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Mother of Dragons

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Viserys Targaryen is still a child himself when his firstborn is pressed into his tremulous arms. She is red and squashed from the birth, sired upon the Lysene wife he barely knows.

"She is beautiful, my lady," he tells his wife in High Valyrian. Viserys suspects she knows far more of the common tongue than she lets on to court, but the lyrical dialetic of Lys is their common ground. "As beautiful as you."

Larra Rogare smiles, weary and triumphant. "She is glorious, my lord. A true dragon."

Her brothers, Moredo and Lotho and Roggerio, press closer. The tender moment, like none that Viserys has experienced since the dragons danced, dies as quickly as it came.

"Yes, yes," Roggerio dismisses. "But most importantly, healthy. Our dear sister will be able to give you a new son by this time next year."

Larra Rogare's face twists dangerously. She stills when Moredo rests a coaxing hand upon her shoulder.

Viserys shifts his aching arms as their daughter squirms in them. With her birth there are now five dragons in the world. It will be years before Aegon and Daenaera can start their family. The families their sisters are starting with their new husbands do not carry their name.

"Sons will come in time," he allows. "First we must celebrate the babe the gods have given us."

Lotho smiles indulgently. "Of course, my prince. Surely you shall name the new princess for your own formidable mother or perhaps another esteemed ancestor?"

It is what the realm expects from the puppet prince with a Lysene she-devil for a wife and a child named for either the rogue prince or whore of Dragonstone as his alleged heir.

"Aegea," he answers instead. "Princess Aegea Targaryen."

Since Larra had announced the stopping of her moon blood Viserys has expected only a child he can name in honor of his king. He sees no reason why such a child could not be an Aegea if she is no Aegon.

Aegea Targaryen swiftly grows into a beautiful babe with a thick head of silver-gold hair and eyes the same deep shade of blue-violet as her mother's. She is large and thriving, with an insatiable appetite and lusty cries that can be heard across the Red Keep. The courtiers that comment on her good health tactfully avoid mention of Aegea's poor little cousin, Laena Velaryon, not much older, forever with a ruined arm when a white wyrm of a dragon had torn into her flesh.

Aerea is the sole royal child in the nursery. She is doted upon by not only her father and uncles, but the king and queen themselves. It is said her imperious demands for holdings and knee rides are one of the few spots of sunlight in the Broken King's life.

The comments fall on deaf ears, for Larra Rogare refuses to acknowledge she has picked up any of the common tongue or to deal with the same courtiers that have driven her brothers and much of her retinue from the capital. She is isolated and alone. Viserys tries his best to charm her through the lonely days and nights, but they both know it is not enough.

The same year that sees the downfall of the Rogares sees the birth of a second daughter. Larra knows damned Unwin Peake to be behind the whispers of corruption and devil-worship, for he will never forgive Viserys or his brother for preventing his bid for the throne.

Viserys is as captivated with their second daughter as he is their first. Larra cannot bring herself to feel much. The babe is not even a disappointment, there is no longer a Rogare influence to consolidate in Westeros through the birth of a son and heir. Lord Peake has seen to that.

Perhaps being allowed to name her daughter after her own mother would have helped foster a bond. She has no choice but to allow Viserys to instead christen her Aemma, for the Arryn grandmother that remains the realm of House Targaryen's Andal blood and Andal faith.

Spoiled all her short life, Aegea does not take kindly to the second princess that steals away the attention and admirers. She lashes out with the same furious toddler tantrums Larra remembers from her nieces back home.

Larra is too weary to bother with discipline, not when Aegea is only a jealous girl who has not yet seen her second nameday. She largely leaves her daughters to the nursemaids. Their crying and tantrums stir a deep, dark frustration in her. Best her children know only their stable, steady guardians than the storms she oft feels tempted to unleash upon them.

A difficult toddler should have been the concern of none but the nursery. Yet somehow insidious rumors of Aegea creep through the Red Keep and out into the realm. They whisper of a jealous sister found beating her innocent baby sister with a dragon egg to be rid of the competition, covetous Rhaenyra come again.

More than ever Larra kneels before the familiar faces of her gods, praying for patience and peace. She will endure all the whispers of sorcery and child stealing, so long as the whispers remain on her.

Aegon and his little wife are still not of an age to try for a family. Still with no sons of the current generation, Larra grits her teeth to take her child husband once more into bed. Perhaps a son will finally quell the rumors and secure her children.

The new gods of Westeros are just as fickle as the old gods of the east. Larra Rogare's long-awaited son is born two months early, small and pale and silent. He refuses to nurse from her or any nursemaid but an old, stout woman that had once suckled Viserys himself. Barely a week goes by without some cough or chill near stealing him away.

It is whispered Prince Aerys has been granted a name fit for a funeral, that the great dynastic names of Aegon and Jaehaerys are to be saved for sons that will survive the cradle.

The first time that rumor reaches her ears, Larra sinks her nails into her palms so hard they draw blood. She keeps her hands carefully hidden away in her sleeves, to avoid the blood dripping to the floor and sparking theories of sorcery anew.

This accursed realm has been the downfall of her family. Larra refuses to have it be the end of her.

Viserys is now not only tall enough to meet her eyes, but to glare furiously down her. "You're fleeing now, when our son might be on his deathbed?"

Larra meets his gaze evenly and wearily. "Viserys, Aerys is always on his deathbed, from this or that. Either he will survive this new sickness, or he will not. We've said our goodbyes to him more than I care to count. The longer I put this off, the more damage I do to your daughters."

Aerys is too young to know her and too young to miss her. Aemma might hold on to faint wisps of memory without the weight of emotional attachment. Aegea will cry and rage and scream until time makes her grudge numb and go dead.

"Yes," Viserys grits out. "Indefinitely abandoning our children is so much better for them."

"I have nothing to give them but my wicked reputation."

Her husband silently concedes this. He cannot see good where there is none to be seen. "The last few years have been stressful. Go home and find what family remains to you. When you heal and find your peace, be it in a moon's turn or two years, we will be here waiting."

Larra motions to her empty chambers, with only the dark and heavy gowns left behind. "Viserys, I am never coming back. The rumors are never going away." Neither is the bone-deep knowledge that she will never love their children as her own mother loved her.

Viserys squares his shoulders, eyes wide and nostrils white. "You're my wife."

"Never in the ways that mattered. You were a child under duress. Even your gods frown upon it." Larra had once always done has her father had bid, and he once bid her wed to a captive boy of two and ten. "Annul me, if you wish. The High Septon will be all too happy to grant it. Take another wife of your faith to be a proper mother to the children."

They say nothing of love for another, for there is nothing to be said.

Larra turns to leave. Viserys does not stop her.

Aegea Targaryen is nine years old when that last, fateful letter arrives from Lys. It is not one of the rare messages from the woman that calls herself her mother. No, she'll never have one of those again.

Vaguely, Aegea can just remember a hazy face and, more clearly, a tired smile that never reached deep violet eyes. When she hears 'mother' Aegea does not picture a woman, but instead the elegant scrawl on an ivory page.

She's not sad, she's not sad, she's not sad!

Aegea remembers only the pounding behind her eyes and a scream like a dragon's roar. When she returns to herself, Father grasps her hands in an iron hold. She screams and kicks against him, so she can once more rip tapestries from the wall and send the knickknacks of his solar shattering to the floor.

She fights until she can't and falls against Father in violent sobs.

"Aegea," Father murmurs. "Little dragon, it will be alright."

She pulls away from him just enough to wipe the tears and snot from her face. With the storm past, it's easier to remember she's a princess, a dragon. Dragons have no mothers to weep for. At least not her.

"Where are Aemma and Aerys?" she croaks out.

"In the sept, praying for her soul."

Aegea's face twists into a sneer. She knows the queer idols their mother prayed to were unlike any of the Seven. The Stranger cares no more for Larra Rogare's soul than the Weeping Lady does for Aegea's.

"Aegea," Father warns gently. "Leave them to their grief. They have their faith, and you your fire."

"They don't even remember her," she spits. "She wasn't a real mother like Aunt Naera is."

She doesn't envy her little cousins, she doesn't. They're little babies and need a real mother more than Aegea needs a doting aunt.

"Little dragon, who were you named for?"

"Uncle Aegon," she recites dutifully.

Uncle Aegon, who stands tall against those that call him Dragonbane and Unlucky. Uncle Aegon, who watched his own mother be devoured alive by a dragon and stood strong for his little brother and all the realm.

"Precisely, little dragon." Father tilts Aegea's head up, like that proud portrait of Grandmother Rhaenyra hidden away on Dragonstone. "You're just as strong as he is. You must be just as dutiful, to the realm and your family. They depend on you as the eldest."

Uncle Aegon wasn't born the older brother until Uncle Jace and Uncle Luke and Uncle Joffrey were all killed. He's still the strongest man Aegea knows after Father. Aunt Baela and Aunt Rhaena have their own families.

Uncle Aegon doesn't get mad at Father, even though Father got to be safe in Lys when Uncle Aegon had to watch their mother get eaten by a dragon and take the older Aegon's heavy crown.

"I understand, Father."

Aegea must. She's a dragon. She might even be queen one day, if little cousin Daeron never gets a little sister.

Aegea Targaryen is said to have been born to ride a dragon, if there were any true dragons left worth riding. Instead she contents herself with horses and hawks. She thrives on the pageant of hunts and tourneys, even if she can directly participate in neither. With her ladies she'll compose ditties for the public and ribald songs amongst themselves. Her wit charms the court and offers her the advantage in cards and board games.

Unlike Daenaera Velaryon's ethereal grace or Larra Rogare's curvaceous flair, Aegea possesses a leaner, fiercer beauty. The old and tactless would compare her to Rhaenyra come again, if her family does not do everything they can to declare her Rhaenys reborn.

Not the Queen Who Never Was, of course, black-haired and formidable. The first Rhaenys idealized, silver-haired and playful, girl-like and harmless.

Aegea delights in how the young knights and lordlings of the realm fight for her favor, even though she's been promised since long before her flowering. She never grants her favor to the same champion twice.

Of course, Aegea must have the center of chivalry. Aunt Naera has five children and court whispers her star is on the wane. Her three daughters, Aegea's little cousins, are all well below ten namedays.

Then there is Aemma, a year younger. Aemma, just as fair, even when her hair is sheared short and her leathers dirtied from sparring with bold little Daeron on the refuge of Dragonstone. Aemma, who always dreamed of bearing the sword, than watching her brave champion fight for her.

She is promised to the Faith, just as Aegea has promised to keep all roving eyes upon herself instead.

Yet there is no whiff of scandal upon Aegea when she goes down the wedding aisle in honest white. She has never favored one tourney champion above the others, has never been a man's presence unaccompanied by her maidens or a Kingsguard above reproach.

She is Rhaenys reborn, not the Realm's Delight.

Aegea has no need to fake her thinly veiled disgust during the bedding. The drunk, rough hands pawing at her priceless wedding dress are no maiden's fantasy.

Neither is her bridegroom.

Oh, there's no denying he's beautiful, with deep violet eyes and porcelain skin. He's just as fragile, slim as Aerea herself and far shorter.

He is also her brother, her baby brother.

Aegea can't help a wan smile at a stoic stare that stubbornly refuses to trail below her face. She half-expected him to come to her in tears. "You don't have to look like you're going to the gallows, Aerys. It's just me."

They've known their fate for years, for little Daeron and Baelor are years away from manhood, and their Father would sooner wed his own children than take another bride to further his line. No amount of pleading to join the Faith could have changed that.

"Aegea." Aerys raises his chin, though she gazes down her nose at him. "Sister. We need do nothing but prick somewhere where the cut won't show, rustle up the sheets, and fall asleep side by side."

"Like you used to crawl into Aemma's bed when afraid of the thunder?" Aerys winces at her tone and near shrinks back when she steps toward him. "You'll not escape me so easily, little brother. I won't settle for a white marriage. Especially when every little dragon is one more between our house and total ruin."

"Daeron and Baeron are--"

"Boys." Aegea arches a brow. "And you expect Baelor to sire sons? Baelor, who ran crying before the Maiden when Uncle Aegon even brought up the idea of a spouse?"

"Let it fall upon Daeron," Aerys hisses, rising up as if he actually has the strength to do anything to her. As if even simple exercises alongside Daeron aren't enough to drive him back to his sickbed. "Let Father take responsibility for the duty he tries to force upon us, for I'll not have you."

With a hysterical laugh, Aegea looms above her brother. "Do you think Father will give you the luxury of waiting for Daena? Or Rhaena or Elaena? No, little brother. It's me or it's Aemma."

He shrinks back, pale with revulsion and horror. Good.

Of course Aerys loves Aemma properly, like a brother should love a sister. He and Aegea have never had that luxury.

"What do you want from me?" he whispers.

"A son, to start with."

There is no more struggle when she takes him to bed. Aegea's had no mother or grandmothers to guide her, but she's had her Aunt Naera, some handmaids that actually know what they're talking about, and many more with betrotheds and filthy fantasies.

Aegea falls into bed and pulls Aerys atop her, because gods know how terrified she is to break her baby brother more than she must. That does not stop her from rolling her eyes and further hauling him into place.

Then there is pain and a surge of spiteful satisfaction, before there is withering disappointment and withering guilt.

Aegea still tells herself the bloodied sheets waved before their audience the following morning is a victory.

Aemma finally being allowed to take her vows most certainly is. She is not one to retreat away from the world, but rather one to roll up her sleeves to do battle with the poverty and corruption running rampant in the capital's very streets. Her home shall be the same motherhouse their ancestor Maegelle founded in the city, for the septas there are eager to take on another Targaryen.

Aerys takes to wearing his long hair down, a silver-gold curtain to hide the bite marks bruising his neck. Aegea is a dragon, and she has claimed her property.

That first missed moon blood is also most certainly a blessing, if only because Aegea and Aerys can return to their separate chambers and pretend the last moon never happened.

After many hours of screaming and swearing to geld Aerys for his surprisingly stubborn seed, Aegea Targaryen pushes her firstborn son out on the last day of the year. He's squashed and ugly, uglier than all of Aunt Naera's babes put together. His thin, reedy cries grate against her ears.

"A rough birth, but he'll clean himself up in the end," the maester assures with only a small waver in his voice. "Just give him a few weeks."

Aegea still fights very hard against a grimace when her red, squashed son is bundled into her arms. He still has unmentionable chunks from the birth stuck to his face.

"Daeron," she announces resolutely. "Daeron Targaryen."

Aemma and Aerys' face slacken. Even Father's eyes widen before his face hardens.

Aegea can only keep her composure for a moment before she bursts out laughing at their expressions. She blames the damned blood loss.

"Truly?" Father demands.

Aegea rolls her eyes. "No, of course not. The realm needs no more Daerons anymore than it needs yet another surfeit of Aegons." Because the Dance of the Dragons had showed that so well.

Father grits his teeth but makes no demand of what to name his firstborn grandson. Perhaps because he knows all too well of the hell his children will raise for forcing the babe's existence in the first place. Aerys, torn between uncertainty and awe, is of course too damned timid to voice his own opinion.

"Aemon," Aemma suggests calmly. "Or Baelon."

Both good, sensible names. Unlike Jaehaerys, which is obviously what their Father is about to suggest. For the Conciliator, the beloved old king whose fucking inability to let a granddaughter inherit have made their current family situation what it is.

Aegea considers them. Both are too grand for a babe more squash than dragon. "For the next babe, perhaps," she says sweetly, and ignores their brother's grimace.

When their extended family drops in to pay their respects, Aegea once more repeats her son's name as Daeron. If only to see Uncle Aegon startled from his usual neutral expressions.

"But he's already Daeron!" Daena protests vehemently, pointing at the brother in question.

The first Daeron is already ass enough to grin. "The family can always use another Daeron."

"That's still two Daerons too many!"

Aegea herself is the one startled when a small smile flashes across Uncle Aegon's face, like the sun peaking through the clouds.

"It is a good name," Aunt Naera councils. "A strong name. There certainly is more than enough room in this family for another Daeron, if that is what you truly want."

Aegea furrows her brow and wonders if the jest should still be jest. The same is sounding more and more like hope and prayer. Daeron is the only strong son of his generation, for Baelor and Aerys shall never be warriors. There are certainly worse namesakes for her son than her bold little cousin. With the dragons dead, their house cannot afford another Aenys or Viserys.

"Aeryn," she says instead. "His name is Aeryn."

Later, when all the family and cooing maids have gone away, Aerys comes to her chambers. Aegea gives the nursemaid a look that sends her fleeing. Their son is fast asleep in his cradle.

"Aeryn," he murmurs, pale violet eyes flashing in the candlelight. "Do you think our son a jest?"

There has never been a true Prince Aeryn, only rumors of a purported son and heir that had turned out instead to be Princess Daenerys.

Aegea shrugs. "An Aeryn was what the realm was hoping for, was it not? A strong son to kill the claims of Rhaena's daughters, so a war like the one Maegor started could never happen again?"

A strong son to become a strong king. Unlike Princess Daenerys, dead of the Shivers as only a little girl, no matter how strong and how loved she'd been.

"The son and heir you hoped for," Aerys grinds out. "The son and heir you now have. You have done your duty, as I have done mine. Let us try to be brother and sister once more, and have him the end of it."

Aegea's eye falls upon the son uglier than all five of Aunt Naera's babes, and smaller. "Unfortunately for him and for us, little brother, he's far more your son than mine. It's a miracle you made it out of the cradle, let alone...."

Aerys protectively rests a hand upon their son's cradle and for once looks a true dragon. "He's right here, sister. Here he'll stay. Don't tell me you're really so eager to go through what you endured today to replace him."

She rolls her eyes and leans heavily against her pillows, reeling from far greater a battle than her baby brother will ever have to face. "You speak as though you have the hard part in heir-making, little brother. It doesn't matter how strong Aeryn is now or how strong he'll become. He's one little babe in a cruel, big world."

"You want more children, now?"

"Yes, Aerys," she drawls. "I want to try for the next one right now, when the maester just finished stitching up my cunt from what the first did to it."

"...How many more?"

"An heir and a spare." An Andal might settle for daughters. A dragon demands sons. Aegea is still unsure if she will even have the first one in a year's time.

For a long time, Aerys just watches their son sleep, his face soft and fierce. Aegea's heart aches at the expression. She's not jealous, she's not.

Finally her baby brother nods sharply and storms from the room.

Later still, Aegea watches their son, and watches him more. Already Aerys loves him beyond all else. She's seen it, a ferocity that stirs in him only for Aemma, and now for a squashed little thing that's been on this earth for not even a day. It's like Uncle Aegon and the sole smile Aegea's seen out of him.

Aegea does not love their son. Perhaps it is from all the hours of pain his birth put her through. Perhaps it will come with the morning light or when he first learns to smile or say her name.

Perhaps, like her mother, it will never come at all.

Aegea has no time for a babe at her breast, not when she needs only one more son to consider her duties as a daughter fulfilled. That is what nursemaids and servants are for, when Aeryn starts cutting teeth and tottering underfoot.

Aegea endures weeks of bed rest. When she can no longer take the songs and card games, she hauls herself outside, and enjoys a wild ride on her courser through the kingswood. Upon returning, she finds Aerys in the nursery with their son on the knee, and drags him to bed.

Their daughter is born early the following year. Aegea rolls her eyes skyward. Of course the girl winds up named Alysanne, for the Good Queen. Her family would have doted upon her even if named Rhaenyra. Aegea knows she was a jealous babe, but Aeryn has only wide-eyed adoration for his baby sister. For little Alysanne Father will smile like he will for no one else.

Alysanne loves stories like Aeryn does, only she at least has a proper appreciation for the bloody battles and more interesting history of their house. Most of all she loves stories of her namesake, for Aemma tells not of the meek and dutiful mother, but the queen that sought to rebuild the realm from the ground up.

Alysanne at least is not so difficult to birth. Aegea is able to try all the quicker.

The second girl is named Laena, for the fearless woman who should have been born a princess, who bonded to fierce Vhagar and flew off with the man she loved. She deserves a proper namesake, not unlike the crippled cousin hidden away on Driftmark.

Aeryn instead comes to call her Lily, for the flowers in Aegea's chambers and the garden she loves to grab with her grubby little hands. The name catches on at court, for the same lurid chroniclers that hailed Aunt Naera as a beautiful child now wax poetic on Aegea's daughters and their lily-white skin.

Lily does not remain lily-white for long. She prefers to spend her time on her knees, not in prayer and contemplation, but in the gardens dirty as a scullery girl and burned red as a lobster.

The third year, there is Vaella. Aegea spuriously thinks of her as the Weeping Willow. Where her siblings were wise enough to attach themselves to the rest of their family, Vaella seeks her out again and again. Everything makes Vaella sad, from wilted flowers in the garden to the simple sniping jests Aegea's ladies make at one another. She eats up the weepy ballads like lemon cakes and quickly takes to making her own.

Vaella is the last child Uncle Aegon sees born, but not truly, for consumption has long confined him to his chambers.

Aegea drags herself from childbed to see her cousin crowned, for is his hopefully the one coronation she must witness in her lifetime. Daeron takes not the simple gold band of his father, but the iron crown of the Conqueror. Aegea is far from surprised when the bold little boy declares war on Dorne weeks later, for the true dragons are dead and there is no greater glories to be won than becoming Lord of the Seven Kingdoms in truth.

The Young Dragon should be the only warrior of their family to ride off to war. Father has to keep the kingdom together while he's off playing conqueror, after all. The campaign and Dornish heat would kill certainly Aerys and perhaps even Baelor, frail from his fasting rather than accident of birth.

Daeron charges them both with keeping the capital and their families safe. For Aerys, that requires siring a second on Aegea, to secure the succession once and for all.

Aemma rides with the retinue, to tend to the sick and dying the war shall surely bring. She rides astride a mare in a septa's white robe, hair sheared short and Dark Sister at her side. After all, a maiden of the Faith has no need for vanity, and every need to defend herself.

The hedge septa, court calls her, until tales pour in from the front of the Dragon Maid that cut down a dozen Dornishmen in a nighttime raid upon the camp. It's a number obviously exaggerated, but it makes Aegea burn with pride and envy. She tells herself she fights a wages different battle, one just as vital.

The fourth year, when two score great lords of Dorne bend the knee, Aegea finally wishes for a son to name for Daeron. She gets the fourth damned girl in four damned years. Tired of naming her girls for the dead, she names the girl Aelinor.

If Alysanne aspires to be a great queen, then Aelinor has been born one. She is sharpest of Aegea's brood, one to grow ever larger in the years to come, as skilled in embroidery and conversation as she is in commanding a household. At last Aegea will have a child to hunt and hawk with.

First though, comes their house's utter disgrace and the king that nearly leads them to ruin.

The years drag by slowly, when Daeron's triumphant conquest of Dorne drags into a guerilla war marked by assassination and sabotage. Aemma refuses to return home even when Father demands it of her, not when her sisters and silent sisters need every warm body to tend to the wounded and the dead. Aerys would have wasted away in his worry, without five demanding little dragons to keep him grounded.

Aegea is carrying what the maester believes to be twins when the raven reaches King's Landing. It is kept from her, for fear of her miscarrying, but it's the Red Keep and so she finds out anyway.

Daeron is dead, slaughtered beneath a peace banner. Aemma is a hostage of the twisted Lord Wyl, though not without slaying several traitors responsible for the ambush.

Father is prepared to execute fourteen Dornish hostages in retaliation, heirs and heiresses amongst them. Foolish, forgiving Baelor's first act as king is to pardon them and publicly forgive his brother's murderers.

Aegea, confined to her chambers for that announcement for fear of her delicate sensibilities, comes to hear it regardless.

"Fool!" she roars. "Fucking sword-swallower! As if fucking murder and fucking treachery weren't mortal sins! As if they didn't take a fucking septa as a hostage!"

Hurling a crystal vase of flowers from Lily to the floor, Aegea turns to see she and her baby brother are on the same page for once. She's never before seen Aerys looking ready to kill.

"Father and I tried talking sense into him. The council tried. Every noble in King's Landing tried. 'Bind up the wounds,' he argues. 'Stop twisting the knife deeper.'"

"He's mad," she growls. "Utterly fucking mad." Slowly the solution sinks in. Hopefully she turns toward Aerys. "Too mad to be trusted with the throne. Surely Father could..."

"Declare a regency and undermine his own damned king so everything can fall apart even further?" Aerys sighs. "Perhaps if Baelor weren't Uncle Aegon's son, or if Uncle Aegon's regents hadn't near got us them all killed. No. Father would never usurp his own blood like that."

"Not even when his favorite fucking daughter is getting tortured by Dornishmen?"

Aerys says nothing. Aegea rests her hands on babes that have barely quickened.

"Aemma better come home alive," she grits out. "Gods forbid I actually have to name a child for her."

Aemma indeed comes home, haggard and scarred, Dark Sister and the bones of her sisters felled in the war returned to her. It's unfortunate Baelor makes it back too.

Some tales say Baelor worked miracles in Dorne and others that he nearly got himself killed from heatstroke multiple times in walking most of the way. Other rumors claim Aemma was rescued by her king naked and caged, others that she carried him across Dorne to their closest allies after a dozen venemous vipers bit him.

Oh, Baelor has secured their peace with Dorne all right. It has only come at the cost of Aegea's oldest two children, both promised to the Martell brats, as if such treacherous blood deserves to one day sit the Iron Throne.

There certainly are no children coming from Baelor, not when he sets poor Daena aside without ever consummating their marriage. Rather than take a proper Andal bride, perhaps even another gods damned Hightower, Baelor takes a septon's celibate vows.

His three sisters, he confines to a 'Court of Beauty,' where their womanly wiles cannot infect the court and risk their eternal purity. He would have immediately done the same to Aegea's own daughters, had they not been cousins instead of his direct blood.

Their captivity is not forever, only until his 'Maidenvault' is constructed for them.

Aegea's first instinct is to strangle some sense into her idiot king. Even when she's not carrying gods damned twins she has half a foot and twenty pounds on him.

Instead she glares down the Kingsguard enforcing her confinement and makes her own fucking miracle.

Baelor dismisses the outrage of his lords and council with platitudes of preserving the purity of his sisters. Before the Maiden, Mother, and Crone he quails against the Iron Throne like a child caught playing king.

"Your Grace," Daenaera Velaryon proclaims. "We, the women of your house, have come to petition your mercy upon the plight of our daughters."

Baelor's beatific smile fails at the sight of his mother, her gown the Crone's solemn gray, before him in supplication. "Dearest mother, the Maidenvault is mercy above all others. Your daughters are forever removed from earthly temptations so that they might devote their lives only to contemplation of the Seven. Theirs is the surest path to the seven heavens."

"Your Grace, that is the septa's path to salvation," Aemma clarifies, shrouded in white with Dark Sister at her side. "Only dear Rhaena has expressed interest to me in becoming a novice. Our path is not taken lightly."

"Of course, cousin. Their confinement is crucial to clear away their earthly distractions and allow them to better reflect upon the full and eternal glory of the Seven."

Blue is not Aegea's color. Still she wears a tent-like gown of the Mother's color and tenderly cradles her massive belly. "Your Grace, what of those woman who instead choose to embrace the Mother? Do they not deserve to honor husbands with strong sons and dutiful daughters as Herleva honored Hugor of the Hill?"

Baelor counters and they counter again. Gently, ruthlessly, they wear him down to bitter compromise.

The Red Keep is no proper place for spiritual contemplation. Surely it is best for Baelor and Daena to be further separated, until she takes either vows of marriage or to the Faith. How fortunate the Sisters of Maegelle are located right within the city and have long taken princesses into their number. How gracious of Aemma to take in her cousins so that they might give out alms and tend to the poor across the city, to further their educations in body and spirit.

Daena does not last a year there. When the Old Man of the North once more brings up a so-called pact of ice and fire, Baelor eagerly agrees to a marriage that will likely never see his former sister-wife south of the Wall again. Perhaps he even has vain hopes of her spreading the Faith into the heart of the old gods.

Rhaena eagerly becomes a novice and never sees reason to leave.

For several years, Aegea idly wonders if Elaena will follow in Rhaena's path, if only because the library of the Sisters of Maegelle is rivaled by only the motherhouses of Oldtown and Gulltown. Yet Elaena has always hungered for a life greater than literary achievement. In time she shall find herself a nice, gullible husband to rule through and even later one she actually loves.

After two days of fending off the Stranger and cursing the Mother, Aegea Targaryen cannot give two shits if her twins make a blessed brood of seven. All that matters that the little rats are crying and taking to the nursemaid's tit.

She should too damned exhausted to care about anything, but Aegea still spits fire when Baelor 'humbly requests' the honor of naming them. Hugor and Self-Hating Virgin are his natural choices.

"Tell him they're fucking named Vhagar and Balerion!" she snaps at the messenger.

It takes a solid night's sleep and slightly less blood loss for Aegea to be grudgingly grateful she is over-ruled on that one.

Father has cleverly named the boy Valerion, last held by some short-lived son of Alysanne's and pointedly of no great religious significance. Aerys has delightfully christened the girl Baela, for the fierce aunt that slew a dragon from dragon-back.

Baelor has always been terrified of her scars.

"Seven is a good number, yes?" Aerys murmurs to her later, when the candles burn low and their babes sleep side by side. "A blessed number. How blessed we are, to have all three of you with us still."

Aegea scoffs. "Now I feel like making the eight, if just to spite his high and mighty Holiness."

Aerys frowns just like Father. "Sister, we have our sons and five lovely daughters. The twins nearly killed you. Let this be the end of it."

Aegea, too tired to argue, says nothing. He mistakes her brooding silence for agreement.

Aeryn is no Daeron, strong and steadfast. Even as a boy he is round-shouldered, which the maester blames on a hard birth and Aegea on poor posture. Aeryn happily spends all day indoors, holed away in the sept or the library. The realm needs a smart king, yes, but it also needs a king who doesn't get squeamish at blood or idolize Baelor as an example to live up to.

Even Aerys, who adores his little miniature, tries to coax Aeryn into tumbling and sparring with the other boys. Father gives the boy no choice, forcing him into martial activities that Aeryn learns to escape by seeking out his royal cousin. Of course Baelor the Befuddled sees yet another lecture on the discourse of the godhead as more vital than learning how to hold a blade that will one day be Blackfyre.

And then there is Valerion, a babe born small and quickly surpassed by Baela in all milestones, for growth and speech and grace.

Then there are the girls. Their many, many girls. Already Aegea is drowning in the ravens sent her way, must especially drive the knife in deep to drive off the twittering ladies that think she will like their snot-nosed sons more if they are thrown in her face.

Uncle Aegon had never cared enough for the enough for the distant future to match his children before his death. Father hadn't the children to spare. Aegea has spares in spades. A match to the Arryn boy, for instance, is natural, for their shared blood and his house's unwavering loyalty.

Lady Myrielle Peake is more tactful than most when she proposes a match between Vaella and her youngest. Aegea graciously declines, even when she then makes a show of the betrothal to Vaella to Osmynd Plumm. They too are an old loyalist house, powerful in the westerlands but nowhere near as dangerous as the Peakes and their three damned castles.

This time Aegea has no need to convince her brother. He comes to her bed willingly.

Three years after the twins, there is another gods damned girl. She is promptly named Naera, for Daenaera Velaryon will put up an even bigger fuss if they fully name the babe for her.

After eight children, Naera practically slides out. Not yet thirty, Aegea comes to a silent agreement to once more try for a son.

By the time the seventh girl is born Aegea is thirty. When Baelor once more tries to butt his head into her future, it is Father who names the girl Visenya, ostensibly for the little sister he never truly had instead of the warrior queen that never truly took up the Seven.

She is not Visenya to her numerous siblings, who take to butchering the longer names. Alysanne is always Aly, Aelinor Lor, and Valerion Val. So does Visenya become Nya to all but Aegea, who can never be bothered to remember all the foolish names her children have for each other.

Two years after that comes Gwenys. The name sounds pleasing and vaguely Valyrian, and at this point that's enough for Aegea.

Aerys is ready to admit defeat. Aegea won't let him, not when he's still healthy enough to ride. She has been blessed with all the vitality that should have been his. Gods be damned she won't finally pass it onto a son that won't squander it like her eldest two.

At long last, Aegea's patience is rewarded with a son, large and lusty. Here at last is a son worthy of Daeron's name, if dear Daena and her wolf had not already long beaten her to the punch.

So Aemon he becomes, for the king who could have been, and perhaps also for his formidable aunt.

He is not the first dragon born that year.

Aemon Targaryen is born the pride of Valyria. Already he shows promise of strong features, alongside eyes of deep violet and hair like white gold. He is everything the babe in the cradle beside him is not.

Dark-haired and dark-eyed, with his mother's complexion, only his name befits the boy's heritage.

"Baelor," Aegea muses aloud. She barely keeps the name of her firstborn grandchild from becoming a sneer. "How... pious of you."

Mariah Martell smiles beatifically. "It is through King Baelor's wisdom that peace unites us at last, good-mother. Aeryn wished to honor the man our son owes his very existence to."

Aegea sharply studies baby Baelor. Today is her first to lay eyes upon him, for Aeryn has always preferred Dragonstone, dull and dreary. Her pregnancy for Aemon had allowed her the perfect excuse to not risk herself or her unborn babe.

Sibling marriages have allowed the Targaryen looks to breed true for generations. Even when they married outside the family, they did so to Velaryon and Lysene brides. How unfortunate for Aegea's half-uncles, to have been born with brown hair and eyes when their blood should have been near pure Valyrian.

How convenient for Mariah, for her son to have entirely inherited a Martell's coloring.

Yet baby Baelor is no longer a newborn. He has seen his seventh moon and is in King's Landing to be baptized before the crowds into the Faith of the Seven. The ceremony shall be in the castle sept, for Baelor's grandiose dreams of a Great Sept are years away from completion.

Aegea gazes into a cradle. Her brow furrows in defeat. Aside from the coloring, he could have been one of her babes.

Not Aeryn, of course, scrawny even as an infant. In Baelor she sees Aelinor, hearty and hale and destined to take on the world.

A mere moon after Aeryn and his family depart for Dragonstone, Baelor enters a long, hard fast that surpasses all of his other cleansings. Some blame Aegea for flaunting her maiden daughters in his presence, for her own beauty has long gone to shit after so many children and the pregnancy weight that refuses to leave. In seeking to purge himself of his lusting, Baelor starves himself to death after fourty stubborn days.

Others speculate Viserys, long tired of ruling from the shadows, has manipulated his nephew into believing he could never be good enough for the kingdom. Or, more likely, Daena is the true culprit. To them it is no coincidence Baelor's fasting starts the day she the day she finally writes it will be a cold day in the seven hells before her Stark children are baptized in the Faith.

It matters not, for all such whispers are soon silenced, most especially of those that Baelor had been planning some grand crusade upon those who followed the old gods and Drowned God alike.

All the realm mourns the loss of Baelor the Beloved. They gather upon the capital by the thousands to attend the funeral.

Where his predecessors were burned and their ashes interred in urns beneath Dragonstone, Baelor has willed his remains seen to by the silent sisters in the orthodox tradition. His remains shall be buried on holy ground. Not his Great Sept, still years away from completion, but rather in the catacombs of the Sisters of Maegelle.

Aegea toasts her dear departed cousin and toasts again. When she gets too drunk to disguise her jests about Baelor the Bitch as proper anguish, Father has Aerys see her off to bed.

Somewhere in the muddle, the second set of twins is conceived. Because the gods are actually feeling up to punishing her for once.

It is early in yet another difficult pregnancy that Lord Merros Peake all but demands Gwenys or Visenya for his own son and heir. He thinks cornering her will convince her to wheedle her royal Father into coming around to the proposal.

Aegea tells Lord Peake exactly where he can stuff his son and a marriage offer. He does not deserve her wit, not when his beloved lady mother, a skilled horsewoman, has just had the severe misfortune of being thrown from an old, reliable gelding. Pity there is nothing direct to indicate him. Father has already looked into it.

Moons after the Peakes desert court in a huff she wonders if Aerys is trying to appease her when he names the son Aegor. If so, he's a shitty namesake. The babe is born an angry, entitled brat and never changes.

The daughter becomes Daenerys, for one of two Targaryens ever actually hailed as Princess of Dragonstone. Not that a thirteenth child ever inherited, son or daughter. She is a very good child to stop at.

She is not the last.

The fourteenth child, Aegea refuses to hold.

Aeryn was born ugly, the ugliest babe she has ever seen in all her long years spawning dragons.

This... thing is not merely ugly. It is an utter abomination, like the daughter that nearly killed Rhaenyra. Its skin is bone-white, its face marred with red scales from what she can see through the haze of pain and the haze of smoke. Unlike Rhaenyra's abomination, it has the gall to have been born alive, and howl for mother's milk like a normal babe.

"Monster," Aegea slurs from blood loss and milk of the poppy, grabbing desperately at her maids. "Kill it, kill it, kill it!"

She wakes days later to discover Aerys sitting at her side with a bundle in his arms. When he leans down to press a chaste, relieved kiss to her forehead, she gets clear sight of what he cradles.

In the clear light of day, the thing is sickly pale, its face disfigured by a red wine stain.

Aegea's face twists. Winestain. There is her usual night and then there was that night. She remembers only that rancid rum from the Summer Isles and waking up with Aerys pressed beneath her bulk and a pounding headache near bad as childbirth.

"Do you suppose the gods are trying to tell me something?"

"It is a miracle you both live!" Aerys interjects sharply. "Especially with... all that was against you."

Her age. Her bloated, gouty body. A fondness for wine that fills the hole of all her body can no longer do.

"Or the will of demons," Aegea says bitterly. "It looks like I cuckolded my brother with one."

"Father has told me how much he resembles me as a babe," Aerys interjects with a fond smile. "Look at him, sister. There is Naera's nose, Val's mouth, Aeryn's little scowl. How can be anything but a dragon's son when even the very gods have marked him such?"

Aegea scowls at the wine stain. She sees only a blob.

Baelon, they name him. For the Spring Prince, beloved Baelon the Brave, the undisputed father of their line. How fortunate the name brings blessed, befuddled Baelor's to mind.

Baelon cannot be the last. Aegea refuses to go down as demon lover where she has proudly embraced brother-fucker. There must be one more, to put the last whispers to rest.

Not that Father allows such words to blacken their house for long. Viper they call him, for he is a dragon without ones, one that must slither in the shadows and spit venom instead of fire to make the realm heed him.

Viserys, second of his name, does not reign six years before the crown kills him. Though his contemporaries hail him as Viserys the Viper, future generations shall have the distance to acknowledge his sacrifices for the realm. Not only does he restore the damage wrought by Daeron and Baelor both, but is the first to push the realm from ruin past recovery and toward prosperity.

From death comes life, for in their mourning Aegea and Aerys conceive one last time. Shiera they name her, for her stars shine bright.

Aerys does not reign three years before death finds their family again. It does not come for him, once more chained to his sickbed, or the sister-wife chained by her growing gluttonies.

It comes for the Dragon Maid, pure and brave.

Fucking Merros Peake, come 'to pay his respects' before his king in his sickbed. Fuck his second son, just as much an idiot as his father.

Ser Terrence Toyne and Ser Uther Wydman give their lives protecting their king. Aemma, who is always at the bedside of her little brother to pray and jest and reminisce, rises against his assassins with Dark Sister in hand.

She lops Merros Peake's head from its shoulders, but not before his blade finds her stomach.

On bloated, aching legs Aegea hurries with a speed she has not had in years. She shoves Ser Richard Redding aside to fall at her sister's side.

Aemma, pale as her hair, has not the strength to speak. Aegea takes her hand, firm and calloused, into hers. It is red and its fingers swollen beneath their many rings.

Aemma squeezes weakly back. Her gaze flicks to Aerys and Aegea understands.

"Don't be absurd," she croaks. "Of fucking course I'll protect him. With Blackfyre, if I must, or a fucking harp or my own two hands. I wouldn't be queen if he was dead."

The light leaves Aemma's eyes, her faint smile going slack. Their brother holds her, and weeps.

Aegea, who must ever be the dragon, burns her tears away. She storms outside the chambers to guard the door with smoke and fire, so none can dare upon their king in his greatest weakness.

Blackfyre is the sword of kings. Aeryn, despite his distaste of blades, shall wield it in his sire's stead until Baelor is capable of taking it up.

Some protest that Dark Sister has become a holy relic, that it deserves to be interred with the Dragon Maid's ashes in the Great Sept or within the Sisters of Maegelle. Yet despite her vows Aemma was a Targaryen. To her house the blade returns. Fuck the Faith and all they think is automatically theirs.

As the second son, Dark Sister should perhaps rightfully fall to Valerion, if he has not forsaken his inheritance and his noble betrothed to fuck his way through the Free Cities years ago. He deserves nothing from Aerys but disappointment and from Aegea jealous contempt.

To Aemon Dark Sister falls. He is not yet one and ten. Still he and Aegor and Baelor shall ride as squires to Aeryn, Prince of Dragonstone in truth, when he marches forth to end the Peake Uprising in fire and blood.

Starpike, the ancient seat that stretches back into the misty times of the First Men, is razed once the last hostages are hauled out. The lesser seats of Whitegrove and Dunstonbury Aeryn grants to his younger brothers as princely fiefs.

Aeryn, first of his name, is well within is royal authority to do so, for the raven has arrived declaring their father, who has collapsed back into his sickbed, has met the Stranger at long last.

The royal vanguard hastens home. Not only for the funeral and a proper coronation, but to their queenly mother.

Aegea Targaryen, upon hearing her brother would never wake again, has collapsed. She will never truly rise again.

Queen Aegea Targaryen spends the three years confined to a litter or, eventually, the same bed she once conceived the majority of her brood in. Hers is not a gradual downward progression, but a storm of stubborn recoveries and sharp turns for the worst. Most of her children quickly recognize the cycle. Even when the Queen Mother appears to be dying, they stay away, to avoid her foul words and a foul odor the perfumes and incense can never fully cover up.

When the final, agonizing spiral comes, Aeryn pens the letters themselves that let his far-flung family know, in no uncertain terms, the time has come for reconciliation.

Except to Valerion. Not only is Val the Vagabond long since exiled, but has wandered past the Free Cities to gods know where.

His aunts all make it, of course. Daena rides hard from Winterfell to the swiftest ship in White Harbor. Rhaena always has the grace to kneel by her good cousin's bedside in prayer, no matter the scorn sent her way. Elaena is never far at all, for her dear husband sits as master of coin, and she his master in truth.

Alysanne's sorrowful response is that she shall never make it in time and that her own children must come first, for little Elianne is once more nursing a terrible fever. Neither can Naera, for she and her new Velaryon husband are touring the Free Cities and cannot afford to turn around now.

Aelinor, always the favorite daughter, dutifully rides down from the Eyrie to play cards with their mother and Aunt Elaena and make sharp gossip with Aunt Daena to keep the Stranger at bay.

Laena and Baela emerge reluctantly from the Sisters of Maegelle. All their patience and mercy fall short on their mother alone. Even now, Aegea pushes Laena's carefully tended vases of flowers to shatter to the floor. Still she finds the strength to rip into Baela for her weight, for surely a septa can't afford to be the walking symbol of gluttony. They spend most of their time in the Red Keep praying in the sept for the Queen Mother's soul, rather than at her bedside.

Three are late to arrive, when the hour is dire. Vaella is the Willow Widow, who rules as lady regent for her little Plumm son. She sits solemnly at Aegea's side and rarely speaks. When she does, Aegea is moved to tears, and speaks no more. Gentle Nya, all the way from Oldtown, bares Aegea's withering words with grace, as if enduring her mother's death will be the last great trial before she takes her vows. Gwenys, reluctantly dragged from Lady Tully and her betrothed, spends more time violently stabbing her embroidery than facing Aegea head-on.

Exactly what final words the Mother of Dragons has for most of her brood are lost to the ages, but Vaella's vivid recounting in her family chronicles allow for later historians to speculate for themselves.

Aemon, so bright with promise, must hear the words he's suspecting all his life, that he deserves a crown of his own, should have been the first born or ready to make his own glories as the Conqueror did.

Aegor, always so angry with his  lot in life, receives no assurance. Little Daenerys, always so quiet, is passed over entirely by a mother who has always had too many children to properly remember them all. Baelor walks out quietly pensive, a dragon's son in truth with his mother's last rolled eyes, and ponders dragon dreams and dragon destinies. Shiera either runs screaming from the room at the horror she calls mother or stares upon her rotting, leaking form in wide-eyed fascination.

Som any spurned sons and daughters never get tearful reconciliations or heartfelt apologies. Yet they make their peace and stride on without their mother's blessing, or eagerly await the day they prove her wrong, for they are all destined for greatness regardless.

Renowned or notorious, a dragon is a dragon all the same, and dragons are never insignificant.

Queen Aegea Targaryen's decline is as long and hard as her rise to prominence catapulted her to lofty heights. The toast of the realm, she once hailed as Rhaenys reborn, has long been usurped by the Good Princess and the Light of the Vale. In time so shall be eclipsed by their own younger sisters, the Pearl of the East and the Shiera Stormstar.

Where her royal relatives have all lied in state, Aegea is granted the quiet dignity of a closed casket. From her children Aegea has forced it of them, for she will not be remembered as a bloated, gout-ridden corpse ruined by the price she paid to restore their house to numbers not seen since the Dance.

Still, when Aegea's house and realm come to pay their respects, they pray beneath her stately visage. It is Viserys the Viper and Aerys the Brief that have seen the Great Sept to completion. In the faces of the Seven are the faces of the realm. In the Father is Aegon the Peacemaker and Daeron in the Warrior, as Aerys has seen Viserys into the Smith. Daenaera Velaryon illuminates the Crone's wisdom and the Maiden has a sword at her side to bid others to protect the innocent as the Dragon Maid has.

Within the Mother is the Mother of Dragons, full-figured and proud, to remind her worshipers it is not upon great lords alone that a house is built.

The Great Sept bears a statue of Baelor's likeness, smiling and serene, but not his name. The Great Sept of Aemma is the Dragon Maid's final resting place, consecrated in her name for the ages.

Daughter of Viserys the Viper and sister-wife of Aerys the Brief, the Mother of Dragons will not be remembered for any deeds of her own, for good or for ill. True to name, she will be remembered for her children, all great in their own way; Aeryn the Builder and the Queen of Roses, Aeryn the Builder and the Good Princess, Stormstar and Bloodwyrm, Bitterflame and King of Dragons. Kings and conquerors, saints and demons in human skin. They are nothing without their mother, who goads them into building up themselves and the realm even as she demands for them to burn it all.