True to her promise, Daenerys made the first payment to the Iron Bank three months after the meeting with Tycho Nestoris.
The intervening time went by uneventfully. Jon sat under the shadow of Dany’s throne whenever she held court, he hosted her guests whenever they arrived and sat in her small council meetings as a dutiful Prince of Dragonstone should.
Jon prayed regularly that she would have her own heir who would inherit Dragonstone so he could stay in the North with his family. Arya’s letters were few and far between and with Ghost staying behind in Winterfell, he found himself missing her more each day. Her last letter to him had been from Bear Island. She intimated that Tormund Giantsbane couldn’t keep their secret from his she-bears.
And a few small council meetings past, Bran extended an invitation to The Great Northern Council to Jon...and the queen, as a formality.
They agreed before he left that Jon would be there - he wouldn’t miss it for the world - but Bran was keen on maintaining an amicable relationship with the Crown. His little brother’s strange gift gave him insights into people’s lives. He thought it prudent to invite the queen despite knowing she would not attend. People came to Queen Daenerys Targaryen she did not attend to them - not after saving the world with her dragons.
The queen asked Jon what he thought of Bran and whether by calling this council he was intending to rebel against her rule. The Spider had informed her that the Dayne siblings were both marrying Northerners. The Dornish princess remained a thorn in Dany’s side, at least as far as Daenerys was concerned. The Dornish had not committed any belligerent acts, not yet at least. Anything that the Spider had reported was easily explicable as something any high lord or lady might do. The betrothal between Edric Baratheon and a Dornish woman could easily be a normal marriage alliance between two houses as easily as it could be the preparation for war but the betrothals between Ned Dayne and Jorelle Mormont and Allyria Dayne and Harrion Karstark were the natural conclusions of their time together in Winterfell. Of that he had no doubt. His milk-brother had no appetite for the game of thrones, and his betrothed much less.
Explaining that to Daenerys however was difficult. He had no doubt her Tyrell in-laws had dug their thorns in her, keeping her tied to them above all others. One only needed to look at her small council. It’s most powerful members belonged to them before they belonged to her.
And at their head sat Lady Olenna Redwyne Tyrell, matriarch of both families.
Jon liked Garlan and Willas, they were both good men but he was not blind to their desire to prolong their family’s time in the sun.
Unlike the Arryns, the Starks, and the Martells, the Tyrells did not have an old name whose prestige preceded the Conquest. They were stewards of the original rulers of The Reach, House Gardener, and only chanced upon their seat by bending the knee to Aegon the Conqueror after the Field of Fire. Their ascension was akin to the Pooles taking Winterfell, which ironically the Boltons and Lannisters nearly brought about in their twisted roundabout way.
Given their relatively recent stature, the Tyrells spent a lot of their time presenting themselves as the paramount examples of chivalry. After nearly three hundred years without any intermarriage between their house and the royal line they married the only daughter of the main branch of their house thrice to three different king claimants. And they only sided with Daenerys after the king who called himself Aegon had chosen a Dornish bride. Jon did not suppose they would give up their quest to have a Tyrell sit the Iron Throne any time soon. He didn’t care much for that, he only wished Dany would trust someone other than them. They, like most others, put their interests above everyone else. Jon heard once from Lord Tyrion that they closed the Rose Road off during the War of the Five kings, all but starving the people of King’s Landing and then presented themselves as the heroes when they brought aid with them. Image meant everything to them. By surrounding herself only with them, Daenerys was limiting the scope of her influence to theirs.
For as long as he could, Jon vowed he would be the bridge between Daenerys and his family - he just hoped her reaction to his possible abdication would not undo all his efforts.
As he turned the corner, Jon came across his shadow walking with the Tyrell family matriarch. Jon had heard the Queen of Thorns arrived the previous night.
“My prince,” she curtsied, courteously. “I believe you have met Lady-“
“Yes, yes, I’ve met the boy,” the Queen of Thorns scowled, waving the courtesy away with her hand and looking closely at Jon.
Lady Olenna was a tiny, shrunken woman. Her sharp tongue seemed out of place in the frail old body of a toothless woman the size of a small child. The only two people older than her Jon had ever known were Old Nan and Maester Aemon. As always, she was flanked by her twin guards, Erryk and Arryk, or Left and Right as she called them.
“Lady Olenna, it is a pleasure to see you as always.”
“Yes, a pleasure I’m sure...I hear you did not marry that doltish girl. You have my congratulations.”
“My lady...my betrothal to Lady Sansa did not bear fruit,” Jon managed.
“Count yourself lucky. I always thought the girl was as bright as a day in the Long Night. I trust you are well?”
“I am my lady, thank you for asking. How fare you?”
“I fare well enough. My grandson's wife has invited me to this shit-smelling city for some feast or other for a cheese-seller from Pentos.” She rolled her eyes.
Jon didn’t know what courtesies to use here. Fortunately, or unfortunately, for him, the Queen of Thorns liked the sound of her own voice when she was mining for information.
“I hear the lost Starklings are back in their frozen wasteland.”
“The Starks are back in Winterfell, my lady.”
“Tell me about this girl, Ned Stark’s other daughter, Arya is her name am I right?”
“Yes my lady, Arya’s-“
“I hear she is a hot pepper that might do better south.” From Varys no doubt.
“I don’t think she likes the south very much my lady,”
“Well, let me judge that for myself,” the old lady chided.
“Lord Stark is already organising her betrothal,” he blurted. They would not be taking Arya from him.
“Well...some betrothals do not bear fruit,” she mimicked. “You and I are examples of that. I was supposed to marry one Targaryen or other once and here I am now. Olenna Tyrell not Targaryen . Anyway,” she said, clacking her walking stick on the cobbles, “it is bad manners to keep an old woman standing. You must sup with me soon. Leona here has not stopped singing your praises.”
His shadow fluttered her eyelashes and blushed prettily before curtsying and toddling along after Lady Olenna. The Queen of Thorns’ walking stick clack, clack, clacked away down the garden path.
Who the hell does she have in mind for Arya?!
The feast Lady Olenna was invited to was held in honour of Illyrio Mopatis, a Pentoshi Magister who had once hosted Daenerys and her brother. The man had supported Daenerys’ campaign to take Westeros shortly after she landed at Dragonstone, confessing that once he heard there was another Targaryen alive he had asked the boy to propose to Daenerys as a sign of Targaryen unity and restoration. However, he said, when the boy refused, he could not sit back and let the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms be usurped.
Illyrio had brokered Daenerys’ marriage to the man she loved, her first husband, Khal Drogo, he gifted her her dragon eggs and sent her Ser Barristan Selmy among other loyal followers of hers. She held him in high esteem. As did the Spider. Illyrio’s intercession was integral to Daenerys accepting the eunuch into her inner circle.
The Spider and the Magister were lifelong friends who had met as two poor boys in the Free Cities; Varys a mummer and Illyrio a sellsword. Life had worked quite well for each one since then, Jon thought.
Jon had not met the man before, he’d only heard of him by reputation. Daenerys called him to the small council chambers to introduce them.
When he arrived, “Illyrio,” she beamed, “allow me to introduce you to my brother’s son, and my heir, Aemon Targaryen.”
“Prince Aemon,” the magister bowed. “I had not known your father but I did know your uncle, Viserys. It is a pleasure to finally meet you. Even in Pentos we’ve heard of the heroics of the last living Targaryens.”
Daenerys’ smile was resplendent.
“I am pleased to meet you too, my lord, our queen has spoken much of you, I trust your journey was smooth?” There was something about the man that he did not like. He just couldn’t place his finger on it.
He walked over to shake Jon’s hand. He was remarkably light on his feet for one so heavy - his feet made hardly any sound.
“My journey was pleasant. I look forward to my time in the company of the most beautiful queen in the world,” he bowed to Daenerys, “and my old friend,” he turned to smile in the direction of the Spider. “And I look forward to getting to know you as well, dear prince.”
“Please, call me Jon,” he insisted. Jon saw the chagrin clear on Dany’s face. ‘You should wear your name proudly. You are a Targaryen,” she reminded him more than once.
The feast was the grandest Jon had ever seen. When they had won the wars, Dany’s hold on the throne was shaky. They were still in the midst of winter, their armies depleted, the people of King’s Landing hungry and tired from the wars that plagued the city, and the Faith critical of Daenerys. After the High Sparrow and his ascetic preachings, the Tyrells - of all people - advised Daenerys not to throw any opulent events until the people were fed and winter at an end.
That time had come and Daenerys threw a great feast in honour of her guest. The Great Hall was ready and bursting with lords and ladies.
Spotting the arrival of the queen, her dothraki and her unsullied, in the company of Jon and his shadow, the herald cried out and silenced the hall in the process. “Entering! Prince Aemon Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone, and Lady Leona Tyrell.”
As the Hand’s cousin, and a lady-in-waiting to the queen, Leona Tyrell was given roles within the castle, including overseeing the ladies of the Court, and planning feasts like this one.
Tonight, Jon’s shadow wore a black gown, tight as always in the chest, with skirts lined with red silk that flashed like fire whenever she walked. Her hair was pinned with fresh water pearls and held up in a southron style, leaving her ample bosom clear on display. She held tightly onto his arm as they walked down the carpet in the centre of the Hall. Ahead of them, Lord Willas sat on the dais in the seat next to the queen’s, the two seats next to him were kept free for Jon and his shadow, while Paxter Redwyne and Garlan Tyrell took the remaining two seats on that side. On the other side of the queen’s seat sat the fork-bearded Magister with the Spider and the Queen of Thorns. When they made their way to their seats Leona flashed Jon a radiant smile, fluttering her eyelashes flirtingly.
“Entering-” the herald announced again, “Her Grace, Queen Daenerys Stormborn, of House Targaryen, First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, and the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Mother of Dragons, The Unburnt, The Breaker of Chains and The Prince that was Promised!”
The queen looked irradiant as she floated to the dais, dressed in the colours of her house, and flanked by her bloodriders and her unsullied. She wore her crown fashioned in the shape of the three-headed dragon of House Targaryen. The coils of it gold, with silver wings and heads of jade, onyx and ivory on top of her intricately braided hair, which in accordance with Dothraki tradition was a nod to her numerous victories.
When she finally made it up the dais she stood, smiling at her subjects. “You have my thanks for joining us,” she declared loudly, her voice reaching the back of the hall, “to welcome my dearest friend, the Magister Illyrio Mopatis, of Pentos.” She then raised her goblet to a thunderous applause from the guests.
When the queen sat, servants flitted in, serving those on the dais the first course.
Jon looked down to see tabletops crowded with trays of mouth-watering foods: whole-roast deer, stuffed with bacon and herbs, rich swan, buttered potatoes and diced pumpkin smeared with spices, countless cheeses - for the cheesemonger no doubt- boar cooked with apples and mushrooms, rose shaped bread rolls - because of course they would be rose shaped - sweets of every kind, and sweet Arbor wines.
They were served course after course planned by Leona Tyrell herself. Gleaming, she turned to him, placing her hand over his, and whispering in his ear, “Is the food to your liking, my prince?” Her brown doe-eyes were wide and awaiting praise.
“The food was lovely, my lady, you are truly talented,” Jon replied.
She blushed, lowering her eyes, before looking up again, shyly, she positioned her hand above his, again. “You are most kind, my prince, I hope you enjoy the rest of the feast as well. And I pray that your feasts be plentiful and your achievements many.”
Jon smiled politely and looked out into the crowd spotting Ned and Allyria Dayne sitting with their party from Dorne. They were positioned far enough from the dais to keep them away from Lady Olenna who had an enmity to the Martells. It didn’t help that four of the sand-snakes had travelled to King’s Landing with the Dayne siblings.
Sitting with the present stormlords, Jon also spotted Lord Davos, a sight for his sore eyes. He’d missed the man and had been waiting months for him to return from his trip across the Narrow Sea. Jon wondered why he wasn’t informed of the arrival of both the Daynes and Lord Davos. He looked forward to reuniting with them.
The wine continued to flow, and Jon’s shadow continued to intermittently brush her fingers with his, sending him shy smiles. He wished it was Arya here, although he wasn’t sure the smiles she would be sending him would be shy at all. He wondered where and how she was now.
When the music started, the queen took the first dance with her guest of honour and slowly the crowd began to join them on the floor. Ned danced with his aunt, Garlan with his wife, Tyrek Lannister with his and Tyene Sand with Ser Andrey Dalt.
Leona placed her hand above his again. “Will you dance with me, my prince,” she requested timidly.
Jon nodded. It would be considered rude to refuse but after the fifth dance that night, he wished he had refused.
She held tightly to him, pushing her chest against his and looking up to him, keeping the conversation going, speaking of Winterfell and his heroics in the War for the Dawn. Every time he looked down to speak to her, her bosom was offered up to him, while she looked at him affectionately. And when the music slowed, she lay her head against his chest.
Finally, as the song came to an end, a new hand offered itself to Jon. “Excuse me,” she postulated, looking at Leona. “May I have this dance?” Lady Nym put her hand in his and pushed Leona aside before the girl could speak.
Oberyn Martell’s daughter Nymeria Sand had fought in the battle for King’s Landing and along with her late sister Obara, caused many casualties before the king was caught. Queen Daenerys in an act of benevolence pardoned the Martells after the death of their king and had tried to welcome them to Court many times under the mediation of her husband. They rarely came but when they did they sent Lady Nym most often. Her tongue could rival the Queen of Thorns, and unlike the old woman, Nymeria Sand had the ability to back up her words. Jon was sure she had a few daggers under her silks this very moment.
“You looked like you needed rescuing,” she joked.
Jon tried to hide his smirk.
“Well that, and the Queen of Thorns was smiling down on you and her little rose bud. I do so enjoy watching her toothless smile curdle every time she sees my sisters and I.” Lady Olenna still blamed Oberyn Martell for her grandson’s accident and extended her dislike to all of his family.
When Jon looked at Lady Olenna, she turned her head loftily away from their direction.
“I can’t imagine she’s pleased to see the serpent’s whore’s spawn dancing with her latest project. I’m surprised they waited this long to entangle you, ” Nymeria added.
“I am not entangled, my lady,” Jon rectified.
“No? Pray tell me did pretty Leona Tyrell just dress in Targaryen colours and go as far as wearing pearls in the colours of your mother's house by accident?”
Jon turned his eyes to Leona Tyrell.
“The moment she walked in this hall she made a declaration. And since then the girl has been all but undressing you with her eyes. Although... I do suppose she can’t be faulted...” Lady Nym trailed off.
The Dornish had rejected Jon’s pleas for help during the War for the Dawn, dismissing him as a would-be usurper and the cause of what befell their aunt. However, in the intervening years with Jon’s burgeoning friendship with the Daynes, and their barely concealed loathing of Daenerys for the deaths of Quentyn Martell, their king and Obara Sand, they decided he was the lesser-evil.
Seeing Jon’s obvious discomfort with her flirtation, Nymeria chuckled. “Oh don’t be such a prude. If I wanted to bed you, you would know.” she rolled her eyes amusedly.
“Anyway, I look forward to seeing this Winterfell of yours that has beguiled our two stars. I hear I share my name with one of your direwolves.”
“You do. Her mistress liked the stories of Queen Nymeria.”
“Oh, I’ve heard all about her ,” Nymeria quipped. “I’m sure I will enjoy her company. We relish fiery people in Dorne.”
Jon felt Daenerys’ eyes on him. When their eyes met she smiled graciously at him.
After they finished their dance, Jon made his way to the Daynes greeting Ned and Allyria, as well as Tyene and Elia Sand and was introduced to the youngest of the Sand Snakes, Loreza Sand.
From there he went to find Lord Davos.
“Lord Davos,” he greeted the man with an embrace.
“Please, if there’s anyone here who should call me my name it’s you.”
“How have you been, lad?
“Good,” Jon smiled. “Better than good.”
“Glad to hear it. I’m sorry for missing your wedding. Although from what I hear there was no wedding. I’m sorry, son.”
“It was no one’s fault truly.”
“I came as soon as I could. What need do you have of me?”
Jon guided Lord Davos out of the Hall.
“My cousins,” - it felt weird calling them that - “have returned to Winterfell. Rickon included.“
“Where was he?” Lord Davos enquired.
“Skagos. He apologises for hiding from you.”
“It was smart of him not to trust a stranger.”
“My cousin, Bran, well, Lord Stark would like to hold a council with all his lords. I mean for you to attend as well.”
“I’m no Northerner son.”
“But you are one of the few people in this world I trust well my lord. I’d be honoured to have you there with us. I assure you, we will not waste your time.”
“And here I was thinking my time with kings was done.”
“I am no king Lord Davos, merely someone who enjoys your company.”
Lord Davos chuckled goodnaturedly and they stood there catching up for a long while. Lord Davos spoke of how he had taken his sons east to see the wonders of the world and detailed their adventures to Jon.
Daenerys invited Jon to her apartments the morning after the feast. They were to break their fast together.
“I saw the Dornish all over you last night. What did they want?”
“Lady Nym was expressing her excitement about seeing Winterfell.”
“Is that their new deception?” she asked, sipping her tea. She screwed her face up as she swallowed.
“Marwyn says this is good for fertility,” she offered when she saw him looking at her cup. “I know I will not have children of my own but trying makes Willas happy.”
“I hope you have many children, Your Grace.”
“I wish I had hope,” she said with a sad smile.
They sat in silence for a while longer, the only sounds in the room were those of their cutlery.
“Did you enjoy the feast?”
“It was a pleasant feast, Your Grace.”
“Leona worked really hard. I was pleased with the results.”
The silence between them returned.
“Have you spoken to Lady Sansa since the wedding?”
“No but she wrote to Bran to welcome him home. She is well from what I hear.”
“She is being courted by a number of lords in the Vale.”
“I wish her well.”
“And I wish you well. As Prince of Dragonstone you still owe a duty to your house.”
Somehow the direction the conversation took did not surprise Jon.
“You are familiar with Leona by now. I’ve seen you walk the gardens together. She’s a pleasant girl and is nicely dowered. I am thinking of arranging a match between you.”
“You? Or the Queen of Thorns?”
When Dany didn’t speak, “The girl is insipid.” Jon scoffed. “I am not interested.”
“You do not have to be interested in her. You only need to marry her and tie the Tyrells further to me,” Daenerys pleaded, her voice soft.
“You’re already tied to them, Dany. You married the bloody Lord of Highgarden!”
“And he’s merely a consort and not a king in his own right.”
“He sits beside you as your Hand and is a king in all but name!”
Dany sighed. “Lady Olenna suspects I am barren and has all but asserted that a child of Tyrell birth must sit on the Iron Throne after me. Whether it is from my own womb or...your seed. As my heir.”
Jon scoffed. “You are the queen, Daenerys. Lady Olenna cannot make demands of you.” He tried to make her see sense.
“Besides you are still young, Grand Maester Marwyn is giving you these teas. You’ll have a child in no time, you’ll see! And your son or daughter will take Dragonstone. And I will visit you and my cousins.”
The sad smile returned to Dany’s face.
“Truly,” he continued, “I wish you many children. I only want to return North.”
“After they threw you out?”
Jon resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “No one kicked me out Dany I-“
“You fought for their home. You and I defeated the Others.” She placed her hand on his arm, leaning in to him.
“And yet the moment your beloved Starks returned they threw you out. You who fought for their barren land. You, who gave up your crown for your people. You who brought together the army who defeated the Others. How dare they? Say the word Jon and I will give you the title again.” She had a severe look on her face.
“Daenerys, look,” he put his hand over hers. “No one threw me out. The title belongs to Bran. When I was a boy Catelyn Stark thought me to be wanton and treacherous. To take Winterfell from Bran would be to prove her right.”
Dany smiled and looked at him with pity in her eyes. “You are a dragon, Aemon. The opinions of a dead woman mean little. You love Winterfell-“
“I love my family more.”
“I’m your family too.”
“And I need you. Jon-“ she only ever called him Jon when she needed something. She put her hand on his arm.
“I need your help. Marry the girl. Don’t bed her if you want but I need the Tyrells and more than anything, I need the Redwyne fleet and for both I must appease Lady Olenna.”
“You don’t need anyone. You are Daenerys Stormborn. The blood of the dragon.” He squeezed her hand. “The Tyrells need you. Not the other way around.” If she wouldn’t listen to reason he would appeal to what she did listen to - reminders of her strength.
Dany brayed. “I know that. But I do not want to rule entirely by fear. Willas is a good man besides. I want to treat his family well.”
“By throwing them me. They are playing you for a fool and you’re too blind to see it. The girl is the daughter of a landed knight and the daughter of a low branch of House Beesbury. In what world is she worthy of your heir?”
“Her parents are dead and the Tyrells have adopted her”
She sighed. “Before I married Willas there was another my heart wanted. But I did what was right for my kingdom. I married the man whose wealth and support would help me win my throne.”
“Who was the other man?”
“I used to have dreams of the man I thought was to be my lover. A comely young man. Closer to me in age than those who desired me. For a long time, his face remained a shifting shadow in my dreams, until I came to Westeros and I saw him…” she smiled wistfully. “But I sacrificed my desires for the realm. I’m asking you to do the same.”
“I have already made sacrifices for your realm. I gave up my crown. I am not marrying this girl as well, Dany.”
Jon got up to move.
“Fine . Don’t marry the Tyrell girl,” she said from behind him as he walked away.
“Your cousin. Arya-“
Jon spun around to look at the queen, who stood up to walk up to him.
“She is not yet betrothed.”
Jon knew where this was going. He only stayed silent to find out the name of the man.
“Lord Paxter has two sons Ser Horas and Ser Hobber, both unmarried and Lord Paxter says both boys know her from her time in King’s Landing and he-“
Jon couldn’t listen to any more. “Arya is not marrying either of them.”
“Lord Paxter says he will make whichever twin she chooses his heir. It’s a good deal for a second daugh-“
“She is already spoken for.”
Jon knew he shouldn’t, not without speaking to Arya first.
“Me. Arya Stark is to be my bride.”
The queen took a step back from him. “And yet no one knows of your betrothal.”
“That was out of respect to you. I did not find it fit to announce a betrothal I hadn’t shared with you.”
“You’ve been here for five months. When were you going to tell me?”
“When I was ready.”
“Hmm,” she hummed, putting her finger to her lip in thought and then looking up at him. “Well, I suppose no one knowing of this betrothal is a good thing. There will be no scandal if you break it and I-”
“I have no intention of breaking it,” he growled.
“I have not given my permission and you cannot marry without it. I forbid you to marry the girl.”
Jon felt a cloud of menace descend upon him. “You’d have to kill me to stop me, Your Grace...And even then I’m not sure that’s enough to stop me,” he added in a low voice, leaning into her so she marked his words.
“You sound mad.”
“I suppose I got it from my father, or perhaps yours. You know what they say about Targaryens,” Jon glowered.
“Jon-“ there it was again. “I have to think about my kingdom,” she said gently. “The North can offer nothing of what Highgarden or the Arbor can. Forget this girl. Leona is beautiful and she can make you happy if you let her.”
“You seemed to have a lot of praise for the North when you needed me to marry Sansa.”
“Sansa brought me the Vale. Her sister only brings me the North and the Riverlands. The Riverlands is little more than a burned out carcass. The Vale was going to bring knights and trade to my cause. You will marry-“
“Good. I will let Leona know. She will be delighted.”
“The only woman I will ever marry is Arya. The sooner you understand that the better.”
“I forbid you from marrying her.”
Jon learned in again. “I do not remember asking your permission.”
“I could have you arrested.”
Jon jeered at her. “Your father once arrested a Stark. Look how well that turned out for him.”
She grabbed his arm, narrowing her eyes. “Are you threatening me? I only have to raise my voice slightly and my men will kill you.”
“I’m giving you a history lesson, Your Grace,” he scowled in return.
“You are no Stark.”
“Tell that to my siblings.”
“The cripple, the ten year old and the girl who’s been who knows where?”
Jon felt a madness seize him. “Three skin changers, a greenseer, the entire North, the Riverlands and the Children of the Forest at their back. You saw yourself what they could do during the War for the Dawn.” Jon found himself laughing. “And for all Sansa is at The Vale and estranged, I assure you if Houses Stark and Tully rise the Arryns won’t be far behind. Family, Duty, Honour - she’s honour bound to answer and this time she has a point to prove. She will have to show that she is not a traitor to her family but a girl that was once badly burned. That’s what? Three of the four houses whose alliance brought down your father?”
“They killed your father too.”
“My father had a choice. He could have sided with the brother of his wife and taken the throne from his mad father. He chose wrong.”
“I could have you killed for these words.”
“Do it,” Jon scoffed. “Let’s see how long you last on your throne.” He was sick of having to bow to every one of her demands.
“My father did not have dragons.”
Suddenly he found himself thinking of Arya’s words to him. What’s a dragon to skinchanger?
He sat down and leaned back on the chair to sneer up at her. “And how are your dragons doing these days? Still mad?”
Daenerys studied him, thinking she made a discovery, she said, “You want my throne.”
“I want to be as far away from it as I possibly can be.” He exhaled deeply, eyes closed. He held the bridge of his nose and then stood to walk over to her, placing his hand on her shoulder.
“Look...Dany, I want to be in the North with my family. I care nought for your throne or the Tyrells or Paxter Redwyne,” he spat the last bit out.
“I want you to have many more years on your throne. I want you to have children. I want to look out for them. I am not your enemy Dany. In fact... I am your only true friend in this place because I want nothing of yours. But I will not marry the Tyrell girl nor will you ever mention Arya’s name again in the same breath as those green boys. If you do, you’ll only compound your problems.”
“Is that another threat?”
“No. A declaration. Insist on this and you’ll have to find yourself a new heir before the day is out. Perhaps Edric Baratheon?”
Jon walked out of her rooms before descending to the yard, Longclaw in hand to face whoever was stupid enough to spar with him in his rage.
The queen ran behind him. Even her unsullied had broken out of their frozen masks that could rival Arya’s with a confused look at their running queen.
“Jon! Jon wait!”
Finally she caught up to him.
“Jon,” she pronounced breathlessly. Since she used his name, whatever she was about to say was going to be self-serving.
He was not.
“I am just at a loss on what to do. I need the Redwyne fleet.”
She stepped away from him. “Please,” she said pointing to a room they stood outside. When they entered she closed the door.
“Do you really want this girl?”
“I do not want to see you harmed.”
Unless it is to your benefit.
“How much do you trust these Starks?”
Great. This again.
“With my life.”
“And you’re sure they do not mean to rebel against me and place you on the throne?”
“They don’t want your throne.”
“You seemed sure earlier that they had the means to fight me for it.”
“If you wronged them.”
There was a pregnant pause between them. Neither of them filled the silence.
Finally, “Fine. I give you leave to marry the girl. I will announce your betrothal at my own Council of Great Lords,” she said.
“Yes. I will need to approve whatever decisions your Great Northern Council makes,” she mocked. “Why not use it as an opportunity for other kingdoms to share their grievances with me as well?”
Jon was sure there was something she was not saying.
Sceptical, he asked, “What changed your mind so fast?”
“You were right. I am the blood of the dragon. I crush both roses and grapes underfoot. I will not sacrifice your happiness for theirs. I will just have to find a way for them and the North to stay loyal.”
“What do you mean?”
“I do not mean harm to your Starks, do not worry.”
Jon found out an hour later why Dany said she needed the Redwyne fleet and why she became suddenly agreeable to the banker after threatening him. She had no intention to pay the full debt. She was merely buying her time until Illyrio arrived. It was clear the man had been whispering talk of conquering Braavos to her long before Tycho Nestoris arrived.
“For too long the Iron Bank of Braavos has run roughshod over the world,” Daenerys announced loftily, “and everyone bowed to their demands. But no longer. I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. I am the blood of the dragon - I will not stand by while some bankers threaten me and oppress my kingdom for the crimes of the usurpers. My words are Fire and Blood. I will not be cowed.”
Leaning over to her “Dany, you cannot be serious!” Jon whispered.
She pulled her lips into a tight line, ignoring him.
“Braavos has subjugated the Pentoshi for longer than they have oppressed your realm, Your Grace,” the fat Magister piped up.
“Whatever action you take to pay them back, Illyrio Mopatis is your servant.” He bowed his head for effect.
“Braavos has done some things right,” Daenerys acknowledged. “They were right in their attempts to prohibit slavery in Pentos. In this instance, I just happen to have aligned interests with your council of Magisters, but there is a price for me forgiving your debts as well.”
“Oh, Your Grace,” the man appealed airily, “the Braavosi did ban slavery in Pentos. It was no mere attempt. We have not had slaves for a hundred years in Pentos.”
“What do you call raising the cost of living such that servants work for free simply to survive?”
“Your Grace, servants are remunerated for their service with a roof over their head. A man cannot control the expensive cost of living.”
Jon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. And what was worse, as he looked around the room, Daenerys’ council was silent, listening, as if this had any merit.
“What help do you provide Her Grace in this ill-thought campaign to conquer Braavos?” Jon entreated. “Pentos is not allowed a standing navy. Any ships you have are merely there to protect your own waters nor can you have an army of more than ten thousand men at a time.” Arya had told him of Braavos’ arsenal and it’s unrivalled power in the seas. Pentos had lost its last wars with Braavos so badly that Braavos’ terms when Pentos sued for peace all but ensured the city could never rise up again.
“I have been a long-time friend of Queen Daenerys,” he said, answering Jon, but looking at the Queen, “I will support her in any way I can. Besides, Pentos not having a navy or an army does not mean we cannot offer money to buy them. Braavos cannot enforce the terms of a hundred year old treaty, if it no longer has the power to do so. Besides...Queen Daenerys has already proven herself a formidable conqueror.”
“What’s in it for you?” he asked the sweating man.
“The new Sealord is weak. Once I conquer Braavos I will need someone to hold the city for me,” Daenerys answered. “Illyrio has been one of my greatest supporters and this is only a fraction of what I owe him.”
“You are too kind, Your Grace,” the magister flattered.
“And how will you ensure he doesn’t happen to slip and fall dead one day in the city notorious for its faceless men?” Arya had told him Braavos’ power lay in part in their ability to wipe out their threats without war. War is bad for business, she said.
“They cannot harm him if their temple is destroyed.” Dany replied abruptly. “I have a particular dislike for assassins. Only cowards employ them.”
“Does this sound reasonable to any of you?” Jon queried the silent council.
“If the queen can wipe out the Crown’s debts with little harm to us, it is a sound idea,” Tyrek Lannister squeaked.
“Of course you would say that,” Jon snarled.
“I will not only forgive the debts of my allies but I will reward my bannermen generously,” she said looking at her husband and good-brother and their uncle.
“How do you propose to do this then?” Jon asked the dragon queen.
“With my children and my armies. The Redwyne fleet will hold the sea for me. They will be joined by the Volantene fleet made up of freedmen who chose me as their saviour. My unsullied will sack the city if my armies breach the Titan, all while I lead the assault in the air.” Dany looked pleased with herself.
“Pentos alone won a battle at the very gates of Braavos in the Battle of the Titan. You, Your Grace, with your children, your armies and your friends in Pentos and Volantis, are sure to win.”
It was then that he realised they were all fools. Not a single one of them warned her against this folly. Even Randyll Tarly. For all he was a terrible man, he seemed a prudent commander. Even he stayed silent. Garlan and Willas as well.
Jon wanted to go back North as soon as possible. His lords would have argued with him for a day and a night if he said something so stupid.
At least these flatterers hadn’t dragged those he cared about into their ill-thought plan for war.
Two days later, he sailed for home with the Daynes, the Dornish and Davos, while Varys and Illyrio travelled to Volantis as envoys of Daenerys.