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Dancing Through the Fire

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1.

The soft rocking of the ship should have lulled Jon Snow to sleep, but he could only lay awake in anticipation.

They would reach Pentos in a day or two if the waters were good. Jon couldn't help but grin. Months had passed since they sailed to the Free Cities from White Harbor, but his adventure would begin as soon as he set foot ashore the port city of Pentos.

He shocked his family with his decision to explore the Free Cities. He was getting older and felt he was overstaying his welcome in Winterfell. Lady Stark looked relieved that he was leaving, while Theon commented that Jon was probably searching for his mother in Lys. Jon gave him a black eye for that.

Leaving was harder done than said.

Robb made him promise to return with many stories to share, even when his smile was forced. Bran was the same. Rickon cried and begged him not to go, but with a promise of gifts and returning for his nameday, he settled down and continued playing with Shaggydog. Arya wanted to join him and tried not to cry when Jon told her she couldn’t. To make up for hurting her, he asked Mikken to craft a small, slender sword for her. Sansa told him she would miss him terribly. Jon wondered if she truly meant that as they were never close, but liked to think she did.

Before he left, his lord father had finally told him about his mother.

"Your mother wanted me to give you something when you were of age. I'm not sure if you are even ready now but... you are leaving and becoming a man so I suppose it is."

On the table between them, his father laid a large sword in a black metal scabbard banded with silver. When Jon realized that was his gift, he looked up at his father in shock. His father smiled and motioned for him to touch it. Unsheathing it proved difficult as it was a two-handed sword, but he managed it. Once unsheathed, Jon could only stare at it in awe. The blade was as pale as milkglass and just as sharp as Valyrian steel.

"The blade is named Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star," his father told him. "Your uncle was the sword's last bearer."

"My uncle?" Jon repeated, confused. Realization hit him harder than the blow Robb gave him. “Ser Arthur Dayne is my uncle?"

Ser Arthur Dayne was his uncle, so that meant his sister Ashara was his mother. His mother often jested with Ser Arthur that Dawn would be gifted to her first son. The jest became a somber promise after Ser Arthur was defeated by his father and Howland Reed. This, along with learning that she was dead, was what made Jon cry.

“What happened to her?” he asked, wiping his tears angrily.

“She jumped from the top of one of the towers of Starfall, called the Palestone Sword, on the cliff atop the sea.”

Why?

For a moment, Jon could see a pained expression on his father's face. It vanished just as quickly as it came, replaced with the impassive look his father usually had.

“Because she was filled with grief, Jon.”

Sometimes at night, Jon would lay awake imagining her face and form. His father said she was a great beauty. Her eyes, his father said, were the most breathtaking things he had ever seen. Jon wished he could remember them. He would ponder how his life would have been if he lived in Starfall, his last name Sand instead of Snow.

Thinking about his mother and Winterfell only held him back. His adventures would never be satisfying if he kept thinking about his dead mother or Robb or Arya. He would see them again eventually, but for now, he needed to focus on his new life. I will not be Ned Stark's bastard anymore, thought Jon, I will make a new name for myself .


Perhaps the Sword of the Morning.

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2.

"Is it really mine?" asked Dany, gazing upon the gown.

"A gift from the Magister Illyrio," Viserys said, smiling. Her brother looked better when he smiled, his face less gaunt. "The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess."

A princess, Dany thought. She would forget she was a princess if Viserys didn't mind her. "Why does he give us so much?" she asked warily. "What does he want from us?"

"Illyrio is no fool," Viserys said, hanging the gown beside the door. "The magister knows that I will not forget my friends when I come into my throne."

They were meeting Khal Drogo tonight. Her brother hoped to sell her to him. She always thought she would wed Viserys when she came of age. For centuries the Targaryens had married brother to sister, but Viserys was putting aside tradition to gain an army and take back their home.

She must have looked scared. Viserys touched her shoulders. "Smile, sister. When Khal Drogo sees you, he will beg me to make you his queen."

Her eyes stung with tears. "I don't want to be his queen," she whimpered, grabbing his forearms. "Please, please, Viserys, don't make me do this."

"And why not?" Viserys demanded. He dug his fingernails into her shoulders and Dany dropped her hands from his forearms. "Since you were born, I have done everything for you. It is time you return the favor. Don't you think it's fair you help your big brother?"

It hurt to speak, so she forced herself to nod. He stared at her for a moment before letting her go. "It pains me too, Dany," her brother sighed. "Can you imagine the agony I will feel when I see you wed that barbarian? But we must all make sacrifices. Do you understand?"

"I understand," Dany whispered, blinking back her tears.

"Good." He pinched her chin, a playful gesture he used to do when they were children. "Illyrio will send the slaves to bathe you. When they write the history of my reign, sweet sister, they will say that it began tonight."

When he was gone, Dany went to look out her window. Her brother wouldn't save her, but perhaps a hero would.

 


 

Two weeks had passed since a boy and his white wolf entered Pentos and Illyrio Mopatis was ready to put him to use.

His spiders watched the boy's every move. Within the first week, Illyrio learned that this was the bastard of Lord Eddard Stark, a prominent figure during Robert's Rebellion. One spider gathered that the boy's animal was no ordinary pet, but a direwolf. Not much else was discovered. Jon Snow was reticent about his dispositions.

Illyrio would have dismissed the boy until one spider informed him of who his mother was. Ser Jorah Mormont was difficult to convince considering the boy's father, but once he agreed, Illyrio knew convincing the exiled royals would go over easier.

"There will be another guest from Westeros coming to your wedding, Princess Daenerys," he announced, three days before the wedding.

"Oh? Another exiled knight?" said Viserys, his mood black. Ser Jorah Mormont ignored the barbed comment.

"He is a bastard and Ser Jorah's impending squire," Illyrio replied evenly. "His name is Jon Snow, his father Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell."

Viserys paused. When he turned to Illyrio, his eyes were wild. "You have the audacity to invite the Bastard of Winterfell's son to my sister's wedding?"

"Jon Snow is not only half Stark, but half Dayne as well. You must remember his mother, the lovely Ashara Dayne. She served as a lady-in-waiting for your good-sister Elia of Dorne. His uncle Ser Arthur was part of the Kingsguard, forever faithful to your brother. He carries Ser Arthur's sword Dawn."

The Beggar King was seething, but contemplated his words. Daenerys waited meekly for her brother's response.

"Fine," grumbled Viserys. "If he shows any signs of loyalty to his traitor father then I will wake the dragon!"

"I will be sure to warn him," Illyrio said, smiling inwardly.

Now all he needed to do was convince Ned Stark's bastard to become a squire for the exiled knight.

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3.

The Magister's manse was not hard to miss.

During the weeks Jon stayed in Pentos, he heard of the magister. Illyrio Mopatis was one of the wealthiest people in the city, a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, and other unsavory things.

Jon waited in the entry hall for the magister, sitting on the stone edge of the fountain with Ghost resting by his feet. A eunuch had approached him earlier that day, saying that his master wished to treat with him. Jon had been reluctant, but went after realizing the magister could offer him a job. Pentos was an expensive city and the money his father had given him would soon run out.

"I must say," someone said in the Common Tongue. "I was afraid you would not come."

Magister Illyrio moved with surprising delicacy for such a massive man. Beneath loose garments of flame-colored silk, rolls of fat jiggled as he walked. Gemstones glittered on every finger, and his forked beard had been oiled until it shone like real gold.

Jon touched the hilt of his sword. The magister revealed a thin row of crooked yellow teeth through the gold of his beard. Jon dropped his hand, refusing to amuse this man further.

"What do you want?" questioned Jon, standing at once.

"I heard you have been wandering the city of Pentos, no destination in particular," commented Illyrio. "And young boys like you grow restless. I would know."

I am no boy, thought Jon. He was nearly fifteen, a man grown.

His eyes went to Dawn. "You should put your skills to use, Jon Snow."

"What are you talking about? And how do you know my name?"

Illyrio regarded Jon carefully before giving him an enigmatic smile. "Have you ever been to a Dothraki wedding?"

 


 

Jon met the knight an hour afterwards.

Much to Jon's surprise, the knight was Ser Jorah Mormont of Bear Island. He never formally met him, but knew of him. His father hated the man for participating in the slave trade and wished to execute him. Mormont fled to Lys, too craven to take the black or be executed. It had been a scandal back in the North, and now Jon had no idea whether to condemn the man for running or pretend he had not heard of him.

Ser Jorah's swarthy face was etched in a scowl when he laid eyes on Jon. He knew he had more of the Stark look than his siblings, but he didn't realize that he resembled his father so well that others would mistake him for the lord.

"You wish to make him my squire?" he heard Ser Jorah say to the magister. "His father wants my head."

"I have no contact with my father," Jon said, catching Mormont and Illyrio's attention. "I left the North behind the moment I sailed away from White Harbor."

The older man marched over to him, scrutinizing him. His dark eyes fell on Dawn. "I met your mother once," Ser Jorah said, almost conversationally. "She left little of herself in you."

Ser Jorah glanced back at the massive man before returning his focus to Jon. "You shall be my squire," he declared, sounding both amused and smug. "If you survive this journey we are about to venture, I shall knight you myself. Betray me, and I will not hesitate to kill you. Understood?"

"Understood," Jon echoed, regretting his decision to accept Illyrio's offer.

"Ser Jorah, I'll leave you to explain the rest." The massive man glided into another archway, disappearing.

Mormont gestured for Jon to follow him. They exited through the main gatehouse, heading to the markets. The sun was slowly setting as they walked past the emptying markets.

"You've heard of the Targaryens," stated Ser Jorah.

"Everyone has," replied Jon.

"Yes, well, the remaining Targaryen royals have been struggling to survive in the Free Cities. The girl, Daenerys, is getting married to a Dothraki horselord tomorrow. We are here to buy wedding gifts."

As they browsed the stands, Ser Jorah explained what occurred at a Dothraki wedding. "The Dothraki mate like animals in their herds. There is no privacy in a khalasar," he said. Jon hoped he wasn't blushing, then prayed his face wasn't white when Mormont mentioned that it is normal to see a fight breakout during the wedding. "A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is deemed a dull affair."

They stopped at a jewelry stand. He lifted a thin gold chain and dangling from it was a gold crescent shaped pendant with a small, amethyst gemstone attached to it.

"Do you think she'll like this?" Jon asked Mormont.

The large man shrugged. "Most girls like jewelry. Pay and let's go."

Jon had the merchant place the necklace in a velvet box. Hopefully, this exiled princess would accept his gift.

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4.

They did not return to Illyrio's manse.

Khal Drogo owned an estate within Pentos, but chose to join his khalasar camped outside the city walls. It was given over to Daenerys Targaryen and her brother until the wedding.

"It's tomorrow?" Jon asked in disbelief. It made him wonder how long Illyrio had watched him.

Mormont ignored him until they reached the entrance. He turned to Jon with a frown. "Viserys is mad," he told him. The bluntness in his words surprised Jon. "You must agree with everything he says. He will insult you because of who your father is, but you will ignore it. Your purpose is to protect Daenerys. Understood?"

Jon nodded and followed Mormont inside, regretting his decisions. He should have taken a ship to Dorne instead of the Free Cities. Ghost nudged his leg, sensing his apprehension. He ruffled the fur between Ghost's ears.

Khal Drogo's estate was large, but not as extravagant as the Magister's. It seemed to only house only the essentials. That made sense considering the Dothraki spent more time outside than within the city walls.

Mormont was leading Jon to his bedchambers when they were stopped by a gaunt, silver-haired man going the opposite way. He jumped at the sight of Ghost.

"Who let this beast inside?" demanded the man.

"Me," Jon answered blandly. "I let him in, Your Grace," he added, after Mormont shot him a look.

"This is Jon Snow, the squire Illyrio was telling you about," Mormont explained. He turned to Jon. "This is Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm."

"An honor to finally meet you," Jon said, the lie falling off his tongue awkwardly. After a moment's hesitation, he bowed.

"Illyrio says you wield your uncle's sword," Viserys said, almost accusingly. "Unsheathe it so I know he does not speak falsely."

Reaching over his shoulder, Jon slowly unsheathed Dawn. It was heavy, and pulling it out of its scabbard too quickly risked cutting through his clothes as Jon learned months ago. Once he put on a few inches and muscles, Jon would wear the greatsword over his hip and draw out the blade faster than before.

Sunlight gleamed against the steel. Staring at the blade always awed Jon into silence. It was still difficult to believe that Ser Arthur Dayne was truly his uncle, and he had gifted Jon with his famed sword.

Viserys's lilac eyes were glazed when Jon looked away from his sword. He knew my uncle, realized Jon. There was no question that Viserys grew up surrounded by the Kingsguard. Jon refrained from questioning him about it. Mormont warned him of Viserys's madness for a reason.

"Your Grace?" Jon prompted, when the silence lingered.

He blinked. His face shifted into a scowl. "I hope for your sake you know how to wield Dawn," Viserys replied, then shouldered his way past them.

Ghost bared his teeth in a silent growl, but Jon touched his neck to keep him still. Once Ghost relaxed, Mormont led Jon to his bedchambers and left him alone. Jon flopped back on the featherbed. He laughed when Ghost leapt up and joined him, but the laugh quickly faded into a groan from the impact of the wolf settling heavily on his face. Jon rolled the wolf off him and wiped white fur off his face. As he laid on a featherbed softer than his own back in Winterfell, Jon could only think about tomorrow.

Mormont's account of the Dothroki was making Jon lose is nerve. He feared his sudden arrival would cause problems with them. If not him, then Ghost. The direwolf had yet to stop growing. He wasn't at is full height yet, but he still struck fear amongst the Pentoshi. Did the Dothraki fear such animals? Jon hoped not. He wasn't looking forward to battling seasoned horselords over his wolf.

 


 

The wedding took place in a field beyond the walls of Pentos, for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man's life must be done beneath the open sky.

The ceremony began at dawn and continued until dusk, an endless day of drinking and feasting and fighting. Men and women alike wore painted vests over bare chests and horsehair leggings cinched by bronze medallion belts, and warriors greased their long braids with fat from rendering pigs.

They gorged themselves on horseflesh roasted with honey and peppers, drank themselves blind on fermented mare's milk and Illyrio's fine wines, and spat jests at each other across the fires, their voices harsh and alien. They eyed his direwolf warily, but Illyrio somehow convinced them that Ghost would not harm them unless Jon commanded it.

Jon sat with four warriors tasked to protect their khal's new khaleesi. He was the youngest among them, the closest to his age was named Jhogo who was the friendliest. None spoke the Common Tongue, so Jon couldn't talk to them. It didn't matter. Jon was amused with the eating contest between Rakharo and Quaro.

Mormont sat above him, with Viserys and Illyrio seated beside him. Theirs was a place of high honor, just below the khal's own bloodriders. The bride and her new husband were above them, sending the food they refused to everyone else.

Daenerys Targaryen was, without a doubt, breathtakingly beautiful.

Never in his life had Jon had seen a sight so lovely. Her hair was a waterfall of silver spilling over her back and shoulders, gleaming like molten silver in the sunlight. Her eyes were immense and bursting with violet. She was unlike anyone Jon had ever seen. The only thing marring her beauty was the painful smile she wore on her face. Her false smile poorly concealed how frightened she truly was.

The sun was only a quarter up the sky when Jon saw the first of many die. Drums were beating as some women danced for the khal. Jon nursed her cup of summerwine, dazed as he watched. The warriors were watching too. One of them finally stepped into the circle, grabbed a dancer by the arm, pushed her to the ground, and mounted her right there.

Jon turned away, his face burning. He knew of coupling, he had seen a stallion mount a mare before, but he still found it uncomfortable to watch. Jon could only keep drinking to ignore the sounds of fucking and death.

When at last the sun was low in the sky, Khal Drogo clapped his hands together. The drums and the shouting and the feasting came to a sudden halt. Drogo stood and pulled Daenerys to her feet, looking absolutely tiny and fearful next to him.

Viserys gifted her with three new handmaidens. Jon knew they had cost him nothing thanks to Mormont informing him that Illyrio provided the girls. Irri and Jhiqui were copper-skinned Dothraki with black hair and almond shaped eyes, while Doreah a fair-skinned, blue-eyed Lysene girl.

"These are no common servants, sweet sister," Viserys said as they were brought forward one by one. "Illyrio and I selected them personally. Irri will teach you riding, Jhiqui the Dothraki tongue, and Doreah will instruct you in the womanly arts of love." He smiled thinly. "She's very good, Illyrio and I can both swear to it."

Jon could taste his revulsion.

Mormont apologized for his gift, sounding kinder than Jon ever heard him. "It is a small thing, my princess, but all a poor exile could afford," he said as he laid a small stack of old books before her. She gave the first genuine smile Jon had seen.

Wordlessly, Jon opened the velvet box and presented his gift to Daenerys. She took the necklace out of its box and examined it. When she unclasped it, Jon took it from her and stood behind her, clasping it around her neck. Her skin was warm against his fingertips. When he walked back in front of her, there was a flummoxed expression on her face.

Magister Illyrio murmured a command, and four burly slaves hurried forward, bearing between them a cedar chest bound in bronze. Jon watched Daenerys open the chest, curious. He widened his eyes when she lifted an egg for everyone to see. The huge egg she held with two hands was covered in tiny scales, and as she turned it between her fingers, it shimmered like polished metal in the light of the setting sun. Illyrio explained to Daenerys that they dragon eggs from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai.

The khal's bloodriders offered her the three weapons traditional of Dothraki: a great leather whip with a silver handle, a magnificent arakh chased in gold, and a double-curved dragonbone bow the same height as Jon himself. Daenerys said something in Dothraki, her voice soft and unsure.

More gifts were given and Jon continued drinking his summerwine, refilling twice by the time Khal Drogo brought forward his own gift. He led a horse to Daenerys, a young filly, spirited and splendid. She was grey as winter, with a mane like silver smoke. Arya would love a filly like that, Jon thought. His heart grew heavy at the thought of his sister.

The young bride was lifted by the waist and placed on the filly. Jon could see her whispering something, appearing nervous, but then the filly started to trot forward before sprinting. Much to Jon's shock, Daenerys made her horse leap the flames of the firepit. When she neared, her delighted smile only magnified her beauty.

The last sliver of sun vanished behind the high walls of Pentos to the west just then. Jon watched as Daenerys and Khal Drogo rode off somewhere, presumably to do the bedding part of the wedding.

One of Daenerys's new handmaidens, Doreah, approached him. "What kind of beast is that?" she asked, gesturing to Ghost.

"A direwolf," he answered, sitting up straighter. She looked older than him, with honey blonde hair framing her face. "His name is Ghost. The direwolf is the sigil of my father's House."

"House," she repeated, thoughtful. "You're from Westeros."

"I am," Jon said, nodding. He glanced around and noticed that he was mostly alone where he sat. "Did you want to sit?"

When he offered her a seat, he didn't expect her to sit on his lap. Doreah rested her elbow on his shoulder as she tilted her upper body to face him. She was pretty, and the sight, smell, and feel of her was overwhelming. If his father saw him—

Jon was no longer in Winterfell. He could have pretty girls on his lap if he wanted. He made no move to push her off and put his arm around her waist. Doreah smiled at that and asked more questions that Jon answered until his words began to slur and her breasts pressed against his chest. She leaned close and kissed the edge of his jaw. She murmured such carnal suggestions that Jon was certain his face was Tully red. That was when he gently pushed her off his lap and stumbled over to where Mormont stood.

It was the fear of drunkenly fighting men over Doreah that made Jon reject her offers, but if he was being truthful, he was too much of a green boy to bed such a pretty girl. Remembering that both Illyrio and Viserys bedded her sobered Jon a little.

"Enjoying the festivities, Snow?" Mormont asked.

"The most exciting wedding I've attended," Jon admitted. It was the only wedding he attended. "Is it always this…?"

"Wild?" Mormont grinned, and Jon realized the man was drunker than him. "It'll only get more exciting after this."

Jon wasn't sure if he was ready for that.

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5.

Jon was slowly adjusting to the Dothraki lifestyle. The Dothraki valued their horses above everything else. Riding was their way of life. It reminded him of the north. When he wasn't training with Robb in the yard, Jon was racing Robb or Arya. It shamed him to admit that his little sister nearly bested him each time they raced.

When he was riding, Jon was sparring. He and Mormont regularly practiced early in the mornings. Mormont was a strong opponent, often knocking Jon to the ground with his brute strength. Rakharo and Jhogo joined their training once they realized he and Mormont weren't trying to kill each other.

Growing up within the castles of Winterfell, Jon was familiar with a sword. He and Robb would practice in the yard the moment they were released from their studies with Maester Luwin. "The steel in your hand is not just a sword," Ser Rodrik Cassel explained to him and Robb. "It is an extension of your arm. Treat it as such."

Along with sparring and riding, Jon was practicing the Dothraki language. Mormont taught him enough to keep Jon from getting in a brawl. When the older knight was occupied, Jon sought out Daenerys's handmaiden, Jhiqui. She teased his accent, but continued to help him hone the language. He was thankful she was present when Khal Drogo challenged him to a race.

The giant khal had approached Jon one day during their travels, speaking in the harsh language he was still trying to understand. Jhiqui translated for him that Khal Drogo observed how fast Jon rode his gelding. Jon could not decline and lost to the horselord, but the khal merely laughed and slapped Jon on the back.

The khaleesi still hadn't warmed up to him. She preferred the company of Ser Jorah and her handmaidens, and balked every time he attempted a conversation with her. That made things difficult when Jon's purpose was to protect her.

"Does she like me?" Jon questioned, once Jhiqui's laughter quieted. They were sitting outside his tent practicing his Dothraki again.

"The khaleesi?" Jhiqui asked. When he nodded, she was silent for a moment. "She does not seem to trust you."

Jon stiffened at her words. That was why she never spoke to him. It was his father, not him. Still, he couldn't understand it. Jon had nothing to do with her family. He wasn't even old enough to join the rebellion. He supposed it had more to do with family loyalty than personal feelings. Her brother kidnapped and raped his aunt, but Jon did not hold it against Daenerys nor Viserys.

"But the khaleesi still has to learn our ways and you are not on her mind," Jhiqui continued, picking a flower from the grass. She smiled at him. "Is she on your mind?"

"No." He hated the way his face burned. Her laughter was worse. "You're awful, Jhiqui."

"Say that in Dothraki," Jhiqui told him, giggling.

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6.

He's fast, observed Dany, watching as Jon Snow raced against Khal Drogo and his bloodriders.

Ser Jorah's squire was out of place amongst the Dothraki. His features and accent were too Westerosi. "He has more of the north in him," Ser Jorah told her, when she had asked about his family. "His mother was Dornish of the stony type, but she left little of herself in him."

His looks and accent did not prevent him from making friends. Jhiqui taught him the Dothraki tongue when she wasn't with Dany. She liked him well enough. The men of her khas found him decent. She would see him wrestling with Rakharo and Jhogo most mornings. Other times, it was him and Ser Jorah sparring with their swords.

Ser Jorah only seemed to tolerate him. When she asked his opinion on Jon Snow, he shrugged. "I suppose it's true that bastards do grow up faster than their highborn kin. He's doesn't cause much trouble, unlike his father." The exiled knight spat his last words.

"You hate this Lord Stark," Dany said.

"He took from me all I loved, for the sake of a few lice-ridden poachers and his precious honor," Ser Jorah said bitterly. From his tone, she could tell the loss still pained him. He had changed the subject hastily afterwards.

Her brother hated him.

Viserys raged on and on about Jon Snow's greatsword. It was a famous blade, according to Ser Jorah. The sword belonged to Ser Arthur Dayne, the greatest knight to ever grace the Seven Kingdoms. Arthur Dayne was Jon Snow's uncle, but Viserys did not believe Jon deserved his greatsword. It was a beautiful blade, pale as milkglass and gleaming in the sunlight.

There was jealousy when it came to her husband. Viserys vied for Khal Drogo's friendship, but he refused to speak the "foul language" and was seen as an annoyance to the khal's khalasar. Jon Snow had won Khal Drogo's friendship after he and his wolf hunted down a boar.

Dany found herself reluctant to initiate a conversation with the bastard. His father was one of the Usurper's dogs. How could she befriend the son of someone responsible for her father's fall? Could she possibly form a friendship with him? I might as well, Dany ceded. He would be traveling with her, so she supposed it ought to be the practical thing to do. Everyone but Viserys found him decent enough. Jon Snow was always courteous and never more or less.

Spurring her silver, Dany moved towards the men.

"Dan Ares wife, moon of my life," said Khal Drogo. Since she had her dragon dream, Dany only grew closer to her husband. She feared him less and found their coupling not as painful. She was certain she would be with child within the month.

"My sun-and-stars," she replied, then nodded in greeting to his bloodriders.

"Sunset boy almost bested me," he told her, clasping Jon Snow's shoulder. Snow winced under his grip with a grimace. "And he's bested Quaro in combat. He would make an excellent ko, no?"

Snow's eyes met hers. So solemn. Is it true that bastards grow up faster than other children? Dany mused.

"Yes, he would make an excellent ko," Dany said, releasing her gaze from Snow's. She was tempted to ask her husband about the distance to Vaes Dothrak, the only city of the Dothraki people, but Khal Drogo called for another race. Snow was the only one to decline, leaving him and her alone.

Wiping a sweaty lock of hair out of his eyes, Jon looked bemused at Dany lingering there with him. Heat rushed to her cheeks. She must have seemed so dim to him. Every time they were near one another, Dany would avoid any eye contact with him and balked each time he attempted a conversation with her.

"Oh." Dany took a small step back when the albino direwolf bounded over to her and sniffed her sandsilk trousers. Jon Snow wore a startled look on his face when she looked up at him. "Will he bite my hand if I touch him?" she asked, tentatively reaching towards the wolf. The beast came up as high as her hips.

"Not with me here," he promised.

Dany scratched the white direwolf behind its ears. The red eyes watched her before licking her arm, the roughness alarming Dany into startled laughter. She was stunned to hear Jon chuckle.

"Drogo enjoys you," Dany mentioned. His penetrating stare was difficult to hold. It was as if he was staring within her, finding every fear and desire she ever felt.

"It is an honor that the khal enjoys the company of a lowly bastard," Snow said.

"Lowly?" Dany repeated, smiling. "You are the most highborn boy I have ever met."

When he merely stared at her, she couldn't stop the string of words that tumbled out of her mouth. "You read, you write, you're courteous, and you fight like a noble knight. Lowly would not be the word I would use to describe you." Dany tucked loose strands of hair behind her ear. "Have you forgotten who your parents are?"

"No," he acknowledged, then frowned. "But does it matter who they are? I will always be a bastard."

The anger in his face left him abruptly. His face returned to its somberness and he excused himself. Dany watched him go. His anger surprised her. She always thought there was ice beneath Jon Snow's rigid exterior, but she knew nothing about him.

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7.

Mormont and Daenerys had outdistanced the rest of them. Jon, Irri, and the young archers of Daenerys's khas were climbing the ridge below them. When they made it, Jon could only stare in wonder.

The Dothraki sea was a plain stretched out and empty, a vast expanse that reached to the distant horizon and beyond. Tall blades of grass rippled like waves when the winds blew. It was so different from the north where everything was forest and snow.

"Is it always so green?" Jon asked Irri.

"When it blooms, it's a sea of blood," the handmaid answered. She was slimmer than Jhiqui, but just as pretty. "It's peaceful, no?"

"It is," agreed Jon. He frowned when he heard Viserys's shrill voice ahead. "If only the gods would remove his voice then it would be perfect."

Irri laughed lightly. He inhaled deeply before galloping to past the other Dothraki to meet up with Mormont. Viserys was screaming at the exiled knight.

"Is something amiss?" Jon questioned, when he neared the silver-haired prince.

"My whore of a sister dares to give me commands," Viserys screeched, trembling with rage.

"She wishes to be left alone," explained Mormont, annoyed.

Jon would have pointed out that Daenerys was khaleesi over this khalasar, but held his tongue. He was not eager to have Viserys scream at him and remind him that he was a "lowly bastard" while he was "the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms." Jon found it difficult not to remind him that Robert Baratheon was king and no one back in Westeros was eagerly awaiting his return.

"If you go, you will be punished by Khal Drogo's men," Mormont said ominously, but his warnings were ignored. Viserys rode his horse past Mormont and sought out his sister. Jon followed the furious prince, ignoring Mormont's calls.

Daenerys stood barefoot in the grass, so petite and hidden in the tall blades that Jon would have missed her if it weren't for Viserys's shrill voice.

"You do not command the dragon. Do you understand? I am Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, I will not hear orders from some horselord's slut, do you hear me?" Jon widened his eyes when he saw Viserys's hand go to his sister's vest, his fingers digging into her breast. "Do you hear me?"

She shoved him away, hard.

"Ghost, to him," Jon commanded.

The direwolf rushed towards Viserys, leaping up to shove the prince to the ground. Ghost moved off Viserys when Jon dismounted and went over to him. Before he could stand, Jon stepped down on his back and pressed the tip of his sword to the nape of Visery's neck.

Jon looked at Daenerys and nearly faltered. The terrified look on her face reminded him painfully of his sisters.

Someone spoke, and Jon glanced behind him to see Irri and the archers. "Jhogo asks if you would have him dead, Khaleesi," translated Irri.

"No," replied Daenerys, watching Jon.

He stepped off him, and watched the prince rise to his knees and cough out grass and dirt. He was crying incoherently, and Jon found the sight more pitiful than it should have been.

Irri repeated her words in Dothraki. One of the others barked out a comment, and the Dothraki laughed. "Quaro thinks you should take an ear to teach him respect," Irri added.

"Tell them I do not wish him harmed," Daenerys said, pity plain in her voice.

None of the Dothraki approached Viserys. "I warned him what would happen, my lady," Mormont said, riding over to where Daenerys stood. "I told him to stay on the ridge, as you commanded."

"I know you did," Daenerys replied. After a moment, she commanded, "Take his horse." Viserys gaped at her, and Jon had to turn to see if she was serious. There was not a trace of amusement on her face. "Let my brother walk behind us back to the khalasar. Let everyone see him as he is."

From what Jon observed, if a man did not ride amongst the Dothraki, you were no man at all. You were the lowest of the low, without honor or pride.

"No!" Viserys screamed. He turned to Mormont, pleading in the Common Tongue so the Dothraki would not understand. "Hit her, Mormont. Hurt her. Your king commands it. Kill these Dothraki dogs and teach her."

Mormont glanced from Daenerys to her brother. His eyes met Jon's briefly before returning his gaze to Viserys.

"He shall walk, Khaleesi," he said. He took Viserys's horse in hand, while Daenerys remounted her silver.

Viserys gaped at Mormont, and sat down in the dirt. His eyes were full of poison as he turned to his head to look Jon's way. "You side with her as well, bastard?" he demanded. "The horselord's slut?"

"That horselord's slut is your sister," Jon reminded him sharply. "I may be a bastard, but I know that it's my duty as a brother to protect my sisters. You should know better than me as you are Lord of the Seven Kingdoms."

Jon left the prince alone in the tall grass.

When Jon made it back to the khalasar, he was swamped with jokes and laughter. Jhogo and Quaro pushed him around playfully, mentioning Viserys's name. Jon could understand only partially what they were saying, and forced out laughter. He managed to untangle himself from them and continued towards his tent. Collecting clean clothes, Jon managed to find a spring-fed pool to bathe in.

There were springs in Winterfell. Jon and Robb would swim in them, and Bran would join them sometimes. It was also the place where Theon Greyjoy would gloat about his exploits. Jon could scarcely ever believe a word Greyjoy said.

Ghost suddenly stood from where he rested, and Jon glanced around. He was more than shocked to see Daenerys walking through the grass over to him. She rarely sought him out.

"Oh…" After spending their days traveling under the scorching sun, Daenerys's pale skin had darkened. Even under her tanned skin, he could see the redness of her blush. "I'll give you a moment," she said, turning away.

Jon hastily lowered himself in the water. There was no privacy in a khalasar, but he was still of the north. He could not help but feel shame when seen naked. Her back was to him when he rose out of the river and quickly dressed himself. He pushed a wet lock of hair out of his face as he went over to her.

"Yes, Khaleesi?" he asked.

"I just want to thank you for protecting me," she answered, fiddling with her hands. "I… I've never had anyone do that for me."

"I could not just stand by and allow him to harm you," Jon told her. He hesitated before speaking again. "Has he always been so cruel to you?"

"Not always," Dany admitted, abashed. "There have been times when he has been kind to me, but... it has been a long time since he has."

He frowned. "I have two sisters back north. I have never treated them the way Viserys has treated you."

Daenerys stared at him, her violet eyes wide and questioning. For a moment, her eyes glimmered with water, but in the next instance, they were dry. She nodded and smiled at him, but it did not reach her eyes.

"Any girl would be fortunate to have you as their big brother," she murmured, giving him the kind of smile that did not reach the eyes. "Goodnight, Jon Snow."

"Goodnight," Jon replied, watching her leave.

Chapter Text

8.

Jon blocked a fierce cut to his head, his ears ringing from the sound of swords clashing together. Jon hastily sidestepped another blow and counter stroked Mormont on the shoulder. He stumbled back and grunted in pain when Mormont slammed a sidestroke into his ribs, knocking him to the ground.

Mormont stood above him and held out his mailed hand. Jon accepted it and was hauled off the grassy ground.

"You have potential, Snow," admitted Mormont, lifting his visor. "Who was the better swordsman in Winterfell?"

"The master-at-arms once told me that I was better with the sword than my brother," Jon answered truthfully.

He remembered that day, but it did not make his chest swell with pride. He and Robb had been twelve, both eager to become the next Arthur Dayne. Each time he and Robb went a round, Robb would be knocked down to the ground, but would get up not a minute after. Ser Rodrik had approached Jon, and praised his skill.

The feeling of pride did not last too long when Theon Greyjoy sauntered over to them and said rather snidely, "Like it matters if he's a gifted swordsman. He'll never be a Prince of Winterfell."

None of Robb's blows compared to the one Theon gave him. Jon had recovered quickly, however, and retorted, "Neither will you."

Every day after that one, Theon would make it his duty to humiliate Jon each chance he got. At least Jon knew now that Theon desperately wanted to become a Stark.

"Well, he's not wrong," said Mormont, sheathing his sword. "We won't be able to practice for some time, however. We are nearing the city of Vaes Dothrak."

 


 

Jon could not comprehend why the city of Vaes Dothrak needed its Horse Gate, made of two gigantic bronze stallions, when the city itself had no walls or buildings.

The statues were a sight. Stone kings looked down on them from their thrones, their faces chipped and stained. Lithe young maidens danced on marble plinths, draped only in flowers. There were black iron dragons, with jewels for eyes, roaring griffins, manticores with their barbed tails poised to strike, and other beasts Jon could not name.

If Bran were here, he would probably attempt to climb the tallest statue. Sansa would sigh prettily at the sight of the maidens. Arya would likely stare in awe at the beasts, and Robb would admire the kings on their thrones.

Thinking of home ached Jon's heart. Sometimes at night, he would lay awake and remember them. Robb's laugh, Arya's blinding smile... then he would remember Catelyn Stark, with her cold eyes and sharp words. I was an outsider, Jon reminded himself, Winterfell was never my home.

Khal Drogo and his bloodriders led them through the great bazaar of the Western Market. Jon stared at the strangeness about them. Vaes Dothrak sprawled languidly, baking in the warm sun. None of the buildings were alike, either. He saw carved stone pavilions, manses of woven grass as large as castles, rickety wooden towers, stepped pyramids faced with marble, log halls open to the sky.

They halted near the Eastern Market where the caravans from Yi Ti and Asshai and the Shadow Lands came to trade. Jon looked ahead, and spotted the cavernous wooden feasting hall, its roof sewn silk, a vast billowing tent that could be raised to keep out the rare rains, or lowered to admit the endless sky. Around the hall were broad grassy horse yards fenced with high hedges, firepits, and hundreds of round earthen houses.

Jon thought of the Great Hall back in Winterfell where he and Arya would often get into mischief. He and Arya would play a game where they would see who could steal the most apples without anyone noticing. Arya always won, being smaller and quicker than Jon himself.

A slave waited near Jon as he slowed down his mare and swung down from his saddle. Mormont had explained to him that it was forbidden to carry a blade in Vaes Dothrak, or to shed a free man's blood. Hesitantly, Jon unbelted Dawn handed it to the waiting slave.

Bored, Jon found a stick and tossed it for Ghost to chase. Ghost cocked his head, staring at him with dispassionate red eyes. Jon sighed and ruffled his shaggy white fur. Strange enough, when Jon did manage to sleep, he would have wolf dreams. He was Ghost and he would take down other beasts roaming the tall grass.

The sun was low in the sky when Jon noticed Viserys dragging Doreah by the arm back to Daenerys's tent. He widened his eyes when Viserys suddenly slapped Doreah in the face. He reached for his sword, but sharply remembered that he had given it to that slave earlier. He cursed under his breath, but looked down at his right hand, flexing it. Despite his lean frame, Jon was stronger than Viserys, and could take him down easily.

When Jon entered the tent, he saw that a pregnant Daenerys was speaking to her brother. Doreah stood near her lady, her eye red from where Viserys hit her. Jon opened his mouth, about to demand an explanation from Viserys when the prince suddenly grabbed his sister by the arm roughly.

Without hesitation, Jon grasped the back of Viserys' dirty tunic and twisted him around before knocking him to the ground. There was a collection of gasps as Jon crouched down, pressing his knee into Viserys' throat as the weak prince struggled to get up. Jon stared at him, watching as this proud prince turned into a begging craven once more. He wanted to throttle the man. How could he act this way towards his own sister?

"You forget yourself, Viserys. You are assaulting your khaleesi," Jon told him lowly. "You best leave her be or Ghost will greet you in the night."

Jon stood and watched as Viserys scrambled back to his feet. "When I come into my kingdom, you will rue this day, slut." He walked off, rubbing his throat.

"Why did you do that?" asked a trembling voice. Jon whirled, and saw that it was Daenerys.

"I was protecting you." Jon did not understand why she was upset.

"It wasn't necessary," Daenerys insisted. "Everything was fine until you attacked him."

"'Attacked him'?" Jon repeated, startled. "You call your brother hurting you and your handmaidens 'fine'?"

Daenerys' eyes were fixed on him, wide and troubled. Jon held her gaze, waiting for her response. She tore her eyes away from his, massaging the arm that Viserys' clawed at.

"If you ever harm my brother, I'll have Drogo kill you himself," Daenerys threatened, her voice quiet. "Please go."

Jon bowed his head, hiding the disappointment on his face. "As you wish, Khaleesi."

He didn't understand. Jon was protecting her. How could she not see her brother for what he truly was? Then again, he was her brother, so maybe Jon did understand. Jon was so lost in thought that he didn't notice Doreah calling his name. He flinched when she grabbed his hand.

Doreah stared at him, and Jon could feel something stir within him. "Sunset boy," she breathed, "I must thank you for saving me and khaleesi from that monster."

"It was nothing," Jon dismissed, turning to face her. He tilted his head, inspecting her bruised eye. "Does it hurt?"

"A little," Doreah admitted, covering the redness with her hand. "But it's not the worst beating I've received."

"No one should beat you," Jon told her, frowning. "You should go back to Daenerys. She must be upset."

The Lysene girl looked as if she wanted to say something, but instead nodded and returned to her mistress. Jon watched her return to Daenerys's tent, then sighed and wandered around until he found Mormont. They ate horseflesh by the fire and afterwards Jon walked back to his tent.

It wasn't long until Doreah entered his tent. He creased his eyebrows, surprised to see her when she climbed atop of him and kissed him.

He brought his hands up to her shoulders to push her away, but the taste of her mouth weakened his resolve. He dragged his hands down her arms and back, bringing her closer until their chests were pressed together. Doreah moaned when he stroked his tongue inside her mouth, brushing against her own. Kissing her dizzied his mind. He was surrounded by her—the feel of her, the sight of her, the scent of her.

"Doreah…" Jon breathed, when she began unlacing his breeches. "You don't… you don't have to do this."

"I've been waiting for this," Doreah replied, and her words went straight to his groin. She kissed him again, long and deep, then led a trail of wet kisses downward.

She buried her face in his bare stomach, sucking on his skin. His cock was aching and hard by the time she freed him from his breeches. He was almost embarrassed at the way his cock flipped up against his stomach.

Doreah swallowed the tip of his cock. His vision exploded with stars the moment he was surrounded by her moist mouth. He panted as she sucked. Her mouth surpassed his hand. Jon didn't think he could ever go back to frigging himself if Doreah was willing to do this.

Jon wanted this for days, but then he felt it—the frantic jerking of his hips and clenching of his muscles—and knew he couldn't starve off his rapidly approaching orgasm. He let out a shuddering moan when he spilled his seed inside her mouth.

His panting was the only sound in the tent. When he found his strength, Jon pulled Doreah into his arms. He kissed the edge of her jaw, mouthing at the skin there for a moment before kissing her throat. He slid his tongue along a pulse and sucked until she trembled in his arms. His hands skimmed her body, squeezing her breasts softly and stroking her skin. She didn't stop him when he bravely led his hand between her legs.

"I've never…" He trailed off, caressing the warm skin there.

"I'll help you," Doreah said softly. "Now touch me."

Doreah was flushed and wet under his touch. Quietly, she instructed him. One finger in, then two. His fingers grew slick with her pleasure the longer he pumped them inside her. Her cries were enough to get Jon hard again. What made his blood rush was the raw moan she released when his thumb brushed against a small nub. He slid his fingers out and focused only on that nub of flesh with his thumb.

She sobbed into his shoulder, her body shaking harder than a surge of water in the ocean.

Afterwards, they kissed until Jon felt himself being lulled to sleep.

Chapter Text

9.

Jon Snow confused her.

She appreciated him for protecting her from Viserys, but Dany was determined to prove to everyone that she was capable of defending herself without anyone's help. She was no longer some timid thing for Viserys to push around. Daenerys Targaryen was a khaleesi, a title that held more weight than the empty one her brother clung to… and Jon Snow was the one thing standing in her way of showing him.

Despite her irritation, Dany could not deny the curiosity she felt towards Ser Jorah's squire. They have been traveling for months now, yet Dany knew almost nothing about him. He was so different from everyone surrounding her. He lacked the brutality of the Dothraki, the bluntness Ser Jorah spoke with, and the madness Viserys wore like perfume. Jon Snow was courteous, but his face gave nothing away. What he was hiding from everyone, Dany could not say, but she doubted he would ever tell her. Jon Snow was colder than the nights she and Viserys spent sleeping in the streets of Qohor.

She and Jon were not friends, but they were far from enemies. If truth be told, Dany had no idea where Jon's loyalty resided. Conflicted on how to handle the situation, Dany turned to her handmaidens.

"Khal Drogo sees him as a skilled rider," said Irri as she combed Dany's long hair. "And he is impressive—for a sunset boy."

"He's bright like you, Khaleesi," added Jhiqui. "It took him longer to learn our tongue, but he learned it."

"What do you think of him, Doreah?" Dany asked, turning to the older girl.

Doreah was dragging the tips of her fingers across the bath water, a dreamy smile on her face. She blinked after a minute of silence and blushed. "He is better than any man I have ever known," Doreah answered, then flicked water at Irri and Jhiqui when they giggled at her.

Dany glanced at them, amused. She turned back to Doreah with a quizzical expression on her face. "What has Jon Snow done to win your favor?"

"It's hard to explain," Doreah said softly. "He does not force himself on me like the others. He looks into my eyes and it feels as if butterflies are in my belly."

Often, Doreah was forced to lay with many of Drogo's bloodriders because of her history of living in a pleasure house in Lys. The next morning, Doreah's eyes would be rimmed red and there would be bruises on her skin. There were none present since her night with the Bastard of Winterfell.

"Butterflies?" Jhiqui repeated, frowning.

"They flutter their wings. That's how my belly feels whenever he's near," Doreah explained. "He's protected you many times, khaleesi."

"He has," Dany murmured, considering their words.

 


 

She found him sitting on the grassy shore of the lake the Dothraki called the Womb of the World, surrounded by a fringe of reeds, its water still and calm. His direwolf was stretched out asleep beside him, basking in the sun. A thousand years ago, Jhiqui told her, the first man had emerged from its depths, riding upon the back of the first horse.

"Jon Snow," Daenerys called, earning his attention. "May I join you?"

"If you wish." Snow plucked a reed out of the soil. He let go of the reed and Dany watched it drift away in the breeze.

Dany touched the swell of her belly as she slowly lowered herself on the grassy shore. "Why did you leave Winterfell?" she asked.

Her question caught him off guard, but he recovered swiftly.

"Because I did not belong there," he answered quietly. "You may not know this, my lady, but bastards have no place in Westeros. We cannot wed any girl of higher birth nor low, as our children are less than dirt. The only other option is to join the Night's Watch, but what boy of my age desires to go there?"

"They hold the Wall?" Dany asked, referring to the Night's Watch. Snow nodded, drawing one leg up languidly to his chin. "My brother told me they protected Westeros from Others."

A smile ghosted over Snow's lips. "Others have not been seen for eight thousand years. Westeros has nothing to worry about."

It was quiet for another moment before Dany decided to speak again. "You could have joined the Golden Company or the Second Sons if you were looking for a home."

"No," Snow said instantly, and Dany realized too late that this boy was not fit to be a sellsword. "The Golden Company is a brotherhood of exiles and the sons of exiles. I... I have no desire to kill for gold, to ride into battle without reason."

Dany gazed about him, stunned by his words. He was young, that was why he spoke with such idealistic conviction. Even now, as she stared into his dark eyes, she could see a boyish gleam in them, unlike Ser Jorah whose eyes held something jaded while madness was prevalent in Viserys' lilac eyes.

"You are quite honorable," observed Dany. To her surprise, his cheeks reddened and he turned away slightly. "Doreah seems smitten with you," she added, biting her lip to keep from widening her smile.

"My sister does that—she bites her lip," Snow suddenly said, gazing about her. His face turned a darker shade of red. "Do you wish for me to end my relations with Doreah?"

She realized now that he was not cold, but merely shy.

Dany rested her hand on her swollen belly, smiling. "It's not my business who Doreah pleasures," she murmured, heat warming her face. "I came here to explain my reasons for the other day."

The redness was subsiding from his cheeks as he stared at her, curiosity plain on his face. "You don't have to explain yourself to me."

"Oh, but I feel I must," Daenerys replied, tilting her head back to look at the clear sky. "For most of my life, I have been in constant fear of my brother. He... hurt me, but I could not do anything because he was also my protector. It wasn't until he sold me to Drogo did I feel his control on me lessen. I no longer belonged to him, but to my husband, except..." She looked at him. "I want to show Viserys that I don't need anyone to protect me from him. I want him to know that I can protect myself, that I am no longer just a girl, but a woman flowered... and I cannot do that if you are constantly standing up for me."

Something shifted in his eyes. He inclined his head, their gaze gone. "I will respect that, Khaleesi," he murmured, then added, "but you are with child. You are in no condition to physically protect yourself from your brother. That is why I protected you."

"You are only Ser Jorah's squire," Dany pointed out. "Why do you go out of your way to protect me?"

Snow was hesitant to answer her. She tilted her head, anxious to hear his reason.

"Illyrio paid me to protect you," he admitted. For some inexplicable reason, Dany was disappointed by his answer. "He worried for you and I do not blame him. You looked so frightened when I first met you and even without the money, I would have protected you and I still will."

Why is my heart beating so fast? Dany wondered.

No one had ever spoken to her like that. Her brother may have been kind once, but he never vowed to protect her. As much as she loved Drogo, he did not seem so concerned with her. Jon Snow was not her brother or husband. He had no reason to care, especially after how unwelcoming she acted around him.

She remembered everything her brother told her of their father's killers. The Usurper and his dogs. The Lannisters and Starks. Until now, Daenerys thought they were evil and purposefully sought to bring down her family, yet hearing Jon Snow's words stirred something within her. He was raised by this Lord Stark and did not fit any of Viserys's descriptions. Would the son of a monster speak the way Jon Snow did? Had her brother lied to her?

Bravely, Dany offered him her hand.

"I know our families have a history together, but I would like for us to get along, so..." She flashed a wry smile, "Friend?"

He stared at her hand for a long moment before fixing his eyes on hers. His dark eyes were too focused on hers, but Dany refused to break her gaze. Then Jon clasped her hand, his calloused flesh against her softer one. His grip was firm and strong.

"Friend," Jon echoed, then smiled. It reached his eyes and sitting this close to him, Dany realized they were not black, but grey.

He should smile more, Dany thought, he looks nice when he smiles.

They sat on the grass for some time until Dany remembered that she needed to ready herself for the ceremony. Jon helped her off the ground as his direwolf stretched. Dany couldn't even suppress her smile as they returned to her tent.

Chapter Text

10.

After the ceremony, Jon and Mormont followed the khal's bloodriders out from the pit. A parade followed them out onto the godsway, the broad grassy road that ran through the heart of Vaes Dothrak, from the horse gate to the Mother of Mountains. The pulsating sounds of bells ringing and drums beating surrounded them as they marched along the godsway.

It was custom for the Dothraki to have their mothers eat all of a stallion's heart. If she choked on the blood or retched up the flesh, the omens were less favorable, the child might be a stillborn, or come forth weak, deformed, or female. Jon wondered how long ago the Dothraki started this custom. He could imagine the disgusted looks on his family's faces if they ever witnessed the ceremony.

Jon could only watch in fascination as Daenerys devoured the stallion's heart with only her teeth and nails. Her face and hands were smeared with blood not even by the time she finished. The old crones that lived in Vaes Dothrak, called the dosh khaleen, proclaimed that Daenerys's child was a prince riding within her.

While Daenerys, her handmaidens, and Khal Drogo rode to the lake, Jon and Mormont headed to Khal Drogo's hall. Flames leapt ten feet in the air from three huge stone-lined fire pits. The air was thick with smells of roasting meat and curdled, fermented mare's milk. The hall was crowded and noisy as they entered. The sounds of drums and horns swirled up into the night. Half-clothed women spun and danced on the low tables.

"They call her son the stallion that mounts the world," Mormont told Jon once they were accepted to sit by the center fire pit. "Do you concur with that?"

"She is a Targaryen, so I suppose she must have a warrior of a son," Jon commented after a moment of drinking the fermented mare's milk.

"Or a mad one," Mormont added.

"True," Jon ceded quietly. "I doubt any man back in the Seven Kingdoms would accept a stallion's heart as their meal."

Mormont laughed. "Perhaps Robert Baratheon if challenged."

Jhiqui approached them not too long after. "The khaleesi requests the presence of you both."

Jon rose from his seat and followed her over to where Daenerys sat. Clean and dressed in the Dothraki garbs, she smiled brightly at the sight of them.

"Khaleesi," Mormont said, going to one knee before her. "We are yours to command."

Jon was about to go on one knee, but Daenerys stopped him. He smiled despite himself, remembering how she made him promise no formalities around each other. She had been so busy preparing for the ceremony that they hadn't spent much time together. At least now that it was over, Jon could finally talk to her.

She patted the stuffed horsehide cushions surrounding her. "Sit and talk with me."

"You honor us." The knight seated himself on the cushion to her left while Jon took her right. A slave knelt before them, offering a wooden platter full of ripe figs. They each took one and bit it in half.

"Where is my brother?" Daenerys asked. "He ought to have come by now, for the feast."

"I saw His Grace this morning," Mormont told her. "He told me he was going to the Western Market, in search of wine."

"Wine?" Daenerys repeated doubtfully.

"Wine," Mormont confirmed, "and he has some thought to recruit men for his army from the sellswords who guard the caravans." A serving girl laid a blood pie in front of them and before Jon had a chance to touch it, Mormont attacked it with both hands.

"Is that wise?" she asked, glancing at Jon. He was nibbling on another fig. "He has no gold to pay soldiers. What if he's betrayed?"

"We are in Vaes Dothrak, my lady," Jon reminded her. "No one may carry a blade here or shed a man's blood."

"Yet men die," she said. "Jhogo told me. Some of the traders have eunuchs with them, huge men who strangle thieves with wisps of silk. That way no blood is shed and the gods are not angered."

"Then let us hope your brother will be wise not to steal anything," Jon murmured as he accepted another cup of fermented mare's milk. "You did well earlier."

Daenerys smiled, and he returned it.

"His Grace had planned to take your dragon's eggs until I warned him that I'd cut off his hand if he so much as touched them," Mormont revealed, wiping the grease off his mouth with the back of his hand.

For a moment, no one said anything. Jon could see the shock on Daenerys's face, and he felt the same. He himself hadn't known this until this moment.

"My eggs… but they're mine. Magister Illyrio gave them to me, a bride gift, why would Viserys want... they're only stones..."

"The same could be said of rubies and diamonds, and fire opals, Princess... and dragon's eggs are rarer by far. Those traders he's been drinking with would sell their own manhoods for even one of those stones, and with all three Viserys could buy as many sellswords as might need."

"Then he should have them," Daenerys decided, startling Jon. "He does not need to steal them. He had only to ask. He is my brother and... and my true king."

"He is your brother," acknowledged Mormont.

"You do not understand, ser," she said. "My mother died giving birth to me, and my father and brother Rhaegar even before that. I would have never known so much as their names if Viserys had not been there to tell me. He was the only one left. The only one. He is all I have."

"Once," said Mormont. "No longer, Khaleesi. You belong to the Dothraki now. In your womb rides the stallion who mounts the world." He held out his cup, and a slave filled it with fermented mare's milk, sour smelling and thick with clots.

"What does it mean?" she asked, waving away the cup. "What is this stallion? Everyone was shouting it at me, but I don't understand."

"The stallion is the khal of khals promised in ancient prophecy, child. He will unite the Dothraki into a single khalasar and ride to the ends of the earth, or so it was promised. All the people of the world will be his herd," Mormont explained.

"Oh," was all Daenerys could manage. Jon touched her arm, and she looked at him, a bit of fear in her violet eyes. She looked down as she smoothed her robe down over the swell of her stomach. "I named him Rhaego."

"A name to make the Usurper's blood run cold."

Doreah suddenly moved from her cushions and tugged on Daenerys's elbow without so much glancing in Jon's direction. "Khaleesi," she whispered urgently, "your brother..."

Jon and Daenerys both looked down the length of the long, roofless hall and spotted him striding towards them. From the lurch in his step, he could tell at once that Viserys had found his wine. Viserys was wearing his scarlet silks, soiled and travel-stained. His cloak and gloves were black velvet, faded from the sun. His boots were dry and cracked, his silver-blonde hair matted and tangled. A longsword swung from his belt in a leather scabbard. The Dothraki eyed the sword as he passed, and Jon heard curses and threats and angry muttering rising around them. The music died away in a nervous stammering of drums.

"Go to him," Daenerys commanded Mormont. "Stop him. Bring him here. Tell him he can have the dragon's egg if that is what he wants." The knight rose swiftly to his feet.

"Gods, where did he even get a sword?" Daenerys wondered, anxious.

"Daenerys, he will get killed," Jon told her quietly.

"Do not say such a thing," she said, afraid.

"Where is my sister?" Viserys shouted, his voice thick with wine. "I've come for her feast. How dare you presume to eat without me? No one eats before the king. Where is she? The whore can't hide from the dragon."

Mormont went to him swiftly, whispered something in his ear, and took him by the arm, but Viserys wrenched free. "Keep your hands off me! No one touches the dragon without leave."

The sound of laughter made Viserys lift his eyes. "Khal Drogo," he slurred, his voice almost polite. "I'm here for the feast." He staggered away from Mormont, making to join the three khals on the high bench.

Khal Drogo rose, spat out a dozen words in Dothraki, faster than Jon could possibly understand, and pointed. "Khal Drogo says your place is not on the high bench," Mormont translated for Viserys. "Khal Drogo says your place is there."

Viserys glanced where the khal was pointing. At the back of the long hall, in a corner by the wall, deep in shadow so better would not need to look on them, sat the lowest of the low; raw and unblooded boys, old men with clouded eyes and stiff joints, the dim-witted and the maimed. Far from the meat, and farther from the honor.

"That is no place for a king," Viserys declared.

Stop it, you fool, Jon thought.

"Is place," Khal Drogo answered, in the Common Tongue. "For Sorefoot King." He clapped his hands together. "A cart! Bring cart for Khal Rhaggat!"

Five thousand Dothraki began to laugh and shout. Mormont was standing beside Viserys, screaming in his ear, but the roar of the hall was so thunderous that Jon couldn't hear what he was saying. Viserys shouted back and the two men wrestled until Mormont knocked Viserys to the floor.

He drew his sword.

The bared steel shone a dangerous red in the glare from the fire pits. "Keep away from me!" Viserys hissed. Mormont backed off a step, and the drunk king climbed unsteadily to his feet. He waved the sword over his head, and the Dothraki shrieked at him from all sides.

Daenerys's cry made Viserys turn his head, and he saw her for the first time. "There she is," he said, smiling. His smile dwindled when he saw Jon beside her. "Along with the Stark hound's bastard." He stalked towards his sister, slashing at the air as if to cut a path through a wall of enemies, though no one tried to bar his way.

"The blade... you must not," Daenerys begged. "Please, Viserys. It is forbidden. Put down the sword and come share my cushions. There's drink, food... is it the dragon's eggs you want? You can have them, only throw away the sword."

"Do as she tells you," Jon said, standing between Daenerys and her brother.

"A bastard does not order a dragon!" Viserys suddenly screamed, pointing his sword at him. "A dragon eats wolves. Do you wish to wake the dragon?"

"No," Daenerys whispered.

"Daenerys—" Jon started, when she stepped from behind him. His eyes widened when she pushed the sword away and moved closer to Viserys. The hall was hushed as everyone watched Daenerys wrap her arms around her brother.

Viserys looked down at her. Sweat beaded down Jon's temple as he waited for Viserys to hurt his sister. Minutes passed and Viserys made no move to harm her. He was staring at her, stunned. Daenerys lifted her head from his chest to look up at him. She murmured something and silently took Viserys's hand to lead him outside. Daenerys glanced over her shoulder at Jon, and he understood. Mormont did not understand, and tried to follow them, but Daenerys said something Rakharo who blocked Mormont's path.

For almost three hours, Daenerys and Viserys remained outside. Jon and her handmaidens waited nervously for her to return. Aggo had peaked outside and assured them that they were only talking.

Jon heard her voice before he saw her. "Viserys, no!" she screamed. He turned from Mormont to see Viserys marching over to Khal Drogo. Daenerys was chasing after him.

He pointed his sword at the giant khal and demanded, "I want the crown I was promised. I want what I bargained for, or I'm taking her back. He can keep his bloody foal. I'll cut the bastard out and leave it for him."

"You don't mean that," cried Daenerys. Her cheeks were wet with tears. "Remember what we said outside? Please, please. Viserys, don't."

Viserys ignored her. He grabbed Jhiqui's arm and ordered her to repeat his words in Dothraki. She did so, her voice hardly intelligible through her sobbing. When she finished, he let go of her arm.

Khal Drogo spoke a few brusque sentences in Dothraki. He stepped down from his high bench. It had grown so silent in the hall that Jon could hear the bells in Khal Drogo's hair, chiming softly with each step he took. His bloodriders followed him. Jon froze, knowing that the man's death was near.

"What did he say, Dany?" Viserys asked, without glancing back at her. He was no longer slurring, but spoke with a surprising somberness.

"He says you shall have a splendid golden crown that men shall tremble to behold," Daenerys answered, sniffling.

"Stop crying," Viserys told her. "Dragons do not cry. Remember that."

Khal Drogo took Daenerys from behind Viserys. He turned to her and asked a question. She nodded and when the khal said a word, and his bloodriders leapt forward. Qotho seized the self-proclaimed king by the arms. Haggo shattered his wrists with a single, sharp twist of his large hands. Cohollo pulled the sword from his limp fingers.

Khal Drogo unfastened his belt. The medallions were pure gold, massive and ornate, each one as large as a man's hand. He shouted a command. Cook slaves pulled a heavy iron stew pot from the fire pit, dumped onto the ground, and returned the pot to the flames. Drogo tossed in the belt and watched out expression as the medallion turned red and began to lose their shape.

Viserys did not scream, but he looked close to doing so. Jon had seen a handful of men get beheaded at the hands of his father, and while most cried and begged, some stayed silent and accepted their fate.

Jon could only watch in horror when Khal Drogo reached into the flames and snatched out the pot. "Crown!" he roared. "Here. A crown for Cart King!" And upended the pot over Viserys's head.

The sound Viserys Targaryen made when that gruesome iron helmet covered his face was nothing human. His feet hammered a frantic beat against the dirt floor, slowed, stopped. Thick globs of molten gold dripped down onto his chest, setting the scarlet silk to smoldering yet no drop of blood was spilled. Beside Khal Drogo, Daenerys was no longer weeping.

That was her brother, thought Jon, staring at the corpse before him. He was afraid of what she did to her enemies.

Chapter Text

11.

Ghost made no sound as he padded over to where Jon laid in the tall grass, his arms crossed behind his head. Jon blindly reached out for the direwolf. Ghost bent his head and nudged his nose into Jon's shoulder, flicking his tongue over Jon's cheek. The roughness of his tongue made Jon laugh. He ruffled Ghost's white fur as the wolf laid down, curling himself into his side.

He watched the huge moon. Its glow drowned out the stars scattering the clear, night sky. On nights like this in Winterfell, when the moon seemed impossibly large, he and Arya would sneak out of their rooms and he'd teach her the basics of swordplay. Jon remembered the pride that swelled in his chest the first time Arya parried his blow after countless nights of practice.

Thinking of Arya brought a surge of bittersweet memories for Jon. He could never think back on his life in Winterfell fondly without remembering Catelyn Stark's cold treatment. Sometimes, Jon wished he lived with his mother in Starfall. Maybe if he stayed then perhaps she would have never jumped. No, he was glad he grew up in Winterfell. It might have been worse with his mother. What if she still jumped? Then Jon would have to live with that pain forever.

It doesn't matter, thought Jon. He hated how his mind wandered to what-ifs. His mother was dead, his father was in Winterfell, and he was here on the other side of the world. Jon rolled over to his side and buried his face in Ghost's fur. He missed his family.

When Jon woke, he wasn't sure when he dozed off or how many hours he slept, but the sky was painted indigo as the sun readied to rise in the horizon. Getting to his feet, he trudged back to his tent. Ghost trotted alongside him. While he walked, he noticed a figure stepping out of a tent. As he neared, he realized it was Doreah.

"Sunset boy." Doreah waved at him. She laughed when she saw him. "You're covered in dirt. Did you sleep under the stars?"

"I have a name," Jon mumbled, blushing. "I didn't mean to sleep outside. I'm going to the lake right now… Why aren't you with Daenerys?"

"Qotho had need of me," Doreah answered quietly, no longer bright. Then she smiled, bouncing towards him. "If you were lonely, you could have requested my company. I would have preferred it to Qotho's."

His face warmed. "Your company would have been... nice."

"You are of similar age to the khaleesi, no?" she suddenly asked.

"Five-and-ten," Jon answered, nodding.

"And you have yet to lay with a woman."

"... I don't see what that has to do with anything."

Doreah took his hand and tugged him in the direction of the lake. "I'll join you. I'll even wash your back."

"Okay," was the only thing Jon could say as he dumbly followed Doreah. He tried to steady his breathing. There was no need to get nervous. She already saw his cock.

They stopped by his tent to get clean clothes before continuing to the lake. Whatever plans they had ended the second Doreah dipped her foot in the water. She shrieked and leapt back.

"What's wrong?" he asked, concerned.

"It's too cold," she explained. "How can you bathe in that?"

Jon smiled. "I've felt colder," he replied, amused. After a moment's hesitation, Jon pulled her close and kissed her. "Another time, perhaps?"

"Yes," she quickly said, then with a wink added, "I eagerly await to take your maiden's gift, sunset boy."

He watched her saunter back to her mistress's tent, ignoring the heat rushing to his face and the stiffening of his cock. It was a good thing the lake water was cold.

 


 

Daenerys had nearly forgotten what fear tasted like.

For years she had lived in terror of Viserys, afraid of waking the dragon. This was even worse. The wineseller in the Western Market had attempted to poison not only her, but her baby as well. Rhaego must have sensed her fright, for he moved restlessly inside her. Dany stroked the swell of her belly gently, wishing she could reach out to him.

Ser Jorah had showed her a folded parchment, explaining that Magister Illyrio had sent Viserys a letter. Robert Baratheon offered lands and lordships for either Dany or Viserys's deaths. The Usurper would not have her son. He has woken the dragon now, she told herself, but could not ignore the tears blurring her vision.

Her eyes went to the dragon's eggs resting their nest of dark velvet. Something seized her then, and she ordered Ser Jorah to light the brazier.

"Khaleesi?" The knight looked at her strangely. "It is so hot. Are you certain?"

"Yes. I..." Dany's gaze was focused on those beautiful scaled eggs. "I have a chill. Light the brazier."

He bowed. "As you command."

When the coals were lit and flaming, Dany sent Ser Jorah from her. She had to be alone to do what she must do.

This is madness, she told herself as she lifted the black-and-scarlet egg from the velvet. Cradling the egg with both hands, she carried it to the fire and pushed it down amongst the burning coals. The black scales seemed to glow as the heat sunk in. Flames kissed the stone, and Dany placed the other two eggs beside the black one in the fire.

She watched until the coals turned to ashes. To her disappointment, the dragon's eggs hadn't hatched or even cracked. Dany touched the pendant of the necklace Jon had gifted her. Khal Drogo had taken him, Jon's white beast, and his bloodriders in search of hrakkar, the great white lion of the plains. The direwolf could hunt better than anyone else.

Dany wished he was here.

The brazier was cold again by the time Khal Drogo returned. Cohollo was leading a packhorse behind him, with the carcass of a great white lion slung across its back. Above, the stars were coming out. Blood coated Ghost's snout, with dots of it sprinkling over the rest of his body. The khal laughed as he swung down off his stallion and showed her the scars on his leg where the hrakkar had raked him through his leggings. "I shall make you a cloak of its skin, moon of my life," he swore.

When Dany told him what had happened at the market, all laughter stopped.

"This poisoner was the first," Ser Jorah Mormont warned him, "but he will not be the last. Men will risk much for a lordship."

Drogo was silent for a time. Finally, he gifted Ser Jorah and Jhogo with any horse from his herd. Then he offered their son Rhaego the Iron Throne.

In the midst of everyone's cheering and celebrating, Jon made his way over to Dany. His shoulder was bloody and torn where the hrakkar had scraped him. The lump in his throat bobbed unsteadily.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there," Jon said, and the guilt in his voice threatened to devastate her.

"He still would have tried to poison me," Dany told him, hating the forlorn look on his face. "Does it hurt?"

Jon frowned, confused. When she motioned to his shoulder, he realized what she meant and shrugged with a wince. "It stings."

"I'll go with you to see a healer," she proposed. He nodded and the two headed to healer's camp. Dany could only think about Drogo's words.

They were going home.

Chapter Text

12.

The Lhazareen, or what the Dothraki called them haesh rahki, the Lamb Men, were herders of sheep and eaters of vegetables. They stood no chance when Khal Drogo caught them attacking the town. Mormont told Jon that their khal Ogo and his son, Fogo, had shared the high bench with Khal Drogo in Vaes Dothrak where Viserys had been crowned. Jon supposed the Dothraki cared little for alliances.

The Dothraki thought little of the Lamb Men, but some proved to be fighters. The mighty Khal Drogo even took an arrow to his arm. Jon remembered seeing the distraught look on Daenerys's face, insisting her husband get treated. Then a heavy, flat-nosed woman who Daenerys had saved from further rape, offered to treat Khal Drogo's injuries. Jon couldn't help but feel cautious. He was certain no woman brutally raped by dozens of Dothraki would try and help the khal who encouraged it.

"She could be dangerous, Daenerys," Jon had told her, pulling her aside. "Haggo calls her a maegi. You should not trust her."

"I am khaleesi, heir to the Seven Kingdoms, the blood of the dragon," Daenerys had reminded him. "It's not for you to tell me what I cannot do."

Jon had watched her go and lead her husband somewhere else so Mirri Maz Duur may heal him. A week hadn't passed when Jon—and everyone else except Daenerys—realized that Khal Drogo was dying.

"What does it mean when a khal falls from his horse?" inquired Jon, when the khal inevitably fell off his mount.

"It means he's no longer a khal," answered Mormont, staring at the tent not too far from them. "Snow, keep an eye on everyone. I must talk to Daenerys."

He strode over to the tent, leaving Jon behind. Jon was tempted to follow, but he stayed and observed everyone. Most of Khal Drogo's bloodriders were together talking quietly. Ghost was silent beside him, his red eyes focused on the tent. The Lhazareen woman limped inside the tent, with Qotho and Haggo carrying the godswife's chest between them.

Mormont stormed out of Daenerys's tent.

"What the hell is going on?" Jon questioned to the passing knight.

"Daenerys is a fool," he told him gruffly. "She orders me to don my armor."

She was going to do something stupid. Without a second thought, Jon dismounted and ran towards Daenerys's tent. Aggo nor Jhogo stopped him from entering. Jon thought he heard them say, "Help her."

The tent smelled of death as Jon entered it. Khal Drogo was on the furs, barely breathing. His chest was black with thick, corrupted blood. Daenerys sat near him with the maegi. Her face was pale and wet with tears.

"Daenerys, whatever you're about to do, please don't," Jon said, hoping the fear in his voice wouldn't be heard.

"I have to save him," Daenerys cried. It hurt, watching her like this. Her grief was bleeding through the tent, so thick that Jon could taste it.

"Let me talk to you alone, Daenerys," Jon begged, stepping closer. She glanced between him and the Lhazareen woman. Slowly, she nodded and dismissed the maegi. When she was gone, Jon sat down beside her and took her hands. "What is she offering to do?"

She was staring at their joined hands. Each breath she took, her body shuddered with it. "She says there is a spell. It's a dark spell from Asshai and the price is death."

"Did she say whose death?"

"It doesn't matter whose death it is! What would you have me do? Let him rot? I can't!"

Jon let go of their hands and touched her forearms, squeezing her tight. Daenerys lifted her head to look at him. Her eyes were wild and desperate. She was never like this when Viserys died. He supposed she never expected her husband to die so abruptly, while she knew her brother's death was inevitable.

"What if it's yours? Or your child's?" Jon questioned. Daenerys froze beneath his hands. "You are not thinking clearly. This woman's temple was burned by your husband and his men, the same men who raped her. Why would she save his child?"

He shifted closer to her, hesitating. "If she uses this bloodmagic, your husband will not be the same man you remember. None of his bloodriders will follow a man brought back to life by black magic. It is best you let him die the way he was."

She stared at him for a long time. When she made to move her arms, Jon let go of her. Daenerys touched the swell of her belly. "I saved her life, Jon," Daenerys reminded him. He watched her warily. Would she truly risk her child's life for Khal Drogo's?

"You need fresh air," Jon decided, standing. Fresh air would clear her head. It would make her see. When she didn't stand, he bent down to help her. "Daenerys, please…"

"I think the baby is coming," Daenerys said slowly.

Jon's eyes widened. This was unexpected. Wasn't it early? Jon wouldn't know. Her belly was so big he was often surprised the baby hadn't popped out already. "I—I'll get the birthing woman," he stammered.

Daenerys's handmaidens joined the birthing woman as she headed inside the tent. Mormont grabbed his arm. "Drogo's bloodriders are going to kill the child," he murmured.

"Why would they do that?" Jon asked, turning to the exiled knight.

"Drogo is as good as dead, and the Dothraki will not follow a suckling babe. Drogo's strength was what they bowed to, and only that. With him gone, Jhaqo and Pono and the other kos will fight for his place, and this khalasar will devour itself. The winner will want no more rivals. The boy will be taken from Daenerys's breast the moment he is born. They will give him to the dogs."

Because he is the stallion who mounts the world, realized Jon. When he said so, Mormont grunted in agreement.

"We must protect—" Mormont suddenly drew his sword. Jon followed suit when he saw Qotho drawing his own arakh and heading for the tent. Quaro tried to stop him, but was killed almost instantly by Qotho's arakh. Jon unsheathed his greatsword and prepared to attack Qotho, but the burly knight stopped him. He gestured to the other bloodriders, and Jon nodded.

"Rakharo, Jhogo," Jon called, in Dothraki. "Leave one for me."

Jon was left with Cohollo, the oldest of the bloodriders, a squat old man with a crooked nose and a mouth full of broken teeth. He spat something at Jon in Dothraki, but he caught the words "sunset boy." Jon raised his two-handed sword, fending off the Cohollo's slashes. Cohollo screamed in frustration when he didn't land a grievous cut on Jon. Sidestepping him, Jon raised his blade and landed a blow to the old man's shoulder, burying his sword so deep blood sprayed everywhere.

Cohollo shrieked with pain and Jon had to use all the strength he could muster to pull the blade out. Some of his blood had splashed on Jon, dots of it on his face and the rest oozing down from the blade down to his hands and sleeves. Jon decided to end the man's life by lifting his sword high and swinging it down over his neck, watching in mild disgust as his head rolled not too far from his body.

My first kill, thought Jon, shaking. He killed a man. He ended a man's life.

"Snow," rasped Jhogo. He clasped Jon's shoulder, shaking him. "Are you hurt?"

"No," Jon forced himself to say. He couldn't lose himself like this. This wouldn't be the last man he'd kill. There would be more and Jon could not falter like this. "I'm fine. Are you hurt?"

Jhogo shook his head. His expression was concerned as he looked back at Daenerys's tent. Jon followed his gaze. They could only wait now.

 


 

Giving birth was not what Daenerys expected.

It felt as if her body was getting mauled and shredded to pieces. She could not understand how women had multiple children if it felt like this. Irri was holding her hand, while Jhiqui pushing her hair away from her sweaty forehead. Doreah fanned her, murmuring soothing words that did not quell her screaming.

Dany's head collapsed against the pillows, her scream quieting into whimpers. Her vision would fade until Irri shook her awake. She needed to stay awake. Dany couldn't pass out without seeing her son's face.

"One more push," instructed the birthing woman.

She wailed as she pushed, sagging into the furs as she released her child. Dany was too weak to sit up, but motioned feebly for her son. Rhaego was passed down to her and into her arms. He was crying, but it was quiet compared to her screams. Dany laughed, bringing him closer to her breast. He had silver tufts of hair and his skin had yet to match his father's copper skin.

Beside her, Drogo stirred. He was dying, Dany had accepted. Jon's words had struck her harder than any blow Viserys had given her. At least Drogo could see his son once before he joined the night lands. Slowly, her strength weakened. Dany saw Mirri Maz Duur watching her. Before she could question why she was there, sleep took her.

In her dreams, Dany walked down a long hall beneath high stone arches. She could not look behind her. There was a door ahead of her. Even from a distance, she could see it was painted red. Dany was no longer in the hall, but lying in the grass of the Dothraki sea. Drogo held her in his arms, more alive than she last remembered.

"Drogo," she whispered as he entered her, but the sweetness of his seed was suddenly bitter as the world took flame.

Ser Jorah was before her, almost a ghost. "Rhaegar was the last dragon," he told her. He disappeared and Viserys replaced him. He looked as grave as the last night she spoke to him in Vaes Dothrak.

"I was supposed to protect you," he said, so different than she had ever seen him. It was unsettling. He smirked, even as the molten gold trickled down his face like wax, burning deep channels in his flesh. "Dragons do not beg, sweet sister. You do not command the dragon. Remember that."

The red door was so far ahead of her. The air was freezing behind, sweeping up on her. If it caught her she would die howling alone in the darkness. She began to run.

Her son was tall and proud, with Drogo's copper skin and her own silver-gold hair, violet eyes shaped like almonds. He smiled for her and began to lift his hand toward hers, but when he opened his mouth the fire poured out. She saw his heart burning through his chest, and in an instant he was gone. She wept for her child, but her tears turned to steam as they touched her skin.

There was a battle. Dany watched as a man in black armor slaughtered everyone around him. He was as ruthless as her sun-and-stars. When every man was dead, the victor lifted his helm. It was her brother Rhaegar. It must have been. His platinum hair reached his shoulders, stirring gently in the wind. His scowl vanished when he saw her. "Mother," he said with a smile, and she felt as if she was falling.

The red door loomed before her. It was so close. The hall was a blur around her, the cold receding behind. She could smell home, she could see it, just beyond that door, green fields and great stone houses and arms to keep her warm. She threw open the door.

She saw the same man mounted on a black stallion. Was it Rhaegar, or another son? Fire glimmered red through the narrow eye slit of his helm. "The last dragon," Ser Jorah's voice whispered faintly. "The last, the last." Dany lifted his polished black visor. The face within was her own.

After a time, she woke again. The tent was dark, its silken walls flapping when the wind gusted outside. Drogo was not beside her. Dany rolled onto her side and got an elbow under her, fighting the blanket tangled about her legs. She felt dizzy just trying to move her legs.

"Khaleesi?" Jhiqui stopped her from moving further.

"I want..." Her voice was raw from screaming. She wanted water. She wanted Rhaego.

"Yes, Khaleesi." Jhiqui left quickly, bolting from the tent. She heard shouting, but Dany couldn't focus on that.

They found her on the carpet, crawling toward her dragon's eggs. Ser Jorah Mormont lifted her in his arms and carried her back to her sleeping silks, ignoring how she struggled feebly against him. Over his shoulder she saw her three handmaids, Jhogo, and Jon Snow. He looked as if he hadn't slept for days.

"Sleep, Princess," Ser Jorah said.

"I want… water." It was agony to speak. Her handmaids brought her water, and though it was warm and flat, she drank it eagerly, and sent Jhiqui for more. Irri dampened a soft cloth and stroked her brow. "Where's my son?"

Everyone faltered and glanced at one another. Dany wanted to know what was going on, but her lashes were growing heavy. She remembered her dream and asked for her dragon's egg.

When she woke again, golden sunlight poured through the smoke hole of tent, and her arms were wrapped around a dragon's egg. It was the pale one, its scales the color of butter cream, with swirls of gold and bronze. She could feel the heat of it, and as her fingers trailed lightly across the surface of the shell, deep inside it she felt something twist and stretch in response.

It did not frighten her.

She made herself sit. There was a moment of dizziness, and a deep ache between her thighs, yet she felt strong. Her maids came running at the sound of her voice. "Water," she told them, "a flagon of water, cold as you can find it. And fruit, I think. Dates."

"As you say, Khaleesi."

"I want Ser Jorah," she said, standing. Jhiqui brought a sandsilk robe and draped it over her shoulders. "And a warm bath, and Mirri Maz Duur, and…" Memory came back to her all at once, and she faltered. "Where's Khal Drogo?"

"In his funeral pyre," Irri answered quietly. "We wanted you awake when we lit it."

Dany nodded, silent in her gratitude. She glanced around. Where was her son? He should have been inside the tent. When she asked, Irri rushed away to fetch water and Doreah fled to retrieve Ser Jorah. Jhiqui would have ran as well, but Dany caught her wrist.

"What happened to him?" Dany demanded.

"The maegi… she killed him, Khaleesi." Jhiqui lowered her eyes and tears slid down her cheeks.

She released her wrist. Her son was dead? How? How could he be dead? He was alive when she birthed him. Had she known? She remembered Mirri Maz Duur inside the tent before she passed out. Her dream came back to her, sudden and vivid. Rhaego had burst into flame.

If she could cry, she would. Dany wept all her tears and grief in her dream, yet she could only scream in frustration. What kind of mother did not shed tears for the death of her child? Her handmaids rushed inside the tent when they heard her screaming. Dany did not stop screaming until her lungs gave out. When she reclaimed her breath, Dany stood and went over to the chest that held her other dragon's eggs. It seemed to her that they felt as hot as the one she had slept with.

"Khaleesi?" prompted another voice. Dany looked over her shoulder to see Ser Jorah. He looked half a corpse.

"Ser Jorah, come here," she said. She took his hand and placed it on the black egg with the scarlet swirls. "What do you feel?"

"Shell, hard as rock." The knight was wary. "Scales."

"Heat?"

"No. Cold stone." He took his hand away. "Princess, are you well? Should you be up, weak as you are?"

"How did Mirri Maz Duur kill my child?" Dany asked, ignoring his concerns.

"Bloodmagic, I believe. Aggo says he heard her singing a queer song and even saw shadows dancing."

"How long did he live?"

He turned his face away. His eyes were haunted. "Three days."

Three days her child lived. Three days he lived and she hadn't even been awake to enjoy him. "Where is the maegi?"

"Tied up. I would have killed her if Snow hadn't stopped me. He thinks you should decide her punishment."

Jon, she thought. He had known. He knew of Mirri Maz Duur's intents, and Dany had wanted her to bring her husband back. What kind of monster her sun-and-stars would have become if she allowed Mirri Maz Duur to perform her spell? Her chest tightened. Jon had begged her not do it and she would have if she hadn't been ready to give birth then.

"Take me to her," Dany commanded.

"Time enough for this later, my princess," he said quietly.

"I would see him now, Ser Jorah."

Dany was weaker than she knew. Ser Jorah slipped an arm around her and helped her out of the tent. After the dimness of the tent, the world outside was blinding bright. Her handmaids waited with fruit and wine and water. Jon Snow stood from where he sat. His hair was messier, and his skin had paled considerably.

She would thank him. In what way, she did not know, but she would.

He moved close to help Ser Jorah support her. Jhogo, Aggo, and Rakharo stood behind. The glare of sun on sand made it hard to see more, until Dany raised her hand to shade her eyes. A count might show a hundred people, no more. Where the other forty thousand had made their camp, only the wind and dust lived now.

"Drogo's khalasar is gone," she said.

"The Dothraki follow only the strong," Ser Jorah said. "I am sorry, my princess. There was no way to hold them."

"The old remain," said Aggo. "The frightened, the weak, and the sick. And we who swore. We remain."

"They took Khal Drogo's herds, Khaleesi," Rakharo said. "We were too few to stop them. It is the right of the strong to take from the weak. They took many slaves as well, the khal's and yours, yet they left some few."

Mirri Maz Duur was bounded beneath the sweltering blaze of the sun. Dany gestured at Ser Jorah and the others. "Leave us. I would speak with this maegi alone." Mormont and the Dothraki withdrew. "You killed my son. Why?"

"It was wrong of them to burn my temple," the heavy, flat-nosed woman said placidly. "That angered the Great Shepherd."

"This was no god's work," Dany said coldly. If I look back I am lost. "You murdered my child."

"The stallion who mounts the world will burn no cities now. His khalasar shall trample no nations into dust."

"I spoke for you," she said, anguished. "I saved you."

"Saved me?" The Lhazareen woman spat. "Three riders had taken me, not as a man takes a woman but from behind, as a dog takes a bitch. The fourth was in me when you rode past. How then did you save me? I saw my god's house burn, where I had healed good men beyond counting. I heard children crying as the riders drove them off with their whips. Tell me again what you saved."

"Your life."

Mirri Maz Duur laughed cruelly. A word, and Dany could have her head off, but then what would she have? A head? If life was worthless, what was death?

Dany left her there and returned to where Ser Jorah and the others stood. She took Jon's wrist and led him back to her tent. He wrapped his arm around her to keep her from tumbling into the bare red earth. When they entered her tent, she reclined on a pile of cushions.

"Sit with me," Dany said. When he joined her on the cushions, she took in his features. His eyes had aged a thousand years. She wondered if her eyes looked the same, or if hers were just full of grief. "You haven't slept."

"I wanted to be awake when you woke," Jon admitted. When he said such things, it made her heart race.

She studied him before asking, "Why didn't you let Ser Jorah take the maegi's life?"

"My family holds to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword," Jon explained, his voice heavy. "My father told me that if you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die."

His words slowly sunk in. It only served further to doubt everything Viserys told her of the Seven Kingdoms. Lord Stark sounded too noble to join a rebellion without reason.

"Do other Houses follow that belief?" Dany inquired.

"I don't believe so. Robert Baratheon has an executioner."

She leaned over and kissed Jon's cheek. When she pulled away, his face was puzzled. "I give you my thanks. I am fortunate to have you by my side," she told him.

Daenerys knew what she had to do.

Chapter Text

13.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" asked Doreah, lying next to him on the hard ground. Her head rested on his shoulder, though Jon doubted it was comfortable from how thin he was becoming. She had taken to sleeping beside him and babbled on about stories she remembered from her time in Lys.

Jon said nothing, half listening to whatever she was saying. His eyes were following the comet. The Dothraki named the it shierak qiya, the Bleeding Star. The old men muttered that it was an ill omen, and Jon half believed them.

He had seen it the night Daenerys lit her husband's funeral pyre and burned Mirri Mazz Duur alive. Low in the east, it was burning red like a sword fresh from the forge. Jon did not think much of it. He cared little for prophecies, but Daenerys believed it was the herald of her coming. Why else would it bleed through the sky on the night she birthed dragons?

For the first time in hundreds of years, dragons were alive. It was unbelievable. Even now, as they traveled through the red lands, he could scarcely believe it. Jon expected to wake from a dream any time now, but had yet to see them disappear.

The dragons were no larger than scrawny cats until they unfolded their wings. Their wings were delicate, stretched tight between thin bones. They were fragile now, but they would grow bigger and stronger. Daenerys named the green one Rhaegal, for her brother slain on the Trident. The cream-and-gold was called Viserion, simply for her fallen brother. The last one, the black, was Drogon.

As her dragons prospered, the khalasar waned. They withered with each passing day. Everyone hungered and thirsted as their food diminished. Jon feared they were going to die, but where else could they go? Returning to the Dothraki sea was suicide. He was concerned, but Jon refused to die in the red waste. He was to become the Sword of the Morning and dying was unacceptable.

When it was silent, Jon wondered if Doreah had fallen asleep. He touched her shoulder and was startled at how hot her skin felt. Gently, he pulled her closer into his arms as he sat up. She wasn't sweating anymore, but her skin was hotter than a brazier. He searched for a pulse and was relieved to find one, but that did not quell his worries. Placing her tenderly on the ground, Jon stood and searched for a healer. The healer could not do much, not when their supplies ran thin and there was nowhere to find any.

The next morning, Doreah looked worse.

"Doreah, will you not get on your horse?" asked Jhiqui, as she mounted her own.

There were not many horses left in the khalasar, but Daenerys made sure she, her kos, and handmaidens each had one. Jon did not mind walking. He walked alongside Ghost, his ever silent direwolf. Like Daenerys, Jon made certain his wolf had food and water. He could not part with Ghost. The mere idea of it was worse than dying in the red waste.

Doreah moved towards her mount. She could barely lift her arms. Jon went over to Doreah and lifted her up. She tried to move her legs astride the saddle, but she collapsed against Jon. He wrapped his arms around her, stumbling as she put all her weight on him.

"What happened?" Daenerys asked, dismounting. Most of her hair had burned away in the flames and the rest barely reached her chin.

"She cannot ride," explained Jon. He could feel the heat of her body through his clothes. If only they had a maester.

"We have to leave her, Khaleesi," said Jhogo, frowning at Doreah.

"We can bind her," suggested Mormont. The knight's face was exhausted and grimaced often from the wound he had taken to his hip on the night they fought Khal Drogo's bloodriders.

"No. We won't leave until she's well again," Daenerys decided, staring at Doreah. "Irri, get my skin and a cloth. Jon, set her down."

He and Irri did as they were told. Daenerys sat on the hot ground and accepted Doreah into her arms. Jon sat down near them and took Doreah's hand.

"Khaleesi…" whispered Doreah. Her breathing was shallow. "I'm sorry… I…"

"Don't speak," murmured Daenerys. She dampened the cloth and placed it on Doreah's forehead. "Rest."

It felt like Jon was intruding on a private moment. He liked Doreah, but their relationship was nothing compared to hers with Daenerys. She was trying to be strong for her handmaiden, but there was pain in Daenerys's eyes. Her hand trembled as she cooled Doreah's brow. So, Jon remained and held Doreah's hand.

"I never…" Doreah paused, shivering violently. When her tremors passed, she smiled wanly at Jon. "I never made a man out of you, sunset boy."

"You're thinking about that?" Jon asked, smiling in disbelief. He squeezed her hand. "It's okay. Another time?"

"Yes, another time," she breathed.

Silence followed, and the only sounds heard were Doreah's uneven breaths. Jon closed his eyes and prayed to the old gods to help her. It was when her fingers grew limp in his did he open his eyes. He only had to see the tears in Daenerys's eyes to know that Doreah was dead. She cradled Doreah close to her and pressed her forehead against her fallen handmaiden's.

When she finally pulled away, Daenerys looked up at Jon. She reached over and touched his hand, the one that still held Doreah's. Tears blurred his vision, and Jon blinked his eyes repeatedly. He met Daenerys's stare and gave a brief nod.

"We press on," Daenerys declared, standing.

Jon cast one last look at Doreah and followed.

Chapter Text

14.

Just when Dany lost all hope, they find a city.

Her outriders assured her it would take no more than an hour to reach it. Dany wanted to believe there was an actual city. It would finally put an end to this hellish road she and her people were traveling. They lost too many of their own.

She glanced around, hoping everyone could make it long enough to reach this city. Ser Jorah's face was grey with exhaustion, but kept up. Her handmaidens and bloodriders looked the same way. When her eyes went to Jon, her eyes widened in concern. He walked so slow he was falling behind everyone else. Without a second thought, Dany turned her silver around and trotted over to him.

"Can you make it?" she asked, but the answer was plain on his face. He was pale and could hardly keep his eyes open. "Jon, take my hand."

"I can make it," Jon insisted, his voice hoarse.

"I won't lose anyone else in this desert. Now take my hand."

Clasping her hand, Jon hoisted himself up and joined her on the saddle. Dany ignored the weight of his body behind her and focused on reaching the city. When the city came before them, its walls and towers shimmering white behind a veil of heat, it looked so beautiful that Dany feared it was a mirage.

"Do you know what place this might be?" she asked Ser Jorah.

"No, my queen. I have never traveled this far east," he answered, shaking his head.

As much as Dany wanted to enter the heavenly city and rest, she needed to make certain this place was safe. Turning to her bloodriders, Dany said, "Blood of my blood, go ahead of us and learn the name of this city, and what manner of welcome we should expect."

She nearly jumped when Jon pressed closer to her, his weight on her back almost encompassing. Dany glanced over her shoulder, wondering what he was doing. Oh no, she thought. She shook his arm, but he made no sound. At least he was breathing. Ignoring her quickening heartbeat, Dany secured his arms around her waist to keep him from falling over.

Her riders returned far quicker than she expected. "This city is dead, Khaleesi. Nameless and godless we found it, the gates broken, only wind and flies moving through the streets," Rakharo reported.

Jhiqui shuddered. "When the gods are gone, the evil ghosts feast by night. Such places are best shunned. It is known."

"It is known," Irri agreed.

"Not to me." Dany led her khalasar towards the city, trotting her horse beneath the shattered arch of an ancient gate and down a silent street. Dany could scarcely look around the crumbling city when Jon could be dying. First Drogo and Rhaego, then Doreah. She couldn't lose Jon too.

They made camp before the remnants of a gutted palace, on a windswept plaza where grass grew between the paving stones. Sitting in the shade, Dany had Jon rest on his back with his head on her lap. He hadn't woken up when Rakharo and Aggo were moving him. That concerned her, but she needed to focus on the others. Dany sent out men to search the ruins. One scarred old man returned quickly, grinning and hands overflowing with figs. They were small and withered, yet everyone grabbed for them. She was relieved there was a prospect of food here, but what she wanted was water for Jon. Thankfully, Jhogo discovered a well where the water was pure and cold.

Yet when they mentioned bones and skulls of the unburied dead, Irri couldn't hide her wariness. "Ghosts," she muttered. "Terrible ghosts. We must not stay here, Khaleesi. This is their place."

"The only ghost here is Jon's direwolf. That and my dragons are more powerful than ghosts." And figs are more important. "Go with Jhiqui and find some clean sand for a bath."

Ghost sat near Dany and Jon, watching everyone bustle around with his red eyes. Even when he was a pup, the wolf still unsettled everyone. Now they seemed to prefer him to her dragons. Tentatively, Dany reached to pet the hair between Ghost's ears. He glanced at her, but didn't snarl or bite her hand off. She took that as a sign that he might like her.

When Dany noticed Irri and Jhiqui heading to her tent with pots of white sand, she gingerly moved Jon to lean against the shaded wall. She pressed two fingers to his throat, feeling for a pulse. Despite her relief to find one, Dany hesitated to leave him alone. She looked at Ghost. He'll be fine, she told herself and went inside her tent. Across the tent, Rhaegal unfolded green wings to flap and flutter half a foot before thumping to the carpet. When he landed, he lashed his tail and raised his head to scream in fury.

If I had wings, I would want to fly too, Dany thought. She couldn't wait to ride upon dragonback, though that could take some time before her dragons were big enough.

"Ser Jorah awaits your pleasure," Irri told her, interrupting her daydreaming.

"Send him in," Dany commanded, wrapping herself in the lionskin Drogo gifted her. It was enormous enough to hide her nakedness.

"I've brought you a peach." Ser Jorah knelt to hand her the fruit. It was small enough that she could hide it in her palm, and overripe as well. When she took her first bite, however, the burst of sweetness on her tongue almost brought tears to her eyes. She savored every mouthful while listening to him recount where he found the fruit.

"Fruit and water and shade," Dany said, licking the stickiness from her lips. "The gods were good to bring us this place."

"We should rest here until we are stronger," the knight suggested. "The red lands are not kind to the weak."

"My handmaids say there are ghosts here."

"There are ghosts everywhere," Ser Jorah said quietly. "We carry them with us wherever we go."

Yes, she thought. Viserys, Khal Drogo, Rhaego. She wished things had gone differently with all of them. "Tell me the name of your ghost, Jorah. You know all of mine."

He hesitated. "Her name was Lynesse."

"Your wife?"

"My second wife."

It hurts him to speak of her, Dany thought, but she was curious and didn't know much about his life. "Is that all you would say of her?" The lion pelt slid off one shoulder, and she tugged it back into place. "Was she beautiful?"

"Very beautiful." His eyes lingered on her shoulder, but he returned his gaze to her face as he told her of how he met and wedded Lynesse Hightower. He wore her favor in a tourney held outside of Lannisport and won the champion's laurel. Ser Jorah then crowned Lynesse queen of love and beauty and asked for her hand in marriage the same night, yet they were only happy for a fortnight. Lynesse was unhappy on Bear Island and Ser Jorah did everything he could to make her smile, even things that shamed him to speak of.

"In the end it cost me all. When I heard that Eddard Stark was coming to Bear Island, I was so lost to honor that rather than stay and face his judgement, I took her with me into exile. Noting mattered but our love, I told myself. We fled to Lys, where I sold my ship for gold to keep us."

Grief etched his voice, and Dany cursed herself for her curiosity. "Did she die there?" she asked gently.

"Only to me," he said, then explained to her that Lynesse had moved into the manse of a merchant prince named Tregar Ormollen to become his chief concubine.

Dany's jaw slackened, shocked. "Do you hate her?"

"Almost as much as I love her," Ser Jorah answered. He sighed and stood. "Pray excuse me, my queen. I find I am very tired."

"What did she look like, your Lady Lynesse?" Dany couldn't help but ask.

Ser Jorah smiled. "Why, she looked a bit like you, Daenerys." He bowed low. "Sleep well, my queen."

His words echoed in her head. She looked like me. Did that mean…? No. He couldn't have loved her as he loved Lynesse. He was her knight and she was his queen. Thoughts of kissing him came unbidden. It felt wrong. When Dany closed her eyes, his face changed to Drogo's. He was the only man she'd ever been with, and perhaps the last. If there was any man, he'd have to be closer to her age, dark of hair and eye. He could not control her.

No man would ever do so again.

 


 

"Jon…"

His back was pressed against a cool wall, not the warm desert ground. Someone was shaking him. Not roughly, but enough to stir him out of his sleep.

"Jon," someone said again.

Jon opened his eyes, blinking them repeatedly for his vision to clear. When it finally did, he was staring into the eyes of a beautiful girl. Compared to the other girls he'd seen, she was the sun. She was the stars, she was—

"Daenerys," he realized, sitting up straighter. The sudden movement made his head spin.

"I brought you water." Daenerys put the rim of the cup to his lips, tilting it so he'd drink. Water never tasted so good in his life. Thank the old gods, he thought, swallowing until there was none left.

"Thank you," Jon said, grateful.

"I was worried. You passed out on the way here," she said, moving to sit beside him.

"Here?" he repeated.

Daenerys gestured around them. "The gods were good. They led us to this city. We've found food and water and shade."

Jon looked around. The city was deserted from the looks of it, with crumbling white walls and rubble where houses had fallen in. Camp was made near the remains of a palace. He doubted there was a godswood, but if there was one, he would have prayed his thanks before it immediately.

"I did not mean to sleep for so long," Jon apologized, turning back to her. "I should have helped made camp."

"You were passed out. Walking instead of riding a horse and that coupled with not drinking water…" Daenerys shook her head. "You could have died, Jon."

"I passed out?"

"Not long after you sat on my horse."

He smiled a little. "I did not mean to worry you, Your Grace."

She called for Jhiqui who was passing by. "You are my friend, Jon. Of course I worry."

"What have I missed?" Jon questioned, accepting a fig from Jhiqui. Daenerys explained that she sent her bloodriders in search of other cities. Rakharo went south, Aggo southwest, and Jhogo the comet on southeast. "I should have gone with them."

Daenerys tilted her head at him. "And pass out again in the red waste? No. The gods gifted us with this city to rest and that is what we shall do."

"As the queen commands." Jon smiled around his fig, then laughed when Daenerys nudged him playfully. She was right. They survived the red waste. Might as well enjoy the peace they found.