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The Prince That Was Promised

Chapter Text

Daenerys is initially unaware of the change. It is subtle, almost unnoticeable in its gradual seeping into the very core of her like an infection. No, not an infection. Far too harsh a word. Seeing Jon Snow lying there prostrate on the bed, half-dead, the scars indicative of wounds no man could have survived… well, it awoke something in her. A feeling so fleeting and so rarely experienced by the Last Targaryen that it could easily be misinterpreted as something wholly different. It is a foreign sensation.

Or is it?

She remembered thinking she had this feeling before. Khal Drogo, Daario Naharis. But did she truly feel this way about those men? She knew she cared for Daario, for he believed in her birthright and her ability to make all her designs come to fruition, but not in the way she believed. As she’d told Tyrion Lannister some weeks ago, she felt nothing upon ordering him to stay behind in Mereen. She knew she cared for Khal Drogo, for out of their unconventional union came a son she cherished as he grew inside her, as she grew with him.

Her son.

Rhaego, named for her brother Rhaegar.

She remembered both of their names, they echoed in the corners of her mind and her dreams were filled with the imaginings of what they looked like. Her lost brother and son were not alone, however. Rhaeyna, Visenya, Aegon the Conqueror, her father Aerys II, Jaehaerys, Duncan, all of them. Even her mother Rhaella, of whom she had only heard stories from Viserys. Targaryens past. Viserys himself even appeared once or twice, but the reasons escaped her. Nostalgia? Fear? She must be getting close to achieving her lifelong goal, if these dreams were now occurring with such frequency and complexity.

But what did the dreams have to do with Jon’s arrival? Did they, at all? It appears to her that the two events coincide. Were they mere coincidence? Fate? She knew not. She’s not sure she ever will.

The Red Woman believes her to be important, Jon as well. But why? Will the Targaryen dynasty rise once more, or fall in an ultimately futile fight against the Night’s King and his horde? Viserion is gone and his brothers mourn him.

Dany has been so lost in thought that she momentarily forgot where she is: the Chamber of the Painted Table, overlooking Blackwater Bay. She is alone. Dawn has not yet broken.

Dawn, she muses. Perhaps one of the final dawns this world shall see. It chills her, the possibility of that thing that murdered her son roaming free on this side of the Wall. The Night King was no mere man. These White Walkers, this beings who were fundamentally Other, they would be brought to heel one way or another. Perhaps the death of the Night King would catalyze the extinction of their entire putrid species.

Wishful thinking indeed.

Jon has already expressed his condolences for Viserion. She retains her prior position that going North had behooved them all.

She hears it then. Boots. Turning, there he is. Do her eyes deceive her or is he simply mad?

“You should still rest,” she advises.

He gives her a wry smile and a half-nod. “I have rested for eight days. Walking will do just as well.”

She returns the smile, and in a rare moment this smile does reach her eyes. She cannot recall smiling in such a way in a very long time, or if she ever has. Jon is undeniably handsome, strong, full of valor and honesty and literal undying loyalty.

And a King. She is a Queen.

She’d left Daario behind because a lover would impede any marriage alliance she could make. They both knew this. A Queen and a member of the Second Sons were strange bedfellows to begin with.

Is this her fate then? To fall hard and fast for a man she had only recently met, in this case that she had only truly begun to know when he almost died? A curious lot, to be sure.

What’s more, Drogon likes him. That has to count for something, does it not?

Something else stirs in her heart. One might call it a song. She traverses the space between them with a tunnel-vision determination and hugs him, burying her face into the fur cloak that adorns him. It is soft, and she needs softness now more than in any other moment.

To her surprise, he hugs her back and wraps the cloak around her. They are skin-to-skin now save for the thin nightgown she had worn to bed.

It is nice, as though Ice and Fire have come together. Daughter of the Mad King, Son of the Ward of the North. In an interesting reversal, it is like she is the ice with the stone around her heart and the walls around her soul and he is the fire melting her heart, breaking down her walls with effortless ease. It is almost intoxicating to be so open with someone without saying a word, to know comfort is offered willingly and without an expectation of anything in return.

She has known grief. She killed her husband to end his suffering, her son died inside of her shortly before she could bring him into this world and she never got to see him. When she’d awoken, her swollen belly was flat again as if nothing had ever been there at all. This grief, though, this rage… it cannot be so easily sated. Revenge cannot be taken without forethought in this instance. There is a coldness in the air, and children of Ice and Fire huddle together in this little embrace.

She is unsure of much in this moment, but of one thing she is certain: she is in love with this Jon Snow, and if Tyrion is to be believed… he is in love with her as well.

The union of Ice and Fire, finally.

Chapter Text

Qyburn relished his new position under Cersei, something he made abundantly clear in his own way. The freedom allowed him to conduct his work, it was intoxicating. An ordinary man may feel a shred of remorse for his role in the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor; he did not. The Queen’s enemies were swiftly eradicated. Margaery, Loras, the Faith Militant, and more and more each day followed as the Targaryen girl’s disastrous campaign etched painfully forward. House Tyrell, gone. House Bolton, gone, no thanks to Ned Stark’s Bastard. He’d heard whispers from his little birds concerning some sort of alliance betwixt the Mother of Dragons the new King in the North. Like the Northerners would ever bend the knee to a Southerner again. What folly to go to the North for aid. She would be dealt with as all others before her. If not, perhaps the Mountain would be permitted to have a bit of fun with her before Cersei executed the bitch. The invasion would be short-lived, he sensed it. He almost pitied the girl.

Still, he could not deny the chill he experienced when he first heard of the Battle of the Goldroad. The chill that haunted him still whenever he closed his eyes. The images of dragonfire, not unlike the Wildfire explosion some weeks ago.

Hot.

Death.

Suffering.

Well, not suffering, but incineration.

And now that the Queen carries another child, well, the Lannister power of the Iron Throne is most solidified.

A knock at the door.

He opens it.

Cersei. Speak of the Queen and she shall appear.

“Your Grace,” he nods, “how may I help you? Would you like me to perform some manner of examination?”

“No,” is her reply. Cold, curt. So much like her. “I simply desired your counsel.”

“I am on the Small Council, Your Grace,” he points out. Why come to him alone?

“I feel Jaime slipping from me,” she says honestly. It is unlike her, this vulnerability. He closes the door behind her and sits across from her. She seems so small now, like the child she was some thirty years ago and not the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. It is not something he knows how to respond to, but he tries.

“How may I assist?”

“The child. Is there a way that you could prove to him that it is real?”

“He doubts your pregnancy?”

“He doubts everything, I fear. Since Myrcella and Tommen, he has been wary. Of me, I think.”

“Your Grace,” he uses the moniker in a gentle tone not unlike one that would be used to temper a verbal blow to a child’s ideals, “such technology does not exist. However, my little birds have informed me that a Red Priestess is on her way to King’s Landing. Along with Varys.”

“Varys?”

“It seems he has grown tired of running.”

“And the Red Priestess?”

“I believe her to be the Lady Melisandre. Of Ashai’i.”

“Stannis Baratheon’s fanatical whore? The city recently had a bout of fanatical religion, I believe it is sated for now.”

“The priests and priestesses of the Lord of Light claim to see visions in the flames. Perhaps she could be of service.”

“Unwillingly, but that is of no consequence. I have a summit to attend with the Bastard King.”

Cersei stands and leaves the man alone. She would never admit it, but the idea of Jon Snow working with the Mad King’s daughter made her blood run cold. Nothing, however, came close to the idea of losing her twin brother.

Qyburn’s ran hot at the thought of the summit turning in Lannister favor. More enemies for the grave, less threats to his new position. Well, less threats to her rule in any case.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Tyrion knows. He drinks and he knows things, this is his lot in life. Varys had heard from the Red Woman that it shall be his fate, and hers, to die in Westeros. Dragonstone is technically in Westeros. All men die. This is life. Maybe their role in this epic tale is at its end, maybe they shall live long and happy lives. Who knows?

Such things were and forever will be ultimately unknowable, and for this priestess to believe otherwise is folly of the highest order. And they say his sister is a fool. A proud fool, but a fool. Melisandre and Cersei have that in common, if nothing else.

Speak of the Spider and he shall appear. Varys strides up behind him, his hands interlocked under his fat belly as per usual. He ponders, is silent for a long moment.

“I believe I shall stay a bit longer, old friend.”

There is a fear in the subtext, and Varys fears nothing. He is a planner, all eventualities are in his purview. That is who he is.

“You aren’t taking her seriously, are you?”

“She did not say when or where. Technically I am in Westeros for I am in Dragonstone. We overlook the Blackwater, do we not? It would be a pleasure to die in the service of one who deserves such devotion. Daenerys has proven her worth hundreds of times over.”

“I thought you did not believe in saviors?”

“I do not. I believe she is good, and a good ruler is a thing Westeros has desperately needed for a long time.”

“Still think the realm can be saved from itself?”

“I would’ve thrown myself into the sea long ago if not.”

“Not the worst way to go.”

“The Lady Melisandre, if she is to go to King’s Landing, I know her end. The Red Keep or the axe. I have no affection for her, nor should I, but foolishness is to be pitied.”

“Perhaps she believes it is her time.”

“No such thing as ‘one’s time’. Only when others decide we die. Old age is not exempt from that.”

“Have you always been such a cynic?”

Rhetorical. Varys smirks at a new thought.

“If I can outlast Baelish, I think I could stomach dying in Westeros.”

Tyrion isn’t closely listening, but instead staring off in the distance. Planning.

“Daenerys… Jon Snow. He is a proper man. And a king to boot.”

Varys got a conspiratorial look in his eye.

“How may I help?”

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jon sleeps well for the first time in years. He has moved from a bed on Dany’s flagship to a bed in Dragonstone. Much more comfortable. Daenerys is his queen now. The North will see her for who she is, he is sure of it. He told her so. He has seen her vulnerability, her tenacity. She is selfless and brave, true to her ideals. Admirable and very close to he himself. Thorne once told him that his good heart would get everyone killed. He was wrong so far. He’s triumphed over the Boltons and retaken the North for the Starks. What better accomplishment could he have hoped for?

The door opens and in walks Daenerys. She sits beside him and this time, she holds his hand.

“I apologize,” she begins, “if I was in any way inappropriate the other morning.”

They both know to what she is referring.

“A raven came from the capitol. Cersei Lannister is with child. I must move quickly. It was- it was-“

Jon gives her hand a squeeze. “Shh… think nothing of it.” That is not to say the occurrence was wholly unremarkable, but… Jon was never a well-spoken man. He knows this. Always very direct, to the point. Leave the flowery words for the highborn lords and ladies. With Daenerys, he feels something base. He’s been in love. Once. She died in his arms at Castle Black some months ago. Not months. Years. Almost three years, if he kept count. Time blurred for him as though he had a bit too much to drink and the world was fuzzy. With Daenerys, the world is clear. With her, there is purpose again. More than just the mightiest of some disgruntled Northern Lords. He is a King and she a Queen. The world knows what happens with kings and queens. The endgame there would mean he is the king of the Seven Kingdoms occupying the Iron Throne. He has no interest in the sword seat, but she does. Their arrangement is mutually beneficial. Independence for the North and the Lannisters are ousted. Something for both. He wouldn’t mind seeing Jaime and Cersei’s heads on pikes. Tyrion is alright, though. He is a good man with a good heart. Davos is right, he did stare at Daenerys’ “good heart” from time to time. He is doing his damndest to not do so even now. She is beautiful, but he is no lecher. She deserves respect and a good man. Some would say he is both of those things, but what could he offer her? A cold castle in the North where her two surviving children would most likely freeze, or otherwise she would have to be parted from them forever? A dilemma indeed. At times like this he wishes he were still just another brother in black. Not the Lord Commander, not the King in the North. No big responsibilities. Simpler existence. But look at what being king has given him. The Boltons are gone, exterminated like the Lannisters almost- well. Everyone knows that story.

Dany, for her part, is still unsure. Was the apology truly necessary? He said it was not, but was that him being kind? He is no Daario. He is no Drogo, no Jorah, but he is a good man still. She recalls the crack she made to her Hand concerning his height. She recalls the crack he made to her about longing stares. She has no interest in knights in shining armor. Nor sellswords. What was Daario? He made her happy for a time, yes, but again… nothing. Knowing a feeling is vastly different than assuming the feeling is there in the first place. Tyrion said Daario Naharis of the Second Sons would not be the last man to love her, but she could she open herself to it? Real love. Love with this Jon Snow, the Bastard of Winterfell? Bastards can rise high if they so desire to the point no one will recall their bastardry. Jon is already King in the North. King of the Seven Kingdoms is still a large leap, and one counterintuitive to his goal.

When did this stop becoming a military alliance?

“You are… a good man, Jon Snow.” She bends over him and presses a kiss to his forehead. It is the first time she has gestured so since Drogo passed. It feels nice. His skin is cool but not deathly so. Another little press of her lips to his brow and she resumes her original position.

“If there is anything you need, I am here,” she smiles and it reaches her eyes. She gets up, he squeezes her hand, and she sits back down. The message is clear: stay a while.

And so she stays. They look into each other’s eyes and a new feeling emerges. One might call it ease. Safety.

He sits up more fully and she rests her forehead against his. A simple gesture, really, one that might communicate gratitude. In this case, gratitude at his survival.

Their breathing syncs for the briefest of instants. Their noses touch and rub against each other. Such similar noses and yet so different. A big gasp from her, mounting courage. She presses her lips against his, and the kiss is deep. Long. He reciprocates, his tongue flirting with her mouth, begging entry. Her hand cradles the back of his head and his finds purchase in her beautiful silver hair.

Blood that once ran cold now runs hot.

Perhaps this was never a military alliance at all.

Chapter Text

Tormund Giantsbane has never been one for prophecy. The Red Woman creeps him out more than a little. Those who worship a fire god that demands burning people alive? Not for him in the slightest. He doesn’t understand how the Southerners keep all these gods straight, especially when he is not so sure he believes in anymore. Not after everything he’s seen. Maybe it is true what they say: ‘if one’s faith can be shaken by something superficial, then it is not faith worth having’. He’s sure he believes in one thing, though: Brienne of Tarth. Tallest woman you have ever seen. She is brilliant, if brash and prone to the cold shoulder. He is sure she will come around one of these days.

Brienne has always been unused to positive attention, the gender of the giver is immaterial. The last time she was given any romantic affection from a man who liked women, well, that story is not pleasant. Podrick knows that well enough. Tormund is a wildling, not to be trusted, right? But then she hears what he did with Snow and his compatriots. Admirable. Maybe he is not the horrible cretin she has always thought. But could she allow herself to be humiliated once again if he is indeed playing some sick game with her? She has steeled herself. She is a knight. She has neither use for love nor the time even if she desired it.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Melisandre had not yet departed from Dragonstone. She is beginning to wonder if she should at all. She has her own role to play and she believes she has fulfilled it. Perhaps death is all there is left for her. She remembers the initial Targaryen invasion some three centuries ago. Recalls it well. Good, powerful men. Not great, but honorable in their own way. Great in a sense of majesty, yes. Their dragons were mighty and nigh invincible. And this Night King brought one down with an ice weapon. Grave indeed. Graves. The world may a graveyard before too long, or else they are all added to the army of the dead. She would allow herself to be burned alive for the Lord of Light before she submitted to such a horrendous fate.

“She shall break the wheel, I have foreseen it,” she speaks to the figure approaching her. Varys. Of course.

“I have no doubt concerning this fact,” he muses. “I worry about her. She is grieving heavily, as is her right, but the judgment of mourners is often clouded. I hear Cersei will use it against her at the first available opportunity. And then there is the issue of an heir. Who shall she wed?”

“Would it not logically follow that she should marry the king right under her nose?”

“Jon Snow.”

“Tyrion Lannister sent you to me, didn’t he? He had best advise her on this matter soon, or else he is the largest fool in all of Westeros. No other Lord would marry an invader. No one else in Westeros is of such an altruistic nature. They are selfish, base. Perhaps it would be better if the Long Night came and shrouded them all in inescapable darkness, but I would not wish it upon them. They must come to the Lord of Light on their own terms.”

“Your prophecies speak of a warrior. A most great soldier who will drive back the Long Night and its terrors. Do you believe Daenerys to be this individual?”

“I believe her to be part of it.”

“Part? Before you said-“

“Change is constant. I believe Ice and Fire have come together for a reason. I have done my part in this tale.”

“The queen believes herself barren.”

“The witch believed she made the queen so… until the impossible events described occur. But they were not impossible. Prophecies should never be taken at face value, I have learned this lesson in the hardest way imaginable, Master of Whisperers. You are the Spider, one of the most knowledgeable men in the world, but even you do not need your spies to tell me what will occur should Cersei prevail.”

“Westeros will fall to the Night King.”

“A most unfortunate outcome. Death comes for us all in the end.”

“It is how we face it that matters,” Varys offered her a small smile.

“You know the truth.”

“I know the predictability of life. Are we to sail?”

“Cersei by now expects us. If by some miracle we are not executed on sight, how would we convince her to not slaughter the other side of the summit?”

“I have an idea.”

Tyrion never did seem to like his ideas.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

The Half-Man himself sat with Daenerys. She sighs and looks at him with some mixture of gratitude and hope.

“It is a good suggestion,” she smiles.

Tyrion is no fool, as we all know. He sensed those feelings long ago. “He is in love with you. An even more fortuitous match. What are the odds?”

“I will need the North in order to more effectively combat our true enemy.”

“The North will take some persuading. Jon and his sister Sansa can take care of that.”

“And what of Lord Baelish?”

Olenna had mentioned him by name but nothing else. She largely knows nothing of him.

“As far as I am aware, he still breathes. He is camped out in Winterfell, the home of the Stark family.”

“I have heard of the infamous northern pride. Let us hope we can help them set their pride aside before the Night King proves a threat beyond the Wall.”

She stands and departs, leaving Tyrion alone to finish the wine he had begun prior to their conversation.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

“We are to be wed?” Jon asks. “That would make you Queen in the North.” He still fears the backlash, but… dragons.

“And you shall be King of the Seven Kingdoms. I can rule from the Iron Throne and you from the North.”

“But how would the marriage work when we are on opposite sides of the continent?”

“You can always live at King’s Landing.”

“And the children?”

“Drogon and Rhaegal will… oh.”

He notices his mistake. “I am sorry, I meant no-“

“You are pardoned. No offense taken. You… I cannot have children. I had a son, once, with a Dothraki Horse-Lord. I am sure you have heard that story.”

“I have not. Not a lot of news from across the Narrow Sea in Castle Black.”

“It is a long story. You do not have to-“

“I’ve the time. The summit is not for another four days. I want to know who my wife is before I wed her.”

Wife. The word pulled at her heart in a way her previous marriage did not. Jon is good and kind, a sweet man in a world of brutes and cynics. Rare and something she coveted. She did not want a hero, but she did want to be happy. She does want happiness. “Even if I cannot give you children?”

“Even then.”

“About earlier tonight… I feel it warrants discussion.”

“You kissed me and I kissed you back.”

“You know what I mean, Jon Snow. Do you truly care for me in that way?”

“Do you?”

“Time will tell.”

“And there is my answer.”

“I am, for my part, a holder of affection for you. Perhaps such a feeling can blossom?” A flimsy name for it, but can she truly do this? Can she? He is not Drogo or Daario. He is something foreign to her still. No doubt the feeling is mutual. She is fearful that this is simple infatuation, physical attraction that will wither on the vine as they both grow older.

He fears the same, but the greater conflict to come still takes up the majority of his mind. Does she love him?

Does he love her? Time will tell. There is certainly something there. She is in love, she knows this beyond all doubt. But does she love him truly and vice versa? They are two wildly different things. Being in love fades, but love never dies.

Jon surges forward and kisses her once more, deep and passionate, and the voices of doubt in both their minds are silenced forever on this matter.

To hell with prophecies about mystical warriors, to all seven hells with infertility. Perhaps the old crone’s riddle was being solved after all. She thinks she is flowering again, at any rate. Time will tell.

They shall be wed, and they shall bring Westeros back to glory.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

The Wall is vast. The Night King gazes up at it. Raises his hands. Recites some old words. The Children’s spell in reverse.

It begins slowly, cracks appearing all over up and up and up into the skies and then-

CRACKRUMBLERUMBLE CRAASSHHHH

Men screaming as they are buried alive. The squelshing of flesh. The stink of death.

The Wall is no more within the hour. He speaks. It is a rough, course sound. When one has not spoken the Common Tongue in over 80 centuries, such a thing is to be expected.

“Thus falls the world of men.”

Chapter Text

Robert: dead. Murdered.

Robert’s Bastards: dead.

Joffrey: dead. Murdered.

Myrcella: dead. Murdered.

Stannis: dead. Executed.

Tommen: dead. Suicide.

The extinction of House Baratheon is complete, Jaime thinks. He has survived the destructions of multiple noble houses and yet he still feels ill at ease. The supposed Baratheon heirs were his own children, children he could never be a father to. Myrcella knew and was glad of it, how would she respond now that Cersei has done what she did? Would she have disowned her mother and come to her father, begged him to disavow Cersei as well? They would never know. Although her murderess was going to die slowly and painfully in the Red Keep, the loss of the one child who acknowledged him positively weighed ever heavier on Jaime Lannister’s heart with each passing day.

“Where is my happy ending in this world?”

The crown has less enemies today than yesterday, so it seems. House Tyrell is gone, House Bolton is gone, House Frey is gone, House Martell in Dorne is gone, and House Targaryen will soon be gone with the death of Daenerys.

Is this something he truly desires? Perhaps Brienne was right: perhaps he is a monster after all. Siding with his sister, what other title was worthy of him? The commoners certainly did not take kindly to the destruction of the Great Sept, to say nothing of those who died during the wildfire explosion.

What could he do? Anything? Turn on Cersei as he did on Aerys II?

Cersei carries his child. So she said. The opportunity to be a father, truly, appeals to him like nothing else. He was content, being the protective and watchful uncle when there were those who cared that still drew breath. He imagined those in the Great Sept cooking, the flesh boiling off their bones. He had heard tales of how hot wildfire is. A fate he would wish upon no one, not even Daenerys. Would it even work on her, the so-called Dragon Queen? Could he even stomach being party to such a thing? He had for the most part resigned to his new role once Cersei took power. Follow her blindly, his gut said. Stay alive. If she is willing to destroy one of the most sacred spaces in all of Westeros, then what other lines would she be willing to cross? Could you truly love someone about whom you also experienced a bit of fear? He knows not. She had asked him to stay in her chambers, and so here he waits.

Once the door opens, Cersei closes it quickly behind her. They are alone now, and in solitude many thoughts have the freedom to be expressed. Before she can react, he stands.

“You cannot continue to do this, Cersei. I will not be yoked around like some dog on a chain.”

Her serpentine tongue is quick as always. “You are not. If you feel such a way, I am glad that you have told me. Honesty is the cornerstone of relationships,” she says in an almost mocking tone. “It is for show, Jaime. What will you do, then? Betray me, as I warned you against? Slay me?” She crossed over to him, pressing the whole of her front against his. It is only then that he realizes the absence of his armor. When had he taken it off? AH, RIGHT! To come and see her in a more informal fashion. Such is the power she holds over him. He is a malcontent in this regard. Whenever she is near, he is most intoxicated. He cannot deny her ever.

“We both know you’d never lower yourself to such dishonor a second time,” Cersei’s hot breath whispers in his ear. She pushes him down on the bed and he is hers again. Any thought of resistance leaves him in an instant. He wonders if it is better this way. Better that he is hers and she is his. They have always belonged together, have they not? He kisses her hard, and she reciprocates with an even greater ferocity, and it is all over.

No happy ending for the Kingslayer… unless he makes it so.

Chapter Text

Melisandre sits in a small cabin in the lower deck of Daenerys’ flagship, meditating. Praying to the Lord of Light, as she often does. Her faith was initially shaken by the deaths of Stannis and Jon, but the latter has arisen. He is Azor Ahai’i. Or perhaps the Prince That Was Promised is a trinity. Jon, Daenerys, and… Jaime Lannister? No! That cannot be correct. The Kingslayer should have no part in this, he is a man without honor. In any case, he literally stabbed the rightful queen’s father in the back and slit his throat. Such an alliance would be tenuous at best and fantasy at worst. She becomes aware of another presence in the room.

“And what wants the Spider with the flame?”

Varys sits forward, his face no longer obscured by shadow. “You pray to a being you do not know for certain even exists and has misled you time and again. Forgive my skepticism, Lady Melisandre, but such a track record would do the opposite of inspire devotion."

“Daenerys will bear another child. A living child. I have seen it in the flames.”

“Flames?” A curious cock of his head to one side and a furrow of his brow. He had heard about it from other sources, but hearing it pass from the lips of the priestess herself is an entirely different matter.

“The Lord of Light grants us the ability to see the future in the flames, Varys. It is how I saw our mutual fate.” She notices the little bit of fear in his eyes. It is not something a man like him experiences often, hence her desire to remind him of the content of their previous conversation. “You fear that prophecy to be true.”

“I have no love for Cersei and if I can outlast both her and Petyr Baelish-“

“You will be content to perish in King’s Landing. That is not our lot, Spider. Best make your peace now.”

Varys shifts uncomfortably in his seat, opens his mouth to speak, closes it, and reclines. “Is everything so needlessly grim with you?”
He stands and departs. Something about her is unnerving simply when she is silent, and her opening her mouth simply intensifies the feeling of foreboding and dread Varys feels. What if she is right after all? How would he go about preventing such an occurrence? Would he at all? Only time will tell.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jon, Jorah, Varys and Tyrion have gone. Missandei, Melisandre and Grey Worm as well. To Westeros. For the summit. To meet with Cersei. Her enemy and she will not get to witness the satisfaction of the Mad Queen’s face upon seeing a living Targaryen.

Daenerys is fundamentally good and kind. Not sweet in the most general sense, but there is a warmth to her. At least she would like to think there is. Jorah certainly does, and Jon believes her to be a good person. But what is a good person in this world? One who does not betray, murder, et cetera? A curious notion, that there is true goodness in the world. True selflessness. She has seen that in Jon Snow. He sees it in her, even when she feels he misdirects his admiration. When he returns from the summit, the one she desperately wanted to attend herself but was heavily advised against, she would make such feelings known.

But! The kiss! Oh, the kiss. There was most certainly something there. Had he been stronger… well. No guesses required for what would have transpired were that the case. When he returns from the summit, she will make those feelings known to him. It is the best choice. She is to marry, this is the best way to secure an alliance. Jon is a King and what’s more- they are in love! She never anticipated loving again, but being loved comes easy it seems to the men around her. It made her blush whenever she was in private. Of late she thought of her Dothraki handmaidens. How silly they would find all of this. Irri, even Doreah. Doreah who betrayed her over money and ambition. Missandei is far better than Doreah in any case. Missandei will counsel her well in this matter. She is sure of it. All that is left is to wait for them to return.

She is anxious. She paces and paces for hours. She tends to Drogon and Rhaegal to the best of her ability. Brings them sheep. Flies Drogon here and there. Rhaegal will not eat. There is a deeper sadness to him than even Drogon. Perhaps because he spent a bit longer with Viserion chained up in Mereen? She would not presume to ascribe feelings to ones such as her sons.

Her children do not like it when she is nervous. It makes them nervous and nervous dragons are nothing with which to trifle.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Sansa worries about many things and most of those things are merely fabrications of her addled mind. Did she dream her last encounter with her sister? Those faces? She already doesn’t trust Littlefinger, but can she no longer trust her sister either? A strange situation indeed. To say nothing of whatever has happened to Bran. Dear sweet Bran is so foreign to her now. What has happened in six years? Everything, apparently.

She is no stranger to trials by fire, to abuse, but she has come to realize these fires have forged in her a stronger person. She only wishes she could’ve become this person without the horrors she witnessed in King’s Landing and here in Winterfell when it was under Bolton control.

She looks so much like her mother, he thinks. Dear dead Catelyn Stark. She doesn’t trust him, and his newest endgame is falling into place. Slowly, like last time. More power for himself? Check, if by another avenue than he intended. He will do what he can with what he has available. If he were to marry Sansa, his position would be solidified. He is already a Lord of the Vale, but the Lord of Winterfell? Splendid. Chaos is a ladder and he is adept at stewing up a little chaos now and then, giving it even more rungs for him to climb. The climb is all there is, he was right. The final pieces will fall into place soon enough.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

When Jon returns, he is solemn. Even Tyrion will not speak for a long time when they come home to Dragonstone. Missandei is eerily quiet. Then she sees it, sees him.

Grey Worm, a hole in his chest the size of a- she can’t quite describe the injury.

Still, the truth is undeniable. He is dead.

Gregor Clegane- or, the thing he has become- is responsible, so Varys and Tyrion report later.

The commander of her armies snuffed out and she could not do anything to prevent it. Even Melisandre and Varys say nothing at all.

“Where is Jorah?” She breaks a long silence.

“Captured,” Tyrion monotones, hushed. He is almost shell-shocked. Dany moves to sit by him but he makes no welcoming move toward her and she thinks better of it. The time for comfort will come later.

“Jon,” Melisandre whispers later that evening. Her voice is in his head, so he thinks. No, not his head. She stands over him and walks away, wordlessly prompting him to follow. He gets up, and after a long bit, spies her outside standing on the side of what Tyrion has jokingly dubbed “The Brooding Cliff”. It is an apt name if ever there was one.

“You are the Son of Ice & Fire, Jon Snow,” she intones. “Your father is-“

“I know.” He discovered the truth on the trip home, but whether he believed it is another story entirely. Long story, to be told soon. “I do not know what to believe, if I am honest.”

“You are always an honest man, Jon. Rhaegar intended to name you either Aegon or Jaehaerys. Your mother-“

“Stop it. I know where you are going with this.”

“Then you know what it means for-“

“Enough,” his voice is uncharacteristically harsh. “I have not told her yet.”

“You should.”

“When?”

She turns to him and offers a knowing smile. “It will come to you. Your respecting of her mourning period is admirable, King Targaryen.”

“Do not-“ he turns from her, unable to put names to all the conflicting emotions whirling about in his head.

“You will have a son, too. Four children will you give Daenerys Stormborn, and four will she give you.”

He still does not look at her. Her gaze remains intently on him, almost boring a hole into the back of his skull.

“I do not want it.” Not even sure of what specifically he's referring to. He'd be a damn fool to tell Daenerys something of which he himself was not entirely convinced. But, oh how he wanted to believe it, to grasp it firmly and hold it in his heart as the truth. He knew of Targaryen customs, but even if this were true... what would this mean for whatever he and Daenerys have begun in earnest? All he knows now is that he needs time to mull it over.

He walks away, and Melisandre returns to her previous spot. She has done her duty. What else is there for her now? The waves crash underneath her. She will be damned before allowing the Night King to butcher her and hers in his insane quest to fulfill his original purpose. A purpose long since expired, like food that has sat out in the sun too long. The waves are so lovely, and she leans over to, ahem, get a closer look. Leans over, more, more, and-

She falls.

There is no scream, only the sound of her hitting the water.

Melisandre of Ashai has finally taken her fate into her own hands.

The only question now is this: should Jon Snow fall once more, would there be anyone left to finish the song that his birth has begun? The Song of Ice & Fire.

The ultimate defeat of the White Walkers and the reunification of the perpetually warring realm.

Jon tossed and turned on the bed in his cabin. The return to Dragonstone was a rough one. A storm on the seas. Daenerys was called "Stormborn" for a reason; perhaps, he thought, she was immune to the horrendous waters. The ship was sturdy enough. Sitting bolt upright out of nowhere, covered in sweat, he gasped for air.

What in Seven Hells was that he saw in the night? This dream of his. He thought he saw, or sensed, Bran. The boy seemed aloof, distant. As Bran had been behaving since Jon saw him again.

Back in Winterfell, Bran sighed. Did his abilities work this way? He was unsure. He sees all, this is really the crux of what his predecessor taught him. He sees all, knows. He knows. Bran is the only living person to know the truth of Jon Snow's birth. The still-a-bastard son of Rhaegar Targaryen and his aunt Lyanna Stark. He would be king of the Seven Kingdoms, were he not- wait. No. Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia. No bastard here. The man with a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than his paternal aunt. What manner of conversation would that be? He thought for a moment, like with his father, that Jon had seen him.

But how? Those who are a part of the past should not be able to sense the Three-Eyed Raven. Right? Then again, this wasn't the past, it was the present. The here and now. Many admitted to being ignorant of the source of Bran's new nature. His emotional detachment seemed so... strange to them. As if it were more than the mere product of some trauma. He paid them no mind. What were they all but stories in the end?

Jon had learned the truth of his heritage strangely indeed. What he does with the information will shape the future of Westeros, and most likely Essos beyond it.

Chapter Text

He knows it is fated to end poorly, just as all things are in this horrendous world. If alliances do not break via betrayal, they will break due to the personal interests of one party or out of fear. He has played this game for a very long time now. He started the War of the Five Kings and he has ended up as the uncle-by-law of Sansa Stark. Sansa may not trust him or have anything to do with him, but what concern was that of his now? He loves her, as he did his mother, but even he has recognized when a lost cause is a lost cause. He would seem pathetic for continuing his advances on her and is instead now focusing on a new game: turning her against everyone else. She may not admit it but she is his newest puppet. Her wholesale rejection of him was enough to squash any qualms he had about using her for his own ends. Everyone is merely a chess piece in the ladder of chaos, helping to advance him up and up. One day, perhaps, he shall be named King of the Seven Kingdoms and his own order shall be imposed upon the land. Maybe.

Or maybe he’ll just fuck everything and let it all burn. He could be King of the Ashes.

An intriguing proposition, to be sure.

Even if the endgame doesn’t pan out, he still has Plan B.

He will bide his time and he shall see. Sansa will play the little game a bit longer if she feels she must. She is her niece, after all. Jon is in Dragonstone and, if the reports of the Targaryen girl’s fiery nature are true, unlikely to return home. He will have his marriage to Lysa annulled and he will wed Sansa. By the grace of the Seven, sons will come of it. He will be Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North.

Power is the ultimate acquisition. Who is he without his power? If Jon stays at Dragonstone, Winterfell will need an able-bodied Lord of sound mind. Bran is not Bran anymore.

Yes, this will do.

Chapter Text

The Dragonpit. Not the worst place for a summit concerning the Dragon Queen.

Major players in attendance: Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, Jon, Jorah, Theon, Brienne, Missandei, Grey Worm, Varys, Melisandre, and Podrick Payne. The most important to the least important.

Yes, Daenerys is very bitter about being forced- err, advised- to stay behind. Can’t have the Queen putting herself in danger all the time.

“But what kind of queen would I be?” She had argued.

“A living one,” Tyrion had deadpanned.

Cersei believes this to be a simple endeavor. In-and-out elimination of her enemies under the pretense of meeting them to discuss the future. What future? There would be no future for them. A future for her, yes, the future of the Lannister line that now grows in her womb day by day. She is the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and she refuses to be manipulated by or dictated to by anyone… or anything.

If Jon knew her, he’d say that arrogance will cost her life and the lives of everyone in Westeros. That is part of the reason for the summit in the first place. He has the wight, he has the numbers to protect him and the rest of Daenerys’ court should the need arise.

What exactly was the endgame here, beyond convince Cersei of the issue’s existence? Simply convincing her would not guarantee an alliance or even a tenuous truce when it came to one such as Cersei of House Lannister. Bitter, paranoid, vengeful, and spiteful. Not to mention an alcoholic. Who’d want a queen like that on the Iron Throne? Certainly not Daenerys, who believes it to be her birthright to continue the Targaryen dynasty, to re-forge it into something greater and stronger than it was. The continued rule of the Lannisters is antithetical to her own goals. This is not exactly a secret.

The Queen of the Seven Kingdoms gazes upon the assembled party whose ranks have filled the once great floor of the mighty dragon stable of old. Her imp of a brother, a disgraced knight, two former slaves, an uneducated smuggler, a tall woman and her too-old squire, the Spider, a bastard who claims to be king and is therefore in open rebellion, a fanatic, and a broken man. It was enough to make her laugh. Jaime sits beside her, solemn as ever. He almost thinks to ask her something. He thinks better of it.

“And where is the Dragon Queen?” Cersei asks, utilizing the epithet mockingly.

Tyrion is the first to speak; it would enrage her did it not make so much sense. He has always been a talker, a negotiator.

“Queen Daenerys has sent us in her stead. If you wish to communicate with her, you must do so through us. There are thousands of Dothraki and Unsullied warriors outside the capitol as we speak. If this meeting goes south, well… I do not suppose I need to explain what will happen.”

One might even think the threat is a simple bluff, such is the ferocity with which the still open wound that is the Sacking of King’s Landing burns as if infected by some poison. With Tyrion, though, one never knows. He’s not even sure if he knows for certain which it is.

She becomes vaguely aware of Ser Gregor in the background, like a lion waiting to pounce upon and eviscerate her enemies. The emblem of House Lannister made flesh.

Jon vaguely recalls briefly encountering the elder Lannister children many years ago, before all this shit happened. Before they obliterated the only family he has ever known. They unnerved him even then. To see Cersei Lannister with a crown on her head is almost enough for him to understand why Jaime betrayed Daenerys’ father. As despicable and dishonorable a deed as it was, Jon finds himself almost empathizing with the Kingslayer and his look of utter helplessness. Jaime Lannister is not helpless. To see him so is indeed sad.

“Where is she,” Cersei repeats. “Is it not the point of this congregation to be a facilitation of the first meeting between us?”

“An army of savages and eunuchs,” Jaime finally speaks up. The comment initially seems out of place or delayed, until he clarifies: “Are we supposed to be scared?”

Jaime sees Grey Worm tense at the description. Although he abhors slavery, he can’t help the small smile that blows across his face like a short breeze.

Both siblings know it to be bravado. Only a short while ago, he was urging her to attend this very summit. He was and is utterly terrified of Drogon. In awe of the savagery of the Dothraki, of the way his men were soundly obliterated. If Ser Gregor was still intelligent enough to laugh, Cersei is sure he would. Not that he laughed much in the first place. It is not the only thing she notices, either. Years, decades really, of being with Jaime have made her aware of the signs of love. Or lust. Either term works for her, and she denies the idea that one emotion is mutually exclusive to the other. Love and lust are intertwined, and she sees both in the body language of the brown girl. For that eunuch?! How- how would that work?

Jaime offers her a wry smile when he notices. The more connections one has, the twins now, the easier it is to break someone. Particularly an enemy.

He has to commend the Unsullied, though. They are consummate professionals. Never letting feelings get in the way. Provocation would only be disadvantageous at this juncture. Cersei knows exactly what she intends to do to this assembled few, these rebels who do not seem to know that the war has been informally over for nearly two years, formally finished since what has come to be called “The Red Wedding”, and it will not be pretty. It will make her punishment of Ellaria Sand appear most tame in comparison. She relishes the thought, truly.

Bringing pain and suffering to those who oppose her has always brought her joy. She loves protecting the family, it is her ‘one redeeming quality’, as Tyrion said. Or was it the love of her children? Some may question whether she loved her children at all, or merely viewed them as extensions of herself and of her will. Others said she would make a horrible ruler and that the explosion of the Great Sept was her idea. She suspected those who knew her had begun to talk, to spread rumors. Neither rumor would behoove her in the slightest, best to stamp it out. Ser Gregor remained helpful in that regard, able to speak or not.

“It is my understanding,” she shifts in her seat next to her dear brother/lover, “that you have something for me to see, Jon Snow. Bring it forward.”

Then she notices the shuffling, the creature tied at the wrists and ankles with a dog’s muzzle on its head. Is it a man? A woman? A child? She cannot tell from this distance. She beckons for it to be brought forward, ostensibly so that she may better inspect it. If she’s going to slaughter these rebels anyway, why not humor them first? Let their deaths catch them by surprise, as the deaths of her children did to her?

The sun is hot. She wonders how the Unsullied individual stands it in all that leather. The crown on her head feels heavy for the first time as the shambling thing is brought closer to her. There is a primal dread in her countenance that she desperately holds onto, fights against so that no one may see it. Weakness does not benefit a queen. Jaime sees it, though, or senses it. He squeezes her hand as Jon and Brienne (who is holding the creature steady) rips the muzzle away.

The sound it makes would at its even partial freedom alone be enough to make most faint.

Even the hulking Mountain shows a glimmer of fear.

“What is it?!” Cersei practically screeches.

“One of the dead, Your Grace,” Jon deadpans.

Cersei stands, shakes off the hand Jaime touches her with, and approaches the thing. This wight.

Closer.

Closer.

Closer.

Until she is standing a hair’s breadth from it.

She observes the monster strangely, with an almost detached curiosity. Her expression would not be out of place on Qyburn. Stares at it for a long moment, then turns to Jon.

“I expected to be played for a fool, Jon Snow. I am pleasantly surprised to find that I was not.”

A short tilt of her head to one side, almost imperceptible, and it is over.

Ser Gregor Clegane marches on them, tears the wight apart with his bare hands.

Shoves Brienne and Podrick both aside.

Grey Worm goes on the offensive, thrusting his spear at the huge man. It does nothing, hardly even dents his armor. The undead Mountain That Rides turns his red eyes on the Unsullied…

And punches a hole clean through his chest.

Missandei screams.

Jaime rises, eyes wide in shock. Shock at Gregor’s strength or a needless death is anyone’s guess, including his.

Cersei smirks. Gregor returns to his previous station.

“Word cannot reach the common folk,” is her summation. Everyone present remains still. Even the air.

“We shall reconvene tomorrow.”

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

The flagship in the bay seems strange now. There is a corpse on it. Tyrion sits with Varys, and Missandei refuses to leave the room containing Grey Worm’s body. Tyrion had not known them for long but he sensed they cared a great deal for each other. Tragic, as everything else in this shit world. Must everything end in tragedy? Hmm? It seems so horribly unfair. All so horribly unfair.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jaime is irate upon their return to the Red Keep. Why wouldn’t he be? The look he gives Cersei is enough to give even her pause. She pivots on her heels, millimeters away from her new goblet of wine that Qyburn has poured her. The to-date only member of her Small Council leaves them alone, Gregor following like an obedient dog. An attack dog, more like. Jaime glowers, bristles with anger.

Cersei opens her mouth to speak but does not. The words are caught in her throat.

“Sister, have you gone mad?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That was pointless. First the Great Sept, then assassinating Pycelle, no love lost over Ellaria Sand, but still! You-”

“A show of force is necessary when dealing with invaders. I told you I would vanquish all those who oppose me. They will be swept away as dust in the wind.” She nods to the goblet. “For effect.” She has no intention of drinking it, no matter how much she wishes to celebrate that her intimidation tactic seemed to have paid off. As is known, she is with child. Even if that were not the case, she would need to keep up the illusion in order to maintain control over her twin brother.

He gets in her face, not sure whether to kiss her or kill her. Too often of late has he been reminded of the Mad King. “And if I were to oppose you one day?”

She purses her lips, then relaxes her face and cups his cheek in her free hand. “You wouldn’t.”

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

The next day is much grimmer. It would be strange if it was not, not that the Queen cares much. A tent has been set up for the Lannister twins and one other. Missandei has unshed tears behind those beautiful eyes. Tyrion and Varys shift uncomfortably. Davos and Jon stare her down, while Brienne and Pod stand off to the side. Jorah looks downtrodden. No doubt the Unsullied was considered a friend by some of those who still oppose the crown. Pathetic. She rises and walks among the assembled allies of the so-called Dragon Queen. The Beggar Queen. Does she really believe such a display of ragtag lowlifes intimidates Cersei Lannister? Glorified commoners, all of them. She sneers at each of them in turn, practically snarling like a lion herself.

Brienne and Pod. “Traitors, all of you.”

Jorah. “Dishonorable.”

Melisandre. “Coward hiding behind an evil fire god.”

Tyrion and Varys. “Children grasping at straws.”

Jon. “Bastard.”

Davos. “Fool.”

Theon. “Sad little boy. I already have your sister, maybe you will be next.”

She whispers in Jon’s ear, pressing herself against him like some snake waiting to devour a meal. “Do you truly believe your silver-haired whore will wrest the Iron Throne? It is miiinneee,” she hisses the final word in a long, drawn-out breath. “House Lannister has been the power in the Seven Kingdoms for generations. We will not fall to a child and her lizards.” She pulls away violently, scratching Jon’s face with her fingernails. “Even if your supposed savior Daenerys musters up the courage to come to King’s Landing herself, then we shall shoot her dragons from the sky, see her crushed beneath their weight. Oh, yes, I know of your silly little prophecies. You think there are no Red Priests or Priestesses in King’s Landing?”

As in waiting for an entrance line, the Red Priestess from Mereen with whom Tyrion and Varys once met exits the tent. Kinvara. A stunning beauty.

“She left Mereen upon the Mad King’s daughter’s own departure. She had such tales to tell me.”

Varys shifts again, an action of which Jaime cannot help but take note. Tyrion remains silent and as still as a tree. He looks remarkably sober. Melisandre trades a knowing look with Kinvara, who stands beside Jaime and Ser Gregor.

Jon speaks up, but Missandei beats him to it. “Queen Daenerys is on her way.” A lie. Or a half-truth. Or an eventual truth, she’s not sure which. “She asks us not to wait for her.”

Cersei turns her attention to the former slave. She looks hungry, not unlike a lion, but stares and eventually returns to her seat.

“That thing you have brought me. It is dead now, correct? For good?”

Jon nods. “Yes, Your Grace.”

It feels good, hearing the title fall from Jon Snow’s lips. Maybe she will able to crush his alliance after all.

“No more blood need be spilled in the service of Daenerys Targaryen unless she wishes it spilled. She does not strike me as a woman who enjoys violence. Tell her to remain at Dragonstone or to return to Slaver’s Bay.”

The term elicits something from Missandei and Cersei smiles at the deliberateness of her misspeaking. “The Bay of Dragons. She is not welcome here. You, Jon Snow, you shall come with me.”

Jon furrows his brow in confusion. “Me? Why?”

“I need a new member of my Kingsguard. They are in short supply as of late.”

The King in the North grimaces. “No, you want a hostage. Do not insult my intelligence, Your Grace.” A title shown out of duty more than respect for the woman occupying the Iron Throne. Whatever Daenerys’ flaws, she would be the far superior option to Cersei Lannister and her oath-breaking brother. Still, if it will buy the Dothraki and Unsullied more time, buy Daenerys more time to stage an assault on the capitol, then so be it. He steps forward-

And Ser Jorah Mormont blocks his path. “If it pleases Your Grace, I have known Daenerys Targaryen far longer than anyone else here. I would be the superior candidate.”

“What are you doing?” Davos whispers. Jon, too, is confused. “You’ll get yourself executed or worse starved to death in the dungeons.”

Jorah nods, “Then that is my fate in the service of my queen.” An almost imperceptible blink and he goes to stand by the Red Priestess Kinvara and the monstrous Mountain. Cersei rises again, Jaime too. Steps back into the tent. Kinvara and Jorah follow.

And the summit is ended. A disaster on all accounts.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

She stares down at him. Rather, his empty vessel that she has come to associate with him. No, that is a needless detachment. He is dead and his corpse lays before her. Silent tears have covered her face, rolled down her cheeks for the last two hours. Part of her seeks righteous vengeance against Cersei Lannister and that- that monster she calls a bodyguard. At last, she pulls a chair from the desk in the cabin and sits.

And sits.

And sits.

His death will not be in vain, she swears, though she cannot bring herself to verbalize the words.

Funny, how a little cabin can be so easily converted into a somber holder of the dead. Did Jaime Lannister feel this way, when his little Myrcella perished in his arms?

Grey Worm made her feel many things not long ago. She feels many things now. Many different things. Emotions and physical sensations pulling her in all kinds of different directions. She has not spoken since she saw the Lannister twins and Clegane.

The tall woman, Brienne of Tarth, and his too-old squire are above decks watching as the seas roll past. Tyrion and Varys have come in separately to console her; it did no good. They are not warm men, even they realize that fact. The Translator for the Dragon Queen has sat in somber silence with the remains of her lover since they set sail.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Daenerys knows better than to presume anything when it comes to her enemies aside from their pattern of overconfidence in their own abilities and their chronic underestimation of hers. She is no Beggar Queen, no mere daughter of a madman either. Standing on the Brooding Cliff as Drogon and Rhaegal fly over Dragonstone, she reads a letter from a messenger raven.

In the far north, The Wall has fallen. The Night’s Watch are all of them dead, save for one man named Eddison Tollett. A lucky man, but what good is luck when it concerns those icy monsters that killed Viserion? No doubt he will soon be dead as well, added to the Night King’s Army.

The Great War has finally arrived. She has but one recourse: she will travel to King’s Landing and meet with Cersei Lannister herself.

Chapter Text

Davos paced up and down the Chamber of the Painted Table several times, flustered and unable to form the words he wanted. After another lap around the table, he finally sputtered, “What the fuck was that?!”

Daenerys and Tyrion watch him curiously. She has no answer. Tyrion has many answers, and so he steps forward.

“I see you have concerns…”

“You’re bloody right I have concerns! Cersei Lannister danced around us, saying whatever she wanted, and we let her? Why? And Jon with the ‘Your Grace,’ as if she is owed such a privilege, and- and Ser Jorah-“

“All will be explained,” Varys cuts in as he enters the room. “Calm down, Ser Davos. I have set things in motion.”

Davos rolls his eyes at Varys and his usual vagaries. Daenerys, too, looks away. What have they been keeping from her?!

X=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jon has been sitting with Missandei in the days since they returned to Dragonstone. He offers the only comfort he can, that of a listener, and he has fulfilled the role well. Currently, they sit in silence again. There is more silence than words, and the silence gives the translator an odd comfort. One she needs nevertheless. Missandei needs company now, someone mostly removed from the situation and did not know Grey Worm. She has not spoken to Daenerys except for when necessary. She has not spoken to anyone really. Grief is different for everyone and for her it manifests as silence. That is not to say she cannot speak any longer, for she can, but simply chooses not to communicate verbally. As the pair walk in the grass, Jon spies Rhaegal in the skies. Drogon too.

A secret burdens him but he dare not speak of it now, not to Missandei. Not to Daenerys. Not to anyone. He doesn’t trust Varys and Tyrion is still a Lannister. A Lannister with morals, indeed, but still one of them.

And so they walk on in this not-so-awkward silence, serenaded by the occasional roar or screech from the dragons.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

“Are you going to share these plans or not,” Daenerys arches a disapproving brow at Varys. “What have you done?”

Varys walks back and forth a bit, then sits in the chair closest him and laughs, almost like a narrator telling a story to children.

“When I heard of Cersei’s apparent pregnancy, I sent word to Mereen. A friend contacted the Red Priestess Kinvara, and I persuaded her to reach out to Cersei. I promised her the chance to meet Daenerys; it was all she desired in return for her subterfuge. I must commend Jon Snow, his mocking of Cersei’s epithet to her face was, um, inventive. Unprecedented.”

“Ballsy,” Tyrion interjects.

“Yes. Jorah was simple enough to read, I knew from the moment I saw him he would do anything for Daenerys. I did not anticipate his actions, but I am proud of his ingenuity. I assure you that whatever he is planning is for the ultimate good of the realm. I imagine he will be quite invaluable at assessing the state of King’s Landing and the tensions between the twins. Something else to be used to our advantage in our next step of removing them from power.” The Spider sighs and continues, “I doubt he will enjoy the new reality of being a political hostage, but it is not a permanent arrangement. The act was necessary-“
“Act?” Daenerys perked up.

“Yes, my Queen. The general submissiveness of our party at the summit that Ser Davos refers to. While underscored by the very real sense of loss of young Grey Worm, it was merely a ploy to assess any weaknesses Cersei and Jaime might have inadvertently presented, buy additional time for the Unsullied and Dothraki. King’s Landing knows they are stationed outside the city, and war will certainly come one way or another. Part of why Ser Jorah went, I believe. He knows they need more time to prepare an assault. The aforementioned tension can be used to turn Cersei and Jaime against each other, no doubt Ser Jorah knows that already. He would never willingly be prisoner of an enemy, if his ancestry is any indication. We have lost allies and I for one am intent on ensuring that we do not lose any more.”

Daenerys spoke up once more, “And that is why I have decided to go to King’s Landing myself and meet with her. What use is my campaign to reclaim my birthright if all my allies die in the process?”

Tyrion smiled. “Such thinking sets you apart from Cersei,” he complimented. “You are not your father, either.”

“I expected you to counsel me against such an action, Tyrion.”

“My advice has cost you much. It would behoove you to see what she is like, what you would be up against in the future if our plan does not work out. If this leads to Cersei’s dethroning, all the better. On the other hand, what is to stop her from executing you the moment you dock?”

“If she wanted me dead by the hand of an agent, it would have happened already. I would have thwarted it already. No, I think she wants to kill me herself. In front of the remains of the Great Sept of Baelor or in the throne room.”

“A risky play,” Varys cautions.

“No more or less risk than the plan you just imparted to me. Perhaps Jorah will be able to free Yara.”

“If Yara is not already dead,” Theon mutters. “Euron…”

Daenerys rests a hand on Theon’s shoulder. “Euron will be dealt with in his own time. How goes the forging of the dragonglass?”

“It is nearly complete,” comes Missandei’s voice as she and Jon enter the room. She sounds brighter than she has since her beloved’s death. A steely determination is present. “The Unsullied that have remained on Dragonstone work night and day.”

“We have close to a hundred weapons,” Jon confirms.

“I am more than willing to accompany you, My Lady,” Davos volunteers. “I was a smuggler, after all.”

Daenerys offers the knight a genuine smile. “No smuggling will be necessary. I want them to know I am coming for them.” It seems everything is falling into place.

“Oh,” Varys looks up, “and one more thing. New allies should be arriving shortly.”

At that precise moment, Brienne and Pod enter, flanked by Beric and Tormund. A dour Sandor enters behind them, incredulous. He scoffs, “Not these fucks again,” in reference to the red-bearded men.

“I told Beric the prophecy of Azor Ahai would come true if he continued to aid us,” Varys notes, “and promised Sandor the lifelong vengeance on his brother he so richly desires.” And then: “I believe we know why the wildling is present,” he adds almost as an afterthought.

“It seems we have a good plan,” Daenerys observes. “We eliminate the Lannisters from power within the next few days…”

“And install you as the new queen,” Tyrion and Jon say simultaneously. The reverence in their voices is clear as day.

“Using the dragons again would be counterintuitive. We are trying to maintain King’s Landing and not destroy it,” Tyrion muses. “That said, their use as intimidation tactics cannot be understated. They are weapons of war now, in the eyes of King’s Landing.” All present nod in agreement.

“You four will accompany Ser Davos and myself,” the Dragon Queen turns her attention to Brienne, Tormund, Sandor, and Beric.

“I said we would meet again,” Beric nudges Sandor.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jaime stares at Cersei, who sits on the bed in their chamber.

“Word from Dragonstone. Daenerys Targaryen is on her way here.”

“It seems the child has responded to my baiting. When will she arrive?”

“Tomorrow night at earliest.”

“Inform Qyburn that he may very well have a new test subject for his research by tomorrow night. Or Ser Gregor may have a new plaything. I heard Septa Unella is no longer of use to him.”

Jaime’s face gives away disgust for the quickest of seconds, but he nods and departs.

No one will take the Iron Throne from her, not when she has worked so hard for so long to control the Seven Kingdoms.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

With Daenerys’ forces holding Casterly Rock, Tyrion knows his siblings has nowhere to run. As he stands upon the Brooding Cliff, he feels unease. Missandei walks up behind him.

“I will never see my sister again, will I?”

“Not while she lives,” she says curtly.

“And Jaime?”

“He will bend the knee or die,” equally cold.

Tyrion hopes he’ll pick the latter. Jaime was always good to him, kind and helpful if not always forgiving. The death of their father at his hands, well, certainly not his proudest moment. Does he regret it? No, but he does regret the irreparable damage done to his already fraught relationship with Cersei and Jaime. He secretly wishes that she will magically see reason. Insane dream, yes, but still the cynical man hopes even now. The hope of a cynic should inspire anyone. Will it be enough?

A loud whoosh of air and a thump. The two turn to see Rhaegal behind them. He roars at first, then stops and observes Tyrion curiously. Friend of Mother. Friend of Mother. He freed me and my brother, the dragon thinks. Tyrion smiles at the animal. A new idea has taken hold.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

The voyage to King’s Landing from Dragonstone is about 450 miles. A good way for people to sit and talk, get to know one another. Sandor isn’t one for friends. He stares off, looking at the small waves and the waters. The sea is calm, the group should land at King’s Landing within the next day or so depending on the winds. He senses someone behind him, turns, and growls “What do you want?” The heavy Targaryen armor he is wearing makes him sour enough without the unwanted company.

Brienne holds out a sword. “For you. Valyrian steel.” A simple explanation. “Forged by the Unsullied for their commanders in the taking of King’s Landing from the Lannisters as commissioned by Jon Snow.”

Sandor chuckles and turns away. “You really believe in the Mad King’s Daughter? What if she’s just him with teats?”

“I do not know if I believe in anyone anymore, but she is better than Cersei.”

“Is that enough, though? The dead are coming and those white things with it. The girl’s Dothraki and Unsullied soldiers are waiting just outside the Blackwater, from what I hear. No formal commander anymore. They’ll be easy targets for her Mad Majesty’s wildfire. Just like the Sept.”

“You’re a very unpleasant man.”

“The nicest thing anyone’s said to me all year.”

He turns and takes the sword from her.

“I know that red-bearded fellow wants to fuck you. I know you haven’t had the kindest experience with men who like women. I’ve seen what the dead do to people, what their Masters do. May as well give it a shot before we all die horribly.”

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jaime sits alone, on the throne. Not the slouchy or cavalier way he did when Ned Stark arrived at King’s Landing. This time he is more formal. Kinvara approaches. He arches his brow at her. He has no time for fanatics. “May I help you?”

“The throne is a good fit for you,” she says honestly.

“And yet I am not the king.”

“No, but you have a purpose beyond this, Jaime Lannister. You shall no longer be merely a Kingslayer very soon.”

“Cryptic words from a cryptic faith do little to move me.”

Kinvara snorts and turns to leave, only for Jaime to rise. “The reason we brought you here, did you succeed?”

She turns back. “I saw the truth in the flames.”

“Is my sister truly carrying my child?”

A brief hesitation. Jaime gives her a stern look. She opens her mouth, inhales, and-

“No.”

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x=x

The castle looms large above the Targaryen ship as it approaches the dock. Sandor, Brienne, Beric, Daenerys, and Ser Davos all climb into a longboat to make the rest of the way there. Jaime Lannister and six Lannister men await them. He offers Daenerys his hand; she takes it, but only after a moment. Can this man be trusted? Can this woman be who she says she is? Who the Red Priests and Priestesses say she is? An uncertain microsecond and then Daenerys Targaryen, First of Her Name, stands in King’s Landing. The others follow suit. The men move to seize Sandor and he growls at them.

“No,” Jaime raises a hand. “Let them all pass.”

Perfect. This will go swimmingly if all is so easy.

Jaime simply doesn’t want to spill any blood unnecessarily. That much is conveyed in his staring at Daenerys. Do not mistake my aid, however small, for weakness or compassion, Daughter of the Mad King.

But isn’t Cersei a Mad Queen now? He shakes the thought away and leads the assembled party to the Red Keep.

X=x=x=x=x=x=X

Cersei smirks as Jaime leads the company into the throne room. Jorah is by her on one side, dressed in traditional Kingsguard wear. Ser Gregor is on the other.

He eyes Daenerys closely. Jorah eyes Gregor. This monster will not have her.

Sandor sees the hulking freak of a man, recognizes him immediately. Growls.

Gregor moves forward, only to be halted by Cersei’s hand and dismissive wave. Sandor spits on him as he departs.

“Come to rescue your little pet, Dragon Queen? Is he to be food for your monsters?” Cersei leans forward at the hips, hands gripping the Iron Throne tightly.

No matter if she bleeds. The eyes of the Mad Queen meet those of the Dragon Queen. A standoff.

“You have two individuals who belong by my side. I am here to take them back.”

“Ah,” she stands. A good three inches taller than Daenerys, she smirks at the girl. “I suppose if I do not comply, then fire and blood shall be the culmination of the evening?” Cersei laughs. She can’t help it. The Targaryen girl actually thinks she can win, dragons or not. “Understand something: I am the Queen. I sit on the Iron Throne. You presume I fear you. You presume incorrectly.”

Dany isn’t even phased. “You presume I am here solely to retrieve what is mine. Before this night ends… I will watch as the light leaves your eyes.”

Jaime moves on her, Cersei shoots him down with a look. Davos gives Jaime a death glare, to which Jaime simply scoffs. “What shall I do with them, Your Grace?”

Your Grace. Nice to not hear it in such a mocking tone, Cersei thinks. Fucking bastard Jon Snow. Once she is through with the Mad King’s last child, and House Targaryen is extinguished, she will move on Dragonstone and slaughter all that reside there. Not because she has a dire need to, but because it will feel good. It gives her such immense happiness to squash her enemies beneath her feet.

“Keep them here. I-“

Sandor draws his sword and launches himself at her. Before she can respond, he is almost on her, while the others similarly break out. The assembled Kingsguard and Jaime rush to defend their queen.

A swordfight breaks out.

Sandor is about to stab her when a gold-covered hand grabs his shoulder and throws him back across the room with immense force. Scrambling to his feet, he sees Gregor. The great lumbering beast that made him two-faced. He races out of the throne room. Gregor, of course, follows the new threat to his queen. No one misses the very animalistic “Sandor” as he follows.

Cersei sneers at him, “Coward. Like always. His brother will make short work of him.”

Jaime fights Brienne, as Tormund and Beric cut down the royal bodyguards left and right.

“Jaime, you do not have to do this.”

“She is my sister and my queen. The mother of my children!”

“That does not mean you are tied to her forever,” she narrowly misses a jab and parries. He lunges once more. They cross swords and Brienne shoves Jaime against the wall, their blades a giant pair of scissors between them.

Beric and Tormund’s foes are all dead by now. The speed of wildlings and former members of the Kingsguard are unprecedented.

Cersei simply watches, all the while staring Dany down with both hands behind her back. “A fascinating sight, to be sure. I do believe-“ a sword at her throat cuts her off. Jorah’s sword. He takes his place beside his rightful queen. Cersei just snickers.

“Did you find her, Jorah?”

“Yes, I did. Follow me.”

He holds onto Daenerys tightly, keeping Cersei at bay with his sword.

X=x=x=x=X

The Red Keep is a hellish place. People have lost their minds down here before. It is so isolating, so cold and unfeeling. So unused to what humans crave. Yara is surprised she has kept her sanity in the weeks since Euron forced her to King’s Landing and Cersei locked her down here. Rightful Queen of the Iron Islands and Claimer of the Salt Throne? A powerful and important captive indeed. Funny how no one, not even the other Ironborn, have come to rescue her. Maybe Daenerys was all bark and no bite after all. Maybe she only cares about the Iron Throne and fuck everyone else, enemies and allies alike. No, that is the loneliness talking! Daenerys is how she will maintain independence for the Iron Islands. She must not think too ill of her. Too ill… she is too ill to stand. She is malnourished. Qyburn has done a good job of keeping her company and ensuring her sanity does not slip by the wayside but not much else.

The door to her cell opens.

Daenerys!

“You came,” she coughs.

Dany helps her stand, and Jorah ensures she stays standing. “Get her out of here. To the ship, go!”

“Has Cersei not followed you?” Yara rasps.

“I imagine she does not wish to revisit a place that was the cause of such suffering for her,” Jorah explains, and before Daenerys can say anything they are on their way down the hall. Dany exits, too, to see them gone. Then something hits her on the back of the head. It feels almost like a fist. A woman’s fist. She flails forward and hits the wall face-first. Her vision is blurred.

She turns around, sees that yellow hair. That dirty hair. Those eyes.

And she launches herself at them with a cry of primal fury. Cersei avoids the snarling, disoriented mess, sidestepping Daenerys and tripping her.

“Where are Jorah and Yara?”

“You came all this way for them? They are soldiers, fit only to die in the wars in which we enlist them.” She crouches down, grabbing Daenerys by her silver hair and reveling in the sight of her bloodied face. Her nose is broken. She smashes Dany’s head against the floor.

X=x=x=x=X

Jaime throws Brienne off of him. He does not want to kill her, but she possesses a credible threat to his sister and monarch. He holds her at sword’s length as does she. Tormund and Beric have followed the Clegane brothers out of the throne room. Jaime, Davos, and Brienne are the only three left alive in the space. Davos watches the pair, waiting to see what Jaime will do. What Brienne will do.

“What will it be, Kingslayer? Help us leave King’s Landing or die for your insane sister?”

“She is still my sister, regardless.”

“That was not the question.”

“I thought we’d grown so close. I-“

It is not often Jaime Lannister is at a loss for words. Seeing Myrcella for a moment has that effect on him. She is in the center of the throne room, dressed in white. Tommen too. His gaze is fixed well past Brienne of Tarth. He throws down his sword, but as soon as they appear, they are gone again. He turns back to Brienne.

“I couldn’t save them… my own children and I could not save them. Cersei…”

“Jaime?” She eyes him strangely. He appears on the verge of tears. Kinvara enters, like some celestial entity with a message.

“He has experienced a vision from the Lord of Light.”

“Or maybe all the wine he no doubt drank upon returning here,” Brienne deadpans.

Jaime ignores her. He fixes his entire attention on Kinvara. “My children. Dead because of all her scheming, in one way or another. Joffrey’s demise was his own doing, but… she wasn’t- oh!” He falls to his knees. She lied to him, manipulated him for years. There is a sudden light of clarity that he has never before experienced and he weeps.

He weeps for the woman Cersei could have been, the fine man and woman Tommen and Myrcella could have been. Would have been, were it not for Cersei. Myrcella even could be traced back to Cersei in a way. A small, tangential way but a way all the same.

He would never have the chance to be a father.

He’s forsaken everything for her and her mad desires for 43 years. Almost 44.

Jorah finds his way into the throne room, torch still lit, Yara barely conscious. The glow of the fire transfixes Jaime yet again.

“A vision from the Lord of Light,” Kinvara repeats.

He sees it. Everything.

“Azor Ahai…” the Red Priestess breathes. “Three in one, one in three, and Jaime Lannister is a part of that trinity.”

The White Walkers, the wights, the giants, the ice spiders as big as hounds. The people being slaughtered indiscriminately, turned into ravenous monsters to add to the horde of the Night King. His friends in King’s Landing, not that he has many.

All of Westeros a frozen wasteland.

All because of Cersei, all because she will not acknowledge the true enemy. She is truly Aerys reborn.

When he tears himself away from the fire, he is sobbing. An understandably confused Jorah regards him with suspicion. When Jaime finally speaks again, he is soft. Barely more than a whisper, in truth. It shocks the normally steadfast and confident man, the fragility with which he speaks then.

“Brienne will show you the way out.”

“Jaime,” Brienne inquires.

“I said… show… Ser Davos Seaworth, Ser Jorah Mormont, and Yara Greyjoy… the way out and back to- to your ship. Now!” He howls. He is still sobbing.

Before he realizes it, he is alone with Kinvara. The Red Priestess crouches before him, wiping away his tears.

“You have a choice, Jaime Lannister,” her voice is like that of a sage, wise and just, “You either live to see your home and the entire World of Men reduced to ice and death and cold or… you commit regicide once more. Which will it be? Decide, Valonqar.”

Little Brother.

She gets up, leaving Jaime to stare blankly ahead. Why is he tasked with such an impossible choice? He loves his sister more than anything, including his own life. But the world or one woman? Could he go on without her? Could he live with himself if he doomed the world due to his lust? Lust that may not be requited, and may not truly have been for over half a decade? What sort of man would that make him?

X=x=x=x=x=X

Daenerys stumbles to her feet, her face a fest of gore. Cersei cackles. The Dragon Queen turns, fumbles as she leans on the wall for a few steps and then runs. The Mad Queen follows suit.

A corridor or two removed from where they started, Dany finally turns back to face her adversary.

“Are you going to fight me, girl?”

Dany grins. It is almost psychotic, the grin of a Targaryen backed into a corner. She launches herself at Cersei yet again.

X=x=x=x=x=X

Fifteen minutes later and Sandor Clegane has finally run out of space to run in this fucking city.

Fuck King’s Landing.

Fuck his brother.

Fuck the White Walkers.

Fuck it all.

If he is to die, he will die fighting.

He turns to see his massive sibling stalking toward him. This alleyway is not very wide, just barely wide enough to accommodate the both of them.

Sandor draws his sword once more. The blood on it reflects the blood on his armor.

“Never thought I’d fight for a noble fuck-house again,” he grumbles. “But it is better than dying as one of those fucking dead things out there in the cold. Or,” he motions to Gregor, “whatever the fuck you are now. Take off your helmet, you big bully. Look me in the eyes when I kill you.”

Gregor happily obliges. The rotted flesh, the red eyes. Sandor takes it all in.

“You’re even fucking uglier than I remember.”

Beric and Tormund stand at the end of the alleyway.

“Should we do something?” Tormund asks.

“Help him kill it.”

“Well, I know that but-“

A mighty roar splits the otherwise silent night.

The redheads look up to see Rhaegal flying over King’s Landing.

Atop the beast, Tyrion laughs. “My child self would be pissing himself with joy right now.”

The Dragon has two heads now.

Supposed to be three.

If only the Night King hadn’t fucked that up.

Down below, Sandor charges at Gregor.

“Come on, you fucking animal. Come and kill me!”

Gregor unsheathes his own blade and barrels toward Sandor, while Tormund and Beric do the same to the Mountain.

X=x=x=x=x=X

Cersei finally unclasps her hands from her back, using one to unveil the knife hidden there and the other to pin Daenerys to the wall.

“A pity. You believe yourself to be some manner of savior, Daenerys Stormborn. You are the savior of nothing. Mereen will fall back into slavery, your fights in Slaver’s Bay will be for naught. You are dying, you are weak. The Targaryen line ends with you. You are the old, I am the new,” she holds Dany all the tighter as she squirms. “You-“ Dany head-butts her and pushes her away, using Cersei’s momentary disorientation to steal the knife away. Cersei’s eyes glow wild with a lion’s fury. Dany lunges with the knife. Cersei punches her. Dany punches back. Raking at each other’s faces with their fingernails. Dany slams Cersei against the opposite wall. Dany bears down with the blade, which Cersei catches bare-handed.

“A pity,” the Mad Queen starts again. “You cannot see that you are the true threat to the realm, not monsters from children’s tales.” Another punch to Dany, another punch returned to Cersei. Cersei shoves Dany out of the way and pushes her down. She takes the knife back.

“A beautiful blade,” the Lannister muses, “Valyrian steel. How fitting that it will be the end of you. You see, girl, you are the old and I am the new. As I said before. The Lannisters have been the power behind the throne for generations and now we are the Throne. We are Westeros. I am Westeros. Queen Cersei of House Lannister, and no one will ever threaten me again. I will never be dictated to or belittled again. All shall love me and despa-!“

A sword’s blade ERUPTS from her stomach, its entry point being her lower back. Her back arches and she drops the blade. The only sound is its clattering to the floor. The sword is ripped out of her body with a sickening noise.

Cersei turns around and beholds the tear-stained face of her other half. The one with whom she came into this world, the one with whom she has shared everything in her life from the depraved to the sacred.

Jaime barely ekes out an “I’m sorry” as she collapses into his arms. He falls to his knees and Cersei pulls back to look at him.

“You…”

“I love you…”

“Then-“

“But I have learned I love the realm more.”

“Qu-queenslayer,” Cersei gasps.

Kinvara approaches the grisly scene.

Cersei and Jaime’s eyes remain firmly locked on each other.

Cersei pants out her last and Jaime never removes himself from her embrace.

“I love you,” Jaime repeats. “I love you. I shall see you again… in whatever there is after.”

Cersei slumps against him, her face buried in the crook of his neck.

It is not unlike a lover’s embrace.

“A sword dipped in the blood of the most beloved,” Kinvara paraphrases.

Daenerys rises, her face a mess. She cannot remove her eyes from the horrid sight as Jaime buries his face into the crook of Cersei’s neck in turn.

A lover’s final embrace, indeed.

Kinvara grasps Daenerys. “Come, my queen. Let us get you cleaned up.”

The Lannister twins are left alone in the bowels of the Red Keep. The one place Cersei vowed she would never be in again. Of course it is the place of her demise. Jaime looks to the blood-soaked sword nearby.

It would be so easy to pick it up and drive it through my heart…

His heart is dead in his arms. He is a man already dead. The White Walkers will simply make it literal as well as metaphorical.

It seems the witch’s prophecy has been fulfilled at last.

Cersei of House Lannister is dead.

Chapter Text

Gregor hurls himself at Sandor, wordless as always, and Sandor sidesteps him. The greater Clegane collides with the wall behind his scarred little brother, eliciting a laugh from Tormund and Beric.

“Should we help him?” Tormund asks once more.

“This is his fight. It is the Lord of Light’s Holy Will, no matter the outcome. Best not to interfere.”

Sandor guffaws at his lumbering brute of an opponent if only to rile him up. “Did they make you stupider too?”

Gregor glares and shoves Sandor against the wall.

“I get it,” The Hound chuckles. “You want to crush my skull the way you did Elia Martell’s and the way you did her brother’s. You like crushing and cracking skulls, don’t ya?”

Sandor rears his head back and then bashes it against Gregor’s head. The Mountain stumbles a few paces back. Sandor uses this opportunity to tackle him to the ground. Beric ignites his sword and tosses it to Sandor, who holds it against Gregor’s throat.

“Kinda poetic, eh? Can you even still talk, you big dumb shit?”

Gregor’s eyes move then. The look in them is almost pleading.

“Never thought you’d see this day, huh?”

For all the times Gregor has murdered and raped and pillaged on the orders of one Tywin Lannister, it never occurred to him once that Sandor would be the one to kill him. Of course, that would make him a sinner in the eyes of their gods, not that Gregor was smart enough to understand the concept of gods and faith and religion in the first place. He understood brutality. That was his God, the closest in his mind. Then the man in black turned him into this thing. He could no longer speak, or it was significantly difficult for him. He wasn’t sure. He was glad to not be dead, to be stronger, he knew that. But now it seemed empty. What was the point of causing death and suffering if you couldn’t enjoy it like you used to? He looked into his brother’s eyes one last time, closed his eyes, and then Sandor made sure he never opened them again. He takes that flaming sword and burns through Gregor’s neck with it, cauterizing the decapitation wound instantly.

He pushes the head away from the stump and sits back against the alleyway.

“Figured the poor bastard didn’t put up much of a fight for a reason,” Sandor mused. “I’d wanna die if I were that fucking ugly too.”

Tormund stifles a laugh, which does little except earn him an elbow in the gut from Beric.

X=x=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jon and Missandei sit alone in his quarters in Dragonstone. There is a tension to them both and its source is the same.

“You fear for her,” Missandei notes.

Jon nods. “Wouldn’t you? Do you not?”

“I have seen her survive much worse. I do not fear for her, not as much as some think I should. I know Lord Tyrion believes her to be impulsive, rash, but he has not known her for as long as I have. Yes, she can be impulsive but she has a good heart and a gentle soul.”

“I’ve heard rumors about what she did in Meereen.”

“And that is all true. And in Astapor, and in all of the Bay of Dragons. You love her. I hear it in the small little changes in your tone whenever she enters the room or is brought up in conversation of late.”

“You love her too.”

“Not in the way you do. She is my queen and a friend. She is stern and merciful. I believe she is more like Jaehaerys than her father Aerys.”

Jon’s brow furrows. “Jaehaerys?”

“Yes. Jaehaerys II, the Wise.” It is not Missandei who speaks, but Tyrion as he glides into the room.

It is only now that Jon notes Missandei left the door cracked. Has he been listening to their whole conversation?

“It seems that something is on your mind, bastard,” the dwarf notes.

Jon ruminates on this observation. “Yes,” he says after a long two minutes. “When Daenerys returns to Dragonstone, I think it best if we wed in Winterfell.” No use telling them his big secret if he is not even sure if the secret is true or not. For all he knows, it was some sort of horrendous nightmare in reaction to the incestuous relationship between the Lannister siblings.

Tyrion seems more than a bit disappointed, as if he was expecting something about which to gossip with Varys over supper that evening. Missandei, too, seemed confused. Would Drogon and Rhaegal be able to tolerate such a rapid change in climate and be able to survive in the North over an extended period? They had been North for less than half a day when the Wight Hunters required their assistance. Unless Jon had something else in mind, it did not seem at all practical.

“And would Daenerys stay at Winterfell with you?” Tyrion inquires. A perfectly logical query, seeing as post-nuptials the bride always resided with the groom in his own abode and not hers. This was true for everyone, commoners to highborn nobles. Jon shakes his head. “No.”

“Then we will be breaking with every Westerosi tradition?” Missandei asks.

“I have no desire to be a king,” Jon repeats what he’s told Missandei many a time during his stint as her emotional shoulder in the wake of Grey Worm’s demise.

“And yet you were named King in the North,” Tyrion’s brow furrows in confusion.

“You do not wish to stay with the queen?”

Jon admits to himself that the idea is only half-baked at best, and egregiously undercooked at that.

“King’s Landing is no place for me, and Winterfell is no place for her dragons. I would not see a mother parted from her children…” he cannot divulge the true fears, that the nightmare he had was no nightmare but the truth of his parentage indeed. That would make Daenerys his biological aunt. If it is true, what is he? A lustful abomination? And yet he cannot deny his mighty feelings, the intimacy with which he kissed her in such a way he had not allowed himself to kiss even Ygritte. He recalls initiating physical contact with her, referring to her by an affectionate nickname. His attraction to her is- was- is- strong and has held despite the relatively short length of time under which the bond has been developing.

To say his mind is in conflict is an understatement the likes of which the world has never seen.

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Cersei Lannister is dead, alright. Dead as all of her children. (Too soon?) Jaime stares at her corpse, his bright and living eyes connecting with her wide open, hollow, and dead orbs. Widow’s Wail lies discarded and forgotten, soaked in the blood of its wielder’s sister. His beloved Cersei, slain by his own hand. He cannot bring himself to cry any longer, nor to lash out at the woman she had been trying to kill only minutes before.

Daenerys is still on the floor, her legs tucked under her. She stares at the grotesque scene before her. Despite their nonexistent and yet simultaneously horrifically adversarial relationship with the twins, Daenerys cannot help but feel sorry for Jaime and his sister. She knows the pain of killing one’s lover. Drogo was a mercy kill, true, and so the circumstances were different, but the ultimate intent was the same: salvation. Saving Drogo from a non-life and saving Daenerys from death.

Jaime finally looked up and locked eyes with the silver-haired girl. In the tomb-like quietness of the Red Keep’s dungeons, a connection is made.

An understanding.

What was needed has been done.

Compassion born of being in his position before rises in Daenerys’ throat, and she opens her mouth to speak but no sound comes out. Though Jaime cannot yet bring himself to physically part with Cersei’s body, he tears off a bit of her dress and hands it to the younger woman. Daenerys raises the cloth to her face, trying to get as much of the blood off as possible.

The duo’s strange moment is interrupted by the fall of rushed and hurried footsteps toward them. Jaime twists around to see who encroaches upon them, a feral and protective growl rising immediately from somewhere deep inside him.

It is Ser Davos, out of breath.

“You are alive,” he pants even as a huge grin breaks out across his features. “The Mountain. He is dead.”

Jaime’s eyes widen but not in fear. Shock. One might call it elation. The monster Cersei kept around as a guard dog was wiped from this earth forever.

“He should’ve died from the fucking Manticore venom,” is all he can mutter. Davos moves closer, causing Jaime to snarl, “Don’t you fucking touch her.” He unsteadily gets up, supporting the literal dead weight with the arm ending in his hand of gold whilst Davos unthinkingly helps him the rest of the way to his feet. Daenerys, too, stands shakily and Davos is to her in a heartbeat.

“Are you alright, my queen?”

Daenerys still remains silent, only nodding toward Jaime. Davos nods in return and, despite Jaime’s initial protective pull of the corpse against him, grabs Cersei’s feet.

“You can’t carry her all the way up there yourself,” he arches an eyebrow.

Jaime opens his mouth to protest but thinks better of it. He’s right, the old smuggler.

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Brienne stands near the Iron Throne, Sandor beside her holding the severed head of his brother, and a cowering Qyburn on the floor between them. Beric and Tormund make up the back, hanging onto an unspoken hope shared by all present: Daenerys’ survival.

The great doors open.

Jaime and Davos, carrying Cersei’s corpse evenly between them, walk and deposit the body in front of the Iron Throne.

Qyburn is the only one who expresses anything resembling sadness, with a quick little gasp that could easily be mistaken for a laugh. A nervous little noise, all the same.

Kinvara is off to the side, and smiles. “Till there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to strike you down and lay claim to all you hold dear,” she paraphrases the old Frog’s prophecy. Sandor nonchalantly tosses Gregor’s head at the Mad Queen’s corpse. “Good riddance to both of them,” he growls.

Daenerys turns to Brienne. “You came to me on the order of Lady Sansa Stark of Winterfell, did you not? Not to me specifically, but to the summit in the dragonpit.”

“Yes,” Brienne responds.

“You fight for her and by extension for the North?”

“Yes.”

“And what would Lady Sansa say if I were to come to Winterfell prior to my coronation?”

It is now Davos’ turn to speak. “My queen,” he begins, “I believe it might be of benefit to-“

“To go to Dragonstone first? You are right,” she smiles. It is not condescending or mean-spirited in the least. In fact, she has come to admire the advisor to the King in the North.

“It would send a message of unity, if Jon Snow and I are to ride to Winterfell together.”

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Jon stands upon the Brooding Cliff, alone at first. Varys walks up to him.

“Spider,” he nods.

“King in the North. A raven has come from King’s Landing.” He hands Jon the sealed note. Jon breaks the seal and opens the parchment, scanning and reading and rereading. “Is this some sort of jest?”

“No, Your Grace,” Varys affirms.

“’Cersei Lannister is dead. Jaime Lannister holds the Iron Throne as an intermediary. Remaining Lannister bannermen and the City Watch have stood down as per Jaime’s instructions. Daenerys Targaryen sails to Dragonstone to intercept the rest of her Small Council on the way to Winterfell’,” Jon reads. He turns to go and he cannot hide the satisfied grin as he begins to walk back toward the castle. Varys’ voice stops him dead in his tracks.

“If I may, what is it that troubles you so?” The Spider misses nothing, even without being in the same city as his Little Birds. Jon scoffs and turns back to the bald man.

“It is a childish fear born of an addled mind. A nightmare and nothing more.”

Varys narrows his gaze and closes the remaining space between them. “Nightmares in such times as these are side-effects of an addled mind, indeed. But in my brief time of knowing you, Jon Snow, I have not known you to be shaken by something that is without merit. A raven arrived from Winterfell late last night. Lord Petyr Baelish is dead as well. Executed following a fair trial on the order of Lady Sansa. The message claims he orchestrated the events that lead to the War of the Five Kings. It seems that someone or something up there, if there is anyone or anything at all, favors a Targaryen Restoration as much as we mortals do.”

Jon can scarcely believe it. “Littlefinger is dead?”

“Indeed, if this letter is to be believed,” Varys can’t suppress the chuckle that underscores his words. King of the ashes, indeed, Lord Baelish. Your own ashes.

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Daenerys remains in a strange sort of emotional confusion for the entire 450-mile trip back to Dragonstone. It is one thing to know one’s enemies are dead; it is another thing entirely to see her “penultimate obstacle” murdered by her lover before her very eyes. It is in this state that Davos approaches her one night halfway through the voyage, as she stares out at the sea.

“I come out here sometimes to be alone,” Dany turns her head ever so slightly to look back at him. Any other man would interpret it as a threat or at the very least an annoyed warning. Any other man and Daenerys would mean it as such.

However, it is not the first night of this journey when Dany has found herself in the company of Davos. He is a good man, she senses this, and he often simply remains with her. They do not speak, mostly, which she appreciates. She spends most of her day prattling on about this and that political subject. Occasionally, he makes jokes and she laughs. He tells her just enough to trust him as a person and not merely as an advisor. He is good and kind. He must be if Jon Snow trusts him. Tonight, she is the first to speak. Something has been on her mind ever since the dragonpit summit and she cannot keep silent on it any longer. It is something Tyrion knows, and something Jon knows. Something Missandei has suspected, but Daenerys has not outright confirmed to even her closest friend and advisor. She feels comfortable enough with this kindly old fatherly man to tell him. He knows more about Westeros than she, for he has lived there his entire life. She vaguely recalls him mentioning that he was from Flea Bottom in King’s Landing. All the better.

“Ser Davos,” she sighed. How to begin? “Your king bent the knee to me privately and publically. By association, all those under him also bent the knee. You are a good man, I have sensed as much. Honorable and loyal. Lord Tyrion is my Hand. You and Ser Jorah are my advisors. Ser Jorah thinks you a good man and I trust him, therefore I trust you. If I were to ask you something concerning a personal matter, how would you advise me?”

“It would depend upon the matter, Your Grace.”

Daenerys stops for a moment, turning back to him and looking him in the eye. This is greatly personal information she is about to divulge, but he is on her council. He needs to know. She has not known Davos Seaworth to be a judgmental man, which aids in her comfort in the sharing of it. Besides, he quite favorably reminds her of Ser Barristan Selmy. “I have no reason to believe I can have children, Ser Davos,” she swallows. It is unlike her, this vulnerability. When she discussed the matter of succession once she is in the ground with Tyrion, she was defensive. Almost uncharacteristically so. She has no reason to be defensive here, for now it is not a conversation she felt of as unnecessary in the moment or forced. Though she’d never admit it for fear of perceived weakness, she still mourns Rhaego. She thinks on him every day. His sixth name day would be coming up, had she carried him to term and he had lived. Curse the witch and her blood magic! Would he have her eyes and Drogo’s coloring and hair, as he did in the vision she experienced in the House of the Undying in Qarth? She knows not. She only waits for Davos to say something, to think less on her now that he is aware of her as a monarch who cannot continue her line. Her glistening and magnetic eyes shine brightly, with tears unshed, and her breathing catches. This is not the reaction she expected herself to have, to this or anything else.

“I- I cannot have children…” it is the first time she’s ever really phrased it in such a specific way. To her mind, it sounds even more final than simply saying that her dragons are the only children she will ever have. It is a woman’s duty, is it not? Not only in Westeros, but also in Essos. To provide children and continue the line; a duty even more obligated for one Daenerys Targaryen as it is also for the realm at large.

Davos, gods bless him, does not even blink. He can tell this is something hard for her; he surmises the emotional wavering of her voice (something he’s come to find to be uncharacteristic for her) is due to something in her past. Something painful. Davos may not be a learned man but he prides himself on his ability to read people. Opening up like this is not something Daenerys is used to doing. Maybe not something she really knows how to do. He saw the same thing in Jon when they met. They were- still are, really- both incredibly reserved people and emotionally repressed due to outside circumstance more than personal, internal choice. Even so, he has seen how deeply she feels and how strongly she cares for her friends and advisors. She has “a gentle heart,” as he heard Ser Jorah mutter in his sleep the previous night.

“If I cannot continue the Targaryen line, Ser Davos,” she sighs and tries to collect herself again. Try to maintain some professional dignity. “I fear all my work is for naught. My entire life has built to these last few days.”

The waves beneath the flagship rock the vessel ever so slightly and Daenerys falls forward; Davos catches her without a second thought. Dany notes that he is strong for his age and there is an innate comfort to his embrace. He must be a father. Or have been. Were circumstances different, she imagined what it would’ve been like to have a man like Ser Davos Seaworth as her father. She still doesn’t know why she tells him this in such an emotional fashion. She did not with Tyrion or Jon or anyone else. Certainly not her enemies. Not even Daario. Jon has forsaken his title as King and welcomed her naming of him as Warden of the North.

Jon cares for her. Jorah cares for her, as does Missandei, and as does Grey Worm insofar as a soldier can love a queen. She can tell this Davos does too. Does she tell him all of this in the hopes of his offering some sort of solution or is she simply being a good and communicative ruler?

Once the ship is no longer being rocked, at least for the time being, she pushes away from him and rights herself. It is now that Davos seizes the opportunity to verbally reply.

“Your Grace, I do have a solution in mind. You may not like it.” He takes a deep breath, expecting Daenerys to inquire as to why, but she does not. So he continues. “His name is Gendry Waters. He is the last surviving, and unacknowledged, bastard of…” he gulps, “Robert Baratheon.”

He is right; Dany is surprised indeed. “The Usurper? He has a living bastard son?” Even now, the name of a man long dead fills her with righteous anger. The man responsible for her odyssey in the first place. She takes a few deep breaths, willing herself to hear him out. If Davos vouches for him, can he be so terrible? She was not the type of person to punish a child for the sins of their parents.

“Tell me more about this Gendry.”

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Kinvara has stayed behind in King’s Landing with Jaime to advise him. The man with the hand of gold sits on the throne as regally and formally as any king would. She smirks.

“As I said, it suits you.”
“I should have you beheaded,” Jaime seethes. He does not look at her, forces himself not to.

Eight days have passed since the death of Cersei Lannister. The realm is now left bereft of a real monarch, only him, but he knows deep down that no one is mourning Cersei of the House Lannister, First of Her Name and Royal Brother-Fucker.

“Your sister was a cruel and manipulative woman, out for herself only. You were much the same, before…” she nods to his golden hand, “and now you see your family for what they are. Malicious and greedy things in the dark. Hunger for power no matter the cost. Like many royal houses, but yours was the most overt about it. So much pointless suffering and misery did your family inflict upon Westeros for years.”

Jaime has shed her tears for Cersei, for Joffrey and Myrcella and Tommen. He has no more tears to shed. Qyburn has finagled his way out of the black cells in the Red Keep’s dungeon.

“How will you challenge the blood on your soul, how will you wash it clean as snow?”

“The surviving members of the Lannister army keep peace. I have not yet pledged myself to Daenerys Stormborn. She is a girl.”

“A girl who proved herself in Essos many times over. She brought the Dothraki here and the Unsullied. And yet her gender is not why your loyalties are now split, Jaime of the House Lannister.”

“I have my duty to my House. A duty I have since broken. Kingslaying and kinslaying. Heinous things. You are right. I am in conflict not for her. I recall that thing, the walking dead monster she showed us at the Summit. Before she left for Dragonstone, I asked her how many of those abominations exist. How many there are in this Night King’s army. ‘One-hundred-thousand strong, at least’ was her reply. Cersei balked; I refuse to do the same in the face of such a threat.” He turns to Qyburn.

“We will send our armies North. Cersei wished to enlist the Golden Company? I will go myself. I will ride with them to Winterfell.”

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Jon is the first to welcome Daenerys and her company back to Dragonstone. Jorah hugs her, as he did when he arrived cured of his greyscale affliction.

Daenerys smiles at Jon and he at her. She hugs him again and hums in content. He is strong as ever and his embrace makes butterflies flutter in her stomach. They are to be wed, she remembers, in a matter of days. Dragonstone to Winterfell, how far is that trek? She supposes they will find out.

Jon adores the silver-haired woman. He cannot deny it any longer. He finds her appealing in many ways, and not only for her beauty. Her resolve, her courage, her strength. She is active and not passive and pursues what she wants with a fiery passion. To hell with something that may not even be true! For all he knows, it is a lie told to keep him from his own happiness. Just another thing to fuck him over.

“If the new Warden of the North and I may have some time alone?” She asks of those assembled and begins to walk down the coastline. Jon follows.

They do not walk far. Missandei leads the rest of the party back up the castle. Daenerys sits upon a rock. Something even she herself is surprised by. A queen does not do such a thing. “Speak with me a while, Jon Snow.”

Jon makes a bashful noise. “About what, Daenerys?”

“Unlike most marriages of convenience, we are allowed the unique opportunity to know each other before the ceremony. To know each other on a level beyond the physical,” she clarifies. Though she wouldn’t be entirely opposed to knowing him in that way before the ceremony either.

Jon is also unopposed to such an action; that is what his bashfulness hides. He knows some things, like that for instance. He would like very much the opportunity to know her in many a fashion. Perhaps his bending of the knee need not be an exclusively political gesture of deference.

“Tell me what makes Jon Snow the man he is.” She is curt and to the point, but not detached. She in genuinely curious.

“Wouldn’t that take part of the fun out of marriage?” He has still not informed her of his intention to remain in Winterfell while she goes off to King’s Landing. To the White Walkers with that plan! It was a stupid idea anyway.

Dany smiles. She never smiles. Now she has reason to smile. She can’t tell if he’s joking or being serious. “A little taste of you, then.”

Jon huffs. He hates talking about himself. “Fine. What don’t you know, though, about me?”

“I honestly only know what Davos has told me and what I have seen of you. I know that you are honorable and kind. You are brave. But who are you?”

An armor piercing question if ever there was one.

Another deep breath from the Warden of the North.

“I was born the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark. I grew up in Winterfell, raised as his own son and thus was able to take the surname Snow. My father’s wife was Catelyn Stark and she loathed me. I have five half-siblings: Robb, Sansa, Arya, and Rickon. Robb was murdered alongside Catelyn and his pregnant wife Talisa at an event known as the Red Wedding. Rickon was murdered by Ramsay Bolton during the Battle of the Bastards, shortly before I was named King in the North. Not something I really wanted. I took the Black and went to the Night’s Watch in order to escape my being a bastard, so I could be somewhere the shame of my existence could be sponged away. I found that people there hated bastards as much as normal folk. During an expedition beyond the Wall, I encountered the Free Folk. Wildlings, we call them. I met a girl, had sex with her. She was… well, wild but she loved me. I like to think I loved her too. Her name was Ygritte. I later returned to Castle Black to warn my brothers of an impending wildling assault on the Wall. Ygritte died. Many people died. In the aftermath, I was named the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Again, not something I wanted. I let wildings into Castle Black. I vouched for them and I made allies of them. I was killed for it. The Red Woman brought me back. The one who told you to invite me to Dragonstone? That’s what those scars are from. My death. I left the Night’s Watch and left my command to a good friend. I imagine he is dead now that the Wall has come down in its entirety.”

He stops and Daenerys takes this silence to mean that he is finished. Daenerys nodded during the tale at appropriate intervals, listening to his tale closely. He has been through so much and yet he is still a wholly good man. More than she can say for many in this life. Sensing it is her turn to speak, she goes for it.

“I was born here, on Dragonstone, after Robert’s Rebellion. My mother died giving birth to me, so I was robbed of both my parents. My older brother Viserys and I were shipped off into hiding in Essos and shuffled around from place to place for years. When I was 16, I was wed to the Dothraki horselord Khal Drogo. He was rough at first. He raped me, many times. The first on our wedding night. Took me from behind like some broodmare. Eventually, I forced him to look into my eyes when he fucked me. I would call that particular session a lovemaking. I suppose. We conceived after that.” Now this was the harder part. Even thinking about Rhaego pained her, but she knows the pain is good. It means she loved him. She still loves her long dead son. “I carried a son for six months. Then a witch murdered my husband. Blood magic. My son too was taken by that witch. I killed her, and made my way to Qarth. There I encountered traitors and I dealt with them as they deserved. I traveled to Astapor and freed the slaves there, gained the Unsullied and Missandei. From there, Meereen. I learned to rule in Meereen, but it was not the same, I imagine, as ruling in Westeros. I was then taken to the Great Grass Seas once more by Drogon after he saved me and mine from the Sons of the Harpy. I won the allegiance of the entire Dothraki Horde and made my way back to Meereen, where I finally silenced the slave masters. Then I came here. You know the rest.”

Jon nods. He can fill in the blanks easily enough, as can she. They are the same. He senses it. She senses it. They are both fundamentally good only wish to see the world be made a better place for all. Just as Jon made a move to stand, Dany grabbed his face and crushed her lips against his. The kiss is long and hot and passionate, full of emotion and gratitude. Also, perhaps, of fate? A kiss full of fate is an odd thing to think about, much less to say. But something draws them together, they both know it is useless fighting against such a thing.

To hell with it all, Jon thinks. I am hers and she is mine, wedding ceremony or no.

Atop the cliffs, Tyrion and Varys observe the couple in the throws of passion.

“They seem to have awfully large lung capacities,” the dwarf observes.

“All the better to strengthen their alliance,” Varys intones. “They are smart and mature enough to know it cannot extend further. It would muddy things up more than a little bit.”

A beat, and then:

“They are going to fuck like rabbits the first chance they get on that ship,” Tyrion muses.

“No doubt of it.”

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Kinvara sits alone in a chamber. She has seen it in the flames. All that is to come.

The decades-old Lannister regime has fallen. It is the old.

The Targaryen Restoration is rising. It is the new.

The Prince That Was Promised, the one who shall bring the dawn to the Seven Kingdoms, is to come.

Chapter Text

Lord Petyr Baelish lay dead at her feet, her name being the last thing to pass his lips before Arya cut open his throat with the very blade he intended to be the death of her younger brother Bran some six years ago. She almost felt sorry for the scheming monster of a man in whom she had placed her trust for so many years. But he had to go, he was wicked. Like Cersei, like the Night King. Though one adversary has been vanquished, two more remain as resilient as ever. Cersei is mortal, but the Night King appears to be undamaged by time.

Bran, the sweet boy who may not even exist anymore. Not in the way he used to at any rate. After the trial and execution of the ultimate enemy to House Stark and perhaps the realm at large, Sansa and Arya had a quiet moment on the ramparts of the castle. Tonight, three nights since, she read a letter aloud to the assembled Northern Lords.

“’… and I come to White Harbor with Daenerys of House Targaryen herself, as well as her council. None of her soldiers or her dragons. She wishes to convey that she has come to save the North and not to conquer it. Signed Tyrion Lannister.’ What say you, my Lords?”

And the place had descended into shouting and chaos rather quickly.

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Daenerys found herself most surprised that the proceedings of the previous evening hadn’t managed to keep the entire ship awake.

Love comes in the eyes, Khaleesi, Doreah had told her once upon a time. It seemed as though it were another lifetime when she was a Khaleesi. Now she is a true Queen, of Meereen and the Bay of Dragons if not Westeros as yet. A change made soon enough. They have a war to fight, monsters to kill. The chiefest of these monsters, the Night King, had taken her son from her. She is again full of maternal rage whenever she thinks of it. Whenever she thinks of how she was defiled. By witches, by nomadic tribesmen, by men she thought to be of honor.

But none of that matters in this moment, in this bed. The lights of the candles have long since died, the wax burnt away. None of her past trials invade her memory in this safe place. This refuge. In the arms of a sleeping Jon Snow, all seems far away and unimportant.

Drogo loved her in large part due to the son she carried inside of her for a time. She sobbed when she put him out of his misery, for that connection- a child- is never one to take lightly.

Daario loved her in his own way. As she herself had once told Tyrion, she felt nothing upon ending their relationship for the advancement of her own righteous agenda.

Jorah loves her still. That is a love worth admiring. It is a true and honest companionship.

Jon? With Jon, there is a fire in her belly every time she sees him. Butterflies on fire. Beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Needless to say, being wrapped in a lover’s embrace by him is exquisite in the utmost. There is no coldness here, no malice. Only love. Yes, love. She thinks they are secure enough that she can allow herself to think such a bond has developed between them. Love, as childish and fanciful as it sounds, will unite the Seven Kingdoms in the face of the threat posed by the White Walkers. She has heard tell that Sansa Stark, half-sister to Jon, has returned alive and safe to Winterfell. Word has also reached her pertaining the death of Lord Petyr Baelish. Varys filled her in on his various misdeeds shortly prior to their departure and before, well… this.

As she turned, careful not to wake him, she stared at his face. Such a weathered face, hardened by the world and the winds and other such things she can only figure to be death and battle. He has lost much, as has she. But enough ruminating on what was. This is the present, the here and now, and the present is awfully delicious. She has never given herself as freely to a man as she did with him. Receiving him? A foreign experience that was both scary and intoxicating. The more she did it, the more she wanted more of it.

More of him.

Despite her tendency to do so, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen knows it would be a tremendous disservice to Jon to continue comparing him even subconsciously to her other lovers. Yes, it was an understandable thing for her to do. Did that make it right? No, not at all. She imagines rightly that this was something new for him as well. Before she realized what she was doing, her hand was on his face. Stroking his beard lightly, hoping to allow him to remain sleeping whilst she drunk him in. The newness and excitement made her feel like a child again. Perhaps she could allow herself this shimmer of hope, at least while aboard the flagship? Who knows what will happen upon their reaching White Harbor. Best to relish the next forty or so days at sea, yes? She presses her lips to his nose and then his brow before finally settling on his lips.

“Elios valosa.” The first man.

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One could accuse Tyrion Lannister of being many things. Many of those things are in fact true, or at the very least have elements of truth to them. What no one could say he is not is practical. Unendingly practical, so it seems. He sits alone with Varys now, chairs pulled into the galley of the ship. What better place to continually refill one’s glass and one’s belly than here? Also, where better to speak privately?

“You heard last night?” Tyrion asks as he takes a sip from the wooden goblet he had found, his voice somewhat muffled. A nice wine in there. Varys is jealous; he’s vowed to not taste alcohol until Daenerys sits upon the Iron Throne and the White Walkers are exterminated. Until the Realm is safe, if not secure. At the same time, he fears greatly the validity of the Red Woman’s prophecy that both she and he would perish in Westeros. During this great conflict. Would he even be welcome in White Harbor, let alone Winterfell and/or the North at large? Nevertheless, best to take his mind off the uncertain. He finally nods in response to his friend’s inquiry. “It was, shall we say, an event which I shall not soon forget. It is like it is burned into my mind like one unfortunate enough to be caught in the midst of dragon fire.” He shakes his head. While he has, of course, never been interested in sex or man or woman even before his castration by the sorcerer, he has always found it both fascinating and repulsive. The act of both procreation and of pleasure. At times he thought he was missing out on something. Such ideas went as soon as they came. How can something so base be enjoyable? Sweating and exchanging fluids on top of each other? Not for him, though he holds no distaste for those who elect to engage in it. With any luck, perhaps an heir will come of their romping. “I do believe, at one point, the King in the North was groping for trout in a particular river,” he adds.

Tyrion spits out his drink at that.

“Do you know what we said before about the pair of them engaging in this sort of relationship would be fundamentally disadvantageous to both of their overarching objectives? I believe now that it would perhaps be best to allow the current state of affairs. While, yes, I did encourage them both subtly, I readily acknowledge such a turn of events occurring now was not in my plan. I never thought I would say this about a Queen, but may the Gods that she gets pregnant. I need not tell you of the political conclusions the Northern Lords are already jumping to, to say nothing of if she arrives in Winterfell carrying a royal bastard.”

Varys sighs. “We have been on this ship for four days and nights, Tyrion. If she isn’t with child now, I doubt she will ever be again. You say she was receptive to the idea of naming Gendry as an heir should she truly be barren?”

Tyrion nods, then resumes drinking- from the bottle itself, this time.

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Jaime takes one last look at King’s Landing from atop the hill on which the horse he now sat is standing. He sighs and turns away, Bronn at his side.

“So, the Golden Company. You gonna give ‘em your gold hand?”

Jaime rolls his eyes. “Hyah!” And the two are off. Bronn thinks they will never see the capitol again. He is oddly at peace with that possibility.

Glancing back at the four-dozen Lannister bannermen behind them, he is unsure if they are as content with it. Gods forbid they get any unsavory ideas in the name of saving their own skin.

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Twenty-four days into the voyage to the North, Daenerys was lurched over the side of the deck so as to spare her garments from catching some of the previous evenings meal and drink she has been losing for the last fifteen minutes. It boggles her, for she has never been seasick before. What could this be, some sort of stomach bug or a sailing illness? She has seldom ever been sailing and she was never ill for any reason during those voyages. Why now? Missandei stood beside her, trying to soothe her by rubbing her back and whispering sweet nothings in her ear in High Valyrian. Such words were of no comfort. The last time she was ill in this manner was when… no! It cannot be, it is wholly impossible. She turns to her best friend with a look that conveys as much, to which Missandei responds by hugging her friend and queen tightly, the both of them recognizing this for what it could be… Dany’s crying came immediately, with Daenerys burying her face in the crook of the other’s neck.

“It can’t be true! It is not possible,” her body was wracked with sobs.

“Shh, Your Grace,” Missandei soothed, stroking the beautiful silver hair of her personal savior, “it is alright. We will see in a few days.”

Ice breeding Fire? A child of the North and South? The woman who thought herself barren now not only flowering but fruitful? Both women prayed that night that the Gods would not be so cruel to Daenerys Targaryen.

Three nights hence, Jon is called into Daenerys’ personal chambers. She is dressed modestly, with a blue nightgown that leaves her formless.

She gestures to the bed, for him to sit.

He sits.

“I have something to tell you.”

Chapter Text

Jon stands there, waiting. He sits when he is motioned to do so. She sits by him. He knows not what news she intends to impart. Finally, her mouth opens.

“When we arrive in White Harbor, I have asked Missandei to forego introducing me. I trust to your family a Targaryen requires no introduction? I will be standing at the front, so the Northern Lords present will see me first. And I aim to ride back with Lady Sansa. The trip from White Harbor to Winterfell will give us adequate time to begin in earnest the process of familiarizing ourselves with each other. Not only for the strength of a trusting bond that will be crucial in winning over the stubborn old men in Winterfell, but also because we will be sisters soon.”

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Four Weeks Ago

Sansa and Arya stand ever alone. They know this. They have always known this. It is an unassailable truth, the standing alone. They are women in a man’s world. Who else have they to rely on save each other? A chance of running into a good man like Father was? Unlikely. There are few men in this world truly good, and even fewer the kind of good their father was. They stand alone, them against the world. The Starks against all assailants. In this instance, for example, they are literally standing alone. It is the pair of them up on the ramparts, overlooking the great white and the trees just past the castle. They have mused on the truth of their father’s words and discussed the dead lord’s plans. Now Sansa turns her political attentions to a different topic.

“I received a raven earlier. Jon is coming home on a Targaryen ship with the Mad King’s daughter and her entourage.” There is no judgment in her tone, only a dispassionate relaying of information. Try as she might, she cannot muster up the fire, the same passions, for anything that she used to love. It frightened her, but she also heard it to be a common thing among those who have suffered as much as she has this past half-decade. But would that really be so bad? If the only people she can truly connect with anymore are her siblings is that so terrible? The Starks will stand strong and they will survive the night. What need has she of any others? On the other hand, her last surviving trueborn brother is not her brother anymore and her sister may or may not be a face-stealing, murderous sociopath with a soft spot for family. Meanwhile, her half-brother is on a quest with a southerner and has faced down the Dead and seen men of ice commanding rotting corpses. Why is it she is the only normal one?

“Do you trust her?” Arya’s voice is a sword in the night, cutting through the silence and effortlessly finding its target. “Daenerys Targaryen?”

“I do not know. All I know of her is that she is the daughter of the man who burned our uncle and grandfather alive for daring to accuse the Crown Prince of kidnapping and rape. What if she ends up no different?“ Kidnapping. Rape. Words that were once so horrible to her, so repulsive only a few short years ago now fall so freely from her lips. She can hardly believe herself to be the same person who thought the vulgar word for dung was shift. “But, given the circumstances, can we afford to not trust her? It doesn’t mean we have to like her, but if Jon is right then we do need her to survive the Great War to come. After that, we can do with her as we like if she proves untrustworthy but only after the Dead are vanquished. Who says the Seven Kingdoms need to stay united?”

“You have heard what she has done in Slaver’s Bay?”

“I have,” Sansa nodded. “Only through messengers of Cersei’s anti-Targaryen rhetoric, unfortunately.”

“Cersei is dead now.”

“That she is. Thank the Gods.”

Arya moves closer, squeezes her sister’s hand. “If she is untrustworthy, then we can execute her for crimes against the Realm. Just as we did with Littlefinger.”

Sansa inhaled, then sighed deeply. She hoped it wouldn’t come to that. If Jon trusts her enough to sail with her, then she must be some level of good unlike her father. “Do you remember what Jon said shortly before he left? How he refused to punish children for the actions of their parents? Daenerys Targaryen may be extreme, if the reports have any sliver of truth to them, but isn’t extremity what we need in times such as these? When their ship is closer, a day or three or four out, I will meet her at White Harbor myself. You and Bran are in charge until I return.”

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The horns blow and the gates open in the early morning hours of this rapidly cooling winter day. A good thing that the Lady of Winterfell had not yet departed for White Harbor. The men were tired, and true to form were unwelcome in the houses and inns and taverns of the towns between King’s Landing and Winterfell. Bronn cannot recall if he has ever been so far North in this life. He’s not sure if he ever wants to again, provided he comes out of this conflict unscathed. He loathes cold. He’s much more suited for the Southern Isles or Dorne. He is sure of his fate: he’s either going to die facing mythical beasts in the coldest place on earth, or he’s going to die old, fat, happy, and surrounded by dozens of equally fat grandchildren in somewhere heated. He prefers the latter. He doesn’t much care for children, but if he’s got the castle he needs heirs, eh? He can make anything happen if it’s in his best interest. The man who rides abreast him is less certain of the two sides of his fate.

Jaime Lannister has been uncharacteristically quiet the entire month-long journey. Narry a word in comparison to how often his mouth is usually open. Bronn isn’t sure if he likes it or if he should be unnerved by it. Has he done something? And where is Cersei? Wasn’t she supposed to join them? And if Jaime says there are the dead afoot. Dead men walking, who rot and still move about as if alive. He told him that one such creature was presented at the summit he took Pod from. He’s not sure if he believes it unless he sees it, but if it’s got the Kingslayer worked up then there must be some element of truth. Best not take his chances.

At any rate, they are here before the Targaryen girl and her crew. By his calculation, it should be another week or two before they reach White Harbor. Always better than to arrive prior to one’s adversaries even if they are at present friends. Bronn still remembers the satisfaction of putting that scorpion bolt into her dragon. He’d gladly do so to the other one if it came to that. The horses stop dead in their tracks, his so abruptly that he almost tumbles forward head-over-horse’s-head-over-ass onto the frigid ground under him. He can hear the soldiers snickering behind him. Why the fuck did Jaime make them sto- oh.

The assembled guards, with the tall redheaded girl looked down at them. Their attention is focused entirely on Jaime.

“They don’t look happy to see us.”

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It is so cold that he can barely walk, can barely see; he can even barely recall his name, such is the fear coursing through him. The sheer and unavoidable panic. Guess that comes with almost dying at the hands of the unnatural. But there is an end in sight. He senses it. Oh, he senses it. The light. What is the light? It is the rising son? No, it is too early or too late for the sun. A torch! Ha! The light of a torch. A home? He gets closer, stumbling through the cold and the snow and the dark. He sees it. A castle!

Winterfell!

The “back” entrance, it seems, but an entrance all the same. The guards recognize him for what he is: a man of the Night’s Watch. He collapses into the snow before their feet and he expects to either freeze to death right there and then or else they will take him captive in order to execute him for desertion, the Wall falling be damned. Surely they felt the shock wave, the quaking? He isn’t sure what happens as he passes out shortly after his fall. But at least, in the light of these men, he finally remembers his name: Edd. ‘Dolorous’, he is called. Eddison Tollett.

And he will not fail his fallen brothers. He will not fail the Night’s Watch.

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White Harbor, 17 Days Later

She sees it on the horizon. Finally, she sees it just as the sun is rising. A new day is dawning, literally and figuratively, for good or ill. The flagship with sails of black and red, the sigil of the three-headed dragon proclaiming to all the allegiance of the vessel and its occupants.

Daenerys thought it best to be at the bow of the ship, or as close to it as possible, in order to greet those Northern Lords who had elected to intercept her, Jon, and the others. Brienne, Sandor, Beric, Gendry, and Tormund are all below decks, while Jon and Ser Davos stand behind her. Her Small Council stands on the upper portion of the deck, by the rather ornate helm. When the ship finally comes within sight of the dock, and vice versa, Daenerys’ face remains steadfast. Unreadable and yet intimidating. No, not intimidating. Commanding, confident. Those are the words she wants associated with her in these lands. A defender, not a conqueror, of the North. She has been to the True North, how much worse can the settled areas south of the Wall be? Then she sees the girl alone on the dock.

Tall, nearly as tall as Brienne it appears at first glance. Red hair. A similar steely expression that was somehow both intimidating and welcoming simultaneously. This must be Sansa. When the ship made its way, and the gangplank lowered, Daenerys insisted upon being the first to greet the young woman. A polite nod is exchanged.

“Lady Sansa, I presume? It is an honor.”

By the Seven, she is so tall. She’s got a good half-foot on me, the silver-haired queen is a bit taken aback by the height difference. She earlier assumed it to be merely a trick of perception.

“The honor is mine. Jon sent me another letter telling me of how you saved his life.”

It is all Dany can do to not blush splendidly. “Did he?” She fights every urge she has to turn back and smirk at the father of her unborn child. “It seems we both have reasons to be grateful to him, then.”

A quirk of Sansa’s eyebrow is all she needs to blurt out clarification. “I mean only that I have been afforded the opportunity to make allies of the North.”

“Ah,” Sansa smiles. It is a bit too knowing for Dany’s liking, but she sees that it would only be counterintuitive to dwell on what may only a misperception as opposed to something concrete. It would be disadvantageous for her to disclose what is going on in her uterus at this juncture. She may not even be pregnant at all. She cannot allow herself yet to hope.

Daenerys clears her throat. “Let us talk of the North, Lady Sansa.” She begins walking, Sansa takes up a stride abreast her, and the rest of the entourage present on the ship soon takes up the rear. Jon is with them, leaving the Lady of Winterfell and the Dragon Queen to their own conversation. She is glad of the privacy.

Sansa, for her part, listens to Daenerys recap Jon’s time on Dragonstone from her perspective, as well as coming to the aid of the Wight Hunters. She tries to remain objective, removed, but hearing of her half-brother’s bravery fills her heart with pride. She knows not yet what to make of this Daenerys Stormborn. When she senses the Unburnt has finished speaking, she sets in.

“All of the Northern Lords are convened in Winterfell, a sizeable many from the Eyrie. It is not I who you shall have to impress upon our arrival there. My brother Bran and sister Arya are not fond of Southerners.”

“I imagine that they are not, if what Jon shared with me on the voyage over is any indication. I am truly sorry for what your family has endured these six years. I assure you that the Lannisters will pay for their part in it. What can you tell me of the castle? I want to know every detail.” Best at first to appeal to something she had once heard Sansa was interested in. Perhaps that will make her open to more conversation down the road.

“The castle?” Sansa always did love sharing details of the castle and she lit up even now in the presence of a stranger. “Well, the castle has an absolutely gorgeous courtyard, and my sister Arya used to…”

Daenerys smiles, and it is a genuine smile of happiness. It is rare to see someone so animated or happy about anything, and Sansa’s childlike enthusiasm for talking about the castle is most refreshing. She thinks she will like this one. As they step into the carriage, facing one another, Sansa finally offers her a warm smile. Good. Hopefully they shall get along swimmingly. It is a trek to Winterfell, and it seems to Daenerys Stormborn that she has won over a second Stark.

Chapter Text

The road from White Harbor to Winterfell was one of the olden days, before the Conquest. “It is… quaint,” the Dragon Queen observes on the second day of the journey, and Sansa offers a humored little “humph” before expounding “Father used to take us this way when we were children. Robb, Arya, Jon, Bran, Rickon, and I. It seems so long ago now.” So long ago indeed.

“I am sorry for the loss of your brothers,” Dany is quick to offer. “Robb seemed a good man.”

“House Frey is extinct now,” Sansa replies. No coldness or malice, simple fact-stating. “As is House Bolton. All of House Stark’s enemies have been eradicated.” She does not need to further press the hidden meaning. Daenerys sighs. “I am not your enemy, my Lady. You need not fear.”
“Shall I tell that to your Dothraki horde, to your Unsullied? You claim to wish peace and reunification under House Targaryen-“
“Peace was never bought by diplomacy, in my experience. There will always be opposition. Did the Boltons return Winterfell to House Stark because Jon asked nicely? I know you know well of my father. I know who and what he was. As I asked your brother, I implore you to not judge me by his sins. Allow me to prove myself to you. We have a time to get to know one another if you shall allow it.”

“Your point is made, Your Grace,” Sansa folds her hands into her lap, fingers clutching the fabric of her orange dress. “I apologize if I seem aggressive. Winterfell has been my home my whole life, and I would hate to see it fall so soon after coming home to it after so long.”

Daenerys nods. “That is why I am here. The true enemy to the North will come soon. I have come without my dragons, yes, but the countless dragonglass swords that have been forged will be defense enough I think.”

“You think?! I mean no offense, Your Grace, but I do not know you. You could be lying. There could be no dragonglass swords. Or they could be fake.”

“I have seen the Night King and the Dead in action, Lady Sansa. You have not. I understand your skepticism. I held it myself not long ago and then I saw. I saw and I acted. Dragonglass and dragonflame will get the job done all the same. I will not risk another of my children unless absolutely necessary.”

Sansa’s brow furrows, and she tightens her grip on the dress. “You consider the dragons your… children?” Is this woman as mad as her detractors have claimed?

“The Northern Lords believe I cannot be trusted. I have heard much of their pride and stubbornness. Unattractive qualities but necessary and understandable ones given the history of Westeros, and especially the current situation. I assure you, my first day in Winterfell I will show you and them that I can be not only trusted but depended on and I will come to the aid of the North. Why else would I be here?” So much for this being a simple winning over of another woman. Does this Sansa think her a threat or is she being only appropriately precautious? Either way, she does not blame the girl at all. Daenerys knows she would react the same were their positions reversed. Nevertheless, it is time to get down to business. They have barely more than 300 miles remaining in the original 340-mile journey to Winterfell. Seven full days and a few hours besides. A week. Best to utilize as much of that time as possible in learning about the people she will be winning over- in a perfect world, anyway. This world is far from perfect. In truth, she fears. She fears a great many things. When she told Jon ‘I hope I deserve it’ it was not a simple platitude to cement a false representation of herself that she was projecting in the hopes of getting him to finally bend the knee. She meant every letter in every word. Jon told her that they would see her for what she is, but will they truly? Stubborn folk cling desperately to their preconceived notions, however erroneous and judgmental, because they cannot bear their ideals being challenged. Mostly because they do not possess the skills to come up with a successful argument in favor of them.

“Tell me about these Northern Lords, Lady Sansa. I hear Lord Yohn Royce is particularly worrisome.”

Sansa pressed her lips together. This was going to be a long conversation indeed.

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“Iksā jorrāelatan,” Missandei says.

“Iksā jorrāelatan,” Jon repeats, horribly bungling the pronunciation. It sounded more akin to ‘Eeksah jhohrelatyn’. They had been at this for the last few weeks, at his behest, and this was one of the first full phrases she has decided to teach him.

“You will get it, Your Grace,” she reassures him.

He does not share her optimism in learning the language. He’s never really shared anyone’s optimism about much of anything, if he is being totally honest. Nevertheless, he tries again.

“YYksa-ah-” he stops. Jon ponders it for a moment, and Missandei again says “Iksā jorrāelatan”.

“Iksā jorrāelatan. What does it mean, Missandei?”

“It means ‘You are loved’, Your Grace.”

A small smile crosses both their lips as they look at one another, and Jon squeezes Missandei’s gloved hand.

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How in Seven Hells she managed to get stuck in the same carriage as Tormund, she has no earthly idea. Brienne busies herself by pretending to be captivated by what she sees outside, and yet there is a pull. The red-bearded wildling sitting across from her. In all the people in the Known World, she had the unfortunate timing of being lusted after by a red-bearded fellow whilst their civilization is on the brink of being destroyed by what she once heard Sandor call ‘ice cunts’. Gods, she loathes that word. Couldn’t there be any less abhorrent alternative? But, then, she supposes these things must be vile indeed.

Speaking of Sandor, didn’t he also recommend that she bed him at least once before everything goes ass-up? It couldn’t hurt. She has found herself to be surprising herself these days. She had told Jaime to “fuck loyalty”, had she not?

Ah, well, she has the rest of the ride to decide. In any case, she turns back to him and offers a small smile.

“Keep talking,” she says genuinely.

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Varys being Varys, he managed to finagle a carriage only for himself and the Hand of the Queen. Tyrion Lannister. What a welcome sight he will be in Winterfell.

“It seems winter has indeed come,” Tyrion speaks up.

“In Daenerys,” Varys adds in agreement.

“Did she really think she could hide that from us? Jon will figure it out soon enough.”

“As I understand it, he’s a bit out of practice. I bet winter came a bit early and had to re-grow a few times,” Tyrion smirks.

Based on what he knows of the King in the North, Varys knows he cannot contest that jest.

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But what does it matter, for all men must die,

and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”

Bronn finishes the song and smiles proudly over at Jaime.

The Kingslayer rolls his eyes. “I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve sang that song.”

“Aye, but this is the first time I’ve been able to sing the whole fucking thing since I was locked up in that Dornish prison,” Bronn informs him, which is met by yet another eye roll.

“We’ve been in here for nearly four weeks. Can you get over it already?” Jaime grasps the bars and hollers through the dungeons of Winterfell. “It was six fucking years ago!”

He’s about to keep ranting and raving when he hears wheels coming near the cell the pair currently find themselves stuffed into.

He’s come to recognize those wheels.

“Bran Stark,” he deadpans, “to what do we owe this blessed visit?”
“You tried to kill me,” he relates impassively, “but you killed your sister for my brother’s lover. That is a change I anticipated but did not expect. Why?”

By the Seven, what has happened to this boy? Is he really that fucked up by whatever happened to him beyond the Wall?

“How do you know about that?”
“I saw it before you even did it. You ran her through from behind with Widow’s Wail. It is not Widow’s Wail anymore.”

This earns him a curious cock of the Kingslayer’s head to one side. “What does that mean?”

“You were chosen, Jaime Lannister. You and Aeg- Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.” He still has a compulsion to refer to his biological cousin/adoptive ‘half-brother’ by his trueborn name. Samwell it seems has an easier time of it. He does not understand companionship anymore. What point is there to connection when one sees so much, and therefore sees how fleeting this life is? Connection would only lead to heartache. It is better this way, now that Bran Stark is no more and the Three-Eyed Raven is all that remains. “I hope you are grateful for the bucket in which to relieve yourselves,” he adds almost as an afterthought before leaving them alone once more. Jaime turns back to his ribald companion.

“What the ever-fucking fuck is he on about?” Bronn voices before Jaime can even get the words out himself.

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He knows the Trinity of Azor Ahai. He has seen them- and faced one in person- in the Green. The Greensight, he recalls it being named. The farther he ventures into the World of Men on the back of the dragon, the more he remembers. Speech is slowly returning to him. He recalls what they call him. King of the Night. The Night King. As if he brought the Long Night those 8,000 years ago. No, he did not. Nor did the other Walkers. He flies even now, fast and agile, through the skies out of sight of those he shall add to the Army of the Dead.

Aegon Targārien.

Daenērys Targārien.

Īaime Lānistor.

He remembers something else too. Another, fourth name.

His weak Man name, he believes.

Agh! No! That name is long dead, as is the Man who was called by it. His memory of that life faded away into nothingness soon after the Dragonglass transformed him into the Night King.

Why would it return to him now?

He knew it was his destiny to come here, to fulfill his purpose. Was this some sort of failsafe to ensure that he did not? An elaborate fiction meant to distract him? He will not allow it!

The Night King screeches in the icy language he has come to know and the dragon Viserion turns to fly back to the wights. He has done enough scouting today.

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The gates of Winterfell open wide. At first, Sansa and Daenerys are unsure the castle’s courtyard can accommodate all the carriages. Though, she admits, it would be funny to see the less desirable members of the Dragon Queen’s entourage be forced to walk in the cold, would it not? Naturally, she is the first to exit the carriage, and then Daenerys after her.

Daenerys knows not what to expect when she exits the vehicle that has been her transport for some seven days and three hours.

What she sees makes her feel safe, even in a strange land. The stories Jon told of it on the sailing voyage to White Harbor have not left her with unreasonable expectations. However, even if they had left her with such ideas, seeing the thing in all its glory in person exceeds even her wildest of imaginings. Strange, seeing as the courtyard of Winterfell is, to one such as Jaime or Sansa, a thing of modest simplicity.

It is only when her feet connect with the snowy ground that she realizes she has been holding her breath.

She looks around, sees the man who Sansa would instantly identify to Lord Yohn Royce. Her description of him was adequately apt.

“You certainly took your time in returning,” Royce scoffs.

“We made a few stops along the way. Feeding so many takes time,” is all the response with which Sansa dignifies him. Daenerys smirks to herself. She will like this girl indeed should the winds of fortune blow correctly.

“Is that her?” Another, younger, female voice calls out. A black-haired girl with a small sword at her hip runs up to and clutches the railing.

“I thought she’d be taller…” she seems massively disappointed.

“Arya!” Sansa snaps. “Ignore my sister.”

Daenerys strides up to the center of the courtyard. To the Stranger with the disapproving glares of the Northern Lords. Let the stubborn fools have their misplaced pride for now.

“I thought the same of you,” she throws back at the girl.

The Dragon Queen strides up the stairs, her death glare more than enough to deter the guards momentarily considering the folly that is blocking her passage, and finally makes her way to Arya Stark. She observes their differences in stature.

“I am taller than you.”

“Barely.”

Daenerys cannot bring herself to think of this Arya has horrifically insolent. If she is Jon’s favorite, so she has come to believe given the little sword, then she cannot be all bad can she? A shame that she has actively taught herself not to trust people who do not pledge themselves to her. Will she have to spend a week in closed quarters gaining this one’s favor, as well? She doesn’t think she can handle it. The stress would be of great negative effect on the babe growing inside her. Funny, she has not thought of the pregnancy since arriving at White Harbor. She can still remember what Missandei ended their final on-ship conversation with:

“Ivestragon zirȳla, khalēsi.”

She will tell him soon enough, she thinks, as she makes her way into the main chamber where, as she understands, Baelish bled out on the floor. She imagines Baelish’s corpse to be fertilizing the flowers somewhere. Not that he is deserving of even that honor in her mind. She has always been very particular about what she believes others ‘deserve’.

After a time of looking around the room, she comes to realize another has entered the room.

Ser Jorah. Her friend and oldest ally.

The small smile and nod he gives her is enough to renew her confidence that she can win these stubborn old men to her side with her words and not her dragons or armies.

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Once the Lords have assembled, with the Starks at the table and her Small Council placed in strategic locations around the room, Daenerys takes her place in the center to make her claim.

“My Lords and Ladies of the North, I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Queen of Meereen, Qu-“ no, it would be a folly on her part to refer to herself as that now. Best that she present herself as humble in the moment even if she views it as her birthright. She starts again. “Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains, and the Mother of Dragons. I come here entreating you to listen to me, to allow myself to make an ally of you and vice versa. I don’t come here asking you to bend the knee. I simply ask, in this moment, that you listen. I have made an ally of your king. I ask only the same of you.”

“Do you approach a point, Targaryen?” Lord Royce’s gruff tone broke through her rehearsed speech in her head. “Or are we meant to hear you phrase the same thing a dozen different ways? We saw the letter saying you saved the king’s life, true, but how do we know it is not an elaborate fiction?”

Sansa is quick to stand, as is Jon. “Enough!” They shout in unison. Royce recedes back into the crowd, and Daenerys continues. She nods to Jorah and Brienne, who step forward and unsheath twin blades.

“Dragonglass blades, forged from dragonglass from Dragonstone. Zīrtys perzys. Frozen fire.”

Royce remains unconvinced. “So you can speak Valyrian. Are we meant to be-?”

“One more word of disruption or dissent from you, Lord Royce,” Jon growls, “and I shall cut out your tongue. This woman did indeed save my life beyond the Wall, as did Ser Jorah Mormont here. His father was the Lord Commander before me. His word is true.”

Royce grunts a dissatisfied “hughmfh” as he finally closes his mouth. Daenerys continues.

“I am aware that there are not nearly enough Valyrian steel weapons in Westeros to mount a successful counter-assault against the Night King and his Army of the Dead. One hundred thousand strong, at least, I spied when I went north of the Wall to save Jon, Ser Jorah, and the others. I did so at great personal sacrifice. Is that not enough to show that I am willing to aid my allies?”

Sandor moved out of the crowd. She hadn’t noticed he was here, too.

“My name is Sandor Clegane. People call me the hound. I killed my brother. They called him the Mountain that Rides. Big, mean, nasty, ugly fucker. I was with Jon Snow and Ser Jorah, and a wildling and those fuckers from the Brotherhood Without Banners on an expedition to catch one of those dumb dead things. Didn’t pan out so well. Cersei is dead, too. I’m sure you’ve heard that?”

“That will be enough, Sandor.”

Sandor turned back to Daenerys. “What? I’m just trying to defend you to these-“
“I’m sure they get the point. Thank you.”

And Sandor, despite his better judgment, also returns to the crowd.

Daenerys begins once more. “As I was saying…”

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It is nightfall when Ser Jaime and Ser Bronn are greeted by Brienne of Tarth and Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion puts the key into the lock and the cell door, pulling it open as the two men step out.

“I assume you are here on behalf of Daenerys Targaryen?” Bronn inquires. “Is there another scorpion I can use to put another one of them bolts into her dragons if she tries anything?”

“No,” comes Daenerys’ voice as she walks into the dungeons.

Jaime smirks, but Daenerys remains stone-faced.

“It seems you and I have things to discuss.”

X=x=x=x=x=x=X

Jon does not care much for the extravagance of the room afforded him as King of the North. The rug, the big bed, the candles, it is all too much for his Nights-Watch-crafted tastes. It is not what he has become accustomed to, though he had a similar room when he was merely Ned Stark’s bastard. His father had afforded him the best he could manage. Jon still finds himself lacking. He sees himself as no White Wolf no matter what the other Lords and Ladies of the North think. Not even is it relevant what Sansa thinks. Winterfell is hers. The North is hers, he’s only a placeholder. If there is a North after the Great War. Even now, he doubts that the Great War will be won. The Night King has clearly planned out all his actions in the intervening eight thousand years he has spent in exile. The door opens.

Missandei.

“Issa iā rōvēgrie tistālion, syt iā dārys.” It is a great room, for a king.

Jon nods. “It is, yes. It was my father and his wife’s room.”

“Fitting, then, that the Lord Paramount should have it. That is the correct term? I have heard it used today since our arrival. You have many titles, just as Daenerys. Another thing you have in common.”

Try as he might, Jon cannot hide his blush at her words. Missandei bites her lip, smiling at his reaction.

The door opens more fully, and in strides Daenerys.

“I am proud of you,” Jon smiles at her.

Daenerys closes the gap between them in no time at all. “Well, well! Jon Snow smiling? A rare sighting indeed.” Missandei nods politely and leaves the pair alone, closing the door behind her.

“Should’ve asked her to lock it,” Dany mumbles. She sits on the bed, her hand smoothing over the skin rug that serves as the covers.

“Daenerys, forgive my saying this, but you seem on edge. Is something the-”

“I am with child,” she replies. She cannot contain it any longer.

“You…?”

“Yes.”

“I… I thought you were barren?”

He promptly shuts his trap when Daenerys practically glares him into oblivion and promptly moves to amend the statement.

“I merely meant, I am surprised?” This is surely a good thing. A line is made now, and her family has indeed not seen its end.

“We were to wed anyway, were we not?” By all the Gods, he’s never been in this position before! What is he supposed to say????!!!!!???? Still no dice, if the rapid cementation of the death glare on Daenerys’ face is any indication.

“You do not want children? You do not want children with me?” She is confused, the icy exterior just that. Underneath that mask she is terrified. What if the Old Gods and the New and the Seven and whatever other deities there be are conspiring to make her suffer even more, to get both their hopes up and then dash them as she miscarries concurrently with the White Walkers and the Dead bearing down mercilessly upon humanity? Worse still, what if she is not even pregnant at all? Qogralbar zirȳ, pār! She will have this! Jon finally opens his mouth again, but she is unsure how she will respond to what comes out of it. She will not be liable for murdering the King in the North if what he says next is even more boneheaded than what came before it.

“You are with child? My ch- you carry my child? A baby? Small human in your womb?” It’s like he’s trying to phrase this as many different ways as possible.

Dany find it adorable.

“Women grow by men, do they not?” She chuckles.

This time it is Jon who closes the space between them. He pushes her gently onto the bed and kisses her passionately, and that is all the proof of approval she needs. Her fears melt away as his fingers find purchase in her silver locks, as their eyes connect.

Outside, as Jon makes his approval known, Missandei and Ser Davos crouch by the door.

“She’s told him?” Davos asks.

“She has, yes. It certainly… sounds that way. Oh- oh!”

“Oh… well.”

The pair slink off to their own chambers for the remainder of the evening, to sleep quickly and dream happy dreams. A rarity in this age, and Missandei and Davos seek happiness on this day when so much was at stake and now is not... at least not as much as it was.

As for Ice and Fire? They do not sleep until dawn.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: The White Wedding

 

Sansa has always loved the very idea of weddings. Getting to plan one? Even better. Arya, on the other hand? Not so much. The perfect dichotomy, the pair of them. Maiden and warrior. One might call Sansa a bit of a warrior-maiden these days. Wardeness of the North.

Not for much longer, though, she fears. The Dead come with the cold and the winter and their horrid masters with them. Sansa prays to the Old Gods and the New that she will never have to look upon the White Walkers, that Jon and Daenerys will defeat them before they ever reach Winterfell. But is this desire out of preservation of her home or self-preservation? Sometimes even she does not know anymore. She did tell Daenerys it would be a great pity were the North lost, Winterfell specifically, so soon after the Starks have won back the North.

What good is a Stark-held North anymore, if Bran is functionally dead and Jon is a bastard? The Stark line will very well end with her sister and herself, should Jon choose to not be legitimized. Stannis had offered as much to him, she recalls, and he refused. Would Daenerys be satisfied being the wife of a bastard?

All these terrible thoughts bounce around in her head as frequently as thoughts of joy and happiness. It didn’t used to be that way. The Lannisters and Boltons are to thank for the current state of affairs in her mind. She is stronger than they are. The Boltons are gone and the Lannisters almost are too. She has outlasted two great Houses. Jaime Lannister is locked up in the dungeons. Bran might not care anymore about Jaime pushing him from the tower, but Sansa and Arya do. That act is what started this whole mess in the first place.

Sansa has been lenient in comparison to Arya. Her younger sister seems all too happy to maim and murder. Sansa would put Jaime on trial and execute him in any other instance. However, she cannot but have a begrudging respect for the man. To that end, she has found herself in the dungeons, alone, almost to the cell holding the Kingslayer and the Blackwater knight.

“Good morning, Ser Jaime,” she respectfully greets him. She gives Bronn little more than a polite nod, and the look he shoots her tells he doesn’t really care if she acknowledges him or not. Bloody sellswords. She could never imagine what sort of man might choose such a morally repugnant profession. So without honor he must be. Sansa also recalls her mother saying as much very often about the Queen’s brother, but oh if she only knew.

“I understand your brother and the Dragon Queen are meant to wed this day,” Jaime speaks up following a brief internal struggle as to whether he should say anything or allow Sansa to speak until she finds it a good time to leave. He knew he would be most unwelcome here, but he did not expect to be thrown into thee dungeons almost immediately.

Sansa does not respond, but he takes her silence as confirmation.

“Judging by that racket last night, they are already wed in all but formality.”

The redhead then surges toward the bars but is careful not to get near enough that the Kingslayer might use her proximity to his advantage should he elect another escape attempt.

Crassness would do little to get him anywhere in this situation.

“I pledged myself to this cause. I killed my own sister-“

“Yes, you did. You are now slayer of King, Queen, and Kin, Ser Jaime.”

Bronn says not a word of rebuttal, for what is the point in rebutting the truth? What comes next from the mouth of the Lady of Winterfell shocks both men.

“We will release you after the wedding.”

“Why,” Jaime asks in genuine curiosity. “Why not before, when you came home from receiving them?”
“I had to make sure you would be unlikely to double-cross us for the Lannister name. Lord Tyron has assured me you can be trusted.”

“And you would trust my brother?”

“Yes. He was good to me in King’s Landing. Really the only one who was.” Shae, she understood, truthfully made her bed with Tywin and though she did take a shine to Margaery, Sansa could tell she was constantly working an angle. Therefore, she did not mention them. They were unnecessary to the conversation at hand anyway. If Littlefinger taught here anything, it was the grave importance of the conservation of detail in all things concerning one’s enemies and friends alike. Though she disagreed with him on the principle that friends are friends, Sansa knew by now also the importance of going along with something even if she did not agree with it at the time of its happening. “I shall have rooms prepared for you and your man.” Without another word, Sansa pivoted on her heels and departed the presence of the one man in Westeros she detested more so than Lord Baelish.

————————————————

The early morning sun seeps in through the cracks between the curtains. It would be a while yet before the royal bedchamber is gloriously awash with light. The Light of the Seven, some might say. Even then, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms often finds herself of late to be awake long before the sun elects to rise. She attributes this to the child she carries, now nearly out of room. She senses beyond all doubt that the child will soon be ready to emerge, and she fears what will happen when that time comes. She could die, or the child, or them both. With a thoughtful rub of her swollen middle, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen maneuvers herself out of bed and makes her way to the privy.

Once she is finished there, she turns and sits on the bed for a moment. She will not return to slumber. At least not for a while. She knows this too. It seems her companion will not either.

“Iksā olvie gevie, ñuha jorrāelagon,” Jon smiles at her. You are most beautiful, my love.

The words, while sweet, elicit an incredulous scoff from the only woman to whom they could possibly be directed.

“Qilōni, valzȳrys? Daor nyke. Gevie? Skorkydoso? Iksan rōvāje!” Who, husband? Not me. Beautiful? How? I am huge!

Daenerys rolls her eyes and stands again, waddling to the nearest curtain and pulling it back. The light hurts her eyes, fills the room, and threatens to blind them both. She is fairly certain she hears a very loud thump as if someone has hit the floor. She turns her head back momentarily and finds her husband to no longer be on the bed.

“Jon?”

His head pops up from the floor. He has indeed fallen off the bed.

“I am al-“

Dany erupts into laughter before he can even get the words out. “Ahahahahaha!”

“I am glad you find my pain so humorous,” he replies. “I-“

“Ha-ha-ha! J-Jon! Ha!”

A few more minutes of this ritual pass. Jon tries to say something and Daenerys laughing like a madwoman. When things finally calm, the pregnant Dragon Queen returns her attention to the window. She opens it, and is given a clearer view of what she wishes to see: the world basked in light and warmth. She cannot help but let her mind stay in the ghastly reality despite her instincts to look to a happier alternative for the sake of their unborn child. “It is best we soak in this day. It may be the last sun we ever see.”

For the Long Night was coming, making its way southward every moment. Gradual in pace like its master, but still! Who knows? The world’s greatest infection could spread to King’s Landing by the end of the morning.

“Would that we could live in the Summer Sea,” Daenerys mused. “Yes, the Summer Isles. I hear the Naathi are nice enough.”

Jon stands and makes his way over to her, wrapping his arms around her and resting his hands on her large belly. The child kicks in response to his touch.

“I think someone is awake,” the proud father-to-be whispers in his wife’s ear.

Daenerys, as always, is quick with her reply. “Perhaps if we remain very still they will go back to sleep?”

A changing pressure on the bed rouses Daenerys from her sleep. Through her bleary eyes, she can see Jon milling about the chamber. Pacing.

“Come back to bed,” she mumbles.

He does not, continuing to pace and grumble to himself in that way his friends in the Nights Watch loathed. Damn Stark stubbornness! Daenerys huffs and sits up with ease, something she knows will not be so easy in the coming months. “I had a pleasant dream for the first time since I can recall,” she offers, hoping it will lift him from this spell of nerves. “Would you care to hear it?”

Jon still paces.

Tubi daor,” she sighs and gets up to join him in the inane exercise. It takes him several seconds only to cease and he grins. Actually grins, before pulling her into a hug.

“I know it will be a hard fight-“

“You are right.”

“- and I will not allow you to come to harm. You or our child. I know-“

“Husshhh,” she whispers, cupping his face in her hands. “Daoruni gīmī, Ionos Sōnaro.”

There was a time not so long ago that she thought the man before her to be ‘too little’ for her. She was wrong. He is just the correct size, though she still has to get up on her tiptoes in order to kiss him. “Avy jorrāelan,” she whispers between the two liplocks she gives him, a mirthful chuckle accompanying them. “You are a good man, you will defeat this threat and you shall make a good king, husband, and father. I know it.”

Jon kisses her forehead and holds her for a moment, content to do nothing but breath in her for a solid three minutes. No words, only heartbeats, breath, and human connection.

———————————————————————————————

“What you had made of yourself, what you lowered yourself too, was most shameful. You cannot understand the shame you have brought,” Lady Lyanna scolds, her back to Jorah. He has nothing to say, she speaks the truth. He was not here to defend his father from his mutineers, but had he survived would Jon be where he is now? There is something special about that one, he can sense it. And if his Queen trusts him then all the better. He is no fool, he knows what is going on between them. He will not get in the way. A most heavy sigh and a crossing of arms later, and Jorah still has nothing to say to his younger sister.

“Well?” Lyanna prods.

Pursing his lips, he again avoids her gaze. With a deep breath, he finally opens his mouth. “I have made the amends I can. I suffered the banishment owed me by my sins. I am now back within the court of Daenerys Targaryen. I survived grayscale! If that is not a sign that I am forgiven in the eyes of all the Gods then I know not what is. But I do not pretend to be ignorant of the painful truth that it is a very different matter to be forgiven in the eyes of men. Especially the eyes of family. I-”

“Shut up, Jorah. You may have shamed this family, shamed yourself, but if what Daenerys has told me is true then you have more than earned your place beside her. And in comparison to what is coming, petty familial squabbles can wait. Is it a strange thing to say I have missed one who I have only just met? Family is important, and I will not judge you for sins you have clearly done penance for. Leave that to the common folk. The King in the North and the Dragon Queen are to be wed this night. I know your feelings for her. Will you not be in attendance?”

“I will,” he blurts, and the answer comes as a surprise to the both of them. Jorah is no petty whinging brat of a child, he is a man of honor who once soiled his good name by engaging in the very act which his khaleesi despised the most. Did such things truly matter anymore, with the encroaching threat of walking death? Worse, eternal servitude to the Night King?

“When we were in the true North,” Jorah began, “we saw that killing a White Walker ended the threat of the Dead under his command. If we kill the Night King, perhaps the threat will be extinguished wholesale?”

“Perhaps, but who can get close enough to him to try?”

“Jon, if he gets his head out of his stubborn behind,” Jorah laughs. “The man has committed himself single-mindedly to that task, all other things be damned to varying degrees.” His thoughts turn to the impending nuptials. “I saw no Maester, Lyanna. Who shall wed them?”

__________________________

A week has the party been in Winterfell, and a week Daenerys Stormborn has spent winning over those within its walls. The cultivating of friendship that was easiest, however? Arya Stark. The girl idolized the Queen Visenya for her prowess in combat. Daenerys knew little of her ancestors, only what was relayed through stories. Histories were a different matter altogether. Daenerys found quickly that the quickest way to get the younger Stark sister’s attention and wonderment was to regale her with stories of Daenerys’ own adventures. She made sure to embellish riding atop Drogon for drama’s sake. Arya, in turn, has told Dany of the Faceless Men of Braavos.

They laugh together. Genuinely, truly, with good intent in mind and heart.

Daenerys has never thought of the idea of having a sister, and now by-marriage she will have two before this night is over. She has surmised by now that when it is the more girly things of life, she would be better advised in going to Sansa for advice than to Arya. That being said, as Missandei has dressed her in her wedding finery, the silver-haired noble has called in Arya for inspection.

“What do you want me to say?” The raven-haired assassin questions. “It is a very lovely dress!” She knows it is normally bad luck for the groom and bride to see each other, but does that also extend to the family of the groom? Apparently not, seeing as Daenerys has invited her in to… judge the outfit?

“Is it suitable, do you think? Missandei designed it for me, and she has done a very good job.”

Missandei nods her thanks but otherwise remains silent.

“I think it is suitable for a Northern wedding, Your Grace.”

“I do not want the Northern Lords to have an additional reason to persecute me.”

“They will not. And if they do, I will make sure they do not do it ever again.” She is matter-of-fact, but she does intend to murder them. The Lords are their allies in this. They will be needed. Dany turns around and smiles at Arya over her shoulder.

The pair will be good friends indeed.

_____________________

The wedding itself is a simple affair. Snow falls around the assemblage of court and lords. Tyrion, Varys, Missandei, Jorah, Tormund, Davos, and Brienne on one side, the Northern Lords on another. Closer to the tree are Jon’s siblings. Bran with his blank face, Sansa with her warm smile, and Arya with her eagerness for what is to come. Daenerys knows the warmth is still yet to come for her, their happiness is more for Jon and his joy. He has had a hard life. She wears white, the colors of House Targaryen gone for now. They shall have a larger ceremony in King’s Landing, once all this madness is over.

Sansa steps forward, as she is the one with the most seniority in terms of power. A marriage was not supposed to happen with such little preparation. There was no formal betrothal. The Northern Lords do not attempt to mask their displeasure.

She speaks, and Jon and Daenerys exchange the words.

Daenerys was in truth apprehensive, but she did want to honor the faith of Jon’s father and family. She will do all that and more if it means strengthening personal and political ties in the coming dark times. The White Walkers are coming but they are a finite threat. Who knows how long the Winter shall last? A year, a decade, several decades? A century or a generation? Will it be another Long Night? Will the fabled ice spiders be proven to be real before her very eyes? Jorah is by her side, standing still, for she selected him to present the bride. He swallowed his pride and obeyed. He said it would be an honor, as his feelings for her were no longer a secret between them. He knew now that he could never have her, he made peace with that after the grayscale was removed from him. A good man, that Samwell Tarly.

The words are exchanged between Jorah and Sansa, and he recedes back onto his “side” of the witnesses.

Daenerys takes a deep breath, faces Jon, and the next thing she knows she speaks in unison with him “… until my last day” and their lips are joined in their first official kiss as husband and wife. What a joy, she thinks, to also have their child there?

As the crowd disperses, Daenerys cannot help but see Bran and Samwell together. She knows well how to read people, and they wish to say something. By Sam’s countenance, it is not a good thing. Such ominous tidings can wait. Jon, as it appears, agrees with her and pays them only the customary polite parting glance as he leads her back inside and up to their room.

They lay together as husband and wife, giving each other the needed security of their bodies in matrimony (and giving other things) for most of the night. Daenerys knows they need to sleep, as does Jon, but it is the last thing on their minds. It is shivers and cold that do wake them shortly after they do manage to lull each other into unconsciousness, and Davos wrapping both fists on the door. The pair dress themselves as quickly as possible and open for their friend. The look upon his face is grave, pale, barely any color left in it. They do not need to guess its origin or meaning.

Outside, the ice has grown even more prominent. This was no natural snowfall. In the darkness of the early morning, before the sun has risen, the leg of a dead horse stamps and stops. The horse is within view of the naked eye, and Tormund has come to know its rider well.

“Why now?” Is all he can muster up. Beside him is Dolorous Edd, still healing from his journey.

“Are the men awake?”

“They are about to be.”

Three more White Walkers on dead steeds emerge from the black.

“This is what the earthquake must’ve been,” Arya’s voice is barely above a whisper.

It doesn’t need to be said, but Edd says it anyway.

“The enemy is here.”

Chapter Text

As Daenerys and Jon did share in coital and postcoital glows, many things occurred throughout the castle of Winterfell. Arya and Gendry consummated their own feelings, Brienne of Tarth was knighted, and the trusty squire called Podrick Payne sang. Among other things, jollies were had. One last hurrah, as it were. The simplistic and laughter-filled calm before the death song of winter’s first and final and most terrible storm. If we are all to die, thought the sorry souls within Winterfell’s walls, why not go out with a pre-battle glory of our own individual makings? Hard to argue, one might say, with logic such as that. Is it not human nature to want to stave off suffering in favor go joy and pleasure?

Jaime of House Lannister knew he could be no commander of import with but a single hand, and so he swore his service to Brienne. She who showed him the promise of a better future, even in the adversarial days of his captivity by her.

Ginger hairs blow in the wind as Tormund races to the courtyard. Jon hears his voice booming, urging those who can to fight. In all honesty, it is a blur that he will not be able to recall until much later. Until after. When all is dust and decay and suffering, to put it in Bran’s words. My, that boy is something entirely else now. Jon isn’t entirely sure what to do with him if he is honest with himself. All he knows is the enemy is here and it will stop at nothing until control of all the world of Men is attained and Man itself is wholly erased. Bran wishes to be a sacrifice. His siblings will not allow it. Though he is ashamed to say so, the survival of the North is not something existing at the forefront of his mind these days. The dream he had, the one with Bran? His little brother claimed in his sleeping brain’s fictions that he, a bastard of Winterfell, was the true heir to the Iron Throne above Daenerys. Daenerys, his queen, and now bride. Bride of fire, husband of ice. Such were the diabolically smooth words echoing in his mind, the source’s voice so clearly not his own. If this fiction proves true, it might cause a rift between them, a potential desolation of the one thing this life has since kept from them. He cares not what the smallfolk might say. No. His grandparents were cousins. If Dany is indeed his aunt and the child she carries produced of incest, it is of no matter. He is a Targaryen if it is true.

If it is true.

What could it be but the flighty fancy of an outcast to belong? It would be horribly difficult to prove, and technically he is the King Consort of the Seven Kingdoms. He worries, though, of her response to such news. Would she take it as a threat? He likes to think he knows her better than that. As he stands atop the ramparts, gazing out at the cold and the pitch-black expanse, such things cross his mind and fly away as ravens just as quietly. Fleeting fears. Beric. Tormund. Sandor. Arya. Himself. An unlikely quintet staring the Stranger himself in the face. Part of him knows the Night King to be more than a simple avatar of the Seven’s death aspect. The Night King is death.

Death is not to be trifled with.

“Sansa wanted to fight, you know,” came Arya’s somber voice. “I told her to stay in the crypts with the women and children. She’s got her armor and her dagger. I had a friend in the Riverlands who used to say a knight was someone who had armor on. I saw him once on my travels back home. He is a baker now.” A terse expression clouds her features. “I hope we win so he and others like him can rest when their time comes.”

“We will,” Jon asserts with scarcely a second of a gap between his words and hers. Does he really know what would happen if they didn’t? Does he know what they would do? What he would do? He’s going to kill the Night King. He and Daenerys. They will do it together, as she once said.

X=x=x=X

The crypts Of Winterfell are cold, damp, dark things. Only the bodies of Starks may be interred here. Is this really the wisest idea, what with an immortal necromancer looking to eradicate all of them? Part of Sansa supposed she did not really have much in the way of worrisome things, concerning now what proved itself worthy of pondering. She’d had a comfortable life until the last few years of horror, but did they really in any prepare her for this horror? It would be alright, she kept saying to herself. The latest Stark buried here? The remains of her father. That was some seven years ago now and based on what Jon has said of the Night King, only the dead who retained muscle and sinew might be revived for his ghastly purpose. Surely he cannot revive simple bone and have walking skeletons roam around? Now that the thought glimmers to life in her mind, a morbid laugh bubbles up and bursts open her very jaw. While she is swift to clap a hand over her mouth, the sound earns her a look from the Dragon Queen’s handmaiden. The Naathi woman. What did she overhear Daenerys call her? Missandei, that is it. Part of her feels horrid for not paying closer attention to the people Daenerys Targaryen brought with her. Surely most of them will be dead in the morning. Perhaps even some of them down here will be dead in the morning.

A siege is forthcoming. It may have already started, she knows not. Part of her does not wish to know anything about it at all.

The best she can do now is to acknowledge their situation. There would be more dignity in it than childishly denying it. And what could it hurt to at least attempt to engage Missandei of Naath in a simple conversation? Well, this particular thing would be far from simple. Nevertheless, she moves from beside Tyrion Lannister and over to her. She and Varys seem to have secluded themselves from the Northern people. While she doubts her words can make the pair join the others, she can at least hope to build bridges with Dany’s advisers.

“You are her closest friend, are you not?” Sansa’s voice surprises even her. If the look on Missandei’s face is anything to go by, she too is taken aback by the awkward and childlike shyness that has crept into the voice of one usually so composed and aloof.

“I am,” says Missandei. “Why do you ask?”

“Can you tell me about her? I want to know Daenerys from the perspective of those closest to her.”

With a hesitant smile and a deep breath, Missandei obliges.

X=x=x=x=X

He knows the human enemy awaits his move. He cares not for them, only for the Three-Eyed Raven. The repository of all their knowledge will die by his blade this night. It is the ultimate and final objective of why he was created. Man does not belong in Westeros. It never has. Man is the disease and he is the cure of the greatest ill this world has yet seen or will ever see. Why do they deny him his duty? Dozens of White Walkers line the trees that outline the clearing that lays between him and the castle. Somewhere in that castle is his quarry. He cares not about the defenders. Do they think they stand for life? Do they think they stand for justice and the living? Life is fragile. Death is inevitable. They will all join his ranks soon enough, fall in line as his army of corpses innumerable march unimpeded across the continent. Sea to sea they will go and return this world to the quiet it was meant to be. Cold, only the wind to make sound and then they too, even the White Walkers, shall rest. They will fade away into the ice and the silence and the waste, and pass into the cold dawn awaiting all things in their rightful time.

But for now?

Victory.

X=x=x=x=X

Victory is a small yet powerful word. Ned Stark taught him the value of the spoken word, how it binds and should be honored. He has yet to say the word victory in reference to the coming battle with the Night King and his hordes of the slain. He cannot allow himself to think it for such a thing will make him overconfident. But the supposed Lord of Light seems to have brought him back from the outer darkness for some purpose. And if a man can be brought back, there must be something to bring him back from? Perhaps he had not seen the true afterlife yet and the stories were true. Maybe Beric had not either. Maybe there is more than simple black in the beyond. Maybe, just maybe, there is something to look forward to when our times on Earth are said and done? It is a pretty thought, but not one he can afford to concern himself with now. Thankfully, he is spared further contemplation of the hereafter upon the sounding of a horn. It is a terrible sound.

The White Walkers have signaled. The final stand of the North has arrived.

X=x=x=x=X

They have lost their commander and still, they fight on. Davos finds himself commending the Unsullied for their adherence to duty. He sees them for what they are: loyal men and not freed slaves. They are good fighters and forever will the living be in their debt should even a small triumph be won this night. There it goes. That abomination of an instrument sounding in the dark. It is a death knell, he can tell that straight away. The pyromancers of old would be of great help right about now. He is afraid but the Unsullied do not show fear and therefore neither can he. Ser Davos Seaworth, born a lowly man in Flea Bottom and who life deemed become a smuggler for better men, was looked down on for how he was forced to stay alive and thriving for the sake of his family. He wonders if his wife knows if he is even alive! Ser Davos Seaworth, an adviser to King Stannis Baratheon and then to King Jon Snow of the North, rising up from the lot given him, is determined to fight to his last breath to defend the living. He will die this night with honor, should death be his lot. If this is to be his final end, and the end of the North, he can see no finer or greater or nobler end.

X=x=x=x=X

Brienne recalls the song Pod sang them by the fireplace. The song of Jenny of Oldstones. A mournful thing but also one of hope- if one was inclined to believe in such things as hope. The Maid Of Tarth does not herself know with any definition if she believes in anything so fanciful as a better tomorrow. How can she, when all around she is surrounded by death and the Breaking of Oaths and the gradual erosion of honor? The horn spares her further dwelling on such folly as a tomorrow. For many, there will not be a tomorrow. She looks to Jorah Mormont, atop a white horse amongst the Dothraki bloodriders. The direwolf called Ghost is by his side. He did horrible things and yet he is here. He fights for his queen. She knows many men with far less integrity. It is a thing most honorable to die for duty, she decided this long ago. If she is to perish this night, she has made her peace with the notion.

Again with the horn. The very droning thing meant to signify the inevitable. Fuck the horn. Can someone shut up that damn horn?

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The Night King is toying with them. Jorah senses that a mile away. He wants to put his sword through the Stark boy’s heart, that much is certain. Though he itches to take the fight to the enemy, it would be folly to charge into the darkness where they can be swiftly overcome by the dead and then added to the Walkers’ infernal ranks. He knows there are more than just White Walkers beyond those trees, across that clearing. There are the dead amongst the woods, waiting to be commanded into slaughtering the living who dwell within the walls.

Finally, that horn has ceased! Jorah cannot bring himself to celebrate the sound dying away for he knows what it means. He grips his sword ever tighter.

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Her prophecies come true. This much Melisandre of Asshai knows to be true. The Lord Of Light has guided her this far and the Lord will guide her into the hereafter as is His will. She senses the dead. They are on the move, marching in the black of night toward the Army of the Living. The final servants of R’hllor shall crown the Fire God the victor. She has faith in this, even if she cannot witness it herself. And so she rides on to the seat of power of the North.

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She knows what it is to want for everything. If she survives this night, Dany pledges in her heart and mind and in her very soul that the child in her womb will want for nothing. She has seen the Northern Lords rally behind Jon Snow. She has seen the hope he inspires in them. Sansa won the Battle of the Bastards, not him. He has told her of his defeat at Hardhome. How can a man who has lost twice inspire hope? How can he urge them toward freedom? Perhaps it is not freedom he inspires or hope, but gratitude in their desire for independence. If they can put their petty jealousies aside for the sake of the realm, perhaps Sansa is correct. Does the North deserve freedom? A discussion to be tabled for a later time. The South is hers. Cersei is dead and the Red Priestess holds King’s Landing in her absence and in her name. She is the 21st ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and its second queen. Jon is King Consort. An arrangement with which she is happy. She can break the wheel now, rip the whole thing apart and rebuild anew. But first, she must survive this night and be formally crowned as she sits upon the Iron Throne. She promised to fight for the North, to destroy the ultimate enemy. This is what she will do here and now.

There exists an eeriest calm on the battlefield-to-be.

Why do the dead not attack?

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The cover of night is both advantageous and disadvantageous. You cannot be seen by your enemy, but the same is also true for you. Darkness blinds both ways. But not for the dead. The dead do not need eyes.

Melisandre rides in through the black. She gives a nod to Jorah the Andal.

The Dothraki raise their weapons.

The Red Woman chants and their weapons alight. The salvation fires of the Lord of Light!

It is of minimal use. Her horse whips around. She sees them. Blue eyes. Hundreds of pairs of blue eyes shining in the dark. Advancing in silence.

A trebuchet launches. Two. Three.

Fire engulfs some but the majority continue to march. They do not run. They walk. The horses make their sounds of unease, of fear. We cannot show fear, she can almost hear the thoughts of their riders.

The dead walk unconcerned for the Dothraki in front of them and the Dothraki know not what to do in the face of an enemy such as this. One that knows no fear or instinct for self-preservation. Why preserve what is already gone? Their souls are in the Night Lands and their husks are used for this unholy war.

Death by fire is the purest death.

Jorah raises his sword.

The Dothraki roar and cheer and scream in their tongue. Jorah joins them. What would strike fear in the hearts of the living do nothing for the dead.

Melisandre has ridden behind, closer to the gate. She is near Brienne of Tarth now. Jon spies her from the ramparts. There is no time to be angry.

The doors open. She is allowed in.

The Dothraki ride.

The Dothraki scream.

And the Dothraki die.

As the bloodriders, headed by Ser Jorah Mormont of Bear Island himself, come upon the shambling horde... the horde no longer shambles. Many of the dead grab horses and pull them down, ripping into both rider and steed. Others are cut down by the flaming blades. It is a madhouse of carnage and chaos. Qhono, the unofficial leader of the Dothraki in Westeros, is overwhelmed and vanishes under the piling weight of three wights.

Jorah cuts down five and is swarmed by three times that number. Ghost manages but one before he too is lost to the night and the dead. And so ends the first wave of defense of the World of Men.

When all is said and done, a sizeable dent has been made in both forces. Surprisingly, the higher figures of loss are of the enemy.

One by one, the Dothraki survivors begin to hack and slash at the again unresponsive dead. Why do they not react? The Army of the Dead does nothing at all. In fact, they seem content to stand there and allow the bloodriders to have their way.

It is Qhono who realizes it first.

“This is not all of them,” he whispers in Dothraki.

No sooner does he say it than do veritable hundreds of wights surge forth from the woods and the shadow.

The Night King, it seems, has earned his name.

Jorah, Qhono, and Ghost are again lost in the sea of despair and entropy.