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her brown-eyed boys

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As she changes her clothes, still wet with the milk leaking from her swollen breasts, painfully waiting for the time to give nutrition to her child, she allows herself to sigh. Small council meetings are the causes for the worst of her latest headaches. For a moment, she is sorry for the ones she gave her own father as a child, especially now that he looks so defeated, so much older than his years.  

Having almost lost him at the tragic ordeal it had been her wedding, she tried her most to give him the break he needed. But with time, he became more weak, always tired after a few discussions during the meetings and of course the queen was there, much like her white knight was at the door. 

Rhaenyra isn’t stupid, and yet she now realizes that she should have pushed for a punishment or allowed her husband the satisfaction of burning his lover’s killer in dragonfire. She sees how they sneak around, the queen and the knight, whispering. It used to bother her until one day it didn’t. Alicent was no longer a friend she could trust and the yearning she once saw in Criston’s eyes had turned into a dangerous darkness.  

Except that just after her vows, the king had fallen ill. She was there, every day by his deathbed, crying as she didn’t feel ready to ascend to the throne. All she had was the skills of serving wine while listening to the meetings and the secrets of dreams told by the fire, lighting blades aflame. As he got a bit better, her father shared his knowledge, tried to mold her the best he could, and a lot of what he said conflicted with her own instincts or all of what her uncle once had told her.  

It didn’t take long for her to realize her father was weaker in more than just his health and she would gain nothing ruling like he did.  

Which is why it frustrates her when he barely questions the stupid decisions the queen consort makes, as if she is queen herself, like Rhaenyra will be. She cries sometimes when she realizes she would rather death came for her father sooner. Still, she doesn’t think that what he has now can be considered living.  

Whispers and glares don’t bother her, but now that it comes in form of insults towards her children, she can’t help but react. She is a dragon after all. And now a mother.  

She knows how it looks with what she did, but it’s not like she had a choice. Laenor fell through a hole of indulgencies following their wedding, drowning himself in wine and men, trying to forget witnessing his love’ brutal murder. He had been cold towards her for a good while and whatever she tried to bring the subject of heirs, he either scoffed or just fell into the bed, lying at her mercy. She felt horrible, climbing the bed and straddling his lap, trying to bring him to interest, begging for him to pretend, eyes closed. It never worked, for neither of them. His body wouldn’t work and it betrayed him, and she didn’t like to do that, to command him in such an intimate way, while he lied there drunk or just pretending to not exist.  

“I hate doing this to you, husband.” She had said, because while she never expected love from him, their initial agreement was that of doing their duty and then look for fun. But fun was no longer possible for them, their matrimony tainted with the stickiness of Joffrey’s blood, red and hot as it was drained from his body, leaving him cold on the floor. That death even tainted her prospects of finding pleasure outside of the marriage bed, especially since nothing she craved was around at the Red Keep.  

“And I hate that I can’t seem to make it bearable for us.” He whispered, finally moving, turning his head to look at her. “It seems I cannot provide to you what is needed of me.”  

She knew.  

And after much thought, she blamed her father.  

Rumors of Laenor’s preferences had been around for a while. Even as he went into battle at the Stepstones. She had no problem with it, as she had been young herself noting the beauty of a particular maiden once. But she outgrew it, and had learned pleasure in the hands of her uncle, before being abandoned, set up to make one of the worst mistakes of her life. By the time father had recovered, Criston was already protected behind the emerald fabrics of the queen’s new dresses. A second affront. The green could be complementary to their own colors, but it had no place in their kingdom. Same went to a traitorous guard she herself had made into something. It was surprising how fast he had forgotten his love promises of oranges and freedom, his devotion as she spared the white hart, his lust as he explored her body in betrayal of his vows.  

But it angered her how her father had put her in that position. It stills stirs somethings, like little sparks in her inner fire, when she hears the rumors and sees the looks her beloved boys get, with their raven hair and she remembers the promise her father broke. She was to choose, and yet he used her to fix his own mistake. A compromise for denying Laena Velaryon. And a punishment for a night with Daemon that never happened.  

Punishment for a sin she wished she had committed.  

Questions of a pregnancy came a right away, just a few moons after the wedding. They were still trying, giving Laenor ways to incorporate fantasies of a dead man into their activities, but it was all in vain. They brought themselves to exhaustion once just trying to force it and after she had emptied her stomach of the vileness she felt.  

It was seeking refuge in pleasure that she had found her answer. Ser Harwin had been an agreeable friend. He was handsome, noble and he had a strength to him that brought fire licking down at her core. His father was a much better hand for hers, his gaze burned her skin with lust and desire and he had had a strong grip on her body as he carried her to safety that terrible night. He also was good with secrets. He had let her go that night he deemed her a boy out loud and freed her into the night it would taint her future.  

As the sun was coming bright after their night together, she contemplated the tea she had instructed one of her most trusted ladies to insure for her, the bitter taste not changed from the other fatidic time she had to indulge. Perhaps next time she should not drink it.  

She had grown to instructions that she was to bear Targaryens of the purest Valyrian lineage. Laenor was for sure the right choice for it – and yet, she tried to ignore an even better choice that was no longer available for her, perhaps never had been. Except circumstances left them unable to perform their duties. With no other options, she thought of their own half-siblings, spoiled with their share of Hightower blood, beneath of what was planned for the house of the dragon. Yet, for the lesser eye, they had what it took. Aegon, despite being an insufferable menace, had in looks what her own brother would have had. Enough, for a half-breed.  

If Viserys, king with the purest Valyrian blood, was not bothered by his own inferior match... maybe she should not be as well.  

Laenor had been relieved when she had confessed her plan to him that night. He would love and accept the babe as it was his. Ser Harwin Strong had his reservations, but his adoration to her was true and his acceptance of her secret left her contented in having him by her side, be it as a friend or as a lover. And now, as the mean to give her an heir.  

It should matter not. She is the heir, the future queen. Any child she comes to bear, a fruit of her own womb, will have Targaryen blood, will be dragons like her. If the queen, of lesser blood, could do it, so would she.  

And as she held her first born in her arms, looking entranced with her while showing his big brown eyes, she realized that again her act could have consequences. But by that time, she was too filled with love to care. And Laenor came, relieved that their predicament was over, happy to give his name and love to the child, to fight with her against wicked tongues and judging looks. He might not have silver hair and lilac eyes like the children she held in her dreams sometimes, but he was hers, she fought her mightiest to bring him to the world. 

She loved him more than anything.  

And that also applied to the other two darling dark-haired, brown-eyed boys that followed.  

Which is why now she has to act. It is clear that the queen has long taken the path her father had wanted for her and her offspring. Despite Aegon’s disinterest and unsuitability to rule, she pushed, bit by bit, her desire for him to usurp her. If that was to happen, her boys would be at risk.  

And she would stop at nothing to protect her darling boys.  

Now, down where Balerion lays to rest, she waits for her father. In her hand, the very dagger he had shown to her when he informed her that she was to fulfill her duty as heir and marry a man that could not love her or give her children. She didn’t blame Laenor for his, still she blames her father and the realm, for their narrow views. How was she expected to follow all their foolish rules of propriety when she was placed in this dead-end by them.  

Sometimes she still dreams of an uninterrupted night at the brothel, no spies to see her and no Criston to separate her from the man that could have taken her as wife to Dragonstone and filled her with his children. Sometimes she still dreams of silver-haired boys or even a little girl in her arms. Of days flying with blood-colored scales in her peripheric vision. No insults, no rumors. Just the pure strength of the dragon house.  

Rhaenyra, you said in your note that you wanted to talk. Here of all places.” Her father’s voice echoed, thick with his rarely used Valyrian, now rough and almost forgotten. “I am here, child. Alone.”  

Ah, their language was still a safe place for her. One that could not be tainted by spies and lesser men. That filled her with trust and longing. “Do you remember the times you brought me here, the things you’ve told me.”

“One cannot forget the most important duty ones has. To carry the knowledge into the next rule.”  

“Then why do you forget your place ruling?” She says, a little abrasive. “You let her dictate your sayings and diminish me as future queen. She sits at council. She is queen consort, father. Not queen. I am to be queen, but she whispers behind my back, weakens my family.”  

“She is worried-” 

“She is worried she won’t be able to put her son on the throne. She had no right to doubt me, my word. Or Laenor’s. We are the heirs to our houses, the future rulers. She is a pastime you acquired after you gutted mother like a fish and didn’t find your heir. You see me, my ideas. You also see Aegon, his recklessness. You chose me, didn’t you?” She is harsh, and she knows he could lash out, but she is a mother. Her children are in danger here. Her children are in danger everywhere, if Alicent continues.  

“You know better than to speak like this, Rhaenyra.” 

“Is it any different than how she speaks of me? Or with me. You gave me to Laenor, but you must have known, after that spectacle. Were there no better options? I did my upmost to fulfill my duties and I did. The realm talks, but they are to remember my husband’s grandmother and my own grandfather. How they were, where they came from. She keeps planting doubt within the council and everyone around. She insults Ser Harwin, yet she walks around with her own Ser at her side, one that created havoc in this place, ruined my wedding. Still, he walks, using my children as punching bags and dolls to teach her kids how to be fighters. Jace is strong, but he is small. But they ought to remember who is second in line to inherit.” 

Her father nods. “You are right, Rhaenyra.”  

“I know you to be kind, father. So much. It is what I love must about you. But it is also what others use to go around you and your wishes. I fear Princess Rhaenys was right all along. Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne. She told me once and I did not believe her. And yet, plots are made to discredit me. I did my best with what I was given, father. Jace is Targaryen, he has his dragon, he is a dragon. Like me, like us. He is also like mother and her family from the Vale, a mixture of our history.” She has to try and make her father see, that her claim is in danger and so are her children’s. “You put me in this position. You can take me out.”  

He says nothing, passing the one had he has left through the flames of the candles.  

She chooses to continue. “You told me the secrets that have to be passed. Told me that they are bigger than us, than your house and our dragons. They do not know this, they entertain us, you. But I fear the moment you’re gone; they will try to deny your wishes. That they will flash their banners green and fight for a king, not a queen. A king who is reckless and does not know the first thing about us, where we come from and all those secrets you told me. I, as a girl, killed a boar on his name-day hunt, he barely contains his own teacher in a fight.” Rhaenyra has to uses all her cards, to show her father she is fit to rule, but not everyone will see it. “I saw the white hart. Let it go and now I see my mistake. I see that our people won’t see me for what you see me. Uncle said this too, that their wants are important if I am to rule.”  

“What do you propose, Rhaenyra?”  

“I already did. But I’m sure she denied it.” She breathes deeply. Once, twice. “Let’s unite our houses, because they are one. My own brothers are made to fight their nephews. They pit them against each other when they should be put to fight together. The narrow sea, as he gave it to you after a long war fought to prove himself to you, left forgotten. We maintain peace without thinking about a possible war. Could be the Triarchy, but it could be us. Let’s not allow it to be us. Announce it. Their betrothal. As king, you command and everyone has to listen. Make an example of the slanderers. Ser Harwin is a dear friend, and he left punished and offended by the insinuations of a man who was pardoned for the murder of my husband’s guest. We can’t be kind all the time, father. They will eat us alive. I need your help to leave a fortress, to protect me when you are gone, until I can stand on my own.”  

“Jace and Helaena...” 

“She is a sensitive girl. Who would be a better match? My darling boy is very patient and kind like his grandfather. She is whimsical and had so much of you as well, father. We also take into consideration that the Hightowers are not accustomed to our Valyrian traditions. I doubt she would want her child to be a sister-wife. This way, she would be queen consort. Kind and bright, like her father. And Aemond can also finally stop putting himself in danger at the pit. I’m sure there will be an egg for him soon enough.”  

Viserys looks at his daughter. His first daughter, his heir. The only thing left of the love of his life in this world. He sees so much of Aemma in her, so much of Aemma in her boys. And so much of a ruler sure to be greater than himself.  

He sees her points, and he sees the things that brought her here. Bad decisions he made, better decisions he should have made. He imagines what would happen if she was to be left defenseless to be cut deep in the swords of his throne like he had. Rotting slowly from her insides, dying a bit by bit, weakened. No. His Rhaenyra, the Realm’s Delight, was made to shine and to rule fiercely. A rule better than his.  

Very well. We need to inform the Hand so he can make the preparations before his trip. And we will also discuss an appropriate punishment for the allegations Ser Criston has made. Call your husband, I’m sure he would be glad to have this discussion, as it gravely hurts him and his pride, those vile rumors. I shall meet you at the council, just us four and everything is set to be announced tomorrow.”  

Rhaenyra smiles. “Isn’t it great, father? To rule for yourself again? To live a second without the limitations of your conditions. You are a great king, one that had maintained what Jaehaerys himself built.” With that, she passes the dagger to him. She had taken and brought to remind him, but it was to stay in his possession.  

“Keep it, Rhaenyra. You are a mother and you are to be a queen. The prince that was promised is sure to come from you.” 

She smiles, holding the dagger, still being able to see the inscriptions even without putting it to fire. She also could see ahead, for a second, for the day she would show it to her boy.  

Her darling brown-eyed, dark-haired boy. Her little dragon.  

 

 

Later, after what was discussed between them, Laenor and Rhaenyra lied in bed, today in the same chambers, their latest child between them, asleep. It was almost time for the sun to come up, they had woken up with the babes’ cries, both of them having decided they would stay with him for the night, a sick feeling in their gut from the latest problems. Something still felt wrong, despite all the solutions they had come up with.  

“I can’t believe he will respond for slander, punished at the eyes of the public and sent to the Wall.” Her husband says, still numb from the news. “Every time I see him, Nyra. My heart burns in dragonfire. In hatred.”  

“I’m sorry you weren’t allowed to burn him yourself. I’m sure Seasmoke would have appreciated.” 

“Part of me would like to follow him as they take him there and burn him on the way. Still, it would be too merciful, death by dragonfire. Too swift.” He tells her, and then presses his thumb to their babe Joffrey’s cheek. “You carry an important name, little guy.”  

Rhaenyra chuckles. Well, she had to make the most of it with the name. Still, it was a blessing in disguise. Laenor caring to name their child in the eyes of her father. “I feel a little sick, setting my child to marry without his choice. Selling him like father sold me.” 

“Well, you were sold for an alliance. You are selling him for something greater. Assurance.” 

She nods, and watches the third reason she did this.  

“Soon this betrothal will be announced. It will be a fine day.” She concludes, before they try to catch with their sleep while their beautiful Joffrey still rests.  

Her words come to bite her later, when Laenor comes to her with a piece of paper in his hands and tears in his eyes. She grows cold, as something has gone wrong. But what? The announcement went great and Ser Criston was punished and taken to the dungeons to await his ride to the Wall.  

He hugs her and cries her name against her hair. “What happened, husband? You are scaring me.” 

“Laena has died, Nyra. The babe would not come.” He says and she freezes, her mind flying to her own mother and the cruel torture she was put through until her death only for her little brother to follow right after.  

“Did Daemon-” She tries to ask, scared, but Laenor is already shaking his head.  

“She went by dragonfire. Vhagar gave her a bit of mercy, I’m afraid. He was not fast enough to stop her, but she felt she was doomed anyway...” They both pause in thought. She was so brave, Laena. “We need to start preparations, mother will certainly need us and our sons at Driftmark, to help her with her grief.”  

Rhaenyra nods along. She sits down for a minute, remembering her dear cousin and all the times they flew together after she had claimed Vhagar, the enormous dragon always a vibrant yet bit concerning presence at her and Syrax’ side. She also remembers the envy she had at times, wishing to be in her place.  

Despite the wins they had, the day had just turned grey.  

Still, her cousin said she wished to go in glory. If that was what she had in mind, Rhaenyra respects it. Yet, it had been one of her irrational fears in some of her dreams.  

But alas, she can’t see how that would happen. She is to be the queen of the dragons. The horrible feeling she’d had before, during their talk, it was gone, probably due to the upcoming news of Laena’s death. Now, she is saddened, but also relieved, as she is proud of the new move she had made to enforced the alliance with her deceitful step-mother. It was a good move, one she almost left without making.  

She is curious as to how this will change her fate.