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The Sun in Splendor

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Prompt: Doran playing cyvasse with Trystane, Doran telling Trystane about the betrothal

“Dragons can fly, you know.”

Trystane looked up from his intense contemplation of the cyvasse squares, his hand poised in mid-air, clutching an onyx elephant piece.

“Putting all your elephants behind the mountains will not protect them from my dragons.”

Trystane considered this, quietly. And then he plopped down the elephant piece behind a mountain anyway. “I still think there is a way to win with this arrangement, if only I could find it,” he said doggedly. “If only elephants could fly,” Trystane continued, wistfully.

Doran smiled. “When you first started playing cyvasse, you wanted to make the horses fly. Horses should have wings, you said. It would be a glorious sight to behold, even more than dragons.”

Trystane looked surprised. “I did not think you would remember that, Father.”

Doran shifted in his seat. “Am I so old that I must have forgotten many things?” He teased his son.

Trystane blinked rapidly in succession, as if he was uncertain whether his father was indeed making a jape. How strange it must be, for this boy of three-and –ten to have as a father a grave, ailing man of two-and-fifty. Doran had been stronger and in better health when Arianne and Quentyn were children.

Not that Trystane was, strictly speaking, a child, at that. Three-and-ten was only three years away from being of age, from being a man. Old enough to be betrothed, certainly. More than old enough to be sent away to squire for some lord. Doran himself had been only nine when he was sent to Salt Shore to serve as Lord Gargalen’s squire; Quentyn had been even younger when he was sent to be fostered with the Yronwoods. And yet, with this child, his and Mellario’s youngest …

“You are not as old as that, Father,” Trystane said, but the attempted levity and cheerfulness in his voice was belied by the way his eyes kept glancing at his father’s pale and puffy face, at the inflamed joints in Doran’s hands.

With the pieces all arranged on the cyvasse table, Doran made his first move, deploying a horse on attack. Trystane was disconcerted; this was not the way his father usually began his play. Ever cautious, ever vigilant, Doran usually began by strengthening his defenses, deploying fortresses instead of horses.

“A bold move, Father,” Trystane said, still considering his own first move. “Are you certain it is not a reckless one?”

“You must not confuse boldness with recklessness, Trystane. Or mistake patience with forbearance, for that matter. There is a time to be bold, when events warrant it, when patient planning and waiting has made victory possible.”

Trystane lifted his eyes from the cyvasse table, staring at his father questioningly.  

“The late king’s daughter, Princess Myrcella, will be coming to Sunspear,” Doran said, his voice low.

“Is the princess to be fostered at Dorne? Or to serve as your cupbearer, Father?”

Doran shook his head. “She is to be betrothed.”

“To Quent?” It made sense to Trystane. Quentyn was his older brother after all, and he should be betrothed before Trystane.

“No, my son. To you.”

Startled, Trystane asked, “To me? But what about Quent?”

“Your brother has a harder road to walk. He must do his duty to Dorne in another way. Where he must go, I cannot send you because you are too young still. Do you understand?”

Trystane nodded, understanding that his father wanted to leave it at that, to say no more. Reckless words are as dangerous as reckless deeds, his father often said. You never know who might be listening.

“Princess Myrcella will be afraid and lonely, being so far away from home, from her family, for the first time. You must remember to always be kind and attentive to her, Trystane.”

“Yes, Father.” They continued the game of cyvasse without speaking, until a disquieting thought suddenly struck Trystane. “But … Father, will they not suspect anything, if it is me who is to be betrothed to Princess Myrcella? Why not your older son, they might wonder.”

“Ah, I have thought of that,” Doran said, as he deployed a dragon piece to devour one of Quentyn’s elephants. “The princess is only one-and-ten; it will be a few years until she is old enough for the wedding to take place. I wrote to her uncle that my oldest son Quentyn is eight-and-ten, and could not wait too long to marry and beget an heir. What is more, the princess herself will find it more amenable betrothed to someone closer to her own age, someone she can look on as companion and playmate while waiting for the time when they are old enough to wed.”

“You have thought of everything, Father,” Trystane marveled.

“As we must, before we make any move, in a game of cyvasse, or in life.”

 

Chapter Text

Prompt: Quentyn survives his encounter with the dragons, but is banished back to Westeros. On the way, the ship runs aground in a storm, and washes up at Cape Wrath. Marya, who's lost a son Quentyn's age, takes him in.

He lied to her at first; the tall, bald companion of the gravely injured young man. He told her tales of being sons of merchants, of being robbed of all their possessions, of the fire in the inn that was the cause of his friend’s injury. He gave her names that were plainly not their own, names that took them a moment too long to reply to when called.

But he spoke the truth, the injured young man himself. In his fever and his delirium, laid out in the room that used to be shared by Maric and Matthos, he mumbled and muttered under his breath, when he was not screaming with pain.

He called out for his mother. Grasping Marya’s hand as she was trying to spoon soup into his disfigured mouth, he whispered, “I have never forgotten you, Mother. I should have come to see you long before this. I should have come to see the place that gave you birth.”

Marya held him in her arms as he wept, as he spoke of all the things he should have done, of all the things he wished to do. She held him in her arms and tried to remember each and every word he spoke, so she could convey them to his mother one day, the actual intended recipient of those words.

How strange and twisted fate was. Long after the battle at Blackwater Bay, Marya had held on to this notion - call it faith, call it illusion - that perhaps her sons had survived, that perhaps they were not dead at all and only missing, that somewhere, someplace, her four oldest sons were still living; hurting and injured, yes, but alive nonetheless, being cared for by some kindly souls. After all, she had thought her husband dead too, at first, after Blackwater, but Davos came back, didn’t he? Her husband survived; why shouldn’t their sons?

The young man in Marya’s arms begged his father for forgiveness. “You put the fate of Dorne in my hands, Father, and I failed you. I have disappointed you. Forgive me, Father.”

Your father would be glad that you are alive. He would not care about anything else, any failure or disappointment, Marya wanted to say, but she held her tongue. She did not know this young man’s father at all, not the way she knew the father of her own sons. 

The fate of Dorne. What could he have meant by that? Marya wondered.

“The Prince of Dorne has two sons,” Stanny whispered to her later, “but one of them is only a boy.” He had been wary of the two strangers his mother had allowed to take shelter in their house, and thinking himself the man of the house with his father and older brothers gone, he had taken it upon himself to stand watch every time his mother was alone with either of the men, even the injured, helpless one.

“How do you know so much?” Marya asked, running her fingers through his unruly hair.

“Devan told me,” Stanny replied. Devan often wrote to his younger brothers, telling them about his lessons and all the things he was learning from the maester. Devan took his lessons alongside Princess Shireen herself, and was very diligent and much-praised by Maester Pylos; something Davos had been very proud of.

Stanny fidgeted. “I suppose Devan is no longer taking lessons, now that he’s at Castle Black. He has not written to us in ages,” he complained, suddenly sounding younger than ten, still a boy at heart, a boy missing his brother. Marya steeled herself so her own fears and worries about Devan would not be apparent to Stanny.

The next morning, Marya spoke to the tall, bald man. “Have you sent words to your friend’s father and mother?” She asked, abruptly, but not unkindly.

Startled, the man looked away, as if trying to gain some time to think of his reply.

“I know who your friend is,” Marya said. The look of consternation on his face was confirmation enough. “You have nothing to fear,” Marya continued. “Your secret is safe with me.”

 “I dare not send words to his father, my lady,” he replied, after a long silence. “Your servants say that ravens are being shot down by the droves. If my letter is intercepted, the danger is great.”

Cape Wrath and the Rainwoods were full of sellswords and men with arms at the moment. Rumors and uncertainties flourished, as no one was really certain whose side those men were fighting for.

“We have been abusing your kindness and hospitality, my lady. I am so sorry. But I dare not continue our journey until he is stronger. He might not survive it. He almost died on the ship.”

“He is not yet strong enough to be moved. You must go yourself to his father, to tell him that his son is alive, and he could make the proper arrangements to take your friend home, once he is well enough to travel.”

“And leave him here, alone?” The bald man protested.

“Not alone,” Marya said. “With me. He will be safe here. We do not get many visitors, hardly any, in fact.”

The bald man considered Marya’s words. “Why are you doing this, my lady?” He finally asked. “Why would you go into so much trouble for strangers you have never met?”

“I have sons, too. You have seen them, my Steff and Stanny. I had other sons, four others. They died. But if they had survived, if they were lost and hurt, I would have wished and prayed that someone would be kind enough to take them in, to help  them when they most needed it.”

Hesitating, the bald man asked, “What are your sons’ names? The ones who died.”

The ones who died. Oh it was true; she had known that deep down for a long time now, despite her constant prayers to the gods. She would never see them again, until she is dead herself.

Marya said each name slowly. “Dale. Allard. Maric. Matthos.” She paused, stifling her tears. “And what is your name? Your real name,” she asked the bald man.

“Archibald, my lady, but they call me the big man.”

Marya smiled at that. “And your friend’s name?”

“Quent. Quentyn.”

“He has been calling for his mother. Do you know her name?”

Archibald nodded. “Mellario. His mother’s name is Mellario.”

Chapter Text

Prompt: Oberyn/Jon Connington – Oberyn made a pass on Jon Connington, before figuring out that Connington only had eyes for Elia’s husband.

“Dornish wine does not interest you, Lord Connington?”

“Only in moderation,” came the reply, brusque and uninviting. It amused Oberyn; Connington’s determination to appear completely uninterested. He had seen which way Connington’s eyes roamed during the three days of festivities celebrating the marriage of Rhaegar and Elia, and it was not towards any woman, maiden, or girl.

“Our wine is too strong for some. Too potent for the cold-blooded ones devoid of passion, especially.”

Connington flushed. “Not everyone feels to need to flaunt our passion to all and sundry,” he protested, a little too insistently.

The gauntlet was picked up as Oberyn meant it to be. He smiled. “Well, well. How wrong I have been. I would never have suspected that you of all people nurture secret passions deep in your heart. Does Prince Rhaegar know?”

The alarm, the sheer horror on Connington’s face was a sight to behold. “What do you mean by that?! He demanded, whispering furiously, leaning so close that Oberyn could hear the pounding of Connington’s heart. “Is that a threat?”

“A threat?” Oberyn laughed. “No, Lord Connington, it is not a threat. It is not an ill thing, you know. To prefer men to women. Or to prefer both equally.”

Connington scoffed. “Not to you, perhaps. Sadly, the world does not see fit to be so accommodating. I have heard much about your notorious and licentious reputation, Prince Oberyn. You are famous for it throughout the Seven Kingdoms.”

Oberyn shrugged. “I live honestly and openly. I see no reason to hide and cower with shame. If some people wish to call that notoriety, it is not my concern.”

“And yet they call you The Red Viper.”

“Not on account of who I bring to my bed.”

Their eyes met, Oberyn’s glinting, Connington’s uncertain. “I … I am not what you think I am,” Connington said. His own hesitancy must have made him furious, for his voice suddenly rose and he exclaimed, “How dare you? How dare you presume so about me? I am Prince Rhaegar’s most trusted companion. I am a man of honor!”

“Or perhaps,” Oberyn said, finally cottoning on to why Connington had reacted so violently when Rhaegar’s name was mentioned, “perhaps you prefer to love from afar. Someone unattainable. Someone you could convince yourself you only love in a brotherly manner, in a chivalric manner, when in truth, you would give anything to –“

Connington grabbed Oberyn’s wrist, hard. “Enough!”

“Unhand me, Connington,” Oberyn warned, his voice ominously composed, dangerously low.

Connington removed his grip. Distraught, he emptied his wine goblet in one quick gulp.

“Prince Rhaegar is married to my sister,” Oberyn pointed out the obvious.

Connington said nothing.

“My sister is very precious to me,” Oberyn continued, his voice full of unspoken warnings.

Connington laughed; a dark, bitter sound devoid of any mirth. “Your sister has nothing to fear from me.”

“Oh?”

“Prince Rhaegar is not like you,”Connington said, the misery palpable in his voice, on his face.

“Or like you,” Oberyn said, expecting another fierce denial.

This time, however, Connington did not bother protesting.

Chapter Text

“What has love to do with marriage? A prince should know better. Your father married for love, it’s said. How much joy has he had of that?” (A Dance with Dragons)

A prince should know better, they said. A prince should know better than to follow his heart and not his head. A prince should know better than to delude himself into believing that his life was his own.

He was the son of the Princess of Dorne, for gods’ sake, not the son of a fishwife free to marry as he wished, free to follow his heart as he pleased.

Her father was rich and her dowry large, this Norvoshi woman, but her father was not truly powerful, not counted among those ruling Norvos. And even if he had been, what of it? Dorne had no need of a close alliance with Norvos, a city far away from Dorne, far away from the Seven Kingdoms, a city without distinction among the Free Cities of Essos. Not the largest. Not the richest. Not even one who could claim, proclaim and declaim the closest tie to the glory of Old Valyria in bouts of nostalgia and self-righteousness.

And if a prince was going to follow his heart, to be rash and reckless for the sake of a woman, to throw away all his habitual caution and ingrained prudence, well, then, she had better be something else, this woman, to make it all worth the trouble. She had better be nothing less than the most beautiful woman on the face of the earth. She had better be a goddess, the stuff of legends.

The face that launched a thousand ships. Or at least inspired a hundred songs.

She cheated them of the ships, the songs and the legends. She was merely pretty, this woman. Oh some said she was beautiful, but if she was, she was beautiful only in the way ordinary women could be beautiful. She was merely mortal, this woman; not a goddess, not a legend. Small-boned, short in stature. Those hips seem too small for childbearing, they muttered, ominously.

Why oh why, they whispered, just loud enough for Mellario to hear on her wedding day, why did our prince have to wed her? Why could he have not been content making this Norvoshi woman his paramour?

Even her ending cheated them of their ships, their songs and their legends. The marriage soured, she left Dorne to return to Norvos, and that was that, as far as they were concerned. Where were the ships poised to attack Sunspear? Where were the arrows raining down on Dorne? Where was the blood staining the realm bright red?

Who would want to write songs and compose legends about the prosaic, the ordinary, the all-too-human breakdown of a marriage? Where was the romance in that? Where was the tragedy in that? Love without a body count; why, it almost seemed like no love at all.

And then there was this, her greatest sin of all: she was human, nothing more, nothing less. And thus was a disappointment to the very end.

Chapter Text

Mellario of Norvos + “Your [mother] married for love, it’s said. How much joy has [she] had of that?”

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“What has love to do with marriage? A prince should know better. Your father married for love, it’s said. How much joy has he had of that?”

(A Dance with Dragons)

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Love - or that pale reflection passing for it - does not end as swiftly and as irrevocably as she wishes it does.

He writes to her in Norvos, careful letters with careful words.

She replies with her own careful words, devoid of the anger still burning in her breast.

“Let me have my son. Let me have Trystane,” she always adds. Arianne belongs to Dorne and Quentyn to the Yronwoods, as he keeps telling her, but Trys, Trys is still his to give. To give to her, to Trys’ mother.

“Trystane is a prince of Dorne,” he always replies.

He writes to her about the children frolicking in the Water Gardens, new ones in every letter.

All she wants to remember is the green-haired Tyroshi girl, the one who was supposed to take Arianne’s place.

And yet her treacherous, weak-willed heart also remembers the first time he took her to the Water Gardens; her gasp of astonishment, the look of delight on his face hearing that. Everything had seemed so magical, back then. He was her deliverance and her escape, as she was his.

She loved that feeling; she loved being the very few who could bring a smile to his solemn face.

They dipped their feet in the water in one of the shallower pools one night under the moonlight, when she was carrying their first child in her belly.

“What if it is a girl?”

“Then she will be the Princess of Dorne, ruling all of Dorne after her father.”

“And nothing will take that away from her?”

“Nothing.”

“Not even if I die and you wed another, and a son is born to this woman?”

“Hush. You will not die.”

“Promise me that nothing will take that away from our daughter.”

“I promise.”

His words were gold to the ear of a woman who had long been her father’s heiress, until she was unceremoniously displaced by a stepbrother delivered by a stepmother only a few years older than she was.  

“You should have told me about Quentyn. You should have told me about the blood debt before we were wed. No, you should have told me before I accepted your proposal!”

It must be the place, hot and dry. It must be the food, strange and spicy. It must be the custom, the people, the -

Yet she could have endured all that, if he had turned out to be who she thought he was.

Who was that, truly? What did she really know of this solemn prince from the distant land who shone so brightly in red-and-gold?

He is honest, she once thought. He does not dissemble or flatter falsely.

He does not lie, not outright, not blatantly, but he hides behind his careful words. Words are like arrows. Once released, they cannot be taken back.   

“You would return to Norvos? To your father’s home? Where she still lives, your stepmother?”

“Better my stepmother than this torment.” Than this life with him.

She will be known as the mother who abandons her children. But she knows she has to leave, when what is first meant as a threat to frighten him, to prevent him from sending another one of their children away, turns into an act she actually wishes to commit.

She knows she really has to leave, when she imagines plunging that dagger into his chest before thrusting it into her own.

Better a mother who leaves, but still lives, than a mother who leaves her children orphans, fatherless and motherless.

He relents, about sending Arianne away, but she knows there is still something, something he is holding back from her.

“Why? Why did you want to send her to Tyrosh in the first place? Is there another blood debt you have not told me about? Oberyn again? Or is it Elia this time? Must our children be used to pay, again and again, for the sake of your siblings?”

He closes his eyes. He looks pained. She is tired of him looking pained.

Chapter Text

Mellario of Norvos & Arianne Martell, betrayal

Arianne counted three wigs. Her mother had left behind three of her wigs, including her best one, the soft curls of which Arianne had often tried to smooth out and put straight with the palms of her hands.  

Surely this means Mother will return? Surely Mother will not leave this wig behind, her favorite, her absolute favorite?  

The wigs had all been jettisoned when Mellario first came to Dorne. She had let her hair grow long after her betrothal, so she could come to Dorne to wed her Dornish prince looking more like the women in the land she would be calling her new home. The wigs returned not long after her husband betrayed her with his silence and his secrets, soon after she was finally told the son she had labored to bring into the world was to be used as coins to pay a blood debt contracted by her husband’s reckless brother.

You will hate me if I stay.

How could I hate you for not leaving us, Mother?

You will hate the bitter, vengeful woman I would become if I stay. You will hate the mother who poisons her children against their father, against their people, against their land. You will hate the woman who has fallen so far down the pit of despair she wishes to destroy both herself and her husband, the father of her children.

Running her fingers down the length of her mother’s favorite wig, Arianne recalled the feel of her mother’s hand running down her cheek. I could not do that to you, Arianne. Or to Quent and Trys. I could not do that to my children.

But you could leave us? You could betray your children that way?

Staying would be a bigger betrayal.

Chapter Text

Elia Martell & Oberyn Martell

The Yronwood girl was to blame, the youngest bastard old Lord Yronwood had sired on one of his many paramours. This one had very pale skin and blue eyes, so the mother was probably not even Dornish. She took Elia’s hand and begged the princess to play with her, to join the gaggle of screaming children at the largest pool in the Water Gardens. Elia resisted at first, glancing thoughtfully at her brother by her side, but something in the Yronwood girl’s eyes changed her mind.

Elia could never resist a sob story. As they grew older, she would ask him time and time again – how would you feel, were you in that person’s place? Can’t you spare them a thought?

Back to the Yronwood girl who was not called Yronwood but Sand with her puppy dog eyes and her sad stares, Oberyn was four and Elia five at the time, and he was recognizing this monstrous truth for the first time – we are not one and the same. His sister had a mind and a body of her own so alien to his own, and she could be wrenched from his side at any moment. Even worse, even more unforgivable, was the fact that at times she herself would freely choose to leave his side, preferring the company of others to his own. How could this be? Everyone had always spoken of them in the same breath –EliaandOberyn, OberynandElia, as if they were one entity, a being, inseparable forever.

He felt betrayed, abandoned, lied to.

But it was a lesson that needed to be learned, he understood later, no matter how painful and wrenching it was at the time. The Lannister twins had never learned that lesson, Oberyn thought, as he watched them conversing with each other, their golden hair touching so you could not be sure where his ended and hers began, lost in their own secret world and their private universe, excluding all others.

He envied them their closeness, but at the same time he was also judging Jaime Lannister unfavorably as a potential husband for Elia. Elia deserved nothing less than a devoted husband who would put her first above all other women in his life.

As for Cersei Lannister, Oberyn was less troubled. A woman who was too devoted to her husband could prove more troublesome than helpful in the long run. Love and devotion could so easily curdle into jealousy and possessiveness, and Oberyn certainly did not want a jealous and possessive wife. Cersei could still love and admire her twin brother from afar, and leave her husband in peace to pursue his own pleasures.

“Has Mother spoken to Lord Tywin yet? About … the big matter,” Elia whispered, interrupting his speculation.

Oberyn shook his head. “She said she would wait a few days more, to give him time to grieve.”

Elia was restless. “Perhaps it is better for us to leave without the matter being broached at all. Lord Tywin has just lost his dear wife, and Jaime and Cersei have just lost their lady mother. Surely it is not the time to be thinking of betrothals and marriages,” she said softly. “And whatever informal agreement Mother might have come to with Lady Joanna, it is moot now that she is dead.”

“Why? Don’t you like Jaime Lannister? Is he not the man of your dream?” Oberyn teased his sister.

Elia was not in the mood for teasing. “It’s not about liking or disliking, is it?” She replied in a tone that struck him as uncharacteristically bitter.

Was it possible that she already had her heart set on another man? A man, not a boy like Jaime Lannister. Once when they were much younger, Oberyn would have thought that impossible, would have been convinced that it was completely implausible that his sister could keep something that monumental a secret from him, but now he was far less certain. There were things he had kept from her - many, many things. For her own sake, he tried to convince himself, for Elia’s health was uncertain at best, and she did not need more worries to blight her days and burden her thoughts. Yet at times he wondered whether keeping things secret from her was really for his own benefit, for he could not bear her censure and her disappointment, could not bear to think that she loved him any less than she did when they were children.

He yearned to ask her to confide her secrets to him, but his own secrets stayed his tongue. Yet he could not help but notice the relief in Elia’s eyes when Mother abruptly told them that they were leaving, that there would not be any betrothal at all, and there would never be any Martell-Lannister marriage alliance in her lifetime. Mother was tight-lipped about what Lord Tywin had actually said, but whatever it was must have been very offensive and insulting to raise the ire of the usually even-tempered Princess of Dorne to that extent.  

Chapter Text

“Her brothers call her Lya.”

No need to ask who Rhaegar meant. Elia has seen his eyes following the Stark girl. His mournful eyes. His imploring eyes. His ‘I am a wounded creature in need of your special healing’ eyes.

“How old is that child? Twelve? Thirteen?”

“Fourteen. And hardly a child. My lady mother was already a mother herself at that age.”

Only because your grandsire insisted she wed her brother at thirteen. The Targaryens with their child brides and their incestuous marriages. The thought of Rhaenys, her Rhaenys facing a similar fate terrified and horrified Elia in equal measure. 

“You must insist against it, Elia,” her mother had reminded her. “You must be determined, as determined as Queen Mariah had been.”

Mariah Martell is the shadow Elia constantly lives under. I am trying, Mother. But my husband does not look at me the way her husband looked at her. Rhaegar’s eyes and ears, his heart and mind, are not open to my words and my counsel the way King Daeron was open to his wife’s words and counsel. And her goodfather - 

Truthfully, Mariah Martell’s goodfather had been as great a trial to her and to the rest of the realm as Elia’s goodfather is proving to be.

What would Queen Mariah have done, if her goodfather Aegon the Unworthy had publicly and contemptuously declared that her children ‘smelled Dornish’, using Dornish as a grave insult? Oberyn would have raged; Mother would have retaliated with a witty yet deeply cutting remark. 

Elia had ignored her goodfather’s remark, had firmly refused to show any reaction at all. It is not fear driving her, but caution. Caution is the watchword. Better to wait and bide your time. The temporary satisfaction of showing an instant reaction is not worth the danger she could be plunging her family into. 

“Is that a sign of weakness, Mother?”

“There are many ways to be strong, Elia.”

Chapter Text

Elia Martell & Young Griff, courage

Your father was -

Your father yearned for –

Your father dreamed of –

Your father loved -

Your father. Your father. Your father. He learned everything there was to know about his father from Jon Connington – well, everything that Jon wished him to know, in any case, for he suspected that there were plenty of things about his silver prince Jon kept to himself - but Jon would tell him almost nothing about his mother. Nothing of any significance in any case, nothing that could tell him who she truly was, what she yearned for, dreamed of.

She loved her children, Jon told him that, at least, but that fact alone told him very little, for what mother didn’t? (He is young, young and very sheltered, and has yet to learn that it is not something that could be taken for granted, that all mothers and fathers love their children. But he is also an orphan – an orphan raised by a man who treated him more like a precious jewel entrusted to his care than like a son, a jewel Jon has to continually polish and shape to be a worthy occupant of the throne, and perhaps more importantly in Jon’s mind, to be a son worthy of his dead father - and thus could not be faulted for desperately dreaming of the unconditional love of a parent.)

Septa Lemore knew more, about his mother, if only she was willing to speak. But she did so only rarely, always out of Jon’s hearing. “Your mother had courage. They think her weak, but she had more courage than your father ever did. She knew what needed to be done, what should have taken precedence, and laid her plans accordingly, but your father was … wavering. He had other things in mind, things he considered more important.”

“What needed to be done?”

“About your mad grandfather. About deposing him from the throne before the realm burned. Your mother knew that the clear and present danger must be dealt with first, before taking actions to avert future calamities.”

“But Jon said my father always knew what needed to be done. He had a reason, a good reason for everything he did.” That was the lodestar of his existence, the one thing Jon taught him over and over again. No matter what they say about him, no matter what lies they tell you about him, remember that your father had the best of reason for everything he did. He was trying to save us all in the only way he knew how.

“Love can blind us to the truth. Your father was not the only one trying to save the realm. Your mother’s way would not have made you an orphan, would not have made countless children orphans.”

“Did you love my mother?”

Recoiling, Septa Lemore whispered, “I hardly knew her.”

“And yet you know so much about my mother.”

“I know what mattered to her. You may not have her looks, but you are your mother’s son too, not just your father’s. Remember that, in everything that you do.”

Chapter Text

Doran Martell & Arianne Martell, love

“Higher!” Arianne demands.

Father laughs. “You’re too big for this game, Arianne. What if I can’t catch you this time?”

But Father always catches her. Always. He would never let her fall.

“When the baby comes out from mother’s belly, will you still want to play with me?”

Father kisses her cheek. “Of course.”

“Will you love me less? Will you love me ….” Arianne pauses, counting the numbers in her head, “only half as much?”

“Of course not. I will love you the same, as always.”

“But what about the baby? Aren’t you going to love the baby?” Arianne doesn’t want Father to love her less, of course, but poor, poor baby, if Father doesn’t love it at all.      

“I will love your brother or your sister too, of course, just like I love you.”

“But Grandmother said siblings have to share, that’s their duty. She said when you were her only child, you got a blood orange all to yourself, and then when Aunt Elia and Uncle Oberyn were born, you shared the blood orange with them, divided into three.”

“That’s true about many things, but not about love. I love your mother, and when you came –“

“-from mother’s belly,” Arianne interrupts.

Father smiles. “From her belly, yes. When you came, I love you too. But I don’t love your mother less because I love you. And I will not love you less because I love the new baby.”

“Love is not like blood orange?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Then what is it like?”

“It’s like the moon,” Father whispers, pointing at the night sky.

“The moon?”

“Look how small it is now. We can barely see it. How do you think it will look tomorrow night, a week from now, two weeks from now?”

“It will be … bigger?”

“Clever girl. And eventually it will look like a complete circle, not just part of a circle.“

“It grows!”

“That’s what love is like. The more people you love, the bigger your love grows.”

But the moon grows smaller too, Father, once it has become that complete circle, Arianne thinks, when she is four-and-ten and those words –one day you will sit where I sit and rule all of Dorne – those words meant for Quentyn are haunting her every waking moment.

You promised! You promised you would not love me any less. How could you lie? Father, why?

Her father does not catch her this time, when she falls. He does not even see her falling. 

Chapter Text

 He must have imagined it, Doran decided later. He must have imagined Mellario’s sharp intake of breath when she first entered the room, when her eyes first took in the rolling chair and the Myrish blanket covering his legs.

“How very like you,” she said, only moments later, her voice calm and steady, “not to mention this in your letters.”

“Letters can be intercepted,” Doran replied simply.

“And the Prince of Dorne has many enemies all too eager to exploit any sign of weakness on his part, no doubt.”

“No doubt.”

There did not seem to be anything else to say, after that. Or else, there was much to say, but neither of them could find a way to say it.

“Mellario –“ Doran began, tentatively.

She was so beautiful still, even with the bitter watchfulness in her eyes, the bitter watchfulness that certainly was not there the first time he saw her. Her eyes had been laughing, back then.

“I have never regretted marrying you,” Doran said, gently.

“Then you are a bigger fool than I thought possible,” Mellario replied harshly.

He winced, from the pain inflicted by her words, but she must have thought it was his legs giving him trouble, for both her voice and her expression softened as she asked, “Should I call Maester Caleotte?”

He shook his head. “I would like to be awake and in full use of my faculty.”

“Can the maester give you nothing for the pain other than milk of the poppy?”

 Your touch would do much to alleviate the pain, he imagined telling her. That look in her eyes, he remembered it now. She had the same look when he told her about his brothers Mors and Olyvar, dead in their cradles. Had that been before, or after, their betrothal?

No! He would not stoop so low to take advantage of her soft heart. He turned his face sideways to avoid her gaze. That seemed to irritate her. Sighing heavily, she said, “You have not changed at all. Still so secretive, so stoic, so intent on keeping everything to yourself, keeping everything hidden from me, even your pain.”

My pain?” He could not understand her complaint. Doran’s gout had been troubling him very little when Mellario left Dorne.

“Oh I don’t mean your legs!” Mellario said impatiently. “When your sister and her children died, you locked yourself in your solar for hours on end, day after day.”

Day after day spent writing endless letters, making careful plans, curtailing Oberyn’s recklessness.

Day after day spent on regrets and recriminations – what could he have done differently, so Elia and her babes would not have been so brutally slaughtered?  

He had wept too, behind that closed door.

Mellario continued, “You told me nothing. You allowed me not a glimpse of your pain, your grief. How could I be of any comfort to you, of any help, if I knew nothing at all? And then suddenly, you wanted to send Arianne to Tyrosh to be a cupbearer to some Archon you have never mentioned before. When I asked you the reason, you refused to tell me anything. You would steal away another one of my children without even the courtesy of telling me why.”

“I did not send Arianne to Tyrosh after all,” Doran reminded her. Mellario had threatened to harm herself; Doran could see the flash of the blade still. In the end, he could not bear to do that to the mother of his children, to the woman he loved still, despite all their quarrels, despite all their arguments and disagreements.

“What scheme was that for? What plans were you and Oberyn hatching back then?”

He closed his eyes. It was safer for Mellario if she knew nothing. Doran had no illusion; he and Oberyn had been planning what would surely be seen as treason by Robert Baratheon, in order to obtain justice for Elia's death, and the death of her children. Not that it was not treason for Robert Baratheon to usurp the throne. If Aerys was a madman who no longer deserved to sit on the Iron Throne, his grandson Aegon was a babe innocent of any wrongdoing, a babe who was the rightful king, a babe cruelly murdered alongside his mother and his sister so Robert Baratheon could sit on that throne.

But of course, safely entrenched on that throne, Robert Baratheon would not see it that way at all, would not hesitate to take their collective heads if he knew what had been planned.

Mellario took hold of Doran’s hand. “Promise me this, at least. Promise me you will not use our children in any dangerous scheme.”

“I love my children. I would never do anything to harm them.” He had been aiming for indignation, but his voice sounded only broken and weary beyond bearing. He laid his other hand atop her own. “Surely … surely you know that, Mellario?”

Mellario wrenched her hand away. “I know that you are a prince, and a brother, not just a father.”

Chapter Text

"I was seven when Elia died. They say I held her daughter Rhaenys once, when I was too young to remember.” (excerpt from TWOW, Arianne I)

“Can she walk?” Arianne asked.

“Not yet,” Elia replied.

“Can she play in the pools?”

Mellario laughed. “She's too young to play in the pools, Ari. When Rhaenys comes to visit us next time, perhaps she will be old enough to play in the pools.”

“Then what can she do?”

“She can laugh,” Mellario said, making funny faces that elicited squeals of delight from Rhaenys. “See!”

Arianne laughed too. At least for a little while. Until it seemed that her mother's attention was thoroughly fixed on her cousin and her cousin alone. When Mellario asked to hold Rhaenys, Arianne began to fuss, pulling her mother's hand to get Mellario to take her to the water fountain.

“Later, Ari,” Mellario insisted.

“Now, Mama. Now. I want to go now,” Arianne said, equally insistent.

Elia smiled. “She's envious of her little cousin.” Her eyes wandered towards Mellario's belly. “When the little one comes, you will need to share your Mama, Arianne.”

“I will share my toys with my sister when she comes,” Arianne replied. “She can share my room too. They can put her cradle next to my bed, and I will sing to her when she cries at night. Like Mama sings to me when I wake up from a bad dream.”

“But she cannot share your Mama?” Elia teased.

Brows furrowed, hands clenched tightly, making her look older than her five years, Arianne seemed to be giving the matter serious consideration. Very serious consideration. “But Mama is my Mama first,” she finally said, adamantly.

Her mother kissed her on both cheeks. “And I will always be your Mama, Ari, no matter how many brothers and sisters you have.”

“But you'll be their Mama too?”

“Yes. Like your father is Uncle Oberyn's brother, but he's also Aunt Elia's brother, and he loves them both the same.”

Arianne turned to her aunt. “Do you love Papa and Uncle Oberyn the same?”

Elia laughed. “What a cheeky girl you are. Yes. Yes, I do, Arianne.” Then, leaning closer towards her niece, Elia whispered in Arianne's ear, “Your Mama will not love you any less, just because you have a brother or a sister. You will still be her precious Ari. Always.”

“Promise?” Arianne whispered back.

“I promise,” Elia replied, touching her forehead to Arianne's forehead, the way she and Oberyn used to seal their promises as children. I swear it by the sun and the spear and the Seven, Elia would say. I swear it by the sun and the moon and the stars, Oberyn would reply.

In Mellario's arms, Rhaenys did not fuss or squirm as she often did in the arms of strangers. “Look at her eyes!” exclaimed Mellario. “And those long lashes. They look just like yours, Elia. You have your mother's eyes, little one, your mother's beautiful eyes.”

Arianne leaned forward to get a better look. “But her eyes are so huuuuge. They're like …. like … giant saucers.”

“Hush, Ari. That is rude,” Mellario scolded. “Her eyes are not too big at all. They are just right for you, isn't that right, Rhaenys?” Mellario said, making cooing noises at the baby.

Arianne pouted. “I did not say it was bad, Mama, to have big eyes. It makes her look like a big girl, like she can understand what we are saying.” Pointing at herself, Arianne said, addressing the baby, “My name is Arianne. Can you say that? A ... ri … anne.”

Rhaenys gurgled, and then gave a loud burp. Her mother and her aunt both laughed.

“Or you can call me Ari, if Arianne is too hard. It's my mother's special name for me, but you can use it too, since you're my cousin,” offered Arianne.

Rhaenys held out her arms, swaying them impatiently, as if demanding Arianne to pick her up. “Would you like to hold her?” Elia asked her niece.

Arianne nodded, eagerly.

“You must be careful, Ari,” Mellario said.

“I will, Mama. I promise.”

Slowly and gently, Mellario transferred Rhaenys into Arianne's arms. Elia's hands were supporting Arianne as she held Rhaenys. Swaying her arms, murmuring a song whose words were indecipherable to Mellario and Elia, Arianne's gaze was concentrated solely on her cousin. “Sleep well, little one. Wake up safe and strong and healthy,” she ended the song, the same one her father sang to her at night.

Rhaenys' eyes were still wide open, however, staring at Arianne, while her finger poked Arianne's mouth.

“Sleep well, little one,” Arianne repeated, in a louder voice this time, in a tone that was less sing-songy and more like a command.

Mellario laughed. “If only we can make children sleep merely by telling them to do it,” she remarked to her goodsister.

“But I always go to sleep when you tell me to do it, Mama,” Arianne objected.

“Not always, Ari. Sometimes you just close your eyes and pretend to sleep. Your Papa could be fooled, but I know. I know when you are pretending,” Mellario said.

“Mothers always know,” Elia added, smiling.

Chapter Text

 The prince had been fostered by Lord Yronwood from a tender age, had served him as a page, then a squire, had even taken knighthood at his hands in preference to the Red Viper’s. (A Feast for Crows)

“What news from my son?” Doran asked.

Oberyn set down the letter from Quentyn. “He has refused my offer to knight him. With a thousand apologies and humble professions of gratitude to his honored uncle, of course. How kind of me, he wrote, how loving of me to think of my undeserving nephew, and so on and so forth; he went on at some length about that. But he thought it would be a more suitable path for him to be knighted by the man he has served as a page and a squire these many years.”

“And this pleases you?” Doran asked, surprised to see the smile spreading across his brother's countenance.

“I expected to be refused,” said Oberyn.

“Why did you extend the offer to begin with, if you expected it to be refused?”

“So he could refuse me, of course,” Oberyn replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “So the Yronwoods could see him refusing me, in favor of Anders Yronwood.”

“I see,” Doran said. And he did see. He also saw the snag in Oberyn's plan, however. “What if Quentyn had accepted your offer to knight him? What then? Were you not taking too great a risk, Oberyn?”

And without consulting me before you acted, Doran did not need to add. The silent rebuke was clear to his brother from the way his voice had gone quieter, even gentler in its tone.

“There was never any danger of that,” Oberyn insisted. “Quentyn is too much like you, brother. He would think it his duty to refuse me, so as not to offend his foster father, and all the other Yronwoods.”

“And you think your action in offering to knight Quentyn does not offend the Yronwoods? It is the custom for a squire to be knighted by the lord he has been squiring for, even more so when that lord is the squire's foster father.”

“Oh, they expect it of me. The Yronwoods fully expect the Red Viper to do outrageous things, shameless, treacherous things. It would not surprise them in the least to hear of my latest endeavor. Nothing could change their views of Oberyn Martell. Nothing could ever induce them to see me in a different light. But now that Quentyn Martell has shown them that he is not in the thrall of his oh-so-wicked uncle, that my influence holds no real sway on him ...”

Oberyn paused, his eyes staring at the empty pools and fountains, bereft of the splashing, shrieking children, now that the sun was setting. He saw red, only red. The red of blood, and the red of Lannister crimson. Finally, he added, “You will need the Yronwoods on your side, if we are to have justice for Elia and her children.”

Chapter Text

 The Dornishmen who  had come to court with the Princess Elia were in the prince’s confidence as well, particularly Prince Lewyn Martell, Elia’s uncle and a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard. (The World of Ice and Fire)

Elia kissed her uncle on both cheeks. He reciprocated with a kiss on her forehead. For a time, they spoke only of inconsequential matters, like the weather.

“What was my husband's explanation for his conduct at Harrenhal?” Elia finally asked, after her ladies and her maids had all departed, leaving her alone with her uncle. This was a necessary precaution, for some of the ladies and the maids had been sent by her good-father, and a few she suspected of spying on her on his behalf. Even in Dragonstone, she could not fully escape the king's gaze, his contemptuous gaze.

Her uncle sighed. “Rhaegar said he had a reason. A reason he could not disclose, not at this time.”

“Could not disclose? Even to you? Are you still in his confidence, uncle?”

“I believed so, but -”

Believed? You no longer believe it?”

Her uncle placed his hand on top of Elia's. “Had I known what he was planning to do at the tourney, I would have struck him down in the joust with my own hands.”

Elia squeezed his hand. “I do not doubt it for a moment, uncle. But if he is keeping secrets even from you, then -”

“What has he said to you, Elia?”

“Nothing of any consequences.” Then again, her husband had never fully shared his confidences with Elia, even before Harrenhal.

“It was not meant to shame you, Elia,” Rhaegar had said, about crowning the already-betrothed Stark girl as queen of love and beauty, in lieu of his own wife.

“Meant? It matters not what you meant, only what you did,” came her furious rejoinder. “You shamed not only me, but all of Dorne. And you shamed yourself most of all, and showed yourself to the realm to be not much better than your father. You often speak to my uncle of your dream for a different kind of realm, of the coming reign of a better king, and yet -”

“Too harsh, my lady. You are too harsh,” he had protested. “There is a world of difference between my father and myself.”

“Then showcase that difference! To the realm. To your people.”

To your wife, Elia could have added.

After Harrenhal, she had heard all the whispers and the snickers about how Prince Rhaegar had cut down his Dornish wife to size, had finally refused to labor under the thumb and the oversized influence of his Dornish wife, and how Prince Rhaegar had done what King Daeron the Second had never done, but should have done, to his own Dornish wife Queen Mariah.

What a cruel, bitter and humorless jape it all was, thought Elia. As if Rhaegar had ever paid much attention to her in the first place. As if her influence had ever held much sway with him. Even before the tourney at Harrenhal, her uncle was the conduit she had to work through, to gain insight into what was in her husband's mind, and to convey her thoughts, opinions and suggestions to him without running the risk that they would be completely disregarded. That was humiliating enough, but now … now if even her uncle was no longer in Rhaegar's confidence … where did that leave her? And them?

“Arthur Dayne might know more than I do,” her uncle was saying. “Rhaegar could have shared more with him.”

Chapter Text

The prince was very kind when he turned down Daemon’s request for Arianne’s hand in marriage. Very kind, and with a look on his face that could have almost passed for sadness. Sadness tinted with regret, as if the prince was regretting that his own hands were tied, as if he was not truly the one doing the rejection, the one dashing Daemon’s hope and crushing his dream.

The Bastard of Godsgrace could have forgiven the Prince of Dorne almost anything, except his kindness.

“Arianne has her own path that she must follow. I never meant for her to wed a Dornishman, either true-born or a bastard,” the prince had said then.

“Arianne needs a strong sword by her side,” the prince was saying now, as he made Daemon his daughter’s sworn shield to accompany her on the journey to the stormlands. “A strong sword and a steady hand.”

You did not think me good enough for your daughter’s hand then, Daemon thought, yet I am trustworthy enough in your eyes now to guard her precious life?

This was not a thought worthy to be voiced aloud to his prince, his liege lord, the father of the woman who still had a place in his heart, despite everything.

“You know Arianne very well, in more ways than one,” the prince continued.

Were this Prince Oberyn speaking, Daemon’s ears would have been ever vigilant to the true words behind the ones spoken, the knots and the loops behind the simple tie, the plots and the schemes behind the seemingly uncomplicated plan of action. But this was Doran Martell, idle and indolent, late to action, a stranger to intrigues and conspiracies, not half the man his dead brother had been.

“You know my daughter in ways that many men do not, myself included,” Prince Doran concluded.

Had he, perhaps, grossly misjudged the Prince of Dorne and what he was capable of, Daemon wondered? Had they all, Arianne included, been guilty of underestimating Doran Martell from the start?

Chapter Text

For the prompt: Elia & Mellario, comfort

“Is Dragonstone as grim, bleak and forbidding as people say it is?” Mellario asked.

Elia smiled. “The stories have been somewhat exaggerated. The stone dragons do not come alive at night to haunt those uneasy in their conscience, for one thing.”

Mellario laughed. “That one has always sounded most improbable to me, though quite fascinating, in some ways. But still,” she continued, her expression turning solemn, her hand grasping Elia's own, “it could not have been easy for you, living in a strange place so far away from home, a place so different from your own home.”

Living with a man you barely know, a husband you did not choose yourself, Mellario added in her thought, but did not say out loud.

Squeezing her goodsister's hand, Elia said, “No harder than it was for you, when you came to Dorne. You had to travel a greater distance than I do, both in actual distance between Norvos and Dorne, and the distance between the two cultures and ways of life.”

“I was very fortunate. I had a goodsister who welcomed me with open arms, who was always there to support me, comfort me, guide me, aid me in my time of need. I wish,” Mellario said, wistfully, “that there is someone like that for you in Dragonstone.”

“The queen my goodmother has been very kind,” Elia replied.

“But she lives in King's Landing, not Dragonstone.”

“She writes to me often, and encourages me to share my troubles and burdens with her.” Elia kissed Mellario's cheek. “You are kind to worry about me, Mellario.”

“What are sisters for, if not to worry about one another?”

Chapter Text

For the prompt: Oberyn Martell & Sarella Sand, advice.

“If I am to do this, Father, then –“

“Then your long hair must be the first to go.”

Sarella nodded. And she would have to bind her breasts, and start dressing like a young man. How strange, she thought. She would have to do all those things just so she could learn. Her mother had captained a trading ship to sail across half the known world, but she never had to pretend to be a man to be able to do it. It was almost as if the Citadel thought that acquiring knowledge was a more manly occupation than captaining a ship, an occupation women were even more unfit for, Sarella remarked to her father.

“Your mother is not a Westerosi. The rules are different where she comes from. And the rules are different outside of Dorne, in the rest of Westeros.”

“You have never been fond of following the rules, Father.” Though, Oberyn Martell had forged numerous links of a maester’s chain himself during his time at the Citadel.

“I do not believe in following the rules for the sake of following the rules, but there are times when following the rules - to be seen to be following the rules, more specifically - is useful, to achieve our goal, or to attain our heart’s desire. Is this truly your heart’s desire, Sarella?”

“You know it is, Father. You have known it since I was a little girl sitting on your lap, wanting to know everything there was to know about the world.”

“Then you must do whatever you have to do, to attain it.”

“I will need a name,” Sarella said. “A man’s name.”

“Alleras,” her father replied, without hesitation.

Her name spelled backwards. She frowned. “Is that not too ... obvious?”

“Sometimes it is better to hide in plain sight.”

Chapter Text

For the prompt: Deria Martell & Nymor Martell, Deria returns from King's Landing.

The return journey feels twice as long to Deria compared to the journey from Sunspear to King's Landing. Entering King's Landing - the enemy's den, the dragon's den - she had felt no fear and no hesitation, but now, as she nears the city of her birth, she fears what she will find on her return home. Will it be her ailing father welcoming her home, or merely his bones? 

Wait for me, Father. You must wait for me. Wait for me to return with news of success, news of peace.

“Bring us back peace, Deria. Peace without submission, without kneeling to the dragons. Peace between two equals. The fate of Dorne lies in your hands, dearest daughter.”

Wait for me, Father!

She has succeeded, despite the doubts sown by some of Dorne's great lords, voiced the loudest by Lord Wyl and Lord Uller.

“Mere threats are worthless,” insisted Lord Wyl. “Aegon Targaryen must first lose his heir, before he would be willing to consider peace without our submission.”

“The threat itself is enough,” Prince Nymor insisted, “if Aegon could be convinced that the threat is not an idle one.”

“It matters not what you say to convince Aegon. This is a great travesty to begin with. Princess Meria would never have considered negotiating with the dragons,” Lord Uller protested. “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. Need I remind you of the words of your own House, my prince?”

“Dorne is already broken, after these long years of unceasing wars and hostilities,” Prince Nymor replied. “I am not my mother, but I am the Prince of Dorne, and I mean to have peace for Dorne before I die.”

“Peace at any cost?” questioned Lord Wyl. “Even at the cost of bowing your head and bending your knee to Aegon Targaryen?”

“My daughter will negotiate for peace between equals, not peace between the conquered and their conqueror.”

Meria Martell was fully aware of what her son intended to do, after he succeeded her as the ruler of Dorne. “I will not long outlive you, Mother,” Nymor had told her, on her deathbed. “But I do not wish to leave a Dorne that is still wracked with war, bloodshed and dragonflame to my daughter.”

“Your daughter has more will and conviction in her bones than you think,” Meria had replied. “She is my granddaughter, remember? But when I am dead, you will do as you see fit, as the Prince of Dorne, and when you are dead, your daughter will do as she sees fit, as the Princess of Dorne. That is how it should be. That is how it must be. The approval or disapproval of the dead matters very little to the living.”

What Deria will see fit to do about the dragons as the Princess of Dorne is a consideration for another day. Perhaps she will turn out to be more her grandmother's granddaughter than her father's daughter. At this moment, however, her only wish is to bring home her father's heart's desire, his desire to see peace in Dorne, before he closes his eyes for good.

The first face Deria looks for after entering the gates of the Old Palace is the maester’s face, the maester who has been attending to her father during his illness. The maester accosts her the moment she arrives. “Princess, your father -”

- is not dead! Tell me he lives still. Tell me - 

“Your father is waiting for you in his bedchamber.”

Deria breathes a sigh of relief. “He is … well?” she asks. Oh, what a foolish question, she thinks, the instant the words leave her mouth. Of course her father is not well. “Is he worse than he was when I left?”

The maester hesitates. “It will not be long now. Perhaps a few days  more, or a week at most. He … he waited for you. That gave him strength, to hold on.”

She will not cry, she tells herself. She will not shed tears in front of her father. She will smile her brightest smile, the smile her father says is brighter than Nymeria's star, and she will tell him, “I have brought home your heart's desire, Father.”

Her tears fall the moment he calls out her name. “Deria. My dearest daughter.”

Chapter Text

 

“You forget, my great-uncle wore the same cloak. He died when I was little, yet I still remember him. He was as tall as a tower and used to tickle me until I could not breathe for laughing.” (A Feast for Crows)

“How much has my little princess grown, since I last saw her?”

“This muuuuuuch,” Arianne replied, extending her arms to the longest span possible.

“And yet she is still a dainty little thing, like her lady mother. I’m afraid our Arianne will never grow to be as tall as her great-uncle.”

“I will too!” Arianne declared, her face a picture of outrage and indignation. “I will grow as tall as you are. Taller than Father, taller than Uncle Oberyn.”

“Taller than the Tower of the Sun and the Spear Tower?” Lewyn asked, tickling the soles of Arianne’s feet, before moving on to her arms.

Arianne’s indignation dissolved into shrieks of glee and mirth. Amidst her breathless giggles and laughter, she managed to say, “Noooooo, not that tall. I’m not a giant.”

Eyes twinkling, Lewyn teased, “I’d wager your cousin Rhaenys will soon be taller than you are. She is growing taller every day. I could barely keep up with the change.”

“No, she won’t! She’s a tiny little thing. I remember when Mother put her in my arms and I sang to her, to lull her to sleep. Her head was ever so tiny, and her hands and feet too, like the hands and feet of my dolls.”

“But that was quite some time ago, when she was only a babe. Your cousin Rhaenys is so much older now.”

“Older, and bigger, and taller?”

Lewyn nodded.

“Can she walk now?” Arianne questioned, her curiosity about her cousin fully awakened. “Can she run? Can she jump?”  

“The answer is yes to all three. And she can dance as well,” Lewyn replied.

Arianne clapped. “Then she’s old enough to play with me in the Water Gardens. I can show her my favorite pool.” Then, staring sternly at her great-uncle, she said, “You should have brought her with you.”   

“Perhaps I will, on my next visit.” Gods be good, I hope to bring them all home soon, Lewyn thought. Rhaenys, Elia and the little babe Aegon; he wanted them all safe and sound in Dorne, far from the dragon’s den, far from Robert Baratheon’s approaching army.

Arianne was tugging at his billowing white cloak. She had little patience for long silences. Lewyn put on his brightest smile. “What games will you play with your cousin Rhaenys, when she comes to the Water Gardens?”

 Arianne pondered the question. “I will … I will …” she paused, and then grinned, as inspiration struck. “I will teach her how to bring down a giant.”

“Oh? And how will you do that, pray tell?”

“Like this!” she announced, as her fingers grew busy tickling Lewyn’s neck, throat and face.

Chapter Text

“What is he like, your brother Maron?”

Mariah contemplated the question, while her hand continued brushing Daenerys' hair. This was their nighttime ritual, ever since the death of Daenerys’ mother. Knowing her husband and his loathing for her and the children she had borne him, Queen Naerys, on her deathbed, had entrusted her daughter’s care to the hands of her son and her good-daughter. While Aegon IV still breathed, Daenerys had made her home in Dragonstone with Daeron, Mariah and their sons. Closer in age to her nephews than to her older brother, Daenerys had grown up like a sibling to Baelor, Aerys, Rhaegel and Maekar.   

“He is … he was a sweet boy,” Mariah finally replied.  

Daenerys turned her head to gaze at her good-sister. “A sweet boy? Not a sweet man?”

“Maron was still a young boy, when I left Dorne to wed your brother.” When she left her home, and left her birthright as the future Princess of Dorne, to marry a man she barely knew, for the sake of ensuring peace between Dorne and the Iron Throne. And now Daenerys must also leave her home to marry a man she barely knew, to ensure an even more lasting peace, and to bring Dorne into her brother’s realm. As Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and as Daeron’s wife, Mariah knew she must rejoice at the prospect. But as a Dornishwoman, and as Daenerys’ good-sister, her feelings were more mixed and complicated.  

“So you do not know what Prince Maron is like as a man?” Daenerys asked. “You only know the boy that he was, the boy you knew many years ago.”

“I have seen him since I left Dorne, though not as often as I would have liked. And we have been in frequent correspondence over the years. I am not completely ignorant of his character. He is not cruel or unkind, and he always tries his best to do his duty, and to be a good man as well as a good prince. But I will not lie to you, sweetling. I cannot guarantee what sort of husband Maron will be. That remains to be seen. I have never lied to you before, and I will not begin now, not even about my own brother.”

“If … if … he is anything like his sister, then he will be a good husband, I am sure,” Daenerys said, with a shy smile.

“He must endeavor to be a good husband to you, or he will have to answer to your sister.”

“To my sister? He will have to answer to his sister, you mean?”

“His, and yours too,” Mariah said, before kissing both of Daenery’s cheeks.   

She is precious to me, Maron. She is like a sister to me. She is like a daughter to me. I hope, and I pray, that the prince she weds will bring her as much joy and happiness as the prince I wed has brought me, despite my fears, doubts and reservations at the beginning of our union.  

Chapter Text

“I must be a poor substitute in your eyes, Princess Mariah,” said her betrothed.

“A poor substitute, my prince?”

“A poor substitute for Dorne, for the honor of becoming the Princess of Dorne, of ruling the whole of Dorne one day, which would have been your fate, had you not been betrothed to me.”

Mariah studied Prince Daeron’s expression. Was he fishing for a compliment? Did he expect her to deny this, to tell him that he was wrong about being a poor substitute for Dorne, that marrying him was the greatest honor a woman could ever hope for, and no kingdom on earth could even begin to compete with that?

He looked sincere enough; sincere and solemn, as well as apologetic and rueful, as if he was the one who had steered her into this path.

“Your uncle and my father decided on this match between them, and they, along with your grandfather, were the ones who decided the terms governing it.” The terms included Mariah renouncing her own claim to Dorne, as well as renouncing the claim to Dorne on behalf of any children she might have with Prince Daeron. The former condition had been the demand of King Baelor’s Hand and Prince Daeron’s grandfather Prince Viserys, who said that it was not befitting the honor of a Targaryen prince to be a mere consort to the ruling Princess of Dorne. The latter condition had been set by Mariah’s father the current Prince of Dorne, who was concerned about the Targaryens trying to take control of Dorne through a marriage alliance, after failing with war and conquest.     

“I doubt you had any more say about our betrothal than I did,” added Mariah. “We were both young children when the matter was decided. It might have displeased you, or even caused you a great grief, when you learned of our betrothal.”

“I would not have minded being the consort to the ruling Princess of Dorne,” Daeron said, with a rare smile that lit up his whole face.

With her eyebrows raised and a skeptical smile grazing her lips, Mariah asked, “Would you still feel the same, I wonder, if you knew that my father meant to impose very strict limitations on what role you could play as my consort, had I remained as his heir? Limitations that I completely and full-heartedly support and agree with, for I would not wish my marriage to be used as a backdoor way for the Targaryens to gain control of Dorne. But your grandfather thought that those limitations were insulting to the Targaryens and to the Iron Throne. And thus my younger brother Maron is now my father’s heir, and I will be your consort, not the other way around.”

“We will be each other’s consort, and each other’s greatest support,” said Daeron, earnestly.

“It is easy enough to spout sweet and pretty words, my prince. The truth is usually more bitter and less pretty.”

“I will endeavor to the best of my ability to ensure that the truth of our marriage is not as bitter and as ugly as you fear, Princess Mariah.”

“Oh, I do not fear it. I expect, I predict, I anticipate. To be fully prepared for the worst, to hold no misconception and misapprehension about the path we are taking – that is the secret for avoiding disappointment.”

“I hope that together, we could discover the secret to marital happiness.”

“Oh? Isn’t avoiding disappointment one of the necessary components to marital happiness?”

“Necessary, but not sufficient on its own, I think.”

Chapter Text

Another blood orange tree was being planted by the side of the biggest pool in the Water Gardens. With his head full of dreams and imaginings of their children knocking oranges off those trees and splashing and shrieking in that pool, Maron turned to ask his lady wife, “Have you thought of a name, my dear?”

She nodded. “If our child is a girl,” said Daenerys, her right hand resting on her belly while her left hand was clasping Maron’s arm, “then her name should be Marys, in honor of your sister and my late mother.”

Ma– from Mariah, and –rys from Naerys. “Are you certain you would not prefer your mother’s name, for the name of our first daughter?” asked Maron. “We could honor my sister with the name of another daughter. If … if we are blessed with another child, that is.”

Daenerys shook her head. “Your sister has been like a mother to me, since the death of my own mother. And she is your sister. Our first child should be named in honor of both sides of the family.”

“And what if this child is a boy?”

Grinning, Daenerys said, “I can’t do all the work. It’s your turn to decide.”

He tried using the same method his lady wife had used to come up with a name. Ma– from Maron, and –nerys from Daenerys. Manerys. That sounded wrong, somehow. It did not roll off the tongue as smoothly as Marys. And he could not imagine calling a son of his with that name. Come to Father, Manerys. What did you learn from the maester in your lessons today, Manerys?   

No, definitely not, Maron decided, shaking his head vigorously, to Daenerys’ amusement.

He considered another possibility. Dae from Daenerys, and –ron from Maron. Daeron. But it might bring back memory of the first King Daeron, the one who waged a ferocious war against Dorne, and that would not be acceptable to the Dornish people, Maron knew. It would certainly be a wrong move for the Prince of Dorne to name a son of his Daeron at this point in time, when peace was still a very fragile thing, regardless of the true provenance of that name, Just like his good-brother the king of the Seven Kingdoms, the Prince of Dorne also had to contend with discontented lords and knights who thought that they were forced to give up too much for the sake of peace.   

He moved on to another possibility. Ma– from Maron, and –rys from Daenerys. Marys. But that was the name Daenerys had chosen for a girl. Surely   

“Marys. Marys Nymeros Martell,” Maron said the name out loud. It was a name that could be suitable for both women and men, he thought.

Daenerys laughed. “Marys? You’re going to steal my idea?”

“In my defense, it was a very good idea. How could I resist?” replied Maron, kissing her full on the lips.    

Princess Marys, Lady of Sunspear and the Princess of Dorne. Prince Marys, Lord of Sunspear and the Prince of Dorne. It sounded right either way, to Maron and Daenerys both.     

Chapter Text

In her dreams, Arianne never noticed the candle at all. Never walked closer to her father’s desk to blow it out. Never saw the unfinished letter lying next to it. Never succumbed to her unbridled curiosity, never read the words that would etch themselves permanently into her memory, never cried the tears that would be her constant companion for many, many nights to come. She would make her way to her mother’s bedchamber instead, find her father there, and give him the goodnight kiss she had come to his solar for. Her father would smile, and she would not doubt his smile. He would kiss her cheek, and she would not turn away from his touch. He would call her name, and she would not grow to resent the sound of his voice. Even her mother would look pleased and not so unhappy for once.

In the land where dreams did not rule supreme, however, Arianne did notice the candle. How, she did not know. She had been thinking of Daemon Sand. Her thoughts were often preoccupied with Daemon lately. So preoccupied was Arianne that she had forgotten to knock before entering her father’s solar. But upon entering, she discovered that the room was empty. Her father was not there. She was about to turn and leave when her eyes noticed the flickering, swaying flame. Rolls and rolls of parchments were lying close to the candle, so very close to the flame.

It was unlike her father to be so careless. He must have gone out of the room in a hurry, Arianne thought. Another bad news? She prayed that was not the case. Her father had had enough bad news to last a lifetime. Bowing her head to blow out the candle, some of the words scrawled on a piece of parchment caught her attention.

One day you will sit where I sit,

It was her father’s handwriting.

and rule all Dorne.

Her first thought had been, Why would Father write me a letter? He could speak to me any time he wishes.

Arianne read on, A ruler must be strong of mind and body.

The letter trailed off there, without her father’s signature. An unfinished letter to the heiress of Sunspear, and the future ruling Princess of Dorne? Arianne’s eyes strayed to the top of the page.

To my son Quentyn,

No, it could not be. Her eyes must be deceiving her. She read the salutation again.

To my son Quentyn, it still said. Not, To my daughter Arianne.

I am the oldest. This is Dorne, and the inheritance laws governing the rest of the Seven Kingdoms do not apply here.

And yet, saying this to herself over and over again did not make the words alter on the letter. Not in the slightest. She reread the most wounding sentence over and over again.

One day you will sit where I sit, and rule all Dorne.

Do you doubt me, Father? Why? Because I am not your son? Because I am not a man? Yet, your lady mother ruled as the Princess of Dorne for many years, and you have only a great admiration for her.

One day you will sit where I sit, and rule all Dorne.

What did I do? How have I displeased you? Please, Father, she pleaded to the empty room, to the air her father had breathed just a short while ago, to the flame that seemed to burn too brightly in a room that had gone cold and desolate for Arianne.

The tears came first, that night, and countless nights after. Her pillow was soaked. She grew weary of her own tears after a while.

One day you will sit where I sit, and rule all Dorne.

My birthright! You cannot simply steal it from me to give to Quentyn.

Anger was better than tears, she soon discovered. Much, much better. Anger did not make her weak and teary. Anger dried her tears, fuelled her determination, fortified her conviction and hardened her broken heart.

I   will   be the ruling Princess of Dorne, as I am meant to be. You will not find it so easy to rob me of my birthright, Father.

She would never run to her father again when she skinned her knees. Or when she had her heart broken, or her faith tested, or her love and loyalty divided. 

Chapter Text

 “I saw Volantis once, on my way to Norvos, where I first met Mellario. The bells were ringing, and the bears danced down the steps. Areo will recall the day.” “I remember,” echoed Areo Hotah in his deep voice. “The bears danced and the bells rang, and the prince wore red and gold and orange. My lady asked me who it was who shone so bright.” (A Feast for Crows)

“Would you like me to find out, my lady?”

“Yes, Areo. Discreetly please. We do not want him, whoever he is, to think me too forward.”

Too late for that, Areo Hotah thought, as he spied the “he” in question returning Lady Mellario’s lingering gaze. A foreigner, Areo thought, from a distant land. A foreigner in red, gold and orange, visible from miles and miles away. But it was not the brightness of his clothes that caused the lady Mellario to seek out the identity of the foreigner, Areo knew. It was his smile, the glowing smile that made the sun paled in comparison.

The identity of the man who had so intrigued Lady Mellario was not hard to ascertain. A few well-placed gold coins later, Areo had his answer. He quickly returned to his lady’s side.

“The man is a Westerosi, my lady. A prince from Dorne, though not yet the Prince of Dorne. Doran Martell is his name, the eldest son of the Princess of Dorne.”

“A prince? He does not look like a prince. What do you think, Areo?”

His lady was fond of asking Areo Hotah his opinion, even in realms where he was not likely to know the answer. She was not really expecting an answer, Areo knew, but it still felt good to be asked in any case.

“I have never seen a prince before, my lady. I would not know,” Areo had to admit.

Mellario laughed, her husky, comely laugh that drove men to distraction. “Nor have I, in truth. But I have always pictured them looking dark and gloomy, burdened with their inheritance, not shining as brightly as this prince.”

“Perhaps this prince is burdened as well, only he is better than most at hiding it,” Areo replied. Mellario gazed at him thoughtfully. Now why had he said that? Something in the prince’s eyes. Something he saw when the prince was laughing and clapping at the dancing bear on the steps. The prince’s eyes were not laughing along with his mouth; they were dark pools you could be lost in and never returned home.

One of the men accompanying the prince was approaching them. “Greetings from my prince, my good lady. Prince Doran would be honored if the Lady Mellario would honor him by joining him for supper.”

So the prince had also dispatched his own spy to find out Mellario’s identity. He was as intrigued with the Lady Mellario as she was with him.

“My lady, your lord father –“

“My father can wait, Areo.” His opinion was not sought for this time, it was not even welcomed. Mellario turned to the prince’s man, smiling her intoxicating smile that Areo himself was not immune to, even promised and wedded as he was to his axe from the age of six and ten. “Please let Prince Doran know that I would be very glad to accept his invitation,” Mellario said, her voice firm.


 

 “Is it true he [Oberyn] tried to raise Dorne for Viserys?” “No one speaks of it, but yes. Ravens flew and riders rode, with what secret messages I never knew. Jon Arryn sailed to Sunspear to return Prince Lewyn’s bones, sat down with Prince Doran, and ended all the talk of war. But Robert never went to Dorne thereafter, and Prince Oberyn seldom left it.” (A Storm of Swords)

“He tells me nothing. He locks himself in his solar day after day and he tells me nothing. He came to bed weeping silent tears night after night and he tells me nothing. I am his wife. How can I comfort him when he refuses to tell me anything? How can I come to his aid when he tells me nothing?”

“The prince is grieving, my lady. For his sister and her poor, sweet children.”

“I know he is grieving. But there is more to it than that. He is planning something. Or his brother is. Or they are planning it together, I do not know. Whatever it is, our children’s fate is at stake. If Doran and Oberyn decide to avenge their sister’s death and challenge this new king, what’s to stop Robert Baratheon from slaughtering my Arianne and my Quentyn like he did little Aegon and little Rhaenys?”

It was already dangerous, what Mellario was saying, something not to be spoken out loud. “Hush, hush. Have a care with your words, my lady, it was not King Robert who –“

“Who, then? It was not this, it was not that. Then who is it? Who is truly to blame? Everyone tells me nothing, as if I am some deaf and dumb ornamental foreigner only good to be stared at. My own husband worst of all. You too, Areo.You who used to be the best of my companions. You have deserted me as well.”

When did it start? Areo could not pinpoint the exact date, when the light had gone out from his lady’s eyes, when the dream had curdled into a nightmare, when love had turned into a battleground. His lady was suffering, but his prince was hurting too, and between them, Areo Hotah would have gladly endured the pain of being branded with another axe on his chest if it would take away his lady’s sorrow and his prince’s pain.

His own sorrow, at being caught in the middle between the two, between his prince and his lady, would never be articulated, or even acknowledged, by himself most of all.

“What did he tell you? My husband. Why did you hear, Areo? You are by his side day and night. You spend more time with him than his own wife does. You must know.”

Her desperation was piercing his heart. He had come to Dorne from Norvos as her sworn shield, but Prince Doran had taken a liking to him and made him part of his own guards. Mellario had not objected. “It would be good to have eyes and ears in the innermost circle,” she had said, strongly implying that he would her eyes and ears in this strange new land that was supposed to be their new home.

The Bearded Priests had never taught him what the right thing to do was, in these situations. Serve, obey and protect, they had drilled that over and over again into Areo’s head. But what if you have two masters, or a master and a mistress? Who should you serve, obey and protect first?

“I know no more than you do, my lady. I am merely a guard, as you know. My duty is to serve, obey and protect, not to give counsel.”

Mellario wrung her hands. “Oh it’s no use. You are his creature now, not mine. You have no more love for your former mistress, now that everything is reserved for your precious prince!”

Areo was aghast. “My lady –“

“Go. Leave me in peace and go back to your silent prince. Tell him his lady wife would like to know if she should be preparing for war. Has Lord Arryn, Hand of the King come to Dorne to declare war? Should I take Arianne and Quentynwith me and flee to Norvos?” Tears were streaming down Mellario’s face. “Go!” She ordered, her voice strangled.

Areo had no choice but to leave. He went out, closed the door softly, and was met by the sight of Prince Doran himself, waiting patiently by the door.

“My prince.”

“Is she … would she be –“

“Perhaps you could give her some time to recover,” Areo said. Her proud lady would not wish to be seen in such a state, not even by her own husband. Perhaps especially not by her husband.

They were not so different in that regard, Areo thought, the prince and his lady wife. Each trying to hide the worst of their pain and sorrow from one another.

“Lady Mellario is worried that the Hand of the King has come to declare war on Dorne,” Areo told his prince, when they were further away from Mellario’s room. “No one has told her the purpose of Lord Arryn’s arrival.”

You, as her husband, had not told her.

The prince sighed. “He came to return my uncle’s bones. I thought I have told Mellario that, but I must have forgotten in the confusion.” Doran paused. “He came to warn us as well.”

“To warn us that there will be war?”

“To warn us that there must not be war. And there won’t be, not now. Not until we’re ready.” The last sentence was spoken so softly Areo was not certain he had truly heard it.

“Justice is a very patient beast. And so is vengeance,” Doran continued, still in that soft, barely audible voice.

Areo stared at the prince’s pale and wan countenance. The last few moons had taken its toll on him. The pain in his legs was increasing as well. Gout, Maester Caleotte had said, and likely to be worse in the coming years.

“Your burden must be incredible, my prince. If Lady Mellario knows more of your cares and you burdens, she could be of help, if only in giving you comfort, or providing an ear to listen,” Areo said.

I did it for my lady, he told himself. I spoke out when it is not my place, for the sake of Lady Mellario. For the lady I once loved myself, a hopeless and futile love though it was.

And I did it for my prince as well. My sad, lonely prince who shares his burden with no one, not even his beloved brother Oberyn.

There was no anger on Doran’s face, listening to Areo Hotah’s unsolicited counsel, only regret and sadness. “I wish I could, Areo. Oh how I wish I could! But it is for Mellario’s own sake. The less she knows, the safer it would be for her. And for our children. No, I must keep my secrets to myself.”


 

 Doran Martell & Arianne Martell

Tell me it will not hurt, Father, you said, when you were four, when you fell and scraped your knees and your elbows, when you were waiting for the maester to tend to your wound. Tell me the medicine will not hurt, Father, you pleaded.

It will sting, I told you, not daring to lie, afraid of breaking your faith and your trust in your father's words this early in life. It will sting, I told you, but only for a little while, and I will hold your hand and I will hold you close to me the whole time, until it stops hurting.

Tell me you will never abandon me, Father, you said, when you were eight, when your sleep night after night was haunted by the ghost of the girl hiding under her father's bed, the girl desperately praying and waiting for the father who would never come to save her from the monster. Tell me you will never abandon me the way Cousin Rhaenys and Cousin Aegon were abandoned by their father.

I will never abandon you, I promised, holding you tightly in my arms until you slept the sleep of the peaceful, of the girl who was convinced of her place in the world, of her place in her father's heart.

Tell me the content of this letter is a lie, a great big lie, a monstrosity of a lie, Father, you never said out loud to me, when you were four-and-ten, when you found my letter to Quentyn, the letter that changed not only how you thought and felt about your father, but also how you thought and felt about yourself. Tell me I still have your love, Father. Tell me I have not lost it.

You will always have my love, I would have told you, had I known the true cause of your anguish, of your sleepless nights, of the tears you tried so hard to hide from me. But fool that I was, I attributed it all to your distress regarding your father's and mother's disintegrating marriage.

Tell me, Father, when did you decide to disinherit me? Tell me, Father, when did you begin to hate me? you asked, when you were four-and-twenty, when you have had enough of my secrets and my silences.

I never hated you, Arianne, I told you.

I never stopped loving you, Arianne, I replied, to the question you were no longer asking. 


 

Nymor  Martell & Deria Martell

I know how futile it is to tell you that you must not waste any time trying to defend me after I am dead, trying to salvage my character and my reputation. That is one advice I am certain you will ignore, as certain as I am that the sun rises in the east, as certain as I am that my mother would never have chosen the path I have chosen regarding the war. Your persistence (or obstinacy!) could rival your grandmother’s, and I must have realized this from the very first time she held you in her arms, when your fingers grabbed hold of what little hair she had remaining at the time, and adamantly refused to let go.  

Princess Meria’s tenacity, resolve and fortitude were not inherited by her son and heir. I have heard this sentiment too often to be wounded by it. No doubt, after my death, there will be more voices in Dorne calling me a craven appeaser, branding me a cowardly defeatist. Yes, we have achieved peace without submission, for now, at least, but at what cost? The deaths of countless Dornishmen and Dornishwomen remain unavenged, and the dragons survive still, poised to bring down fire and blood on Dornish soil at any time of their choosing, despite the peace treaty.    

Despite your own qualms and reservations about the peace treaty, I know all too well that you will try to argue, after I am gone, My father did it for Dorne, for the blighted, burning ruin of a kingdom that had seen enough of war. My father did it for the Dornishmen and the Dornishmen who were still alive, who had suffered too much already. My father did it for –

Leave it be, I ask of you. It is not your duty to defend, to justify, to rationalize, all that I have done, all that I am. And it is not your duty to continue the path I have chosen, or to reverse the course I have set, for the sake of protecting my legacy or redeeming my life’s work.     

No child can redeem a parent. No child should ever be expected to redeem a parent. 

Your only duty is to Dorne, and to yourself. Perhaps peace will hold, or perhaps it will not. Perhaps the Targaryens will be the first to break the treaty, or perhaps it will be Dorne. You will know best what must be done, depending on the situation at the time. As my mother told me, on her deathbed, “When I am dead, you will do as you see fit, as the Prince of Dorne, and when you are dead, your daughter will do as she sees fit, as the Princess of Dorne. That is how it should be. That is how it must be.”

Chapter Text

"I have known the truth since I was four-and-ten, since the day that I went to my father’s solar to give him a good night kiss, and found him gone. My mother had sent for him, I learned later.” (A Feast for Crows)

Areo Hotah delivered the message from Mellario, while Doran was finishing the letter to Quentyn. “Lady Mellario requests your presence in her bedchamber, my prince,” said Hotah, with a hopeful expression that he could not quite manage to hide.  

Doran made his way to his wife’s bedchamber – a room he had not set foot in for quite some time – with anticipation and trepidation battling for supremacy in his mind. They had not shared the same bedchamber, let alone the same bed, since the day Quentyn left Sunspear for Yronwood. Aside from the public occasions and the court functions that they had to attend together, Mellario avoided Doran’s company as much as possible. Her anger, and her even greater disappointment with her husband, had not abated with the passage of time.

Her distress and sorrow too had not abated with the passage of time. Even now, she still looked as if she barely slept each night. She wept bitter tears for days after Doran refused to delay Quentyn’s departure. “He is too young! Too young, vulnerable and defenseless still. Wait until he is older. A year or two, or more. Wait until he is old enough to be a squire, at least,” Mellario had pleaded, tearfully, before demanding, angrily, “What difference would a year or two make to the Yronwoods?”

A great deal of difference to Ormond Yronwood, who was still seething about the manner of his lord father’s death. “I could not do what you ask, my love,” Doran had said, with regret. “I have given the Yronwoods my word, my solemn word as the Prince of Dorne. Any delay would be taken as a sign that I mean to break that promise.”

The door to her bedchamber was already ajar when Doran arrived. He coughed once, to announce his presence. Mellario’s voice called out his name, softly, and her tone recalled a simpler and happier times, when they were whole and not torn apart, when they were united and not a house divided.

He entered the room, and took the seat facing hers, not quite daring to hope, or to pray.

One look at Mellario’s face, however, was enough to tell Doran that reconciliation was the last thing in her mind.

“You had a letter from Yronwood this morning,” she said, tersely. It was a statement, not a question.

Doran nodded. “I did, yes.”

“Was it from Quentyn? Did you not think to show it to me, to his mother?”

“It was not from Quentyn. It was a letter from Lord Yronwood.”

“A letter from Lord Yronwood about our son.”

“He mentions Quentyn in passing, but the gist of the letter is about a different matter.”

“A different matter you mean to keep secret from me, no doubt, as you have kept so many other secrets from your own wife. A different matter that is more pressing, no doubt, more pressing than the safety and well-being of our son, who is now living among strangers, strangers who –”

“The Yronwoods are not our enemies.”

“They are not our friends either, are they? Oh, I know well enough what is being whispered and said aloud about me in Sunspear. ‘That foolish, peevish and petulant foreign woman. That thoughtless, selfish creature. She knew well enough before her wedding that fostering is a part of Westerosi culture. If she was not willing to accept it, then she should not have married a Westerosi man in the first place.’ But you and I both know that what is happening to Quentyn is not mere fostering. This is payment for a blood debt, a blood debt incurred by your brother, for which our son must pay the price. A blood debt you did not see fit to warn me about before we were wed.”

Mellario continued, tears streaming down her cheeks, “Quentyn is no better than a hostage to the Yronwoods. I am his mother! As his mother, how could I accept the situation ‘with grace’ as they expect of me? As his mother, how could I not be consumed with fear for his safety and his well-being, every minute of every day?”

“The Yronwoods would not dare to harm him,” Doran said. He stood up and stepped closer toward his wife, yearning to take her into his embrace, yearning to comfort her, to try to ease her pain and her anguish, fully realizing that he was responsible for a great deal of that pain and anguish. But Mellario flinched and recoiled, even before he reached her side, and Doran quickly halted his steps.

“Who would have thought that your brother would have dared to poison the previous Lord Yronwood, when it was only meant to be a duel to first blood, not a duel to death? The Yronwoods would not dare to harm Quentyn, you say. But we never really know what anyone would dare to do, until they have actually done it. What is the point of saying that they would not dare? What good does that really do?”

To this, Doran could not find an adequate reply, to his great sorrow.