Margaery Tyrell was led from the Maidenvault through the battle-ravaged corridors of the Red Keep to the royal apartments. Four Unsullied soldiers formed a square around her.
Daenerys Targaryen had taken the king's chambers for her own. The Unsullied slammed their spears sharply into the floor in a salute; and a slight, pretty girl with dark curls and clever eyes more formally announced Margaery: "Margaery of House Tyrell, former queen of the Seven Kingdoms."
Three of the Unsullied saluted again, turned on heel and departed, leaving Margaery to get her first look at Daenerys Targaryen.
Cersei had confined Margaery to the Maidenvault when the battle for King's Landing had been joined in earnest - she had convinced Tommen that it was for Margaery's safety, but in truth it had been Cersei's means of ensuring the loyalty of the Tyrell forces - and until now it hadn't pleased the new queen to release her.
Margaery was surprised to see that this dragon queen, this conqueror of two continents who trailed chaos in her wake, was little more than a girl. She sat in an ornately carved chair with the air of someone used to making a throne of whatever seat she occupied; the twin hearths blazed behind her.
"Your Grace," Margaery murmured, sinking into a curtsey.
"Lady Margaery." Daenerys inclined her head, returning the greeting. If she had expected Margaery to quibble over their respective titles she gave no indication of it. "Missandei, Grey Worm, leave us to speak."
Margaery committed those names to memory in case they should prove useful; although what kind of a name was Grey Worm? The girl and the final Unsullied took their leave, and Margaery turned her attention back to the queen.
There were tales told and songs sung of the legendary beauty of the Targaryens, and even before she'd crossed the Narrow Sea Daenerys Targaryen had been spoken of as the most beautiful woman in the world. And she was beautiful; beautiful in that pale, fine-boned way that many men found difficult to resist, and desirable in the way that Margaery had always desired powerful women. But her hair was very pale blonde rather than silver, and her eyes were not the purple of legend.
Daenerys' beauty was striking, but not otherworldly, and Margaery found it all the more pleasing for that. The queen rose from her throne-chair and crossed the chamber to where a pitcher and glasses had been set up on a side table.
"Will you take some wine?" Daenerys asked, pouring the drinks herself.
That was unusual; during any of her brief reigns as queen Margaery would have kept a servant on hand to do that, unless the matter to be discussed was an excessively delicate one.
Daenerys handed Margaery a wineglass and gestured her down onto a low, cushioned couch. The queen sat next to her, smoothing her blue skirts down over her knees; there were hints of riding clothes to her belt and the boots she wore; it seemed there was some truth to the tales that she had ridden with the Dothraki.
The wine was a sour Dornish red, and not to Margaery's taste, but she took a sip so as not to seem impolite. She could not have masked her distaste as well as she'd been taught because Daenerys said, "It is not much to my liking either, but it was among the gifts the Prince of Dorne sent to welcome me to Westeros. Lady Olenna has promised me a hundred casks of Arbor Gold for my coronation feasts."
"You've seen my grandmother--?" Margaery hadn't dared to hope.
"We spoke at some length. Your grandmother is a very interesting woman."
Margaery smiled. "I believe she'd say the same about you, Your Grace."
"She is returning to Highgarden as we speak. She had little complimentary to say of your father--" Daenerys looked politely puzzled in the way of all people first confronted by the Queen of Thorns "--but she promises to deliver the Reach. Your brother Loras remains under guard with the rest of the knights who fought for the Lannisters."
"Loras didn't fight for the Lannisters, my queen, he fought for me."
"Yes," said Daenerys with a small smile, "your grandmother made that same point. Ser Loras and his fellow prisoners will be offered the chance to swear fealty to me, so long as he does so he'll be allowed to go free. I'm told that you will not be sorry to hear that the Kingslayer's sister is dead."
The corner of Margaery's mouth twitched. "No, Your Grace, not sorry at all. Although-- what of her son? Is he dead also?"
Margaery had pitched her question in a tone of understated grief, she had not expected Daenerys to answer: "Your former husband has been sent to Casterly Rock under the guardianship of his uncle, Lord Tyrion." Daenerys caught the look of surprise on Margaery's face. "I am not Robert Baratheon, my lady, I will not climb to my throne over the bodies of murdered children; I hope you will come to believe that of me in time."
"Former husband--?" Margaery asked.
"Even a queen cannot annul a marriage which has been consummated. I take it, though, that Lord Tommen is an innocent still?"
Margaery dismissed a flirtatious only Lord Tommen? as her response in favour of the more straightforward, "Why am I here, Your Grace?"
Daenerys took a sip of wine and reclined against the cushions. "Why do you think you are here?"
Margaery considered and dismissed the idea that she might be hostage for the loyalty of Highgarden, but Loras would be more use in that regard, and Daenerys had gone to the trouble of annulling Margaery's marriage. A new queen would have many loyal vassals to reward and rebellious lords to appease, and advantageous marriages were one way to do that.
"I think you wish me to marry someone."
"I do," said Daenerys. "In the first instance: me." Margaery almost choked on her wine. Daenerys flinched and for a moment she looked dreadfully young. "It was your grandmother who championed the idea; she led me to believe that you would not find the idea distasteful, at least in principle."
Margaery reached out. She was unsure if she ought to touch the queen, so she settled for toying with the necklace that Daenerys wore, fashioned to resemble the claw of a dragon. This was not the time to ask whether it was a dragon claw in truth. Margaery settled the necklace back against Daenerys' collarbone; the queen's skin was warm to the touch, she seemed to radiate heat - it intrigued Margaery.
"The idea does not displease me, no. But there are many to whom it would not only be distasteful but a sign of incipient madness, and you can afford that less than most."
The queen seemed to be back on firmer ground, she grimaced and asked, "Do you know what I've been asked most often since I took the Iron Throne?"
"Something about dragons, I would presume," said Margaery.
The dragonpit was occupied for the first time in more than a century, and the creatures' cries rang out over the city. Many had speculated as to why Daenerys Targaryen had not unleashed her dragons during her conquest of Westeros; some said that it was a sign of mercy, or an act of pragmatism on the part of a queen who wished to rule over more than ashes, still others said that the queen could not truly control the great beasts.
Daenerys laughed darkly. "If only. Not a day passes when I'm not asked when I plan to marry and provide an heir for the realm."
Not an unreasonable question to ask a queen, Margaery thought. But trying to press Renly, or later Cersei, on the subject had been akin to pulling teeth.
Daenerys looked away and swallowed, Margaery watched the muscles in her throat work; when the queen again met Margaery's eyes she said, "I birthed a son on the Dothraki Sea, he died. I shall never bear another living child."
"You're sure--?" Margaery asked gently, again she found herself wishing to touch the queen.
"I mourned Khal Drogo," said Daenerys, "but not to the exclusion of all others."
The possibility of infertility made any highborn woman vulnerable; in a queen regnant, the dying ember of a dynasty no less, it may well prove a terminal weakness. Margaery felt a rush of power at all the things she might do with this knowledge.
"Why do you tell me this?"
"You'll have heard that the dragon has three heads?" Margaery smiled to herself; there were suddenly Targaryen banners everywhere. Daenerys gave her a bold, appraising look. "Aegon the Conqueror had two wives; why should I not have both a husband and a wife, and provide for the realm in that way. I assume that you are fertile, Lady Margaery?"
That seven times damned High Sparrow and his accusations-- " I have no reason to believe otherwise, Your Grace."
It was madness, Margaery decided, utter madness. But perhaps no madder than Renly's bid for the crown, and certainly no madder than her grandmother turning kingslayer to win Margaery the gentler and more tractable of the Baratheon princes.
"How much say would I have in the father of your heirs, my queen?"
Daenerys raised an eyebrow. "How much say did you have in any of your prior husbands?"
Margaery thought of Joffrey choking on his pigeon pie, and of wide-eyed, kindly Tommen. "Some; within reason."
"Then you'll have some say in the third head of our dragon." Daenerys' lips quirked into a smile. "Within reason."
"And I'd be your queen?"
"Queen consort, I'd thought. The title's negotiable."
"I'd want Loras for my personal guard, and you should appoint my grandmother to your Small Council."
"Your brother will have to bend his knee to me first, but if he does I'd have no objections. And if my predecessors weren't already listening to Lady Olenna's advice I can only surmise that they were fools. I would value your counsel too."
It was not the most romantic of marriage proposals, but Margaery had never dealt overmuch in romance, and Queen Daenerys' proposition had much to recommend it.
"In that case it would be my honour to agree." Margaery smiled brightly. "When shall we be wed?"
"When I return from the Wall; Lord Snow of the Night's Watch has sent out another call for aid, and my dragons and I shall answer." Daenerys set aside her wine glass and rose. "Until then I leave King's Landing to you."
Margaery had thought this conversation had reached the limits of her capacity for surprise, she'd been wrong. "You're leaving me as regent?"
"Ser Barristan will remain behind as my Hand, he will do most of the ruling, and he'll be watching you; as will Varys, Missandei, Grey Worm, and doubtless Tyrion will have spies reporting to him at Casterly Rock."
Daenerys reached out and brushed her fingers along Margaery's jaw; she tilted Margaery's face upwards. "I don't trust you, Lady Margaery." The queen bent down and captured Margaery's lips in a kiss; she caught Margaery's bottom lip between her teeth, and left Margaery breathless when she pulled away. "But I hope some day to be able to trust my wife."