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Dragon Ryder

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Storms were not something Jacaerys feared. Though the wind howled as though an angry god was bellowing in rage, and the rain lashed down impressive force and quantity, the Prince of Dragonstone did not flinch. Rather the opposite, in fact, the Prince was grinning broadly, barely affected by the the rocking of the boat as he stood at the prow of his grandfather's pride and joy; the War Galley Sea Snake, the flagship of the Velaryon fleet that had been named after the moniker of the man who led said fleet. Jacaerys thought it a little bit much to use such an impressive war ship as a simple transport vessel between King's Landing and Dragonstone, but his mother's father; King Viserys; wasn't taking any risk. Apparently no expense was spared when it came to the safety of the royal family.

In truth, Jace should have been back at Dragonstone nearly a month ago, with his mother and brothers. But once again Aemond Targaryen had ruined things. The ten namedays boy was a menace. Four years older than Jace, Aemond was the second son and third child that King Viserys had born to him by his second wife, Alicent Hightower. In the privacy of his own mind, Jace believed that being cruel and arrogant must be a Hightower family trait, but in public was courteous enough with the family; such consideration was not shown to the Queen's offspring. Aegon; the King's oldest son; and Aemond were both quick to anger and were often cruel to their younger nephew's. Jace was sure that they and their mother were responsible for how widespread the rumor's about his parentage had become.

Officially, Jace's father was Laenor Velaryon. Jace himself had no doubt that this was true. However, that Jace had been born with brown hair and eyes, instead of the silver hair both his parents possessed, many of his father's uncles and cousins had begun to claim that he and his siblings were actually fathered by Harwin Strong, the now deceased heir of Harrenhal that had been his mothers friend in childhood and eventually became her sworn sword. These accuser's compared Jace, Lucerys and Joffrey to Ser Harwin and brought up his father's well-known degeneracy's as further proof. Personally, Jace thought he and his brothers looked more like their grandmother Aemma Arryn. The Arryn's had similar traits as the Strong's; with the exception of their pug like noses; and if his mother's cousin, Jeyne, was any indication as to what grandmother looked like then Jace would be inclined to guess that he inherited his looks from her.

Frowning, Jace wished that spreading rumors; rumor's grandfather had quickly put down by ordering that anyone that spoke of it would have their tongue's torn out; was the extent of Aemond's antagonism towards the Velaryon siblings. But on their last visit to King's Landing a much more tense confrontation had taken place. It seemed both Aemond and Jace had gotten the same idea. Both wanted to tame the dragon Vhagar, the last of the dragons from the conquest and the largest of the mighty beasts still alive. This shared desire had led to a fight outside the dragonpit between Aemond and his three oldest nephews, resulting in Luke's nose being broken and Aemond's eye being cut out with a dagger.

Jace winced at the memory that brought up. Queen Alicent had been furious at what had happened to her son and wanted the same to be done to Luke in retaliation. It was fortunate, the six year old Prince supposed, that the five year old Lucerys was the King's favourite of all his children, grandchildren and niece's. He had consented to a whipping for each of them; by which he meant each of their whipping boys; but had been firm that he would go no further than that and had; Jace had been told later; privately congratulated Luke on doing so well with his blade at such a young age. Though the punishment was lenient, Jace still thought it unfair. They hadn't even been the first to draw their knives, no matter what tale Aemond spun to his mother. Even worse, Aemond had managed to tame Vhagar. The smug satisfaction on Aemond's face had made Jace want to remove the craven's other eye.

His mother had immediately began to have their belongings packed for the trip back to Dragonstone. She was unwilling to remain in the city when her half brother went unpunished for starting the fight by slapping the youngest of the brothers, two year old Joffrey. The plan had been to move back to Dragonstone, but that plan was halted when Jace started to develop a fever. A slash across the stomach that Aemond had given him had become infected, forcing the move to be halted. Eventually, tired of the constant tension, the King sent his heir and her children back to Dragonstone, promising to send Jacaerys along when he had recovered.

So here he was, standing at the front of the triple decked War Galley that was taking him home, where he hoped to tame one of the untamed dragons that had set up their lair on the island that housed the ancient Valyrian fortress or at least hatch one of his own.

There was a bright flash of lightning and then not a few a seconds later a roar of thunder that sounded rather similar to the roar of a dragon. Jacaerys' grin widened. He had been raised on Dragonstone. While such storms as this were not as common as they were in the aptly named Stormlands or even along the coast of the Vale and the bay known as the Bite they weren't exceptionally rare either. While Lucerys had often been forced to seek comfort in the arms of their mother and, more recently, their great uncle Daemon, in fear of the noise, Jacaerys felt exhilarated whenever they happened. This was no exception.

"Young Prince!," he heard from behind him. Turning, he saw the grizzled old captain of the ship, Lacaerys Rambton. With hair that was more gray than silver, Jacaerys estimated the man was about a decade older than his uncle Daemon. Lacaerys was the younger brother of Lord Rambton of Hull; a small keep on Driftmark sworn to House Velaryon; and had been a leading commander in Daemon's war against the Stepstones. The man was soaked to the bone, with a black leather cloak wrapped around his shoulders. It's hood was barely doing anything as water dripped down the fabric to land on the man's prominent nose.

"You should return to your cabin, my Prince," the veteran said "This storm is something fierce, might be you'd be safer inside. And a good deal warmer too I'd think,"

Jacaerys nodded in slight disappointment, but he could see what the man was saying. His clothes had been soaked through within minutes of the storm picking up and he was shivering a little. He had only just recovered from one illness. He wasn't excited at the idea of getting another so soon.

Jacaerys started towards the Captain, when another flash of lightning lit up the sky around them. Then the drums of thunder rolled again. It sounded less roar like this time, to Jacaerys disappointment. But then, a moment later, there was another earth shaking noise, much closer to the sound he had heard only a minute or two ago while at the prow. Intrigued, Jacaerys stopped and observed the sky around them. There had been no flash, which meant the noise was not thunder, as he had first assumed. No, that was the roar of a dragon. Jace knew that no sane dragon rider would take their mount into the sky in a storm like this unless absolutely necessary, regardless of whether the beast was big enough to withstand the gale. Which meant one of the wild dragons was about; the Sea Snake's crew would have to be very careful until they knew which one it was. The Grey Ghost was shy and avoided humans whenever possible. Sheepstealer; as the name implied; was more like to hunt sheep than humans and the Cannibal was also aptly named, as it only feasted on it's own kind. Any of the three would likely leave the ship alone, though the Cannibal was temperamental at best. If the Bronze Fury was about though, or Silverwing...

The boy looked at the Captain and saw the man had recognized the sound too. All the time around Caraxes he was bound to, even if he hadn't grown up next door to the most dragon inhabited island in the country. Rambton opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted, this time by one of his own crew.

"Milord!" the dread filled voice called out in warning, pointing behind the highborn pair. Jacaerys spun around but it was too late. The force of the massive wave; that had for a moment towered over the massive boat, threw the Prince across the deck. He barely managed to grab hold of one of the ropes to keep himself from being thrown overboard. A dozen, maybe two, of the crew members on the deck were not so lucky. The main mast had snapped in half and wooden spikes impaled several of the crew while the mast had crushed two more into a pulp right before the six year old's eyes. The boy wanted to be sick.

Growing up in a warrior based culture, Jacaerys understood the concept of death from an early age. But as a royal living in a time of peace it was always rather abstract. He heard about great battle's fought years or even centuries in the past. He had seen the trio of dragon skulls that decorated the Throne room in the Red Keep; Balerion, dead of old age not a few decades past, Meraxes, killed in Dorne more than a century ago and Quicksilver, torn apart by Balerion some ninety years previous. The little of death he had seen involved the burial of his father and aunt, the Velaryon siblings Laenor and Laena. He hadn't witnessed either. Seeing the gruesome deaths not ten feet from his face was horrifying to the child.

The waves had knocked the ship of course, the Sea Snake now veering far too much to the left of the designated course and leaning on a dangerous tilt. However the main sail was down and the second ripped and torn. Even had they not been, the constant hammering of the waves would have made correcting their path nearly impossible. As it was, the Sea Snake was being forced further and further to the left.

Jace could see Rambton shouting orders that the boy couldn't hear, and clutching at his left arm which had bent at a sickening angle. There were shouts from every direction, as well, some scared and some determined. They were mixed in with the screams of the injured and dying. Then, Jacaerys heard one cry go up that was louder than them all. He may not know all that much about sailing at such a young age; though certainly more than someone from the mainland; but he knew what that word meant. The combination of both the word and the panic that filled the voice meant that Jace didn't even have to look to confirm his thoughts.

"ROCKS!"

Unable to help himself, Jace did turn. The massive jagged rock jutted up from the sea by nearly a hundred feet, one or two more of a similar nature just barely visible beyond it. Jace knew that there would be many more too far away to be seen through the storm, just as he knew that there would be dozens of smaller rocks just beneath the surface of the water for each of the tall ones. He knew exactly where they had ended up. The Spears of the Merling King were well known to any sailor who frequented Blackwater Bay. Jacaerys had heard his grandfathers Lord Corlys and King Viserys complain about losing a ship captained by a novice being lost to the Spears often enough. They were treacherous waters, and Jace knew that the underwater rocks could shred even the strongest of ships undersides to pieces.

It happened exactly as he knew it would. No matter of work could turn the Sea Snake from it's course and the second they came within half a dozen feet of the spear, there was a mighty lurch as the bottom of the ship was ripped apart and water began to flood the vessel. Jace himself was thrown to the deck and his head cracked painfully against the wooden planks. His sight became unfocussed and his head felt inexplicably heavy. He pressed a hand to his hairline and when he pulled it away it was covered in a sticky, crimson red liquid that he knew was not a good sign.

"My Prince! Move!" he heard vaguely. Jace's mind was clouded, and instead of moving he sluggishly turned to see what the problem was. His eyes widened and at the last second his eyes widened and his head cleared. There was no time to do anything though, as he was sent flying over the side of the ship by a second colossal wave. He impacted painfully with the water, thankfully; somehow; missing the jagged rocks that were hidden beneath the tide. Jace panicked briefly underwater, trying to swim to the surface. Though a strong swimmer; having been taught by his father and great uncle; Jace's small body was powerless against the waves and even if he wasn't, he could barely tell which way was up. His lungs began to burn and his arms and legs were heavy and tired. He felt as though something had grabbed him around the chest and was pulling him away. He wondered if this was what death felt like; if this was what the sailors aboard the ship had felt as the mast crushed them, or the spikes impaled them or as the waves dragged them down as they were doing to him.

But then he wasn't in the water anymore. He was above it, rising higher and higher with every second. And the feeling around his chest hadn't gone away yet. He looked at his chest and he was shocked to see a dragon's claw, clutching him in it's grasp. Wildly, he glanced around and then finally looked up and confirmed what he thought he must be imagining. Shocked to his core, Jacaerys could do little more than gape at the rather large dragon that was flying him away from the soon to be wreckage of the Sea Snake that Jace could see far below him. The dragon, Jace estimated was probably about half the size of Caraxes and was as white as snow; though Jace had not experienced that particular weather before, he imagined the comparison was accurate enough. From his position, Jacaerys could just barely make out the outline of a small figure that was sitting on the dragons back.

It must have been close to an hour; or perhaps more, as Jacaerys wasn't sure if he had passed out from exhaustion at some point; that the dragon landed. They were on a small island, with a stone castle sitting atop the cliff they had landed at the base off. To the east, Jacaerys thought he might just be able to make out a long peninsular of land, that was probably Massey's Hook, unless the flight had been far longer than he had thought. Which would make the castle Sweetport Sound, seat of House Sunglass.

The dragon had unceremoniously dropped him on the beach; from a low height, thankfully; before collapsing into the sand itself. After pushing himself up onto his knees, Jace noticed that the dragon was injured, with several open wounds in it's flank. The figure on top of the dragon dropped to the beach himself and seemed rather distressed over the injuries. Rightfully so, Jace knew, as most dragonriders formed close bonds with their dragons and to lose a mount was not pleasant according to the stories he'd been told.

Jacaerys wasn't surprised at the care being shown for the dragon by it's rider. He was surprised, though, when the figure's hood fell down and revealed the rider to be a boy of an age with Jacaerys himself. The boy was taller than Jace, though less stocky, with brown eyes and short, messy dark hair. There was a faint trace of Valyrian ancestry to be found in the boys face, but nothing that stood out to much. Jacaerys only noticed it because he was looking for it, knowing it must be there else the boy couldn't have bonded with a dragon.

Hearing the sound of hooves behind him, Jace glanced around and saw a group of riders approaching, their banner bearing the colours of House Sunglass, proving Jacaerys assumption on their location correct. Jace quickly clambered to his feet and hastened over to where his savior's stood (the boy) or lay (the dragon). Seeing the tears in the boy's eyes as he looked at his companion, Jacaerys did the first thing he thought of.

In a gesture he'd seen Daemon make for grandfather when father died, he put his hand on the boy's shoulder "Help is coming. He'll be fine," he promised.

Sniffling, the boy turned a questioning gaze on him. "How do you know?" the boy asked. The accent was odd. It was some sort of odd mix of Northern and Essosi. Now that he looked a bit closer, Jace thought that his features did rather remind him of a northman.

Jacaerys found some of his usual confidence returning to him, though he knew his voice still shook slightly. "My family knows everything about dragons," he boasted "They'll help him. I'm Prince Jacaerys Velaryon. What's your name?"

The boy hesitated for a moment before replying "Lucos," he said "Lucos Ryder."