Elaena Targaryen is thirty-nine years old and she does not have the patience to suffer fools. Perhaps, if she was still young, she might be soft on a particularly handsome fool but now that she has gray in her golden streak, she does not feel the same need to be so polite or to attract a handsome knight. She has outlived her father by three years. She has outlived her mother, her father, her brothers, her sisters. All she has is her extended family and her seven children.
She has her mind and her wit which has been her two greatest assets. Her name and her House have helped, as well. She will always be a Targaryen and now she is their matriarch, even the Queen, Mariah kisses her cheek and calls her Aunt, looks to her for wisdom and advice. Mariah is only five years younger than she and a Princess, as well as a Queen.
Elaena wishes Daena was still alive. Though she and her eldest sister fought about everything, she misses her spirited nature and her willfulness. She misses having a good heated argument. No one will argue with her anymore. Either they are too polite, too dull, or like Brynden, too smart to argue with her. Daena would have argued with her. She did all the way up until she was coughing blood on her deathbed.
Elaena also wishes Naerys was alive. She would have wanted to see her daughter wed. Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding at Sunspear was a gaudy affair, full of overly extravagant and spicy food. The Prince of Dorne had elephants and paraded them through the streets. It was all excessive. When King Daeron and the Prince of Dorne clasped each other like long-lost brothers underneath the giant statue of her dull brother, Baelor, she groaned out loud. She actually felt a flush of shame at that. After all, peace in the Seven Kingdoms was a fine thing, a good thing. It was the performance that killed her.
In celebration of Daeron II’s peaceful and prosperous reign, as well of his love of Dorne, he had commanded a summer palace be built in the Dornish Marches. To further highlight that his realm was at peace, Daeron had very little defensives built, no walls, no parapets. There was a moat of sorts, but only in the front. It was more of a pool for beauty, for reflection. There were walls of windows and gardens and sculptures, Though Elaena thought it was lovely to look at, it was impractical and costly.
She had argued with Daeron about why he must build the thing. After all, she was Maester of the Coin in all but name. She prided herself on knowing where every copper coin went from the King’s coffers. Elaena was good at investing and cutting corners where she could. It had been wasteful. She had told him such a few moons ago at Summerhall.
Daeron had spoken in his quiet and commanding voice, reminding her of her cousin Aemon, “Aunt, I appreciate your concern but I am as frugal as I can be. Let me be frivolous while I am still young.”
She had wanted to tell him he was only three years younger than her and she would not use youth as an excuse. Instead, she said nothing but continued mumbling to herself as she gathered up scrolls and parchment when she heard a voice, “Surely someone as lovely as you, believe in beauty for beauty’s sake.”
It was the first time she noticed Lord Michael Manwoody. He was one of the many Dornishman at Daeron’s court. However, unlike most of the Dornishmen at Daeron’s court, he was dressed appropriately and did not try to seem exotic or shocking. In fact, Lord Manwoody seemed ordinary. He was not exceptionally good- looking. He was not scandalous or dangerous. He was not exceedingly wealthy or grandiose in anyway. He didn’t brag or gamble or drink to excess. He was not cruel. He was reasonably good with a sword but he did not play at tourneys.
So for all practical reasons, Elaena Targaryen would not have looked twice at him. He was not her type of man. Furthermore, she was in mourning, her husband of eleven years had died not three moons ago, However, she had started to talk to this mouse brown-haired man with golden brown eyes and found him intelligent, funny and kind. She had wanted to find out more about him out of curiosity than interest.
That night after dinner, Michael played the harp in the Queen’s Hall, a smaller room for the ever-growing Court of Daeron the Good to gather. When he played, the song was so sweet that Elaena felt tears creep from the corners of her eyes.
Elaena did not like silly things. When she was young, she had loved a man, a wild, wanton, dangerous man who wore his scars like they were his honor. She had loved him so much that she had thrown away all her good sense to be in his arms and would have married him but he was lost at sea and never returned to her, leaving her with a ruined reputation and twins. However, it had also left her with an aching broken heart that would never mend. The whole experience had taught her to not love men. She tolerated them, respected them, occasionally desired them, and sometimes she manipulated them, but never loved them, not rich, old Ossifer Plumm, not kind, handsome, dashing Ronnel Penrose, not anyone.
So, when she had approached plain, ordinary Michael Manwoody the next day in the gardens at Summerhall and made simple conversation about the Dornish Marches and her desire to see the Red Mountains of Dorne, she did not really understand what her motives were. When he had said, he would be happy to take her the next day to the Manwoody lands through the Red Mountains all the way to Kingsgrave, she could not really understand why she said yes.
So, as they rode into the Prince’s Pass with a few soldiers and two supply wagons, Elaena thought on her motives. She was twice widowed mother of seven. She did not need a husband and she was done with having children. Yet, here she was riding on horseback from Summerhall to Kingsgrave. She took her two youngest sons, Viserys, who was twelve and Robin, ten, and her second eldest daughter, Laena who was nine. Laena reminded her of her sister Daena and would not stay with the smaller children and their nurse, threatening to follow after them if they left her in the nursery. After a day of riding, she wondered if Laena might have rather stay at Summerhall. Michael had told her it was less than a days ride to a tower in the Prince’s Pass on the edge of Manwoody lands they could stay for the night. The next day they would be at Kingsgrave.
Elaena had wanted to let him know that she had crossed these mountains several times, but she did not. Lord Manwoody seemed so eager, so excited for her to see it. He loved his castle, his land, his people and he was proud of it. She appreciated that about him. He also was kind with her children, teaching them how to wear the turban-like head covering worn in the deserts of Dorne, even making one for Laena. He took time to explain things to the children with such excitement. Elaena wondered if he was a child.
As they rode through the Prince’s Pass, she was pleased at how her children’s faces lit up by the beautiful scenery in the mountains. Laena asked, “My Lord, why are the mountains in the Dornish Marches red? I have heard my nurse say it is from the blood that has been spilled here.”
Michael answered with a smile, “Your nurse is repeating a story that is often told but untrue. The mountains are red due to the color of clay that the mountains are made up of. It is really quite interesting. It is a certain type of clay found here in Westeros, though I believe it can be found in Essos as well.”
The sun was still over the mountains but had started to dip below the western ridge when they came upon a large squat tower. There was a half a wall, standing on one side, more ruin than defense with a pear tree growing from it. There were several houses around a small spring that flowed in a pretty river down the mountain. As they dismounted, Lord Michael spoke, “Originally, one of the Kings of the Stone and Sky, a Fowler King when the First Men still ruled the Seven Kingdoms had thought to make an outpost, a tower to watch the Carons and the other threats to the North. When House Manwoody slew a King of the Reach, the Kings of Stone and Sky gave us all the lands we now hold, including this tower.”
As they walk up the stone path, Elaena sees runes above the door, carved in the stone around the doorway. She notices how it has been oiled to keep it preserved. Lord Michael cares for his things, including ugly ancient towers.
Viserys asks the question Elaena thinks, “What do the runes mean, Lord Manwoody?”
“I do not know the language of the First Men. Much of their language was lost, but my Grandfather told me that it was a song they would sing when they were victorious in battle. It is a song of praise and thanksgiving.”
She smiles at him as they enter the tower. He looks at her, “As you can tell, it is small. It will be rough goings tonight. I apologize this is no Summerhall, no Red Keep.”
Elaena laughs, “We are durable, sturdy. Targaryens were sheepherders once. Do not worry. We are the poorer cousins. We will be fine in your tower. ”
Michael gives her a tour of the castle and shows her to her rooms. I gave you the balcony that faces to the North. They say you can hear the Singing Towers of Nightsong on some nights. I would not have you miss that.”
Elaena looks at the room. She sees the fine pillows, the silk curtains, the Myrish carpet. This is the Lord’s chambers and smiles, “I do not want to take the biggest rooms or push you from your rooms. Where will you sleep, my lord?”
Michael Manwoody does not take the bait. He smiles, “My lady, I usually sleep across the hall. The rooms are just as big but I have a better view of the stars.”
At dinner, they have roasted honey chicken and pepper sauce, iced pears with cheese, mushrooms, and potatoes roasted in butter and sour Dornish red wine. Across the small room that they eat, she listens to him tell stories to the children. “There is a story told that there was a great wizard or a seer of the First Men. He was as fast as a mountain lion, as strong as a bear, as fierce as a bull. He also held great knowledge and magic. It was said he came here and struck the ground with his staff and from the hole, the spring bubbled from the ground. It was said he issued a prophecy here. That a hero would be born here who would be a man of legends and great power and save his people.”
“This place?” Elaena asks, teasing him. She feels the color of the wine burn her cheeks. She likes him, more than she would like.
He smiles and it is as warm and sweet as butter on her bread. She wonders what he might look like in her bed. She doesn't think he will disappoint her. “I have been told that story a hundred times. Believe it or not, that is the legend.”
Elaena laughed, “Do not tell Aerys. He will learn the language of your ancestors just to make sure this man cannot be translated as dragons.”
Laena asks him to play a song for them. He takes his harp and plays Dornishman’s Wife and then he plays a Rhoynish song that Elaena has not heard before. She promises herself that one day he will play her that song and tell her what all the words mean.
Later, when the children are asleep and only the guards are awake, Elaena crosses the hallway in her slippered feet. She knocks twice before she opens the door.
Elaena finds him in just his sleeping shirt, outside on the balcony with a spyglass and charts on the table with quills and ink, absently looking at the paper. When he sees her, Michael stands, “My lady, is everything well?”
She smiled. Lord Michael puts the quill down and she noticed his hands were stained with ink. “All is well, Michael. I just keep thinking about that song you played for us tonight. I have never heard anything as lovely.”
“I am glad it pleased you.”
Elaena was only in her dressing gown and if he noticed, he made no move toward her. She was not used to a man who didn’t treat her like she was an object to be pawed and preened, to be seduced and taken, to be possessed. Suddenly, she felt awkward and underdressed. Elaena touched the papers on the table. “My lord, What are you doing?”
“I am charting stars.”
He looked back to the sky in the darkness. She came behind him and touched his hips. When he turned to look at her, his ordinary features looked less ordinary. He had a nice jaw and a strong nose. His hands were strong and his fingers long. She leaned against him, whispering in his ear, “I could help you chart your stars or we could go to bed and enjoy other natural wonders.”
He puts his hand on her hips, pulling her against him. In a rough fluid movement, he kissed her neck. Michael speaks against her neck “Are you certain, Elaena? I do not want to bed you for just this night, but for all the rest of the nights that I breathe.”
It was the first time he called her by her name with no title. He had a slight Dornish accent and when he said her name, it sounded as if she was a different person, a different woman who might want different things. When she looked in his golden brown eyes, she saw no danger, no excess, but she saw desire and intelligence.
She kissed him and spoke, “I am certain, Michael. More certain than I have been in years.”
That night was the first of many she would spend in his bed.
On the day of their wedding at Summerhall, Lord Michael Manwoody bequeathed the tower to the House Targaryen, in perpetuity, as a token of gratitude for what they had given to him, his wife and true love. Elena said he was foolish to give property away to the crown but she loved him for it anyway. Throughout the reign of Daeron II and Aerys I, it was known as Elaena's tower and many Targaryens stayed there, enjoying the rugged outdoors, the expansive night sky, and the peace and solitude away from Court.