“The fever is upon her again.” Ser Jorah’s voice rang out from the tent. The few remaining women in the Khal made themselves scarce, even Irri and Jhiqui. They were still terrified of the demonic sounds and shadows all had witnessed when the Maegi performed sorcery to restore Khal Drogo to life. Sorcery that had murdered the stallion that mounts the world and returned their Khal to them, breathing, but no less dead than he had been.
Doreah drew in a deep breath and tried to gather the courage to tend her Khaleesi. Each step she took brought her closer to the tent and made the fear in her belly grow. It was not the body ravaged by a premature birth that frightened her -- she had tended the sick and wounded before -- it was the aura of evil that lingered. The tent was shrouded in darkness even in daylight; Doreah had begged Ser Jorah to move the Khaleesi to a tent free from the taint of magic but the darkness had followed her from one tent to the next.
The entire khalasar had moved, traveling all of one day and into the night trying to escape the taint, but it followed them. Many of those who had stayed when the Kos fought each other and split the khalasar between them left in the dark of that night. Now, only a handful of people -- nearly all slaves too ragged to travel further -- were left. Only Doreah herself and Ser Jorah were brave enough to attend the Khaleesi now.
It was the sound of pain from the Khaleesi that finally gave Doreah the courage to part the flap and step inside. Ser Jorah was wiping Khaleesi’s brow with a damp cloth. He looked up at her as she entered. “Doreah,” he said with a nod to her. “Your Khaleesi is of the dragon; she will survive this if we can keep her fever down. You will be greatly rewarded for your service.”
Doreah wet a soft cloth from the water in the basin by her Khaleesi’s bed. “I need no reward, only Khaleesi to awaken.” She started at her Khaleesi’s feet, sliding the cool cloth along one heel, across the sole of the foot, then between the toes before dragging the cloth across the top of her foot. She dipped the cloth back in the bowl and wrung it out. Khaleesi’s entire body shuddered and she cried out words Doreah did not understand.
She glanced at Ser Jorah and he shook his head. “I have no idea what she’s saying. It’s as though she’s trapped in a dream.”
Doreah attended the Khaleesi’s other foot and tried to ignore the whimpers and twitches. She chanted the Dothraki prayer to ward off evil demons as she worked and felt her fears lessen when Ser Jorah joined her.
Dany was tired. More tired than she had ever been and terribly frightened, lost and trapped in darkness. No matter how far she crawled in any direction, no matter how hard she strained her eyes there was nothing. Just as when she lay her hand on her belly the stallion that mounts the world was no longer in her womb.
At times she could see images, her sun and stars the night he took her face to face instead of in the Dothraki way. Viserys as he finally received his golden crown. Doreah the night she taught Dany how to pleasure Drogo. She sometimes was able to glimpse herself heavy with child on the back of her silver riding through the Dothraki Sea. But the darkness always came and hid the visions from her. Leaving her empty and frightened in the dark.
That was when she would appear. Golden haired and green eyed. Tall and lean, but with womanly hips and full breasts. The crown on her brow was made of gold, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and emeralds as big as peacock eggs. The crown was tall -- at least half an arm high -- Dany had no idea how the woman was able to hold her head up beneath its weight. Her throat and shoulders were hidden behind a collar wrought of golden filigree; tear-shaped emeralds draped across her chest where she was covered in a gown made of gold spun into silk so fine it was transparent. Her feet were encased in silver slippers and she stood by a small pond in a wood where trees had faces made of red blood that dripped down their trunks.
“So you are the one,” the woman would say. “You are the storm born of the Dragon.”
Dany lifted her chin and held her head with dignity. She had no idea who this queenly woman was, nor why she was in this haunted place where Dany was lost and naked and barren of child. “I am of the Dragon.” Behind the woman a golden lion reared up on its hind legs and roared before vanishing into the wood as a wolf howled in the distance.
“And I of the Lion.”
Doreah drew the cloth along her Khaleesi’s thigh. Her skin was not cooling. “She’s getting warmer, not cooler,” Doreah said. “Call the other women. Have them fill the bath and we’ll place her in the cool water.”
Ser Jorah nodded and went to call Irri and Jhiqui to fill the bath.
Dany shivered and knew this woman was the usurper’s queen, the Kingslayer’s own sister. Cersei Lannister. “You have what is rightfully mine.”
The Lannister woman stepped closer and closer still, placing her hand upon Dany’s empty womb. “I have what you’ll never have -- children to follow me and carry on my legacy.” Dany froze in place, unable to push the woman’s hand away. “I may not be of the dragon, but I have followed the dragon’s ways. The children I bore were lions, not stags.” She pressed the heel of her hand cruelly against Dany’s flat stomach. “Your child was a stallion and now it is nothing.”
“Usurper,” Dany hissed, still frozen in place, utterly unable to move as Cersei’s hand slid down the curve of Dany’s flat belly, toward the mound of curls between her thighs.
“Queen,” Cersei corrected as she cupped Dany’s sex. “Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, mother and regent to the king. Bend your knee to me girl and you can live free here in your Dothraki Sea or with me as one of my court.”
Dany flinched as Cersei’s fingers tangled in the curls, tugging them roughly before she slid her finger between the folds. “The Seven Kingdoms are rightfully mine and I will have them.”
The bath was full. Irri and Jhiqui hurried out of the tent as soon as Ser Jorah gave them leave to do so. Doreah watched as Ser Jorah placed the Khaleesi in the water. He kept one hand on the top of her head. “I don’t want to put her head below the water, she may drown, but we should keep her brow wet.” Doreah knelt by the side of the bath and began soaking a sponge in the cold water and gently wringing it dry over her Khaleesi’s fevered brow.
“You can see her pulse.” Ser Jorah nodded toward the Khaleesi’s throat as he spoke. “It shouldn’t be that fast.”
“Bend your knee child. Bring your handmaidens and your knight. Come to Kings Landing and swear yourself to me, beautiful girl. I will take you in. I will care for you. I will shower you with gold and jewels and let you drink the honey that flows between my legs and drink yours in return. Be mine and you will be safe and comfortable.”
Dany shuddered as Cersei’s finger slid partially inside her before sliding out and rubbing against the nub that had made her shiver with delight when her sun and stars had stroked it. “Bend your knee, declare yourself mine and I will give you everything your heart desires.” Cersei’s breath smelled of wine and herbs; her lips brushed gently over Dany’s lips as her fingers slipped inside her again.
Dany allowed Cersei her kiss. Cersei smiled at her, a smile full of secrets and riches. “Anything, golden child. Anything at all.” Cersei’s other hand found Dany’s white-blonde hair. She played with a strand of it then brushed it away from Dany’s face, tucking it behind her ear. “You are very beautiful, you know. I do so love beautiful things.”
“You will give me anything?” Dany asked.
“Yes, I swear it.”
“The water is getting hotter,” Ser Jorah said as Doreah squeezed another sponge full of water over the Khaleesi’s brow. “This isn’t helping. We’re going to lose her to the fever.”
“Khaleesi doesn’t burn from the heat. She can touch things that blister others and it does not mark her skin at all. I have seen her step into a tub full of boiling water and not flinch.”
“This fire burns from within. I’m afraid it may kill her.” His voice cracked on the final words and Doreah looked away so that would she would not see the man disgrace himself with tears.
“Give me my son. Give me my sun and stars.” Dany found her strength then and stepped back, out of Cersei’s reach. She grabbed the hand that was between her legs and yanked it away, then she shoved Cersei backward with all her might. Dany stood tall and proud, unashamed of her nakedness. She stepped forward first with one foot then the other, again and again until she was forcing Cersei away from her. “Give me my kingdom.” She backed Cersei against one of the bleeding-eyed trees and held her against it. “Give me my dragons.”
Cersei shoved her then, but Dany would not be pushed. She held her ground, forcing Cersei against the tree, unyielding even when Cersei’s cold white hands wrapped around her throat and squeezed. “Do not try to play this game of thrones with me little girl.” A lion roared but it was distant and a wolf’s howl drowned out the sound.
“I do not play, Cersei. I am of the Dragon. Everything you claim is yours, is mine.” From the darkness that surrounded them, even in this strange wood, a sound came. One Dany could not say she had ever heard, but she knew what it was.
Cersei’s eyes widened and her grip around Dany’s throat relaxed enough for Dany to free herself. “That is the sound of my dragons. I am coming for you, usurper. And I will take back all that is rightfully mine.”
The sound came again and the darkness lightened as the sound grew louder. The hissing bellow, then a deep roar, grew louder and the sky lightened until the Lannister woman faded away. Dany turned around searching for her dragons --
She opened her eyes to the sight of Ser Jorah and Doreah. “Take me to Drogo.”