrage of spear thrusts, though not even a sharp spear point would have been able to penetrate the Mountain’s thick plate armor.

The head and the joints are the weakest points, she recalled Bran’s lessons and watched as her Uncle jabbed his spear in a quick succession of thrusts.

“Father is toying with him,” Obara remarked behind her and Rhaenys prayed that it was true, her eyes fixed on the two mounted knights. “Wait and see.”

Rhaenys wasn’t the only one who was silent. Silence reigned around her and was occasionally penetrated by the encouraging shouts of the crowd.

Rhaenys was barely able to follow their movements. Left and right, up and down, the Mountain’s great sword moved, occasionally interrupted by the movement of his shield to parry another one of her Uncle’s quick spear thrusts.

“Now!” Obara shouted as her Uncle sent his spear darting forward. The Mountain hacked at it, but the thrust had been a feint. Her Uncle wasted no time and bashed his spear on his horse’s head. The animal shrieked and reared, sending the massive man flying in the dust.

Any other knight would have deemed himself the winner of this battle, but her Uncle didn’t come here to win a mock battle. Like a madman he wheeled his horse around and urged it towards his enemy, his spear raised. Rhaenys heard the uneasy mutters of the other specters, but her eyes were fixed on her Uncle, the whirled-up dust making her eyes burn.

In this moment she spotted Bran emerging from the cloud of dust, his sword in hand, the blade clutched between his hands and the steel pommel turned upwards. With all his might he slashed the pommel against the Mountain’s head. Even from afar they heard the clashing sound of steel against plate.

The Mountain stumbled forward, his movement clumsy as he tried to regain his footing, but it was already too late. Her Uncle’s spear flashed like lightening and found the gap in the heavy plate, the joint under the arm. The tip of his spear must have penetrated the mail and boiled leather, because the Mountain gave a choking sound when her Uncle twisted his spear and yanked it free.

She heard the gasps of the audience and her Uncle’s laughter. When she saw the blood trickling from the Mountain’s armpit she knew that her Uncle had somehow managed to defy the tourney rules of using a sharped weapon.

Her Uncle’s shrill laughter was muffled by the visor of his helmet as he circled around the Mountain and drove the spear through the back of his knee, between his thigh and calf.

Making use of the moment Bran brought the pommel of his sword down on the Mountain’s head, causing him to collapse face forward on the ground.

A moment of silence passed before the crowd erupted in cheers.

Rhaenys didn’t cheer. She collapsed against the railing of the balustrade, unable to say whether she was sad or happy.

“Rella,” Tyene whispered and grabbed her arm. “I think it is best if we…come along.”

“Tyene is right,” Obara added and grabbed her other arm, pulling her up to sit on the wooden bench. “We should leave…I am sure Bran and father can handle it from here.”

“They disobeyed the tourney rules,” Rhaenys whispered, her feet suddenly weak like pudding.

“The King won’t start a war over this,” Nym assured her as they made their way through the crowd of people, back where here Uncle had erected his pavilion. “They might ask for some sort of compensation, but I doubt anyone but Tywin Lannister will cry after the monster.”

Rhaenys nodded her head and took the cup of wine from Nym’s hand, bringing it to her lips.

The wine helped to calm her, but even now her hand was trembling as if she had fought this battle herself.

It is done, she thought and drank deeply. Then she opened her eyes and watched as her three cousins filled their own cups. It is done.

She didn’t know how long she sat there and how many cups of wine she had consumed when the flap of the tent finally opened and her Uncle and Bran stepped inside. Her Uncle looked unharmed, but Bran’s face looked horrible. His area around his eye was bruised and his lips were swollen.

“It is done,” Bran informed her and grinned. “Though I suppose Lord Tywin Lannister will demand a hefty sum gold to compensate for the loss of his loyal bannerman.”

“It will be worth it in the end,” her Uncle replied with a wry smile, his face covered in a seam of sweat. Then he lifted his head and searched her face. “But it will take a while before the poison shows its effect. By then the monster will wish I gave him the killing blow.”

Rhaenys didn’t say a word. She simply rose to her feet, bridged the distance and slung her arms around her Uncle Oberyn and Brandon.

“It is done…,” she whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Thank you.”

“Not yet, sweetling,” her Uncle added and squeezed her shoulder. “The usurper needs to die…I cannot ignore my brother’s command.”

“I have an idea how we might be able to accomplish this feat,” Bran added and searched Rhaenys face. He looked uncomfortable, but he still continued to speak. “The Queen invited us for supper, don’t you remember?”

Rhaenys nodded her head. She liked the idea, though she feared the usurper. This might also be her only chance to speak to the Queen.

“I remember,” Rhaenys confirmed and kissed Bran’s cheek. Then she angled her head to meet her Uncle’s gaze. “I think Ser Brandon is unto something:..”

Chapter Text

Jon

The sound of gongs rang in his ears as they neared the city. Lining the walls of Qarth were a good dozen of men, some blowing horns and others trumpets.

As they rode towards the city gates a column of horses and camels came their way to greet them.

The mounted men were impressive. All of them wore scaled copper armor and helmets decorated with colorful plumes. The garb of their horses was even more impressive, the saddles decorated with colorful jewels.

“How the fuck did they know that we are coming?” asked Muddy.

Jon exchanged a quiet look with Daenerys, her hand brushing over Rhaelion’s shiny black head.

Daenerys seemed to share Muddy’s discomfort. She looked tense, her jaw tight like a bowstring as she regarded these strange men, greeting them as if they were Kings.

It was strange indeed. It was the red comet that led them here, but they had seen neither outriders nor sentries.

Ser Franklyn looked equally unhappy, his hand resting on the pommel of his sword.

Even the dragons made their discomfort known. The pale and the green dragon started to hiss and flapped their wings as if they wanted to take to the sky.

“Welcome strangers!” one of the mounted men greeted them.

Jon could only wince at the sight of the man. He had pale mottled skin, lacked hair and his lips had a strange blue color. “My name is Pyat Pee…we have been waiting for you.”

 “I thank you for your kind welcome,” Jon replied politely, his eyes darting back to Daenerys. “But how did you know about our arrival?”

The man smiled and his eyes flickered first to Daenerys and then to Jon.

“The red comet heralded your coming,” he explained and smiled knowingly. “Princess Daenerys of House Targaryen…and you…nameless Prince….I have no name to put on you, but we saw you reborn in the flames.”

Jon swallowed hard, but they couldn’t afford to make enemies. Thus he remained polite.

“My name is Jon,” he replied. “But how do you know all this?”

“We watched the signs,” Pyat Pee replied, unbothered by their distrust. “You are most welcome to visit us in the House of the Undying.”

“House of the Undying,” Daenerys repeated, her deep violet eyes alight with distrust. “What kind of place is this?”

Pyat Pee grinned and bared his white teeth.

“The House of the Undying is a place of truth and knowing…” Pyat Pee continued to explain, but was silenced by another mounted man.

“Do not listen to these warlocks, my beautiful Princess!” the man beseeched Daenerys in a honeyed voice and promptly introduced himself. He had a bald head, a great beak of a nose crusted with rubies, opals and flakes of jade. “My name is Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a rich merchant hailing from this city. Come with me, oh beautiful woman and I shall offer you silken sheets and sweetened water.”

Jon felt the urge to strangle this Xaro, but then they had no food or water left. Their gold they would need to buy passage to the Free Cities. He couldn’t afford to make enemies.

“We have need of water,” Jon grumbled and gave the man a dark look, his hand brushing over the hilt of his blade. Ghost was also quickly at his side, his ruby eyes fixed on the fat merchant.

“Jon speaks true,” Daenerys added hesitatingly. “We have indeed use of water and food. A place to rest would also be appreciated…we have gold, but not much else we could offer you in return.”

“You shall pay nothing, oh most beautiful woman!” the merchant cooed “You shall reside like a Queen and you may stay as long as you wish.”

“Sweet are your words, merchant,” Daenerys replied, her eyes narrowed in distrust. “But I have learned that nothing comes without a price.”

“Wisely spoken, sweet Princess,” the warlock, who had observed their exchange in silence, added. “Never trust a merchant…come with us and you shall gain wisdom.”

“Wisdom?” the merchant asked mockingly. “Your house is built on bones and lies, warlock. You are studying your scrolls and you drink your shade to turn your lips blue. You are nothing more than hollow husks. Your gifts of wisdom are a lie.”

Pyat Pee seemed unimpressed, his black eyes narrowed against the bright sun.

“I shall not force you,” Pyat Pee declared. “Rest and come at your own convenience. We shall wait for you.”

Jon swallowed hard, nodded his head and exchanged another look with Daenerys. Her face was burned, her lips dry. The others, especially Doreah, were in dire need of rest and water.

“I thank you for your offer, warlock, but your wisdom can wait until we are fed and rested,” Jon replied politely and shifted his attention back to Xaro. “We shall take your offer, but we won’t stay longer than necessary.”

“As you wish,” Pyat Pee replied, his glittering dark eyes darting to Rhaelion. If he was angry it didn’t show on his face. “Your wondrous beasts are always welcome, Princess.”

Then Pyat Pee shifted his attention back to Jon.

“You as well, nameless Prince.”

“Jon,” Jon corrected him, but the warlock ignored him and left them in company of the merchant Xaro.

“Do not listen to these dusty warlocks, my Prince,” the merchant cooed sweetly. “They are a strange breed of men, full of lies are their hearts.”

“I understand,” Jon replied and forced a smile over their lips.

Xaro didn’t lie. His palace was a place fit for a King. There were more rooms than he could count, tiled floors and gilded furniture that glittered as if it was made of pure gold. Even more reason to distrust him.

The gardens were even more spacious, full of exotic trees Jon didn’t know.

The feast that night proved even more lavish. They ate roasted duck, peacock and boiled ostrich eggs, accompanied by strange fruits that made Jon wince whenever he placed them into his mouth. They were sour like lemons, but there was a sweet taste in them that made them bearable to be digested.

Jon remained mistrustful of their overeager host, but he ate nonetheless, as did his companions. They were all ravenous and the fact that they had a soft bed waiting for them tonight was more than tempting. It even made him forget about this merchant.

By the time supper had passed, his head squirmed from the wine he had consumed. Daenerys looked equally exhausted, but she still spent half the evening feeding the dragons in company of Irri. Doreah was attending to Jhiqui while Muddy and Ser Franklyn had excused themselves earlier. Even Ghost was asleep, his massive body spread on the Myrish carpet, leading out to the gardens.

“Well done!” Daenerys complimented the dragons with a smile, after the pale dragon had managed to snap the piece of meat from her hand. The other two dragons chirped, as if they wanted to gain their mother’s attention. “Well done, my children.”

“They are hungry,” Jon remarked matter-of-factly and stepped out unto the balcony where Daenerys and Irri had taken their seats. “Good that Xaro is a generous host.”

Daenerys chuckled, a lovely smile lightening up her face as she leaned over to touch his hand. He hadn’t lain with her since that night weeks ago, but now as he saw her garbed in these silk robes, his breeches grew uncomfortable tight.

“A generous host indeed,” she said and held up another piece of roasted meat. “But we shouldn’t trust him. I say we leave on the morrow.”

“Aye,” Jon agreed in a heavy voice and watched as Rhaelion hopped into the air to tear the piece of meat from Daenerys’ hand. “We should leave on the morrow, but we all need our dire rest. Especially, Doreah.”

Daenerys’ face lightened up again and she clapped her hands together. Rhaelion chirped happily and hopped back on his mother’s hand.

Seeing the dragons at play made him realize that he had forgotten his promise to her.

“Dany,” Jon said, his eyes following after the other two dragons. “I have thought of names, though I am not sure if they will please you.”

The look on her face could only be described as stunned.

“What names do you have in mind, Jon?”

“Rhaegal for the green one,” Jon suggested, the dragon’s golden eyes meeting his. Jon didn’t know why, but a strange tingling feeling overcame him whenever he was close to him. It was similar to Ghost, but also different.

“For my Lord Father…Prince Rhaegar,” Jon explained and stretched out his hand to touch the dragon’s head. Surprisingly, the dragon chirped and rubbed his head against his arm. “I believe you are right…this one likes me quite a bit. That’s why I chose this name.”

“I like it,” Daenerys and graced him with a warm smile. “And the pale one?”

“Perhaps Aerion,” Jon suggested. “For my brother Prince Aegon Targaryen.”

Daenerys nodded her head, her hand brushing up his shoulder. Her touched made him shiver, but now was not the time and the place for such things. W

He took her hand and gave her a warm smile.

“You need rest,” he told her. “As do the dragons.”

Daenerys looked slightly disappointed, but nodded her head in confirmation.

“Aye, we should sleep,” she agreed and thanked Irri for her help, before dismissing her. The girl dipped her head and slipped out of the room, back to the chambers she shared with Doreah and Jhiqui.

“I should go as well,” Jon replied, but Daenerys grabbed his arm to stop him.

“You could sleep here,” she offered, her violet eyes impossible wide. “Just to sleep.”

He nodded his head and held her face between his hands, kissing her soft lips. She eagerly returned his kiss and her hands massaged his scalp. It was an all too pleasant feeling and it took all his effort to pull away.

“Then let us sleep,” he told her, rose back to his feet and stared to pull of his clothes. Daenerys watched him, her eyes alight with amusement.

Once he was finished, he slipped beneath the bedding. The bed was much too soft for his taste, but his mind was soon distracted when Daenerys pulled off her robe and revealed her nakedness.

Jon gasped and gave Daenerys a hard look.

“You are a cruel woman,” he replied and rolled to the other side, his cock resisting any reason. “Do you know that?”

She chuckled and slipped beneath the bedding to join him. Her body was warm, but she didn’t do anything but to touch his arm and to rest her head on his shoulder.

“I have not forgotten what you told me,” she whispered into his ears. “But there are other things we can do…tell me more about your home…tell me about your mother.”

Jon sucked in a breath and angled his head to look at her.

“I hardly recall my mother,” he explained. “She was my Aunt when she was living in Winterfell, but I recall her soft voice. She has brown hair like me and looks a bit like my younger sister …I mean cousin…Arya is my cousin, but I think of her as my sister. I also recall that she used to play with me in the snow…once she helped me and my brother Robb to build a castle of snow.”

“A castle made of snow,” Daenerys repeated and gave him a disbelieving look. “I don’t even know what snow looks like.”

“It’s very cold,” Jon tried to describe it. “And it melts if it gets to warm. Fresh-fallen snow is the most pleasant kind of snow. It tickles your nose and Rickon claims it tastes like cake.”

“Robb is the oldest?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. “And is the second son, right?”

“He is the youngest,” Jon corrected her quickly and smoothed his hand over her cheek. “Bran is the second son. I also have another sister…Sansa.”

“Is she like Arya?” Daenerys asked. “Is she also playing around with swords?”

Jon couldn’t help but to laugh as he imagined Sansa playing with a sword.

“Sansa prefers needles,” he replied. “She is a true Lady.”

“I see,” Daenerys replied and gave him a mischievous smile. “My mother desperately tried to teach me stitching, but I can play the harp, though my voice is lacking.”

Jon wondered how that was possible. She had such a lovely voice.

“I would like to hear you play,” Jon replied softly and felt his eyes growing heavy. It seemed the hardships of the last weeks were taking their toll on him. “Who thought you?”

“A girl from Lys,” she explained, her voice laced with sadness. “Ser William Darry paid her a few silvers to teach me, but I had to stop my practice after Ser Darry had passed away.”

“Why is that?” Jon asked, growing tense. Hearing about her childhood made him always angry. He liked to complain about Lady Stark’s cold looks, but at least he had siblings and a proper roof over his head.

“The servants stole my harp,” she explained and leaned closer to place a feather-light kiss on his cheek. “That’s why I had to stop.”

“I will get you a new one,” Jon promised and pulled her closer so she lay curled against his chest. “I promise.”

Then, ever slowly he allowed himself to slip away.

The bright sunlight blinded him momentarily as he rose from his bed and pulled on his tunic. Daenerys was still asleep, her breathing ringing in his hears.

Not wanting to wake her, he moved as quietly as possible through the room towards the balcony, leading out to the gardens.

The dragons were unusually quiet this morning. Jon didn’t think anything of it until he found no sign of them.

Jon didn’t belief his eyes and searched the entire garden. A dozen of times he paced up and down the lawn, before he came to the fateful conclusion.

They are gone, he realized and bolted back inside. He believed to know who had taken the dragons from them.

Daenerys was awake when he entered the room, her purple eyes alight with confusion.

“What happened?” she asked and hopped out of bed. In passing she grabbed for her tunic and pulled it over her head. Then she pulled on her leggings and boots while Jon retrieved his sword.

“The dragons are gone,” he told her plainly and whistled. Ghost followed after him and Jon set out to pay the merchant a visit. “I will make Xaro speak.”

“Jon…wait!” he heard Dany’s voice but Jon was already out of the room.

Xaro’s guards pointed their sharp spears at him as he entered. Jon bashed the first spear away and hacked down the first men while Ghost took care of the second, his sharp fangs buried deep in his neck. The time he had gained would be enough to get the truth out of the merchant’s mouth.

“Where are the dragons?” Jon demanded to know, his voice echoing back at him through the long hall. “Tell me or I am going to cut you down like the other two…Where are they?”

The merchant shuddered and dropped his cup of wine, the red liquid pooling beneath his feet like blood.

“I didn’t steal them…I swear,” he sobbed as Jon’s blade touched his fat neck. “It must have been the warlocks…they want them…for their blood magic…I can lead you there…please,” he added his fearful gaze flickering to the door.

“Jon,” he heard Daenerys soft voice. When he turned around he found her staring at Xaro. Muddy and Ser Franklyn were also there, their swords raised and their eyes fixed on the corridor outside. “What did he do to the dragons?”

“He says the warlocks took them,” Jon informed her and grabbed Xaro around his shoulder, his blade gracing his neck.

“Well, then,” he declared in a warning tone. “Show us the way…one word and you are dead. The only way I am keeping you alive is because this will spare us a lot of time…let’s move!”

Muddy and Ser Franklyn nodded their heads and thus they left, to pay a visit to the House of the Undying.

Chapter Text

Daenerys

The House of the Undying was nothing more than a grey and ancient ruin of dust and stone. It was a long and low building, devoid of windows and surrounded by a high grove of trees with strange inky blue leaves.

“That is where I will leave you,” Xaro the merchant told them, his gaze fearful as Jon looked back at him. Jon had threatened to take his head, but the merchant had sworn that it were the warlocks who stole the dragons.

They desire to reclaim their past glories, Xaro had explained to Daenerys and Jon, Dragons are magic made flesh. Dragons are power.

“What a pleasant place,” Jon added sarcastically and offered his hand to her. Daenerys took it and together they made their way towards the ruin.

A cool breeze was blowing through the trees and made the leaves rustle.

Daenerys didn’t know how it had happened, but the warlock named Pyat Pee, that had welcomed them at the city gates was suddenly there, as if conjured from thin air.

“Welcome, friends,” he greeted and his dark bottomless eyes flickered first to Daenerys and then to Jon. “It seems you have found your way to the House of the Undying? Are you here to seek wisdom?

“We are here to get the dragons back!” Jon snarled at the warlock, all politeness forgotten. “Where are they?”

“They are here with us,” Pyat Pee replied, completely unperturbed by Jon’s threat. “You may take them back if you are prepared to enter the House of the Undying…” he trailed off and bared his teeth.

“I have a better idea,” Jon threw back and unsheathed his blade, holding it to Pyat Pee’s neck. “What do you say to my blade? Does it not help to change your mind?”

“Kill me,” Pyat Pee replied impassively. “But then the doors to wisdom shall be closed forever.”

“Jon,” Daenerys addressed him in a calming voice and touched his shoulder. “I think it is better if we play along…” she trailed off, though she wanted to do nothing more than to strangle the warlock in front of her.

“Very well,” Jon replied through clenched teeth and sheathed his blade. “What do we have to do?”

The warlock smiled and jerked his head at the ruin, looming before them.

When they arrived at the entrance, the warlock shifted his attention back to them.

“The front way leads in, but not out. Heed my words. The House of the Undying was made for immortal men. If you value your soul, take care and do as I say.”

“No way out?” Jon grumbled. “How is that even possible?”

The warlock ignored his question and continued to explain.

“Inside you will find yourself in a room with four doors: the one you have come through and three others. Take the door to the right. Each time, the door to the right. If you should come upon a stairwell, climb. Never go down and never take any door but the first door to your right.”

“Always the door to the right,” Jon repeated impatiently. “And how do we get out?”

“Leaving and coming is the same. Always up…always the door to the right. Other doors may open to you as well. Within them you will see things that might disturb you. Visions of loveliness and horror, wonders and terrors. Sights and sounds of days gone by and days that come and days that never were. You must also enter separately.”

“No,” Jon refused stubbornly, but Daenerys grabbed his arm.

“Jon,” she said and cradled his face between her hands. “We must do as he says…for the dragons.”

His gaze softened immediately and he leaned down to kiss her. Then he brushed her hands away and shifted his attention back to the warlock.

“I shall go first,” he declared determinedly and looked at her one last time. “Don’t follow after me if something bad happens…”

“Very well,” Pyat Pee replied and folded his hands in front of him, as Jon entered the door. It was an oval mouth carved in the likeness of a human face.

Daenerys expected something to happen, but all she heard was the howling of the wind.

More time passed, but nothing happened.

“You may go now, Princess Daenerys,” Pyat Pee replied. Daenerys swallowed hard and entered through the door. There at the threshold awaited her another person. It was a dwarf, not bigger than a child.

Said dwarf presented her a crystal glass filled with a thick blue liquid.

“Drink this,” she heard Pyat Pee’s whispering voice. “Drink, Princess Daenerys.”

Daenerys hesitated, but eventually lifted the glass to her lips. The first drop tasted like spoiled meat, foul and dead, but as she continued to swallow it, a different feeling took hold of her. She could feel the tendrils jolting through her chest like a burning flame clenching around her heart like a tight noose. The taste changed as well. There was a hint of honey and the taste of Jon’ kiss mixed with blood.

“You may now enter,” she heard Pyat Pee’s whispering voice and handed the glass back to the dwarf, before stepping into the next chamber.

It was a dimly-lit anteroom with four doors.

She did as the warlock had instructed her and chose the right door. The second chamber was like a mirror-image of the first and again she walked through the right door.

The next chamber was different. It was oval rather than square. Six passages awaited her there. Obeying the warlock’s words, she chose the right door and arrived in a room with a high ceiling. Here she found torches, glimmering like stars in a sea of darkness.

She picked one of the torches from the wall and walked further along the dark passage. She heard no sound, only the beating of her heart.

Jon, she whispered. Where are you?

The doors to her left were open and she couldn’t help but to glimpse inside. Pyat Pee had advised her not to enter these rooms, but taking a glimpse couldn’t hurt.

In one room she saw a woman with golden hair. She was beautiful beyond words, but her eyes were cruel. Beside her stood a young boy, a golden crown resting atop his golden curls. His skin was as pale as ash and a gaping wound marked his chest, fresh blood flooding from it as he moved. He is dead, she realized when she took in is his empty eyes and saw his mother’s tears. All pride was now gone from her face and bloody tears ran down her cheeks.

I must go, she reminded herself and she averted her gaze, before continuing to move along the dark passage, but soon another open door presented itself to her and she couldn’t help but to feel drawn to it.

Inside she saw King, seated atop a barbed chair, his golden clothing glimmering in the torchlight like molten gold. He had a sharp face, his hair black like ink and his eyes blue like the summer sky. The black stag embellished on his doublet told her that he belonged to the enemy, House Baratheon.

He looks so sad, Daenerys thought as his gaze darted to the heap of corpses beneath his feet. There were hundreds of them, if not thousands, their blood pooling on the ground and the sweet smell of death filling her nostrils.

As the King descended the steps he started to laugh. It was a high and mad laugh, as if someone had caused him great pain, his gaze fixed on the dead man placed at the bottom of the stairs. It was a young man, so much she could see. His pale face was slightly turned to the side, his chest bloody and torn. Suddenly, the King fell to his knees beside the youth and wept, his crown falling to the ground, as more and more blood started drench his robes, turning them crimson.

Was this the usurper, she wondered, a familiar voice filling her ears. “Come to me, my little girl!” she heard her mother’s beckoning voice as she stepped towards the next chamber. Her heart swelled when she saw the wooden beams and the high windows. As she stepped closer, she saw her mother, young and beautiful as she had once been.

“Come to me,” her voice beckoned again, soft and sweet like fresh honey. Her mother smiled at her, her arms spread wide, inviting her step into her arms. “Come home to me.”

Tears rolled down her cheeks and she longed to give in to this feeling, but then she heard it. It was Rhaelion’s cry that called her back to the present.

“No!” she shouted at this illusion that pretended to be her mother. “That’s not my home…my home is across the Narrow Sea.”

She bit her lips and turned around, to bolt down the never-ending hall. She had long stopped counting the doors she came through. The path seemed endless as she opened one door after another.

Laboring for breath she stopped braced herself against the wall. Looking up she found a grand door made of gold. It opened from alone and she stepped inside fearing it might close again.

Inside the room she found a man perched on the barbed seat of his forefathers. He was old and his long grey hair was falling around him like a veil. His laugh was piercing like a sword.

“Burn them all! Burn them all!” he shouted and she finally realized who the man was. His sharp features reminded her of Viserys.

Father, she knew and banished away her fear. Panic-stricken she crossed the room and the vision disappeared like a mirage.

She didn’t hesitate to step into the next room and felt suddenly as if she was stepping into thin air. The world before her blurred and a moment later she found her sandaled feet deeply-sunken into a white soft substance. She shuddered, the cold air biting into her skin like a sharp blade.

It’s so cold, she thought and rubbed her arms as she cast her gaze to the grey sky. As she looked around, she realized that she was in some sort of garden, though the trees were as foreign to her as were the grey walls and towers, looming above her. A castle, she realized as she made her way along a muddy trail, leading to a white-barked tree with ruby leaves. 

A weirwood, she guessed and was about to step towards the tree when she heard the laughter of a child.

She followed the laughter, her toes slowly growing numb from the cold.

“Come here, little pup!” a woman exclaimed as a young child was stumbling towards her through the snow. “Let me hold you!”

Daenerys was stunned by this revelation. The woman was still very young, maybe around thirty. Her face was long, a bit like Jon’s. Her hair was brown as well and when she turned around, Daenerys saw her smile and felt like hit by thunder.

“Mother!” another familiar voice called out to the woman. “Give him here…Daenerys’ wants to have him back, isn’t that so, love?”

Daenerys was surprised that she hadn’t noticed his presence, but there was Jon, alive and well.

Jon was even wearing the same clothing, which made her believe that he was no vision.

“Very well,” the woman said in obvious amusement and handed him the young boy.

Jon smiled at her warmly, as the little boy angled his head to look at her, his gurgling voice echoing in her ears.

The little boy couldn’t be older than a year, his face plump and his hair pale like hers. His eyes looked like Jon’s, dark purple, nearly black.

“Here,” Jon prodded gently. “Do you want to hold our son?”

“Son,” repeated, her heart filled with longing. “He is ours?”

Jon’s smile was as bright as a star.

“See for yourself,” Jon prodded again. “Do you want to hold him?”

Daenerys was about to touch the child, when she heard a dragon’s shriek.

It felt as if a spell had been lifted from her in that moment.

“No…this is another illusion,” she knew then and turned around, leaving the mirage behind her.

Next, she found herself in a dark room, gloomy like a dungeon.

She tried to move, but felt something heavy pulling on her wrists. When she lifted her head, she noticed that her wrists were bound with iron chains.

Breathing quickly, she swept her gaze through the room. At first, she saw only dusty figures moving in the shadows, but the light of a torch chased away the darkness and she found strange figures robed in pelt, velvet and gold staring back at her. Pyat Pee was also there, a torch in hand.

“What game are you playing, warlock?” she heard Jon’s angry voice, piercing the silence around them. Daenerys hadn’t even noticed him, his hands chained to the ground.

He looked pale, but otherwise unharmed as he jerked his head at the ceiling. “Let us go! Let them go! The dragons are not yours!”

There right above their heads hung a steel cage, holding the three dragons. They shrieked and flapped their wings, desperate to escape.

Seeing them suffer pained her heart and she pulled on her chains, hoping it would do any good.

“Do not fret, Princess Daenerys,” Pyat Pee said and stepped closer. “We would never dare to take your children from you, but neither you or your kin shall leave this place.”

“Fuck you, warlock!” Jon snarled and straining his chain like a bull trying to burst free from his prison. She had never seen him this angry. “Let us out! Show us that you are no craven!”

Daenerys knew it was no use and gritted her teeth in frustration, as she watched how the cage was lowered to the ground. The small dragons were also straining against the grip of the small iron rings placed around their necks.

“Warlock!” Jon continued to curse and pulled, his feet braced against the stone slaps. “I am going to kill you! This I swear!”

Again, Jon pulled and to Daenerys’ utter surprise the stone sledge gave away. Breathing hard, Jon didn’t hesitate to hurl himself at Pyat Pee.

The warlock shrieked as Jon’s hands wrapped themselves around his neck and Daenerys watched in horror as the Undying started to grab Jon, trying to pull him off Pyat Pee.

All the while the dragons continued to cry out desperately and Daenerys lifted her gaze to the dragons, hovering over the mass of men.

It was dangerous, but she had no other choice.

“Dracarys!” she shouted at the top of their lungs. “Dracarys!”

Without hesitation the dragons opened their mouths and unleashed threw columns of flames at the enemy below. She felt the heat of the flames on her skin, the smell of burned flesh filling her nostrils. As she listened to their screams, her chains and even the cage disappeared into nothingness.

She fell to her knees, her gaze darting back to the mass of men.

“Daenerys!” she heard Jon’s stained voice next to her. “We need to get away!”

Her gaze darted back to the dragons, who must have taken flight the moment they were freed. They continued to burn the warlocks, the flames curling higher and higher.

“Come!” she shouted at them as Jon pulled on her arm. “Follow us!”

“Rhaegal!” Jon shouted at his dragon and the creature dipped lower, following him. The other two dragons followed suit as they bolted through the door, down another staircase and through another door.

The bright sunlight blinded her momentarily, but they had finally left the tower behind them, fresh air touching her skin.

“Are you well?” Jon asked her, his face black with sooth and burned on the right side of his temples. “Daenerys…”

Daenerys gave a silent nod and turned around. The flames were bursting through the cracks of the crumbing ruin and the towers trembled. The cries of men rang in her ears as the roof collapsed.

“What kind of sorcery was this?” she asked, her voice strained and distant to her ears. Rhaelion chirped and crawled up her arm, his warm breath comforting to her like one of her mother’s lullabies.

“It matters not,” Jon whispered into her ear and kissed her brow, Rhaegal seated atop his shoulder. “It is time for us to leave this cursed city…better today than on the morrow.”