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The Princesses in the Tower

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"Your Grace," said the Lady Ashara, "the Princess Arianne is here to see you."

"Send her in, Ash."

Elia pushed her rolling chair back from her desk, and wheeled herself around to the open section of her solar.

Elia's legs had betrayed her for the final time shortly after her husband's elevation to the Iron Throne, and even after all these years she was still easily frustrated by how unwieldy the chair was to use.

Ash curtsied Arianne into the room and departed. Despite having spent the lion's share of her youth in King's Landing, Elia's niece still wore her gowns cut in the Dornish fashion; they were shockingly revealing for the capital, and only becoming more so as Arianne matured into her beauty.

Elia gestured for Arianne to take a seat. "Do you know why I asked to speak to you this day?"

Arianne's mulish expression betrayed her youth. "Viserys, I assume?"

"Yes, Viserys. I'm sure you know that he has asked Rhaegar for his permission to marry you."

By rights Viserys ought to have asked Doran; if he'd held Elia in any regard at all he should have spoken to her, too.

Rhaenys was her father's daughter. She'd been too young to properly understand what was going on when Rhaegar had nearly destroyed them all by dallying with the Stark girl. All she'd known was that her father was drifting away from them, and she'd childishly decided that if her mother wasn't enough to keep him interested in his Dornish family then she would have to be. Ever since then Rhaenys' constant quest had been to command her father's attention by means fair or foul.

Aegon loved Elia sure and true, but he had a boy's boundless energy, and it was all too easy for him to unthinkingly neglect a mother kept castle-bound by her own faithless body and the indifference of all save a few loyal retainers.

So when Doran had suggested sending his own daughter to foster in King's Landing Elia had thought that perhaps she might be something like a mother to the girl.

At the very least she'd hoped to prepare Arianne to rule Dorne someday. Elia's own mother had often been heard to say that the lessons she'd learned in the Mad King's court had served her well when she rose to rule; albeit the main lesson she'd learned was to always do the opposite of whatever Aerys would have done.

Elia's attempts to steer Arianne had come to naught, clearly. Viserys Targaryen, honestly...

Or mayhap, Elia mused, thinking of her own kingly husband, Arianne had been paying all too close attention to her aunt, but had learned the wrong lessons.

"Are you going to stop my betrothal to Viserys?" Arianne asked.

"No."

In truth, Elia was not sure that she could. She had thwarted Rhaegar's plans to give Rhaenys to Lyanna Stark's son by recruiting Rhaella to her cause (it was yet another cause of ill feeling between mother and daughter), but Elia did not think she would get away with that twice.

In any case, Rhaegar had only thought to mention Viserys' marriage plans to Elia in passing; the details had come in a letter from Oberyn, who had been told by Ellaria, who had coaxed the story out of a heartbroken Tyene Sand.

The fact that Viserys was not likely to allow his wife her continued attachment to her baseborn girl cousin was the least of many reasons that Elia believed this to be a poor match.

"I will not forbid it, all I ask is that you think long and hard about whether you wish to accept him. Viserys is not his brother, and Rhaegar himself is a long way from Aegon the Conqueror or Baelor the Blessed."

"Viserys is a prince of the realm." A line appeared between Arianne's brows. "I'm not sure that I can refuse him."

"You are a princess of Dorne, and the heiress to Sunspear. You can refuse any suitor who does not please you."

Arianne threw herself back in her chair; she tended towards the dramatic in ways that reminded Elia of Oberyn as a child. The sultry expression that Arianne schooled her features into, and that looked merely sulky at least half the time, slipped from her face leaving her looking confused. Young and confused.

"My father would prefer Quentyn for his heir, anyway."

Arianne had aimed for a careless tone, but she did not have Elia's years of experience at convincingly dismissing slights against her, and bitterness dripped from every word.

And Elia could not even say with any certainty that Arianne was wrong. Whatever justifications he'd made, to himself and to her, it was true that Arianne would not have been sent to King's Landing had Doran not found his daughter difficult. As the mother of a difficult daughter herself Elia had sympathised too much with Doran and too little with Arianne.

"What Doran may or may not want means less than nothing," said Elia.

Arianne snorted, her nostrils flaring.

"It's true. My own mother would have had Oberyn as her heir if she'd had her pick of us, and my husband would give his throne to Lyanna Stark's bastard if the laws of gods and men would only allow it. You are Doran's heir; one day you will rule Dorne from Sunspear, and on that day you will need a consort who allows you to rule over him, one who is willing to sacrifice his ambitions in the service of yours--"

One who will not sacrifice your body, your future, and your children's safety on the altar of prophecy

"--Think, Arianne, is that Viserys?"

Elia's brother-by-law was power hungry, that everyone knew. If Arianne married Viserys he would regard himself as the ruling prince of Dorne; it could lead to the Dornish Uprising all over again.

If Viserys had more skill with a blade Rhaegar would already have elevated him out of the way to the Kingsguard. Dowager Queen Rhaella was in favour of sending her younger son to the Citadel, and whenever a black brother came to court to gather convicts for the Wall Elia hoped that Viserys would be moved by the tales of honor and glory available to younger sons if only they'd take the black.

"No, he's not." Arianne blinked, swallowed. "I just-- I always thought that this was what I'd been sent to King's Landing for. That it was what my father had planned for me, that it was what you wanted for me."

Elia almost to laugh at the idea that she'd ever have wished a shadow of her own life on the niece she loved. She wheeled herself closer to Arianne. "It is my fault, and the fault of this place, and of the dragon kings--"

Arianne looked up at Elia, wide eyed and questioning. "Aunt Elia?"

"King's Landing eats princesses of Dorne, it makes us forget who and what we are." Elia took Arianne's hands in her own, and squeezed. "Well, no longer."