From her vantage point astride Drogon. Daenerys can see the Red Keep rising in the distance, a fortress made of crimson bricks and spiked towers. Hatred rises within her as she gazes upon it, perched tantalizingly just within reach of a few flaps of her dragon's wings. A cruel, blood-red symbol of everything that the Lannisters - that Westeros - have taken from her and her family.
The loud clanging of bells begin to ring out through King's Landing, interrupting her reverie. Beginning from one single, solitary bell tower, but soon picked up by the rest of the sentries throughout the city.
The bells have been rung. Cersei has surrendered.
Distantly, beneath the ringing of the bells, Daenerys can hear the cries of the people scattering, running as fast as they can away from Drogon and from her armies. “The bells! The bells are ringing!” they cry out, high thin voices mingling with screams and groans from the injured and the dying, wails of despair as they realize that the battle has been decisively lost and they are now completely at her mercy. “Help! Spare us! Spare us!”
The urge to destroy, to wreck everything with fire and ruin, rises suddenly within her, bloody and hot.
Traitors, all of them, she thinks. Traitors! Some of them are even screaming for their false queen Cersei to save them. They deserve nothing from her but fire and blood.
Daenerys shakes herself out of these dark thoughts. No, she reminds herself. Not like this. She isn't going to become the queen of the ashes.
With a squeeze of her thighs, she urges Drogon to flight, making a beeline for the Red Keep. Rubble scatters as she ascends towards the soot-stained skies, bricks and tiles falling off the roofing as they are carelessly scraped away by the dragon’s talon.
Screams rise from the ground, where a few unlucky civilians have failed to duck out of the way in time to avoid the falling rocks.
Fixated on the Red Keep, Daenerys doesn’t look down.
Almost from the beginning, everything starts to go wrong.
Daenerys sits on the Iron Throne, cold and sharp beneath her soft pale thighs, as she listens to the steady stream of bad news from her soldiers and councillors.
Cersei's body can’t be recovered from beneath the rubble of the Red Keep. On her orders, her Unsullied have combed through every inch of ash and rubble, but the Lannister Queen somehow seems to have vanished into thin air. The knowledge that Cersei has managed to slip free, to escape the justice that she so rightfully deserves, fills Daenerys with blindingly hot rage.
This is all Tyrion's fault - her own Hand, who has betrayed her for his worthless, traitorous snake of a sister.
Tyrion is locked away safely in a cage in the Red Keep’s courtyard - the dungeons of have been completely destroyed - as she decides what to do with him. She thinks that she wants to draw it out, to make it hurt. A quick death by Drogon is too good for him.
She has had enough of the relentless stream of bad news from her advisors. Abruptly, Daenerys stands up from the throne.
“Come,” she says to Grey Worm, the last remaining person alive that she still has complete faith in. She inclines her head towards Jon Snow as well, almost as an afterthought. “Let’s go for a walk.”
There is discontent among the smallfolk in King’s Landing as she walks along the streets, suspicious and hateful gazes so different from the adulation she had received in Essos. She knows that they resent her for the lives and homes lost in the siege.
Daenerys’ blood burns hotter in her veins with each step she takes through the streets past the unfriendly, hostile crowds. It’s nothing like the welcome she had received in each city she had liberated back in Essos. Here, people glare at her as if she is the usurper, and not the rightful queen here to reclaim her throne. Most of the people just stare back at her in stony, hostile silence, although she can occasionally hear mutters rise from behind her back, from people who (mistakenly) believe that she’s already out of earshot.
Fury and paranoia grows in the back of her mind with each step that she takes.
She still has the throne, Daenerys reassures herself, the throne, her dragon and her armies with which to break the wheel.
But it is only an illusory comfort. The Unsullied are already starting to talk about sailing to Naath, now that their Queen has secured the Iron Throne. Daenerys wants to persuade them to stay, but she knows that even the most resolute of them, Grey Worm, longs for peace and rest after a lifetime of war. The Unsullied are free men, and Daenerys won't order them to continue to stay and fight in a distant land, in a war they never asked for. It goes against the very core of her beliefs. Still, it's only a matter of time until Grey Worm properly broaches the subject with her and asks for his people to be released. She won't have her Unsullied by her side for much longer.
And the Dothraki – the Dothraki are another problem all on its own. They have no strong desire to return to the Great Grass Sea, but that's the main source of her troubles. Hunting is good in King's Landing. They conduct daily raids on the civilians, and each Dothraki raid results in pillaged homes, raped women and orphaned children screaming for their murdered parents.
Daenerys' attempts to speak to her bloodriders to get them to show more restraint are met with stares of blank incomprehension. Had their Khaleesi not promised them a feast on the fats of this land?
It is only the third day of her short reign when the revolution begins.
It is only the third day of her short reign when the revolution begins.
The runner who has brought the bad news cowers, trembling, before Daenerys, no doubt fearing her wrath.
Daenerys stands stock-still, the impact of the revelations still sinking into her mind.
A small group of civilians attempted to set the Dothraki camps on fire last night. The fire was eventually put out and the perpetrators arrested, but not before over a hundred Dothraki were killed, including two of her own personal bloodriders, Aggo and Kovarro. Blood of her blood, who had fought for her for years, bled for her, starved with her in the Red Waste.
Rage roars to life within her breast. Unconsciously, she clenches her hands tightly into fists, so hard that stabs of pain radiate out from her palms, up the wrists.
These - these traitors, these murderers, these ingrates, will pay for their crimes in fire and blood.
When she speaks, her voice is so raw with pain that she can barely recognise it as her own. "Bring them to Baelor's Sept immediately," she says. With an effort, she just manages to keep her voice from cracking. "Bind them to stakes. I will show this soft, rotten city the wrath of the dragon!" Her voice rises to a ringing shout and cracks on the last word.
Her last surviving advisors, Jon Snow and Grey Worm, exchange glances with each other. Grey Worm is much more practised at keeping his facial expression implacable, but Jon Snow has had less reason to learn such restraint.
“My Queen,” Jon says, his brow creasing into a frown, then pauses for a moment and swallows. Daenerys immediately knows that she isn’t going to like whatever he’ll say next, and that Jon knows she knows that, but is still going to say it anyway. Regardless of what his Queen wants. Contempt rises abruptly within her, but she bites her tongue - they are still in open court, and arguing with her own consort with all these eyes on her would not be wise, not when her position was so precarious. She swallows her contempt, and it scalds her tongue like bitter tea going down
Jon Snow continues, “The Dothraki have been raping and pillaging in King's Landing ever since they arrived. When my men march through the streets, they see smallfolk, women and children - little children, infants even - torn to bloody shreds. The survivors remain on their knees, wailing for mercy. For justice. What the arsonists have done is - is regrettable, yes, but if you knew how much the smallfolk in King's Landing have suffered under the Dothraki raids -"
"Regrettable?" Daenerys spits out, seizing on that one word and shoving aside that uncomfortable twinge of conscience. Besides, she hasn't forgotten that the last time she had tried to save the Lamb Men from the Dothraki horde, she had lost her sun and stars, stolen from her by yet another ungrateful, murderous traitor. She will not make the same mistake again. She has - she now has so few people left to lose.
"They killed the blood of my blood. They have to pay. They have to burn."
Daenerys sets out for Baelor's Sept within the hour, surrounded on all sides by a platoon of her most elite Unsullied guards.
Jon Snow's mouth is set in a grim line as he follows her, two steps behind and on her right. She thinks she can feel the oppressive weight of his judgmental gaze pressing down on her. It makes her skin prickle and her hackles rise, but she keeps her face studiedly neutral. There's no sense in letting the public see the cracks in their relationship, not when her grasp on the throne is still so frail.
She will deal with Jon Snow later.
Her guard contingent suddenly stops in their tracks. Daenerys blinks.
Grey Worm says, "My Queen, this way, please."
Daenerys frowns. He is gesturing at a small lane forking out towards the right, away from the main street. A detour?
"Why? Are we not on the shortest route?" Daenerys asks.
"There are angry crowds massing along the main street," Grey Worm replies. "A riot may break out. This path is not safe."
Now that he has mentioned it, Daenerys can hear, dimly, in the distance, the rising din of angry shouting. The voices are still too distant for her to make out their exact words, but she already knows what they're screaming.
The last one rankles the most. Daenerys grits her teeth and clenches her hands into fists, trying so very hard not to let her rage boil over. In the skies, Drogon spins overhead, his wings flapping with just a bit more agitation than usual. She knows that on some level, he can sense his mother's emotions.
With just one word, she can…
Daenerys stamps her foot once and then spins about on her heel, stalking off towards the side path, away from the rioting crowd.
The ringleaders of the arson attack have been bound to stakes set up on a raised dais before the rebuilt Baelor’s Sept. A gang of five, men and women alike - boys and girls, really. Four boys, and one girl. The oldest among them can’t be more than eighteen; the youngest, perhaps fourteen. Their faces are soft and unlined by age, and through their soot-stained faces, their bright eyes glare at her like gleaming gems among the ash. Callow youths, too young and rebellious to have learnt the prudence of keeping their heads down.
Daenerys does not know their names. She doesn’t care to ask.
As she walks up towards the stakes with her head held high and her mouth pursed, the crowd roils with discontent beneath her. People glare and mutter under their breath, but under the watchful eyes of the Unsullied, no one really dares to attempt outright rebellion - especially not when Drogon swoops down from the skies.
There are a few scattered cries of terror, and some people try to run out of his way, but the crowd is too tightly packed, and there isn't sufficient space for such movement. All they can manage is some sideways shuffling, which dies down when Drogon does nothing more threatening than perch on the roof of a nearby building, folding his wings back and tucking them in close to his hind legs.
Even while under the shadow of approaching death, not one of the ringleaders look at all remorseful. The looks of defiance on their faces hardens her heart.
Daenerys takes a deep breath and begins her speech without preamble, her voice ringing out loud above the mutterings of the crowd. This is an execution, not a trial, and there is no need to drag matters out any further. She recites the same words she had said before executing Varys. (Varys… another traitor .)
“I, Daenerys of House Targaryen, the first of my name, breaker of chains and mother of dragons, sentence you to die."
From his position at the very edge of the raised platform, Jon Snow steps forward and opens his mouth, but Daenerys is faster. The order leaves her lips first before Jon can say anything, the first command that she has ever taught her children.
With a roar, a great gout of flame issues forth from Drogon’s mouth. He sweeps his head left to right, and one by one, the stacks of wooden kindling piled at the base of each stake goes up in flames, accompanied by rising screams of horror.
Vicious satisfaction rises within Daenerys as the fires rise. They rise quickly, aided by the generous splashes of accelerant, and within seconds, the pyres are blazing merrily, the crackling of the kindling drowned out by the high-pitched shrieks of the condemned. They scream just like how she imagines her bloodriders, blood of her blood, had screamed when their tents went up in flames.
Blood for blood. Death for death.
A horrified susurration passes through the crowd. Someone yells out, “Mad Queen!”
The words are like a stab to her heart. Daenerys whips her head away from the beautiful sight of the merrily blazing pyres, her ire rising at such defiance, such treachery . How dare they question her justice? How dare they interrupt her vengeance?
Above her, Drogon draws in a deep breath. Then he launches himself off the roof and breathes out. A huge gout of flame spews out of his maw towards the gathered crowd.
Daenerys inhales sharply, her heart stuttering as the first shrieks begin to rise.
She didn’t tell him to do that. She hasn't said Dracarys yet - she hasn't even made the conscious decision to execute that traitor in the crowd, and a good part of her still wants to call out for Drogon to stop as the smallfolk begin to shriek and wail - but Drogon, her darling child, knows what the dragon inside her truly wants.
With a sinking heart, she realizes - no one, no one will ever believe that she hadn’t intended this. Even if she calls Drogon back now - well. It's too late to pull back now.
She'll be the monster they’ve all made her out to be.
It as if a huge shackle has been lifted from around her heart. As pandemonium erupts, the onlookers pushing and shoving each other as the smell of burning flesh fills the air, Daenerys feels a wide smile creeping across her face.
Unbidden, a peal of laughter slips from her lips. Then another, and another, as she gives herself fully to the Targaryen madness. Her blood burns in her veins, sings in her veins as her enemies burn and writhe in the dragon’s inferno.
She has never felt more free.
Daenerys shouts aloud in Dothraki, her voice rising above the screams of the crowd. "Blood of my blood!" she calls out to her remaining bloodriders mounted on horseback. "You kept all your promises to me! You killed my enemies in their iron suits. You tore down their stone houses. You gave me the Seven Kingdoms!"
Then to the Unsullied, in Valyrian, "Unsullied! All of you were torn from your mothers’ arms and raised as slaves. Now you are liberators! You have freed the people of King’s Landing! But the war is not over. We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world! From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea, women, men, and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?"
I’m done with love. Let it be fear, she thinks, as the vicious madness swells within her.
“We will burn them all!” she shouts in the Common Tongue. “The masters who live pretty while the people suffer. And any and all the traitors who support them! We’ll burn the lords and ladies from North to South, shore to shore, from the Riverlands to Stormlands, King's Landing to Winterfell -”
She chokes. Her voice cuts off.
Daenerys blinks down at the Valyrian steel blade protruding from her chest. Dark red lifeblood wells out, staining the fur of her white gown with an ugly deep red. She stares down at it, her vision already starting to swim and go fuzzy at the edges, even as the most awful pain she has ever felt in her life stabs through her heart, so sharp that it takes her breath away.
Slowly, uncomprehendingly, Daenerys raises her trembling fingers to her breast.
Behind her, Jon Snow exhales harshly, his hands clenching steel-tight around the cold black hilt of Longclaw.
Jon exhales harshly, his hands clenching steel-tight around the cold black hilt of Longclaw.
He watches with barely any outward reaction as Daenerys crumpled slowly to the ground. She lifts her head to look up at him from the blade running through her chest, and her violet eyes are wide with horrified betrayal.
Sorry, Jon is about to say. But the truth is that he isn't sorry at all. The minute she had burned these innocent civilians and threatened to do the same to the people of Winterfell, it was as if his hands had reached out of their own accord, reached out to strike her down by any means necessary. A soundless roar of rage, rising in his chest and ringing through his entire being -
Jon remembers the burned-out husk of his home after the sacking by the Ironborn, the heart-wrenching horror he had felt when he had thought that Bran and Rickon had been burned alive.
If Daenerys thinks she's going to put his last remaining family to the flames - Bran and Arya and Sansa, Sansa -
He refuses to finish that thought. He won't even let himself contemplate it.
It cannot be borne.
He will never let that happen.
Still, Jon doesn't want the last words Dany hears from him to be a lie. He owes her that much, at least.
Instead, he crouches down next to Daenerys and looks right into her eyes. She blinks up at him once, twice, and her fingers tremble minutely from where her hand has fallen to her side, as if she is still trying to reach out to him.
But her hand falls still a moment later. She's too weak to move, now.
Jon watches all of this dispassionately. Perhaps he's in shock now, and the guilt and horror of what he has just done will begin to sink in later. But somehow - somehow, he suspects that isn't going to happen. It's as if all the love he had felt for Daenerys has finally burnt itself out, burnt to ashes.
From her execution of Varys, her Dothraki's rape and slaughter of the King's Landing civilians, and now the wanton burning of the smallfolk - her cruelty and ruthlessness has always been obvious. It took the threat to Winterfell for Jon to admit to himself what he has always known, deep down inside, but now, it is as if the scales have finally fallen from his eyes.
Jon exhales slowly as he rises to his feet. Between them, there is nothing left to say.
He isn't even watching as Daenerys takes her final breath.
The ringing silence in his mind is cut through by a earsplitting screech of agony and absolute fury. Too late, Jon remembers -
Jon has nowhere to hide, no place to run. The enraged, fully-grown dragon swoops down from his perch, his shadow blotting out the sunlight. His glowing amber eyes are bright with rage and heartbreak.
The few surviving smallfolk scream and scatter in its wake, but Drogon doesn't even glance in their direction. All his rage is reserved for his mother's killer.
There is nothing Jon can do to defend himself, except -
The second the thought occurs to him, Jon whirls on his heel, and in one swift motion, he withdraws the blade from Daenerys’ broken body. More blood wells out from the mortal wound in her chest, but Jon is already turning away. He brandishes Longclaw in front of him in the familiar defensive stance that Ned Stark had taught him when he was a boy.
But Drogon is now drawing a deep breath, the telltale precursor to his breath of fire. Time seems to slow down as Jon stares death in the face.
What can a sword, even a Valyrian steel sword, do against an angry fire-breathing dragon?
Jon’s heart sinks. But even knowing that he is undoubtedly doomed, he is still determined to fight to the end. He is resolved to die on his feet like a man, not cowering on the ground in the face of the beast.
It won't be a bad death this time, certainly not as bad as his first. At least he’ll die on his feet, fighting, knowing that he has just taken down the greatest threat to the people he loves.
All these thoughts pass through Jon’s mind in the blink of an eye. When time catches up with him again, Drogon is roaring at him, an earth-shaking roar as he comes directly at Jon, jagged fangs extended the beginnings of bright orange fire igniting within his dark maw.
An enormous gout of flame blasts directly at Jon.
An inferno of heat and light, sound and fury, washes over him.
It doesn't even hurt at all.
Astonished, Jon looks down at himself. His singed clothes hang in tatters around his body, soot and flakes of ash staining his pale skin. But to his disbelief, he's still alive. Still standing.
His Targaryen bloodline. That has to be it.
Fire cannot kill a dragon.
Tears prick his eyes. Rhaegar Taegaryen, Lyanna Stark, Ned Stark’s promise - everything that Sam and Bran told him was all true. Jon knew that intellectually, but the very visceral realization that strikes at his heart as he looks down at his unburnt body is quite another thing.
Even as his mind is reeling, Drogon lets out another piercing shriek and backs away from him. Then, with three mighty flaps of his scaly wings, he takes to the skies.
Jon blinks. Has Drogon just - given up?
But to his horror, Drogon turns his attention to the last remaining survivors still remaining near Baelor’s Sept. The ones who were lucky enough to escape his first attack now shriek in agony as Drogon breathes a steady stream of dragonfire towards them, burning them alive on the spot. Not just the civilian smallfolk - the Dothraki and the Unsullied as well. None of them are immune to the dragon’s wrath. In his grief and fury, Drogon is raining down destruction on Daenerys’ enemies and allies alike.
The sound of agonized screaming and the smell of seared flesh permeates the air.
Only Jon remains unscathed.
Horrified, Jon tilts his head and roars as loudly as he can to the skies. “Drogon! Stop! Come here!”
Drogon ignores him.
Jon panics. He can’t command Drogon like Daenerys had. Is it because he is only half-Targaryen? His heart pounds fast in his chest, so hard that it hurts. He needs to find a way to take down Drogon before the dragon burns the entirety of King’s Landing to ashes. King's Landing first, then the rest of Westeros, just like his mother wanted.
The thought sends an icy chill down Jon's spine. At the same time, his eyes settle on Daenerys’ body, motionless and cooling amidst the ashes.
An appalling idea occurs to Jon. A surefire way to keep Drogon's attention on him instead of the other innocent civilians, to lure Drogon in close enough to land a killing blow.
He wavers. It is almost too appalling to contemplate. Can he really bring himself to do something so vile to the woman he once loved?
But then Drogon roars again, accompanied by renewed screams and wails of horror . A child's high-pitched shriek of terror splits the air.
Drogon turns, whirling in the direction of his newfound prey.
Cursing inwardly to himself, Jon steels his nerves as he rushes to Daenerys's side. Tears burn in his eyes as he raises the blood-stained, ash-streaked blade in his hands. He hardens his heart and stabs Longclaw down into Daenerys' chest again. Blood sprays in the air and spatters on the ground, staining the grey-white ashes a deep scarlet.
Drogon whips his long neck around to look in Jon's direction, his prey temporarily forgotten. The child, taking advantage of the temporary reprieve, sobs as he stumbles away in terror.
Yes, Jon thinks savagely. Come to me. Get me instead.
He locks eyes with the dragon as he slashes downwards again with trembling hands. Again. Then again. More warm blood splatters across his dark robes.
But his plan works. Drogon screeches in fury and swoops down from the sky, rampaging directly towards him.
In his rage, he is sloppy and overconfident. Claws extended and teeth bared, all offense and no defense. The strategic part of Jon's mind coldly catalogues all the possible weak spots of the dragon, making special note of Drogon's soft underbelly, unprotected by the hardened scales covering the rest of his body, even as the rest of his mind is reeling in revulsion at what he's doing to Daenerys’ corpse.
Jon clenches his jaw as Drogon swoops down on him, claws extended. He swings Longclaw in a wide arc, striking out. Icy light glints off the Valyrian steel blade.
His arms are strong and his aim is sure. The ancient sword infused with magic from lost Valyrian, wielded by the last remaining Targaryen, slices through the dragon’s forelimbs with practically no resistance, cutting through its wrist joints like a knife through butter.
Drogon recoils, throwing his head back at the skies as he lets out a thunderous roar. Never in his life has the dragon been subjected to such pain.
While Drogon begins to thrash and flail about, thick black blood flowing from his wounds, Jon rams Longclaw directly into the beast’s underbelly, then thrusts it up into his heart.
Drogon roars in pain and fury, an earthshaking howl so loud that it hurts Jon's ears. He can actually feel the reverberations of Drogon's roar travelling up from the chest of the great dragon, up through the blade of his sword, into his wrists.
Boiling hot blood coursed down Jon's hands as the dragon writhes and bellows. He winces, but the blood hurts him no more than the dragonfire did. It merely feels pleasantly warm against his skin, much like warm bathwater.
Ignoring the blood and the gore, Jon holds Longclaw steady in front of him, leaning all his weight into the thrust and twisting the blade in deep.
Drogon's bellow trails off into a death rattle.
There is a heartbeat of silence, and then the dragon collapses.
Jon ducks to the side just in time, narrowly avoiding being crushed by Drogon's body as the dragon’s corpse slumps directly on top of where he has been standing. Longclaw is wrenched out of his hands as the dragon falls. Jon experiences a moment of heart-stopping terror as he loses his only weapon, but the dragon neither stirs nor strikes back. It appears to be well and truly dead.
For several long moments, Jon stands frozen in place, shell-shocked, his mind reeling from the implications of what he has just done.
He’s just killed his Queen - his lover, his own blood. And killed the last surviving dragon in Westeros as well.
Jon's breath comes out in harsh pants. Every part of his body, inside and out, feels raw and broken.
On his left is Drogon's bleeding body, stabbed through the heart. A clean kill.
On his right is Daenerys' broken, bloodied corpse.
Not a clean kill.
Jon bites his lip, squares his shoulders, and then looks towards Drogon again.
He is initially wary about approaching Drogon's body, out of fear that the dragon may not be dead yet. But Drogon lies quite still and lifeless amidst the greying ashes, and even when Jon's footsteps draw close, he still doesn't stir.
Grimacing, Jon wraps his fingers around the black hilt of Longclaw protruding out of Drogon's chest and then attempts to pull it free.
It takes quite a bit of struggling and effort to wrench the sword free from where he has driven it deep, between the dragon's bones and sinews and muscles. But eventually, there is a wet squelching noise and the sword comes loose, dark blood dripping in slow trickles down the blade.
The blood of Drogon and Daenerys.
Jon doesn't want to dwell on that thought. Averting his eyes, he gives Longclaw a few shakes to get the excess blood off it. Then he wipes the flat of the sword on Drogon's flank in a half-hearted attempt at cleaning it up before he sheathes the blade back into its scabbard.
Absently, Jon notices that his hands, so steady earlier throughout his battle with Drogon, are now trembling.
Suddenly he feels very, very tired.
Jon sinks to his knees, staring at the ground. His mind is a blank. All the aches and pains in his body suddenly make themselves known. His arms, especially, are in agony, as if someone had tried to wrench them out of their sockets. He overexerted himself in his fight with Drogon earlier.
Footsteps approach him. Jon doesn't look up.
The pointed blade of a spear abruptly slides under his chin.
Jon inhales sharply at the sensation of the sharp metal digging into the softest, most vulnerable part of his bare neck. Within the bleak emptiness within his mind, a small, unquenchable shred of self-preservation still burns bright. It seems that he doesn’t have it in him to kneel passively as his throat is pierced through.
Jon allows the point of the spear to tilt his head back, already knowing who he is going to see.
His bleak gaze locks onto Grey Worm's dark eyes.
Jon has always known that Grey Worm was a survivor, too. He, along with a scant handful of the Unsullied guards, escaped Drogon’s earlier rampage. Grey Worm’s clothes are singed and his tunic is stained with soot and ash, but other than that, he appears to be largely unscathed - except for his trembling lips and his red-rimmed, furious eyes.
Behind Grey Worm, the last few, surviving Unsullied fan out in a small, ragged semblance of a guard. Not all of them are as unhurt as Grey Worm - most of the Unsullied are burnt and bleeding, and at least one is so badly burnt that Jon can’t believe that he is still able to stand upright.
The Unsullied training really does create soldiers of undying loyalty, soldiers effectively immune to pain.
In unison, all the remaining Unsullied level their spears at Jon.
Grey Worm’s voice cracks slightly as he says, “Jon Snow. You are under arrest for treason and the murder of Daenerys of House Targaryen, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.”
The Unsullied march Jon Snow to the dungeons. Not dungeons of the Red Keep, which was destroyed during Daenerys' siege of King's Landing, but the public dungeon used for jailing common criminals.
It is empty now. Some kind-hearted jailer had released all the prisoners when it looked as if Drogon was about to burn the entirety of King's Landing to the ground, to give the prisoners a fighting chance at survival.
Now the only other captive in the prison, apart from Jon himself, is Tyrion Lannister.
Three days in a dungeon have left Tyrion none the worse for wear. His beard is longer and his hair is more matted, but the dwarf's eyes are as bright and sharp as ever, and his gaze is shrewd as he looks Jon up and down. Tyrion does not look at all surprised to see Jon in prison. He raises an inquisitive eyebrow at Jon as Grey Worm and the other Unsullied force Jon into Tyrion's small, dank cell at spearpoint.
Jon shuffles in, unresisting. The chains around his wrists and ankles clang noisily as he makes his way towards the unoccupied corner at the far end of the cell.
He turns around so that his back is towards the wall, sliding down until he’s sitting in the corner with his hands bound before him.
Tyrion, seated at the opposite corner of their shared cell, gives Jon an unreadable look.
The bars of their small cell slam shut with a loud clang.
Tyrion waits until the Unsullied have departed before he begins to speak.
"So she's turned on you, too," Tyrion says. He sighs.
It occurs to Jon that Tyrion, having been imprisoned since the start of Daenerys reign in King’s Landing, naturally would not have known about his -
Jon winces inwardly. But if anyone is going to empathise with him, understand why he has done what he did, it would be Tyrion Lannister. Brother of Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer.
“She didn’t,” Jon says quietly. “I turned on her. I killed her.”
Tyrion sucks in a sharp breath. His eyes widen.
Once he begins talking, Jon finds the words spilling out of him in a rush. "I had to. She was mad. Worse than mad. She was tyrannical. Evil." There was no other word for it. "She wanted to kill them all, men, women and children alike. If you'd seen the atrocities I saw these last few days… I stood by helplessly as her Dothraki sacking King's Landing, raping and pillaging the smallfolk, putting menfolk and womenfolk alike to the sword. When the smallfolk finally retaliated after three days and nights of torment, Daenerys had the ringleaders rounded up and burned at the stake."
The memory of the screaming youths and the smell of their burning flesh searing the air hits Jon again. Jon's heart wrenches with horror and guilt. He has to pause for a long moment, forcing himself to breathe evenly to staunch the pain in his chest, before he continues. “And she laughed. I never knew that anyone could be capable of such cruelty. She laughed as her dragon incinerated the civilians trapped in Baelor’s Keep, and then she threatened to burn alive anyone else who opposed her. I knew I had to stop that from happening. I had to stop her before she unleashed her madness on the rest of the world.
"So I did."
His tale concluded, Jon tilts his head back to look at the bare ceiling. He finds that unburdening his soul does not make him feel any better. All he feels is the same bleak, white emptiness, going down to the very core of his soul.
Tyrion does not speak for long moments, as he processes Jon’s confession.
As the silence stretches, it occurs to Jon -
“You knew it would come to this,” Jon says, as the realization strikes him. “You and - ” Jon’s voice breaks off.
The image of Sansa flares bright in his mind, cutting through his bleak hopelessness like a flame in the dark. Her hair red as fire, her eyes brimming with worry as he rides for King’s Landing with Daenerys. The way her knuckles tightened on the reins of his horse until they turned white when she bid him farewell, almost as if holding on tightly enough would have kept him at Winterfell, with her.
“ - Sansa.” Tyrion finishes for him, when Jon doesn’t speak. “Actually, no. We both hoped it wouldn't come to this. Up until the siege of King's Landing, I thought that Daenerys' better nature would triumph, that she was the just ruler that Westeros had been waiting for. But Sansa was the smart one. She was wary of Daenerys from the beginning - even back then, she could tell that Daenerys would be our last, greatest threat.
"Still, at the end, you were always my final contingency plan.”
The thought of Sansa plotting together with Tyrion, plotting for the good of Westeros, sends a strange bolt of emotion through Jon's chest.
"You two must be very close," Jon blurts out, before he can stop himself.
Tyrion gives him a strange look.
Jon has no idea why he said that. Of course he doesn't blame Sansa for anything, not at all, what with the way things had turned out with Daenerys. She had tried to warn him. The memory of Daenerys just leaves him feeling cold inside now. He only wishes that he had listened to Sansa's and Arya's warnings at the start.
But what is this inexplicable bitterness welling up within him?
They'd been married, Jon remembers. And clearly, they were still on friendly terms. Sansa trusted Tyrion enough to believe that he wouldn't sell her out to Daenerys - trusted Tyrion with her life.
Tyrion coughs, interrupting Jon's panicked, spiralling thoughts.
"We're just friends," Tyrion says. "If that's what you're worried about. I've never - you know - not with your sister."
Jon feels his face heat up. "I didn't mean it like that," he protests immediately.
But it slowly dawns on Jon -
He had meant it like that.
It is a gradual, creeping realization, which comes on him almost like a wave. A small trickle at first, building up to a torrent of emotion and memory and stunned revelation as the pieces slot together so neatly into his mind.
He has always found Sansa beautiful. Beautiful and absolutely untouchable. Ned Stark's oldest daughter, promised to the future king - as far out of his reach as the moon hanging in the sky. He's never permitted himself to think of her as anything other than his sister.
But why, then, does the thought of Sansa with another man make him feel as if his heart is shattering?
The realization of his true feelings takes Jon's breath away. His throat feels like it has closed up tight. His heart hammers so hard in his chest that it feels as if it's bruising the inside of his ribcage.
Tyrion, apparently thinking Jon's accusation arose out of simple brotherly overprotectiveness rather than actual jealousy, continues on as if nothing has happened, even as Jon is internally going to pieces trying to process this earth-shattering revelation.
"She's on her way down south now," Tyrion says. "The guards were talking about it just now, before they brought you in. She's marching to King's Landing with the remaining Northern armies."
Jon's heart leaps, then almost as quickly, his hope is drowned out by worry.
It’s dangerous. The remaining Unsullied and Dothraki will be out for revenge. Jon tries to estimate just how many of them are left. Towards the end, Drogon had been indiscriminate in incinerating everyone, before Jon finally stopped him. A bare handful of them, perhaps, might have survived the slaughter.
Jon’s worry eases somewhat, although the thought of Sansa marching into danger - marching into danger to rescue him - still makes his heart stutter a beat.
Gods, he has been so blind. How could he have been so blind?
Jon swallows. It’s not too late.
He still has a chance to make things right.
The blossoming of Jon and Sansa’s relationship will be explored in the follow-up to this fic, Wolves. I had originally intended to include it here, but it got way too long and I felt that it diverged too much from the fic theme, "Dragons”, which was intended to focus on the last surviving members of House Targaryen, Daenerys and Jon Snow. While Daenerys ultimately gives in to the hereditary Targaryen madness, Jon rejects it and embraces his Stark (wolf) family instead.
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