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The Beggar King

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1.

He used to love the dragons in the Red Keep.

When he was still very little, Viserys would sneak down to the throne room and stare at the massive bones, trying to imagine what it was like to see such giants flying through the sky, his ancestors on their backs. Viserys knew he was not allowed to touch them; after seeing him stroking the bones once, his father struck him with such force, it loosened one of Viserys's teeth.

One day, when Viserys was investigating the bones again, safe and secure in the knowledge his father was at a council meeting, Rhaegar entered the chamber, startling Viserys. His older brother took one look at him and smiled, the same sweet grin their mother had when she was indulging him.

“Would you like to ride a dragon, little brother?”

Viserys remembered how it felt to be held aloft in Rhaegar's strong hands, his legs splayed above where the dragon's neck, laughing as Rhaegar mimicked the motion of flying. It lasted only a few minutes – Rhaegar had to get to the council meeting – but, when he put Viserys back on his feet, Rhaegar bent down to look him in the eye, violet meeting violet.

“Some day the dragons will come back, and, when they do, we will not have to pretend any longer.”

Viserys missed Rhaegar more than anyone else.

2.

Elia Martell was the most beautiful woman Viserys had ever seen.

Even as a child, Viserys understood Rhaegar only married the Dornish princess because they had no sisters; their father did not like it, always whispering how her blood would weaken the line, but Viserys loved his brother's wife ferociously. Everything about her was so different from what Viserys was used to, but, more importantly, Elia was achingly kind.

She and Rhaegar wed the year Viserys was born, and she always told him he was the very best wedding present, ruffling his hair before pressing kisses to his forehead. Sometimes, when Rhaegar and Elia came to visit, Viserys would crawl into Elia's lap, stroking her long, dark hair as if she was his pony. Rhaegar always told him to stop with a laugh in his voice, but Elia assured him it was fine. Viserys was used to women with silver hair, violet eyes, pale skin; he heard his mother refer to Elia as “exotic,” but he did not know what it meant. He asked Elia once, and she laughed, drawing him close to her breast.

“It means I am not like everyone else.”

“Is that bad?” he asked, his voice full of childish confusion.

Elia smiled, a touch of sadness in her face, before replying, “I like to think it makes me special.”

When Viserys was old enough to truly understand what Gregor Clegane did to his brother's beautiful bride, it never failed to churn his stomach, bring tears to his eyes. No one deserved to die like that, least of all Elia Martell.

3.

Rhaenys was his best friend.

Viserys remembered the excitement in his chest the day Elia told him he was going to be an uncle; he had prayed to the Seven for a little boy, but, when he and Mother entered Elia's room, she presented him with his niece. He could still recall her olive skin, the dark cap of hair covering her skull, could still feel the weight of her in his little arms.

Rhaegar told him he could be like a big brother to Rhaenys, and Viserys took his responsibilities very seriously. He held Rhaenys's hand as he showed her around the Keep, always made sure she did not hurt herself when they played; he was five years older than Rhaenys, but she didn't act like a baby.

Viserys remembered the last time he saw his niece; she had received a kitten for her name day, and they named it Balerion after Viserys's favorite dragon. They fell asleep in Rhaenys's bed, the black kitten curled up between them, and, if Viserys closed his eyes, he could still feel the warmth of Rhaenys's breath against his face.

Sometimes, when Viserys caught a glimpse of a girl of seven-and-ten with dark hair and lithe limbs, he felt the urge to cry out, to grab the girl's shoulder, whirl her around, and see if it was Rhaenys, if everything was just a bad dream.

But Rhaenys was stabbed half-a-hundred times fourteen years earlier, and Viserys swore it would be her name he would shout when he planted a blade in the Usurper's heart.

4.

Ser Jaime Lannister had been Viserys's favorite of the Kingsguard.

He remembered the white cloaks, the great swords on their hips, the glint of the sun on their steel; his mother liked Ser Barristan and Rhaegar preferred Arthur Dayne, but Viserys loved the young knight with the golden hair, the one everyone said was the best sword in all of Westeros.

Viserys remembered a tourney, one of the last before the Rebellion; when he closed his eyes, he could still see Ser Jaime winning the tilts, unhorsing the best riders as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Later, when Viserys was sparring the air with a wooden practice sword, Ser Jaime came upon him, grinning widely.

“Would you like me to show you how to hold your sword, my prince?”

Viserys nodded eagerly, twisting his hand into the position Jaime described, trying to keep his arm loose but stable. He was trying to mimic the movements of Ser Jaime's feet when his father came in, instantly glowering at what they were doing.

“If you want to learn to fight, you will learn from your brother!” Aerys shouted, jerking the practice sword from Viserys's hands. “A lion cannot teach a dragon!”

But Rhaegar ran away with some girl from the North and died on the Trident before he could ever show Viserys how to handle a sword, and Ser Jaime became the Kingslayer, using his blade to spill the blood of Viserys's father.

The only person Viserys wanted dead more than the Usurper was Jaime Lannister, the false knight.

5.

Rhaella Targaryen was twice a princess and once a queen, but Viserys knew she did not like being either.

Those last nine months on Dragonstone, Viserys saw an entirely new side of his mother. He was used to the woman who smiled pleasantly at dinners and celebrations, who tried to defuse their father when his madness began to drip upon them, who hid her true feelings behind pleasantries and courtesies; but that was not the woman he saw on Dragonstone, the one who grew large with another child.

“The blood of the dragon is a blessing and a curse,” Rhaella would say as her hands would stroke the bulge of her stomach. “It can be wondrous or it can be deadly; you make the decision which it will be.”

“Crowns are not important, Viserys; they are simply metals and jewels. But family, that is what is truly important. I never want you to kill for a crown, but I expect you to kill for your blood.”

When news of Rhaegar's death reached them, Viserys remembered how pale his mother became, how the tears silently slid down her cheeks. And then she rose off of her chair, staring out at the churning sea, and spat, “They have woken the dragon now. And we will make them pay.”

His mother went to the birthing bed during the most violent storm Viserys could ever remember. He stayed with her and the maester as she labored, wanting to make sure no one betrayed his mother as she brought the latest dragon into the world. And when the baby slipped free of her body in a rush of blood, Viserys could only stare wide-eyed at the squirming bundle.

“Daenerys Stormborn,” Rhaella whispered as she stared upon her daughter's face. “She will be your wife, Viserys, and together you will show the Seven Kingdoms just what dragons can do.”

When his mother died of the birthing fever three days later, Viserys held Daenerys tightly against his chest and declared, “Our first daughter shall be Rhaella.”

Viserys often thought of his mother now, but he made sure to never consider what Rhaella Targaryen would think of the men he had become.

6.

Daenerys was the only bargaining chip he had left.

He knew she loved and hated him in equal measure, and Viserys even understood why she did; Viserys could not afford to be kind and gentle with his sister. The Usurper's assassins were always trailing them, they were literally dependent upon the kindness of strangers, and there was nothing left to sell. Viserys knew everyone in the Free Cities referred to him as “the Beggar King,” but they would never understand what it felt like to sell his mother's crown, to part with the last bit of his old life, the last remnants of Queen Rhaella.

Sometimes Dany begged him to just forget the Iron Throne, to let them settle in Pentos or Braavos, to start new lives; it was always those pleas which woke the dragon, which made him strike her and curse her name. The last time he had done so, when he bloodied her lip and bruised her alabaster skin, Dany started to cry in earnest.

“I just want a home,” she sobbed, her entire body shaking with the force of her sadness.

Viserys swallowed back his guilt and shame at striking his baby sister, remembering Rhaegar, Elia, Rhaenys, Rhaella, even Aerys; they were home and the Usurper had taken them all.

“That is what I am trying to do, Dany. Can't you see that?”

But of course Dany could not see it because Westeros was no more real to her than a children's story, a place she learned the history of but had never glimpsed for herself. Viserys taught her the names of their ancestors, described the castles, but he knew Daenerys doubted she would ever glimpse them for herself.

When Illyrio brought him the idea of marrying Dany to Khal Drogo, Viserys's instant reaction was to say no. Daenerys was to be his wife, the wife of the dragon, not some horse lord's whore. But Khal Drogo brings with him 40,000 warriors, and Viserys cannot retake the Seven Kingdoms with only his name.

As he watched Daenerys wed the savage, Viserys thought only of what it would be like to take back his throne and not what awaited his sister in the arms of the Khal.

7.

Viserys knew he was never going to sit on the Iron Throne the moment he saw Khal Drogo lift a bloodied Daenerys aloft, the Dothraki cheering.

There were few lessons King Aerys taught Viserys, but the one which always stuck out in his mind was that fear would always trump love when it came to subjects. But the khalasar neither feared nor loved Viserys, and they gave both feelings freely to Daenerys. The moment her whelp slipped from her body, Viserys knew he stood no chance.

If Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen could win over 40,000 savages, it would take no effort at all to charm the people of the Seven Kingdoms.

All he wanted was the dragon eggs, his only surefire way of buying an army of sellswords, but that damned exiled knight stopped him. Like everyone else, Jorah Mormont loved his sister, and Viserys wondered what it was about Daenerys which made everyone want to protect her, serve her, love her. As he drank his way towards oblivion, Viserys felt the rage start to build in his body, the overwhelming unfairness of it all.

When he held the point of the sword against Dany's swelling middle, Viserys remembered pressing his hands against Rhaella's stomach, feeling Daenerys tumble inside; he would never push the sword into his sister's body, no matter how enraged he was, but he wanted to scare her, wanted her to remember that he was the heir to the Iron Throne.

As the bloodriders break his arm, hold him down while the Khal melts down his belt, Viserys looked at Daenerys, cried her name. He wanted to shout so many things - ”I have protected you when no one else would!”, ”Don't let me die like this!”, ”We are supposed to rule the Seven Kingdoms side-by-side!” - but none of them came, not when he saw the look in Daenerys's eyes.

The moment before the molten gold touched his skull, Viserys realized, She is the dragon.

The Beggar King died with a crown atop his head.