Kara Zor-El moves through the eery corridors of Dragonstone with a sense of foreboding. The journey from Winterfell to Blackwater Bay has been long and tiresome, but as the newly crowned Queen in the North, she is determined to not let the exhaustion she feels in her very bones show.
She forces her gait to remain steady as she is led into the throne room by Lord Tyrion and Lady Samantha with her stoic Hand, Lady Alexandra beside her. The sight of the imposingly cold, cavernous room does little to settle her unease. Nor does the regal figure seated upon her throne, observing their approach with an air of indifference.
Before their departure from Winterfell, Kara knew only of the tales Old Nan used to spin about the once great House of Luthor and their exile from Westeros. On the journey to Dragonstone, Kara’s advisors told her of Lena’s victories across the Narrow Sea and of her unfound claim to the Iron Throne.
In all those stories, however, it seems that not one of them deemed it important to prepare Kara for how strikingly beautiful the self-proclaimed Queen of the Seven Kingdoms is. Kara’s eyes follow the line of a strong, sharp jawline leading to full red lips. Her long, dark hair is curled meticulously into elegant waves that cascade down her shoulders.
Kara has to quickly averts her gaze as alluring green eyes meet hers. Instead, she watches as Lord Tyrion and Lady Samantha take their respected places either side of the Queen.
“You stand in the presence of Lena Stormborn of House Luthor, rightful heir to the Iron Throne, rightful Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains.”
A moment of silence passes following Samantha’s introductions, in which Kara shares a subtle look of uneasiness with her Hand. After a brief, awkward pause, Alex clears her throat and finally speaks. “This is Kara Zor-El, Queen in the North.”
Lena raises a single, perfectly sculpted brow, visibly unimpressed. “Thank you for travelling so far, Lady Zor-El. I hope the seas weren’t too rough?”
“The winds were kind, Your Grace.”
The Queen is about to speak again, but Kara’s Hand steps forward. “Forgive me, Your Grace, I have a Flea Bottom accent I know, but Kara Zor-El is Queen in the North. She is not a lady, Your Grace.”
A look of disapproval passes across the Queens face. It takes a moment for her to speak, but when she does all traces of her previous welcoming warmth are gone. “Forgive me, Lady…?”
“Your Grace, this is Lady Alexandra Danvers,” Lord Tyrion imparts.
Kara feels a flicker of annoyance at the sound of his voice. The last time she had seen him was at the Purple Wedding, when he was playing Hand to a different Luthor.
“Forgive me, Lady Alexandra. I never did receive a formal education, but I could have sworn I read that the last King in the North was Seyg-El, who bent the knee to my ancestor, Lachlan Luthor. In exchange for his life and the lives of the Northmen, Seyg-El swore fealty to House Luthor in perpetuity,” Queen Lena intones, her eyes fixed firmly on Alex. “Or do I have my facts wrong?”
Alex clears her throat nervously. “I wasn’t there, Your Grace.”
“No, of course not,” Lena concurs, a smirk playing across her lips. “But still, an oath is an oath and perpetuity means… what does perpetuity mean, Lord Tyrion?”
The Queen appraisingly looks between Kara and Alex, allowing the word to settle between them like a weight. “Yes, forever.”
Kara resists the urge to look away from the Queens penetrating gaze. “So, I assume, my Lady, that you are here to bend the knee?”
“I am not, Your Grace,” Kara apprises, steeling herself for the full wrath of the formidable woman before her. The image of the three dragons flying overhead as they sailed into Blackwater Bay now front and centre in her minds eye.
“Well, that is unfortunate. You’ve travelled all this way to break faith with House Luthor?”
“Break faith?” Kara fumes, her anger suddenly kindled. “Surely your Hand has informed you of the atrocities your family has committed against my own. Your brother made me watch as he killed my father unjustly, laughing all the while as his executioner used his own sword against him to chop off his head. He married me off to his Hand like some common whore who-”
“My brother,” Queen Lena deftly interrupts. “Is an evil man. His crimes are-”
“Unforgivable,” Kara interjects this time, observing the slight twitch in Lena’s eye with interest. Lena tilts her head and regards Kara with quiet care.
“On behalf of House Luthor, I will ask for forgiveness for the crimes committed against your family and ask you not to judge a sister by the sins of her brother.”
Kara’s eyes briefly shift to look at Lord Tyrion. She wonders just how much he has divulged to his Queen. Their arranged marriage and the death of her father have surely been discussed at great length, but just how much has he disclosed. Has he revealed all the ways she betrayed her family following her father’s arrest at Kings Landing? Or of how their marriage was a sham and left unconsummated?
“Our two houses were allies for centuries, and those were the best centuries the Seven Kingdoms have ever known. Centuries of peace and prosperity with a Luthor sitting on the Iron Throne and an El serving as Warden in the North. I am the last Luthor, Kara Zor-El. Honour the pledge your ancestors gave mine and bend the knee and I will name you Warden of the North.
Kara shares a look with Tyrion. “The last I heard, your brother still sits comfortably on the Iron Throne,” she says, turning her attention back to Queen Lena. “Or do I have my facts wrong?”
“Lex’s claim to the Iron Throne is unfounded. He is the unfortunate product of one of my father’s numerous affairs. He is not a Luthor,” Lena grinds out. “Now bend the knee and together we will save this country from those who would destroy it.”
“You’re right,” Kara concedes. “You are not guilty of your brother’s crimes. And I am not beholden to my ancestor’s vows.”
A sudden flash of anger passes behind those green eyes, so quick that if Kara were not paying such close attention to her every move, she would have missed it.
“Then why are you here?”
Kara keeps her gaze steady, knowing that the moment has come. The real reason why she has travelled all this way. “Because I need your help and you need mine.”
Queen Lena shares an unamused look with Lord Tyrion. “Did you see three dragons flying overhead as you arrived?”
“I did, Your Grace.”
“And did you see the Dothraki? All of whom have sworn to kill for me.”
“They’re hard to miss,” Kara says, clenching her jaw.
“And yet, I need your help?”
“Not to defeat Lex,” Alex injects. “You could storm Kings Landing tomorrow and the city would fall. Hell, we almost took it, and we didn’t have dragons.”
“Almost,” Tyrion mutters under his breath.
Kara, sensing her Hand is about to retaliate, steps forward and addresses Lena once more. “But you have not stormed Kings Landing. Why not?” she urges. “The only way I see it is that you do not want to kill thousands of innocent people. It is the fastest way to win the war, but you won’t do it, which means at the very least you are better than Lex.”
Lena fixes Kara with a curious look. “Still, that doesn’t explain why I need your help.”
“Because right now, you and I and Lex and everyone else, we’re children playing at a game and screaming that the rules aren’t fair.”
Kara suddenly questions whether she has pushed too far as Lena turns to glare at Lord Tyrion. “You told me you respected this woman.”
“Since her arrival, she has refused to call me Queen, she has refused to bow, and now she’s calling me a child.”
Lord Tyrion’s gaze feels heavy on Kara as he appraises her. “I believe she’s calling us all children. A figure of speech I’m sure…”
“Your Grace,” Kara implores. “Everyone you know will die before winter is over if we do not defeat the enemy to the north.”
“As far as I can see, you are the enemy to the north,” Queen Lena retorts harshly.
Kara sighs and bows her head. “I am not your enemy,” she placates. “The dead are the enemy.”
“The dead?” Lena questions dryly, throwing an incredulous look at her Hand. “Is this another ‘figure of speech’?”
“I know how it sounds, but the army of the dead are on the march. My cousin, Kal-El, has faced them.”
“The army of the dead?” Tyrion repeats in disbelief.
“You do not know my cousin well, my lord, but do you think he is a liar or a madman? Do you think I would be standing here now if I did not have faith in him?”
“No,” Tyrion replies. “I do not believe either of those things.
“The army of the dead is real. The Whitewalkers are real. The Night King is real. Kal-El has seen them,” Kara entreats, failing to stop her desperation from showing. She walks closer to the throne, but the Dothraki guards step forward to halt her. “If they get past the Wall and we are squabbling amongst ourselves, there will be no kingdom left to rule.”
Lena watches her for moment. “I was born at Dragonstone. Not that I can remember it of course,” she says as she gets up from her throne and makes her way down the stairs towards Kara. “We fled before Robert’s assassins could find us. Robert was your father’s best friend, no?”
Kara nods solemnly. “He was.”
“I wonder if your father knew his best friend sent assassins to murder a baby girl in her crib. Not that it matters now of course. I spent my life in foreign lands. So many men have tried to kill me. I don’t remember their names. I have been sold like a brood mare. I have been chained and betrayed, raped and defiled,” Lena stops walking and is now face to face with Kara.
“Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods. Not in myths and legends. In myself. In Lena Luthor. The world hadn’t seen a dragon in centuries until my children were born. The Dothraki hadn’t crossed the sea. Any sea, but they did for me. I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms. And I will.”
Kara clenches her jaw, her gaze hardening. “We have all had our share of horrors to endure, Your Grace. But you will be ruling over a graveyard if we don’t defeat the Night King.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Kara sees Tyrion walk forward to stand beside Lena. “The war against Lex has already begun. You can’t expect us to halt hostilities and join you fighting… whatever Kal-El saw beyond the wall.”
“You don’t believe her. I understand that. It sounds like nonsense,” Alex says, and Kara feels herself nodding in agreement. “But if we don’t put aside our enmities and band together, we will die. And then it doesn’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne.”
“If it doesn’t matter, you might as well kneel,” Lord Tyrion states matter-of-factly, but Kara shakes her head and looks at the floor. “Swear your allegiance to Queen Lena. Help her to defeat Lex and together our armies will protect the north.”
“There’s no time for that. There’s no time for any of this. While we stand here debating-”
“It takes no time to bend the knee,” Lord Tyrion interrupts. “Pledge your sword to her cause.”
“And why would I do that?” Kara asks, turning to speak to Lena. “I mean no offence, Your Grace, but I do not know you. The lords of the north have placed their trust in me to lead them. And I will continue to do so.”
Lord Tyrion expels a breath, but Kara refuses to look at him, too focused on Lena. “That’s fair,” Lena intones. “It’s also fair to point out that I’m the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. By declaring yourself Queen of the northern most kingdom, you are in open rebellion.”
Before Kara can respond, the throne room doors are thrown open and the sound of harried footsteps echo around the chamber. Kara takes a step back as Lord Baelish approaches Lena, casting an appraising eye over Kara as he does.
“It is good to see you, Lady Zor-El,” he says before he begins to whisper into Lena’s ear.
Kara’s fist clench at her sides, her anger once again kindled at the sight of the man who sold her to the Bolton’s. And who just welcomed her like an old friend.
“You must forgive my manners. You will both be tired after your long journey. We’ll have baths drawn for you and super sent to your rooms,” Lena says before turning to speak Valyrian to her Queensguard.
One of the guards’ steps forward to escort Kara and Alex to their chambers. “Am I your prisoner?” She asks angrily.
Lena considers her for a moment. “Not yet.”