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The Winter Queen

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There are servants to help with Daenerys's hair, and slaves to help with her dressing, and her bath, and every other thing she could possibly want. It is true that these are not her servants or her slaves, but the ones of her hosts, and it is also true that she rarely sees the same face a second time. Partly it is because they are so very rarely in one place for very long, and partly it is because her brother prefers it thus.

Since they fled her childhood home with its big red door, the certainty of their death pursuing them, Viserys is the only person Daenerys truly sees. The rest - servants, attendants, hosts - change often enough that their faces become blurred in her mind, and she ceases to see them at all. Even their host for the past six months, Illyrio, is an uncertain figure in her mind, though that was perhaps more as a result of repugnance than weariness.

It is as it should be, Viserys, says, and adjusts her simple dress so that it falls more becomingly. He does not wish for her to be distracted, he says, but that is not the full truth of it. Daenerys wonders if it is that he does not wish for her to be distracted by anyone other than him - for that is true also, is it not? The only person to take her away from her studies of being the perfect sister is her brother. That is only natural, since she would one day join him as wife and queen. The Dragons keep their blood pure, taking their sisters to bride, and some nights Dany would lie in bed and think about how different that would be, to be Viserys's wife, instead of just his sister. To have the crown lie heavy on Viserys's head, and to sleep at night without fear of waking the dragon.

One evening, Viserys sends his beloved sister a message that she is to join him and Illyrio for dinner. In truth, Dany is not hungry, but there is no crown on Viserys's head and she does not dare say otherwise. She creeps downstairs to sit beside him and endure Illyrio's appraising stare. She eats pears in brandy with tiny bites, feeling the burn of the alcohol on the way down. If she dared, she would ask for the brandy to be set alight, but is afraid of drawing attention to herself. Instead she finds herself slouching forward, as her brother has repeatedly told her is unbecoming in a princess. Daenerys does not feel like a princess. She feels like she has too much brandy in her and not enough pears.

"Her breasts are not much," Illyrio says after a moment, as if he is discussing the weather.

Daenerys cannot keep from looking up at him in astonishment.

To her side, her brother is smiling his thin smile. "They are enough," Viserys says. "I doubt Drogo is interested in her breasts alone."

That is how Daenerys learns that she will not be joining her brother on his throne, the queen's crown on her silver hair. Instead, eating her pears in brandy with ever smaller, slower bites, she listens to Viserys and Illyrio discuss her fate as a possession no longer useful to keep, and better to trade.

Wildly, she wonders what Viserys plans to do for a bride, and whether he understands what he is doing. Perhaps his long banishment has unbalanced him, she thinks. Dragon blood, she knows, must be kept pure, and no dragon would ever trade his line for a crown. It is madness to plan otherwise, to pretend that mere armies can decide the future when there is no possibility of an heir. What matter who wears the crown for these few years, if there is no one to inherit? Or does Viserys plan to send the crown to her upon his death?

The slave girl to her left - a gift, Illyrio tells her, leering - reaches over and lights the brandy in her bowl, her soft, small hand stroking Daenerys's arm. Oblivious, Daenerys continues to methodically slice and eat her pears. The alcohol has ceased to burn on the way down, and she cannot feel the fire at all.

Her brother is looking at her with approving eyes. "You may well be a proper Dragon after all, dear sister," he says, and she can hear the malice in his voice.

Daenerys swallows around the fire in her mouth and says nothing at all.

 

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