Nymeria retains vivid memories of Ny Sar, though many years have passed since she last laid eyes upon the city. The Sandship is an ugly stronghold but Dorne is her home now, the home of her children, and Dorne must remain home to the Rhoynar no matter how much they might long to return to the Mother Rhoyne.
“Mother, was Sarhoy truly a pink city?”
Nymeria tries not to frown. It is natural for her girls to want to know where she came from, but it is not Ny Sar that her eldest will rule.
Dyanna cocks her head a little.
“Can we build a pink city here when the fighting is done?”
She hears Mors laugh and finds it impossible not to smile.
“You can build a pink castle when you are Princess of Dorne,” she tells her.
Dyanna chews her lip.
“Will I be princess?”
Her daughter is clearly uncertain, no doubt having heard resistance to Rhoynish custom.
“Did I not say you would be?” she says lightly.
She hears Mors approaching. His hand brushes her shoulder and he bends to press a kiss to the top of Dyanna’s head.
“You are the eldest, your mother’s heir and mine.” he asserts. “You will lead just as she has, I am certain of it.”
Nymeria cannot love him more. Their union has been one of equals, a partnership. She often thanks the gods for their ships arriving not far from Sunspear, for the life she has found here.
“You have been your father’s little princess from the moment you were born,” she tells Dyanna.
Her little girl smiles, and Nymeria vows to fight even harder to keep their place here, their home here, and to defeat all who would drive them back into the sea.
Mors is gone. Her heart aches from the loss, but Nymeria will not hide herself away and mourn him. He would not want that. She was a princess before Mors, she is a princess still, and it is she who inherits command of his armies. Nymeria fought beside him, and she continues to fight, for their daughters and for the future of Dorne.
Even when the fighting seems done she remains wary, wary of more battles, of enemies who pose as friends, who would now wed her.
“Mother, will you marry?”
It is Dyanna who asks. It is only right that Dyanna should ask.
“Do you think I should marry?”
Her eldest is almost a woman now, with Nymeria’s look but with Mors’ cunning.
“I think you must.”
The reply startles her. Dyanna worshipped her father and mourns him still, but she seems resolved. Nymeria would prefer not to be wed again, but she and Mors have both groomed Dyanna for rule and Dyanna knows Dorne well, as well as her father did.
“Who would you have me wed?”
Dyanna’s forehead wrinkles in thought.
“Father always said Lord Uller gave good counsel, that he was a great ally and brought woe to any he considered an enemy.”
Mors was not wrong there. Lord Ulrick Uller has been impulsive and unpredictable in all the time Nymeria has known him, but his friendship with Mors never faltered, and he is kind to her girls. He is also rather old with grown children and unlikely to trouble Nymeria to give him a child.
“I shall think on it.”
She does not need to think on it for long. Lord Wyl approaches her with an offer, and a blunt assessment of her fate should she wish to further delay the decision of whether to wed.
“You are formidable,” he allows, “But you are not Dorne, as much as you say this is your home. Those who have bent the knee see you without Mors, mourning, and they plot to exploit your weakness. They will come for you, perhaps not today but soon.”
Nymeria has heard tales of what Lord Wyl does to his enemies, to enemies of their alliance. She shudders at the thought of wedding him but knows that she must keep his friendship.
“They will come for me, whether I wed or not,” Nymeria argues. “But I thank you for your counsel. I must wed, we are agreed on that. You honour me with your offer, but I have accepted another.”
It is not wholly the truth, but it serves. Lord Ulrick is not likely to say otherwise when he hears her proposal. She gathers her girls, comforting the little ones who are uncertain of another man standing in their father’s place, even if that man is a friend. Then she calls on Lord Uller.
“I require your counsel and your continued friendship, my lord,” she begins.
“You shall have it, princess” he promises. “Always.”
She takes a breath, now confident in her choice.
“I also require your hand.”
He shows no surprise. He just smiles the smile that Nymeria has seen countless times by Mors’ side.
“You shall have that too.”
Nymeria grows fond of Ulrick. He is her closest counsellor in the five years he gives her, never questioning her decisions in the court of Sunspear, unwavering in championing the claims of her girls. She knows all might have been different had she borne him a child, but it does not come to pass, and she is saddened when he succumbs to illness and age.
Dyanna takes it hardest, her young face drawn in grief. She does not let anybody see her weep, but Nymeria does not doubt she does.
“I know it is hard, my sweet,” Nymeria tells her.
“He insisted I must not mourn,” Dyanna replies. “I must be strong, the way you are.”
It sounded just like something Lord Uller would say. Nymeria grimaces.
“He told me I must wed.”
Dyanna is clearly dismayed. Nymeria knows that her daughter’s dismay is not from fear of a threat to her claim. Most of Dorne has come to embrace Rhoynish customs, amongst them succession of the eldest child whether they be a girl or a boy. No, for Dyanna it is simply too soon. Lord Ulrick encouraged her training and was there for her when Nymeria was held up hearing petitions. Nymeria knows that Dyanna sought his comfort and counsel whenever the role of Princess of Dorne kept Nymeria away, and Lord Uller was there when there were attempts on Nymeria’s life. A steady presence, confident, trustworthy, dependable.
“It will wait,” Nymeria promises.
The girl has Mors’ eyes. They narrow, uncertain, calculating whether Nymeria’s promise is satisfactory.
“Do you think you might be able to choose this time?” Dyanna asks finally. “So long as you wait?”
Nymeria is almost tempted to smile, but it is not the time.
“I can always trust you to think of the things I do not. I have not thought about the matter.”
It will be some time before she does. Her girls need her, and Dorne needs her. She follows Dyanna, joins her as they go to Nymeria’s other daughters. The younger ones, Alia and Mara, do not know death. They are confused and Nymeria must help them understand. Lorena is old enough that it will be easier with her. She will do as Dyanna does, as she always has. Lorena has been Dyanna’s shadow from the time she could walk well enough to follow her sister.
The bed in Lorena’s chambers is big enough for all four girls and that is where they find them. Dyanna joins them, and Nymeria sits beside the bed.
“We are Dorne,” Dyanna tells them in a voice that sounds older than her sixteen years. “We will miss Lord Ulrick, but we must always remember we have a duty.”
Nymeria lingers there as long as she can, and it seems to her that Dyanna is right. Nymeria made a home here, she has ruled here, but to some of those who bent the knee she will never be Dorne. She was not born here, but her girls were.
Dyanna will be a true Princess of Dorne.
“Ser Davos is beautiful,” Dyanna says in a hushed voice. “But he is so young, Mother.”
Alia wrinkles her nose. “He’s old, Anna. He must be almost thirty.”
“Thirty-one,” Nymeria corrects.
“Old!” Mara exclaims.
“Younger than mother,” Dyanna chides them.
“Do you think he is beautiful, Mother? Do you wish to marry him?”
I wish to bed him.
Her girls would be horrified if she told them so. Perhaps not Dyanna, she knows Dyanna has had her flirtations, and perhaps more, but the others are still maidens and Nymeria is old in their eyes, past such fancies.
“He is my sworn sword, girls.”
“He is the Sword of the Morning,” Dyanna challenges her. “You would be safer with him than with anyone.”
Nymeria is amused at the assertion. There is nothing safe about the way Ser Davos looks at her, or the way he purrs “My Princess.” It is almost indecent.
“He has saved my life on more than one occasion,” she concedes.
The idea stays with her. She watches him polish Dawn, thinking rather indecent thoughts herself. House Dayne was not one of her and Mors’ allies when they began their long fight to unite Dorne under one ruler. Vorian Dayne was one of the first kings Nymeria sent to the Wall in golden fetters, after all. House Dayne is a proud house, and a prestigious one, but not without reason. The former King Vorian was the greatest knight in all of Dorne, and Nymeria has seen Ser Davos’ skill with her own eyes.
“Will you ever let me hold your sword?” she asks as he polishes the pale blade.
“My Princess need only ask,” Ser Davos replies with a grin.
Nymeria raises an eyebrow. Mors taught her that there are two kinds of swords. She is not sure which one she meant to ask about, but she is quite certain she knows which one he means, and it is not Dawn.
“Perhaps I am asking.”
He flushes, sheathing the blade.
“My Princess, do not jest.”
“It is not a jest and I am not a maiden, Ser Davos. I am twice-widowed and a princess and I am quite certain I can bed a man if I wish. If he wishes it?”
He kneels and kisses her hand before rising to kiss her lips.
“I do wish, My Princess.“
In the end it is a choice she must make, whether to wed Ser Davos. It is soon plain to half of Dorne that Ser Davos is something more than Nymeria’s sworn sword, and it is more than plain to Dyanna.
“Mother, do you love him?”
It is a curious question. Nymeria thinks on it.
“No, I do not love him. I loved your father, with time. I simply enjoy Ser Davos’ company.”
Dyanna looks away, perhaps embarrassed.
“I think he loves you, Mother.”
“I think he thinks he loves me,” Nymeria suggests.
He says he does, insists, all breathless and full of the energy of a younger man.
“Wed me, My Princess,” he demands, with passion. “I want there to be no shame in our love.”
Nymeria does not feel shame and says so.
“Is it the girls?” he asks. “The princesses? They will not object if you wish it, surely?”
“They will not object,” she concedes.
Alia and Mara might not be enthused, but they like Ser Davos well enough.
“Dyanna is my heir,” she tells him. “She will remain my heir, no matter what passes.”
The edict offends him, she sees that in an instant.
“You think me ambitious? I have served you, without complaint.”
“You must be willing to serve her, if you outlive me,” she tells him gently.
“Oh, well, I shall. There would be no question of that.”
The hot air goes out of him. Nymeria can see the very thought of her death hurts him. It decides the matter.
“I will wed you,” she declares.
His face lights up with joy.
“I will do all I can to bring you the happiness you have brought me, My Princess.“
Nymeria is happy, being able to choose a husband that pleases her rather than one to appease Dorne. It is not as it was with Mors, but nothing is. Nymeria gives Ser Davos a child, a son, his heir but not hers. It is a surprise to her. She thought herself to be too old. It pleases him but he keeps his word to her, and when she sickens, years later, Dyanna is by her side.
“You are Dorne, my daughter.”
Dyanna’s face is already lined with grief.
“You united Dorne, Mother. You and Father. I do not want to be Princess yet.”
Nymeria sighs. She is tired.
“You are Princess of Dorne. You have been from the time you were a little girl, plotting to build a pink city. It is unquestioned.”
Nymeria wants to sleep. Her eyelids feel heavy, it is hard to keep her eyes open.
“Build whatever you wish, Dyanna.”
She feels Dyanna’s lips brush her cheek.
“I will build House Nymeros Martell, Mother. I will continue what you began.”
Nymeria smiles, content.
“I know you will.”