Ancient Fire - AnaWayne - Multifandom [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: YEAR 305 Chapter Text Chapter 2: Reborn in a world of fire Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 3: Ready, set, go! Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 4: The Heirs of the Dragon I Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 5: The Heirs of the Dragon II Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6: The Hightower Conspiracy, by Maester Jon Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7: Who the hell set those rules? Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 8: The household matters Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 9: f*ck prophecies! Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 10: Runestone Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 11: Honesty Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 12: A pleasant stay in the North Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 13: War comes our way Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14: Sending my love home Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 15: Our very last minutes of peace Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 16: Countdown Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17: The morning after Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: Lady Tarbeck Summary: Chapter Text Chapter 19: Long Live the Queen Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20: Long Live the Queen II Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 21: Interlude: Stepstones Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 22: Beyond recognition Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 23: Because she hears you! Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 24: An unexpected arrangment Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 25: Damsels (not in distress) that reshaped the Kingdoms Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 26: As time flew by us Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 27: Come fire, come rain Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 28: Interlude: Riverlands Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 29: Her father's daughter Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 30: A Northern Marriage Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 31: Building and burning bridges Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 32: Ilusionary visits Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 33: Of loyalty and interest Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 34: Ríonach Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 35: Politics are done in light and in shadows Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 36: Darkness lurking Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 37: A Hand's work never stops Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 38: Responsibility Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 39: Revolution, one step at time Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes:

Chapter 1: YEAR 305

Chapter Text

BRAN

How had he missed it?

That raw, pure, and unadulterated magic.

Sansa’s magic.

Because Lady had died, Bran assumed that his eldest sister’s magic had died too and never thought to look for it.

But now he could see it.

It was still there, just dormant, but growing.

Gods she had the strongest magic amongst them and currently, Winterfell housed two Targaryens!

And to make everything more risible.

She was the one who had no idea of her own magic.

Daenerys was a dragonrider. Jon assumed himself a warg and a dragonrider. Arya was a warg and a faceless man. Bran was a warg and a greenseer.

Sansa was just Sansa.

A girl that had been broken and hurt, and remade herself so strong yet still so kind, so eager to defend those she saw as hers to defend. No dragons at her back, no faces to wear, no direwolves to run with, no dreams to guide. Only an unending determination to see her family safe. Even at her own personal cost.

She had grown into a good player, smart, intelligent, and ruthless when needed.

And it seemed that all this time, her magic had grown with her.

Sansa was a fighter, but not a warrior. And even if she was, they didn’t have time to teach her, but there was one crazy little idea that was born at the back of his mind.

“This is madness!” Sansa said while looking at him, her voice was a plain, matter-of-fact thing that she rarely used with them. “First, I have no magic. Second, if you can send us to the past, why not to our past selves, why to the dance of Dragons of all freaking periods?”

“Because our objective is to avoid the Dance of Dragons and make sure that the dragons survive,” Jon said, Bran smirked at him, but Sansa looked at them with narrowed eyes.

“Why only the three of us?”

“Because your magic is strong enough to send three.”

“And you?”

“I don’t know if I can send one,” Bran admitted and Arya sighed.

“How can we stop the dance?”

“I would position you in the right places, of course,” Bran said and Arya nodded.

“If, and I am saying IF we do it, what will it change?” Sansa asked.

“Everything,” Bran answered honestly. “We probably won’t exist as we do now, we may come to live, but differently. Every action you take there, will have a consequence, your birth alone will have consequences.”

“But we could give the North a better chance if we, do it?” Sansa questioned.

“You would.”

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost

SANSA

Sansa looked at the poetry in his hand. Centuries old, written by a member of the long-gone House Frost, it seemed so contemporary and so true that made her question if Robert hadn’t been a greenseer himself.

The world as they knew now would end soon.

Either by the fire of mad queens or the ice of dead kings.

But they had a flimsy chance of changing everything. All of that. Just by being reborn as Targaryen right on when they were at their most destructive instance.

The worst was that she had agreed to this stupid, annoying plan!

“Why do I have to go last?”

“Because when you go the magic closes the passage,” Bran explained with a complacent tone.

“I want to go first,” Arya said with an impish smile, and everyone turned to her: “I think it only fair! I was the young sister this life, now I get to be the oldest!”

“You are older than Bran,” Jon pointed out.

“Bran doesn’t count now, does he? He likely has more knowledge than the rest of us!”

“Technically I have thousands of years of knowledge accumulated,” Bran said with an accomplice smile to Arya and Sansa pinched the bridge of her nose in despair and exasperation.

“Okay, so first Arya, then Jon, and then me,” Sansa said and then turned to Bran, “what do we do?”

“I need you to trust me,” he said and she nodded with a grimace. Sighing again, Sansa took the hand Bran had offered to her and they formed a circle, holding hands. “Sansa, you will feel as if you are being drained, but you have more than enough magic for this task, so I need you to stand firm.”

“I will,” she promised.

If she could stand after everything Ramsay had done to her, after the beatings, the raping, and the flaying, she could stand for her brother’s task. Soon she felt dizziness and that draining feeling Bran had promised her.

But she stood with her head high and took deep breaths to make the feeling more bearable.

One to one, their eyes turned white then blue then closed. Arya fell first, then Jon, and then she felt her own legs wanting to give in, but she stood still, even with her hand still holding Jon who had fallen on the ground. She closed her eyes.

She stubbornly stood, clenching her jaw and breathing slowly and deeply.

She heard the howling of wolves; she heard the birds chirping and the ruffle of their feathers. She heard Rickon’s joyful laugh. And Robb’s victorious cry. She heard her mother’s gentle sighing. And her father’s exasperated sigh.

No matter how much it hurt, how much she wanted to cry, she stood. Until she heard Bran’s amused voice in her head.

You can let it go now, sister!

And only then, did she let it go.

Chapter 2: Reborn in a world of fire

Summary:

The Stark are reborn in a world of fire.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The marriage between the Lady Rhea Royce and Prince Daemon Targaryen was not known for the love between the pair. If anything, they barely tolerated each other, rumours say that they would lie only once a year, because of it, many were surprised that Rhea Royce fell pregnant. Evil tongues harangued, as it usually does, but when Princess Alyssa Targaryen was born on 103 AC, with her father’s silver hair and dual coloured eyes like her grandmother and namesake (though in different colours), they all shut up. Especially because Princess Alyssa’s egg, a gift from her Great-Grandfather Jaehaerys, hatched but a month after being placed in her crib.

On the matter of her title, if Alyssa would be known as a Lady or a Princess, Jaehaerys, the Wise, decreed that the children of Daemon by his wife, Rhea Royce, would be Princes and Princess of the realm, for Daemon was the next in line after Viserys and his children.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

ARYA

It had worked!

And too damn well if the small dragon at her crib was any indication.

She had recognized Nymeria immediately. Even if now she was a dragon with dark scales that reminded more of the metallic colour of Valyrian Steel and with horns of silver and eyes of molten bronze. The soul was the same.

Still, it worked.

Now she was Lady Alyssa Targaryen. Daughter of Rhea Royce and Daemon Targaryen. Gods, they barely tolerated each other, but at least Daemon Targaryen cared.

It was something that was said in the history books: Daemon was a good father. Or at least he had been to Rhaena and Baela. Now he was being a good father for her. Even if at distance, he had been the one to provide two dragonkeepers to construct a dragonpit for Nymeria. And he was the one who would take her flying even as a baby to get her used to the feeling.

He took her to Kingslanding when she was two months old to be presented to her dying Great-grandfather. And took her there once a year so she and her cousin, Rhaenyra, could have a good relationship.

“You want to call your dragon Nymeria?” Daemon asked her while she was in his arms.

“Nymeria is the name of a warrior princess! Perfect to Nymeria,” she said childishly pointing to the dragon who was mounted on top of Caraxes head to the annoyance of the oldest dragon.

“Nymeria it is then,” Daemon sneered.

That was when she was one year old, and Nymeria was on the size of a house cat. Now Nymeria was almost ridable, the size of a horse, and Daemon appeared every once in a while, to teach her to the basics of flying. Today he let her in control of the reigns for the first time.

When they landed, laughing at each other, her mother, her new mother, Rhea, appeared with a day dress that was as unadorned as she would use when she was little Arya Stark. She was on top of her horse and out of the keep. “What is it?”

“Septa Harley went to complain that someone took Alyssa off her classes. I saw Caraxes and made a good guess,” Arya watched as Daemon’s eyes rolled at her mother.

“I rarely come here, Rhea, I think that I am entitled to my daughter’s time more than her Septa.”

“I know, I would just appreciate some forewarning when you whisk Alyssa’s because Willam was this close to calling a search party,” Daemon’s eyes rolled again.

“You are not fearing that someone would kidnap Alyssa, are you?”

“No, just that Alyssa is starting to grow just as curious as I once was and has taken to herself to explore Runestone without her guards. It is only a matter of time before she one day decides that she wants to explore the outside of the keep,” Daemon's eyes looked from Rhea to her, and Arya pouted at the light chastisem*nt delivered by her mother.

It wasn’t like she was in any kind of danger walking inside the keep. People knew her and no one would dare to harm her. And well, she was a trained assassin, she could defend herself just fine.

“Maybe some new guards should be assigned,” her eyes turned to her father, betrayed by his suggestion. “I will send some of my men.”

“I am looking for a sworn shield for her.”

“I don’t need a sworn shield!” Arya blurted, “I need a sword!”

There was a silent conversation between Rhea and Daemon and then Rhea smirked.

“I will let your train with Willam, but beware, you will continue your lessons with Septa Harley and the Maester Garmon normally and if your training interferes with either of your lessons, then I will cut it!”

It was there that Arya knew she had been born in the right place.

In my life I observed many marriages. Love matches and arranged matches alike. I observed as many love matches turned sour and arranged matches thrived. Sometimes love was built, sometimes it never occurred. The later was the case of Lady Rhea Royce and Prince Daemon Targaryen. Theirs were a marriage by duty with no love, little likeability and enough respect. My lady and the prince barely lived together, or even laid together, but they did they duty and remained married despite their dislike for each other and had two children that both of them loved more than anything. They never even pretended to like one another, but they could and would work together in the benefit and protection of their daughters. It was watching them, that I learned something that I later passed to my charges: you don’t need to love your spouse to work together with them to benefit your children.

Excerpt from the Diary of Septa Harley

RHEA

Rhea took a goblet and filled it with some good red wine while sitting at the desk she had moved to her private solar—the one connected to the lady’s chamber. While not the solar she would use regularly to work, some things had to be worked on before they left.

She was writing some instructions to Willam when the door of the solar was opened and Daemon entered, clothed in his lounge clothes with bare chest and loose hair.

“It is common curtsey to knock before entering someone else’s private rooms, husband,” she said, returning her eyes to the papers.

“I thought that everything that is yours is mine, darling wife,” his derisive teasing tone didn’t affect her.

They had a good deal if they were honest with themselves. She wasn’t the controlling, overbearing wife that could be demanding his attention, devotion, money and position, and he wasn’t the controlling overbearing husband who would only use her for reproduction and expect her to fall in line to his ruling. She preferred to let him live his life, with his lovers and schemes and anger, while he preferred to let her to her own devices at Runestone with her lovers and duties to her people.

It was a happy middle or so to say.

Their only shared responsibility was Alyssa.

“You sought me because?”

“I want to take Alyssa to the court by dragonback,” Rhea didn’t roll her eyes at his insistence.

“It is autumn, the winds are too cold for our four years old daughter to be in the back of a dragon. She can get sick.”

“Caraxes is hot enough to keep us warm,” Daemon said dismissively. “And a journey by the sea will let her miserable. Not to mention she will be much safer in the back of Caraxes than a ship.”

“And in the days you arrive before us, who will see to Alyssa’s?”

“I do have a household in Kingslanding, dearest wife. And is not like Aemma would deny the nursery to Alyssa.”

“Clothes?”

“We can pack some lighter clothes for her,” he said and she nodded.

“Keep Alyssa out of the view of whatever politicking adversary you have, especially Hightower.”

“You don’t like the c*nt either,” Daemon commented and Rhea rolled her eyes.

“But I don’t make a show out of it to the Hand of the King so that he can target my child later,” she sighed, he acquiesced because it was true, “I suppose that you will be at the lists too? I want your help to search for viable options to sworn shield for Alyssa.”

“I thought that the plan was to have Alyssa trained to defend herself.”

“The Mountain clans are getting bolder. There was an attack near Runesport, Alyssa cannot be chained to a place, a trait she got from both of us, and I don’t doubt that in some years she will believe herself old enough to traipse the lands around Runestone on her own and give me some grey hairs. Someone whose exclusive duty is to keep her out of trouble will less likely be tricked by that girl.” Rhea explained.

She believed that the best thing between the two of them was that they were honest with each other, especially in matters about Alyssa. Ironically her loveless marriage succeeded where most love matches failed: trust and communication. They didn’t mince words when talking to each other, they didn’t sugar coat and they didn’t lie. Because in the long run, lying to each other would only hurt one person, the only person that both of them wanted to protect in this world. So, they were brutally honest and didn’t pretend.

“And Nymeria cannot be her sole protector,” he said and she nodded. “We will find a decent shield for her. Maybe I could convince a warrior of the Bear Islands to be her sworn shield.”

“Well, and let it be known that once in a while you can have some good ideas,” Rhea sneered her answer while finishing her letter. “We will depart after breakfast, good night, Daemon.”

“Good night, Bitch.”

“c*nt!”

Queen Aemma Arryn, first wife to King Viserys I, had many pregnancies. Her first was a successful one, resulting in the birth of Princess Rhaenyra in 95 AC. Her following pregnancies resulted in two miscarriages and a stillborn daughter before she gave birth to Prince Jaehearon, a name Viserys claimed from a dream, in ten years later. The heir was born curiously quiet, but alive and breathing. His first sound, it is said, was a joyful laugh when a week after his birth, the egg placed at his crib hatched. Aemma had still another two pregnancies: one ended in a miscarriage and the last pregnancy—the one whose birthbed claimed her life—in Prince Baelon, whose last breath was just a day after his first.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

JON

Crown prince!

He was the f*cking crown prince of the Seven Kingdoms.

Damnit!

That was not the plan!

Why couldn’t he have been born as Arya’s brother, a son of Daemon Targaryen? But no! He had to be a King one day or so it seemed. For f*cks sake!

His joy came, a week after his birth, when an egg hatched in his crib, and he recognized the presence of his best friend: Ghost. His scales were white as the fresh snow of the North, gleaming at the light of the sun, but his talons, teeth, and horns were black and almost looked like a crown in his head. His eyes, however, were very much like he remembered: red as blood.

Having Rhaenyra Targaryen as his eldest sister was an interesting experience. The girl who once was the Realm’s Delight and then Maegor With Teats was a good child. Their father had made her the royal cupbearer, but she still spent time with him and Queen Aemma. Nyra, as he called her, was very protective of him, would always help him sneak out of his boring classes to spend time with her and her lady-in-waiting, Alicent Hightower. King Viserys was, like the history always described him, an amiable man who loved his wife more than anything, though he and Nyra were close seconds. Viserys also liked to construct models and sometimes Jon would find himself with him in the royal quarters building Old Valyria.

However, he was unafraid of admitting that he was a momma’s boy. Mayhap because he could compare Viserys to Ned Stark and find some faults in his parenting, and had no one to compare Queen Aemma to, he found her winning.

Aemma was everything he dreamt a mother would be. Lovely and kind, and sometimes she would read for him, sometimes be stern with him. But would always be by his side.

“Jae, you are not paying attention!” Rhaenyra said with a frown.

“Now you know how it is to be ignored when you are talking to someone,” Alicent barbed at her friend with some giggles.

It was interesting to know that Rhaenyra and Alicent started as friends. Best friends. Almost sisters. Before all it started. He could even point out what had happened to make them bitter enemies and it started with Otto Hightower.

“You must pay attention, it is your nameday we will be celebrating!”

“But I don’t care for jousting!” He said as clearly as a two-years-old child was able to. “Why would I want to watch people trying to knock each other out of horses?” He pouted and Alicent giggled again while Rhaenyra sighed.

“You know that father loves these shows,” Rhaenyra sighed.

“But is boring, un-nece-ssary violent, and stupidly ex-pensi-ve!” He argued and perceived that Rhaenyra was looking behind him and Alicent was trying to control her giggles. “I would prefer to give the money to the poor!” Jon said, pretty sure that one of his parents was standing behind him.

“A noble aspiration, Jaehearon,” Jon turned and found Viserys standing with, Ser Ryam Redwyne, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, behind him with an amused smile, “But the nobles also want to celebrate your name day with you.”

“Your Grace,” Alicent said while giving a curtsey repeated by Rhaenyra, though less deeply.

“So, what is happening?” The King asked with a calm smile.

“I am trying to explain to Jae that when the rules of the jousting,” Rhaenyra commented.

“I know the rules of the jousting, I just don’t care for people trying to kill or unhorsing each other for no other reason than seek glory and some gold dragons,” Jon rolled his eyes and tried to keep as coherent as possible with his childish tongue that was unaccustomed to such long and complex words.

“You are wiser than most boys your age, Jaehearon,” his father said with a smile, patting his head with silver curly hair. “However, some compromise must be made and if people must find fun while watching those, they have to happen.”

Entertainment to keep people occupied with what happened.

Jon knew that Sansa wasn’t born yet and it made him pout. When he became king he would install her as his Hand, someone as no-nonsense as his cousin could probably think of better entertainment for the people.

“You will see our Uncle Daemon competing, he is the most valiant knight of the Kingdom,” Rhaenyra said, and Jon held back the urge to scrunch his nose at the obvious adoration at his sister’s voice.

Prince Daemon had occupied many positions in his brother’s court, but the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower, always found a way to have him dismissed. He accused him to be a tyrant when he occupied the post of Master of Laws, a spindrift when he was the Master of Coins and it was rumoured that Hightower had been the one to orchestrate the banishment of Daemon from court when he was the Lord Commander of the City’s Watch. Still registries show that when he was a Master of Laws, he found and had punished seven lords who were diverting the crowns money to personal use, as a Master of Coin found where to cut expenses that were over the top while improving the social works of his Grandmother, and when he was the Commander of the City’s Watch, the crime in Kings Landing had decreased sharply. As mercurial and impetuous that he was accused to be, Prince Daemon was also effective.

Excerpt from The Rogue Prince, Maester Gyldayn.

DAEMON

He looked at his good sister with narrowed eyes as she smiled at him sweetly.

“You are lucky that I love you, good sister,” he said to her, and she laughed.

“Why? Just because I said that you will have to share your bed with your wife for a sennight?” Aemma asked while tilting her head with an impish smirk. “The castle is starting to burster with lords and even the City is full right now. Your apartments have two rooms, one more than you usually need if Rhea would come. I will have you know that even our nursery is currently full.”

“And why can’t Alyssa stay with Jaehearon in the royal nursery?” he questioned with narrowed eyes.

“Because with the Keep so full, we had decided that Jaehearon will stay at the Royal apartments rather than at the nursery, and Alyssa would stay alone there.” Aemma explanation made more sense than he wanted to admit. “I have found a nurse to tend to Alyssa in your apartment, but you can keep her in the guest nursery with other children.”

“I prefer to keep Alyssa close,” he admitted.

“A sennight sharing your bed with Rhea won’t kill either of you. If anything, it can give me another niece or nephew to spoil,” the Queen suggested with an impish smile. “You don’t even hate each other as much as you pretend.”

“I am sure I hate her,” he smirked, but there wasn’t heat in his words.

No, he didn’t hate Rhea. It has been a long time since he last hated her. Indeed, they had found a common ground and respected each other. They wouldn’t be best friends or share a love anytime soon, but their animosity was much more pretend in these days than reality, if only because it let them free to follow their lives as they wanted.

And well, she was a bitch.

Before Aemma could say anything, Alyssa entered the solar of his apartment, outing her room.

“Kepa! Muña sent only dresses, how can I move on those?” His impetuous four years old daughter questioned with a pout.

“Alyssa, great your aunt,” Daemon said sternly and finally the little girl perceived that they were not alone.

“Your Grace! Thank you for receiving us!” she dripped into an ill-done curtsey that made Aemma laugh.

“It is a pleasure to receive you, Princess Alyssa,” Aemma said with a docile smile. “My, haven’t you grown up since we last saw each other?”

“I did, didn’t I?” the young girl asked while offering her aunt an impish smile. “Muña says that I am two or three inches taller now!”

“And you look very pretty on this dress! Red does agree with you!”

“I prefer black! It doesn’t get as dirty when I play!” Alyssa commented back to her aunt and Daemon rolled his eyes, unsurprised. “And dresses are not as comfortable as pants!”

“Rhea doesn’t mind if you use pants at home, but at court, you will dress as a princess, Alyssa,” he said trying not to choke on what he was saying.

That had been Rhea’s decree, and while he would love to let Alyssa in riding leathers all day, he had to agree that Rhea was right about avoiding dragging attention to their daughter. Especially if said daughter seemed to have inherited Visenya’s temper.

Rhea arrived three days later and was just as unamused with Aemma as he had been. Seeing his wife in a dress that didn’t look like a pauper’s clothing or a bronze and leather armour, was a reminder that Rhea could look beautiful when she wanted. Even if the dress was brown, the golden Myrish lace and the bronze embroidery made it look very sophisticated. Her presence at the court was well received, first by Aemma, who was her aunt since Rhea’s mother was one of Aemma’s older sisters, and then by his own brother.

“It is a surprise to see you at the Court, dear Lady Royce,” the silky voice of Otto Hightower said, and he saw as Rhea’s eyes turned to him with the fakest saccharine smile, she could produce, “The capital would be much brighter if you and Princess Alyssa visited more.”

“Kings’ Landing and the Red Keep are as lovely as always, alas, they have some residents that I much prefer to avoid,” while Daemon knew that she was talking about Otto Hightower, he also knew that most assumed that she was talking about him. He sneered while rolling his eyes, putting on a show for their supposed hate. “Also, I do have obligations to my people as I am the ruling Lady of Runestone. The title comes with the duty to actually rule over Runestone.”

“You are a good, dutiful woman, Lady Royce,” Otto said with a smile that made it clear to Daemon that he had not understood that the barbs were more directed to him and some other lords that chuckled their obligations to their own keeps to stewards than to himself.

“Thank you, Lord Hand!”

“If we can get done with these pleasantries,” Aemma said and then walked to Rhea and embraced her. “I miss you when you are away for so long, you should at least send Alyssa more often to visit.”

“I would if I could trust her to behave and continue her lessons without proper supervision,” Rhea said while rolling her eyes, “especially if her aunt, uncle, and cousins are going to cover her indulgencies.”

“I must say, that you got me right, good sister,” Viserys said from the throne to everyone’s amusem*nt and some chuckles.

“Of course I did, Your Grace,” Rhea said with a charming smile to his brother, “Or do you think that I don’t know who had sent her Septa on some days off the last time I sent her for a visit?” He saw as Viserys laughed, though some part of his brother’s cheeks were tinged pink. “Or how the time before that, somehow every Maester on the keep was sent to tend to a minor outbreak of spring fever in Crownsland?”

“Jaehearon would probably be a better influence on her than Viserys and I, I fear,” Aemma said with a proud smile. “He is so diligent and studious and only two years of age.”

“And the Princess Rhaenyra?”

“My joy and delight,” Aemma said, still smiling, “Though not as diligent in her studies as her brother, no one can deny that she is one of the most charming young girls in the realm.”

“I would hope so, the Arryn are a charming bunch,” Rhea said with a smile, a reminder to everyone that she too carried Arryn’s blood. She looked at Rhaenyra and smiled, “You are as beautiful as your mother, Princess Rhaenyra!”

“Thank you, Aunt Rhea!” The princess said with a pink tinge on her cheeks.

“And I hope you grow as stubborn as her too!”

“I will have you know that I am not stubborn!” Aemma said with faux indignation in her voice.

“Merely opinionated?”

“You know me well!”

As the queen and her niece laughed, the court looked amused and somewhat perplexed. Aemma was always a perfect lady, a perfect queen, and rarely would be so free to anyone in the public eyes. Not even her half-sister, Amanda Tyrell. But truth was that Aemma and Rhea were closer in age and were really close too, with Rhea being the daughter of the deceased Elys Royce, the Queen’s oldest sister that had been more of a mother than a sister to Aemma.

“You can sleep on the bed Daemon,” Rhea rolled her eyes, when they were alone in their quarters, he offered to sleep on the ground and let her have the bed for herself. “I may not want to lay with you, but I am sure that we can share a bed without having to have sex.”

When the tourney started, Rhea was given an especial seat in the King’s booth. Daemon made a show of requesting the favour of Princess Rhaenyra, while Alyssa sat next to Jaehearon and talked about whatever little kids talked about.

After seven days of jousting and game and he won the tourney and crowned Rhaenyra the Queen of Love and Beauty.

He was “bullied” by Aemma into inviting Rhea to dance at the feast after the tourney. While he was able to admit that his wife was dazzling in her bronze gown that while very modest in the cuttings, was tight enough to show her gorgeous body. He danced with her, danced with Rhaenyra, danced with the Queen, and even with Lady Alicent. And when they returned to his rooms, he helped Rhea outside of her gowns and they kissed.

The night was hot. Sounds of curses and bites and scratches and slaps resonated in their bedchamber as they celebrated his victory. He called her bitch, she called him a c*nt.

“I despise you,” he said while kissing her earlobe.

“I hate your touch,” she said while moaning between org*sms.

“I hate you,” he said before biting her shoulder.

“I hate you too,” she answered, between him back.

They fell into bed exhausted. Nothing but a flimsy sheet to cover their body. She turned to face him and leaned her head on her arm. He did the same until they were face to face.

“Goodnight, Daemon.”

“Goodnight, Rhea.”

The second daughter of Lady Rhea Royce and Prince Daemon Targaryen was born nine months after the second nameday of the Prince Jaehearon. Queen Aemma took the credits for her conception, announcing that all that Rhea and Daemon needed were to spend more time together if they wanted a bigger brood. Lady Rhea’s labour started at the same time that a storm reached Runestone and good part of the Vale, it was only eighteen hours later, when the storm stopped raging, that Princess Selaena Targaryen was born. Her egg was hatched merely hours after being left at her crib, and to everyone’s surprise there were two dragons inside.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

Notes:

If anyone got curious about Rhea's dresses:
At Runestone: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/504262489536911000/
Arrival at KL: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/32/02/32/3202321ab8e8f35ce84d5f1a87aa7c90.jpg
At the feast: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/509117932889134001/

Chapter 3: Ready, set, go!

Summary:

A little bit of peace in Runestone before the Heir's Tourney.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There weren’t many registries of more than one dragon being hatched in the same egg. Even in the Old Valyria it was a rare occurrence. But one thing was written about every case in which a dragonrider had more than one dragon: they were born to be great. And Selaena Targaryen was not one to disappoint such expectations.

Excerpt from The Targaryen Dragons, Maester Limerick

SANSA

The first thing she felt was pain.

Her lungs burned.

She was born in a storm, they said. Or rather, her mother’s labour started during a storm and lasted as long as said storm, eighteen hours before it started, she was born in the calm that started immediately after the storm. When the rain stopped, and the morning came with soft sunlight fighting its way through the dark grey clouds.

Rhea named her Selaena, because it was the closest a Valyrian name could come to Serena, though the meaning was closer to “moon” or “the dark one” to the old language of the freehold.

She spent her day passing from arms to arms. Rhea called her little heart, Daemon called her ñuha prūmia, my heart. Alyssa, who she immediately knew to be her Arya, hāedar, little sister.

She tried to look for Jon but did not find him. Not yet.

When Sansa next woke, she was in the crib and there was an egg next to her. She felt a familiar, long-gone presence coming from it and reached for it until she touched the warm shell that parted and revealed two dragons.

She sighed. Or tried too, her baby body had limited movements it seemed.

Two dragons.

There it goes her chance to pass unnoticed like a quiet player. All eyes would turn to her.

One dragon had beautiful scales of soft pink and lavender colours, and horns and talons that were of colour silver. The eyes were lavender too. And she was Lady. Her Lady. Here! With her again! And this time no one would take her away from Sansa. She would never let it happen again.

The second dragon had scales of burnt orange, and dark red horns and talons. She could bet that at the sunlight he would look like a giant, living flame. But his eyes were blue. Like the rivers of Riverlands. His presence was familiar too. Too familiar indeed.

Had she brought someone else with them? But who?

How?

She was supposed to be strong enough to send three. Only three! But…

Being a baby, she decided, was boring! She slept, she cried, and she sullied herself. The dragons were permitted to stay with her while she tried to decipher who was the second dragon, he had yet to leave her. Lady too would trail after her all the time.

She sighed. Barely months old, there was nothing she could do yet. Only learn. Re-learn?

Princess Selaena was perhaps the antithesis of her older sister. If Princess Alyssa was too raucous, Princess Selaena was too quiet. Whereas the older liked to learn the most male arts like sword and fighting, the younger would learn the most feminine arts, like embroidery and music. Princess Alyssa was a small knight in the making, but Princess Selaena was born a little lady. She knew her courtesies right, she was soft spoken and well-mannered child that enchanted everyone. Yet, despite being so different from Princess Alyssa, there was no one Princess Selaena loved more than her older sister.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

DAEMON

Daemon’s second daughter was delightful.

Yet he really didn’t know from where all her sweetness had come.

She was not as fierce as Alyssa, nor was she as headstrong as Rhea, and certainly not as temperamental as him.

Rather she was a small thing with little fight.

Or that was many thoughted.

He could see behind the soft lavender eyes that Selaena was not soft, rather she was a warrior of a different cloth.

Fools thought that there was only one type of warrior: the kind that would pick the sword and go to the battlegrounds on the frontlines. But he knew better. There were warriors that were like his grandparents. They preferred their battlegrounds less bloody and more decisive.

At age three, his youngest was the opposite of her sister had been.

But her dragons. Two! Lady, the pink and lilac little thing that was so docile and so obedient that if not for the sharp claws and teeth no one would believe to be a dragon. Summer, the dragon of orange and red that grew stronger and bolder and so utterly rebellious that he almost pitied the dragon keepers when Summer would break his chains and fly free just to land on the top of the tower his daughters’ chambers and stay there or follow Selaena wherever she was.

“I cannot believe that I agreed with it,” Rhea said while crossing her arms.

Her eyes looked pointed at where Alyssa and Selanea were with Nymeria, Summer, and Lady. Observing them with careful stares were Sers Luthor Tyrell and Malik Manderly, their sworn shields. The first was sent by Lady Tyrell, Amanda, after she discovered that they were looking for a sworn shield for Alyssa, and the second was his squire. Both were very devoted to their daughters. Especially because Caraxes was near them, though closer to him and Rhea.

“I can,” Daemon said with a winning smile. “Alyssa is already seven, and a good rider. Also, the way Nymeria loves her, I am sure that she will not let anything happen to our daughter. And Selaena will be safe with me.”

“Still, it will be a long journey for her to make a solo flight,” Rhea said, obviously nervous as she started to fidget her fingers.

“I will be near her all the time.”

“You will be carrying Selaena,” Rhea sighed. “Maybe Selaena should come with me.”

“Rhea, the two of them are going to be alright. Alyssa is already riding her horse like a Dothraki, and she has been riding Nymeria since her name day, with better results than most riders. And I have been riding Caraxes for half of my life. They will be safe Rhea.”

He saw as his wife sighed, clearly unhappy.

“I still don’t like it!”

“The Queen also dislikes when the Princess rides at Syrax, still our niece is one of the best riders of the kingdom.”

“The Kingdom currently has five dragonriders: you, Alyssa, Ser Laenor, Princess Rhaenyra, and Princess Rhaenys, excuse me if being one of the best among so little means nothing to me!”

“Fair enough,” he smirked at her point, and she narrowed her eyes at him. “We will make regular stops and I promise that I will not let Nymeria out of my sight. And when we arrive in the Capital Alyssa and Selaena will have the company of their cousins to keep them out of trouble.”

“Princess Rhanyra is fifteen, I doubt that she will want to keep tabs on Alyssa and Selaena,” Rhea pointed out.

“Perhaps, but Prince Jaehearon is five and dotes on the girls,” Daemon said. “Aemma talked something about a betrothal between them.”

“I would prefer for Alyssa and Selaena to have the power to choose. Alyssa will inherit Runestone and all its castles, ports, and lands, she doesn’t need a husband. And Selaena, to see her tied to that miserable place, circled in that nest of vipers? I would rather die first, Daemon,” his eyes narrowed at her description of the Court. Try as he might, he could not think of a better one. “That place would destroy her.”

“She is the blood of the dragon; the Red Keep is hers by right.”

“The Red Keep is infested with pests and parasites. Viserys doesn’t see them, but you do, and even from here I know about them.”

“Then we disinfest that place first.”

“Why? Let them drown in their own poison, Selaena can find someone who will make her happy,” Rhea said.

“She might not need a husband for it,” Daemon said while observing the sisters playing with the dragons. “Grandfather left me lands on the Reach, a source of the river Blueburn and west to the Kingswood and Stormlands. There is nothing there, but I rent the lands to Grassfield Keep of House Meadows to keep the money. We can build something there. A castle to pass to her.”

“Aunt Amanda would love to have Selaena so close,” Rhea said. “Find a good builder. Make it safe and beautiful, and for the love of every god! Don’t put a dragon in its name!”

He chuckled.

Someone once told me that there can be no intimacy—emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, physical intimacy—without vulnerability. One of the reasons there is such an intimacy deficit today is because we don't know how to be vulnerable. It' about being honest with how we feel, about our fears, about what we need. Vulnerability is a glue that holds intimate relationships together¹. I did made myself vulnerable for Daemon, and I will never regret it.

Excerpt from Lady Rhea’s Journal

RHEA

She was relaxing on her chaise, a cup of wine in hand, and her eyes closed. Her thoughts to herself and no demands for her to attend.

She loved her girls, but gods they were demanding!

Alyssa was a better warrior than most young men that trained. If she didn’t know better, she would say that she had always known how to swing that damned sword. Seven years old and was already trouncing the recruits in fair training. Willam’s boy, Waymar, had become a rival of sorts to her, he was the one that never tried to hold back from the beginning they would train for hours. She would skip her lessons, terrorize Septa Harley with her training sword, destroy furniture with the damned dagger that Viserys gift her in her last name day, and try to outrun her shield and his squire.

Selaena was a sweetheart. Barely got in trouble, but at three she was the most questioning little thing she had known. She questioned every decision made, every rule, and every little piece of information that was given. Gods! She questioned the Septa about the faith, the Maester about the Citadel’s knowledge, and her father about Valyria’s magic. The inquisitive little thing would never let it go from a question.

So, peace, silence, and a good Arbor Gold were all she needed right now.

She moaned when she sipped a little of her drink.

“You know, someone could think that there is something going on here with all those moans,” a voice called her attention, and she opened her eyes and saw her husband in the doorway, closing the door behind him and looking at her with a smirk. She groaned at his presence in her bedroom.

“Your unwanted, unannounced and uninvited presence has a reason, or are you here just to annoy me?” she shot back and saw as he got rid of his robe and filled a cup of wine for himself before sitting at her side.

“I came to share your woes.”

“My woes?”

“Selaena decided to question me today about dragon dreamers, conquerors, and why there is a seven-hundred-foot-high wall in the North if the enemies are only people,” Rhea sneered a laugh.

“She questioned me why Runes are no longer used as our official writing system and what the uses of taxes collected by Runestone once. It isn’t fun to explain the taxation system to a two-year-old child,” she sipped her own drink again.

“She is only three and is already more interested in taxes than my brother,” he smirked and she sent him a chastisem*nt glare. “It is true! She also has two dragons.”

“Don’t remind me,” she groaned again. “Lady! Who names a dragon Lady, Daemon?”

“Our youngster, obviously,” Daemon said with a smirk. “An apt name, that dragon is more well-behaved than most ladies at court.”

“And Summer! That thing is enormous! He is going to reach Nymeria soon and insists to perch on the roofs. He will end up damaging that damned structure!”

“Still he is awfully protective of Selaena and Alyssa,” he chuckled.

“That isn’t funny!”

“But it is,” Daemon answered her, and she used a pillow to hit him. “Aggressive bitch.”

“Stupid c*nt!”

They stayed in silence for some minutes before Daemon turned to her. “Did you ever wish for another one?”

“No, I love the girls. I would die for them, but I don’t think I would survive another labour,” it had hurt so much.

Alyssa’s had been fast in comparison to Selaena’s, but still it was seven hours of pure pain, followed by a hemorrhage that could should have killed her. She had been abed for days after. Selaena’s had taken longer and was more tortuous, though less life-threatening. Gods! It was worth every second, but no, she couldn’t see herself doing it again. Surviving that again.

“You know that I would never force you to do it again, right?” Daemon said seriously.

“But you want more,” she said, and he nodded while she rested her head on his shoulders. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he said. “When the old hag had dragged us to this marriage, I doubted that we would even be able to have children at all. Alyssa and Selaena are miracles on their own.”

“Against all odds,” she answered.

“Against all odds,” Daemon repeated.

Princess Selaena never shew preference towards her dragons. Lady and Summer were both her mounts. Lady, for as well behaved as she was, never let anyone other than Princess Selaena mounts her. Summer, however, shew preference for specific Targaryen. It tolerated the King and his brother, liked Princess Rhaenys and barely paid mind to Princess Rhaenyra. Prince Jaehearon could even mount him, when needed, and so could Princess Alyssa when the dragon was in a good mood. It was Princess Selaena that he loved the most, and when she was in danger, there was no one who would be safe from the Bright Fury.

Excerpt from The Targaryen Dragons, Maester Limerick

ARYA

Having Sansa back had been amazing if kind of fun.

When she was born, she couldn’t talk, or walk and slept most of the days. But little by little she saw as Sansa fought against the limitations of a baby’s body as she had. It was fun watching as everyone regarded them and Jaehearon as prodigies when compared to the children of their age because really, they weren’t.

But it was two years ago when Sansa was uttering the few words that her lips could, that she touched Summer and her hand at the same time, and she felt the very familiar presence of her brother.

Bran!

Hello, sister! It had said in her mind with amusem*nt and a chuckle.

Bran was a f*cking dragon!

A f*cking, fire-breathing dragon!

Now she was envious, she didn’t think that they could be back as dragons. She would have preferred to breathe fire than have to deal with court politics!

Cheater.

“You look mur-de-rous,” she chuckled when Sansa stumbled at the words. Three years old and she tried to talk like a grown-up. Heh!

“I would prefer to be a dragon,” discreetly she pointed to Summer/Bran who was flying over them.

As Sansa laughed at her, their father approached. Like them, he was in riding leathers. Nymeria had already been saddled and the saddle bag had her clothes, money, and other provisions. Caraxes too carried more things, both Daemon’s and Sansa’s. Their mother had departed yesterday, on the ship, Luthor, and Malik with her.

“Father,” Sansa said dripping in a curtesy while she only smiled wide to their father. Sansa would always be a lady.

Ñuha jelevre, ñuha prūmia,” he greets them while petting their heads. My breath, that’s what he called her. Sansa was his heart, and she was his breath. “Alyssa, tell me the rules again.”

With a petulant sigh, Arya started: “Follow Caraxes, don’t race ahead, if I want to stop, I must go ahead of Caraxes and position Nymeria down.”

“Aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Straight the saddle strapless correctly and not open the saddle bag while on air,” she repeated back to him, and he kissed her forehead.

“Good girl. Let’s get you mounted, hm?” he said and helped her up.

“Be careful!” Sansa said when she was on top of Nymeria, but Arya already felt herself at home.

Sōvēs” she says.

It takes some minutes, but later she is joined in the air by her father. Summer and Lady follow them, and they start to fly.

And she never felt as free in her life!

.

.

.

She would prefer to be a dragon though.

Notes:

[¹] The excerpt of Rhea's journal is a citation of Brené Brown.

Chapter 4: The Heirs of the Dragon I

Summary:

Rhea arrives at the Red Keep and misses her children.
Aemma and Viserys talk about their children's future.
Rhaenyra loves her brother!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There were many events known as Bloody Night, but perhaps one of the most famous between those was the night of the 15th day of the tenth moon of the year 110, that preceded the Heirs Tourney in honour to the Crown Prince Jaehearon. Prince Daemon Targaryen, the Commander of the City’s Watch, with the two thousand men under his call, rounded up all and every criminal that had escaped and then extracted due justice in hundreds of criminals. It was said that five wagons were needed to collect the severed parts of the criminals gathered in that Bloody Night. Daemon flew in the following sunset to Runestone and returned a se’enight later with his two daughters. The King, while not pleased with his actions, did not punished him either, understanding that his actions were necessary for the maintenance of peace.

Excerpt from The Rogue Prince, Maester Gyldayn.

RHEA

She sighed when she listened to the newest court gossip while she moved to the quarters that she would be sharing with her husband. The bloodthirsty thing that he was, always causing trouble it seemed. Yet she decided not to start that conversation, Daemon was a bloodthirsty sh*t, but he had reasons. She arrived at the chambers to find her husband lounging on the couch with a book in his hand.

“Wow, I think that this is the first time in our thirteen years of marriage that I see you with a book in your hands. Do you even know how to read?” Rhea asked while teasing.

“That long?”

“That long, and we have two daughters,” she threw herself on the same couch and then placed her feet at his legs. “Where are they?”

“Rhaenyra, Alicent, and Jaehearon took them to the dragonpit. Apparently, Summer broke yet more sets of chains: his, Ghost’s, Lady’s, and Nymeria’s, then they flew to the Red Keep and perched at the tower. Viserys was amused, Aemma not so much.”

“And the dragonkeepers?”

“They were thrown to the ground, but no one was hurt by the four terrors' escapade,” Daemon answered with a smirk.

“The Court?”

“Impressed with the girls’ control for their beasts, though deadly afraid, because one of Hightower’s whelp was trying to get Alyssa’s attention and Nymeria growled to the boy.”

“I am more surprised that Alyssa hadn’t stuck him with the damned dagger Viserys gift her,” Rhea smirked. “Have you looked for the builder?”

“I did, your Aunts Amanda and Aemma helped me, though,” Rhea looked to Daemon. “Viserys already gave the approval, all I need is to come up with a name. The Meadows were already informed that they are to get the f*ck out of my lands.”

“Ask Aemma for help, I am sure she can come up with a good name.”

“I was thinking of Dragon’s Fort. Or Dragon’s Garden.”

“And I am pretty sure that I said that there is to be nothing about dragons on the name,” Rhea said. “But Selaena would like something about gardens…”

“Illyria was one of the Goddesses of the old freehold, the Goddess of Spring and flowers. Illyria’s Garden, sounds good, doesn’t it?”

“It does,” Rhea agreed and then turned to him. “The tourney will start in three days. Are you on the lists?”

“You know the answer, do you want me to ask for your favour?”

“Please don’t,” she said with a sneer, “the last thing I need is for people to think that I like you.”

“Alright, Alyssa’s, before a Hightower decides to seek her favour first.”

Rhea laughed. “I doubt that Alyssa has prepared a favour for anyone, Daemon. If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if she one day decides that she would be a better jouster than you and asks for your favour instead.”

“Truer words were never spoken before,” Daemon said with a laugh.

I have few memories of my mother. She died when I was still very young, but for everything I can remember, the Queen Aemma was more than just beautiful; she was intelligent, caring, and gentle. She never mounted a dragon, never wanted Rhaenyra over hers, and I imagine that she would never want me on Ghost either if she had been here for my first solo ride. I heard many say that she was “more of a falcon than a dragon”, I disagree. How else would she had survived so long in her office even after all the blows life hand her if her spine wasn’t pure steel?

Excerpt from the Journal of King Jaehearon I

AEMMA

She wasn’t supposed to be pregnant again. It had been a lapse in her good sense that made her forget to drink moon tea all those months ago and now she was paying for it. She closed her eyes and moaned when she heard the door of her bathing chamber being opened. It was either her husband or her maids or the maester.

“You spend more time in the bath than I do in the throne,” she opened her eyes and looked to Viserys who was approaching her.

“This is the only place I can find comfort these days,” Aemma commented, Viserys placed his hand on the water to measure its temperature.

“It’s tepid,” he said displeased and she sighed, she too had desired something warmer.

“This is as warm as the Maester would allow,” she said resignedly.

“Don’t he know dragons prefer heat?” He asked and patted her head, she smiled back at him.

“After this miserable pregnancy, I wouldn’t be surprised if I actually hatched a dragon,” Aemma said with a teasing note and Viserys smiled at her.

“And he will be loved and esteemed,” he said kissing the back of her hand.

“Rhaenyra says that it will be a sister, says that brothers are too troublesome,” she was amused. “Even demanded the name to be Visenya, chose an egg to the crib that reminded her of Vhagar.”

“Gods be good, this family already has its Visenya!”

“I dare say he has been tempered by his marriage to Rhea.”

“I see that you have not yet heard of the Bloody Night?” Aemma rolled her eyes at Viserys’ answer. Of course, she had heard. But truth be told, Daemon would always be violent and efficient, especially in the protection of his daughters.

“He does everything for his daughters. Did you know that he plans to build a castle for Selaena? Daemon was thinking of naming it Dragon’s Garden,” she smiled when he nodded. “I said that perhaps Selaena might not need a castle if she and Jaehearon don’t stop orbiting around each other.”

“Hm… I was thinking of marrying Jaehearon to Rhaenyra,” she scoffed.

“Rhaenyra is ten years older than Jaehearon, Viserys, she is already of the age to be finding her own husband. When Jaehearon comes to age to sire children, Rhaenyra will be expected to already have birthed some. If it is about keeping the Dragon’s blood strong, Jaehearon’s best choice is Selaena. Before I thought that Alyssa would be a good choice, but she is much more of a free spirit than her younger sister, she would struggle with the duties of queenship.”

“And Lady Laena is almost as old as Rhaenyra and would better find a husband for herself soon. What do you think of Corlys’ son, Laenor to Rhaenyra? Rhaenys could finally forgive me for the Great Council.”

“You could try to placate the Velaryon by actually hearing their plead to help with the Stepstones,” Aemma scoffed. “Rhaenyra won’t have as many responsibilities to the throne as Jaehearon, Viserys. Let her choose her own path.”

“If I let her choose, she might as well marry a no-name knight just to spite tradition,” Viserys said and Aemma chuckled, knowing that Rhaenyra was spiteful as that regarding traditions.

“Then drawl some rules and make her choose between the acceptable suitors. It as much of a choice as a princess can get,” Aemma smiled. Usually, princesses were used as pawns to trade for something, giving Rhaenyra a chance to choose her own husband was something that few fathers would do, even fewer kings.

“Maybe I could put on a limit time for her to choose her husband too, instead of letting her pretend to be looking for one while she just aged,” Viserys smirked, and she smiled back at him. “Maybe I should build a castle too.”

“For Rhaenyra?”

“For our son,” she rolled her eyes at his answer. “I believe that we might have two reasons to celebrate in this tourney: Jaehearon becoming the crown prince and the birth of another son.”

“You know that there is nothing that will make grow a penis on this baby if it doesn’t already have one, right?”

“Jaehearon will always be the heir, Aemma, but you know how a succession crisis can be bloody.”

“You are seeing problems where there is none,” Aemma said. “Jae is strong and hale and loved.”

“But accidents happen,” she shivered at his warning. “And people had already sent an assassin.”

“Viserys, my love, hear me: Jaehearon will be the king of the Seven Kingdoms. What you need to do is set people who will protect him at his side—”

“This is not another talk about Otto, is it?”

“Otto Hightower may do his work well, Viserys, but the only person he serves is himself.”

“Not this again, Aemma! You, Daemon, even Corlys! All of you are always against Otto and none of you can name a reason at all! For the Gods! This ought to stop!”

With this Viserys left her chambers and she sighed.

Viserys didn’t see what they all saw. The haughtiness, the unquenchable greed. But she saw. Daemon saw. Corlys saw. Little by little, Otto tried to put Viserys against everyone in the family. Against Rhaenys because she could have been the Queen in his place. Against Daemon, because her brother-by-law saw what he truly was. Sometimes even against her, claiming she was too soft whenever she tried to beat some sense into his head.

In reality, she feared for Rhaenyra and Jaehearon, because sooner or later Hightower’s ambition would turn to them, and she feared that she wouldn’t be there to stop him. She needed to talk with her children soon. And Daemon too.

Princess Rhaenyra love for her younger brother, Jaehearon, knew few limits. Some tried to say that she was jealous of his position as the son and heir, and some even tried to say that she as the firstborn planned to usurp her brother’s place. Nothing was ever proved. All the registries show that she loved her brother and was among those who cheered louder when Jaehearon was crowned at five years of age, a little before he turned six. The prince was the Princess’ joy.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

RHAENYRA

Rhaenyra looked at where her younger cousins and brother were trying—and ultimately failing—to chastise their dragons for their escapade. The instigator: Summer—one of the most beautiful dragons she had ever seen in her life, whose scales looked like a living flame—was unapologetic trying to receive a pet from Selaena.

A small part of her envied Selaena, for she knew that her mother wanted her cousin as Jae’s queen while she was not even considered. Selaena, whose egg hatched the same night it had been left at her crib. Selaena, who had two dragons, something that no Targaryen had ever achieved before. Selaena, who her brother would always talk about. Pretty, smart. It was ridiculous that she, a fifteen-year-old girl would envy her cousin of three. But she did. If only because she knew, as her mother knew, that one-day Selaena would become the most important person in Jae’s life. She wasn’t sure if she would one day be ready for it.

Alyssa was a little spitfire, and if she was honest, she could see a lot of her uncle in the girl, if only slightly softer. The way her uncle and aunt let Alyssa practice with the sword, only encouraged the girl to be wilder. Part of Rhaenyra questioned if the young Queen Visenya had been like Alyssa in her childhood.

If Alyssa will be Visenya, would it make Selaena a Rhaenys? She thought while looking at her youngster cousin kissing Jae’s cheek.

“We ought to go back,” Alicent said, still on top of the stairs of the wheelhouse.

“I never understood why you come with me to the dragonpit if you are so completely afraid of the dragons,” Rhaenyra said watching Alicent shiver when Lady moved her twin to receive a pat from Selaena too. Or was it because Nymeria and Ghost were in a mock fight on the ground? That alone was terrifying for even the dragonkeepers were looking at them with some uneasiness.

“They are terrifying beasts, Rhaenyra,” Alicent said. “I cannot believe your family let children as small as Princess Selaena near them.”

“The children are safe; the dragons would never hurt them.”

“But would hurt anyone who gets near them.”

“Only if they had the intention to harm them,” Rhaenyra replied.

“Alas, Lady Alicent is right, Princess,” Rhaenyra turned to Ser Harrold Westerling, who was her and her brother’s usual protector. “We ought to go.”

“No, no!” Selaena said while petting Lady. “We stay with Lady and Summer! Muña arrives today, so she and Kepa will do nasty adult things in the room,” Rhaenyra was torn between feeling envious of the Lady of Runestone and choking on a laugh at the deep blush that covered her friend’s cheek. Alyssa snorted a laugh and Jaehearon looked at her with a frown.

“How would you know?” Jae asked.

“They do it whenever Kepa comes home!” Alyssa nodded at the younger sister and then complemented:

“They are not exactly discreet either,” there was an impish smile on her lips that made Ser Harrold sigh at the news.

“They not!” Selaena nodded.

“Regardless of what your parents may or not be doing, it is time to return to the keep, Your Highnesses,” Ser Harrold said and then he herded the kids to enter Rhaenyra’s wheelhouse with her and Alicent. Unceremoniously, Jae chose to sit in her lap, and she embraced her brother.

The next day was the first day of the Tourney of the Heir. A celebration for the ceremony that would see her young brother declared the heir of the throne soon. She saw as Lady Rhea Royce arrived with her daughters. Alyssa and Selaena were both in pretty black and red dresses, though the oldest of the sisters appeared completely disgruntled with her clothes while the youngster was as comfortable as ever. Lady Royce herself was beautifully dressed in a dress of the colour of Valyrian Steel with burnt orange, silver, and dark maroon highlights.

Bronze Bitch indeed, she thought when she saw the bronze circlet with obsidian beads that rested on the brow.

Technically, Lady Rhea was a princess too, being married to her uncle Daemon and all, she just preferred to keep the name and title of Royce for political reasons within the Vale, like her cousin, Gunther who had once tried to take Runestone from her after Yorbert Royce died. The fool wasn’t even the next in line, before him came yet another cousin and his sons, and the man’s own brother if he had not chosen to take the Black. In the Vale, the title of Lady Royce would be more important than the title of a Targaryen Princess or so her lady mother had explained. But it didn’t change the fact that by marriage, her aunt was a princess and therefore the bronze circlet set true in her brow.

Lady Rhea had but two pieces of jewellery that were a nod to her connection to House Targaryen: a simple necklace with a golden chain and a square ruby that was the size of an eye. And a discreet ring that seemed to be made of Valyrian steel, shaped like a dragon, embraced her ring finger.

Where did she find that?

She turned her attention to where Jaehearon had been with Laenor and Laena, the Velaryon twins of twelve years, and now had her favourite uncle’s daughters too.

Rhaenyra looked at their stand. Her mother wasn’t there, maybe she wasn’t feeling okay after all. Her Uncle Daemon wasn’t too, but he was on the lists. The members of the small council and their immediate families were there too. Only her mother was missing.

She must be feeling ill, it’s a moon too early for the baby to come.

When the tourney started, she was pretty distracted by a Dornished knight that might as well be one of the most handsome men she had ever seen before.

Queen Aemma last child's bed came half a moon too early, and it had consequences. The baby was in the wrong position and would not move. My advice for the King was to cut the Queen to save the baby, for the longer he stayed in his mother womb the more danger he was him. I never had seen the King Viserys as wrathful before. In his wrath he accused me of being a queenslayer, and even threatened to have me executed for the suggestion. The midwife from the Vale, who was assisting in the labour, intervened and said that we should wait more. The King heard her council. The Queen laboured for three days, from where her chambers received few visitors. Princess Rhaenyra, Princess Rhaenys, Lady Rhea and Lady Amanda Tyrell. Prince Baelon was born in a bed of blood and the Queen died some hours later, her last moments were a private between her and the King. In the end, mother and child perished.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

VISERYS

He came when a midwife called for him, saying that Aemma had asked for him. He knew by now that the situation was dire. Aemma had bled too much, had exhausted herself too much and now she had a birthing fever.

She looked so frail among the white sheets and pool of blood.

“I am sorry,” he said taking her hand and she opened her eyes to him.

“Why? You certainly took your pleasure when we were making the child,” her attempt at humour was terrible, but he chuckled all the same as he kneeled beside her.

“I should have been more careful, after the last time…”

“Viserys, please, it takes two to make a child,” she smirked.

“But only one has to suffer the consequences,” he answered, and she smiled and shrugged.

“It is a woman’s burden to carry,” she said. “I… I know that I won’t survive, Viserys.” He wanted to say that she was wrong, but he couldn’t, the midwife as well as the grandmaester explained that only a miracle would save her now. “I will not be here to protect our sons and daughter anymore. But you will. There had been two attempts at Jaehearon’s life already,” a secret that few people knew. The first assailant was killed by an infant Ghost that feasted on his raw flesh, the second was killed by Ser Harrold Westerling. “The Red Keep, it isn’t safe for him.”

“I will make it safe,” he promised, and she shook her head.

“It has too many people, too many interests. Don’t let Otto get his hands on him,” she said with a labored breath.

“Otto? Otto is a good man, Aemma.”

“Otto serves only himself and his own interests,” she replied, “please… I know that you believe that Otto is your friend, but if you are to keep him as your Hand, here in the capital, then please, please, let Jaehearon go to somewhere else. Send him to Runestone or to Dragonstone… Rhea keeps her household small, it’s safer… Dragonstone is impregnable!” She pleaded and his breath hatched at her words.

“You want me to send my son away?”

“Just while you keep Otto and his influence here,” Aemma countered. “Please Viserys… As long as Otto remains, let Jae be kept safe with Daemon. He will protect our son.”

“Aemma…”

“Promise me Viserys! Please give me this little peace before I am gone! Please!” As she pleaded, he felt his heart tightening.

Aemma didn’t trust him to protect their son. His heir.

Otto!

Why it always went to him? His brother despised the man. His wife feared him. Corlys gave many warns about him. Even Lyonel and Lyman were wary of him. But what has Otto done that was so horrible that all those people were wary?

Hadn’t he been a faithful Hand, a good friend to their King? Hadn’t he helped Viserys after his Grandsire was gone?

Otto has done nothing wrong. He was not going to punish his friend for other people's paranoia.

But he will punish himself for failing to placate his wife’s fears in her life.

“I promise, my love,” he said with his voice tight and hoarse.

“Thank you!” she smiled.

He stayed with her there, humming a soft, Valyrian lullaby as she repeated her gratitude. A part of him died, some three hours later, when the love of his life drew her last breath.

No one would remember the winner of the Tourney of the Heir. But they would remember when the Royal Household along with some family took off to Dragonstone where they would execute the funeral rites for Queen Aemma and Prince Baelon, who died a little after his mother. It was Ghost and Syrax who cast fire at the pyre, while brother and sister would hold hands as Syrax’s red-orange flames met Ghost’s green ones.

No one would remember that Rhea Royce cried with her face buried in Daemon Targaryen’s chest.

They stayed in Dragonstone for two days.

A week later the Lords of the Realm swore their loyalty to Prince Jaehearon. And with a heavy heart, Viserys called his brother to a private conversation, with only Sers Ryam Redwyne and Harrold Westerling, present.

“Daemon, I need a favour,” he saw when his younger brother, a pain in his backside, rose his eyebrow and sat at the chair he offered. “Aemma, her last wish was for Jaehearon to be fostered in Runestone,” he would not admit to his brother that his beloved wife didn’t trust him to protect their son. That he found himself too dependent on Otto’s counsel to send him away.

“Well, the Bronze Bitch will like it, but why do I need to know it? I reside in King’s Landing!”

“There had been two attempts on Jaehearon’s life,” he said, and Daemon looked at him with wide eyes. “The first man became Ghost’s meal, and the second lost his head, courtesy of Ser Harrold,” he pointed to the knight who bowed.

“It was a mistake, I should have captured him alive for questioning,” the knight said apologetically, but Viserys only shook his head.

“You reacted to an imminent threat, had you tried to capture him alive he could have succeeded in harming my son,” he turned back to his brother.

“Why would they want to kill the prince?”

“What?”

“It doesn’t make sense,” Daemon said and Viserys frowned at his brother’s line of questioning. “Think with me, why kill a prince? It isn’t logical Viserys. I suppose they could be trying to get revenge on you, but you never offended anyone in your life to warrant such drastic measures. The other option then would be grabbing power. But that is even more illogical. It could be someone that has a son and wishes to marry Rhaenyra and then press a claim through her. Though it would be stupid, one would only have to breed more daughters to see if they can entice her to Jaehearon’s bed in the future.”

“By this logic, you would be a suspect too, brother,” he pointed out and saw as rage surged in Daemon’s eyes. “Except that both of us know that you would never spill the blood of a Targaryen.”

“What if someone is trying to frame me?” Daemon questioned. “Unlike you, I do have enemies,” he sighed at the almost proud tone in his brother’s voice.

“Then they are fools that know nothing about Targaryen,” Viserys sneered at the thought of his brother sending assassins after his son. “Or you.” Daemon was very mercurial but very loyal to blood.

“Indeed, if I wanted the throne, it would be easier to have you killed and assume regency to Jaehearon. Has your Maester treated your cuts yet?” There was a concerned frown on his brother’s face.

“Unfortunately, not,” Viserys sighed. “They have nothing to help.”

“Ask Corlys and Rhaenys to send for doctors from out of Westeros,” Daemon repeated a suggestion that he had said more than once. “The Maesters don’t hold all knowledge of the world brother.”

“I will talk with them later,” he said absently. “For Jaehearon to be sent to Runestone, I have some favours to ask.”

“Name it.”

“First, I would like to remove you from the City Watch and the Small Council,” he saw as some pain and betrayal passed through his brother’s eyes and then explained. “I will leave one of my most precious treasures in your hands, I don’t want you to have more things to focus on other than his uprising. Especially because I know that you will also be dealing with the construction of Dragon Fort?”

Illyria’s Garden, the Bitch insists,” Daemon sneered, placated. “It means that you want me to take full-time residency in Runestone. People will assume you exiled me from the court.”

“You will bring Jaehearon at least twice a year,” he demanded. “I also want to send a member of the Kingsguard, Ryam and Harrold suggested Thorne, if Rhea will accept him. Plus, another ten men of Targaryen household guards.”

“Probably will,” Daemon shrugged. “I will take twenty men of the City’s Watch with us. The Bitch has only one rule about the household members, though. She will investigate every man that we send and will send back those she finds that have a less than a satisfactory credential.”

“What are you talking about?”

“She knows everything about every member of her household before hiring them,” Viserys sneered at the thought. “The Bitch is paranoid, brother. She says that she prefers to make an effort to know her household than risk hiring someone who would betray her later. She got worse after Alyssa was born. Beware that every man you send will be investigated so thoroughly that by when she is done with them, we will know the colour of his mall clothes.”

“That will make thirty men for her to investigate,” Ser Ryam said, and Daemon sneered.

“Thirty-one. She will investigate Rickard Thorne too. Like I said: paranoid. I will take care of his training and education, if Maester Mikel was able to teach a woman to be a relatively good ruler, he will teach Jaehearon too.” He said in a disinterested tone that made Viserys want to throw something at his brother.

He couldn’t understand why they stand that game of pretending to hate each other. He had seen when Rhea cried, Daemon held her. When news from the Vale reached them that the Lady of Runestone had taken ill some months ago, he jumped at Caraxes back and flew to the Vale. Of course, his headstrong brother said that he wanted to be there if his Bronze Bitch was to die, after all, who else would take control of Runestone until Alyssa came to age? But he knew better, it was worry that got to his brother’s eyes when they received the information.

Why must everything be so complicated?

He never told anyone of the visit of Lady Alicent that he received in his chambers that night.

Notes:

A tiny part of Aemma's POV was retired from the bath scene of the show.

Now! Hello everyone! I hope you like Ancient Fire! I have the intention of posting regular chapters on Thursday morning (for me, I live in Brazil, so now it is 7 AM on a pretty rainy Thursday morning for me). And I will try to answer all the comments on Wednesday.

Rhea's clothes:
Tourney dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/314900198958511950/
circlet: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/155303887426649436/
necklace: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/509117932889092511/
ring: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/161003755421174257/

Chapter 5: The Heirs of the Dragon II

Summary:

Jon and Rhaenyra after their mother's death.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Prince Jaehearon was born a prodigy. Not the only one, for Princesses Alyssa and Selaena were also very intelligent and learned earlier than most. At five years old, the prince was fluent in High Valyrian, the Old Tongue of the First Men and some forms of Bastard Valyrian. He also learned Rhyonish, Yi-Tish and some dialects used by the Skagosi. Despite his proficiency in many languages, the prince’s favourite subject was History and Philosophy. We could discuss either for hours. King Viserys was also an afictionated by History, especially regarding the Valyrian History, but while the King thought of history as pretty tales to sit and share to his grandchildren, Prince Jaehearon used it to learn and not commit the same mistakes. That was a great difference between the Father and the Son.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

JON

He looked at the empty space of his bedroom’s wall. As the Heir, he had received new apartments to his own, but he knew that everything had been prepared by Queen Aemma with the help of Princess Rhaenyra. By his mother and sister.

Black, silver, blue, and red filled the colours room. With banners of Targaryen and Arryn.

He didn’t miss the dire wolves in grey and white.

Not really.

Jon Snow had been the kind of child who would spend hours reading on his own. Especially when Robb, the true born heir to Winterfell was on his lordling lessons that Lady Stark would never let him participate. He had been educated to sum, read and write. But the things about the economy, history, and philosophy he had to learn by himself.

A bastard has no need for this knowledge, she said more than once.

He had read many history books, and every one of those talked about Queen Aemma’s death on the 30th day of the tenth month of the year 110 AC. They weren’t kind either. King Viserys, desperate for a male heir, ordered his wife cut open, disemboweled like a mare for a child that lived but a day after her death.

Jon knew that Viserys wasn’t as desperate now. He already had an heir: Jaehearon. So, he dared hope that it would have been enough to change his mother’s fate. But Aemma died anyway. Of birthing fever.

The same fate that one day Lyanna Stark would face if they couldn’t change the future.

She survived only two days over what she did in the first timeline. Baelon didn’t even have a chance.

But he wouldn’t miss Baelon like he would miss Aemma. Maybe he would miss the hope and the would-be that he had dreamt.

He had already had brothers before: Robb, Bran, Rickon… Theon to an extent. Sam too.

But Aemma was the only mother he had ever met.

And now she was gone.

What if it doesn’t matter what we do? He questioned himself. What if after everything, the Dragons would still get themselves killed?

What if she was always meant to die? Does it mean that the dragons are meant to die too? That Nyra will…

The opening of the door stopped his line of thought, and he watched as Alyssa and Selaena entered. Arya and Sansa.

“I told you that he would be moping,” Arya said.

“Alyssa!”

“I couldn’t stop it,” Jon said, his voice half broken, and he saw Sansa look at him with some compassion. She positioned to be face to face to him, her small too soft hands touching his cheeks.

“Jaehearon… Jon, a birthing bed is something that most woman will pass through, it is a sad burden, but they bear it still. One day I will bear it, Arya if someone is able to convince her, Rhaenyra will. Sometimes we don’t make out of it alive, and it isn’t fair, but it’s life. Don’t be so ready to take blame where there is none,” Sansa said, as seriously and correctly as her three years old body permitted her. He imagined that if anyone else had seen it they would think her possessed by another being, but then they wouldn’t understand that their Selaena had all the knowledge of a Sansa Stark.

“Mourn if you need,” Arya said while sitting close to him, “Cry for her, pray for her. But don’t say that it is your fault. Valar murgulis.All men must die. Such a dreadful thing to be said from a seven-year-old child, yet still so truthful.

“You two are terrible to offer comfort.”

“Aye, then you should come to us. Muña will offer you warm milk with chocolate and the not-so-secret bonbons she tries to keep hiding from Arya,” Sansa smiled.

“She is terrible at hiding things.”

Jon knows what they are doing. They are not subtle, or at least they don’t care to be subtle. Probably the last, Sansa could be so soft in manipulation that one wouldn’t see it coming until they handed all she asked in a silver tray. She just rarely used it with them. So, he let his cousins pull him up and drag him from his quarters to the Rogue Prince’s.

The Lady Royce was there, sitting in a desk with some documents that had been sent from Runestone. The King had asked them to stay a couple of months more, but Jon didn’t know why. He knew though, that the Lady Royce would work even when she was there in Kings’ Landing.

Munã!” Sansa called and the woman looked up. “Jae is sad! Jae needs sweets!”

Between the three of them, Sansa was the one who could naturally act as a child. Even in children’s bodies, he and Arya were too self-conscious to act as anything other than mini adults, rarely they managed to act as children without being provoked. But Sansa was scarily good at acting. From changing from a mini adult who could talk and plan accidents and political maneuvers to a sweet girl that was only too questioning about anything but representing no threats.

“Oh, Jae,” Lady Royce said, getting up from her seat and walking to them. “How are you?”

“I am fine, Aunt Rhea,” he said quietly.

“Oh, sweet boy,” his aunt started by looking at him. “You know that we are here for you, right?”

“Yes, aunty!”

Whatever they would say again, was interrupted by a shrilling sound in the air. Followed by other sounds. They turned to the widow and saw four dragons flying around the tower. Summer—who was Bran—was leading the other three, Ghost, Nymeria, and Lady, to freedom.

“Summer set them free! Summer’s good boy!” Sansa played the role of a happy child and Jon had contained his urge to laugh at the exasperation on Rhea’s face.

“Summer is a good menace,” Lady Royce complained and soon there was a knock on the apartment doors. A knight that said the King was requesting the presence of the two princesses.

Sansa took one of his hands, while Arya walked with them, though at Rhea’s other side. They arrived at the Great Hall where the king waited for them with Daemon and the Hand, many courtiers were there too and looked at them with resigned faces while Viserys himself had, for the first time since his mother’s death, an amused smile.

“Uncle Viserys! Uncle Viserys!” Sansa started acting, letting go of her hand and moving to the throne—probably the only person besides him and Nyra that could do it without having the Kingsguard to unsheathe their swords, given both her age and the wholesome innocent air around her (even Arya, who was the favourite niece, had the Kingsguard on alert because of her fondness of blades)—, but was taken by her father in his arms. “Did you see! Summer set dragons free! Summer is a good boy, isn’t he?”

“Princess Selaena,” the Hand said. “The dragons belong in the dragonspit. They should—”

“They do not!” Sansa replied with a pout. “Papa says that dragons are not slaves. Only slaves are chained! And Uncle Viserys says that in Valyria the dragons were free to fly the skies. And in Dragonstones the dragons are free to fly! And Runestone too!”

“Even in Runestone and Dragonstone has pits, my lady,” Otto tried to argue with Sansa, and Jon thought the man a fool. Not for the first time in this life. Or the last.

“But no chains! In Runestone they hunt and in Dragonstone they fly. Here they are chained!”

“That is because people fear the dragons, sweet Selaena,” his father said.

“Only a fool wouldn’t fear a dragon, Your Grace,” Arya said with a smile. “But that doesn’t mean we should mistreat them because of it.”

“Princess Alyssa! The dragon keepers at the Pit treat the dragons with upmost care.”

“Yet, Summer sees fit to liberate his brethren to fly, Lord Hand,” Arya said with a smirk that she loved to give. “Dragons are dragons. They like to fly, eat and answer to no men. Selaena is the only one that Summer listens to, and she had been gone from his presence long enough to get him worked up.”

“My niece is right,” Viserys said amused. “Dragons are dragons. And they don’t answer to men, but perhaps you and your sister could guide the four little terrors in the sky back to the Pit, Princess Alyssa?”

“It’s alright Lys,” Sansa said with an impish smile that rarely bodes well with anyone. “Summer will stay there and then he will come back again.”

“I never understand why Summer only frees Lady, Ghost, and Nymeria,” Nyra said. “I am sure that Syrax would agree with him.”

“Probably because they learned that older dragons try to keep them out of trouble,” Arya answered with a shrug. “Caraxes is always a spoils sport for him in Runestone.”

Sansa laughed for good measure while the King turned to his brother, the Rogue Prince shrugged.

“Someone has to be the responsible one.”

“What a pity that is your dragon and not you,” Lady Rhea said with a derisive tone and Jon watched as it caused a smirk on the Hand’s lips.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t permitted to join Rhea, Daemon, and his cousins to take the dragons back to the Dragonpit. Even if Ghost was amongst the dragons.

Instead, Jon was invited by his cousin Rhaenys to spend time with Laena and Laenor. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what the Velaryon wanted with that move, so he made sure to get Rhaenyra and Alicent included in the invitation.

“I want to claim Vhagar,” Laena said when they started to talk about dragons. “She is the oldest and biggest dragon alive!”

“That is an assumption,” Jon said to everyone surprise. “It is said that the Cannibal hatched from one of the eggs that Aenar Targaryen has brought to Dragonstone. I read that Aelyx Targaryen originally named him Gaelithox, but that he never bounded to anyone and grew wild. Vhagar’s egg hatched in 52 BC, while his egg hatched twenty-seven years before. Also, few people have seen Cannibal, at least few people that are still alive to tell the tale, for he stays hidden in his dwelling. Saying that Vhagar is bigger to him is gross speculation.”

“How would you even know?” Laena challenged him, obviously annoyed at being corrected by someone half of her age.

“Dragonstone has a register of every dragon that was hatched there,” Jon shrugged.

“Well, Vhagar is still the biggest dragon that let people ride her.”

“Meraxes was bigger than Vhagar and was shot down the sky, all the same,” Jon said again. “A bigger dragon only makes a bigger target to scorpions.”

“You say that because you have a small dragon!” He rolled his eyes, ignoring the girls’ parents that were trying to call her with their eyes.

“Ghost is small now, but he is getting bigger. The Dragon keepers say that he grows at a faster rate than Syrax, but I would still prefer for him to get just as big as Silverwing, it will give us the vantage of speed,” he countered, and the girl huffed.

“Prince Jaehearon,” Princess Rhaenys said and he looked up to his cousin, “You speak as if there will be war.”

“There is always war, Princess,” he saw as her eyes gleamed with something. “The Ironborn likes to attack the Western coast with frequency, while Dorne has regular incursions in our southern borders. Stepstones, if I am not wrong, is currently being occupied by some pirates while the mountain clans in the Vale constantly threaten to attack the Arryn, especially now that Lady Jeyne’s claim is being questioned by her cousin, since Lord Yorbert Royce’s death. I suppose that the North also has to deal with the Wildlings that have been sneaking up on the Wall since Great Grandmother committed the mistake of trying to make the Night Watch into landholders,” he rolled his eyes.

“You have some strong opinions, My Prince,” Lord Corlys said.

“I have eyes, I study every day and I can see patterns repeating themselves,” Jon said seriously. “However, as I am five years old no one will give a f*ck about what I have to say.”

“That is…”

“Don’t try to deny it, Lord Velaryon. I would be surprised and worried if anyone took the opinions of a five years old child too seriously. But for good measure, if you want to do something against the pirates on Stepstones, don’t voice your opinions alone. I am sure that Celtigar, Baratheon, Grafton and some other Lords are being harmed by the pirate occupation on Stepstones, if you are the only one rising issue it will be easy for the Lord Hand to dismiss your opinion to my father, if you have supporters, you have more weight to throw around.” He advised.

“I don’t think that my father would advise anything that could potentially harm the kingdom, my Prince,” Alicent said, and his eyes turned to her.

“I think that the Lord Hand is more self-centered than you realize, my lady,” he said.

Alicent Hightower was around seventeen years old. She could be married already, but instead was playing as his sister’s handmaid. It seemed that the Lord Hand was keeping her on ice for a reason. Not for him, surely, since she was twelve years older than him, but his father? Uncle Daemon? Then there came the information from his last life: Aegon Targaryen, the second, was born eight moons after the ceremony of Viserys and Alicent's marriage. Either he had born a moon earlier or he was conceived a moon earlier. But all reports said that he was born strong and hale.

Either the girl would be whor*d by her father, or she would willingly seduce the King. However, they were still trying to decide how to deal with it. The Alicent he knew now was a sweet, naïve girl, but Sansa pointed out that Margaery Tyrell had also looked sweet and naïve, but took part in the scheme to poison Joffrey at their own wedding, Joffrey had once looked good and sweet and turned out to be a mad king, that Littlefinger had once appeared all good and honest, but had been the reason for their father’s downfall.

“Anyone can appear good, Jon, especially pretty girls, but few people are. Especially at court. They will always look nice, sweet, courteous, good, and honest because keeping this pretense is good for them.”

A moon has passed since his mother’s death.

He had five to keep Alicent from his father’s bed.

King Viserys was a man of his word, in special when it came to his first wife. Even after Queen Aemma’s death he honoured two of her wishes, one of them being one made in her death bed. The first was for Prince Jaehearon to be fostered in the Vale with the Queen’s niece and sister-by-law: Rhea Royce, and her husband Prince Daemon. The second was for the King to grant Princess Rhaenyra the right to choose her own husband. A power that few women, especially one of her station, had ever had. The Small Council tried to protest both decisions, and were dismissed by the King.

Excerpt of the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

RHAENYRA

She looked at the Small Council table. Her father had requested her presence first. Before it would begin. A moon has passed since her mother’s death and ever since it, he looked more somber and quieter. Mourning her mother.

Still, when she sat at his side, in her uncle’s chair, he looked at her with a smile.

“Rhaenyra, my lovely child,” he started. “Fifteen years old now… Almost a woman grown,” she smiled at his words. “You have always been a dutiful daughter, and now I need you to be a dutiful princess.”

“Father? Have I done something that disproves my worth as a Princess of the blood?” she questioned with a frown.

“No, my dear. You haven’t,” he smiled and she frowned again. “Gods! Aemma should be here to this conversation!” she kept herself silent to his murmur, certain that he meant to talk to himself, and his thoughts only escaped his lips. “Before… Before the tourney, your mother and I started to talk about possible matches for you.”

Rhaenyra suddenly felt her blood freeze. She didn’t want to think of marrying. She wanted to fly Syrax, eat candied oranges, and spent her days with Alicent and Jae. She didn’t want to be shipped off to some distant keep and be married to someone.

“And his mother came up with a possible match?” she asked, fearing the answer.

“I thought of betrothing you to our cousin Laenor,” she sighed a little in relief. Laenor was still twelve, it would take at least four years for a match to come from it. “But your mother, she convinced me that you should be able to choose.”

“Choose?” her eyes bulged in surprise at his statement, it certainly wasn’t what she was expecting.

“Yes, darling girl, you will be able to choose your own match.”

“What if I want to marry someone much younger than I, or someone that is already married?” she thought first of her brother, who could make her a Queen, then of her uncle, married to someone he didn’t even care for.

“That’s where my stipulations come in,” he said with a serious façade. “You will have a limit time of four years to find your own husband. If in four years you don’t choose anyone, then I will. I will not dissolve or annul any marriage, so your suitors are better to be bachelors or widowers. If any rumors that can put your reputation at risk arise, then I will make you marry someone of my choosing. And finally, whatever suitor you chose, know that he will have to be approved by me and the small council.”

“The Small Council, father?” she questioned with a frown.

“You are my daughter, Rhaenyra, but you are also the Princess of the Realm, your match must be one that will strengthen us,” her father said seriously. “Most princesses, most daughters, are married off at their father’s leisure and need, however, your mother convinced me that you can make a good match for yourself. It is her desire for you to be able to choose that I am respecting, so don’t make me regret granting her this wish. In six moons, after the mourning period is over, I will announce to the Realm that you will be given the power to choose over your match.”

She nodded, but before she could say anything the doors were open, and it was announced that the Small Council had arrived. She got up, going to take her position as a cupbearer while thinking about what her father had told her.

Rhaenyra would be lying to herself if she was to say that she was happy with the news.

She didn’t want to marry.

Well, she did.

But the only options that she wanted to consider were her uncle Daemon and her brother. One was married. The other was but five years old. Daemon was her love, she loved her uncle for the first moment he met him. They were both blood of Old Valyria. Dragon-riders. Targaryen. They should stay together. And she knew that he liked her too. He would always gift her with extravagant pieces of his journeys, like the Valyrian steel necklace that hangs on her neck right now. Extravagant and priceless. And Jaehearon was her brother. Who would be King and needed a Valyrian bride that could protect him. Who would be better to protect him than his own sister? And a crown did come with many benefits.

After the boring Council, she and Alicent went to her room. That night, she would dine with her family: father, brother, uncle, and cousins. And Rhea. Because she must be there too. So, she makes sure to dress as a woman. She didn’t want her uncle to look at her like she was a child, if she was ready to marry, then she wanted her uncle to look at her as if she was a woman.

The dress is in black velvet, with a golden underlayer of satin and a satin girdle in the same soft golden color around the low of her waist. It was a respectful yet beautiful dress that made her look like a woman.

Or so she thought:

Rhea Royce was dressed in a light dress, made of black velvet like hers. But with a much more mature cut than hers, and so many strings of pearls weaved in the neckline that she questioned if for an instance the Lady of Runestone had a foot in the Crags. Her aunt looked like a woman, next to her, she looked like a pale imitation. A little girl playing with her mother’s clothes.

“Rhaenyra!” Rhea said with a smile, and she forced one. “How are you, sweetheart? I have barely seen you after… After Aunt Aemma’s funeral.”

“I am better, thank you,” she said with a strained smile.

“If you need anything, you can come by my apartments,” she offered and then gave her a conspiratorial smile, “I have some candied fruits and bonbons hidden somewhere so some kids won’t eat it all.”

“Thank you for the offer, Aunt Rhea,” that was a problem.

Her Aunt Rhea was a good, nice person and it made it difficult for Rhaenyra to hate her. To wish her dead. But she was married to her uncle, and Rhaenyra loved her Uncle! It wasn’t fair that she couldn’t hate Rhea properly for being her uncle’s wife because she was nice.

And kin.

She could never forget that. They were kin too. Cousins, since their mothers were half-sisters.

And she was the mother of her cousins too. Rhaenyra really liked her cousins, even if Alyssa was a wild thing that had the love of her father and Selaena was the pretty, perfect little lady that everyone loved.

She tried to keep her mind off the limbo of her feelings about her Aunt Rhea and focused on the girls. Alyssa was sitting by her father’s and Daemon’s side showing of a new dagger. The girl loved her blades. Selaena was sitting on the rug, with Jaehearon while he was reading a Valyrian folktale to her and she would shoot questions back to him.

“They are growing up nicely,” she commented to her aunt which sent them a look of pure fondness. “Do you have any idea who they will marry?”

“Can you honestly imagine Alyssa marrying someone not of her own choosing?”

“She is a princess of the realm, isn’t that her duty?” she challenged her aunt that looked at her with an arched eyebrow.

“She is also the future Lady of Runestone. Alyssa knows that she has duties, I made sure of it, but I am also not stupid enough to think that my little wild dragon will ever marry a simpleton of a Lord who will expect her to be a broodmare and sit and embroider—well, not embroider, because she never cared to learn, and I never cared for her to learn it.”

“And does my uncle agree with you?”

“Your Uncle would prefer for Alyssa to take a sword and declare that she will never marry at all and take a celibacy vow.”

“And Selaena?” she questioned, her eyes turned to her youngster cousin, sitting prettily in her pink dress while debating the merits of fairy-tale with Jae. “She isn’t half as wild as Alyssa; she would let you choose her husband.”

“You are right, she isn’t as wild as Alyssa, but I know her better than most. I wouldn’t be too surprised if she is like Rhaena Targaryen, Dreamfyre’s rider.”

“Bent?” Rhaenyra questioned with a confused face.

If there was a little hope there, well… No one needed to know.

“The type of woman who would feed her husband to her dragon if she truly didn’t appreciate them,” Rhea corrected her with a smile.

“She doesn’t look the type,” Rhaenyra frowned. “She is very… calm and ladylike.”

“When she is grown, I will entertain her suitors. As of now, she is my little lady.”

“Mother said that she ought to be Jae’s queen one day.”

“I would prefer for my daughter to not marry into the crown,” Rhaenyra looked at her aunt with wide eyes in surprise. Not marry the crown prince? The future King? “I see what is passing through your mind, dear. You think of all the privileges the position of a Queen can bring and I admit that they are many. But you fail to see everything that it takes to keep this position, from the target that is painted on ones back to the burdening duties that fall on the shoulders.”

“My mother made it look easy,” Rhaenyra said and Rhea smiled.

“Aemma made everything looks easy.”

Notes:

Rhaenyra's dress:
https://www.pinterest.at/pin/596586281907824408/
Rhea's dress:
https://www.pinterest.at/pin/595952963204643930/

Chapter 6: The Hightower Conspiracy, by Maester Jon

Summary:

“We bring them down. We destroy their Hightower: stone by stone."

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Between her many nicknames, the Beloved, was one bestowed to Selaena Targaryen before her queenship, still in her youth. When she was but eight years old, she insisted on having schools and orphanages built for the smallfolk in the cities under the protection of Runestone and Illyria’s Garden, going as far as offering her own dowry as the means to have it done. At her sixteen, Princess Selaena had healing centres in the two cities as well as one in Kings Landing. She would visit the healing centres, the schools and orphanages at least once a fortnight, always taking food and clothes in her visits, and every visit to the cities had seen her leaving discreet alms to the poor, never making a show out of her generosity. The people loved and worshiped her as if she was the Maiden reborn. When the marriage between the Princess and Prince Jaehearon was announced, the crowd of the Kings Landing celebrated for a whole week, though it is said that many of her suitors wheeped at being denied her hand.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

SANSA

The Red Keep gave her nightmares. Not much, but enough that sometimes she would crawl to Arya’s bed and let her older younger sister run her fingers on her hair until she drifts to a dreamless sleep.

When she arrived in this world, she was at first appalled.

Arya has become the King’s favorite without doing much. The post of the favorite niece of the King. Sansa had read enough to know why. Arya, as Alyssa Targaryen, daughter of Daemon Targaryen, would remember the King of his own mother: Alyssa Targaryen, daughter of Jaehearys I. Both Alyssas were known for their bawdiness—something that her now grandmother would even boast to whoever cared to hear—they were strong-headed, quick-minded, and spirited. Both would dress in boy's clothes whenever possible, and preferred to ride, climb, and duel with wooden swords over more lady-like activities, and shunned the company of girls. And then there were some physical similarities: long face and skinny (and nothing would make Sansa think that it wasn’t a Stark trait that traveled along with them), with dirty blond hair, without a trace of silver. However, instead of using it long, like their grandmother, Arya would wear it short, at shoulder length. Arya also had mismatched eyes, but instead of one being violet, the other green, one was violet, and the other brown.

Everyone in Red Keep would compare the two. They said that Alyssa had reincarnated into her namesake granddaughter.

While her, Sansa, or little Selaena Targaryen, well… it was strange to look at the mirror now, first because at three she was too soft and then there was her coloring. Her hair was platinum gold with the Royce waves, while her eyes were lilac, not like the soft lavender that Daenerys had, but of vibrant amethyst, the flawless white skin, she had fine features with an upturned nose, and high cheekbones. They said that she would grow to be like Viserra in appearance but said that her mother should pray for her to take after Alysanne in manners. Till now she had been Aunt Aemma’s favorite.

Jon was the one with the fewest changes in him. He had the same long face, still serious, his eyes were a pale purple that seemed almost grey, and his hair kept the Stark stubborn curls, though now they blamed the Arryn and Velaryon blood, but now it was white silver. He was the King's firstborn son. The Kingdom's future.

Looking at them, at herself, sometimes unnerved her. Sometimes she expected to see red hair and saw silver-gold. Sometimes she looked for her scars and saw flawless skin as if nothing had ever happened to her.

“You are lost in thoughts,” Arya said when they finally arrived at a secluded part of the garden and kept the Kingsguard away after he had helped them spread a blanket on the grass so they could sit there by themselves. Well, not really, they were still in the eyes of the King and the Council, as she spotted the members of the council looking at them from one of the balconies that gave a view to the garden. But they were out of hearing.

“Nothing important for now,” Sansa said while sitting properly at her place. Arya threw herself back on the blanket, while Jon sat relaxed. “We need to plan.”

“You already know my opinion: we should just poison Otto Hightower and be over with it,” Arya said.

“And where are you going to find the poison, sweet sister?” Sansa questioned with a sigh. “You are seven years old, Jon is five and I am three. We lack resources for such refined methods. And even if we had access to it, by say, invading the Maester’s tower and miraculously getting out unnoticed, would it work?” She sighed in frustration at the butchering of some words. As much as she had an adult vocabulary her infant body still faltered at some words.

“Otto Hightower was one of the main conspirators to the Dragon’s Dance,” Jon said, and Sansa nodded. “But not the only one.”

“Also, the Dance of Dragons was a result of something much darker,” Arya looked at both of them confused. “The Hightower Conspiracy?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Jon and Sansa shared a look and then sighed.

It wasn’t a surprise. Arya had always hated the finest part of history. Except for the great conquests and good fights, she never paid attention to what was explained. She had been like that too. Except that she only paid attention to the romance. Jon had been a better student than both of them, but her time as Tyrion’s wife gave her unrestricted access to his books, and Petyr Baelish loved to talk about the great conspirators of history and how his name would one day be with them.

She decided on letting Jon explain, he was a better historian and she was not up to butcher so many words.

“There is a conspiracy theory that was proved later in history, that the Hightower had been a power behind the power even before the dragons landed on the shores of Dragonstone,” Jon said. “Before, they had some visibility because Oldtown is the capital of the faith and the capital of the knowledge: the Starry Sept and the Citadel are both there, both financed and kept at the Hightower’s back and call.”

“Most of the members of the Most Devout and the Archermaesters were Hightowers, too,” he continued and Sansa saw as her sister looked at them with wide eyes. “So ever since the Andals invaded, the Hightowers found a way to control most of the Continent through knowledge and their faith.”

“You are f*cking kidding me!”

“Nope,” Sansa answered calmly, “Anyway, even Maegor, the Cruel had the support of a High Septon, because said Septon was a Hightower and convinced Maegor to take a Hightower as his first wife. They got unlucky because they chose the barren Targaryen to support. Anyway, they continue to play a part in power, quietly through the faith and the maesters until our father happened.”

“Our father?” Arya asked with a frown. “Daemon Targaryen?”

“They first proposed a match between Cate Hightower, the Hand’s young aunt who is currently married to a Fossoway, and Baelon Targaryen, just after Alyssa Targaryen died in childbed. But our grandfather declared that he had already married and made his duty to the house and gave it heirs. Ironically one moon either Aegon died and your father also got sick but got better.” Jon said.

“f*ck!” Arya was starting to get annoyed, and Sansa passed her hand on her sister’s arm, subtly alerting her to the people watching them, and watched as her sister composed herself. “It doesn’t stop there, does it?”

“No, they tried to push the Hand’s youngster sister to Viserys, but he was a week shy of announcing the engagement to mother,” Jon said. “Some years later, the same lady found her way, naked, to Daemon’s bed. Joanna Hightower claimed that she was seduced, and Daemon claimed to have found her there naked and because he was drunk confused her with a whor*. Lord Hightower tried to make them marry, but Daemon said that he preferred to be burned alive so the Queen married him to the future lady of Runestone and said that even if Daemon had tried to seduce the lady, she should know better than fall from pretty words. And when the Hightower tried to make it look like she had been violented, Alysanne pointed out that there were no marks of aggression. The King quickly married her off to a landed knight and as a reparation put Lord Otto in the position of Master of Law in the Small Council.”

“Some years later our grandfather died from a busted belly.”

“They have been trying to push for a Queen for almost a century?”

“Try three, or do you forget that Margaery Tyrell's mother was a Hightower, Lynesse Hightower had been amongst the Mad King’s options to Rhaegar and Olenna Tyrell’s mother too had been a Hightower?” Sansa said with a smile. “Their quest for a crown never stopped, even after their treason became known.”

“It means that if we slip poison for the Hand, they will simply find a way to infiltrate another one at Court,” Arya sighed and Sansa nodded.

“Then what should we do?” Jon asked Sansa. “Otto is someone that we have an idea of how he acts, if we kill him we get another piece that is less predictable.”

“We play into their game,” Sansa said, and Jon looked at her as if she had grown another head.

“You want Aegon, the Usurper to be born?”

“I don’t think we can stop it by now, Jon,” Sansa sighed. “After your sixth nameday, in two moons, we will leave for Runestone. You will be coming too. We cannot control the King’s actions, especially not from that far. We don’t know when Alicent started to seduce the King. We know that they won’t be pushing for an immediate marriage for the King because he has an heir, but soon they will point out that you are a child and children don’t always survive infancy.”

“And there had been assassination attempts.”

“Bran told me,” Sansa sighed. “He said that we will be safe for now, though.”

“Oh?” Arya asked with a large smile.

“He has been using magic to keep us safe for a while, he said that he will need to stop it before people start to notice how lucky the Crown Prince is, that is if someone hasn’t already perceived.”

“Lucky?” Jon asked.

“The two attempts that your father knows are the closest that they had ever made to you,” Sansa gave them a wary smile. “They had tried to poison you with three different types of poison, but the magic made you immune to it, and there was an assassin sent to you that had stumbled in the hide passageway stairs to your room and broke his neck. Another one got the wrong way and end up in the dragon pit entrance. He said that he can’t keep it going forever. Arya’s protection is already gone.”

“Wait, why?” she seemed outraged at the information.

“He said that the magic will fade when we become dragonriders,” Sansa shrugged. “After that, is every man for themself.”

“You need to start learning how to fight,” Arya said, and Sansa shot her a narrowed glare. “Don’t glare at me.”

“I have no intention of learning how to fight, Arya!”

“You don’t have to be a master swordswoman or a knight in training,” Jon started while he relaxed. “But some basics with a dagger, to know how to defend yourself until someone can arrive to help you would probably be a good idea.”

“Just so you can defend yourself, Sansa,” Arya promised to look at her with pleading eyes.

“Alright,” she barked annoyed, only to be tracked down by her mandia. Older sister. Who was currently tricking her. “Stop!” she demanded, and Jon started to laugh at her.

“Arya, let her go, she is starting to get red,” Jon said and Sansa pouted as she sat back while Arya laughed at her. “If we cannot stop Alicent from becoming the Queen and killing Otto Hightower discreetly, what do we do?”

“We bring them down. We destroy their Hightower: stone by stone. We take control over the knowledge distribution and production. We diminish the power of the Faith. And we know that there is proof of the Hightower's deeds against the Targaryen. We find it, and we use it to bring them down. Until we can destroy all their power in a way that when we are over with them, they will have to leave Westeros in shame or will be put to the sword.”

“And if they decide to move to war?” Jon asked and Sansa smirked at him.

“Then we go to war. But if we turn every house, every person, from the high lords in their castles to the lowest of the smallfolk in the streets against them, then who will fight for them?” Sansa questioned with an arched eyebrow.

Corlys Velaryon, the Lord of the Tides, the Sea Snake, was perhaps one of the central figures on the government of the King Viserys I, and his successor, Jaehearon I. Husband to the Queen Who Never Was, it was known that he felt cheated when the Great Council dismissed Princess Rhaenys’ claim to the throne and slighted that his son, Laenor Velaryon, was passed down for Prince Viserys. It is known that he tried to infuse the Velaryon line on the throne though: he tried to have his daughter, Lady Laena Velaryon, betrothed to the Prince Jaehearon. He didn’t feel as slighted when the prince chose Princess Selaena instead, when questioned why, Lord Corlys answered: “only a fool would try to deny a dragon his treasure, and I am no fool.”

Excerpt from The Sea Snake, Maester Devan

CORLYS

Corlys knew that he was a proud man. Arrogant even.

But he had sailed to the ends of the earth, raised House Velaryon to unprecedented levels of wealth and power, married a princess who might have been a queen, fathered dragonriders, and built towns and fleets. He had reason to be arrogant one would say.

All that was missed was the line to the crown. Something that escaped his wife and son.

And it seemed that it would escape his daughter too.

Rhaenys had warned him before.

Prince Jaehearon had preferences. Despite his tender age of five years old, the boy had a seriousness around him that was unnatural. His pale purple, almost grey eyes, looked at everyone with shocking coldness. He was silent most of the time, rarely voicing his thoughts and it was almost unnerving how quiet he and his dragon were.

His close family was the ones that would see him smile, his eyes warm.

But only around Daemon’s daughters, he was completely relaxed. He would rest his head on their lap and let them rest on him too. Would read to them, sit with them for long hours, and be openly affectionate. To Alyssa, he would indulge the girl’s fondness for blades and training with swords. He would climb trees with her, race with her and laugh at her almost inappropriate jokes. But it was Selaena that truly owned him. He was at her back and call, everything he had he would give to make her smile. The little peaks at his cheek were rewards for him.

He had seen the Prince around his Laena. He was disinterested in making himself agreeable, and while not discourteous, he would treat her like he treated Laenor and every other kid at the court. Now that he could see, he knew that even if forced to marry another lady, Jaehearon would not let Selaena go. He would probably use the Doctrine of Exception in his favor to take two wives and it was clear who would be his Rhaenys.

Maybe if Selaena is married to someone else? He thought and then felt his wife approach him, leaning on the balustrade at his side.

“It won’t work,” she said, a voice low. “Daemon knows that there is a great chance that Jaehearon will choose Selaena as his bride, he won’t betroth her to anyone else until that possibility is discarded.”

“Am I that obvious?” He asked and she smiled at him.

“I know you better than most, husband,” Rhaenys smiled at him. “They say that she will be as beautiful as Princess Viserra.”

Viserra Targaryen. The Princess that was known for her ambition, as well as her beauty and vanity. Not long after her sister died, she started to try to seduce Baelon, her brother. She had been just three years older than Rhaenys, so his wife remembered her well.

“Do you think so?”

“I think she might be more beautiful,” she murmured. “She seems to have inherited all the pretty features of the Valyrian and the First Men. And for the little I can say of her temperament, I know that she is kind, gracious, and generous.”

“Oh?” He looked at her with interest.

“When her maids bring her food, she invites them to partake with her. When she outgrows her clothes, she offers them to the maids that have children before her mother can even say something. I heard more than once that the servants’ kids were gifted with one of her toys from her own hands.”

“Generous,” Corlys agreed with a frown.

“The servants of the Red Keep trip over themselves for the chance to serve her,” Rhaenys gave him a meaningful glare.

“And Lady Royce is okay with it?” He questioned.

“Apparently, dear Rhea let her with her bouts of kindness, since Selaena never seems to regret the toys she gives away or asks for more. As for the servants, it means that her daughter’s needs are promptly attended to, what would she have to complain about it?” Rhaenys replied.

“What a boon she is to House Royce and Targaryen.”

“Well, she certainly helps reign Daemon’s temper!”

“What about my temper?” Corlys turned and saw that Daemon was approaching them with one of his unnerving smiles.

He usually was proud to always be aware of what happened around him, but that is one thing about Daemon that really set him off. When the Rogue Prince wanted, he was like a f*cking cat stalking his prey: silent, fast, and difficult to catch. A contradiction to his otherwise boisterous personality.

“I was commenting on how your daughters had helped reign your temper,” Rhaenys said with a smile.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” the prince sneered. “I always had a good reign on my temper.”

“Yeah, I know,” his wife smiled at the prince and received a glare in return. “Rhea complained that Viserys wants to give Alyssa yet another dagger for her nameday.”

“Alyssa is a fighter,” he smiled at his oldest daughter, who was currently trickling her youngster sister. “Just like her namesake.”

“Just like her father too,” Rhaenys said and Corlys looked at the children. Laenor and Leana hadn’t been invited for that picnic between the children and he felt slighted until he discovered that his twins had accepted Rhaenyra’s invite to fly, Alyssa had been invited, but declined. “I heard that she is already a dragon rider too.”

“First solo flight at seventh nameday,” Daemon said with a fond smile. “I thought that the Bitch would kill me when she saw Alyssa on Nymeria’s back. She still might though.”

“Will Selaena joins her in the air soon?” Corlys asked, curious.

The youngster daughter of the Rogue Prince had two dragons. One of which was showing promise of being as large as Balerion, with how much he was growing, the rebel that would break chains at the Dragonpit and terrorise the court by perching on the Keep’s towers and battlements, or even land in the garden. The other was the tamest dragon in existence. Still a dragon though. Both dragons were bound to the little princess, but no one knew which would be her mount.

“As soon as she reaches her seventh nameday,” There was pride in his voice, and Corlys supposed that it was well earned since it was his daughters who would enter history as the youngster dragon-rider, since Alyssa had flight younger than Rhaenyra, and the first Targaryen to have more than one dragon at their back and call. “I’ve heard that Jaehearon gave you some advice to deal with Stepstones.” Corlys frowned. “Don’t look like that, he shares everything with Selaena, and Selaena loves to brag that her Jae is the smartest person she knows.”

There was a barb there, he knew but chose to ignore.

“A sound advice, though one would question how one so young would reach that conclusion.”

“While one so old as you hadn’t?” Daemon questioned and Rhaenys smacked him, in protest.

“My husband isn’t old!”

“Are you sure, cousin?” Daemon questioned. “Because when you married, he was already old enough to be your father.” That earned him another smack in the arm. “Anyway, Jaehearon spends most of his day reading and studying when not in the company of the Viserys or Rhaenyra. It shouldn’t be surprised you that he knows how to deal with his father better than you.”

“Hmmm…”

It wasn’t a bad explanation. As the little prince’s advice hadn’t been a bad one either. He had already written to the houses that were probably being affected by the trouble in Stepstones, instructing them to send word or emissaries with their trouble for him to compile and present a united front for the King.

He looked around and saw as every lady in attendance was smiling at the antics of the Prince and his cousins, while some lords eyed them with calculating eyes. The only one who looked really pleased with the three children talking in the Gardens, basically alone, was the King. It wasn’t a secret that the King favored Alyssa among his nieces, but that Queen Aemma had long favored Selaena, especially for the role of Jaehearon’s bride.

I am sorry, Laena, but I fear that I will not be able to put a crown on your pretty head without starting a war, he thought and looked up, Seasmoke and Syrax were flying above them, but maybe your brother may yet marry a Princess as I did.

Notes:

Hello everyone!
Hope you liked the chapter!
So, I discover that I will be traveling this weekend (emphasis on discovered, because it was not my plan and I am not allowed to not go) and I don't know if I will be taking my laptop. I am not sure if I will be able to post next week because of it.
For now, just assume that I might be able to post. See you next week! 😘

Chapter 7: Who the hell set those rules?

Summary:

Jon accidentally finds someone in his father's room and he isn't happy with what he saw.

Notes:

So, I was supposed to update the story tomorrow, but we are going to take a trip to a beach about 100 km from where we are staying, so we will leave the hotel really early. I know myself enough to know that when we get back, I'll be exhausted. So I am posting early.
Hope you enjoy it!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Letter from Prince Jaehearon to Princess Selaena.

(…)I miss you more than everything. I miss sparing with Alyssa and Waymar in the courtyard. I miss flying with Uncle Daemon. I miss Aunt Rhea’s lessons on the Old Tongue and the History of the First Men. I even miss Ser Luthor and Ser Malik constant whines about tourneys—don’t tell them I told you that. But what I really miss is spending time with you.

The Red Keep is at is always has been: knights that could easily pass as fools, fools that know better than Maesters, Maesters who compete with bards in their honeyed words, and bards with more courage than knights. Therefore, the circle is complete! Except that now we have a new Queen. And I have new siblings.

Queen Alicent doesn’t seem to like to hold Aegon. Well, he does cry a lot, but really, he isn’t as bad as any other child I have met. Helaena is still a baby, so I don’t know what to do about her. Nyra has yet to forgive her or father. Father has me joining the council as his cupbearer since Nyra refuses to talk to him still. (…)

Excerpt from History through letters Maester Deverik

VISERYS

Two moons after his Aemma’s death, Viserys could barely think of sending his son away. It almost made him wish to dismiss Otto and exile him from court if only so Jaehearon could stay. Yet whenever he saw his son with his cousin, he was assured that Jae would have fun at Runestone and learn. It also served to test the possibility of a betrothal between Jae and Selaena. He had yet to approach his brother and good sister with the possibility, but he admitted that the more he saw the two of them together, the more sense it made.

However, today however, he had more important business to attend to. It was Alyssa’s eighth nameday and he even prepared a special party at the garden for his favorite niece, knowing that the girl thought indoor parties too stuffy.

“Your Grace,” he turned to find the pretty Lady Alicent on his door.

“Lady Alicent,” he said with a smile as she bowed. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be preparing for the picnic?”

“My father asked me to bring this to you, Your Grace,” she said, and he perceived the wood box in her hands. “From the royal forge, he said!”

“Oh! I feared that they wouldn’t be ready in time,” the King said and took the box from her hands. “Thank you, dear.”

“Is it a gift for Princess Alyssa?” there was curiosity in her voice, and he smiled while placing the square box on the table and opening it.

“Indeed, aren’t they pretty?” he asked. With the lid removed, it was possible to see two identical bronze, stiletto daggers resting on red velvet with little pincers to keep them in place.

“Daggers, Your Grace? Is that an appropriate gift for a lady?” he felt some reproach at the girl’s voice and scoffed it off, knowing that it was probably because of the Seven and their rigid instance in gender roles.

“I was informed that my sweet niece is quite handy with weapons such as those. Rhea and Daemon let her train with Runestone's master-at-arms, she trains with daggers, bow and arrow, and wooden sword. When she gets older, I shall have a sword forged for her,” Viserys said with a smile on his lips. “My mother always wanted one, but my grandmother would never approve of it.”

“Everyone says that Princess Alyssa resembles her namesake,” Viserys sneered at the description.

“Mother might as well have returned for us in Alyssa, for they are quite similar in appearance and temper, though it isn’t hard to see Daemon in my niece too. I imagine that she will be a fierce lady when she matures,” his companion smiled. “A real force of nature.”

“That sounds about right, Your Grace,” Alicent said in her soft voice.

Before he could say anything, the doors opened again and he turned to find Jaehearon standing. His son was finely dressed in black and red, the colors of their house. In his brow the same gold circlet that once was used by his Uncle Aemon and then by his father, that he used after the Great Council chose him as the Heir to his grandfather.

Kepa,” he said in Valyrian, Rhaenyra too liked to talk in Valyrian with him. Like Daemon and Rhaenys. “We are waiting for you.” He saw as his boy frowned at Lady Alicent but preferred to not say anything.

“I was just waiting for this,” he show the box with the two daggers to Jae, receiving an arched eyebrow from his six years old child.

“Aunt Rhea will get angry, last year you already gave her a dagger, and now you will give her two?” Viserys smiled at his son that had a little smirk on his side.

“The advantage of being a king is that she won’t be angry forever,” he said. “Also, I am her favorite brother.”

“You are her only brother,” Jaehearon said, rolling his eyes. “They are made of bronze?” he asked, this time in the common tongue.

“They are, since the last dagger had a dragonbone handle, I decided to honor her Royce heritage this time,” the prince nodded at his father’s reasoning and then turned to Lady Alicent.

“Lady Alicent, my sister was looking for you,” a pretty blush appeared on the lady’s cheek.

“Oh! I must find her then, I wasn’t supposed to take that long,” she said and with a curtsey, she left them.

“Why was she here alone, father?” Jae questioned and Viserys looked at him with a frown.

“She was just delivering Alyssa’s gift, son. Otto was supposed to, but he must have been side-tracked. You shouldn’t be so short with her, she is your sister’s lady, you know?” He admonished.

“Is just that… When I saw her alone here, it remembered a conversation I had with Muña,” Viserys guided his son to sit with him in one of his chairs.

“What conversation, tresy?” he questioned, with curiosity.

Munã once told me that I should never be alone with a lady that isn’t family, no matter how friendly our relationship might be, because she could be trying to trap me. And even if she isn’t, I should always be mindful of a lady’s reputation, for I might be able to escape the consequences, but they won’t be,” Viserys sighed at the meaning of his son’s words. “She said I should be cautious around unmarried ladies.”

“Your mother was right, tresy,” Viserys said. “You have to be mindful of the lady’s reputation. But what does it have to do with Lady Alicent?”

“You are a widower and Lady Alicent is a pretty unmarried lady, she shouldn’t be in your rooms when you are alone. Especially when you are mourning Muña!” he sighed again at his son’s unflawed logic.

“You are right, Jaehearon. I have been irresponsible about Lady Alicent, it wasn’t my intention to disrespect Aemma’s memory either. I promise that it won’t happen again, if she comes alone again, I will send her away,” Viserys promised his son while delivering a kiss on his forehead.

“Kirimvose, Kepa,” Thank you, father.

“We should go, we don’t want your cousin Alyssa to think we forgot about her, do we?” Viserys said.

Princess Alyssa’s eighth name-day was passed in the Red Keep and therefore the King organized a small picnic it to his favoured niece. Few people were invited, only close friends and family that were still on the Kings Landing. Still, it was an affair worthy of her title: from the gifts the little princess received, to the mummers play in the garden and the great banquet offered by the King.

As a side note, it is interesting to say that half of the candied oranges of the puddings were missing, and Prince Jaehearon sacrificed many a lemon cakes for his cousin Princess Selaena.

Excerpt from theChronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

ARYA

There was fury in Jon’s eyes. Wrath and outrage too.

Arya didn’t know what invoked such, but she could see as her cousin disguised his rage with a cold demeanor and politeness that could give Sansa a run for her money.

Someone woke a dragon, she thought but remained with a smile on her face while she received many felicitations for her nameday. She was eight now!

She looked to her younger sister, who was up in their father’s arms, talking with Princess Rhaenys. Sansa’s inquisitive strike had worked again; Poor Princess Rhaenys must have answered half a hundred questions about her dragon, Driftmark, the Lord of the Tides, and the Goddess Meleys. The Queen Who Never Was had made a comment or two about how it was said that her late father, Prince Aemon, had also been known for being inquisitive in his youth, someone had even said that his own first world had been “why”.

“You are making it difficult to keep you as my favorite brother, Your Grace,” her mother said when she opened the King’s gift and it revealed two bronze daggers.

“As it happens Rhea, I am your only brother,” the King said, people around them laughed at their jabs. “She does like her blades.”

“She also likes chocolate and horses,” Rhea commented while rolling her eyes.

The King and her mother’s friendly relationship was more than she had expected at the little she knew of history. But then Alyssa and Selaena didn’t exist in history, did they? Anyway, it made that the court would simper at her mother’s desire, and even with the supposed scorn between her and Daemon, they would never insult her.

“Jae, look!” she shows her blades to her cousin and watched as the Kingsguard approached, discreetly. It was fun because she was the King’s favorite, but since she was always armed, they would be cautious to not let her too close, while still being respectful to not insult her and incur the King’s wrath. “They are perfectly balanced! We can practice throwing it!”

“Maybe not now, tala,” Daemon said behind her, and she saw the many apprehensive faces around her.

“Kepa, down!” Sansa demanded.

“Of course, ñuha prumia,” the prince said while putting her down, Arya made a show of putting the daggers down to not hurt Sansa. “Will you watch over your sister for a while, ñuha jelevre?” he asked her.

“Of course, Kepa!” While the man walked away, to where the Lord of the Tides were, Jon approached them. “You look ready to commit a murder, cousin.” She said, voice low and in Valyrian so as to not be understood or overhead—all care wasn’t enough, after all the Velaryon and Celtigar were also fluent in High Valyrian and they were in a public setting.

A little tower was in my father’s chambers today, unchaperoned,” he answered in an even tone, but Arya could see the storm brewing inside his eyes.

I wouldn’t imagine that they would start so early in trying to seduce the King,” Sansa said. “Especially now that he does have an heir.”

“She was there to take something on behalf of the Hand, but they seemed too close. Father promised to not receive her alone again.”

“I suppose that they must be a little despaired, after all, they don’t have the excuse of the king needing an heir and he might as well choose to not remarry,” Sansa commented.

“Are you sure we can’t kill her?” Jon looked at Sansa and Arya saw the raging fury reflected in his purple-grey eyes.

“They would only send someone else. The little tower has two female cousins that are about her age, can you promise me that they aren’t more dangerous than her?” Sansa asked back and Jon clenched his jaw.

“He has the right to be furious,” Arya defended. “If anyone aimed to our one of parents' bed just after the other died you would be planning murder too.”

“I am planning a murder, but I am also playing the long game,” Sansa said.

“What if we find someone else to her?”

“Who?”

“Not my father,” Arya had to contain the urge to laugh at his snarky and then smiled, giving a discreet nod at her side. Little seahorses approaching them.

“Cousins!” Laenor said with a charming smile. “You must see the mummers! They will play now!”

“Of course, cousin!” Arya said.

As it was her birthday, she received an honor seat and made sure to put Sansa and Jon with her, as the loveseat easily fit the three of them.

They would plan later. Now they were at a place with too many eyes observing them, and even more, hears ready to listen to them. She hated to admit it, but Sansa was right. At their current age, they were limited. Either by the constant presence of nursemaids and guards or by their lack of freedom to find resources. With time they would be able to move more, to change the game, but by now, they would have to play by their rules.

Summer was a dragon, unlike many others. He wasn’t conformed to stay in the dragonpit, like most other dragons. Indeed, with time the dragon keepers learned to not waste their resources with chains for him, for he would either break or melt them so he could be free again, we also stopped chaining his “partners in crime”: Lady, Ghost, and Nymeria, who he would free too. Summer liked to be free, and while sometimes he was almost wild, he would always heed to Princess Selaena’s words.

Excerpt fromThe Targaryen Dragons, Maester Limerick

BRAN

Being a dragon, Bran decided, was much better than being a human.

Especially if said human was a lord and had to deal with people on regular basis.

As a dragon he could fly free in the skies and remind himself of the times he would climb walls and towers to feel the wind on his face. He could eat, and as Daenerys had once said: whatever he wanted, not necessarily whatever diet the dragon keepers tried to force on him.

And if he ate some criminals that sought refuge in the forests of Runestone, like rapists and murderers, well, one would say that he was protecting his sister’s lands.

Also, who would tell?

And he could sleep as long as he wanted.

He wasn’t involved in politics. Well, not directly involved in politics. His own existence became a political advantage to Jon.

When he sent his siblings back on time, he honestly thought that he would die. The magic that he had been using from Sansa was by a thread, and when he thought that it had ended, somehow exploded as if a dam had broken and more magic poured out of her. Boundless, infinite, absolute. He used it to guarantee that Rhea’s pregnancies would be without trouble, and even with the Maester trying to let her hemorrhage to death when she was giving birth to Arya, he used it to cure her. And then to make the man have a heart attack some days earlier, the next man that arrived from Citadel had been someone Rhea’s grandfather had sponsored and was loyal. He used it to make sure that Jon wouldn’t die in his birth or infancy, no matter what was given to him. He was pretty sure they have already given up killing him discreetly when no poison worked.

When he sent Sansa back, her magic dragged him back in time with them and gave him seconds to choose his new self. He could be born as Baelon, Jon’s brother, and even considered going back as a Stark. But then he remembered how politics and people were exhausting and that he needed to stay close to them. So, he chose a dragon.

Arya was still furious that he hadn’t presented that option to her.

More likely because she would choose to be a dragon too, so he only laughed at his sister’s anger.

Now he was subtly manipulating his sister’s magic, or better, the excess of Sansa’s magic to help some things. First, he used it to make the three immune to poisons, a good precaution, then to make them grow at a faster rate than the common dragons.

He intended to stop, though. To let Sansa’s magic rekindle what it was meant to be.

He wondered what her magic was meant to be.

Lady’s death had damaged a small part of it, enough for him to think that it was dead and gone.

But then he discovered that despite the small damage, it was still alive. And had enough to make structural damage over the course of history.

And when he thought that he had reached the limit of said magic, whatever barrier that had been containing it broke like a dam and poured more.

He could feel it now. Growing and growing. He was taking a closer look at it.

He wondered what it was meant to be.

All that magic.

Bran would watch and see, for whatever Sansa’s magic was, it was not meant for this world at all.

It was something that they did often, though few people would know. Both would take their goblets of wine and sit on bed while talking about their day, sharing their thoughts or even commenting about the weather. It was a moment of intimacy that they had, and more than once was invaded by me and my sister. They never complained though, they would just let us nestle between then and them tell us histories and fairy tales.

Excerpt from the Journal of Queen Selaena

DAEMON

He placed the sleeping Selaena in her bed, covering her body with a blanket before kissing her temple and repeating the gesture to Alyssa, who was sleeping on the other bed in the room they share in the Red Keep.

He walked out of the room after giving them one last look, he took off his gambeson and undershirt in the solar and threw it over a chaise before walking to his room, Rhea’s maid was just leaving the room when he entered—he ignored her blush at seeing his naked torso. He found her in the bed, with a wine goblet of wine in her hands. Daemon walked to the buffet where there were two jars of wine: her Red from Ashmark—not as prestigious as the Dornish Red, but more to his wife’s sweet paladar—and his Arbor Gold, before pouring some to himself and setting on the bed.

“Finally asleep?” Rhea asked him with a smile.

“Whoever thought that letting her eat so many sweets was a good idea?” Daemon asked.

“Jaehearon.”

All the running around the garden and playing with the other children hadn’t been enough to spend Selaena’s energy that day. Rhea and the nursemaid gave her a warm bath, which calmed her a little, but only enough for Selaena to stop running in the halls. Daemon had to be the one to put her to sleep by telling her some Valyrian fairy tales and then singing her a lullaby.

“Never again,” he promised.

“Well, you did complain once that her ‘perfect lady’ behavior wasn’t natural for her age,” Rhea scoffed. “Now you have a taste of her acting her age, did you like it?”

“Gods no! I prefer her calm, soft-spoken self that behaves like an adorable mini-adult,” Daemon laughed with his wife. “She usually is very moderate in her sweet-eating, what happened?”

“There was a seemingly infinite amount of her favorite dessert on the table, Rhaenyra was plucking the candied oranges from the pudding and Jaehearon was willing to give her all the lemon cakes she wanted. Why would she try to moderate? Also, she ate nothing else, no pastry, pies, or even cold meats.”

“Rhaenyra isn’t happy that Jae is going to be fostered at Runestone.” He commented.

“I imagined that she wouldn’t. And the council?”

“Hightower tried to have him fostered with his brother. Mellos said something about Casterly Rock, though.”

“Perfect places for little accidents,” Rhea sneered, he had shared with her his thoughts about the assassination attempts on his nephew. “How long do you think it will take until they start talking about stability, the need for more heirs, and a new Queen?”

“The only reason that it hadn’t started already, is because my brother has a male heir. But soon they will find a need for another,” Daemon commented.

“Do you think Hightower will magnanimously offer his daughter as a way to solve the problems of the kingdom?” the sarcasm in her voice was endearing.

“Well, Lady Alicent has been kept on ice for enough time, don’t you think?” It wasn’t a secret that Otto Hightower had rejected many advantageous matches to his only daughter, who was now free to pursue the king. “You may have perceived the sudden increase of marriageable ladies in the court.”

“Young lords too,” how could he forget, Rhaenyra was coming to an age when she was to be courted and wedded and bedded. “For the Gods Above! I don’t think I have met any knight as foolish as that Selmy fellow!”

“The one who said that hopes to join the Kingsguard?”

“His brother, the one with that red feather on the hat.”

“That smelled like he had bathed in perfume and was giving everyone a headache?” he asked and Rhea nodded. “What did he do?”

“Got drunk and promised the princess that they would have many children and she would never need to worry about anything in her life for he would protect her,” Daemon snigged a laugh that escaped him.

“How did I miss that?”

“You were with Ser Harwin Strong talking about how he should deal with the City’s Watch,” she smiled.

“He has potential,” he shrugged. “They call him Breakbones for a reason.”

“Will you miss it?” She questioned and he looked at her.

Would he?

He liked the power of having two thousand men at his back and call. Of being feared and respected, keeping the streets of his city safe and clean.

“I don’t think I will,” he smiled.

In Runestone, however, he had his daughters. His dragon was free from a pit that was way too small for him. He had Rhea.

The idea of a long stay at Runestone wasn’t so terrible.

Prince Jaehearon was a calm, fair man. Even as a child he was known for being silent and studious. Unlike most of the emotional, turbulent members of the House Targaryen, he was so silent and cold that one could never know what was passing through his mind.

But his rage burned as hot as any Targaryen.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

JON

He was annoyed.

He was furious.

And he was disappointed.

Despite every warning Sansa had given him about how ladies in court would always try to keep the pretense of being sweet, naïve, and good, he had really believed that Alicent was different.

He should have known better, after all, what did he understand of court life? Sansa had been the one that had been trapped in one before, she was the one that really understood the Game of Thrones.

The day after Arya’s nameday, they sat in his rooms where they would supposedly play, their nursemaids would be watching them as everyone else was working or preoccupied.

“You always said that the lady’s reputation at court is one of the most important things for her,” Jon started, and because of the nursemaids, they started in Valyrian only. “What do you think that it would happen if we, well, made the little tower’s indiscretion be known?”

“That sounds like a good plan!” Arya agreed with him, and Sansa frowned.

“Not really. If it becomes known that the little tower has been visiting the king’s chambers, there are two possible outcomes. First, she will be shamed by her peers and lose her respectability, then two things can happen, the old tower will have to marry her off to someone of little importance to preserve her, or he will pressure the King to marry her to save her face.”

“And my father does keep the old tower in high regard,” Jon sneered. He knew that his father was very dependent on Otto and took the man’s words as holy.

“Another possible outcome is that they will try to find the source of rumors and then will hit us and put us in the spotlight earlier than we need to,” Arya sighed realizing that.

“If she marries someone else other than the King, then the Hightower will just send another pretty lady, this time aimed at you,” Sansa said after a while, “If I am not wrong, the hand’s brother has a daughter that is about your age.”

“How can we keep my father safe from her?”

“At the moment? Spend your nights at his apartments, ask him to read some books to you, tell you about Valyria, I don’t know, but monopolize his attention. If possible, take Rhaenyra with you and convince her to continue when you are in Runestone. The longer we can starve off the High Tower’s advances, the better. But if you really want to start the rumors, I can work on it.” Sansa offered.

He took a minute to analyze and knew that she would do it if he asked. Though it was clear that she didn’t think it was the best route of action. He knew that their main advantage was on their knowledge of the sequences of facts, the more they changed the more the future would change too, and become unpredictable. As despicable as Otto was and as traitorous Alicent was their actions were predictable because of their knowledge, they knew what kind the mistakes they were prone to, and what was their most probable actions, while anyone else sent by the Hightowers would be less easy to contain and predict.

“No,” he said finally, vengeance could come later, now they needed their advantage. If letting the Hightowers think that they could win this game was to their advantage for now, he would rather keep it. “We will play by their rules for now.”

Notes:

Arya's new daggers: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/19562579622878732/

Chapter 8: The household matters

Summary:

In which some ladies convince Princess Rhaenyra of her need to have a household.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Alicent Hightower, the Green Queen, was perhaps one of the most complicated characters in the first half of the second century of the Targaryen Dynasty. Married to King Viserys at the tender age of 18, the Queen used to be a member of Princess Rhaenyra’s household. Rumours circling their marriage says that she seduced the king when he was still in mourning for Queen Aemma, and he married her after deflowering her while drunk in grief, a year after his first wife’s death. Something that should be noted is that Prince Aegon was born seven moons after the marriage.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

ALICENT

Ever since the day the Prince Jaehearon had found her at the King’s chambers, she had not been allowed back there much to her father’s frustration. The Kingsguard had been instructed to send away every unmarried lady that would seek a private audience with the king. Especially at night.

Now, the Prince would send her unnerving glares. Refused to talk to her.

Alicent wasn’t a naïve girl, she knew what her father planned and even suspected some action to make his plans happen, but she preferred to not know it for sure.

It didn’t matter to her.

What mattered was how it would end.

Her father’s plans ended with her with a crown.

It wasn’t a bad perspective. How many young girls hadn’t dreamed of being a Queen after all? Also, the King wasn’t so bad himself. Sure, he wasn’t as handsome as his brother, and was seventeen years older than her too—but then, the difference between Princess Rhaenys and Lord Velaryon was of one and twenty years and they were quite happy. And the king has been kind to his wife Aemma, had honored her and protected her; surely he would do so to his next wife.

And even if her sons wouldn’t inherit the throne, they would be princes of the realm and in line for the crown.

Not all children reach the majority and accidents happen all the time.

Her daughters would be princesses, they could marry the most important lords of the realm. Since they would be Targaryen, one could even be married to Jaehearon and become the Queen after her.

But that would be difficult to accomplish if she couldn’t spend time alone with the King.

Ever since the death of Queen Aemma the number of marriageable ladies in the court had increased expressively. Some even had technically a better standing than her since they were daughters of Lord Paramounts, like Lady Minisa Tully and Roslyn Tyrell. Though technically was an apt term to describe their supposedly better standing. They were daughters of Lord Paramounts, but she was the daughter of the Hand, the second most powerful man in the kingdom at least until Jaehearon was of enough age to assume the responsibilities of the heir. But her father could lose his post at the King’s whim, while Tully and Tyrell’s fathers couldn’t be destitute of their positions at a whim. Also, Minisa and Roslyn would still be sisters to the future Lord Paramount of their Kingdoms when their fathers died, while if her father died, she would only be the niece of the Lord of Hightower.

That was also another reason for her to be looking for marriage.

She needed to marry before anything could take her value. Her father was young, but his station was a gift that could be taken, it wouldn’t automatically pass to her brother. And he also had enemies.

Too many to count.

“My Lady,” she turned around, startled, and found a maid at her door. “Princess Rhaenyra requests your presence.”

“Did the princess say why?”

“No, my lady,” Alicent held back a sigh of annoyance and dismissed the girl.

She placed the work she has been doing on her bed and called for someone to clean it. She needed to finish some adjustments on her mother’s dress before the prince’s sixth nameday at the end of the week. A small reception at court had been arranged for the celebration.

The little prince had convinced the king that there was no need for a new tourney so soon after his own—though Alicent thought that three moons were not as soon as the Prince said—and instead asked for a hunting party, a small feast, and to give alms to the poor in his name. The hunting party was enough to appease the lords, the feast was for the ladies and the almsgiving was for himself.

So common…

Yet the small celebration would have the King and some other important lords present. So, she had to look her absolute best.

She would have engaged with one of the castle seamstresses, but with the sudden increase of ladies in the castle, they were accepting bribes to make some orders a priority and she didn’t want to put the adjustment in hands of someone that could put less effort on her dress.

“You called me?” she asked when the guards permitted her entrance into the princess’ chambers, where the Royal Seamstress was taking the measure of the dress.

“Yes, what do you think?” She asked while twirling the red dress with shimmering silver embroidery.

“It is beautiful, Rhaenyra! To your brother’s feast?”

“Yes, I had a riding leather spared for the hunting, but father said that it will be a men-only party,” there was a scrunch in the princess’ nose, annoyed at being barred from the first part of the celebration.

“I imagine that Princess Alyssa must have been just as happy as you,” Alicent smiled, and the girl smirked.

“I heard that she threw up a mother tantrum to Uncle Daemon, but Lady Royce promised to take her to a hunt for her own in Runestone,” Rhaenyra said with a smile. “Do you think I could get a promise like that from father if I threw a tantrum too?”

“You are not eight years old, Rhaenyra,” she pointed out and chuckled at the pout on the princess’ lips.

She liked Rhaenyra. She really did.

The princess was sweet and genuine, charming and bright. But naïve, resentful, and stubborn.

Rhaenyra was never going to conform to the world, she didn’t seem to understand the natural order and rebelled against it. But at least she wasn’t like the other ladies at the court. Vipers that smelled like roses and wolves in sheep's clothing. At least Alicent could trust Rhaenyra to be genuine in her reactions and faithful in her promises.

“You called me here to see your new dress?” She asked, keeping her annoyance at bay.

“Oh! No! Not really!” Rhaenyra said while the seamstress helped her out of the dress. “Lady Royce and Aunt Amanda talked to me a little about my household.”

Alicent frowned at the start of the conversation. The princess had no one but her as a member of her household, that was because they used to be a household within the Queen’s own, but after Queen Aemma’s death most of her ladies-in-waiting had been sent back to their houses with generous compensation for their faithful services to the queen.

“You don’t have a household,” Alicent pointed out.

“And apparently that is the problem,” Rhaenyra sighed. The woman was sent away, and Alicent started to help her into one of her day dresses. “Now that my mother is gone, I need to have one for myself. They said that I need to keep a household so I do not go mad trying to keep up on what happens to the court.”

“Did they suggest anyone?”

“Aunt Amanda suggested her daughter, Roslyn, and cousin Laena.”

“Lady Royce suggested Princess Alyssa?”

“She said that my cousin is too wild and too young to be my lady-in-waiting yet,” Rhaenyra snickered. “I invited them to have tea with me here tomorrow and thought that maybe you should join us.”

“I would be honored,” she said. “Do you think they will suggest anyone more?”

“Not really, I think that Lady Royce wants to talk about logistics. Especially because in three moons it will be announced that my father let me choose my husband.”

Alicent balked a little at the new information. She felt a little bit of envy because she knew that under no circ*mstances her father would have ever allowed her to choose her own husband. She was sure that he wouldn’t allow her to choose her own household after she married. Yet her friend would choose her own husband and didn’t even seem happy with it. For the next half hour, she remained there, listening to her best friend to moan about the unfairness of her situation.

“I don’t think your father’s stipulations to be unfair,” Alicent said, and Rhaenyra looked at her as if she had admitted a crime. “Most ladies won’t have any input in their marriages, many will never see their betroths before their marriage and most are able to find some content in their lives. Your own parents' match was arranged. You have a privilege right now, one that very few ladies are allowed.”

“If the match has to be approved by the council, how is it different from an arrangement?”

“They could immediately marry you off to Borros Baratheon or to Prince Qoren Martell to bring Dorne to the fold. I don’t know… Instead, you can choose. You can marry a Lannister or a Tully, or—I don’t know! Anyone you want.”

“All that they want is my royal womb and the possibility of having dragons in the future, and the link to the crown!”

“Well, if you are so dissatisfied with being able to choose, then you should let your father choose for you,” Alicent said and saw as Rhaenyra sighed annoyed like she was whenever she was contradicted.

Hours later, Alicent was sitting at her father’s solar after dinner.

It was something they did every week, her father always wanted reports on her interactions with the Princess and the Prince. She talked about Rhaenyra’s new household, her father wasn’t much convinced that the princess would need a household being so young.

“Why? When the king remarries, she might just become part of her stepmother’s household,” he said and declared that a futile and too expensive endeavor.

It was the information that Rhaenyra would be able to choose her own husband that interested him. She gave him the out lights of the King’s stipulations before her father asked.

“And has the Princess shown interest in any lord until now?” She denied, “Hm… As the princess’ closest friend, you know what your duty is?”

“To help Rhaenyra to find a good husband for herself?” She questioned with a frown.

“To guide her to a suitable match,” her father corrected her. “A man with a strong connection to the faith and whose match would be beneficial to the realm.”

“All Rhaenyra wants is a man who will look at her as she is the sun of his life,” Alicent felt compelled to share, though her father only sneered derisively.

“The Princess’ duty is to marry a lord that will make the kingdom stronger. Like yours is to marry someone who will make our family stronger.”

Not a lord, but a king.

She was dismissed not long after, and soon Gwayne was called into her father’s solar.

Amanda Arryn was the third child of Lord Rodrik Arryn by his first wife. It is known that while she used to follow the lead of her oldest sister, Elys Arryn—the Lady Royce of Runestone—, she was also a shrewd woman with a keen intellect and sharp tongue. History relates that neither sisters had ever warmed up to their stepmother, Daella Targaryen, but both of them loved their youngster sister as much as any sister should. Even after Amanda Arryn married Lord Garlan Tyrell and moved to the Reach, it is said that she kept frequent correspondence with her sisters.

Excerpt from The troublesome succession of the Eyrie, from Maester Garmon

RHEA

“Well, aren’t we pretty today?” Rhea turned and found Daemon looking at her clothes. A bronze brocade dress with a cape over a silver dress with some small details. “Plans for the day?”

“Tea with your niece that is obviously in love with you, my aunt that is more of a thorn than a rose, my cousin that is very keen on being queen much to her mother’s annoyance, your cousin that resents you for having chosen to raise banners for your brother, and the daughter of the Lord Hand and nothing more needs to be said about them,” she said while clasping the ruby necklace, a gift from Daemon.

“Rhaenyra is just a child, she will get over it soon. Why? Are you jealous?” Rhea rolled her eyes.

“I would let her have you, then I would be free to have my way with someone else. Don’t you think that Rickard Grafton looks delicious in that leather doublet?” she bit back and he sneered.

“I am not sure if he would be able to handle you,” Daemon said and embraced her from behind.

“What are you doing today?” she asked, still amused.

“I am going to take Alyssa and Selaena to the city, let them gauge at some pretty trinkets,” his voice was triumphant, and she looked at him through the mirror.

“If Alyssa comes home with another blade, you will be sleeping on the floor. Aunt Amanda pointed out that Rhaenyra needs her own household now that Aemma’s had been dismissed, so we decided to help her form one before someone does it for her,” Rhea said while putting on her rings.

It was a subtext that he understood clearly: She needed to look like a lady of the court today because even if their tea would take place somewhere private the other participants would be there to judge her. Even if most were family, she still needed to look her part. She would try to get rid of possible spies at her cousin’s side before they could do anything to prejudice her. She would leave Rhaenyra protected.

“How funny,” she heard his snicker.

“Do you want to change places?”

“Oh, thank you! But no,” Daemon sneered and then turned to her. “The builder returned from the Reach with the cartographer, he says that he has three different designs for the castle. Tomorrow we can meet with them and talk about it and the logistics?”

“If I survive the day,” she sighed dramatically and he chuckled, kissing her cheek. “Are you sure you don’t want to go in my place?”

“You are a strong woman, you can deal with the court ladies,” he said and gave her one last kiss on the back of her hand before she walked to the door. “But if you don’t survive, I promise that I will never again buy Ashmark Red.”

She faked a gasp. “And how will our daughters have a good taste when it comes to wine?” she questioned and closed the door.

The walk to the princess’ apartments was undisturbed. She arrived there a few minutes later and perceived that she was the first. Rhaenyra was using a pretty light pink dress made of silk and satin. It had a square neckline that was flattering yet still modest on her—a good thing, considering that she was fifteen years old—with bell sleeves and a pink girdle that matched the dress details. Alicent was there too, it had been a few times that she sought Rhaenyra and Alicent wasn’t there like a faithful shadow. Her dress was mostly white, if not for the orange top and the flowers on the skirt. The picture of sweetness and innocence.

After she arrived Princess Rhaenys, using a red dress with black sleeves and details, also used a belt girdle made with some pearls to accentuate her slim waist. Her black hair in the usual high-Valyrian style that the princess favored. She seemed surprised to not be the first one to arrive but made no comments on it.

Her Aunt Amanda arrived just some minutes late, explaining that they had been bothered by inconvenient Hands in their way. She dressed in a way that left absolutely no doubt that she was a Tyrell: a cream dress with an emerald-green kirtle with gold roses embroidered to it and marie sleeves. Even in a vintage style, the woman looked as regal as a Queen, and she surely knew it. At her side was Roslyn, a sweet rose in her olive-green dress with gold Myrish lace and her hair down in a cascade of soft curls. Roslyn was already nineteen years old and officially engaged to Ser Raymond Tarly but now wanted Aunt Amanda to break her engagement and engage her to the King.

After some idly commentaries on banalities, Amanda started what they really went to talk about.

“Princess Rhaenyra, do you understand why you must have a household?”

“Because it is expected from someone of my station?” Rhea received the glance Amanda sent her at her cousin’s answer as a signal to interfere.

“It really is expected for a princess to have a household,” Rhea said in a placating tone. “But for all the ostentatious purposes, a household also attends to several practical needs. Above all that nonsense of company of equals and good models that they will try to tell you,” She ignored the amused chuckle of her cousin and the exasperated one from her aunt and continued: “a household also can help you organize your appointments, keep you informed of what is going on the court so you don’t have to be taken by surprise by information that could potentially harm you and it keeps your reputation protected if you find loyal companions of course.”

“So, household members can act as my secretaries, spies, and accomplices?” Rhaenyra asked, for the first time interested in the conversation.

“If you find loyal companions, yes. If you put a snake in the middle, you will have someone spying on you,” Rhea smirked. “And of course, there is the political advantage of you having a household—”

“Why there’s always about politics?” Rhaenyra interrupted her.

“Because we are nobility, Rhaenyra,” Princess Rhaenys said with a sigh, “You, in especial, are royalty. Your own existence is political.” The youngster princess sighed in annoyance but said nothing. “Whomever you choose as members of your household will be elevated in their stations, so when you chose the members of your household you should try to align your interest to the people that will compose your household.”

“People, not ladies?” Alicent asked and Amanda laughed.

“Certainly, ladies compose a good part of a Princess’ household,” Aunt Amanda said. “But households are also composed of guards, sworn shields, personal chefs, seamstress, handmaids, sometimes wards, septas when they are of the Seven, governesses and nursemaids when they have children and wards, sometimes their own maesters… And there it goes.”

“It seems too much trouble,” Rhaenyra pouted.

“You don’t have to have all of these,” Amanda pointed out. “Those are supposed to help you in your daily life. Rhea doesn’t have Septas in her household for example and I have no nursemaids or wards or children in mine.”

“I used to have one for Alyssa, but we disagreed very strongly on how I should raise my daughter. Therefore, Septa Harley was dismissed. My daughters will either follow the Old Gods like every Royce before them or the Gods of Old Valyria like their father,” Rhea shrugged and perceived how horrified the little daughter of the Hand looked.

“And who should I choose to be members of my household?” Rhaenyra asked.

“People closer to your age, people who you can trust. My Laena and Lady Roslyn are in the perfect ages to be your companions, Alyssa in two or three years would also be good company for you, Lady Alicent that basically is your lady-in-waiting unofficially,” Rhaenys pointed out and Rhea turned to the very silent Lady Roslyn that perked up. “If Lady Jeyne Arryn wasn’t currently the Lady of the Vale, I would suggest her, since she is your cousin and closer to your age.”

“I would be honored, Princess.” Lady Roslyn said.

“Roslyn will be married in two moons with Ser Raymond Tarly,” Amanda interfered. “If she composes your household, then he will probably come too, and you already have one member of the guard.”

“That all seems expensive,” Lady Alicent said.

“Nothing that the Royal vaults can pay, I assure you,” Rhaenys said. “You don’t have to have all names today, but you should come up with them. If you need support to talk to your father about logistics, we are all at your disposal.”

Some hours later, when their tea ended, Amanda approached her and—after dismissing Roslyn to find her fiancé—took Rhea’s arm and requested a time in the gardens with her. Without the option of denying her of course.

When they arrived at the garden, Rhea was already annoyed with the silence.

“I perceived that Roslyn was strangely silent on the tea today,” she commented.

“She is furious that I am not trying to push for Viserys to marry her as she wants and instead I am following with the match with Ser Raymond,” Amanda rolled her eyes. “Said that I am spoiling her dreams!”

“Does she have anything against Ser Raymond?”

“Except for the fact that he has no crown? Nothing, she was actually quite happy with her father’s choice before the spot at King’s bed came open. She seems to forget that this happened because my sister died,” Amanda sneered.

“And Lord Tyrell?”

“Oh, he would love to see Roslyn with a crown on her head, but I am not having my daughter taking the place of my sister!” her voice was resolute, and that was something that Rhea admired about her aunt. “Also, Roslyn is a fool; she is enchanted with the idea of a crown to call hers, but none of her sons would inherit anything as the second sons of the King unless Jaehearon died. And with time she would see herself lost in duties that are greater than she can bear, with a man that will forever hold love for his deceased wife and little rewards on the line. She isn’t strong enough for such life,” Amanda sneered again. “But I didn’t ask you here to talk about Roslyn’s childish tantrums, as amusing as they might be. I am worried about Rhaenyra.”

“For what reason?” Rhea asked, curious.

“Last night I had tea with Viserys,” Amanda said and Rhea looked at her with an arched eyebrow. “Please, I said that I wanted to talk about Aemma and he dangled on it, especially when I started to talk about her childhood. We are, after all, good siblings.”

“And all you talked about was Aunt Aemma?”

“Well, it was a good part of our conversation, but I did question him why her household was dismissed so soon after her death and he asked me of what I was talking about,” Rhea looked at her with a frown.

“He did not perceive that someone dismissed half of his household?”

“Aemma’s ladies in waiting, handmaids, the children that were her wards, and even Rhaenyra’s companions… All of them were gone while he was mourning so he didn’t perceive it, he was genuinely surprised when I pointed it out.” Rhea felt her jaws clenching at the information.

“Someone dismissed all of them, without the King’s input?”

“Not just someone, darling. The Hand. One of Aemma’s former ladies is my husband’s niece, Gillianne Darry, she wrote to me that two days after Aemma’s funeral all of those of the household that wasn’t needed by the king were all called to the Hand’s Tower and he dismissed all of them claiming that the King requested it,” Amanda said. “Of course, he paid all their dues: the dowries promised to the unmarried ladies, the final allowances for the wards and the married ladies, etc, etc…”

“But he still dismissed them without the King’s knowledge while claiming that it was the King’s own desire,” Rhea said lowly, mostly to her own. “That was why the Hand stopped you today?”

“Yes, because I did say to Viserys that Gillianne and all of the household were dismissed by his Hand who claimed to be acting at his orders. He wasn’t happy with the Hand, and I am sure that they must have had a conversation in the morning. In turn, the Hand wasn’t happy with me for my interference. Did you know that Aemma had three companions for Rhaenyra?” Amanda asked and she shook her head. “They were all around her age, Lyanne Manderly, Joanna Farman, and Cecelia Mallister, Alicent wasn’t among them, but was included because she was usually so alone in the Tower of the Hand with only her handmaid, and my sister pitied her after the death of her mother. Then, Lyanne got sick and died very fast, Joanna was sent to Fair Isle because of the rumor that she had been seen kissing one of the lords at the court, and Cecelia suffered that accident where she almost died and was sent back to Seagard.”

“Leaving only Alicent Hightower as Rhaenyra’s companion,” Rhea commented. “And without a household. Isolated from the court. Surely her wilful personality and innate distaste for politics must have helped, but they isolated her!”

“They tried the same to Jaehearon. His main companions were two of Aemma’s wards: Devan Reyne, the second son of the Lord Reyne of Castamere and Aemon Celtigar, the future Lord of Craw Isles. There were another two: a Darkling boy and a Blackwood. But those two were sent away very earlier. Celtigar and Reyne remained because the Lord Hand didn’t discover a way to have them sent away.”

“Until my aunt’s death. But you said tried.

“You know the boy better than I; do you think that he would allow himself to be isolated?” Rhea scoffed.

No, Jaehearon was not easy to isolate. He was more in evidence than Rhaenyra and while silent and serious, he was the polite child that could talk with everyone, from the Highest Lords to the lowest of servants, the older and younger. He rarely shows a preference, but he had good relationships with nearly everyone.

Except that he recently has been stopping talking to Alicent. Does he know something? I will talk with him later.

“But what would the Hand benefit from isolating them?”

“Control? Controlling their circle of acquaintances and friends, Hightower controls the information they receive, their perception of events, and even how they act.” The Lady of Highgarden rolled her eyes. “It weakens Jaehearon and strengths the Hand.”

“And now he is coming to Runestone with me. I will send for the Celtigar and Reyne boys, let him have his friends,” Amanda nodded at her promise.

“Take him on some journeys too,” she suggested. “Make processions with the prince, let him meet the lords that will one day serve him, let him know the lands he will one day rule.”

“He is young yet,” Rhea said. “But I imagine that a procession through the Vale could be easily arranged, and perhaps the Crownlands? Jeyne already loves Alyssa and Selaena, but I think it has been too long since she had seen Jaehearon.”

“And how is dear Jeyne?”

“Refusing to marry,” Rhea said, and Amanda laughed. “Elrond’s wife gave birth recently to a boy, Joffrey Arryn, she decided to name him her heir.”

“I heard that she freed Arnold from the sky cells?”

“She believes that he must have learned his lesson,” Rhea sighed, sure that the girl really believed that. She didn’t. Arnold was a greedy, misogynistic pig that wanted the Eyrie and the Vale to himself and wanted to take it by force. She would be damned if she let her cousin be robbed of her birthright by that f*cker. “You don’t need to worry; I am watching that situation.”

“Be careful with who you will admit to your household, dear, the last thing you need is a snake in your midst.”

Notes:

Rhea's dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/6192518226042776/
Rhaenyra's dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/840132505474102885/
Alicent's dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/790381803369408335/
Rhaenys' dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/30821578691648833/
Amanda's dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/214202526015628014/
Roslyn's dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/410812797273474715/

Chapter 9: f*ck prophecies!

Summary:

Jaehearon's birthday feast arrives and Jon has a heart-to-heart conversation with his father.

Notes:

I'm posting today because I have a feeling that tomorrow will be a very difficult day (my vacation is over 😪). So enjoy it!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Most history researchers record the marriage between Prince Daemon and Lady Rhea of Runestone as being loveless, with the pair being full of spite between them. The conclusion was reached mainly because of the accounts that for the first thirteen years of their marriage they lived mainly apart and the reports that the two would frequently glare and throw jabs at each other in public. Even calling each other names, like the prince had monikered his lady wife as The Bronze Bitch, while Lady Rhea would usually refer to her husband as Rogue c*nt.

Still, some alternative fonts suggest that it was theatre they put to the court, for the journal of Princess Selaena suggests that they were at the very least good friends, the journal of Lady Rhea talked about the prince with some underlying fondness and even the letters between Princess Alyssa to her sister would describe her parents’ relationship as one based on respect. Maybe it is true that Prince Daemon and Lady Rhea weren’t in love with each other, but isn’t the act of respect and care for one another also a form of love?

Excerpt of Targaryen princes and their consorts, by Professor Adelia Royce of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

DAEMON

He didn’t love her. Not as a lover, at least. But strangely enough, he perceived with time, that she was his very best friend. The post that had once been occupied by his brother, that he promised himself would forever belong to his brother, now was hers. They would drink together, have sex when the mood struck them, talk about an infinity of things, care for each other, and would work together.

So, they weren’t in love.

But he did respect her and had learned to appreciate her company and brutal honesty. Especially when it wasn’t directed at him.

“This is a sh*tty design,” Rhea said to the blueprint presented to her, “Too grandiose with little space to defense and too costly! And it ignores the necessity of the village.”

“Village, my lady?” Daemon looked at the builder as if he was stupid.

“Every keep, no matter how small it might be always ends up with a village or a city in its proximity that ends up under the protection of the Lord,” Rhea rolled her eyes.

“I don’t need Illyria’s Garden to be higher than the Wall or as opulent as Casterly Rock, but I need it to be beautiful and defensible, not opulent and tall. I don’t need columns of gold; I need that it keeps standing and supporting the roof. Also, I did say that I want two glass houses and a godswood, and your planning has none of those.” Rhea said, glaring at the builder. “The name of the Keep is Illyria’s Garden, not Illyria’s Tower.”

Lorenzo Lyon was a promising builder, he had seemed some manses the man had designed and built, as well as some elaborated bridges and even a small sept in King’s Landing. The man however had strong opinions of how things should be and perhaps that was the first time he found a client that couldn’t be bullied to what he wanted to do.

“Of course, my assistant must have forgotten to add those in the planning,” the builder looked to the assistant that looked to his feet. “However I admit that I have a few doubts about how to make a Godswood. I am sure that I can draw something that will fit better to your demands, by the end of the week. Just to make it sure, does my lady want me to plan the village as well?”

Daemon looked at his wife as they had a silent conversation.

“You just said that every keep ends up having a village under its protection, why not have one planned anyway with a decent sewerage system?” He said and she considered.

“You don’t think that it will get too costly?”

“The houses will be sold and then we will have taxes out of it when it became liveable. Also, it isn’t as if the other parts of the land aren’t being put to use as well, also, you seem to forget that I did inherit a good fortune and you are the Lady of the second richest house of the Vale,” He saw as his wife rolled her eyes.

“Well, the Royce is a rich house because we don’t go around wasting our money and resources at the silliest things possible,” Rhea commented.

“A good city isn’t a silly thing,” he replied. “A city where people feel safe and happy is a city where trade flourishes and wealth production increases. A city that grows in a disorganized way is bound to have problems sooner or later.”

“And if we control how the city grows then we can avoid those problems later,” he perceived as Rhea discreetly bite her cheek, an unconscious tick to when she was considering something. Their daughters had similar habits, except that Alyssa would nibble the nail of her thumb and Selaena would bite her lower lip. “Please draw us some ideas, but again, a godswood is necessary. I will write to Lord Stark and ask him to spare me some saplings of weirwood.”

“I will do my best to have it done by the end of the month, my lady, my prince,” the master builder said and he observed as his assistant began to write notes.

Rhea proceeded to start questioning Lyon about all the materials that he estimated would need and those that would be needed to be imported. Workers, wages, and payment. He could see that the builder tried to include him in the conversation as if to willing him to make the decisions, but Daemon let Rhea take the reigns only making suggestions when he felt necessary. They talked logistics for hours until the man was sent away from their quarters and soon the doors opened again, with the nursemaid entering with his daughters.

Alyssa quickly found her way to her mother’s side, while he took Selaena off the nursemaid and sent her away.

“Kepa, Jae was reading to me about the Great Wall! Did you know that it has more than eight thousand years?” Selaena said while moving excitedly in his arms. “That is old, isn’t it?”

“That is very old,” Daemon said with a fond smile. He sat in one of the armchairs, he carefully arranged her in his lap so they could both be comfortable.

“Older than Lord Velaryon or Lord Hand?” She asked with eyes gleaming in mischief, he smirked while Rhea rolled her eyes.

“A little older, I think,” he answered in amusem*nt.

“Do you think that we can go to the wall?” Her eyes were pleading, but the answer left his lips before he could think.

“Absolutely not,” it was rapid and final and evoked tears in his daughter’s violet eyes. “The Wall is no place for women, nevertheless young Princesses!”

“But Great-Grandmother Alysanne did go there!” Alyssa said with a pout.

“Please Kepa! I want to see the Wall too! I promise to be a good girl!” Selaena pleaded with crying eyes and Daemon felt his resolve falter. It wasn’t an easy thing, but Selaena and Alyssa were the only ones that could make it with him.

“Queen Alysanne visited the Wall when she was older and already a Queen.”

“Then I can go when I’m older?” his youngster asked him with tears pooling in her eyes. He looked to Rhea who had an amused smile on her face. “Please Kepa!”

“When you are older, we can revisit this matter,” was all he could say, knowing that another denial would have his daughter crying and a positive was out of question.

“Thank you, Kepa!” Selaena said kissing his cheek. “Muña! When we go back to Runestone, can we show Jae the Runesport? And then to the Stone Hall!”

“It might be possible, little heart,” Rhea said with a sweet smile and then Alyssa pulled on her sleeves. “Yes, little love?”

“Muña, do you think that Jae would like to train with me and Waymar?”

“Of course, he will!” Rhea said kissing her forehead, “Just try to not knock him on the ground too many times until he learns the basics.”

“Yes, Muña!” Alyssa said giggling at her mother. “I will not make him eat dirt too many times. We can take him to hunt and to hawking too!”

Daemon smiled at the excitement of his daughters who were already making so many plans for when they returned to Runestone with their cousin.

Despite the controversies of her marriage and the birth of her first son, Queen Alicent was known for being a pious and devout woman. In a letter to her cousins, Princess Rhaenyra referred to her as sanctimonious and hypocrite, their friendship was never restored. She lived in the shadows of Queen Aemma, unloved by her husband, without the respect of her subjects and the fury of her best friend. Her crown came at a high price, still, under the influence of her father she paid an even higher price when tried to have her son crowned.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

ALICENT

She twirled her silver and orange dress with a smile. Silver and orange were, after all, the color of her House. The dress had been her mother’s, so she had to make some alterations: getting rid of some ruffles that used to be in fashion, lowering the neckline, accentuating the waistline, and adding some silver pins that she had ordered from the palace blacksmith.

“You look beautiful,” she turned and saw her father standing at the door of her room. A servant was behind him carrying what looked like a jewelry box. “You are the most gracious lady at this court.”

“Thank you, father,” she dripped into a curtsey as he entered her room.

“Your mother would be proud of you,” he said and approached her and signaled to the servant to bring the jewelry box and open it for her, it had a beautiful necklace with big amber stones and small flowers carved with small diamonds and matching earrings. “These belonged to her. I gave them when I became the Hand of King Jaehaerys. I want you to wear them tonight.”

“They are beautiful!” she said with a smile, she moved her hair so that he could clap the necklace behind her back, then she took the earrings and walked to her dressing table and put on the earrings as her father watched her through the mirror.

“You are the most gracious lady in this court, Alicent,” her father said when she turned back to him. “Soon you will be the most important lady in it too.” He promised and kissed the back of her hand.

“I will do my best father,” she promised back, and he smiled.

“You will do better,” he said sharply, her smile faltered for a second as she nodded to him.

They moved to the great hall where the feast was beginning to start, with the various members of the court and other invited guests arriving. Feasts as those were where the ladies were always at their best: the finest jewelry, their finest dresses, the prettiest makeup, and charming hairstyles. They wanted to show status, power, and money, to display their pretty faces and hope to catch the eye of someone, if they were lucky, their parents could consider a match. If not, a night of flirt wasn’t so sinful.

She observed as the Tyrell arrived, Lady Roslyn in the light green dress of chiffon with golden flower details. Her dress was a bold one: it was a one-shoulder that seemed to be thrown over it and pinned with a golden brooch while the fabric fell like a cape accompanying the length of the dress. She used gold bracelets and earrings with jade stones and a golden tiara in her dark brown curls that imitated laurel leaves.

“Isn’t the Rose of Highgarden a pretty thing?” Gwayne asked at her side, and she shot her older brother a glare.

“And engaged to Ser Raymond Tarly,” she pointed to the gentleman at the girl’s side, the future lord of Horn Hill was tall and burly, not very comely but had an easy temper. Despite his tall stature, he was only fifteen, being four years younger than his future wife, and completely besotted to her. “Didn’t he win the last tourney he participated in?”

“So, he is good at unhorsing other men,” her brother sneered. “It takes more than it to be good at fighting.”

“He unhorsed you, didn’t he?” she questioned her brother and then ignored him when she perceived that the Prince Daemon family arrived. Well, not all of them, just the prince, his wife, and Princess Alyssa. Selaena was probably deemed too young to participate in these feasts. Lady Rhea looked very beautiful in the bronze dress that shimmered in the candlelight.

“How could a woman like that end up married to a man like the Rogue Prince?” her brother said at her side.

“Decisions of the Good Queen Alysanne; isn’t she a decade older than you?”

“And? Don’t ladies marry lords with enough age to be their grandfathers? I wouldn’t mind it much with how pretty she looks,” and indeed, the Lady of Runestone looked younger than she was.

“You want nothing with a married woman, especially the one married to that prince,” their father said behind them.

“And why not father? If Lady Rhea becomes a widow and remarry, a son of hers would inherit Runestone before the little Princesses,” Gwayne smirked at their father and Alicent imagined herself giving him a slap on the back of his head for his stupidity.

“As the Prince Daemon is a healthy and strong man, your daydreams about Lady Rhea and she keep should cease,” her father said.

“Of course, father,” her brother said still eyeing the Lady of Runestone.

“You do know that there are younger ladies for you to court, right brother?” Alicent asked.

“Few of them that come with their own keep though,” he said and she agreed.

Before anything else could be said, the heavy doors were opened wild, and the Royal family was announced. The King was with black and red garbs while the prince was using black and silver, Rhaenyra though looked fantastic in her red and silver dress and jewelry. They were color-coordinated it seemed. The King said some words to officially open the feast and then people started to mingle.

As the festivities started, she made her way to Rhaenyra.

“Well, isn’t it full today?” she said to her friend.

“My last name-day had just a little more of half of these people,” Rhaenyra commented.

“Never too early to court the heir’s goodwill,” Alicent said and then looked to where the Prince was, talking with an Aemon Celtigar that used to be the Queen’s ward. Princess Alyssa was with them and seemed amused by the conversation. Many other children seemed to gravitate toward them too.

“I can’t believe that he is six now! I remember when he was just a baby.”

“And now he is about to be fostered at the Vale,” Alicent saw as Rhaenyra’s face darkened at the reminder.

The festivities counted with mummers and bards. Alicent spent most of the time at Rhaenyra’s side, while they talked about everything that amused them, sometimes she would send the King some furtive glances, but his attention was either on Prince Jaehearon or on Prince Daemon’s eldest daughter. It was frustrating to not be able to hold his attention.

How will I become a Queen if the King doesn’t pay attention to me?

She looked at her father who was with her uncle, the Lord of Hightower who had come to the celebration. Her older brother was trying to court a Rosby girl that she knew had a generous dowry. Her younger brothers were along with other squires.

She saw that Laena and Laenor Velaryon joined the circle of friends of Prince Jaehearon. It was Alyssa however who was leading the conversation telling them tales of the First Men that they undoubtedly learned from her mother. The Lord of the Tides seemed displeased though. It was common knowledge that he wanted to marry Lady Laena to the Prince, but the Prince barely paid attention to her other than politely one. But then the prince was young and probably at the phase where he thought that girls have cooties.

Amanda Tyrell was holding her own court, it seemed, with the houses of the Reach flouting to her. It was obvious that the woman still had some influence over the King, even with her sister dead. With amusem*nt Alicent observed as Lady Roslyn tried to become a part of the conversation between the king and her mother, only to be shushed by the latter.

Prince Daemon would stalk the room silently, sometimes talking with the new captain of the Gold Cloaks and sometimes talking with one or other of his friends. Lady Rhea would talk with many people, she was more likable than her husband and more respected by the lords too. By now it was public knowledge that she intended to turn Prince Daemon’s lands—the ones he was gifted by the King Jaehaerys despite her father’s, the King's own Hand, protest. Everyone knew that she was funding for a Keep to be built there for Selaena, though she questioned if a son born out of them would inherit Runestone and whatever the future keep would be named.

“Alicent,” she turned her attention back to Rhaenyra. “Your mind seemed away; did something happen?”

“No, nothing at all,” she smiled at the worry in her friend’s eyes. “I was just observing the hall.”

“Any interesting gossip to share?” Rhaenyra asked with an impish smile.

“Probably the ones that you already know: Lord Velaryon trying to match Laena and your brother, people circling Lady Royce because of the keep that she and the Prince Daemon are building.”

“They are building a keep?” She frowned at the surprise in the princess's voice.

“You didn’t know? The whole court does, your father even gave Runestone some tax relief for the following ten years to help them fund it,” Rhaenyra looked really surprised. “They say that the prince intends to pass it to Princess Selaena as part of her dowry.”

“He could still have a son though,” Rhaenyra commented. “And if he has a son with someone else, will he have to repay Runestone for the Keep?”

“Well, that is a hypothetical situation, Rhaenyra,” Alicent said with a smile. “For it to happen, Lady Royce would have to die first and then he would have to marry someone else. Also, it really isn’t our problem, is it?”

“No, I imagine that it isn’t.” the princess had her lips pursed, as she would when she was contradicted. “Who is that lady talking to my father?”

Alicent had to control herself to not appear too eager to turn around and see, instead she did gracefully and then localize the King talking with a woman. It wasn’t someone she had ever seen before, but it was clear that the woman was a highborn lady. She was blonde, not like the Valyrian silver gold shade, but gold that reflected well in the candlelight. For the few features she could see, Alicent was able to perceive pretty blue eyes and aristocratical features. She was using a blue and silver dress with a long chiffon cape that made her look very beautiful.

“She is Lady Myrcella Tarbeck, the Regent Lady of Tarbeck Hall,” they turned around and found Gwayne approaching them. “Sorry sister, my princess; but I heard the princess and could not help but pointed it out to her.”

“No harm done, Ser Gwayne,” Rhaenyra said. “Regent, you say?”

“Yes, her husband, Lord Tyrion Tarbeck died two moons ago in mysterious circ*mstances. Because her son, Lord Adrian, is still a three-year-old child, she became the Regent. Her mother was Leona Lannister, the elder sister of Lord Jason Lannister of Casterly Rock,” Gwayne pointed to one of the young twins of Casterly Rock, they were just a handful of years older than Rhaenyra herself, but everyone knew that the Lord of Casterly Rock to be insufferable arrogant and way too fond of his own voice.

“If she is the Regent of Tarbeck Hall, what is she doing on King’s Landing?” Rhaenyra asked her brother and Alicent too looked at Gwayne for answers.

“Officially she is here because her good brother, Ser Devan Tarbeck is questioning her regency,” her brother had a smirk on his lips that rarely bode well to anyone.

“And unofficially?” Alicent asked with an arched eyebrow.

“Rumour has it that she killed Lord Tarbeck so she could find a better bed to warm,” Gwayne pointed to the King and how Lady Tarbeck was smiling and giving gentle touches to the King’s arm.

Alicent had to control her urge to clench her jaw and instead pricked at her nails. Why was nothing going to plan?

King Viserys was married two times. First to Queen Aemma with whom he had Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Jaehearon. His second wife, Queen Alicent gave him four children: Prince Aegon, Princess Helaena, Prince Aemond, and Prince Daeron. There were clear preferences for the children of his first marriage. But Prince Jaehearon always made sure to include his youngster siblings in their activities with their father, something Princess Rhaenyra was content to ignore.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

JON

The morning after the festivities was full of people with massive hangovers having to deal with loud children and therefore in ill humor. Jon made his best to be as silent as possible when he perceived that his father too was dealing with the effects of his indulgence in Dornish Red last night. Rhaenyra didn’t have the same consideration. Probably it escaped her notice that their father was not at his best. While breaking their feast, she complained about how many times her feet had been stumbled by the many lords and knights that begged for a dance when the dancing started. Laenor had been graceful, but it was obvious that he didn’t want to, and did so at the urging of his father. Ser Gwayne Hightower had tried to enchant her with some anecdotes, but she found that he lacked the cleverness of his sister. Jason Lannister was insufferable and talked too much. Borros Baratheon had stumbled at her feet one too many times and so it went on.

Jon had only danced three times, given the lack of girls close to his age. He danced first with Arya and then with Laena Velaryon, the two dances were awkward with the ladies being taller than him. The only dance that had been more awkward was with Lady Seryse Florent that was his Aunt Amanda’s ward and was six years old. The Lady spent the dance looking at him with awe and starry eyes that made him want to run, much to Arya’s amusem*nt.

“Prince Jaehearon!” he turned when he heard his name and found a woman that had been introduced as Lady Tarbeck last night. He frowned when he perceived that she wasn’t supposed to be at this part of the Red Keep, it was a part reserved only for family and close friends.

“Do you wish something Lady Tarbeck?” He questioned with an even voice.

“I am looking for King Viserys, I need to talk to him about some problems in Tarbeck Hall and he had agreed to hear me today in private, but I am lost!”

“My father rarely receives visitors at the Maegor Holdfast, especially not when it is to work, he probably intended to meet you in his solar next to the small council chambers where he usually works. I do believe that he is there already,” he said and she opened her mouth to say something when he saw one of the gold cloaks approaching and stopped him. “Please escort Lady Tarbeck to my father’s solar in the Council Wing. Can I help in something else, my lady?”

The woman looked at him with a forced smile that made him remind of Cersei Lannister, he saw her only a few times but knew of everything she had done to Sansa. Still, she only shook her head, thanked him, and followed the Gold Cloak.

“I am pretty sure that it wasn’t what she was expecting my prince,” Rickard Thorne said to him. It was strange being guarded by the ancestor of a man that had once killed him, but Rickard was much more agreeable than his descendant and loyal to Targaryen.

“And what was she expecting?” He questioned and the Kingsguard smirked.

“Probably that you would guide her to your father’s room, where she would wait for him.”

“Then she took me for a fool,” Jaehearon rolled his eyes.

“She took you for a child that wouldn’t know better,” the Kingsguard commented.

That morning, before his sister could have sneaked her lessons to spend her time with Alicent, he had talked to her about the many ladies that would be trying to find their way to their father’s bed at night and asked her to spend some time with him every night. He mentioned finding Alicent alone with Viserys, but apparently, the girl had been smart enough to already spin the tale to Rhaenyra and say that it was only a misunderstanding. Still, Alicent wasn’t the only one that tried to find a way into the King’s bed and graces. She had only been the one that made the boldest move and had some powerful ally.

The day passed slowly, and soon it was night and his father called him to the inner sanctum where Balerion’s skull was guarded. Hundreds of candles were illuminating the dragon skull. Sometimes Jon would go there and imagine.

Balerion hadn’t been the greatest dragon that had lived. The greatest that had flown over Westeros, sure, but the greatest dragon was one of the Old Valyria, Ancalagon was said to have been five times the size of Balerion, a living mountain that lived for almost a millennia. Ancalagon didn’t have a nickname like Balerion did, but he was much more feared. In a single breath he could destroy an entire city and his wings could cause a tornado or, so it was said.

He imagined that their efforts to save the dragons would make it so that in some years, they could have dragons as big as Balerion and feared for one as big as Ancalagon. One of those at the hands of the Others would be a tragedy.

“You always look at the Balerion as if wondering something,” he turned and saw his father entering the sanctum and dismissing the Kingsguard.

“Balerion is the greatest dragon in Westeros history, but in Valyria they had Ancalagon who was five times his size. I imagine how Aethan Sardothien and later Maelyra Calantharen would mount him,” he said, referring to the two best-known riders of Ancalagon.

“Well to climb the ropes to Balerion’s saddle wasn’t an easy task but I was seven, but I imagine that they must have found a way,” his father said with a sneer. “Do you think that Ghost will get as big as Balerion?”

“A bigger dragon is only a bigger target to scorpions,” he said, repeating what he had told Lady Laena only some moons later.

“Indeed, the scorpion marksman only needs one lucky shot while the dragon needs many lucky escapades,” Viserys agreed with him.

“Do you miss riding him?”

“I do,” there was some fondness when he looked at the dragon’s skull. “Balerion was my greatest friend for a short while. But he was the last living creature to have seen Valyria before the Doom. It’s greatness and its flaws, when you looked at the dragons what do you see?”

“I see power,” Jon said after some consideration. “Power to protect and to destroy. Rhaenyra once told me that people think that Targaryen is closer to gods than to men because of our dragons and that without them we are like everyone else.” His father nodded.

“The idea that we control the dragons is an illusion.”

“I know, the dragons hear and obey us out of their own choice, our bonds are only possible because they permit it. The day they decide that we are not worth it…”

“They are a power that no man should ever have trifle with,” Viserys said.

“And yet, the Targaryen still do,” Jon looked at his father.

“They do say that there is a little of madness in our blood,” Viserys said the self-depreciative joke. “It was their power that brought Valyria its doom. If we do not remind our history, the same will happen to us.”

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” it was something he had learned in the life of Jon Snow, with Maester Luwin in his classes. Viserys smiled at him when he said this.

“It’s good that you understand it, Jaehearon. For a Targaryen must understand it to be king,” he said while cupping Jon’s face. “You and Rhaenyra are the very best of your mother. Your sister is my joy, but you are my biggest pride.” Jon felt something squeeze at his heart.

Something like that would never happen to Jon Snow because Jon Snow was a bastard to most of the world. Jon Targaryen was an orphan whose mother died at birth and the father was slaughtered by the man that stole his throne. Jon Snow had never been anyone’s pride. He couldn’t be. But Jaehearon was. He was Viserys’ pride.

“And I believe that one day you will be the greatest King that has ever ruled over Westeros. Unlike me, you were born to wear the crown.”

“I don’t think that I will ever be ready for this burden, father,” he confessed while clenching his jaw.

“You will be,” Viserys promised him while kissing the top of his forehead. “I don’t say it because you are my son, I say it because I know you, Jaehearon. I know that you are strong and wise. More than I will ever be, more than my grandfather was. But to reign over Westeros you need to understand one thing: the dragon saddle is one thing, but the Iron Throne is the most dangerous seat on the realm.”

Aye, tell me something I don’t know, Jon thought remembering the cuts on his father.

“You are not talking about your cuts,” Jon said after he realized the seriousness of his father.

“No, I am not.” There was a smile followed by a long silence while Jon considered the things Viserys had just told him. “There is something else that I need to tell you. It might be difficult to understand, but you must hear it. Our histories... they tell us that Aegon looked across the Blackwater from Dragonstone, and saw a rich land ripe for the capture. But ambition alone is not what drove him to conquest. It was a dream. And just as Daenys foresaw the end of Valyria, Aegon foresaw the end of the world of men.” Jon frowned at the information, he knew from the old Aemon, the Maester of Castle Black, that there had been greenseers on the Targaryen line, but Aegon, the Conqueror, was never mentioned among them. "'Tis to begin with a terrible winter gusting out of the distant north.” He froze at his spot, “Aegon saw absolute darkness riding on those winds. And whatever dwells within will destroy the world of the living. When this Great Winter comes, Jaehearon, all of Westeros must stand against it. And if the world of men is to survive, a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne. A king or queen, strong enough to unite the realm against the cold and the dark. Aegon called his dream 'The Song of Ice and Fire.'"

The Others. Aegon had seen the f*cking Others and their wrights in his dream. How had this information never reached them before? Did Bran know about it? Does it mean that the gods have saved the Targaryen from the beginning so they could help stop the Others and centuries of scheming and greedy pettiness interfered with their plans? He needed to talk with his cousins. Now.

He made his best to look at his father that had approached him, a hand on his dagger.

"This secret... it's been passed from king to heir since Aegon's time. Now you must promise to carry it... and protect it." He said and Jon looked at him with a haunting determination, “Promise me it, Jaehearon.”

“I promise, father!”

But at the back of his mind, all that Jon could think was:

I really f*cking hate prophecies!

Notes:

Alicent outfit:
dress: https://br.pinterest.com/pin/785174516291114759/
jewelry: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/33706697203717709/

Roslyn: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/709105903845113047/ [without the slit]
Rhea: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/509117932886215807/
Rhaenyra: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/589408670000095488/

Chapter 10: Runestone

Summary:

A complete self-indulgence chapter to relate the idleness of their life in Runestone prior to the sh*t hitting the fan.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Runestone was where I was born, my childhood home. Where I lived a life of idle peace and learned at the knees of my mother the finesses of the ruling. Where I felt safe and could seek warmth. Illyria’s Garden was given to me by my father. It was beautiful and it was my test. Where I could show the world everything that I knew, where I first ruled. The Red Keep was my uncle’s domain, my husband’s home, my challenge, and trial. It wasn’t mine to do as I pleased but was where I ruled for most of my life. It is where I will continue to rule for I am its Queen and until I can pass this burden to my good daughter, I will rule this Keep and this City and this Seven Kingdoms besides my beloved Jaehearon.

Excerpt from the Journal of Queen Selaena

SANSA

After a week on the sea, Sansa was ready to never again step on a ship. Yes, it was a little dramatic, but she really didn’t appreciate the rocking of the ship after learning to travel on the dragon’s back with her father. Also, Summer and Lady preferred to follow the boat than follow her father and the other dragons which made the crew eye the dragons warily all the time.

She knew that before leaving, her mother had helped arrange a small household for Rhaenyra and that soon they would arrive at Red Keep. Three new ladies in waiting, a seamstress for her ladies, handmaids, her own household guards, and unfortunately a sworn shield in Criston Cole. The princess insisted. When she heard the name, it took all her self-control to not scream in frustration. But at least it meant that they would have little chance of becoming a Kingsguard since there was no reason for the King to indulge her again.

Rhea had placed Sansa in her saddle while they mounted, and they moved to the Runestone. It was barely thirty to forty minutes ride on the slow pace of the horses, but they weren’t much hasty. They were received by Daemon and the Maester. Daemon immediately took her in his arms, and she smiled.

“How was the journey, ñuha prūmia?” he questioned. “Did you like to sail with your mother?”

“I prefer flying with Kepa!” She answered to his amusem*nt. “It’s faster.”

“It really is, isn’t it?” she perceived as he sent a look to her mother. Talked about complicated relationships. She let a yawn escape her lips and he smiled at her. “I arranged for a bath to be prepared for the two of you, and I am sure that Selaena will want to nap a little after this journey,” she rested her head on his shoulder.

“Thank you, Daemon, a bath after a week on the sea is all I need,” Rhea said.

“My lady,” Maester Garmon said, “I have some of your correspondence waiting for you.”

“For Gods Above, Garmon, can’t it wait until I take a bath and eat something?” her mother asked while giving him some annoyed glare.

“I just thought that you would like to be informed that we had received two very interesting ravens, one from the Claw Isle and another from Castamere.” The old man said and Sansa closed her eyes, pretending to be sleepy as her mother was talking business.

“Have they accepted my proposal?”

“The young lords will arrive after Princess Selaena’s name day,” Garmon said.

“Well, I’ll relax better now,” she answered him. “Daemon, can you get Selena to the nursery for her bath or have you forgotten the way?”

“You are such a delight wife, and they say that my dragon is a moody thing,” the Prince said. “Let us go Lena before your mother tries to kill us with her bad humor.” she giggled against his vest.

At night, after her nap. She joined her family in the family solar. Uncle Willam and his wife, Lady Saoirse of House Waynwood, had joined them with Waymar and Gideon, their cousins of eight and five respectively.

Jon, Arya, and Waymar were talking about their training with Willam, and how now that Ser Luthor was back they could return to their normal routine, Gideon was playing on the floor with some wooden toys, while Sansa herself was sitting in Rhea’s lap and hearing their conversation while pretending to be playing with Rhea’s hair. Advantages of being a little older than a baby.

“Devan Reyne and Aemon Celtigar will receive rooms next to Jaehearon since they were invited to his benefit, but I do not see why Waymar shouldn’t join their lessons,” her mother said. “He might be a bit older, but I doubt that it would be a problem. Alyssa will be joining them herself.”

“I agree,” Lady Saoirse said with a smile. “What about companions to Alyssa and Selaena, it isn’t time to think of companions to them?”

“I thought of it,” Rhea said, “I think I will look North though,” that made Sansa perk up a little. “Alyssa is more of a warrior than a lady, she will never sit back to the social norm, I refuse to let the rules of the so-called polite society destroy her brilliance to mold her into something she isn’t. A companion for her must be one that understands it and whose parents would agree with me on the matter. So, I must look either North or to Dorne to find a companion for her.”

“Except that Dorne has a terrible history with Targaryen,” Daemon said while drinking a little. “So, a Northern girl it is.”

“I am surprised that you don’t think it unseeingly for a girl to be raised like Alyssa,” Lady Saoirse said, “I wished my own father had been like that.”

“Your father is a pain in the arse,” Willam said rolling his eyes.

“There is one thing that both Rhea and I agree wholeheartedly is that our girls can be whatever they want,” Daemon said seriously. “If Alyssa wants to be a Warrior like her Bronze Princess ancestresses and my own Queen Visenya, I will provide her the best that I can to guarantee that she can knock all the stupid bastards that say that she can’t on the ground. If Selaena wants to be the perfect little lady, or a scholar, the best dragon rider of the Seven Kingdom, or journey to her heart's content I will let her after providing her the means to do so.”

“That is sweet,” Saoirse said.

“That also means that their companions must be picked considering their interests,” Willam scratched his beard. “The Northern Mountain clans as well as the Ladies of House Mormont are raised to fight, they could be good companions to Alyssa.”

“I am three steps ahead of you cousin,” Rhea said with a smile. “In three moons, I will leave to the North with Selaena and we will return with a companion chosen by Lord Stark to my Alyssa and the negotiations for the two saplings of Weirwood tree for Illyria’s. Maybe more.”

“Are you sure it is wise? The Faith might want to burn the down,” Saoirse said, and Sansa agreed with her, the damn militants were annoying like that.

“And then I will happily set Caraxes on them,” Daemon said with a smirk.

“Ignore him,” her mother rolled her eyes while settling Sansa in her lap after she had braided some of her mother’s hair.

“And for Selaena, do you have any companion in mind?” Willam asked with a frown.

“Honestly? She is too young. I wouldn’t want a child so young to be fostered. It really surprised me that Lords Reyne and Celtigar would let their sons be wards of the Queen at the age of three, Queen or no Queen, I wouldn’t wish someone else to raise my daughter.”

“Well, their sons have the advantage of growing up as the Prince’s playmates. To foster them with the Queen was a wise political decision, quite strategic when one considers that not only their children have the same formation that the prince, but also become friends to their future ruler.” Saoirse commented. “My mother would have given me before I was able to walk if Queen Alysanne had asked me to be fostered for one of her daughters.”

That was a scary truth. From what she remembered of the Lord and Lady Waynwood of this time, she knew that as the wife of the second son, she had been very ambitious and when her husband’s brother died Lady Waynwood basically assumed the role of chief of the family, almost always bypassing her own husband to try to reach higher. Saoirse was only married to the cousin of the heir because their marriage happened with the late Lord Waynwood's approval, if he had died before, then Saoirse would have been set to marry someone else. Someone that Lady Waynwood would have approved. If Lady Waynwood would find a way to use a baby in her favor, so she would.

That made her sad to think that some people rarely mind their own children when seeking power. Even Cersei had more care for her children than that woman. And she questioned what it took to grow like that.

“Are you sleepy, little heart?” Rhea asked her when rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. “Do you want me to call for Kress to put you to sleep?”

“Daor, Muña,” she said calmly. “I want to stay.”

“She wants to stay,” Daemon translated for her.

“I should have started Valyrian lessons when the children started,” Rhea said while rolling her eyes.

“You should,” Daemon only agreed with her.

“Your children are so intelligent,” Willam smiled. “True prodigies the two of them.”

Sansa held back her sneer at the common fallacy and let Rhea rearrange her in her arms. It was another something she perceived that Rhea and Daemon were equal. They both liked to hold her and Alyssa close. Hugs, kisses, caressing in the hair, holding them to sleep or even just keeping them at their side. Sometimes they looked at them as if they were their little miracle as if they had to be touching them so they would be real, feel real. As if they thought that they would disappear with the gust of the wind.

She imagined how history would have gone differently if Rhea and Daemon had children in the first timeline.

Princess Alyssa’s open letter to the Lords of the Vale of Arryn:

Runestone is mine. By right of blood and inheritance. Gunthor and his sons can try to stake their claim in hell. It was my mother, Lady Rhea of Runestone, who dedicated decades of her life to this land. Who fought to protect it from the Mountain Clans and the pirates that tried to attack our ports. It was my sister and me who worked to make sure the people of these lands were happy, fed, and warm in the winters. It was me who bleed for Runestone. I was the one who learned the Royce ways, the one who prayed to its Godswood and completed our sacred rites. Runestone is mine like the Eyrie is Jeyne’s. I care not if your fragile masculinity felt slight over Gunthor being passed over for daughters, but this is not of your f*cking business. To you who decide to support Gunthor’s claim, know that Blood and Fire wait for you, and know that We Remember.

Excerpt from History through letters Maester Deverik

ARYA

The training yard was always full, which made she and Waymar would train in a yard near the garden. It was out of people's way, but completely visible to the guards on the battlements and less crowded than the training yard where the recruits and the men would be training. They would train under the watchful eyes of her mother and Uncle Willam, and sometimes her father when he was in the Keep. Ser Luthor and Ser Malik (newly knighted by her uncle) were the ones that would teach them.

Ser Luthor was a Tyrell and wasn’t happy to be teaching a girl to fight, but when he perceived her potential and received a soundly scolding from her mother his attitude changed enough that he would become a great teacher. Ser Malik had been more tolerant, after all the North had a strong culture of shieldmaidens, and while no Manderly lady had ever been one, they had married enough Starks, Hornwoods, and Harclays to know how to respect one.

Now that yard was fuller. Ser Rickard Thorne and Jon were with them to learn how to fight, and Sansa had said that soon they would receive Jon’s former playmates to be fostered at Runestone. A Reyne of Castamere and a Celtigar of the Claw Isle. Devan and Aemon as Jon called them with a smile. Arya already knew them of her time visiting the Red Keep. They were ok.

For boys.

“Ser Luthor, I have to find a small blunt dagger,” Arya said to her sworn shield. Waymar and Jon were sparring while she waited for her turn.

“I am pretty sure that you already have many daggers, Princess Alyssa,” the Reachman said with a raised eyebrow. “And all of them sharp enough to make the Bolton envious.”

“Well, yeah!” It was true. Rhea didn’t like her large collection of blades, especially the sharp ones, but as long as she was responsible about them, her mother would let her keep them. “But that’s not for me, it’s for Lena. I promised that I would teach her to defend herself.”

“Princess Selaena has an interest in fighting?” Ser Luthor asked with surprise.

“No, but she wants to defend herself.”

“Does she understand that Ser Malik and I are here for it?”

“Of course, we do,” Arya rolled her eyes. “But you are men, you cannot be with us all the time. Our great-grandmother was attacked in Maidenpool when she was alone you know? Not even the Kingsguard were allowed to enter.”

“That is true,” Ser Luthor said with a frown. “I will take this matter to your parents and then I will find a practice dagger for Princess Selaena. If your parents give us permission I will personally teach her self-defense so no one can take advantage of her when we cannot be with her.”

Deliberately Arya threw her arms around the knight.

“Thank you, Ser Luthor.”

“Alright, Princess, but you also need your own training,” he said with a smirk. “Will you be gentle with your cousin?”

“Not really,” she answered with a conspiratorial smirk when they perceived that Jon had just won the sparing match against Waymar. Ser Rickard looked at him with pride. This meant that it was her time to spar against him.

“Are you ready, cousin?” Arya asked and Jon looked at her with a smile.

“You know I am!”

Arya enjoyed the woods that circled Runestone more than one could tell. As promised in Jon’s name day, her mother had arranged a small hunting party for them. Rhea and Daemon led the party, but she, Jon, and Waymar were the ones that had the more fun there. They returned to the keep with a deer, five rabbits, and a boar that they had hunted. The feast had been fun, full of music and dancing and she was happy, knowing that she had been the one to shoot down one of the rabbits and the deer.

The morning after the feast, the door of her room opened and revealed her mother entering her chambers. Arya always liked when they were in Runestone and they could use the simplest dress they had, for practicality and comfort rather than dress to show off beauty and wealth.

Wealth that sometimes they wouldn’t have, she thought to herself.

It was something stupid at the court, how sometimes people would waste money they didn’t have on silks, lace, and jewelry to show off and then end up in stupid debts. At least here on Runestone, she didn’t have to dress like a doll at official functions, for her mother would happily let her in breeches and tunics all day if she wanted, for Rhea herself wouldn’t mind dressing like she was about to be paraded to other houses.

“Good morning, little love,” she looks to her mother that walked and sat on the bed, at her side. “Did it satisfy your bloodthirsty for little animals in the forest?”

“It was fun,” Arya said with an impish smile.

“Little bloodthirsty pesty,” Rhea laughed while hugging her. “So, do you want to tell me why you think that your sister needs to know self-defense?”

“Targaryen are easy targets out of a dragon’s back. Queen Alysanne was attacked in Maidenpool by Septas.”

“Do you think that someone would attack your sister?” Rhea asked and Arya knew that her mother was trying to get out of her if anyone had threatened them. No one had, but maybe…

“Everyone says that Selaena will be the most beautiful woman in the Seven Kingdoms one day,” Rhea nodded, her youngster, it seemed had inherited her Great-Aunt Viserra's beauty or so many would say. Arya wasn’t sure if it was the Targaryen beauty, but she could still see some of the Stark traits in Sansa’s new body. The mix of Valyrian and First Men features along with Sansa’s own pretty smile was a promising thing. “Men do covet beauty, and if she is alone like Queen Alysanne was, she would be an easy target for them.”

“You think that someone would try to hurt your sister because she is beautiful?”

“It happens, doesn’t it? I was here when that washerwoman demanded justice for a rapist. He raped her because she was beautiful,” Arya tried to make it sound childish fearing, but unlike Sansa, she wasn’t a great actress that could simply change herself at will.

Not without a new face to wear at least.

“Little love, that woman was attacked because she is beautiful, she was attacked because that man was a coward rapist,” Rhea said, serious and patiently and Arya nodded in agreement.

“I am not blaming the woman for the attack, Muña, the man was a coward and could and would have attacked any other woman, but she was selected by her beauty. And beauty is something that Selaena has to spare. I don’t want someone to hurt her,” Arya said, truthfully. She would kill anyone that tried to hurt her sister. Assuming of course, that Lady and Summer wouldn’t have reached the aggressor before her. Rhea sighed and her eyes turned to her. Rhea had brown eyes like her hair, a warm winter color that contrasted with her white skin.

“Alright, I will tell Ser Luthor to find a wooden dagger for Selaena to practice with you. But your sister isn’t a warrior, she will never like being in a training yard.”

“Selaena doesn’t need to be a warrior, she just needs to be able to defend herself!” Arya said.

“You will respect your sister’s limitations?”

“As she respects mine,” Arya promised, and Rhea kissed her cheek.

“Then you will train with her in the dance hall. Only the two of you and Ser Luthor. If you want your sister to be able to defend herself, then people better not know that she can defend herself.” Arya could see the tactical advantage behind this thinking and nod in agreement. “You will start after we return from the North.”

“Why can’t Jae and I go with you?”

“Because Jaehearon’s fostering was agreed upon his stay with Daemon and your father will be staying in Runestone because he needs to be close to the Red Keep and closer to Illyria’s Garden. I can take you, but I thought that you would prefer to stay with your cousin than have another stuffing journey.”

“It’s okay, I have to make sure that Jae will be the best warrior of Westeros,” she said with a smirk and her mother laughed. “And if I leave Waymar again, he will just slack off his training.”

“Of course, you do, little storm. We should go break our feast.”

Of all periods of my life, Runestone is perhaps the most idyllic of them. I remember to have been sent there after my mother’s death, and I lived with my cousins and aunt. Red Keep is my home, but Runestone was where I had my first solo flight. Was where I would spar with Alyssa, Devan, Aemon, and Waymar. Where I could read with Selaena for the longest time. I had duties, of course, but no real special treatment or people who sought me for favors when I was too young to understand them. The four years I spent on Runestone were essential for the man I became.

Excerpt from the Journal of King Jaehearon I

JON

Jon discovered that Runestone was exactly what Sansa and Arya had described to him. The keep itself wasn’t made to be beautiful, it was robust and easy to defend, very much like Winterfell there was little aesthetic for it.

It was a defiance against the moors and the Vale.

It had one garden, though, pretty and full of flowers that were used by the castle maids to make scented oils and soaps. But the place that he liked the most was the Godswood. The Royce was of the old faith, like the Stark, and kept their Godswood untouched. It was as sacred to them as a sept was for a person of the Seven.

His fostering at Runestone didn’t mean that his royal studies had stopped, only that he had new tutors. He was used to Ser Harrold's gentle teaching on the ground, which made him think of Ser Rodrick Cassel, but now he was taught mostly by Ser Rickard Thorne and twice a week by his Uncle Daemon, the first was less gentle than Ser Harrold, but the later was brutal. Even with Arya. It was clear that Daemon did not believe in the “gentler sex” theory, because he made his oldest daughter work just as much as the rest of them.

Still, after every brutal training, Daemon would take them to the godswood where a small stream passed through, and let them all relax in the shades of the trees, sometimes Rhea and Selaena would join them and bring some pastries and water. During these idyllic afternoons, his aunt would share with them stories of the First Men or Daemon would tell tales of the Valyrian.

“I can’t believe Aunt Rhea is going to go North and leave us,” Waymar said. “I always wanted to see Winterfell!”

“Well, the only way of we all go North, is if Kepa goes with us,” Arya said looking at her father with pretty dual eyes, begging him.

“I cannot take half and a moon journey up North, ñuha jelevre, not yet anyway,” Daemon said. “I will take you North when the situation of Illyria’s Garden is more secure. And I will even take the two of you if your fathers give me the approval.”

“Do you think father would be against me having a procession when I am older?” Jon asked. “This way I can travel the Seven Kingdoms!”

“I don’t think that your father would be against it. With the proper arrangements, it would be a good way for you to know the lands that you will one day rule,” his uncle looked pensive.

“Have you traveled the Kingdoms, Prince Daemon?” Waymar asked looking at the oldest prince with dark eyes shining in curiosity.

“All the Kingdoms,” he answered. “From the Last Heart to Starpike. Though I admit that I didn’t do much sightseeing, it was when I was raising banners for Viserys’ claim,” like history said. His mother had been pregnant in the year 100-101 from one of his unborn siblings, so while his father was taking care of Aemma and Rhaenyra, who was still young, it was Daemon who had defended his claim. In history though, they would have many fights, all of them arranged and manipulated by Otto f*cking Hightower. “I did travel through some of the Free Cities though, Lys and Pentos were where I spent most of my time.”

“So cool!” Waymar said with a toothy smile.

“Kepa is the coolest!” Arya said triumphantly. “I want to have a procession too, Kepa! And see Essos too!”

“Maybe you could join your cousin’s procession, ñuha jelevre. As for Essos, you better talk to your mother.”

Time with the dragons was perhaps Jon’s favorite part of the day. He and Sansa were considered too young to fly by themselves, but Daemon would take them on Caraxes while Arya seemed to be trying to emulate Rhaenys. She would stay in the clouds for as long as Daemon permitted her, and when back on the ground she would baby-talk with the dragon in a way that was much more girlier than he would ever associate with Arya.

“Kepus,” He said while caressing Ghost snot, “Why don’t Aunt Rhea place chains in the dragon pit here at Runestone?”

“Rhea didn’t want to add it, even after I said that it had on the dragon pit of the King’s Landing. She said that it didn’t seem fair to them,” there was a small smile on his uncle’s lips when he said that. “Rhea understands dragons better than some Targaryen.”

“Can Kepa bond with another dragon?”

“That is a tricky question,” Daemon said. “Why do you want to know?”

“Well, Kepa told me that Balerion was his greatest friend for a short while and that he loved flying, I think that he is reluctant to bond with another dragon because he doesn’t want another to replace Balerion,” Jon said and saw as the older prince nodded. A little ahead of them, Sansa was petting Lady whose head was laying next to her. Bran, or Summer, was annoying Caraxes by running after the older dragon’s tail. Nymeria and Arya were practicing commands.

“Hm… It does make sense, I think,” Daemon said. “There are few registries of Valyrian flying on more than one dragon. Some cases were special like Selaena. That’s because it is a rare thing for a rider to outlive their dragons for so long, usually, the riders would either die with their dragons or outlive them for very few years.”

“So if Kepa found another dragon, he could bond with them?”

“Perhaps, but would Viserys want to ride another dragon?” Daemon asked in return and Jon sighed.

Mayhap he could convince Viserys to try again. That was something to talk about with his cousins later.

Notes:

This chapter is a bit of a filler, but I really wanted to write and post this. So I hope you have appreciated!

Chapter 11: Honesty

Summary:

Rhea prepares to leave Runestone, Corlys listens to Jaehearon's advice and Daemon has some fun.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Honesty is more than answering a question truthfully. It is being open and transparent... It is not withholding, it is telling the whole story...

It is not just telling the part you want them to know, it is coming forward even if you know it might be hard, it is not waiting until they ask.

Unknown author

RHEA

Rhea loved watching the children training in the small yard. Well, not all, since Selaena was in Daemon’s arms at her side. Today the knights were training them. They were having so much fun. After three moons, the children had a comfortable routine and so did she. It was a good break from her hours of work and the preparation for yet another journey. Her three moons' stay at Red Keep had made all sorts of annoying work accumulate at her desk. After all, not everything could be decided without a closer investigation.

Daemon, the c*nt, had laughed when he saw the pile of work that she has been working through.

“You are tense,” Daemon said at her side. “Want a massage?”

She rose her eyebrow before looking back to the children.

“It would be difficult with a baby in your arms, wouldn’t it?”

“Selaena isn’t baby!” her daughter protested adorably, and she turned to her daughter who was pouting at her. Daemon had an amused smirk that she wanted to slap off him.

“From where I’m looking, you are little heart,” she said, “My little baby,” she kissed the tip of the girl’s nose. “Shouldn’t she be with her governess?” Rhea asked Daemon.

“In a week you are taking her to the North, I think that I will hold her a little more.”

“She has lessons, Daemon,” she pointed out.

“That she is exceeding every expectation of a child of her age. A little recess is good for her,” he smirked, and she sighed, in a silent prayer to the Old Gods to give her patience.

“You are impossible!”

“No, I am a Prince of the blood!” Rolling her eyes, she turned her back to him.

“I have to return to work, Selaena needs to study, don’t forget it.”

“I will return her to the boring classes soon,” Daemon said and then she left.

Rhea walked to her solar and worked for hours. Taxation issues, the damned Mountain Clans that had taken advantage of the dragons disappearance in the three moons they went away and attacked some of the smaller villages under the Runestone protection, the renovations at the port, some criminals that had been judged and would be sent to the Wall, and of course the annoying letters from the Citadel requesting permission to send a Maester or two to study the runes of Runestone.

That is a hard no, she said finally ending that letter. The runes were a secret of her family, and she wouldn’t have a f*cking Maester there to study it and they say what they meant when she already knew what they were about.

“You are still here?” She turned and watched as Saoirse entered her room with her big brown eyes wide.

“I was working.”

“Aye, now is time to take a bath and prepare for diner,” her lady-in-waiting said. “I had your maids prepare the water for you.”

“Thank you, Saoirse,” she said gracefully.

In her room, her maid helped her undress and bathe and dress again, in a comfortable dress that would be easier to take off after she returned to her chambers. Gods she didn’t miss the court elaborate dresses. Not one bit!

Dinner was an almost festive meal in Runestone, with the children annoying one another, the adults partaking in some light conversation, and her dogs looking for scraps of food with the children. Jaehearon had been able to adapt well and now had become very friendly with Waymar, but he liked to spend most of his time with Selaena, reading for her or so was what Kress, Selaena’s governess, said.

By the time she returned to her room, exhausted from her long day, she found that Daemon was already there. And considering that he had his own room, she knew what that meant.

“You put the girls to sleep?” He asked while moving to her with all the grace of a cat.

“I did,” he encircled her. “So, why are you here?”

“I want to talk,” her eyebrow raised when she perceived his hands on her hips.

“No, you don’t want to talk,” she said, and he groaned. “You know our agreement, Daemon. It has been in place ever since Alyssa’s birth. Honesty, without subtlety or half-words, no withholding.”

“You are a cruel mistress,” she sneered when he tried to put his nose on the neck.

“No, I am your wife,” it was his time to sneer at her. “And I don’t like games.”

“Alright, I want to f*ck you,” he said while pulling her to him. “I want to f*ck you so hard against that bed that the Prince of Dorne will wake up with your moans. I want to f*ck you until you see stars and hear the sirens calling for you.”

“See, it wasn’t that hard, was it?” she provoked when she felt his hands on her back. “Isn’t it a lot simpler when you say it instead of going around offering stupid innuendos and playing with honeyed words?”

“You, my sweet wife, are a bitch!” he said and crashed his lips with hers.

It wasn’t tentative, like the beginning of their marriage. Rather it was deep, raw, and demanding.

Almost violent.

“And you are a cretin, yet here we are!”

He bite the lobe of her ear and then murmured: “yet here we are…”

“I swear, if you rip another one of my dresses, I will send you back to your room,” she said when felt his tensed fingers on her back.

“You are a spoilsport,” he murmured. “I could give you hundreds of dresses to replace this one, you know?”

“I don’t care if you can give thousands,” Rhea replied, “You know that eventually, all my dresses join the donation bin to the city’s poor house!”

“Boring,” he answered, but then helped her out of the dress without destroying it.

He could be considerate when he wanted.

But his hunger was not kind.

He bites, he scratched, and he pounded mercilessly.

She peaked many times but returned to his treatment.

She was sure that her nails might have broken his skin, not that he seemed to care.

When they fell back on her bed, she turned to him.

“Don’t try that sweet talk with me again,” she warned him, her voice rough after her efforts to contain her moans, “all that I want from you is honesty.”

“I thought that women liked to be seduced,” he said, his breath touching her lips.

“If I wanted to be seduced, I would go to a whor*house,” Daemon’s eyes flared up and soon he was over her.

“If what you want honesty, let me be honest with you: the only man who will ever f*ck your c*nt is me,” he said and kissed her again.

The War of Stepstones of the years 111-113 AC was bloody, but relatively short one. But once it was done the Triarchy was completely gone, their ships had been taken as spoils by the Westeros lords and the trade routes of the Stepstones was once again free for them. The eastern ports of Westeros could have suffered more if Lord Corlys Velaryon, the Master of Ships, hadn’t united over twenty lords of the Narrow Sea to demand help of the Crown to deal with the pirates. It was this act that cemented the Sea Snake position on the Small Council and as one of the advisors of the King.

Excerpt from The Sea Snake, Maester Devan

CORLYS

With Jaehearon’s advice in mind, Corlys sent ravens to the Lords of the Narrow Sea, and beyond, questioning them if they were having problems with the so-called Triarchy in the Stepstones and inviting them to show a united front in their demand for help. It had results. Lords from Crownlands, Stormlands, the Vale, and the North had sent representatives. Enough that when they appeared in court to spread their grievances, the Hand of the King looked at him as if he planned to murder him.

“Otto, you assured me that the situation in Stepstones wasn’t as dire as it appeared,” Viserys said to his Hand looking at him with an arched eyebrow.

“Perhaps the situation doesn’t appear as dire to the Lord Hand because his brother is one that is profiting from what is happening to our ships,” Lord Manderly said, and the court looked at the Northern Lord.

Corlys wouldn’t have put that words so forward, but then he did invite the Northern Lords and they were known for not beating around the bush or dancing around subjects. They speak clearly and plainly, even Lord Manderly who was the most “southern” in manners amongst the Northern Lords was direct and sharp when needed.

“And how would Lord of Hightower be benefiting from this tragedy, Lord Manderly?” Lord Strong asked, frowning at him.

“Simple, Master of Laws, with the Stepstones taken by pirates and under the control of the so-called Triarchy no merchant ship will pass through it and are forced to look for other routes to Westeros. This means that merchant ships from the south-east would usually come through the Narrow Sea to King’s Landing, Gulltown, and White Harbour—and please note that I am naming only the biggest ports and not the various others smaller but no less important ports of our realm—have to go all way to the Reach, stopping at Oldtown who pays tribute to the Hightower.”

Corlys was surprised by the information because he really had not thought of it. He knew that the trade routes were being disruptive to him, but he had failed to seek who was benefiting from it.

“That is a grave accusation, Lord Manderly, do you have proof?” The Hand asked looking at the Northern man with something akin to rage in his eyes.

“If we demand the registries of the ports of Oldtown of the last three years, you will guarantee that there will not have a significant increase in port movement in the last six moons, that is as long as the so-called Triarchy had taken control over Stepstones?” The Lord of White Harbour challenged. “Ships from Lys, Volantis, Summer Islands and so many other important commercial partners are unable to reach the ports of east of Westeros because of these pirates.”

“By your own logic it can be said that my brother must be suffering for the North-east cities like Braavos and Pentos must not be reaching his ports either.”

“Well, I don’t see your brother complaining here,” Corlys pointed. “Your Grace, all of our ports are starting to suffer commercial losses because of the Pirates, some of our sailors are being tortured to death by the one who calls himself Crabfeeder. Are you going to allow this to happen because someone that didn’t even care to begin to understand what is happening told you that the situation was under control? It is clear that the Lord Hand either doesn’t care about what is happening or doesn’t even understand the gravity of the situation for the other lords of the realm.”

“I will have your explanation on why you thought that the situation was under control Otto when it clearly isn’t,” the King asked with a frown.

“Your Grace, till the moment I hadn’t received the information about the loses of Lord Menderly or Lord Arryn’s ships,” the sneaky thing said to the king and Corlys scoffed.

“Then you are not reading the reports that you ask the rest of the council to write as diligently as you ought because I did include the information pertaining to the White Wind and the Sea Falcon, as there was the information of Storm Trader and Princess Argelia of the Baratheon,” he said.

“That’s enough,” the King said and got to his feet. “Lord Velaryon, you will have the men and the resources for the war. Otto, call the banners. If this Triarchy wants war, we will give it to them,” Viserys said and the people at Court cheered.

He looked to where Rhaenys was standing, Laenor and Laena next to her. She gave him a proud smile. Very different from the cold and unnerving one coming from the Hand. Jaehearon was right, alone the Hightower c*nt would have been able to say that it was only in Driftmark’s interest that he wanted to get rid of the damned pirates. A personal crusade. A united front of various lords of the Narrow Sea showed that it was in the realm’s interest to get rid of the Triarchy.

Was he so self-centered that he failed to see what a boy of five could? Daemon said that the prince spent a good part of his day reading and studying, but it still wasn’t usual for a boy so young to make such connections as he had. Of course, he knew that everyone believed the boy to be a prodigy with how he learned languages and how fast he learned to read and write. He thought that it was an exaggeration to puff the child’s ego, many people had been interested in flattering the Prince of the Seven Kingdoms after all. But could it be true?

“You look too serious for someone that just got the King to do what they wanted,” Rhaenys said, appearing at his side.

“Don’t you think that it is strange that a boy of five could come up with such an effective plan to neutralize the Hand’s influence on the King?” he questioned and saw as his wife smiled at him.

“Still at it? Corlys, everyone in this keep knows that Prince Jaehearon is very intelligent and he knows his father well enough to understand how to make him listen to reason,” Rhaenys argued. “Also, does it matter how you had it done, as long as you got the resources we need? Let it go.”

The Royce of Runestone of the beginning of the second century of the Targaryen Dynasty had about fifteen ships, of which was mostly used for trade, except during the War of Stepstones when they were easily converted into warships under the admiralship of Ser Willam Royce, Lady Rhea’s cousin and Master-at-arms. Amongst these ships there was the Bronze Giant, a beautiful carrack with bronze sails and black features, the prow shaped as a giant with a Warhammer and bronze painting. Lady Royce favoured it whenever she needed to make travels by the ocean.

Excerpt from Runestone: the castles, lands, cities and everything it owned, by Maester Garmon.

DAEMON

He looked at his wife’s favored vessel, Bronze Giant, who was getting ready to leave. A journey up North would take her eleven days to White Harbour and another four days to Winterfell if the weather was favorable. Then she would stay for a while and return with one or two female companions for Alyssa and an agreement for two weirwood trees, or more.

Daemon didn’t like the idea of his youngster being away from home without him, but he knew that Rhea would take great care of them.

And so will the dragons.

“For f*ck’s sake!” He heard his lady of a wife complain when she observed Summer and Lady flying above them. “Shouldn’t they be at the dragon pit?”

“It seems that they will be going with you,” he smirked at her.

Summer’s bright orange scales gleamed like flames when he passed near them, while Lady, being smaller than the orange menace, still at the size of a pony, landed on one of the masts. Her pink and lavender scales shimmered as if covered with glittering stones.

“They should stay here,” she said.

“Summer don’t even like to let Selaena out of his field of vision, he wouldn’t let you take his rider so far away from him,” was he having fun with her exasperation? Yes, very much so. “And what is the problem about Lady? She is the tamest beast in the Vale.”

“The tamest beast in the Vale, but still a dragon.”

“She will only attack if someone is foolish enough to try to hurt our daughter. And if it ever reaches this point, then the person really deserves to become her snack.” Rhea rolled her eyes at him.

“I cannot take two dragons to the Stark territory!”

“Why not? I did take one, once,” he said with a smirk.

“You took a dragon that you can control.”

“Selaena has total control over Summer and Lady,” Daemon knew that his smirking was only getting Rhea more annoyed.

“Don’t be such a c*nt, Daemon!”

“The Stark won’t take offense if you take the dragons, Rhea,” he said, his voice low and soothing. “Also, think of them as extra security.”

“Why are her dragons' such menaces?”

“Summer is a menace, Lady is only following her twin,” he said with a charming smile, and she smacked him.

“You only want Summer to stop tormenting Caraxes,” Rhea said, and he gave her a faux long-suffering sigh.

“Poor Caraxes will get grey and old soon if our daughter’s menace doesn’t stop tormenting him.”

“Dramatic c*nt,” she said under her breath, and he smirked at her.

“Bronze bitch,” he returned, before she could say anything, the captain approached them to inform them that they were ready to leave. The nursemaid had taken a sleepy Selaena inside Rhea’s cabin. It was after all, little after dawn. “Take care.”

“Don’t burn my castle down,” she demanded, and he resisted the urge to kiss her, they were in public after all. So, he only smirked.

“I can’t make any promises, you are leaving me with three dragons after all,” he said and she shook her head, giving him one exasperated sigh.

“Take care of Alyssa and Jaehearon.”

“Take care of Selaena,” he demanded in return, and she gave him a short nod before turning her back to him and walking towards the ship.

He didn’t stay to watch the ship set off, instead, he went to where Caraxes was and mounted his dragon. They flew above the ship for some time, in their company Lady and Summer.

He didn’t know how long he and Caraxes had flown making company to his wife’s ship before he returned to the dragon pit. It was afternoon when he returned to the Keep and found his eldest training with a bow and arrow.

“Prince Daemon,” he turned and found Willam approaching him with a smile. “We need your orders regarding one of the Mountain Clans' incursions in a village under Runestone protection.”

“My orders?” to say that he was confused would be an understatement.

“Yes, Rhea let you in charge of Runestone while she is away, that means that every decision must bypass you,” Willam arched an eyebrow at him. “Didn’t you know it?”

“No, I wasn’t informed. What else must I being in charge means?”

“That you will also have to hold court the day after tomorrow,” the Master-of-arms said. “Be thankful that I am the one calling you and not the steward, as you know Egen doesn’t like you.”

He sneered thinking about the steward that served his wife. No, the man really disliked him.

“So you are saying that until Rhea is back, I am the Lord Regent of Runestone?” he asked lazily, if one needed to do a comparison, they would say that he looked like a cat who got his prey.

“Yes, why?”

“Well, that is going to be fun,” he said mostly to himself while another smirk spread on his lips.

Notes:

Hello everyone! Hope everyone's fine and that you enjoyed the chapter.
So, I decide to post today instead of tomorrow because I will post another chapter on Saturday.

Here are the chapters I have already written:
11. Honesty (22 of Feb/today) Because I will post a chapter next Saturday, I will post this one later today.
12. A pleasant stay in the North (26 of Feb) I think that this one is a bit of filler too, so I decided to anticipate its posting.
13. War comes our way (02 of March)
14. Sending my love home
15. Our last minutes of peace
16. Countdown
17. The morning after (in writing)

There are chances that I might change the chapter title, but for now, that's it!
See you on Saturday!

Chapter 12: A pleasant stay in the North

Summary:

Meeting the Starks.

Notes:

A bit of filler, but with important information for future events.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

There were many reasons why Queen Alysanne had chosen Lady Rhea Royce of Runestone as Daemon’s bride. Her mother was Elys Arryn, the oldest sister of Aemma Arryn who was married to Prince Viserys. Elys Arryn was also the sister of Lord Rodrik Arryn of the Eyrie, and of Amanda Arryn who later married Ser Garlan Tyrell, the heir of Highgarden. Her father was Yorbert Royce Lord of Runestone, son of Robar Royce and Serena Stark, and kept a rather close relationship with his mother’s family—or as close as the many miles between Runestone and Winterfell permitted. Lady Rhea had also been named the Heir of Runestone, the second richest keep of the Vale, over her cousin Ser Willam. The marriage between Rhea and Daemon had the objective of tying Runestone and its riches to the crown, and also providing a connection between the Vale, the North, and the Reach to the House of the Dragon.

Excerpt from The Rogue Prince, Maester Gyldayn.

RHEA

Rhea was no longer used to such cold temperatures. Not after almost fourteen years of sharing a bed with someone who tended to be hotter than most normal people. Still, she did have some northern blood in her since her paternal grandmother had been Serena Stark, aunt to Rickon and Bennard Stark, the oldest sister to the late Lord Benjen Stark, so she would endure it with grace. Time and again she would look to her daughter and discover that the girl was more than just bearing the harsh cold of spring, she was delighting herself in it.

They arrived at Winterfell after five days after they left White Harbour. The Manderly received them with enough jubilation and even sent another two guards to guide them to Winterfell. It was there that they were received with enough feast fit for royalty.

“It is good to receive you, cousin,” Rickon smirked at her, “though I have to say, I wouldn’t imagine that you would bring dragons.”

“Unfortunately, Summer, the menace, doesn’t hear me, only Selaena, and decided that he would accompany us for the journey, Lady followed his suit,” Rhea said with a sigh.

“Lady? Who calls a dragon, Lady?” her cousin asked her with an amused grin.

“Apparently, my daughter,” was her answer. “So, about our letters?”

“Do you truly want to talk business on a feast?”

“I am pretty sure that our letters also had me asking about Cregan and Gilliane,” she replied with an arched eyebrow and looked around. “I don’t see either of them here.”

“Cregan, like your Selaena, is too small for such ruckus, as for Gilliane, you saw her, she is… big,” he said with wide eyes.

“I think the expression you are looking for is heavily pregnant,” Rhea corrected him, remembering the Lady of Winterfell, who walked around with her belly full to receive her, it was clear that she had been feeling ill. “I know some women who would kill you if you called them big.”

“Yourself included?”

“Yes,” she said without any reserves. “How is the pregnancy going to Lady Stark?”

“She is fine, most of the days, but sometimes she is very weak and the Maester doesn’t know if she will survive,” there was a heaviness on his voice that made her look at him with some pity. She couldn’t say that everything would be fine, she wasn’t a liar and childbirth was fifty-fifty when the woman was healthy and the Maesters were optimists. If they weren’t, then it was a much harder battle.

“I know little of her,” Rhea said after a while, “but everyone says that she is a strong woman, she will do her best. May the Old Gods bless and protect her.”

“From your mouth to their ears,” Rhea tried to smile at him.

It was the next day that they started to talk about business. The Stark was used to plant saplings of weirwood, they would plant as many saplings in the North as possible during spring, and watch them grow. In the North it was against the law to burn them, it was strange because sometimes from day to night, faces would appear on the saplings.

A small sign that either the Children weren’t as gone as people believed or that someone was taking it to themselves to make sure that the Gods would still hear them. Whatever it was, Rhea refused to have any other tree serve as the Heart-Tree of Illyria’s Garden, because her daughters deserved to have their gods at their side. The Old Gods and the Gods of the Fourteen Flames.

The problem was, since the Heart-Trees were as close to the Gods as possible, the Stark were reluctant to send them to the South given their history of burning them. And that was why she had to negotiate with them personally.

Rickon agreed to the sapling to the Godswood of Illyria’s Garden easily but was reluctant to a public godswood in the city that would stay within Illyria’s protection.

“Do you really think that someone would be a fool to try to take something of a dragon?” She questioned. “Selaena loves spending time at godswood, she wouldn’t permit anyone to take down one under her protection.”

“The Princess is three, can you promise me that someone of the faith won't sink their claws on her and make her forget about it?”

“I cannot because I do not claim to know the future,” Rhea said rolling her eyes. “All I can promise is that I am raising my daughters under the eyes of the Old Gods and I do believe that they deserve to be watched by them. To have their full protection.”

“I will have to consider it some more, Lady Royce.”

“Lord Stark,” she recognized a dismissal when she heard one and then left.

Now that ought to be a long battle, she thought to herself.

Guilliane Glover was a graceful lady of Winterfell. She was Lord Rickon's second wife, but the only one that he truly loved and the only one that gave him trueborn heirs. Her beauty was heralded in the North and unfairly discredit on South. None of her pregnancies were easy, and she lost more than one children still in her womb, but still she endured all of it with grace and fortitude that were repaid in form of two children: Cregan and Jonnel.

Excerpt of Chronicles of the Lords and Ladies of Winterfell, Vol. 2, Maester Wolkan

GUILLIANE

The Lady of Winterfell had good and bad days whenever she got pregnant. It had happened four years ago when she was expecting Cregan, but this time the symptoms were even more latent. Stronger. And she wasn’t sure if she would survive.

Because of it she would take Cregan every morning and go to Godswood to pray.

For a minute she had forgotten that the Princess’ dragons had decided, despite their best efforts, to make the Godswood their house for their stay. Rickon, Lady Royce, and even the Princess herself tried to guide the garron-sized beast of oranges scales and the pink-colored and pony-sized dragon to the stables they had secured and removed all the horses so they could be protected from the weather. Still, they remained. Rickon said that the two dragons had coiled themselves under the tree and stayed, only walking away to eat the food offered.

So, when she arrived and found the two Targaryen guards on the doors of her godswood, flanked by another two Royce guards, she knew that there was someone in her godswood. She gave them a nod and walked in, daring them to stop the Lady of the Keep in her own House, they couldn’t, after all, it was still her castle.

When she followed the trail to the heart tree she heard a joyful laugh and when she finally reached the Godswood she saw a sweet scene: the three name-days old princess was petting her dragon's snout, while the princess’s nursemaid and her sworn shield—a Manderly of White Harbour—observed everything.

“Mama! Dragon!” she looked to her side, where her son was pointing to the dragons.

“Yes, Cregan, those are dragons,” she said breathlessly.

They were small yet, by their standards, but they could still breathe fire and were more dangerous than wolves.

“Lady Stark,” she turned and saw as the Manderly knight approached her, a smile on his face.

“Ser Malik,” she gave him a nod, “should the Princess be here, it is quite cold?”

“Princess Selaena seems to feel comfortable in the cold, My Lady,” Ser Malik said pointing to the discarded cloak on the grass.

“And her dragons?” she asked, and the knight shrugged.

“Well, Summer is usually a menace, but he seems okay now.”

“And Lady?” it felt ridiculous calling a dragon Lady. Only a child would dare it.

“She usually just follows Summer, but isn’t as intent on causing trouble,” the knight said. “At Runestone, they like to perch at the castle battlements or towers. Summer more than Lady, she does like the pit well enough.”

Summer had earned many soubriquets, the Bright Fury, being the most famous but not the first. When he was young, Lady Rhea Royce, mother of Princess Selaena, would call him the Menace for all the trouble he would bring, and King Viserys would call him Summer, the Liberator for his quirk of freeing the dragons of the dragonpit whenever it struck him.

Excerpt from The Targaryen Dragons, Maester Limerick

SANSA

She perceived the exact moment Lady Guilliane entered the Godswood but pretended to be as distracted as a child would be with her dragons. She wasn’t. Lady had her head on her lap, but it was Bran she was caressing the snout.

She will die soon, Bran said in her mind, his river blue eyes turned to the Lady of Winterfell, their ancestress. The birthbed will kill her and the child. A boy, he was named Jonnel. They say that Lord Rickon died of a broken heart, not a year after.

Can you do something for her? She asked when she looked discreetly at the heavily pregnant lady.

It would take a lot of magic, but I believe that something can be done. Don’t you fear that it will change too many things? Cregan might not be as intended in having so many children, our parents might not even exist.

We want to change the future, anyway, was her answer. And well, technically, they are kin.

There are about eight generations between us, but I will do what I can, Bran said in her mind.

She knew that there was something that he was thinking about and didn’t want to share. It always came to it when the word magic appeared between them. She never pressed, just let shrug it off. She had little interest in magic and fairy tales. Before she would think that magic was the greatest thing in the world and oh how it would be wonderful to meet some of the figures of the Northern tales, but after the reality of King’s Landing under Joffrey's reign, her awe for magic and fairy tales was gone and when she first saw a dead man walking, raised by the Others, what rested of her awe of magic turned into dread. Now magic was a tool, like a blade. And she wasn’t keen on having either near her.

Sansa continued to pet Bran, he liked to have his snout and the base of his horns scratched.

“Princess Selaena,” she turned and found the Lady of Winterfell standing near her, Cregan looking more interested in the dragons.

Guilliane Glover was a classic northern beauty: fair skin, lite body though swollen by the pregnancy, thick black hair. Like Robett Glover of her first life, she had warm hazel eyes.

“Lady Stark, good morning,” she said politely but didn’t try to get up, knowing that Lady would protest.

“Good morning, Your Highness,” the woman gave her a gentle smile, “Do you pray to the Old Gods?”

“Yes, the Royce is of the Old Religion.”

“I thought that Runestone had a sept?”

“It was built for when one of my ancestors married an Arryn, long before even my grandmother Elys,” Sansa explained, “but it was rarely used, even the servants at Runestone usually pray for the Old Gods more than the Seven.”

“You know your history well,” Lady Stark said and Sansa nodded eagerly.

“Can I pet dragon too?” Cregan asked her, seemingly unable to contain his excitement and Sansa smiled at him.

Cregan Stark was a cute child and in truth, he reminded her of her wildish brother, Rickon, if not for the raven-black hair and the silver-grey eyes, she would be tempted to call him after her brother. Her heart squeezed whenever she would think of Rickon, of the Umber betrayal and whatever he must have suffered in his final days of life under the power of Bolton.

I should never have left him, Bran mourned in her mind.

We shouldn’t let the Bolton live long, she replied and was met with silence.

“Give me your hand,” she said, and the boy looked at her with a frown. “I will let you pet Lady,” she promised, and the boy gave her his hand that she gently guided to Lady’s favorite scratch place: the space between her lavender eyes. “Be gentle, please.”

She knew that she was carefully watched by the Lady of Winterfell and everyone else, they were probably very anxious with the heir of Winterfell so close to a dragon’s mouth. Understandably.

“She’s pretty,” Cregan said, and Sansa looked at him. The boy had only recently reached his third name day. She knew that he would grow up to be one of the finest swordsmen in the Seven Kingdom, as the own Dragonknight, Aemon, had once said.

“Lady is the prettiest,” she agreed. “Muña says that Summer is a menace, but he really isn’t.”

“She is warm too.”

“That’s because dragons are fire made flesh,” Lady Guiliane said, sitting in a trunk that had been moved there, probably so their lady wouldn’t have to stand or kneel on the ground in her condition. “Isn’t that right, Princess Selaena?”

“They are!” she answered all too happy.

“This one even looks like a living flame,” the Lady of Winterfell said pointing to Bran.

“Summer is a menace,” Sansa looked and saw her mother entering the Godswood. “Don’t be fooled by his pretty scales and blue eyes, he is one of the most annoying creatures that live in this world.”

“Summer is a good boy,” Sansa protested while Bran, at her side shoved his head near her.

She says it because I don’t like being inside the dragon pit all the time, she was sure that if a dragon could, Bran would have rolled his eyes.

“A good menace,” Rhea insisted to the Lady of Winterfell. “The dragon keepers at Runestone all complain that there is no command he hears, other than Selaena’s. They also complain that he likes to importunate Caraxes.”

Caraxes is a grouch, but he likes to play, and he likes attention, Bran defended himself. He is almost vainer than Lady.

Lady isn’t vain, Sansa defended her beloved dragon.

She is one of the vainest creatures in this world; past, present, and future creatures are accounted for in this sentence. Bran sneered.

“Caraxes like to play with the younger dragons!”

“I doubt that Caraxes likes to be bitten, even if lightly, by Summer,” Rhea argued, and Sansa pursed her lips.

“You don’t fear that the dragons will start to fight near your home?” the Lady of Winterfell asked.

“Summer isn’t one to fight, he is more too importunate and Caraxes seems to like him enough to not eat him,” Rhea said, gently to the other lady. “Our biggest problem is Ghost and Nymeria that recently started to have mock fights in the pit and the dragon keepers are always worried that it will escalate to something more dangerous. Caraxes stop them when they get too excited though.”

“Who would imagine that a dragon would be so responsible?” Lady Stark said with a laugh.

“If I didn’t see it myself, I would scarcely believe it,” Rhea agreed with some amusem*nt. “Though to be honest, Daemon is also very responsible when it comes to the children. Don’t get me wrong, he is a c*nt and a cretin more often than not, but when it comes to Alyssa and Selaena he is almost tame.”

Sansa held back her urge to sneer. It took her a while to understand the game played between Rhea and Daemon. Behind closed doors, they were best friends and even lovers. To everyone else they were disgusted by each other, they hate their marriage and would always seek to insult each other. The public shows of derision were their protection. More specifically, Rhea’s protection. Why would they seek to harm Daemon through Rhea if they believed that the marriage to Rhea was a punishment to him? Why hurt Rhea if Daemon wouldn’t care for it?

Rhea didn’t have enough enemies to make that necessary, but Daemon? By the gods known and unknown! He collected powerful enemies, especially after his brief tenure as the Master of Laws that he managed to have four lords of the court executed for corruption and misappropriation of the crown’s treasure, and another three sent to the Wall before Otto Hightower managed to have him transferred to the position of Master of Coin. He accused her father of being a tyrant when in reality Daemon had only been protecting the crown’s interest.

After some time there, they entered the keep though Cregan had wept that he wanted to play with Lady a little more. Completely understandable in her opinion, Lady was an awesome company. But even in summer, the North was a cold place, and it was better to not spend too much time at the mercy of nature if one didn’t want to invite a possible illness.

Letter from Lady Rhea Royce to Lord Rickon Stark

[...] I am looking for companions for my eldest daughter, Alyssa. Unfortunately, I fear that it would be a hard task to find even just one anywhere south of the Neck.

You probably have heard the rumours. My daughter is fierce and headstrong, more warrior than lady and I do permit her to train with swords and other weapons. I would like for her companions to be like-minded, for this I look North. My grandmother told me histories of the Shieldmaiden, she herself taught me the basics of defence before passing away.

So, if you have time to spare, could you please look for two little girls between the ages of seven and eleven who would be interested in becoming Alyssa's companions? [...]

Excerpt from History through letters Maester Deverik

RICKON

Griselda Wull and Signy Mormont were the companions he chose for Princess Alyssa at Lady Rhea’s request and parameters. That had left some unrest in the North.

Rickon wasn’t stupid. He knew that with Prince Jaehearon being fostered at Runestone, whoever he sent to the Vale with Lady Royce to serve as a companion to Princess Alyssa would inevitably be within the social sphere of Prince Jaehearon and gain a connection to him.

Houses all over the Seven Kingdoms must be sending letters to Lady Royce by the hundreds to have their children fostered with her and consequently with Prince Jaehearon. Letters that she probably declined.

So, when Lady Rhea sent a raven to him, asking for his help to find two companions to her oldest daughter he had been surprised. She requested only two things: for the children to have around seven to eleven years old and for them to be interested in training with swords and other weapons. Simple requests made it a vast list considering that the North was far more open-minded than the South and, in the past, they used to have a culture of Shieldmaiden back in the unification wars. Well, the Mormont and the Mountain clans kept the culture living, as did some of the cranogman.

Lady Rhea also promised compensation for the girls. Not only would they be educated by the finest tutors of the Vale, receive the education of the Old Religion by her, and have their pin money and all expenses paid from Runestone’s vaults, but they would also be gifted a thousand gold dragons to their dowries. Which was a formidable sum for the North.

What was supposed to be a silent and discreet search for the candidates for the positions in Runestone household became a headache when his brother, Bennard told his wife, Lady Margaret who sent the world to Karhold, and Lord Karstark for all his care and let the whole North knows of his task. In the last moons, all Lords of the North had sent him reports that listed the qualities and accomplishments of their daughters and nieces and granddaughters. He didn’t know what attracted them more: a connection to the crown, or the gold dragons promised.

Lord Karstark had been a menace trying to push for his oldest granddaughter, Lady Uma Karstark to be one of the companions sent for Princess Alyssa. Yet Uma Karstark was more of age for Princess Rhaenyra, being fourteen years old herself. Rickon turned Karstark's demands down, not bothering to explain the terms of Lady Rhea for the umpteenth, especially because he didn’t like how Karstark seemed to harbor some impression that he had the power to demand anything from him.

Still, he used the reports provided so willingly by the Lords of North and searched for the best candidates through them.

Clan Wull was the second most influent of the Mountain Clans of the North, but they were utterly loyal to House Stark and held the Wull Castle against the Wildlings for centuries in the name of his house. Lady Griselda was Princess Alyssa’s age, and Lord Wull had confirmed that his youngster granddaughter had been training to be a shieldmaiden since she was five.

House Mormont was perhaps one of the most loyal houses, and while not particularly rich or influential, they were the ones with the most prominent female warriors in the North Kingdom. Unfortunately, not out of the will to keep the shieldmaiden tradition alive, but out of necessity. Bear Isle was almost in constant attack, from the north came the damned wildlings, and from the south the damned krakens. This way both, men and women, were taught at an early age how to fight, hunt, and survive. And it hadn’t been different to Signy Mormont, age ten, niece of Lord Mormont. Lady Signy had been training since she was three. They said that she favored a battleaxe.

Because of his brother’s inability to keep things to himself, Lord Karstark was raising hell after he announced his choice and thanked the Lords that had sent him information on their daughters. Not everyone was pleased, but most acquiesced to his choice because they trusted that as the Warden of the North, he would choose the one that would benefit their Kingdom more. Lord Karstark on the other hand had sent him a raving letter of how he expected that he would have heard his advice since he was older and more knowledgeable and family.

Lord Karstark sometimes forces too much. It was probably the Bolton blood in the man.

It was in situations like this that Rickon would regret the trust he would put in his brother. It wasn’t that Bennard was a bad brother, he was only a weak man that was easily manipulated by Lady Margaret. Who in turn was a faithful pawn to her father’s ambitions.

He looked at the two girls with their parents behind them. Lady Griselda had dark auburn hair, in the sun it had a red gleam, her almond-shaped eyes were dark, and she had a square jawline that was so common within her kin, she was also tall to her age, almost reaching Lady Signy who was three years older than her. Lady Signy had freckles dusting her nose and high cheeks, not much, but it did contrast with her white skin, her cat-like eyes had a pretty shade of green and her black hair was long, braided at both side with silver bells added to the ribbons that kept them in place.

“Lord Stark,” Lady Wull started, “I don’t know how to thank you for this opportunity,” she said with a wary smile.

“I am not the one that is offering the opportunity, my lady,” he said.

“But you were the one who made the choice,” Lord Beric Mormont said. “And for that we are glad.”

“You’ll have the chance to thank Lady Royce later,” Rickon promised. “She is the one who wanted someone willing to join her daughter’s training.”

“A southern Princess being trained to swords, that is surprising.” Lady Wull said with surprise.

“Considering that she is of the blood of Valyria and the blood of the First Men, it shouldn’t be so surprising,” Rickon sneered. “Even the Rhoynar’s history is filled with warrior women. Only the Andals insist that ladies should not know to defend themselves.”

“Andals are rather strange. They bid that a woman cannot defend herself, but when she has attacked the blame and consequences are more often than not laid at her feet,” Lady Wull sneered.

“I doubt that someone as the Rogue Prince would make his daughters be raised for a slaughter,” Lord Beric smirked. “But say, where is Lady Royce?”

“We weren’t waiting for you until tomorrow, and because of its Lady Royce left with my lady wife and the children to Wintertown in the morning, they will be back to the feast. Though I must warn you, Princess Selaena’s dragons had chosen to take residency on my Godswood.”

Notes:

Hello everyone! Hope you enjoyed this off-schedule chapter.
See you on Thursday.

Here are the chapters I have already written:
12. A pleasant stay in the North (26 of Feb/Today)
13. War comes our way (02 of March)
14. Sending my love home
15. Our last minutes of peace
16. Countdown
17. The morning after (in writing)

Next chapter: a sneak peek into Otto's mind, Rhea cut short her visitation North, Daemon has thoughts on being left in charge.

Chapter 13: War comes our way

Summary:

The summons for war reaches North, and Rhea decides to leave earlier.
In the capital, a death can become an opportunity for the Hand.
In the Vale, Daemon muses on many things.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

One of the most ancient traditions of the First Men was the one relating to shieldmaiden. This tradition implied that when the men were sent to war their keeps would be left mostly unmanned, therefore the protection of the lands would fall on the shoulders of the women. Women would learn to fight and defend their land as any man, with swords, spears, axes, and whatever weapon they preferred. Those women were the shield of their lands, and for it were known as shieldmaidens.

Excerpt of A history of women in warfare, by Professor Alys Karstark of the Royal University of Wintertown.

RHEA

It took her a few minutes to decide that she liked the girls chosen by Rickon Stark. Griselda was a little shy and sweet, maybe with Alyssa around she could get a little more confident. Signy was just as confident as her eldest, but much less playful too. The two girls were also easily approved by Selaena, though her youngster really liked when Signy braided her hair and Griselda would tell them stories.

The girls were also enchanted by Lady and Summer, though Lady was their favorite giving that she let them pet her while Summer would huff and pout that Lady was paying more attention to humans than him when he tried to play with her.

Each would be taking but a guard and a handmaid from their houses. Not that it mattered much, for Runestone had enough servants to tend to them, should they need it.

What seemed to be a peaceful day, was disrupted by the screams of Lady Guilliane a little after breakfast. She started to labor, the servants said. Selaena had been most distracted that day which was uncommon given how much her daughter was observant and focused. She meant to see if Selaena needed something, but instead, her youngster daughter grabbed Cregan’s hand and started to play with him and the girls.

After six hours of labor, Jonnel Stark came into the world, crying as loudly as any baby. Lady Stark was exhausted, she heard, but safe despite the Maester’s earlier concerns. Her cousin had taken his second son and proudly show him off to everyone in the keep.

“I am glad that Lady Guilliane will be fine,” she said to her cousin when he let her take Jonnel in her arms. “I forgot how small they are in these first months.”

“But soon he will grow.”

“That he will,” she smiled down at the child.

“I have to thank you and the princess for having to distract Cregan while Guilliane was laboring,” Rickon said. “I know that her cries were loud.”

“Unfortunately, no one has yet invented a way to make the childbed comfortable,” Rhea said ruefully. “I should know.”

“I know that you almost died in your first pregnancy,” Rickon said, and she looked at him. It was unsurprisingly that he would know about her near-death experience. Probably the whole kingdom had some idea that the hemorrhage caused by Alyssa’s birth almost killed her. She had stayed abed for days, of which two were in a birthing fever. “I was genuinely surprised when they announced the birth of a second daughter.”

“Selaena was a surprise,” she said with a smile, “But a lovely one too.”

“She certainly is very lovely,” Rickon agreed. “You have a beautiful daughter, cousin.”

“Alyssa is also very beautiful, just less feminine than Selaena.”

“Let me guess, like you she prefers to be in breeches than dresses, would gladly change a class with a governess for a day hawking or training with swords?”

“I blame the Stark blood,” Rhea smirked. “Though I do know that the Targaryen blood did make her even more headstrong.”

“Probably,” Rickon smirked. “Tell me, is your husband still sore that we voted with her cousin and not his brother?”

“Not as much as Viserys is,” Rhea sneered and rolled her eyes.

It was a petty move from her brother-in-law to mainly ignore the North because all the Noble Houses up North had voted with Princess Rhaenys. Strangely enough, the North and Dorne were the places where women were less underestimated than the other kingdoms. Like Dorne, the North had its fair share of female rulers, and unlike Viserys, Rhaenys had already shown some political ability before the Council. They were also pretty annoyed with the Targaryen and their meddling with their lands like gifting the News Gift to the Night Watch. Rhaenys had promised to revert that decision if they voted for her.

“Thankfully, the North is used to dealing with their own problems rather than chasing the favor of someone,” Rickon sneered.

“That much is true,” Rhea smiled.

“Are you satisfied with the girls?”

“Griselda is a little shy and quiet, but very sweet, I think that Alyssa might help her a little out of her shell and hope that she will help make Alyssa a little more tempered,” Rhea smiled. “And Signy is very confident and has a deep knowledge of the Shieldmaiden culture. I hope that she will be able to impart and share it with my eldest and even Selaena if she so chooses this path.”

“Shieldmaiden is not a secret of our kingdom, is just highly disregarded in the South,” Rickon rolled his eyes.

“I know that” Rhea smiled. “Alyssa will make it a trend though.”

“And do you think that Lords south of the neck would ever let their daughters wield a blade?”

“I know how to wield one, just fine,” Rhea smiled.

As a second son, no one expected much of Otto Hightower, much less that he would rise as high as he did. When his sister was deflowered by Daemon Targaryen and the same refused to marry the girl, King Jaehaerys offered the House Hightower the position of Master of Laws in the Small Council to hush the affair. Otto was chosen by his brother to occupy the position and soon he became the Hand of the King. He climbed high and fast and his fall was slow, but with him, he took the whole House Hightower down.

Excerpt of Crumbing towers: the fall of House Hightower, by Professor Jaehaerys Targaryen of the Royal University of Oldtown

OTTO

He was furious.

How dare Lord Velaryon circumvent his authority like that? And how in the Seven Hells did Lord Manderly discover that his brother’s port had been profiting from the skirmish in Stepstones? Did he have a spy there? Now he had to alert his brother to be careful of spies, especially northern ones.

He could feel that by day he was walking on a tightrope ever since Amanda Tyrell, of Houses Arryn and Tyrell, informed the King that he had dismissed the Queen’s household claiming to be acting under the King’s orders. Viserys had been furious at him, especially because it also left his daughter and son without a household to help them around. Being taken by surprise as he had been with all the information the King had, he had a short time to come up with an excuse for getting rid of Aemma’s ladies, wards, and handmaids.

Now with how the damned Manderly revealed the profit his brother was having; he could feel the eyes of the King looking at him with some distrust hidden behind them.

That conversation also led to the Princess household being formed. Alicent, thankfully, was a part of the household, but he was unable to sneak other people inside it. His Alicent, Laena Velaryon, Dorea Westerling, and Kate Oakheart had been chosen as the Princess’ ladies, all their handmaids had been either brought with them or selected by Amanda Tyrell and Rhaenys Targaryen. A seamstress had been appointed by Lady Royce herself, her assistants all had to pass through a test and even the chef and cupbearers of the household passed through the Lady of Runestone scrutiny. And the household guards were handpicked by Prince Daemon. With one exception: the Dornish knight of House Cole, Ser Criston Cole, who was chosen by the princess herself as her sworn shield. A post that he coveted for Gwayne.

It would have kept him away from Stepstones and closer to the Princess.

To make it worse, the King had refused to remarry to the small council, even with the support of the Grandmaester, and his suggestion had been refused.

“What use for? I already have an heir, two if one counts Daemon,” Viserys said.

The Princess relaxed when her father said that as if she expected him to remarry too. Otto considered if they could use the princess as a way to have her make the King remarry, but it was a stupid thought. Alicent said that whenever the idea came up the girl would rage and curse and storm out.

At first, the King wanted to put the Princess into a procession to find her husband, but he was able to have the king dismiss this idea. After all the Kingdom was going into war, most of the eligible bachelors would be away and the resources needed to be better applied.

He felt that he was running out of time. That meant that he had to put Alicent on the King’s bed soon. But how?

How?

Viserys was refusing every lady that turned to his apartments. All the Kingsguard instructed to turn them away unless on official business, but always with at least one chaperone. The Regent Lady Tarbeck had been frustrated when Ser Ryam Redwyne sent her away for the lack of a chaperone when she did have a conversation scheduled with the King.

He tried to have Alicent accompany Princess Rhaenyra in her nightly meals with the King, but Rhaenyra said that those were private for the family. What frustrated him was that sometimes Laena Velaryon and Princess Rhaenys were invited. Because they were the blood of the dragon.

Then there was the issue of the Prince’s fostering. He tried to change it to Hightower, so he would be under his brother’s control and influence, easier to arrange a marriage between Jaehearon and Alerie, his brother’s granddaughter, but Viserys was adamant about keeping the boy at Runestone. And sneak someone at Runestone was impossible with how tight Lady Royce had her household.

If there is one thing that I hate about that woman is that she is paranoid. He thought to himself.

The woman was personally involved in the hiring of everyone in the keeping from the newest chambermaids to the kitchen aid and the help of the gardener. His only spies near her were posted in Runesport and the other villages near the Keep, which made that his spies could only have hearsay and rumors.

Even his brother and the Citadel were not able to infiltrate spies there.

He was taken from his thoughts when someone requested permission to enter his room.

“Lord Hand,” he saw as a servant stood in his doorway. “King Viserys demands your presence in the White Sword Tower.”

“For what reason?”

“Ser Ryam Redwyne died from a stroke about twenty minutes ago,” the servant said.

Finally, something interesting!

He got up from his desk and left for the tower that housed the seven members of the Kingsguard. Ryam Redwyne had been very insufferable as of late. Being the one that was mostly in charge of keeping the ladies out of Viserys bedchamber and controlling the access to the royal family.

“Your Grace, I came as soon as I heard the news,” he said entering the chambers that were occupied by the five remaining Kingsguard since Thorne has been staying in Runestone as Prince Jaehearon’s guard.

“Ah, Otto, please have the draft made for the compensation of Ser Redwyne and the preparations for his body and sword to be taken back to the Arbor,” the King said.

“Your Grace,” Ser Harrold started, “should I start to send for the possible candidates for the open position?”

“Yes, Ser Harrold, I would appreciate it if you can send the candidates soon. When they arrive, I shall call for Daemon and Jaehearon.”

“What for, Your Grace?” Otto questioned with a frown.

“Daemon is one of the best fighters of the Kingdom and Jaehearon is the King that they will one day serve, I would like his input.”

“Your Grace, the crown Prince is six name-days old. He is hardly qualified to judge the competence of those men,” Otto Hightower said.

“Jaehearon is my son and heir, those men will one day serve him,” Viserys said loud and clear. “I am not saying that he will have the last word, but I will hear his opinion.”

“Of course, Your Grace,” Otto said.

All I have to do is convince the boy to choose the one more useful to me.

He thought.

It wasn’t going to be easy.

Like his uncle, Prince Jaehearon seemed to be wary of him. And ever since he found Alicent in his father’s chambers, he was wary of her too so he couldn’t use her. The prince’s training had always been overseen by Ser Harrold and now by Ser Rickard and none of them were particularly hostile to him, so maybe he could use one of them?

But Daemon would be a hindrance.

Daemon was always a hindrance!

He would try to convince the boy to choose with him. Maybe if he could preselect some of the candidates that Ser Harrold would call in…

Plans

Schemes

More plans

It seemed that there was always needed something to be done. All to make sure that Westeros followed the right way.

Lady Royce who was in the North when the summons for war were sent, returned home ten days earlier than expected. As soon as she arrived, the Bronze Giant, and all other Royce vessels, were converted into warships.

Excerpt of Stepstones: A problem in the seas by Maester Allar

SANSA

She was furious. And actively avoiding Bran.

When she questioned Bran if he could save Lady Guilliane, she expected him to say no, or not be able. But he was able.

She was fine now. And so was Jonnel, who in the original timeline, would have been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck, killing him before he could even draw his first breath. Lady Guilliane would have died from birthing fever.

But both were alive because of Bran’s magic trick.

Then the realization hit her, hard.

Bran could have saved Aemma and Baelor.

If he could have saved them, but didn’t. It meant that he chose to let them die.

We cannot save everyone, Sansa, he said in her mind when she questioned him. People were actively trying to get them killed. I tried to protect them, but I would not waste magic on people that were doomed, to begin with when I also had you three to protect. And remember that when it comes between you, Jon and Arya, and everyone else, I will always choose you three.

For the sweetest answer it had been, it had also been a frustrating one.

If Aemma had lived long enough they wouldn’t be trying to make a miracle to keep Alicent out of Viserys bed. While miles away from Red Keep.

And Jon wouldn’t have to lose the only mother figure he had ever had!

And if Baelor had lived, then the Small Council would have even less ground to push him to remarry like they were starting to do if her father’s spies were correct.

And avoiding their death would be a lot of things, except a waste of magic. Viserys was completely in love with Aemma, had she lived he would never set her aside. Alicent would have never been Queen and have no children with claim to the throne. No Dance would have occurred, and the dragons would have survived! Why, oh why, would that be a waste of magic?

“Selaena,” she turned and found her mother standing in the nursery. “Kess will have your things ready, we will leave in the morning.”

“But why?” they should stay for another half and a week if her math was correct.

“Your Uncle Viserys is calling men to the War in the Stepstones. Your father and my cousin were called,” Sansa nodded.

Jon’s plan had worked then. Instead of letting the war occur like it would have, with the Velaryon leading the efforts and losing many men because of lack of resources. All they had to do was prove to the King that the Pirates on the Stepstones were an evil to the whole kingdom and not to Driftmark and House Velaryon only.

“Kepa will go to war with Caraxes?”

“Yes, little love, they will,” Rhea said and Sansa saw some worry in her eyes. “And we have to return to Runestone soon.”

“Alright Muña,” she said.

Gunthor Royce was the second son of Robert Royce, and first cousin to the brothers Yorbert and Yorwyck Royce. Under the influence of his mother and his wife, Gunthor deluded himself into believing that he should be the Heir of Runestone. He had the support of Arnold Arryn and the Houses Templeton, Dutton, the lords of the Three Sisters and of the House Tollet, who was sworn to House Royce and wasn't happy to be ruled by women.

Excerpt from The troublesome succession of the Eyrie, from Maester Garmon

DAEMON

"Dark wings, dark words." Someone once told him.

And weren’t they right?

He received two ravens of her brother at the timeframe of two weeks. What was worrying because they were to him and not to Jaehearon. The first raven was a war summon. It seemed that Lord Velaryon had managed to convince his brother that the Stepstone needed to be liberated from the pirates. The most recent one was a summon to court because Ryam Redwyne was dead, and his brother wanted his help to choose a new member of the Kingsguard.

It was almost a moon since Rhea and Selaena had left and he had come up with a new scheme of patrol on the Runestone lands, one that he planned to implement but now it seemed that he wouldn’t have time. Rhea’s raven arrived just a little before his brother’s second one, saying that they would be returning earlier because of the upcoming war.

Being the Lord Regent of Runestone hadn’t been half as fun as he had predicted. Did he have fun with the clansmen that would attack them? Yup. But the amount of bureaucracy left to him was one reason that made him glad that he would never inherit the Iron Throne if that was what one had to deal with every day. He was almost sure that the bitch had left that unholy amount of paperwork on purpose.

No wonder Viserys looks like he is at least a decade older than me if that is what he has to deal with…

“How are the weaponry?” He asked Willam when he found the man with a clipboard and a pencil, near their armory.

“Almost ready, Rhea sent orders to have our merchant ships turned into warships so I will go to the Port tomorrow.”

“And placed you as the admiral. Do you have any experience in ships?” It was pure curiosity that made him question it.

While he knew that the court was talking that he was furious to not be the one leading his wife’s army, he was anything but. First because while Willam had been given the responsibility of leading the Royce forces, he had been the one that would be leading the Targaryen ones. Soldiers from Kingslanding and Dragonstone would be under his command at his brother’s request.

“My mother was a Darklyn of Duskendale,” Willam smiled “and my father spent more time in the sea than the land. I am no Sea Snake, but I can command ships just fine.”

“Good.”

“Were you looking for me, my Prince?”

“A raven arrived just some hours ago. Gunthor Royce is coming, and he wants to be placed in charge of the warfare efforts.” He sneered while handing his wife’s cousin the letter that Maester Garmon had handed him.

“For f*cks sake,” a silver eyebrow arched, Willam was not a man who would swear much.

“Tell me about this cousin of yours.”

“Gunthor is a f*cker. Well, that is an understatement. His father was a cousin to my father and my uncle Yorbert. Somehow, he deluded himself to believe that he should be the Runestone heir when uncle Yorbert had only Rhea as a daughter and he is older than me, and of course, because his brother had already joined the Night’s Watch. He was furious when you and Rhea married, and Uncle Yorbert had her as the heir.”

“I remember when Yorbert died, he arrived here claiming to be the new lord when Rhea was pregnant with Alyssa.” Daemon sneered, at that time he and Rhea were barely civil with each other, and she didn’t want to involve him.

Willam took it upon himself to write to him to explain what was happening while Rhea was being harassed by her cousin while the old Maester was agreeing about male preference inheritance. Willam had almost staked his own claim, knowing that he came before Gunthor, if only to have his cousin sent away. It was at that same time that Arnold took arms against Lady Jeyne, who had just completed ten and was the new Lady of the Eyrie.

Lady Jeyne sent word to her aunt, Princess Aemma, and Viserys had sent him and Caraxes. At the time, their grandfather, Jaehaerys, was in bedrest and Otto f*cking Hightower was almost in control over the Seven Kingdoms and was preaching on why the Vale had to accept the laws of male primogeniture. With the loyal men of the Vale, he put Arnold in the Sky Cells and when he arrived in Runestone Rhea’s cousin had already run away.

“I am pretty sure that all the stress she had was what caused her that difficult labor,” Willam sneered. “It doesn’t help that his wife has a personal grudge against you.”

“Why?” He asked with a frown.

“You really don’t know who it is?” Willam asked him, arched eyebrow and genuine curiosity. “He married Lady Joanna Hightower.”

Well, f*ck!

Notes:

So, for those that had Rhea's family tree in the Worldbuilding, sorry for the spoiler of who is Gunthor's wife.

Hope you like the chapter!

See you next week!

Chapter 14: Sending my love home

Summary:

Arya has some thoughts on her Targaryen ancestors... Not the most kind though...
Rhea is back at Runestone!
Viserys have a relaxing afternoon in the gardens with a surprising guest...
Daemon admits to being a functional sociopath! No surprise here!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

She [Princess Alyssa] was known for being a warrior since an earlier age. Her parents encouraged her despite the court protests that it would make her an "undesirable" wife material. They didn't care. Princess Alyssa learned to fight, and her childhood companions were shieldmaidens of the North. King Jaehearon's Master of Coin, Lord Daven Reyne, who had been fostered in Runestone with them, once claimed that there were few people that could take Princess Alyssa in one-on-one sparring, and to underestimate her for her sex was the worst and last mistake her enemies could commit.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

ARYA

She looked at the blue skies around her and sighed. Blue skies and white clouds were all around her. She loved it! She loved the feeling of freedom and the wind at her hair. Still, with only the wind gently whispering in her ears, her mind would float somewhere else. This time it was in the information Jon shared with them moons ago.

The only conclusion she could reach with that was that the Targaryen was very stupid.

Aegon saw a f*cking winter coming from North in his dreams, the house words of the Winter Kings are Winter is Coming. There is a f*cking 700-foot-tall Wall in the North that is obviously protected with magic since Alysanne’s Silverwing couldn’t move over it. For a family that believes so much in magic, they surely ignored the most blatant signals.

Had they ever bothered to learn about the Northern legends? Probably not, or Aegon would have been able to see that the darkness riding on those winds were the Others and their ability to black down the sky to call for snowstorms and blizzards, the dead that they could rise at their whim. Or not, that is putting too much faith on the wisdom of a man that when choosing an heir based on the Andal costumes instead of the Valyrian ones, didn’t have the good sense to make sure that his second son and his sister-wife did agree with him.

[Thinking back on history, over half of the Targaryen wars could have been avoided if the Targaryen men had done the Seven Kingdoms the favor of only having one wife in their lives and remaining faithful to them.]

Of course, most people didn’t believe in those legends anymore. Understandably, but still!

But Sansa was right, ultimately that prophecy meant nothing for them because they already knew about the walkers and when they would come. And that wouldn’t be for another half and a century at least. Though she wanted to make sure to diffuse the knowledge of the Northern legends in the south. Jon wanted to start to have relations with the tribes beyond the Wall and work on how to find men to the Wall.

“Your problem is that you think that everything you plan must come to immediate fruition, Jon,” Sansa sneered when their cousin started to get desperate. “Plans must be made for different stages and unlike in the last life, we have enough time to think and act. We don’t need to act in desperation.”

Sometimes the ice-cold calculation in her sister’s violet eyes really made Arya mourn the silly, cheerful if only a bit annoying child Sansa had been before Joffrey, Cersei, Littlefinger, and Ramsay. Though she supposed that Sansa felt the same when she was ruthless and deadly and promising to bring the skies down on her enemies.

She heard Nymeria screech and secured the reigns firmer as the dark grey dragon made an acrobatic maneuver in the skies and accelerated her flight. When they returned to the ground, she found that Jon and Waymar practicing a swordfight while Ghost was laying observing them. A little far was Ser Rickard.

“Already back, Princess?” Waymar asked, still fighting Jon. “You usually stay in the air until your father fetches you!”

“If you were paying more attention to your fighting than you pay to how long I stayed flying, you wouldn’t be about to lose your fight!” True to her words, Jon managed to knock Waymar down.

“I’m already used to being thrown in the ground by the two of you,” he shrugged while getting up with Jon’s help.

“Good fight, Waymar,” Jon said with a smile.

“My Prince,” the boy said with a radiant smile and Arya rolled her eyes. “There will be one day, that I will be able to beat the two of you.”

“Yeah, keep on dreaming,” Arya said.

“I think that you are a great fighter, Waymar,” Jon's answer was polite.

“I have seen worst,” Arya rolled her eyes. “But seriously, your main problem is that you don’t train as you ought!”

“And you train as if you need it to breath,” Waymar rolled his eyes at her too. “You really need to chill.”

“I am chill!” she cried in protest.

“Are not!”

“Am too! Jae, tell him!” Arya demanded her cousin that was looking at them with amusem*nt. She looked around and saw that Rickard Thorne was also containing his urge to laugh.

“Let me out of this one, Aly,” the prince protested.

It was so difficult having one-on-one conversations around here. They were always surrounded by adults. Especially Jon. Ser Rickard was becoming his shadow, and gods weren’t that annoying? She was happy that Sansa and her mother would be returning soon. She really needed more female company.

Letter from Lady Signy Mormont to her father Lord Beric Mormont.

[…] We arrived very late in the night when most of Lady Royce's household was already sleeping. Still, we were received by Prince Daemon. I honestly don't know why they say that the Prince and the Lady Royce hate each other, if anything they looked to be very friendly and playful. Prince Daemon is as handsome as the stories said, but very vain too with all the care he has for his hair. Though he seems to have a soft spot for children in general. […]

Excerpt from History through letters, by Maester Deverik

RHEA

They had just arrived in Runestone.

Home.

Griselda seemed a little intimidated, but Signy was looking at everything as if assessing it, its strengths and weaknesses. Selaena was sleeping in her nursemaid’s arms. She had been exhausted after playing for hours with the two girls. Kress didn’t seem to mind though, probably because it was late and soon would be her sleep time.

They were received by Daemon.

“Sneaky bitch,” he said lowly near her. “You left me with a lot of paperwork.”

“That I did,” she smirked at him. “Just gave you a little taste of ruling, darling.”

“You should be arriving tomorrow by the sunset,” he pointed out.

“We cut down a stop to make home earlier,” Rhea sighed. “I see that you managed to keep my castle unburnt. Good job.”

“And who are those ladies?” Daemon asked, looking at the girls behind her.

Poor Griselda looked even shier than before while Signy only tilted her head, completely confident on her instance while facing him. She saw that it amused him.

“Husband, these are the ladies Signy Mormont of the Bear Island and Griselda Wull of the Wull Castle,” she said while pointing to the girls. “They are my new wards. Girls, meet my husband and Lord Consort of Runestone: Prince Daemon Targaryen.”

“Your Highness,” the girls said in unison.

“My ladies,” he said with a gentle smile that he usually reserved for his daughters and niece. Soft and gentle, something that few would ever associate with her husband. “I hope you had a pleasant journey.”

When they nodded Rhea noticed Alyssa’s nursemaid approaching them.

“Mary, please take the girls to their rooms. Their belongings might not be ready still, so if you can find their clothes for them to sleep it would be appreciated,” she said to the girl that had just arrived and then turned to Kress. “You can put Selaena in the nursery and rest.”

“Thank you, My Lady,” the nursemaid said while giving a small curtsey with care to not wake or drop the small princess on her arms.

She watched as the children left with the nursemaids and finally let out a yawn she had been holding onto for a time. It was close to midnight now and she was exhausted.

“Something happened?”

“We can talk in the morrow, you need to rest,” Daemon said to her, with a hand on her hips, he started to guide her so they would go to her room. “What were you thinking to brave the road so late in the night?”

“That I am sure that the roads would be safe, especially with two dragons accompanying our wagons,” was her sleepy answer. “Why are you evading my question?”

“You are obviously exhausted, I promise a complete report in the morning,” she smirked at him.

“I’ll hold you to it.”

They arrived in her room and instead of leaving, Daemon helped her to change into her shift and slept with her.

After the death of his first wife, Queen Aemma, the Small Council pressured the King to find a second wife once his mourning period was over. The Court, even on the eve of the War on Stepstones, overflood with great beautiful, and unmarried ladies. Some actively tried to seduce the King but the same was resolute in not marrying at all and he would avoid most of these ladies. There was only one lady that seemed to entice the King into a conversation without being sent away immediately: Lady Myrcella Tarbeck, the Regent Lady of Tarbeck Hall.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

VISERYS

In his rare moments of peace, he would either sit with the model of Valyria or would take a walk in Aemma’s garden. Today felt a good one to be there. The bluest skies of the spring, with the soft breeze and the absolute calmness of the soft breeze on his face, were enough to make him sigh.

Rhaenyra was a joy. Ever since Jaehearon had left for the Vale, she had joined him before dinner to keep him company. Sometimes she would read one of the books about Valyria to him, and it didn’t matter if he had already read the same book a thousand times, hearing it in her voice always made him feel more relaxed. Twice a week she would stay and have dinner with him; since now that she had her own household, she had to be responsible and stay with them too.

Twice a week he would dine with his small council and the other three nights he would eat alone.

Those were the nights that he would suffer more. He would miss Aemma. His sweet wife would always tell him something about the court or the projects that she intended to fund with her pin money. He would miss Jaehearon. His smart and clever son. Usually silent, but whenever he spoke of something, there was an air of wisdom that made Viserys proud. At least to Jaehearon, he could write.

“Your Grace,” a sweet voice woke him from his daydreams, and he looked to find Ser Harrold observing Lady Myrcella Tarbeck.

And wasn’t she a pretty thing to observe? Her hair was like golden treads braided gently away from her face, her skin had a soft golden glow of a woman that seemed to appreciate the sun, her blue eyes had the same shade as Aemma’s and she was always elegantly dressed, today in a light blue dress that made her look younger.

“Lady Tarbeck, it is surprising to find you here,” he said, and she smiled at him.

“Trust me, it really isn’t,” the lady said, behind her, there were two of her ladies in waiting, “I always take a turn in the garden with Lilian and Gemma.”

“My ladies,” he said to the younger girls who dropped in a curtsey, with a glance of their lady, the girls moved away, but remained close enough to be within sight of them and Ser Harrold. “Then perhaps I should say that it is surprising that we met here. I thought that you had left with your uncles yesterday.”

“I preferred to stay a little more. King’s Landing is impressive, and I do like the company I find here,” he smiled at her candid answer.

“You don’t need to fear your return to Tarbeck Hall, My Lady, I assure you that you will have my support for your regency until your son reaches his majority.”

“I know you will, Your Grace. It doesn’t change the fact that they don’t want a woman ruling over them,” wasn’t that one of the great problems of the Kingdom? They chose him over his cousin Rhaenys and even he knew that his cousin had a better grasp of politics than him. He was chosen for his gender, not his competence. Now, looking back at all those years, he could admit it, even if it pained him to do so.

“Unfortunately, that is a common occurrence in this realm,” he said to her, and she let out a tinkling laugh.

“Especially not one they have no control of,” was her answer. “Are you enjoying the sun?”

“Indeed, we must enjoy spring while it lasts.”

“It will be gone soon. My Maester affirms that summer will start before the year is gone. I fear that we will have a long summer ahead of us.”

“You fear it?” The King asked with a frown. People usually preferred summer to winter. With good reason.

“The season is warm and good, but unfortunately is wasted in wars.”

“You think that I am a fool for calling men to war in the Stepstones?” He questioned her and she shook her head.

“Not really, after all the pirates are a problem to the whole realm. If they are left to their own devices, how long will it pass until they decide that they are unsatisfied with Stepstones and that they want our own islands like say, Tarth, Estermont, or even the coast of Stormlands? It is better to strike them when their threat is new and before their forces are consolidated. When our own forces are rested and not depleted by their cruelty,” he found himself nodding to her words, they had sense and determination that he could not deny but find it alluring. “But war means that people will die and what could have been a peaceful summer, will end up in a bloody one.”

“You mourn not for war, but for what it will take from us,” he said, summarizing her thoughts.

“Don’t you?” Lady Tarbeck questioned him, and he sighed, suddenly feeling every year of his age.

“I do. I never wanted to have to call for war,” he admitted to her while looking far away, not really appreciating the view of the garden. “Maybe it was because of it that I had fooled myself into believing that the problem in Stepstones wasn’t as severe as Lord Velaryon put for me. Possibly because part of me believes that he was selfish in his reasons to want Stepstones.”

“Perhaps, but your Lord Hand should have investigated more the complaints of your Master of Ships before advising you to not take action,” the blonde woman said while looking in the same direction that he had gazed. “Unless Lord Manderly’s accusation wasn’t so far of the base.”

“Do you think that Otto would have lied to me to benefit his brother?”

“As close of a friend, your Hand is to you, Your Grace, his family, and House are still the Hightower. Like you and your brother fight and even challenge each other,” his eyebrow rose when she said that “but at the end of the day, Prince Daemon would always choose you over anyone else.”

“How do you know that my brother and I fight?”

“Spies,” her answer was a simple and candid one, a playful smile on her lips. “Your Grace is no fool, you should know that your keep is infested with them. Lords will do anything for information to get their best advantage, and I would be a fool to believe that to survive here I wouldn’t need my own source of reliable information.” He laughed at her reasoning.

“My Master of Whispers would say that I should have you arrested for spying on the royal family,” he said and she rolled her eyes.

“Then Your Grace would have to arrest, possibly, the whole lot of Lords and Ladies of this realm,” he conceded to her point.

“Now that would be a sight. Do you think there is enough room in the Red Keep’s dungeons?”

“I can always lend you Tarbeck Hall, if it gets too full,” they laughed, and he felt himself lighter. It had been some time since he felt as such. Everything had been so bleak since Aemma’s death. His points of happiness had been found mostly with his children, now one was away and the other was passing through the teenage years where boys were more interesting than their fathers.

“To tell you the truth, I am starting to have some doubts about Otto,” he admitted, and she looked at him, seriousness coming to her face. “Can you keep that out of your spies’ mouths?”

“What kind of fool would air a mostly private conversation between them and their liege?” She questioned an arched eyebrow and quirk smirk. “But, if Your Grace permits me, why are you doubting him?”

“Perhaps a conversation for another time, My Lady,” he said after some consideration and took her hand. Gently he pressed a kiss on the back of it and enjoyed the pretty blush on her face. “As pleasant as our talk had been, I must go back to my duties.”

“Of course, Your Grace,” she dripped in a curtsey.

He passed through her ladies before leaving, receiving another set of curtsies. Viserys didn’t need to turn to know that Ser Harrold was right behind him.

“Tell me, Ser Harrold,” he started. “Do you believe in Lady Tarbeck, when she says that the encounter was accidental?”

“Well, Your Grace, it is known that Lady Tarbeck and her maids frequent the gardens daily. Not always the same, though they are usually out in the morning with young Lord Adrian. She rarely visits the garden at this time of the day, but that could be explained by the fact that she and her maids had visited the town.”

“Keeping tabs on the lady?” He questioned with some curiosity.

“Not really,” Ser Harrold said, dismissively, “My niece, Lady Dorea, joined them and when she returned, she gave me a trinket that she found in the market.”

“Isn’t Lady Dorea part of my daughter’s household, why was she with Lady Tarbeck?”

“Dorea’s older sister, Lady Johanna, might end up marrying Lord Jason Lannister if he isn’t able to convince Princess Rhaenyra to marry him,” Viserys nodded his head in understanding. “From what I understood, Lady Tarbeck wanted to talk about what Dorea thinks of the match.”

“And what do you think of the match?”

“Johanna will eat Lord Lannister alive within the first year of their marriage,” Ser Harrold said and he laughed. For the few histories his old friend had shared of his oldest niece and what he had seen of the Lord Lannister, he was inclined to agree. “But I cannot deny that it is a good match.”

“And what do you think of Lady Tarbeck?”

“She is a good woman,” the white knight commented. “Her father was a Farman from Fair Isle, her brother is its current Lord, she is the niece of the current Lord Lannister of Casterly Rock and her late husband was a Tarbeck of Tarbeck Hall.”

“And do you believe the rumors, that she killed Tyrion Tarbeck to jump at my bed?” Viserys asked with an arched eyebrow. He knew that many people thought him oblivious to the court gossip, if only they knew the amusem*nt he had with them…

“With all due respect to the Tarbeck, Your Grace, Lord Tyrion was twelve years older than Lady Myrcella. It is said that he led a most turbulent life: gambled a fortune away, would get drunk at the most inopportune moments, and harassed and probably raped some common women that would never be able to seek reparation. From all accounts, he made Prince Daemon look like a Septon. My brother wrote me that the supposedly mysterious circ*mstances of Lord Tarbeck’s death were that he was racing drunk with his companions when he fell from the horse and was dragged by the same when one of his feet got stuck in the stirrups.”

“It sounds more like he was killed by his own stupidity than by his wife,” Viserys rolled his eyes.

“Like a good Lannister, Lady Tarbeck is known for being a bit arrogant, though I imagine that it would be difficult to not be arrogant when one had such a fortune to back them. But she is known for generous contributions to the community soup in Tarbeck Hall and now in Kings Landing.” Ser Harrold was obviously impressed with the woman and so was Viserys. Aemma too had projects to feed and clothe the poor, she wanted to build a poor house to receive the homeless, especially during winter, apparently, it was something common in the North or so she had read. Unfortunately, she didn’t have time to take that project out of the paper. “And it doesn’t hurt that the lady is very beautiful, don’t you think Your Grace?”

“I think that a man would have to be blind to not see Lady Tarbeck’ beauty,” Viserys agreed.

On the eve of the War of Stepstones, there was little peace. Lords that had been in court went back to their keeps to prepare for war. They had to call men, plan their supply chain, and make an inventory of their weapons and equipment. Many expected Prince Daemon to lead Royce's forces, but instead, it was led by Lady Rhea's cousin while the prince led the forces of Dragonstone.

Excerpt of Stepstones: A problem in the seas by Maester Allar

DAEMON

Seeing Rhea so frustrated because of her cousin made Daemon want to kill the jerk. Knowing that he would arrive the next morning did nothing but let Rhea more on edge. They would be going to war, and to arrange for the man to end up on the frontlines and meet a swift death wouldn’t be that impossible.

Or just off him when no one is looking. He thought.

His eyes looked to where he found his eldest daughter bonding with her new companions. The Mormont and the Wull girls were sparing with Alyssa in her private training grounds, while being observed by Waymar and Jaehearon. Selaena was in her classes, probably driving poor Maester Garmon to madness.

“Gods, how can a little girl be better at swords than the boys her age?” he heard Ser Luthor questioning his former squire. The Manderly knight sneered.

“Most of the North Houses train their daughters at the same time they train their sons. So, when their men are sent to war, their women will be able to protect their lands and themselves.”

“They are very flexible.”

“And fast too,” Ser Malik agreed. “The shieldmaidens are taught to prioritize agility over strength and defense over attack,” Ser Luthor nodded.

“Does House Manderly raise shieldmaiden?”

“We don’t actively encourage our ladies like the Mormont, the clans of the Mountain, and other Houses, but if they chose the path, we don’t forbid it.”

Daemon then thought of his grandmother. Alysanne had always been enchanted with the culture in the North that permitted their ladies to take up swords. He remembered that she once told him that she once thought of putting off a military force made of only women, but here in the South, she found no support and the Northern ladies didn’t want to leave their homes for such an undertaking.

The Northern ladies were more intelligent than his grandmother. They understood that the South was mostly controlled by the Andal culture where the women’s place was of the subservient helper, a maiden to be married off, a mother to be a broodmare and a crone to give advice that no one would heed. Yes, in the North they also had women as helpers, but instead of being subservient and silent, they were expected to be helpmates and supporters. The South disregarded their own female warriors and bid them to obscurity, while the North loved theirs and hailed them as legends. Alysanne’s undertaking would be a futile endeavor unless she was able to change the whole concept of women in the South.

He turned his attention to where Signy helped Alyssa up after beating her into a fight.

“You have a good form, Princess,” Signy said with a smile.

“Well, you did beat me up.”

“And you made me sweat.”

“Spying on our daughter?” he turned and found his wife walking toward him.

“Is it spying if they are in the open?” he questioned back. “You look tired.”

“You look too excited for someone that is about to be sent to war.”

“What can I say,” he gave her a lazy smirk. “They will finally let me kill some people.”

“Daemon, you set fire to half of the men of the Stone Crows, and fed three of the Milk Snakes clansmen to Caraxes, and destroyed the settlement of the Painted Dogs.” Rhea rolled her eyes. “I think you killed enough!”

“Well, your cousin sent me three barrels of the best red wine produced on the Vale and promised a chest of silver to each of our daughters… I don’t think she is overly annoyed with what I did,” Daemon smirked lazily. “I have still to hear of your gratitude.”

“Gratitude? Daemon if the reports are right, you killed almost a hundred people, in one moon!”

“They were attacking your lands, and I also saved five girls they had stolen and recovered a good part of the harvest they stole,” Daemon argued, and yes, it was true. “Also, these men might one day become a danger to our daughters. I won’t say I am sorry for making these lands safer for them. If I have to hunt down each and every one of these clans and burn them all down to keep Alyssa and Selaena safe, then I will gladly do it. Indeed, I will take a lot of pleasure in doing so.”

“Bloodthirsty c*nt,” she said under her breath, and he chuckled. He wasn’t offended.

It was a simple thing: the skies are blue, the snow is cold, and Daemon Targaryen is a bloodthirsty, bordering sad*st person. Except that instead of f*cking lives he learned to put what could be a very dangerous trait into use for his own realm. To serve as the Lord Commander of the Gold Cloaks gave him the freedom to dispense justice as he saw fit while still protecting the population of King's Landing. And now in protecting the Vale and the lands of Runestone from the f*cking Clans that were no better than selvages that thought that they could do whatever they pleased and get away with it. From where he stood it was a win-win.

“Your brother wrote,” he took the note from her hand and broke the seal.

“He says that the candidates for the position left by Ryam Redwyne arrived in the Red Keep and asks for me to take Jae there so we can help him choose between them.”

“You can leave tomorrow,” Rhea said, and he frowned.

“Are you sure you don’t want me here to deal with your cousin?”

“I can deal with Gunthor. He forgets that the pretty manse he lives in belongs to House Royce and that trying to take Runestone from me is treason that would justify me taking Eirhall from him and having him in the hedgerows.”

“Ruthlessness suits you well,” he said after observing her smirk. “I will be back to bring Jaehearon before leaving, if he is still here, I might be convinced to feed him to Caraxes.”

“Poor Caraxes will have indigestion with such a meal,” Rhea said. “By the way, I revised your plans for the patrols.”

“What did you think of?”

“That when you return you will have a lot of work to implement it.” So, she approved. “Be careful, alright?”

“You don’t want to be a widow?

“It would only make men appear at my door,” she grimaced playfully.

“You think too highly of yourself,” he said.

“I never said they will come for me. You know that we have two beautiful daughters, and I am the Lady of Runestone, right?”

“I promise to come back to haunt every men or boy that comes after you,” he promised and she rolled her eyes, laughing at him.

When the war started, he would miss it.

Notes:

Lady Tarbeck dress: https://www.pinterest.at/pin/509117932887436138/

So! Hope you liked the chapter!
Jon is absolutely not getting involved in any fight that isn't his... Maybe there is a little more of Viserys in him than he wants to admit?
Signy doesn't even know that she is getting way closer to the truth behind Daemon and Rhea's relationship than most adults!
What do you think of Lady Tarbeck? Genuine? Fake? Somewhere in between?
Daemon has this chaotic murder energy, but at least he puts it to good use!

Updates on our schedule!

Here are the chapters I have already written:
14. Sending my love home (09 of March/Today)
15. Our last minutes of peace (15 of March)
16. Countdown (23 of March)
17. The morning after
18. Lady Tarbeck
19. Long live the Queen (in writing)

Next chapter: the new Kingsguard is chosen and we met someone new, get ready to hate her!

Chapter 15: Our very last minutes of peace

Summary:

A new Kingsguard is chosen.
Daemon leaves for war.
Alicent has feelings about Rhaenyra's household.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

After the death of the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Ryam Redwyne, the King rose his second in command, Ser Harrold Westerling to the post of Kingsguard. Defaulted by one, Ser Harrold called in seven of the best knights he knew under the orders of King Viserys so one of them could join the white cloaks. Everyone had a favorite: Princess Rhaenyra wanted her father to choose Ser Criston Cole—her own sworn shield—, Lord Otto Hightower wanted Ser Samwell Rowan and Prince Jaehearon preferred Ser Corwyn Corbray. In the spirit of fairness, Prince Daemon proposed a small competition between the seven knights who would have to fight among themselves and with the members of the Kingsguard so they could access the knight's abilities, the one with more victories would be chosen.

Excerpt of Brothers sworn in white: a history of the Kingsguard by Professor Tyrion Lannister of the University of Lannisport

JON

Being back on Red Keep, even if briefly, was good. Being received in the arms of his father and his sister was better. His eyes turned to where Rhaenyra was standing, along her new household, her ladies at her side, her sworn shield just two steps at her back. Given that Alicent was still amidst them, Jon knew that her sister still had the girl in her confidence.

If only he could tell her future to her. But if he did, he was sure that not only no one—not even her—would believe but would also use that to claim him insane and unfit for the crown.

Some minutes after they were inside, Rhaenyra pulled him with her, Alicent and Ser Criston Cole firmly behind her.

“Jae, I know that father asked your help to choose the next knight of the Kingsguard,” Rhaenyra started, and he nodded, yes that had been the reason for his coming after all. “I want you to support my champion.”

“And who would your champion be?” He asked, already knowing the answer.

“Brother, this is Ser Criston Cole,” the knight stepped forward. He was using Targaryen armor, a symbol of his allegiance to Rhaenyra. “You might remember that he had won the Heir’s Tourney against our own uncle.”

“My Prince it would be my honor to serve the Kingsguard,” Ser Criston said while bowing to him.

“Ser Criston,” he nodded to the knight.

Ser Criston, the Kingmaker. Another architect of the Dragons Dance. It was true that Otto planned to put a crown on Aegon’s head all along, but it was also true that he would never be able if Ser Criston hadn’t been the one to convince him to take it. Some said that he did it for power since Aegon would have been easier to control than Rhaenyra, others said that he did it to keep the Andal tradition. It was also known that Ser Criston had a sexual affair with Rhaenyra that somehow turned bitter.

That was one of the problems: they didn’t know about him. All they had about Ser Criston Cole was conjectures and decades of history written and re-written at the will and whims of the writers. There were no proofs found on either account of his possible reasons, so he was an incognita for them.

“I cannot promise it, Nyra,” he said, and his sister looked at him as if he had admitted murder. Sometimes he would forget how spoiled she was, and rarely denied anything.

“Why?”

“With no offense to you, or your champion, the position of Kingsguard is more than just about strength and the ability to win tourneys,” he said and looked to the man. “Do you know, Ser Criston, that a Kingsguard has to swear vows of celibacy?”

“I would do it willingly, Your Grace,” the knight swore.

This is not the Night’s Watch.

“And do you understand that a Kingsguard must always obey the King? Above every tradition, custom, or even personal desire and belief. Above every oath, you had once taken. The only word you will heed is of the king and his alone,” he said seriously. “Would you obey all his orders, no matter how they conflicted with your own opinions?”

“I would, Your Highness,” he said, and Jon looked at him.

“And do you know that the position of Kingsguard is also political?”

“What?” Rhaenyra questioned with a frown. Her confusion was also reflected in Alicent and Ser Criston’s faces.

“A white knight has the king’s back, but also has his ears,” Jon pointed out. “They say that the Hand is the closest person to the King, but they seem to forget that the Kingsguard is always in the King's presence. Why do you think that those noble and even the great houses keep sending their sons to occupy a position?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Because if you have the King’s back and ear, you can influence him to your advantage,” Jon explained to his older sister. He knew that Rhaenyra was used to sneaking out of her lessons, but how could she fail to perceive something so serious?

“You are overestimating the position of a Kingsguard, brother,” she scoffed, and he had his answer. There it was her naivety showing again. “They are there to protect, not to advise.”

“And you underestimate the effects of having someone you trust protecting your back,” he answers. “I cannot support your champion, because Uncle Daemon and I are to propose a small competition of two days between the contestants.”

“All those knights that came are tourney knights, Jae! None of them had ever seen war before, not like Ser Criston.”

“And now a lot of knights will see war in the Stepstones, and still won’t be good enough to serve the Kingsguard. Fighting a war is not a requisite for the position, wars are not won by a man alone, and therefore it does not speak of the individual ability of anyone. With all due respect, Ser Criston, showed more of his abilities when he fought in the tourneys than when he was at war because in the tourney we could at least evaluate his abilities.”

“You don’t even like tourneys!”

“No, I don’t, but they do have uses,” he said, refraining from rolling his eyes. “Ser Criston, you are welcome to join the competition, but I promise no support to anyone before I can evaluate their abilities by myself.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” there was a point of disappointment in his voice, but despite his resignation, there was a touch of respect.

“Nyra, this is the fairest way to decide the future occupant of the position, please understand it,” he said to his sister, but she huffed and crossed her arms.

He sighed and left, finding one of the twins already waiting for him.

Daemon had already proposed the way of choosing the next knight and his father had accepted. From the seven knights chosen by Ser Harrold (one of them being Ser Criston at Rhaenyra’s insistent request). Win the matches wasn’t a requisite, for they would judge the general performance and their argumentation. They would fight between themselves and against the other Kingsguard (except for Ser Rickard that was in the Vale). It took them a day to have the matches organized and two for Jaehearon to see who Otto wanted at the post.

Ser Desmond Caron was one of the sons of the elderly Lord of Nightsong in the Stormlands’ Dornish Marshes. Given the fact that Nightsong was right in front of plains, sided by the two chains of the Red Mountains, creating a hallway linking Dorne and the Stormlands, Jon would guess that he had also seen war. Ser Teran Tarly of Horn Hill was an older cousin of the father of Raymond Tarly, who had now married to his cousin Roslyn, a good knight, but already past his prime. Ser Raymond Mallister of Seagard was a strong fighter and he was in his prime, he was also the son of an old friend of his father, and given the fact that Seagard was on the western shores of the Kingdom, he would bet that the man had fought more than just one incursion of the Ironborn. Ser Edric Crakehall was the third son of the Lord Clark of Crakehall, he was probably the youngster among the current candidates for the position of Kingsguard. Ser Corwyn Corbray of Heart's Home was Jon’s favorite, though all history he was a loyal and fair man and so was the House, he was also a strong swordsman. But Otto’s favorite was Ser Samwell Rowan of Goldengrove, he knew that his house had sided with Rhaenyra in the past timeline, but perhaps the Hand wanted him there for another reason.

As it was, only Criston Cole stood without the banner of his House. From what he knew of House Cole they held the Redhall near Blackhaven and were sworn to the Dondarrion. Currently, the House was headed by Lord Armand Cole, a second or third cousin of Ser Criston.

The best fighter had been Ser Raymond, though closely followed by Ser Criston.

“Ser Criston,” his uncle Daemon started, “Every knight came with the support of his family, does yours don’t approve of your choice to serve the Kingsguard?”

It was a good question. If a house didn’t support the appointment, then it could end up leading to bitter resentment on the House’s part that would believe itself slighted. Like House, Lannister felt when Ser Jaime was basically sequestered and held hostage against Tywin Lannister. And even if House Cole was a minor house in the Stormlands, they still had the ear of Lord Dondarrion. A House comes before an individual, that was the logic of their realm.

“My father supports me, Your Highness,” the man said.

“And your House?”

“My uncle would prefer me to stay in Redhill to fight in the Dornish Marshes,” he said and that was when Daemon and his father shared a look. Ser Criston was disqualified in that statement.

After some conversation where the Kingsguard pointed out their opinion on the Seven candidates, though they all agreed that Ser Raymond had been the best fighter, and the Lord Hand tried to convince the King in favor of the Rowan knight, the other members of the Small Council also had their say so on the candidates, his father agreed with him and Daemon that Ser Raymond was the best choice.

Ser Criston was allowed to remain in his sister’s honor guard. But House Targaryen was not compromising its good relationship with one of their marcher lords for the dreams of an individual that went against his House-head. When Rhaenyra would stop pouting at him was another story altogether…

He [Daemon Targaryen] was a man of few friends. And that he found friendship in a Royce when he hated being married to his Bronze Bitch astonished many people. Especially because his friendship was with Ser Willam Royce, his wife Master-at-arms and secondhand, rather than with Ser Gunthor Royce, who more than once critiqued Lady Royce's rule over Runestone. I believe that the friendship with Ser Willam came because, unlike Ser Gunthor, the man never placed in question Princess Alyssa's right over Runestone like the other cousin.

Excerpt from The Rogue Prince, Maester Gyldayn

DAEMON

He had the pleasure of returning his nephew to Runestone and meeting the infamous Gunthor. The man was impressive in size, but not very intelligent for the man approached him talking about how he could ask for his brother to annul his marriage to Rhea so Gunthor could take Runestone from her.

Gunthor should be thanking his gods for he didn’t know how close he ended up to being turned into dragon poop before Willam declared that the ships were ready to leave.

“You are a very stupid man, Ser Gunthor,” he said to the man before he was able to get aboard one of the Royce ships. “I might not love Rhea, but I do love our daughters. And Alyssa is the next in line to Runestone. Why would I even think of doing anything that would put my daughter's claim on Runestone in jeopardy?”

“It was an honest proposal, Prince Daemon,” the man said calmly. “Everyone knows that one of your daughters will inherit your lands in the Reach and the other will marry the Prince. Therefore, what use does Runestone has to them?”

“You know, when I heard about you, I thought that you could be a threat for my daughter’s claim in Runestone, but seeing you now,” and he made point of looking the man up and down, a clear judgment in his eyes. “I see that there is nothing to fear, your stupidity knows no bounds and you clearly don’t understand anything about politics.”

“Ser Gunthor,” Willam started, serious and impassive. “You better return to your ship. We will leave in one hour.”

“I was just talking to the prince, cousin,” the man said and then turned his back to them.

“How are you related, again?” Daemon asked and the man sneered.

“Our grandfathers were twin brothers,” Willam said dryly.

“Clearly yours got all the wits between the two,” he sneered and the two shared a laugh.

“You are coming with us?” Willam asked.

“I will be right behind you; my men are organizing the garrison of Dragonstone. Either way, I will arrive in Driftmark before you,” he smirked.

“Yeah, not all of us have dragons, my Prince,” Willam sneered. “Have a good flight.”

“And you try not to die, why aren’t you with Lamentation?” He asked, perceiving that instead of the longsword, made out of Valyrian steel and bronze, his wife’s cousin and master-at-arms were carrying a bronze and black with spikes. “I know that Rhea wanted you to use it.”

“I am not much of a swordsman,” he arched his eyebrow. “What? Do you think these muscles are just for show? I prefer hammers to blades. Do I know how to fight with a sword? Sure, do I care to fight with one? No. Better stick to what we are good at, right?”

“I don’t know, I am good at everything I do,” Daemon said and the Master-at-arms of Runestone rolled his eyes.

“Sometimes you are an arrogant sh*t, Your Highness.”

“Sometimes? Then I must be losing my edge,” he answered playfully.

“See you around, Your Highness,” Willam said, and Daemon watched as the man walked to the Bronze Giant, but not before stopping to talk with Rhea, Saoirse, and the children, Waymar was holding back his tears, Gideon didn’t seem to understand what was happening while.

Jaehearon, Alyssa, and Selaena were also there, more solemn than children their age ought to be. After a while, Rhea left his side to come to him. There were unshed tears in her eyes, and he had to contain his urge to console her.

Too many eyes.

“How are you?” He asked in a low voice.

“I am sending my people to war, some of them might never return… How do you think?” She questioned and he nodded, solemn.

“They are doing their duty to the realm, and you are doing yours,” he said, knowing that it was a small comfort. “You have to stay for our daughters and Jaehearon.”

“And you have to return for the very same reason,” she said to him, her voice was low and sad and gods! how it was difficult to not pull her into his embrace. “Don’t forget it.”

“I won’t,” he promised.

Before he could say anything, he saw his daughters approach him. Both of them circled him in a hug. Alyssa could reach his waist, but Selaena was hugging his legs, given that she was still small. Gods! How much would they grow while he would be away? Without being able to return until they got that f*cking pirates out of Stepstones.

“Kepa,” Alyssa started, and he turned his attention to her. “You have to take care!”

“Kepa has to return to us!” Selaena complemented.

“Of course, who else is going to beat your suitors black and blue?” He questioned with a small smile. More likely run them with the sword, he thought. “And you two have to take care of one another and your mother, do you understand?”

“Yes Kepa,” the girls said at the same time, and then Alyssa took a sheathed dagger that had been hidden under her tunic.

“It’s my favorite, so you have to bring it back!” She said and he unsheathed the dagger to find it to be one of the many he had bought for her in Kings Landing from an outstanding merchant, it was a Braavosi Steel, light and sharp—sharper than when he gave it to her—with a dragon-shaped hilt. “You have to give it back yourself!”

“Of course, ñuha jelevre,” he smiled while fastening the sheath to his belt. “I will also bring some new daggers that I will take from my enemies.” He promised but his attention then turned to Selaena who was tugging his pants repeatedly.

“Kepa, down!” he kneeled to his youngster daughter. Wasn’t she a demanding little princess?

“Yes, ñuha prumia?” He questioned she took his hand and then took a ribbon from her hair. It was purple and gold, her favorite colors so far. Gently she wrapped it around his left wrist. “Are you giving me your favor, sweet princess?” he asked, and she nodded.

“So, you will think of us,” she said with a smile.

“Oh, ñuha prumia, I don’t need your ribbon to think of you, I could never forget you, lovely daughter of mine,” he said and kissed her forehead. And turned to kiss Alyssa too. “Nor you, my fierce little warrior.”

“You must come back soon!” Selaena demanded.

“As soon as I deal with the damned pirates,” he said, getting up on his feet.

His eyes found his wife’s. She looked so beautiful, so desolate. He wanted to approach her, kiss her, and promise that he would be back soon. Gods! It would have been better to just hate her. He couldn’t, not when so many people looked at them. So instead, he only nodded to her before climbing Caraxes and flying away.

Princess Rhaenyra's original household was assembled a little after her mother's death with the help of ladies Tyrell and Royce, and Princess Rhaenys. The girls chosen all seemed to hold some common interest with the princess. Lady Laena Velaryon was a dragon rider like her cousin, Lady Kate Oakheart was known for being disinterested in getting married, Lady Dorea Westerling was yet another lover of the histories of female warriors. The only one that seemed to dissonate among her household was Lady Alicent, who seemed to have nothing in common with none of them.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

ALICENT

“People are smearing Lady Tarbeck’s name for pure spite,” Dorea said to the ladies.

Ever since Rhaenyra’s household was composed, it had been difficult to have one-on-one time with the Princess. Her aunts and cousins had given her activities that a Lady with a household under her command would have to have with her household. Time spent all together and time spent alone with the individual ladies. This meant that she had to compete with three other ladies for Rhaenyra’s attention. The worst was that Rhaenyra had started to like them!

Laena Velaryon, thirteen name-days old, had recently claimed Vhagar, and the time that she would have with the princess riding to the dragon pit now had the inclusion of Lady Laena. Like Rhaenyra, Laena was willful and stubborn but lacked the charming personality of her cousin. But she was beautiful with her dark ebony skin and white silver curls. The two bonded over dragon-riding and now she was rarely invited to the dragon pit with Rhaenyra since Laena had taken her place.

Kate Oakheart, seventeen, was less interesting. She liked to read and sometimes it was as if she was never there. But she was smart and could talk with Rhaenyra for ours in Valyrian, Kate was the sole child of Lord Oakheart, and her father had petitioned for the King to permit Catelyn to be his heir, a petition that had the back of Lord and Lady Tyrell, Lady Royce and Lord Redwyne, Lady Kate’s maternal grandfather. With her red hair and hazel gold eyes, she could be beautiful, if not for the freckled skin. Still her attributes on top of being the named heir of House Oakheart of Old Oak, and now as a member of the Princess’s household she was considered a good match by many second sons that had nothing to inherit, like Ser Tyland Lannister—who, fortunately, was on his way to the war on Stepstones.

Dorea Westerling, sixteen, was a prickle on her side. Muddy brown hair with corkscrew curls, muddy brown eyes, and tanned skin with unremarkable features. But she was confident, communicative, and cheerful. Soon her charming personality had won Rhaenyra’s attention. The girl loved to talk about how she and her older sister, Johanna, had once read about Jonquil Drake, Visenya Targaryen, and other female warriors and now were learning to fight and would defend the Crags from Ironborn. As if it wasn’t blasphemous enough, Dorea also said that the two of them had been instructed in male matters! Still, she had the same, non-conformist mind as Rhaenyra, Kate, and Laena and fit right in.

She was the only one that was a dutiful lady of the Seven. Yes, Dorea and Catelyn prayed to the Seven, but they certainly didn’t follow the scriptures!

“Well, she is circling my father like a vulture!” Rhaenyra complained. The Princess had been a little sullen as of late since Jaehearon had refused to support Ser Criston to the position of Kingsguard, which was only aggravated by the supposedly accidental encounters between her father and Lady Tarbeck in the gardens.

“More like a graceful swan,” Dorea rolled her eyes. “Your Highness must see that Lady Tarbeck isn’t the only lady that is vying for your father’s hand!”

“First off: I already told you to stop calling me Your Highness when we are not in official business. And yes, I can see it. I would have to be blind to not see that half of the court's unmarried ladies are trying to get a crown on their heads. But I don’t like the idea of my father remarrying!”

“I wouldn’t like either,” Lady Kate said with a gentle smile.

Of course, Alicent thought, bitterly, if his next wife gives him a son, you lose your place as the heiress of Old Oak, and then who will want you?

“But you said yourself, the Small Council is already talking about the fact that he only has one heir, and with his brother now as one of the leaders of the War in Stepstones, it has a terrible chance that will be without his spare,” the redhead completed as gentle as possible.

“And they will never support you to the throne,” there was some bitterness in Laena’s voice, “they still hiss when a lady inherits a keep, imagine the Seven Kingdoms.”

“That is so unfair!” Rhaenyra said. “If we followed the same laws of Dorne, I would be the future ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.”

“No, Princess Rhaenys would have been our Queen right now,” Dorea said. “And Laena the future ruler. Or, if we go way back in history, Princess Rhaena and her daughters would have been our rulers instead of Jeahearys and Alysanne. Now think here, if your father must remarry, wouldn’t you prefer it to be with someone you at least liked a little?”

“They say that Lady Tarbeck killed her husband,” Alicent said, and Dorea scoffed.

“Devan Tarbeck and his senile old mother said it because Lady Tarbeck became the regent when Lord Tyrion died,” the Westerlander argued with her. “Do you want to know how he died? He was racing, drunk in the middle of the night with some of his lords when he fell from his horse, and because one his of feet was caught in the stirrups he was dragged by the horse. His death was caused by a head injury.”

“What a stupid way to die,” Rhaenyra sneered, rolling her eyes. Alicent wanted to say that Viserra Targaryen had a similar fate but decided to not bring the long-deceased grandaunt of her friend. “And it has nothing to do with her.”

“Lady Tarbeck also has done some generous charities here in King’s Landing since she arrived,” Lady Laena pointed out.

“It certainly speaks well of her character,” Lady Kate smiled.

“Also, she isn’t young enough to be your sister! Imagine having Minisa Tully as your mother-in-law! She’s sixteen, just like you!” Dorea commented.

Alicent felt a sting of pain and looked at her hands, discreetly, while questioning herself when she had started to prick her cuticles that day. She used the long loose sleeves of her dress to hide her hands.

“Or worst, me? I’m thirteen and my father considered to have me matched to the King,” Lady Laena confessed with a snickering, and they all laughed, though Alicent’s was forced. “Now he wants to match me with your brother, he says that every girl my age wants to be Queen. As if!”

“So what? I should start making a list of acceptable matches for my father?” Rhaenyra questioned, annoyed. She too felt slightly annoyed with the conversation, but she remained silent.

“You should get used to the idea that sooner or later your father might accept peer pressure and remarry,” Dorea said and Alicent smiled, “in this occasion, you might want to, at the very least, be on friendly terms with the next Queen. You know that while you are the current Lady of the Red Keep, the power of the King’s household will fall to her.”

It wouldn’t be so bad. Alicent knew that she could share the power with Rhaenyra nicely. They were good friends after all. Perhaps she could convince her friend to frequent the sept more and even dismiss Dorea Westerling. She was clearly a bad influence after all. Though they would need to find a way of doing so without offending Ser Harrold, who was the Lord Commander, then he was there to protect the Royal family, no matter what Prince Jaehearon thought about it.

After the day spent with Rhaenyra’s household, Alicent had the dispensation to dine with her father, since it was a day that the Princess would dine with the King and Dorea would dine with her uncle, Laena and Kate would dine together, since Princess Rhaenys was back at Driftmark.

Strangely enough, when she entered her father’s chambers, she found someone she hadn’t seen in years. Her aunt, Lady Joanna Royce, wife to Ser Gunthor Royce of Eirhall, a small estate that belongs to House Royce. Her aunt wasn’t as beautiful as she remembered: her golden brown hair had more grey streaks than before, and there were more wrinkles under her brown eyes and hands too. Still, she was elegant and graceful.

“Alicent, you are as beautiful as I remembered,” her aunt said with a graceful smile.

“Aunt Joanna, it is a pleasure to see you again.” Her aunt took her hands and she frowned.

“Still pricking your cuticles, it seems,” her aunt said, sharing a look with her father. “Such a graceful girl, with such a terrible self-destroying habit, Otto.”

“It seems that nothing that I do is able to help her out of it,” her father said with an air of disappointment that made her want to prickle at her cuticles all again.

“You were never anxious, I can only imagine it is something from her mother’s side, those Mullendore were always way too fussy,” Aunt Joanna said rolling her eyes. “You need to reign your impulses better, Alicent. After all, you were chosen to be Queen.”

“The king—” her question was interrupted by her aunt’s scoff.

“Not by the King, darling, by us. The Hightower. Don’t you know our words?”

“We Light the Way," Alicent repeated immediately.

“Exactly,” her father said, and she turned to him. “We light the way. The Targaryen may have their dragons and this continent may have as many kingdoms as it can support, but we, the Hightower, are the ones who always gently guide this continent to a prosperous, righteous way.”

Notes:

And now you have Joanna Hightower Royce in the scene!
Until the next chapter!

Chapter 16: Countdown

Summary:

Jon muses on their meddling in history.
Viserys enjoy his time in the gardens.
Hightower grows desperate.
Rhaenyra and her new household enjoy some reading.

Notes:

Warning: implication of non-con, drug rape.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Of the many real love stories registered in history, one of the most famous is the one between Queen Selaena and King Jaehearon. Some believed them to be soulmates, of how much they loved each other. There was nothing that the King wouldn't give to his wife and nothing that the Queen wouldn't do for her husband. Their love was turned into songs, poetry, and into legend. And together, the two transformed the society they lived in into something else.

Excerpt of Renaissance: the revolution of science, politics, art, and literature during the second century of the Targaryen Dynasty, by Professor Adelia Royce of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

SANSA

Despite the arrival of Devan Reyne and Aemon Celtigar after her fourth name-day, Runestone was still a little tense. The castle was significatively emptier after so many had left to war, and many functions had to be reassigned. Still, she had her fun.

Devan and Aemon were both of Jon’s age, with moons of difference between them, and easily fell into a friendship with Waymar and Gideon—her shy cousin was finally getting out of his shell. Arya spent a lot of time with Signy and Griselda, and the three of them were teaching her how to defend herself.

“A man fights for whatever fickle reason he can find,” Griselda said, in a low and calm voice, “But a woman fights for self-defense.” Signy easily agreed with the shiest new resident of Runestone before joining the instruction.

Griselda and Signy were exactly what Arya needed. Good friends that understood her and had the same interest as her. In seeing her sister happily chatting or training with her new friends, Sansa would question Catelyn Stark. Catelyn never understood the North culture and never tried to, for Sansa, who enjoyed the most feminine arts, it was good, for she enjoyed being molded into a southern lady with dreams of sweet summer princes. But Arya had always been a true wolf of the North. She would never fit the mold their mother had imposed on them, and now that she saw Arya so happy, in the culture of their Northern roots, she questioned why her sister needed to fit into the south when she was clearly not made for it?

It felt so disloyal on her part, and she tried to avoid these thoughts because she had loved Catelyn, and she always would. But now she could find so many flaws when she would compare her and Rhea that made her want to cry. That wasn’t to say that Rhea was perfect, but that Catelyn seemed to have never tried to understand them. Or at least Arya.

Like I hadn’t tried, either, she would berate herself.

So, she focused on being happy for Arya. To finally have friends that understood her and took her seriously, who wouldn’t badmouth her and wouldn’t belittle her for her unladylike pursuits.

“Selaena,” she turned to where Devan was, smiling at her charmingly, “come here, we are playing knights and maidens and we need at least one maiden!”

“Alyssa, Signy, and Griselda are maidens too, you know?” She said and the boy sneered.

“Yeah, and I am a dragon,” the boy said. “Those three are boys in disguise.”

Both Devan and Aemon had accepted that the girls were warriors in the making easier than most of the soldiers in the keep. Perhaps because Griselda, who was so shy that sometimes would squeak when someone talked to her, had been able to send the two of them to the ground with little effort.

“Hey!” Signy started to the younger boy, “Don’t be such a little sh*t, Reyne!”

“Aye, just ‘cause we fight doesn’t mean we aren’t maidens too!” Griselda said in one of her small bolts of courage but squeaked when Devan approached her.

“Look little mouse,” Devan said to Griselda, that tried to hide behind the taller of them: Signy, the boy sighed at the common occurrence. “stop hiding, you know I won’t hurt you and that you can take me down easily.” The boy said and Aemon entered before him.

“Stop annoying her,” the boy said rolling his eyes.

“Alright, let’s do this: Selaena is the princess, the boys are the monsters, and we are the knights!” Arya proposed.

“And what does a princess do?” she questioned her sister.

“Well, you sit still and pretty, while the monsters will guard you on the tower, then we have to save you and take you back to your castle. We win if we can take you back to the castle. We lose if we are not able to rescue you before the time passes.” Arya took a sand timer their father had bought for them when they were in King’s Landing.

After the definition of where the tower and castle location, though the “knights” weren’t permitted to know where the tower was, the definition of what was permitted and what wasn’t, Sansa sat under a tree in the Godswood.

“Come on! How come the two of you are so serious?” Devan asked with a frown at Aemon and Jon, both were truly strategizing in the game. “It is just a game.”

“Is a good exercise,” Aemon said.

Seven! It’s a game!”

“One day we might be sent to the frontlines, so we might as well start learning how to strategize now,” Aemon said, and she looked to Jon that had his solemn face on, agreeing with the other silver-haired man.

“Boring!” the blonde boy said. “See Princess, as they start to strategize, I will be the one to entertain you. Tell me: when are you going to pick up a sword as your sister?”

“Lena won’t pick up a sword,” Jon said, rolling his eyes. “She is too much of a lady for such,” he had a fond smile on his lips and Sansa smiled at her cousin.

“Yeah, Selaena will always have her own sworn shield at her side,” Waymar smirked. “Like Ser Luthor and Ser Malik,” the latter was always in the war, but Ser Malik remained at Runestone and was observing them.

“Aren’t you three strategizing? Let me have my conversation with Princess Selaena in peace, your pests,” the blond boy said playfully, and she giggled. “She already prefers me over you.”

After some time, in the middle of the game, Sansa and Jon were left mostly alone.

“You have been brooding,” she said, and he looked at her with a rose eyebrow. It would be useless to talk in Valyrian since Devan, Aemon, and Waymar had also learned or were learning the language. So instead, she was using a very low voice. "More than normal..." she clarified after a while.

“I don’t brood.”

“And I am the Empress of Valyria,” she answered sarcastically. “It can’t be because of the boys, you were happy when they announced that Aemon and Devan were going to be fostered in Runestone. Arya has not been beating you so much to the ground now that she has more people to spar with. And if I did anything, I would like to believe that you would have already told me. You were too easy to forgive Bran, but I also know that your father had sent some ravens to you. So, which is it?”

When she arrived in Runestone, still angry at Bran, and shared what she learned with her sister and cousin, she had expected a little more reaction from Jon. Arya had been furious, almost spitting fire herself, but Jon just looked at her and said: “we can’t expect a magic solution for everything, Sansa!” They were in the f*cking past, almost two hundred years before their original birth and they couldn’t expect a magical solution?

Give it a rest!

“I don’t know,” Jon sighed and brood again.

“You can either talk now, or later. But you know that I won’t let it go,” he sighed again, and she smirked sweetly. “Which is it going to be?”

“I think that I f*cked up,” he admitted, and she waited for him to elaborate. “The plan was to put off the little tower’s efforts for as long as we could, but what if I had managed to land someone else in my father’s bed by accident?”

“Can you please be a little more specific?”

“When I was in Red Keep with Uncle Daemon, I discovered that my father has been having public meetings with Myrcella Tarbeck in the gardens, accidental or so they say, and in the last five letters, Lady Tarbeck was mentioned at least once in each of them,” Sansa’s eyes widened in surprise. “Even Rhaenyra is mentioning her in her letters!”

Myrcella Tarbeck wasn’t a prominent figure in history. Truth be told, she hadn’t been a particularly good student, but she really couldn’t remember anything of Lady Tarbeck in the original timeline. In this one, however, she knew that the woman was making a name for herself in King’s Landing because of generous donations to the city’s poor house and the soup kitchen. Charities that had once the support of Queen Aemma.

“It had always been a risk, Jon,” she said, keeping the anxiousness out of her voice. “We are changing things.”

“But what if we f*ck up because I messed with the timeline?”

“If the Hightower fails to marry Alicent to Uncle Viserys, then they will move in either of the next targets: you or Rhaenyra. Your sister doesn’t have a real claim to the throne as she had in the original timeline, so you better be prepared to meet the granddaughter of Lord Hightower: Lady Alerie,” her cousin sneered, unhappily. “Heard she is a pretty thing: silver hair, dark eyes, and some claim that she will be the most beautiful woman in the realm.”

“I am pretty sure that they had never seen you before,” she smiled at his gallantry. “What if Myrcella has a child and they try to marry the child to one of them?”

“Has your father already confirmed the marriage?”

“No,” Jon said, and Sansa nodded.

“Then the plan remains unchanged,” Sansa shrugged. “If he announces the marriage between Myrcella and himself, we can make contingencies, but if there is one thing we know about Hightowers is that they won’t drop the bone so easily.”

“No, they won’t,” Jon agreed with him and sighed.

“Now, do us a favor and stop brooding. You are starting to scare the others with this scowl,” she ordered.

“I don’t brood!”

She only laughed at his protest.

King Viserys' preference for the widowed Lady Myrcella Tarbeck was a piece of common knowledge, so there wasn’t one living soul in the Seven Kingdoms that wasn't surprised when King Viserys announced that he would marry Lady Alicent Hightower. Many expect Lady Tarbeck to run from the court for having lost the "prize" but instead, she remained in the Red Keep until the end of the War of Stepstones. It was known that even after his marriage to Lady Alicent, Viserys still sought the company of Lady Tarbeck and that she has become one of Princess Rhaenyra's friends. She stayed until she remarried the widower Ser Bryden Lefford, brother of the current Lord Lefford and close friends of her brother and nephews. No one missed Lady Tarbeck more than the King himself.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

VISERYS

With the war, the court was significantly emptier and the need for tourneys and feasts had diminished, but he found other entertainment. Now, knowing that Lady Tarbeck would visit the gardens every morning, Viserys arranged his mornings to meet her there. Accidently. She was always with her son, four name-days old Lord of Tarbeck Hall, and/or her ladies.

Her presence, he reckoned, was a balm to him. Lady Tarbeck, Myrcella, was sweet, she talked about her charities, her plans for Tarbeck Hall, and her thoughts on politics. She was a bit arrogant and proud like Ser Harrold had warned, but he found that not overly so, just enough that it made her sound confident and charming. And her eyes, blue like Aemma’s, always held sincerity. Sometimes when she was talking, he could easily imagine that it was his Aemma at his side. Then he would open his eyes and see Lady Tarbeck and imagine a life with her at his side.

The Council, with the exception of Lord Velaryon who was commanding the war in his name, was pressuring him to remarry. The thought that had disgusted him for the first seven moons after Aemma’s death, wasn’t so repugnant after eleven months. Myrcella was intelligent, educated, and could hold herself well, it didn’t hurt that she was beautiful. On the rare occasions he managed to have Rhaenyra join them, he could see that his daughter was starting to warm up to the lady.

If even Rhaenyra was warming up to her, then so would Jaehearon.

“Your Grace is lost in thoughts again,” the sweet voice of Lady Tarbeck called him of his deep thoughts.

“I am sorry, Lady Tarbeck, some matters of the Small Council can’t see to leave me alone,” he said and she smiled at him.

“It must be hard, especially with the war now. All the pressure,” she specified.

“My biggest pressure from the war is Rhaenyra that is asking to be sent with Syrax to the frontlines,” she let out a small giggle and he frowned.

“Let me guess, the Princess's favorite ancestress would be Queen Visenya Targaryen?” she questioned with a side smile.

“That obvious?”

“I fear so,” she smiled. “I can see the appeal. Visenya didn’t wait for people to save her, to order her around. She took what she wanted and was unapologetic about it,” Myrcella said, and he nodded.

“Many people called her a monster for it,” he argued. “Many even called her a witch.”

“Why? Because she burned the Gulltown’s Arryn’s fleet with Vhagar and subdued most of the houses that now stand in Crownsland?”

“Don’t you think that it was something monstrous?”

He was taken aback by the laugh of the lady at his side. “Aegon Targaryen burned a hundred thousand men in the Field of Fire and before it, he burned Harrenhall until its stones melt down, he was called a conqueror instead,” he saw her point. “The difference is that Visenya was born a woman instead of a man. He killed much more than his sister-wife but was hailed while she was vilified. Now if you point out that she supported her son in usurping his nephews, then I will be able to agree with you. For she was completely willing to spill the blood of her own kin. But her actions in the conquest were not at all dissimilar to her husband’s.”

“You think that history was unfair to her?”

“History has been unfair to women for as long as it has been written, Your Grace,” Lady Tarbeck scoffed. “It isn’t just her, history is unfair to many, many women. We will always go down as either someone’s mother, sister, or wife. Rarely by ourselves.”

“I have never thought about that,” he admitted, and she smiled at him, slightly sad.

“Why would you? You are not the one that will one day be reduced to being the extension of someone else,” Lady Tarbeck said, and he felt a little ashamed. Knowing that she was right. “Sorry, I might have ruined today’s mood.”

“No,” he said. “You are right. This world has been unfair to women, and you have the right to feel how you are feeling. Unfortunately, I can’t say how to change it.”

“I don’t think that you will be able to ever change it, Viserys,” he appreciates his name coming from her lips but watched as she turned red. “I am sorry, Your Grace. I shouldn’t have been so familiar with you!”

“It is alright, Lady Myrcella,” he said with a smile, taking her hand in his and placing a single kiss on it. “I like it when my friends call me by my name.”

“It was still improper,” she said.

“Maybe,” he smiled at her. “I must go. I have a council meeting in fifteen minutes, and I like to arrive before them.”

“Of course, Your Grace,” Lady Myrcerlla said to him with a small smile. “I hope you have a good meeting.”

“That is like wishing for snow in Dorne during summer,” he sneered, and she laughed. After she gave him a small measure, he left.

He had something to tell his council today.

Joanna Hightower was a mysterious figure of the Hightower Conspiracy, some affirm that she was just a tool in her siblings' hands and that the accusations laid at her were unfounded and prejudiced, while others say that she was a willing participant. The fact was: if it wasn’t for her, Otto Hightower would have never been the Hand of the King, nor would his daughter have ever been Queen.

Excerpt of Crumbing towers: the fall of House Hightower, by Professor Jaehaerys Targaryen of the Royal University of Oldtown

JOANNA

From the Tower of the Hand, Joanna had observed the accidental encounter between the King and Lady Tarbeck with a little bit of resentment in her mind.

Fifteen years ago, her brothers introduced her to their family crusade to guide the Seven Kingdoms to the righteous path. They intended to marry her to Viserys, but he was already betrothed to Aemma Arryn, Joanna had always thought that they should have gotten rid of the silver-haired bitch from the start. But her brothers thought that Daemon would be a better choice for her. His impulsive behavior should make him easy to manipulate, and it would be even easier to get rid of him after an heir and spare. All they needed was a small fight. And from how the man found the most stupid reasons to fight, it wouldn’t be difficult to arrange a perfect one. A small accident here, and she would be the one raising the future monarch of Westeros with the right beliefs and morals.

If Hobert and Otto had heard her from the start and arranged for the demise of Aemma Arryn rather than land her at Daemon’s bed, she would have been Queen by now.

The plan had been risky from the start, but her brothers really believed that Queen Alysanne and King Jaehaerys could control Lord Flea Bottom. Looking back, it had been ridiculous on everyone’s part to believe that it would happen. Daemon Targaryen was a man that feared no man’s law, and sometimes Joanna questioned if he had ever feared the gods'.

Most likely not.

Because her virtue had been lost, she was married to a landed knight rather than a lord. Seven it was unfair! She was still the daughter of a Great House! Of its lord! And instead, to marry a Lord and have a keep of her own, she was forced to marry a landed knight with a small manse that wasn’t even really his!

And how abominably had Prince Daemon and Queen Alysanne treated her! After the night they laid together, she had been called to the Queen’s chamber, where she and her wayward grandson waited for her. She believed that they would marry, that the Queen had been able to make her grandson see reason. That they shouldn’t spur the Hightowers like that. Instead, the Queen and the Prince gave her moon tea. She was called two times to repeat the process.

Still, the plan continued. With some adjustments, of course.

Now, they wanted to marry Alicent to Viserys. Her niece was beautiful, accomplished, and ambitious—though Alicent would never admit it, Joanna could see how the girl’s eyes gleamed whenever her future queenship was brought up in conversation. Yet, too anxious and a little too timid to make the right moves. Had the girl been smart, she would have seduced the King in those two moons before Prince Jaehearon had found them, she could have staged a pregnancy, some tears, and have Viserys sucking at her hand.

Except that now the girl wasn’t even an option.

“Damnit!” She heard her brother’s frustration and something crashing.

With a sigh, she walked to the solar where her brother was. A beautiful vase of ceramic was broken near the door. It had been thrown all the way through his desk it seemed.

It was Yi-Tish too, what a waste! She thought after repairing the figures in the pieces.

“I take it that the Council wasn’t what you thought it would be,” she said.

“This isn’t a good time, Joanna,” Otto hissed, and she rolled her eyes at his dramatics.

“He announced that he intends to marry Lady Tarbeck?”

“Not as explicit,” her brother said and threw himself into an armchair. “Viserys said that he will start to look for a new wife in three moons.”

“When Lady Tarbeck’s official mourning period is over, how convenient,” while it was common for men to marry barely weeks after the death of his wife, a woman was expected to wait a year between the death of her husband and a new marriage. A child born within the first ten moons after the death of the husband was considered his and it was better to avoid confusion on the conception of children.

“I have to find a way to send that damned woman out of Kings’ Landing.”

“Oh, good luck! They love her!”

“Then I should kill her,” Otto said, and Joanna rolled her eyes.

“Or just make sure that Alicent passes a night with the King!”

“We tried that once, Joanna, but it didn’t work,” Otto said. “You know it better than anyone!”

Of course it didn’t work. But Viserys isn’t Daemon! He is tamer; easier to control and manipulate. More of a lamb than a dragon, in reality. If we can get him drunk, we can even make him think that it was all his fault, and he would marry her out of guilty and to preserve her honor.”

“Please, how do you think that I could get the King drunk?”

“Sometimes people exaggerate when there’s the anniversary of a tragedy,” she smiled at him. He hummed and she got up and stood behind him, her hands pressuring his shoulders. A massage to get rid of his tension. “Lady Tarbeck isn’t an immediate danger because she cannot marry for another three moons, killing her would only serve to make him even more of a recluse and refuse the company of ladies altogether, imagine if he decides to pass another mourning period.”

“How can we get Alicent inside the chambers, with the Kingsguard standing right before it?”

“Kill them, poison them, who cares? As long as they are out of the game, no one gives a damn! And if another spot opens in the Kingsguard, this time you might be able to have the Rowan in.” Joanna said.

Some years ago, they tried to have one of their cousins, Myranda, married to the then-heir of Goldengrove, Lord Arthur Rowan, the older brother of Ser Samwell Rowan. But they were unable since the man insisted on marrying a Riverlander Darry. Samwell had been their next target, but he was younger than his brother by twelve years and the Myranda was already two years older than Arthur and in need to marry before being considered a spinster. So, they agreed to marry her to their cousin, Lord Harlon Rowan who was the curator of a small estate within the lands of Goldengrove. The plan was simple: have Samwell inside the Kingsguard, kill Arthur and his sons, two of them, and have one of Myranda’s sons marry the oldest daughter to consolidate the claim to Goldengrove.

“Two Kingsguard dying so closely would be too suspicious. It might be easier to have an assassin kill Ser Samwell while he is in the Stepstones. Ser Willis Fell is my man if I manage to put him on the night watch at the anniversary of Aemma’s death…”

“You can get Alicent inside Viserys’ room and even make it seems that the King ordered her presence, overruling the no unmarried ladies without chaperone order he had once given,” Joanna smiled to her brother.

“We can get him drunk and even feed him some aphrodisiac and he will feel that he took advantage of Alicent and marry her to rectify it,” he pointed, and she nodded.

They had a plan.

Despite the high ladies that served Rhaenyra all being from prestigious Houses, there was a smear campaign against them. First, they tried to blame Lady Alicent’s actions on their “liberal” attitude, saying that they had encouraged the lady into seducing King Viserys. The Princess fought these claims arduously and defended and protected the honor of her ladies. Then, when they were accused of trying to influence Princess Rhaenyra to usurp Prince Jaehearon’s inheritance. Another accusation is that the Princess defended her ladies before someone could formally accuse them of treason.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

RHAENYRA

She looked to where Kate was sitting, reading out loud some romance to them while Laena and Dorea would make some snarky comments on the most cliché parts. Her head was resting in the lap of her best friend, but Alicent seemed to be having fun just hearing the comments.

Surprisingly she found that she enjoyed the girls chosen for her by her Aunt Amanda. Dorea was like her: eager to question the status quo and stubborn when she wanted something. Kate was more like Alicent: ladylike, delicate, and quiet, but quiet didn’t mean silent, whenever someone said something that she disagreed with she would voice her opinions and wouldn’t back down. And Laena was much more adventurous now that she was out of her father’s scrutiny.

They were also very useful! Dorea had learned that she flunked most of her social functions and corrected it, scheduling some tea or luncheons with other ladies and helping her interact with the few lords that remained in Kings Landing.

“If you want to find a husband, you better start to interact with them!” Dorea had said and she was forced to agree. No use hiding in their apartments.

Kate on the other hand was good with management and politics, having learned both crafts from her father, and always have marvelous insights into the people's motivation, the current quarrels, and how to avoid spending too much of their allowance—though her father had been generous in the sum, Kate was of the mind that economy was always the right path.

“For the Seven above!” Dorea cried after a passage. “Now that is just stupid!”

“I am sure that the writer must have a point,” Kate said with her lips pursed.

“Of course, he’s point is that he never exchanged more than two words with a woman in his life,” Dorea commented.

“Don’t be so rash, Dorea,” Laena said sarcastically, “he must have talked at least with his mother a little more than two words.”

As the girls laughed, Kate looked at her with an arched eyebrow. “Actually, Lloyd Morgan was an orphan raised by his uncle who was a novice in the Citadel.”

“Forget it, he never met a woman in his life at all!” Dorea said and the girls laughed.

“His inability of writing a female character that isn’t bidimensional and plain isn’t because he never met a woman in his life, but rather because he is incompetent,” Kate challenged, and Rhaenyra laughed hard this time.

“I think that this is one of the cruelest things I had ever heard you say of anyone, Kate,” she said with a smirk to the redhead that arched an eyebrow at her, “I think I like this side of yours.”

“Kate doesn’t forget stupidity, does she?” Laena questioned with a smile.

“Of course not!” Dorea said playfully, “Bad literature is such a terrible sin.”

“You agree with me on this,” Kate defended herself.

“The girls were happy with catty comments, yours was a little deeper, can you elaborate on your point on his incompetence?” Rhaenyra questioned. “Please be mean,” she pleaded.

“Alright, your highness,” she sneered at how Kate exaggerated the formality, with the obvious intention of annoying her since she had asked the girls to not be formal in private, “He is incompetent because when he writes the characters, the women at the story are all flat: they have no desire of their own: personal, sexual or ambition at all, they are only there to echo the male characters, there is no personality. The ladies are merely decorative objects in scenes when the man makes plans and has deep thoughts on the economy and whatever. In his works, women are just a little more than pretty statues.”

“If you think so, then why are you reading this?” Alicent questioned and Rhaenyra wanted to know the answer too.

“Well, Alicent, let us put it this way: Lloyd is not the only male that thinks so, actually this idea of women being creatures of no desire or personality, limited to echo the males of their lives is pretty much a default idea in men’s mind. As long as they think that I am like this, I have an advantage over them,” Kate said, and Rhaenyra looked at her with some respect to her silent new friend.

“Good to know that you do have some claws, kitty cat,” with that a pillow flew and hit Dorea in her face.

No one knows exactly what happened the night of the anniversary of Queen Aemma's death. The day had passed with the King begging pardon for feeling ill, he had his morning conversation with Lady Tarbeck, and after that, he spent most of the day in his chambers. Alone. It was only the next morning that Alicent Hightower was found naked in his bed with him.

Excerpt of Scandals of Red Keep, by Maester Elman -- Recuperated copy

OTTO

The day had finally arrived.

Like Joanna predicted, with the approaching of the anniversary of Aemma’s death, Viserys has been acting more depressed and even indulged a day or two in more wine than he would normally take. When the day really arrived, Otto managed to do everything right.

With Mellos' help, he managed to put strongwine and an aphrodisiac drug in the King’s cups. Ser Willis had been able to be the one in the night watch over the king’s chamber and they already had a complete scene play planned out for the morning.

“Lord Hand, Lady Alicent,” Ser Willis said when he and his daughter arrived at the chambers.

Joanna helped Alicent in one of her mother’s dresses. A pale peach one, with some cleavage exposed, though with the drugged king, Otto doubted that he would need the incentive. He nodded to the Kingsguard when the same opened the chambers to them. Before they entered, he felt Alicent’s nails piercing through his clothes.

“Alicent,” he hissed.

“Father! This is not a good idea,” she said, her voice pleading to rethink the plans.

“If you had managed to seduce the king, and keep his company until he favored you, this wouldn’t be necessary,” he said to her, sharply.

“What if the king refuses to marry me after it?” she questioned, obviously fearing for her future and he sighed and pulled a strand of her hair out of her face.

“Keep to the script, daughter, and the King will feel honor bound to marry you. I promise it,” he said, placing a gentle kiss on her brow. “Be a good girl and do what I told you.”

“Yes, father,” she said, submissively and he smirked.

They entered and found a pitiful sight: Viserys drinking alone by the fire. There was nothing that made him look like a king, if anything, he looked like a poor nobody. It was sad that he had to leave his precious daughter at the hands of such a stupid man, but at least he was a useful stupid.

“Your Grace, we’ve come to see how you are.”

When the King slurred over his words, he knew that it was time.

Notes:

Hello, my darlings! Hope you have liked the chapter despite this dark ending.
These Hightower are shameless, aren't they? Disrespecting the anniversary of Queen Aemma's death like this!
Now, what will be the consequences?

Update on our schedule:

Here are the chapters I have already written:
16. Countdown (23 of March/today)
17. The morning after (30 of March)
18. Lady Tarbeck (06 of April)
19. Long live the Queen I (13 of April)
20. Long live the Queen II
21. Interlude: Stepstones (in writing)

See you on 30th!

Chapter 17: The morning after

Summary:

In the Vale, Rhea fears the retaliation of the Mountain Clans.
In King's Landing: Rhaenyra wakes from a nightmare to face a betrayal.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The worst feeling in the world is knowing you've been used and lied to by someone you trusted.

Unknown author

The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.

Unknown author

Jeyne Arryn, The Maiden of the Vale, had her inheritance questioned twice by her cousin, Ser Arnold Arryn. Twice the man took arms against her and twice he was imprisoned in the sky cells. The Lady of the Eyrie was known for having a soft side for Prince Daemon Targaryen and his daughters for the prince’s actions that had her inheritance secured more than once.

Excerpt from The troublesome succession of the Eyrie, from Maester Garmon

RHEA

Dealing with the aftermath of Daemon’s action against the Mountain Clans was a real nightmare. First, there were those men who decided on taking revenge on them and attacked the surroundings of Runestone with more frequency especially when they perceived that part of their men was gone to war. Second was that now Ghost, Nymeria, Summer, and Lady were also attacking those clansmen when they arrived too close to the keep, feeding on them and getting mixed reactions from the smallfolk. There were those that were afraid that they would take a liking for human flesh and eventually turn on them, and there were those that started to love the dragons and worship them.

However, she had to admit that he had the results. There were few clansmen to attack them, their food storages were full and the stupid patrol plans that Daemon worked on for the moment most men would be away were… effective.

“There you are, overthinking again,” she turned and found Saoirse walking to her side. She had been in the battlements, watching the children play dragons and knights. She always scheduled her rests to meet with either their playtime or their training.

“I am not overthinking,” she defended herself and her cousin’s wife scoffed.

“Then why the long face?”

“Jeyne sent a raven,” she said. “She is inviting our household to visit the Eyrie, misses the children.”

“That’s sweet of her,” Saoirse said and then Rhea completed.

“She decided to gift my daughters with a chest full of silver each, for the services provided by Daemon,” she said and Saoirse scoffed.

“Do you blame her? Her father and brother were killed by the Stone Crows when she was three or four name-days old,” the honey blonde hair of her lady-in-waiting gleamed golden in the sun.

“His brutality reflects poorly in Runestone.”

“No, it doesn’t. Everyone in the Vale knows that you are a good and fair woman, and Prince Daemon hasn’t earned the title of Rogue Prince for nothing… Also, the clansmen have been stealing our food, raping and stealing our women, attacking our people, and destroying our villages for nothing more than fun for centuries,” Saoirse said. “Whatever brutality they suffer, will be a fair payback for our people’s suffering.”

“I fear that they will eventually unite forces and try to take Runestone for revenge.”

“Then we defend it.”

“Are you a shieldmaiden now, Saoirse?” she questioned playfully.

“After hearing Signy and Griselda drive on the noble task of those women, I might give it a try,” her friend said with an equally playful smile. “So, Eyrie?”

“We will leave in a week,” she sighed.

“You don’t even look happy to be seeing your cousin,” Rhea scoffed.

“I am happy that I will see Jeyne soon, but I am not interested in dealing with the Falcon’s Court.”

“You aren’t interested in dealing with any court at all, Rhea Royce.”

“And yet, it seems that I cannot escape them,” she sneered.

The morning after the first anniversary of Queen Aemma's death was marked with commotion. It was said that the chambermaids that cleaned the King's chambers found linen with a familiar type of red stain in it. This information ran through the Red Keep like fire in dried grasslands, and many suppositions and rumors started from it.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

RHAENYRA

Rhaenyra woke in her bedroom with the sun entering the windows. Looking at either side of her bed, she found Dorea and Laena, deeply asleep. Flashes of the last night made their way to her mind: she woke up screaming in the night, full of sorrow, fear, and anger from the nightmare she had.

The image of her mother dying in a pool of her own blood, while a baby started to rot inside her had plagued her dreams until her mother’s face was replaced by her own.

Her screams woke the girls of her household, after all, they now shared her apartments and they found her screaming in her bed, crying. They lulled her to sleep and stayed with her. The only one, she didn’t remember having seen last night was Alicent. Now she was looking for Kate, who should have been with them when she heard a noise coming from their common drawing room.

Carefully to not wake her friends yet again, she removed herself from bed and found a robe. She moved soundlessly through the room to the drawing room, where she found Kate sitting on the chaise, a book in hand as she would normally do, their handmaids were organizing their breakfast table.

“Good morning, Rhaenyra,” the redhead said with a smile when she spotted her. “Are you better now?”

“Yes, much better,” she said, barely recognizing her own rough voice. “I am sorry for having woken you all.”

“It’s alright, the first anniversary is always the worst,” Kate smiled sadly at her. Like her mother the late Lady Oakheart died in a childbed, giving birth to a stillborn. Kate also used to have a brother, an older one that died a little after her mother, with a cold. “It will get better, I promise.”

“Thank you,” she said almost shyly. “Where is Alicent?”

She didn’t miss the wary exchange of glances between the maids, or how the own heiress of Old Oak looked at the door.

“I don’t know. When… I checked at night, and she wasn’t in her room, she has yet to return,” the princess wasn’t much of a political person, but she could recognize that it was the diplomatic way in which Kate inform her that Alicent had sneaked out of their apartments after they got to sleep and passed her night somewhere else.

“Oh, she might have slept at the Hand’s Tower,” Rhaenyra said optimistically, and Kate said nothing that made her narrow her eyes. “What do you know?”

“Delia, please share with the princess what you answered me when I questioned about the whereabouts of Lady Alicent’s handmaid,” Kate said to Rhaenyra’s own handmaid who started to fidget at the scrutiny of the princess's gaze and the coldness in the voice of Kate.

“I… Mya, Iza, and I share a room, Your Highness, and we were woken very early today,” Rhaenyra frowned at the information, it was clear that her handmaid was more than just a little nervous and Delia had never been someone to shutter like she was today, “well Iza was, she was woken by Lady Joanna Royce’s maid, methinks that they assumed that I was sleeping, but I have very light sleep and heard when they said that Iza was to go to the King’s Chambers. That Lady Alicent was there.”

The princess felt fell into the armchair behind her, gasping in shock. Something about her obviously spook Kate, because the redhead placed down her book, not even caring to bookmark it, and came to her. Sweet, loyal Delia continued to talk in the background, while Kate questioned if she was alright.

Shock and disbelief ran through her at first. Alicent was the proper type of lady, devoted to her gods, and kept morals and good costumes, she wouldn’t pass her night in an unmarried man’s bedroom! That was insane! Why would she do it?

Then came that suffocating feeling of betrayal. There was only one reason an unmarried lady could possibly have to seek her father’s chambers.

Then came denial.

“I… Alicent wouldn’t do it, would she?” Rhaenyra questioned Kate, purple and amber crashing and she knew that Kate wouldn’t lie.

“Honestly, I don’t know Lady Alicent well enough to say what she would or wouldn’t do, Nyra,” she said softly. “But I do know that House Hightower is not above doing whatever to reach what they want.”

“And what does House Hightower wants?” Rhaenyra asked, wanting to defend her best friend’s house more than anything. But every piece of information she had was damning! Every

“I think that you know, princess,” and gods she did.

How she did!

Despite his penchant for tourneys, feasts, and balls, King Viserys wasn't known for drinking too much. But after the first anniversary of Queen Aemma's death, it was said that he was sworn off wine for life. Coincidently not a week after said anniversary, it was announced that he would marry Lady Alicent Hightower.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

VISERYS

He was feeling so ill.

How came that Daemon would drink that much and be just fine in the morning after?

If it was only his headache and nausea he felt that was troubling him, it would have been better.

Instead, he woke up with Lady Alicent Hightower sleeping peacefully, naked, under the same silken sheets that he used, at his own side. The red stain on his white sheets, under her hips, showed what happened. He had deflowered the daughter of one of his best friends! But how?

How had that happened? Ever since his conversation with Jaehearon, Viserys had started to take the ladies’ virtue more seriously. He knew that he had been feigning ignorance of the customs, of the risks involved until his son reminded him of his own privileges. He could get out unscathed from those encounters, no matter how innocent or depraved they were, but the ladies couldn’t.

Yet, all he remembered was feeling miserable.

Viserys had just one distinct memory of the last day. He found Lady Tarbeck in the halls, mostly alone, and she offered him condolences for Aemma’s death anniversary. He remembered that she gave her some comfort and he kissed her, and she returned the kiss, and he f*cked it up by calling for Aemma.

“I like you Viserys, really,” she told him when stepping back, “But I cannot be Queen Aemma, and you are obviously not alright. We should stop here for the night.”

He had been so embarrassed that he accepted her dismissal before leaving for his own rooms. And after that, he remembered nothing.

Lady Alicent had woken shortly after him, embarrassed and wary and crying and he promised her that he would do right by her.

Now he was at his solar, after having heard the reports of Ser Willis. Apparently, at night, he received the visit of the Lord Hand and his daughter, both of whom intended to offer him condolences for the anniversary of the death of his Aemma when only Otto got out, saying that Alicent had offered herself to read something to him.

Alicent said that he had kissed her when she was reading, and she didn’t react because, well. He is the King. And she wasn’t trained to deny the King anything. So, she just acquiesced. Otto said that when he returned to retrieve his daughter, that had already happened, and while he wanted to fight the King, Ser Willis prevented him from acting harshly.

“You can be assured that I will do right by your daughter, Otto,” part of him cringed at repeating the same words he had said to Lady Alicent just a couple of hours ago.

“Your Grace will marry my daughter?” he asked.

“I will, it is my responsibility for what happened yesterday,” Viserys said, sighing. “I will marry her within two moons.”

“Two moons, isn’t it too early?”

“If the Lady is already pregnant, it will guarantee that the child is born within a marriage. If not, there will be other opportunities for her to get pregnant,” he answered. “Also, two moons are enough that your family and mine might reach us. We have no need for a grandiose wedding when we are in the middle of a war.”

“Of course, Your Grace, that is a good plan… Should we talk dowry and bride price?”

Viserys never felt so annoyed in his life.

Within a moon, every member of the Court knew that it was by his design that the King agreed to marry his daughter. While the man exhaled entitlement in knowing that his daughter would be Queen and planned a way of getting rid of those in his way, someone made sure that the whole Kingdom wouldn't forget how he managed it. As Lady Alicent, his daughter had been respected as a model of kindness and decorum, Queen Alicent her image was tarnished by the rumors that said that she had seduced King Viserys.

Excerpt of Crumbing towers: the fall of House Hightower, by Professor Jaehaerys Targaryen of the Royal University of Oldtown

OTTO

Joanna had been right.

Viserys seemed to almost be begging to take the blame for what happened. After assuring himself that Alicent was alright and leaving her with his sister, he went to the King’s solar, where he found the very hangover monarch with a heavy consciousness and ready to make amends.

It had been so easy that it was almost a waste of all his time planning.

“You are almost giddy brother,” Joanna said when he entered his chambers. “Like the plan, I suppose?”

“Where is Alicent?”

“She wanted to go back to the princess's chambers,” Joanna rolled her eyes. “I told her to take some rest in her rooms here. Do you know how to make the princess complacent?”

“You think that Rhaenyra might be a problem?”

“I’m surprised that you think she isn’t going to be,” his sister scoffed. “She isn’t going to accept it easily.”

“Nonsense, the princess will do as she is told,” Joanna laughed at him and he frowned.

“You are a fool if you think so,” she said. “I spent probably about five to ten minutes around her and know that she is going to turn against Alicent so hard that your daughter will be left without friends.”

“She is going to be Queen.”

“Alicent will have a crown, but she is isolated. Rhaenyra’s household will choose the princess.”

“We just get rid of the household then,” Otto said and his sister rolled her eyes. “I will say to the king that having two households is just wasteful and that Rhaenyra’s household should be absolved by the Queen’s this way we can dismiss those girls easily.”

“I doubt that it will that easy,” Joanna said. “Those girls were handpicked by Lady Tyrell and Lady Rhea. They will complain to the King, and he will let them stay. But if matches can be arranged for them… I doubt that Rhaenyra would marry Gawyne, but the King had hom*ologated Lord Oakheart’s decision to name his daughter, Lady Kate, as the heiress of Old Oak. It is a good Keep for a Hightower, better than ending up serving as someone’s knight.”

“Then we have the answer for one. What about the Westerling and Laena?”

“Westerling has a decent dowry, I am sure we can find someone for them and Lady Laena. Well, her father will try to marry her to either Prince Jaehearon or he will look somewhere else now.”

“So your solution for the princess’ ladies is to marry them?”

“Killing them is going to raise flags, Otto. People are going to ask why it keeps happening.”

“Let them ask… When Alicent gives birth to a girl, we can marry her to Prince Jaehearon.”

Something that never sat well with him was how the prince seemed to be protected by whichever god he prayed for. No poisons, no accidents, or attempts had ever worked on the boy. The Seven obviously favored the boy, otherwise, he would haven’t even been born. If he didn’t know better he would have accused Queen Aemma of being a witch. Well, he wouldn’t, the deed would have implicated him, but he would certainly suspect the late queen.

They decided to let the boy live, if after everything he was still alive then the Seven must be protecting him. What they had to do, was to place someone next to him on the throne. Someone that could control the boy.

Dorea Westerling was known, primarily, for her loyalty to Princess Rhaenyra, having served as her lady-in-waiting. Fiercely loyal, strong opinionated, and very politically attuned, she helped the Princess grow in her role by encouraging her to make alliances and statements. If Princess Rhaenyra became an important part of her brother's reign, a good part was because of Lady Dorea's support and encouragement.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

DOREA

Dorea had never liked Alicent Hightower. Call it instinct, or gut feeling, but there had always been some nagging feeling at the back of her mind that told her that Lady Alicent wasn’t everything she appeared to be. For all the saintly devotion, there was something else lurking in her eyes whenever they talked about the King remarrying that left her uncomfortable.

Still, she had been called to serve Princess Rhaenyra who obviously favored Lady Alicent, so she said nothing. That was until this morning. Their night had been interrupted by Rhaenyra’s scream of the nightmare she had about her mother’s death. A bed of blood she called her dream when they went to her room.

Alicent wasn’t among them, and this morning she wasn’t in their apartments. Kate said that Delia, the princess’ handmaid, heard that Iza, Alicent’s handmaid, had been sent to the King’s Chambers. After some anger and denial, Rhaenyra demanded help to change from her shift into a dress and left their apartments, walking to her father’s chambers. She asked for them to remain there while she tried to get the right history.

The silence in their drawing room was almost deafening, but she could see some of the reactions. Kate seemed detached and cold, almost as if the whole situation was below her notice, Laena was fuming, furious, and almost a dragon herself. She… Well, she was angry and a little disappointed, something in between.

When the doors of their apartment opened, she expected Rhaenyra to enter, since only members of the household could enter without being announced, but instead, it was Alicent that walked into the room. Admittedly she almost hissed at the dark-haired girl.

She glanced at the girls in the room and observed how they reacted: Kate only looked at her with an arched eyebrow as if not believing that the older girl had the balls to walk into their apartments as if nothing had happened. Laena though was the one that questioned.

“Where were you?”

“In the Hand’s Tower, I slept at my father’s chambers,” she said, and Dorea watched as she started to prickle on her cuticles. A habit of when she was anxious. Or lying.

“Oh, did you? Then why was Iza sent to the king’s chambers after you?” Laena questioned, her eyebrow rising high and sarcastically.

“I remember you retiring to your chambers, right here at our apartments last night,” Kate said, in a lazy tone.

“Which means that you had to wait for our sleep and then sneak out of your rooms. And it wasn’t for the Hand’s Tower. You never left Maegor’s Holdfast at all. You went to the King’s Chamber,” Dorea added. “And spent the night there too. What were you doing in an unmarried man’s chambers Lady Alicent?”

“Shut up, you have no proof of those accusations,” Alicent said to her, and Dorea narrowed her eyes.

“Oh, look, she has claws,” she said.

“We might not have proof, but we have witnesses,” Laena said. “Delia heard when your handmaid was sent to the King’s Chambers because you were there.”

“That’s slander!” Alicent hissed. “You are lying.”

“Then why, on the night that Princess Rhaenyra, your very best friend, would need your support you left her?”

“That is not of your business,” the snake hissed, and she and Kate had to stop Laena from jumping at the girl.

“Why would Delia lie to us, then?” Kate asked, still holding Laena.

“Why should I know why a servant wants to slander me?” Alicent questioned back. “Also, which word has more value, mine or hers?”

“That depends on…” the redhead said with narrowed eyes. “What would you want in the King’s chambers?”

“Nothing!” Dorea almost believed when the girl cried, gulping, but there was that tic: she was picking on her cuticles again. “I did nothing wrong!”

“That is a lie,” they heard as the same door opened behind Alicent and they watched as Rhaenyra looked at her, the purple eyes shining with something dangerous in them.

Of the many unhappy people with the announcement of the marriage between King Viserys I and Lady Alicent Hightower, was the King's own daughter: Princess Rhaenyra. Despite the lack of witnesses willing to talk about it, it was said that there was a big row in the Princess' apartments a week prior to the said announcement. It is also said that it was Princess Rhaenyra that made sure to spread all the rumors about Lady Alicent's indecency and tricks, this information however had never been confirmed.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

RHAENYRA

The confirmation was worse than the doubt.

After breaking her fast, Rhaenyra went straight to her father’s chambers, only to see the maids changing the bed linens, and in the old ones, there was a distinct red stain in them. But her father wasn’t there, so she had to leave to find him in the second place he stayed most of his time: his solar.

She found him alone, looking miserable, and with that guilty eyes, he carried whenever her mother’s name came up. Rhaenyra didn’t understand why he felt so guilty by her death, not when she knew that once Mellos suggested cutting her in half to take the Baelon out of her, and he refused vehemently. It wasn’t his fault at all. Still, he blamed himself, and now he was blaming himself for another matter.

“Father, what happened?” she questioned when she saw him with a frown.

“Rhaenyra, I am sorry! I am so sorry!” he mumbled with a sob, Rhaenyra felt her heart squeeze, and her rage gave space for something else. Compassion.

She served him tea and sat at his side, her hands covering his as she questioned again, this time softer than before. Then he shares all that he wanted. He shared that he remembered kissing Lady Myrcella and that she rejected him for not being in his best estate—something that made her respect for Lady Tarbeck grow exponentially—and then walking to his room and then waking up with a deflowered Alicent at his side.

He said that he promised to marry Alicent for what he has done, and Rhaenyra could even imagine what had happened. Unfortunately for Alicent, nothing good came from the conclusions she was drawing from his explanation. It seemed that her best friend had purposefully taken advantage of her father in his weakest state and Ser Willis let it happen!

Her father didn’t see it, he sees thought himself guilty of taking advantage of her. And because of it, he was going to marry her. Alicent. Her best friend—was she? After everything could she consider Alicent her best friend still?— Not Lady Tarbeck to whom she had beginning to warm up, but to sweet Alicent!

“You have no blame, father! She wasn’t supposed to be in your room at all. Especially alone and especially if you were drunk!” Rhaenyra said to him, firmly.

“She was there to help me with my grief!”

“And now she became one,” Rhaenyra replied. “Father, this was a setup!”

“You think that your friend, Alicent, would be as crude to set me up? Rhaenyra, please, she is a sweet girl,” Viserys defended the girl.

“She is a sweet girl, but her father isn’t!” She saw a flash of understanding passing through his eyes. “Don’t you see? She probably followed her father’s orders!”

“I have to think about it,” he said with a sigh. “Return to your duties.”

And so she did.

Frustrated. Furious. And unhappy.

She was reaching her apartments when she heard Kate’s voice: “What would you want in the King’s chambers?”

“Nothing!” Alicent’s voice made her blood freeze. “I did nothing wrong!” And then run hotter than dragon fire.

How dare her? How dare she lie so effortlessly?

“That is a lie,” she said opening the door. Alicent turned to her, clearly surprised. “You seduced my father!”

“Rhaenyra, that is not what happened!”

“Oh? It isn’t?” she asked sarcastically.

“No! He attacked me!” Alicent tried to defend herself and Rhaenyra wanted to attack the girl right there.

“He attacked you? And how conveniently that your father had left you with him, alone, when he was drunk and grieving!” she saw as her former best friend's eyes looked bigger, Rhaenyra passed right through her and stood before her ladies in waiting, the ones she knew that were loyal. “That’s what happened, isn’t it? Your father left you with mine?”

“I only did what my father asked me,” it was almost a murmur, Alicent’s voice.

“Strange… That was the exact same thing you said when my brother found you in his chambers alone, almost a year ago,” Rhaenyra commented with a scornful smile. “Jae warned me and said that you had been spending time alone with my father almost since the death of my mother. It was because of it that my father told every Kingsguard to always send away the unmarried ladies without chaperones. Yet, there you were this night. Tell me, how long have you been vying for my mother’s crown?”

“I am a dutiful daughter, I only did what my duty to my father and my house,” Alicent said, this time forcefully, looking straight into her eyes, and when the brown eyes met hers, she saw hurt there but didn’t care.

“Your duty to your house includes whoring yourself to a grieving man?” she questioned.

“It includes doing whatever I can to secure our position!” Alicent yelled to her and Rhaenyra was holding herself to not smacking the girl that until the next night, she believed to be her friend. “Why is it so wrong for me to be Queen? Over half of this court wants to be Queen! You wanted to be queen!”

“Yet no one threw themselves at the bed of a drunk and grieving king in their quest for the crown. And to convince my father that it was his fault? Bravo! How come I never noticed that you were acting all this time?”

“I wasn’t acting. I am your friend.”

“A friend wouldn’t take advantage of their friend’s father as you did, Alicent! Consider yourself banned from this household, Lady Alicent Hightower. You can send your servants to remove your things from this apartment. Now get out of here!”

“Rhaenyra!”

“OUT!”

When Alicent got out of her apartments, Rhaenyra felt herself give in. Tears of frustration and sorrow and betrayal started to fall and she start to sob. But she wasn’t alone. Kate and Dorea helped her to a chaise and Laena requested some servants to bring in tea before they embraced her and let her cry.

Notes:

Hello everyone!
So, Viserys doesn't know that he was drugged, he thinks that all that happened was a result of him overdrinking and blaming himself for what happened. That was exactly what the Hightower expected.
Hope that you have liked it and that I placed enough teenage feelings in that.
See you next week!

Chapter 18: Lady Tarbeck

Summary:

Viserys has a heart-to-heart with Lady Tarbeck.
Jon receives the news.
Alicent suffers the rumors.
Rhaenys hears a surprising conversation.
Rhea arrives in the Eyrie!

Chapter Text

Lady Myrcella Tarbeck was one of the most influential women at the beginning of the second century of the Targaryen dynasty. She arrived at court in time for the sixth name-day feast of Prince Jaehearon, with a simple request: for the King to support her regency over the lands of her deceased husband in name of their son. Support easily granted by King Viserys. Still, she remained in court for many years. At first, many thought that she would end up marrying the King, she didn't, but was regarded by the King as one of his "dearest and most trusted friends" and while she did not occupy a position in the Council, it was known that she was his unofficial advisor. The Regent Lady Tarbeck had more influence on the court than the Queen Alicent herself, much to House Hightower's dismay.

Excerpt of Women's roles in Viserys's I Reign, Vol.3, by Professor Rhea Tyrell of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

VISERYS

He decided that the first person, outside of Rhaenyra, Alicent, and Otto, who needed to know of his engagement was Lady Tarbeck. Oh, the council had been warned too, but they knew better than spread word before the official announcement.

Now he mourned the lost opportunity and how he had screwed his chances with Myrcella when he called her by Aemma’s name. And then when he slept with Lady Alicent. Gods! Wasn’t that a mess?

He knew that Alicent had been banned from Rhaenyra’s household, something that Otto tried to complain to him about, but Rhaenyra’s household was hers to manage. He wouldn’t force him to accept Alicent, even if he knew that the girl was blameless in what happened. That the blame was his to take. Yet, Rhaenyra's sole request to keep quiet about why he would marry Lady Alicent so promptly was so that he promised her that she could keep her apartments and household under her control.

Two days after that debacle, he sought Myrcella in the garden. She came in using a pretty pink dress that favored her well, but then… which of her clothes hadn’t favored her? Lady Tarbeck smiled at him, like always and his heart squeezed in longing and regret.

“Your Grace, you appear better than the last time I saw you,” there was something playful in her smile.

“I admit that I don’t know why I had drunk so much that day,” he said with a sad smile. “I don’t think I will ever drink again.”

“Is that a promise or an exaggeration?”

“A promise,” he vowed, in low voice. “Ser Harrold, I would like some privacy with Lady Tarbeck,” he said to his Lord Commander and then guided her to a part of the garden and weren’t followed by the Lord Commander, though they remained under his watchful eyes, they weren’t going to be heard. “Lady Tarbeck, I don’t know how to start it…”

“If it is about that night…”

“No, I mean… Kind of,” he cut her off. “That night… It was… I wanted to kiss you, but not like that.”

“Drunk?”

“Mourning my wife,” he knew that his smile was more of a grimace to her. “You deserved better than that.”

“I do,” she said without reservation, and he chuckled at her unapologetic self-esteem. “I like you, but I am never going to settle to be anyone’s replacement, Your Grace. Not even Queen Aemma’s.”

“I know, and that is one of the many things I respect in you, my lady,” he said. “I wanted to… Gods, it feels so cruel right now! I wanted to do everything right… To court you like you deserve to be courted and then ask for your hand.” he saw some hope in her eyes, mixed with confusion and he continued. “Kissing you that night was a mistake because I wanted to wait for your mourning period to be over, but it was only the first mistake of the night.”

“What was the second?”

“I… I don’t remember it, but I have… I have done something, and now I must correct my wrongdoing.”

“What have you done, Viserys?” her question was serious, and her blue eyes were deep in his.

“I think that I have dishonored Alicent Hightower. No! I am sure that I did! I didn’t want to, but…”

“Dishonoured Lady Alicent?” She questioned with a frown and then shook her head and sighed, “You’ll have to explain better.”

So, he did. He told her that after meeting her, he returned to his room and how he blacked out. Only to wake up to Alicent’s naked body and a red stain on his linen. Her frown turned into understanding and then into a scoff.

“They set you up,” she said.

“What? Didn’t you hear that I…”

“That you were drunk and therefore not in your perfect mental state to take decisions and that despite knowing it, the man that should be your most trusted man left his virgin daughter with you alone?” Myrcella said and he frowned.

“I ordered him…”

“When I am drunk, I expect that my ladies, handmaids, and guards will stop me from making any decision I would regret when sober,” she said fiercely. “Otto Hightower set you up because he knew that you are a gentleman and would take the blame for yourself and would make reparations. You promised that you would marry her, didn’t you?”

“I… I did,” he said, and she scoffed.

“Viserys, when you first met me here in the gardens, you told me that you were starting to have doubts about Otto, you never elaborated and I let it go because it really wasn’t my place. But now I must know, why you doubted him in the first place?”

Viserys sighed, before deciding that he could be honest with her. Till now she had been completely honest with him, and he could, should, repay that.

“Do you know Amanda Tyrell?”

“Queen Aemma’s older sisters?”

“The one and only,” he smirked. “When she comes to the court, we have some tea together. She is a sharp woman, and she has the most interesting history of my Aemma’s infancy… Her husband was also the uncle of one of Aemma’s lady-in-waiting. She came to me a little before Jaehearon’s name day and told me that Lady Gillianne Darry wrote to them that she was back at Castle Darry and had been dismissed by my orders along with most of Aemma’s household.”

“By your orders, but not by you?”

“Otto dismissed them while I was in deep mourning and told them that I had given the orders. I hadn’t.”

“That’s power usurpation,” Myrcella was really surprised by what he had just said to her. “And then there was the whole debacle of Stepstones?”

“Yes,” he said, and the more he thought about it the more he started to agree with Myrcella and Rhaenyra. “You really think that I was set up?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time they pulled the trick, only that this time they had found a target that complied,” she sneered and he frowned.

“What are you talking about?”

“You, don’t know?” she was again genuinely surprised and he shook his head so she sighed. “Alright, first what I am going to tell you is mostly based on rumors that I have heard, but those rumors have base because my aunt used to be part of Queen Alysanne’s household as her lady in waiting” He nodded. “Aunt Gemma didn’t enter many details, but it appears that around the 96 or 97 AC, Lord Hightower tried to have his sister, Lady Joanna, engaged to Prince Daemon, but Queen Alysanne wanted to marry Prince Daemon with an heiress and Lady Joanna’s dowry wouldn’t cut it for her. She didn’t come with any lands after all. So it happened that your seventeen years old brother returned drunk to his rooms and found Lady Joanna waiting for him, naked on his bed,” he frowned, he had never heard that history before. “Hobert Hightower immediately asked for reparations, he wanted Prince Daemon to marry the girl by any means possible, but instead Queen Alysanne stood her ground and defended Prince Daemon saying that the girl shouldn’t even have been in the Maegor’s Holdfast at all.”

“97? That was when Aemma had Daella,” he said sadly, remembering his stillborn daughter. They had been in seclusion in Dragonstone for nearly two years: during Aemma’s pregnancy and during their mourning. Their father, Prince Baelon, was basically their only company besides Rhaenyra. At that time, he didn’t pay much attention to Court. “Daemon was always too headstrong to simply fall into this scheme,” then he frowned. “But he married Lady Rhea…”

“Your grandmother had been working with Lord Yorbert Royce to have Lady Rhea marry Prince Daemon, she was thirteen and he wanted her to inherit Runestone, they came to a pretty agreement and the Queen told the prince that he could either marry Lady Rhea or marry Lady Joanna. And as a means to reparation, Lord Royce had a cousin, Gunthor that would hold a manse in the lands of Runestone and offered him to Lady Joanna. Two marriages with the price of one.”

“The man that is almost always questioning Rhea’s right to rule over her father’s seat? Hobert wouldn’t have accepted it… A cousin that doesn’t own anything for a prince?”

“And the position of Master of Laws to Otto Hightower. Your grandfather offered the position as a means to keep it silent so the Hightower wouldn’t raise a fuss.”

“And fourteen years later, I fell into the trap my brother didn’t. Why had this history never reached me?”

“The Hightower and your grandparents did their best to have this history quiet and make the rumors die, I doubt that anyone outside of those that had been involved somehow would even remember this and I imagine that Prince Daemon hadn’t told you because he thought that you already did know.” He nodded, yes that was within his brother’s character.

“I imagine that it would be within Daemon’s character. And would also, finally, explain his hate for everything Hightower,” he said with a scoff. “And you know because your aunt was one of my grandmother’s ladies and therefore in her confidence?”

“I might have heard the history while snooping in my mother and aunt's conversations,” she admitted not even a little ashamed. “So you see, it wouldn’t be the first time they tried the trick, they only found a target that would be more compassionate to a lady's shame and fall.”

“What would you do, Lady Tarbeck, if you were in my situation?”

Your Grace promised to marry Alicent, you cannot go back to your world otherwise they would accuse you of being an oath-breaker,” he nodded at her implication. “But you don’t need to keep Otto as your Hand, after all, can you trust him to not use you again to his benefit?”

“Myrcella, you gave me a lot to think about,” he said with a smile and took her hands and planted a kiss there. “I hope you can forgive me for any…”

“There’s nothing to forgive, Viserys,” she smiled at him.

Prince Jaehearon received the news that his father would marry Lady Alicent the day before it was announced to the court. He was at Runestone when the raven arrived, and the only registry of his reaction was within a letter from Aemon Celtigar to his mother, saying that the prince had been upset, but didn’t enter in detail. When he returned to Red Keep, he was said to keep a respectful approach with the new Queen but to keep her at arm’s length, a very different reaction to the siblings he was introduced to, to whom he quickly became a doting older brother.

Excerpt of the Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric Tollet

JON

He glared at the letter with such intensity that he was sure that he would burn it sooner or later.

Somehow, with the clear preference his father had shown towards Lady Tarbeck, he would still marry Lady Alicent. Something had to happen. But what?

“Well, now I feel bad for a piece of paper,” his eyes turned to the mocking Devan, who was looking at him with a side smile that made him remember, vaguely, of Jaime Lannister in his first visit to Winterfell. He, Waymar, Aemon, and Devan were sitting in the library, studying, and reading since Rhea wouldn’t let them train in the soft summer rain. While at it, Signy was teaching the girls the arts of shieldmaiden, and they were therefore forbidden to enter Alyssa’s rooms.

“Bad news?” Aemon asked.

“I… I don’t know,” he said truthfully to his friend. “My father is going to remarry. To Lady Alicent.”

“Lady Alicent? Wasn’t she one of your sister’s ladies in waiting?” Aemon questioned, obviously remembering one of the girls that would follow his sister up and down the Red Keep until only she was left.

“She was…”

“You don’t look happy about it…” Waymar said with a frown.

“I don’t know how to feel about it.” They managed to keep Alicent out of the King’s bed for six moons over the original timeline, but on the other hand, he still choose her. Even when he had another option.

What the hell had happened in the Red Keep?

Some hours later, they were joined by the girls, except for Sansa who had been taken for her lessons. Discreetly he passed the letter to Arya, who after reading and being aware that the King had previously shown a preference for another lady, sent him a meaningful glare.

“My mother would be terrified with the idea of having to fight,” Devan said to Signy.

“I am sure she would be more terrified if she had ever found herself within the claws of the f*cking krakens,” Signy said rolling her eyes. “Or the wildlings. Both are known for stealing women, raping them, and making them their slaves and concubines. They call them other names, sure, but what is a salt wife or stolen bride if not someone taken by force from their families and their lives?”

“Damn, why are you so serious?” the blond boy asked.

“Because I have seen my sister kill a man to protect me from being taken by a kraken when Bear Isle was attacked, she almost died. I was five,” she said with a such serious voice that Jon remembered the histories he knew from the Bear Islands of women being sequestered and never returned. “So yes, I am very serious when I say that it is important for women to know how to defend themselves. And I am sure that Griselda has seen a similar scene in the mountains, with Castle Wull being so close to the damned Bridge of Skulls.”

He looked at Griselda and saw as she looked down, this time it wasn’t in shyness but in sadness.

“My father’s young sister was taken by a wildling the year I was born. I was named after her,” Devan looked at her with wide eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and Jon observed as Aemon placed a hand on Griselda’s shoulder. It wasn’t the first time he perceived that his most serious friend would seek to protect or comfort Griselda. The northern girl sent Aemon a small smile before nodding to Devan.

“Women don’t fight for honor, we fight for survival,” Signy said seriously.

“I am not saying that you shouldn’t, I am only saying that in the South, women that fight are disregarded as unmarriageable,” Devan replied. “The men are expected to be able to protect their ladies.”

“Except that the men aren’t always with them, are they?” Arya said. “My great-grandmother was attacked in the Maindenpool by septas, when she was at her most vulnerable state. It was only the sacrifice of her handmaids that permitted her survival.”

“And then there are questions as such: we are currently at war. Most of the keeps, especially those at the eastern shores are undermanned, the perfect time for enemy attacks. Runestone is safer than most because is protected by four dragons, but we see how Lady Royce still has problems dealing with attacks from the mountain clansmen.” Signy completed.

“Do you want my opinion?” Waymar asked and they looked at him.

“Of course, oh wise Waymar!” Arya said and Jon smirked at her sarcasm. Waymar though ignored it and continued:

“Our society doesn’t want women to defend themselves so that they are always vulnerable and dependable of men. This way they can do whatever they want, and the women will accept silently. If women know that they don’t need to be vulnerable and dependable, then the men wouldn’t get away with half as much sh*t as they pull around.”

“Nice work, genius, you just discovered that water is wet!” Arya said rolling her eyes.

From there on, the two cousins started to fight, soon he felt Aemon approach his ear and then heard his friend ask: “Are they always like that?”

“They are quite tame now…” Jon said with a shrug and then returned his father’s letter to a pocket in his gambeson, he would need to share it with Sansa later. Preferably before they departed to the Eyrie in the morning.

To say that the King's proximity to Lady Myrcella Tarbeck was something that greatly annoyed Queen Alicent would be an understatement. The Queen would refer to her rival at court as "harlot of Westerlands" to her household and more than once had accused the Lady of being a paramour of her husband. No evidence could ever prove her accusations and her disdain for Lady Tarbeck is still regarded as a matter of jealousy and paranoia, seeing that Lady Tarbeck was much more popular than her.

Excerpt of Women's roles in Viserys' I Reign, Vol.3, by Professor Rhea Tyrell of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

ALICENT

She knew that Rhaenyra was frustrated, but when was she going to stop acting like a spoiled girl and relent? Rhaenyra had to know that her father was going to remarry sooner or later, why was it so terrible that he would marry her?

Wasn’t she a better option than someone like say, Lady Tarbeck, who really only wanted the crown and wouldn’t care for her or Jaehearon?

And why Alicent wouldn’t be good enough? Was it because she lacked the silver hair and the purple eyes of the Valyrian? She was still a lady of a Great House! She was well-bred, she was loyal and she was dutiful. Why should it be so bad that it was her?

Of course, eventually, Rhaenyra and Jaehearon would come around. She had been part of their lives for a long time after all. They were all friends.

Now they were going to be a family! Wasn’t that good enough?

Yet, there she was. In the gardens after the King had left her alone. Her father had insisted that she would spend time in the king’s company and Viserys agreed since they were betrothed anyway. It would also help with the rumors.

Someone had taken the great risk to spread to the court that she had been deflowered and that the King was marrying her out of pity. It wasn’t untrue, but it didn’t mean that she wanted it to be the object of people’s cruel and unfair judgment and speculation when all she had done was follow her father’s orders! Her father tried to stop the rumors, but it seemed that they only gained a life of their own after Viserys announced their upcoming marriage.

She knew that people whispered behind her back, but at the end of the day, she was going to be Queen and they were going to live in her shadow.

“Lady Tarbeck?” she questioned when she found the blonde woman standing in front of her, not making way for her as most people had done. “Can I help you with something?”

“No, not all… I just came to… congratulate you!” the woman said and despite the notes of sarcasm and scorn in her voice, Alicent gave her a small measure.

“Thank you.”

“I must admit, though, I didn’t even know you were in the competition… Always playing the role of a pious saint and the boring good girl mask, you were very sly, Lady Alicent.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about, my lady,” Alicent replied stiffly as she felt her blood freeze.

“Don’t play dumb, girl. You already won your crown! I’m just congratulating you on your good acting skills. After all, you must be an extraordinary actress to perform such a tragic play!” Lady Myrcella commented sarcastically.

“I only did what my father bid me,” she protested.

“You did?” she questioned with a raised eyebrow, “See… You should own your actions a little better, Lady Alicent. You did what you did because you want to be a queen. I don’t blame you for wanting the crown, I wanted it too. But if you are going to act as if you are being dragged to the alter by your father, then you shouldn’t have sneaked into the King’s bed.”

“Who are you to judge me?” Alicent questioned. “I did my duty to my House! And you? You who want the throne for your own selfish reasons!”

“I wanted it, I won’t deny… I wanted the highest position a woman can have in these lands, but you are wrong. I didn’t want it for selfish reasons, I wanted it to protect my son! And don’t be a hypocrite, Lady Alicent! I see you around Princess Rhaenyra… How do you look down on her when she is doing anything that contradicts your ideals of what a dutiful lady should be? How you wanted to stand against her decisions. You want this position because you think that you should be the one in power… You are way worse than I am.”

“Shut your mouth!” she felt herself hiss and Lady Tarbeck's scornful smile only widened.

“Don’t worry, I just came here to congratulate you on winning the crown,” the blonde lady said while passing through her, “but good luck to win the kingdom. Queen of whor*s.”

Before Alicent could react, Lady Tarbeck had already gone. When she turned, she found that the woman was talking with some other ladies that had arrived. She felt a small pain in the tips of her fingers and perceived that she had prickled her cuticles again, a reaction that probably stopped her to yell at the older lady. Swallowing her indignation and clenching her aw, she forced a pleasant smile on her lips and walked through the garden.

She wasn’t going to give those vultures anything else to talk about.

They already had enough.

Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, the faithful wife to the Sea Snake was denied her claim to the Iron Throne unjustly despite having proven more than once her ability in management and politics, all because of her sex. However, she became a member of Queen Selaena's own council, and every single soul in the Kingdom knew that nothing in the King's Small Council wasn't decided without the Queen's own approval. Despite being mocked by the monicker of "Queen Who Never Was", Princess Rhaenys was still one of the most respected women of her time.

Excerpt of The Queen Who Never Was: the life and time of Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, by Maester Gyldayn

RHAENYS

Rhaenys had to admit that she had been surprised by the interaction she observed between the two women. Spying wasn’t something she would usually do, but the chance had just appeared right in front of her as she was returning from the dragon pit.

At first, she had been surprised with the tone of voice o Lady Tarbeck, whose voice had always been sweet and to tinkle like bells, but now seemed low and dangerous, like the low grow of a feline ready to attack. But what most impressed her was the poisonous words that the woman used to hurt the future queen.

She didn’t know what impressed her more: the new personality to this woman who had always seemed to be the most benevolent lady in her acquaintance or how true her words were. After all, Lady Alicent had managed to delude them all into believing her a pious and proper girl who wouldn’t pull such a dirty trick to get what she wanted. And even if she said that she had been forced by her father, her words contradicted her. If she truly felt so pressured she could have sought help with Rhaenyra, knowing how the Princess felt about the possibility of her father remarrying.

And she wasn’t stupid. The girl knew that it was wrong to be at a man’s chamber alone when the man wasn’t family. Sometimes, even when the man was family. Still, she did it. She didn’t try to get help, she didn’t even try to deny Viserys’ advancements—that is, assuming that he was the one who made the first moves—and no one had heard her complain about the results. If anything she seemed quite proud when it was announced their impending marriage.

It wasn’t the face someone should do when they were ashamed.

“Mother!” she turned and found her daughter, Laena walking toward her with a radiant smile. Her beautiful girl.

“Laena! How are you, ñuha gevie tala?” My beautiful daughter.

“I am fine, Mother. Rhaenyra isn’t so much,” she said with a frown and Rhaenys sighed. Her cousin’s daughter had just experienced the first betrayal of the many she would face in her life. “But you should have seen her, Mother! Alicent and Otto were planning on dissolving our household, they wanted to send us all away, and then Nyra talked with the King and said that if he let her keep the household and the budget separated from the Queen’s, she wouldn’t raise a fuss over Alicent’s actions.”

“But the whole court already knows the actions of Lady Alicent,” she said and watched as a dangerous smile appeared on her daughter’s smile.

“Nyra promised that she wouldn’t raise a fuss over Alicent’s actions, not that we and Lady Tarbeck wouldn’t,” Rhaenys admitted to herself to be impressed.

“It seems that you are doing fine in this court, Laena,” she said with a smile.

“Nyra… is protecting us,” her daughter said and she frowned. “Some people tried to accuse us of being like Alicent, because of what she did while she was within the household. Now Nyra is doing her best to protect us from the backlash. We didn’t know that they would try to…”

“Make you guilty by association? I am pretty sure that neither did Alicent,” Rhaenys sighed. Their plan of exposing Alicent could have backfired, but it seemed that Princess Rhaenyra’s complete indignation at the marriage, the cold revolt, was keeping the other girls safe from all the evil tongues. “She was selfish and didn’t see how her actions could affect those close to her, how it did hurt others. But Rhaenyra is acting as a true princess should, and for that, I shall respect her.”

“Are you going to stay here for long?”

“Unfortunately, not, I have to return to Driftmark by the end of the week. But I will be here for the Wedding.”

The first procession of Prince Jaehearon Targaryen began when he was fourteen, his main companions were: Prince Daemon, Princess Alyssa, Lord Aemon Celtigar, Lord Adrian Tarbeck, Ser Devan Rayne, Lady Signy Mormont and Lady Griselda Wull. Many thought that it meant that by the end of the eighteen moons, a long procession through the Riverlands, the North and the Vale, an engagement between Princess Alyssa and Prince Jaehearon would be announced. It wasn't. Their procession though was interrupted halfway through the North, after eleven moons, with the devastating news coming from the Vale that had Prince Jaehearon mounting his dragon, Ghost, the White Death, and flying back to Runestone.

Excerpt of The Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric Tollet

SANSA

The Eyrie was as she remembered: stupidly difficult to reach, high enough to give vertigo to a dragon rider, and stupidly too great to a thing that was on top of a rock. Still, when they entered, they were warm and received by Jeyne Arryn and her court. Her cousin was nineteen, with beautiful dark brown hair, bluish-grey eyes, and milky skin. She was clad in the royal blue of her family banner and had a bright smile when she hugged Rhea and forgone the formalities before she went on the embraced all the children. Even the ones she was just introduced to.

Jeyne was a cheerful lady, most of the time. Well, from everything they had seen of her yet.

“For the Seven! You are growing so fast!” Lady Jeyne said to her and Arya, before turning to Jon, “And you! You used to be so small and now you are a young man! How come you all keep growing when I am not looking?”

“It merely means that you should come down of your castle a little more, cousin,” Rhea answered for them.

“Or that you should come to visit more!”

“Unfortunately, I get vertigo whenever I am in the Eyrie,” her mother said.

“You married a dragon; you should be used to being up in the air!” Jeyne probed and Rhea rolled her eyes.

“I can count with the fingers of one hand the number of times I had ride Caraxes,” that information took Sansa by surprise. She didn’t know that her mother had ever ridden before. “And I am pretty sure that I have fainted in all of those times.”

“Prince Daemon must have been pretty amused,” Jeyne smirked.

“Aye, he is a Rogue c*nt, what do you expect?” Rhea smiled.

It was later that night, when Jeyne offered a feast in honor of her royal guests, that Sansa sat on her mother’s lap while her sister and the other children were playing in the hall. It was both for pure laziness and the absolute delight she had in hearing conversation people assumed she had little understanding of due to her age.

It wasn’t something she would be able to keep doing for much longer, for people would soon start to take notice that she was growing, but for now, she would enjoy a such tactical advantage.

Like now!

Rhea and Jeyne were exchanging their knowledge of what has happened in Red Keep. Lady Jeyne despite being miles away from the court, has enough ears there to know the many sordid details that had been excluded in the official history and the letters to Jon. Like the fact that Lady Alicent had sneaked into the King’s bed when he was drunk and grieving on the anniversary of the death of Queen Aemma.

So crude and desperate, she thought to herself.

Because it was. It was a movement of desperation, to repeat a strategy that had failed once—though the reason for the failure was the target they had chosen. And to do it in a way that could be backtracked to a plot? How stupid of their part! Yet it worked… With consequences for the future Queen’s image were maculated, though the divided opinion on Alicent’s role, some saying that she was a pawn in her father’s plot and others that she was a willing participant, the general consensus was that Otto Hightower had overreached.

While the Lord Hand seemed proud of his achievement, the remaining of the Kingdom waited for the King’s reaction with a still breath. Viserys had promised to marry Alicent, and could not go back to his word without being called an oath-breaker, but he could punish Otto, and his inaction was not doing his image any favors. Some believed that he was waiting for the right moment to act, others were calling him weak and craven.

Sansa hoped, prayed even, that it was the first case.

“I wonder what will be done with the Kingsguard,” Jeyne sighed, her eyes darted to the sworn brother of Ser Willis Fell, Ser Rickard Thorne, who was watching the children in the company of Ser Malik.

“Ser Rickard said that he had received a warning that this was the only mistake Ser Willis Fell was allowed to commit, the next one will have him changing his white cloak for one of darker coloration,” Rhea said.

Jeyne smirked at the suggestion, but Sansa only held back a sigh. Her uncle should have punished Ser Willis if only to be aware that no Kingsguard was allowed to commit such a grave mistake. No second chances. But then, Viserys was all about second chances, wasn’t he?

“I cannot believe that he will marry Alicent Hightower! The daughter of a second son!”

“The daughter of his Lord Hand,” Rhea pointed out. “Though I admit that he could have chosen better.”

“Better? Like who? Lady Tarbeck?” Jeyne questioned sarcastically.

“She does have a good reputation and would come with powerful allies in her brother that is the Lord of Fair Island, her uncle who is the Lord Paramount of the Westerlands and of course the might of Tarbeck Hall who she is the regent of, and one day will be ruled by her son,” Rhea pointed out and Sansa was forced to agree. “And she also has the advantage of not being only two years older than his daughter.”

“But she is three years older than her own uncles!” Jeyne laughed.

Jason and Tyland Lannister are the winter children of Lord and Lady Lannister, who had spawned seven daughters before them in the span of twenty years, the oldest being Lady Tarbeck’s own mother. Married at fifteen, the Lady of Fair Isle, gave birth at sixteen to her only daughter, three years before her mother gave birth to her twin brothers. It wasn’t something as impossible to happen if one remembered that Princess Rhaenys had been three and six years older than her uncle Valerion and Aunt Gael, respectively. It wasn’t a common thing, but it did happen.

“It happens,” her mother echoed her thoughts.

“Will you go to the wedding?” Jeyne questioned and Rhea sighed.

“We will,” that surprised Sansa.

“By land?”

“By sea,” she corrected. “A small vessel, Siren of Runes, that was unfit for warfare stayed in my ports. Is not as grand or comfortable as The Bronze Giant, but is fit to take us to the capital. Will you go?”

“Rhaenyra wrote,” Jeyne confessed, “she asked me to go. She also asked me to give you a letter, she feared that with you moving to the Eyrie, you would miss her raven.”

“A raven, about what?” Rhea sneered and Jeyne laughed, Sansa just pretended to be distracted with her doll.

“She is bidding people that are not overly favorable to follow her example.”

“Her example?”

“You’ll have to read it yourself. I almost didn’t believe that it came from Rhaenyra. But I know that all of her ladies-in-waiting will be following her lead,” Jeyne said with a smirk. “And their family too.”

“Are you telling me that Rhaenyra came up with such a political move?”

Sansa was just as surprised as Rhea. Possibly more, since she knew that Rhaenyra would only start to take interest in politics after Alicent started to declare that Aegon should be the next King. Before that, Rhaenyra didn’t really care even with her position as heir. But something was going to happen.

Were the political parties being formed earlier?

Possible. This time Rhaenyra wasn’t isolated, and it seemed that at least one of her girls was a good political advisor.

Still one thing stayed in her mind: what was their move? And how is it going to impact their game?

Chapter 19: Long Live the Queen

Summary:

Viserys asks Myrcella's help for his oldest child's sake!
Rhea is back to the Red Keep!
Rhaenyra and Myrcella bound a little!
Alicent throws herself a pity party!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It wasn't a kept secret that Lady Myrcella Tarbeck's first marriage was an unhappy one. Arranged by her father, the match had the protests of her brother, mother, and uncles. Lord Tarbeck, twelve years older than young Lady Myrcella Farman, was known for his many bad habits and for being violent toward women. He died after five years of marriage in an accident that many tried to blame Lady Myrcella for. Together they had only one son: Lord Adrien Tarbeck. Her second marriage was much better for her, though Ser Bryden Lefford never inherited anything, he was courteous, well related, and known for spoiling his new bride, as well for protecting his stepson’s claim to Tarbeck Hall fiercely.

Excerpt of Women's roles in Viserys's I Reign, Vol.3, by Professor Rhea Tyrell of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

MYRCELLA

The gardens were like she liked: appropriately warm, with a light breeze and smelling like roses!

When the news of the Queen’s death arrived in Tarbeck Hall, Myrcella remembered receiving it with half interest and the proper amount of sadness for someone she knew only in reputation. Still, it meant little to her. Tyrion was still alive and despite being a horrible husband he could never touch her without attracting the fury of her brother and nephews who had been against their marriage from the beginning.

Then, as if hearing her prayers, the Seven saw fit to drag that plague to hell. And she was a widow! One fit to marry a King too!

She had already proved that she was able to have children. Had a close link to the Great House Lannister, and another two keeps closely tied to her. Fair Isle through her brother and Tarbeck Hall through her son.

And when the Old Bat started to say that she had killed Tyrion—as if that idiotic brute needed help to kill himself—and Daven questioned her fitness to rule as regent to Adrian, she could have laughed herself to death. They just gave the poor widow the best reason to seek the King’s protection!

And to King’s Landing, she departed!

On her way, she started to study the life of King Viserys and his family. She knew that it would have great competition for the Queen’s crown, but she was a beautiful, intelligent woman, with powerful allies, wealth behind her, and one of the noblest bloodlines in the realm. Her chances were good.

It helped that she perceived soon that there was one thing that Viserys would always love: the deceased Queen Aemma. So, she started to study the life of Aemma! While most girls would try for the thirst trap to get the King’s attention, Myrcella decided to draw parallels between herself and the dead queen. Not enough that she would be an imitation, but enough to get the King’s attention.

It helped that like her Tarbeck Hall, Queen Aemma had supported many social projects in King’s Landing. Food and clothing to the poor, and shelter to the orphans.

To look good, Myrcella, is even more important than being good, her mother had once said to her. She had also droned on and on about the benefit to keep social projects. It kept the people loyal to her while giving her a good reputation, and diminished the criminality in her lands while attracting more market, after all, merchants would always prefer lands with less violence to make a trade. And people that have food in their bellies and clothe on their back are less prone to band together to riot or assault the merchants.

She didn’t know if Queen Aemma had kept the social projects for the same reason as herself or if only because she felt genuinely bad for them, or for a mixture of both reasons… But taking the projects that the Queen had that had been mostly abandoned after her death had been easy. Now Myrcella understood why it had been so easy.

Then her wardrobe had suffered some changes! Instead of the red and golden that she had always favored, she started to make more use of the Queen’s favorite colors: shades of blue and pink. Her basque-waisted dresses with fitted bodices and sleeves were replaced by empire waistlines and long bell sleeves.

She also knew the places the Queen liked to spend time in the Keep: a garden with a pretty wildish path surrounded by white and red roses. The Queen’s apartments thought that had been closed since her death. And the King’s chambers where a big model of Valyria created by the King and Queen themselves, was on proud display. She had seen it once and it impressed her, the dedication they had to set it in the most authentic way possible. Myrcella took the gardens, and waited, patiently for when she could meet the King there. Knowing that he once had the habit of walking in the same garden with his once-gone wife.

That had been good and all, but what really managed to get the King’s attention was when they started to talk. Because there, she wouldn’t pretend to be dumb like most were trying to do, and wouldn’t back down in her conversation. It worked.

Myrcella had been trained by her mother and aunt Gemma to exhaustion to make herself into a pleasant conversationalist. Neither woman believed that a woman should talk only about poetry, children, and gossip, so they made her study philosophy, history, politics, and literature so she would be able to talk about anything.

And think by herself too.

It also helped her gain the Princess’ sympathy and if she had a chance to talk with the Prince, she was sure that in time she would be able to get him to like her too. She didn’t blame the prince for his stuffy attitude, he had probably been watching young ladies try to get to his father’s bed for a long time.

When the King kissed her, she knew she had managed to get into him. Even when he called her by Aemma’s name, he had first called for hers. But she still had to do everything by law. Looking good is even more important than being good. Then morning came with the rumors that someone spent the night in the King’s chamber and had thrown her out of her game. And two days later, Viserys looked for her again.

When he explained what happened, she knew that he had her in confidence. It was easy to see who the mastermind of the trap had been. But she had him tell her about his doubts in Otto and in return told him an old tale she heard from her Aunt Gemma.

“You are awfully quiet this morning, My Lady,” the King said after a while.

“I was just thinking…”

“Am I entitled to know the thoughts that sent you to such a silent state?”

“Nothing dreadful,” she said to his playful manners, “I was just thinking that when I arrived in King’s Landing, most of the Queen’s Aemma projects were stilled or completely closed, I thought that it was because of her death, but could it be that Lord Hand stopped them too?”

“Without Aemma, there was no one to continue their projects.”

“There were her ladies in waiting that were dismissed without your approval,” Myrcella said and saw as he nodded with her. “Your daughter should have had the option of continuing with her mother’s great work, too.”

“I doubt that anyone offered her the chance,” Viserys said with some underlying annoyance. “Lady Myrcella, I would be immensely grateful, if you could help Rhaenyra…”

“To get to know her mother’s works?”

“Yes,” he said with a smile.

“I could help her,” she said, pleased with herself, “The Princess is a smart young woman, I’m sure that I can get her to understand the reason to continue it. But if you permit me, Your Grace, I would like your permission to do it by my way.”

“What does it mean?”

“Your daughter is a teenager,” she watched as he grimace at her commentary. “She doesn’t want to be told what to do, the best way to make her do it, is to make her think that it was her own decision!”

“You are right my lady,” he said with a smile.

“If it wouldn’t be too nosy,” Myrcella started, “How is your courting with Lady Alicent?”

“She is just a couple years older than my daughter, a little pious, and very quiet,” he said with a sigh, “I am not sure what to make of it.”

“And your plans for the Hand?”

“Do you trust me, Lady Tarbeck?”

“You know that I do!” she said, and he smirked at her, so she let it go.

Despite his second marriage to Lady Alicent Hightower, King Viserys kept a close relationship with the late Queen's family. Lady Amanda Tyrell was said to be one of his best friends, Lady Jeyne Arryn a niece that despite the many miles apart he would never deny help or support. This closeness didn't extend to the Hightower family, much to their chagrin.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

RHEA

She stayed half and a week in the Eyrie, two less than it was her original plan. However, the retinue that returned with her to Runestone was three times bigger. Lady Jeyne and Lady Jessamyn had decided to accompany her to Runestone, their own ship would find them in Runesport and instead of using the small Siren of Runes they were using a ship contracted by Jeyne since she still refused to travel with the Gulltown’s Arryn.

Can’t blame her, Isembard Arryn is one of the most insufferable men in this world!

Their ship was flanked by the four dragons that resided in Runestone; Alyssa had been very put out when she discovered that she wasn’t allowed to fly to King’s Landing without the presence of her father. They arrived in the Capital two days after Alyssa’s name day, two weeks prior to the date set for the marriage, and would leave just after Jae’s name day about a moon after, well after the wedding she and her guards would go to Ilyria’s Garden, to oversee the progress and then she would return to leave with them. They were escorted by a score of guards, the newest Kingsguard Ryam Mallister, and the four dragons that simply refused to fly to the dragon pit and followed them all the way to the castle.

Viserys, it seemed, had aged a decade in this nearly eleven moons!

“Rhea, beautiful as ever!” he said after he finally released Alyssa and Selaena, having already embraced Jaehearon. “And Jeyne! It has been so long since I last saw you, sweet girl!”

“Your Grace,” her young cousin said, dripping in a courtesy.

“Come, sweet child! None of this Your Grace nonsense! You are my niece! You call me Uncle Viserys!” he said while kissing the two cheeks of her cousin. “You should visit more, you know?”

“I would love to, but it seems that whenever I leave the Eyrie, I return to find three mountains of trouble in my desk!”

“You know that you can always count on me to help you, right?” Viserys asked.

“Of course, I know. Rhea is also a balm to my troubles and recently I discovered that I can count on Prince Daemon too!”

“Ahh, you are referring to his shenanigans with the mountain clans, I take it?” Viserys said and he and Rhea shared a glance. It seemed that neither of them was amused by Daemon’s actions, but it wasn’t as if they were going to complain about it either.

“The prince will always be welcome in the Vale!” Jeyne smiled.

Viserys already knew Aemon and Devan but had to be introduced to Waymar, Saoirse, Signy, and Griselda, who were in direct interaction with his heir on daily basis, and Lady Jessamyn, who was Jeyne’s favorite companion. Rhea gave Alicent a cold congratulations and to the Hand only an even colder smile. She discovered that Rhaenyra had also changed their regular chambers for a bigger apartment with five bedrooms since she learned that they had a bigger household. Rhea only smiled at her niece, while thanking her for the thoughtfulness.

The next day, she was invited to join the King for his breakfast.

“Jaehearon seems to love Runestone,” he said after she related to him all about Jaehearon’s time in Runestone.

“He loves spending time with the children his age, and the time he is allowed to have with Ghost,” she looked to the assembled model of Valyria. “He misses the time he spent with you though.”

“I miss him too,” he said with a sigh. “My comfort is knowing that he is safe and happy in Runestone. I am happy that you called in for Aemma’s wards to be fostered with him.”

“He really appreciates the presence of the boys, the four of them are almost inseparable,” she smiled. “It helps that Jaehearon is very thoughtful and sweet.”

“And you, my dear, are you needing anything?”

“Not really, I am fine.”

“Even after Daemon’s stunt in the Vale?” She groaned and he laughed.

“Gods! Don’t remind me… Fortunately, my people love him, and his actions did take a number out of the Mountain Clans so their retaliation is small and not very effective. For now,” she sighed.

“Good, sometimes my brother acts harshly and forgets of consequences, that is until it comes to bite him in the ass,” The two of them laughed. “I never knew, you know?”

“About?”

“How your marriage came about.”

Oh, that! She had long ago perceived it. Daemon too, but his pride didn’t let him tell his brother the history. So, all Viserys knew was that he hated everything Hightower without having the reasons.

“And now you know?”

“Lady Tarbeck had heard the history from her mother and Aunt, who used to be one of my Grandmother’s wards,” Rhea nodded to him and he served them water. Not wine as he would usually do. “No one never told me before.”

“It makes sense,” Rhea said accepting the water. “Your Grandmother didn’t want this to tarnish Daemon’s reputation. As you know he would take to whor*s but has never laid a hand on an unmarried lady. The whor*s were easy to forgive, most lords take whor*s as paramours frequently, but a lady? That could hit him. If word came up, they would twist it to make him the one who seduced and abandoned Joanna.”

“Not that she entered his rooms when he was drunk,” he sneered. “Daemon never told me either.”

“Your brother is a prideful man; he didn’t want to have to tell you.”

“And you?”

“I was thirteen, Viserys. I married Daemon when I was thirteen. No one would tell a child this! I discovered later after Alyssa was born!”

“So young?”

“The marriage wasn’t consumed until I was sixteen if that is what you are worried about,” she answered, and he smiled.

“Didn’t know he was such a gentleman.”

“More likely not turned on by a little girl,” they scoffed together. “But why have you brought this up?”

“You certainly have heard by now: I fell into the trap my brother successfully avoided.” Rhea sighed. Yes, she had heard, but she was surprised that he admitted it to her. Viserys was just as prideful as his brother and she half expected him to never admit it to preserve Alicent’s reputation.

“And the Hightower will finally have the claim they so wanted in the royal family,” she said.

“I discovered that Alicent is pregnant,” which surprised Rhea, greatly. “Otto had the pleasure to inform me two weeks ago and wanted me to reschedule the wedding to avoid talks. I didn’t.”

“It isn’t as if the whole realm doesn’t know how this marriage came about,” Rhea commented and the King nodded.

“I cannot cancel the wedding, both because my honor doesn’t permit it and because I could never permit a bastard to be born out of my line, and God knows that I would never force a woman to drink Moon Tea,” she nodded at him. “But I cannot reward them either for their dirty trick.”

“You mean to punish your Lord Hand?”

“He won’t keep being my Hand for long,” that surprised Rhea once again.

“You will dismiss him!”

“I will, I intend to make Lyonel Strong my interim Hand, but I will be short of a Master of Law. Unfortunately, I know how loyal the Grandmaester is to Otto, and I think that he would suggest a Master of Law that would benefit the Hightower.”

“You want help with the Master of Law?”

“Corlys agreed with me in my suggestion to keep Tyland Lannister as the interim Master of Ships while he is at war, he passed the control of Lannister forces to one of his cousins of Lannisport, and is coming to Kings Landing, he will arrive just a little after the wedding. But I didn’t ask anyone about a possible new Master of Law, I don’t want to tip anyone off yet.” And who said that Viserys didn’t know how to think politically? “We both know that you are more observant than the court pay attention and that Daemon does trust you. I would like you to help me find an interim Master of Law.”

“Why are you going to make Lord Strong your interim Hand?” she questioned first.

“When this war is over, I will offer Daemon the position of Hand,” suddenly she burst laughing and Viserys looked at her with a frown.

“That is a terrible idea Viserys!” Rhea was completely honest. “Your brother despite paperwork and the only position that gives more paperwork than yours is the Hand's. He would accept, he does like power after all, but he would go crazy in a year's turn!” With that Viserys opened a smug smile that sent her into another laughing fit. “But you already know it!”

“I remember how much he complained about paperwork when he was Master of Laws and Master of Coin,” the King said to his sister-in-law. “I actually think that he will last about… Three years in the position before he begs to leave.”

“You have more faith in him than I do, I don’t give him a year!”

“But I do still need a Master of Law.” With that Rhea hummed while a small list of people passed through her mind. There were few people that she knew that could fit in the court to work on the position of Master of Law, ironically, Daemon was at the top of her list. Yet, a selfish part of her didn’t want him as the Master of Law again.

“What about Grover Tully’s second son: Bryden Tully is the current lord justiciar of Riverlands, he is said to have a firm hand but isn’t as inflexible as most…” she offered and he hummed in consideration.

“Amanda mentioned him too, though she also suggested Lord Garth Graves or Lord Bartimos Celtigar or his son, Clement,” Rhea nodded at the suggestions. Garth Graves was a man known for standing neutral and following traditions and laws. The grandfather of her charge was known for being able to keep the criminality in his lands under control.

“Well, then Bryden Tully comes with a good recommendation, don’t you think?”

“The Tully will arrive a week before the wedding, I hope to be able to have Ser Bryden as my Master of Laws before they leave,” Viserys said with a smile to her, and she felt happy that her suggestion had been heard.

“And when do you intend to inform your Hand that he is to be dismissed?”

“After the wedding. I will send him back to Hightower with his brother,” she could see the benefit.

If he sent the Hand away before the wedding, he could start to make trouble. Sending him after the wedding would show two things: first that while he was willing to pay for his mistakes, he wouldn’t accept being manipulated; second that no one was above the punishment. Rhea was proud of her good brother, she knew that his current silence wasn’t a weakness, but a strategy. Being a peaceful man didn’t mean he was weak.

After the death of Queen Aemma, many of her projects were stopped for about three to four months. It was Lady Myrcella Tarbeck who took them at her hands and revitalized the same. Lady Myrcella was also the one who taught Princess Rhaenyra to run those projects. It was thanks to this, that Princess Rhaenyra's reputation among the smallfolk increased exponentially. Later, the Princess received the essential help of her brother, Prince Jaehearon, who would advocate for those projects at every reunion of the Small Council.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

RHAENYRA

Walking with Lady Myrcella through the gardens had become a habit. After Alicent’s betrayal, and the discovery that Lady Myrcella had the chance to seduce her father but didn’t because he was drunk, Rhaenyra’s regard for the Westerlander lady grew exponentially and she was frequently invited to dine with her household. Dorea adored the woman; Kate was still in her observant phase and Laena would bombard the lady with questions that sometimes made her think that Laena and Selaena had changed places.

“You said that my mother’s project here had been stopped when her household was dismissed? So why are you talking about it?”

“Because I am going to teach you to run these projects,” Rhaenyra balked at the idea.

“Why should I do it?”

“A good question,” Myrcella said as she took her arm, “Do you understand that the nobility is outnumbered by the smallfolk by 1-100? That for every one of us there are at least a hundred of them. If not much more?” Rhaenyra nodded. “It is true that we have better weaponry, but it is also true that they are the ones that make this weaponry. In a riot, we are at a great number disadvantage.”

“A dragon is better than a thousand men!” Rhaenyra expressed herself and Myrcella rolled her eyes.

“But your precious Syrax is more often than not found in the dragon pit, chained to the caves. And Dorne had already shown them that dragons can be killed,” Rhaenyra sucked her breath with the tone. “Do you know how to avoid riots? We make them respect us.”

“Not love? Nor fear?” She questioned in genuine curiosity.

“Love and fear are both flicking things,” Myrcella said with a smile. “We often betray those we love, sometimes not even by their will but to survive. And fear? We try to conquer those every so often. Isn’t it what we teach our children? Neither love nor fear is enough to keep people under control. But respect? Oh! That is the key… You can be respected by friends and by enemies, by lords and peasants.”

“And the social projects are meant to have them respect you?”

“People don’t forget goodwill, Rhaenyra. If you take control over your mother’s projects before anyone else can take it, the respect they had for her, will transfer to you, not to the next person using her crown.” Rhaenyra stiffened her spine at this, thinking of how the common folk would scream her mother’s name in numerous cheers and then would scream Alicent’s in the same way. It made her blood boil in rage. “Of course, it does have other benefits like the control of criminality and enabling the market in the city with more security.”

“Why?”

“People that have food in their bellies, a roof on top of their heads, and clothes at their back are less likely to join criminal factions for their livery,” yes, she could see it. “And more: they don’t forget those who let them have it. If you take these projects, you have to take them yourself and make sure that everyone in the realm knows that they are yours. That is you who is feeding them, who is sheltering them, or clothing them. You, not the Faith, not the Crown.”

“You want me to take the projects, so Alicent won’t have the chance?” Rhaenyra questioned and Myrcella laughed.

“The projects are, currently, under my supervision. She can’t take it from me without making her look bad, but she can start her own projects. You, on the other hand, I could hand them to you, making it look like a natural transition of power, rather than having it disappear after I leave King’s Landing. But I am not the one that wants you to take the projects, your father asked me to teach you how to run them.”

“Because it was my mother’s project?”

“I doubt that he wants anyone other than you running them,” Myrcella said and Rhaenyra felt herself relax a little. She could do it. Her mother did it, and so would she!

Listening to her brother relate to his time in Runestone made her both happy and envious that she couldn’t share his happiness. Still, the happy grin on Jae’s usually solemn face was all she needed to have any worries soothed.

He talked about his time with Aemon comparing notes on the books they liked to read. With Devan and his obnoxious overconfident personality that was strangely amusing. About Waymar, fearless and taunting, able to take everything lightly. Of Signy, a girl that was perhaps more serious than someone her age should be and was just learning to be a child. Of Griselda, so quiet and shy that had the habit of hiding herself behind others when spoken to. And of course: of Alyssa who seemed to get better and better with a sword and of Selaena who would demand him to read tales of different parts of the realm to her.

Selaena was, of course, cited more than the others. Though he would complain that sometimes she was in her lessons and couldn’t join them, or that how briefly he would see her some days, but always had something to talk about her.

“And Lady Rhea is permitting her daughters to take up swords?” Kate asked with an arched eyebrow.

“Aunt Rhea is able to yield a sword too! I saw her and Uncle Daemon sparring one day, he was easy on her, but she wasn’t bad for someone that rarely practices!” That information was new to Rhaenyra.

“Cousin Rhea can fight?”

“Yes! Lena doesn’t want to fight, but Aly is learning the way of the shieldmaiden by Signy.”

“And what about Aemon and Devan?” Rhaenyra asked. “Are they getting along with the girls?”

“They are. Especially after Griselda knocked both of them to the ground.”

“Griselda? But she is so shy?”

“She is amongst the best among us,” Jae nodded. “She is very shy, but when she is holding a sword, she becomes very confident!”

“Then maybe she should always be with a sword,” Dorea said, and her brother laughed.

“That is exactly what Daven said,” he replied. “And you, Nyra, how have you been?”

“I am fine,” she answered.

She was anything but. And Kate knew if the arched eyebrow and disbelief in her eyes were any indications. She shrugged at the redhead and watched as her most silent companion turned her eyes back to the book she was reading.

After the dismissal of Ser Otto Hightower from the position of Hand of the King, the Queen Alicent kept her aunt, Joanna Royce of House Hightower, as her lady-in-waiting. She was joined by a Costayne, a Peake, and Fossoway. All those ladies came from the main Houses that sided with Queen Alicent in the political warfare in the Red Keep when strife began to rise.

Excerpt from The Dragons of the new century, Maester Fenwick

ALICENT

The week-long of celebrations for her marriage had been busy and boring. Banquets and feasts every night. During the day, there had a big tourney that ended with Rhaenyra being crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty by Ser Criston. In such commemorations, it was expected that unmarried or uncompromised knights to crown the bride, but Alicent didn’t feel bad about that.

A crown of flowers had nothing on a crown of gold.

But the action had a political and personal impact that made her want to have the knight dismissed sooner rather than later. As if they didn’t recognize that she would be marrying the King. Their approval was neither requested nor required.

The eve of her marriage was sad for her. Despite the handmaids, her cousins, and aunts there to help her out, she dearly missed Rhaenyra.

Alicent didn’t consider herself a stupid person. She knew that her friend wouldn’t like the marriage between her and her father at the beginning, but she really hoped that the princess would see reason before the wedding ceremony. Alicent had wanted Rhaenyra to be within her bridal party, the ladies that helped the bride to get ready for the wedding.

And she should be there.

It was customary for the daughters of a widower groom to be within the bridal party, but Rhaenyra had refused. Vehemently.

That hurt her.

So only the members of her family were there. Her Aunt Joanna, her Aunt Lynesse, and he Cousin Bethany—Lynesse’s daughter, who was thirteen. Alysanne, her cousin’s Ormund wife, was also part of the bridal party with their daughter: Alerie, aged eight, her belly was increased once more.

None of her Mullendore relatives was there either.

While the others were talking and enjoying themselves, Alicent sat basically alone in her vanity, brushing her own hair. Through the mirror, she watched as her Aunt Joanna approached her.

“You are looking like someone is going to light your pyre tomorrow, not put a crown on your head,” her Aunt said while pulling a cushioned stool to herself.

“I had always thought that Rhaenyra would be here,” she said with a sad voice and was mildly offended when her Aunt sneered.

“The princess is a spoiled girl, Alicent. She should be here, but isn’t for pure spite,” Joanna said and Alicent found herself agreeing with her aunt. “Rhaenyra wanted her father unmarried for the rest of her life. As a King, Viserys can’t rely upon only Prince Jaehearon as an heir, he knows it. Rhaenyra knows it.”

“She never conformed to traditions,” Alicent pointed out, more to herself than to her Aunt.

“And now she is spitting on them,” Joanna said showing the room, or better: the lack of Rhaenyra’s presence there. “A friend should be happy for you, Alicent. Not only you are about to get married, but you are also about to be crowned as Queen.”

“Rhaenyra had always been a good friend!”

“Don’t be a fool, darling, Rhaenyra doesn’t care for you. If she cared, she would be here,” Alicent felt her eyes tearing up and looked back to the mirror. “Don’t cry, dear. Rhaenyra might not care for you, but we, your family, do. Come, you will be the prettiest bride that this continent had ever seen!”

Notes:

Hello everyone!
How was your week?
Good news and bad news for you!
Bad news: I am being buried alive with TCC (trabalho de conclusão de curso), revisions, work, and schoolwork. I am a graduating student and an intern at a big company, though more at Home Office than in site. When I started writing, I was in a happy vocation, now I have returned to reality and it is burying me alive. As such I don't have a lot of time to write and might eventually not be able to keep the nice schedule that I was keeping till now.
As some of you might have perceived I didn't answer all commentaries last week on Wednesday nor did I answer any yesterday, because I didn't have time, so I will try to answer them as they come instead of writing in just one day.
Good news: I still have two chapters done and a third that I am finishing and already have the outlines of the next chapter!

Update schedule:
19. Long live the Queen I (13 of April/today)
20. Long live the Queen II (20 of April)
21. Interlude: Stepstones (27 of April)
22. Changed beyond recognition (in writing)
23. And alliance of fire and sea

Hope to see you all soon!

Chapter 20: Long Live the Queen II

Summary:

Viserys and Alicent's wedding day arrived!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The feast that celebrated the marriage between Queen Alicent and King Viserys was smaller than the occasional feasts the King used to give. Of course, there was the fact that a good part of the men was in the war of Stepstones. A handful of houses of each region appeared, except for the North whose only representatives were Lady Griselda Wull and Lady Signy Mormont, ladies in waiting of Princess Alyssa.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

VISERYS

After a week of celebrations and a tourney, Viserys found himself looking at his reflection in the mirror with some regret. Ever since that night, he had banished wine from his room and refused to drink even if only a little of it. No alcoholic beverage had been admitted into his chambers ever since. Instead, now he was getting used to drinking tea, juices, and water during his day. Not as satisfying as wine, but much less wrecking.

His reflection seemed older than ever, and he could feel every one of his five and thirty years. He really hated the stress of dealing with the Kingdom. One thing that changed for the better, was his wounds that were finally closing. A gift given by Alyssa and Selaena to him, apparently in the North a healing concoction was made by shieldmaidens that helped heal wounds and prevent infections. They received a small pot of said concoction made in Wull Castle, after Lady Griselda had joined Rhea’s household as her ward.

Mellos had been more than just a little surprised by the effectiveness of the concoction and requested a small amount to be sent to the Citadel to be analyzed. He refused, citing that he received in the confidence of his nieces and Lady Griselda, and if the Citadel wanted anything with it, then they should write to Lady Wull, the one who made the concoction. He had written to Lord Stark to know a little more about the shieldmaiden's healing techniques and remedies. If the concoction alone had been so efficient, imagine all the other techniques combined. He patiently waited for his Northern Warden to return the message.

Still, he was wary. After all, he was marrying today.

The former best friend of his daughter.

If he could go back in time, he would change that night. His actions had dishonored an innocent girl, had taken away his second chance at happiness at the side of Lady Tarbeck, and hurt his daughter deeply. The only good thing that night brought him was clarity.

For years and years, he defended Otto from everyone. From his brother, from his wife, even from Corlys. Now he could see that he had wasted his breath, for they were all right!

He had been the one committing the act, true. But it was Otto who had orchestrated that. Despite knowing his order of never being left alone with an unchaperoned lady, Otto took his daughter to Viserys’ bedroom, and knowing that he was nowhere in his right estate of mind, he let her there. Alone with him.

And like Myrcella said: the trick had already been used before. Now they just knew the target better and therefore had known his reaction.

“Your Grace,” he turned to the door and found the newest member of the Kingsguard standing there. “Prince Jaehearon is here for you.”

“Let him in,” Viserys said with a pleased smile.

Ser Raymond gave space for the little prince to enter.

“Good morning Father,” his son said with a smile.

“My son, how are you?”

“I’m good. Though I can’t say I miss Maester Kefta’s lessons,” he laughed at how his son looked cute while wrinkling his nose, very much like his mother would do when she was contradicted. It was different from Rhaenyra, that like him, would frown. Though his daughter would add a pout on her lips. “Maester Garmon at least makes the classes interesting.”

“Should I call him from Runestone to give you lessons?”

“Good luck trying to pry him from Selaena. She won’t let go of him until he has answered every question she has.” Jaehearon said with an impish smile.

“Your cousin is a curious little thing, isn’t she?”

“That is what will one day make her my Hand one day,” Viserys chuckled at the answer of his son.

“A woman had never been a Hand before, son,” he protested and Jaehearon sneered.

“Just because the lords are way too intimidated by the idea that a woman can do the job better than them,” he gave his son a full-bloom laughter at the commentary. “I rather have someone intelligent and trustable at my side, than anyone else just because he has a co*ck.”

“And where did you hear such crude expression?” Viserys frowned, knowing that his son was one of the politest boys around and would rarely say something like that.

“From the men training in the yard,” Viserys sighed. Yes, that was something bound to happen. “Crude or not, I stand by my decision: I rather have an intelligent Hand than a poor one just because he is a male.”

“Maybe you rather have Selaena as your lady wife than as your Hand,” Viserys questioned and saw as his boy's face turned red. “This way she can advise you and not have to deal with half as much sh*t she would have if you put her in the place of Hand.”

“And you say that I am crude,” Jaehearon said with the same impish smile as before.

“You are a child, yet,” Viserys said and his son laughed.

“You should hear what they say when they think that you won’t understand,” Jaehearon's smirk made Viserys laugh again.

He had perceived that too. Selaena was more observant than most children, and probably because people didn’t perceive that she was paying attention or thought that as a child she was inoffensive, they talked freely around her. Sometimes he imagined what the little girl must know by now.

“I think that she would be a great hand,” the seriousness in his son’s voice made him smile.

“Unfortunately, as I have been reminded recently, the word isn’t fair with women. Whatever decision she made; they would criticize her based more on her sex than her competency. They wouldn’t admit her hard work,” and didn’t that sadden him?

Aemma had created projects for the city and the smallfolk, a continuation of their grandmother’s work, but even now those projects didn’t have half as much recognition as they should. Myrcella was an excellent manager of those projects and the only reason she was getting some recognition was that people would say that she tried to buy her way into the crown. But he knew better, those were good women, who would be conveniently erased from history and relegated to secondary roles.

He didn’t want that future for his Rhaenyra, and if he needed, he would rewrite history to make people remember that it had been Aemma, Myrcella, and Rhaenyra that made those projects possible. That managed them. That funded them. He would make sure that they wouldn’t go down in history as being reduced to the extension of someone else, as Myrcella had pointed out.

“I will not let it happen to her!” Jaeheron said with a smile. “Nor to Alyssa. I will make sure the whole realm knows them for their work!”

“Then maybe, we should work together on this, son,” Viserys said with a smile.

“We should, but today, you have another thing to do, Father!”

Suddenly he wasn’t as happy as before.

From the smallfolk to the lords of the realm, there wasn't one person that didn't know how much Princess Rhaenyra felt about her father's marriage as the princess made no efforts to hide it. The ladies and lords of the realm were all suitably impressed with the little stunt she managed to put on for their wedding ceremony.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a Woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

ALICENT

The silver and red dress she was going to use for the sept was marvelous and she must have spun just to see the skirts dancing enough time to get herself dizzy. Now, she was at the steps of the Sept where she would marry, her father at her side with a proud smile.

“You look beautiful, my sweet Alicent,” she smiled at her father’s rare demonstration of affection.

“Thank you, Father,” she said, and he brushed a strand of her hair out of her face.

“You deserve it, my daughter. Don’t matter what opposition you shall face, remember that you are the one with the crown,” he said, and she smiled to him.

It was true. She would be the one with a crown. Everyone else would be beneath her.

“Come, it is the time!”

She took his arm and took a deep breath. When the heavy doors of the small sept were open, she walked inside with her father.

And she faltered a little.

They were in black. Rhaenyra, Dorea, Kate, Laena, Princess Rhaenys, Rhea Royce, Jeyne Arryn, Amanda Tyrell, and Myrcella Tarbeck, to name a few of those she first perceived in the black dresses. Sure, the dresses were beautiful, and they all looked very handsome in their clothes, but still, they were all black. A color often associated with mourning, especially when paired with the black veils they were using. As if they were mourning her marriage and her coronation.

She felt a squeeze in her hand and looked at her father, his eyebrow arched at her, and she bit back her tears.

Aunt Joanna had told her just yesterday that Rhaenyra wasn’t her friend and now she could see it. If Rhaenyra couldn’t be happy for her, why was she trying to make her unhappy with her victories? But Aunt Joanna was right. Rhaenyra was spoiled, self-centered, selfish, and spiteful.

If she won’t be happy for me, then I don’t need her to be my friend anymore! Was her next thought as she walked her way to the King.

She was marrying the King! She would be the Queen!

She barely paid attention to the Septon words. Her mind mulled over Rhaenyra’s actions.

Rhaenyra could be unhappy for as long as she wanted, but she would still not be able to change the fact that Alicent would be Queen.

Dorea, Kate, and Laena could spill their poison, but Alicent was now higher than all of them.

Rhaenys could be spiteful, the eternal Queen Who Never Was, Alicent would be the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Rhea Royce can keep her insignificant Runestone. Jeyne Arryn could continue to usurp her cousin Arnold’s position on the Eyrie. Amanda Tyrell could cry all her rivers for Aemma. It wouldn’t change the fact that Aemma was dead, and she would be Queen.

And Myrcella Tarbeck? Well, the Harlot of Westerlands could go back to her hovel. There was nothing in King’s Landing for her now. That golden hair would never hold a crown. She lost. Alicent won!

As her father had just said to her: No matter what opposition she shall face, Alicent was the one with the crown.

Rhaenyra would have to come to terms with it, and if she didn’t, well… Pity…

The ceremony went on and on. And soon her maiden cloak was unclasped and given to her father and replaced with one black with a red dragon embroidered on it. She kneeled to have Viserys put on a crown on her head.

It was over.

“I present you, Queen Alicent of House Hightower and Targaryen!” Viserys said, seriously, while helping her up.

She is the Queen!

Once crowned King of the Seven Kingdoms, Jaehearon Targaryen worked on mending bridges and making allies. Despite being a great warrior, the King avoided wars and violence as much as his father, preferring to engage his enemies in the political field where he had his wife, Queen Selaena, as one of his main advisors. It took them thirty years, but they managed to make Princess Alliandra Martell bend the knee and Dorne was brought into the fold.

Excerpt of the Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric

JON

The feast wasn’t as pompous as usual. Though it could be blamed on the fact that many men were at the War in Stepstones, there was a lack of grandeur that his father liked.

It also happened because Viserys didn’t want to marry Alicent. Not this time.

Rhaenyra’s resentment and his father's lack of interest in the wedding were enough to confirm the rumors. And if it wasn’t, then the sudden shift of the entirety of Rhaenyra’s household against Alicent was.

Jon had been surprised when he saw that his sister had appeared in the marriage with a black dress, knowing that she would favor dark shades of purple, burgundy, marrons, and dark reds for events and that black was still a color highly associated with mourning and avoided in weddings unless it was part of the bride’s House sigil.

It was a bold move. And a statement that, in history, wouldn’t have happened for several years yet. The formation of the green party and the black party. Could it be that soon Alicent would do a similar move to call her own party?

Probably.

“You don’t look very happy, cousin,” he turned and saw Arya sitting at his side.

“I am not.”

And he wasn’t. He knew that part of the reason the Hightower was discovered was because of some correspondence between Queen Alicent and her father that was discovered when she was arrested by Rhaenyra’s party. For these correspondences to exist, Alicent would have to become Queen and Otto sent away to the Hightower, leaving Alicent alone to commit mistakes with letters like having a maid burn her correspondence rather than doing it herself.

Yet, he couldn’t be happy that his father had been trapped in an unwanted marriage that he didn’t seem happy. That his sister had faced betrayal for the first time because of Alicent.

“Your sister is bolder than history claims.”

“My sister feels safe because even if Alicent gives birth to a boy, I cannot be easily replaced as a girl would be,” he said, and Arya nodded in agreement.

“And you feel safer for it?” Sansa questioned him.

“I feel that I might as well have a rope on my neck right now,” and he probably had.

Well, he wasn’t a dragon rider yet, but soon he would be, and then… Then Bran’s magical protection would fade, and he would be an easier target. And Otto would try to kill him as soon as a boy was born out of Alicent’s womb.

“Or they will try to marry you to Helaena,” Sansa said and he looked at her with an arched eyebrow. “You are way too easy to read, Jon.”

“For us at least,” Arya smirked. “As for the little tower? Well, she doesn’t look that happy too,” she pointed to the newly crowned Queen. And true, she wasn’t as happy as one that had just had a crown trusted in their head should be.

“I don’t really care for her happiness,” Jon answered. If the girl was sad, her father was way too somber for the occasion.

“Why are the three of you so alone?” They heard Daven approaching them, loudly and with a smile on his face and a serving of lemon cakes in his hand that immediately had Sansa interested. “Here, Princess, pick this for you!” He said with a smile and Sansa beamed at him.

“Thank you, Daven!”

Jon rolled his eyes. Sansa seemed to have the boy trained to pick the sweets for her in return for her smiles. Waymar laughed about it every time it happened, and Aemon just rolled his eyes. Jon knew that the next time Sansa had a sugar rush, the blame wouldn’t be his, but Daven’s.

“Let us go play!”

Letter from Lady Myrcella Tarbeck to her uncle, Lord Jason Lannister:

(...) Princess Rhaenyra and I are working with Princess Selaena to expand the schooling projects through the realm. Illyria Garden, Runestone, and King's Landing already have schools built for the purpose of furthering the education of the smallfolk and I want to build one in Tarbeck Hall. Lannisport is obviously under your power, but I would recommend you follow the trend brother, for Prince Jaehearon is coming up with legislation to present at the Small Council to benefit the cities where such projects are underway. (...)

Excerpt from History through Letters, by Maester Deverik

MYRCELLA

She watched as her uncles made fools of themselves to Princess Rhaenyra with amusem*nt. They were both trying to outdo each other, and the Princess was obviously annoyed, while the ladies in waiting were mostly amused, except for the redhead girl that looked at Jason and Tyland with indifference whenever she took her eyes out of the small book she carried with her. Kate Oakheart was not a woman who would ever take sh*t from a man, and of that Myrcella was sure.

When Rhaenyra’s eyes found her, she could see the plea for help and decided to take pity on the girl. After assuring that her Adrian was in the good company of Princess Selaena and her youngster cousin, a Royce of whatever station, she walked to her Rhaenyra and her uncles.

“You should see the highest tower of Casterly Rock, it is as high as the Wall in the North—”

“And every one that climbs to the highest tower usually regrets it in the first five minutes they find themselves on the damned stairs,” Mycerlla completed, interrupting Jason in one of his rambles about Casterly Rock. “It is a climb of at least 20 minutes.”

“It is a good exercise,” Tyland said, and Myrcella looked at him with an arched eyebrow.

“Not one anyone would like to do if they are using a dress, uncle,” she rolled her eyes at him. “And if the Princess wants to have such a sight, I am sure that her dragon, Syrax, would be able to take her, probably even higher.”

“I admit that it has passed my mind,” Rhaenyra said to her.

“My Princess, I hope that you won’t feel offended if I take my uncle Jason for a dance?” she nominally said her most obnoxious uncle while grabbing his arm.

“Oh, no! I won’t be offended!” Rhaenyra said and she almost dragged Jason with her to the cotilion.

“Myrcella! Why have you done it? I was having a pleasant conversation with the Princess!”

“I was saving your arse from being burned alive,” Myrcella answered while rolling her eyes at the Lord of Casterly Rock. “You are welcomed, by the way!”

“I am not thanking you for interrupting my chance of having a princess as my wife!”

“Jason, you are my uncle, but we were raised more like siblings, so you know that I love you, right?” the golden eyes of her uncle soften a little and he gave her a nod, “Then know that what I will say now, I do with the utmost love in my heart. Rhaenyra would never marry you.”

“And why wouldn’t she? I am the Lord of the greatest houses in—”

“Yeah, yada-yada-yada…” she interrupted what would be one of his self-important speeches, “I know that; you know that; and, more importantly: she knows that. Still, she wouldn’t marry you. Firstly, because she values Valyrian culture too highly and wants to marry someone of Valyrian heritage. I am betting that she will either marry a Velaryon, a Baratheon, or a Celtigar. She would marry her uncle if he wasn’t already married or her brother, if he wasn’t ten years younger than her. Second, she is a very proud woman, she would never tolerate your mistresses and bastards, in the best of the hypothesis she would leave you and then shame House Lannister in doing so, and at the worst, she would burn you alive, and feed you to Syrax.”

A small glint of fear appeared right in his eyes.

“Then we have the fact that your personality would crash. And as stated previously, if you ever annoyed her too much, she does have a dragon to get rid of you if you ever annoy her too much. So, you are welcome!”

His muffled pout made her laugh at him.

“You shouldn’t be laughing, dear niece, this isn’t your marriage,” he spat back and she gave him a gracious shrug.

“There is more way to be in power than marrying the crown, dear uncle,” she said and sent the King a smile, Viserys sent a smile in return. It was almost smug and knowing between the two of them.

“What have you done, Myrcella?” Jason questioned, his voice serious and concerned. “I can’t protect you if I don’t know what is coming after you, niece.”

“As sweet as your intention is, Jason, I will not be the one needing protection,” she gave him a smirk and then looked to the Hand. The man was almost bursting with happiness and smugness. “As for what I did, I might have given the King reason to punish those that took away my chance to wear a crown.”

“You need to be careful with the enemies you make and the allies you keep,” his concern was touching.

“You don’t need to worry, I know how to play this game. And I don’t intend on losing it.”

“You have already lost the crown,” she rolled her eyes at his condescending tone.

“And? That is not my endgame. I admit that a crown would be a good trinket for me and that having my son be raised as the stepbrother of the future King would be even better, but power doesn’t come from crowns only, it also comes from influence and money. Things that I do have.”

“Promise me that you will be careful,” he demanded, and she smiled at him.

“I’m always careful, Jason,” Myrcella promised her uncle.

In what had been known as the greatest moment of glory of House Hightower ever since the Conquest, Queen Alicent Hightower was dubbed "The Light of Hightower" by her uncle, the Lord Hobert of Hightower. Years later, her political adversaries would mock her by twisting the title into "The whor* of Hightower". The day after what was supposed to be their triumph, Lord Otto Hightower was dismissed from his position of the Hand of the King. Many speculate that the King no longer trusted his old friend after the debacle that led him to marry his daughter.

Excerpt of Crumbing Towers: the fall of House Hightower, by Professor Jaehaerys Targaryen of the Royal University of Oldtown

OTTO

He was almost giddy throughout the day.

First, his daughter was married to the King of the Seven Kingdoms and crowned as Queen of the Realm. This meant that his plans were moving along nicely.

Second, he received a message from the Stepstones saying that Daemon had thrown a rage fit when he received the news of the wedding and attacked a squad of the Triarchy pirates, almost getting shot in the process.

Unfortunately, he returned unharmed…

“She looks beautiful,” he smirked at his brother. “Do you think that we should bring her into the family crusade?”

“Joanna has already hinted something to Alicent,” he said, “I think that it would be prudent. This way she won’t let her feelings become a burden to us.”

“You must make sure that she understands that our actions are for the good of the realm.”

“Alicent isn’t a stupid child, she is a dutiful and intelligent young woman, she will understand it.”

“Good,” Hobert said pleased but his eyes were staring ahead, Otto looked for what his brother was looking at and found her: their pivot for such a risky action. Myrcella Tarbeck.

“The Lady of Tarbeck Hall interests you?”

“She should interest you, brother,” his older brother sneered. “A beautiful, wealthy widow with powerful connections in House Lannister? You should be very interested in her.”

“She wanted to be Queen,” he stated with a sneer.

“She can be the wife of the Hand,” Hobert argued. “If it is the power she wants, let her think she has power over you and get the power of her connections out of her. You ought to shape her son to be a good tool for our cause. And more importantly, if her attention is on you, then it won’t be at the King and it won’t distract him from your daughter.”

“The problem is: how to get her attention to me?”

“You are smart, Otto, and she is a woman. Court her and she will eventually give in. If not, negotiate it with her uncles,” Otto saw merit in it.

Lady Myrcella Tarbeck was still a woman after all, one of affable heart, given the time and resources she wasted on the smallfolk and Queen Aemma’s social projects. Of course, he would have to curb her conceited kind of independence and guide her to a better path. She didn’t need to spend so much time with the smallfolk, if she let the monies to the Sept then Faith would be able to direct the projects much better than her and it would give her free time to spend with her son and the children they could have later.

“Something to consider, brother.”

As the festivities progressed, the toasts began. There were fewer toasts than a Queen deserved and even less sincere ones. Most words were empty congratulations, with veiled disdain and some bad-taste japes meant to embarrass his daughter and referring to the night of the anniversary of Aemma’s death.

“I want to rise a toast to my niece too,” Hobert said, raising his goblet, “You, my sweet niece, had always been a beautiful and sweet girl, devout and faithful to the Seven, and loyal and true to our House. The King Viserys has, today, taken one of the greatest treasures of this realm as his, and I hope that your union will be a fruitful and happy one. To the Light of the Hightower, Queen Alicent Targaryen! May she help our good King light the way to better days! Long live the Queen!”

“Long live the Queen!” he cheered and watched as his allies cheered with him, while the others clapped their hands, blandly.

“Long live the King!” he looked, searching for the one who cried so and found the Queen Who Never Was cheering to her cousin and was followed by most.

“Long live the King!”

Long live the King, they all cheered much louder.

In the day after the celebrations, Otto found himself with a mild headache from his overindulgence in wine. He was woken by a servant, apparently, the King had called for his presence in the Council Chambers and needed him urgently.

That spook him a little, after all, the man has just married, and he should have enjoyed his nuptials with his bride. It wasn’t as if there was an urgent matter to be resolved that morning.

That is, unless something happened.

What could be so urgent that would need to wake the Hand so earlier in the day after his daughter’s wedding and coronation?

He expected to find the whole council in the chambers, but instead, he found only the King. Dressed in black and red, with his crown adorning his head and a feather on his hand as he was writing something down.

“Your Grace,” he said while bowing to the Kingdom.

“You arrived, good,” the King said without taking his eyes off the parchment he was writing. “Sit down Otto.”

“Are we waiting for someone else, Your Grace?” He questioned while looking at the empty space in the small council. Except for Ser Ryamond, who was on one of the pillars, standing guard.

“No, we are not,” Viserys said, then he put his quill down and looked at him.

The eyes were the same lavender of ever, but the gleam there was strange to Otto. It was darker, cold, and aloof. Not something that was common in the King’s eyes. That made him shiver and bore him ill.

“Has something happened, Your Grace?” he questioned, regaining his composure.

“You must think me an idiot,” Otto frowned at the King, but before he could open his mouth to deny it, he was stopped. “Don’t bother to deny it… Fourteen or fifteen years ago, Joanna Hightower was found in my brother’s bed, he had been drunk the previous night and confounded her with a whor*. The very next day your brother cried reparations to my house.”

Otto felt his blood run cold. Viserys didn’t know this before, never had. How come he learned of it?

Daemon, his mind supplied—the bane of Hightower’s plans.

“Your Grace, my sister had been invited to the Prince’s bed that night, he dishonored her!”

“It isn’t what I have learned from a variety of different sources. Indeed, they all told me that Daemon used to spurn your sister, but then one day he found her in his bed. Conveniently when he was drunk. Very much like me.”

“Those slanderous accusations are a blight to my sister’s honor!” Otto tried again, raising his voice.

“Still, she married a lowly landed knight instead of a lord how it would have been befitting of her station,” Viserys said, coldly. “Your daughter, on the other hand, managed to reach higher than her station would have permitted because you found a better target.”

“Your Grace can’t believe that I had set this up,” Otto tried to defend himself.

“I don’t want to believe, but all evidence suggests you did. And there was the unwarranted interference in my household when you dismissed Aemma’s ladies and wards merely a week after her death—”

“I did it for your comfort.”

“And forgot to think about the comfort of Rhaenyra and Jaehearon that lost their primary caretakers, friends, and companions. Worst, you said that it happened by my order. That is power usurpation,” Otto shivered at how the King worded his argument. Power usurpation could end up with his head on a pike. “And the matter of Stepstones.”

“What matter of Stepstones? My handling was in accordance with the King’s laws!”

“Yet you conveniently forgot to tell me of the gravity of the situation.”

“I wasn’t aware of the gravity!”

“Despite all of Lord Corlys’ reports and requests for help, you did not even investigate the matters?”

“Lord Corlys is a proud, ambitious man, it would be within his character to exaggerate the matters for his own gain,” Otto said.

“And yet, the situation was just as dire as he had said… You either were benefiting as Lord Manderly accused you, or you were not as diligent in your work as you ought to be. I don’t know which is worse… The fact remains that you abused my trust in you.”

“I never abused your trust!”

“You left your daughter alone with me, knowing that I had issued an order that no unmarried lady was supposed to be left in my presence alone and unchaperoned. For their own protection. Worst still, you knew that I had my sights somewhere else!”

“Your Grace requested for Alicent to stay and read for you.”

“I WAS DRUNK!” the King roared much to his surprise. “I was not in my right state of mind, but you were. You knew the risks and you assumed them. You played with your daughter’s honor, and you played with mine!”

“Your Grace—”

“Silence, I am not done!” The King roared again. “For years, I defended you. I defended you from my brother’s ire that now I know was completely justified. I defended you from my wife’s suspicions. From the Lords of the realm that felt that you were reaching high. And now I see that they were right. You reached too high this time, Otto. I proceeded with the marriage with Alicent because I had already compromised myself with it before I perceived the trap you spun and a King cannot go back on his word at whims. But my trust in you is broken, and I do no trust in you to keep in the position of my Hand. You are hereby dismissed from your position.”

“I served you faithfully.”

“You served me when it was within your interests, I can see it now!” Otto wanted to scream and yell at the King but only clenched his jaw. “You are to leave the Red Keep with your brother and are barred from returning for the next four years. After that, I will decide if I want to see your face again.”

“My daughter—”

“Is my consort, she will be well cared for and honored, you are free to keep correspondence to her. You can go now,” Viserys said, and Otto stayed looking at him, shocked by the result of the meeting.

He finally left when Ser Ryam approached him, to enforce the King’s dismissal.

How have things turned so wrong?

Notes:

Can't make any promises now people!
But if everything goes as planed, until next week, if not... well! So be it!

Chapter 21: Interlude: Stepstones

Summary:

Time flies when you are at war!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Some of the main commanders of the War of the Stepstones were Prince Daemon, Lord Corlys Velaryon, and Ser Borros Baratheon. Still, the strategists who came up with the plan to deal with the pirates of the Triarchy were Lord Desmond Manderly and Lord Bennard Stark. It is estimated that their strategy had to spare them at least another year of war.

Excerpt of Stepstones: A Problem in the Seas by Maester Allar

CORLYS

Few things impressed him anymore. But how Caraxes and Daemon caused destruction in their warpath was a sight even after the several moons in the Stepstones.

In the twenty moons since the beginning of the war, they managed to capture over half of the Stepstones, and under the advice of Willam Royce and Bennard Stark, they immediately started to build outposts in their main islands, outposts that they would eventually reward the most prominent fighters.

Of the Islands that the Triarchy had, the most important was Bloodstone. Their biggest problem with them at the moment was that whenever they saw Caraxes, they would hide in the f*cking caves like the cowards they were.

“We need to take them out of the caves!”

“No sh*t, genius,” Bennard rolled his eyes and Corlys wanted to smack the Northernman for the disrespect with his son. “The question is how to take them out of there!”

“We should use bait.”

“And who would be the fool?” Vaemond questioned.

“Daemon?”

“Dear cousin, I hope you are not calling me a fool?” Daemon’s voice was heard, and they turned to where the prince was making his entrance. “That would break my heart.”

“I wasn’t aware you have a heart,” Willam scoffed, and Daemon smirked.

“If the pleasantries are over, we must focus on getting those pirates out of the caves,” he said dryly.

“What if we don’t need to take them out of the caves?” they all turned to Desmond Manderly, the old lord of White Harbour.

“And how do you expect to fight them if we can’t reach them?” Ser Boros questioned while the northern rolled his eyes.

“I remember a tale my mother would tell me of the Burying of Barrows.”

“Gods! That was so obvious! How didn’t we think of that before?” Bennard said after a while, smacking his own forehead.

“Care to share?” he demanded.

“It is a tale of the shieldmaidens—”

“We don’t need tales of women fighting, we need solutions to fight like men,” Lord Grafton interrupted, quite rudely, the Lord of White Harbour.

“I am interested in whatever history that can see us winning this war,” Daemon said looking at the Valeman with narrowed eyes. “Continue Manderly.”

“The Burying of Barrows occurred when the Ironborn attacked Goldgrass and Barrowton, that was even before the Manderly arrived in the North. The men departed to the shores to fight them, and the women stayed, since the shieldmaiden don’t march to war, they stay to defend the land. But still, they were being attacked at night, and they couldn’t understand how, since no ship was sighted nor was the army. One of the women, Ariana Dustin decided to allow herself to be taken to discover where their army was coming from, and she discovered that they were hiding in the Barrows where they would bury their people, then she escaped and alerted the shieldmaidens of the fact, they decided to make the Barrows their grave too.” Manderly said and Corlys had been impressed with the story and perceived that so were most of the men.

“They decided that if they were unable to meet them in battlegrounds, then they didn’t deserve the courtesy of a warrior’s death. Those that didn’t die by the wreckage of the barrow, died from hunger or thirst, they only opened the cave a year after the war was over.” Bennard continued and he felt a shiver run down his spine. Being buried alive didn’t sound like a good way to die. Especially to a sailor like him.

“And how did these women do it?” Borros asked, very interested.

“The shieldmaiden has the knowledge of many things that the rest of us don’t. That the Citadel and the Alchemists would kill to have,” Bennard said with a smirk. “Secrets that they pass down, woman to woman, mother to daughter, warrior to warrior, healer to healer. And they know how to create explosives that are strong enough to collapse a mountain.”

Lord Grafton scoffed, as did some other men, but Corlys had heard about the shieldmaiden culture before in one of his many travels. Most stories like these had a grain of truth.

“And where can we find those shieldmaidens now? Beyond the wall?” Ser Cameron Tarth taunted.

“Winterfell has about twelve of them now: my wife and my good sister, included,” Bennard smirked at the man.

“Also: probably all the women of Bear Island, most of the women in the Mountain Clans of the Erilean’s Chains, Hornwoods, Barrowlands, Rills… I think that most of the Northern House have their share of shieldmaidens, even White Harbour has some shieldmaidens, though I cannot claim that House Manderly has any other than my own wife.”

“You mean to say that your wife knows how to fight?”

“She was born a Harclay, the surprise would be if she didn’t know how to fight,” Manderly said with a smile and Corlys rolled his eyes.

“Does she have the explosives?”

“Gods, no! Those things are volatile as f*ck, to store them is a tremendous stupidity. They need to make on demand,” Bennard answered for the Lord of White Harbour. “It would take two moons to get ready, I think.”

“Do we even have the time?” Boros questioned.

“We have been here for twenty moons, we can continue to fight them as we are, but with these explosives, it would be way easier.”

“We should fight them like men!”

“Oh, shut up, Lord Grafton!” Daemon rolled his eyes. “If the cowards want to hide in the caves forever, then we should make these caves into their graves.”

“I concur with Prince Daemon, the approach of these shieldmaidens was appropriate in dealing with cowards, there’s no shame in taking their lead when it proved successful,” Vaemond said.

“Manderly, Stark,” he turned to the two northernmen. Stark was leading most of the Stark troops on behalf of his brother, while Manderly was leading the ships. “Can you write to these ladies and ask them to prepare these explosives?”

“I don’t remember the right name, but I think—”

“The name is Fury of Vasthi,” the Stark interrupted the Manderly. “We ought to also ask for some Balm of Eir, to help in the treatment of our men.”

“Balm of Eir?” Corlys questioned.

“Is what Lady Amelie Hornwood is using to treat the King right now,” the Stark said.

“The healing balm that Griselda gave to my daughters?” Daemon questioned and the raven-haired Stark nodded.

“Is another one of the shieldmaiden secrets, those they usually have stored.”

“And why haven’t you brought this before?” Borros questioned.

“Because, by tradition, we should receive it when we return home where they would treat our wounds,” Manderly said. “It is something done between partners, not freely distributed.”

“If the medicine is so good, why don’t you commercialize it?”

“Because it is part of the sacred culture of the shieldmaiden,” Manderly rolled his eyes, but Corlys wanted to do the same for his answer.

The balm was becoming famous for the treatment that Lady Amelie Horwood has been giving the king. The Citadel wanted the receipt as did the Faith, but Amelie remained as stubborn as a rock and refused to give in. And so did the rest of the North, clamoring it was part of the First Men culture and that the Andals and the Faith didn’t have right over that.

Still, the balm had been more effective than most of the treatment imparted by the Grandmaster, and if it was so efficient they could be selling it at expensive prices.

“There is no man in the North that knows how to produce this balm or any other secret of the shieldmaidens. As I said, it is a secret passed down, mother to daughter, woman to woman.” The Stark said. “These secrets belong to women, and like the Citadel keeps their secrets and so do the alchemists, the shieldmaiden will keep theirs.”

For three moons, the war in Stepstones seemed to have grown stale. The Triarchy were recruiting new soldiers and trying to recuperate. The King's men were in the Sunstone, preparing for a strategy. Things changed when one day Princess Rhaenyra, Princess Rhaenys and Lady Laena appeared in their dragons, scaring the Triarchy who thought that another three dragons would join the war. Instead, they departed the very same day. The Triarchy attacked another island under the power of the King's forces, Dwarfstone, two days later.

Excerpt of Stepstones: A Problem in the Seas by Maester Allar

DAEMON

A little over a year ago, he received the news that his brother was to marry Alicent Hightower. Considering that his brother had little interest in the girl and had already confessed to him that he was enjoying the company of Lady Tarbeck, it didn’t take a great effort for him to realize what had happened.

That day, he had eliminated ten ships of the triarchy in a rage fit. Or, as Corlys had called it, in a temper tantrum.

Well, it certainly helped them take the Grey Gallows.

As it was, the moons followed he received much news from the Capital and Runestone. Otto, the c*nt, had been dismissed from the position of Hand and the rumors said that he was banned from the capital. Alicent Hightower gave birth to an Aegon seven moons after the wedding, confirming Daemon’s theory. From Runestone, he received little news. All about his daughters and Jaehearon. Alyssa started to change from the pony to a chestnut palfrey she received from Viserys as a name-day gift and named Gaius. Selaena had lost her first baby tooth and was learning her letters with better results than a child her age should have—very much like Jaehearon and Alyssa. Jaehearon had taken his first solo flight when Rhaenyra and Laena went to the Vale to help Alyssa with her instructions. As expected, he had seemingly perfect control over his mount.

He spent time imagining how his daughters would be by now.

Alyssa loved riding, horses or dragons, she loved the feeling of wind on her face and to lose sight of her in a new mount made him want to fly over Bloodstone and burn it to cinders. She probably was a better swordswoman now than she used to be, and he imagined if she could still beat Jaehearon with ease.

Selaena was losing her baby tooth, and he hoped that the gap in her teeth was as cute as he would imagine while he mourned the opportunity of seeing his baby girl growing. That was something he would not forgive those f*ckers.

The sound of wings woke him from his musings and he heard Caraxes screeching, when he turned his eyes to the sky he saw three dragons. And none of them were Seasmoke. No, the Red Queen, Meleys, had his cousin with her. Behind her, there was Vhagar, possibly the biggest dragon alive, though not the oldest, the dark green scales gleamed in the sky, and because of it, it was easier to spot the silver hair of her rider. And last, but not least, there was the golden Syrax, his niece’s mount.

When the three dragons landed, Daemon started to feel an incoming headache.

“Prince Daemon, the princess—”

“Is there, aye, I perceived it,” he growled to the man that came to call him.

He walked to where the dragons landed and where Corlys was already there to receive them.

“Uncle!” Rhaenyra said, excitedly when she saw him and he arched an eyebrow.

“Niece, does your father knows that you are here?”

“Probably,” she beamed, and he closed his eyes, sighing. She had grown beautifully in her seventeens and was more confident too.

“Laena, what do you think that you are doing here?” Corlys questioned his daughter with narrowed eyes.

“When I received the raven from Corlys that he needed my help here,” Rhaenys started looking at both of them with narrowed eyes. “The two decided to follow me. I stopped in Wendwater Bridge when I perceived that they were following me.”

“You wrote that you needed more dragonriders, so we came!” Laena said, just as confident.

“I wrote that I needed your mother.”

“Nu-uh, the letter clearly said that you needed dragon riders,” Rhaenyra said. “I read it myself.”

“If I remind myself correctly, you no longer act as your father’s cupbearer—”

“It was conflicting with my other responsibilities,” his niece interrupted him and he continued.

“Then why have you read a letter that was meant for the Council, niece?” she shrugged at him.

“And why have you not sent them away in Wendwater Bridge, Princess?” he questioned his cousin.

“Hey, you said that you need Dragonriders! Now you have three more, and one of them is the most experienced in wars!” Laena defended her mother.

He and Corlys shared a look and a sigh. The matter with the Dragonriders was actually that they needed Rhaenys to be the one escorting the Manderly Vessel that would carry the Fury of Vasthi (he really didn’t know if the name was silly or not, but apparently it had a history behind it that the shieldmaiden kept to themselves) to Stepstones. To avoid the vessel from being attacked the explosives needed to be cared for in a certain manner.

“Three dragons guarding the ship will be safer than just one,” Laenor said behind them.

“Guarding a ship?” Rhaenys frowned.

“I thought you want our help to fight,” Laena said while crossing her arms.

“There was nothing in the letter about needing help in the fight,” Corlys said and looked to Rhaenyra, daring her to contradict her, and she pouted in return. “The northern shieldmaiden has prepared a special weapon to us to deal with the pirates, but we need to guarantee that it will arrive safely here.”

“Shieldmaiden have knowledge of weapons?”

“Explosives, to be more precise,” Daemon answered his cousin with a smirk. “From what I have heard of those women, I know that I wouldn’t like to cross one in a warpath.”

“You say that because your Alyssa is training to be one of them.” Rhaenys rolled her eyes.

“No, that’s more with the fact that those women are very willing to bury their enemies alive,” Daemon said to the surprise of the three women who looked very interested.

“You want me to go North and guarantee that these explosives are going to arrive in one piece?” Rhaenys questioned.

“Exactly, from the letter written by Lady Guilliane Stark, it is better if they avoid heat until the time of being put to use,” Corlys said. “Lord Bennard’s sisters, Ladies Isolde Dustin and Imelda Umber will be in the ship to make sure of the safe manipulation of the explosives.”

“They will also bring some other shieldmaidens with them, healers, specifically,” the Stark said behind them and then bowed to the ladies. “Your Highnesses, My Lady!”

“I can do it,” Rhaenys said with a smile. “I will also make sure to leave Rhaenyra and Laena locked in Red Keep this time.”

“Good luck trying,” Rhaenyra said.

“Up North, we go?” Laena questioned with a smirk.

“I always wondered how cold the North can be in the Summer!” Rhaenyra said with an impish smile and Daemon smirked. And Viserys said that he was a walking headache.

The White Wind arrived in Sunstone, on the 25th moon of the War of Stepstones, on the day that marked two years and a moon of war. It was captained by Torrhen Manderly, escorted by Princess Rhaenys, Princess Rhaenyra, and Lady Laena in their dragons: Meleys, Syrax, and Vhagar. It carried inside the secret weapon that ended the war. Known as Fury of Vasthi, the explosives created by the Northern folk buried alive the forces of the Triarchy that insisted on hiding in the mountains of Bloodstone. A fitting end for cowards who avoided the direct conflict with the King's forces.

Excerpt of Stepstones: A Problem in the Seas by Maester Allar

RHAENYRA

Very cold!

Turned out that the North could be very cold in the summer.

Now she was very glad for having accepted the furs and warm dresses that her cousin Rhea pushed in her arms when they landed in Runestone for a stop. She would have to send a gift to her soon.

Rhaenys had eventually agreed that they were going with or without her approval, and it was best to keep them in her sight than lose them and have any of them flying into the Wall. It took them a week from Stepstones to White Harbour, flying and making two stops a day for food and sleep, and physiological necessities.

They were invited to New Castle by Lord Manderly’s wife, Dornella of House Harclay, and her sons: twenty years old Medrick Manderly, and seventeen years old Torrhen Manderly; and the daughters: Merylin, Alys, and Willa.

“We are sorry for the inconvenience, Your Highnesses,” Lady Maderly said in an apologetic tone. “Isolde and Imelda will arrive the day after morrow, because of some problems in the roads.”

“We understood that the explosives are volatile. But what kind of trouble had delayed them?” Rhaenys asked with a curious tone.

“Summer snow,” Lady Manderly said as if it explained everything.

It probably did, but not something that Rhaenyra could understand. Snow in the summer? How was that even possible?

They slept in warm beds. And ate heartily, and in the next morning, Willa invited them to walk on the beaches of New Castle. The wind was much colder than the one in Blackwater Bay, but there was some beauty in the peaceful beaches that remind her of Dragonstone.

As Willa and Alys talked about the shieldmaidens, though they said that they never learned the ways, they were familiar with the doctrine and history. Laena, who had become quite interested in the doctrine after meeting Signy and Griselda, was quite happy to hear about it. That was until she was run over by a dog.

“Fleetfoot!” Alys said with a sigh. “Get out of our guest!” Rhaenyra watched the dog, golden hairy coat and gold eyes, begging some attention out of Laena and bust out laughing.

“It is alright, Lady Alys,” Laena said while she started to pet the dog.

“I am so sorry, Lady Laena! This is one of Torrhen’s dogs, they are usually well-behaved, but Fleetfoot knows nothing of manners.” Willa said with a sigh.

“Mother was furious when she ate one of her tapestries,” Alys said with a nod.

“I think that she is perfect, don’t you think Rhaenyra?”

“I’m more of a dragon person,” Rhaenyra answered and then the dog looked at her with such cute eyes that she rolled hers. “Though, she can be cute.”

“Fleetfoot!” They turned to find Torrhen Manderly running in their direction, his face a little troubled. Rhaenyra had to admit that the man was a sight in the aquamarine gambeson and with his shoulder-length butter blonde hair moving in the wind. “Your Highness, my lady, sisters! It seems that Fleetfoot escaped again.”

“Brother, how do you always lose your prized pet?” Willa asked.

“I didn’t lose her, she opened the door of the pen,” Ser Torrhen said, while kneeling in front of the dog and giving her some petting. Laena seemed offended that the dog forgot her for its master so easily. “She also opened the pens of Goldie and Neddy, but they remained in their places. Fleetfoot, must you always cause trouble, girl?”

“She just wants to be free,” Laena said while she continued to pet the dog.

“Her freedom will end up killing her the next time she destroys another of my mother’s tapestries,” Ser Torrhen said with a fond smile. “I am sorry, if Fleetfoot gave you any problem, my lady.”

“Don’t you worry, I like dogs.”

“And cats, and birds, and horses, and dolphins…” Rhaenyra rolled her eyes.

“Yes, I like living beings! Gods should punish me for such a criminal offense!” Laena said sarcastically and the boy smiled.

“I think that it is a remarkable trait.”

Rhaenyra and the Manderly girls looked between themselves. Were the two really flirting right there? Looking at the side smirk on Laena’s lips, she knew that the answer was yes.

The strategy to end the Triarchy in the War of Stepstones was presented by Lords Desmond Manderly and Bennard Stark, but what the Masters and other men of the time tried to erase from history was that while they came up with a solid strategy, they didn't come up with an original one. The idea of burying the Triarchy alive was based on an episode of the Shieldmaiden against the Ironborn, and the technology employed was also something they took from the Shieldmaiden. Without the help of the female warriors of the North and their explosives, the war would take much longer, but still, men tried to deny these women the piece of recognition that they rightfully deserved.

Excerpt of A History of Women in Warfare, by Professor Alys Karstark of the Royal University of Wintertown.

RHAENYS

Siblings of the current Lord Stark, Isolde Dustin, and Imelda Umber were twins. Yet they were not identical. Isolde had what she called Locke’s hair: a mass of corkscrew curls in honey blonde color, she had the grey eyes of the Stark and was slender and shorter than Imelda. Imelda had wavy black hair, like most of the Stark, but her eyes were dark like onyx and she was a tall sort of woman, almost as tall as her Umber husband.

She found that both women were very well-learned, beautiful in different ways, and strong-willed. Together with them, were another ten shieldmaiden, who were making sure the explosives were kept in the right manner to arrive safely in Stepstone. Rhaenys had to admit to herself that she was surprised by the results of the explosives after they tested them while on White Harbour.

She also was surprised by how Isolde and Imelda explained the history behind their culture. The shieldmaiden wasn’t a fancy dream made true by the women of the North, they were born out of necessity. The harsh climate of the North made it difficult for survival and their population suffered a great deal for it. When the war started most men were called, leaving the keeps undermanned and unprotected, ready for attack. So they started to teach women how to defend their lands. For the very same problem, the lack of people in the North, made the men look differently at women, they weren’t only pretty trinkets to pop heirs, but also supposed to raise and educate their children. Apparently before the Maesters and the Citadel, the North believed that intellectual activities belonged to women and not to men. Men were to be warriors, and women were to be scholars. Now the Maesters tried to convince the women of the contrary.

“If you hear them, they will convince you that the only thing women are good for is to be broodmares,” Imelda sneered.

The journey back to Stepstones was slower than the journey to White Harbour, as now they had to follow the pace of the White Wind and not of the dragons. Her poor Meleys, who loved to race, was very bored with this slower pace but held herself with regal dignity. What she also observed with some amusem*nt was the growing flirtation between her daughter and the Manderly second son.

Torrhen wouldn’t cut it for Corlys. He had ambitions and he wanted to foster them into their children. Royal ambitions. But Laenor would never like women. And Laena would never be a soft maid, obedient who would follow his orders. Laenor, she was sure, would marry whoever Corlys demanded, as long as he could keep his paramours and Rhaenys doubted that she would have any trueborn grandchild from him. Laena would marry whoever she wanted, even if she had to elope and run to the free cities. Maybe she would have Torrhen as her husband if their shared secret smirks and blatant flirtations were any indicators.

When they arrived in Sunstone, she watched as the shieldmaiden walked out of the ship, armored, with their hair neatly done, and carrying the three barrels of explosives. Imelda was in the company of her husband during the journey, and Isolde found hers among the Northernmen in the Stepstones. After some hours they started to talk about the strategy and while the men tried to dismiss the presence of the two ladies of House Stark, Isolde immediately rolled her eyes.

“Don’t be stupid, you have no idea of how to even manage the Fury,” the woman said to Lord Grafton before turning to her brother. “Bennard, you gave us the wrong specifications!”

“I didn’t!”

“You did,” Imelda rolled her eyes, “you said that the rocks here were about the same as the rocks in White Harbour, which are metamorphic, you lied. Sunstone is formed by sedimentary rocks!”

“It’s rock, what difference does it mean?” Bennard asked and Rhaenys saw as Isolde sighed in exasperation, while the other sister looked ready to smack her brother.

“Sedimentary rocks are not as resistant as magmatic or metamorphic rocks. It means that we made batches of Fury of Vasthi to bring the whole mountain down, not only the cave entrances!”

“That seems good to me,” Laenor said and received an arched eyebrow from Imelda.

“It does, doesn’t it? It also means that you won’t use all of the batches, wasting our material and we will have to find a way to get rid of it, because this thing is not storageable.” The Lady Umber said.

“We can try dissolving it at the sea,” Isolde said.

“A possibility,” Imelda sighed.

“Well, if that is all, the ladies should return to the Land and let us fight.” Lord Grafton said and Rhaenys held a sigh as she watched the twins look at the man unimpressed and proceed to ignore them.

They took two days to teach them the manners of using the paste and the best way of using it. And another three days for the shieldmaiden to help them prepare. The Battle of Bloodstone was the last of that war. It ended with the Bloodstone permanently re-shaped by the demolition of one or two mounts that collapsed over the Triarchy. Those who remained outside surrendered swiftly after watching the devastation caused by the Fury of Vasthi.

Rhaenys was more than just a little impressed by the results and made a note to take the shieldmaiden into consideration some more. Their knowledge and technology were not something to dismiss.

Notes:

Hi everyone!
The next chapter is ready, and I will post it next week, probably Friday!

As you can see, time passed by and now Rhaenyra is a little older, but still giving problems.

Next chapter: a wedding!

Chapter 22: Beyond recognition

Summary:

Daemon returns from war...
Arya enjoys her favorite uncle's company...
Bran gets a first-row seat for a family quarrel!
Rhaenyra enjoys a feast for her friend!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

At the end of the war, Stepstones were rewarded to some Lords' second sons, and small garrisons were settled there to hold the islands. Prince Daemon Targaryen added Bloodstone to his own spoils, and six moons after the end of the War, the King pinned the brooch of the Hand to his brother's lapel. Despite his utter distaste for paperwork and the more bureaucratic part of his new position, Prince Daemon took it seriously and became known as one of the most well-regarded Hands, though he retired soon after the birth of his first grandchild.

Excerpt from The Rogue Prince, Maester Gyldayn

RHEA

Rhea smiled when she watched Nymeria passing through them, her two daughters flying together as Alyssa had decided that it was time to teach her sister to mount. Jaehearon was atop Ghost, following them in the strangely silent dragon. And trailing after them, Lady and Summer. Both dragons were now as big as Ghost, and Alyssa’s Nymeria had already reached Syrax. The dragon keepers commented once or twice on their impressive size for such young Dragons and how if they continued to grow as such, they would reach Vermithor within the next decade.

She actually shudders to think about it. Vermithor was the third biggest dragon, after the Cannibal and Vhagar and to house three dragons of his size would be a difficult entrepreneur, especially to keep them under control.

Briefly, she turned her eyes down and found Signy, Griselda, Waymar, Gideon, Aemon, and Devan training. Well, shy Gideon was trying to read a book and Griselda was at his side helping him. When her eyes turned back to the skies she saw as something was approaching. The dragons also perceived Summer and Lady immediately drifted towards the approaching dragon, and then Nymeria and Ghost followed.

Daemon!

The word left her lips unceremoniously and she observed as her daughter guided her dragon to the Blood Wyrm. A smile spread on her face, and she found herself leaving the battlements and running through the Keep to where the dragons were going to land. She didn’t care for the amused stares at her unladylike behavior, she just went on.

Until she saw them. Her wayward husband was tackled on the ground by the nearly eleven years old Alyssa and the recently turned six Selaena. Jae was watching with an amused smile.

He looked skinnier, and his hair was shorter than he liked to keep, but overall he seemed good for someone that had just returned from war. She perceived that he was holding their daughters tightly and the way his violet eyes looked to her, intensely, she knew that later they would have a very good time.

“Girls, what have we talked about tackling people on the ground?” Rhea asked with a smile.

“Nothing, really,” Selaena answered with a cute smile.

“Then maybe I should say something,” Rhea sighed. “Daemon is good to see you.”

“Good to see you too, Bitch,” she smiled at his almost soft voice.

“Don’t be an insufferable c*nt so earlier, husband…” was her answer and he smiled at her. “Are you going to lay there forever?”

“I will get up as soon as our daughters let me!”

“Kepa, Alyssa taught Jae how to fly alone, and now they are teaching me!”

“Selaena is trying to become a maester!”

“I don’t want to be a Maester, their robes are ugly!” her youngster said to their amusem*nt.

“And my princess can never be ugly!” Daemon said kissing her cheek to Selaena’s delight.

They returned to the keep and Rhea called out for a private banquet, the ships would arrive next week and then they would have a feast for their war heroes. But that night, it was just them. Signy, Griselda, Aemon, and Devan would dine with Saoirse and her boys, that night, only the Targaryen would dine in Rhea’s solar.

She smiled the whole time, and when the children were taken by their nurses, and they were finally alone, he kissed her, and she let him. No questions were asked for they were unnecessary. As usual, they wrestled for control: he bites her and she bite him back, he pulled her hair and she pulled him, he bruised her hips, and she scratched his back.

They weren’t quiet either. He made sure that she would peak as much as he would cum and when he finally laid down at her side, exhausted, he pulled her in his arms and said:

“I never want to be away from this,” he murmured at her ear and she smiled against his chest.

“You’ll change your mind the next time Devan and Signy start to quarrel,” she sighed. “Or when Alyssa starts to talk about boys.”

“Alyssa already perceived the difference between boys and girls?” He questioned and she heard some displeasure in his voice.

“Only that she thinks that they are useless,” she pushed a little, so she could see his satisfied smirk.

“Good, she is too young to be thinking anything good of boys.”

“Will she ever be old enough to think something good of boys?” Rhea questioned and he pecked her nose.

“Never!”

In the following days, they started to organize themselves. Daemon told her that he had been to the capital before coming home. King’s Landing was like she had left it, or so it seemed.

The birth of Aegon Targaryen had not been any surprise, it had been announced after all, but Rhea was surprised to know that Alicent was with child once again, when her first son was barely eighteen moons old.

Then there was another gossip that Daemon shared. Kate Oakheart, Rhaenyra’s lady-in-waiting chosen by her aunt Amanda, was to marry Tyland Lannister within six moons. While many claimed that she was an old maid, since the girl would be 20 by the time of their wedding, Rhaenyra had written of their amusing courtship. Their marriage had been booked between Lady Tarbeck and her Aunt Amanda and received the blessings of Jason Lannister and the Lord of Old Oak after the interim Master of Ships convinced the redhead to accept him.

Lord Jason Lannister had also accepted that Princess Rhaenyra would not wed him, and had married about a year ago, the older sister of Dorea Westerling, Lady Johanna, who was a fierce and sweet girl. Dorea, for her side, was being courted by many men, as was Laena, but from what Daemon perceived that Laena would take a Manderly as her husband. That is if Corlys could feel that a second son would be enough to quarrel his ambitions. Dorea seemed to enjoy the company of Princess Rhaenyra more.

There was also the matter of Amelie Hornwood in the capital. A widowed woman, whose beauty was marred by the scars of a bear attack, had been sent to the capital by her cousin the wishes of the King that wanted to receive the medical care of a shieldmaiden. The Faith protested that the practices of a shieldmaiden were done by heathens and barbarians and should have no place in the Court. The Citadel protested that they didn’t know of their practices and therefore couldn’t protect the King from possible conspiracies all while trying to have Lady Amelie divulge the secrets to them.

Fools, for all the sweet and gentle poise of Lady Hornwood, she was still a shieldmaiden, even if more of a healer than of a warrior, she would never betray those oaths. As it was, the King’s health was better than it was before. His cuts finally healing. That made Lady Hornwood win the friendship and support of Lady Tarbeck and Princess Rhaenyra.

And talking about Lady Tarbeck, there was the incessant rumor that she was the King’s mistress, started and maintained by Alicent and her ladies in waiting—including the annoying Joanna, wife of her cousin Gunthor. Lies, for the lady had been all proper and everyone knew it.

And even if it was true, wouldn’t it be the pot calling the cauldron black?

The King enjoyed the company of Lady Tarbeck and her council. It was known that despite her being a female and not being a member of the Small Council, her voice could readily reach their table. The King also has worked hard to make everyone remember the work of her Aunt Aemma, which was in continuation thanks to the efforts of Lady Tarbeck and Princess Rhaenyra. He made sure that their names were sighed praises over their projects and that all credit would go to them. Now they were calling her aunt the Good Queen Aemma. Alicent though, didn’t keep projects, she spent her day with her ladies and trying to gather the support of Ladies of the realm, what she did was give money to the Faith, citing that the Septons were more than capable of keeping the charity works.

Now she was Queen though, she was working on having a bigger Sept build for the Faith.

“With the sum the Faith collect from their believers they should have enough money to build a Sept without the Crown funding it,” Rhea said after a while.

In their new routine, they would retire together to her room and even if they wouldn’t f*ck, they would converse about everything until one of them dozed off to sleep. Admittedly, she would be the first on most occasions. He didn’t seem to be bothered by it, though.

“I told my brother the same, but he feels guilty for what happened to Alicent.” Rhea scoffed at the words of her husband, Daemon also had a wry smile on his face, disgust, and disdain at the remembrance of their new Queen. “He thinks that she was an innocent victim of her father’s schemes.”

“And she plays on it?”

“Like a lute,” Daemon agreed. “Oh, but I must give it to her. She acts as good as a mummer. She can pretend to be pious and reserved to him, and rarely let her mask slip.”

“That’s dangerous…”

“It doesn’t help that she has the whor* at her side.”

“whor*s can build as many septs as they want, it doesn’t change their sins,” Rhea said with a smirk, thinking about the sept Joanna had built in the village near Eirhall. “About building… I haven’t been to Illyria’s Garden but once after you departed, but my proctor guarantees me that the plans are going smoothly. They found white marble or basalt in the hills nearby to build the castle. Tom says that it’s getting beautiful.” Her sigh made him smile. “We should go there when we go to Lady Oakheart's wedding.”

“We will go?”

“Rhaenyra insisted,” he stuck up his nose and she smiled. “She made good friends with the girls.”

“Better friends than a backstabbing Hightower,” he sneered, and she nuzzled against his skin. “So we will go to the Reach?”

“Aunt Amanda may have hinted that we should do it earlier, pass some time in Highgarden…”

“The procession that she talked about.”

“I toured the Vale with Jae a little. Took him to the Eyrie, Redford, and Strongsong, he had also met the Ironoaks and Gulltown.”

“We would take them into a procession disguised as a visit to Old Oak?”

“Why raise flags when we can be discreet?” she yawned, and he laughed.

“You are so very careful, bitch…” He said. “have you never done something in the spur of the moment?”

“One day I decided that I wouldn’t hate you despite you calling me a bitch,” she said with a fond smile on her lips. “That I wouldn’t let you privy me of having trueborn children, so I walked to your room and threw a jar of wine in you and demanded to talk to you.” She had been fourteen and he refused that.

“You also demanded me to f*ck you and get you with a child,” he chuckled. “You were a child yourself. And then you negotiated with me. I remember that…”

“And yet you refused to touch me.”

“You were a child. Had just flowered and was still very annoying.”

“I am still very annoying,” she answered, and he kissed her temple.

“That you are, bitch,” he said to her and she smiled against his skin.

c*nt…”

Princess Alyssa, daughter of Daemon, was known to be a lot like her namesake in appearance and manners. And like her father, she was a powerful dragon rider, a fierce swordfighter, and mercurial in her rage. From her mother she inherited the sense of honor and justice that made her incapable to stand aside to any kind of injustice. She was someone that people would be wary to cross, if not for her gender. And one of the things that made her all the more dangerous: she had the favor of two kings.

Excerpt from The Dragon Princesses of Runestone by Maester Garlan

ARYA

Having her father back after two years of war had been a relief. As if she had gotten over a burden she didn’t know she was carrying. He returned her dagger and gifted one made of Valyrian Steel that he had nicked from one of the Triarchy’s treasures. And while Sansa’s ribbon had been tattered and dirty, she perceived that it was still tied to his wrist.

So much for a Rogue Prince that was supposed to be Maegor reborn, she thought when she saw the ribbon and saw him putting a necklace made of Valyrian Steel and amethyst that he found amongst the Triarchy treasures in Sansa’s neck.

During the years, she watched as Sansa started to subtly work on her plans. She had plans to dismantle the hegemony of the Citadel concerning the production and distribution of knowledge that started with funding schools and higher education centers. She had plans to create laws to diminish the power of the Faith by taking some of their benefits while making the people side with them. She had plans… So many plans that Arya felt her head spin when she thought of how carefully laid out Sansa had made those plans. How she was discreetly studying laws and customs to make things happen.

Sansa was no warrior, she made it clear. But in the Game of Thrones, a good politician could be even more valuable. And that was what her sister was: a politician. Jon was showing progress in the warrior department, with eight name-days old, he was getting to become a fine swordsman much to the amusem*nt of the two Kingsguard that now guarded them. After the doomed wedding and at the beginning of the war, Viserys commanded Ser Steffon Darkling to return with them, since Daemon was gone to war. Her sister also started to teach some politicking to Jon, because while he could be a good commander and even a good manager, like Ned Stark, he was no politician.

Arya was finally having some freedom. At the age of ten, she no longer needed a nursemaid at her every step, which meant that she was the one responsible for information gathering at the moment. Bran started to teach her and Jon how to warg and she discovered that it wasn’t so different from changing faces and wondered if she would have her abilities again if she ever needed it. When they talked about Sansa, Bran started to dodge, and she knew that he was hiding something but decided to let it go for now.

“It is coming along nicely, wouldn’t you say?” said her kingly Uncle, that was beside her as their party was traveling to Old Oak.

Princess Rhaenyra had been able to convince her father to travel with them to Old Oak to the wedding of Lady Kate Oakheart and Ser Tyland Lannister. His former interim ship and his daughter’s lady-in-waiting. It helped that the Targaryen of Red Keep and the Targaryen of Runestone were traveling together, and there were too many dragons making their scout. She pitied Lord of Old Oak for the many dragons he would house in his lands, almost ten between the dragons of the Targaryen and Velaryon mounts. Their party had done a small detour because her mother wanted to check the progress of the construction of Illyria’s Garden.

“I like it,” her eyes turned to the outlines of the castle still in construction.

Illyria was a mark of sorts for them. It was something that wouldn’t have existed. According to Jon, the lands gifted to Daemon by the Old King would have been taken from him by Viserys in the wake of his exile after the whole “Heir for a day” debacle and eventually absolved in three different lands. Now it would be a keep, an addition to the map, changing it from what it would have been…

“I must say that your mother is a frightful thing when people are not following her orders,” Viserys said lowly to her. They had just watched her mother carefully and patiently explaining to the assistant of the architect that she would not pay, under any circ*mstance, for something she didn’t approve of, as the man wanted to build a great sept in the main square of the Illyria’s village instead of the modest sept in a minor square in the outlying part of the city like her mother had desired.

“Mother is never going to accept anyone’s ruling if she is the one paying for it,” Arya smirked.

“And she also follows the old gods, will the poor man recover from the tongue lashing your mother gave him?”

“Probably, from what I understand it is not the first time he tries to convince Mother to make this city about the Seven…” she said dryly. Arya knew that her mother wanted the man to be dismissed, and if Lorenzo Lyon had any sense he would do so. The main architect had other projects; his assistant could easily be relocated to another one.

“What about you, little Alyssa,” the king said with a smile. “Why are you riding here with your uncle instead of flying in the air with your father?” He gently pointed to the skies where his brother and Caraxes were anxiously ridding.

“Mother won’t let Selaena fly long distances yet, and she asked me to not fly so that Selaena won’t be feeling left out.”

“And why are you not in the wheelhouse?”

“I get sick because of the movement,” it wasn’t a lie. She really got nauseous whenever she was inside the wheelhouse. “Signy and Griselda would be riding with me too, but Griselda got saddle sore because of yesterday and Signy is not feeling well.” that was the gentlest way she found to say that her oldest friend was bleeding and feeling cramps. Arya shivered at reminding herself that one day, she would be the one with that problem.

“And the boys?”

“They are being boys!” She complained, pretending a whining to his amusem*nt.

Yes, the boys were insufferably annoying in their moment. But Arya genuinely enjoyed spending time with her uncle. He wasn’t a warrior like her father, but a historian and someone that enjoyed teaching. Sometimes she imagined that if it weren’t for the restrictions among the order of Maesters, Viserys could have chosen to be a scholar and study history all his life. Queen Aemma too, for what little she remembered, had been a good historian from what she remembered, but again there were too many restrictions in the Citadel. And as Sansa would say, it never hurt to be on the good side of the King.

“Then you must keep my company!”

“Of course, your Grace!” she smiled at him.

The marriage of Lady Laena Velaryon and Ser Torrhen Manderly came with many repercussions. Lord Corlys was trying to craft a betrothal between Lady Laena and Prince Jaehearon, when his daughter claimed loud enough to the Seven Kingdoms that the only man, she would marry would be Ser Torrhen Manderly, and she would elope rather than marry anyone else. Ser Torrhen though asked the lady's father for her hand and after a duel between the two, he convinced Lord Corlys to relent. It helped that at the same time, Prince Jaehearon was rumored to have already shown a preference towards one of his cousins by Prince Daemon. Still, they married soon after Lord Corlys relent and spent a whole year traveling through Essos. When they returned, Lady Laena was accepted back into Princess Rhaenyra's household and Ser Torrhen became a member of the City's Watch.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

BRAN

At a distance, he observed the preparations for the marriage that would change the board. Leaving it beyond recognition.

Kate Oakheart was too loyal to Princess Rhaenyra to ever consider a husband that wouldn’t be loyal to her. And Tyland, he could see, was very much smitten by the pretty redhead. Especially with the closeness that such a union would bring to the royal family and keep to her.

This time the Westerlands would not back the Hightower. And why would they? Not only the Hightower image has been sullied by the way of the marriage between the King and his Queen Consort, but the dismissal of the Lord's Hand… The rumors that flew through the Seven Kingdoms in those years almost made Bran pity their new Queen. Then there was also the fact that the King did have another male heir beyond Aegon. With Jon posed as an heir to the throne, Aegon would be the second son and the former Hand would not have the “natural laws” as an excuse for usurpation. It certainly helped that Lady Myrcella spread enough of her wounded tale to her uncles, that placed them firmly against the Hightower after they humiliated their niece.

Humiliated... a bit of exaggeration, of course. While many did expect the King to call in for a marriage between them, there had never been something official.

But well, it did serve a purpose.

“Laena!” he turned to the origin of the voice and found the pretty Velaryon girl walking next to him, where Vhagar was resting, Lady—the vain and needy creature—nestled under her wings. Technically, they were children of Vhagar, since their egg was from her, while Nymeria’ and Ghost’ were from a clutch of Vermithor and Silverwing. Laena was being followed by her father, who seemed furious, the young woman was rolling her eyes. “Don’t ignore me, young lady!”

“I am done with this discussion!”

Bran felt his head tilt in confusion as he began to pay attention.

“I will not permit it!”

“I am not asking for your permission! I am marrying Torrhen!” Bran had to admit that it took him by surprise how firmly the girl placed herself.

The confidence of the rider of one of the oldest dragons.

“A second son, who stands to inherit nothing!” Except that he did. Medrick Manderly died along with his son at the beginning of the Winter Fever, this way, his brother Torrhen was the one who inherited the New Castle and White Harbour. Not that Corlys would know that! “You can marry Prince Jaehearon and be a Queen!”

“Jaehearon is a child! I cannot marry him!”

“He won’t be a child forever!”

“And when he is old enough what makes you think that he would choose me over Selaena?”

“He will do what is better for the kingdoms, joining your claim and his—” The Sea Snake was interrupted:

“My claim? Do you mean mother’s claim? The one that was spurned by over half of the men of this Seven Kingdoms?” Laena scoffed. “No, Father! I have no claim to that iron monstrosity, and I want none of that!”

“You could be the most powerful woman of these lands, Laena, how are you rejecting it?” Corlys tried again and saw Bran watch as Laena scoffed once more. “A second son could never make you happy!”

“A second son is all I want! Torrhen is all I want! I am done being a pawn for your political games, Father!”

“You are being unfair, Laena, I just want the best for you!” the older man growled, and the girl laughed.

“You want what is best for your legacy!” she spat the word as if it was poison in her mouth. “Even Mother had let go with the issue of the Great Council and you are still talking about it! Always dragging it into the open and you can’t even see that is your ambition that hurts her more than being spurned by all those lords!” He watched as the man moved rose his hand, presumedly, to strike his daughter, but immediately set it down when Vhagar flashed him her teeth. “First you wanted me to marry the King after Queen Aemma died and now you are settled on Jaehearon because your pride was slighted when the lords denied you the way to the throne!”

“You are going too far, Laena!”

“What have I said that is a lie, father?” She questioned to his growl.

By all accounts, Laena Velaryon had been a sweet, if not a little adventurous girl. They never had talked about this rebellious spark in her eyes, this necessity for freedom. Maybe that was the reason why she had married Daemon, the necessity to be free and wander, to not be tied to places and responsibilities.

“And why would you want to go to that frozen tundra? What are you going to do in that—”

“I will be happy and free!”

“You talk as if you are shackled to the grounds,” Corlys scoffed.

“You try to shackle me to a throne that I don’t want, nor do I care for,” Laena said. “If you excuse me, I will take Vhagar for a fly, now!”

Before he could answer, the green beast huffed. Steam getting out of her mouth. The lady of House Velaryon climbed effortlessly to Vhagar’s saddle and soon she was in the air, leaving her stressed and furious father looking at her, frustrated. Bran tilted his head to the old sailor.

“See, what I have to put up with?” the man said in Valyrian.

Bran snorted a laugh—or what it could pass down a laugh as a dragon sound while Lady whined at being denied the attention of Vhagar. His dragon twin moved so she could align herself with him while Corlys watched them.

Bran watched him in return.

The rumors that started about Princess Rhaenyra planning to usurp her brother's crown are of unknown source, though it is supposed to have been started by the allies of Queen Alicent and Ser Otto Hightower. These rumors were based, mostly, on the new posture assumed by Princess Rhaenyra after the second marriage of her father, where she started to become more engaged in politics, such as running the social programs of her mother, the strong political alliances she started to craft and the small court she started to maintain to resolve the matters of the smallfolk as opposed to her father's court dealt mainly with matters between Lords or haute bourgeoisie. Her name became known, cheered and she made justice to her alias the Realm's Delight, but it also made her adversaries wonder if she was trying to gather support to challenge Jaehearon's claim to the throne.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

RHAENYRA

The last years had been interesting, for a lack of better word.

Between her lessons with Lady Tarbeck and the amusing flirting between Kate and Ser Tyland, Rhaenyra also had to deal with Alicent. Of course, without Otto, her stepmother had been mostly powerless in the King’s Landing in the first seven moons—until Aegon’s birth. Aegon wasn’t the heir, but he was the second in the line of the throne as long as Jaehearon stayed without sons of his own, and that had some value. Even if the baby was barely a trueborn son. People that had been so ready to dismiss Alicent suddenly turned less frigid around her. They weren’t overly friendly, Myrcella and Rhaenyra still hold more power, but Alicent gained power by simply delivering the second in line.

There was also the fact that while her father could see that Otto had a big hand in arranging the setup that led them to that damned marriage, he still believed for Alicent to be innocent. A young girl following her father’s orders, as if Alicent couldn’t take her own decisions.

The wedding ceremony was both: extravagant and sweet. A blind man could see that there was real affection between the couple. Tyland was genuinely smitten by Kate and her favorite redhead was also in love with the second son of House Lannister. That made her happy for her friend. Her fate, she had long decided, would be a political match to protect her brother from the machinations of House Hightower.

“You are too tense for a wedding Rhaenyra,” Dorea said to her side, and she turned to her friend after the ceremony was finally over and the feast had started.

“I can’t deal with them right now,” she murmured, pointing to where Alicent had sat, surrounded by the members of House Hightower, baby Aegon in her arms. Showing him off to the ladies of the Reach and Westerlands. She scoffed at the hypocrisy. Normally Alicent barely held the baby, she was sure that the boy spent more time around his nursemaids than anyone else, but whenever she had a chance, she would show him off.

“Look at the bright side: they are seething with the vision of the Hand’s pin in your uncle’s lapel,” Dorea said with an impish smile.

“Otto Hightower looks like he would kill Uncle Daemon if he could,” she smiled back.

“I can’t believe that they had the face to show off,” Laena said appearing at their side, “Especially with how they tried to have Gwayne Hightower betrothed to Kate!”

“Sending ravens to Lord Oakheart and saying that it was Kate’s desire was a low blow but given how they operate, I was not overly surprised,” Dorea said.

“We really need to investigate how it was that Kate’s letters never arrived to her father,” Rhaenyra said with a sigh. It was for a tiny strike of luck that they managed to send a rider to Old Oak to have the misunderstanding cleared when it was made clear that Lord Oakheart wasn’t receiving Kate’s letters, but something else.

“Well, Dorea, now all we need is a husband for you,” Laena said with a smile. “I have Torrhen, Rhaenyra decided to marry my brother, Kate just married a Lion!”

“You decided to marry Torrhen, he didn’t propose yet.”

“He doesn’t need to,” Laena said, “I will do it myself if he doesn’t in pop the question within the next moon.”

“What does your father think of it?” Rhaenyra asked and her cousin shrugged.

“I don’t care, he wants me to marry Jaehearon, but, no offense Nyra, your brother is too stiffy and serious! He is eight and sometimes he scolds us like he is a centennial maester!” Dorea stiffed a laugh, and the princess felt her lips move upwards.

“No offense taken; my brother does act older than he is! But you didn’t answer Laena’s question Dorea, who do you have in mind?”

No one, she knew the answer. And it was confirmed when Dorea stuck up her nose.

“My father wants me to marry a Mallister or a Redwyne, power of the sea and all that bullsh*t. Or to Lord Tully.”

“And alliance against the Ironborn?” Laena asked.

“Or the feat of having two daughters married to the Wardens.” the annoyance in Dorea’s voice was palpable and Rhaenyra could feel sympathy for her.

“Why don’t you marry my brother and then Rhaenyra can stop pretending that she doesn’t want to ride a Strong knight?” Laena was cheeky and her impish smile made her very attractive. The innuendo was not lost on Rhaenyra nor on Dorea, since they used to watch the man training in the yard, and more than once, Rhaenyra made a comment or another about the knight known as Breakbones.

“Wrong side of the continent,” Dorea shrugged, “And Rhaenyra already claimed your brother… I will not dispute a dragon for her claim!”

“I will marry Laenor to appease your father after you elope with Torrhen Manderly, Laena,” she said to defend herself, “But you need to decide who you want before your father marries you to someone you don’t.”

“Father doesn’t care who we are married to, as long as it benefits him.”

“Yours and mine both,” Laena scoffed.

“Mine says that my time is coming to an end and if I don’t find a husband soon, he will appoint me one.” Rhaenyra sighed.

Her eyes looked around and found her father sitting next to Aunt Amanda and Lady Tarbeck, given that he was not in this makeshift throne, she imagined that had been the one to seek the two women. Alicent was glaring daggers at the two ladies and the princess imagined if her stepmother could kill anyone with a single glare then this wedding would turn into a funeral. Her Uncle Daemon, the new Hand, was talking with Lord Strong, that was now back to his position on the court as the Master of Laws and had taken Ser Bryden as his second in command. Ser Tyland would eventually return to the court with Kate, and a position as apprentice to Lord Beesbury was granted since the kind old Master of Coins was getting old and starting to forget some things.

Rhaenyra was not particularly a political person, she knew it. She had an ingrained distaste for politics, but she would get over it for Jaehearon. Myrcella had pointed out that her brother was in danger at the moment Alicent gave birth to a boy after all the Hightower had already taken a gamble with their honor for the crown, who to say that they wouldn’t sacrifice her brother to guarantee a second generation?

She decided that she would overcome her distaste for politicking, and for her brother she would become a player in this Game of Thrones.

No one would take the crown from Jae!

Notes:

Hope you have enjoyed it!
People talking about shieldmaidens, I copied it from myself (Is that even possible?), I have a short fic that I had written some eight chapters on the Aegon Conquest and the Queen in the North. Maybe I will post it someday.
As for the next chapter...
It won't be next week, sorry it isn't ready and I can't promise that it will be ready by next week.
But, I am decided to post it by the 26th of this month. So, I will see you there!

Chapter 23: Because she hears you!

Summary:

Sansa has some thoughts on the new position of the games.
Daemon is dealing with all the backdoor politicking he so much hates but is necessary for his position as the Hand.
Jon enjoys his arrival at King's Landing for a short stay.
It seems that there are only two things people seem to agree these days!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Princess Selaena was countered as one of the most beautiful ladies of the realm, having inherited the beauty of her Grand-aunt Viserra: flawless skin, purple eyes, red lips, and silver-gold hair. Whenever she was at court, she received many praises and eulogies from lords, squires, and bards alike. However, while still proud of her appearance and making daily efforts to keep it perfect, she never seemed to succumb to the same narcissistic vanity of her grand aunt.

Excerpt from The Dragon Princesses of Runestone by Maester Garlan

SANSA

Sansa looked at the Runestone, this time on top of Bran while gentle winds would whip her hair to her back. At age six, she was now a dragon rider like her sister, father, and cousins. While she would usually mount Lady, rather than Summer, it became clear that she was possibly the first Targaryen in their House history to be able to mount more than just one dragon.

Even Daenerys with her three dragons had only been able to mount one.

After they returned from the tour to the marriage of Kate Oakheart and Tyland Lannister, her family returned to Runestone, while her father remained in King’s Landing as the new Hand. Still, he would fly home once a moon. His complaints about the amount of paperwork were hilarious but he talked about the ideas he had to continue King Jaehearys work, the manutention of his and Queen Alysanne’s projects that had been all but stopped by Otto Hightower.

If it wasn’t for his complete distaste for the most bureaucratic part of the position, Sansa would say that her father was happy with the trust her uncle had placed in him. Something that would never happen in the original timeline. It wasn’t long after they returned to Runestone that it was announced that Laena Velaryon, the would-be second wife of her father, was marrying Torrhen Manderly. Lady Myrcella Tarbeck also had decided to remarry—much to the King’s dismay—and return to Tarbeck Hall after discovering that her brother-by-law had decided to try to dismantle her projects deeming them a waste of money. Her newest husband was a Lefford of Golden Tooth, they say that the King had been very sad after her departure and hadn’t left his chambers for days.

On less pleasant topics, Queen Alicent had given birth to a second child: Princess Helaena Targaryen. Soon, Jon would be called back to King’s Landing, and Sansa was counting the days before the presentation of a proposal between Jon and Helaena.

Rhaenyra seemed doomed to repeat the same mistake from another life and was negotiating a marriage for herself to Ser Laenor. Not that the man was a bad match; he was young, Valyrian (for someone like Rhaenyra that counted a lot), from a rich house, handsome… The only thing that seemed to complicate the matter was that he has never shown interest in any woman. Rhaenyra would need heirs; she would want them. And when it happened, she would look somewhere other than her husband and it would give them a problem if she gave birth to bastards. Corlys wouldn’t be as much of a prickle if she had been the heir and her sons stand to inherit the Seven Kingdoms, but now she wouldn’t have as much leverage to his pride. Maybe Jon could convince her to marry someone else? She needed to sit down and plan.

Another thing that was giving pause was the lack of reaction from Hightower. Their silence was disconcerting, and she was worried about what they were planning. They had a Queen, but Sansa knew that it wasn’t enough for them. For a House that had been subtly manipulating the Seven Kingdoms, having a Queen, whose son was not the heir, was not enough.

“SELAENA!” She turned and found her sister, on top of Nymeria. She sighed, knowing that it was for them to go back. Following Arya’s lead, Sansa found her way to the clearing, where her mother waited for them with a proud smile in her lips.

“How did you like your flight, little heart?” Rhea asked her.

“It was refreshing, Muña!” she answered primly.

“Lena is getting better at long fights,” Arya said, pride in her voice, and Sansa beamed at her older sister. “Soon we will be able to fly to King’s Landing, and you can fly with Kepa!”

“I prefer to use the Bronze Giant now that it is back on my port,” the Lady of Runestone said with a roll of her eyes. “Let us go, you have lessons with Maester Garmon,” her mother said to Arya and then turned to her: “and you have to train your archery if you want to be permitted in the next hunt!”

“Yes, Muña!” they said.

Rhea let them take their leave from the dragons, before mounting her own horse, her mother helped Arya into Gaius and herself into a pony. Jon was supposed to have joined them, but instead stayed behind, training with the others. He let them have a mother-daughters day, as he called it. Also, it wasn’t like he couldn’t ride Ghost later.

As they ride into the castle, Sansa observed the yard where Jon and the others were training. Signy was a little less serious from the time she has come, she had learned to be a little less tense and to have more fun. Griselda too was less shy, and more open to those she knows. Daven was still boisterous and loud. Aemon still serious and aloof. Despite having four wards in the castle, her mother was now worried that it was time to find ladies for her.

Sansa didn’t need it. Not really, but it was customary for princesses to have ladies of their own. And for as much as she liked Griselda and Signy, they were chosen with Arya in mind.

At the same time, she knew that her mother would wait until Jon was back in the Red Keep, if only because any lady-in-waiting for her, would most like to be encouraged by their parents to seek the attention of Jon rather than be there for her. It wasn’t that those girls wouldn’t be loyal, it was just a standing fact: Jon didn’t have a betroth to call his own, therefore he was the most eligible suitor in the Seven Kingdoms, and until an engagement was announced every lady would be vying for his hand. The attention spared to her would be secondary at best.

“You know, when you get all quiet like this, I can almost see some dark clouds forming in your pretty eyes,” Arya said beside her.

“It is nothing to worry about,” Sansa said, quietly.

“Jon will return to the Red Keep soon,” Arya sighed.

“That’s good, maybe he will be able to take the idea of marrying Ser Laenor out of Rhaenyra’s mind,” Sansa said, wryly. Arya rolled her eyes.

“When are you going to relax a little?”

“When we get rid of the Hightowers and their conspiracy,” Sansa answered. “Don’t you have lessons to attend?”

“Gods, I should make you attend those while I spend my time in the archery ring.”

“I am sure that muña would love it,” she scoffed at the dramatization.

“Princess Alyssa, I was looking for you, it is time for your lessons!” Maester Garmon said.

To make sure that everyone learned as they were supposed, Maester Garmon had structured lessons that they had all together three hours, daily, and then two hours of one-on-one lessons per week. This way he could keep track of the individual development of each of them and personalize their lessons to adapt to each difficulty. The only problem he had was making Arya and Daven appear to their own one-on-one lessons.

While she watched her sister be almost dragged to her lessons, Sansa stiffed a laugh before walking to the yard where the targets were ready. She started to shoot under the watchful eye of Ser Malik Manderly. Ser Luthor and Ser Rickard were training the others.

“How was your flight?” with her concentration snapped she accidentally let go of the arrow earlier and missed the target completely. She turned to find Jon standing behind her, an impish smile gracing his face.

“You made it on purpose,” she accused him, and he shrugged.

“You cannot prove it,” oh¸ how she hated when he used her words against her, especially with that smirk on his face. “You didn’t answer: how was the flight?”

“Refreshing,” she answered, and he helped pushed a strand of her hair to behind her ear. “I must look like a fright.”

“Your hair is out of place, but that’s it,” he answered with a smile, then he added playfully. “I am sure that it won’t take the title of the most beautiful lady out of you yet.”

“I am not the most beautiful lady,” she rolled her eyes.

“The court begs to differ,” he smiled. “I received a letter from Father, he permitted me to stay in Runestone until your eighth name day.”

Half and a year, then.

“But?”

“He wants us to pass the next moon cycle in the capital,” she sighed at his answer, and he smiled. “You like the capital.”

“I like the challenge it proposes to me,” she admitted freely. “And I can appreciate it better now that it isn’t as smelly and dirty as was in…”

“Then we must work to keep it like this,” he proposed, and she nodded. “Uncle Daemon is talking about a Royal Progress, apparently Aunt Amanda gave the idea, coupled with my own suggestion some years ago…”

“That’s good, you need to make allies around the Kingdoms. People that will be loyal to you.”

“No one can be friends with everyone, Sansa.”

“No, but they can be respected by everyone if they do right. You don’t have to be liked by the Seven Kingdoms, but you must be respected.”

“I will keep it in mind,” Jon said with a sigh.

“Don’t sigh as if I had told you to drink poison,” she chided.

When talking about the most memorable Hands in History, it is impossible to not talk about Prince Daemon Targaryen. Despite many controversies of the brutality and his supposed tyranny, Daemon Targaryen is to this day one of the most well-regarded Hands by the general populace. Among his many projects, the projects of sanitation of King's Landing that helped increase the well-being of the smallfolk and the increase of projects to keep order and security are the most remembered, but not the only ones. Prince Daemon also helped increase the money of tax revenues by nationalizing brothels and gambling houses and bringing those establishments and professionals under the responsibility and protection of the crown.

Excerpt of The Hands who ruled the Seven Kingdoms, by Professor Tyrion Lannister of the University of Lannisport

DAEMON

It took him two moons of acting as a Hand for Daemon to decide three things:

  1. He hated the job. Too much paperwork, too many details, too little leisure time, and too much ass-kissing for his taste. The number of people that had disdained him in the past and now were almost kissing the ground he walked on in exchange for favors or even some form of the alliance was stupidly high.
  2. The Red Keep was infested with rats. The vermin and the animal. Too many spies, most in Hightower's pocket. He was currently trying the most discreet approach to get ridden of those, not wanting to start a witch hunt in the keep but trying to eliminate at least the most key spies. To the animals he ordered some cats to be brought to the keep.
  3. His brother’s wife wasn’t the sweet little thing Viserys believed her to be. He had observed enough to know that outside of public gatherings, Alicent had yet to hold her son. She never visited little Aegon in the nursery or spent any kind of time with him, unless it was to show him off. He also suspected that the Maester had helped her with the misshaping of ravens from Red Keep to Old Oak. Nothing that he could prove yet.

Still, he went on. Dancing by the tune, for now. Unfortunately, Alicent was still a queen and there ought to be some respect paid to her.

“You look almost in pain,” he opened his eyes and saw as his cousin, Rhaenys, entered his solar, closing the door behind her. She hadn’t been announced, but then, his guards knew that she would never need to be announced unless he stated otherwise. Rhaenys was his cousin, his kin, and his blood.

“Headache,” he answered, surly.

“Caused by the unholy amount of paperwork resting on your desk, I assume?” she asked, pointing to the stack of papers.

“Possibly,” he answered. “But I doubt you came all the way here to share my woes.”

“You may have heard that Rhaenyra is courting with my son,” she started, and he nodded. Rhaenyra and Laenor’s courtship was making the gossip circles, it seemed to be going swiftly, so he couldn’t understand why Rhaenys was there. “And you also know that my son has some different preferences?”

“For a certain Stormlander knight? Yes, I know,” he rolled his eyes.

“Then you also know that a marriage to Rhaenyra would be way too dangerous to Laenor,” his cousin stated.

“His preferences prevent him from fulfilling marital obligations?” His question was half disinterested, half sarcastic.

“I am not certain,” Rhaenys said, her voice barely above a whisper. “But he never shown any interest in any women. You know Rhaenyra, she will want a partner, someone to adore her. My son… Laenor is a good man, he is gallant and sweet, but he cannot be what Rhaenyra wants. He will never be.”

“And what do you want me to do?”

“When Rhaenyra perceives this, she will look for someone else. It will eventually lead to one of those things: she will either find a lover and have bastards, which will make Corlys furious, or my son’s life will be in danger.”

“You think that Rhaenyra would kill your son, her own cousin?” he questioned, a low growl in his voice, offended at the insinuation.

“Maybe not her, but a lover tired of being behind the curtains? Legitimate sons are important, even when she is not the heiress to the throne,” Rhaenys said, and he was forced to agree. “The best way to avoid it is to make sure that they don’t marry. Convince her to not follow through with it!”

“How do you think I could do it? Rhaenyra is very much her own woman now, she thinks that this match will protect Jaehearon and even if she didn’t want to follow through with it you forget that there are two people who are willing to push it through: Corlys and Viserys,” Daemon pointed out. “Viserys wants this rift to be over, Corlys wants to remain close to the throne. They won’t let me interfere with that. Maybe you should talk with your son.”

“Laenor is convinced that this is the only way to keep his paramour at his side,” Rhaenys sneered unladylike as she threw herself back in her chair. “He and Rhaenyra had a talk about his preferences, and she agreed that he could keep his lover, as long as she could keep hers. Though their metaphor of roast duck and goose was adorable, it is obvious that neither understands the danger they are placing themselves in.”

“She has a lover?” Daemon questioned, adjusting his posture. He was slightly alarmed.

“Not yet, but Laenor pointed out that she has a flirty relationship with her sworn shield, Ser Criston Cole,” he cursed at the revelation. “Jealous cousin?”

“Why would I be jealous? I am worried if she is taking the proper caution and being discreet enough,” he answered rolling his eyes. “Has she been taking care?”

“I don’t know,” he cursed again. “Why is that important?”

“There are rumors that started to spread in the capital that Rhaenyra is trying to supplant her brother, taking a Dornish tradition to herself, they say that she seems to favor the absolute primogeniture and wants to establish it into the Seven Kingdoms,” he said, “the last thing we need now is a rumor that she lost her virtue to her Dornish sworn shield!”

“That’s ridiculous, Rhaenyra loves Jaehearon more than anything!” Rhaenys scoffed.

“People believe in what they want, and they don’t know Rhaenyra as well as us,” she conceded to his point. He hackled his hair and sighed. “I cannot convince Rhaenyra—”

“She listens to you!”

“Occasionally and only because she fancies herself in love with me, even if she respects Rhea too much to actively try anything,” he cut her interruption. “But there is someone else that she might listen to: Jaehearon.”

“He is nine!”

“At five he convinced your husband to gather support from every house on our eastern shores to show Viserys that we were already at war. Also, Rhaenyra says that she is doing it for him, he has to be the one to tell her to not do it. And thank the gods that my brother had called my family to the Red Keep,” Rhaenys sighs at it and Daemon pinches the bridge of his nose. “We have to tell him to convince her to not marry Rhaenyra, but it also would be good if my niece has another suitor ready, I don’t care for Gwayne Hightower to try to claim that he has been courting her as soon as Laenor is out of the picture.” He scoffed, knowing what they tried to do with the Oakheart girl, the new Lady Lannister he supposed.

“Laena commented that Rhaenyra likes the commander of the City Watch,” Rhaenys supplied, helpfully. “His father was the interim Hand and is now the Master of Laws, he is the Heir of Harrenhall, it ought to be a good match.”

“And it would also be helpful if Laenor is the one to appear with another bride,” Daemon said and his cousin frowned at him, clearly, she didn’t like it. “I don’t want to deal with your husband’s pride being wounded by another imaginary slight against him, Rhaenys.”

I know!” she hissed, unhappily. “I will talk with Laenor, again.”

“Good luck,” he replied.

After his cousin left, he resisted the urge to throw something against the wall, if only because he didn’t want a mess in his solar and then have to have someone to clean it.

Instead, he started to organize his things more neatly, trying to put the information in his mind in order too. His beloved niece had come a long way in the Game of Thrones ever since her mother’s death but it seemed that some of her naiveté still lingered. Her freedom of choice was a delicate thing, if his brother ever caught wind of rumors about Rhaenyra and her sworn shield, the man would be gelded and killed, or if Viserys was merciful, sent to the wall, but she would be married off to someone else quickly to guarantee that she wouldn’t cast a blight on their family, that is, if Viserys didn’t take a cue out of their grandfather’s book and sent his daughter to the Silent Sister’s.

I need to fly a little! He decided before leaving his solar.

Despite the rumors of treason and usurpation, it is widely reported how close the relationship between Princess Rhaenyra and Prince Jaehearon was. Though they had different views with Princess Rhaenyra being a lot more ruthless than her brother, they took each other's council seriously. Documents show that it was the Princess who, more than anyone, encouraged Prince Jaehearon to pursue a match with Princess Selaena, some claims that Prince Jaehearon had more than just a world on the upbringing of his nephews.

Excerpt from The Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

JON

Ghost, the dragon, very much like Ghost, the direwolf, was a silent being. He didn’t screech like Caraxes, roared like Nymeria, and didn’t do chirping sounds like Syrax or Lady. When breathing fire, he did it silently, when he moved in the wind, there was no sound of ruffled wings. His land was graciously silent rather than thunderous like Vhagar or Summer. Even in chains he never made a sound for he moved in a way that his chains wouldn’t rattle. The Dragon keepers called him the Silent Kingsince he was growing stronger and faster than other dragons, bar perhaps Summer.

But then, Summer was Bran, who was the Three-Eyed Raven, a being of magic and myth!

Rhaenyra and Daemon found it almost unnatural for something so big to be so silent, Viserys commented that it was fitting, since he too had been a quiet baby that soon grow to be a silent child, the dragon keepers—the younger ones at the very least—complained about how many times the great beast had managed to sneak on them to give them a scary jump.

In his opinion, it only endeared the dragon more. Jon's mind was turbulent by itself on good days, aching on the bad ones. Ghost’s silence was soothing, calming, and refreshing, the only thing that was better than the silence he found while flying with the dragon, was Sansa’s singing and Arya’s childish laughs.

It always made him sad to land whenever they arrived at his destiny.

“They call my father the Rogue Prince, but you, Jae, you’ll be the Broody Prince,” Arya said with another one of her impish smirks.

“I don’t brood,” he rebated.

“You do,” Sansa said from behind them, joining their group. “You brood a lot!”

“Do not,” he protested again.

“Do too!” His cousins said together, then Arya added: “What are you brooding about? Do you fear that Alicent will put Helaena in your arms and declare you married on the spot?” his step faltered.

Helaena had been born a little after they returned from the Reach. What Alicent thought from traipsing the kingdoms so far along her pregnancy, he wouldn’t know, but it seemed that she had returned to give birth to a daughter. And now, thanks to Arya’s warg abilities, they knew that Alicent and Joanna planned on having him betrothed to his newest sister. She was still trying to formulate a plan to take it to his father.

“I was thinking about how to convince my sister that marrying Laenor will not be to our benefit but thank you for giving me something else to ponder,” he said and Arya rolled her eyes.

“And now he will sulk, good job Alyssa,” Sansa said.

“You talk as if he wouldn’t sulk even without this!”

“You are very courageous talking about the crown prince as if he wasn’t right beside you,” he joked, and she rolled her eyes.

“Please, cousin, we all know that you would never do anything against us. First, you still have to match me in the training yard, second, you always do anything that Selaena wants.” Arya said.

“That’s not true,” he said and saw as his youngster cousin blushed, he was sure that he too was blushing a little.

“It is, everyone knows it!” Arya rolled her eyes. “And look, our carriage is here!”

It had been their first time traveling by themselves. Arya, at eleven, had been made responsible for their safety. The Kingsguard, Ser Raymond Mallister, waited for them along with many red cloaks of the Targaryen household guards and even a small escort of Gold Cloaks. As it was custom, they arrived three days before the party of Runestone. And as was expected, they arrived with enough fanfare provided by his father. The best part still, was when he was enveloped in the arms of his father and sister while Daemon dragged his cousins in a group hug.

The Queen tried to hug him, but he politely stepped back and offered her a bow. Not wanting to give in the false impression of intimacy to those that were watching. Alicent’s smile tightened, became strained and she offered a curtsey in return.

When they were all guided to their rooms—and he had been a little disappointed that they weren’t staying in the Maegor Holdfast anymore, but rather at the Hand’s Tower—Jon started to tell his father all about the time they had stayed without seeing each other and his fostering in Runestone.

“Where is Aegon?” He questioned when they were in Viserys’ solar.

“Oh, he is in the nursery with Helaena,” his father said, sounding dismissive; Arya had told him that his father was mostly dismissive with Aegon and Helaena but it still bothered him to see it. And it also bothered him that Rhaenyra made a non-committal sound, being an accomplice of this neglect.

“Brother, would you join me and Laenor for a walk on the beach tomorrow?”

“Of course, sister, who else will accompany us?”

“My lady Dorea, and Ser Laenor’s good friend: Ser Joffrey,” she answered with a soft smile. “And of course, my sworn shield, Ser Criston, and Ser Raymond of the Kingsguard.”

“Great! I will send word to your servant to pick you up by morning!” His sister said with a beaming smile.

“Don’t you think that you should invite Alyssa and Selaena, Rhaenyra?” their father asked.

“I could invite Alyssa, but I doubt that Daemon is going to let Selaena walk in the beaches of Blackwater Bay with such a small number of guards present! Actually, I am pretty sure that if he thought that Lady Rhea would let him get away with it, he would have raised Selaena in a tower with minimum contact with the outside world,” Jon didn’t find in himself the will to disagree with his sister. Maybe because Arya was more of a warrior than a lady, the Rogue Prince didn’t think that she was as fragile as Sansa and therefore had more confidence in letting her out with less security, while his perfect lady of a daughter needed to be protected all the time.

“Daemon wouldn’t make his own daughter a prisoner, Rhaenyra,” his father rolled his eyes, “sweet and a lady Selaena might be, but she is still a dragon, and she would never accept to be separated from her dragons. He would, perhaps, send a new score of guards with you,” the King added, a mischievous smile on his lips. “Maybe two.”

“And then make a spectacle out of my simple getaway,” she sneered. “I would like to keep it small!”

“Of course, my sweet,” Viserys said.

Jon was walking to the Hand’s Tower with the objective of talking with Sansa and Arya, he needed their input on how they, or better: he, should try to talk with Rhaenyra. He honestly didn’t think that he should be the one to try to dissuade his sister of anything, but Sansa and Arya believed firmly and vehemently that he was the only one with a chance of convincing her of anything.

The Hand’s Tower was unsurprisingly guarded by Daemon’s personal guards, heavily. He doubted that the tower would be so well guarded if Sansa and Arya were still in Runestone like his father said: his uncle took the protection of his children seriously. And thank god his position as a crown prince gave him enough sway that the guards only let him waltz in without being detained.

He was about to arrive at the family area when he found his uncle leaving the solar where he would work.

“Good night, nephew,” he said, with a feline smile on his lips, “I thought that you would be with my brother and niece at this time.”

“I will join Father to a dinner with the Queen and Nyra soon, but I wanted to see how my cousins are, it was the first time Lena had traveled a long distance, and Alys and I were worried about her,” he said. It was a half-truth. He and Arya had been worried about the first long-distance flight for Sansa, but it wasn’t because of it that he was at the tower.

“She complained to be a bit sore,” Daemon said dismissively. “But she is alright. Alyssa said that you wanted to make more stops to accommodate Selaena, but she refused?”

“For someone so sweet, she can be as stubborn as a mule,” Jon complained, and his uncle laughed.

“I would imagine so. Though I don’t know if it comes from me or Rhea,” Daemon remarked with good humor, “But then Selaena was born for the skies.” Jon could agree with it.

Sansa was always happy after a long flight, she said that it was refreshing and calming, and perhaps it would be the only activity she would like more than embroidery and sewing.

“It doesn’t keep her from needing rest,” Jon said, finally.

“That much is true,” Daemon said with a fond smile. “However, there is another thing that I need your help in.”

“If I can help, uncle,” he said with a frown. It wasn’t a common occurrence for his uncle to ask favors, especially not from children.

“Your sister has been courting Ser Laenor Velaryon,” he nodded, already knowing this, “however she is doing so because she believes that your claim might be at risk and marrying Ser Laenor would give you more security.” Dragons, then.

“But why does she think that my claim might be at risk?” he asked.

“Because of the Hightower,” Jon frowned, his uncle had never been one to pull his punches after all. “However good her intentions are…”

“They are unnecessary,” Jon said. “I want my sister to be happy, but why do you think that Laenor would not make her happy?”

Jon knew why, but he wasn’t supposed to.

“You can see soon… If you think that your cousin can make Rhaenyra happy, then I won’t ask you to do anything, but if like me you see that this would be a poor match for Rhaenyra and wishes her happiness, then I ask you to talk to your sister out of it.” Jon nodded as they arrived in the solar where Sansa was primly seated on a chaise with an embroidery hoop in her hands, while Arya was reading a book out loud.

Not an uncommon sight, but one that always made him smile.

After confirming that Sansa was alright, despite being saddle-sore, Jon sat with them and discreetly shared his encounter with their father.

“So, it's unanimous: everyone agrees that Rhaenyra listens only to you!” Sansa said with a side smirk while throwing herself back in the chaise. “Don’t you love being right, Aly?”

Notes:

Hello everyone! Hope you enjoyed the chapter.

As you see, I have changed the title to something that would agree more with the chapter!
Little questions:

1. Do you think that Jon will be able to convince Rhaenyra to not marry Laenor?
2. How do you think Alicent is doing? (we will be seeing more of her in the next chapter)
3. I have been writing a spin-off about Kate and Tyland and how their relationship started (I know, I should be focusing on my TCC, but it was buggering my brains) would you like to have this? Promise is a short one 5 chapters, maximum.
4. What do you think of this small act of emancipation of Rhaenys against Corlys?

The next chapter will be posted until the 26th of June!

Chapter 24: An unexpected arrangment

Summary:

Jon and Rhaenyra have a little heart-to-heart that changes the game even more.
Alicent hates little children.
Rhaenys plan on gifts.
Arya has opinions but decides to not share them at the dinner table, unlike some other people.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

YEAR 114 AC

King Jaehearon I was known for valuing loyalty above all else. Maybe because of the tumultuous time of his ascension to the throne or some other reason, he was known to keep those loyal to him and the throne in the highest graces. A famous quote attributed to him is: "Loyalty that can be bought has no real value." For in his experience loyalty could not be bought or bidden, it was born and cultivated, it was given when earned.

Excerpt of the Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric Tollet

RHAENYRA

Walking on the beach with her brother, Dorea and Laenor was like she imagined: boring.

Jae was a cute little brother doing all the interrogation stuff that with a solemn and serious face that really looked loveable in his nine-name-days-old face. Laenor and Dorea were both entertaining his questions, while she tried to contain her reason to laugh. Joffrey, at Leanor’s other side, was smirking all the way.

At a distance, Ser Criston and Ser Raymond observed them with a pair of Velaryon guards. In all technicalities, Joffrey should be with them, but he wasn’t there as Laenor’s sworn shield, he, like Dorea, was there as their chaperone. Though she knew that nothing improper would occur. If anything after their marriage, they would need Joffrey in the room for the proper thing to occur.

“And you my Prince, I understand that you are close to our esteemed Hand’s daughters, which of them are you going to take as a wife?” Laenor asked after Jae seemed to be done with his line of questioning.

“I’m nine,” Jae said with scrunched-up nose.

“You won’t be nine forever, cousin, and the realm will want heirs,” Laenor said.

“Aegon is my heir,” he said, and Rhaenyra clenched her jaw.

Why, oh why couldn’t her brother understand that those Hightower's whelps were nothing but a danger to him? That Aegon would sooner or later turn unto him to steal his birthright, that is if they didn’t manage to put Helaena in his bed like they did with their father? But Jae seemed determined to be an old brother to those whelps.

It’s alright! Jae can be a good brother to them, I will be his shield. The minute these whelps turn unto him, I will protect him from their traitor's blood. She thought.

“But surely you want heirs of your own,” Dorea said to him, her tone was light and playful, but she saw as her friend’s eyes glanced at her.

“Not while I’m nine!” Rhaenyra could understand that.

“Jae will marry cousin Selaena, Laenor, everyone knows it!” Rhaenyra said.

“Not everyone, since I heard that Lord Rayne wants to propose a betrothal to his daughter,” Laenor said.

“I know Genevieve Reyne, she is Daven’s older sister, but I don’t want to marry her,” he said with a frown. Laenor then pointed out:

“Lady Reyne was offended when Lady Rhea didn’t offer Lady Genevieve a place within Princess Alyssa’s ladies, I’ve heard that she almost refused to send Daven to Runestone,” Rhaenyra sneered at the thought.

True, Genevieve and Alyssa had the same age, but Genevieve Reyne—for the little she remembered of the girl—would be a better companion to Selaena if the age had been right. If anything, Genevieve would be horrified by the wildish behavior of Alyssa. She also doubted that Lord Reyne would have let his wife refuse to send Daven to Runestone, a daughter that could endear herself to the prince would be better, but a son that could be a friend to him was just as good.

“Lady Genevieve wouldn’t like Runestone. Aunt Rhea runs a small household, there aren’t many in terms of balls and parties, our visits to Runesport are limited and she would be bored with all the training going around,” Jae said, and Rhaenyra agreed.

“I doubt that our cousin has a third of our occasions to use the pretty, expensive dresses that Lady Reyne and her daughter like to use,” Rhaenyra said with a smile.

“Definitely not; Aunt Rhea doesn’t like balls and feasts, and likes even less to entertain guests,” Jae said with a smirk.

Later that day, Rhaenyra found herself in her young brother’s chambers, she was unsurprised by the amount of blue and silver, after all, it had been decorated by her mother. Though it was beautifully balanced with the black and red of the Targaryen. Her brother introduced her to a game called chess, popular in the Vale that was a lot like the cypress that had been common in the Free Cities.

“Do your friends play this with you?”

“Aemon is the better player, but Daven is not shabby,” Jae said with a smirk. “But Lena is the best player.”

“Really?”

“No one has been able to win a game against her in Runestone,” she smiled at the information. “Aly doesn’t like to chess though, she prefers cards.” She watched as he took a pawn from her.

“I see that I will lose this game,” she said, and Jae smiled at her.

“It’s alright, no one becomes an expert from just a game, and I have been playing for years now,” Jae said.

“Do you think our mother had ever played chess in the Vale?”

“Aunt Rhea said that she was terrible, and preferred cheekers,” the information made her smile. “I imagine that was why she never taught it to us.”

“Probably, Mother didn’t like being remembered for things she was bad at,” Rhaenyra said with a conspiratory smile to her brother. “Like sewing. But you didn’t tell me what you think of Laenor.”

When his greyish-purple eyes looked straight at her, she felt her heart skip a beat at the intensity they held.

“Do you love him?”

“I do,” she lied, and he tilted his head, obviously, not believing her.

“I know you, Mandia, and I know Laenor, so please don’t lie to me,” he said in a low voice. “I know Laenor’s preferences, and I have seen how you look at your sworn shield.”

“Ser Criston is too lowborn for Father to ever permit us to be together,” she said.

“And Ser Harwin?”

“I think that he is handsome and charming, but that’s it,” Jae nodded at him.

“But you don’t feel any attraction to Laenor, not like you feel for Cole or Strong, do you?”

“Does it matter? Laenor is a dragon rider, a war hero,” she argued rolling her eyes. “He is also the heir of House Velaryon, a perfect match.”

“Only in the greedy mind of Corlys Velaryon,” she choked on her water at the viciousness in her brother's sneering response. “I doubt that Laenor would be able to give you children anytime soon and if they ever came up with any features that didn’t scream Velaryon or Targaryen the snakes at this court would descend on you like vulture, sister. And you wouldn’t be happy, would you?”

“I am doing it to mend the rift between our Houses, the Velaryon must stay loyal to you,” Rhaenyra said.

“Not at your cost!” he argued back. “You are my sister, Father gave you the means to have any man you want, within reason, and if you think that you are marrying Laenor for me, then don’t! Don’t marry someone who you would regret because you think it would give me an advantage. And if Velaryon’s loyalty must be bought, then I don’t want it for it holds no value. Especially not at the cost of my own sister!”

“Laenor and I reached an agreement—”

“It doesn’t matter Nyra; I want you to be happy!” he said and she felt a pang in her heart. “Don’t marry Laenor if it is not for your happiness. Please, I know you want what is best for me, but I also want what is best for you. Be a bit selfish, Mandia, please!” the way he begged her, made her stop the game and hug him. “I don’t want to live thinking that I ruined your life by condoning something that could cause you harm.” He said against her, and she nodded.

“Alright, sweet valonqar,” she said. “I will get out of this courtship.”

The moniker "Green Queen" bestowed on Queen Alicent has three possible origins. The first came from the green dresses that Queen Alicent favored and soon became the symbol of her failed usurpation attempt. The second was due to the lack of preparation with which the queen conducted her affairs, always having her aunt, Lady Joanna Royce, murmuring in her ears. And the third with the rumors that the queen was envious of the relationship between King Viserys and Lady Myrcella Tarbeck, her rivals would say that she was "green with envy".

Excerpt of Crumbing Towers: the fall of House Hightower, by Professor Jaehaerys Targaryen of the Royal University of Oldtown

ALICENT

Courts were boring. Still, they were her duty and she had to attend. After finally being free of Lady Tyrell—who was now in Highgarden welcoming her first grandchild by Rosalyn Tarly—and Lady Tarbeck-Lefford—now married to an inconsequent knight and back to Tarbeck Hall with her brat—, Alicent had believed that she would finally have some peace in her own home. Yet, there was Daemon Targaryen, now Hand of the King, that seemed to always be watching her with his purple eyes full of mistrust, as if she was wrong there.

Now, knowing what she had been told of her family, Alicent could see clear as the day, that she had never been wrong! Her family, her House had been leading these lands ever since they left Andalos—scurried out of their home due to those invading the Valyrian empire—, the Dragons had usurped their power, again, when they arrived and conquered their continent, it was only fair for them to take back what belonged to them. To get their power back so they could light these lands to the Seven, to keep them holy and in the right way.

Her father had been disappointed when they didn’t manage to marry Kate Oakheart to Gwayne, but even them had to admit that the girl seemed to be more cunning than they first imagined. After all, she married the brother of Lord Paramount, he wouldn’t inherit Casterly Rock, but Ser Tyland still had a great deal of influence in the Westerlands and she managed to secure it to her house. Alicent had tried to warn them that Lady Kate was not as docile as they had imagined, but her Aunt Joanna insisted that she was, after all her mother had been a Roxton.

Still, Gwayne was unmarried, and the girl had someone of power to back her claim to Old Oak in the case of one of her Oakheart cousins decided that they wanted Old Oak for themselves. As it would have been proper.

“Sweet sister,” she hides a sneer when her husband got up from his throne to help Lady Royce out of her kneeling position. “It is always a pleasure to have you at my court.”

“I would say that it is a pleasure to be here, but we both know that court life doesn’t agree with me,” she said sweetly. “But I am always happy to be among family.”

“Court would be greatly improved by your presence dear,” Viserys said, and she heard a snickering sound coming from the Hand. Part of her pitied the open scorn and disrespect that Lady Royce was dealt with, but the other part couldn’t help but think that if the Lady of Runestone wasn’t a heretic woman who prayed to the false gods, maybe the Seven could have given her a better husband.

“Well, then you ought to enjoy my presence for a whole moon cycle! I am sure that you will be begging me to return to Runestone after it!” The woman said with good humor.

“I highly doubt it, my Lady,” her husband said, and then Lady Royce walked to where her daughters were, the five children that had come with her were already with the two girls.

Alicent looked critically at the girls. Alyssa Targaryen, the heiress of Runestone, had pretty features, a true waste on a girl that was more of a wildling than a lady. Cute nose and plump limps, arched eyebrows, and the different colored eyes that were her trend mark: a purple one and a black one. At eleven she was tall, with pretty silver-gold hair that was straight and short—barely reaching the shoulders—, two thin braids from each side of her face met behind her head and were secured by a black bead in a style similar to what her father used four years ago. Her clothes were of excellent quality, and her dress had a slit from the tight to the hem that revealed that not only the girl wasn’t using petticoats, but also that she was using pants. The girl's manners were also appalling; she was either too silent or too loud. Bawdy and violent like her father, and the way she looked at Alicent was unnerving. To think that was the future Lady of Runestone made Alicent seethe with the injustice.

The youngster though, was another problem. She was only seven and everyone knew that she would be one of the most beautiful women in the Seven Kingdoms. Delicate nose, high cheekbones, and full lips. Her hair wasn’t straight like Daemon’s, but curly like Rhea’s, with the pretty shade of silver gold that would look like a halo when the sun hit it, always perfectly stylized and kept. The violet eyes were of the prettiest shades of purple and her gaze was intense, her skin was flawless, and she heard that bards were already writing about her. Unlike her wildling of a sister, Princess Selaena was well-behaved, mannered, and dressily impeccably due to her station. And everyone seemed to be under her spell. Lords, ladies, servants, and smallfolk. Especially when it became known that the girl had started to organize charities in Runestone and had demanded that Gardenia to have an orphanage and a public school under Illyria Garden, the land that she would inherit. People loved her, they would throw flowers at her way and cheer her name in the streets in a way that should be reserved for royalty.

The problem was that this child was the strongest contender for Prince Jaehearon’s hand. Alicent didn’t know how to approach this anymore. Viserys had more than once talked about how it had been Aemma’s fondest wish to have Jaehearon and Selaena married, though he personally thought that Alyssa would have been a good match—Helaena didn’t even make his thoughts—and she knew that if a proposal was made to Daemon, the Prince wouldn’t turn it down. Greedy as he was, the prince would surely be utterly delighted to have his blood on the throne.

Later that day, Alicent found herself in her solar with her aunt, she dismissed her ladies so they could have a conversation. Aunt Joanna was, after all, her closest confidant.

“I approached Viserys last night, to talk about the Jaehearon’s future…”

“He doesn’t want to betroth his oldest son to his youngster daughter?” Joanna questioned with a frown. “He has another candidate; Princess Alyssa I suppose?”

“He says that it was Aemma’s fondest wishes was to have Jaehearon and Princess Selaena married,” she almost hissed.

After three years of their marriage, everything was still about Aemma. What Aemma wanted, how Aemma felt about something, how she would feel, what Aemma liked and disliked... And if it wasn’t Aemma then it was Myrcella… The Westerland Harlot had for three years more say in her court than she did. She was the Queen, she deserved the power that was usurped by that harlot.

“It will be harder than if it was the oldest, then,” her aunt said, obviously displeased, “With that little wildling we could have pointed out all her unsuitability and have her name taken out of the game, but Princess Selaena is beloved and hard to criticize.”

“A perfect little princess,” Alicent said with a sneer. “Helaena deserves to be a Queen someday, Aunt Joanna!”

“And she will be, niece, one way or another we will crown her,” Joanna comforted her, putting a hand over hers. “Your father might have some idea on how to deal with Selaena later. But for now, you need to make sure that Jaehearon has at least some affection for his sister and brother.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Alicent smiled. “Before the court, Jaehearon was in the nursery playing with Aegon and Helaena. During our waste of a journey to Old Oak, Jaehearon would spend time some time with Aegon every day!”

“That’s good, but his fostering in the Vale must come to an end, soon,” Joanna commented, sipping on her drink. “The most time he spends on Runestone the closer he grows to Daemon’s ilk, we need to make sure that the prince is raised alongside your children, not Daemon’s.”

“I tried to tell Viserys that it would be better to have Jaehearon back to the Red Keep, but he insist that he must complete the four years-long fostering that they had agreed to,” she sighed tiredly. She tried and tried, but Viserys rarely gave in to anything she wanted. She was a good wife, why couldn’t he repay her for her loyalty to him? “Rhaenyra will be a problem though, she doesn’t like it when Jaehearon tries to give attention to his siblings, she interferes.”

“Soon Rhaenyra will marry and have her own children to worry about,” Joanna said while rolling her eyes. “A marriage to Ser Laenor though, is not advantageous for us. The Velaryon has dragons if we could steer them away from the Targaryen and unto one of us!”

‘It wouldn’t matter,” Alicent sighed. “Laena worships the ground Rhaenyra walk, she would never turn against Rhaenyra.”

“The girl courts the displeasure of her father by marrying Torrhen Manderly and is her father whom we have to bring to our side, the rest will simply follow.” Joanna scoffed.

“I doubt so!” she scoffed back. “Princess Rhaenys usually follows her husband’s lead, true, but would she go against Daemon? Lord Velaryon has the ships, Rhaenys, Laenor, and Laena have the dragons.”

“He is their head of House Velaryon.”

“And Princess Rhaenys won’t stand against her house.”

“You are her house too,” Joanna argued and she scoffed again.

No, she wasn’t! No Targaryen had ever accepted her as part of the house. She was bound to forever be an outsider in her own marriage. Viserys didn’t hate her, but he was so disappointed that it wasn’t Myrcella that made her hate him. Though he didn’t voice it, he made it clear by the preference he had always had for the Westerlander Harlot. Rhaenyra was still an uppity girl, resentful and unable to understand that she had done her duty, what was right. Daemon despised everything Hightower and he made sure to let it be known. Jaehearon was polite but distant and his cousins followed suit.

“Not in her eyes,” she finally answered. “In their eyes, I am an outsider. Will forever be a Hightower, no matter who I am married to.”

“Good, because House Hightower has more history in these side of the world than a Targaryen will ever have!” Her aunt smiled.

Due to the three moons of long walks on the beach, private picnics in the gardens of the Red Keep, small visits to charity in the city, and private dinners, it was assumed that there was a courting between Ser Laenor Velaryon and his cousin, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. It came then with great surprise to the court when instead of marrying her, Ser Laenor eloped with another lady. Interestingly enough, it is said that while Lord Corlys Velaryon had been furious with his son's choice, Princess Rhaenys simply loved her newest daughter-in-law and dotted on her.

Excerpt from the Chronicles of Grandmaester Mellos

RHAENYS

Rhea had commented that Jaehearon had an interest in strategy games such as chess and cypress, maybe a new set of one of them could be an appropriate “thank you gift” for the young prince. Maybe something in gold?

Too Lannister, dragonglass might be a better option; more Valyrian.

“I worry for you cousin,” Laenor said to her side. “I have no problem being the spurned part, you know it!”

“You cannot be the spurned part, Laenor,” Rhaenys sighed. “Your father would raise a thrice damned fuss over it!”

Rhaenyra called them to say that she wanted to stop the courting between her and Laenor, not two days after they had a nice walk on the beach with the young prince Jaehearon. She cited that the decision was because she wouldn’t want to burden Laenor with the court expectation and scrutiny—and while those were a great part of Rhaenys worries, she doubted that it was it that had stopped her young cousin. But she wasn’t going to complain, whatever it was, it would get her son out of the spotlights. So now they (Rhaenyra, Laenor, Laena, and herself) were strategizing on how to get out of the courtship without offending Viserys and Corlys.

“But it can’t be something that would make my father offended too,” Rhaenyra said. “And preferably something that wouldn’t expose your preferences.”

“Thank you for protecting me, cousin.”

“It is my fault you are in this place to start with,” the young princess said to her cousin with a smile. “If we could—”

Suddenly the door of the Princess’s apartment was open and they watched as a very distressed Lady Dorea entered.

“Dorea, what happened?” Rhaenyra asked, clearly worried by the red-shot eyes of her lady-in-waiting and the trembling frame. The young princess and her daughter immediately got to their feet at seeing the obviously distressed lady.

Rhaenys couldn’t claim to know Dorea Westerling particularly, but she knew that one thing about her was that the girl was brave. Laena always had something positive about Dorea and Kate, even before the whole fiasco with Alicent. If Kate was perhaps a little too quiet, Dorea was a little too forward, bright, and cheerful.

“I-I’m sorry,” the girl sobbed, her voice trembling and small. “It wasn’t my intention to interrupt you.”

“Dorea, you are pale!” Laena said while approaching her. “Please, tell us what happened?”

“You don’t need to worry about it, Laena, you are obviously preoccupied, I don’t mean to interrupt anymore,” the girl said and made a measure to them. “I’ll go to my room.”

“Lady Dorea, whatever happened to you, is more important than what we are discussing,” Laenor offered her a smile. “We can discuss it another day, but you need—”

Instead of talking the girl started to cry. Rhaenys could see that the girl was scared and sad, and when Laena hugged her, Rhaenyra took a letter that had been clutched at the lady’s hand.

“He can’t do it!” The princess said.

“He is my father, Nyra, of course, he can!” Dorea sobbed in her daughter’s dress and Rhaenys approached, behind the princess.

“But Jasper Wylde killed three wives already!” Rhaenyra said.

“Lord Westerling doesn’t care, he is a lord of an important house in Stormlands and he is finally free of his last daughter!”

“You said that he was arranging a match with a Mallister,” Laena said softly and Rhaenys felt herself like an intruder.

“I imagine that Jasper Wylde might have offered something better,” Dorea said.

“I won’t let it happen, Dorea,” Rhaenyra said. “You are under my protection and if you don’t want to marry Jasper Wylde, then I will do my damn best for you to not marry him.”

“Nyra—” the girl tried to protest. “My father is going to drag me to the Sept by the hair if I refuse!”

“Not if you are already married,” Laenor said, and everyone turned to him with a frown.

“Ser Laenor, I have no suitors at the moment.”

“Just because you don’t perceive the knight throwing themselves at you, doesn’t mean you have no suitors, Dorea,” Laena said. “You are beautiful and—”

“I was not referring to any other knight, but me!” Laenor said and Rhaenys looked at her son with wide eyes.

“Laenor, what can you mean by it?” she asked.

“It is the perfect solution mother! Don’t you see? Dorea has accompanied me and Rhaenyra in every outing, public or private, she is privy to our dilemma, and we could say that it was Dorea who I was courting, neither Rhaenyra nor I have explicitly said to anyone that we were courting each other,” Laenor proposed and Rhaenys could see what he meant.

It would be an easy solution. Dorea was from an important House in the Westerlands. Her sister was the new Lady of Casterly Rock, and the girl had a healthy dowry, but at the same time, she was a discreet girl that wouldn’t attract so much attention to Laenor and his preferences. If Rhaenyra said that she had been acting like a chaperone and had been not the one in the courting, everything could be taken as a misunderstanding and expectations raised by third parties.

“It could work,” Rhaenyra said and looked to Dorea.

“Dorea doesn’t have the same pressure on her that you have and I’m sure that a marriage to House Velaryon would be a better alternative to Lord Westerling than Lord Wylde.”

“What if they take offense?”

“They are welcome to voice their woes to Seasmoke,” Laenor offered her a smile.

“The letter says that your father will arrive in a week, if you and Laenor are already married, he can’t make you marry Jasper Wylde,” Rhaenyra said.

“I always thought that the one between us to elope would be Laena,” Dorea sniffed, and Laena laughed heartily while Rhaenyra let a smirk appear on her lips. Rhaenys would have been offended if she didn’t know that Dorea was possibly right. “Ser Laenor, I accept your proposal. If your mother gives us her blessing…”

“Then the two of you will marry tomorrow,” Rhaenys said, taking control of the situation. “If anyone question, you two,” she pointed to the crying lady and her son, “had been courting in these last moons and wanted time to convince Corlys to agree with the match, your father’s letter speed your plans and you two married. Rhaenyra you would have been the one to chaperone their encounters, if anyone questioned—”

“I was highly amused by everyone's expectation and misinterpretation,” Rhaenyra said with an impish smile.

“Laena—”

“It is obvious that Dorea is a better pair for my brother than Rhaenyra, no offense cousin,” her daughter said.

“No offense taken. Laenor, had you ever expressed to your father that you were courting me?”

“No, after our first getaway, he simply assumed it. But I have never said anything. Your father?”

“No, but I told Jae. He won’t say anything,” Rhaenyra said.

“Then we have our story. I will arrange to have you two married under a septon tomorrow, but Dorea, you might want to tell the Lord Commander,” Rhaenys said. “Tomorrow, invite him to the ceremony.”

“What about father?” Laenor asked with a frown.

“I will deal with Corlys,” Rhaenys promised.

In the 119 AC, Runesport was attacked by pirates. While it is speculated that those were remaining of the failed Triarchy that joined forces to take revenge on Prince Daemon for the War of Stepstones in 111-113 AC, others are certain that it was an attack planned by the Hightower and another more obscure source says that the attack came from Ironborn; however, the lack of any flags, banners or survivors made it difficult to ascertain the truth. Runesport was attacked a little after noon by a force as strong as fifty ships, in the beginning, the pirates seemed to have the upper hand, until Princess Alyssa started with forces of her own and Princess Selaena appeared leading her dragons and her sisters to burn the ships. Runesport lost three hundred lives in that attack, but the world saw the death of at least half a thousand pirates by the leadership of the two daughters of Daemon Targaryen.

Excerpt from The Dragon Princesses of Runestone by Maester Garlan

ARYA

Arya disliked the way Alicent would glare at her and Sansa. Ever since the woman had given birth to Haleana, she would look at them as if she was planning on the best way to get rid of them. The little tower despised them, especially when they were with the King. Even if it was in dinners organized by the King.

“And how is the building of Illyria’s Garden going?” her uncle Viserys asked her parents.

“By the reports very well,” Rhea said with a smile.

“More than just a very well,” her father corrected. “I visited a week ago, in a year or two, the castle will be liveable. Gardenia already has a population and commerce settled in the first ring, which is motivating the workers on the castle. I issued the laws of Gardenia and made sure that it was upheld.”

“And are you planning on more children to inherit Bloodstone, Prince Daemon?” Alicent asked with a saccharine smile. “Or do you intend to leave it for a natural child?”

“Alicent!” her uncle said, chastising his wife, while her mother gave her an arched eyebrow.

“That would be an interesting idea if I happened to have a natural child,” Daemon said and added with a sarcastic smile. “But I assure you, that every whor* that passed through my bed had been served moon tea after, you can question your aunt if you doubt my world.”

Arya held back a snigg*r at seeing the purple face of her least favorite aunt at her father’s comeback. “Daemon!” Her uncle said looking at her father with a severe face.

“At any rate, Bloodstone currently has an outpost with a hundred of my men holding it, though Viserys had sanctioned the dispersion of lordships of some of the Isles. Bloodstone will belong to House Targaryen through me. It was also decided that the Narrow Sea would be its own kingdom.” Daemon said.

“So, it makes it even more important for another child,” Alicent insisted. “Maybe you ought to have a son this time, Lady Royce.”

“I don’t see how that would be of your concern, Your Grace,” her mother said. “We have Alyssa to inherit Runestone and we are currently building Illyria’s Garden to Selaena, Bloodstone has yet to prove profitable and even then, it doesn’t necessarily need to go to one of our children, it can go to a grandchild.”

“Already thinking about betrothals to your children, Rhea?” her uncle asked.

“Not really, but with Runestone and Illyria’s Garden to think of, it is only natural that I would expect my daughters to marry someday,” if Arya scrunched her nose at the idea of marrying, her parents pretended to not see and her uncle sent her an amused stare.

She knew that with the fact that she was almost at the age of flowering, they would soon start to talk about marriage to her. It was, after all, her duty to provide an heir to Runestone, and while she would love to saddle her sister with that duty, Arya knew that she couldn’t live a life running from that. First, it wouldn’t be fair to her sister. Secondly, she would never want to be compared to someone like Cersei Lannister or Robert Baratheon. Egoistical hedonists, that lived for their own pleasure and desires. She would honor herself and her ancestors. Targaryen and Stark, Royce and Tully. She would not run.

“And you, when do you think of marrying your children, brother?” Daemon asked. Suddenly Rhaenyra looked like a deer caught and spotted by hunters, looking up from her plate. Strangely enough, her bold cousin had been silent for most of the evening.

“Oh, I am waiting for Ser Laenor to finally propose to my daughter!” Viserys said. “What do you say, Rhaenyra?”

“Cousin Laenor will not be proposing to me father,” Rhaenyra said and she looked across the table to where Jon gave a smile to his older sister and then a subtle nod to her and Selaena.

“Rhaenyra, the objective of courting is for the gentleman to marry the lady,” Alicent started with a patronizing tone that made her roll her eyes.

“I know that, but I do not know why you are all assuming that it is me who Laenor has been courting. I was only the chaperone!”

Plot twist! Arya thought while trying to contain a smile. It seemed that Jon had indeed been successful in his entrepreneurship!

“Chaperone?” her father asked, interested, while the King looked mildly disappointed.

“Chaperone! I have my eyes somewhere else!” Rhaenyra said with a smile. “I still have six moons before you can decide on my husband's father!”

“And please say, who is this knight that you are hiding from us?”

“I couldn’t possibly say of yet,” her cousin smiled. “But you could start talking about the betrothal between Selaena and Jae, which is obvious to occur in some years. Everyone knows that they will marry!” Arya snigg*red at it.

Yes, the way Jon and Sansa were close—especially after Castle Black in their last life—led many to believe that they would be a couple. Now that the taboos were removed from the relationship, she was counting the days for the two to admit their mutual interest. And apparently, she wasn’t the only one!

“That has not been yet decided,” Alicent interrupted almost losing her composure.

“I know that it was my mother’s wish to see Selaena marrying Jae and succeeding her as Queen,” Rhaenyra sent a sweet smile to Sansa, that despite the flush in her cheeks, kept herself silent and ignoring the almost bickering among them. “Also, with two dragons, it would be only natural for her to be the next Queen.”

“I thought that it was a Targaryen tradition for siblings to marry,” Alicent said.

“I am a little too old for my brother,” Rhaenyra answered.

“He has another sister,” Alicent replied, catty.

“Helaena is not even one year old, she is too young for him, when he comes to the age of marriage, she will not have flowered yet,” Rhaenyra dismissed the queen immediately.

“Before marrying Selaena to anyone, Rhaenyra, you should see if it is the desires of her parents,” Alicent said and Arya drank a little of her orange water—the citrusy drink had been the King’s favorite ever since his marriage to Alicent and Arya found herself growing fond of those alcohol-less drinks—to hide the smile she had. Her father made no attempt to hide his.

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about my desire in this match, Your Grace. If Jaehearon ever shows an inclination to my Selaena’s hand, you can rest assured that I will gladly agree to it,” Daemon said with a wide smile.

“I wouldn’t oppose such a match either,” Rhea commented. “Jaehearon is after all, quite loved by my family.”

Viserys and Rhea pretended to not notice the seething hiss that Alicent let escape, while Rhaenyra had a satisfied smirk on her lips, while Daemon looked defiantly at the Queen. Viserys then decided that it was time to include the children in conversation and turned to her to question what she intended to do with her collection of daggers.

Notes:

Hello everyone! Hope you liked the chapter!

I managed to post it 17 days before the agreed time! EHHH! So the next chapter is scheduled for the 9th of July, but it can be updated early. It all depends on my mess of agenda.

But, for those interested, in the 16th of June I will post the first chapter of Kate Oakheart spin-off: Of old books, musk wine, and lazy cats. It will be inside the series: Ancient Fire, universe, and when I post it, I will include the link here!

See you soon. Here or on the spin-off!

Chapter 25: Damsels (not in distress) that reshaped the Kingdoms

Summary:

Laenor and Dorea have an uncomfortable time together.
Signy and Arya have a talk about their future prospects.
Rhaenyra has a hard time not falling for Strong knight's smile.
Viserys suffers from a Targaryen tradition of having to deal with willful daughters and all the problems they bring.

Oh! And Bran witnesses something that both amazes and worries him.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

History diverges on the account of the marriage between Ser Laenor Velaryon and Lady Dorea Westerling. There are those who said that they were deeply in love with each other, some say that they married to hide an indiscretion between Lady Dorea and Ser Joffrey Lonmouth, and some said that the indiscretion was between Ser Laenor and Ser Joffrey. Whatever was the truth, one thing was sure: Lord Corlys Velaryon did not approve the marriage for many years, indeed, by every register, it is said that the Sea Snake only came to terms with the marriage after the birth of this first grandchild by Ser Laenor and Lady Dorea.

Excerpt from The Sea Snake, Maester Devan

LAENOR

He was about to get married. And wasn’t that a scary thought?

Laenor had never imagined himself married. At least not since he perceived that his inclination was not what was considered the norm. Yet he had always known it was his duty and when his cousin had gone back at her plan, he had been both: frustrated and relieved at the same time. Frustrated because it meant that he would need to find someone else who would agree to the ruse and relieved because for as strong a match with his cousin would have been, it also meant a lot of exposure and risk for him.

His mind had racked trying to think of a woman he could propose to that would be a good be able to accept him as he was and when Dorea Westerling appeared crying in the Princess’ solar, he saw his chance.

Dorea was desperate to get herself free of a marriage to a brute. She also had a good breeding, a good lineage, and a dowry—though he could bet that given how their marriage was coming to happen her father would want to dock some gold out of it in retaliation. The girl also had a wicked sense of humor, was very kind and understanding, and never once judged him and Joffrey.

“So, between roast duck and goose,” Joffrey started at their side as they were waiting for his mother to arrive with the septon. Rhaenyra and Laena were at Dorea’s side, Ser Harrold had followed his mother and Ser Criston was some steps back from them. “Which one do you prefer?”

“A salad,” his future wife answered the innuendo with an arched eyebrow. “And yes, I know about the metaphor. I still prefer a salad.”

“So you don’t like either one?” Joffrey probed and he sighed at his lover’s side.

“Not really,” Rhaenyra then intervened.

“Ser Joffrey, perhaps your curiosity could wait a little longer?”

“I’m sorry, my princess, I am only curious to understand how things will be from now on,” his lover said looking at him and Laenor frowned. Joffrey hadn’t been exceeding happy with the plan’s changing.

“Don’t worry, Ser Joffrey,” Dorea said with a sigh. “I don’t intend to change anything in your agreement with Ser Laenor… As long as I am not married to Jasper Wylde, I don’t care how my husband passes his night.”

A silence followed and stayed until the Septon arrived with his mother and Ser Harrold. The Lord Commander approached his niece and Laenor paid more attention to what the Lord Commander was saying to her than what was being said between his mother and the Septon.

“Are you sure about it, Dorea? Your father—”

“I refuse to marry Lord Jasper Wylde, Uncle Harrold!” she interrupted the commander of the Kingsguard.

“Your father is not going to be happy if you elope.”

“He will be happy to be getting rid of his daughter,” Dorea said with a mulish set on her jaw. “That was his objective all along.”

“He didn’t betroth you to Lord Wylde to get rid of you Dorea, he only wants for you to be happy.” Laenor contained his urge to scoff.

“He wants me to be the fourth wife of a man that already has twenty-one children, is old enough to be my father, and had all his wives killed within a decade of each marriage. If I knew no better, I would say that he planned to get me killed too!” he found himself not being able to disagree with her logic.

“Princess Rhaenys, this is highly unconventional,” he heard the Septon say to his mother.

“And my son and his wife-to-be want to marry now,” Rhaenys said firmly.

“You can either marry them, or I can feed you to my dragon myself!” Rhaenyra said, with all the diplomacy a Targaryen could have.

Their words were Fire and Blood after all.

“Princess!”

“Trust me, finding another septon would be easy,” his sister said to the septon. “Just marry them so we can get them bedded.”

It didn’t take much after that to convince the septon to marry them. Soon his aquamarine cloak replaced the gold one—a courtesy of Ser Harrold that kept his family cloak guarded as a memento. Their names were recorded on the books and the documents drafted, and they returned to the Keep, more specifically to the Princess’s apartments.

“Listen you two,” his mother started. “You two need to consummate this marriage. This way, your father won’t be able to annul it,” she said to Dorea, “and your father won’t be able to contest,” to him. He felt as if he froze a little.

“Mother—” but before he could protest, his mother, lover, cousin, and sister pulled them into Dorea’s rooms and locked the door.

There was a little, awkward silence between them before Dorea cleared her throat.

“I don’t know how to proceed from now on,” Dorea said looking at him.

“Then we are two, my lady,” he smirked.

“You have never been with a woman?”

“You know that my interests…”

“Never leaned towards women?” he nodded. He had watched, sometimes… His father secretly took him to some brothels to see if he could waken his interest, and while he had seen it, he never had been interested. “I can’t believe that I am missing Kate’s smutty books,” she murmured, and he arched an eyebrow.

“Kate Oakheart read smut?”

“Kate Oakheart read anything she can put her hands on,” Dorea commented, he approached her, chuckling. “We should… She says that it is the same logic as animals…”

“She isn’t wrong…” he said. “I will kiss you if you would let me?”

“Do it…”

There was no passion, no fire. It wasn’t like kissing Joffrey where the two would almost melt into each other’s kiss, it wasn’t unpleasant, but at the same time, his mind distracted him easily, and when they backed away.

“I’m sorry, I…”

“I am not who you want…” she said with a smile, while he was still embracing her.

“And I am not who you want…”

“I never wanted anyone, Laenor,” it sounded almost like a confession. “I love the company of my friends, female and male, but I never desired them, or anyone for that matter. But if it helps you, don’t think of it as a passionate encounter. Thinks of it as a workout you must do before seeing Ser Joffrey.” Her smirk was enough to encourage him.

Lady Signy Mormont returned to the North after serving as Princess Alyssa's lady-in-waiting in the year of 120 AC, after nearly a decade. She married the very same year to Lord Eddard "Ned" Dustin, the Lord of Barrowton, with whom she had five children. She remained a friend of Princess Alyssa until her death, visiting Runestone many times. Few friendships were as strong as theirs, in the journals of Lord Dustin, he often jested of their closeness and the seeming competition between him and the Princess for his wife's love and attention, even if the Princess was miles away from them. In Princess Selaena's journals, she cited that Lady Dustin was "the soul sister" of Princess Alyssa, for they had no blood to link them, but their kindred spirits made them closer than most siblings.

Excerpt from The Dragon Princesses of Runestone by Maester Garlan

SIGNY

After three years of attending Princess Alyssa as her lady-in-waiting, Signy was ready to admit that she had been wrong. When her uncle first called her to say that he intended to present her as a candidate to be sent south, telling her that Princess Alyssa was being raised by her mother—a southern lady with some Stark blood in her—as a shieldmaiden and intended to have shieldmaidens in training for her daughter’s ladies, Signy had been very skeptical about it.

To that point, she had limited contact with southern folk. Most were of the Ironborn that attacked their Isle—and she was perfectly aware that they were no example of the Andal Folk—and the only one of some importance was that of their Maester. When he first arrived at Bear Isle, Maester Arthur had been as southern as they came, until he understood the differences in their culture, but from time to time he would still preach about how different the gender roles should be and all that…

His idea of what a lady and her functions should be was dreadful and when she first heard about Princess Alyssa, she thought that she would be more progressive than her Maester, but not overly so. Still, she had been positively surprised by how well-informed on the Shieldmaiden culture Lady Royce was and how wrong she had been about Princess Alyssa.

The girl was as though as any shieldmaiden, and after acquiring permission from Lady Stark and her aunt, Signy started to teach Alyssa the secret ways of the Shieldmaiden. And the princess took it in strides.

“Hey, don’t be so lost in your own mind,” the princess’ voice got her attention. Her dual-coloured eyes looked at her with some worry. “Everything alright?”

The two were together in Alyssa’s room, getting ready to train. Griselda was accompanying Selaena, Jaehearon, and Aemon to the library. Devan had been called to attend his family who was currently at court. Waymar hadn’t come with them to the court this time.

“Oh, aye! I was just wondering…”

“About?”

“I need to vent a little!” she admitted. “Do you think Lord Reyne would be too distraught if I trounced his son in the training yard?”

“Probably,” Alyssa answered. “But Devan wouldn’t complain too much…”

“I was talking about Ser Lancel,” Alyssa gave her a wider smile.

“Please, that boy would lose his head at the idea of having to fight against a girl,” she sighed at the truth behind the princess’ comment.

“Pity, I find his company less tolerable than his brother’s.”

“Look at the bright side, you’re not going to marry him, that sad duty will befall a poor Hawthorne girl,” Alyssa said with an impish smile.

“And instead I will marry Lord Dustin's firstborn son, Eddard Dustin,” Signy sighed, and she saw her best friend's eyes widen.

“How long have you been betrothed?”

“Since I was seven, I think,” she admitted to the princess’ curious inquiry. “My mother had been raised in Winterfell, as a lady-in-waiting for ladies Isolde Dustin and Imelda Umber before their marriage. She is still rather close to Lady Dustin and they arranged for a match between us.”

“I didn’t know,” Alyssa said, frowning and kind of sad. “We have lived together for four years, and I didn’t know that you have a betroth.” The princess pouted.

“I never told you,” Signy smiled. “Also, it isn’t the end of the world! Ned is alright, he is respectful and strong. They finally gave us permission to write to each other, though, I imagine that the contents will be scanned by Lady Royce.”

“Is Griselda engaged too?”

“She isn’t, the Mountain Clans of the North doesn’t betroth children,” Signy smirked. “If a man wants to get married to a lady of the Mountain Clans, then they must pass through three challenges set by the bride’s family to get the approval. Betrothals only occur as peace pacts to stop conflicts, but they are quite harmonious between themselves, and they hadn’t needed a peace pact in the last three hundred years or so.”

“Well, that is surprising. If a Stark has their sights on a lady of the mountain clans…”

“They pass through the same tests. House Stark is very respectful towards the traditions and culture of the different regions of the North. One of the reasons why they are so beloved,” Signy related. “What about you, do you have a betroth?”

Princess Alyssa scrunched her nose and Signy laughed a little. “My parents want me and my sister to marry who we chose.”

“Strange, I thought that they intended to betroth you to Waymar,” Signy said.

“Why?”

“It would be the most natural step,” by the grimace on the princess’ face, the shieldmaiden knew she thought otherwise. “When Runestone passes to you, it stops being a Royce stronghold, since you have your father’s name. The cousin that questions your mother’s right to inherit is based on the principle that it takes from House Royce what belongs to them, your mother kept the surname Royce after her marriage which gave her clout to keep her ladyship.” Signy explained as she saw it.

“I have a dragon,” Alyssa countered.

“And they have the name, also a dragon only makes you more of a Targaryen,” she pointed out. “You are a Royce, but you don’t have the name. Your children will either be Targaryen or whatever house you marry. If you marry Waymar, their arguments of Runestone being lost to House Royce is over.”

“The idea does have merit,” Alyssa sighed, still frowning. “But neither my parents had ever expressed this.”

“Probably because they want you to choose for yourself, as you said. My guess is that they would approve whatever lord you chose within reason, but by placing Waymar in your sphere of influence then within time you could consider him naturally,” Signy said.

“It sounds a little too much like manipulation!”

“Politics isn’t just about backstabbing and behind-door deals, is also about subtle manipulation, take your parents for example. Your father and mother started to work in integrating the North into the politics of the Seven Kingdoms in the moment they invited me and Griselda as your ladies-in-waiting. Even Ser Malik Manderly's placement as your sister’s sworn shield was a political move that got the North closer to the Seven Kingdoms. Our own friendship was born out of manipulation. It doesn’t mean that it was ill-intended or made with nefarious purpose…” Signy said, exposing what she thought on the matter.

“You gave me a lot to think about,” Alyssa said, and she rose an eyebrow, an impish smile appeared on her lips.

“Can you think about it in the training yard?”

“You can bet on it!”

The details of the courtship between Princess Rhaenyra and Ser Harwin Strong were kept privately, much to the consternation of many court gossipers, especially given that those believed that Princess Rhaenyra had been courting Ser Laenor Velaryon. But not six moons had passed between the marriage of Ser Laenor and Lady Dorea, the princess lady-in-waiting, and the Kingdom celebrated the marriage between Princess Rhaenyra and Ser Harwin. Letters between Princess Rhaenyra and her ladies, expose that the Princess had an interest in the young Lord Commander of the City's Watch at least since the wedding of Lady Kate Oakheart and Ser Tyland Lannister in Old Oak.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a Woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

RHAENYRA

She was dreading the scene that would happen when they informed Lord Corlys of the wedding they had just celebrated. Ser Criston had been stiff with her since she explained what they intended to do; apparently, he found that the idea of helping ladies eloping was beneath his oaths. Not that he had any other choice but to comply. Still, they managed to marry her cousin and Dorea early in the morning and now that they were consummating their marriage, she had left for some air.

The idea to present the idea that Laenor and Dorea had been courting and using her as a buff had been perfect. Since they never affirmed or denied the possible courtship, they could simply say that everyone misunderstood their intentions. And well, how could they control the fantasies and expectations of other people?

“Cousin!” She stopped in her tracks when she found her young cousin, Alyssa, walking in her direction. Short hair braided away from her face, using trousers instead of skirts. Behind her, the Mormont lady walked with a slower pass, no less confident or determined than Alyssa, her clothes too were non-traditional for women. Ser Luthor Tyrell was trailing after them.

“Alyssa! Lady Mormont.” Rhaenyra said to the girls, a smile on her face.

“Princess Rhaenyra,” Lady Mormont said, giving her a small curtsey.

“Cousin where are you going?” she asked.

“Oh! Singy and I are going to the training yard,” the beaming smile on her cousin’s face made her sigh. She remembered a time when she too wanted to learn to yield a blade, but her parents put their foot down. Well, her mother more than her father, but it didn’t change the fact that now he supported her desire to learn when he didn’t support hers. Though to be fair, her father’s support was not necessary for Alyssa. All her cousin needed was Daemon’s and Rhea’s support.

“That seems interesting, would you mind if I join you?” She questioned and the two nodded.

“Today we intend to train our aim, do you know how to use a bow and arrow, Your Highness?” Lady Signy asked her with genuine curiosity.

“Not really, my uncle tried to teach me, but I guess he got bored of my antics after I missed the target one too many times,” she admitted. Remembering that she did throw in a temper tantrum as a ten-name-days-old child when she missed the center that day. “Never tried again.”

“You see, Sig, it’s a Targaryen problem: if we are not good at it on the first try, we get frustrated and pretend we never have interested in it,” Alyssa said with a smile and Rhaenyra chuckled, it was a good description of what seemed to be a family trait.

“I thought that the Targaryen problem was the infinity stubbornness that made you able to compete with a rock,” she busted up a laugh at the dry reply of the Northern lady. “Don’t you worry, Princess Rhaenyra, I’ll teach you the right way to use a bow and arrow.”

“You think that my uncle would teach me wrong?” the line of thought offended her, but she tried to not let it show.

“Not on purpose,” the girl said with a smile. “But honestly, I watched him training the men at Runestone once and I felt sorry for them. His methods are made for longtime warriors, not novices.”

“Well, Lady Mormont, then show me how much of a teacher you are!” Rhaenyra said when they arrived at the training yard.

Indeed, the girl’s instructions were better than her uncle’s had been—or perhaps she had been just more patient now—and she managed to at least hit the target, though not yet the inner rings.

“The Princess needs to get both of her eyes open to aim,” she turned and found, to her side, Ser Harwin Strong, of the City’s Watch, a smirk on his lips and a devil may-care attitude. “Otherwise, you will never hit the center.”

“He is right,” Singy said.

“Ser Harwin,” she greeted, ignoring the younger lady. “It’s been some time since I have last seen you.”

“I was in Harrenhall these last days, my father asked me to have my sister bought to court and I was tasked to escort her to King’s Landing,” Rhaenyra nodded at his explanation.

“That’s right, my Aunt Rhea has recommended for me to take Lady Jeyne as my new lady-in-waiting, at least until Kate is able to return,” she said, and he nodded. Because of her marriage to Ser Tyland, Lord Oakheart had requested for the newly married couple to stay a year with them in Old Oak, apparently, he had some “secrets” to pass to them and wanted to do it while he was still alive.

Now that Dorea is married and Laena is engaged to Torrhen, I will probably need other ladies. Maybe Lady Tarbeck can help me with it? Mentally she made a note to remember herself to write to her friend to ask for some guidance.

“Would it be to forward of me to request the Princess to take it easy on my sister? Jeyne is only thirteen and quite shy, but she was very excited to be part of your household.” The knight asked with an arched eyebrow and Rhaenyra felt herself a little lighter.

Fourteen Flames, Seven and Old Gods! How could a simple expression in a man make her want to melt?

“You can ask my ladies, they will inform you that I am very welcoming and sweet to all of them,” Rhaenyra answered after a while.

“Nyra is also very protective of her friends and family; she is a real dragon when it comes to protecting those she considers hers,” Alyssa said at her side, an impish smile on her lips.

“See, I will let no harm come to your sister, Ser,” she promised and the smile on the man’s face widened, and she wanted to groan.

“Then maybe I should repay you by helping you increase your archery abilities?”

“Oh, you definitely should, Ser Harwin!” Alyssa said before she could demure. “This way Signy and I can have our spar without fearing that my cousin might accidentally shoot someone!”

“Maybe I should shoot you,” she murmured, and her cousin gave her a wicked smile.

“Good lucky cousin! Come Signy, I still owe you from that last training!”

With this her cousin dragged her lady-in-waiting to a more removed part of the yard, leaving her alone with Ser Harwin that looked amused at the antics of the younger Princess.

I’m going to kill that brat!

Friendship isn't about who you've known the longest. It's about who walked into your life, said "I'm here for you" and proved it.

Excerpt from Lady Dorea Velaryon Journal

DOREA

Laenor got out of her, rolling to the other side of the bed. Her legs ached and she felt sore and uncomfortable, something she had been warned that would happen.

“That was… hmm…” Laenor started, breaking the silence between them.

“Awkward?” she offered.

“A lot,” he agreed and she snickered a laugh. She felt the mattress moving before she saw him getting up and walking to the stand where her maids would let a jar of sweet wine and water for her. “Wine?”

“Please!” he poured two cups and took it back to her. “Thank you.”

“We need to get out of here and face the world,” Laenor said, and Dorea sighed.

“We can do it together,” he smiled at her offer.

“Like a team?”

“I like the idea.”

House Targaryen may be known mainly by the dragons and the Iron Throne, but another thing that should be taken into consideration was the high number of strong-willed females in the house. Queen Visenya, Queen Rhaena, Queen Alysanne, Princess Alyssa (daughter of Jaehearys), Princess Saera (daughter of Jaehearys I), Princess Viserra (daughter of Jaehearys I), Princess Rhaenys (daughter of Prince Aemon), Princess Rhaenyra (daughter of Viserys I), Princess Alyssa (daughter of Prince Daemon) and Queen Selaena (daughter of Prince Daemon) are a fine example of the beginning of the Targaryen Queens and Princesses. For better or for worse, these ladies left their mark on history.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

VISERYES

“Honestly, I don’t know what the hell your ancestors were thinking when they made a Throne made of swords,” it wasn’t the first time he heard that drivel when he was being treated by Lady Amelie Hornwood. “It’s a real miracle that only one of you died from that.”

“The throne is not made to be comfortable, my lady,” he said when the woman scoffed.

“But it didn’t need to be a death trap either, Your Grace!” the healer snapped. “And done! I will suggest you ask your seamstress for thicker fabrics for your clothes or leather armor. Considering that the winter is coming, it should at least protect your back from the sharper blades.” Amelie said while organizing her valise. “Now, you really need to consider what I have told you: get rid of that Iron Monstrosity!”

Lady Amelie Hornwood had a thick Northern accent. And in her fifties, she was still tall, had beautiful features that were marred by time, and a scar made of three claws that crossed her right side. Her eyes were grey and seemed to hold the knowledge of the whole world. She was fairly quiet, though sometimes her accent made it difficult for him to understand her.

“You know, brother, they say that the Throne is cursed to keep the King from committing mistakes!” Daemon said, voicing his opinions from the other side of the room, his healer scoffed. “You disagree Lady Horwood?”

“Fools will be fools with cuts or without it, if they want a divine sign, they should think of something that wouldn’t be so f*cking dangerous. Those blades hadn’t even been blunted!” She also had a tongue that could cut deeper than some blades.

“And what is your suggestion, then? To make another throne?” he sighed at Daemon's mocking tone, but to his amusem*nt, the healer didn’t back down.

“At the very least to have a blacksmith to blunt the swords on the seat, no one needs to be pricked every time they sit on that death trap. And have the swords sterilized with frequency before the cuts become the least of the King’s problems!” he frowned at her words.

“What does that mean, my lady?” he asked the healer.

“The older the blade, the higher the chances of it being contaminated and eventually poisoning the King,” she said. “It can lead to blood poisoning, gangrene, hallucination, impotency, a slow and agonizing death! When I first met Your Grace, you were starting to gangrene, you have blood poisoning, and I am sure that it is because of the throne.”

“You think someone poisoned my brother?” Daemon asked, furious, and the idea also worried him.

“What I have been trying to explain to the King in the last two years since I become his healer!” he didn’t like the implication that he was slow, but he let it pass since the healer seemed to be losing her patience, “The THRONE is poisoning him!”

“The throne?”

“More specifically, the swords that are probably contaminated by several diseases and germs and haven’t been blunted before being made into that gods-awful seat!” He frowned and she sighed. “No one is poisoning the King; he is poisoning himself every time he seats into that death trap. His blood is already poisoned, that’s why I agreed with the Mellos on the bloodletting treatment, while I work on the wounds, so it won’t infect and gangrene until you need amputation. Either get rid of that throne or have someone blunt the swords and sterilize the throne periodically. If not for you, then for your heir. The older the blades, the more disease it can get. Sooner or later, someone is going to get tetanus or greyscale from that throne.”

“We cannot get rid of the Iron Throne, it is the symbol of the Power of our House.”

“I thought it was the dragons, Lord Hand!” The healer said with an arched eyebrow now she spotted the mocking smile and he saw a vein in his brother’s neck pulsed, probably annoyed.

“Daemon is right, we can’t get rid of the Throne. But the second option shouldn’t be so far of,” he said and looked to his brother that looked at him with a frown. “Blunt the swords, and have the throne sterilized.”

“I will arrange for a blacksmith to blunt those f*cking swords,” Daemon said after a long sigh, “How would we get the throne sterilized?”

“Boiling water and denatured alcohol, at least once a week,” Amelie said.

“Are you sure that the throne is what let my brother ill?”

“I am no god, boy, but given that the King ever rarely trains and the only cuts he gets are from the throne… I would say that it’s a 90% of chance.” The lady said. “Now, if you excuse me, Princess Selaena has requested to hear more of the Northern legends.”

The woman gave them a curtsey before leaving.

“You know… She gets too much leeway for a servant,” Daemon grumbled.

“She is a healer, in her own words: ‘the reapers won’t care if you are a king or a beggar, and a healer must not care either unless they want to let fools interfere in their work’,” he snigg*red. “Apparently, she treated someone that decided that because he was a lord, he didn’t need to hear what she said about the treatment and had to be amputated. She agreed to treat me under the condition that I don’t question her when it comes to her treatment unless I know about what I am questioning her.”

“Fair enough,” his wayward brother said with a sneer. “We know sh*t about healing beyond the first aid and that woman seems to be one that has been dealing with the arts for long enough.”

“Since she was fourteen,” Viserys commented. “Lord Stark said that she is one of the oldest healers of the shieldmaiden. Many came to her to learn her craft… If his word is to be believed she hadn’t lost a woman or babe to childbirth in twenty years. I would have liked to have met her before Aemma’s death.”

“Maybe the Stranger is afraid to have to deal with her,” Daemon said with a sardonic smirk that made him roll his eyes.

“If I didn’t know you better—” Before he could answer, someone opened the door.

“Your Grace,” Ser Steffon Darklyn started. “The Queen has requested your presence.”

“The Queen dares to summon her King as if he is her servant?” Daemon hissed and he sighed.

“Has anything happened, Ser Steffon?” he questioned with narrowed eyes.

“Apparently, Your Grace, Princess Rhaenyra helped her lady-in-waiting, Lady Dorea Westerling, elope with Ser Laenor Velaryon and Lord Velaryon is demanding reparation…” He sighed and saw as his brother chuckled.

“Now that was very unexpected,” Daemon commented.

“Was the marriage consumed?” he questioned.

“It was, apparently Princess Rhaenys and Lady Laena also helped in the elopement,” Ser Steffon answered.

“Then there is nothing that can be done about it,” his eyes rolled. “Tell Lord Velaryon that we are inviting him to a dinner tonight, and tell Alicent that I will deal with it at dinner… Where is Rhaenyra?”

“She was last seen in the training yard, your Grace, in the company of Ser Harwin Strong, Princess Alyssa, and Lady Mormont,” he nodded.

“Call her, I need to talk to her now!” he ordered.

“Yes, Your Grace, Lord Hand!” he knight said and retired.

“We will have a very interesting dinner tonight, brother,” Daemon said unable to hide his amusem*nt.

As if he had been trying to.

“Do you think that our grandfather ever had to deal with this?” He questioned Daemon who broke down in laughter, throwing himself in a chaise.

“Our Aunt Saera had run away to Lys after causing one of the biggest scandals of our family and currently is one of the Triarchs of Volantis; our Aunt Viserra tried to seduce our father after our mother’s death and got herself killed while racing in the streets of King’s Landing; and even our mother took pleasure in announcing to the Seven Kingdoms that she was ‘as bawdy a wench as any barmaid in King's Landing’, and we know that her deportment was hardly what is considered ladylike,” his brother listed the behavior of their mother and aunts. “Your daughter only helped two friends court and marry, and even so she did it with the help of the bridegroom’s mother… Compared to our grandfather, Viserys, you have it easy!”

“You shouldn’t be laughing brother; you have two daughters of your own!”

“Selaena is the perfect lady, I doubt that she will ever cause problems anywhere in the scale to any of our aunts… and Alyssa? Well, if worst comes to worst, I can always help her get rid of the bodies!”

“That is not nearly as reassuring as you thought it to be,” he sighed.

As a Queen, Selaena Targaryen, was often compared to her great-grandmother Queen Alysanne for her many social projects, except that while the Good Queen had good intentions, she more than once bowed to her husband, King Jaehaerys I, and gave in on some of her projects, conforming to the social expectations of the time. Selaena had no such compunctions, and had in her husband, King Jaehearon I, her most steady supporter. Alysanne was unsuccessful in trying to convince the Citadel to accept female acolytes, but Selaena build the first University of the Seven Kingdoms, which accepted both: men and women. This was yet another step to democratization of the knowledge production and distribution, one of the marks of the Renaissance period.

Excerpt of Renaissance: the revolution of science, politics, art, and literature during the second century of the Targaryen Dynasty, by Professor Adelia Royce of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

BRAN

He felt the magic shift in the air.

Even from the Dragonpit, he could feel Sansa’s magic in her distress. He used his third eye, the interior one that permitted him to see everything, to see what happened and if she needed help. Instead, he found her alone, laying in her bed asleep. She was trashing and turning, silently, it wasn’t the first time that Sansa had a nightmare, he knew, but it was the first time he felt her magic stir in response.

What was happening?

At this point, Sansa’s magic should be exhausted—if not for time travel, then for the years he used it, as a parasite, to protect his cousin and sisters. Yet there it was, stronger than ever, reacting to something as trivial as a nightmare. Twirling in the air creating wind when there wasn’t supposed to be one, strengthening the flames of the fireplace, and changing the atmosphere of the room.

Magic that had been dormant for the first eighteen years of its existence now wanted to be free and wild.

Bran feared that this magic would become too much for his sister, that it would drive her mad or consume her from the inside out. At the same time, he feared what this magic could mean and even what his sister could do with it.

It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Sansa, he did! But power corrupts wasn’t a saying that came from a whim, and that kind of magic was pure power. Seeing the flames climbing higher in the fireplace, Bran decided that it was time to get Sansa to start learning to control her magic before it became uncontrollable.

Now I only need to have my sister understand the volatility of her magic.

Notes:

Hello dear readers!

Hope to find you well! Let me know what you think of this chapter!

The next chapter already has a name, As time flew by us, and starts on 119, giving us an 5 years time skip. The next chapter is scheduled for August 9th, but can get out sooner if time permits me!

See you soon!

Chapter 26: As time flew by us

Summary:

Five years have passed and a lot of things have changed!

And still, some remained the same...

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

119

(…) Despite having heard so much of the Queen's beauty and all her charity work, nothing prepared me for the woman I met today. Queen Selaena is, indeed, beautiful and caring for her people, but it was her mind that dazzled me. As long as the King listens to her, I doubt that Dorne would be able to remain independent; still, I don’t think that I shall be able to resent her for long.

Excerpt of the Journal of Princess Aliandra Martell

SANSA

She placed her embroidery work on her lap to look over the training in the yard. The last five years had come with many changes in history.

For starters, Rhaenyra did marry Ser Harwin Strong instead of Ser Laenor, this way Jacaerys was indisputably a trueborn Strong, though in this lifetime he had no title of the prince since he was not in the line of succession. Lady Laena and Ser Torrhen returned after a year in Essos, with her pregnant and now they were staying in White Harbour. Alicent did give birth to Aemond and was as pregnant as Rhaenyra was now. And Jon had helped his six years old brother claim a dragon, Sunfyre, much to the Queen’s displeasure.

Jon was also part of the Small Council; after a year of acting as the cupbearer, he was finally given a seat at the table. Another good news was that Maester Mellos had finally passed away, though his journal had been published as a Chronicle of Grandmaester Mellos, by the Citadel with the authorization of the King. Sansa was sure that it was a heavily edited and glamourized version of the tales, but well…

With Jon, Aemon, and Devan back at court, Rhea felt that it was time to invite ladies to serve as her lady-in-waiting. Ever the silent prayer, each of the ladies were from important houses of their realms, and selected with the help of the lord paramount of the regions: Stormlands and Riverlands.

Boremund Baratheon chose his wife’s niece: Adrienne of Tarth, since by the year 115, his oldest granddaughter was still four years of age and therefore too young to be fostered. Adrienne of Tarth was nothing like Brienne: delicate and meek, fascinated with blades, but got pale at the first sight of blood. Well, she would need to get rid of it soon, otherwise, her moonblood would be highly inconvenient. Adrienne was also just two years older than her; her honey blonde hair was pin straight and hard to style; her eyes were the color of sapphires and she seemed to have a big crush on Prince Daemon. What really was understandable, because Daemon was fit, handsome, and charismatic, but really? Her favorite pastimes were sewing and embroidering.

Grover Tully wanted to send his own granddaughter but at finding that Celia Tully was out of the age requested by her lady mother, chose to send the Lady Minisa Mooton of Maidenpool—though really, she wasn’t sure if that was supposed to be an offense giving the history between House Targaryen and Maidenpool—the daughter of one of his most faithful Lords. She and Minisa were of the same age, but the Riverlander had brown eyes and long chestnut hair, and despite lack of any remarkable features, Minisa had a pleasing and comely face, and better yet, she seemed to enjoy reading just as much as Selaena herself.

As it was, she grew to enjoy the company of both ladies immensely, though part of her was always reminded of Jeyne Poole—her dearest Jeyne who had been taken from her by Cersei and she never saw her again—and she got a little depressed.

In these five years, Bran had also started her lessons on magic, though he made sure to emphasize, more than once, that her magic was different from what he knew. That ever since they made their way back in time, her magic had convulsed and changed and was something that he could barely truly understand, though it was something great. She scoffed at it, magic was a tool, and a tool was only as great as the one wielding it. Though she was forced to admit that hers was wilful and hard to control.

Now she was almost twelve, and despite the young age, she managed to have made a name for herself. People started calling her Good Seleana because of all her charity work and efforts to obtain education and better living conditions for the smallfolk. It helped her case, immensely, that her parents didn’t patronize her and stood behind her. Daemon, especially, understood the power behind the masses and Rhea had been raised to think that ruling was a duty and not a right. And quite surprisingly both were believers that people learned when they committed mistakes and then they let her and Arya make their decisions, within reason, when it concerned them—like how they spent their pin money, how they would dress, spend their free time, and even small projects that they took. Like Arya that had started to teach smallfolk girls from the orphanage how to fight while she was financing a seamstress to spend two hours a week teaching the same girls to sew and embroider. She knew that at least one girl had been taken as an apprentice for another seamstress after she was let go from the orphanage because of her age.

“I imagine that Prince Daemon must arrive soon, right?” Adrienne asked and she contained a sigh at her obvious excitement.

“Indeed, Kepa is due to arrive today,” with Daemon being the Lord Hand, he spent most of his time in King’s Landing, with Caraxes he had the luxury of visiting Runestone every fortnight and staying two nights before departing to work. While most fathers didn’t believe that women were as valuable as sons and therefore needed less attention, Daemon made sure to spend individual time with her and Arya, teaching them things within their interests (history and tales for her, defense, and strategies to Arya). She honestly doubted that there were many fathers that spend half the time Daemon spend with them even living full time in the same keep as their daughters.

“Is that why you are so distracted today?” Minisa asked.

“That too,” she smiled. “I am waiting for an answer from Jae that will arrive with Kepa.” Another advantage of her father's constant traveling between Runestone and King’s Landing was that he was a convenient messenger between them and Jon.

“An answer to what?”

A plan for a procession through three Kingdoms with the objective of getting to know better his lords and inspiring loyalty, though it could also be used to see the most effective way to integrate those Kingdom's economies and make them stronger, she thought dryly.

“I asked Jae if Summer and Lady could use a place other than the Dragonpit the next time we visit, Summer hate that place and it is getting cramped there now that Aegon has Sunfyre and Jacaerys’ egg hatched…” she lied through her teeth, it was easier when the information was true.

“Are we going to King’s Landing soon?” Minisa asked very excited.

“I don’t know. It was just a fanciful question,” she shrugged. When her eyes next looked to the skies above the training yard, she saw the very familiar figure of Caraxes appearing and a smile spread. “My ladies, it seems that I must greet my father,” the girls giggled at her and got up, following her through the keep until the entrance, where they found Arya and her ladies.

Caraxes landed right outside of the keep, and soon the gates were open, and they saw Daemon make his way to them. She barely restrained herself to not run to his arms like she used to do when she was small. His arms were in a safe place. But when he approached with that side-smile that she knew well, she didn’t care more for property, and neither did Arya, the two of them fell into his arms.

“Kepa,” she sighed as he kissed their heads.

“Alyssa, Selaena,” he said with the same soothing tune he used with them every time he came home.

“You reek dragon, Kepa,” Arya said when they moved away, and she smirked.

“And you reek sweat and iron, ñuha jelevre, were you training instead of studying?” he asked, well aware of their routine and Arya blushed at being caught red-handed, Signy and Griselda snorted a laugh behind them.

“I have completed my assignments,” her older younger sister said.

“I will check with Gormon,” his arched eyebrow said that he didn’t believe. “And you, ñuha prūmia, how you are?”

“I am happy for your return, Kepa,” she made a small curtsy that had him smile sweetly at her. “Did you have a pleasurable flight?”

“That I did, I don’t see your mother…”

“Muña is in a reunion with Lord Waynwood,” she answered with the sweetest smile.

Lord Waynwood had arrived two days ago with one of his sons. Sansa didn’t need to pay much attention to know that he had the objective to engage his second oldest to one of them. Would he succeed? No, but he was within his right try. Also, the trade between the two houses was traditional and they were long-standing allies after all.

“I see,” after sparing some greetings to their ladies, Daemon insisted that they entered.

They were still in early spring, and the air was rather chilly, nothing like the North, but Daemon had heavily implied more than once that Sansa’s preferred day dresses made of lightweight fabrics such as silk, muslin, and crepe were not completely adequate for the windy climates. If she didn’t find him a bit paranoid, then she would chuckle at his worry as adorable, but for some reason, people seem to think that she was made of glass.

“Kepa, do you have anything for me?”

“What do you mean, darling?” he asked, playing dumb and she narrowed her eyes. It seemed that Daemon took great amusem*nt in making them wait.

“Kepa!” she protested, and he chuckled at her while taking a letter from his pockets.

“I am still unsure of what I feel about playing raven for you and your cousin, you know,” it was a great exaggeration, and they knew it as she took the letter and smiled at him.

“You are a more convenient messenger than the Ravens, you are certainly able to carry more than them,” she pretends to not hear his ruffle of faux indignation. “Thank you for the delivery, Kepa!”

“You know, with how much you and Jae write to each other, maybe we should invest in a courier service for the two of you,” Arya said, and she rolled her eyes.

Yes, the idea of a mail service had been in her mind at some time now—ravens were just as useful as they were trained to avoid predators—and a mail service would be more affordable to the bourgeoisie and merchants who had limited access to Maesters and trained ravens. It was also a way to create a spy network that she would have to think about later.

“Kepa already travels constantly between Runestone and the Red Keep, why create a courier service for something Kepa can do with no costs?” she questioned.

“And the Hand of the King is reduced to a messenger raven by his own daughter,” he pretended to sigh, and she giggle.

“Aren’t you afraid that Kepa will end up reading whatever secrets you and Jae write each other?” Arya taunted and she heard as Adrienne and Minisa giggled behind her.

“He would find it very boring because Jae only tells me how he spends his time with his siblings!” it was a lie, of course.

Though Jon would write a lot about teaching swordplay to Aegon or reading to Helaena or playing with Aemond, between the lines had some interesting views on the everyday life of Red Keep: the increasing rift between Ser Criston and Princess Rhaenyra since she chose to marry Ser Harwin; the doting uncle that Larys Strong was to his nephew Jacaerys, the man was still enigmatic and they had no idea of what he wanted neither in the future or the past; the Queen’s increasing influence in the Faith and her finally taking a hands-on approach on her role by actively participating in the events of charity organized by the Faith, taking control over the household finances (or at least the one that was hers, her children, and Viserys) after Rhaenyra’s marriage to Ser Harwin (Was it bad taste that she was almost glad that Alicent could finally represent some challenge for her?); the rising tension between House Hightower and House Tyrell in the Reach; their plans for legislation and so on…Those details were just writing between the small accounts of the slice of life that Jon would masterfully write. Honestly, if one didn’t know what to look for, one would certainly find only some adorable stories shared between cousins.

“No promises of eternal love, Princess?” Signy questioned with an impish smirk.

“Or plans for the future?” Arya teased too, and then shy and sweet Griselda appeared behind them.

“Didn’t he promise to crown you the next Queen of Love and Beauty?”

“The three of you are terrible,” she said, with no real heat behind her words, and true fondness for the older girls.

“But they aren’t so far off,” Adrienne said behind her. “You are especially close to Prince Jaehearon.”

“That’s because our interests align, no other reason,” she defended herself.

“Aye, we believe it,” Arya teased again.

“I find it very romantic how you and Prince Jaehearon are always writing to each other,” Minisa commented with a dreamy smile, “and his letters are really long too like he spends a lot of time working on them for you.”

“He has fifteen days to answer my letter, if he sends me a two sentences answer then we have a problem, especially because I have two days and my letters are almost as long as his,” she shrugged and walk away, leaving the five other girls laughing.

The letters requesting the hands of Princesses Alyssa and Selaena increased when Princess Alyssa reached her fourteens. They arrived from all corners of the Seven Kingdoms, and more rarely, from Dorne and the Free Cities. I was really impressed with Lady Rhea ability to write the same sentence denying each and every request without injuring her wrist.

Excerpt from Runestone: the castles, lands, cities, and everything it owned, by Maester Garmon.

RHEA

Lord Waynwood was a good man. He took prodigious care of his lands and people, honored his wife, and was a fair negotiator. Unfortunately, he was also determined and stubborn. And now he was set on trying to betroth his second son: Ser Elmar to Alyssa. The young knight was handsome and gallant, and personally, Rhea thought that he could be a good match for her daughter, but long ago she and Daemon had promised to let Alyssa choose her own husband, and they would stand for this decision.

When she finally got him to understand that no, there would be no betrothal between Elmar and Alyssa, he then shifted to his third son, Ser Corban, and Selaena. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence those days, both of her daughters were heiresses to lands of considerable fortune and great potential. House Royce was the oldest and richest house of the Vale, Runestone had fertile plains to crop, ports protected from most of the sea storms, mines of copper, onyx, marble, iron, and coal, and the mountains within its dominium were good for the creation of various cattle forms. Then there was the fact that they had been Kings for over two millenniums before the Andal invasion. Enough time to build a fortune in tax collection war spoils. And Illyria Garden was a new, untested fief, but had fertile soil, a city that had started to grow despite being so young and while it didn’t have Runestone fortune, she and Daemon had allocated a small one to fill the vaults of the new castle.

The lands were already productive and from the reports on her land, they made a good income even in the Winter, yielding a fair profit. Rhea wasn’t surprised that after the initial investment in the lands, they had become independent production, being able to cover their expenses and add greatly to the efforts in building Illyria Garden and Gardenia.

“You look exhausted,” her eyes turned up from her paperwork to see Daemon waking in her solar through a secret passage that she had committed the mistake of teaching him once.

“You don’t look much better, your c*nt,” she said with narrowed eyes, and he laughed at her.

“You took your sweet time on this negotiation, I arrived almost three hours ago,” he said.

“Lord Waynwood is a good man, unfortunately, more stubborn than the average,” she sighed, and he smirked.

“What did he want?”

“To betroth one of our children to one of his,” she commented, rolling her eyes.

“The offers are increasing daily,” he said, and she arched an eyebrow. “You are not the only one they approach, you know? Lord Tully offered one of his grandsons, Lord Marbrand has a knight son, a Lord from Stormlands who is old enough to be my father, and interesting enough from the Queen.”

“Please, tell me she isn’t trying to marry Alyssa to Aegon!”

“No, even she agreed that Aegon is too young for Alyssa, though she did mention that he isn’t much younger than Selaena, she made an interesting proposal to mend the rift in Houses Targaryen and Royce,” she scoffed at his mocking tone. He walked to where she kept the wine and started to pour two glasses.

“Hm... How strange… I am not aware of a rift in need of mending between our houses, are you?” she moved to a chaise after getting her papers in order.

“Apparently she wants to marry our beautiful daughter to Gunthor Royce, the son, not the father,” Rhea rolled her eyes again while accepting the drink.

“I am impressed, she probably talked about Alyssa keeping the name Royce and how Runestone should go to a Royce and not a Targaryen,” she questioned while he sat in front of her, in another seat, popping his boot-clad feet in the table much to her displeasure.

“And how it would be unfair for Alyssa to be burdened with the ruling of the lands when she could marry someone as competent as Gunthor.”

“I am sure that she pointed it out,” she hummed. “But you disliked it.”

“Especially how she pointed it out in the middle of an informal gathering of the council, and got my brother’s attention,” she frowned at the information. “She compared the situation to the one of the succession of the Iron Throne and the Great Council, how they ruled Rhaenys out because she was not a Targaryen after she married Corlys, it was enough to make him talk to me after the gathering,” Daemon looked more annoyed than he did at the beginning of the conversation.

“Please tell me your brother didn’t suggest…”

“A weak suggestion, I reminded him that Gunthor Royce, the father, had created enough ill-will between the two sides of the family and how his words were outright treasonous and while you have enough of a heart to pretend deafness for it, it wouldn’t do well to reward them either,” he commented, and she narrowed her eyes.

“I don’t pretend to be deaf, Daemon,” she said.

“You should have let me kill him when he appeared here seventeen years ago, claiming to be the rightful heir of Runestone,” he replied with narrow eyes. “That was a treason, sweet wife, I should have fed him to Caraxes outrightly.”

“He already had an heir by the time,” she commented. “And the last thing either of us needed was his mother accusing us of being kinslayers…”

“Oh, the fossil is still alive?”

“Unfortunately,” was her only commentary regarding the woman who married her father’s cousin that had a hell of a narcissistic personality that probably was the envy of the Hightower and Lannister.

“Anyway, I also reminded my brother that the closest male heir to Runestone was Ser Willam, who is your Master-at-arms and not interested, and after him are his sons, Waymar and Gideon…”

“Waymar, who happens to be very close to our daughter?” she laughed at his grimace. Alyssa was a woman grown, already 16, flowered, beautiful, and fierce, a warrior—although an untested one—with a good heart. Still, the mere idea of her near a man, made Daemon sullen and broody. Selaena was still eleven, but she was sure that he would revolt at the idea of his “baby girl” marrying, even Jaehearon.

“How close?”

“Please Daemon, our daughter has a low tolerance for teasing and bullsh*t, but Willam’s son can pull her braids, so to speak, and still keep his hands attached. I’m pretty sure that’s proof of love,” it was her time to tease her husband.

“She is too young to be thinking about men, even Waymar!” He grumbled.

“I was married to you at thirteen and we bed when I had her age,” she rolled her eyes.

“I always thought that Child Bride would have worked as well as Bronze Bitch,” his smirk made her want to throw something at him.

“They say that woman matures before men for a reason,” she countered.

“A petty lie the men older than me use to try to relieve their guilt when they f*ck girls young enough to be their granddaughters,” his reply was a sharp one and she was forced to agree. It wasn’t that girls matured earlier; they were made to mature by society.

“Nevertheless, sixteen is the age when many young ladies marry,” Rhea commented, finishing her wine. “And if Alyssa does marry someone, I hope that will be someone closer to her age, but that is mature enough to understand the responsibilities that will befall him like she does understand the ones that will befall her.”

“I do admit that Waymar is perhaps my favorite among her suitors,” he looked pained at the admission, and she scoffed at his dramatics. “But perhaps we can broader her horizons and let her know some other men?”

“Oh, you propose a parade of knights at Runestone or a tourney?”

“Jae managed to finally convince my stubborn overprotective brother,” she stopped a moment to think of the irony, how the two brothers were more alike than they thought, “to let him have a procession to know more of the Kingdoms. He chose three: Riverlands, North, and, of course, the Vale; his two friends will accompany him, and my brother intends to have Adrian Tarbeck invited.”

“I’ve heard that Lady Tarbeck-Lefford is back at the Court?”

“She arrived in the condition to help Rhaenyra with the pregnancy. Apparently, there is a baby fever in the Red Keep,” his tone was amused, and she arched an eyebrow.

“I know that the Queen is pregnant too as was Lady Kate, but…”

“Laena returned from White Harbor spotting a belly, apparently, she is a moon or two to give birth and returned to Kings Landing to make a surprise to her mother. And early this week was confirmed that Lady Dorea Velaryon is expecting her first child.”

“Rhaenys must be over the moon,” she smiled.

“She is fretting, Lady Velaryon has some difficulty in keeping food down and Laena is very close to her due date but is still going up and down the Keep and nothing seems to be able to hold her down. My cousin is afraid that she will end up giving birth while riding Vaghar.” Rhea was unable to hold a laugh.

“So, with this baby fever, as you put it, going on, I imagine that Rhaenyra decided to ask for help to keep her charities running?” when he nodded, she frowned. “What about her other ladies? Jeyne Strong and Rowena Caswell?”

“Lady Jeyne is about to marry a Stauton, so her focus is on something similar, and Rowena is still learning the ropes, though she is as great help to Rhaenyra as her father is to me,” he admitted. “Lady Tarbeck-Lefford will stay only for a year, perhaps more if young Adrian joins Jaehearon’s procession. I know that Signy and Griselda are to return North soon, so I thought to give them this last memory together.”

“So far you gave me the name of a bunch of children: Jaehearon, Devan, and Aemon are barely fourteen—”

“Aemon Celtigar is fifteen,” Daemon interceded and she continued as if he said nothing.

“Adrian Tarbeck is eleven; our daughter, Griselda, and Signy are, respectively, 16, 17, and 18. So you better give me the name of at least one responsible adult that will head this party, or I am not supporting it,” she said, clearly and with narrowed eyes.

“My brother designed Steffon Darklyn and Rickard Thorne to accompany the boys, I am sure that Alyssa’s sworn shield, Ser Luthor can be counted as a ‘responsible adult’, moreover, Viserys determined that an official of the court shall be sent with them, and the names that appeared are Bryden Tully and Mace Blackbar. And of course, there will be twenty Targaryen men, as well as twenty gold cloaks to this party.”

“I will agree if plans are made to include Waymar and another 10 Royce men,” she smirked.

“As if Viserys would dismiss more guards to his son's party,” Daemon countered.

“Interesting that you didn’t seek to include Selaena on this trip,” Rhea pointed out.

“Selaena is eleven, she won’t be traipsing around the realm before she is sixteen,” he commented, and she rolled her eyes. “I also doubt that you would accept including her for the very same reason.”

“Still, it would be a good make-do to make her closer to Jae,” and then he smirked.

“And the parents of her ladies in waiting would love for a chance of their daughters going on a journey with the crown Prince… Alyssa can handle herself well, Selaena is less adventurous.”

“You know, if you keep treating her like glass, she might one day cut you,” Rhea warned, and he scoffed.

Prince Jaehearon started to attend the Small Council at the age of twelve, to the surprise of many, given that most heirs would only start to work with their fathers around their sixteenth name-day. Still, every lord of the Small Council had naught but praises to the young prince. Lord Beesbury complimented his organizational skills, Lord Velaryon his strategic mind, and Maester Orwyle his eloquence; and Lord Strong commented on some youthful naivete, but good intention. It was clear that whenever his father passed, Jaehearon would be more than ready to assume his position.

Excerpt of The Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric Tollet

JON

Today completed two years since he had been allowed to join the Small Council meetings, his father would look at him with utmost pride, but sometimes all he wanted was to scream at the men, and woman, at the table.

Lord Commander, Harrold Westerling, was the less troublesome of the lot. Of course, he would put on some complaints on how he and Rhaenyra seemed to live to make his work more difficult by their many outings in the poorer areas of the city, but there was some underlying pride at recounting their work on the small folk.

Lord Beesbury, bless his soul, it was time for the man to retire and let Tyland assume. Gods! He was stingy. He was a good man, with a good heart, but he liked to hold the keys to the coins and would always try to minimalize all the expenses. Never mind that since Uncle Daemon had assumed the position of the Hand, the tax revenues had doubled. Though considering how his father liked to use the crown money in tourneys, feasts, and balls, Jon could understand the man’s desperation to get a better hold on their finances.

Larys Strong had recently taken the position of the Master of Whispers. Bran had warned them that the man was most likely a warg, and Arya confirmed that the rats on the Red Keep were more likely his spies. The man would bring some news from every corner of the Kingdom and beyond, and sometimes Larys would bring some information to him—especially—and sometimes to Alicent. Jon simply couldn’t figure out the man’s reasoning.

Lord Lyonel Strong was sometimes too inflexible and the idea to send criminals to the Wall, something that started with his great-grandfather, was getting on his nerves. The Wall was supposed to be a noble call, not a penitence, no surprise that it had such a bad reputation in the future. Jon still had work to do, to make sure that the Wall would not be used as a penitentiary for the criminal, and for that, he needed Sansa and probably his father’s seat, as Viserys was so against change legislation put in place by Jaehaerys.

Ever since Grandmaester Mellos death, the one sent to occupy the position was Maester Orwyle. The man was not unintelligent, obviously, but he was so set by some strictures that made him someone difficult to learn. Jon had also spent time thinking about the Citadel’s saying in the rule of the Kingdom, and decided that it was something he would change, a position that was unnecessary, in his opinion.

Corlys had soured a little after the whole debacle of Laenor’s marriage. He expected the King to annul the marriage between Laenor and Dorea—and that he had to admit, he never saw it coming—so that Laenor would marry Rhaenyra. Of course, it didn’t happen, which only made him resentful. Because of this, he was now making everyone’s job harder. Tyland’s brilliant proposal to create a Navy Watch on their western shores to protect them against Ironborn attacks had been put on suspension because he was nitpicking every detail and trying to stall it in retaliation, much to Jon’s annoyance. It wasn’t that Jon thought him a bad man, but sometimes his ambitions rub him in the wrong way.

And finally, Daemon. He was, undoubtedly, a good Hand. He liked to be involved in every f*cking detail and liked to work on as many projects. The problem was: he was as subtle as a drunk Robert Baratheon with a Warhammer. He thought that he was rough around the edges, but his uncle was worse. Oh, he could be subtle when he wanted, but that was it: Daemon didn’t want to be subtle, which was enough to create more friction with Alicent that now has come to sit on the Council—though now with an advanced pregnancy, she had retired herself.

“Moving on to the next point,” his father said after Daemon had enough of wearing his patience. “Jaehearon’s procession will start in two moons, Daemon, I believe that you have something about it?”

“Indeed, brother Rhea and I permitted Alyssa to join the party—”

“What about Selaena?” he asked, interrupting his uncle.

“She is too young to be traipsing around the realms without me or Rhea,” he said with an arched eyebrow. “Alyssa is older and wiser,” he held back the urge to scoff at his uncle, “and shall be able to keep with you and keep you out of problem. We will also use this procession to return Griselda and Signy to their families, as their time with us is coming to an end. Rhea will send Ser Luthor Tyrell and another ten Royce guards to compose the security and I have already appointed the Targaryen men that will follow. Lord Celtigar also wants to send 10 men to accompany them, since his heir’s heir is going. Lady Tarbeck-Lefford agreed in letting her son, Adrian, join the party, but on the condition of 10 Tarbeck swords accompany them. Lord Commander?”

“As it was decided, Sers Steffon Darklyn and Rickard Thorne shall accompany Prince Jaehearon and Ser Harwin gave another twenty gold cloaks to accompany the prince in this progress…”

“Seventy men, two Kingsguard, Alyssa’s sworn shield, and two dragons? Father, that’s ridiculous! How am I to make a procession with a small army at my back?”

“Three scores are hardly a small army, Jaehearon,” Viserys said with an arched eyebrow. “And I remember agreeing to this procession on the condition that you would have enough protection.” He tsked with his tongue but didn’t protest again. Gods old and new knew how it had been difficult to convince the King to let him go on traipsing around the realms, as his uncle would put it. The last thing he needed was Viserys holding back because of fearing something would happen to him. He observed his uncle’s amusem*nt.

“Think of this, this way, nephew: 10 men are sent on the exclusive protection of Adrian Tarbeck, 11 men and a dragon will be sent with the exclusive protection of Alyssa, 10 for Aemon Celtigar, and only 42 on yours,” Daemon said with eyes gleaming in amusem*nt. “At any rate, you should also remember that there will be other people there for all these guards to protect; Devan Reyne is going with you, and Signy and Griselda are going with Alyssa. Between you, them, the guards, and the servants, your party will be about a hundred people.” He couldn’t help but growl in frustration but held back the urge to plant his face on the wooden table. “You didn’t think that we would simply let you put some clothes on your back and roam through the kingdoms with only Ghost and your two friends, did you, my prince?

“It certainly would be more fun,” he answered, and his father rolled his eyes. “You did it, uncle!”

“I was the heir of nothing, you are the first in line to the Iron Throne;” was his uncle’s counterargument. A difficult one to contradict.

“I have already drafted a spending order considering that the prince would have half and a hundred men accompanying him,” he looked at Lord Beesbury with some disbelief. “I also considered the itinerary proposed by the Prince, though I really don’t see why he would need to stop at the Wall.”

“A Wall of Ice, 700 feet high and with the design to protect the realm of men? That is living history!” He answered.

“I really don’t know where this adventurous streak comes from,” Viserys muttered and Uncle Daemon rose an eyebrow.

“Princess Alyssa and Prince Baelon? Prince Aemon? Prince Daemon? Aegon, the Conqueror? Queen Visenya? I can keep going on, but I am pretty sure that we can trace the adventurous streak that runs in the Targaryen blood back to Old Valyria,” Corlys Velaryon rolled his eyes. “The Wall is a cold place, my prince, if you need adventure, I suggest Summer Isles.”

“If I thought for a second that my father would agree to see me leaving the shores of Westeros, I would rather visit Sothoryos,” he said answered. At the same time, a messenger entered the council chamber, obviously rattled, behind him Ser Steffon looking almost as agitated.

“What is the meaning of this?” His father questioned with a frown.

“I am sorry, Your Grace, Your Highness,” the messenger said bowing to them. “We received an urgent raven from Runestone.” He felt himself stiffen at the claim and looked to see that Daemon was not looking amused anymore.

“Well… Has something happened to my sister or my nieces?” his father probed.

“As of two days ago, at the third hour, fifty ships attacked the Port of Runesport.”

Notes:

Hello Dear Readers!

I made it again! Posted before my deadline! 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

Let me know what you think of this chapter!

Now, some of you might have already perceived it, but the next chapter is all about the Attack on Runestone. Are you anxious? My next deadline is August 23rd . Till there!

Chapter 27: Come fire, come rain

Summary:

The attack on Runestone comes to disrupt their peace.
And in King's Landing, Jon needs to be distracted from brooding too much!
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Also, let us talk about realist goals.

Notes:

Chapter's name comes from this music: Unstoppable - Hidden Citizens
Also, link to the Tumblr with images/aesthetics related to the chapter: https://anawayne.tumblr.com/post/725452791854825472/in-the-119-ac-runesport-was-attacked-by-pirates

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Ancient Fire - AnaWayne - Multifandom [Archive of Our Own] (1)

119

Princess Alyssa happened to be in the city when Runesport was attacked and was caught up in the fight alongside her ladies. The smallfolk reports made them out akin to revengeful goddesses that cut down the enemy invaders to protect their city and for that, they were awarded the title of Shields of Runestone. Their action also made it easier for other ladies in the South, especially those of First Men blood, to start fighting without being judged too harshly by their peers, though the Andal still disliked them strongly.

Excerpt of A history of women in the warfare, by Professor Alys Karstark of the Royal University of Wintertown

ARYA

Ever since she, Signy, and Griselda started to teach the girls of the orphanage how to fight, Waymar started to work on the boys’ orphanage with the same intent. After all, the City’s Watch was always looking for recruits. So, every fifth day of the week, they would descend from the Keep together with just some guards to accompany them and go to the orphanages. People would look at them with mixed feelings. Some approved of their intent to create opportunities for the unfortunate children, but there were those that disapproved of the idea of women fighting and didn’t take with kind eyes what she was doing.

If she perceived that most of these eyes belonged to the members of the Faith or the owners of brothels, she didn’t show it. Still, these girls from the orphanage had started their own businesses, with high access to education, and training in defense, they started to offer services as lady’s maids for several merchants that travel with their families or even some minor noble ladies that couldn’t afford sworn shields.

Sansa’s idea of having seamstress to teach girls their craft also show results, now that they could look to work under the seamstresses of the city or in genteel or rich families. It gave them more opportunities than just working in inns, bars, and brothels, which were the main places where the girls from the orphanage would find occupations. These girls deserved better.

“Alright girls,” Signy said with a proud smile at their girls. “I think that is enough for today.”

“Thank you, my lady,” the girls said in unison and Alyssa smiled.

“I am exhausted,” she said, throwing herself at Griselda’s back, passing my arms around her neck without squeezing it.

“Of what? Watching me and Griselda do half of the work?” Signy questioned with an arched eyebrow, unimpressed, if she pouted, well…

“Don’t be like this, Sig, you know that she made her part,” Griselda said. “If a bit distracted.”

“I miss shy, squeaky Griselda,” she muttered.

“Liar, liar, pants on fire!” the older girl said. “Now can you get out of my back? You’re heavy!”

“The two of you are so mean!”

“And yet you love us,” Signy rolled her eyes. “Come on, we have to go back to the castle, I need a bath!” she said.

“We all do!” she answered with an impish smile. They were all sweaty of the exercise. “I would like to pass through the market, I promised to take a mauve satin for Selaena.”

“What on the seven hells is mauve?” Signy asked and she shrugged.

“Some shade of purple I think,” Arya answered, uncaring.

“You know with the speed she keeps on doing clothes, she is going to get Runestone’s seamstress without of a job,” Griselda commented.

“I don’t know, she makes a lot of clothes and quilts for the smallfolk, she might make our fabric suppliers run dry though,” Signy teased.

“At least she has the talent to back her,” Griselda sighed. “I wished I could do a dress that easily.”

“And her clothes always have a good destination!” she said to her ladies, that agreed easily.

They walked down the streets to the marketplace where the warehouses and stores were located. Ser Luthor and another three guards followed them. Some stalls from traveling merchants were settled around a big plaza near the port, but Sansa always reminded her to give preference to the local merchants, so she walked into a warehouse that she knew was among Sansa’s preferred places to buy. The vendor, a middle-aged woman of a dark complexion immediately recognized them and attended them.

Arya paid attention to what the woman was saying, not that she understood much of the fabrics. She was negotiating the price when she heard the bells. It didn’t sound like the Bell’s Sept announcing noon.

“It is not noon, yet, is it?” she asked Signy, but before the girls could respond one of the guards that had accompanied them, entered the store.

“Princess, Ser Luthor, the city is being attacked!” he said, serious. “We need to escort the ladies to somewhere safe.”

“What do you mean attacked?” Alyssa demanded and the guard looked at her for a second, probably to remind himself that she was not a defenseless lady. “Well?”

“Some ships anchored to our port; the men there started to attack our people. They are resounding the City’s Watch alarm, now!” the man said, and she turned to her friends.

“Then we have to go!”

“But Princess—” Ser Luthor started and she interrupts him.

“I am the heiress of Runestone, I will not run and hide when I can fight those invaders!” she said.

“And look, we are even properly dressed,” Signy said, pointing to their light leather armor and breeches, the clothes that they would use to teach the girls in the orphanage.

“And armed, though that is more dumb luck than preparation,” Griselda said, indeed, they would not usually use live steel when training, but for some reason they had decided to show them a spar between them.

“Your mother is going to kill me if something happens to you,” he said with narrowed eyes. “Any of you.”

“They are attacking my city,” she replied.

“Seven! You are as stubborn as your lady mother!” the knight said. “Your father is going to feed me to Caraxes!”

“Thank you!” she said.

“You won’t get out of my f*cking sight!” he said.

“But Ser!” the knight said.

“You are a fool if you think that anyone can stop her from doing something she puts her mind to,” Ser Luthor said.

Well, at least my sworn shield knows me enough. She thought to herself before stepping outside. Some of the men of the City’s Watch were trying to evacuate the civilians, it wasn’t neatly done, but more than she could expect.

Soon they observed as the invaders moved. They were moving and soon the swords clashed. The smell of iron, blood and smoke invade her senses and she took a firmer hold on her sword, a finely made long sword with runes engraved on the two sides of the blade, one with Valyrian words for Fire and Blood, and the other with the first men’s words for We Remember. It was a state-of-art sword, and the ruby pommel alone was a fortune apart. Her uncle really did know how to gift a girl!

When she blocked the first blow of an invader, she felt as if something set her blood on fire. Blow after blow, she would knock men that attacked her. An eye on her friends, another on the hostile army.

“What the f*ck are you doing here princess?” she spared a small glance to the origin of the voice, not that it was needed, she could recognize Waymar’s voice anywhere.

“Why? Don’t you see that I am having a picnic with Sig, Gree, and all those lovely folk?” her reply was pure sarcasm, but it seemed that he liked it.

“You are hopeless, you know that?”

“Oh, shut it!”

He protected her from a blow, and she returned the favor by taking the hand of a man that tried to attack him from behind. They made a good match, one protecting the other’s back. And she didn’t know how long she had been there, fighting man after man, ignoring her own injuries before she heard someone ordering a retreat.

“Dragon incoming!” one of the invaders screamed and she only could confirm it when a shadow passed over her. With a small glance, she confirmed that it was Bran, flanked by Lady and Nymeria.

“Get Them!” she ordered.

She knew that Sansa wouldn’t burn the men in the city, only the ones in the port. She would only destroy the ships and those inside. That meant that they had to apprehend the men before they could escape the city.

There was no way she would let those bastards get away from what they have done!

Arya ran from side to side with the man of the City’s Watch. Waymar, took control over them easily after the Commander recognize who they were. Arya wasn’t particularly sore about it, as she preferred the liberty to go where she wanted while Waymar was the ‘go to’ guy of the moment. She helped them apprehend many men.

“Alyssa, thanks Gods, I found you!” Waymar said when she returned with the other men she found that had tried to escape.

“Waymar, no need to be so dramatic! I had Ser Luthor with me all the time!” she said and the knight behind her growled, unimpressed with her.

“It’s your mother,” suddenly all her playfulness evaporated, and she felt a grip on her stomach. “Some of the men tried to escape using her as a hostage, Nymeria and Lady killed them, but Lady Rhea has a broken arm.”

“How have they got so close to her?”

“The guards got distracted when Princess Selaena fainted as she was dismounting Summer. She was hit by a poisoned arrow when she was burning their ships. Thankfully Griselda had some anti poison that is holding her as she is transported back to Runestone. And have you perceived that your head is bleeding?”

“Yes, she was thrown back on the ground,” Signy said behind her “Probably have a concussion right now.”

“And you are running up and down the city?” he questioned.

“Well, is not like I can sleep, is it?”

Sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Signy, Ser Luthor, escort her to the castle, please.”

“You don’t give me orders Waymar Royce!” Arya hissed. Unfortunately, long was the time she could look him in the eyes without having to look up, but the annoying boy just had to get up to six feet tall.

“When you are acting carelessly with your health and well-being, I do!” he hissed back. “Your mother has a broken arm, your sister has been shot with a poisoned arrow, and you have a concussion. I can take care of the remaining problems.”

“I won’t let these men escape after what they did to my people!”

“Then trust me to have them imprisoned. They will face justice, but you need to be seen by a Maester. Now!”

“You are hurt too, are you going to get seen by a Maester too?”

“I am not poisoned, nor do I have a concussion or a broken bone, my injuries are mostly some cuts and bruises. And for your information: Griselda was giving first aid to the injured and gave me permission to continue. Go home Alyssa, you need to get healed and rest.”

“Don’t forget that you need it too,” she gave in.

For some reason, she always gave in to him.

The aftermath of the attack in Runestone was dealt with by Lady Rhea with Maestri. She organized for the smallfolk to receive medical care, made sure that every invader was put out, and kept order even when she should be taking care of herself.

"I am the Lady of Runestone," she said, "How can I rest after this attack, when my people are full of uncertainty and insecurity? It is my duty to my people to see to their needs first, and then to mine."

Excerpt from Runestone: the castles, lands, cities and everything it owned, by Maester Garmon.

RHEA

Four days after the attack, they still haven’t got an answer from the pirates. Why have they attacked? Who they were? What did they want? However, things started to get back to normal.

Rhea’s day started with the resolution of a conflict in the city that took longer than she had expected, and because of it she had decided to wait for Alyssa and her girls to finish their teaching at the gates. There wasn’t much market near the gate, but she took her time seeing some craftmanship when the alarm bells had rung. The troops started to organize readily and soon a runner came from the port, stating what had happened.

From there, chaos was ensured. As she helped with the evacuation to the shelters, she sent Waymar to look for Alyssa. It didn’t take long to see Summer, Lady in Nymeria flying above their heads and then she saw as smoke rose in the air and she felt pride. Then Summer returned, flying lower than Lady and Nymeria, and she perceived that her sweet daughter was hurt. As Selaena fell from the dragon, three of the men captured used the distraction to grab her to try to ramson his escape.

Her arm still hurt like a bitch, but with it was more bearable than it had been when the man grabbed her. Still when whor*son grabbed her arm back and used enough force to fracture it, all she could do was stare at her Selaena. Her little princess who had heard the alarming bells and rode at Summer’s back to destroy the ships; as brave as her sister, jumped from Summer with an arrow craved in her arm and she fainted in Ser Malik’s arms. She had been so worried that she didn’t perceive when Nymeria took the man from behind and killed him.

She barely paid enough attention to herself as she questioned what was happening! Gods, Griselda has been an angel! Thanks to her training as a shieldmaiden, she recognized the poison on the arrow and immediately demanded a thing that could be used to retard the poison until a proper antidote could be administered. But seeing her daughter in pain, pale and bloody made her heart stop for a moment.

Most of the damage was contained to the port area, close to the market area, where she later learned that Alyssa had been fighting. Her oldest daughter had earned herself a concussion. As it was, Selaena had been saved from the poison, though she would have a scar on her arm for the rest of her life. And she was being treated.

“You should be resting,” she recognizes the dangerous voice from her husband and just rolled her eyes, even if she knew he couldn’t see her, as she still faced the shelf in the library.

“I promised my staff that the next one who said that I should be resting would be sent to the pillory for the next two hours. I will let this one pass since you weren’t here when I said that, but let it be a warning.” He scoffed and she turned to him.

“Rhea, you have a broken arm!”

“It isn’t broken, it’s merely fractured,” his eyes bored into her and she saw the hidden storm behind them. He was enraged, and not at her answer. Though it certainly didn’t help.

“Alyssa ran around the city after suffering a concussion, even being weak after being poisoned Selaena decided to take a flight on Lady. And you, who should be resting are here in the library, definitely not resting. Are all Royce women so careless with their health?”

“It is lovely that when we displease you, we are referred to as Royce women and not Targaryen Princesses. Especially when I remember, clearly, that half of their stubbornness comes from you,” she said, reaching for a book with her good arm, he took it first. “Now you are being childish! And I really should send you to the pillory.”

“Rhea, take the book, go to your room, and rest. You need it!”

“No! They attacked my people, Daemon! My daughters.

Our daughters,” his voice was thundering. “And they are not going to get away with it, Rhea, I promise! But you need to rest. You look exhausted, Willam and Edgen told me that you haven’t slept since the attack.”

“Selaena was so weak Daemon, I couldn’t—” he interrupted her, carefully pulling her close to him. She didn’t register that there were tears falling from her eyes until he wiped away one of them.

“Selaena is strong. She might not be like Alyssa that brandies swords and daggers and could easily take out many men in a fight, but she is not weak.”

“I was so scared when she fainted,” she confessed, and he embraced her.

“She is safe now, I promise,” he murmured in her ear. “So is Alyssa. Waymar, Signy, and Griselda are also fine. But you need to rest.”

“We still don’t know who they were, why they attacked, they target… I can’t rest before knowing that it is over, Daemon.” She sounded frantic, but she didn’t care.

“Let me take care of it, Rhea. I will find answers, you can rest now… No one will hurt you now,” he promised, his voice soothed her, and she let herself cry in the safety of his embrace. “I will make sure it is over.”

Over the centuries, House Targaryen has produced both great men and monsters. Prince Daemon was both. In his day there was not a man so admired, so beloved, and so reviled in all Westeros. He was made of light and darkness in equal parts. To some, he was a hero, to others the blackest of villains.

Excerpt from The Rogue Prince, Maester Gyldayn

DAEMON

After ensuring that his wife was tucked on her bed, finally resting after three sleepless nights, Daemon walked to the cells where the captured men were being kept.

It has been some time since anyone had awakened a hate that strong within him. But just remembering the state he found his wife and daughters was enough to make him want to burn every single one of them alive. Selaena and Alyssa received him. His oldest daughter was still hovering over the youngster, with reason since Selaena was paler than normal, it wasn’t to say that she was unscarred. There was a discreet cut on Alyssa’s forehead, barely hidden by her hairline, that had been sewing together, some of her bruises were still there and her graceful fluidity had been replaced by some minute stiffness in movement that betrayed her pain with every odd movement.

And Rhea… His wife was so alert and exhausted and scared. It wasn’t the attack that had her so angsty, but the fact that Selaena had been harmed. They had always been prepared to Alyssa’s eventual harm and pain, she was, after all, very much like Visenya and would never run from a fight. But Selaena? Their youngster was so soft, and gentle and should never have been hurt beyond the small needle prickle on her fingers every here and now. She wasn’t made for battles; she was made for a throne.

He found the captured men in the cells, cramped all together, disarmed, with the only light source beyond their reach. Most men had been killed outright, and of the half thousand pirates that attacked the city, only some fifty had survived to see the inside of Runestone cells. Though they would never see the outside of it again. He knew that they had very limited food and water, and some already looked haunt and ready to die. But Daemon wasn’t ready to let them die.

No, not yet.

He needed answers. And they need to pay.

They would understand why his enemies called him Maegor reborn.

These men would pray to death.

But death would be a relief they would only be granted at his will.

He smirked at seeing the scene: in front of the cells, he had a chair placed there with heavy metal shackles to secure the subject in place. A table had many instruments carefully laid down out of reach of the cells and the person who would sit at the chair.

Daemon walked to where the instruments were and took a wicked-looking dagger, moving the blade to make sure it would reflect in the torchlight.

“You attacked a fief of the Vale, one of the Seven Kingdoms under the Targaryen rule. You killed around three hundred men and women of this land, children among them. And more importantly, you harmed my family. Make no mistakes, all of you will die here in these cells. To the whole world, you are already dead. Your only mercy right now is that you can choose between a slow and painful death or a fast and mostly painless one.”

He looked at the faces all of them looked haunt, but while some tried to put on a brave face, there was no fun in breaking those that were already broken, so he chose the most defiant one he could find.

“We will start with you.”

When the news of the attack of Runestone reached the Red Keep, two days have already passed. Prince Daemon flew the very same day to his wife's keep to guarantee his daughter's safety and well-being. Rumors around the Red Keep said that Prince Jaehearon had to be restrained to not join him on this trip.

Excerpt of Scandals of Red Keep, by Maester Elman -- Recuperated copy

JON

The same day they received a raven with the information on the attack on Runestone, a second raven arrived. Barely minutes before his uncle left the Red Keep. This one missive announced the end of the attack, with calmer descriptions of what happened and the account of the injuries.

His mind worked on all the historical facts that he could think of. But no, he could not remember any attack in Runestone at this time. Not on the scales related. Fifty ships. At least half and a thousand invaders, that is of course, counting only the heads they were able to get, he supposed that there were more on the ships and even had been able to escape. Was it an effect of something they changed? But why would they attack Runestone? What caused that change?

News arrived again soon after Daemon arrived in Runestone. He decided to put every one of the attackers to the sword. No offer for them to join the Black or redemption, and Jon wasn’t exactly sad by it. Not when Arya had a concussion and Sansa had been poisoned.

“You are broody,” he turned and found Rhaenyra standing at the secret entrance of his solar as he was reading some reports he had been working on. She looked radiant in the black and white dress, with her four moons pregnant belly marking her waistline.

“I am not.”

“You are, and don’t try to deny it. You are broody because Father won’t let you jump at Ghost’s saddle and fly to Runestone,” she said and moved to sit next to him. “Selaena is fine.”

“She was poisoned.”

“And she burned the f*cker who did it to her, along with many of the men that attacked her home,” there was something akin to pride in his sister’s voice that made him sigh. Figures that burning a fleet down would be something to gather pride from a Targaryen. “And you heard the messenger, she has been treated and is out of risk, no sequels are expected, and she is already running up and down the castle.”

“I hate when you are being rational,” he said, and she looked affronted.

“I will have you know, sweet brother, that I am always rational!” as he scoffed at that she threw a pillow at him.

“Attacking the crown prince, mandia, you know that it is treason, right?” he teased.

“Are you going to tell the guards to arrest a pregnant woman?” she teased back. Rhaenyra smiled and then they watched Ser Steffon enter the room, an arched eyebrow and resigned expression at seeing Rhaenyra there, knowing well that she came through a secret passage.

“Prince Aegon to see you, Your Highness,” the Kingsguard said, and Rhaenyra groaned.

“Send my brother in,” he answered and soon saw as the young, six years old prince enter his room, looking at him with worried violet eyes. “Morning Egg.”

“Aegon,” Rhaenyra said, gone was her playful disposition and instead of the loving eyes, her gaze was now there that uncomfortable coldness that she reserved for Alicent and everyone associated with the Queen.

He understood her, and from a historical point of view, he knew that Aegon could be capable of great cruelties, but now he was only a boy that was neglected by his mother, ignored by his father, and treated with contempt by his elder sister. He didn’t deserve that. No child did.

“Jae! Mother said that you were not feeling fine,” he said in a small voice, looking warily at Rhaenyra and running to him and sitting at the other side, almost hiding from Rhaenyra. “Is it because of what happened to cousins Alyssa and Selaena?”

“I am angry at what happened at them, yes,” he said.

“But they are good now, right?”

“I would like to see it for myself,” the admission wasn’t hard. “I miss them.”

“Me too,” Egg said with a pouty voice. “Lys always teaches me the best tricks with daggers and Lena tells the best stories, and she is very pretty.”

He smiled at his young brother. “That she is…” he said in a calm voice.

“Gods, when will they simply announce to the Seven Kingdoms the engagement between you two?” Rhaenyra sneered at her other side.

“There’s no engagement,” he said.

“Not yet,” she answered.

“Jae, if you marry Lena, she will come live with us?” Egg questioned.

“She would,” it was the warmest answer Rhaenyra had given Aegon in, well, probably the boy’s complete life. “Would you like that, Aegon?”

“Yes, Lena is a Targaryen, she should be living here with us!” his brother answered energetically, looking a little puzzled by Rhaenyra's sudden change of humor towards him.

“Well, historically, Targaryen should live in Dragonstone,” he said rolling his eyes.

“We should?” Aegon asked and his head tilt was a little too adorable. “Mother dislikes Dragonstone, but I like it there, and Sunfyre like it there too!”

“I would imagine that he likes the freedom,” he answered.

“Does Lena like Dragonstone too?”

“She thinks that Dragonstone is dark and is not overly fond of the sulfur smell, but she likes the beaches,” Jon smiled, remembering what Sansa had once told him about Dragonstone.

“You like it too, Rhaenyra?” Aegon questioned her, a bit uncertain of her answer and he looked at his sister, pleading her with his eyes to be kind to him.

“It makes me feel at home,” she admitted, attending his silent request.

“Helly likes the bugs she finds there, but I don’t like bugs,” he said, taking Rhaenyra’s kind answer with enthusiasm to continue.

As he listened his young brother happily babble away, in the company of Rhaenyra, he relaxed a little. Aegon was good at making him forget his worries and seeing him and Rhaenyra relaxed made him hope that they could mend this fracture in the family.

Despite what one might think, Princess Rhaenys didn't hold on a grudge against her cousins Viserys I and Prince Daemon forever. Her resentment got smaller as she grew closer to her nieces Rhaenyra, Alyssa, and Selaena, and nephew Jaehearon. For Princess Selaena, though, she had some deep fondness that made the two of them very close. It didn't surprise anyone when she had been one of the steadiest supporters of the match between Selaena and Prince Jaehearon.

Excerpt of The Queen Who Never Was: the life and time of Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, by Maester Gyldayn

RHAENYS

To dine with her cousin’s family was a patience test. Well, Viserys’ family at least. Daemon’s had some back-and-forth bickering between him and his wife, but there was real respect between the parts and there was something harmonious in their arguments. The same couldn’t be said about Viserys’ family. Jaehearon was a delight and Aegon seemed to always be following his lead. Rhaenyra had a cold war going on with Alicent ever since her former friend sneaked into Viserys’ bed, and the two of them were always exchanging barbs at the dinner table. Viserys seemed to have given up controlling the two of them.

Then she had to deal with Corlys. Wasn’t he a man that could hold a f*cking grudge? After five years he was still annoyingly upset with the marriage between Dorea and Laenor. He was furious with Rhaenyra for having helped the “ruse” between the two of them. He was furious that she and Laena had helped the marriage to happen. Was furious that Laenor “chose” a nobody—as if Dorea was the daughter of a chambermaid in Silk Street and not the daughter of one of the Lords of House Westerling, one of the oldest houses of the Westerlands—. Furious with Viserys for not overstepping and annulling the marriage… He was furious and made sure that everyone knew it.

Like a child denied their favorite toy.

“What a terrible experience it ought to be, to be poisoned,” the Queen said when the talk reached, again, the attack of Runestone. “Did they identify the poison?”

“Indeed, Lady Wull was able to identify it and administer a common antigen to counteract. Thanks to her rapid thinking, the Maester of Runestone believes that there will be no sequels left,” there was a forced smile on the Queen’s face after receiving the King’s answer.

Knowing how strongly Queen Alicent argued that Jaehearon should be engaged to Princess Helaena, Rhaenys wouldn’t be surprised if someone told her that Alicent had been praying for Selaena’s death, or at least a lasting damage that would make her an improper contender for a Queen.

“And Lady Mormont and Alyssa helped to fight the invaders off, right cousin?” she asked Viserys.

“Indeed, Daemon wrote that he was torn between killing Alyssa’s sworn shield or giving him a bonus, for letting her enter the fight,” the king said, with a frown and Rhaenys leaned back at her chair.

“The man should be dismissed for letting a Princess get in such a dangerous predicament,” Rhaenys eyes rolled, was her comment born of real worry for Alyssa or for the rivalry between House Hightower and House Tyrell?

“I think the man deserves a bonus for knowing his charge well,” Rhaenys said after a while.

“For letting his charge run towards danger?” Corlys questioned.

“You fought alongside Daemon, husband, do you think you could stop him from doing whatever he wanted?” Rhaenys questioned and she saw as he considered her words. “Ser Luthor, I believe, showed sensible reasoning and a set of realistic expectations. If he tried to stop Alyssa from fighting, she would find a way of sneaking off to fight on her own, by letting her fight, he kept her at his side where he could protect her.”

“An unorthodox method of protection,” Viserys said.

“Father, Cousin Alyssa has always been a fighter,” Jaehearon said with a frown. “It took me three years to start to best her at sword fighting and I will pay a hundred gold dragon to the knight that is able to take down Signy in a fair fight.”

“That is unseeing, Ladies and Princesses shouldn’t fight!” Alicent protested.

“It is part of the North culture and customs for ladies and princesses to fight. And Alyssa is also part of Valyrian, where women were used to have more equity rights. Did you know that in Valyria women could ask for divorces and be granted the integrity of her dowry at the end of the marriage?” Rhaenys observed as Viserys looked at his son with some fondness.

“That might have been true in Valyria, but here is Westeros. And the North culture is so backward that they are barely better than the horse lords of Essos,” as Alicent sprout her prejudice Rhaenys adjusted herself in her chair.

“Do you think so, Your Grace? Because it was the backward North, as you put it, that has been able to treat my cousin’s, your husband’s, disease without having to remove any limbs, while all the advanced knowledge of the Citadel couldn’t come up with any treatment other than amputation,” Rhaenys said. She had always felt gratitude towards the North for supporting her in their integrity in the Great Council of 101, and Queen or not, Alicent’s prejudice had no place.

“Alicent, that was unnecessary! The North may not be as sophisticated as the South, but they are part of the Seven Kingdoms and are part of my people!” Viserys said with a frown and a strict tone. He wasn’t happy with his wife either.

“I am not trying to offend, husband, but the North should keep their customs within their borders, not try to force them on us,” Rhaenys scoffed. She had studied enough of Westeros, all right, she knew exactly who tried to enforce their culture on who. “There is a right, natural order, for things to follow after all.”

“Then maybe, it is time for a new order,” Jaehearon said with an impish smile that made Rhaenys smile. She imagines if her small cousin would change the order or would fall in line like old Jaehaerys and Alysanne did.

I hope not.

Magic has always been a sensitive topic. Some cultures, like the Valyrian, the First Men, and Qartheen, believed that magic was a gift from gods; something born of devotion. Each celebrated their magic users in their own way. Other cultures, like the Andal, Dothraki, and Ghiscari, had some fear of magic that came from their own beliefs that magic is something one can only do through human sacrifice, making pacts with "evil" entities or stealing from gods, those cultures condemn magic users, guilty or innocent. However weak magic has been in the last centuries, ever since the Doom of Valyria, it is undeniable that it still exists and while some want it to last, others want it gone. But the question remains: what happens when magic is gone?

Excerpt of The History of Magic: myths and facts, by Archmaester Kyrie

SANSA

As she sat on her room, alone, she tried to do the breathing exercises that Bran taught her. For three years she had been able to control her magic like Bran wanted her, for years she had managed to avoid accidental bursts, even when she was sleeping. Yet, all her hard work had been gone in one day.

The moment she got on Bran’s back that morning, she started to feel it. Crackling beneath the skin, waiting to be free, to be used. An inner turmoil that was hers and wasn’t. She had managed to hold it off for the first half an hour as she identified the invaders' ships and burned them, gently guiding Bran, Lady, and Nymeria, stirring them out of the way of merchant ships and Runestone’s ships.

Then she was shot and felt pain. And at her pained shout, her magic found a way to escape. Bran tried to contain it, but even he was unable to, and soon she watched as her magic took form. Fire moving over water reaching for the further ships. Winds blowing stronger and the waves getting agitated and swallowing enemy ships. As she watched her magic work with the dragons to destroy the invaders, she relaxed, partially because she expected something far worse, far more self-destructive of her magic. As she relaxed, she felt herself lazy and her consciousness slipping. It didn’t take a genius for her to perceive that she had been poisoned.

As soon as she perceived so, she felt her magic shifting again. What had been freed, returned to her, painfully, and started to burn the poison away, but she could still feel weak, so she returned.

Sansa hadn’t fainted because of the poison, most of it had been burned away by her magic. She fainted because she was exhausted. And now she wasn’t dealing with any problem caused by the poison, but by her magic. It felt the taste of freedom and it wanted more.

“That will be a problem,” she heard Arya say when she opened her eyes. “Your eyes were golden right now, now violet. If anyone other than me had entered, they would be scared sh*tless.”

“Are they still gold?”

“No, they turned back to their original color,” Arya sighed.

“Then I can always say that it was a trick of the light,” Sansa threw herself back on her bed.

“Bran is still searching, you know?”

She did. Ever since they learned of her magic, Bran started to scurry through history with his power to seek anything that could help her. Someone that had a magic like hers, an origin for her magic. Anything, really. Still nothing.

“At this point, I just want it to calm down,” she murmured. “I am always anxious that I will do something wrong and accidentally get myself or someone else killed. Or attract the wrong people's attention. Can you imagine what would happen if Alicent knew about it?”

“She would accuse you of witchcraft and use the faith to have you burned at stakes,” her sister commented as she sat beside her and started to stroke her hair. “Though, she would have to get over father and mother first.”

“Yeah, I would love to see her trying to take Kepa down,” she smirked. “You come here to say that you are still going in the procession?”

“Kepa would not cower and Muña knows that I can take care of myself, though she might think of sending you to the Eyrie for your protection,” she rolled her eyes. “But Father thought to take you to King’s Landing for some moons.”

“I wouldn’t mind staying with Father for some moons, it may be time for me to find some allies in the Red Keep.”

“Me and Jon will work on finding allies too. It is time to get a hands on approach,” Arya smirked, and Sansa looked at her.

“It is time to be active players, yes,” she agreed.

The game has changed from what it would be without them, but they could see enough similarities to make it necessary for them to be more proactive. And it wasn’t as if Sansa could stay away from the gate for too long.

Notes:

So, do you think Ser Luthor needs a raise or a penalty?

Hope you liked the chapter!

Next is going to be a bit of filler, so I will try to post it by August 26th! The next chapter is Interlude: Riverlands and there will have a piece of very important information on the attack! So hope to see you soon!

Chapter 28: Interlude: Riverlands

Summary:

Jon and Cia start their journey of self-knowledge.
And the Riverlanders have many things in their mind about their Crown Prince.

Notes:

No, I did not forget the historical notes. This chapter was made to be presented on other parties' views without the historical notes.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

119-120

JON

They started in the Riverlands, using the Blackwater Rush to arrive at Stoney Sept, under the control of House Whent—the same house that would one day become the liege lords of Harrenhal, ancestors of Catelyn Tully. In one of Jaehearys's processions, Lady Templeton, the widowed sister of the Lord Whent of that time, had held a women’s court for his great-grandmother, Alysanne. He wondered if anyone would try the same now.

The guards had just informed them that they were one day away from their first destination.

"Ready for the arse kissing?" She raised an eyebrow at him.

"I live with arse kissing every day," he replied, and it was true.

Sometimes he missed being a bastard; at least as a bastard, people wouldn't approach him with second and third intentions. As a bastard, he had privacy and wasn't a target of as many schemes and manipulations. He had a freedom that as a prince, he would never have.

"In Runestone, you didn't have to deal with half as much sh*t as you have now," Devan remarked at his other side. "Seriously, one day we will find a naked lady in your chambers, just waiting for you."

"I should hope not," Aemon said beside him. "The last thing we need is for the nobles of this realm to believe that it is acceptable to trap Kings and Princes into marriages by creating compromises. Imagine the chaos it would cause."

"When I think about it, I just imagine someone trying to compromise Lena and Prince Daemon’s reaction," Signy said with an impish smile on her lips. "It immediately makes my day better."

"You and Alyssa are way too bloodthirsty for me," Devan teased, pretending to be scared of them, as Arya laughed with Signy.

"Well, currently we only have to be careful about our prince's chastity, so we don’t need to worry about Prince Daemon burning half of the kingdom just yet," Griselda said, and he rolled his eyes. Gods, where has the shy little thing they met gone?

"I don’t know, Gree, Lena happens to have two dragons. I think she could cause as much damage as Kepa," Arya commented, and his friends all laughed.

He reviewed the plans in his mind. The idea was to spend fifteen days at each keep, except for the Paramounts; for them, they would stay twenty days. Barring storms, snow, catastrophes, or any such inconveniences, they wouldn't extend their time in any of the keeps so as not to create rumors of favoritism. 15-20 days were enough to make a good impression.

Or a really bad one.

STONEY SEPT

"I hope that he likes me!"

Don’t we all? Lord Whent thought to himself after hearing his daughter Penny's hopeful sigh.

The he she referred to was no mystery. Prince Jaehearon Targaryen. The Crown Prince, the oldest son of the King. The prince was still fourteen but had been given leave to make a procession. A heavily guarded one with two dragons at the back. And Stoney Sept had been the first stop. It was a great honour, but at the same time, it was very stressful. By every account, the Prince was someone with simple tastes, an even temperament, and perhaps a little social awkwardness, with two close friends: the future Lord of the Claw Isles and the second son of a Reyne. To everyone else, he was said to be polite but distant.

Ever since the Procession was organized, rumours started to circulate the Kingdoms saying that Prince Jaehearon was engaged to his cousin, Princess Alyssa, who was also in the procession, and that they would marry upon his return to King’s Landing. Still, no engagement had been confirmed by the Crown, and there was still hope that Prince Jaehearon would seek a bride somewhere else. And Adolf certainly wouldn’t resent it if he could choose one of his daughters, as improbable as it would have been.

“I doubt that he would like you,” Amelie said, “I am prettier and more personable!”

“Don’t be delusional, I am better company than you!” Penny complained.

“You two, stop it!” his wife hissed. “The two of you will behave! Do not shame our house!”

“Look, the dragons are here!” his son said, pointing to the skies. Two dragons played in the sky: a dark grey one and a white one. Nymeria and Ghost.

Nymeria, a dragon that has already seen battle in the attack on Runestone. Ghost, one of the biggest dragons in existence, having already overgrown some older dragons such as Syrax and Meleys. Seven hells! They were enormous and terrifying. He felt his heart race as the procession approached. A long column of guards from House Targaryen, House Royce, House Tarbeck, House Celtigar, and guards from the City’s Watch. Leading it, a pair of Kingsguard. They also had many servants and some other nobles accompanying them.

He watched as the dragons landed right outside his keep and the two riders dismounted and walked towards them. Most people bowed and held their positions, as he and his family did.

“Your Highness, Stoney Sept is yours,” Lord Whent said when the young men were in front of him.

PINKMAIDEN

Lady Piper smiled sweetly at her guests as they sat down to feast. She had heard from her people in Stoney Sept that the prince and his cousin were not engaged, which gave her some hope. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a daughter at the right age to pair with the prince, but her second son could do well with Runestone for himself. Of course, she would have preferred if the Princess were a bit more feminine, but she had heard enough rumors to know that Princess Alyssa was very much like her namesake grandmother and was obviously not interested.

“Say, Your Highness,” her husband began, and she observed as the prince turned to him. “What do you think of the project of the Royal Navy Force to patrol the Western shores proposed by Ser Tyland?”

“It was very ill-done of him to try to foist the Westerlands' problems onto the Crown's lap,” her oldest son said, interrupting whatever the prince was about to say, and she wanted to rest her head on her hand and curse.

Hadn't he learned anything from the Septas? Where are his manners? It isn’t enough that he is ogling Lady Mormont, he must interrupt the Prince?

And to talk ill of the nephew of the King's favorite? In front of her son? Her eyes turned to where the young Lord Tarbeck was sitting, with the boys from House Celtigar and Reyne and the Princess' ladies.

“I think there was some miscommunication, Ser Alastair,” the young Prince said, with a calm and patient voice. “The Navy Force wasn’t proposed to patrol the Westerlands shores, but the Western shores of the Seven Kingdoms. The western coast of the North, the coasts of the Reach, Riverlands, and yes, the Westerlands too. After all, these shores are the ones that have to deal with the Ironborn most frequently.”

The idea had merit, she thought to herself. The Ironborn were becoming annoyances and were dangerous to deal with.

“That is an excellent idea,” her second son said. “Why has it not started then?”

“The idea has merit, but there are some things to consider before implementing it. The North, for example, doesn’t have a port that could harbor a Navy, in their western shores at least.”

“The biggest ones, I believe, are the one at Bear Isle and the one at Deepwood Motte,” Lady Mormont commented, and the prince smiled at her, not as annoyed with her interruption as Lady Piper would have been in his place. “And even they are not enough for what the project has in mind.”

“Exactly. So the North needs to work on a structure to hold the ships, which demands time and money. A second problem arises with the ships, which need to be built and require qualified shipwrights, as well as recruiting people. And this leads to a new set of troubles: money, where to obtain the funds, who will pay for these forces, the construction, and how much power these men acting in the name of the Crown will have over the lands? The idea is excellent but needs to be refined before implementation. Nonetheless, Ser Tyland is being very helpful in working out those details. Currently, we are laying the groundwork for this project,” Lady Piper was impressed.

The Prince, young as he was, could reason through his arguments like an adult.

“And does this project have a timeline for a start, Your Highness?” her lord husband questioned again.

“Probably not in this decade. Like I said, funds need to be allocated, and considering the magnitude of this project, it will require a considerable fortune to be spent. However, I do intend to see it through to completion.” It sounded like a promise, and Lady Piper could see that it was one he intended to keep.

RIVERRUN

Not for the first time, Lord Grover Tully had been proud of his decision in the Council of 101 AC when he had voted to have Prince Viserys as the heir to the Throne over his cousin, Princess Rhaenys. He had nothing personal against the Princess, but traditions were traditions. If she had been a man, he would have chosen her in a heartbeat. But she wasn’t. And she had married a Velaryon, and her children were Velaryons. The Iron Throne belonged to House Targaryen, not House Velaryon.

Though he could privately admit that Viserys hadn’t impressed him much over the years—not when he was the heir, not after he had been crowned—he could see that Prince Jaehearon was not like his father. The young man was proactive, curious, intelligent, and very sharp. A good horse rider too.

“Someone told me that I could not visit Raventree and not visit Stone Hedge,” he said with a wry smile.

“It shows that you have a fair judgment, Your Highness, not showing favoritism to either of them,” Elmo said. “This feud between them is simply ridiculous.”

“Elmo!” He tried to chastise his grandson, but the Prince said:

“Though I do think that their feud magnifies the events, I commend both families for their impressive show of dedication to tradition,” in other words: he thought that both Houses were led by bull-headed lords, and their feud was beyond ridiculous. Or at least, that was what he could gather from the Prince's mannerisms.

Yes, Grover could appreciate some of his wit..

“In that, I must agree with you, Your Highness,” he said. “Unfortunately, we must still deal with their dedication.”

“And how is Princess Rhaenyra? The last I saw her was after her marriage to Ser Harwin, a prosperous match, I heard,” Elmo said, and Grover contained his urge to roll his eyes at his heir.

Elmo had an infatuation with Princess Rhaenyra and had tried to court her. Though he had failed, he remained friendly towards the princess, who had been kind in her rejection. They were still friends.

“My sister is well. She just gave birth to her second son: Lucamore Strong, we call him Luke,” he said with a smile.

“And he is in good company,” Princess Alyssa said with a smirk. “Cousin Laena gave birth to twins: Rhaena and Brianna Manderly; the Queen gave birth to Prince Daeron; and Lady Kate Oakheart gave birth to her second child, Tommen Oakheart. And soon Lady Dorea Velaryon will give birth soon too. They shall all be playmates.”

Since when did pregnancy spread like a fever, so easily?

STONE HEDGE

As the heir of House Bracken, Amos had been to King's Landing enough times to have had opportunities to interact with the prince, even though he was closer in age to his sister. He knew a lot about the prince. He knew that he was intelligent, a skilled fighter, and a member of the Council. Amos also knew that there were many rumors in the Red Keep regarding the prince's future. He was promising, after all.

Now observing him as a guest in their solar after a dinner, Amos could think that the young man was a perfect guest. Well-mannered and a polite conversationalist. He could talk about taxes, crops, fighting, laws, science... and so on. Indeed, there was seemingly nothing the prince couldn’t talk about. Except, of course, ladies and marriage. Then he would put on a poker face and change the conversation to another topic. It was amusing.

“And are any of you betrothed?” he questioned the prince's companions.

“I am,” Lady Mormont said, and he looked at her. She was a beautiful woman with long black hair, pale skin, and stunning green eyes. “Betrothed to Eddard Dustin.”

“I am but a second son; who would marry me?”

“Mother has not talked about matches for me yet,” the young Lord Tarbeck said.

“My father gave me permission to pursue a match with Lady Griselda,” Aemon Celtigar said, and the lady blushed but nodded.

“But you are not betrothed?” his mother questioned.

“I come from a Mountain Clan, My Lady,” Lady Wull said. “My people do not betroth children unless it's for a peace pact.”

“And how are deals done?”

“Based on someone's honor,” Lady Wull said. “In the North, honor is a currency of greater value than gold sometimes. Also, it isn't like we go around marrying Wildlings; while we can select our future spouses, they must be approved by our parents.”

“How quaint,” his mother said with a disdainful smile.

“And your grandfather agreed with it, Lord Celtigar?” his father questioned.

“He did,” the young Valyrian male said with a smile.

“A Valyrian and a First Men, an interesting choice.”

“It seems to be providing good results so far,” Princess Alyssa said, narrowing her eyes. “My father is Pure Valyrian, and my mother is from a First Men House, after all. Princess Rhaenyra and Ser Harwin are another interesting match.”

“Of course, Princess, I didn’t mean to offend,” his father demurred, and the Princess relaxed, leaning back in her seat.

“I know.”

Princess Alyssa was very much her father’s daughter. He honestly pitied the poor fool who ended up married to her.

RAVENTREE

Her husband was seething for no reason. His father too.

Not being born a Blackwood, but rather a Darry, Catelyn was not as fixated on the damn feud with the Brackens. Her Good Mother, Lady Blackwood, also balked whenever it was brought up.

The newest reason for the terrible headache for the Blackwood men was that the Prince had gone to Stone Hedge before going to Raventree. Really! It was a simple matter of logistics! The Prince's Procession was heading North, for the Seven! Were they supposed to cross the Red Fork twice just to visit Raventree first? Of course, now Lord Blackwood was desperate to have a great feast in the prince's honor and activities too. It had to be better than the Bracken's, richer, more animated!

It wasn’t as if poor Lady Blackwood wasn’t already burdened with the feast; now she had to make it better than the one at Stone Hedge! It was times like these that made Catelyn question the fallacy of men being more rational than women.

“You are a Godsend, my girl,” Lady Blackwood said when they were finishing the last preparations for tomorrow. “My Samwell doesn't know how lucky he is to have you!”

“Never mind it, good mother,” she demurred, “I couldn’t let my lady get stressed alone, could I?”

“I’m done. Can I go to the archery ring now?” Alysanne, her little good sister questioned, petulantly. Alysanne was still young, barely ten years old and not yet flowered, but she had all the signs that she would be a beautiful lady. Except that she wouldn’t be a very feminine one.

“Of course not, Alysanne! Your father is already stressed enough with the Prince’s Procession arriving tomorrow,” Lady Blackwood said. “You know our agreement: you can go to the archery ring for an hour a day if you complete your lessons with your Governess.” It had been a compromise. Archery, after all, had become a fever among the ladies of the court ever since Princesses Rhaenyra and Selaena started to practice it openly. It satisfied Alysanne’s desire for more physical activities and made her attend her lessons. Usually. Aly liked to test the boundaries from time to time. “You haven't been upholding it, so no. You will not go to the archery ring so soon! In fact, you can go to your lessons right now.”

As her little good sister seethed and marched frustratedly to her obligations, Catelyn sighed.

“You should rest too, my dear. You are, after all, pregnant,” Lady Blackwood suggested, and she nodded.

The next day arrived, and so did the Prince's Procession. She observed as Alysanne fawned over Princess Alyssa and her ladies, the rumors of them being shieldmaidens, and how they would indulge her in her less-than-ladylike hobbies. The Prince was courteous, as always, a bit awkward at the beginning, but polite and charming. The feast was a success, much to the ladies' relief. Later that night, she went to put her little good sister to bed since Lady Blackwood was so occupied.

As the girl babbled excitedly about Princess Alyssa and the shieldmaiden, Catelyn let her curiosity get the best of her and asked Alysanne what she thought of Prince Jaehearon.

“He is prettier than me,” Aly said with a funny grimace, and Catelyn laughed

SEAGARD

Jorah Mallister could see what his brother would talk about regarding the Targaryen family. The Prince had been traveling for almost half a year now, and despite the many ravens that he sent back and forth to his family, he seemed determined to continue the Procession. The Princess Alyssa had tasted her first battle at the Failed Sack of Runestone.

The whole realm had been told that the girl had been in the thick of the battle, had fought the invaders herself until her sister arrived to burn the pirates' ships. Yet, Princess Alyssa didn’t wait to "lick her wounds" in Runestone. A half-moon later, she and her ladies, aptly named Shields of Runestone, had joined the Prince’s Procession. She was a beautiful woman, and her dual-colored eyes were especially enchanting. Still, there was nothing "delicate" about her, he observed as the girl finished her spar with one of her ladies.

“I have heard about the idea of a Royal Navy, Your Highness,” he admitted, his eyes still on the ladies who were sparring and attracting a lot of attention. Understandably so, they moved with a mastery that could cause envy in many older knights. “And I admit that it got me interested.”

“My Lord, I fear that the planning of this project has yet to be finished. And considering all factors together, it might take a while to have it done,” the Prince admitted.

“I don’t think that I will be going anywhere soon,” he smirked. “The idea has merit, and Seagard would benefit greatly if it gets off the ground.”

“Not if, My Lord, but when. I do intend to see this Navy formed,” the Prince promised with such determination that he couldn’t help but think that he would do it.

“You can count on me and mine, Your Highness, if you need support to see this done,” he promised the Prince. “After all, a patrol on our shores would increase the security of my people.”

“JAE!” They turned their eyes to where the Princess was holding a sword carelessly over her shoulder, and he shuddered to think of what would happen if the girl cut herself and Prince Daemon decided that it was their fault. “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? I WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH!”

“Sorry for it, My Lord. My cousin has been excited to see the sea after so much time inland,” he smiled at the Prince.

“I cannot begrudge her that,” he too was made for the seas..

THE TWINS

Lady Sabitha Frey of Houses Vypren and Frey considered herself a smart woman.

She had married the Lord of the Crossing, who was a good man. She knew that some people would sneer at Forrest, call him a Fool for having proposed marriage to Princess Rhaenyra when it became known that she could choose among the lords of the realm. What they didn't know was that he had only done so at the behest of his father. After all, they had been courting for years before.

Also, he wasn't the only man who had proposed to the Princess even when they stood no chance of success. Lord Dondarrion had been old enough to be the Princess's great-grandfather when he proposed. Ser Samwell Blackwood had been eleven. Along with other knights from lowborn families or third sons of second sons, and so on. Enough lords who were old enough to be her father or grandfather, or boys barely out of their swaddling clothes. Why was Forrest a Fool if all those men and boys had about the same chance as her husband had? It was unfair, but at the same time, she didn't care. It gave her a chance of marrying one of the richest men in the Riverlands.

Now observing the royals, she could see that they were something else. At the ages of seventeen and fifteen, the Princess Alyssa and Prince Jaehearon were different from what she expected. The princess had cold eyes and looked around the keep as if waiting for an attack. Given that Runestone had been attacked recently, she could understand her state of vigilance. The Prince was of solemn disposition, intelligent and polite, and there was something outward about him that made her uncomfortable.

“They are very…” Forrest started, sitting on their bed while they got ready to sleep.

“Solemn, polite, proud?” she offered.

Royal, the prince acts like he is several years older and carries the weight of the kingdoms on his shoulders.” Her husband commented with some uneasiness.

“He is the heir to the throne; he is touring around the Kingdoms that will one day be under his rule and has to be careful not to deliver offense in the name of the crown.” Sabitha pointed out. “He probably carries a heavy weight on his shoulders.”

“That isn't natural Sabitha! The prince is so… I felt like talking to an adult several years older than me, and I am at least two decades older than him! And the princess? Gods, she is so stiff and silent! Did you see her training in the yard? She is deadly!”

“Her home seat was attacked last year; she is just being careful!”

“You don't believe it,” he stated, looking into her eyes.

“I do not think that questioning our royal guests while they are still under our roof would do any good for our health!” With this, she tucked herself and the quilts and blew out the candle at her side. “Good night, Forrest!”

SOMEWHERE ELSE

Kai knew he shouldn’t be there, but the warehouse always had something that he could take, and no one would notice. Things that the nobles gave little value to, but he could repair and sell. It wasn't an honest job, but no noble ever cared. To them, what he took was junk – broken things they could easily replace. Sometimes they would even destroy items just to free up space in the warehouse. It wasn't like he was stealing jewelry, gold, family secrets, or robbing tombs.

He had little time to hide when he heard voices.

“What do you mean there's no payment?” a male voice, rough with an accent Kai couldn't place, raged.

“The agreement was half a million gold dragons for the death of Princess Selaena. Princess Selaena is very much alive, so why would there be payment?” The second voice sounded bored, and condescending, as if he were talking to a child. Kai couldn't understand why someone would want to kill the Good Princess. She was good, everyone knew of how she tried to make the smallfolk lives better!

“I lost fifty ships, three thousand men!”

“Your mistake. You were hired to kill Selaena, not attack Runestone! Something that could have been done discreetly without the need for fifty ships or three thousand men,” it was a mockery, Kai thought. The tone was mocking.

“I want the money as compensation for my losses.”

“You received the signal to do the job, you can keep it and get out of our way.”

“You think you can use me like this?”

“Let me be quite frank with you, Wormwood, you will not receive a coin from my master. You received a job, and you were unable to finish it due to your own ambitions and stupidity. Be grateful you can keep what my master has already paid.”

“Rumors say the Rogue Prince is offering ten thousand dragon coins for information regarding the attack. I could settle for it.” The foreigner threatened.

“Ten thousand dragons? If you admit to Daemon Targaryen that you accepted a job to kill his precious daughter, he will bathe you in dragonfire,” the other man scoffed.

Kai heard a piercing scream and remained as still as possible. He stayed that way as another dialogue started, with a new voice.

“I should thank you for not getting my clothes bloody this time,” the last man said. “Killing him wasn't necessary.”

“He knew about you and knew about the plan to have Princess Selaena eliminated,” the third voice, colder and sharper, was new. “If he managed to inform the prince of you, it would have been you on the floor.”

“Yes, the master wouldn't appreciate anything that could be traced back to him,” the handler sneered.

“Who planned on pirates to kill a Princess?” the assassin asked.

“Princess Selaena frequents the beaches of Runestone twice a week, usually with only her ladies, sworn shield, and three other guards. They needed but a ship and some twenty to fifty men to organize an ambush. If they killed her, it could have been staged as retaliation by the Triarchy against Prince Daemon. It seemed brilliant!” he heard a sigh and remained immobile. “Well, it doesn't matter. Right now, the Princess is with the Prince in King's Landing. Ten guards follow her around every second she steps out of the Hand's Tower. The plan will have to adapt. Maybe the Arsenius might have a better insight than the Worm.”

Notes:

It was unanimous: Ser Luthor deserves a f*cking raise!

Hope that you have liked the chapter. To those who were betting on a setup: you were completely right! Someone wants Daemon enraged at the Triarchy. Maybe to start a war? Or to just get rid of Selaena? Maybe both? You know... two birds with one stone.

My week summary: I got pneumonia (don't know how), nothing very serious but they put me on medication that makes me a little groggy. Also, yesterday my dog had seizures and I had to take him to a veterinary hospital and he's in the hospital. He is a 12-year-old Maltese/poodle mix with a bad temper who likes to bite anyone who isn't my mother and seriously dislikes everything that interrupts his time with mom, We love him still. That's why it took me so long to post today's chapter.
But next month I should be fine, so the next chapter is scheduled for September 26th! This time we will have the happenings on the Red Keep!

See you soon!

Chapter 29: Her father's daughter

Summary:

Sansa finds a problem while playing the Game of Thrones... And yet, she does manage to stir it a bit!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

119

She [Princess Selaena] was calm and quiet, in stark contrast to her mother, who was incredibly outspoken, her sister, who could easily raise a fuss, and her father, whose strong personality needed no comment. Nevertheless, she could be just as unforgiving as any member of her family. Her silence was as dangerous as words, as she had once written in her journal: "Silence cannot be misquoted, and it’s not like someone would ever plan revenge out loud."

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

DAEMON

His head was throbbing, and he could only blame the excess of alcohol for it. Well, he could also lay some blame on the new arrival the court: Otto Hightower.

The damned c*nt had returned to court, invited by the Queen herself, despite knowing that his brother had not extended an invitation. Viserys held Otto responsible for the missed opportunity with Lady Tarbeck-Lefford and wanted that c*nt as far away from him as possible. But, at the same time, Viserys had a soft spot for his wife, which had allowed her to reach out to her father and bring him back.

And, of course, Otto hadn’t come alone. His brother, the Lord of Hightower, had sent his daughter Bethany and granddaughter Alerie along with the former Hand. Both girls had entered the Queen’s household as wards and ladies. Much like Alicent, Bethany had been kept on ice for too long and was reaching her twentieth name day, and with the damaged reputation of House Hightower, it had been difficult to find her a suitable husband. She had been sent to Court to see if the Queen could do something about it. As for Alerie, who was soon to turn sixteen, she too enjoyed the Queen’s protection, though Daemon wouldn’t be surprised if she attempted to seduce Jaehearon.

“Note to self: increase Jaehearon’s protection upon his return. Do not let Willis Fell be his protector under any circ*mstance.”

At the same time, Otto had lost much of his power, and while Daemon was sure that it would be entertaining to watch the man struggle to regain influence at court, he wasn’t sure if he wanted the man in the same keep as his daughter.

Selaena was another source of his headaches.

Unlike her sister, who was than willing to express her discontent in the most abrasive manner possible, his youngster was more passive-aggressive. After verbally declaring that she felt “smothered” by the supposedly excessive number of guards following her at the moment, she started to engage in small acts of mischief. Things that she knew that would irritate him: leaving her needles in his armchair, moving some of these things from their usual place, hiding his cloak or boots, and even putting sugar in his drinks, among other things. All this, while constantly slipping away from her guards and reappearing at the other side of the Red Keep, much to everyone’s frustration.

How she found the secret passages in the Tower, was beyond him.

Selaena’s latest form of annoying him was adding vinegar in his wine. Which had forced him to drink elsewhere.

Five nights after he arrived in Runestone following the Attack, they had discovered an assassin lurking on the walls, trying to climb towards the family wing. The intruder had been spotted by Lady, who managed to knock him down. The fall killed him. The man was carrying a dagger with emeralds and rubies encrusted in the hilt, though he himself looked too poor to own such a weapon. His clothes were ragged and dirty, he was small and lean, his dark olive skin was freckled, his greasy brown hair was shoulder-length, and his features were non-descript, without any remarkable features.

It seemed that Rhea’s prediction that the attack had been just a part of someone’s larger plan held true. That very night, Daemon descended into the dungeons and killed all remaining member of the invading force after extracting some names that he had never heard before. Still, he made note of them and, through his contacts, sought to gather more information. As it was, Daemon and Rhea agreed, that for the time being, they would stay in the Red Keep. A moon passed, Rhea had been called away to resolve some matters, leaving Selaena behind with him.

“Good morning, Kepa,” his daughter greeted him as he entered his solar, and he sighed. She could be so silent, now it seemed that she was deliberately making noise by clicking silverware and scratching porcelain.

Great! Another form of punishment.

Tala, have you satisfied your need to rebel now?” he questioned.

“Are the guards staying?” she questioned back with a saccharine smile, and he groaned. “Ten guards are too much, Kepa!”

“You were poisoned.”

“At dragon’s back, during an attack!” she countered. “But here at the Red Keep, being followed by ten guards is excessive. Reduced it to five.” He scoffed at her proposal, and she sighed frustrated. “Reduce the guards, and I will stop!” She offered.

“Oh, so you admit you have been trying to annoy me?” Daemon pressed, arched his eyebrow and smirked.

“I admit nothing,” she replied with an eye roll, her determination matching her charm. “But I can negotiate my terms if you are willing to compromise.”

“Sometimes you speak as if you are an adult, Selaena, but you’re still a child, and more importantly, my daughter. I will not compromise when it comes to your safety.” His eyes narrowed, and he perceived that she did the same.

“Well, then nothing has to change. Excuse me, Kepa.” She said, dragging the chair noisily and eating, slamming the door behind her.

Children!

One of the most contradictory aspects of Queen Alicent’s character was her unwavering determination to arrange a marriage between her daughter, Princess Helaena, to the Crown Prince Jaehearon. It has been reported that the Queen, on occasion, openly criticized House Targaryen for their unconventional practices within her circle of ladies. She even went so far as to refer to their customs as "queer costumes". Given the Queen’s close ties to the Faith, it is reasonable to assume that she was alluding to the incestuous marriages accepted under the Doctrine of Exceptionalism. However, it appears that the opportunity to secure her daughter’s position as a future queen outweighed any sense of hypocrisy that may have arisen from his contradiction.

Excerpt of Women's roles in Viserys's I Reign, Vol.1, by Professor Rhea Tyrell of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

ALICENT

Ever since Prince Jaehearon had departed for his procession, Alicent found herself with a sense of purposelessness. Without the prince, she couldn’t attempt to foster his affections for Helaena. However, as time passed, doubts began to creep in.

Her daughter, at the age of five, was undeniably sweet and beautiful. But it had became increasingly obvious that she was not the ideal candidate for a future queen. Helaena was prone to emotional outbursts whenever someone other than her siblings or cousins touched her. She barely talked in coherent speech, despite her advanced age, and when she did speak, it was often incoherent or nonsensical. She was, in essence, too simple.

Her father had perceived it too.

“A simple girl cannot control a King, Alicent,” he said. “Fortunately, Alerie might make a good wife for Jaehearon; she understands her duties.”

Duties. He spoke; as if she hadn’t fullfilled her duties.

What duty had she failed to fulfil? She had lain with the King as a maiden. She had married him. She had become his Queen. She endured the scorn of the envious ladies that wanted her position. She had borne him four sons and a daughter. All of this she had done at the behest of her Father, at the behest of her House’s Mission!

She had been dutiful.

“You must admit, Alicent,” her aunt Joanna said, sitting beside her, “you, being a cleaver woman, cannot control a weak King, could Helaena control a strong one?”

“She deserves to a Queen, aunt! She was made for it! If she isn’t to be Queen, then what purpose she must serve?”

“Alicent, you cannot allow your personal ambitions to come before our House’s mission,” Joanna said, tugging a lock of her hair, “Helaena is too delicate to be a Queen. If it was Aegon to be the King, it might have been different, but Jaehearon is not easily manipulated, and—”

“But he would treat her kindly and keep Helaena close to me!”

“Helaena might find a suitable match with Lyonel; she could become the next Lady of Hightower,” that made Alicent rage inside.

No! It wasn’t enough. Hightower wasn’t enough for her daughter. Helaena deserved more. However, she kept her frustration in check.

“I won’t actively undermine Alerie’s chances, but I will not promote the match either,” Alicent declared firmly, surprising even herself. She steeled her resolve and met her aunt’s dark eyes. “I will continue to advocate for a match between my daughter and stepson. If Alerie wants a chance, then she will have to fight for it.”

“Alicent, don’t be so obstinate,” Joanna cautioned.

“No! Helaena will be Queen; my line will continue on the throne… I have done too much, sacrificed too much for it to be any other way!”

“Your father won’t like it,” her aunt warned.

“And what power does the brother of a vassal House have over me?” she questioned dangerously. “My father fell out of favour with the King a long time ago, Aunt Joanna. He’s only welcome at court at my discretion.”

She watched as her aunt adjusted her posture, her demeanour hardening. Gone was the understanding e and supportive aunt, replaced by the unwavering servant of House Hightower.

“Very well, Your Grace. But you must remember that you don’t have many allies in this court. By disregarding House Hightower’s wishes, you risk losing your most steadfast supporters,” Joanna threatened, and Alicent raised an eyebrow.

“A great support it has given me in the last years,” she scoffed.

Letter from Prince Aegon to Lord Peake

(...) Rumours had reached me of how you offended my sister, Queen Selaena. I hope, for your sake, for those rumours to be only it: rumours! For if it is true that you called my sister a "frigid whor*" then you are a fool and a traitor, for lese-majesty is a crime against the crown. Know that I will not hesitate to defend my sister's name and honour from traitors and answer each insult with Fire and Blood, as my House honour's demands.

Excerpt from History through letters, Maester Deverik

SANSA

She knew that Daemon overprotective protective nature was a testament to his love for her and his genuine concern for wellbeing. But Gods! He was making it difficult for her to play the game.

With the additional ten guards following her every step, Sansa had a hard time to be alone. Time alone that she needed to meditate and control her magic, to plan, study and make allies. As it was, she had to meditate before going to sleep, what was complicated because it was when she was most tired and with more difficulty to keep her magic under control Planning and studying required visits to the library, where she discreetly selected books on subjects often deemed unladylike (that were really just books on economy, warfare and politics) and sit to write her ideas in parchments that she would later transcribe in more structured plan in her journal before burning it. And making allies? Well, she had ten guards and her sworn shield at her back, people were always wary of approaching her and be perceived as a threat, if not by the guards, then certainly by her father to who they reported everything later.

How was she supposed to play the game in that little bubble he had created for her?

“You don’t look happy,” Adrienne said at her side as she pouted.

They were in the gardens, enjoying a picnic proposed by Rhaenyra and her ladies.

“I am not happy,” she said petulantly. “I wish they would go away!” She pointed to the guards.

“Oh, sweet cousin,” Rhaenyra said with a smile, “You should be used to them by now.”

“Nyra, if I have eleven guards, including my sworn shield, tailing me within the Red Keep, then how many more would there be if I ever dared to step out of the Keep?”

“Kepus would probably assign a new score of guards to accompany you,” her cousin said, while making the four moons old Luke sleep. “That is, if he even permits you to leave the Keep.”

“I think that it is very sweet of our Lord Hand to be so concerned about your safety!” Adrienne chimed in dreamily.

“He will suffocate me!” was she being dramatical? Yes, but then she was just eleven. “Oh! I know! Perhaps my nameday present should be a fortnight without any guards following me! It isn’t fair that Alyssa can travel the Seven Kingdoms while I am here under lock and key!”

“Alyssa is traveling with some of the deadliest men of the Kingdoms at her side, while you are in a viper’s nest,” Rhaenyra’s admission of what was a court didn’t surprise her, the Princess did know that true friends were rare to find in this city where most were trying to advance themselves and their houses.

“There’s a higher chance of her encountering an assassin on the road than I have here,” she countered.

“But she can defend herself. Can you say the same?” her cousin asked, and she frowned. Yes, she did know the basic of self-defence, a result of Arya’s insistence and the teachings of Signy and Griselda, who had shown her enough to fend off an attacker until help arrived. However, part of her own condition to learn was for this to not become a known fact.

“I am in a castle filled with guards already sworn to protect Targaryen House. Would you want so many guards shadowing your every move?” she inquired.

“No, I would not!” Conceded Rhaenyra.

Before she could make her point, Aegon approached her, shyly, and tugged on her dress. The boy was seven now but was the shiest thing she knew. Very different of the image painted of Aegon, the Usurper. But then, how different had been the lives of this Aegon and the Usurper’s?

“Lena, play with me?” he asked timidly, and she smiled at him.

“Weren’t you playing with Helie and Aem?” she asked.

The Queen’s children hadn’t initially been included in Rhaenyra’s picnic plans. Sansa knew that it was because the older girl could barely tolerate her half-siblings by Alicent and only did so when Jon was present. But Sansa had been the one to point out that the children would be left alone in the nursery since Jace and Luke would be here, and Alicent had departed with her cousins to a Sept in the city.

Yes, she appealed to her cousin’s soft heart that still existed.

“Helie is looking for bugs, Jace and Aem are playing with Rosie, but they’re just little children” it did made sense. Rosamund Oakheart, usually called Rosie, was the oldest child of Tyland Lannister and Kate Oakheart, she was closer in age to Jace and Aemond than Aegon. Indeed, there were few children in the Keep at the same age that Aegon.

As it stood, Aegon was mostly alone, or shadowing Jon. Since Jon wasn’t there, he had turned to her. The boy was starved for affection in a way that no child should be. Sansa simply nodded and invited Adrienne and Minisa to join them. Perhaps it was time to find companions for Aegon. He shouldn’t be left to his own devices to potentially spiral into a future of alcoholism and festering resentment.

He deserved better.

Looking at Aemond playing with Jacaerys, while a young Helaena examined at a bug crawling in her hand, taking so much care of the small bug as if it was the most wonderful thing under the sun, she amended in her mind:

They all deserve better!

While many accused Viserys I Targaryen of having a weak-willed disposition, asserting that his generous and amiable nature might not be suited to his position, it is important to note that he took resolute stances during his reign. One of these significant decisions was the War on Stepstones against the pirates of the Triarchy and resulted in the incorporation of the Stepstones into the Seven Kingdoms under the rulership of Prince Daemon.

Another noteworthy action that can be cited was his reformation of tax laws. These laws had been originally passed during his grandfather's reign and were widely regarded as abusive, particularly by the Houses that did not adhere to the Faith.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

VISERYS

He read the letter for the tenth time. Every time his son reached a Keep, he would send him a raven. His opinions were always sincere, but very diplomatic. Still, he talked about the interests these lords had on the ongoing and future projects of the Crown, the conflicts he heard, and their pleas and grievances.

Apparently, not only was his son touring the Kingdoms, but he was also learning from them. Each place he visited he recounted the impression of the land and the rulership. Pointed out things he would avoid and things he thought interesting to incorporate. Jaehearon sent possible trades in each village and talked about things he liked.

He missed his son. Missed the celebration of his fifteenth nameday and missed his council. He was sure that the Small Council was nowhere near as productive as it was when Jaehearon was with them. But gods, this experience was better for him than any time spent in the Small Council chambers could ever be.

One thing that Viserys also noticed was the number of times his son would talk about his young cousin. Selaena would like this. Lena would be amused. Lena. Lena. Each time he referred to Selaena, Viserys was more certain that his youngster niece would become his son’s Queen. He felt a bit of pity for Alicent, for he knew that she thought that their daughter Helaena should be betrothed to Jaehearon, but he couldn’t help but disagree.

First, he knew that it was Aemma’s wish for Selaena and Jaehearon to marry, and it seemed that it was their son’s wish too. Selaena was of the blood of Old Valyria; she was intelligent, powerful, and charming, and had all the Kingdoms in love with her due to the simple stories that were spread about her compassion.

Second, Helaena was too young for Jaehearon. Helaena and his sons by Alicent might not be his favorite children, but they were his children, and he wouldn’t want for Helaena to suffer the same fate as his first wife, in his many conversations with Amelie, the healer had shared that it wasn’t safe for a newly flowered woman to have children, her body was still getting used to it and needed time. In the healer’s view, the ideal was to wait at minimum two years after the flowering for the woman to be bedded. None of his children would suffer Aemma’s fate, not even the children by Alicent.

He had, of course, a third reason: he didn’t want to reward the Hightower by placing two of their line in the throne. He married Alicent because he made a promise before coming to comprehend what had happened that night, the deepness of Otto’s treason still hurt him at times, and because of it he made sure to keep his sons as far away from Otto as he could. He would not have the man poisoning Aegon, Aemond or Daeron against their brother.

Part of him wanted to ban the Hightower from the Court permanently, but that would be foolish. The Hightower were, after all, the main patrons of the Citadel and the Faith, one held the monopoly of the knowledge of the Kingdoms and the other was known for starting wars against Targaryens. To alienate one was stupid; to alienate the two was beyond stupidity. It was courting war.

Now his wife had taken two Hightower girls under her wings. Though she promised that it was only until she could find suitable husbands for them. As long as it wasn’t his sons, he would accept it.

“Your Grace, Princess Selaena is here to see you,” said the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Harrold seemed very amused.

“Well, let her in,” he said with a smile, his niece entered his solar. Her hair was done in a simple braid, and her dress was simple but beautiful, she carried with her some books and appeared to be frustrated. His smile turned into an amused smirk. Daemon had been complaining about her reaction to the protection detail he had placed for her. “Niece, where are your shadows?” Barred from his chambers, of course.

“At your door,” she answered with a smirk.

“Are you going to use me as buffer against them?” he questioned, an eyebrow arched, and she shrugged.

“One needs to use every advantage they can, Kepus,” was her answer and he laughed at her honesty. And Daemon thought that his youngster couldn’t spell trouble! “Also, they were distracting everyone in the library. I couldn’t work with them there!”

“Work? And what work does an eleven namedays old princess has?”

“I am working on laws!” She said, unashamed, and he invited her to sit at his side and she opened the books she had. One was the laws of the Reach, another from the Stormlands and another was the Great Code. “Kepa is still working on which jurisdiction Gardenia and Illyria’s Garden would fall, you know? Because it’s situated between the Stormlands and the Reach. The Lord Baratheon insist that it should fall under Stormlands because 60% of the land was originally of the Stormlands, but Great Uncle Tyrell, says that it is in the Reach, and that because there is a familial bond between us, it should fall under the Reach jurisdiction.”

“I imagine that both would like to collect the profits of the lands. Daemon was very proud of how profitable it has been.” Insufferably proud, if one asked him.

“Exactly, I am trying to figure out which I would like to apply to,” Selaena said. “Which kingdom would give me more benefit. And we must decide it before one of the Lords decide to appeal at the court. Then it will be a decision of the Small Council.”

“Do you distrust the Small Council?” he asked with a frown.

“I trust them to work within their best interest,” her answer was diplomatic, not paranoid, but sound. Those men were in their majority the Lords of their own fiefs, even in their position, they would try to gather advantage for themselves. He learned it in the worst possible way.

“And what would you propose, my dear?” He questioned her lightly. His beautiful niece sighed.

“I would rather propose an independent principality that would pay their dues directly to the crown,” her idea had merit, excepet for how it could complicate the succession line by giving a principality to a princess so far down the line but not to his own children. Maybe Aegon could receive the Stepstones if he worked it correctly with Daemon. Of course, the matter could be resolved if Jaehearon and Selaena married, and they made Illyria’s Garden as the seat of their second son. A thought for later, he decided. “But I suppose that it would complicate matters, so I am leaning more towards the Reach.”

“Because of your relation to the Tyrells?” he asked. Amanda would certainly see that the lands would be well cared for.

“Because their taxes laws regarding the use of the fields are less exhaustive than the Stormlands. Also, the Stormlands give much benefit to their port estates, sometimes to the detriment of the more inland estates.” She explained her reasoning.

“Then the Reach would be a better option, but you are still not completely sure, are you?”

“The Reach have some strict laws about paying taxes for Faith, and I am of the Old Religion and the Fourteen Flames. I don’t want to pay for the Septon’s luxuries!” She scoffed and he frowned.

“There is such a law?”

“You didn’t know?” her head titled to the side adorably. “It was approved by the Hand of the King during great-grandfather Jaehaerys reign, see?” As he read the paragraph his niece had pointed to him, Viserys felt as a vein pulse in his rage.

He knew that his grandfather would have never approved something like this. Yes, he had created some peace with the Faith, but he would never agree to obligate the kingdoms to pay taxes for them. He created peace with the Faith for the good of the realm, not out of devotion. Like his grandmother Alysanne, Jaehaerys was a follower of the Fourteen Flames. Yes, Septon Barth had served as his grandfather’s Hand—and was perhaps one of the wisest men to ever occupy the position—, but the man didn’t believe into coercing people into his beliefs. The date of the approval of said text made him see where it all had gone wrong. Second moon of 103 AC, when Jaehaerys was bedridden. Indeed, only five moons before his death. At that time, he wasn’t allowed in the council, something about a conflict of governance and how he was unprepared. Horsesh*t, he knew now. By that time, Otto had virtually ruled at the Seven Kingdoms.

“Say, dear, do you know if there are similar laws in other Kingdoms or is it only in the Reach?” he questioned, and she frowned at him.

“Well, I know that there is a similar law in the Stormlands, but is less abusive. However, I am unsure if there are in the other Kingdoms,” she said with a frown. “If you want, I can look into it for you.”

He smiled as she offered her help. Selaena and Jaehearon were very like-minded. The two liked to study and work to improve the smallfolk lives. Both were always helpful and solicitous. Viserys imagined that Jaehearon would be more like his uncle Aemon than his grandfather, but Selaena was very much like Alysanne. Part of him wanted to accept her offer, because he knew that she would be able to find information faster than most. However she was still a child, and he would not burden her with the kingdom’s troubles a second before she needed it.

“No, my sweet, I am sure that I can find about it later,” he smiled at her and took note of the page and book the law was written. “You need not worry about it; you should be a kid and play with your friends. By the way, where are your ladies in waiting?”

“Oh, Adrienne was supposed to be with her aunt, and I think that Minisa is in the Sept,” she answers promptly. “Kepus, why doesn’t Aegon have companions?”

“Aegon has Aemond and Jacaerys,” he said with a frown.

“But they are babies, and Aegon needs someone closer to his age,” she pointed, and he stopped to consider. Indeed, Aemond was barely three and Jacaerys only two name days old, with Aegon being seven, having only the two as his companions, would put him in boredom. Even if Helaena was only a year younger than Aegon, it wasn’t the same thing as companions of the same sex with similar interests.

“And do you have any suggestions?”

“I don’t think that I know enough, but perhaps Muña or Great-Aunt Amanda could help find suitable companions for cousin Aegon,” her suggestion had merit and he nodded.

“Yes, Amanda and Rhea had put together the ladies that served Rhaenyra, and they ended up being inseparable, maybe they ought to repeat their success.” He said out loud.

“And Alyssa’s ladies too. I am pretty sure that Alyssa and Signy are soul sisters,” he laughed at the description his youngster niece found. Indeed, Alyssa and Lady Mormont were very close friends and a pair like no other.

“Do you feel left out?”

“Not really, Aly likes to train and fight, I prefer to sew and embroider; I love her, but we don’t need to have the same tastes and likes.”

“That is very mature, Selaena,” he complimented her, proudly of her way of thinking.

“I am very mature, Kepus!” she exclaimed, as if offended that he thought anything else of her.

He laughed and continue talking with her. After a while they conversation steered from Aegon, laws and ladies to his model of Valyria. Selaena liked to hear histories and compare knowledge, and he liked to talk about history. It was also quite different when his audience was truly interested in the subject.

Later they were found by Alicent, who came to remind him of the dinner with her family later. His wife glared at his niece, enough to make her uncomfortable and almost ran from his chambers. His eye narrowed at Alicent.

“Did your manners escaped you, Alicent? What has Selaena done for you to be so rude to her?”

“I was not rude, just pointed out that her father must be looking for her and you have duties to the realm, and should not be entertaining children right now, husband.” She said coldly.

“I doubt that Daemon didn’t know Selaena’s whereabouts, and my duties to the realm are not the only duties I have. But it is good that you came, I have something to talk with Lord Strong and Daemon before our dinner.” He commented, feeling uncharitable and cold towards his wife.

As he got up and moved away, passing through her, he heard as she clenched her teeth. He requested for someone to summon his brother and his Master of Law to his own office. Perusing his books on the dark shelves of his office, he found the Great Code and other books related to laws and sat at his desk. He opened the page he had noted when he was with Selaena and saw the law there. A law that he had never paid attention before. Truth to be told, he rarely paid attention to the laws written during Jaehaerys reign, trusting that his grandfather’s laws had been fair and therefore let them be.

Thinking back, he remembered that as his Master of Law, Daemon had commented about revising the Great Code, talking about some laws that seemed outdated, or needed to be better worded to avoid the explorations and deviations. A law like that would have caught his brother’s attention. Like their grandmother, Daemon had absolutely no love for the Faith of Seven and if he could pull one out of them, he surely would have.

When Lyonel and Daemon entered his office, both seemed astonished at his summon.

“I imagine that this summon has something to do with the delightful night you will have with your Queen’s family?” Daemon questioned with a sharp smile. “Let me guess, you want to arrange an excuse to get out of it early? I’m sure that I can arrange something!”

“Daemon, I don’t go my life trying to sneak out of my obligations,” he rolled his eyes. No matter how tempted I might be, he added in his thoughts. “No, I called you here because something has been brought to my attention. Please read the paragraph that I have marked.” He said turning the book to his brother and Master of Law.

“That is quite a peculiar tax,” Daemon said.

“I imagine that you already knew of this law, Lyonel?”

“Indeed, Your Grace, though I believed that you too had knowledge of this, but since you called, I can assume that you did not?” the Master of Law questioned with a frown.

“No, I did not. I confess, that I have not paid enough attention to some laws, like I should have. Especially those written during my grandparents’ reign, but if you notice something you will see that this law in specific was not passed by my grandfather, but his regent,” he said and watched as the Master of Law frowned while his brother cursed. “My thoughts were not nearly as colourful as my brother’s but the sentiment behind them matched.”

“That snake! I bet that it was because of it that he had been so keen to remove me of the post of Master of Law!”

“You started talking about revisiting the laws,” Viserys commented. “Lyonel, do you know of any Law similar to this one on the other Kingdoms?”

“The Riverlands have something akin to this, and I wouldn’t doubt of the Vale having one either considering that the Arryns are the oldest of the Andal families in Westeros, on the other hand I imagine that the North would have rebelled if they tried to impose something like this on them considering that 9 out of 10 of their Houses follow the Old Gods. I don’t know if Stormlands, Westerlands, or the Crownlands have something similar, I will have to revisit their laws.” He said and Viserys sighed. “But taxation is something usually under the purview of Master of Coin, maybe Lyman might know the answer?”

“Bring him in, I am hesitant of involving Maester Orwyle giving the closeness of the Citadel and the Faith. So, I ask for discretion in the investigation.”

“What do you intend to do of this law?”

“Have it and every similar law repelled,” Viserys said. “The funding of the Faith should come out of people’s that follow their believes and only at their will, I will not force people to pay for the silks and gold robes of the Septons.”

“The Faith might feel offended,” Lyonel appointed and Viserys wanted to send the Faith to the Seven Hells, but he knew that it wasn’t to his best interest.

“A Dragon don’t care for the musing of sheep,” Daemon said with a vicious sneer.

“Then we will invite the Lords of the Realms affected by these abusive laws, this and any other that you find, and ask them to vote if they want these laws to be kept or repealed,” he said and Lyonel nodded, understanding that he was taking the responsibility of this law out of the Crown’s shoulders and putting the choice at the Lords of the affected Kingdom. He seriously doubted that the lords would vote to keep the law, he himself would be glad to stop paying tax for the Faith since he was a man of the Old Gods.

“And to keep fairness and avoid persecution on the part of the Faith, we will keep the votes anonymous.”

“We can also say that we will be revising the laws passed by every Hand that didn’t have the King’s signature. That will, obviously include those passed when grandfather was still thirteen, to avoid speculation,” Daemon proposed, and he smirked. Trust Daemon to be as sneaky as his opponents.

Otto Hightower's return to the court had been anticlimactic. He was with few allies; the King clearly disliked him, and the Hand would gladly put a sword through his heart if anyone cared to ask. Still, slowly, he started to recruit allies and resources, even though he was cautiously watched by the Targaryen.

Excerpt of Crumbing towers: the fall of House Hightower, by Professor Jaehaerys Targaryen of the Royal University of Oldtown

OTTO

He would like to say that he was confident that he could regain the King’s esteem and trust, but he was not dishonest to himself.

Viserys wasn’t known for his resentful character, but for some reason, he was holding a grudge against him like he never had before! It was as if his personality had been changed overnight and he knew exactly who to blame.

Lady Tarbeck-Lefford, much to his surprise. After Alicent confessed to him about their interactions and after reviewing his memories, Otto was sure that the bitch had seduced Viserys and turned him against his daughter and family.

After his return to Hightower, Hobert had chastised him for the use of a tact that had failed before. And worse, for sacrificing his position as Hand to have his daughter wear a hollow crown. Ad with time he came to agree with Hobert: it had been a stupid decision, they got their blood on the Royal House, but every day that passed got clearer that not on the succession.

Jaehearon was still insufferably close to the daughters of Daemon and Alicent wrote that Viserys was set on betrothing him to the future lady of Illyria’s Garden. Perhaps the most political move of Viserys to this day. Princess Selaena was the sole rider of two dragons (a feat, he learned, that had happened a few times in Valyria and for the first time in Targaryen history), would inherit her father’s lands (now converted into a fief of its own, with a castle and a planned city that was yielding enough to see itself self-sustaining soon) and was closely related to House Arryn and Tyrell.

If the idea of linking his line to Daemon’s wasn’t so revolting, he would agree with Alicent’s plan to have the girl married to Aegon. But for now, he could think of better options. Maybe one of the daughters of Borros Baratheon?

“And where are my grandchildren?” he asked when they were dining with Viserys, who was so silent and serious.

“At the nursery,” Viserys answered shortly. “They are too young to join us.”

“I was under the impression that Prince Jaehearon joined the family dinners when he was five,” and Aegon was now seven.

“They join us to family dinners,” Viserys said, and he observed as Alicent’s face turned a bit red, he was sure that he had turned too. “Well, Aegon does, Helaena and Aemond are still too young anyway…”

“Husband, you seemed to be in a hurry to talk with Daemon and Lord Strong today, has something come up?” Alicent asked, obviously trying to change the conversation.

“Nothing serious, Daemon had scheduled a meeting and I was running late to it,” he said.

“And of what was this meeting about?” Otto questioned.

“Matters of the Small Council, Ser Otto,” the cut was clear, and he had to bite his tongue to not come up with an answer.

Still, he would have to check in with Maester Orwyle, he would probably know about it.

To think that to place the crown at his daughter’s head he had to lose his Hand pin… He wasn’t sure if he would repeat the action given another chance.

Notes:

Hello everyone!

Hope you liked the chapter! And it did come up earlier than expected. Sorry Flamie, hope you accept it as an earlier birthday present! Happy birthday! 🎉🎉🎉🎉 Fun fact: my birthday is also in September!

So, Kai has not yet reached Daemon, but he is already showing off his overprotectiveness. Sansa is loving it (alert: sarcasm)! What did you think of Viserys? And Otto being back at the court, anyone missed him?
No? Me neither!

I thank all of you for the well wishes! I am fine, I was just at the beginning of the infection and after a week of medication, I was good to go! As for my dog, Simba (though he had the same temper as Grouch of the Seven Dwarves), unfortunately, he passed away, but it wasn't unexpected because he had a heart condition and he wasn't getting better. I'll miss the little sh*t, but I also think that he is getting some well-deserved rest now.
Some of you compared him to Daemon and I'll give you two stories to prove that you are probably right:

1. I have another dog, Gaia, who is half Boxer half Doberman, who loves to play but would also steal his food when he was not looking. One day he was sucking on a bone and she took the bone from him and he got angry and bite her ear in protest (he was on the couch because if he was on the ground he would never reach her ear), she dropped the bone on the ground and he jumped off the ground to take the bone to his bed.
2. Once Mother asked me to take some dirty dishes to the kitchen sink while she was watching TV shows, I got up to take the dishes from her, and then Simba (who was lying at her feet) got very annoyed at me and started to bark, I ignored him, took the dishes from mom and started to go to the kitchen that is on the other side of the house. Simba didn't like being ignored so he jumped from the sofá, ran after me bit the leg of my pants, and wouldn't let go of it. I was with full hands and had nowhere to put the dishes, so I had to drag him half of the house to the kitchen.

Next chapter we will see Jon in the North! And a wedding! See you on October 14th.

See you then!

Chapter 30: A Northern Marriage

Summary:

Jon and co arrive in the North. And now they must prepare for a Wedding!
In the South, everyone has a peaceful time...

Not really!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

120

Among the Targaryen kings, the one who garnered the most affection in the North was Jaehearon I Targaryen. This was quite a surprise when one considers that Baelon I Targaryen was the son of Queen Serena Stark, the wife of Aemon I Targaryen. However, it was widely believed that Jaehearon I, despite his initial awkwardness in social gatherings, seamlessly assimilated into the North's culture, temperament, and among its lords.

Several other factors contributed to Jaehearon's exceptional reign in the eyes of Northern history. He is renowned for his efforts in restoring the honor of the Night's Watch, the return of the Gifts to House Stark, and his assistance in funding King's New Harbour.

Excerpt of The Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric Tollet

JON

Being back in the North was disorienting. The part of him that still identified as a Stark (or would that be a Snow?) immediately recognized the North as home. The familiar spring snow, the biting winds, and the picturesque rolling hills all perfectly aligned with his memories of his first infancy as Jon Snow. However, at the same time, he yearned to be elsewhere– in the Red Keep, with his father, sisters, brothers, and nephews, his uncle, and, especially, with Sansa. Gods! He missed Sansa!

When he was in King’s Landing and she was at Runestone, they were always in constant contact because of Daemon’s visits. But now that he traveled with the procession, they were lucky to exchange brief ravens every moon. Still, he understood the necessity of this procession. It offered incredible experiences and enrichment, making it indispensable.

Perhaps next time, she could accompany me, he mused to himself.

“You are thinking of Selaena,” Arya remarked at his side, and he stiffened.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” he replied.

“Oh, please!” his cousin scoffed. “Whenever you think about her, you get this expression on your face that makes me want to puke.” The comment prompted an eye roll from him. “I imagine that uncle and father are probably working on a betrothal agreement for the two of you.”

“You speak as if it’s a done deal,” Jon said. “For all we know, Selaena can choose someone else as the consort lord of Illyria’s Garden.” The idea didn’t sit well with him, but he knew that he would respect any decision from Sansa. “Anyway, we should be prepared to reach Barrowton soon. What do you think of seeing your family again, Signy?”

“It will be great to see mother and uncle,” Signy said, her smile genuine.

“And what about your impending marriage?” Devan asked with an arched eyebrow.

“Well, it will happen,” Signy replied with a sigh. “Ned is an honorable man and a skilled fighter. I cannot ask for much more.”

“You could ask for love,” Daven interjected with a smile.

“Love is something that is built over time,” Signy retorted with a roll of her eyes.

“Are you waiting to fall in love with him at first sight?” Arya teased with an impish smile.

“It wouldn’t be the first sight of him, and I definitely am not stupid to confuse love and passion!” the Lady of Bear Isle commented. “We had a good relationship as children, and though we haven’t seen each other in years, I believe we can get along well. Not all of us will marry our childhood companions!”

“I certainly won’t,” Devan sighed. “Jae and Selaena—” Jon felt his face flush at the implication but made no effort to disavow it. It would be useless! “Waymar and Alyssa,” Devan smoothly dodged something Arya threw at him, but he wasn’t entirely wrong. Arya had mentioned that if she were to marry anyone, she would rather marry Waymar than any other pouncy lordling out there. “Aemon and Griselda! Say, Signy, are you sure you don’t want to marry me so we can make it a fairy tale?”

“Gods above! Thank you, but no! I have always thought that fairy tales were overrated!”

“Well, I imagine that I should find a beautiful heiress and marry her so I can complete the cycle,” the mocking tone in Devan’s voice was so irreverent that Jon couldn’t help but smirk.

“You are so cynical, Devan,” Aemon commented. “If you're going to find an heiress, you'll have to make an effort to rid yourself of this trait, or they will run away scared of you!”

“Then I'm destined to be alone for the rest of my life! What a dismal fate!” His mannerisms exuded amusem*nt, and Griselda couldn't help but laugh before remarking:

“Don’t be so dramatic. I am sure that you will always be welcomed at our homes,” Griselda said sweetly.

“Sweet Lady Griselda, maybe you should forget this crab and marry me!”

“Are you sure you want to open our house to him, my lady?” Aemon questioned with an arched eyebrow. “Imagine the bad influence he will be on our children…”

“Slander! I am a good influence on children! Aegon loves me!”

“Aegon loves that you help him sneak into the kitchens to steal cakes,” Jon dryly remarked, feigning annoyance. They all laughed, and Jon couldn't help but smirk. Despite the cold night, their tent was a lively place of congregation.

It is interesting to note that as the Renaissance movement gained momentum in Westeros, certain First Men customs started to resurface in their daily lives. During this period, a significant event occurred known as the Great Schism between the Crown and the Faith. Jaehearon I took a decisive stance by declaring, "The Crown is secular," firmly advocating for the separation of the crown from the Faith and all other religions. This movement aimed to disentangle religion from civil affairs and the state.

This position was further solidified in 182 AC when Aemon I Targaryen ascended to the throne, and his coronation was conducted by the Hand of the King rather than any religious leader, particularly the High Septon who had traditionally crowned his predecessors.

The Renaissance era also witnessed the conversion of some noble Houses back to the Old Religion and the Fourteen Flames, as they were no longer subjected to persecution and enjoyed the legal support of the Crown..

Excerpt of Renaissance: the revolution of science, politics, art, and literature during the second century of the Targaryen Dynasty, by Professor Adelia Royce of Royal University of Illyria’s Garden

RHAENYRA

Rhaenyra wasn’t particularly fond of her siblings by Alicent because of their mother, but she had made an effort to being civil with them for the benefit of her brother, Jaehearon. Aegon, she could admit, was much more timid than Jaehearon had ever been. He was overly shy and tended to hide behind Selaena or Jae. Helaena was strange: she hated being touched with some exceptions, had an affinity for bugs and arachnids, and often spoke in riddles and disconnected sentences that could be rather vexing at times. Aemond was quieter than Aegon but still seemed to seek attention constantly. Daeron was a baby, barely older than Luke, so Rhaenyra hadn't spent much time with him. However, on the occasions she did visit the nursery, she usually found him and Aemond alone with the nursemaids. Alicent, it seemed, visited the nursery twice a week and rarely called for her children. The one she would call the most was Helaena and Rhaenyra knew why.

Alicent… How disappointing she had turned out to be. Not only had she showed herself an ambitious whor*, but also had shown herself a liar. The girl who had more than once said how much she wanted and longed to be a mother couldn’t stay as far away from her own children.

Still, they were not her problem.

“Rhaenyra!” she turned and found Kate Oakheart walking in solar she would share with her ladies. “Have you seen Dorea? Her sister has been looking for her for some time now.”

“She is hiding from her sister,” Rhaenyra smirked. “Well, I believe that she is also trying to dodge Lord Velaryon who doesn’t see to stop trying to rob Aethan every free time he has.”

“For someone that managed to hold a five-year long grudge against Dorea he certainly loves the results of the marriage,” Kate smirked, and Rhaenyra chuckled. Wordlessly, Rhaenyra invited Kate to sit and seeing as she wouldn’t find Dorea, the redhead just sat down on the chaise next to Rhaenyra and both relaxed. Uncaring to keep appearances between themselves.

“Well, Aethan is a sweet baby.”

And very Velaryon. Of that there was no doubt. His skin was not as dark as Laenor’s and the hair had loose curls instead of the tightly coiled curls of his father, but had the same shade of silver with only a streak of black—darker even than Dorea’s brown hair. The eyes were undoubtedly Dorea’s though: a beautiful shade of brown that lighten up in the sun light. Aethan was conceived, Dorea confessed to them, when she was in the bed with Laenor and Joffrey. It seemed that the only time her cousin could be interested in a woman, was when she was between him and his lover. Though both, Laenor and Joffrey, were also very much in love with Aethan.

“Sweet or not, that one is going to grow up a spoiled child,” Rhaenyra amended after some reflection and was mate with the mocking smirk in the beautiful redhead’s face.

“Just him? The King, Lord Strong, Ser Harwin and Lord Larys pay a lot of attention to Jace and Luke. Brianna and Rhaena have the heart of Lord Velaryon and Princess Rhaenys just as much as Aethan. I am pretty sure Tyland will buy a castle for Rose if she so requests and Tommen is already spoiled by Tyland and Jason.”

"I imagine that Lord Lannister will keep considering Tommen as a prospective heir until Lady Lannister gives birth to a boy," Rhaenyra mused.

"Jason says that he wouldn't mind naming Cerelle as the heir, like me, if it weren't for the fact that he knows his cousins would protest and create an even more disagreeable situation than the one in the Vale," Kate explained, but Rhaenyra noted the disbelieving expression on Kate Oakheart's face.

“You don't believe he would actually do it?”

“Jason is not necessarily a bad man, but he is very conservative. My father's decision to name me as his heir, you must understand, isn't common among Andals.”

“Your family follows of the Faith of the Seven, Kate.”

"We do, but we have strong roots in the First Men culture. We don't reject everything about our heritage, and honestly, our conversion at the time was not a matter of choice but of survival," Rhaenyra nodded in understanding.

She and Harwin had talked about many things at night, and one of the subjects had arise once had been the Andal Invasions and how their colonialist mindset had been a problem to the entire continent. The Andals weren't content with conquering land to live peacefully; they destroyed many houses in their quest to rebuilt Andalos in Westeros. They burned weirwood trees, massacred entire families, and sought to eliminate those who didn't convert until some agreements were reached. This had been driven by necessity after a severe winter lasting forty years, one of the longest ever recorded, had exhausted both sides. By then, most Houses south of the Neck had converted to the Faith to avoid being annihilated.

Sometimes she imagined how the Andals would have felt if the Targaryen had done the same. If instead of only uniting the kingdoms under his domain, Aegon had also forced people to convert to the Fourteen Flames, burning Septs and massacring countrless innocents, trying to recreate Valyria? Oh, they would have tasted their own poison, how would have they liked it?

“The Lannister was also a House of the First Men, weren’t they?” Rhaenyra inquired.

“Until they were assimilated, when Joffrey Lydden became the new King of the Rock after the death of Gerold III Lannister, since he was married to only daughter of King Gerold III Lannister.” Kate explained. “My house accepted the conversion because we were too close to Hightower and Highgarden to be defiant. They were the most radicals of the time, even more so than the Arryn that were pure Andal. As it is, while we are explicit of the Faith, we will always respect for the Old Gods.”

“It must be terrible to be forced to hide your culture practices,” Rhaenyra sighed. “Do you know if there are many houses in this situation in the Reach?”

“I know that the Rowan of Goldengrove converted for the very same reason as my House; and House Tarly also keeps some traditions of the First Men, as discreetly as they can. There is a reason why our men are usually singled out to protect the Septons from time to time, to prove our loyalty to the Faith,” there was a vicious anger burning in Kate’s eyes that Rhaenyra had seen just once before. “If we fail, we are accused of heresy and therefore we suffer some retaliation.”

“What kind of retaliation?”

“Political backlashes, economic sanctions… Gods, our houses cannot even consider making matches with Houses openly following the Old Gods without drawing attention," Kate lamented.

“Do you think there are other houses in the same situation?”

“Not in the Reach, most were fully assimilated. The Riverlands and the Vale have a politic of tolerance for different religions, it comes to my understanding that the Arryn was from a different stand from the Houses that married into Hightower and Gardener. I am not sure of the Stormlands, the Durrandon were openly of mixed religion, but I am not certain of the Baratheon and how they react to the Stormlands. The Westerlands are also more mixed due to King Gerold III's policies of arranging marriages between Andals and First Men for the sake of peace, but they've largely adopted Andal customs by now. The North is said to be the last true stronghold of the First Men. Even the few Andal Houses must respect the First Men costume to not be isolated, with time they also started to practice them.”

“Alicent was always preaching on the goodness of the Seven, but every time I hear about the Faith and the Andals, I think that they weren’t as good as Alicent tried to portray them.”

“But the Faith and the Andals aren’t the Seven,” Kate commented. “There are good and evil people serving every religion. Religions shouldn't be judged solely by their followers but by their teachings. At the same time, there are aspects of both religions that have both positive and negative aspects.”

“Be careful, the Queen would have an apoplexy if she heard you say something like this,” Rhaenyra warned, mockingly, and then said. “Or not, if she has an apoplexy, she might stop being a hypocritic.”

Princess Selaena faced numerous assassination attempts, particularly during the period between her betrothal to Prince Jaehearon and the birth of their twin sons, Aemon and Aenar Targaryen. However, the frequency of these attacks notably decreased after the birth of their children. Prince Jaehearon took the initiative to enlist the services of a shieldmaiden as Selaena's sworn protector following their marriage. He believed that, even with the presence of Ser Malik, there were certain places and situations where his wife couldn't be accompanied by a male knight.

Excerpt of The Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric Tollet

SANSA

She sighed in frustration.

Pure, undisturbed frustration.

When Sansa had returned to the Red Keep, she had been certain that she would be able to enter the Game of Thrones with remarkable success! Play it with all her knowledge of future events and understanding people’s character to make the right, calculated moves to further her agenda.

Yet after eight moons her advancement in the board had been… minimal…

Daemon was undoubtedly a devoted father—protective, caring, and mostly understanding. But he was also smothering. She couldn’t make moves without it being reported. She unapproachable with eleven men shadowing her every step. Their stubborn presence made it nearly impossible for her to breathe, and the situation worsened when her father sealed off the secret passages she had once used to escape the confines of the Red Keep for some time out of that damned dome he enclosed her.

Her only real advancement had been in making sure that Viserys found companions closer to Aegon’s age— namely, the adorable boys Samwell, the heir to Horn Hill and the son of her cousin Roslyn Tarly (née Tyrell), and Lyman Penrose, the heir to Parchments, both of whom were the same age as Aegon. She had also persuaded her uncle and father to review and revise certain laws that had overwhelmingly favored the Faith and Oldtown.

Still, she could have done so much more if she wasn’t constantly under supervision!

Now she was about to leave and had felt as if she accomplished nothing.

The fear of failing wasn’t new for her. Nor was the frustration.

But for some reason, reminding herself of what they had to lose was enough to make despair crept in the mix of negatives emotions. If they failed and the dragons perished? What would happen then? How would they stop the Others? What if…

She tried to contain the tears, to maintain steady breathing, but all she felt was a despair overwhelming her.

Suddenly it was as if she had forgotten how to breathe and while she wanted to scream—a cry for help or simply an expression of her despair—her throat seemed to constrict, rendering her voiceless.

And then, in the midst of this turmoil, she felt it again. Her magic surged, rebelling and rioting beneath her skin, finding a way to unleash itself in her moment of despair. As she slipped into unconsciousness, she heard the sound of thunder.

But the sun had been shining so bright just so moments before.

Show me
the most damaged
parts of your soul,
and I will show you
how it still shines like gold.

Nikita Gill

BRAN

He felt Sansa's magic reacting once more and, using his third eye, he attempted to see what was happening, fearing that his sister had come under attack. However, to his surprise, there was no apparent threat. Sansa was simply crying and appeared to be experiencing some kind of emotional breakdown. He attempted to connect with her, to offer comfort and calm, but her magic rejected his presence. Not only did it push him away, but it also began to manifest in the world.

Unfazed by the dragonkeepers who were supposed to be guarding him, Bran soared out of the Dragon Pit. The atmosphere was shifting, and it was as if the whole city started to echo Sansa’s despair. People tried to ignore it, unknowing of where this oppressive feeling was coming from. But her magic refused to be ignored. It manifested in the skies above the city and along the coast.

Lightning crackled across the skies, drawing attention to itself, while the sun was abruptly obscured by clouds that seemed to materialize out of nowhere, casting a Stark Grey hue over the once-blue sky. The winds grew stronger and colder, and the once-calm sea roiled with furious waves. Bran couldn't comprehend how or why it was happening, but he knew that it shouldn't be.

Why was Sansa’s magic reacting like that?

He flew to the tower of the Hand, observing the wary gazes of the people in the Red Keep who were accustomed to his unusual appearances. They had grown used to his antics but remained cautious when he appeared out of nowhere.

He roared, uselessly trying to call for Sansa’s attention, but when he peered through her window, he saw that she was unconscious on her chaise. Gods! Where were her ladies? As the rain sbegun to fall, he roared once more and watched as her door was opened. Daemon had come to her when he had seen him in the yard, fearing another attack on his daughter. He seemed relieved to find her on the chaise, assuming she had merely fallen asleep and was unaware of her recent mental breakdown.

“Selaena,” Daemon moved his daughter gently. “Ñuha prūmia, why are you sleeping on the chaise?”

“Kepa? What… what are you doing here?”

“I was in my solar when your dragon decided to pay a visit,” Daemon replied, feeling their eyes turn toward him as he stood at the window. He connected with Sansa's gaze and shared with her what her magic had done. Her face paled slightly as she attempted to regain control of her magic, but she couldn't do so, especially not with her father present and aware of the very real manifestation of her powers. “You shouldn’t be in the chaise unless you want to wake up with a sore back later.

“I must have fallen asleep while embroidering,” Sansa offered as an excuse, but Daemon didn’t seem to take it well.

“Why are you alone? Your ladies should be here.” He inquired, concerned.

“Adrienne is with some of her cousins who arrived recently in the city, and Minisa was with her mother. I wanted to be left alone,” Daemon sighed. “What? I only fell asleep!”

“Summer came to visit because you fell asleep? Do you think I'm a fool, tala?” Daemon questioned.

“I don’t know why Summer is here!” Sansa retorted.

"Dragons sense when we are in trouble. What happened, Selaena?" Daemon pressed.

"Nothing!" Sansa insisted, her annoyance palpable, which Bran sensed and responded with some of his own. "Maybe he's just cranky because it's been over a moon since I was last allowed to ride!"

Yeah, she got that handled.

“What about it? If the time permits, then tomorrow we will fly to Dragonstone,” Daemon said arching an eyebrow. “You two can fly as much as you like…”

“You promise?” Sansa asked eagerly after Daemon affirmed the promise and left the room. She then walked to the window to observe the changing weather. "Did I do that?"”

Yes, or your magic did. Are you alright? Bran inquired.

“I don’t know… I have never felt anything like that before,” she admitted.

You are overworking your mind, Bran tried to reassure her. One of the lessons I learned from the Three-Eyed Raven is that one must know how to relax; otherwise, worries can drive them to madness. The alternative would be to shut off your emotions completely.

“Could I, do it?” Sansa wondered.

Sansa, I did close my emotions. It made me cold and overly rational, devoid of feeling. Your emotions are one of the best parts of you.

“They’ve got me into trouble before.”

Without your emotions, you risk becoming no better than Ramsay or the Night King. Emotions make you human, they make you compassionate, and they enable you to think of others beyond the walls of castles. You can't be ruled by your emotions, but you can't rule without them either.

“It is getting worse, Bran!”

It means you are getting more powerful. Trust me, you don’t need to lose your emotions, you need to work with them. Don’t bottle your feelings, talk with me or with Arya or Jon. We might not come to a solution, but we can share your burden. As for your magic… It is powerful, maybe it can be our help against the Others when time comes.

"If we can ever figure out how to control it," Sansa commented as she attempted to calm the storm she had unintentionally summoned.

Prince Daemon may not have been renowned for his scholarly pursuits, but contrary to popular belief, he was a dedicated student as well. This habit was instilled in him and his brother by their father, the Spring Prince. Among his favorite subjects of study were Valyrian history, war and strategy manuals, and magic. Over the years, he also composed numerous personal notes on topics such as war strategies, politics, management, and more. Upon his death, his daughters compiled these notes, which were eventually published as "Treaties of Peace and Warfare." This publication gained popularity and became as well-known as "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu from Yi Ti and "The Art of War" by Archmaester Vaegon Targaryen from Westeros, in terms of military manuals.

There is, however, a rumor that Prince Daemon also wrote many notes on magic that remain hidden within the Royal Family.

Excerpt from The Rogue Prince, Maester Gyldayn

DAEMON

He wasn’t blind; he knew what he had seen —a golden ring receding in his youngest daughter's violet eyes. That was not something normal. He remembered reading somewhere that Visenya’s eyes turned red, Tyanna’s would turn black, and that Daenys’ eyes would turn green when she had visions. The same reading had suggested that when the eyes displayed such changes, it was due to magic.

Visenya had been a sorceress, as had Tyanna. Daenys was known as the Dreamer for a reason. Powerful women in their own right, like his daughter.

Selaena had been the first Targaryen to ever bound with two dragons, a feat achieved only by powerful, magically inclined Valyrians. He had never made a connection until now, and part of him questioned if Selaena knew. He wouldn’t begrudge her for keeping it a secret, not when he knew how the Andal were towards magic. Hadn’t the Hight Septon just advocated for the public burning of a Silk Street worker because she had been accused by one of the patrons of using “sorcery” against him? (a low excuse he found to shift his blame so that his wife would get out of his back for his infidelity and saw him banned from every brothel of the city).

If Selaena knew of her own magic, she was likely trying to protect herself. If she didn’t, then he would need to select her guards even better. Avoid the Andals and Faith followers. Probably look for other ladies, a Mooton wasn’t a promising one since his grandmother had been attacked when she had been accepted under their protection some years ago. He also had to look into the Targaryen archives in Dragonstone for more information.

“You are terribly quiet, Daemon,” his brother observed from his seat presiding over the Small Council. “Does the matter between House Bracken and Blackwood annoy you?”

“Their feud has been an annoyance in the last five millennia, so I don’t know what you can mean by it,” Daemon said. “Marriage pacts hadn’t worked, a river between them hadn’t work and I am pretty sure that the threat of extinction wouldn’t work either. I would gladly move one to Dorne and the other to the North if I thought for a second that it would be enough to quell their feud.”

“Lord Hand,” Lord Strong started looking at him with some consternation. “They had a pacific convivence in the last fifty years before this problem.”

“With all due respect, Lord Strong, but if my history lessons serve me right, they've spent the majority of their five-thousand-year history either at war or embroiled in petty feuds. Fifty years of peace is a mere blip on their historical timeline,” Daemon sneered.

“Prince Daemon is right,” Corlys said. “I still don’t know why we must deal with their pettiness.”

Look who is talking about pettiness, Daemon thought to himself.

“Because they belong to the realm, and as a King I am responsible for keeping this realm’s peace,” Daemon rolled his eyes heavenwards at his brother’s answer.

“As it is, we should settle for monitoring their feud to prevent it from escalating to war. The only way to achieve lasting peace between them is to exile one of them to Essos, but that's a fanciful notion, and we must endure their enmity,” Daemon proposed.

“And what about the fence?”

“We make a deal: the Bracken keeps the Blackwood’s land south of the Red Fork and the Blackwood keep the Bracken’s lands North of the Red Fork, and river become their border!” Daemon proposed.

“What about the difference in land area?” Lyman questioned back. “Or the Bridge by the way.”

“Correct me if I am wrong: but the bridge belongs to Riverrun, right?”

“Yes, my prince, but in each generation it has a Bracken or a Blackwood administrating it by tradition, they switch every ten years.”

“Ridiculous, put the two of them to work together, instead of one each decade, let them work their asses to cure this stupid rift.” Daemon suggested and Viserys frowned.

“That can lead to more conflict between them, Daemon.”

“It can also get them to put their difference aside to work together!” Daemon almost laughed at the irony.

He of all people was advocating for two conflicting parties to work together for the benefit of a common cause. Where was this world going to end? And worse, Viserys thought it to be a bad idea. Viserys who always wanted people to work together and all be friends!

“Honestly, we have more pressing matters to discuss than the millennial feud between the Blackwoods and Brackens,” Corlys remarked after a pause. “Manderly discovered that the Iron Bank is trying to buy the formula to the explosives of the Stepstones.”

“Well, I wish them luck prying it out of those stubborn women,” Orwyle muttered, furrowing his brow. “They don’t share.”

“They would share if you had teats and a c*nt,” Daemon smirked. “Alas, as useless your prick has been, it is still a prick.”

“DAEMON!”

Letter from Princess Alyssa to Princess Selaena

(...)It is my pleasure to announce that Signy just gave birth to the chubbiest and sweetest baby in the North: Alyssa Dustin. Signy was exhausted, but Ned let me hold my namesake and I am still regretting letting him have her back. Seriously though, Gree and I are in constant competition on who will hold the child more. Apparently, we annoyed Ned because we, I quote "cannot steal his firstborn", well though luck! Aly obviously likes us more! (...)

Excerpt from History through letters, Maester Deverik

ARYA

While Signy was occupied with finalizing arrangements for her wedding ceremony; Griselda and Aemon were off somewhere courting, with Devan serving as their chaperone; and Jon, on the other hand, was busy socializing with the lords who had come to the wedding, some of whom were eager to meet the visiting prince. In the midst of all this, Arya found herself spending a considerable amount of time with Adrian Tarbeck.

The poor boy has been thrust into their company by Uncle Viserys, who sought to foster a good relationship between him and Jon. If circ*mstances had unfolded differently, Adrian might have become Jon's stepbrother. Thankfully, the boy bonded well with them, though some he was still unexpected. He was only eleven, closer in age to Sansa and Gideon, but Sansa wasn’t exactly a child, was she? And Gideon was shy and bookish, very different from the aloof but confident boy Adrian was. Gods! Still, she managed to teach him some tricks and the boy was a good student and listener.

“Did I do it right?” Adrian asked when he completed the exercise Arya had assigned to him.

"You did," Arya acknowledged with a nod. "Maintain that form and repeat it a couple more times. Afterward, you can take a break. I need to speak with someone."

Arya's eyes shifted as she noticed Ned Dustin passing by the training yard.

"Do you mean to threaten the heir of this keep?" Adrian asked cheekily, prompting Arya to let out a chuckle.

"Who said anything about threatening him?" Arya replied, her tone light. "I simply wish to have an amicable conversation with him before tomorrow's ceremony."

Adrian raised an eyebrow, his curiosity piqued. "You have the same expression as my mother when she's about to put someone in their place for making foolish comments due to her gender."

Arya smirked at his observation. "Rest assured, Tarbeck, I have no intention of violating guest rights."

“I am more worried about you crushing the man’s pride before he even marries your friend,” the young lord said, and Arya rolled her eyes and continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted:

“I just intend to put the fear of Gods and dragons into him,” Arya replied with a hint of amusem*nt. As Adrian chuckled, she turned her attention back to him. “Repeat the exercise another five times, I will know if you don’t.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

With that, Arya left Adrian to his training and made her way toward the direction where Lord Ned Dustin and his companions were situated. They immediately bowed upon seeing her approach.

"Lord Ned, what a pleasure to find you here," she greeted him with a saccharine smile.

“I am in my House seat, Princess,” he said, stating the obvious. Her smile widened.

“That’s true! Would you mind taking me to the Godswood? We need to have a talk.”

The men behind Ned Dustin couldn't contain their amusem*nt, snorting and guffawing as if they already knew what their friend was about to endure. Arya, however, paid them no heed and fixed her gaze firmly on the heir to Barrowton.

Eddard “Ned” Dustin shared many mannerisms with Cley Cerwyn—a childhood friend of Robb Stark—; and had a strong jaw and serious Stark Grey eyes, a testament to his Stark heritage through his mother. His hair was ash brown, and his wind-chafed skin showed that he would spend a lot of time outside. He was tall, not as tall as Waymar, but certainly taller than her and Signy.

“Of course, Princess,” he replied, offering his arm, which Arya accepted. As they walked toward the Godswood, they mostly kept to silence until they were close to their destination. “I imagine that this is when you threaten to gut me if I ever hurt your friend?” Ned Dustin remarked.

“Signy is my best friend, Lord Ned,” Arya begun, her tone serious. “She arrived in Runestone almost a decade ago, and you know what? I loved her from the very beginning. She was serious, yes, but she was also strong, confident and had a no-nonsense attitude. It was refreshing after dealing with the girls at court. She understood my want to be a warrior first and a lady second. We grew up together, and now I must leave her in your hands. Do you have any idea how difficult that is for me?"

Ned Dustin's gaze met hers, and he spoke from his own experience. "My oldest sister married a Whitehill, and now we live very far apart. It was not easy to let her go."

“Once I heard someone say that family is more than just blood; is also a matter of choice. I chose to have sisters in Signy and in Griselda. My own sister loves them dearly. But you are wrong, I am not going to gut you if you ever hurt Signy.” As his eyebrow rose, she let out a smirk. “I will destroy whatever is left of you and then feed it to Nymeria to get rid of the body.”

"Whatever is left?" Ned Dustin questioned, his tone wry. "Already counting that her sisters and cousins will bash me before you?”

“Oh, I am sure that her family will want a go on your sorry ass,” Arya replied, chuckling. “But I am also sure that Signy will be the very first in line to get quit with you. Since I will be some two thousand miles away from the situation, I imagine that I will get only whatever is left of you.”

"A part of me is terrified at the thought of incurring the wrath of a dragon," Ned admitted. "But another part is relieved that my future wife has such strong support in case anything ever goes wrong. Rest assured, Your Highness, I was raised by Isolde Stark, and I would never harm a lady, especially if she's my wife."

"Good," Arya said, her tone firm. "I hope you keep those lessons in mind, Ned Dustin." or else was left unsaid.

The rumors surrounding Lady Dorea's alleged infidelity to her husband began when one of the Queen's attendants spotted Ser Joffrey Lonmouth leaving her chambers one morning. Despite Ser Laenor's assurance that Ser Joffrey had not been alone with his wife, as he too had been present in the room, the Queen attempted to use this information to cast doubt on the paternity of Lady Dorea's child. However, none of the Princess's entourage paid any attention to such rumors.

When Aethan Velaryon was born with an unmistakable Velaryon complexion and appearance, the Queen attempted to salvage her reputation by insinuating that Lady Dorea may have had an affair with one of Ser Laenor's cousins. However, this accusation was also disregarded by those in the Princess's party.

Excerpt of Princess Rhaenyra: the crime of being born a woman, by Professor Thessa Velaryon of the Royal University of Illyria's Garden

DOREA

She sighed when she was made aware that her good father had taken her son from his nursery. It didn’t annoy her half as much as it did the first time, but well, at this point, Corlys was probably with Rhaenys, and both had taken care of their fair share of children, so they knew what they were doing. And from what she has been told, Brianna and Rhaena had also been taken, so her good parents were probably showing off their grandchildren like the proper doting grandparents that they were.

She entered her room and began trying to reach the ribbons of her corset when Laenor and Joffrey walked in. The two were always together.

“Do you need any help?” Laenor offered.

“Yes, please,” he approached and undid the knots, helping her loosen the ribbons, to her relief. “Your father has taken Aethan from the nursery again.”

“You mean he sent a nurse to kidnap our son?” Laenor asked with a jesting tone in his voice.

“More than just a nurse, I was informed that he had sent for Brianna and Rhaena too,” she said.

“The Sea Snake is a sucker for children, who would have imagined it?” Joffrey said as he plopped onto her bed. “Has he started to ask for when you’ll make Aethan a big brother yet?”

“Actually no, why are you jealous of sharing your lover with me?” she questioned with an arched eyebrow.

“Sharing your husband with you gives me much pleasure, my lady,” Joffrey said.

“I think that there is enough of me for the two of you,” Laenor commented as he helped her out of her dress.

“You are better at it than my new handmaid,” Dorea commented.

“We are married; I should be able to get rid of your dress readily, don’t you think?” Laenor smirked. “Still not used to Vila?”

“I honestly don’t think she will last much as a handmaid if she continues to act as if she is afraid of her own shadow!” Dorea commented while watching Laenor join Joffrey to her bed, she walked to the stand where a bowl of dried fruits waited for her.

“She probably is, she used to be a handmaid to Genevieve Reyne, and despite the young age, that girl has a f*cking temper,” Joffrey said, reaching for her bowl.

“How do you even know it?”

“I am a third son of a second son, Dorea, I’m pretty sure some consider me closer to the servants than to the lords,” Joffrey said. He wasn’t so off-base, the chances of inheriting for him were very low, and while he was a member of a noble house, he was still very low in his own House’s hierarchy, which was why he chose to become a sworn shield – a noble occupation, but not one usually followed by members of the main family line.

“What he means is that he was gossiping with the kitchen maids again,” Laenor snickered.

“And the palace guards, don’t forget about them!” Joffrey added. “Genevieve Reyne has a high turnover of handmaids because of her temper tantrums. Rumour has it that she is set on becoming Queen, and wanted a chance to sabotage Princess Selaena, but has no chance because of the eleven guards following her.”

“Do you remember the unholy tantrum she had when it was announced that Devan was invited to the Procession and she wasn’t?” Laenor commented.

“A bit hard to not remember,” Dorea sneered. “She was very loud; I heard that she tried to throw something at Devan. She is prone to abuse her servants?”

“Mistreat, abuse, run them to the ground…” Joffrey went on. “I heard that once someone commented that her handmaid had beautiful hair, and in the next day she shaved the servant’s head. Once she had a very thin handmaid that she felt jealous of and then made the girl eat until she started to get ill just to prove a point.”

“Gods! These are the palace servants, not her slaves!” Dorea commented.

“Well, the Queen has been made aware of her actions but says that the girls are being handsomely paid to put up with those kinds of attitudes, and it isn’t causing any kind of permanent damage,” Joffrey said.

“If all of them come out of her service like Vila, I beg to differ,” Dorea rolled her eyes. “So why are the two of you in my room?”

“Initially we wanted to see Aethan, but since he isn’t here, we thought to keep you company,” Laenor commented after sharing a silent conversation with Joffrey. “Do you have anywhere to be?”

“Not tonight. Rhaenyra and Harwin are eating with the Strongs. Tyland decided to make a surprise to Kate and left the children with my sister and good brother. And Laena and Torrhen claimed that they wanted to revisit a fantasy, but I am afraid that I did not care for the details,” she smirked as Laenor shivered at the mention of his sister’s fantasies with her husband and continued. “My plans for the night were to have a quiet time with Aethan and read some more into a book Kate had lent me before your father crashed into those plans.”

“That means we have you all to ourselves?” Joffrey asked with a smile.

“Save for an emergency, yes,” was her answer and then.

They stayed together for hours, though this time nothing happened. They talked, played games, shared gossip and had a fun time. From time to time, Joffrey and Laenor would be disarmingly sweet with each other, such as when her husband would run his hand on Joffrey’s ginger hair or when Joffrey would steal kisses from Laenor. Despite everything her septa taught her, Dorea didn’t feel disgusted by their love, nor was she even a little uncomfortable when two of the people she loved the most were so happy in front of her. There was nothing she could ask for more in her life.

Letter from Aemon Celtigar to Lord Bartimos Celtigar

(…) Their wedding ceremony was much simpler than the one in the Faith, but there is something about its simplicity and the location that made me feel simply at peace. As for the feast afterward, the North certainly knows how to throw a party. I have never seen people so merry and pleasant as they are, at least during a party! (…)

Excerpt from History through letters, Maester Deverik

SIGNY

The ceremony had been beautiful, and the feast that followed had been raucous and merry. Good music and animated dancing, hearty food, ale, and wine flooding the cups. A true Northern feast like the ones she remembered from Bear Isles. The lack of refinement from the southern feasts she attended was compensated with tenfold merriment and excitement.

But the high point of the night was her nuptials. The bedding in the North was different from the bedding in the South. In the south, it was common for the male attendants to rip the bride’s dress until she was in her small clothes and then carry her to the bedroom while the female attendants would undress the groom. All of this was accompanied by very crude comments. Her first time seeing that had been at the King’s marriage, which happened to be quite tame compared to Princess Rhaenyra's and Lady Kate's. It had been distressing and disconcerting. In the North, the bride was undressed by the female attendants and escorted to the chamber by her closest friends and family, the groom would be accompanied by his friends who would joke at his side. There was no need to embarrass either bride or groom more than they already were.

And really, which man wanted to have his newlywed wife disrespected and humiliated for the sake of tradition?

And they call us savages, she remembered that thought.

In the beginning, it had been very awkward, but after some time and with a lot of Ned’s consideration, she did feel special.

When morning came, she woke up to Ned snuggling against her, and she did blush a little when she felt his parts pressing against her back.

“Your hair smells like apple candy,” he murmured. “I like it.”

“Good morning,” she said, not knowing how to respond to the compliment.

“Good morning, wife,” the teasing edge in his voice was enough to make her smile and say again.

“Good morning, husband.”

“How are you this morning?”

“A bit sore, but honestly, I am sure that I’ve had worse during some rough training with Aly,” she responded and then returned the question.

“I waited for someone to burst through the door and kill me,” his tone was playful, but she turned to face him, looking up.

“What do you mean by that?” she inquired.

“Well, I've been threatened by almost everyone in the Prince's Party, except for Lord Tarbeck. That is, along with your own sisters, cousins, and uncle.”

“Oh?” she was more amused than distressed, knowing her friends well.

“Granted, the Prince's threat was more veiled, as he said he would never want to see his cousins distressed, and if anything were to happen to you, then Princess Alyssa would be most distressed. Aemon Celtigar commented that he cares for you like a sister he never had, and if you were hurt, he would take some pound of flesh as repayment. And the other, the Reyne, said that if I ever f*cked up, he would be more than happy to carry you away after he kills me. To be sure, the most terrifying ones were Griselda Wull and Alyssa Targaryen. Lady Griselda and Princess Alyssa promised to help you get rid of my body.” With that, Signy burst into laughter, and her husband looked at her with amusem*nt.

“I would say sorry and that they don’t mean it, but I know Gree and Aly well enough to say that they probably already have plans made,” she replied nonchalantly.

“I’m happy that you have such friends at your side,” he said gently.

Notes:

Sansa had her first anxiety attack! Why? Because I think that after everything in her first life, she did not have any kind of anxiety and PTSD was lazy. Seriously, the girl had a checklist of things that could cause PTSD, depression, stress, and a whole lot of problems and got out with no problem at all? Come on!
So yes! While not depressive. Our Sansa is anxious and a bit stressed. And more importantly: Daemon knows something!

Signy is now a happily married woman! She accepts axes and swords as wedding gifts. Who pities Ned Dustin?

Rhaenyra and Kate's conversation has something to do with future events. As for Dorea? She was just a cute thing that I had to give for fan service!

As for the next chapter: Daddy Daemon fluffiness in Dragonstone, Jon and Arya talk of noticing some permanent changes and planning on more, Rhaenyra and Harwin fluffiness that I was owing you, Alicent being a bitch and Sansa playing a long game. See you on October 30th.

Chapter 31: Building and burning bridges

Summary:

Daemon and Sansa have a good time in Dragonstone.
Jon takes the first step to strengthen the relationship between Stark and Targaryen.
Rhaenyra and Harwin have a sweet time together.
Alicent doesn't like interference in her household.
Larys has some news on the attack on Runestone!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

If you look at how the citadel of Dragonstone was built and how in some of its structures the stone was shaped in some fashion with magic... yes, it's safe to say that there's something of Valyrian magic still present.

Excerpt of Architectural Wonders: the buildings that represent the history of Westeros, by Master Florentin

DAEMON

Daemon watched as his daughter landed gracefully next to him and Caraxes. After dismounting from Summer, she immediately rushed into his arms.

"Did you enjoy your ride?" he asked.

“I did, Kepa!” she beamed. “Hi Caraxes! Have you enjoyed your flight as well?” she questioned his dragon and looked amused as the Blood Wyrm purred in response. Caraxes still had a soft spot for his daughters, even if he thought that Summer was the most annoying dragon in existence. “I will take that as a yes!” she said, scratching under the dragon’s eye.

“Would you stop treating my dragon as if he were one of your mother’s puppies?” he questioned.

Muña doesn’t have puppies; she has Great Danes and Newfoundland Dogs,” The Great Danes were Rhea’s hunting dogs while the Newfoundland had been used in the farms as livestock guardian dogs. Despite their enormous size, they acted like small puppies and loved attention.

“Who act like puppies; I am pretty sure Lady Redwyne’s pug is more of a guard dog than Rhea’s menaces,” he replied with a smirk.

“I like them just fine!” he knew. Alyssa and Selaena seemed to like all kind of animals. Dogs, cats, horses, birds… Dragons were their favourite, of course, but they still had soft spots for fluffy animals. Alyssa babying the dogs was especially disturbing in his opinion. “And they are very sweet, just as Caraxes. Right, Caraxes?” as the dragon purred, Daemon sighed.

“Sweet? That’s one of the most feared dragons in existence, tala!”

“You are one of the most feared men in this world, and I still think you the sweetest of the fathers,” he almost choked on her cheeky reply. He! Sweet? The nerve!

In response to her cheekiness, he got her up and threw her over his shoulders and begun to walk to the castle of Dragonstone’s castle.

“KEPA! Put me down!”

“I don’t think I will, not when you are bent on destroying my reputation!” he said. “Let’s go inside; I’m sure that your cousin’s castellan is ready to receive us!”

He ignored his daughter’s protests as he walked them inside. Selaena, a stickler for rules and propriety, did not appreciate being carried as a sack of potatoes over her father’s shoulder and made it clear. Daemon simply smirked. Ser Robert Quince, the castellan of the Dragonstone, was waiting for them and seemed a bit shocked by their entrance.

“Prince Daemon, we have two rooms prepared for you and your daughter, and a luncheon is waiting for you in the drawing room.”

“Good. Selaena ate like a little bird before we came; I’m sure she is hungry,” he said, noticing that Selaena had eaten considerably less than usual in the mornings.

“That’s enough, Kepa! Put me down!” she demanded, and he chuckled at her. He only put her on the ground again when he arrived in the drawing room where food was being served. She huffed and puffed in displeasure, and he only became more amused at her glare.

Ñuha Prūmia, you should know by now that your glare is as terrifying as a kitten’s glare,” he smirked, and she crossed her arms.

“That is not true!”

After they ate, and this time he was sure that his youngster did eat more than a bird’s portion, he let her be free with Summer and Lady while he went to the library specifically the secret library where the old books of Visenya and other mages in his family were kept, away from the maesters. He read them silently and calmly, taking notes.

He wouldn’t question Selaena yet, but he would make sure she was protected until he could understand what was happening to his daughter. In time, he would approach her about it, but not yet. First, he needed information.

Daemon found his daughter sitting on the chaise, patiently awaiting him for dinner. She appeared refreshed in one of the dresses that he was certain she had left at the castle the last time they visited. She was so engrossed in her book that she hadn't noticed his approach, and he used this to his advantage to quietly observe her. With each passing year, she grew more beautiful, a quality easily enhanced by her elegance, good taste, intelligence, serenity, and sweet personality. It was no surprise that bards had begun praising her beauty at such an early age. She was indeed the Beloved Princess Selaena.

Strangely enough, she seemed somewhat of an odd out in their little family. Rhea, although not a warrior like their oldest daughter, did not give off an aura of fragility or serenity. She was loud, outspoken, and adventurous. He, well, he was nicknamed Rogue Prince for a reason. Alyssa was the embodiment of both Rhea and Daemon combined. Selaena, on the other hand, was a mixture of Viserys, Aemon, Baelon, Alysanne, and Aemma. She was studious, diligent, quiet, altruistic, and gentle… Yet she fit right in.

“Are you hungry, Ñuha prūmia?” Daemon inquired.

“Kepa! What is it that you and Aly move like cats?” she huffed, startled at his interruption, and he chuckled. “I am, and Ser Robert said that the cook made lemon cake.”

“I couldn’t imagine why…” Most likely an instruction from Jaehearon to always have lemon cakes whenever Selaena came to Dragonstone.

“Are we going to stay tomorrow too?” she asked eagerly, and he sighed at having to disappoint her.

“Unfortunately, we cannot,” he replied, patting her head. “I have a council meeting tomorrow afternoon, and the day after, we will go to Illyria’s Garden.” That seemed to lift her mood.

“We will?”

“Well, it is your land, and you should get to know it better!” he said and she nodded excitedly. He smiled at her returned enthusiasm. “Let’s have dinner, right?”

“Yeah, Kepa!”

He observed her during dinner, paying attention to her and trying to decipher her magic. Visenya had mentioned different kinds of magic, like necromancy, transmutation, natural, divination, enchantment, blood magic, animacy, abjuration, conjuration, and more. Targaryens were inclined towards divination and blood magic, but something suggested that Selaena's magic was different from the norm among Targaryens. When he returned her to Runestone, he would need to talk to Rhea, perhaps about something related to the First Men.

“You are staring!” she remarked midway through dinner.

“Just admiring the most beautiful girl in this world!” He said with a smirk.

“You are so much trouble, Kepa!” she rolled her eyes. For a second, he could see something gold in her violet eyes again.

Yes, Rhea might know something.

As a Prince, Jaehearon I Targaryen carried significant responsibilities that he faithfully fulfilled. When Ser Tyland Lannister proposed the idea of establishing a naval force to patrol the western coast, Prince Jaehearon took a keen interest in the proposal. He collaborated closely with Ser Tyland to develop and refine the plan, paying meticulous attention to every detail. His efforts eventually earned the approval of King Viserys I in 124 AC.

Even before the project received official approval, Prince Jaehearon commenced the funding of a port city in the North with his personal resources. Originally known as Black Harbour, in contrast to the eastern northern shores' White Harbour, this city was later renamed King's New Harbour. Lord Benjen Wyatt, formerly Stark and the founder of House Wyatt of King's New Harbour, as well as the nephew of Lord Rickon Stark, was responsible for this renaming. This harbor city was not initially part of the Royal Navy project, but its completion played a pivotal role in securing approval for the endeavor.

Excerpt of The Age of Jaehearon I Targaryen, by Maester Domeric Tollet

JON

Being in the North had made him miss the Red Keep, but being in Winterfell after all those years made him miss his past life. Not the one where he had joined the Night's Watch, but the one before it. Before the arrival of Robert Baratheon, before the death of Jon Arryn. Those were the days when they were all free, happy, and innocent. He missed his uncle who had raised him as a son. He missed his cousin Rickon, who used to roam the castle freely. He missed Robb, who used to spar with him. Gods! He even missed Theon and Lady Stark!

The Starks had received them with all the expected honors and hadn't tried to turn the visit into a business meeting immediately, but gave him time to organize before one. But before the formalities, he found Arya alone on the battlements, observing the Stark soldiers during their training.

“I didn’t see her,” Arya began, and he looked at her with a frown. Over the years, they had agreed to use High Valyrian when they needed more privacy in their conversations. At the Red Keep, many people understood the language just fine, but outside it, not nearly as many did. “Sara Snow, do you think she is being hidden?”

“I don’t think there will be a Sara Snow this time,” he commented. “By every account, Sara Snow was born from the affair between Rickon Stark and Meera Snow, who would be a governess for Cregan after the death of Lady Gilliane death. There is no Meera Snow here.”

It was well-known that Rickon Stark had been faithful to his wife's bed, and he had mourned her death until the day he didn't wake up, which should have been twelve moons ago according to House Stark's records. However, the Lord of Winterfell looked as healthy as a horse, and his wife, Lady Gilliane, appeared lovely, albeit a bit frail. They had no other children besides Cregan and Jonel. Cregan, who reminded him a lot of Rickon, and Jonel, who bore a striking resemblance to Robb, except for his red hair.

“So, there wouldn’t be a Sara Snow either.” Arya frowned at the information. “Do you really think she doesn’t exist?”

“With the exception of children born out of the First Night Rites, Stark men aren’t known for breaking their marriage vows, Aly,” he commented. Most bastards were born either before marriage or after the partner's death, and that's why his existence had been a stain on Ned Stark's honor, had he been born later than his marriage to Lady Stark.

“I suppose,” Arya sighed. “Sara Snow might never exist, but the fact that Sansa was able to prevent Bennard from trying to usurp his nephew helps a lot.”

“Hmm… That nearly turned into a civil war,” Jon sighed. “Sometimes I think that we changed too much, but sometimes it seems like everything is heading to the same end.”

“I don’t think that. Every small change we make has an impact, and we haven't even started the major changes yet. Illyria's Garden is proof that we've altered the board irrevocably. The Naval project to protect the western coast from the Ironborn was never drafted – if it was, it was never discussed. The world we'll leave behind will be unrecognizable." He could see her point, but the pessimistic part of him stubbornly held the belief that they needed to prepare for a war.

“It doesn’t exactly mean a good thing.”

“As far as we can avoid the Dance of Dragons and the Blackfyre Rebellions, I think that many things will be better.”

“That’s a wistful thinking, Aly,” he arched an eyebrow as she rolled her eyes.

"Then perhaps the world is coming to an end if I'm the one preaching hope and you're preaching doom," she said playfully. "Will you talk with Lord Stark about your proposal tomorrow?"

“Let us hope that I get it right.”

The next day, he reviewed the plans he had drafted with the help of Devan and Aemon one last time before heading to Lord Stark's solar. While Sansa, Arya, Griselda, and Signy had provided valuable input, and his uncle Daemon and his father had reviewed the plans, the bulk of the project was written by him and his friends. Devan had a knack for mathematics and finances, excelling at complex calculus and financial management, possibly because his allowance from his parents was meagre compared to his siblings'. Aemon, on the other hand, was as skilled at interpreting laws as he was at reading them, much like Sansa. He could identify exploitable loopholes and devise solutions with ease, just as Sansa had pointed out. She had suggested that he start considering his council.

Still, they had a solid plan. They needed this port not only to secure the shores but also to facilitate the transport of armies to the North when the time came, for he knew that the White Walkers would come, and he wanted the realm to be prepared.

“Ready for business Devan asked with a carefree smile, while Aemon appeared determined for what lay ahead.

“I am. Where are Alyssa and Griselda?”

“They are training,” Aemon said. “Griselda said that she won’t participate in the discussion, and Alyssa decided to train with her.”

“Yeah, she said that she can’t take parts on this one!”

He understood their decision but felt slightly disappointed by it. Both of them had contributed to these drafts and deserved to be part of the negotiations. However, he understood the potential conflicts of interest that others could point out, much like the concerns raised about Tyland.

“Then we should go,” he said.

They arrived at the solar just some minutes before Lord Stark himself. With him were Lady Stark, Lord Bennard Stark, Lord Manderly, Lord Bryan Flint (of the Flint’s Fingers), Lord Donald Glover and Lord Beric Mormont (uncle to Signy, who had followed them from Barrowton to Winterfell). Especially after he became interested in the idea of the Navy. Interestingly enough, Cregan Stark has also joined them.

After the customary greetings and courtesies, Lord Stark began:

"We have been hearing rumors from the South. Usually, southern rumors wouldn't interest us, but this one had the North in the middle," Rickon Stark said, "Something about a naval force?"

“My Lord is right to be paying attention to this rumour,” Jon said. “The Ironborn have become too much of a headache for many people, including I believe your own lords,” as Glover, Flint and Mormont nodded, Jon continued: “Every time we try the diplomatic route to request them to stop their pirates, they send excuses of ‘these are rogue men and we cannot control them’ but still profit of their sacks and criminal acts. While my uncle is eager for an opportunity to burn the Iron Islands, I prefer to follow my cousin's suggestion first: cripple their economy until they have no other choice but submit.”

“And how did Princess Alyssa suggested that we struggle their economy?” Bennard Stark questioned and Jon raised an eyebrow.

“Princess Alyssa? She is more in line with her father's idea of burning everything to the ground and salting the earth,” Devan said, while snorting a laugh.

"The Ironborn economy is primarily sustained by piracy, although they have iron and silver mines that could make them much wealthier if they chose. They raid villages on our western coasts, and if they have enough, they try to expand further. When Ser Tyland proposed a Naval force to protect the western coasts, Selaena immediately saw a way to hold the Iron Islands accountable. If they cannot rely on piracy, they will be limited in their options and forced to surrender."

“Still, you are hesitant on the plans?” Lord Stark questioned. “Why?”

"There are many reasons, including but not limited to funding, workforce, and the authority of the Navy. These reasons are still being studied, but there is one that can be addressed immediately," Jon said, placing a folded parchment on the table. A map with all kind of markings. "The North doesn't have a western port that can support the forces as we are planning them. With the way we need to deploy them, if the North lacks a port to support the Navy when it arrives and patrols begin, we fear the Ironborn may turn their attention Northward, becoming an even greater nuisance for your people."

“Inconvenience would be an understatement,” Lord Flint said. “But why do you think that the North’s western ports doesn’t are not able to support this forces?”

“Please, correct me if I am wrong, Lord Flint,” Devan started, serious for a change, “but the biggest harbour in the western shores of the North would be the Deepwood Motte, with space for some thirty ships, used for merchant ships primarily?” As the Lord of Flint’s Fingers nodded along the Lord Glover, he continued: "The project foresees that each Kingdom must have its main port to serve as a regional headquarters, with at least twenty-five anchorages reserved exclusively for the Navy's use."

“That would indeed make Deepwood impractical for the objective, but more anchorages could be built.”

"It is possible, but there is one problem: the Riverlands' base would be Seagard. In a straight line to Deepwood, it's about twelve hundred miles, but by sea, it's about twenty-two hundred miles. This is the greatest distance among the bases of Lannisport, Seagard, and Oldtown," Aemon added, pointing to a map that showed the distances.

“Flint’s Fingers would be a better option due to the location,” Bennard said.

“Actually, sir,” Jon started, "due to the vastness of the Northern shores, we would like to propose something." with the Northen Lords, and Lady, attention to him, he continued: “We would like to propose the construction of a new port in the Stony Shores to serve as the regional headquarters, with the ports of Deepwood Motte, Bear Isle and Flint’s Fingers expanded to serve as supporting bases.”

“And who would command this headquarters?” Lady Stark questioned. He knew that there was some resentment between the North and House Targaryen after his great-grandmother took the Gifts and gave it to the Night Watch, so they probably feared to have to fund a city and it be taken from them too. Well, he would have feared it in their position.

“The headquarters would be under the purview of the crown, but the city and the port would belong to House Stark or to whomever they delegate it to. Our interest is in the location and having a stable structure to keep the headquarters.” He assured them.

“To build a city would be an expensive enterprise, Your Highness,” Lord Stark pointed out, "especially one that needs an anchorage for at least fifty ships."

“An investment for your future. A larger structure will attract more trade to your western shores, increasing your tax revenues, while the Navy will offer more protection against pirates," Jon explained. There was some serious consideration in the Warden of the North’s face and Jon decided to be upfront. “What do my lords know of the allowance provided by the crown to its members?”

“That is an unrelated question, Your Highness,” Bennard replied.

“Not for this conversation,” Jon said.

Jon explained that during Jaehaerys's reign, it became evident that allowing their children to use the crown's funds without any control would eventually bankrupt the crown. Between Aemon and Baelon’s lavishing and frequent gifts for their wives; Alyssa, Jocelyn, Saera, and Viserra’s love for expensive jewelry; and Vaegon’s expending in books that were equivalent to a small fortune, led Jaehaerys to institute allowances for the royal family.

He continued to explain the allocation of taxes, with one-fifth funding the lavish lifestyles of their Houses. The King, as the head of the house, received 20%, the Queen and the Heir 15% each, while the remaining 50% was distributed among the house. The King's children received an equal share of 25%, 20% reserved for siblings and cousins of the King which were only Rhaenys and Daemon at the moment, and the 5% remaining was split between the children of House Targaryen that did not fit in the other categories. When Rhaenys died, her share would be given to Daemon, or vice versa, their spouses would have no claim to the shares. It was important to remember that Rhaenys’ children weren’t Targaryen and because of it didn’t receive any allowance from the crown, like Jace and Luke didn’t receive either. But Selaena and Alyssa received it due to their name.

"I received a share of the 25% allocated to the King's children until I was six and was crowned my father’s heir. And I still received part of it until the birth of Aegon. After that and I received only the Heir’s share that was being paid to Daemon, who then started to share with Rhaenys the 20% for the siblings and cousins. This way, the personal accounts of the House and the Crown’s accounts are as separated as possible.” The system, he knew, was abolished during the Dance of the Dragons when the Greens moved the Crown’s funds to Braavos, Casterly Rock, and Oldtown and never returned it.

Jon didn't mention his additional revenues as the Prince of Dragonstone, which was another benefit of being the heir on top of the Heir's Allowance.

“An interesting way to protect the crown’s funds,” Lord Bennard said with a curious frown. “But it still doesn’t say anything about this situation.”

“It says a lot because my annual allowance is hefty, second only to the King's own. While the Crown is still studying the viability of the Navy force and looking into its details, and it will take time to offer help in building a town, I have more confidence that we can build it. To help things move along, I want to anticipate the construction of the new port."

“And of how much are you talking about?” Lord Stark inquired with an amused frown.

“Seven payments of thirty thousand gold dragons in the next years,” Jun replied as the other men choked at the mention of the sum. They probably expected a lot less, especially when one considered that a castle could be built with only sixty thousand dragons. “I want an anchorage that can hold more than fifty ships, a headquarters that makes our houses proud, an organized, planned, and protected city."

“You want to imitate the success of Illyria’s Garden?”

“I doubt that Illyria’s Garden could ever truly be imitated, but I don't see why some aspects can't be adopted." Jon shrugged at Lady Stark’s question.

“But with House Stark pooling resources into it, two hundred and ten thousand dragons might be a bit much.” Lord Glover said.

“I also want the other ports to be expanded. In the eastern too.”

“The eastern, like White Harbour?” Lord Manderly said in surprise.

“And Ramsgate, Oldcastle, Widow’s Watch, Karhold… While I admit that I am prioritizing the Navy for the western coast, the eastern coasts will eventually gain their own Navy, and when time comes, I want them to be ready.”

“Your Highness is very generous,” Lord Stark said.

“It isn’t really generosity,” Jon confessed. “I am determined to make this project succeed, and I will use the right resources to ensure that it does. I believe it is my pride and ambition driving this."

“I don’t think I will hold your ambition against you, especially when it appears to be for the betterment of my people,” Lord Stark commented. “Let us discuss the details, but knows that I accept it, tentatively.”

Jon was able to hold back the relieved sigh, but internally he was very pleased with how things were turning in this Procession.

Sansa would be proud of it!

King Viserys I Targaryen's decision to allow his eldest daughter to have a love match was unconventional, but it yielded many benefits. The influx of lords and knights who traveled to King's Landing kept the merchants thriving with a multitude of new demands. The lords sought to impress Princess Rhaenyra through various means, including acts of charity, gifts of flowers, jewelry, and ornamental trinkets. The knights demonstrated their bravery by hunting down criminals in a bid to win her favor.

In the end, Princess Rhaenyra chose to promise her hand to Ser Harwin Strong, who was not only the heir to Harrenhal but also held the position of Lord Commander of the City Watch. This choice was met with resentment by many, as House Strong was not considered a major house, having originated as an exiled cadet branch of House Stark. Before acquiring Harrenhal, they possessed only a small castle in the Riverlands.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick.

RHAENYRA

Training archery with Harwin was perhaps one of the most relaxing times they enjoyed together outside of their private quarters. Truth be told, Harwin was way too damn busy with the Gold Cloaks and too diligent to ever let anyone pass through his work and she, well, she had her own projects of charity to keep her busy as well as two sons. Her precious little boys, who looked too much like their father. Which she found both endearing and unfair! She had carried them for nine moons, gave blood and sweat for them to be born and they come out as perfect copies of their father!

“You are distracted,” he said behind her, and she pouted as her arrow almost didn’t make it to the target.

“I was thinking on Jace and Luke.”

"Is there something wrong?" Harwin's voice was laced with concern, and she shook her head.

“Unless you consider the fact that they look way too much like you, no!” She commented.

“I think that they look perfect,” she rolled her eyes to his cheeky reply and co*cky smirk.

“Still unfair!” she mused.

"Perhaps if we have a girl, she can take after you," he suggested, causing her to laugh.

“Because two aren’t enough for you?” Rhaenyra teased.

"Well, I was thinking of a larger brood," he replied. "Maybe a score of them?" as she barked a laugh at him, his arms encircled her waist.

“If you carry and give birth to half of them, then I might consider it.” she replied while tilting her head so he could rest his chin at the crook of her neck, his beard tickled her slightly.

“I do not think that it is physically possible, dear,” Harwin replied.

“Then we ought to keep it to a more manageable brood,” she countered.

"As long as you give me a pretty girl with your eyes, I think I can manage that," he said.

“Most men want sons,” she pointed out, recalling how her father had always wished for sons. She remembered when she was little how much he prayed for a son and how he had been relieved when Jaehearon was born hale and healthy.

“I already have two, and now I want a little lady to keep them on their toes!” he quipped.

"What if she turns out like Alyssa?" she challenged.

“Then I am sure that your cousin might help us seek the help of a shieldmaiden to guide a fierce lady to the path of woman warriors,” he said seriously, and her smile got widened. Harwin, like her uncle Daemon, wasn’t the suck-up pratt who believed that women were good for just one thing.

“You wouldn’t try to conform her to society's norms?”

“And make her an easy target for the noble? Dearest, I would probably give her as many blades as your father gives Alyssa so she can keep all those lordlings at bay by herself," he explained, making her laugh,

“You are incorrigible, Harwin Strong!” she playfully accused.

“And so are you, Rhaenyra Targaryen Strong!” he retorted.

“The two of you should go to your quarters,” a familiar voice interrupted them, and she turned to find her good brother slowly moving towards them. “Not many are appreciating the show.” As he pointed to the balcony, Rhaenyra perceived as some ladies and lords started to scurry out of the view.

“Let them bleat,” she shrugged.

“You should be more careful, good sister,” Larys said with all affability he could muster, “Some of those lords are working with the Queen to blacken your reputation. You shouldn’t be giving them ammunition.”

“I just don’t understand why!” she sighed, knowing well that Larys was right.

“Because they had their pride wounded when you chose my oaf of a brother instead of them or their sons,” Larys offered with a shrug.

“Hey! I’m not an oaf!” Playfully, she shared a knowing look with her good brother at her husband’s protest. “I think I preferred it when you two were still skirting around each other. Now you gang up on me!”

“Yes, because the big bad Breakbones is afraid of his cripple of a brother and his very untrained wife.” Rhaenyra rolled her eyes at his drama.

“The man who knows more secrets than he ought and the rider of Syrax, the Golden Queen,” Harwin countered.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Larys’ eyes rolled heavenward.

“Well, oaf you may be, Harwin, but I wouldn’t change this choice for anyone else!” she said while she cupped his bearded face.

“Please spare the romantics to when I am not here, I would like to keep my breakfast in.” Larys quipped.

“Spare us the theatrics, Larys!” it was her time to roll her eyes. “You know what? Maybe I should find you a wife! Someone to put up with your terrible humour!”

“Not interested,” he scoffed. “However, I need to speak with my brother."

“We are talking now,” Harwin pointed out

"In private," the younger Strong insisted, sparking Rhaenyra's curiosity.

"What is so secret that I cannot know?" she inquired.

“I would love to share with you, Princess, however, my position doesn’t permit me,” Larys said, and Rhaenyra narrowed her eyes.

Sometimes she would forget that her good brother was the Master of Whispers. More dangerous than he appeared, always knowing more than he let on. Sighing at being left by her husband, she decided to move upstairs. At some point in the last five years, she had to dismiss Ser Criston, who had started to become way too belligerent towards her husband. Harwin insists that it was because Cole was in love with her and saw him as a competitor, but she honestly couldn’t see it. Yes, she found Ser Criston attractive, but she also knew that there would never happen anything between them, given their different stations. Her father alone would rather geld him and send him to the Wall than let them marry. And she knew that he would never settle for a lover since he was all about honour and such. After being dismissed from her services, Cole had found another position within the Baratheon household and Harwin found another sworn shield for her.

She found Kate in one of the cushioned benches, with little Tommen in her arms and with Lady Tarbeck-Lefford, who was playing with Liv. Her sons were nowhere in sight. Nor was Rose.

“Enjoyed yourself Nyra?” Kate asked while adjusting the baby in her arms.

“Very much,” she said and frowned. “Let me guess, my father sent for Jace and Luke?”

“Laena informed me that the same happened to Aethan and the twins and knowing that the King is in one of his gatherings with Lord Velaryon and your cousin Rhaenys, I can only imagine that they are once more competing!”

“And I won’t be exaggerating if I say that Jace has kidnaped Rose?”

“He invited her along, yes,” Kate rolled her eyes.

“I don’t know how I feel about it…” Rhaenyra sighed and sat beside them.

“About what?”

“Yeah, not being the main woman on my toddler son’s life,” they laughed at the joke.

“Jace is just not used to have someone with her hair around,” Myrcella commented, “He had always been fascinated with Kate and Rose’s hair.”

“In the beginning even, I was kind of fascinated with her hair,” Rhaenyra said. “I used to think that it looked like fire!” Kate rolled her eyes. “So, what we should be doing right now?” she questioned Kate, who still acted like some sort of secretary, keeping account on their activities and appointments.

"Nothing, we have the day free of worries. But tomorrow, we break our fast with Lady Redwyne and some other Reach ladies, my aunt Vella included," the distaste in Kate's voice was enough for Nyra to know how much she appreciated her aunt. Especially because the woman had been relentlessly pushing for her daughter to become one of her ladies and was annoyed that Kate wouldn't vouch for her. "Are you joining us, Myrcella?"

"Tomorrow, my morning will be filled with paperwork! Sometimes I wish Adrien would remain a child forever, but sometimes I just can't wait for him to grow up and take things from my hand!" They laughed at her confession.

Still, Rhaenyra doubted that the Lady would ever really stop working. There were few people as diligent as Myrcella when it came to working for her lands. She knew lords who were perfectly fine leaving the work to the stewards so they could enjoy life, but Myrcella? The Lady of Tarbeck Hall would work day and night to guarantee her son's future. The Princess was sure that even after Adrien Tarbeck came of age and assumed the work, she would still be at his side.

It was a known rumour at the Red Keep that Queen Alicent would try to bully Princess Selaena. More than once, it was reported that the princess would get out of encounters with teary eyes and sad faces. This certainly did not help the Queen's reputation at all.

Excerpt of Scandals of Red Keep, by Maester Elman -- Recuperated copy

ALICENT

At the age of twelve, Selaena Targaryen was the thorn in her side. Of that, Alicent was sure!

She couldn’t see all that nonsense the bards were talking about her regarding her supposed beauty. Yes, Selaena had the Valyrian features and colouring, but Alicent wouldn’t go as far as to call her beautiful. As for her goodness? She did everything Selaena did! She gave money to the Septs to organize charities of the most variable causes, yet her name wasn’t half as acclaimed as hers. All because the girl would trample around the poor districts, much like the Flea Bottom itself, to distribute money.

It was if the smallfolk felt themselves entitled to the royal presence! And since she denied it to them, they turned to the daughter of the Lord Flea Bottom! As if a Queen should ever step a foot in a place like that!

Still, seeing the girl, followed by her sworn shield and three guards after Daemon relented and cut down the heavy guard, prancing around Maegor’s Holdfast as if she owned the place was most irksome! The interference in her household had been a bit too much.

“Princess Selaena arrived, Your Grace,” Ser Willis said to her. The Kingsguard was mostly placed for her protection ever since her marriage.

“You can go. I want to have a conversation with my niece alone,” she said to her servants and ladies. Her aunt looked at her with an arched eyebrow, clearly surprised by her move, but she didn’t care.

The girl entered her room and curtsied to her, as was her due, and stayed close to the door while she waited to be invited to sit. That was not going to happen.

“Princess Selaena,” she said. “How are you doing?”

“I am fine, Your Grace; and yourself?”

“I understand that it is thanks to you that I have two new members in my household?” She started, ignoring the girl’s polite inquiry.

“What?”

“Samwell Tarly and Lyman Penrose?” she questioned as the girl pretended to be daft.

“Oh! I only said to Uncle Viserys that the castle lacked children of Aegon’s age,” her eyebrow arched as Selaena smiled sweetly. Sometimes she wanted nothing more than just claw that smile out of the girl’s face.

His Grace,” she emphasized, “Is a busy man. You should not be bothering him with something that falls into my purview. Actually, you shouldn’t be bothering him at all.”

“I was just trying to help,” the candid murmur made her narrow her eyes. “And I like spending time with Unc—His Grace.

“He works daily to betterment of the Seven Kingdoms; he has no time to play with children,” or at least he made it clear to her children. “And Aegon did not have companions because he needs to focus on his lessons.”

“But Egg can’t stay all day in lessons!” the protest made her more annoyed than she already was.

“If he continues to do abysmally as he has been doing; he will,” she promised.

“What is the problem with Sam and Lyman?”

She paused for a moment to consider her response. Samwell Tarly, the heir of Horn Hill, was the son of Raymond Tarly and Roslyn Tyrell, the new Lord and Lady Tyrell. He was also the grandson of Amanda Tyrell and was undoubtedly chosen due to his lineage. Technically, there was nothing wrong with him; he was the son of a Reach Lord, albeit one with some questionable traditions. On the other hand, Lyman Penrose and House Penrose were hardly important enough to have a role in the royal household.

“I have no problem with them,” she lied, fearing the girl might blurt something that could lead to a diplomatic blunder. "But I do not appreciate interference in my household."

“I didn’t mean to overstep,” the girl said, her face flushed as she looked at the floor.

“But you did,” she accused. “If you have any worries regarding my children, you come to me. I will take care of their needs, as I always do.”

“Yes, Your Grace,” the girl mumbled, and Alicent felt satisfied with her response.

“You can go now,” the Queen dismissed her, and after a curtsy, the girl scurried out of the room.

Alicent poured herself a cup of tea from the table and watched as her aunt returned to the room.

“I see that you have already sent the girl away. You didn't even offer her a cup of tea?”

“And make her comfortable in my room?”

“It isn’t wise to burn all your bridges.” Joanna Royce said, serving tea to herself and sitting across her. “You could still try to marry her to Aegon. This way, he would lord over Illyria’s Garden. She cares for him; it would be a good match.”

“If we could convince anyone of that!” she said dryly. “I need one thing, just one thing, to mark her as an unsuitable candidate for Jaehearon!”

Except that there was nothing! How could the girl be so f*cking perfect? It was impossible for anyone to be like that!

“What if rumours of her virtue being compromised were spread?”

“Without probable cause, no one would believe that.” Alicent said. “Also, how would we even be able to create an opportunity if the girl is heavily guarded.” Not eleven anymore, but four was still a heavy guard to follow a petite girl around. “Selaena is no Saera, no Viserra… She doesn’t run wild and unchecked.”

“For a rumour like this, it would need someone close.”

“Exactly, a servant boy or a simple squire would not make it believable.”

“It needs to be someone that the court would believe capable of swapping her from her feet.” Joanna sighed and Alicent echoed the sentiment.

Anything else would be unbelievable.

Well, there are other options. The darkest corner of her mind supplied two. Two options that she would not have the guts to follow through. One was to have the girl killed, removing her from the equation forever. The second would let the girl live, provided she found someone willing to force himself upon the princess and take her maidenhood, preferably leaving her with a child.

Death would be the kinder option.

If she could—

No!

That was too much! She was not willing to go that far. She despised the girl, true. She was noisy, far too perfect, and the daughter of one of the world’s worst villains. But she was still only an innocent girl whose only crime was to have been born from the right parents.

Fool! Some sacrifices need to be made to maintain order.

The voice sounded too much like her father’s, but she still found strength to ignore it.

The position of Master of Whispers had been held by a diverse array of individuals. Tyanna of the Tower was infamous for her cruelty and allegations of practicing dark magic. Larys Strong was rumored to possess knowledge of every secret within the Red Keep, and even those beyond. Aiden Reed's information never failed King Jaehearon I. Many others had built their names and earned feared reputations in this role.

Excerpt of The Politics of the Seven Kingdoms, by Professor Tyrion Lannister of the University of Lannisport

HARWIN

When he married Princess Rhaenyra five years ago, Harwin had been certain he was the luckiest man in all of Westeros. The most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon, a woman who could have chosen any man in the Seven Kingdoms, had chosen him. It was a considerable boost to his ego.

Then came the birth of their children, Jacaerys and Lucamore—Jace and Luke. They spent a great deal of time in King's Landing. The King had shown affable fondness for him and clearly loved his grandchildren. His wife never demanded he abandon his work; she understood the long nights and somewhat flexible hours, although she did require his time and attention, which he was more than happy to provide.

Their moments in the archery ring were especially precious to them. It was there that their courtship had truly blossomed. Of course, they had flirted before, but back then, she seemed to be courted by Laenor Velaryon, so he had kept his distance. Once it became clear that she was open to his advances, their relationship took a new turn. Tyland and Kate had their special place in the library, while Laena and Torrhen loved the sea and the skies. The archery ring was reserved for Harwin and Rhaenyra alone.

His men knew not to intrude on his time with Rhaenyra and were particularly careful not to interrupt their moments in the archery ring. Unless there was a dire emergency, they kept their distance. Larys, on the other hand, had no such compunction. Indeed, he seemed to enjoy intruding on their time together, and although this had initially caused tension between Larys and Rhaenyra, they eventually grew accustomed to each other. Perhaps it was because Larys had been the one to comfort Rhaenyra when her water broke, and she went into labor. Jace, a precocious child, decided to arrive a moon earlier and scared everyone to death. Larys had been the one to calm her until the servants managed to call Lady Amelie and her assistants. Even though they had grown closer over the years, Larys still found opportunities to annoy them whenever he could.

This time, however, it was evident that the matter at hand was business. Harwin had always harbored a deep dislike for the complexities of his brother's profession. Still, he recognized talent when he saw it, and Larys had an unparalleled spy network whose true extent remained a well-guarded secret.

“Well, you have me, how can I help you?” Larys sighed and took a seat.

“I have some information on the names Daemon provided us,” after the Failed Sack at Runestone, Daemon had returned with a small list of names: three supposedly belonging to individuals and one to a group.

“And you had taken the information to him?”

“I doubt that the information would be sufficient to appease his rage, so I will let you report,” Harwin rolled his eyes. “Boash Sons are, originally, from Lorath. About a century ago they were exiled for extremism, they used to go around blinding people who committed sins and then forcing them to eat their own eyes.”

“That is f*cking extreme,” Harwin remarked.

“Aye, the Lorath nobility was not giving a sh*t about it until they started to blind them. After that, they killed the leaders, but many managed to evade justice and create their own pirate crew. They have a notorious brand of trying to blind every warrior in the cities they sack. According to reports, they command a fleet of nearly a hundred ships and control a small island in the Shivering Sea, north of Braavos, known as Boash's Pharo. It's also known that they are available for hire."

“Like a sells swords?” Harwin inquired.

“Very much.”

“You think that they were hired to attack Runestone?”

“Well, between their most prominent leaders, there is a man called Wormwood.”

f*ck!” he cursed at the implication. “What else? Anything on Qarlon or the Wraith?”

Qarlon was an Andal name, not very common, and was associated with an extremist Andal who claimed to be the King of All Andals, attempting to dominate every kingdom of Andalos. For those with more moderate views, Qarlon was seen as a nuisance, not too dissimilar from Maegor I Targaryen. As for the Wraith, it appeared to be more of a title intended to induce fear, but it could potentially refer to something or someone.

"There's nothing on Qarlon or the Wraith," Larys admitted. "However, there's a rumor of a silent assassin who goes by that name. He's not available for hire, and no one knows where to find him. His reasons, weapons, and motivations are all a secret. The rumor suggests they might be a sect of multiple assassins, while others claim it could be a single person." Larys shrugged. "There's nothing concrete that could be useful, only rumors."

“Rumours of a silent assassin that was named by one of the captured pirates after the attack of his family’s seat,” Harwin said. “But I understand why you don't think this information will satisfy him.”

The prince's patience was wearing thin, especially given the considerable amount of time that had passed without substantial answers. No one wanted to face his ire, and Harwin felt compelled to report his brother's findings to his uncle by marriage in the Tower of the Hand. However, on his way there, he came across young Princess Selaena, who appeared morose, as if she were struggling to hold back tears. Harwin was puzzled about who could have upset the Rogue Prince's daughter.

“Princess?” he called out to her, observing that her guards also seemed concerned. “Is everything alright?”

“Ser Harwin, everything is fine. Why do you ask?" she replied.

“Your face a different story,” he said.

“It’s nothing.” As they entered the Tower, he observed as she went up and the guards stayed at the entrance.

“What has happened?” he asked Ser Malik Manderly, her sworn shield.

"The Queen summoned her, and after ten or fifteen minutes, she left the room looking like that," the Northern man replied with a frown.

“Do you know what the Queen said to her?” Harwin asked.

“Princess Selaena isn’t known for divulging private conversations, Ser,” the sworn shield remarked. "But it wouldn't be the first time she left a conversation with the Queen upset."

Harwin sighed. He knew that his good stepmother was not known for her pleasant disposition, but to go so far as to upset a girl as young as Princess Selaena seemed petty. He debated whether to inform Rhaenyra of the incident; she might be able to assist her young cousin.

“I need to talk to the prince right now. Is he available?” he inquired of a guard who had been stationed there earlier.

“No, Ser. Prince Daemon was in the City.”

It figured that the Queen would wait until the girl was without her father to summon her.

Notes:

Hello Everyone! Hope you liked the chapter!

Well, Sansa is doing a good job of sinking Alicent's reputation, isn't she?

For my take on the Strong being a exiled cadet branch of House Stark: it probably isn't true, but I picked some things that are only coincidences and put it to make this fanfic. Both are from the First Men, follow the Old Gods, and have wargs. That could mean about any house in the North, but a fun fact is: Stark from German can mean Strong. So yes, I did it! Made a connection where there were only coincidental details! Now there is a headcannon in this fic. My idea is that every time a Stark branch out of the family they assume another name.

About the next chapter: I am entering the last stages of my TCC and my internship started to call us for 50/50 between home and office, so my time has been cut short and I am not making promises. I want to post it by November 20th, but I can only promise it after December 20th due to my current timeline. If possible I will post earlier, but from now I'm without control over my schedule.

So I hope to see you next month!

Chapter 32: Ilusionary visits

Summary:

Arya reflects in the differences between the North she is now and the North she was born to.
Illyria's Garden is shown for the first time!
Daemon receives a visitor!
And Alicent receives an ultimatum!

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

While Princess Selaena was widely known for her social projects, Princess Alyssa was just as passionate as her younger sister about her own initiatives. It is essential to note that Alyssa's efforts were primarily focused on legal rights for bastard children, women's safety, and financial solutions. She advocated for bastard children to receive inheritance from their natural parents and worked on spreading the shieldmaiden culture and knowledge throughout the Seven Kingdoms.

Princess Alyssa played a crucial role in spearheading the project for the Royal Bank of Westeros, collaborating with other bank entities. Alongside Devan Reyne, who held the position of Master of Coin at the time, and Adrian Tarbeck, she outlined the banking system of the Seven Kingdoms. Within two decades of its creation, this system was able to compete on equal footing with the Iron Bank.

Excerpt from Royal Bank of Westeros: the history of money and banking of the Seven Kingdoms by Professor Joanna Lannister of the University of Lannisport

ARYA

Arya wasn't an expert in history like her sister and cousin. While Sansa focused on songs and poetry, Arya was more intrigued by tales of shieldmaidens and warriors such as Visenya and Nymeria. However, being in the North at that moment prompted her to reflect on her knowledge.

In Arya's time, shieldmaidens had become as rare as dragons, surviving only in the form of the ladies of the Mountain Clans and the Bear Isles. Their decline began with the Black Blight of 126, a devastating plague that turned crops' leaves black and claimed vast hectares of plantations. The power struggle between Bennard and Cregan, culminating in the uncle's attempt to usurp his nephew's position, diverted attention from the spreading blight. By the time the severity of the issue was realized, it had spread uncontrollably throughout the North.

The resulting small harvest proved insufficient to feed the entire North. The Dance of Dragons in the south, followed by a harsh five-year winter, compounded their woes. Famine, war, winter, and the Winter Fever epidemic led to the loss of a third of the North's population in under a decade. Just as the North began recovering—with a diminished population, decreased production, and limited funds—the Blackfyre Rebellions erupted, dragging them into six more decades of war. The cumulative effect crippled the North, and even half a century later, its consequences lingered. Both the shieldmaidens and the Night's Watch were deeply affected. The shieldmaidens lacked the structure to pass on their lessons, while the Night's Watch became overrun by undesirables, transforming into more of a prison than a calling.

Observing Wintertown teeming with life in a way rarely seen in her time was a novel experience for her. It also highlighted the stark differences between the North and the South— from waste disposal methods to city guards, treatment of the poor, and city management. (non-intentional pun.)

The North, characterized by its bluntness, harbored harsh yet steadfast, secure, and reliable people who prioritized each other's safety. In contrast, the South exuded an air of flowery politeness that often concealed falsehoods and enmities. Arya preferred straightforwardness: she would rather someone say to her face that they disliked her than keeping a pretense just to win something or have the chance to pull the rug under her feet.

“You seem right at home, Aly,” Griselda remarked at her side.

“I like the cold,” she said. “When it is hot, I get all sweaty or bothered. Here all I have to do to combat the cold is add layers.”

“I suppose in the heat one, could take off some layers.”

“Even if I would walk around naked, the sun would still heat up my skin,” Arya commented and laughed at her friend’s blushing cheeks. “Oh, please! You are the next of us to get married.”

“That is assuming Aemon passes the three tests,” Griselda said.

“The way he pants after you, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went to the skies and stole a star for you,” Arya commented, rolling her eyes.

Growing up, Griselda and Aemon had become very close and were almost always lovey-dovey. It was a stark difference—pun intended—to Jon and Sansa, who seemed to be dancing around each other, waiting to see who would take the first step. It also contrasted with herself and Waymar, full of passionate fights, stubbornness, and denial on both sides. Really, Griselda and Aemon were disgustingly sweet on each other.

“I really hope my parents won’t raise an issue with this,” Griselda sighed.

“Hear, hear!” she commented, and they laughed.

When they returned to Winterfell, they found Jon and Cregan training together in the courtyard. Many stopped to observe, for the two were exceptionally skilled. Cregan was Sansa’s age, twelve namedays still, and Jon only three years his senior. There were few who could take Jon down in a fight, and Arya had the impression that he was holding back a lot, but Aemon, the Dragonknight, had been the one to claim that he never faced a finer swordsman than Cregan.

Jon emerged victorious after a few more minutes, and as is customary in sparring, they laughed it out and commented on each other’s forms.

“Your Highness fight like a Northern!” Brandon Stark, Bennard’s second son who was closer in age to Jon and Cregan, pointed out, causing Arya to almost choke on air.

If you only knew!

“Signy and Griselda taught me a lot of Northern tricks!” her cousin commented. Not entirely a lie.

“I can attest that His Highness was a good student!” Griselda said to her side, and she snickered as Jon grimaced.

“Come on Griselda! I think you have knocked me on the ground enough times to pass the ceremonialism!”

“And pass the opportunity of getting you frustrated?” Arya snickered and heard that Aemon did so, at Griselda’s other side.

“Alyssa you are a bad influence,” Jon said.

“Me? What about your friend over there? He is the one courting her!”

“Enough! We all know that the bad influence in this group had always been me,” Devan said to their side, and they all shot him an unimpressed look. “You see, Cregan, Brandon: Griselda Wull was the shiest thing we had met; I used to call her little mousebecause she was all cute and flustered!”

“It didn’t stop me from kicking your ass,” Griselda rolled her eyes, and the Westerlander continued, much to everyone’s amusem*nt.

“So, I just had to rile her up! That was when her shyness was gone, and she became as fierce as Aly and Sig,” he finished.

“And kicked your ass, again,” Aemon piped in.

“You don’t see as offended of getting your ass kicked by girls as the other southern would be,” Benjen, the older son of Bennard Stark, commented.

“I don’t think that ladies are half as weak as people say,” Devan commented. “First, I spent a good part of my infancy with Alyssa, Signy, and Griselda. Also take my sister, for example. There are many idiots at court who thinks that she is some sort of frail and sweet lady, but I can attest that she has a damn good aim and a scary temper.”

“She is an archer?” Brandon questioned.

“No, she just likes throwing things at people when she doesn’t get her way,” the blonde boy sneered.

Like a spoiled bitch, in Arya’s humble opinion.

In Arya’s humble opinion, Genevieve Reyne at her best wouldn’t get close to the old Sansa at her worst. Sansa, in their younger years, was very spoiled, vain, used to getting things her way, and could be quite catty when she wanted. But Genevieve Reyne was a bitch whose tantrums were of epic proportions; she was demanding, narcissistic and overall, a horrible person. The poor cats she warged into were throughout terrified of that witch’s temper, the castle servants dreaded to be assigned to her and if Ayra must compare her to anyone of the future, she would compare her to Cersei Lannister. It should also be noted that Sansa was annoying until they were thirteen, and Genevieve was seventeen, just like her.

Lancel Reyne, the oldest son, wasn’t much better either. He was co*cky, arrogant, and seemed to believe himself the gods’ gift to humanity. But to be fair, he was much more controlled, and so far, Arya hadn’t heard or seen any temper tantrums of his part. Indeed, he seemed to suffer a bit at Genevieve’s hand, for the girl had their parents wrapped around her finger, and they seemed to believe she could do nothing wrong. The ones who suffered the worst though were Devan, and the other two sisters: Ellyn, the oldest child who had her things taken by her sister up until her marriage with the Marbrand heir; and Lysa, the youngster, who was constantly compared to Genevieve.

Devan had a scar from a broken ceramic Genevieve had once thrown at him.

“Then you know more than most southern,” Benjen smirked.

Illyria’s Garden was perhaps the most famous work of the builder and architect, Lorenzo Lyon. The Keep itself was a masterpiece, from the Princess’ Palace to the Winter’s Gardens, the White Walls, and the Ivory Towers. All were constructed with such mastery that showcased both beauty and strength. The gardens possessed a delicate and exquisite charm, so much so that they could be considered a masterpiece in their own right. To complete this architectural complex, there was Gardenia, a planned city whose districts were named after flowers. It featured beautiful public gardens and was one of the best places to live, boasting a comprehensive and efficient sewerage system, public security, and learning centers.

The castle became habitable five years after the start of its construction, and the city achieved the same milestone in the same year. However, the constructions were only fully completed after thirteen years and tens of thousands of gold dragons. It was Illyria’s Garden, more than any other of his works, that immortalized Lyon’s name in the pantheon of famous builders, alongside figures like Brandon I Stark.

Excerpt of Architectural Wonders: the buildings that represent the history of Westeros, by Master Florentin

SANSA

It had been several years since she had last visited Illyria’s Garden, and she was truly impressed! The walls protecting the keep were made of white stone and adorned with decorative sculptures, rich in details that were both imposing and beautiful. The holdfast, instead of being imposing, was designed for beauty and show, featuring grand towers, sculpted details, white stones, and stained glass windows. The towers were another masterpiece: slim, spiraling, and delicately crafted. Further behind the initial image of the holdfast, there was a taller, sturdier building – a fortress.

And the gardens! The gardens were her favorite part. Open spaces of green grass adorned with flowers of every shade, sculptures, fountains, and a flowing stream!

“I really would have preferred something a little more robust,” Daemon commented at her side as they landed in the dragon pit built inside the keep.

“It is enormous!”

“But with the exception of the wall, there is little defense in this Keep.” That was true.

“But it has a dragonpit right inside it, a fortress, and many secret passages to the dragonpit and the fortress, right?” she questioned, recalling the conversation she had overheard.

“And some to the wall too,” he said. “Your mother insisted on all these pretty things though.”

Muña likes pretty things, Kepa!”

And she knew he knew it. While they were struck in their little theatre, pretending to hate each other every day, her father would still buy her jewelry and other trinkets. The jewelry he commissioned for her was never presented in grand fashion, and his jeweler was perhaps one of the most discreet men in Westeros. The jewelry would always find itself in Rhea’s box or her pillow. The trinkets such as vases, decorative statues, and the like simply appeared somewhere in Runestone. There was no note, no show. In the end, her mother always used the jewellery even if she preferred bronze to gold. Despite being a strong woman, Rhea Royce had a sense of femininity that impressed Sansa, who had heard tales of the Bronze Bitch and heard that she had been less than ladylike.

Propaganda, most likely.

“A fortress could still be pretty!” he said a bit petulantly, and she laughed.

As they went inside, Sansa observed everything with careful eyes. Her father took her to the passageways and then let her explore. She walked in the gardens until she found a wall and then walked following it until she discovered a pointed archway with white doors, which she opened.

The sight took her breath away. It was the Godswood! A well-made one. Young rowan, ash, oak, and willow trees were planted there, and the pathway to the place where a weirwood tree was planted was made of white shimmering stones. The tree was young, only up to eleven years, but it already had a crying face carved to it and it stood tall. The pound next to it—because every Godswood needs a pound, a lake, fountain, or stream!—was glistering and there was such calmness there that she sighed at the view.

This wasn’t an eight thousand-year-old Godswood, but it felt sacred all the same.

Sansa…

She turned around, hearing a name that wasn’t hers to claim in this life. A name that was rarely ever uttered aloud by Jon and Arya—Jaehearon and Alyssa. The only one who could call her by it without repercussion was Bran. Summer. But it hadn’t been his voice; if anything, it sounded like the wind.

Sansa…

Then she felt it again. Her magic was being pulled by something, called and wanted to manifest. Not like torment, but like… like something!

The feeling of peace and her magic acting overcame her, and she reached for the weirwood tree for stability. And she felt it. It had never happened in the other Godswood she frequented. Her magic felt connected to the weirwood, and suddenly her mind was assaulted by visions of something.

It all seemed cold, inexistent, and eerie. There was nothing beneath her feet, nothing to her sides, and nothing above her. This emptiness persisted until she perceived a light approaching, like a comet of pure white. Then, another light, a bright gold, moved towards it. Initially, she thought they would clash, but instead, they stopped right before each other and stayed still, seemingly playing with each other. That was until she saw it: hands emerging from the lights, outstretching for each other.

Then it happened. They touched, and the light grew brighter. Soon, she observed things starting to form around her. The scenery changed to a groove very familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place it.

“It wasn’t so fast, you know?” she turned and found someone beside her. A woman with long black hair and grey eyes, a coloring that she would usually attribute to the Starks, but there was something that made it clear that the woman was not a Sark —the glowing aura surrounding her. “All this actually took millions, if not billions of years to happen. They are quite dramatic after all.”

“Who are you?”

“I had many names, but the most recent one was Laufey, though I doubt you would recognize it,” she said and there was some amusem*nt in her voice and features. “After I felt your despair some days ago, I knew I needed to see you for myself. Your bond with her is deeper than the others were.”

“Who is her?” the woman appointed to the lights. Now two people were standing: a woman with golden hair and a man with dark hair, embracing each other. “Who are they? What are they?”

“The Beginning and the End; but that is history for another time, Sansa Stark.”

“I am Selaena Targaryen!”

“You certainly wear her skin, but we both know that no Selaena Targaryen was ever supposed to exist. You are a Stark. Sansa Stark. Don’t try to deny it! I saw the little mess you, your cousin, and your siblings are making in the timeline… Not many of us pay attention to yours anymore to perceive it, but there are those who would not be pleased by your timely interference.”

“We are trying to save Westeros from destruction!”

“I know, and I do not begrudge you for it… But others might,” the woman, Laufey, said. “I have felt you, and others might have as well. You’ll need to be more careful from now on.”

“Why?”

“The magic inside you is more than you could ever imagine… And there are those who want it to themselves.”

“They can have it!” Sansa sneered.

“They can’t!” Laufey roared. “You can’t comprehend what could happen if they got their hands on it. Do you think that the Walkers were a danger to humanity? You should meet their creator.” Sansa frowned at her tone. “Oh, dear recurrence! Learn to breathe again and be careful. We don’t know which of them have found you. I can’t linger longer without attracting attention. I will come again later.”

“Wait! I need answers! What is this magic inside of me? Who is after it?”

“Tell your brother to look for Ríonach the next time he scries the past, she might be able to help him. Now I must go. Remember, Sansa: breath!”

Her eyes opened, and she found herself still standing in the Godswood of Illyria’s Garden. The pull of her magic was gone, and she felt slightly more in control. The first time in a long time.

“What the hell?” she muttered out loud, looking around.

Archmaester Vaegon Targaryen is often overlooked in history, with some even going so far as to dub him "the Forgotten Prince," a fitting title to accompany the "Dragonless." He outlived his siblings and had the privilege of meeting his grandnieces, grandnephews, and their children. Despite his reputedly sour personality, his favorite relative was Princess Selaena. With his assistance, Princess Selaena began to organize the foundations of the first university in the Seven Kingdoms. The piece "The Prince," which he wrote, was a gift to her upon her marriage to Prince Jaehearon, crafted with her in mind.

Excerpt from the Dragons of the new century, Maester Finwick

DAEMON

Years of serving as the Hand of the King for his brother had somewhat tempered Daemon a little. Or perhaps it was his daughters who had an influence? Well, it didn't matter. Tempered or not, Daemon was still Daemon, the Rogue Prince.

When reports of the Queen bullying his daughter reached his ears, his brother's Kingsguards had to stop him from seeking her out to confront her. The one who raised this concern was Ser Malik, Selaena's sworn shield. When he questioned the guards and even servants who accompanied the Queen, it was confirmed that whenever Selaena left the Queen's vicinity, she appeared morose and sad, regardless of how happy she had been before.

Viserys also confirmed that the c*nt's daughter was inexplicably rude to Selaena, prompting Ser Harrold Westerling to intervene and prevent Daemon from seeking retribution. Viserys granted Daemon seven days off and sent him to Illyria's Garden, as originally planned with Selaena, but had to be postponed due to the pressing matters in the council. Unforeseen laws had been discovered by Lord Beesbury and Ser Tyland, hidden among the main texts that had been passed even through Viserys’s laws. These laws favored Old Town (and occasionally other major cities meeting the specified criteria), the Faith, or the Citadel.

The laws concerning the Faith varied among the Kingdoms, with the Iron Islands and the North being the only exceptions to their influence.

In the Reach, 5% of the land’s income had to be paid to the Faith. However, if a castle had a Godswood, an additional 5% had to be paid for "keeping the symbol of heretic gods." This law affected Highgarden, Old Oak, Goldengrove, Horn Hill, Bitterbridge, and, if they chose to apply Reach law, Illyria’s Garden.

The Riverlands had a similar but with a different setting: 3% of the land’s income for all, and another 3% for those who maintained their Godswood.

The Westerlands imposed a 3% tax on the lands, an additional 3% for those who kept their Godswood, and an extra twist: 3% for Keeps that didn’t have their own Sept.

In the Stormlands, Selaena had missed the taxes due to a technicality. The taxes included 3% for the land, 5% for the Godswood, and 2% for the lack of a Sept.

The Vale didn’t have anything as ridiculous. The lands paid only 3% of their income to the Faith, and there was no tax for anyone who kept their Godswood or didn’t have a Sept.

In the Crownlands, the taxes were 5% for the land, 5% for their Godswood, and 3% for the lack of a Sept. Even the Red Keep had to pay that, though Beesbury said that it had been buried in the books as expenses when passed to him by the Maesters. It amounted to 10%, as the Red Keep did have a Sept and a Godswood. All this time, they thought it was Viserys draining their coffers with his tourneys and feats!

Maybe there won’t be a Sept very soon if I decide to let Caraxes destroy it.

Daemon imagined that this joke of paying a new tax for those who didn’t have a Sept didn’t exist in the Reach because all of their keeps had Septs—a bloody inheritance for the Andal invasion. However, that meant that the Faith was eating about 3 to 13% of every Keep’s below the Neck income! That was, in his opinion, extortion.

And still, they have the f*cking audacity to demand more money for their gods!

Oh! The taxes that benefited Oldtown were actually cleverly disguised. It stated the keeps of the Kingdoms should pay some sort of help to the cities with over 400,000 habitants, a settling for Merchant Guilds, and a city’s watch. This help was settled by 2% of the income of the Keeps being distributed among the cities that filled the criteria. There were only three cities in the Seven Kingdoms that fit the criteria: Oldtown, Lannisport, and King’s Landing, which meant that only Crownlands, Westerlands, and the Reach were paying this tax.

It wasn’t enough that they required five hundred gold dragons annually as a fee for the "loaning" of the Maesters. There was also a fee demanding 1% of every land to be paid annually to the Citadel! No one escaped this. Every keep with a Maester had to pay these two fees to the Citadel. Interestingly, it was the Maesters who usually helped the stewards with the financial matters of each Keep, determining the final values of payments. This meant they could manipulate the counts to send more to the Citadel than intended. The fact that Keeps didn’t even get to choose the Maesters they wanted made everything more ridiculous. Wasn’t it fortuitous for the Citadel that every Lord was required to have a Maester in each Keep and Castle by law?

However, his brother was right, occasionally. They couldn’t attack the Citadel and the Faith at the same time without starting a war. Currently, he was more focused on the Faith, which seemed to take and take and give little to nothing in return. At least the Maesters would serve some purpose on the lands.

As for the laws benefiting three specific cities, Viserys talked with the only other affected. After a conversation with Lords Jason Lannister and Garlan Tyrell, they decided that the taxes benefiting Oldtown, if used correctly, could mean protection for the people of the cities. Lord Beesbury proposed setting some rules on the money's use and enforcing bookkeeping for this money. It could be requested at any moment for an audit without much notice, perhaps even just a week. Lord Lannister, surprisingly, was already ahead of them. His father had started demanding this from his brother, Lord Martin Lannister of Lannisport when the law was first passed.

So yes, they were full of work. While Lord Beesbury and Lord Strong were working on the right wording for why they would settle a referendum to deal with this matter, his brother sent him to Illyria with Selaena. The reasons were clear: 1. To prevent him from trying to kill the Queen and let Viserys deal with his wife. 2. To stop him from killing every Hightower in sight—and in his opinion, there were too many Hightowers in the Red Keep now. 3. To keep him from showing their hand when trying to bait Otto or Orwyle. Yes, he knew that it was some of his own bad habits, but he saw no reason to stop them now.

“Your Highness, Archmaester Vaegon is at the gates requesting a private audience,” their steward, a man that Rhea appointed from Runestone, loyal and steadfast.

Vaegon? Out of the Citadel? What the f*cking hell had happened? The man had refused to come out of his damned tower for decades, at least since the death of his grandfather.

“Send the fossil in, please,” he said.

It took some minutes for his uncle to arrive. The way from the gate to the castle and to his solar was not a short one, but he took advantage of it to read something related to the last harvest. His uncle arrived, dressed in dark grey robes, wearing a Valyrian steel ring, chains with many links, and using a rod to lean on. The man looked old and frail, which was strange, considering he was ten years younger than Corlys Velaryon. Strangely enough, there was a man standing behind him, nowhere trained enough to be a servant if the nervous fiddling with his own fingers was anything to go by...

“You look old,” was the first thing that he said to his uncle.

“And you look like your father,” Vaegon said.

“Why, thank you Kepus!”

“Don’t thank me, your father could be a petty ass when we were younger,” the master sniffed.

“But still handsome as the devil!”

“I wouldn’t know; never cared much for his face,” as his purple eyes rolled heavenward.

“And what exactly made you get out of your sarcophagus and bring you to Illyria’s Garden?” Daemon inquired, and the Maester sighed.

“I need to talk to you, privately. You only made me the favor or moving closer to me than Kings Landing, I’m almost tempted to thank you for it.”

“If you want a private audience, why bring a servant?” he questioned with a frown.

“Not a servant, an artisan.” Vaegon corrected him.

“The clothes say different,” Daemon argued.

“Clothes are good for creating impressions and illusions, don’t you think?” Daemon arched an eyebrow at his uncle. “Some weeks ago, one of my friends came to me with this young man. This friend of mine is a merchant; he travels to all places. When he told me of a young man who knew something about the attack on Runestone, I had to hear his tale.”

Daemon’s eyes immediately turned to the nervous man. He was perhaps in his mid-twenties or early thirties and had auburn hair, a common face, a darkened complexion, and green eyes. His clothes suggested that he was a servant, but if his uncle was right, then traveling as a servant to Vaegon would be way safer than traveling as someone with information.

“And what is the tale?”

“Kai, why don’t you tell Daemon what you know?”

“Yeah, your Graces!” the young man took a deep breath. “There’s this warehouse just outside of Oldtown where they stock some… some damaged furniture or even just things that they deem too old or unfashionable.”

“Who are they?”

“House Hightower, Your Grace,” the man amended and he closed his eyes. What the f*ck the Hightower or the Oldtown had to do with the Attack on Runestone? “I… sometimes I go there to look for something.”

“You steal from this warehouse?” As the man turned white, Vaegon scoffed.

“What he steals is furniture that the Hightower usually distributes during winter so the smallfolk will feed it to their fire. Themselves would never use it because the treatment that furniture are given, like varnish and taint, smells terrible when burned, and their ladies’ sensitive noses would never take it.” The man nodded at his uncle’s explanation.

“If the warehouse gets too full before winter, they will simply burn it too!”

“And you needed the wood for your fireplace?” he could forgive a man who stole something that would be burned out anyway, especially if he had something to him.

“No… No, your Grace! Those furniture are usually in good estate… Sometimes there’s just something chipped or needing new paint, but the ladies usually prefer new ones, more in fashion, than to have theirs restored,” he nodded because, yes, that was true. Hell, even he liked excuses to simply buy new things rather than repair old ones! “So, I take them, I reform them and sell them. I can make some good money with this, enough to sustain my family.”

That impressed him. The man was able to sell what they, the high lords, usually overruled as junk and sustain his family with that.

“Your family?”

“Yes, sir! I have my mother, my three young siblings, my wife, and five children to feed, and my mother is old and sick, so I also have to buy her medicine.” The man said and he nodded.

“And what is special about this warehouse?” Beyond belonging to House Hightower?

“It is out of the city, and closer to the district where I live; but few people go there, and the warehouse is not even guarded. Like I say, there’s nothing that the Lords consider of interest there… Sometimes though, some encounters happen there… Not the good ones.”

“Oh?”

“Many bodies were found in the area,” Vaegon said. “The place is also known for people abusing substances and some other rather illegal dealings.”

“Archmaester is right, once they found a woman that had been taken raped, and strangled to death there, but because of the location no one heard or saw it.” That didn’t surprise Daemon; even in King’s Landing with all the guards, it still had problems like that in the Flea Bottom. “Some… Some weeks ago, I was looking for something that I could restore when the door of the warehouse was open. I had just some few minutes to hide myself before they came in. I admit that I didn’t have the opportunity to see them, because of my hidden spot. But I heard them talk.”

“And what was it about their talk that involved the attack on Runestone?”

“Everything,” that made Daemon stop for a little. “One of the men, Wormwood, was demanding to be paid for the attack.” He stopped in his tracks. No one other than the Strong brothers had been told of their discovery that a Captain Wormwood had been named by those captured and tortured. To know that the man has been hired made everything scream conspiracy.

“But he wasn’t?”

“No, sir. The other man, I didn’t hear his name, but he said that the attack was not what they had hired him for… That the losses he suffered were his own fault.” Daemon remembered the assassin that had fallen from the castle walls.

“Who was the target?” He questioned. He expected the answer to be him, maybe Rhea, but Kai’s answer made his blood turn into ice in his veins.

“Princess Selaena, Your Grace,” he said with a frown. “They… They didn’t anticipate the attack on Runestone; they expected the crew to kill her. They knew that the Princess would visit the beach twice a week, they even knew that she would always be with four guards and another two ladies… The, the second man said that they would have been able to pin the blame on the Triarchy…”

That they knew so much about his daughter’s routine made him mad. Someone was feeding them information. He doubted that it would be someone in the castle, but perhaps someone in the city? It was a port, after all, where people would come and go, and no one would bat an eye at it. Still, it was information that one gathered through observation. What more did they know about his daughter? Why was she targeted?

“They didn’t say,” Kai answered when he questioned, “but Wormwood was refused the payment for not having completed their deal, and after he threatened to come to you with the information he had, a third man killed him.” Kai frowned. “I haven’t even heard the third man walk in until the second man started to talk to him.”

“Who was this third man?”

“I don’t know sir, but the third man told the other that if Wormwood had talked to you about him, then he would have to kill him too, and the second agreed. He said that his master wouldn’t appreciate a leak that could lead to them.” A master, someone calling the shots. “They also said that they would look for someone, someone named Arsenius; they said that he might have a better insight than Wormwood.

Daemon, for once, reined in his temper and only closed his eyes; now he knew that his daughter was in danger, he could make better arrangements for her. Maybe not necessarily ten guards following her, but people to protect her. If there was one thing that the War of Stepstones had taught him was that quality was better than quantity when it came to fighters. Opening his eyes, he perceived that his uncle was looking impassive, as he was while the man still looked a little nervous.

“How much?”

“What?”

“You said that they were hired, right? Then how much was my daughter’s head worth to them?”

“Half a million dragons, Your Highness. They had already paid a signal though…”

“Well, well… Isn’t that a fortune?” he questioned with a smirk.

In Westerosi contracts, signals would usually vary between five to ten percent of the contract’s price. But Wormwood was of Essos, technically, and their contracts usually required signals of ten to fifteen. His daughter was a high-profile target: part of royalty, heavily guarded, and had two dragons who could take revenge.

That meant that someone had paid in advance fifty thousand dragon coins to kill his daughter. Fifty thousand dragons were a lot of money, and few people would have such ready access to this kind of money. People, houses, organizations… Didn’t that put a great limitation on his scope now?

And the Hightowers as the first suspects?

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

Excerpt of The Art of War by Sun Tzu

ALICENT

Alicent was seething, her rage barely ridden under the surface.

In the last two moons since her father had arrived in the Red Keep with her cousins, Bethany and Alerie, she had been very busy looking for prospective husbands for both girls Alerie was furious with her for not advocating for her to become engaged to Jaehearon. Even if her father tried to rescind their support for her, Alicent reminded them that she was the Queen. She might not have as much power as her husband, or even as the Hand, but she still had enough influence in court to make their stay miserable.

Most blamed the fiasco of her wedding entirely on her father and House Hightower. After all, she had been just seventeen and was under her father’s protection when it happened. With time and effort, many had forgiven her, so to speak. She was only following orders after all. Over the years, she managed to acquire allies in houses like Bracken, Mooton, Wylde, Swann, Baratheon (by the House’s heir, Borros), and Crackehall. And of course, the Graceford, Roxton, and Norcross were the first to forgive her. But House Hightower was still held in contempt, and their leeway came from her. They couldn't even find a suitable husband for Bethany, who was now near her twenty-first nameday. All that they were finding for her were some third sons or lowly knights, or the position of second wife for someone that already had heirs—nowhere near as acceptable as her uncle would have in mind. So, all the threats to rescind their support for her were a bluff. She had more power than they did, and they needed her influence—no matter how small it was—on the King and the Court to try to salvage their own standing.

Knowing this, they begrudgingly accepted her terms. They could try to arrange a match with Prince Jaehearon and Alerie by themselves; she would not get involved in this while she found a suitable partner for Bethany, and they kept their support for her. Finding a husband for Bethany had been easy; the girl was beautiful with brown hair and beautiful hazel eyes. She was a bit lazy and a bit stupid, though—well, some men would appreciate it just fine. Indeed, Amos Bracken had been quite pleased with her!

As for Alerie, Alicent was trying to push her towards Ser Lancel Reyne, the future Lord of Castamere. Like her aunt, she was beautiful, but unlike her aunt, she was a bit shrewish and very spoiled. More likely by her mother; her own Costayne lady-in-waiting was a self-centered and pampered girl before she and her aunt Joanna set her right. Alerie was especially annoying when sulking and pouting about not wanting to be a Lady but a Queen. Trying to point out that Castamere was one of the richest lands in the Westerlands (the richest Kingdom) had been useless. The girl barely looked at Ser Lancel. Alicent knew better, though. There was not a chance of Viserys agreeing to marry his son to someone who didn’t carry Valyrian blood in their veins when there were three possible candidates of Valyrian descent. But in that, she washed her hands; if her cousin thought herself so above her council, then Alerie could lose the chance of being the next Lady Reyne of Castamere!

What had her fuming, though, was that after she had spent a tiring day discussing the terms of the wedding with her father and Lord Bracken, she was then called to a conference with the Septon. They were discussing the new work they would do, and when she would finally sit down and have tea with her own ladies, she was called to join the King. Being called by her husband wasn’t a hardship. She was his wife, and obeying him was part of her duties, but she disliked changing plans at the last minute. She dismissed it. It was the reason she was called that had her fuming.

“I do not bully the girl,” she protested after Viserys accused her of being cruel to his niece.

“You forget Alicent that I did see you act around Selaena, even now you call her the girl instead of using her name or title!” the King scoffed.

“That’s ridiculous! You cannot believe that I do mistreat her! No, I don’t like her and all the privileges that are undeservingly bestowed on her,” she ignored his narrowing eyes and continued, “but I do not treat her any differently than I treat anyone else!”

“Then you should review how you are treating people because even the servants have perceived that Selaena is always sad when she leaves your company;” Viserys said, and she disliked his mocking tone.

“I am sorry if I do not grovel at her feet and act as if she is the Seven’s gift to humanity, Viserys! But I do not treat her ill. It is not my fault if the girl is too sensitive!”

“Let me get this clear, Alicent: When my brother and niece return, you will apologize to her! And if I hear another crossword of yours towards her, I will punish you.”

“Oh, punish me? And how would you punish me?” she questioned with a scoff. “Taking away my allowance? Sending my family away?”

“Maybe I can just send you to your family…” Viserys said, and for the first time, she stopped.

“What?”

“Do not test me, Alicent! I might not be as vicious as my brother, but we are made of the same cloth!”

With that, her husband gave his back and was followed out of the room by Ser Harrold, leaving her alone in her bedchambers. Annoyed, she took the first thing within her grasp and threw it against a wall.

She was so done with everyone treating Selaena Targaryen as if she were some kind of wonder. Or some fragile little thing! How come that no one besides her saw that the girl was cunning, that every movement of hers was carefully calculated to get her a crown? They all underestimated the girl, but she would never make that mistake!

Notes:

So... Nothing makes me write a chapter faster than the fact that I should be reading some academic paper to my TCC. As you can see, I am not doing what I should be doing. I am a master procrastinator... Will cry over it later!

And yes, there's a reason why Laufey called Sansa a "recurrence" and why she showed Sansa what she did! More explanation to come! I am accepting wild theories on Ríonach's identity... I already have her basics written, but I do love your theories!

Making no promises on next chapter, but who am I kidding? I'll probably just add a new chapter before Christmas!

Info: to anyone paying attention to Ancient Fire, Worldbuilding, I'm working on a new form of character sheet. That will be updated according to the fic.

Chapter 33: Of loyalty and interest

Summary:

Vaegon and Sansa have a conversation.
Otto is planning.
Devan reflects on family and loyalty.
Daemon has a visitor.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

No one likes to be underestimated, but over time, we grow accustomed to it. Right from the start, I found myself confined within the Game, facing underestimation—initially due to my age and later due to my gender. However, as time passed, I began to view it as an advantage and leveraged it to my benefit. If individuals choose to handle me as if I am made of glass, they should be cautious not to get hurt by my sharpest edges!

Excerpt from the Journal of Queen Selaena

SANSA

She still didn’t know what to do with the illusion she had. Her rational mind wanted to dismiss it as her imagination running wild, but Bran had confirmed that he had felt a different presence in the general direction of the Godswood—a presence that wasn’t human. Nor did it feel like anything he had experienced before.

After relaying the information given by Laufey to Bran, the dragon decided to scry the past again. Searching for this Ríonach. Whoever they were, they might be able to give some answers.

Strangely enough, after that encounter, her magic had calmed down, becoming easier to control. However, that encounter also raised a whole new anxiety for her.

Who was coming after her?

Why? What the hell was her magic? What was that vision?

Despite her anxiety, her magic wasn’t acting out like before, which was certainly a bonus.

“I see that you are still pouting over your father’s decision,” she turned and found her great-uncle Vaegon walking toward her with his impassive face.

“I am not pouting!” she said defensively, and could swear that there was some amusem*nt in his face.

“You do realize that a heavy escort in public settings has always been the common protocol among nobility and royalty? Daemon and Lady Royce's indulgence in allowing you and your sister to move through the cities with a minimal escort was just that: indulgence on their part.”

“We have never needed fifteen guards to follow us, especially not when we were making our charities or even when we were just visiting.”

“Perhaps, but you must admit that four guards to protect three young ladies and a nursemaid is pushing it, especially when one of the ladies is a Princess of the House Targaryen. And for what I understand he had at least cut the guards that followed you inside the keep.” Vaegon said.

“I hated that!”

“Daemon commented on your mischief.” There was amusem*nt gleaming in his eyes and her eyebrow arched in defiance.

“I deny everything!” she said, looking him straight in the eye.

“Of course, you do,” he smirked. “What is that you are reading?” she showed him the cover, and his eyebrow rose. “A collection of the tales of the old gods, your mother’s influence, I assume?”

“I like the legends too!”

“Your Grandmother detested reading; she would always complain that the words looked strange when written. But she loved it when Baelon would read to her, though she had a clear preference for legends and folklore.” Vaegon said with a nostalgic smile on his lips.

“Grandfather would read to grandmother?” she questioned with a frown, refusing to draw the parallel between them and Jaehearon and her.

“All the time,” he smiled. “He was also very protective of her, though she was closer to a wildling than to a princess. My father was also very protective of my mother. Targaryen only protects those that they love, Selaena,” Vaegon said. “And we love most fiercely.”

“I know that!” Sansa sighed.

“Then you know that despite being an annoying sh*t, Daemon is doing this because he loves you.” Her eyes turned to his and he smirked. “Well, that is one impressive pout.”

“I am not pouting!”

“Yes, you are! Now that we have established