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From Nothing Comes a King

Chapter Text

The Lone Wolf

The sound of music and the smell of foods surrounded the little boy. The servants and the maids of the great castle were running about the Great Hall, pitchers of wine and trays of foods in their hands. The little boy was seated in the raised table overlooking the Hall of Gods, the Great Hall of the great castle Starfall located in the Red mountains of Dorne beside the river Torentine. He could see everything from his high place where he was seated. The men for whom the feast was thrown were absolutely enjoying it, while the household of Starfall seemed to put all their efforts in pleasing them, because it wasn't a feast thrown for some noble guest, the feast was set up for the King of the Seven Kingdoms, Rhaegar Targaryen the first of his name himself. The boy looked over to the King to whom the feast was put up for. Rhaegar Targaryen was every bit of the king he was. From his long silver-gold hair and his purple eyes to the way he was clad in the clothes of red and black, the colors of his house everything about him screamed of the Valyrian Dragonlords of the old. They even said that his crown was the same one that Aegon the Conqueror had worn. Beside him was a rather pretty woman dressed in clothes of the same red and black of the King. She wasn't a woman of a great beauty but had a plain face and common type of beauty. Though she possessed a certain aura about the way she held herself which seemed to attract almost everyone. Lyanna Targaryen formerly Stark seemed no more than a common maid in Starfall near her husband but she never let that get to her. Her crown which looked a twin to the one her husband was wearing seemed to increase her grace and the way she worn it proudly only added to the fact. 

The little boy turned his head to look at his father to see how happy he was to see his sister again. Unfortunately his father was not happy about it, no more than he did with the feast. His face was grim and stern as ever and he ignored his sister at every turn. At the age of eight he never knew why his father hated his sister and her family so much. But he'd heard everyone in Winterfell talking about the hatred Lord Eddard Stark had for the Targaryens. They always said that 'Though Lord Eddard never shows it openly, he never forgot his father and brother's murders at the hands of the Mad King with his brother's wife.' 'The North Remembers' his father always told him but he never knew what he meant by that. 

The little boy was looking at a knight from the crownlands who was tussling with a servant girl pulling her onto his lap, when a hand brought a sugar crusted cake with almond crumbs sprinkled over it to his mouth. He remembered that he was late and took a big bite to even it up, never mind that almond cakes were his favourite. He turned back to look at his mother smiling and tried to return the smile while chewing the cake. Bits of the cake appeared at the corner of his mouth and his mother brushed them off clean with her thumb.

"Do you like it?" his mother asked while holding the cake towards him for another bite. The little boy nestled further in her lap and took another bite nodding. His mother smiled at him and held him close to her while feeding him from her hands. That is not a proper way given his status as a lord but what is status compared to mother's love and it was his routine to sit in her lap and eating from her hands. With another bite the cake was done and the little boy looked up at his mother with puppy eyes and pouty lips. His mother looked down at him with her laughing purple eyes and a sweet smile which seemed to lit up the hall despite the brightness of the candles. 

"Last one," said Ashara Dayne Stark as she took another cake from the high table. The little boy immediately took a bite as soon as his mother brought the cake near his mouth. His mother chuckled at his hurriedness. "Too much of sweet can rot your teeth Andrew," his mother said to him. That is what his father tells him all the time and he'd tell him to stop at two. But Andrew using his mother would manage to get at least five. And because of the feast his father seemed to let him to his ways.

Andrew cannot ask for more loving parents. Their love was so strong and indestructible. Most days he'd sleep in their bed, hearing to their stories, playing with his father and listening to his mother's songs. Though he had a good strong relationship with his father, his bond with his mother was unwavering and as close as it could be. Ashara Dayne, the most beautiful woman in the world was his mother and even that fact of Ashara Dayne's son made him popular in the Seven Kingdoms as well. To the world Ashara Dayne was the most beautiful woman but to him Ashara Dayne was a sweet and kind mother who always sides with him even if he causes some mischief that would earn father's shouts. 

"So I see little Andrew is enjoying his sweets," a familiar voice said from the side and Andrew turned his head to see his uncle Arthur, tall and regal in his white plate armor and white cloak smiling at him.

"I do," Andrew replied moving from his mother's hands to his uncle. His uncle took him in his hands effortlessly and tossed him in the air before catching him again. Andrew bursted into laughter at that as he loves it when his uncle does that all the time. 

"I could see that," his uncle told him as he carried him to his mother. 

His mother stood up from her seat and greeted her older brother. Uncle Arthur held him firmly in his arms as he bowed to kiss his mother on the cheeks.

"Ash," uncle Arthur called his mother, the same way his father used to call her. "How long has it been?" 

"Almost two years," his mother looked up at uncle Arthur with a smile and then turned to him in his hands "And you shouldn't throw him up anymore you know he is not so small."

"I am not too old to catch a eight year old little sister and there is no way I'm dropping my nephew," uncle Arthur made a face at him making him smile. He returned him to his mother and took a seat near mother after she sat down. 

"I could see that Ned is not enjoying the feast," his uncle told his mother and Andrew turned to look his father. His father looked the way he was right from the start but when he saw Andrew he gave a smile.

"He hates feasts," his mother told looking at father. Uncle Arthur looked at father and then gave a nod which was then returned by father. They both were not the best of friends like father and Lord Robert, but they certainly respected each other and because of the love they both held for mother they managed to talk to each other. 

Then their talk turned boring to Andrew as they talked about the Seven Kingdoms and other things which never interested him.

Andrew was playing with his mother's gown when the music stopped suddenly. King Rhaegar stood up from his high seat of the carved white marble throne and the hall grew silent. "I thank Lord Dayne for receiving us into his castle and hosting us grandly." He Iooked to his uncle Aaron and uncle Aaron bowed his head in acceptance. "I thank King Stark and his family for joining with us in this wonderful feast." The king looked to where they were seated and gave out a smile. His mother tightened her grip on him while his father ignored the king. "So now that these two families have been so kind and good to us I suppose it is right for me to kindly return the courtesy to them." 

As he finished that the great oaken doors of the Hall of Gods opened and armed men dressed in the Targaryen livery made their way inside in two long rows. They were armed with spears and swords. Andrew looked up at his mother's face as he couldn't understand what was going on. His mother's face had grown taut and the sweet smile which adorned her face always had vanished. Only she held him closer to her. 

"Ash, take Andrew and leave," uncle Arthur said to mother. "You remember the way right?" 

Andrew looked to his uncle Arthur. But he never took his eyes off his sister. Andrew turned back to his mother, fear clutching hard to his heart. His mother turned to see father. Father gave a silent nod at her with a sad smile. Andrew didn't know what was happening. He was afraid and found himself clutching tighter to his mother. 

Without a second to spare the madness sprung up. He could hear the thrums of arrows. Uncle Arthur turned the table to provide a cover and father pulled mother down to cover. Andrew could hear the clashes of steel now and the screams of men and the wails of women. His mother held him to her chest that he could see nothing. 

"Ashara, go," he heard his uncle shout at mother.

"You should leave Ash," his father told his mother. "I love you." Andrew could hear the soft sound of their kiss. He could feel his father's hand on his head but he couldn't bear to look away from his mother now. 

His mother stood up clutching him tightly to her body, her arms cradling him with a certain strength in them. She moved to the adjacent door in Starfall's great hall. Andrew turned his head to see what was happening. A Targaryen soldier rushed towards his mother shouting and raising his sword but only to be stopped by uncle Arthur's sword. Uncle Arthur's white sword was red covered in the man's blood so did his white cloak and armor. He took the dead man's sword and tossed it to father. Father caught the sword and both of them gave one last look at him and his mother before moving to fight the other men. Andrew looked to the King whose words started the whole fight. The King was seated in the high marble throne of Starfall with a wine cup in his hands, enjoying the deaths and screams of men as much as his wife, Andrew's aunt did. 

His mother moved fast, faster than he'd ever seen her, clutching him tighter, harder that they were one. Andrew could feel tears clouding his eyes after looking at all those mess and gore. He buried his face in his mother's shoulder and held onto her tightly. 

He could see nothing but dark and the smell of lavender which his mother loved invaded his nose strongly. He looked up from her but again he could only see the darkness and was afraid even more. He tightened his grip on his mother to make sure she was with him, that he was not alone.

"It's alright baby. Mama's here," his mother hugged him closer. 

Andrew was glad that his mother was still with him. The darkness around him frightened him no more because he was with his mother and his mother would never let anyone hurt him. He looked around but could see nothing but the dark. The hands around his body and the pleasant smell of lavender gave him a certain type of courage, a courage that all boys feel when they're with their mothers. He never knew these ways because Starfall was not his home. But it was his mother's home and she has told many wonderful stories of her childhood in Starfall. Andrew always loved those stories no matter how many times he'd heard them before.

Soon enough his mother brought him to the light. Moonlight shone on them in a silver sheen. The night was brighter than any other night. Andrew looked up to the stars. On pleasant nights he used to sit with his mother looking at the stars, his mother would tell him all about the constellations and the important stars in them. Tonight was not a night for that, Andrew knew that for sure though he was only eight, a little boy who couldn't understand why all of this was happening.

Nearby he could hear the flow of the river. Torentine, he knew the name. His mother took him towards the river. And shortly he could see the river flowing steadily. The moonlight reflected on the water and it was so beautiful to look at it. There was a small boat rocking in the smooth flow of the river. His mother placed him onto the boat and began to untie it while looking back to see if anyone had followed them. 

Andrew could see torches far out in the dark and he knew that is what his mother was checking for. He turned to his mother and her calm beautiful face was nervous. She unwinded the ties of the boat hastily. When the ties of the boat were freed the Torentine pulled the small boat through its current. Andrew knew what his mother was doing and he didn't wanted to leave his mother. He made to climb out of the boat but his mother rushed towards him. 

His mother hugged him tightly and pressed kisses to the top of his head while smoothing his hair fondly like the same way she used to do when he would wake up in the nights from nightterrors. "Shhh... It's okay sweetling. Mama loves you. Papa loves you." She brushed his tears off his face with her thumb and pressed kisses all over his face. His mother pressed her forehead to his. "I love you. No matter what I'll always love you."

Andrew could hear the distant hooves of the horses now. His mother looked straight into his eyes. Violet eyes piercing into his dark grey ones. "Remember who you're Andrew. You're Andrew Stark, hailed from the line of Gods and Kings. Whatever you do remember that," his mother told him. Her laughing violet eyes were filled with tears. He could hear the hooves of the horses and the chatters of the men now. 

Ashara Dayne pressed one last kiss on her son's forehead. "I love you," she said it again like if that would let her shower all her love upon him. Tears streamed from her haunting violet eyes but Andrew could see the joy in them. There was no fear or nervousness in there now, only happiness and satisfaction of doing something great. 

The current of the Torentine pulled Andrew away from his mother. He never took his eyes off her. She was standing right there where he left her. Her lavender gown was drenched to her knees and her beautiful dark hair was wild in the night air. She was crying but there was happiness in her face not sorrow. She seemed to glow in the starlight like uncle Arthur's sword does. And she was looking at him. 

Suddenly the shouts of men and the hooves of horses were very near that Andrew could hear some words. His mother gave one last look at him and the sweet smile of hers before cloaking herself in a rag she took from the boat and heading in the opposite side of him, towards the dense forests surrounding Starfall.

Andrew looked at his mother and then turned towards the men who were shouting and chasing. He couldn't see their faces but could hear their voices and shouts barely as he was moving away from them. 

"There is she, in the woods," the man who was leading them said. "The first one to catch her will get a chance to taste her. Not even the noblest of the men in Westeros would get a chance to fuck the most beautiful woman in the world," he turned his head to look at his men and also that Andrew could see his face. Silver hair glowed in the moonlight and the red three headed dragon in his armor seemed alive in the moonlight. He was in resemblance to Rhaegar Targaryen but his hair was not so long and his voice was gruff rather than the melancholic one of the king's.  

As Viserys Targaryen said that, the men chased after his mother at once as if a hungry beast was chasing them. And Viserys Targaryen followed them with a mad laugh. 

 

Dark grey eyes opened as suddenly as the horses chased after the woman, staring into the wooden ceiling. He was sweating heavily despite the cold temperature of Braavos because of the dream which has troubled him for the last eight years. He got up from his bed and moved to the basin of water kept beside the window of his little room on top of the inn. He opened the window and the morning light rushed through it blinding him instantly. When his eyes adjusted to the light he took water in his cupped hands and sprayed it on his face. The water was cool and so was Braavos, but he had experienced colder climates than this. He bend over the basin to clean his face further. His reflection was perfect in the clear water in the basin. 

He looked nothing like the eight year old boy he saw in the dream. Andrew Stark, firstborn son of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Ashara Dayne was just like the little boy in the dreams, vanished from this world. Here he was Andrew Snow, the bastard born of some unknown northern westerosi lord and a maid in his household. But he knew that soon enough Andrew Stark would return. And then Rhaegar, Lyanna and the entire dragons would pay for the folly they made. After all 'The North Remembers'. Andrew never knew what it meant when his father would say it. But now he knew what it meant and he never forgot the death of his mother, father, uncles and his entire family. The Strength of the wolf may be the pack, but the lone wolf is certainly the baddest one and the Dragons who made him one will feel the wrath of the Lone Wolf.

Andrew took a piece of nice cloth and drenched it in the water and dabbed it on his body. That is the type of bath here in Braavos and the hot ones he used to have in Winterfell were not an option for the bastard he was here. At least he was lucky enough to get water of this amount, most poor people here won't even have enough clean water to drink let alone for a bath. The innkeeper was a kind lady who provided place for him to stay and even water for his bath. But truly it was because of his mentor and old friend, Syrio Forel. 

Syrio was the one who took him when he reached abandoned in the Port of Starfall. He took him and raised him, taught him to fight with swords and daggers, taught him to use his senses, taught him to be quick, agile and precise in his moves and every other things he knew. He had been the First sword of the Sea Lord of Braavos and he knew many things including the fighting style of Westeros as well. Andrew managed to learn everything from him but he only excelled in combat to best even Syrio's extent. 

Everything he is now was because of Syrio. From his clothes to his shelter all came from Syrio's help. The innkeeper had been Syrio's friend and then became a friend to Andrew through Syrio. Even the pretty sword he has was a gift from Syrio. A unique Valyrian steel longsword that Syrio got from his master years before. Though the sword had blue ripples on the blade rather than the dark of Valyrian steel. Andrew had seen and held his father's sword Ice when he was little(only with his father's help) and the blade of Ice was smoky grey. But this sword had a frozen blue blade and it was colder than other swords as well and so Andrew named it Frost.

But life turned upside down when Syrio died two years before. After that Andrew had to look after his own life with everything he'd learnt from Syrio. Assassin was the best form to earn hefty amount of money since everyone here had someone that wanted to die. And the skills he'd learnt from Syrio made him an elite assasin. He killed for his living. But only on one certain condition. He would kill a man only if he deserves to die. His parents had raised him better than to become a murderer. He only took a mission if the justice was in the side of the petitioner. Other times he used to work alongside Illola, the innkeeper who was his only friend now. Taking care of the business, getting back the owed money, taking care of the brutes and bandits etc... 

Once he finished his bath Andrew removed his cotton pants and donned his fresh new clothes. A white cotton tunic shirt tucked into light brown cotton pants and a cream jacket with smooth encircled collar worn over the shirt and a pair of brown colored long boots completed his attire. The jacket was a product of featherlight wool blend and the inner area of the jacket was prudently touched in with a viscose lining so that it provided a skin-friendly soothing appeal. It also had a frontage clasp-up fastening but Andrew decided to leave it open since he'd worn a cotton tunic inside. 

Andrew took Frost and slung it along his back and made his way back down to the inn. Illola and her daughters were busy looking after the customers. Illola was looking after the notes while her daughters Ilaena and Sarrera were running around with tankards of black beer and strong ale but the second youngest Ivanna was not there. When Illola saw Andrew she closed up her notes and looked at him with her sharp look. Illola was a middle-aged woman past forty with a strong set of eyes and a pug nose. She had three daughters Ilaena, Ivanna and Sarrera. Illola had been running this inn after her husband died and her daughters helped her. They shared no blood with Andrew but he considered them family and so did they. 

Andrew gave a small smile at her and greeted her. "Good morning, Illola," he said walking over to his usual table by the windows. 

"Morning, Snow. The usual?" asked Illola.

"Yeah," Andrew said seating himself in the chair. The inn was rather crowded in the morning. And Ilaena and Sarrera needed their mother's help to look after the customers. A new ship must have docked in the harbor thought Andrew. 

Illola brought him his breakfast. A big chunk of fresh baked bread, few thin sardines, crisp fried in pepper oil and a tankard of strong beer to wash them down. Andrew knew that something was wrong when Illola took the seat opposite to him despite the fact that she needed to help her daughters.

"Is everything okay?" Andrew asked taking a bite from the fresh baked bread.

Illola leaned forward. "Horano came back," she whispered. "The one who owe us money." 

Andrew knew the man. A tall, bald sailor who come here whenever he returns from the sea, only to cause damage to both people and the things. Andrew put a fried sardine into his mouth and washed it down with a drink of the strong ale. "Where is Ivanna?" Andrew asked her. Illola's girls were like a sister to him and Ivanna was the closest to him.

"She..." Illola started when the doors opened and Horano stepped into the inn. From the way he swayed while he was walking said that he was drunk. Two large men followed him with thick arms and strong shoulders. 

"Where is the girl?" Horano shouted. "I never got a good fuck and I came back to have one."

Illola stood up from her seat to face Horano. "She is unwell." 

"She was nice and well when I beat her early in the morning," Horano said and the men who came with him bursted into laughter. 

Andrew finished his beer and looked at Illola pleading Horano to leave. But the man just made his way further into the inn. 

"Let it be," Horano announced. "You have two other daughters and that one would do," Horano pointed to Ilaena, the eldest of Illola's daughters and moved towards her. 

Andrew stood up and caught his arm stopping him. "Don't," he said. The two men who came with Horano stepped forward.

"Get your hands off me boy. Or else..." Horano never finished as Andrew took the empty tankard and slammed it right in his ear. The two men reached for him. Andrew kicked the shin of one and punched at the nose of the other. Without wasting any time he delivered a hard punch to the temple of the kneeling man and another punch with his left hand to the already broken nose of the second one. Both men dropped to the ground alongside Horano.

The inn had grown silent as the quick fight took place. Andrew looked around and then to Illola.  "Get the money he owes and then send him," he swung Frost to his back and made his way out of the inn. The men in the inn were looking at him without even taking their eyes off of him.

Andrew left them gazing and stepped out of the inn. Mornings in Braavos were different from the other Free Cities. Unlike the sunny days of the other Free Cities, the mornings in Braavos were misty and covered with fogs. And through the fogs Andrew Stark made his way to see what the day had for him. 

Chapter Text


Rhaegar Targaryen

The sun was high up in the sky and the King of the Seven Kingdoms was unaffected to it. Normal men would have drenched with sweat by now with the layers of clothes the King was wearing. But he was a dragon and dragons were immune to fire and heat. He'd chose to look his best since he was receiving an envoy from the Iron Bank of Braavos to make a new friendship with them in form of business. With the black jerkin sewn from the most delicate of silks and the red threads intertwining, the jerkin could shame even the wealthiest merchants of Essos. The red three headed dragon sewn into the chest seemed very alive, as much as the real dragons his sister had brought alive years before with a help of a strange priestess. 

In the last eight years the King had been meeting with the important members of the Free Cities and the Great Masters to strengthen the ties of Westeros with them. Ocassionaly the relationship between Westeros and the Free Cities had grown to a certain extent that they could expect each others help in a battle. Rhaegar Targaryen was the first King of Westeros to become such an important ally to the Free Cities and he took such pride in it. Truly the plan had been Lord Tywin's. The old lion had hatched the plan when he was his father's hand. He even took some steps to workout the plan but his father destroyed it. And when Rhaegar took the Iron Throne he immediately brought the buried plans alive and now his Kingdom had stronger ties with almost all of the Free Cities. Even the Iron Bank of Braavos were ready to lend a fortune to him and the meeting today was only because of that. 

But still the plan was not only for foreign friendships. It provided him with a strange kind of protection and provided him an army if the need arises which he thought it would. He was not a fool. Ever since he ran off with Lyanna, the Seven Kingdoms was unrest. The people who used to love him hated him for such a disgusting act and accused him of Elia and her children's murders, though it was fully father work. Some even said that he was the one who killed Elia and their children so that he could marry his wolf bitch, as they liked to call Lyanna. But the truth was far away from that fact and he had no part in the murders of Elia and his children. But no one knew the real reason for why he'd done all that. The Dragon needs three heads and he had his three heads now, with living dragons. 

He knew that most of his own lords were against him like his own cousin Lord Robert Baratheon, Robert's foster father Jon Arryn and Lord Hoster Tully. Both Robert and Jon were against him in the thing with Lords Rickard and Brandon's murders even when it was too the deed of his father. But the massacre of the Starks was the one which truly turned them against him. And Hoster Tully had hated the Targaryens ever since his daughter Catelyn was killed with her husband Brandon by his father. Even the Westerlands were with Robert as well for the sake of his wife Cersei Lannister. Dorne was about to turn against him after the deaths of Elia and their children but Rhaegar wisely calmed them by betrothing his son and heir Aegon to Prince Doran's daughter Arianne Martell, binding the Martells again to him by blood. He'd also promised his sister to Willas Tyrell, Lord Mace's firstborn son as a token of his gratitude for their help in dethroning his father. But that too bound the Tyrells to him. The North were his as the current Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North was his second son, Jaeherys Targaryen. That was why he had destroyed House Stark, to give Winterfell to his son as he had a claim for he was the son of Lyanna and there were no other Starks left with Benjen in the Night's Watch. That and also because without House Stark there wouldn't be a rebellion anytime soon. Now the North answered his son even if they didn't liked it. But he knew that soon enough most of his lords would rise up against him with Houses Baratheon, Arryn, Lannister and Tully and so Rhaegar made these strong ties to protect his reign. 

Moreover he had the upperhand against them with the help of the Free Cities and the dragons made them invincible. And with the Starks done and buried they would lose a valuable ally. That's why Rhaegar himself orchestrated the plan after plotting it for months with Lyanna. They both knew of Eddard's constant visits with Jon Arryn and Robert which made sure that they were planning to rid them for good. Rhaegar and Lyanna were the ones who made the plan darkly and in complete secrecy and the Starks fell in the trap with the Daynes. They only attended the feast because Lord Aaron was the one who held the feast at Starfall without knowing their true intentions. And Rhaegar personally saw to the deaths of the rebel Eddard Stark and his friend Arthur Dayne after the Sword of the Morning chose to fight for his good-brother over his king. He stabbed Arthur through the back and cut down Eddard when he was brought to him bounded. His beautiful wife managed to get away with their only son. But Viserys had caught her in the woods but her son was not with her. And the Lady Ashara Dayne took the location of her son to her grave. Rhaegar had known that boy, a little boy who used to cling to his mother always. Andrew was his name, Andrew Stark. Thinking about the boy was of no use since there is no way a eight year old could manage all by himself and no matter what his mother did, the boy would've ended up dead within days.

Rhaegar donned his Conqueror crown and made his way out. Ser Gerold Hightower and Ser Barristan Selmy had taken the place for his guards.

Rhaegar walked forward and the Kingsguard fell in beside him. The walk to the Small Council chambers was rather short and quiet. At times like this Rhaegar used to miss his old friend. Arthur Dayne had been his good friend before he took Lyanna. And the fact that Ashara Dayne married Eddard Stark was the certain thing which caused a crack in their friendship. After that the closeness between them gradually broke apart and went to a certain extent that he himself had to kill his Kingsguard. And Rhaegar was not guilty about it because Arthur Dayne caused treason with the Starks and deserved the death. He chose his sister and her family over his King. 

That was the reason these Kingsguard were silent as well. They never like the fact that he killed their sworn brother. But their concern was not a problem for Rhaegar Targaryen. He was the King and a dragon as well. And a dragon takes what he wants and does what he thinks. 

They reached the council chambers and he found that his small council members along with Lyanna and the envoy of the Iron Bank waiting for him.

Everyone arose at once when Rhaegar entered the chambers. 

"Your Grace," everyone on the council chambers said at once. 

Rhaegar looked at them. He'd made some changes from his father's council members. 

Lord Jon Conington was his Hand of the King after the pyromancer his father had was killed. Jon was a good friend to Rhaegar and a loyal one at that unlike Arthur Dayne. 

Ser Gerold Hightower took his place as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. 

Lord Petyr Baelish sat with his fingers smoothing his pointed beard and that certain smirk of his. Rhaegar never truly trusted the man but he had skills in governing and maintaining the Crown's finances.

Lord Mace Tyrell was given the position as the Master of Laws mostly because of his help and maintaining the relationship. 

His brother Viserys was given the post of the Master of Ships to oversee the Royal Navy. And Viserys did a good one at that, strengthening their navy to double the time of their father's including the three massive war galley's Balerion, Vhagar and Meraxes with 400 oars each.

Grand Maester Pylos was sent from the Citadel after Rhaegar found out that Pycelle was too loyal to Lord Tywin for his like and sent Pycelle to serve the Old Lion as he likes.

The only one to stay from his father's council was the Spider Varys for his help in setting aside his father and in knowing the plots of the Starks and the other treasonous lords.

Rhaegar took his seat at the head of the table. Lyanna sat in the chair beside him while his left was occupied by Jon. 

The envoy of the Iron Bank was standing to his opposite and Rhaegar knew that the man demanded respect by the way he held himself. He knew that it was necessary because the Braavosi were a certain type of people and the Iron Bank of Braavos was the largest bank in the known world and they were proud of it. 

Rhaegar stood up from his chair and his council members and Lyanna did as well. "Welcome Lord Tycho."

Tycho Nestoris was the man's name. He was a tall, stick of a man with long legs. He had a gaunt face with a thin rope of a beard growing from his chin which hangs down to his waist. He had worn expensive robes of a sober dark purple color, trimmed with ermine fur.

"Thank you, King Rhaegar," the man said and took the seat.

Rhaegar gestured and his council took their seats as well. Tycho took out some papers and moved straight away to the matter. 

"So King Rhaegar these are the terms we've agreed for," Tycho said and looked to the papers. "The Iron Bank of Braavos wish to begin a new contract with the Seven Kingdoms. As per the contract we would lend you money at any costs or time. There will be no intrest for a period of five years if you failed to repay the money before the time but after the five years the intrest will double with each passing month." Tycho Nestoris gave the papers to him and looked at him smugly.

Rhaegar took the papers and read the terms carefully. The terms of the Iron Bank felt good enough for him. They even gave a period of five years of free intrest but the fact that the money would double with the each passing month troubled. He knew there was no more negotiations, take the offer or leave it were the choices made by the Braavosi. But Rhaegar never wanted to fall in a debt that he couldn't rise from and yet he knew it is essential. The support of the Iron Bank would provide him with all the amount he needed for a sellsword army if the need arises, and to manage the realm without the help of the Lannisters. 

The king knew that the full coffers his father left had been emptied by half and he'd raised the taxes twice to fill it but only failed in the process. Another attempt to raise the tax would anger the Kingdom and asking the help of the Proud Lion is never an option. 

So the king dipped his writing feather in the black ink and signed his name neatly in the respective place. 

Rhaegar moved the signed papers towards the representative of the Iron Bank. 

Tycho Nestoris took the papers and checked them once again. Once he finished the Braavosi kept the papers safe and neat.

"It is our honor and pleasure to work with you, Your Grace," the Braavosi said and stood up. 

"So am I," Rhaegar said. "And as a token of our good friendship my brother Viserys will escorts you on your way back to Braavos and will act in my stead there." 

He looked to Viserys. His brother gave that sick smirk of his father and nodded. 

Rhaegar turned back to the representative of the Iron Bank. "Until then the hospitality of Westeros and King's Landing is yours Lord Tycho."

Tycho Nestoris bowed his head and made his way out of the council chambers. 

When the representative of the Iron Bank was left Rhaegar looked to his council members. "If that is all my lords then we can carry on our duties." 

No one said a word and everyone made their way out of the chambers except for Lyanna. 

When they were alone Lyanna moved towards him. Rhaegar took a sip of water from his cup and kept it down.

"So will it work?" She asked him.

"It will," said Rhaegar. "And it should. If things went wrong we'd have the Iron Bank to back us up. And we may not depend upon the help of the Lannisters. We've good friendships with all of the Free Cities and Essos and now with the Iron Bank we could personally raise our own army." 

Lyanna looked at him pointedly. "Yes it is necessary. Varys brought some whispers of the talk of war even now in the Stormlands and the Vale."

Rhaegar thought about that. He had known about it and he knew that soon enough they might face another Rebellion. But that's why he'd done all these things. And that's why he'd asked Viserys to escort Tycho Nestoris. So that they might become one of the powerful friends of the Iron Bank. 

"What of the north?" asked Rhaegar. "Has Jae had any troubles with them?" 

"No," Lyanna shook her head. "I know the north. They might hate us but they will answer only to a Stark. And Jae is half Stark. Whether they like it or not they are stuck with Jaeherys as their lord."

Rhaegar nodded believing that is the truth.

Chapter Text

Robert Baratheon

The sound of waves crashing were well audible to Lord Robert Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End and the former Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. Robert took to spend his evenings in the Drum Tower on the top of Storm's End. The Drum Tower was the tallest tower in Storm's End and Robert could see to the vast portion of the raging Shipbreaker Bay. Even now Robert could remember the day he saw his parents' ship getting wrecked in a storm as he stood here in the same place with his brother Stannis watching them die and he'd never forgot nor forgave Aerys Targaryen for that. He'd thought to kill the bastard himself but his own dragonspawn Rhaegar stole him of that just like he'd stolen his Lyanna. 

The dragons only managed to take everything from him. First the Mad King Aerys took his parents from him in a young age, then his son Rhaegar took Lyanna from him. He couldn't even believe the fact that Lyanna could do that no more than Ned did but still she did it and there was no more to say about it. They even took his title as the Lord Paramounts of the Stormlands and gave it to House Connington. And lastly both Rhaegar and Lyanna took his friend who was like a brother, away from him. 

Robert could see his grim, stern face and the tight smile even now. Gods knew he missed Ned. He missed their wonderful life and adventures in the Eyrie with Jon. In another life they could've been brothers bound by blood but Rhaegar and Lyanna completely destroyed it and he never forgave them for it. He wanted nothing more than to take his warhammer and cave their chests in when he heard about Ned's family but Jon tied up his hands from doing so. 'This is not the time,' he'd said and when will the time come, Robert hadn't knew that.

Robert wanted to get rid of the dragons from Westeros and sent them back to the ruin from where they'd come ever since he heard of what the Mad King did to Rickard, Brandon and Catelyn Stark. They said that when Lord Rickard demanded a trial by combat, the Mad King chose fire as his champion. And his son Brandon's neck was connected to a myrish strangling device and a longsword was kept just out of his reach. The myrish strangler device connected in Brandon's neck was tied to a rope and the rope was put through a pulley and at the end of the rope was a noose tightened around the neck of his wife, Lady Catelyn Tully. Aerys gave Brandon a choice to either save his father or his wife. When Lord Rickard was set ablaze by the pyromancer, Brandon had tried to reach for the sword to save both his father and wife alike. The harder he tried the harder the rope attached to the device around his neck and the noose around the neck of his wife strangled his wife and her weight in turn strangled him. But it was said that Brandon had tried to reach the sword so bad and with a huge force, which had had Lady Catelyn suspended in the air for about two feet. By the time the fires were done, the melted armor and the ashes and charred bones were the only remains of Lord Rickard. And Brandon had died trying to save his father and wife by ending up strangling himself and his wife to death. 

That was when Robert knew what the dragons were made of and what they were capable of doing. He was done with them and wanted Westeros to get rid off them. Rhaegar and Lyanna came soon enough but only after Aerys killed the dragonspawn's wife and children. They came and acted as though nothing were their wrong while their actions alone caused all those deaths.

Robert had wanted to kill both of them then and there and end up the Targaryen line for good. But both Ned and Jon advised him to remain calm. But Robert knew that was for good because they were vulnerable at that time. He had his brothers to continue his line but both Jon and Ned were the last ones of their line with Jon having only Elbert as his heir while Ned had none with Benjen joining the Night's Watch for no reason. 

So they had decided to wait for the right time to bring justice for all the troubles the dragons have caused. Jon advised him to marry Cersei while he married Lysa Tully and brought both the Westerlands and the Riverlands to their cause and strengthened their ties. They had agreed to betroth their children and bound their houses together once and for all to take down the dragons. 

And soon enough their family grew big with the births of his son Gendry and then Ned's son Andrew months after and Jon's son Robert after him. With male heirs to stabilise their legacy their positions became safe. And when his daughter Argella born the next year it was decided that Argella would marry Ned's son bounding both their houses by blood and when Jon's daughter Alyssa born it was decided that she would become Gendry's wife, again tying all their houses together for one more generation. 

That seemed a perfect plan with a strong alliance and they were stronger than they ever were. Until the Dragonspawn was clever enough to find it and murdered Ned's family. Their plan crumbled at once with the deaths of Ned, Ashara and Andrew and once again the dragon managed to outsmart them. Cersei tried for her part asking her father to stop their support to the Crown but Rhaegar was not as stupid as they'd thought him to be.

In time he himself formed his alliance with the other kingdoms and managed to earn the favors of the free cities as well. And moreover his slut of a sister managed to bring back the dragons alive. And they had lost the help of the North as well with the deaths of Ned and his son which resulted in Rhaegar and Lyanna's son becoming the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. 

But Robert was not ready to give up. One way or another he would get the justice for Ned and his family's murders. Even if it meant his life he would take Rhaegar's life along with him. 

A rumble of a thunder brought him back from his thoughts. The rain started to pour accompanied with raging thunderstorms. The conditions were a common one here in Storm's End where rainstorms and thunderstorms were frequent. But no matter how strong the storms are and how raging the waves are they always scatter against the huge curtain wall of Storm's End. And like the storms and the waves the Targaryens would scatter against them as well. 

Robert was looking at the raging sea through the slit when he heard the door creaking open behind him. He turned to see his brothers Stannis and Renly entering through the door. He remembered that he'd called them for the meeting and asked them to take their seats in the table. 

After Rhaegar made the Conningtons as the Lords Paramount, Robert couldn't give Stannis and Renly their own castles so they just stayed with him in Storm's End. Which is for good in fact. Stannis made a great knight master and became his right hand in governing the castle and Renly made a good knight with skills in jousting and sword fighting. And they both had been a constant presence in all of the decisions he make. 

Master Cressen entered next and the maester had been a constant presence in their life after the deaths of their parents. After the deaths of their parents maester Cressen had raised him and his brothers all by himself. When Robert left for the Eyrie, Maester Cressen put it upon his shoulders to raise both Stannis and Renly. And so Maester Cressen became like a family to them and was one of his most trusted and loyal advisors. 

Cersei came at last, dressed all in the fine grandeur clothes of hers. She was a beautiful woman and the harsh conditions of Storm's End did nothing to dim her beauty. She can be cold and be a pain in the arse, but the way she managed and run the castle and the way she loved their children made up for that. Even sometimes Robert chose to ask her opinions in the important plans and decisions. Cersei liked to run the castle and rule it. She was not the kind of woman to be a broodmare who was just needed to give him heirs. And Robert welcomed it. She was everything he'd seen Lyanna to be. Cersei can be adamant, Cersei can be willful and Cersei can dominate. She is as fierce as the lioness she is when it comes to their children that she would never allow anything to be done in their life without her consent. And moreover she's been shunned by the dragons twice, just like Lyanna had shunned him. Robert knew the feeling and he did not wanted to inflict anymore pain upon her. So he just let her have her way and soon enough Cersei ruled Storm's End as much as he did, with her going as far as to make the decisions in their alliances as well. 

When they were all seated Maester Cressen took a rolled parchment and gave it to him. Robert got it from the Maester and unrolled it to see the contents of it. When he was done he gave the paper to Cersei next to him and gave some time for her to read it. 

"Rhaegar has made a contract with the Iron Bank of Braavos," Robert announced for everyone in the room to hear. 

"So he need not depend upon my father anymore," Cersei said placing the parchment on the table with a thud. "He could make his own gold hereafter."

"A relationship with the Iron Bank is a strong one, given the reputation of the bank," Stannis said adding to Cersei's fact. "And he could very well raise his own army of sellswords as well." 

Renly nodded approving. Robert knew how all of them were right. A contract with the Iron Bank would provide Rhaegar with all the necessary things he needs to stabilise the Kingdom as well as to raise his own army. The dragon was not as foolish as his father, Robert thought. Even after making the necessary alliances within Westeros, Rhaegar never stayed idle and instead went out of it to make even more friendships to make sure that he was safe and well even if the whole Kingdom rises up against him.

"And that is not all my lord," Maester Cressen said taking another sealed letter. "There's been a letter from Lord Arryn." Maester Cressen gave the letter of his foster father in his hand. 

Robert took the letter and skimmed it briefly before breaking the silver colored moon and the falcon seal of House Arryn. His foster father's letters were as neat as they had been before, when he'd seen them in the Eyrie. Robert placed the letter of his foster father on the table and everyone in the room were eagerly waiting to learn what was in the letter. 

"Jon thinks the marriage of Rhaegar's son and heir would happen soon," Robert told them. "So he says that we should hurry on the marriages of our children as well to show our strength and ties." 

Cersei took the letter at once and her eyes began to run over Jon's lines. When she was done she looked at him with wide emerald eyes. "It is true. His son is of age and so is Arianne Martell. And he will definitely rush it up to show his power and threaten us." 

"If Rhaegar does that," Renly voiced his words for the first time. "Then we should do it as well to protect ourselves. We need to be together in order to protect ourselves and these marriages are necessary."

Robert could see the truth of their words. Rhaegar has all he needs and he is in the perfect position possible. There is no need for him to rush the marriages as though he is afraid of losing them if he was late. This is just about the show of his strength against them. And his threat of showing that his power is greater than that of them and that if they chose to rebel against him they would soon end up like the Starks. This would also show that he still has support in Westeros despite what he'd done in the past.

"Well, Gendry and Alyssa are of the age," Robert said "and it has been already decided that they would marry which would bind both the Arryns and the Tullys with us." 

"When shall they marry?" Cersei asked. "And where? If the word of the marriage was known to Rhaegar, he would definitely see it as a threat and name us as traitors to take on us unawares."

"Yes and we're well away from our allies," Stannis added. "If Rhaegar needs so he could cut us off from our support. And Connington has some of the Lords at his side as well. So we'd likely have a opposition from within our lands as well."

"My lord, Lord Stannis is true," Maester Cressen said. "We could very well come across a civil war if we let the Conningtons unchecked. And a civil war with an open war upon us would be fatal."

Robert knew that the Conningtons would be a threat as well. But no matter the title most of the Stormlords were loyal to him and not to the Conningtons. But if he left the Conningtons behind him there is a good chance of him getting in between two armies. And that would be fatal even if they were engaged by a small army in both sides. So taking the Conningtons from the action is the first step. And as Cersei said, if he continued with the marriage of his son with the Conningtons to look at there is a good chance of Rhaegar knowing about it at once. 

Going to the Eyrie with his family will attract unwanted attention as well. Suddenly he got an idea to make it as simple and secure as possible. 

"We will agree upon a date and meet with the Arryns in Riverrun," Robert told them. "The Arryns can get there without making a lot of doubts and Riverrun is well within the domains of our strength." He looked at all of them and continued. "If Rhaegar moved for Storm's End, then our combined forces of the Stormlands, the Vale, the Riverlands and the Westerlands would throw them back while Renly or Stannis would eliminate the Conningtons. This way it would not be on our heads that we were the ones to disrupt the peace and we could say that we were only protecting ourselves."

Everyone seemed to approve the plan. And Robert believed that it would work. All he needed to do is to lure Rhaegar into the bait so that he could trap him from all sides. Once it is done, no matter whatever alliances he'd made, everything would be just as useless as nipples in a breastplate without a leader.

"What about Argella?" Renly blurted out suddenly. 

Robert looked to Cersei and she looked back at him. Argella was promised to Andrew Stark and Robert had known that his daughter would be well and good with Ned's son. But with Andrew Stark gone he was completely confused about the future of his daughter. 

He might give her to Jon's son but that would only double up the already made fact. And it would do no good to any of them. Now all he could think about his daughter is to know what is in her mind and then making a decision that would do good to all of them. 

"We don't want to rush with Argella now," Cersei said before he could voice his words. "Lets get done Gendry's marriage first and then we could think about Argella." 

Everyone nodded at that. Robert could feel the motherly concern in Cersei's voice and was glad that she came up with a good answer.

The plans were made and there was no going back. But Robert was never the one to step back. All he could do now was to believe that their plan would work and then soon enough they could bring justice for all the troubles the dragons have caused. 

 

Chapter Text

Andrew Stark

The streets of Braavos were well known to him and Andrew knew each of the ways through the city of Braavos. He knew which was the shortest one, which was the longest one, which was the crowded, which would have less eyes to notice you, which is the busiest and used by the common people and which was used by the wealthiest ones, which bridge would take you where and which walkway you should use in order to take out someone without getting seen by others. 

Andrew took notice of everything as he passed through to the Ragman's Harbor. The Ragman's Harbor was poorer and dirtier and noiser than the local Harbor of Braavos, the Purple Harbor. The Ragman's Harbor was crowdier than the Purple Harbor as well. The foreign ships which arrive in Braavos will be docked at the Ragman's Harbor while the locals and the ships of the Iron Bank were shipped in the Purple Harbor. So Ragman's Harbor became a good trade centre for the likes of porters, mummers, rope makers, sailmenders, taverners, brewers, bakers, beggars, and whores. They all made their living around the Ragman's Harbor which only added the noiseness and the dirtiness of the Ragman's Harbor. 

The Harbor was seriously active that day with the arrival of two ships from Pentos and Myr. Braavos was economically a greater city and it was the banking centre of the modern world. The Iron Bank of Braavos is the most powerful banking institution in the known world, richer and more powerful than the banks of all the other eight Free Cities combined, and it had a fearsome reputation when collecting debts. When princes or kings default on their debts or if they were foolish enough not to honor their agreements with the Iron Bank, new princes and kings appear on their place with the Iron Bank's support. These new princes and kings then honor the previous debt along with paying back the money the bank loaned them in claiming their new power, lest they suffer the same fate as their predecessors. "The Iron Bank will have its due" is a common saying among Braavosi. The Iron Bank of Braavos had customers from almost all part of the world and it even had extended its roots to his homeland, Westeros. 

The streets of Braavos were cobbled with stones and the streets were crowded with all the crew of the docked ships, the whores who tried to catch their eyes in order to earn some coppers for their living. The children ran through wildly, without even watching what is in their opposite. One of the boys running, tripped over the shop of a fisherman and sent all the oysters, clams and the fishes he had to the ground. The fisherman tried to catch the boy but the boy managed to slip away from him and vanished into the crowd, which lead to the mutterings and the shouting of the fisherman. 

Andrew couldn't help but smile at that as he himself remembered the mischiefs he'd done back at his home, when he was still with his parents. Throwing snowballs at his father's guards, stealing biscuits and sweets without the knowledge of Gage the Cook. Stealing into the kennels without the knowledge of Farlen to see the the newborn puppies of the hounds. All would earn his father's scolds but his mother had been there for him always. Thinking about the past or his dreams would only seem to trouble him so Andrew tried to ignore them. He had a work to do and his thoughts of past would only get in the way from doing it. 

Illola had asked him to get the money back from one of the common customers of the Foghouse, their Inn, Ballos Aenen. Aenen was a guard to a high official in the Iron Bank of Braavos and he was a good one at that. He was a good man and used to enjoy his black beer and sea foods whenever he comes to the inn. And he would cause no trouble other than throwing some ribald and bawdy comments. And he was an old friend of Syrio and himself as well. So the job would not be of much trouble, thought Andrew. 

He cut through the bridges and took the one which would take him to the northern side of the city to the Purple Harbor, near the Sealord's Palace. 

The Purple Harbor was neat and quiet compared to the Ragman's Harbor. The Braavosi vessels were neatly docked and were rocking gently in their respective places. The ships belonged to the Iron Bank were dominated the numbers. 

Andrew took the walkway to the Drowned Town, which was inbetween the Purple Harbor and the Outer Harbor where the cavernous mummers playhall, the Gate was located. It was where Ballos spend his free time watching the plays staged by the troupe of Izembaro who was the owner of the playhouse. 

Andrew soon reached the Gate as it was located in the edge of the Drowned Town. The owner of the Gate, Izembaro had raised his playhall atop the flooded stone foundations of a burnt warehouse which was there in the place before Izembaro's playhouse. 

In Braavos the Dome and the Blue Lantern enjoyed more fashionable environment but Izembaro had known the secret of luring the customers. With the Gate's location being between the Outer Harbor and the Purple Harbor the troupe would never lack for sailors and whores to fill their pit just like the Foghouse had customers in the Ragman's Harbor. 

When Andrew arrived there, the playhouse had been making the preperations to stage a play but he never knew when they would start it for sure. The pits were partially filled with sailors and other people as well and it wasn't hard for him to find Ballos. He was seated in a corner with a horn of spiced mead in his hands. When he saw Andrew he immediately raised his hand to indicate his position to him. 

Andrew reached Ballos and took the empty seat near him. Ballos was a strong old man with a sour smell and wine drenched beard which reached his neck. Ballos took a big gulp of the spiced mead from his horn and wiped his lips with the back of his hands.

"Ah, let's just go out," Ballos said in his gruff voice. "They are not going to start it for about some more time." He stood up from his seat and walked out of the playhouse and Andrew followed him out. 

When they came out of the playhouse, they went to the bridge connecting the Drowned Town and the Purple Harbor over the small canal which ran underneath. Andrew placed his hands on the side wall of the the bridge and gazed to the canal underneath. 

"So still doing the killing for living?" Ballos asked pointing at Frost Andrew had worn at his back. 

Andrew looked at him and nodded. "Sometimes," he told him. "And other times I used to work with Illola." 

"Aye, aye," Ballos said taking another gulp of his mead. "The money, I have it." He settled his horn of mead in his right hand, securing it and took the money pouch from his worn ragged doublet with his left. "Got to be careful about the thieves," he said and gave the money pouch to him.

Andrew took the money pouch from his hand and secured it in the inner pocket of his brown jacket. 

Ballos looked at him for a few minutes and then took a drink of his mead. "You know, you're wasting your skills. With your skills you could easily make a good life by becoming the First Sword of the Sea Lord and staying as the first sword for the rest of your life. I don't think he could find a better fighter than you." 

Andrew looked down at the canal flowing underneath the bridge they were standing at and remembered the clean flowing water of the river Torentine he'd seen eight years before when his mother had saved him from the hands of the Targaryens and when he had ran away from Westeros in fear of the Targaryens, leaving his mother who'd sacrificed herself to save him, his father, his family and his home. And nothing had ever troubled him like that. 

Even he dreamed of the night to this day and remembered everything he had seen on that day, right from Rhaegar's laugh to Viserys'. And he wanted nothing more than to tear open their mouths and kill every last of the Targaryens. That's why he'd learnt all these skills, to avenge his parents and family, not to get a good life for him. And he'd already planned to do it so, soon enough when he gets the opportunity. 

"I don't have any interest in it," Andrew said brushing off the subject. He was good as Andrew Snow in here, not Andrew Stark. 

"I don't know what's with you Snow," Ballos said sighing. "Wasting all those skills for good." 

I don't plan to waste them, thought Andrew but he didn't voiced it. "Well what's with you doing in the playhouse when you're supposed to be guarding your Lord?" Andrew asked him trying to change the subject. 

Ballos laughed at that. "Well Lord Tycho had left for the Seven Kingdoms and had commanded me to guard his family," said Ballos. "His family was taking rest the whole day, staying in their house. So I left the guards there and came here." 

That troubled Andrew. "Why has he gone to Westeros?" He asked at once. 

"I don't know for sure," Ballos answered. "But it was something about an agreement between the Seven Kingdoms and the Iron Bank." 

Though Andrew didn't knew much about politics, he certainly knew that the friendship with the Iron Bank was a great deal to anyone. With the help of the Iron Bank, Rhaegar's could very well raise his own army of sellswords. But Andrew doesn't need an army to kill him. All he needed to avenge his family was his blade, a right place and a right time. And he was waiting for them. 

"Well let me return to the playhouse," Ballos said looking back at the gate. "The play might start soon. No one knows what the fool Izembaro would do and I don't want to miss the start."

Andrew nodded and turned to leave as Ballos turned to leave for the Gate. He took the same way back and the ways were not so crowded as they'd been in the morning. 

But the time he reached back to the Foghouse, the fires in the Inn were all died out and Illola was looking at the accounts with a candle to help her see. She looked to the door at once when she heard the door open and relaxed when she saw him enter. 

Andrew walked to the table and sat in the chair on the other side of the table opposite to Illola. He took the money pouch he'd got from Ballos and kept it on the table. Illola took the pouch and put it with the others not even counting it knowing how late it was and how tired they both were.

"You must be hungry," Illola said. "Ivanna bring Andrew's food," she asked her daughter to bring his food. 

Ivanna came with his food and a tankard of beer. She gave a smile at him as she placed the tray on the table. When he had left the inn in the morning she was resting in her bed and Andrew was glad to see her actively working again. The bruises and the marks in her face from the beating Horano had given her had completed cured now.

"Are you alright?" Andrew asked to Ivanna and the girl nodded. He was happy to see her good and fine because Illola's girls were like sisters to him and they were the only family he'd left. He didn't wanted to lose them too. 

Andrew took off Frost and started to eat his fill. He was hungry enough after spending his afternoon without food. When he was done Illola and the girls cleared the table and they made for their rooms to spend the night. 

Andrew took Frost in his hands and climbed up the wooden stairs and made his way to his room. He got to his room and closed the door before getting changed for the sleep. He took off his jacket and the cotton shirt he'd worn inside, leaving only the pants on. 

He got up onto his bed and thought about the nights he used to sleep in the arms of his mother, hoping that he would dream that rather than his usual one. 

 

Chapter Text

Viserys Targaryen

 

The Sea Dragon was the swiftest ship in the royal Targaryen Fleet. Viserys Targaryen knew his ships. From the huge war galley Balerion to the slender longships designed for speed alone. While the huge war galleys like Balerion, Meraxes and Vhagar were built specially for the battle purposes and to dominate the sea the lighter and swifter vessels were the best ones for travel purposes in order to save time. But the Sea Dragon was a unique type at that. Though it was slender and lighter it had all the luxuries and pleasantries that a 300 oar luxurious cog possessed. That was the reason the Prince had chosen it particularly for this voyage. 

Rhaegar had ordered him to escort the representative of the Iron Bank, Tycho Nestoris back to Braavos and appointed him to act in his stead in the Iron Bank. That wouldn't take much of his time the Prince knew. He had to escort the man Tycho back to Braavos to show the good intentions of the Seven Kingdoms and as a token of their new made friendship. And then he had to act in Rhaegar's stead there. And then within days he could sail back to Westeros and that wasn't a big deal for Viserys Targaryen. 

The Representative of the Iron Bank was currently taking rest in his cabin in the Sea Dragon but Viserys Targaryen chose to spend his time in the afternoon sun looking the sea. He was the Master of Ships in the court of his brother Rhaegar Targaryen. The sea was calm enough and they had enough and steady winds to push them further. 

The wind messed up the Prince's hair. Viserys pushed his silver hair back from his face. The crew of the Sea Dragon were all in their positions doing their work and the guards the Prince had brought from King's Landing were keeping him company. The ships by which Tycho Nestoris had reached Westerns were following them, two slender cogs which belonged to the Iron Bank of Braavos. 

The Braavosi fleet were one of the most advanced and the strongest fleet in the entire known world. Viserys had always wanted to strengthen the royal fleet of the Targaryens to the level of the BraavosI Fleet. 

"My Prince," one of his guards called for him. 

Viserys turned to look at him with a disgusting look upon his face. The men and the crew he had were utter useless and they had to ask his help in almost anything. And the Prince hated that every time. "What is it now?" Viserys asked him in irritation tumbling with his words. 

"We are about to reach Braavos soon, My Prince," the guard announced taking a step back, bowing his head. 

Viserys nodded his head approving his words and his movements. He always took certain pleasure in making the people to know and stay in their place, right below him where they belonged. He was a Prince and a dragon prince at that and these mere men were well below his status and for his likes. And so he kept his men and the crews of his ships in their place. 

The Prince was happy that they would reach the city of Braavos soon enough so that he could finish the job that his brother had told him to do and return to Westeros to have his way. He made a mistake in not bringing the whores with him to warm his bed in the cold nights on the sea. So he had to spend the nights all alone throughout the travel. And the Prince definitely missed a good fuck. Maybe he would get the Black Pearl to warm his bed once he reached Braavos.

When he had been in Westeros, he could bring different women for every single night from the numerous brothels of King's Landing. But it had been a different feeling always to have a noble woman in his bed. And he had been with noble women before, with some of the daughters of the small Lords from Crownlands but he had not wanted any one of them again for another time. But the one he'd wanted truly was the Stark bitch, Ashara Stark, wife of Eddard Stark and sister of Arthur Dayne. Though she was a traitor to the Iron Throne, the Dayne whore had a beauty befits that of a star she was which was matched by no one. 

When Rhaegar had organized the massacre of the Starks, the bitch had escaped with her son and Rhaegar had ordered him to bring her back with that boy of hers. And Viserys being the one wanting her had rushed immediately after her. He'd found her soon enough away from her home, but the bitch had managed to get her son away from his hands. But it wasn't a serious thing since there was no way for boy of that age could survive in this world all alone. 

Viserys had wanted nothing more than to take her right then and there in the woods in front of all those men who'd followed him, as a dragon would take what he wants and from wherever he wants and he was a dragon. And then after he was finished with her, he had wanted to give her to his men as he'd promised them. But instead he took her to his brother believing that Rhaegar would hand her to him but his brother had other plans for the Falling Star of Westeros. All the beauty wasted in the dark. 

Viserys cleared the old thoughts from his mind and looked straight at the Titan of the Braavos which was now in view from their ship. The ship made its way further and as they moved further the Titan grew bigger and bigger and bigger. It seemed to grow constantly and soon enough the Sea Dragon reached the city of Braavos so that the Prince could see the real might of the Titan of Braavos. 

The Titan of Braavos was truly a terrifying sight but nothing could terrify the dragon, Viserys knew and he was a dragon. It was a massive stone and bronze fortress which was shaped in the form of a giant man, which seemed to stand guard in the the entrance of the lagoon where Braavos was located. The feet of the statue laid on two separate islands, including Sellagoro's Shield, which was one of the outlying islands which protected the lagoon of Braavos, and each foot of the Titan was set upon a mountain. The islands were covered in soldier pines and black spruce. The legs and lower torso of the Titan was made of the same black granite that formed the islands upon which it stood; they were originally a natural stone archway, which was carved and shaped by three generations of sculptors and stonemasons. Above the waist, the colossus was made of bronze, its body filled with halls and chambers, its bronze breastplate punctured with arrow slits, which gave way for the Braavosi to attack the enemy ships from above. One hand of the Titan rested on the top of a ridge, its bronze fingers wrapped around the stone. The other hand was thrust into the air, holding the hilt of a broken sword. Viserys raised his head to see the head of the Titan. It was almost impossible to see the Titan's head, which rose to about four hundred feet above sea level and was crested with a bronze halfhelm. It had green-dyed hempen rope for hair. In the holes of its eyes burned large beacon fires, lighting the way back inside the lagoon for returning ships. The Titan's hips were encased in an armored skirt of a green bronze hue and the bottom was covered in murder holes.

Viserys had heard the the Titan of Braavos was the primary line of defense for Braavos. Enemy ships can be steered onto the rocks by the watchmen inside the Titan, and stones and pots of burning pitch can be dropped onto the decks of any that attempt to pass between the Titan's legs without leave. However, this has seldom been necessary; because no enemies have been so rash as to attempt to provoke the Titan's wrath.

When their ship, the Sea Dragon approached the entrance of Braavos, the Titan gave a loud roar to indicate the arrival of a ship and to alert the Arsenal of Braavos.

"They're indicating our arrival," Tycho Nestoris said as he came near him. Viserys turned to see the representative of the Iron Bank and nodded at him. He had no doubt that it was the the huge terrible, grinding blast of the Titan which roused the Braavosi up from whatever he was doing. 

The Sea Dragon passed underneath the legs of the Titan and Viserys could see the Arsenal of Braavos sitting upon a knob of rock, fortified with stone battlements and bristling with scorpions, trebuchets, and spitfires.

The Arsenal also had a dock with room for dozens of galleys beneath it. Along it's shores were innumerable quays, docks, and wooden sheds holding many more ships of the strong Braavosi fleet. The Arsenal of Braavos was also the center of shipbuilding in Braavos. It is said that a war galley can be built in a day there. 

The Sea Dragon made its way to the Chequy Port, which was located behind the Arsenal of Braavos, where their ship was inspected by the Sealord's customs officers upon their arrival in the city. Tycho Nestoris did the talking to them and soon enough the Sea Dragon made its way further into the free city of Braavos. 

Soon enough they reached the Harbor where more cogs and ships were docked which were well alike the slender ships by which Tycho Nestoris came which indicated that all those ships belonged to the Iron Bank of Braavos. 

As Viserys was looking at the ships and the Harbor of Braavos, Tycho Nestoris offered a personal welcome to his city. "Welcome to Braavos, Prince Viserys," he said. 

The Prince looked at the city of Braavos wondering when his work here would finish and when would he be able to return to his home.

 

 

Chapter Text

Aegon Targaryen

Up above in the sky the green dragon Rhaegal circled far away from the ground but yet in the sight of the Prince of Dragonstone, Aegon Targaryen. The dragon soared up above enjoying it's flight and Aegon watched the magnificent creature with awe. He'd had the dragon for almost nine years now but he had never failed to appreciate this wonderful creature's magnificence and power. 

The dragons had been gone for many a years from this world and ever since they had gone extinct the Targaryens had never been powerful as they had been once with their dragons. There had been various attempts to bring back the legendary beasts but none of them had succeeded and every attempt resulted in death and failure, until his aunt Daenerys had brought them to this world successfully nine years before with the help of a strange priestess from the shadowlands and Bezzaro, the Red priest. 

Now the dragons roamed the world once again and began to dominate it just like they'd once before. And the Targaryens were almost as feared and as invincible as their dragons. There had been talks of war almost throughout the Seven Kingdoms and even here in the Island of Dragonstone. But Aegon had no doubt that even if they had to face a war they would reign supreme without much trouble with the help of the dragons. 

In the last nine years the dragons had really grown to be the original terrifying beasts they were. With a wingspan of about the length of two huge war galleys Rhaegal was truly a great creature that would give nightmares to even the most bravest of the men this world could offer. When his brother's dragon Viserion was smaller than his own dragon Rhaegal, their aunt's black dragon, Drogon would effortlessly make his dragon Rhaegal look nothing more than a pony compared to a war horse. His aunt's dragon, Drogon had also been seen as Balerion the Black Dread, the monstrous dragon of Aegon the Conqueror himself. 

Aegon walked back from the balcony to inside the Drum Tower, leaving his dragon to have some time for himself. The Drum Tower was a  massive tower which was the central keep of Dragonstone. It was named for the booming and rumbling sounds that can be heard during storms, and the Prince soon came to find that it was a perfect name for the Tower.

He entered the top floor of the Drum Tower leaving his dragon outside in the vast wide world. He entered the Chamber of the Painted Table which was in the middle of the top floor of the Drum Tower. The Chamber of the Painted Table was a round room with four tall windows, overlooking the north, south, east and west, and bare black walls. It had a large table, the Painted Table, carved and painted in the form of the detailed map of Westeros. It was right here in this room where Aegon the Conqueror had planned for the invasion of Westeros. The Painted Table was a huge table with more than fifty feet long: roughly twenty-five feet wide at its widest point and four feet wide at its thinnest point. At the precise location of Dragonstone there was a raised seat which allowed the occupant to view the entire map from where Aegon the Dragon must've viewed the map he was about to conquer. The raised seat of the Painted Table was the favorite place of Aegon here in Dragonstone. It always made him feel as if he was Aegon the Conqueror himself. 

Aegon knew he was to play an important role in the future of Westeros just like his ancestor Aegon the Conqueror had played years before. His father always told him that the dragon needed three heads, which he had now and that he was the Prince that was Promised. The one who would save Westeros from its ill fate. That's why he had been named Aegon as well, a conqueror name for a conqueror. But that name itself had brought a lot of the people's talks and mocks at him. 

The people of the Seven Kingdoms accused his mother for the deaths of his father's first wife, Princess Elia Martell and her children. Some even considered him only as a bastard who'd usurped his own half brother, the real Aegon Targaryen's place as well his name. He knew that his family only had a little love among the Small folk but that had never troubled the Prince of Dragonstone. He was a dragon, he was raised by one, he was raised as one and the dragon never needs the love of the people when it has the fear of them. 

Aegon seated on the raised seat of the Painted Table and looked at the map of the Kingdom which he would rule one day. He was brought out of his thoughts when the maester of Dragonstone, Maseter Karsan came opened the doors and came through it. 

The Maester was a middle aged man, but had rare metals in his chain which indicated he was tutored in the rare forms of studies in the Citadel. Maester Karsan walked towards him and stopped at the head of the table near his chair. "A letter from your father, My Prince," the maester announced holding a scroll in his hands towards him. 

When Aegon took the scroll from his hands still atop the raised chair, the maester bowed his head and left him alone. Once he was alone Aegon broke the red dragon seal of his father and opened the letter of his father. His eyes scanned his father's words and took note of everything he had to say. 

The letter told him about of the latest news of his marriage. His father had planned to hold his marriage soon enough. Aegon knew that he would marry Arianne Martell one day to bind the ties of the Targaryens and the Martells anew once again after the deaths of Elia Martell and her children. 

The Dornish Princess was beautiful, with a voluptuous figure that would have most of the men's jaw drop and Aegon had no trouble marrying Arianne Martell. Also they both knew each other for a certain extent. Moreover a marriage such as this would strengthen their bonding with the Great Houses of Westeros and Aegon wanted nothing more than the good for his family. His father had written that his marriage would take place soon enough, once his uncle Viserys returned from Braavos. 

Aegon never had any trouble with travels since he had his dragon to do the work. Rhaegal could take him to anywhere within a short time. He'd even visited his brother Jaeherys who was the Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North often, even though Jae was in the North leagues away from him. But Rhaegal could take him to Winterfell and then back to Dragonstone without much trouble or taking much time, which would save him months if he'd taken a ship. 

It had been months since Aegon had met his brother. Despite whatever the people say about their family, Aegon loved his brother and missed him. He missed those times when they used to train together in the Red Keep. Though Aegon was the better skilled swordsman between the brothers there had also been times when his brother would knock him down to the ground or disarm him. 

He might get a chance to meet his brother soon, Aegon thought as his brother would attend his marriage for sure. Though they were brothers they had nothing similar in them. When Aegon took after the brown hair and grey eyes of his mother and the Targaryen face of his father, Jaeherys had taken completely after his father. He was the exact image of their father, with the classic Valyrian looks of silver hair and purple eyes. 

Aegon took a piece of paper and wrote a reply letter to his father, telling him that he would reach King's Landing soon enough and asked his father to proceed with the plans of his marriage. When he was done he heated the black wax over the nearby candle and poured the melted wax onto the letter and pressed it with the three headed dragon stamp. When he was done he called for a guard. And the one who'd been standing guard at the doors came running in at once. 

"My prince," the guard bowed his head showing his respect. 

Aegon nodded at him and extended the letter to the guard from his high seat. "Take this letter to Maester Karsan," he told the guard, "and ask him to sent it to my father." 

The guard took the letter from his hands and bowed his head again. He left the room with the Prince's letter to give it to the maester. When the guard left the Prince came down from his high seat. He went out to the balcony again to spend some time alone, flying in Rhaegal. Dragonstone was a cold and dreary place, with much less of visitors to keep him company. So Aegon had took it upon his dragon to keep him company and to get to the company he needs, swiftly without taking too much time. 

From the moment he'd come to Dragonstone to rule it, he had been constantly visiting his family with the help of Rhaegal and sometimes he would even have his family visiting him occasionally with his brother and aunt coming often as visitors with their own dragons. Being in Dragonstone can be boring with little people to talk with and most of them being complete strangers but the visits of his family and brother and aunt were too good to have and Aegon used to host feasts to enjoy with them. 

Rhaegal had been fishing in the the sea, diving from above the surface of water in a terrible speed from above and then taking flight with huge whale calves in its legs which were unfortunate enough to swim up at the surface without the knowledge of the dragon flying above. It was not easy for even a dragon to get away with a full grown whale but the calves of the whales were a good enough meal for Rhaegal. Even the monstrous calves of the whales were so little in the legs of the dragon and Aegon thought about how his father had been true when he'd got the dragon as a hatchling, which was no more bigger than a full grown hunting falcon and used to settle on his shoulders. 

'You should let a dragon to have his way with his freedom. The bigger the place for a dragon to grow, the more bigger it would grow.' His father had said then and looking at Rhaegal now, dominating the other creatures with his presence Aegon got to see the truth of it. Rhaegal was already huge enough and he was growing still. By the time he would have kids of his own Rhaegal would become as huge as one of Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters' dragons. 

With a creature so big and powerful as Rhaegal in his side, Aegon thought that nothing in this could trouble him. So he had nothing in this world to worry about. The talks of Rebellion, the talks about his family didn't mattered to him for he was a dragon and had a dragon. They were very well welcome to say whatever they had to say about him and his family but as long as the people feared them, all those talks were useless as that of a halfwit's idea and with the dragons behind them, the people were afraid of them and they will be for the end of their days. 

"Rhaegal," the Prince called after his dragon as he flew by. 

The bronze eyed beast snaked his neck back to look at him and made a loop in the sky and turned back and flew to him. The mighty green beast landed gently on top of the Drum Tower with a loud thud which sounded like the collapse of the Drum Tower itself. But Dragonstone was built strong enough with the magic techniques and sorcery of Old Valyria. The Castle was built strong enough to withstand even the might of the dragons and Dragonstone was used to the presence of dragons.  

Aegon made his way atop the tower using the spiral steps designed in the shape of a dragon, starting from its tail and ascending up its abdomen and coming out of its mouth on the other side which was on top of the Drum Tower. 

When Aegon reached the dragon, he petted the snout of Rhaegal, the bronze eyes of the beast fixed onto to him showing his acceptance. Rhaegal crouched lower and Aegon used the wings of Rhaegal and his horns to get atop to his seat on the dragon. Once he reached his spot the Prince looked down at the world, how small and petty it seemed from above a dragon and Aegon Targaryen himself felt as powerful and mighty as his dragon. 

 

Chapter Text

Andrew Stark

The morning was as cold as every mornings here in Braavos. When Andrew opened his windows he could see that it was foggier that the last morning. The foggier the air was, the colder the air will be. 

Andrew never got a good sleep yesterday, but that was no big deal since he was used to troubled sleeps for the past eight years. And all the cause for his troubled sleeps were the same and yesterday was no exception. He had the same dream again, when he was a little boy of eight, playing happily in his mother's arms, until everything turned to dark, black and mess and gore. He saw his mother glowing in the starlight, with the same sweet smile of hers while tears rolled past her cheeks. He saw his father, with that kind smile he'd give at him always, his cold grey eyes growing soft as the fogs outside covering Braavos when he saw him or his mother. He saw his uncle, throwing him up in the air before catching him in his arms. He'd loved that part, until everything changed to. His mother's eyes leaking with tears of blood, his father burning in a raging fire that his lips only opened to scream, not to smile at him and his uncle Arthur throwing him up in the air but missing to catch him. 

Andrew sighed leaving to keep the thoughts of the dream buried deep into the deepest and darkest place of his heart. He had tried to forget about the dream for about numerous times thinking that if he'd managed to forget it he would not see it, but only to fail in that. No matter how hard he had tried to forget the dream, he couldn't forget it. No matter how hard he tried to get rid off it, he couldn't get rid of it. It's like the dream had stuck with him, like a part of him. The dream was as if it was a part of his body, a part of his own soul, so no matter how hard he tried he could never ever get rid of it and Andrew had learnt to live with it. 

He moved over to the water basin to wash up the sleepiness from his face after a bad sleep. Even the reflection of his face in the water brought up the old memories of his family. His face had changed a lot in the last eight years. He had a beard now and his features had grown strong unlike the child he was in the dreams. Though he still had a resemblance of his father in his face. His mother used to say that he looked like his father and the household of Winterfell seemed to agree it too. They used to say that, he was more like his father and only had a little of his mother in him, which was undoubtedly his dark hair. Andrew could see that now, his hair had grown shades darker now. 

He'd always wondered what it would be like if he returned to Winterfell now. But the answer to that was pretty simple and he knew that. They would never believe him to be Andrew Stark, son of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Ashara Stark. Andrew Stark would have been dead, buried in the minds of the people of Westeros, just like his parents had been. 

When he had finished bathing, he clad himself in his fresh, usual outfit of the dark pants and white tunic shirt with a brown jacket over it. When he pulled his boots up he moved to the water basin again to set his hair in the way he preferred. He never had a long hair like his father nor the short one like his uncle Arthur. He had medium length hair, which he kept short in the sides and the back and slicked back the wet hair up in the top. 

When Andrew finished dressing his hair, he took Frost before he left his room. Walking with a sword on the back was not a common sight here in Braavos. But even he himself was odd in Braavos, from the clothes he wore to his looks everything screamed of Westeros and that's why Syrio had made him as Andrew Snow, a westerosi bastard, as if to not gather a lot of attention to himself. 

Andrew walked down the steps to the inn, his boots thudding against the wooden steps. There were only a few number of people in the Foghouse that day. But given the time, it was too early for too much of crowd, the people would only rouse and get to their daily activities only after the sun had wiped away the fog for everyone to see clearly.

The girls were chatting and giggling together since there was no need for them to be active for a few number of people. Illola was counting the money and was arranging them in the respective orders. The Braavosi iron squares, the Lyseni ovals, in which a naked girl is stamped on one side, the Norvosi triangluar coins and various others including the gold dragons and silver stags of Westeros were all arranged seperately. Andrew reached Illola's desk and greeted her. "Good morning, Illola." 

"Good morning, Andrew," Illola greeted back. "You got up sooner today?" She asked him. 

Andrew rolled his eyes at that. 

Illola smiled at him and continued. "Well anyway that's a good thing," she said. "There is a man here looking for you." Illola pointed at the corner of the inn where a man was seated looking away from them. 

Andrew looked at the man and then back at Illola, confused. "Did he tell anything?" He asked her. 

"Mm, not so much. Just that he was here to see you," Illola told as she took the arranged coins and put them in their respective drawers of her table. She closed the drawer and looked up at him. "Must be something with 'your business'." 

Andrew looked at the man. He could only see his back. He turned to Illola. "I will see what he wants from me," he told her and walked to his usual place by the window. 

"Do you want to break your fast now and would you rather have it after he leaves?" Illola asked him.

"Sent it to my table now," Andrew told her. "I don't know how long this is going to take," he said walking over to his table.

The Foghouse was lit up by the candles in the early morning. Candles were needed here in Braavos since the fogs would make it tougher to see in early morning. The sun would clear up the fogs only when it is up above in the sky. 

Illola brought him his breakfast with a tankard full of strong beer. She kept his food on his table, before him and moved to the table in which the man was seated. 

Andrew took a drink of his strong beer and moved on to take a bite from his bread. The bread was fresh from the oven and Illola had given him a big one. He could hear the crust of the bread crunch as he ripped off a chunk from it. That was one of the uniqueness of the Foghouse. No other inn here in Braavos could make a fine bread than Illola's. That's why the Foghouse had a good number of customers everyday even though it was situated in a noisy place like the Ragman Harbor. 

When Andrew took a bite of the fresh bread, the man came near him. Andrew looked up at him, chewing his bread and gestured for him to sit. The man took the seat opposite to him. He was an old man with grey hair and his beard was completely white. His face had wrinkles and the lines in his face appeared more because of worry and sorrow rather than the age. 

Andrew took a gulp of his strong beer to wash down the bread and looked up at the man. "Who are you? What do you want?" 

The man seemed to be taken aback by his bluntness. He looked at Frost in its sheath near him and then eyed back at him. "I need your help."

Andrew raised his eyebrow at him. "Help? What help?" 

"My name is Gyllaro Dynar," the old man said. "I was a wealthy merchant once. I owned ships, shops, a mansion and a family." Andrew could see the man's hands shaking and he was visibly upset when he mentioned his family. "But he took everything from me. My friend and partner. He betrayed me and deceived me, taking all my wealth and worse..." the old man's breath hitched, " he made me to sell my own family into slavery. My wife, my daughter and my son..." The old man tried hard to hold back his tears. He recollected himself after a moment and continued. "I don't want his wealth or anything, all I want is justice for my family before I die." 

Andrew understood what he wanted from him. The old man wanted him to assassinate his old friend. Though the man's story seemed believable he wanted to make sure that he didn't killed an innocent person just because of his false judgement.  "Listen I don't do things like that." 

"I know," the old man said at once. "I've heard about you. His house is located near the Iron Bank, a big one with two red basilisk statues in the front. You can go see it for yourself. His name is Syro Irrirah." 

Andrew watched the old man closely. He could see the truth in his words. There was no reason for him to lie. From the old, torn rags he had worn to the sad lines on his face everything had honesty in them. This was not about the money for him, he thought. This was about betrayal and this was about family. The old man's problem was just like his own, betrayed and lost the family. But still he had to see it with his own eyes. He just can't turn away from his principle just because of a pitiful story. 

Andrew took another bite of his bread with a piece of boiled egg with it. "I'll go look at it, but I can't make any promises." 

That brought a smile in the face of the old man. "Thank you," he said, "That is all I wanted to hear." He touched his clothes searching for money but by the look of it Andrew knew that he didn't had the money. 

"I only get the money once I finish the job," he informed the old man. If whatever the old man had told him were true he would never get any money from him. He would do the job for free. The old man nodded at him. 

With that the old man got up and made to leave. Andrew stopped him and gave him the remaining bread and the two boiled eggs. "Go on, have them and fill up your stomach."

The old man's face brightened and he got the bread and the eggs with a smile. His mother had once told him that 'There is no better feeling than making a hungry man smile.' And Andrew found how true his mother had been when he saw the old man's smile as he gave him the bread and the eggs. 

He smiled back at the old man and the old man left the Foghouse happy and sated. Andrew took his tankard and drank the remaining beer from his tankard. Illola came to take the plates and tankard away. 

"So what was that all about?" She asked him as she collected the used plate and tankard. 

"Nothing but work," he replied. "Do anyone have to repay or is there anything I could do for you today?" He asked. 

"No," Illola shook her head. "We are all good."

Andrew nodded. He got up and slung Frost to his back. "I'll be out for a while and will be back by evening," he told her. 

Illola nodded. Andrew made his way out of the inn. He was near the door when she called him. "Andrew, be careful," she said to him. 

Andrew nodded once and gave her a small smile. "I will," he said and stepped out of the inn. 

The fogs had grown smoother by the rise of the sun and the people had started to take up their duties of the day. He took the canal way to the Iron Bank. The walk was pretty easy without the crowd and it took less time to reach the Iron Bank. Once he reached the Iron Bank he searched for the house of Syro Irrirah. Every house surrounding the Iron Bank were big enough, given that the houses belonged to the people who worked in the Iron Bank he was not surprised that they were big. He was searching for the house with the two red basilisk statues the old man mentioned as Syro Irrirah's house when he saw him, coming out from a building which was bigger than every other buildings surrounding it, with a beautiful woman of dark skin adorned in jewels of all shapes and kinds and colors who was none other than the Black Pearl herself. Silver blond hair fell to his shoulders and his eyes still had the same malice which he had seen eight years before. 

"There is she, in the woods," he still remembered his words just like he remembered his face. "The first one to catch her will get a chance to taste her. Not even the noblest of the men in Westeros would get a chance to fuck the most beautiful woman in the world."

Just as he had seen him eight years before, Viserys Targaryen walked within a few feet away from him with his guards and entered the Iron Bank. He never knew whether it was true or it was just a dream. But if it was true, the time he had been waiting for, had come at last. Andrew never had any belief in Gods but for once he thanked the Gods of his parents for he had got the chance for which he had been waiting for the past eight years, for giving him his chance to avenge his family.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Jaehaerys Targaryen

The bath was scalding hot and Jaehaerys Targaryen enjoyed every bit it. It was one of his favorite things to do here in the north, having a hot bath in the harsh cold of the north. The Lord of Winterfell always preferred his bath to be scalding hot that the maids who drew his bath would have their hands wrapped up in a piece of cloth while carrying the wooden pails full of his bath water to protect themselves from the heat. That was the different between them and the other people, he had been taught back at the Red keep. The difference between the dragon and mortal beings. Fire cannot kill a dragon and nothing is as destructive as fire. 

Though the Prince enjoyed his post as the Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North, Jaehaerys really hated the cold climate of the north. It is said that the Starks were made for the cold, though he was a half Stark, he never really got used to the cold so naturally as the other northerners were even though he had spent half his life up here in Winterfell. He was a dragon, not a wolf and dragons don't do pretty well in the north as the wolves do. 

But Jaehaerys had his dragon to even things up. Viserion was always hot. From his breath to a simple touch of his body will get you warm. With a dragon you could do almost everything you can ever do and Jaeherys knew it. 

He had travelled to every one of the holdfasts here in the north only to check that they still stayed loyal to him. He had even visited the Wall, the monstrous structure of about seven hundred to eight hundred feet height, wholly made of ice. Jaeherys had been astonished to see the pale glittering thing of ice. When he had been little, the only thing which surprised him was the dragons but he was six and ten now and the only thing which awed him was the Wall. 

He had always wondered how they'd managed to built the monstrous structure almost 8000 years before. The Wall itself was ice and a hard one at that. He had wanted to check whether if the dragonfire could melt the Wall. But even if the dragonfire melted the ice, it would take more than three dragons and probably much more time to completely melt the Wall to the ground. 

When he was done with his bath, he moved over to his wardrobe to wear the dresses fit for the cold. He took to wear a woolen doublet with the red dragon of his House on the front sewn in the red myrish threads. He wore tight leather breeches of black color to match in with the doublet and a pair of fur trimmed boots to keep his feet warm. Lastly he draped a heavy fur cloak over his shoulders and pinned it at the Base of his neck with the ruby dragon head pin. 

When Jaeherys was satisfied with his clothing he left his solar to the Great Hall of Winterfell where he was to hold court for the day. He walked through his way to the Great Hall watching his men training hard in the yard. His father had given him a good number of man to hold Winterfell and also for his protection. Though he was a half Stark, though the Stark blood ran through his veins, the North knew no lord but the one whose name is Stark. And he was a Targaryen. And moreover the north had been hostile towards his family even before his birth. Jaeherys knew all the hardships and dangers he had to face as the Lord of Winterfell and the Warden of the North. But he wasn't afraid of the threats and the dangers the north had for him. He had a good number of men to hold Winterfell, he was capable enough to defend himself and above all he had his dragon. One look at Viserion would have all the threats and the objections from these northerners sent back to the deepest pit of the Seven Hells.   

When he had come to Winterfell for the first time as its Lord the northerners were all angry and they opposed his post as their Lord. The one who had been the most important part of that was Greatjon Umber. The beast of a man had looked as if he had wanted to kill him then and there. But when Viserion roared in the skies above and landed on the snow no one had any objections and all the Lords of the North had bend their knees and had sworn their fealties to him as the rightful Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the north.

He reached the great wooden doors to the Great Hall and the Targaryen soldiers who stood guard at the doors bowed their heads to him. The first thing he had done as the Lord of Winterfell was removing the old Stark guards and replacing them with the Targaryen guards. That was one of his best moves to neutralise the threats which posed within the castle. 

The guards opened the old doors for him to enter. When he entered the Great Hall, the Hall grew alive with the mutterings of the petitioners and the household of Winterfell alike. Maester Walys was already there in the Great Hall seated in his seat near the polished stone throne of the Old Kings of Winters. 

Jaeherys climbed up the granite steps to the high seat of the Lord of Winterfell and took his seat in the polished stone throne. He sat in his seat as befits a Prince and rested his hands on the handrests carved in the shape of direwolves. In all his life only when sitting in the polished throne of Winterfell made him feel like a Stark rather than a Targaryen. The direwolves carved on the handrests always made a fierce demeanor.

Jaeherys leaned back in the polished throne which was once belonged to his uncle Eddard and which should've belonged to his cousin Andrew. But both of them were dead and so Winterfell was rightfully his by the claim of his mother. Though he was a young man, Jaeherys was not so stupid. He knew his family was not loved by the northerners and will never be. And there have been talks of rebellion in the Stormlands and the Vale and he knew that there was a fine chance of the north rising up against them as well. It was not likely for them to rise up without a man to lead them but still the north had a good friendship with the Vale and the Stormlands and there was a fine chance of them joining the rebellion if it ever happened. But they had a good plan for the very moment to put the northerners down. Even if all their plans failed that one would do the work and would never fail. 

When the Prince sat in his seat everyone in the Great Hall of Winterfell knelt for their Prince and Lord. Jaeherys gestured them to stand up and they did as he meant. "We shall begin. Sent the petitioners one by one," the Prince announced. Maester Walys was as quiet as ever, never objecting him in anything even if he never liked it. 

The first man in the line stepped forth to address him. "My Prince," he said shivering. By the way he stood and the way he spoke Jaeherys knew that the man was afraid. And he was glad about it. If you cannot get loyalty with love, you could get it with fear, his father had once told him and Jaeherys did exactly that. Though the sight of the dragon was a common one in Westeros now, the sight still frightened the people. "There had been a mistake, my prince. I had a mill and a house built on my land just away to the east of Wolfswood. But..." the man coughed, no doubt one of effect of the hitting he might've got from the men. He managed to get rid of the coughing and continued. "But your men have seized the land and destroyed my house and mill which was the only livelihood my family had. My family stands without a shelter and a future to save us, my lord."

"But those lands belongs to House Targaryen and Winterfell," said the Prince of Winterfell. "You were the one to built your house and mill there which is illegal. So I find nothing wrong in what my men did."

"No, my lord," the man coughed again. "The land was given to me by King- Lord Eddard himself." 

Jaeherys had had enough of him. "Is Eddard Stark your lord now?" He asked with his dragon blood boiling inside him. The man took a step back and bowed his head quivering. "Tell me, who is your lord now?" He asked him again. 

"You are, my prince," the man said, his tongue blabbering in fear. 

"And who is Eddard Stark?" He asked pressing on the fact to remind the people of the traitor his uncle was. He could see Maester Walys giving a look at him but he ignored it. 

The man was silent and so was the entire Great Hall of Winterfell. It was so quiet that even a drop of the ladies' sewing needle could be heard. "Who Was Eddard Stark?" Jaeherys pressed on every word to make it clear for everyone that he wanted them to say it and remember it for the rest of their days. 

"Tra..." the man trailed off bowing his head down, cannot being able to bringing himself to say it. He brought back his voice after a while. "Traitor, my lord. Eddard Stark was a traitor and so was his wife, Queen... Lady Ashara. And their son Andrew was a traitor as well."

"Good," the Prince was glad that the man mentioned his aunt and cousin as traitors as well. "And what happens to traitors?" he asked. 

The man gulped his fears before speaking. "They... They die," the man said. 

"And what happens to the people who sides with the traitors?" He asked again. 

"They also die along with the traitors my lord," the man replied looking down at his feet afraid to even look him straight up to the face. 

"Good," the Prince told to the man. "Now that you've learnt your lessons, you can have that land as well." 

The man never looked up at him even for that. Jaeherys was confused that whether the man was truly being afraid of him or else whether he was just ashamed of naming Eddard Stark and his family as traitors. So the Prince took it further with him. "Now who gave you that land?" The Prince asked him. 

The man's head stayed bowed. "You, my prince." 

"You can have that land. But you will not be paid for the destruction of your house and mill." Jaeherys informed him. "If you want them back, you could get it built-up again yourself. Now leave."

"Thank you, my prince," the man bowed low and moved back and out of the Great Hall. 

When the man left the Great Hall, the next one on the line took his place. An old man with a beard white as snow and receding hairline. "My lord," he bowed his head when he stood in front of him. "I am a shepard from the mountains. I have a herd of mountain goats and I have lost at least a five of my goats to your dragon."

Jaeherys had already heard about the complaints of Viserion hunting from the livestock. At first he had been stupid enough to pay them the money but then his father had told that doing so would make him a beggar lord and that a dragon needs to feed on large scale. He quickly found out that Viserion needs all the food he could get in order to grow big and very less option was there for him in the north. The Wolfswood and the north of the Wall were an option but the Wolfswood was so dense for a dragon to hunt and flying to the Wall for a meal would take more of his energy. Soon enough he learnt about the folly he was making and had changed it. 

"That is a dragon. You should be happy enough that it was not you or your family he chose to eat." Jaeherys told and sent him back empty handed. 

When all the petitions were heard of it was about midday. Jaeherys moved to the battlements of Winterfell and looked at the vast wide north. His brother's marriage was arriving soon and he would go back to meet his family once again. As he looked to snow covered lands of the north Jaeherys couldn't help but feel happy that he was going to meet up with his family again. It had been years now since they were all together and Jaeherys was waiting to see them all again. With that the Lord of Winterfell walked towards his castle to save himself from the cold of the north.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Jon Arryn

The mountain road can be dangerous even in the broad daylight and Jon Arryn knew his lands better than anyone. The descent from the Eyrie had been long, by the chain winch and then a ride by the mules before they could ride their horses. As High as Honor were the words of House Arryn and the Arryns had lived up to it in almost everything they did. 

They had crossed the perilous mountain road with the help of Mya Stone and her mules. Robert's firstborn was an exact copy of her father. From her looks of black hair and the blue eyes of Robert, to the courage and the absolute fear for nothing, everything she had taken from Robert. 

Though Mya was Robert's firstborn, she was a Stone and a bastard. But that didn't stopped Jon from taking her into his home and his service. He loved and saw Robert as his own son and his children as his own grandchildren. And Jon Arryn loved Mya Stone as his granddaughter as much as he loved Robert's trueborn children as his grandchildren, even the stupid and arrogant Joffrey. And Mya even reminded him of Robert sometimes, by her timidness and stubbornness yet she lacked the fun loving character that her father had possessed greatly. 

For the last eight years life hasn't been easy as he had thought it would be. From the moment Aerys executed his friend Rickard Stark with his heir Brandon Stark, Jon found out that the rumors about the King had been true. Aerys was Mad and worse he'd summoned him to give up his boys, Robert and Ned whom he loved like his own children. When he'd gotten Aerys' letter, Jon burned the letter up in the fire just like Aerys had done to Rickard Stark and refused to give up his foster sons. He was even ready to call his banners if the King chose to get them by force. 

But to make the matters even worse Rhaegar and Lyanna came out from their hideout, showing their true colors for all of the Seven Kingdoms to see. But even that had a positive look to it. Just because they chose to come out and confront Aerys a major war was prevented but only for a time. 

Robert was so angry after knowing that they ran off together. At first he had even refused to believe that Lyanna had chosen the Dragonspawn, as he liked to call Rhaegar, over him. But when they made their marriage publicly before the eyes of the people of Westeros, over the corpses of Rickard Stark, Brandon Stark and Catelyn Stark along with Princess Elia and her children's, everything became clear. 

Ned was afraid at first, then confused but when his sister emerged happily, hand-in-hand with Rhaegar Targaryen over the dead bodies of their family, he'd been so angry that Jon had never seen the calm and collective Ned as angry as that before. Both of them wanted justice. The northerners demanded justice for the murders of their lord and heir. The stormlords were enough of the slights the Targaryens had inflicted upon them. And both Ned and Robert wanted justice. 

But he had known that was not the time for that. Though they might've joined most of the men against the dragons they were in the vulnerable state possible. Robert had Stannis and Renly as his heirs, one of them who was only a child. He only had his nephew Elbert as his heir. And Ned's situation was even worse with no heir to take up the mantle of Lord of Winterfell after him, after his brother Benjen had offered to join the Night's Watch for helping Lyanna Stark in her tryst with Rhaegar Targaryen. 

So it fell to Jon to calm both of them down and to make the necessary things to make that happen. He made the match of Robert and Cersei, joining Tywin Lannister into the fold. Ned's marriage came in the easy way. He had already married the Lady Ashara Dayne before the Heart Tree at Harrenhal and they chose to solidify it in the eyes and laws of the men. The Daynes were one of the oldest houses in Westeros, from the time of the Age of Heroes. Legends even states that the Daynes hailed from the line of Gods. And they came with the blood of royalty. An unison between the two of the oldest houses in Westeros would have the heads of the people turned towards them and it would increase their prestige and power among the Lords and the people of Westeros. And it did. Ned's marriage with Ashara Dayne had been the talk of the people all the way from Dorne to the Wall. And lastly Jon himself married Lysa Tully after Lord Hoster himself proposed the match wanting justice for the murder of his eldest daughter. 

Everything had been perfect as much as Jon thought it would be. They were in the best shape possible with the births of their heirs. They had even tied up the knots which would bound them up for all the generations to come. He had planned all the things with a clear picture, checking them twice and more before acting it out. And yet Rhaegar had somehow managed to outwit him. When he murdered Ned and his wife with their son, the tower which they had been building came crumbling down all upon them. And they had never managed to get back to their true power after that. 

That had troubled Jon for the last eight years. With one move they'd lost Ned, his family and the entire help of the north. Now with the marriage of Rhaegar's son arriving, he had to make sure that they were safe, that he would not lose anyone again just like he'd lost his Ned. He knew very well of why Rhaegar was doing this especially now. And Jon wanted to show him that they were not so weak and alone as he thinks they are. And that would come with this marriage. Houses Bartheon and Arryn and Lannister and Tully all coming together to protect themselves in the union of his daughter Alyssa and Robert's son, Gendry. 

For about a thousand times Jon was happy that Gendry being Robert's firstborn and not Joffrey. Though they were brothers they shared nothing but blood. With the black hair and blue eyes, the classic Bartheon looks, Gendry was the perfect image of Robert. He shared the same skill of Robert in fighting and preferred a warhammer for a sword just like Robert. He was well behaved and good with Alyssa everytime they had met. Truthfully his daughter was in love with him too, Jon thought looking at his daughter riding her mare, giggling and chatting with her maids. She has never told him about that but he could see it in the way she was excited for her upcoming marriage. 

The mountain road can be dangerous for ladies to ride openly. It possessed dangers like the mountain clans and shodowcats and other likes of them. But Jon had brought a good amount of guards with his party along with Ser Brynden Tully, the Knight of the Gate as the captain of guards. Moreover Jon often used to send the Knights of the Vale to deal with the troubles of the mountain clans. With that the troubles of the Mountain Clans had reduced significantly and they had learnt to stay well away from the paths of the Knights of the Vale. 

When Robert and Ned were fostering with him, he used to bring them along with him to the fights sometimes. Robert would always enjoy the fight and used to show his sheer skill in the battle while Ned takes part in it in his own way. He missed those old days he had spent with them. He missed Robert's hearty laugh, Ned's solemn look, he missed them all. Now the halls of the Eyrie were filled with the sounds and laughs of his son and daughter. He even had a reminder of Robert with him. But the only thing Jon didn't had was Ned, not even a reminder of him. 

He had Gendry as the reminder of the Robert he'd raised, he had Mya Stone as the part of Robert with him. But he had nothing of Ned. The calm and solemn boy who used to listen everything he has to say and who obeys to his every words. Robert was wild, always. And Jon understood his nature, as the one who does what he wants and how he wants. He would listen to him, but there were some occasions where he hadn't and he had to push him further into listening. He even caused a scene with the rotten oranges one day in a formal breakfast. Jon smiled remembering it. 

But there had been no trouble for him with Ned. Ned was calm and quiet who would listen to him without causing him headaches. Ned rarely smiled after the things happened with his family and the Targaryens. He was never the boy who used to smile and laugh along with Robert in the Eyrie after that. And Jon understood that, after everything he had went through it had been difficult for him. The only time he had seen him smile after that was when he was with his wife and son. When Jon saw to both the marriages of Robert and Ned, he had wanted them to be happy. And in Ned's case he believed his thoughts came true.

Robert's relationship with his wife was complicated but in Ned's case it was simple and filled with love for everyone to see. Ashara Dayne loved him, made him smile and Jon had been thankful for that. Ned returned to his life, he started to smile more, he used to talk more and when Ashara Dayne had birthed him his son he'd been so happy that Jon felt the young boy he'd raised in him. To think that he was not with him anymore hurt. 

"What are you thinking about father?" a voice asked bringing him out of his old thoughts. His son Robert Arryn, named after his foster son Robert rode beside him, his head held high and proud as befits the falcon of the Arryn. 

"Nothing," Jon told his son. He looked at his son. With the blond hair and the blue eyes Jon couldn't help but remembering his own self by seeing him.

"When do you think we will reach mother's home?" Robert asked. 

"I don't know lad," Jon replied looking around their party. "At this pace we could save some time."

They were having a very good pace and was a bit ahead of their journey just in case to confuse Varys if the spider had known about their plans somehow. Robert would be on his way by the ship as well, to save the time. Though there was a fine chance for the Conningtons to know about it, since the ship would pass through their castle.

"My lord," Ser Vardis Egen came to him. "Ser Brynden says that this would be a good place for the night's stay." 

Jon looked around the place. The ground was was even with wisps of brown grass grown from the clefts and crevices. A stream flowed down along the road.  A night ride in the high road could be perilous. The high road was filled with stones. Up here the land was harsh and wild, and the high road little more than a stony track. And at night the road possessed double the danger it did in the light. 

"Mm," he nodded. "Tell the men to make the camp here." 

The knight nodded and left to Ser Brynden to tell his orders. Their party came to a halt and the men started to put up the tents for the nights. They used long iron stakes for the ground was hard and rocky. The horses were led to the stream to be watered and it was used by the men too.

Robert left towards the stream and Jon followed his son. He washed his face and hands in the icy cold water.

"Enjoying the rest, my lord," Ser Brynden asked kneeling down to use the water of the stream. 

Jon nodded smiling. Ser Brynden had followed his wife after their marriage and entered into his service. He was a great knight and moreover a good friend and family. 

"Alyssa seems pretty excited about her marriage," Ser Brynden asked looking at his daughter who was laughing and having her time with Myranda Royce and her other maids. 

"Aye, she is." Jon said cupping the cold water of the stream in his hands and spraying it in his face.

"She reminds me so much of Cat," Ser Brynden said his voice growing low. "She was excited about her marriage too."

Jon looked to Ser Brynden who turned away from his daughter to look back at him. "I haven't forgotten my neice's death just like you haven't forgotten your Ned's," Ser Brynden told, his face growing hard. The rage in him was evident for Jon to see. "So you think this plan would work?" He asked. 

Jon looked around and then down towards the running water. He looked at the running water for a moment before saying, "It should." 

Chapter Text

Andrew Stark

The moon was a silver disc hanging lonely in the sky. The night sky was just a dark soft ceiling concealed in the fogs. The stars in the sky were nonexistent, as the puffs of grey grew think and hard in the night. The night was dank and chilly and Andrew drew his brown jacket close. There was only an oil lamp to lit up the place and he could see no fire for all the distance he could see. 

He leaned onto the broken wooden pillar which suspended a half destroyed roof of a room whose only remains were the wooden pillar, the half destroyed roof and only one side of the wall stood out of the four of the room. He had Frost unsheathed in his hands, the tip of the frozen sword grazing against the wooden floor. 

The broken room stood adjacent to the bridge, overgoing one of the branches of the Long Canal which connected the southern end of the main land of Braavos where the Iron Bank and most of its representatives palaces were located to the place where the most popular brothel in Braavos was situated. Those two were the busiest places one could see in Braavos along with the Ragman Harbor. Picking up a spot such as that to kill a man wouldn't be a best option. But the magic here in Braavos was that, it had many other ways in order to reach a specific place and there were other bridges which connected both the lands as well. Other bridges in their best shape and well maintained and frequently used while this thing was old and gaunt and unused by people for many years. Still everything had a reason to exist and was useful in certain way, and the old bridge helped the noble ones of Braavos to get into the brothels unnoticed and without too much trouble from their fellow citizens. 

The old bridge was deserted by the people of the Braavos after bridges, better and shorter than that came into existence. Now the only ones to use it were the rich men and the nobles of Braavos only to get a warm night's sleep or if they were tired of their wives and needed a change. Andrew had never found a use for the bridge, until now. Now the bridge had showed it's true use for him for it is this bridge which is going to help him to avenge his family. 

For the last few days Andrew had done nothing but follow Viserys Targaryen, taking note of wherever he goes, whatever he does, when he has more number of guards around him and when less and which of them comes in his guard in his private moments. And he had managed to find out almost all of his day's routine. 

The mad dragon took to spend his mornings in the Iron Bank with the bankers. He always had a good number of guards guarding him during the morning. He used to have his midday meal in the Iron Bank and used to spend every morning to evening in there with the bankers. Then he returned to the palace with all of his guards when the sun goes down. But once the moon had took the place of the sun in the sky, Viserys Targaryen unfurled his secret part just like the night unfurled the dark. He used to go to the brothel almost every night to spend the night with the Black Pearl. Some days he would bring her to the palace where he was staying in and some days he would spend the night with her in the brothel. When he goes to meet up with the Black Pearl he would take only a small guard with him. Only four men accompanied Viserys Targaryen in his visits to the brothel. And as every other rich merchant and the upper class people of Braavos living near the Iron Bank, he used the Old Bridge for his brief travels. 

That made a clear picture for Andrew. Instead of making heavy plans, he had the plan right before him. A deserted bridge and less number of guards made the things easier. With the fogs and the dark to cover him, he could very well kill all of them even before they could understand what had attacked them. 

He had been here from the time the the western horizon had gone red. Following Viserys he'd stopped here while the mad dragon had continued on his way to the brothel. He didn't wanted to miss any chances and risk it. Eight years he'd been waiting for this day and from this day on the dragons will feel the same pain he had felt all these years. 

Viserys Targaryen was only the start of the demise of the Targaryens. Andrew knew what a great opportunity this was not only for the death of Viserys Targaryen. When Rhaegar Targaryen hears about his brother's death in Braavos that would definitely lure him to Braavos. Even if he didn't care for his brother he would definitely come for that contract with the Iron Bank. And that contract will be his end just like his brother's had been, Andrew would make sure of it.

The night was chilly. The cold wind blew through and his exposed face felt the worst of it. Andrew cursed himself for not bringing a cloak with him. He moved over to the lamp and put his hands over the heat. The lamp provided the heat he needed and helped him to see in the foggy night. The world looked a grey gloom covered in the fogs even the moonlight had to fight it's way through the fogs to reach the surface. He took his heated palms and pressed them against his cheeks. 

The Canal flowed slowly, moving gradually on its way. In the mornings there is a fine chance of seeing some rowboats passing through but it was highly unlikely to see one in the night. With the dark around the boatmen won't risk for a crash and even for their life. The canals in Braavos could be as dangerous as the Faceless Men. All you have to do to hide a corpse is to dump it into the canals and the fishes would do the rest. And a crash could very well help you to sleep with the fishes. 

His mouth opened in a big yawn and Andrew found sleep clouding his eyes. For the last two days he never slept, always going over the plans to take down the dragon. He damned himself for not taking a good sleep for the last few days. But that wasn't all of it. Even if he had tried to sleep, then the dreams would come to disturb it. Andrew smiled thinking how distant he was from a good deep sleep.

He remembered those old times when he would sleep in his mother's arms, back then sleep had been the easiest of all. Back at Winterfell he would always sleep with his mother's arms around him and never once dreams had frightened him. His mother had always been there to protect him from nightterrors only now she wasn't here to protect him anymore. 

Andrew sighed and looked at the flickering flame of the oil lamp. The flame flickered heavily as if to die out when a gush of cold wind passed. Andrew immediately cupped his hands around it and prayed that it doesn't die out. The lamp was the only thing which helped him to see and protected him from the cold. He could see to a certain extent with the help of the moonlight and his clothes kept him warm. But the lamp provided the heat needed for his face and his hands. 

He was growing tired every second of the passing time and found himself starting to doze. He got up and walked over to the edge of the wooden platform and knelt. The water was as dark as the night though the true color of it would've been a murky green or a blue. At night there is no colors and nothing but dark. He cupped the cold water in his hands and washed his face clear from the sleep. Doing a work sleepily would only manage to spoil it and Andrew didn't wanted that to happen. 

Andrew wondered how long has it been. He was certain that it was past midnight now. The Titan's roar would indicate the time, but he could hear nothing for sometime. Andrew returned to his place by the lamp. He turned back to check if anyone was coming but only saw a beetle buzzing towards the fire. 

He took Frost in his hands and waited. He had waited eight long years for this day and a few more hours won't be much of a trouble. He was glad that he'd brought his dinner or else hunger would've troubled him as much as his sleepiness. Illola had given him a good chunk of bread with boiled oysters and fried sardines for his dinner after he had told her about his plan. Illola was the only one here in Braavos who knew his true name and identity and she kept it a perfect secret that even her daughters never knew of it. She had been afraid about it at first but then realised that he needs to do it. 

Just as he was thinking about it he heard footsteps behind him. He could hear the boots thudding against the wood clearly as the night was calm and quiet. As soon as he heard the sound of the footsteps the tiredness and the sleepiness which covered him disappeared and Andrew felt as if he was filled with energy. He could hear the sounds of the footsteps nearing and Andrew leaned over to see them. 

He saw all the five of them he'd seen in the evening. Two of them had torches in their hands, one in the front and one in the back. Viserys Targaryen walked in the middle. He had no problem identifying him even in the dark. The silver hair was all messed up, courtesy of the Black Pearl, thought Andrew. He moved back with Frost in his hands and waited for the perfect time to strike. 

The footsteps grew closer and closer. Thud, Thud, Thud... the uneven steps of the men arriving further and further. Andrew found himself losing him calmness as he heard the footsteps coming closer and closer to him. He had been waiting for this moment for the last eight years yet he found himself backing now. He sighed and thought about his parents and family. He remembered his father's smile, his uncle Arthur's laughs and most importantly he remembered his mother's words. 'Remember who you are Andrew. You are Andrew Stark, hailed from the line of Gods and Kings. Whatever you do remember that.' He remembered her sweet smile, her kiss and her, 'I love you.'

Andrew heard the footsteps nearer now. He took the oil lamp and threw it at their way on the wooden platform and hid in the dark. The lamp hit the wood and the fire went out. 

"Fuck," Viserys Targaryen muttered and the footsteps stopped. "Who goes there?" 

Andrew moved quietly with the dark. He took his dagger in his hand and moved further along the broken wall of the destroyed room. 

"Go and see who is that," Viserys Targaryen ordered and he could hear one of the men walking towards him. 

He could see the golden glow of the fire approaching him from the other side. 'I love you' Andrew heard the words again. He held his dagger in a back grip and waited near the edge of the Wall. The glow of the torch grew brighter as the guard neared and when he turned, he ended right in front of him and Andrew opened his throat swiftly with a single slash before he could even shout. The torch he was carrying thudded against the wood with his corpse and the fire went out. 

Andrew could hear the sound of steel scraping against the wood and leather as they drew their swords from the scabbards. "Shit," one of them yelled and the four of them moved closer drawing their blades bringing themselves in the light. 

Using the light of their torch Andrew could see all four of them, watching to every direction with their backs to each other. Andrew threw the dagger at the one in the front facing him and before his body could drop to the floor he rushed a the remaining three. 

Andrew kicked Viserys Targaryen. The Targaryen prince stumbled back and fell on the ground. He pressed his attack on the remaining two guards before they could even collect themselves. The guard who held the torch dropped his torch and fortunately it didn't go out. Andrew fought the two guard in the light of the torch. He pressed his attack on both of them simultaneously, attacking the guard on the right, then parrying the attack from his left. The song of steel filled the silent night. Andrew wielded Frost, quick and gracefully, his attacks fell on both the guards in a fluidic motion without missing his steps. He landed two more attack for his every defence. Soon enough he found the opening he needed, he turned the attack from his left with a two handed slash from below and in one swift motion he brought Frost back from his left and split the left knee of the guard whose sword was far away to stop his attack and without wasting a moment Andrew parried the sword of guard on his right with a backhand slash and brought Frost swinging down, cutting the guard open from his shoulder to hip. When the guard on his right fell lifelessly to the ground, Andrew shoved Frost right through the kneeling guard on his left killing him instantly. 

When both the guards were dead Andrew turned towards Viserys Targaryen. The dragon was just gaping at him from the ground with a sword in his hand. When he saw him he scrambled up from the ground with all the strength he could muster. 

"I'm going to fucking kill you bastard," Viserys Targaryen roared and rushed towards him. "You shouldn't wake the dragon."

Andrew parried his attacks effortlessly, left and right he deflected Viserys' attacks and soon started to press his attack and sent the Targaryen on his heel. He pressed further and further, landing attacks to Viserys' left and right and crossed and locked swords with him briefly before yanking the blade away from Viserys' hands. He slammed the silver and glass pommel of Frost into his face, sending him back to the ground. 

Andrew wanted nothing more than to kill the monster then and there but he remembered the words he had said about his mother. 'The first one to catch her will get a chance to taste her. Not even the noblest of the men in Westeros would get a chance to fuck the most beautiful woman in the world.' At the age of eight Andrew never understood what it meant, but being a man it was hard not knowing about it. He had heard something that no son should hear about his mother and the gods only knew what tortures this monster had inflicted upon his mother. 

Once he dumped the dead guards in the canal, he took the rope he'd brought and tied it to the leg of Viserys. He dragged him through the wood back in the way he came. 

"Who the fuck are you?" Viserys Targaryen asked him as he dragged him through the ground but Andrew kept quiet. "I am the Prince of the Seven Kingdoms you bastard. I am a dragon." The Mad Dragon continued his rant. He offered him lordship, wealth and everyother things on their way back and Andrew replied him with sharp tugs which would bang his head in the wood. 

Whatever time it has been, there was no one around when they reached the Pearl House, the brothel where the Black Pearl resided. Viserys Targaryen went on again from the start asking who he was again and again before continuing with his offers. Andrew felt the rage pouring over him once more. He left Viserys before the Pearl House and pummelled his face with his fists until nothing but mess was remained of the Prince's once pretty face. Viserys' face was bashed in that he could not speak anymore.

Andrew unwound the rope from Viserys' leg and tied it around his neck. He threw the other end of the rope over the bar from where the board 'The Pearl House' hung indicating the brothel. Andrew pulled the rope on the other side which lifted Viserys Targaryen off the ground. When he'd pulled Viserys upright with only his legs on the ground he kicked and turned the Mad Dragon to face him. Viserys Targaryen tried to say something but he couldn't talk with the broken mouth. 

"You wanted to know me, didn't you?" Andrew asked holding the rope which was tied around Viserys' neck. The Prince never showed any response to it. "There is she, in the woods..." Viserys' eyes grew as wide as the moon at that. "The first one to catch her will get a chance to taste her... Not even the noblest of the men in Westeros would get a chance to fuck the most beautiful woman in the world." With every sentence Viserys Targaryen's broken face gradually grew big in shock. "I am her son." He didn't looked pretty now, just scared. His eyes looked as though they would jump out and Andrew saw the fear in his eyes, fear as if he'd seen the death itself. "I am Andrew Stark, son of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Ashara Dayne." With that Andrew pulled the rope with all his might hanging Viserys Targaryen from the bar along with the board of the brothel the Pearl House, with his legs flailing and kicking. 

Andrew tied the rope to a big stone nearby and walked away from the Mad Dragon, not even turning to the chokings and gaspings of Viserys Targaryen, leaving him alone with his chokes and gasps.

 

Chapter Text

Rhaegar Targaryen

 

The scroll laid rolled up and crushed on the table of the Small Council. There was murmuring and muttering and voices speaking in hushed tones which was very unusual in the Small Council of Rhaegar Targaryen, King of the Andals, First Men and the Rhoynar. The council meeting was initially organised to make up the plans for the marriage of his son Aegon, but now the news which they were handling was a much less pleasant one than that of a marriage. 

'To King Rhaegar Targaryen, King of the Andals, First Men and the Rhoynar, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, with deep regrets we inform you that your brother, Prince Viserys was found dead, hanging from the Pearl House. We are sending the Prince's body back in the ship which brought him here with two ships of our own to provide protection in order if something bad happens on the way. The ship will set sail the same time as the raven with this letter takes off so it will reach you soon enough.' 

Rhaegar had read the letter again and again for at least a dozen times that he could bring out every words in the letter to make a new copy of that. Viserys was dead. That was what the letter said, hanged from a brothel. When he read about the way in which his brother had been killed, the King knew for sure that it was no simple work of some sellswords or that kind. There were killings in the Pearl House before Rhaegar knew, the Braavosi men fighting and killing for the Black Pearl but this was not the one as that. Knowing his brother the King knew that he would've sought after the bed of the Black Pearl. His brother always had a thirst for claiming exotic beauties. He even asked him to give Ashara Dayne to him but Rhaegar had other plans for the Fallen Star before sending her to the depths of earth. And with a chance to get one of the most popular woman in his bed Viserys would never have missed that chance.

But no one would ever dare touch a Prince of the Seven Kingdoms let alone a Targaryen Prince even in the Free Cities. True that the Valyrians were not so loved in the Free Cities with their constant fights against the Grand Maesters of the Free Cities and their acts of slavery. But that was in the past and even if they'd had any problems with them they were not so brave enough to put their hands on a Dragon. 

Hanged from the Pearl House. His brother would've died a slow but a sure death. And that troubled Rhaegar. Killing Viserys is one thing but hanging him from a brothel is another. It's not that Viserys had no enemies. His brother had a rare talent to make enemies rather than friends. If it had been someone with a personal problem with Viserys there was no chance for him to make it so public as this. He would've managed to hide Viserys' corpse as he managed to do with his guards' corpses. Rhaegar knew his brother was a thickhead who would use his mouth over that of his brain but even Viserys was not so stupid as to wander the Free City of Braavos without a guard. Hiding the dead bodies of his brother's guards but choosing to show the death of a Westerosi Prince in public, that was not a work done over some petty quarrel or a work done by some ordinary man. Doing that would make no sense unless the assassin wanted everyone to see it.

Yet no good will come from by showing Viserys' death in public, unless it was a threatening to them by someone who never liked their friendship with the Iron Bank or someone else who did the deed for entirely different purpose, Rhaegar never knew. He looked at his Small Council, all confused and afraid about the news with even the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Gerold Hightower unease at the news. 

"This is madness," Lord Baelish spoke out. "It should've been the work of the Baratheons or the Arryns or the Tullys or the Lannisters. Only they have problems with us to do this."

"No it couldn't be," Jon spoke out with a certainty in his voice. "Even if they have their problems, Arryn is too high in his honor to do a thing like this. And Robert... Viserys is nothing to Robert. He wouldn't have gone all the way to Braavos just for Viserys alone." 

The council members nodded. Rhaegar could see all of their faces screwed in thinking and he wished to hear out all of their thoughts. 

"What about Lord Tywin Lannister," the Master of the Coin was still unsatisfied. "Every men, women and children in the Seven Kingdoms know about the ruthlessness and power of the Old Lion. And only Tywin Lannister proudly displays his accomplishments for the others to see." 

Rhaegar quickly caught the idea. He knew where Petyr Baelish was coming with his words. The display of Viserys' death that made sense if it was indeed Tywin Lannister's doing. He never forgot the rage in Lord Tywin's eyes when his father shamed him publicly in the court. He had known everything that had happened to Houses Reyne and Tarbeck. Both the Houses were entirely vanished from existence by the work of Tywin Lannister. And Lord Tywin chose to proudly announce it by a song, 'The Rains of Castamere.' So he wasn't out of option in somehow being associated with the death of Viserys and the public display of Viserys' death seemed only to strengthen the fact. The King knew that the Lion was never close with the Dragons ever since his father denied Lord Tywin's proposal for a marriage between Rhaegar and his daughter and when Rhaegar himself shunned his daughter again for the second time it brought their old little friendship to the end. Though the Lion was old Rhaegar knew for sure that it still had its claws sharp and ready.

"It is perfectly possible," Lord Tyrell agreed with Littlefinger. "Tywin Lannister is one of the richest man in Westeros and it is perfectly possible for him to arrange an assassin or a sellsword to do this dirty work." 

The Hand of the King shook his head from his left. He placed his hands on to the table and leaned forward from his chair. "What good would come for Lord Tywin with the death of Prince Viserys, that too doing it by spending a hefty amount. Even assassins and sellswords think twice and more before engaging with high lords and nobles let alone the Prince of the Seven Kingdoms. To pay for the death of a Prince of the Seven Kingdoms it should've cost Lord Tywin a fortune."

Rhaegar found that his Hand had a point. Tywin Lannister had his problems with the Targaryens, but not with Viserys. And spending such a huge amount on the death of his brother didn't felt as the Old Lion's way. Lord Tywin would go to the ends of the world only if it was good for something. And Viserys' death does no good to the Warden of the West. If it had been an attack on him or Lyanna or one of their children Rhaegar would've doubted no one else but Lord Tywin. He had his reasons to do that. But doing this by spending such a hefty amount just for the sake of Viserys' death which would definitely bring no good for Lord Tywin and Rhaegar had troubles in believing that it was Lord Tywin's work. Unless, the Old Lion meant it as a threat. But even so it didn't made any sense as for why would Lord Tywin choose the brothel? 

The Small Council chamber was silent as the death itself. The King looked at all of his council members' face. From the drowsy look on the grim face of Jon Connington to the freshly powdered plump face of Varys. They were all confused and afraid of what might happen next. But Rhaegar wasn't afraid. He was the King of the Seven Kingdoms and a Dragon and the Dragon fears nothing. 

"Lord Varys," his voice was firm and strong, not the one he uses to sing his songs. "What news do we have about Robert and his friends." 

The Eunuch rubbed his powdered hands and hid them in the sleeves of his lavender robes. "I'm afraid that we have nothing new, Your Grace," he said in a voice as quiet as his slippers. "The last we've heard of them was the marriage of Lord Robert's son and Lord Jon Arryn's daughter. But it is yet to happen. And there is no word of some new voyages of them to Braavos as well."

So they don't have any involvement in this. The gods be damned... I just got a new problem when everything was going fine, Rhaegar thought. He has enough problems within his realm and now another one comes from Braavos. He brushed the terrible thoughts away and focused on the works needed to be done. He shall worry about his brother later. And by no means that he was to leave this thing go unnoticed. The thing which happened to Viserys may very well follow up to the rest of his family. But now that is not all the news the raven brought from Braavos.

The letter also mentioned about the final stages of their deal for the loan from the Iron Bank which was incomplete. Tycho Nestoris had mentioned full and well about how the deal was incomplete with Viserys' death and how the loan won't be provided for them until someone else finishes the thing which Viserys couldn't. The fact that their contract with the Iron Bank was not yet fulfilled added onto the trouble Rhaegar was having with his brother's death. The crown on his head felt heavy and a weight on his head. Rhaegar took the conqueror crown from his head and placed in neatly before him on the table. 

"As you all know it," Rhaegar Targaryen brought the attention of his small council back to him. "The letter not only brought the news about my brother's death but also about the contract between the Iron Throne and the Iron Bank of Braavos."

When all of the lords' attentions were turned to him he continued. "It seems that Viserys was killed before he could finish his work," the King took the letter and threw it at the middle of the table where it laid, touched by no one since everyone was aware of what is going to come. "That means someone has to go to Braavos to get the job done."

There was a series of hushed voices in the small council chambers. Rhaegar looked to his lords speaking to themselves in hushed tones. 

"Your Grace," Lord Jon Connington said after a moment. "With your word I shall go to Braavos to finish the contract and seal the friendship between the Iron Throne and the Iron Bank of Braavos."

At first Rhaegar was tempted to agree to it and send Jon Connington to Braavos. Jon was his trusted friend and a loyal servant. Sending him to Braavos would have the work done sooner than he'd thought. He thought as if he'd made a mistake by sending Viserys in the first place. If he'd sent Jon in the place of Viserys, it would've been the Lord Hand returning to Westeros victorious unlike Viserys who was coming back as a corpse. But then Rhaegar decided against it.

"The Hand of the King belongs in King's Landing, Lord Jon," Rhaegar said looking at his Hand. "You're needed here if the need arises to act in the King's stead." 

The Lords of the Small Council nodded at his word. 

"Your Grace," Lord Baelish announced. "Let me go to Braavos then to make the things right and secure the contract of the Iron Throne with the Iron Bank as it is truthfully my work as the Master of Coin."

Rhaegar looked at the slimy smirk of Littlefinger and couldn't understand what the man was truly thinking at. Of all his lords he trusted Littlefinger the least. Everyone of his lords in the Small Council owed their loyalty to him except Petyr Baelish. Littlefinger's loyalty was only to Littlefinger and it is good for you to realise it as quickly as you could. But still Littlefinger was useful in his own way. 

"Won't the preperations for the Crown Prince's marriage come under your work, my lord?" Rhaegar asked. Littlefinger nodded and bowed his head with a lazy smirk on his lips.

After a moment of silence Rhaegar stood from his seat. The council members looked up at him waiting to hear his decision. "I intend to go to Braavos myself to finish my brother's work," said the King and the council members were shocked at his decision and Rhaegar could see it in their faces. 

"Your Grace is it wise for you to go now, especially with your brother's death?" Lord Varys asked. 

"Do you have anyone else in your mind to take up this responsibility, Lord Varys?" Rhaegar asked harshly. When the eunuch shook his head he finished the meeting. "Very well then," he said donning his crown. Rhaegar had sent his brother to Braavos to show his gratitude and respect and now his brother was dead. And the man who killed him should be walking happily in Braavos. This wasn't only about the contract, this was about the Dragons. And only a Dragon should deal with a Dragon's problem not some lesser men. He would go to Braavos and find out the seed from which this new tree had grown up and when he does that the block would burn just like all the other trees which'd blocked him before. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Daenerys Targaryen

 

The ship was a deep wooden blur amidst the gleaming waters of the Blackwater Bay. The sun was scorching hot up in the sky and the restless sea shimmered in the light of the sun as if it was a looking glass. The wind blowed against her with sprinkles of water and a hint of saltiness in them and Daenerys Targaryen settled her blowing silver blond hair back in its place. The ship gradually neared them, its size growing big and clear with every passing second as the ship made its way towards the shores of King's Landing. The ship carrying her brother's body. 

It was funny to her with this entire thing for her family waiting for her brother's corpse. King's Landing, the place where they were standing is the very place where Aegon the Conqueror had landed three hundred years before and went on to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. And this place where he landed was called King's Landing by the people ever since. But now they were waiting for the dead body of her brother to land here. Maybe they would call it as 'Prince's Pyre' hereafter. Only Viserys would not be cremated here, his body will be cremated by the tradition of their Valyrian ancestors and then his ashes would be interred in the Great Sept of Baelor just like the ashes of their forefathers had been interred before him from the times of Aegon the Conqueror. 

They had been here from the morning, reaching the shores of the Blackwater Bay just as the word came that the ship which was carrying her brother's body was sighted. Daenerys had never truly believed that her brother was killed when Rhaegar told her about the raven from Braavos. No one dared to touch a dragon, no one. Yet someone touched and worse, killed a dragon hanging him from a brothel. Viserys was always inclined towards the women and it was a certain fitting irony that he was killed in a brothel, using the brothel. There were times when she had thought about Viserys to be gone for good. Still he was her brother and she would make sure that her brother would be avenged with Fire And Blood.

The ship was still a good long distance away from the shore and Dany thought that it would take some more time for them to reach the shores of King's Landing. The sea shore was mostly filled with the people of King's Landing which amazed her after remembering the day when Viserys sailed for Braavos. There had been no one to see him leaving for Braavos except their family, guards and the court who were standing to receive him back to King's Landing. Except for them there had been only a few others from the smallfolk of King's Landing to see him sail to Braavos. But Dany doubted that they came to see her brother or her family that day. She was pretty sure that they came to see the Braavosi banker. Now looking around the good number of people gathered here to welcome her brother's body she found how exalted they were to find out that Viserys was dead. King's Landing never loved the Targaryens as they'd loved them once, Dany knew that but she also knew that they never needed love. 

Dany looked at Drogon flying with his brothers in the sky and felt how free and independent the creature was. Drogon never had the love of the people yet he had the fear of them towards him. And the Targaryens needed only that fear and they had them in a vast range. All of these people standing here would go rushing back, covering and shivering to their homes if Drogon came back from the sky to land here. At the first thought Dany was inclined to do that but she decided to go against it so that her brother could get a quiet and peaceful funeral. 

Daenerys Targaryen didn't needed her dragon always to prove what she truly was to the people. She was Daenerys "Stormborn" Targaryen, hailed from the ancient Valyrian line, Blood of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel. It only took one look for her to send even the strongest of the men searching for cover. And it would take only one word for her to turn the man who killed her brother into nothing but a puff of ash. 

Dany had already asked about it to Rhaegar so that she could go to Braavos on the back of Drogon and return with the ash of Viserys' killer so that his ash could be thrown in the sea before her brother's remains was interred. But her brother had strictly prohibited her from doing so saying that he needed his dragon heads to be safe and sound and prepared for the long night. Dany should have objected that and flew over to Braavos to bring Fire and Blood to her brother's killer but she had listened to Rhaegar and stayed here, now waiting for her brother's corpse to arrive.

The sea seemed quiet and calm with gentle waves lapping at the shores. But Dany knew it was not so calm as it looked to be. Until Viserys' killer was brought to justice there won't be any peace for them. The dragons were restless in the sky too always roaring and screaming. All three of them rearing and hissing at each other. Her nephews both came as soon as Rhaegar sent the word of Viserys' death to them. Aegon came from Dragonstone and Jaeherys from the north. It was a difficult journey for a man but not for a dragon. A dragon could cover long distances so soon and without much rest. 

Dany still remembered the day the dragons born, the day she brought them back to this world from stones. The day she walked into the pyre made for the Red Priest Bezzaro's ritual with the stone eggs in her hands only to emerge again unscathed and with dragons in her arms rather than the stone eggs. That was the day the world found who she really was, the Mother of the Dragons. Now looking at them all grown up huge and mighty, restless and fearless Dany found a certain proud settling deep in her heart.  

The ship neared so swiftly that Dany could make out the name written on the hull in green. 'Sea Dragon' the name was written on both sides of the hull of the ship, big enough to make it out even from a certain distance away. Dany could see the slender ship making its way towards the shores of King's Landing swiftly,  it's long oars pushing and splashing the water back all in the same time, gradually and constantly. It was flanked by two more ships which were smaller than the Sea Dragon but still kept up with the speed of it. 

Dany moved up with her family when the Sea Dragon stopped at a fair distance away from the shores of the Blackwater Bay. She stood next to Aegon with Rhaegar to Aegon's left and then Lyanna to Rhaegar's left and then Jaeherys next to her good sister. The Royal family was flanked by the Lord commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Gerald Hightown and Ser Barristan Selmy with Ser Jaime Lannister and Ser Daemon Sand behind them. The other three members of the Kingsguard, Ser Oswell Whent, Ser Lewyn Martell and Ser Jonothor Darry took their places along the perimeter, between the people and the Royal family. Fifty Targaryen guards were given under their command to divide the commoners away from the nobles and the remaining guards trailed the members of the court in two neat columns. 

A boat set off from the Sea Dragon and another two followed it. Dany could identify that the first big boat had her brother's body with the lack of men in it. The other two boats included the crew of the Sea Dragons and her brother's guards who managed to get back to Westeros alive. 

The High Priest looked radiant in his white robes chased with the cloth of gold. His crystal crown absorbed the sunlight and emitted it back as a dozen rainbows. The High Septon was an old man with a bald head and a wrinkled face. His highly fashioned clothes of gold and silver seemed to press him down with their weight. He moved up in front of the Royal family to receive the body of Viserys in the Gods' name. 

The boat which had her brother's body reached the shore and Dany could see the white bundle in the middle which was her brother. The men from the other boats moved to take out her brother's body and placed it infront of them. Viserys' body was covered in a white cloth that it gave no hint of the corpse beneath it. Though the stench gave away what the cloth hid. 

The High Septon moved around her brother's body with a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense was burned to keep the smell of death away. The High Septon moved around Viserys saying his prayers before the others could see the Prince's body. The old man finished his prayers and stepped back for the Royal family to pay their respects. Dany moved with her brother and his family and reached Viserys' body. 

Rhaegar opened the cloth which covered Viserys' body and Dany saw the terrible state her brother was in. His face was beaten and broken beyond recognition. His lower face was a mess, his mouth bashed in, with teeth and bones jutting out where once his perfect teeth and proud lips opened in a smile which quickened the hearts of the maidens. The noose which squeezed the life out of him had left it's mark, dark and purple around his neck. He looked pale and cold. His skin and flesh started to slough and Dany saw that her brother's body was in the worst shape possible. It was clear that he didn't even had the time for mourning. Perhaps she was right, they will call it as the Prince's Pyre hereafter as this is the place Viserys will be mourned and burned. 

Aegon forced his usual facade trying hard not to wrinkle his nose as befits the Crown Prince but Jaeherys and his mother wrinkled at the smell of decay coming from her brother. Rhaegar looked at their brother for a moment then backed up giving way for the others to pay their respects and for their mourning. Dany and the other members of the Royal Family followed the King and the members of the court and the lesser Lords from the Crownlands made their way up to mourn the prince. 

Dany noticed the people around, their faces all smiles and glee even though half of them looked as though they would die of hunger this night or the next. There was happiness in their faces not the fear of the dragons standing before them. Dany found her temper getting better of her as she saw the smug satisfied faces of the people. No one dares to smile at the dragon, yet they did. Let them smile, she thought. All their smiles would die with the death of the one who brought these smiles to their faces. Viserys' killer. 

When everyone was done the men set up the pyre for her brother. They placed him gingerly on the pyre along with the wooden bier as they couldn't take his corpse alone without making a mess. Rhaegar set up the fire and Dany watched her brother burn in the fire. Fire couldn't kill a dragon, she thought, but even the dead dragons burned.  

When the fires died out the remains of Viserys was collected in a golden urn so that they could be interred under the Great Sept of Baelor with their ancestors. The journey back to the Red Keep was a silent and sombre affair. The King was quiet as death on his stallion and no one dared to disturb him. Dany rode her silver mare, looking at her family, everyone experiencing a loss for the first time. 

When they reached the Red Keep, the King called his family to his solar. Rhaegar led all of them to his solar and ordered the Old Bull and Ser Barristan to stand guard at the door. Dany noticed at all their faces as they took their seat, confusion and loss covered everyone of their faces. There room was filled with silence until Rhaegar broke it. 

"The gods be damned," Rhaegar cursed and Dany knew exactly why her brother cursed the gods. Viserys got a terrible death and a worser end than that. She could never believe that anyone could experience a worser end than this. And a death like that to a Targaryen Prince is the worst thing of all. All the fear the people had for them just turned to a mockery infront of their eyes and it would not stop with it, Dany knew. 

"Did you see him?" Dany asked looking all the faces in the room. "He is... was completely destroyed."

Rhaegar nodded. "This is getting worser and worser. This is pure rage. A normal killer won't do this. This is someone who we aren't aware of, someone who we haven't taken into account."

Dany lifted her head at her brother. "Let me go and see who is that then? It would take only one word for me and I shall return with that someone's remains."

Rhaegar gave a look at her which told her everything even before he voiced them. "You're not going. I will go to Braavos and right all the wrongs done to Viserys." He paused for a moment. "And when I find him... He'll get a lot worser than what he'd done to Viserys."

Dany looked at her brother and saw the fire in his eyes. The Dragon in him had woken. Viserys would get his justice in Fire and Blood and even if Rhaegar failed she would make sure of it.

 

 

Chapter Text

Andrew

He woke up in the dark, breathing heavily, gasping for air. The fires in his chambers had died out and the candles had reduced to a solid puddle of wax in the stand. From the dark around him Andrew could say that it was still very early in the morning. Time in which the birds would rise up from their nests. He sat up on his bed and moved the covers back pushing his hand through his black hair which blended easily with the darkness in the room. Everyday he would go to sleep with the covers on to protect him from the cold only to wake up sweating in the early morning. Thanks to his dreams which did the deed without fail. 

Even after he had killed Viserys the dreams just continued to trouble him. He had made the death of the Mad Dragon as a slow and a terrible one. Hanging from a brothel he was very much welcomed to fuck all the women he needs with his dead cock. Yet now his dreams were worser than the ones before. He saw the blood and gore and mess as usual but everytime in the end he would see his mother just like he'd seen her for the last time, standing in the waters of the Torentine with that sweet smile of hers, shining in the starlight with tears in her beautiful face and the dark hair, the same one that he had, blowing in the night wind. He remembered for sure that he had seen no one else with his mother that day. But now Viserys stood behind his mother in his dreams. He looked the exact same way he had left him hanging in the Pearl House. He was pale as death and the only thing remained of his lower face was just the mess he'd made of it. His flesh was sloughing in most of his body and his hands were white. They looked as though they were some kind of bird's claws. When the Torentine would take Andrew away from his mother, Viserys would make his way towards his mother. Andrew would shout with all his might at his mother yet she couldn't hear his shouts. Viserys would grab his mother with his claws tight around her neck, the sharp claws sinking deep enough to draw blood. And then his tongue would come out of his mouth, all white and slimy to lick the blood he brought from his mother's neck. Andrew always tries to jump off from the boat and to go save his mother but no matter how hard he tries he could never get off of the boat. The Torentine would take him far away from his mother but still he could clearly see Viserys' claws tightening around his mother's neck. 

It felt for Andrew that he himself had sent the Mad Dragon to his mother. But then he realised that there was no way for a monster like Viserys to be in the same place where his mother would be. Viserys would be burning in the deepest pit of the Hell but his mother won't be there. Not his mother, who was sweet and noble and kind and beautiful. She would be a world away from Viserys, with his father and uncle around to protect her. Maybe the dreams were just helping him to remember the things he needs to do, he never knew. It definitely helped a lot. It was the dreams which helped him to remember who he was, which pushed him to do what he was doing now. If it wasn't for those dreams even inside his deep heart he would have completely changed into Andrew Snow. He would've turned into the mask he was wearing to hide his identity. But still this dream troubled him as though if it meant something. 

He got off his bed and moved over to the window. The canal which ran near the inn looked nothing but a stream of flowing ink. A man rowed his boat upstream in it, starting his day with the work. The eastern horizon was a pinkish red which indicated the rising sun. Andrew sighed and went on to start his day with a refreshing bath.  

When he was done with the bath he moved over to his wardrobe and picked up fresh clothes to wear. He wore a brown sleeveless jacket and the white tunic shirt with the sleeves folded up to the level of his elbows. A burgundy pant completed his clothing and Andrew styled his wet hair in the way he preferred, slicking it back from the front to the back. Frost laid on the table. Andrew thought to take the sword at first but then he decided to go without it since the Sealord of Braavos became alert enough to increase the patrol after the death of the Prince of the Seven Kingdoms. 

He made his way down to the Foghouse and found that the inn was filled with a good number of people despite the time being the early hours of the morning. Most of them looked like the guards of the Sealord of Braavos or the Iron Bank or the other nobles in Braavos along with sellswords and some others looked like sailors or workers of some kind. Andrew got down to the inn and found the girls going on with their works in a quick at the same time a comfortable pace. He came against Sarrera and the girl gave him a wide smile which easily brought a smile from Andrew's lips too. Sarrera offered him a tankard of strong beer she had in her tray but Andrew turned it down knowing that she would've taken it for someone else. 

He reached Illola's desk and took his seat in a chair. Illola sat on the opposite looking at the notes, going through the papers. "What's with the crowd?" Andrew asked turning back to look at the crowd in the Foghouse. He knew that it was very unlikely for such a crowd to come to an inn in the early morning here in Braavos. Still even that was good, a good crowd is best for business at any time. 

"Something is going on," Illola looked up from the note. "Even the Sealord came here to the Harbor to check on something. The Harbor is filled with the guards and workers."

Andrew looked around the inn, looking at them it seemed as though they were there for some kind of work. Most of them were guards of the nobles of Braavos and with the arrival of the Sealord of Braavos to the Ragman Harbor it was not a surprise for him that most of the nobles would have followed him here as well. He then turned to Illola and took a neatly arranged column of coins. He turned them over in his hand before placing them back one by one arranging them in the order they were before. Twenty coins made up the column, twenty Braavosi iron squares. 

Ivanna brought him his breakfast with a big smile on her face that even challenged the one her sister gave him. Andrew smiled back at her and ruffled her hair when she came near him. A big chunk of bread with two boiled eggs and a few crisp fried thin sardines filled up his plate with a tankard of black beer to wash them down. Andrew took a sip of his black beer first, the drink was so strong that it made his eyes crinkle. And the strong drink helped him to get rid of the tiredness and sleepiness. 

"So these are the ones who hadn't paid the money," Illola said pushing a paper towards him. 

Andrew took a bite from his bread and moved the paper near him with his left hand. He took the paper and skimmed over it. The list only had some five or six names. So the work would be easy enough, thought Andrew. He could finish it within a short time and then he could get ready for his destiny. 

Andrew knew that he was far away from getting the justice for his family's murders. And he would never get that with the death of Viserys Targaryen alone. Viserys Targaryen was just the spark to the start of an explosion. He hanged the Mad Dragon from the brothel not only to avenge his mother's death and sufferings but also that he could avenge his entire family to get the justice for their murders. And he would get that only when he sends the entire Targaryen family to Hell just like he had sent Viserys. He had believed that Rhaegar or someone else would come here to follow Viserys to the Hell but no one came. Maybe they would come and until then he would be waiting for the time to come. 

Andrew kept the paper down and continued to eat his food. He took a sardine with a bite of bread and washed it down with a drink of black beer. The drink and the hot food filled up his stomach and he felt better without the tiredness. When he finished his breakfast Illola collected his plate and tankard. 

"There is one more who owe us money," Illola said as she took the used plate and tankard. "But he lives here in the Ragman Harbor. So I could get it back from him." 

Andrew shook his head as he took the paper. "I would get it from him as I go by," he told her. "Who is that?" 

Illola sighed and looked at him. "Lasagnio, the Fisherman." Andrew knew the man. He nodded and started to make his way out to collect the money. 

"Andrew." He was at the door when someone called him from the inn. Andrew turned towards the direction from where the voice came and found Ballos Aenon coming towards him with his ale in his hands. "Going out somewhere?" Ballos asked him with a smile as he took a deep drink of his ale. 

"Just taking care of business, Aenon," Andrew replied. Ballos finished his remaining ale with one strong gulp and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. 

"Ah...that means you are going out," Ballos gave a hearty laugh and threw his tankard away. The tankard bounced off the nearby bench and took three more bounces on the floor before landing in the centre of the room. 

Andrew just watched the tankard and then returned his gaze to Ballos. Ballos immediately understood what his look meant as he apologised immediately for it. "Sorry about that." 

"Next time don't do that," Andrew replied and made his way out of the Foghouse. Ballos came up beside him. 

"So where are you going now?" Ballos asked as they started to walk to the Ragman Harbor. 

"Told you, Taking care of business," Andrew replied looking around through the fogs. "What were you doing in the inn now?" 

Ballos laughed at that. "Not supposed to be there," he said laughing. "But Tycho came here for sightseeing and there were enough guards around here to protect him." 

Andrew nodded, his legs taking the steps with a certain ease. "What is happening in Ragman Harbor? Illola said that something was going on that even the Sealord came to visit." 

"Mmm," Ballos nodded his head. "You know about the death of the Prince of the Seven Kingdoms, right?" 

Andrew nodded, thinking that it was him who did the deed for good. But he knew better than to voice that. Ballos was a good man and a trustworthy friend but Andrew didn't wanted to throw away his secret just like that. He was better off as Andrew Snow here. Andrew Stark doesn't belong here. 

"The entire Braavos was troubled with that. So they are just increasing the patrols and doing some things for safety," said Ballos Aenen. 

Foghouse Inn wasn't very far from the Ragman Harbor and so they reached it soon enough. Once he reached the Ragman Harbor Andrew found that Illola had been right when he saw the Harbor filled with the noblemen of Braavos and their guards. It was easy for him to make out the nobles from the commoners. They were mostly stocky and were clad in rich fashioned clothes and jewels. There were ten guards for every noble standing there. 

"Do they really need to do all this for a dead man?" He asked to Ballos looking around the men going on with their works. 

Ballos laughed at that. "It's not for the dead man," he said laughing. "It's for the King of the Seven Kingdoms." 

Andrew turned his head immediately to look at Ballos. His face must've shown his shock and confusion. 

"He is coming here," Ballos clarified his doubts and went on his way. Andrew just stood there for a moment thinking what he'd heard just now. His bait had worked and Rhaegar Targaryen himself was coming here. He would never miss this chance and soon Viserys would get a company in Hell.  

A smile appeared on Andrew Stark's lips without his knowledge, knowing that he had got his chance to end the Targaryen line once and for all and to avenge his family.  

Chapter Text

Robert Baratheon

 

The town smelled of salt, the same as the Bay of Crabs to the east, shimmering green and blue in the morning sun. The ship which had brought them here, Fury swayed in the waters, docked in the port of the Saltpans. The ship was bigger that it couldn't take them further upriver in the Trident and so they needed to dock her here. Looking at his men unloading the things and horses down from the ship Robert thought as if he had made a wrong decision by choosing the war galley Fury for this voyage. With three hundred oars, three decks and three huge masts with the one in the middle towering over the ones on the sides, the flagship of the Baratheon fleet seemed the perfect choice for this voyage. The deck above her oars was covered completely with scorpions. Topside she had catapults mounted fore and aft. Fury was formidable and swift and that's why his brother Stannis had chosen the war galley especially for this voyage. In the place of her usual golden colored sails with the crowned stag of House Baratheon painted on them there were plain white sails used by the commoners and merchants as to never really attract any eyes of the others. A slender ship would've taken them straight to Riverrun by the Trident and would've saved a good time for them, but then a slender ship couldn't have brought all these men and the horses for their journey by land. 

The Lord of Storm's End wasn't a man of patience. So when the men finished unloading their things Robert started their journey to Riverrun without wasting any time. Cersei had to say something about his decision but Robert was not ready to hear it. His wife muttered some curses under her breath until the children got to her. He knew they all were tired but still they had to do it. The sea had already stolen a good amount of time away from them and he wasn't ready to do it with the land too. 

Saltpans was a small town truly. A small castle dominated the town; no more than a holdfast, really, a single tall square keep with a bailey and a curtain wall. Most of the shops and inns and alehouses around the harbor were filled with a good number of people. The crew and the servants of the ships which were already docked in the Port before Fury brought them here, thought Robert looking at the men laughing and singing in the inns and alehouses. Most of the buildings looked inhabited but some of the buildings here and there stood half broken and burnt. The folks of Saltpans looked at their big party with curious eyes but the sights of noble Lords were not so rare in ports, so their curiousness died as quickly as they started to mount their horses with their banners streaming in the sea breeze. 

They began their journey north along the Trident. The river was only an accustomed channel here, not the true mighty one he'd seen with Ned when they had come down from the Eyrie to see the Grand Tourney of Harrenhal. Robert could remember the time even now after all those terrible things that had started from there. He could remember the journey down from the Eyrie with Ned. Gods, they had a good time in that journey away from Jon's eyes. He could remember the first time he had seen Lyanna, the memory had enlightened him too much once but now it had turned sour. He could remember the Tourney alive with knights from throughout the Seven Kingdoms. He remembered his drinking competition with Richard Lonmouth. He remembered the seven sided melee in which he won by unhorsing most of his competitors. He had never felt so alive than being in a fight and it came to him naturally. He remembered Rhaegar unhorsing people left and right just like he'd done in the melee. He had been jesting with Jon and the Old Lord Eon Hunter when Rhaegar destroyed the entire thing by crowing Lyanna as his Queen of Love and Beauty and in turn shaming his wife and Houses Stark and Baratheon. Robert had wanted nothing more than to knock him down from the horse and beat him bloody, the Gods knew he had wanted to do that so badly. Yet both Jon and Ned's face stopped him from doing so. Manners, Jon had taught him that and he had somehow held his smiling composure and brushed off his insult with a jest, as gently as he could. But Robert knew he may get the chance again. He will avenge Ned's death no matter what. And if he was to die in the attempt he would die gladly, but no matter what he would drag Rhaegar all the way to hell along with him before ripping his heart out and drinking from his skull with the stranger himself. 

The river began to widen out as they moved further towards the land away from the Bay of Crabs. They kept their journey along the banks of the Trident. They stayed close to the water, passing fields and farms riding hard and fast in their way. The sounds made by the hooves of the horses even reminded him of Ned, the rides they would have when they were still some young adventurous boys. They never had any secrets between them(except Ned's romance with Ashara Dayne back at Harrenhal). In another life they would've been brothers bound by blood or they would have even shared a grandchild in the future, if Ned and his family had been alive or at least his son alone. Robert could remember the boy just like he had remembered Ned. It had been too easy for him to remember the little boy who looked so much like his childhood friend but with his mother's dark hair. Ned's son had been so afraid to meet him for the first time that he chose to hide behind his mother at every chance that at last Ned had to pick him up and introduce him to them all by himself. But as time passed by the children grew normal with each other and enjoyed each others' company to the fullest. Watching them play they had thought that both their sons would become friends like they'd been along with Jon's son and that their children would succeed where they had failed, binding their houses together by blood. Andrew and Argella had been as perfect as they had thought them to be and the filthy Dragonspawn managed to mess up that as well. 

Robert always wondered about Ned's son, about what had happened to him or what cruelties the Targaryens might've inflicted upon the little boy. He couldn't really think about it. Rhaegar never even gave their bodies back for a proper funeral they deserved. No one deserves an end like that. Maybe he would make Rhaegar's end just like that. He would leave him there alive on the battlefield, cutting off his hands and legs and then leaving him for the crows and dogs to do the rest. 

The journey was by far a pleasant one without much troubles. The sun was well and warm. The air was light and heavy with the scent of flowers, and the woods here had a gentle beauty unlike the evergreen rainforests in the Stormlands. They saw some pole boats passing through the waters of the Trident. By midday the party of the stormlanders reduced their pace and continued their trip for sometime before stopping for their meal. 

They had brought a good amount of supplies for this journey as they weren't sure of how long this was going to take. They dined on rich ham and seared trout with bread and hard cheese. The desserts were too rich for his like. Cersei had ordered to bring different types of cakes along with fruits like melons and peaches just for Argella, since their daughter always had a big love for sweets. When they finished their meal they wasted no time before getting on their horses and continuing their journey. 

With every passing day their supplies started to grow down. By the fourth day their food ran out and they had to hunt for their food. Robert enjoyed every minute of the hunt along with his son and Lords. They brought down an aurochs on the first day of their hunt and it had managed to serve as their food for the entire day. 

By the fifth day they had gained a good distance from their start off from Saltpans. The Trident grew wider and wider as they moved further north as it neared the ford from where the Trident split into its three different forks- The Red Fork, the Blue Fork and the Green Fork. Their initial plan was to meet up with Jon Arryn and the knights of the Vale in the crossroads inn and then making their journey together to Riverrun. 

On the sixth day they came upon the Inn at the crossroads. It was near dark when they reached it, at the crossroads north of the great confluence of the Trident. Taking west from here, it was an easy ride down the River road to Riverrun. The eastern High road was wilder and more dangerous, climbing through rocky foothills and thick forests into the Mountains of the Moon, past high passes and deep chasms to the Vale of Arryn and the stony Fingers beyond. Robert had made that journey with Jon and Ned when they came for the Tourney of Harrenhal seventeen years before.

The inn was a sprawling three-story structure of pale stone, the biggest one in the Riverlands. Outside, the men were shouting and cursing as they were putting up tents and pavilions to spend the night while some of them unloaded the wagons. Horses were being taken to the stables. Robert found the familiar banners of the blue falcon of the Arryns, the black iron studs on a bronze field, bordered with runes, the banner of House Royce and the broken black wheel, on a green field which indicated the presence of the Waynwoods. He could also make out some of the other banners flowing in the evening air as well. Growing up in the Eyrie had made him somewhat closer to the Houses of the Vale. He could see the silver arrows of House Hunter and the three red hearts clutched by three ravens in a white field, the banner of House Corbray and a dozen more banners streamed from seperate poles as well. Jon must've brought most of his lords as well, Robert thought as he saw the crossroads filled with the shouts of men and the neighs of horses. He himself had brought most of his bannermen to his son's marriage. Even that was for good as well, so that they could grow up their friendship between their Kingdoms, not only between their families.

When Robert and his party finally came to stop in front of the Inn, he was greeted by a familiar voice he had known very well. "It's good to see you again, Lord Robert," Lord Yohn Royce said approaching him with a smile, a pair of guards with brown cloaks trailing him. 

Robert gave him a wide smile as he dismounted his destrier and embraced the older man in a hug, greeting him. "It's good to see you too, Lord Royce," Robert said and he meant the every word he said. It was good to see the old friends back, always.  

When the other lords and the men saw him they came to greet him at once. Robert greeted them back as well regaling some old jests which made the crossroads filled with the sounds of laughter. Stableboys came from the stables to see to their horses Once they were done with the greetings and welcomings Robert asked Lord Royce to take him to Jon Arryn. His men joined with the Valemen, helping them to put up the tents and Lord Yohn Royce led Robert and his family inside the inn. 

They entered the common room and found his foster father, the man who had been like a father to him, Jon Arryn seated with Lords Hunter and Waynwood and the others surrounding him. He hasn't even changed a bit even though it had been quite a time since Robert had seen him. When Jon saw him, his foster father stood up at once. The years had done nothing to diminish his grace and ease. Jon Arryn, as great a lord as any the Eyrie had ever known, walked towards him, proudly and gracefully. When he reached him Robert couldn't help but to smile at him as if he was still the little boy who was sent to the Eyrie to foster with Lord Jon Arryn. His foster father gave a warm smile back at him and pulled him to a hug. Robert felt his strong arms around him just like the same way they had felt around him years before with only one difference. Back then Ned had been there to share Jon's hugs with him. 

 

Chapter Text

Doran

Let us begin," the prince commanded. He watched the dragonprince, Prince Aegon Targaryen, and the others who had come with him. He watched the Sand Snakes, each at a different table. He watched the lords and ladies, the serving men, the old blind seneschal, and the young maester Myles, with his silky beard and servile smile. Seated in his rolling chair on the dais of Sunspear's feast hall, he saw all of them. He may be weak but not stupid. All the rest had eyes only for the Crown prince and his party. 

In the dais of the feast hall of Sunspear, Prince Doran Martell sat in his rolling chair between his daughter Arianne and his brother Oberyn with his sons next to his daughter and next to Oberyn was his brother's beloved paramour, Ellaria. A hundred scented candles perfumed the air. Gemstones glittered on the fingers of the lords and the girdles and hairnets of the ladies.

Prince Aegon Targaryen held a stern composure, the Prince of Dorne observed. This Aegon was not the true prince Aegon, Doran knew. He is not Elia's son. Yet he is his Prince now and his soon to be good son, the betrothed of his daughter Arianne.

Doran left it to Ricasso, his blind seneschal, to rise and propose the toast. "Lords and ladies, let us all now drink to Rhaegar, the First of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms."

Serving men had begun to move amongst the guests as the seneschal was speaking, filling cups from the flagons that they bore. The wine was Dornish strongwine, dark as blood and sweet as vengeance. But the Prince never drank any of it. He had his own wine, prepared by Maester Myles and well laced with poppy juice to ease the agony in his swollen joints.

Aegon Targaryen did drink, as was only courteous. His companions likewise. They were wary of being in here, thought Doran. Looking at Oberyn's hideous smirk the Prince thought that they were good to be so. One cannot just simply know what the Red Viper would do next. One moment he would be sharing a glass of dornish red with you and the next you would find yourself choking on the wine cup. Arianne was certainly having a time of her life, his daughter was clearly excited with the thought of being the future queen. Sunspear was filled with lords and ladies from most of Dorne. And it troubled the Prince even more. It would only take one of them to turn this entire feast into a bloodbath. Dorne was an angry and divided land, and his hold on it was not as firm as it might be. Many of his own lords thought him weak and would have welcomed open war with the Targaryens.

Chief amongst those was his own brother Oberyn, the Red Viper. Oberyn had never forgot Elia and her children's murders at the hands of Aerys Targaryen, no more than he did. And as the hot headed viper his brother was Oberyn quickly took to hate Rhaegar and his new family naming them for the fate of their sister. But Doran knew better than that and he knew how to calm his brother and how to hide him while he makes the perfect time for him to strike.

The Prince of the Seven Kingdoms kept a careful watch of his surrounding and his guards kept close to him. His party consisted of only a few people and Doran Martell was glad for it. The last time the Royal family came to Dorne it was a complete destruction. Even though Aegon Targaryen only brought a few people with him he still had a great protection around him as he'd brought his green dragon with him. 

The feast was fabulously rich for the Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms. Seven courses were served, in honor of the seven gods. The soup was made with eggs and lemons, the long green peppers stuffed with cheese and onions. There were lamprey pies, capons glazed with honey, a whiskerfish from the bottom of the Greenblood that was so big it took four serving men to carry it to table. After that came a savory snake stew, chunks of seven different sorts of snake slow-simmered with dragon peppers and blood oranges and a dash of venom to give it a good bite. The stew was fiery hot, Doran knew, though he tasted none of it. Sherbet followed, to cool the tongue. For the sweet, each guest was served a skull of spun sugar. When the crust was broken, they found sweet custard inside and bits of plum and cherry.

Arianne was enjoying her little talks and drinks with her prince. He had placed his daughter between himself and Prince Aegon, a place near her betrothed. Arianne smiled as she sipped her wine again, and murmured something in Aegon's ear. The Crown Prince chuckled lightly at that. He ate little, Doran observed: a spoon of soup, a bite of the pepper, the leg off a capon, some fish. He shunned the lamprey pie and tried only one small spoonful of the stew. Even that made his brow break out in sweat.

When the spun-sugar skulls were served, Aegon's mouth grew tight, and he gave Doran and Oberyn a lingering look to see if he was being mocked or threatened. His daughter took notice of it and took to calm her betrothed. "It is the cook's little jape, my prince," said Arianne. "Even death is not sacred to a Dornishmen. You won't be cross with us, I pray?" She brushed the back of her betrothed's hand with her fingers. "I hope you have enjoyed your time in Dorne."

"Everyone has been most hospitable, princess."

Arianne touched the pin that clasped his cloak, an obsidian dragon. "I have always been fond of dragons. They were always a magnificent sight here in the deserts of Dorne."

"Yet it wasn't so magnificent when Rhaenys' dragon Meraxes was shot down with a scorpion bolt," said Prince Aegon.

"It wasn't," said Arianne, "but that is from another time, a time from the past."

Aegon Targaryen gave a nod and sipped his wine. The prince was only a boy, but a wary one at that.

Midnight was close at hand when he turned to the Targaryen prince and said, "Prince Aegon, I have read the letter that you brought me from our king, your father. Might I assume that you are familiar with its contents?"

Aegon greeted him with a plain smile with no emotions. "I am, my lord. My father is to travel for Braavos to finalise the contract with the Iron Bank. Once he returns from Braavos he is to go with my marriage to your daughter Princess Arianne."

"So when will he return?" asked Prince Doran.

"Soon enough." Aegon said and took a sip of his wine.

Soon enough. But will he come back alive or the way Viserys came back. Viserys Targaryen's death in Braavos wasn't a secret in the Seven Kingdoms and a wise man would say that it wouldn't be long before Rhaegar follows his brother's fate as well. 

"Let it be," said Doran. "We would do what his grace asks us to do." He grasped the wheels of his chair and pushed himself from the table. "But now you must excuse me, My Prince. All this heat and talk has wearied me. Oberyn, would you be so kind as to help me to my bed? Arianne my daughter will you kiss me good night? Obara, Nymeria, Tyene, come as well, and bid your old uncle a fond good night."

So it fell to his brother to roll his chair from Sunspear's feast hall and down a long gallery to his solar. Areo Hotah, the captain of his guards followed with Oberyn's girls, along with Arianne and Ellaria Sand.

When the doors of his solar were safely closed behind them Doran wheeled his chair about to face his brother and the women. Even that effort left him breathless, and the Myrish blanket that covered his legs caught between two spokes as he rolled, so he had to clutch it to keep it from being torn away. Beneath the coverlet, his legs were pale, soft, ghastly. Both of his knees were red and swollen, and his toes were almost purple, twice the size they should have been.

Arianne came forward as she saw his troubles with the blanket. "Let me help you, Father."

Doran pulled the blanket free. "I can still master mine own blanket. That much at least." It was little enough. His legs had been useless for three years, but there was still some strength in his hands and shoulders.

"Shall I fetch my prince a thimble cup of milk of the poppy?" Maester Caleotte asked.

"I would need a bucket, with this pain. Thank you, but no. I want my wits about me. I'll have no more need of you tonight."

"Very good, my prince." Maester Caleotte bowed and left his solar.

"I take that as the time you told me had come at last," Oberyn said as soon as the maester left his solar.

"What time?" Obara Sand talked first. Even without her whip and shield, she had an angry mannish look to her. In place of a gown, she wore men's breeches and a calf-length linen tunic, cinched at the waist with a belt of copper suns. Her brown hair was tied back in a knot.

"There are things you all need to know that's why I've called you here."

"What things?" asked Nymeria, the second of Oberyn's daughters, her long black braid falling across one shoulder to her lap. She had her father's widow's peak. Beneath it her eyes were large and lustrous. Her wine-red lips curled in a silken smile.

Oberyn gave a hideous smile which gave away nothing. "Things about war," his brother settled in his chair. "Viserys' death, Rhaegar's visit to Braavos, the unrest in the Kingdoms. The time is ripe."

Doran gave a plain look to his brother. "Did our mother married Elia to Rhaegar because she was in love with the crown prince, Oberyn?" 

Oberyn slammed his wine cup on the table. "No. But she definitely didn't send her off to die." His black eyes were so dark and dangerous that even the Sand Snakes were taken aback by that. 

 Ellaria Sand put her arms to calm him down. "Aerys is dead, Oberyn." 

"Aerys is just the start," Oberyn said at once. His brother turned to face him. "Rhaegar needed the Dornish spears to take out his father but still he could not or else would not save Elia and his children. When he arrived to King's Landing, the Red Keep fell without a fight but he was still late to save Elia. I would have only needed ten men to do everything he did with an army and in addition would've saved Elia and her children too." 

 Doran knew what his brother was implying and he didn't wanted him to destroy everything they'd planned in the waiting. "It is not so simple as that Oberyn," Doran said loud and clear for everyone in the room to hear. "If you want to have Rhaegar killed it wouldn't take long for me to ship you to Braavos. But we both know that is not the only thing."

The women in the room looked at one another in confusion.

"I am not blind, nor deaf," Doran said. "I know that you all believe me weak, frightened, feeble. Your father knows me better. Oberyn was ever the viper. Deadly, dangerous, unpredictable. No man dare to tread on him. I am the grass. Pleasant, complaisant, sweet-smelling, swaying with every breeze. Who fears to walk upon the grass? But it is the grass that hides the viper from his enemies and shelters him until he strikes. Your father and I work more closely than you all know ... but now the question is, can I trust his daughters to serve me beside him?"

Doran studied each of them in turn. Obara, rusted nails and boiled leather, with her angry, close-set eyes and rat-brown hair. Nymeria, languid, elegant, olive-skinned, her long black braid bound up in red-gold wire. Tyene, blue-eyed and blond, a child-woman with her soft hands and little giggles.

When the eldest three of Oberyn's daughters swore to serve him, some of the tension went out of the prince. He sagged back into his chair. 

"Tell them," Oberyn said from his chair.

Doran took a jagged breath. "When the Targaryens conquered Westeros they only managed to conquer six of the seven kingdoms. Dorne remained unconquered. We were Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken until Daeron the Good joined Dorne to his kingdom with marriage. Now Rhaegar does the same thing." The Prince's eyes looked at his daughter. "Only he don't know the entire thing that comes with it. Soon enough when he marries Arianne to his son he would think that he had brought Dorne back to his line with that but truly it is him who brings his line to us and Arianne would make sure of that." He looked to his daughter and got a nod from her. "Arianne would beard the dragon in its den and soon enough Martell power would dominate King's Landing and even the dragons of the Targaryens won't be able to stop it." Doran raised a hand and brought his attention back to his nieces. "Obara and Nymeria both of you will accompany Arianne to King's Landing. We need our own eyes and ears in the council and at court. In time both of you will find yourselves in high positions and use them for good." Doran advised his neices. Obara and Nymeria both gave a smirk which was equally hideous and dangerous as their father's own. 

 "And what of me?" asked Tyene. 

"Your mother was a septa." Doran looked at his brother and then to the third Sand Snake. "Oberyn once told me that she read to you in the cradle from the Seven-Pointed Star. I want you in King's Landing too, but on the other hill. The faith is completely against the second marriage of Rhaegar. The Swords and the Stars have been reformed, and this new High Septon is not the puppet that the others were. Try and get close to him. If it is needed we will turn down the reign of the dragons over its head with the help of the people."

"Why not? White suits my coloring. I look so ... pure," Tyene said in a voice which would put even the modest of the septas to shame.  

"Good," he said, "good. While you do your duties Oberyn and I would continue to do ours. I'll make the plans and Oberyn would make them happen." He hesitated. "But be careful. The trust that Rhaegar keeps in us is our cover. If ... if certain things should come to pass, I will send word to each of you. Things can change quickly in the game of thrones."

"I know you will not fail us." Doran looked at all of them. Arianne, Obara, Nymeria and Tyene. "The sun of Dorne goes with you."

"Unbowed, unbent, unbroken, " the women said together and Doran believed for it to be true. Unbowed, unbent, unbroken was what they were and what they will be.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Brynden

It seemed a thousand years ago that Brynden Tully had left Riverrun with his sword and mail, crossing the Tumblestone in a small boat to begin his journey east to the Eyrie with his niece. And it was across the Tumblestone that they came home now, though now they came back for the marriage of her daughter.

Brynden stood in the bow of the boat, his hand resting on the pommel of his sword as the rowers pulled at their oars. Lords Yohn Royce and Hunter was with him. His niece had gone in the first boat with her lord husband and their children, young Robert and sweet Alyssa. Lord Robert and his family set forth on the second boat and Brynden followed them in the third.

They shot down the Tumblestone, letting the strong current push them past the looming WheelTower. The splash and rumble of the great waterwheel within was a sound from his youth when he was still the same young knight who fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, who used to regale the tales to his sweet nieces and nephew. That brought a sad smile to Brynden's face. From the sandstone walls of the castle, soldiers and servants looked down on them. From every rampart waved the banner of House Tully: a leaping trout, silver, against a rippling blue-and-red field. Though it was a black trout which defined the legend Brynden Tully it was still a stirring sight, silver or black he is still a Tully. Yet the sight did not made him feel whole and home. 

Below the WheelTower, they made a wide turn and knifed through the churning water. The men put their backs into it. The wide arch of the Water Gate came into view, and he heard the creak of heavy chains as the great iron portcullis was winched upward for the incoming boats. It rose slowly as they approached, and Brynden saw that the lower half of it was red with rust. The bottom foot dripped brown mud on them as they passed underneath, the barbed spikes mere inches above their heads. Brynden gazed up at the bars and wondered how deep the rust went and how well the portcullis would stand up to a ram and whether it ought to be replaced. Thoughts like that were seldom far from his mind these days.

They passed beneath the arch and under the walls, moving from sunlight to shadow and back into sunlight. Boats large and small were tied up all around them, secured to iron rings set in the stone. His brother waited with his son for them on the water stair surrounded by his guards. Lord Hoster Tully had always been a big man; tall and broad. His hair and beard had been brown and well streaked with grey the last time he'd seen him, now they had completely turned to white. Hoster looked lordly as ever, in a quilted doublet of red wool with a leaping trout embroidered on his chest. His boots were black, his breeches blue. His nephew was the one who surprised him the most. The small boy who used to pester him for the tales of glory had grown into a stocky young man with a shaggy head of auburn hair and a fiery beard. At his brother's side stood the Lord Tytos Blackwood, a hard pike of a man with close-cropped salt-and-pepper whiskers and a hook nose. His bright yellow armor was inlaid with jet in elaborate vine-and-leaf patterns, and a cloak sewn from raven feathers draped his thin shoulders. Half a dozen of his brother's lords were at his side as well and Brynden knew them all, Lord Jonos Bracken thick of arms and shoulders, with coarse brown hair and brown eyes, Lord Vance, Lord Jason Mallister, with his gaunt and chiseled face, his blue-grey eyes fierce as ever, Lord Clement Piper, short and fat with red hair thick as bush and Ser Desmond Grell and Ser Robin Ryger stood at the head of the guards.


"Bring them in," Lord Hoster commanded. Brynden could see the Lord who named him as the 'black goat of Tully flock', the man who made him as Brynden the Blackfish at that not the brother he'd thought to see. He was afraid that his brother would still hate him even now for refusing his orders to marry. He still remembered the quarrels they both had throughout his youth, all came with the talks of his marriage.

Three men scrambled down the stairs knee-deep in the water and pulled the boats close with long hooks.

Hoster came down the steps to receive them. "My lords," hesaid sternly. "Riverrun welcomes you."

"Lord Hoster," Lord Jon said nodding his head. 

His brother moved to his younger daughter Lysa. Despite their fallout in the thing with the Baelish boy, both of them shared a strong embrace. 

Brynden stayed back all the while his brother went on to greet the other lords. His brother greeted his grandchildren, hugging Robert Arryn the same way he used to hug Edmure when he was little, pausing a little while looking at Alyssa before hugging her as well, no doubt he remembered Catelyn by seeing her after all even Brynden remembered his oldest niece by looking at her. One by one his brother greeted his guests, Lord Robert Baratheon and his family gradually making his way to him. Brynden fought the urge to hide from him again, to jump into the river and to swim far away from him. But before he could do so his brother's eyes found him stopping his entire thoughts. Hoster walked towards him and stood right in front of him. 

His brother looked from his thick grey hair to his wet boots and then back at his face. "I see that you haven't married yet," Hoster said, stern and hard as always when they would talk about his marriage.

Brynden stayed silent afraid that his brother would be angry at anything he has to say. He looked up straight at Hoster's blue eyes. His brother gave a small smirk at him. "You haven't changed a bit, brother," Hoster smiled and hugged him fiercely. Brynden was shocked for a moment at his brother's behaviour. He'd expected him to curse him and chase him away from Riverrun instead Hoster called him a brother and Brynden found himself wondering how much he had missed that word 'brother.' He replied with a hug of his own. "It's good to see you brother."

"It's good to see you too," His brother said when they parted away from the embrace. He looked at him again "Ever the warrior," his brother touched the obsidian and gold pin fashioned in the form of a fish which clasped his cloak, "And ever the blackfish of the Tullys."

Brynden smiled at that and looked at his nephew and shared a hug. See Desmond was the next one to greet him. "Welcome back to Riverrun, my lord," the master at arms of Riverrun hugged him with a smile. 

"Thank you, Ser Desmond," Brynden told him smiling.

Ser Robin Ryger was the next one. "It's good to see you again Ser Brynden," The captain of Riverrun's guards said giving him a strong hug.

"Its good to see you too Ser Robin," Brynden said. 

The lords of the Riverlands came next. All the ones there with his brother and Brynden greeted them all. When the pleasantries were done they went inside the castle. He looked at his home taking note of everything. The castle had never changed much. He met with the people of Riverrun, with Maester Vyman, with the steward Utherydes Wayn and all the others he had known in his time at Riverrun. 

The sun was already getting down when his settling with Riverrun's people was done. He should need to get ready for his grand niece's wedding. He would want a bath. He asked a servant to bring the hot water for his bath and then walked back to his old chambers. His things were already there, his plate and mail and the clothes. He was looking at the Tumblestone running below through the window when the servants brought the hot water for his bath. 

The water had gone warm by the time Brynden climbed into his bath. He enjoyed the feeling of the warm water against his skin after so many days now. When he finished his bath, he donned his fresh clothes for the marriage, a black velvet doublet with a leaping black trout on the chest. He pulled on his boots after the black leather breeches. 

The walk to the Sept of Riverrun was a short one. The Sept at Riverrun was a seven-sided sandstone building which sat amidst the gardens of the late Lady of Riverrun, Minisa Tully, Hoster's wife and his good sister. His goodsister had loved the gardens spending her times walking among the flowers and plants, so his brother had ordered for it to be built. The Sept was already filled with the Riverlords, the Stormlords and the Valemen. But it wasn't the men who caught the eyes of him, it was a man with a short stature who caught his eyes. So the Old Lion has finally started to act, by sending his dwarf son, thought Brynden looking at Tyrion Lannister talking with his disappointed sister, flanked by two men with lion crested helms and red cloaks. 

Inside Gendry Baratheon stood before the image of the Father painted on marble. The candle light caught in the mirrors and a rainbow of light filled the sept. Young Lord Gendry looked so much like his father Lord Robert, tall with a face which would quicken the hearts of the maidens in the entire Seven Kingdoms. He had worn the highest standards of clothes, no doubt the choice of his proud mother. His family had taken their place to the right of the raised alter. Lord Robert stood first resplendent in black and gold, his long black hair tied back. His lady wife, Cersei Lannister stood beside him radiant and splendid in her gown of crimson and gold, a chain of emeralds around her slender white neck. The Lioness had her daughter near her. Argella Baratheon looked so much like her mother even with the black hair and blue eyes of her father. In a gown of woven gold Argella Baratheon outmatched even her mother. From the looks to her grace everything shouted of Cersei Lannister though the little lady had an easy way with the others unlike the daughter of Tywin Lannister, Brynden thought looking at Argella Baratheon giggling at one of her dwarf uncle's comments. With the golden hair and green eyes of his mother, the youngest of Robert Baratheon's children was not worthy of notice unlike his siblings. And Brynden found it the way the boy looked bored even before the start of his own brother's marriage. He looked as if he couldn't wait to leave it for all. 

His own family and the Arryns stood to the left. His brother stood at the head, his clothing of red and blue velvet stood out amongst the crowd. Edmure had taken the next place waiting for his marriage. It would come sooner than not. Hoster was desperately trying to find a good match for him. Lysa had taken the next place. At least tonight his niece took to smile, Brynden thought glad that she had chosen to drop her unhappy wife's face at her daughter's marriage. Her son flanked her. Brynden moved past the lords and took his place next to his grand nephew. Robert Arryn gave him a smile when he saw him, the same one he would give him every morning when he comes to him for his training. His brother gave him a look which said everything he had to say. Brynden knew very well what his brother had wanted to say. He ignored the look and smiled at his grand nephew and waited for the ceremony to begin. 

The ceremony started shortly when Jon Arryn brought his daughter into the sept. Alyssa looked a vision in her gown of ivory samite and cloth-of-silver, lined with silvery satin, sewn with threads so thin that it looked as if she had worn a cloth of glass. On the chest was a blue falcon, big with its wings spread and faced upward, made with sapphires sewn into the gown which shone so bright that it almost defeated the rainbow lights inside the sept. Her maiden's cloak was a white velvet, heavy with pearls for the crescent moon with a falcon woven onto it with skyblue thread. 

Brynden thought about the a marriage he had seen here before. They had arrived to this same sept after a ceremony at Riverrun's Godswood before the weirwood tree. His niece had been full of life and happy that day very much like her husband. But the happy marriage only stood long enough to join them in death even before their wedding life began and he desperately wished for this marriage to stand till the end unlike that. 

The wedding ceremony passed quickly with the vows and prayers and the songs. Soon they reached the part of changing of cloaks. Lord Arryn unclasped his daughter's maiden's cloak and left with a kiss to his daughter's cheek. Gendry Baratheon cloaked Alyssa with a heavy cloth-of-gold cloak, with the crowned stag of Baratheon worked upon its back in beads of onyx. 

When Alyssa was cloaked in the Baratheon colors she turned to face her husband. "With this kiss I pledge my love, and take you for my lord and husband."

"With this kiss I pledge my love," Gendry Baratheon replied, "and take you for my lady and wife." They leaned forward towards each other, and their lips touched briefly. 

The wedding feast was held in the Great Hall. Gendry and Alyssa had taken the high place. The families and the other lords filled up the Hall. The marriage had brought most of the lords to Riverrun. The feast was exotic with foods rich in flavour. Brynden tasted only a little of the food Riverrun's cooks had made for the feast. He had a piece of honeyed chicken and a seared trout with a apricot tart for the dessert. 

The tables were cleared to make room for the dance floor. When the musicians began to play Gendry and Alyssa led the dance. Looking at them Brynden thought about the dance Cat had with her husband years before. He had desperately wanted her to be happy. His brother had made the match for House Tully's advantage but Brynden had wanted his niece to have a husband she loved and a life she wanted. That she did but the Targaryens took it away from her. Looking at Gendry and Alyssa having their first dance as a married couple he could only think about the justice for his niece.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Tyrion

Rhaegar Targaryen has gone to Braavos," Jon Arryn said.

"He is and for finalising the deal with the Iron Bank." Hoster Tully said. The cool night air filled Lord Hoster's solar through the opened balcony.

Tyrion said nothing and took a sip from his wine. He was oft quiet in council, preferring to listen before he spoke, a habit Tyrion himself tried to emulate from his father, Lord Tywin Lannister.

"Viserys is dead, Rhaegar gone, now is the perfect time to strike King's Landing before they could get up from the loss of the big heads," Edmure Tully announced, all youth and glory.

Jon Arryn gave a sharp look at his good brother. "Without the North?" He raised his eyebrows at the young Tully. "Without the northern support we might end up in the jaws of the dragons even before we start what we want to do."

Edmure Tully gave an abashed look and bowed his face down.

"We cannot move on our terms with the entire power of Winterfell looming behind us," Lord Arryn said, his lined face taut and his mouth pressed tight. The man looked nothing like the man he had seen in his nephew's marriage. It's only been days since the marriage yet the change in the man was unbelievable even for Tyrion.

"Jon is right," Robert said placing his strong arms on the table, his black hair pulled back and tied in a perfect knot. "We cannot leave Winterfell in the hands of the Targaryens behind us. If we do so we will get locked in between from the north and the south. And it will be only a matter of time before the dragons do a short work of us."

Atleast he was good in this thing. Robert reminded him more and more of his brother Jaime. Both had their wits in their sword hands. 

"Well if that is the case then you should march to liberate Winterfell," Cersei voiced her thoughts for the first time, the only woman in the meeting. His sister always thought herself as Lord Tywin with teats and she tried hard to be that, only to fail in her plans. She did have her wits and courage but Lord Tywin never rushed with anything. On the other hand his sister had her way of rushing things.

"Quiet woman," Robert silenced her. "If things were so simple as that, I myself would ride north with my hammer to knock down Winterfell's gates and liberate Winterfell from the Dragonspawn. Thing is who will lead the north after that? Without a Stark there will be no peace in the north let alone a proper leader."

"What about Lord Eddard's brother, Benjen," Hoster Tully offered, "The last I heard of him, he was with the Night's Watch."

Robert chuckled at once. "That is Ned's brother. If he was half the man that Ned was, expecting him is like expecting one of the Targaryen dragons to turn to our side. The Starks and their honors." Robert grew visibly upset at the mentioning of Ned Stark.

Eight years has passed since the death of the Stark lord and his family, his beautiful young wife and their little son. It was queer to him to see the people clinging over some incident happened almost nine years ago. But then again some past were meant to be remembered Tyrion thought remembering Tysha and their short lived marriage.

"That leaves us with the Westerlands now," Hoster Tully mentioned.

Tyrion looked up away from the depths of the wine swirling in his cup to find all the eyes of the men in the room fixed upon him.

"Where is father?" Cersei demanded at once. "What is he doing by sending you here?"

Tyrion placed his wine cup on the table and leaned forward from his chair. "That is why I am here sweet sister," he said directing a smile at Cersei. His sister only seemed irritated by that and Tyrion loved to see her like that. "I am here in the place of my father."

"So what is the plan of Tywin Lannister?" Robert asked. "He must have one or did he send you here to simply wish Gendry on his marriage in his place."

Hot heads. The gods must have played jokes with the matches they made for Cersei. First Jaime, now Robert both slow in wits and quick in hands. "Both," he answered and took a sip of wine from his cup.

The men continued with the talks of war but Tyrion worried nothing but for wine. He picked up the flagon from the table and filled his cup again. The wine in the cups of the others remained untouched so it wouldn't be a problem even if he emptied the entire flagon. He placed the flagon down again on the table and took another sip of the wine. The warm wine snaked its way down his throat to his belly, warming up his insides.

"We should be happy about Viserys' death," Lord Hoster said. "Atleast that delayed Rhaegar's entire plans for his alliance. He still needs to tie all the loose ends to solidify his alliance."

"Speaking of Viserys' death isn't it a bit odd about it," Tyrion said looking into the red swirls of the wine in his cup.

"What is curious about it?" Robert's voice made him to look up. "The damn thing was destined to die anyway. He killed Ned's wife and son. If he didn't got killed in Braavos I would have killed him myself."

Someone must tell him the entire story of Viserys death, Tyrion thought. Half truths might reveal only half the things you wanted to know.

"There is nothing odd about Viserys' death. He was expected to die," Tyrion said. "But it is odd about how he died. He was hanged from a brothel with a broken face."

All their eyes was fixed on him and Tyrion continued. "Now any normal Sellsword or cutthroat will try to keep their handiworks hidden. No one would proudly display their accomplishment like this. Surely no one would do a thing like this to a Prince of Westeros of course, until he was a half wit. Or else he must have been an intelligent one to do that."

"What are you trying to say?" Cersei urged.

I am trying to save your family you fool, Tyrion wanted to say but he didn't voiced his thoughts. "Oh if you still couldn't understand it sweet sister you're dumber than I thought you to be."

Cersei leered at him and was ready to jump for him but the tension between them was broken by Jon Arryn's voice.

"He is right," Lord Jon Arryn said. "Viserys comes back as a corpse and Rhaegar goes to Braavos in his place. If I am right Viserys' killer has not only killed Viserys but also used Viserys' death to lure Rhaegar to Braavos right where he killed Viserys."

"But who is that?" Edmure Tully pushed it once again.

"I don't know," Tyrion admitted swirling the wine in his cup. He looked up at the men around the table, noting all their faces. "All I can say is that you are not the only ones who were wronged by the Targaryens."

"Anyways how will this ghost of a man you talk of about would be of any help to us?" Edmure Tully asked at once.

He will be more of a help than you are now of course, Tyrion found his anger raising in him. Edmure Tully was nothing like his father, all about wars and glory just like all the young men of his age. I am young too and wars and glory are not my thing but then again I am only half a man.

Tyrion looked at Edmure Tully. "There is an old saying, 'An enemy of my enemy is my friend'," he said.

"You want us to forge an alliance with him," Robert raised his eyebrows at him. "Well good luck finding him in the first place. He could be anywhere in Braavos now."

"I am not asking you to join your hands with him," Tyrion said placing his hands on the table. "All I am saying is that give him some time. If he is any good at doing this, with luck on his side it is only a matter of time before Rhaegar ends up the same way as his brother did. And I think him to be good at this."

Tyrion leaned forward from his chair and looked at the faces of all the men surrounding him, all great lords and legends and he was sitting with them. "With Rhaegar dead his entire alliance will be destroyed. His wife Lyanna could never hold it together like Rhaegar had and before they know what had happened hell might break loose on them. The Tyrells will push to place Margaery on the throne with Aegon while the Martells will demand to right the wrongs done to Elia Martell and her children by giving Arianne Martell the place which should have belonged to Elia. The Reachmen and the Dornish will be at each others' throats and the Targaryens will be forced to select one of them. With the disputes in the south, they might very well forget the north. There are ways and weapons to kill a dragon. Liberate Winterfell from the hands of Jaeherys Targaryen and give the northerners a chance to avenge their lords and heirs. The north remembers. They have lost their lords and heirs of two generations. I'm pretty much sure that they would never have forgotten the deaths of Eddard Stark or his father or his brother and not even his little son. Now with this army against that quarreling one it will be an easy job for us to wipe out the entire Targaryens and their dragons from existence."

By the time Tyrion finished his plan his throat was dry and he needed wine more than anything. He took a big drink from his cup and looked up at the table. Everyone in the room was looking at him. He could even see a hint of awe in the face of Cersei, only marred with hate and a fake smile.

"That is a ..." Lord Jon started, "good plan."

Lord Hoster Tully and his brother, one of the heroes of Tyrion's brother Jaime, Brynden 'The Blackfish' Tully both seemed to approve it as well.

"Even if your plan endangers my chances of killing the Dragonspawn, I like it," Robert laughed and clapped his back which made Tyrion sway in his chair.

"What about the Iron Bank?" Cersei asked with a smile so sweet you couldn't see the secrets behind it. "If Rhaegar gets this contract of Iron Bank for his family, the Targaryens could very well raise their own Sellsword army."

"That shouldn't be a problem," Tyrion smirked drinking his wine. "Rumors."

"Rumors?" Cersei asked surprised.

"Yes, rumors," Tyrion eased himself against the cushioned chair. "The Braavosi have always hated the valyrians until now. But now with a valyrian prince dead in Braavos and a king soon to follow him, it almost measures the end of their friendship. A wrong word in the wrong ear, their contract would very well burn the same time Rhaegar burns in his pyre."

As the Lords before him approved his plans, Tyrion thought about the thing his father had sent him here. "Get them to make Robert the King and I'll support them," Lord Tywin had told him the day he travelled from Casterly Rock to Riverrun for his nephew's wedding. Looking at the Lords before him Tyrion smiled, you see father I have done something a lot greater than what you have asked me to do. Now they stand together.

 

Chapter Text

Daenerys

It was close to sunset when the guard came to call her for the urgent small council meeting. Dany followed the guard to the small council chambers at once. A knight of the Kingsguard was always posted outside the doors of the council chambers when the small council was in session. Today it was Ser Daemon Sand, handsome in his white armor. "Ser Daemon," Dany said pleasantly. 

Ser Daemon's cheeks dimpled when he smiled. "Princess," he replied, his sky blue eyes twinkling. Rhaegar had left him in king's Landing to guard the royal family while taking Ser Gerold, Ser Oswell, Ser Jaime and Prince Lewyn with him to Braavos. Her brother hadn't wanted to take any chances after the thing with Viserys.

With Rhaegar gone to Braavos, Aegon to Dorne it fell to Dany to take care of the things in the court. Dany passed through the doors Ser Daemon held open for her. The councillors quieted as she entered. Proud and prickly Lord Jon Connington gave a taut look as a greeting. The others rose, mouthing pleasantries. Dany allowed herself the faintest of smiles. "My lords, I know you will forgive my lateness."

"We are here to serve Your Grace," said the eunuch Varys. "It is our pleasure to anticipate your coming."

"So what is this important news which concerns the Crown." Dany seated herself between the Lord Hand Jon and Varys. These are my councillors now. Men whose loyalty belongs to her family. It is hard to find men of this kind now. Men like Jon Connington and Varys. Of the others, Dany had very little trust in them. The newly made Master of Ships, Aurane Waters, the dashing young Bastard of Driftmark, have proven himself to be a worthy replacement for her brother but still, Dany doubted the loyalty of the tricksy smirk in his narrow face.

Without Ser Gerold Hightower the seat of the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard was free. Dany was tempted to bring Ser Barristan to take his place. At least the Old Knight would tell her the truth and give her good counsel unlike the lackwits surrounding her. Jon Connington was an able man but too prickly and proud even to a princess. Without Rhaegar she would find only a little of his help, she was sure. Varys can prove his worth but at the same time, no one other than him knew what he knows and what he is telling you. Littlefinger was loyal only to Littlefinger, with the pointy beard and sly smile he would talk one thing while playing at some other in his mind. Grand Maester Pylos was good at following orders but never the one to provide some. And her future good father Lord Mace Tyrell, she didn't know what to make of him but he was happy enough to be here and the Tyrells were one of the most loyal houses of the Targaryens from the time of Aegon the Conqueror when Aegon the Dragon came along and cooked the rightful King of the Reach on the Field of Fire and gave the castle Highgarden to the Tyrells and elevated them to the post of a High Lord from a mere steward. The Tyrells are the richest house in the Seven Kingdoms only next to the Lannisters and they can raise more swords than any of the other Great Houses. It is good to have Mace Tyrell near them even if he proves to be useless. 

The council was a tedium the princess knew well. She sat upon her cushions, listening, one foot jiggling with impatience. They had told her that it was urgent but nothing they spoke of felt like an urgent matter for her. 

When they brought to bring her concern to the meeting the room was lit by the candles while the darkness had swallowed the outside world. Jon Connington handed her the parchment which turned his face sour. 

Dany unrolled the parchment slowly and read it over once, and then again. 

"So how does this concerns us?" Dany asked when she read the contents on Varys' letter carefully. 

Jon Connington gave her a plain harsh look. "Don't you understand what this means? Or have you forgotten why your brother did all those things until now, even your betrothal?"

He dares say this in open council? Dany felt a blaze of anger. He has courage, I grant that, but if he thinks I am about to suffer another scolding, he could not be more wrong. "This is just another marriage in the realm like many others," she said, "why should this trouble us?"

"It is not just a marriage," the Lord Hand said. "Alliances are sealed by marriage and this alliance once threatened your father's rule and your brother's after him. Now it has started again." 

It was true. Both her father and her brother had been wary about the Stark-Baratheon-Arryn-Tully alliance. To see it happen again is not a good thing. 

"This is the thing which has troubled the crown from the first," Lord Connington said. "We were wise to cut off the tree but not so wise enough to root it out. This marriage between Robert Baratheon's son and Jon Arryn's daughter it still binds four great houses together. And that means it is trouble for us." 

Dany unrolled the parchment and examine it again. "This changes nothing," she said as she smoothened her skirts. "They are very well welcome to marry whoever they wish, without a Stark it will never be fulfilled. Eddard Stark lies dead in the ground with his wife and son so I don't care if Robert Baratheon wishes to marry his daughter to a ghost." 

The members of the small council gave her puzzled looks but Dany ignored them all. "We shall talk about it once my brother returns." The princess rose. "Then we are done for now." She left them all and made her way to her apartments.

In the quiet of her chambers, Dany stripped off her finery and donned a loose robe of purple silk. She fell on her bed and closed her eyes. That night she dreamt that she was in a battlefield. She was mounted on Drogon but her other children weren't with her. Below the war rushed in the waters all along the river. Her enemies were massing across the river and Dany flew over them and bathed them in fire. She rounded and rounded over them on her dragon until she finally saw that she was not on Drogon anymore. Round and round she went, falling. 

She woke suddenly in the darkness of her cabin, still flush with fear. Drogon seemed to wake with her, and she heard the faint whisper of his wings flapping outside the castle, a footfall outside her chambers. And something else. 

Someone was in the chambers with her. 

"Who is there? Where are you?" There was no response. "Vaella, is that you?" she called for her hand maiden. It was too black to see, but she could hear her breathing.

"They sleep," a woman said. "They all sleep." The voice was very close. "Even dragons must sleep."

She is standing over me. "Who's there?" Dany peered into the darkness. She thought she could see a shadow, the faintest outline of a shape. "What do you want of me?"

"Remember. To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow."

"Quaithe?" Dany sprung from the bed and threw down her blankets. She hasn't heard from the woman ever since she left after helping her to bring back her dragons. Those were the same words the shadowbinder had told her before she left her, she remembered.

She was clad in a hooded robe that brushed the dark floor. Beneath the hood, her face seemed hard and shiny. She is wearing a mask, Dany knew, a wooden mask finished in dark red lacquer.

"Quaithe? Am I dreaming?" She pinched her ear and winced at the pain.

"You're not dreaming. Not now, not ever."

"What are you doing here? How did you get past my guards?"

"I came another way. Your guards never saw me."

"If I call out, they will kill you."

"They will swear to you that I am not here."

"Are you here?"

"No. Hear me, Daenerys Targaryen. The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the stranger in his dark horse and after him the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and wolf, the gods' son and the mummer's hero will clash. Beware all of them. Beware!"

"Beware? Why should I fear them?" Dany rose from the bed. Her blankets slipped down her legs, and gooseflesh covered her arms in the cool night air."

"If you have some warning for me, speak plainly. What do you want of me, Quaithe?"

Moonlight shone in the woman's eyes. "To show you the way."

"I remember the way. I go north to go south, east to go west, back to go forward. And to touch the light I have to pass beneath the shadow." She pushed back her silvery hair from her face. "I am half-sick of riddling. I am a Targaryen princess. The blood of the dragon. I command you to tell me everything." 

"Daenerys. Let me show you."

In a moment the solid floor beneath her dissolved into a puff of smoke and Dany fell as she had fallen from Drogon in her dreams. Soon her feet came back to meet with land but it was not the land she had known. Quaithe emerged beside her silent as a ghost.

"Where are we?" Dany asked her. 

"Qarth," the shadow woman answered. 

That was all Dany needed to know to figure out where Quaithe had brought her. Qarth is known as the city of splendors. From all of Quaithe's talks about the Undying, Dany had expected the House of the Undying Ones to be the most splendid of all but the building before her was a grey and ancient ruin. 

Long and low, without towers or windows, it coiled like a stone serpent through a grove of black-barked trees whose inky blue leaves made the stuff of the sorcerous drink Quaithe had called as the shade of the evening. No other buildings stood near. Black tiles covered the palace roof, many fallen or broken; the mortar between the stones was dry and crumbling.

"There lies the answers for all your questions," Quaithe said. "But be careful, Warlocks are bitter creatures who eat dust and drink of shadows. Don't overstay your welcome." 

"Won't you come with me?" Dany asked. 

"You should do this alone."

It was darker than she would have thought under the black trees, and the way was longer. Though the path seemed to run straight from the street to the door of the palace, Quaithe soon turned aside. When she questioned her, the shadowbinder said only, "The front way leads in, but never out again. Heed my words, Daenerys. The House of the Undying Ones was not made for mortal men. If you value your soul, take care and do just as I tell you."

"I will do as you say," Dany promised.

"When you enter, you will find yourself in a room with four doors: the one you have come through and three others. Take the door to your right. Each time, the door to your right. If you should come upon a stairwell, climb. Never go down, and never take any door but the first door to your right."

"The door to my right," Dany repeated. "I understand. And when I leave, the opposite?"

"By no means," Quaithe said. "Leaving and coming, it is the same. Always up. Always the door to your right. Other doors may open to you. Within, you will see many things that disturb you. Visions of loveliness and visions of horror, wonders and terrors. Sights and sounds of days gone by and days to come and days that never were. Dwellers and servitors may speak to you as you go. Answer or ignore them as you choose, but enter no room until you reach the audience chamber."

"I understand."

"When you come to the chamber of the Undying, be patient. Our little lives are no more than a flicker of a moth's wing to them. Listen well, and write each word upon your heart."

When they reached the door—a tall oval mouth, set in a wall fashioned in the likeness of a human face."

"Now you may enter," said the Asshai'i woman. Dany took a deep breath, and went inside.

She found herself in a stone anteroom with four doors, one on each wall. With never a hesitation, she went to the door on her right and stepped through. The second room was a twin to the first. Again she turned to the right-hand door. When she pushed it open she faced yet another small antechamber with four doors. I am in the presence of sorcery.

The fourth room was oval rather than square and walled in worm-eaten wood in place of stone. Six passages led out from it in place of four. Dany chose the rightmost, and entered a long, dim, high-ceilinged hall. Along the right hand was a row of torches burning with a smoky orange light, but the only doors were to her left.

The mold-eaten carpet under her feet had once been gorgeously colored, and whorls of gold could still be seen in the fabric, glinting broken amidst the faded grey and mottled green. What remained served to muffle her footfalls, but that was not all to the good. Dany could hear sounds within the walls, a faint scurrying and scrabbling that made her think of rats. Other sounds, even more disturbing, came through some of the closed doors. One shook and thumped, as if someone were trying to break through. From another came a dissonant piping that made her heartbeat quicken. Dany hurried quickly past.

Not all the doors were closed. I will not look, Dany told herself, but the temptation was too strong.

In one dark, dank room, a beautiful woman with dark hair curled up in a corner, crying. The rats and her tears were her only companions. The woman was covered in a blanket of night but she shone as a star bright enough to keep herself from drowning in the darkness. 

Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses. Savagely slaughtered, the feasters lay strewn across overturned chairs and hacked trestle tables, asprawl in pools of congealing blood. Some had lost limbs, even heads. Severed hands clutched bloody cups, wooden spoons, roast fowl, heels of bread. In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. The beautiful raven haired woman she had seen in the other room was on his lap while a white knight stood beside them, his sword glowing like pale fire to keep the dark away from them.

She fled from them, but only as far as the next open door. I know this room, she thought. She remembered those great stone beams and the carved dragon faces that adorned them. And there outside the window, a storm raged. The sight of it made her heart ache with longing. No sooner had she thought it than a woman with silver hair dry and brittle and a body that covered with half a hundred of nail scratches and teeth bites held on to a baby. "Daenerys," she said in a voice faint as death. Her lean wrinkled hand reached for her, soft as old leather, and Dany wanted to take it and hold it and kiss it, she wanted that as much as she had ever wanted anything. Her foot edged forward, and then she thought, she's dead, my mother's dead, I never knew her, she died a long time ago. She backed away and ran.

The long hall went on and on and on, with endless doors to her left and only torches to her right. She ran past more doors than she could count, closed doors and open ones, doors of wood and doors of iron, carved doors and plain ones, doors with pulls and doors with locks and doors with knockers. Dany ran and ran until she could run no more.

Finally a great pair of bronze doors appeared to her left, grander than the rest. They swung open as she neared, and she had to stop and look. Beyond loomed a cavernous stone hall, the largest she had ever seen. The Throne room. The skulls of dead dragons looked down from its walls. Upon a towering barbed throne sat an old man in rich robes, an old man with dark eyes and long silver-grey hair. "Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat," he said to a man below him. "Let him be the king of ashes." A woman shrieked, but the king on his throne looked amused, and Dany moved on.

Rhaegar, she thought when she paused in the next room. "Aegon," he said to a woman she didn't knew nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. "What better name for a king?"

"Will you make a song for him?" the woman asked.

"He has a song," the man replied. "He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire." He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany's, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door.

"There must be one more," he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. "The dragon has three heads." He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way. It was not long before she stopped at another room. This time the walls were covered in red blood but everything around felt the same except for the woman. Dany saw her brother with his wife, naming his son Aegon in the same way he had named that other Aegon she'd seen with that unknown woman.

It seemed as though she walked for another hour before the long hall finally ended in a steep stone stair, descending into darkness. Every door, open or closed, had been to her left. Dany looked back behind her. The torches were going out, she realized with a start of fear. Perhaps twenty still burned. Thirty at most. One more guttered out even as she watched, and the darkness came a little farther down the hall, creeping toward her. And as she listened it seemed as if she heard something else coming, shuffling and dragging itself slowly along the faded carpet. Terror filled her. She could not go back and she was afraid to stay here, but how could she go on? There was no door on her right, and the steps went down, not up.

Yet another torch went out as she stood pondering, and the sounds grew faintly louder. Dany turned to the blank wall once more, but there was nothing. Could there be a secret door, a door I cannot see? Another torch went out. Another. The first door on the right, he said, always the first door on the right. The first door on the right . . .

It came to her suddenly. . . . is the last door on the left!

She flung herself through. Beyond was another small room with four doors. To the right she went, and to the right, and to the right, and to the right, and to the right, and to the right, and to the right, until she was dizzy and out of breath once more.

When she stopped, she found herself in yet another dank stone chamber . . . but this time the door opposite was round, shaped like an open mouth, and Quaithe stood outside in the grass beneath the trees. "Can it be that the Undying are done with you so soon?" she asked in disbelief when he saw her.

"So soon?" she asked, confused. "I haven't even seen them yet."

"You have taken a wrong turning. Come, I will lead you." Quaithe held out her hand.

Dany hesitated. There was a door to her right, still closed . . .

"That's not the way," Quaithe said firmly, her wet eyes glinting with disapproval. "The Undying Ones will not wait forever."

"You should do this alone," Dany said, remembering.

"Stubborn girl. You will be lost, and never found."

She walked away from her, to the door on the right.

"No," Quaithe screeched. "No, to me, come to me, to meeeeeee." Her masked face crumbled inward, changing to something pale and wormlike.

Dany left her behind, entering a stairwell. She began to climb. Before long her legs were aching. She recalled that the House of the Undying Ones had seemed to have no towers.

Finally the stair opened. To her right, a set of wide wooden doors had been thrown open. They were fashioned of ebony and weirwood, the black and white grains swirling and twisting in strange interwoven patterns. They were very beautiful, yet somehow frightening. The blood of the dragon must not be afraid. Dany said a quick prayer, begging the Warrior for courage and strength. She made herself walk forward.

Beyond the doors was a great hall and a splendor of wizards. Some wore sumptuous robes of ermine, ruby velvet, and cloth of gold. Others fancied elaborate armor studded with gemstones, or tall pointed hats speckled with stars. There were women among them, dressed in gowns of surpassing loveliness. Shafts of sunlight slanted through windows of stained glass, and the air was alive with the most beautiful music she had ever heard.

A kingly man in rich robes rose when he saw her, and smiled. "Daenerys of House Targaryen, be welcome. Come and share the food of forever. We are the Undying of Qarth."

"Long have we awaited you," said a woman beside him, clad in rose and silver. The breast she had left bare in the Qartheen fashion was as perfect as a breast could be.

"We knew you were to come to us," the wizard king said. "A thousand years ago we knew, and have been waiting all this time. We sent the shadowwoman to show you the way."

"We have knowledge to share with you," said a warrior in shining emerald armor, "and magic weapons to arm you with. You have passed every trial. Now come and sit with us, and all your questions shall be answered."

She took a step forward.

Doubt seized her. The great door was so heavy it took all of Dany's strength to budge it, but finally it began to move. Behind was another door, hidden. It was old grey wood, splintery and plain . . . but it stood to the right of the door through which she'd entered. The wizards were beckoning her with voices sweeter than song. She ran from them.

Through the narrow door she passed, into a chamber awash in gloom.

A long stone table filled this room. Above it floated a human heart, swollen and blue with corruption, yet still alive. It beat, a deep ponderous throb of sound, and each pulse sent out a wash of indigo light. The figures around the table were no more than blue shadows. As Dany walked to the empty chair at the foot of the table, they did not stir, nor speak, nor turn to face her. There was no sound but the slow, deep beat of the rotting heart.

. . . mother of dragons . . . came a voice, part whisper and part moan . . . . dragons . . . dragons . . . dragons . . . other voices echoed in the gloom. Some were male and some female. One spoke with the timbre of a child. The floating heart pulsed from dimness to darkness. It was hard to summon the will to speak, to recall the words she had practiced so assiduously. "I am Princess Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen." Do they hear me? Why don't they move? She sat, folding her hands in her lap. "Grant me your counsel, and speak to me with the wisdom of those who have conquered death."

Through the indigo murk, she could make out the wizened features of the Undying One to her right, an old old man, wrinkled and hairless. His flesh was a ripe violet-blue, his lips and nails bluer still, so dark they were almost black. Even the whites of his eyes were blue. They stared unseeing at the ancient woman on the opposite side of the table, whose gown of pale silk had rotted on her body. One withered breast was left bare in the Qartheen manner, to show a pointed blue nipple hard as leather.

She is not breathing. Dany listened to the silence. None of them are breathing, and they do not move, and those eyes see nothing. Could it be that the Undying Ones were dead?

Her answer was a whisper as thin as a mouse's whisker. . . . we live . . . live . . . live . . . it sounded. Myriad other voices whispered echoes . . . . And know . . . know . . . know . . . know . . .

"I have come for the gift of truth," Dany said. "In the long hall, the things I saw . . . were they true visions, or lies? Past things, or things to come? What did they mean?"

. . . the shape of shadows . . . morrows not yet made . . . drink from the cup of ice . . . drink from the cup of fire . . .

. . . mother of dragons . . . child of three . . .

"Three?" She did not understand.

. . . three heads has the dragon . . . the ghost chorus yarnmered inside her skull with never a lip moving, never a breath stirring the still blue air. . . . mother of dragons . . . child of storm . . . The whispers became a swirling song. . . . three fires must you light . . . one for life and one for death and one to love . . . Her own heart was beating in unison to the one that floated before her, blue and corrupt . . . three mounts must you ride . . . one to bed and one to dread and one to love . . . The voices were growing louder, she realized, and it seemed her heart was slowing, and even her breath. . . . three treasons will you know . . . once for blood and once for gold and once for love . . .

"I don't . . . " Her voice was no more than a whisper, almost as faint as theirs. What was happening to her? "I don't understand," she said, more loudly. Why was it so hard to talk here? "Help me. Show me."

. . . help her . . . the whispers mocked. . . . show her . . .

Then phantoms shivered through the murk, images in indigo. Viserys screamed as a star came down upon him, filling him to purge the cold blue soul he had. A blue star reigned high above in the sky, it's light guttering in fire and blood. The Red Keep was filled with the sound of steel dragging over stone. . . . mother of dragons, daughter of death . . . Glowing like sunrise, a red sword was raised in the hand of a king who had a frozen crown upon his head. A cloth dragon swayed torn on poles amidst a cheering crowd. From a smoking tower, a great white beast fell, breathing shadow fire, its wings heavy and useless. . .

Faster and faster the visions came, one after the other, until it seemed as if the very air had come alive. Shadows whirled and danced inside a tent, boneless and terrible. A silver haired woman knelt and bowed to a God in all his eternal glory. A wild voice shrieked in the flames, a dragon bursting in the fire behind her. Behind a silver horse a bloody corpse of a naked woman bounced and dragged. From a pitch dark cavern, two bright red eyes emerged before sulking off in the dark. A man cradled a woman in his arms whose hair shone bright as the summer sun until her fires finally died out. Ten thousand men rushed against a man with a frozen blue sword. One by one they fell and in the end those cold grey eyes were directed towards her. . .

A scream of fury cut the indigo air, and suddenly the visions were gone, ripped away, and Dany's gasp turned to horror. The Undying were all around her, blue and cold, whispering as they reached for her, pulling, stroking, tugging at her clothes, touching her with their dry cold hands, twining their fingers through her hair. All the strength had left her limbs. She could not move. Even her heart had ceased to beat. She felt a hand on her bare breast, twisting her nipple. Teeth found the soft skin of her throat. A mouth descended on one eye, licking, sucking, biting . . .

Then indigo turned to orange, and whispers turned to screams. She felt smoke coming out from her and little by little she disappeared like those visions she had seen. Her heart was pounding, racing, the hands and mouths were gone, cold and damp washed over her skin, and Dany blinked at glooming darkness of her chambers.

"Quaithe?" Dany called for the woman. "Where are you Quaithe? I don't understand this visions."

She never saw the woman but heard her voice. "Remember who you are, Daenerys." Her voice grew faded and distant. "Remember the Undying."

 

Chapter Text

Rhaegar

Faint and far away the light burned, low on the horizon, shining through the sea mists.

"It looks like a star," said Rhaegar.

"The star of home," said Denyo, the envoy sent from the Iron Bank as a honor guard to meet him.

His captain was shouting orders. Sailors scrambled up and down the three tall masts and moved along the rigging, reefing the heavy black and red sails. Below, oarsmen heaved and strained over two great banks of oars. The decks tilted, creaking, as the Targaryen flagship, Balerion heeled to starboard and began to come about.

The star of home. Rhaegar stood at the prow, one hand resting on the iron figurehead, a roaring dragon head of black iron. For half a heartbeat he remembered how Arthur Dayne had once claimed Starfall as the Home of gods and stars. He wondered which star was lurking here now that the Daynes were dealt with. Arthur and Ashara Dayne, both had glown too much for his liking that he had to finally drown them in darkness.

Braavos might not be so bad as his visit to Starfall was. Denyo said that everything had been already prepared for his visit. It would take one day at the most for me to stay here. Then he would return back to his kingdom and family. The Braavosi also told him about how hard they were searching for Viserys' killer. Maybe he would even get to see the man and deliver his own justice.

The last of the night's stars still peered from the sky through the first light . . . all along with the pair dead ahead. "It's two stars now."

"Two eyes," said Denyo. "The Titan sees us, King Rhaegar."

The Titan of Braavos. One of the splendors in the modern world made by men. A giant of a statue as tall as a mountain, which stood guard in the entrance of Braavos. Just like Arthur Dayne had stood to guard his sister and her husband at Starfall. 

Starfall is done and fallen, Rhaegar reminded himself. Eddard Stark, Ashara Dayne and Arthur Dayne were all dead. It did no good to think of them. Even their ghosts never bothered to trouble him in Westeros, and there was no way that they were lurking all the way to haunt him here in Braavos. In Westeros, legends marks the Daynes as the descendants of gods. The gods never die, septons of the Seven preached, still the Daynes died when a blade was put through them. Gods or men the Targaryens answered to no one. 

"Do the Braavosi worship the Titan as a god, Denyo?" Rhaegar asked. 

"All gods are honored in Braavos." The Braavosi banker loved to talk about his city almost as much as he loved to talk about his home. "Your Seven have a sept here, the Sept-Beyond-the-Sea, but only Westerosi sailors worship there."

"The Moonsingers led us to this place of refuge, where the dragons of Valyria could not find us," Denyo said. "Theirs is the greatest temple. We esteem the Father of Waters as well, but his house is built anew whenever he takes his bride. The rest of the gods dwell together on an isle in the center of the city. That is where you will find the smaller gods."

The Titan's eyes seemed brighter now, and farther apart. Rhaegar never cared about the gods, he barely sought out for the help of gods. He had never wanted their help. 

The mists gave way before them, ragged grey curtains parted by their prow. Balerion cleaved through the grey-green waters on billowing black wings. Rhaegar could hear the cries of seabirds overhead. There, in front of them, a line of stony ridges rose sudden from the sea, their steep slopes covered with soldier pines and black spruce. But dead ahead the sea had broken through, and there above the open water the Titan towered, with his eyes blazing and his long green hair blowing in the wind.

His legs bestrode the gap, one foot planted on each mountain, his shoulders looming tall above the jagged crests. His legs were carved of solid stone, the same black granite as the sea monts on which he stood, though around his hips he wore an armored skirt of greenish bronze. His breastplate was bronze as well, and his head in his crested halfhelm. His blowing hair was made of hempen ropes dyed green, and huge fires burned in the caves that were his eyes. One hand rested atop the ridge to his left, bronze fingers coiled about a knob of stone; the other thrust up into the air, clasping the hilt of a broken sword.

He is only a little bigger than King Baelor's statue in King's Landing, he told himself when they were still well off to sea. As the galleas drove closer to where the breakers smashed against the ridgeline, however, the Titan grew larger still. He could hear Balerion's captain bellowing commands in his deep voice, and up in the rigging men were bringing in the sails. We are going to row beneath the Titan's legs. Rhaegar could see the arrow slits in the great bronze breastplate, and stains and speckles on the Titan's arms and shoulders where the seabirds nested. His neck craned upward. Baelor the Blessed would not reach his knee. He could step right over the walls of Red Keep.

Then the Titan gave a mighty roar.

The sound was as huge as he was, a terrible groaning and grinding, so loud it drowned out even the captain's voice and the crash of the waves against those pine-clad ridges. A thousand seabirds took to the air at once. "The Titan warns the Arsenal of our coming, King Rhaegar," Denyo shouted. "We should reach the port soon enough."

Rhaegar nodded in approval.

Wind and wave had Balerion hard in hand now, driving her swiftly toward the channel. Her double bank of oars stroked smoothly, lashing the sea to white foam as the Titan's shadow fell upon them. For a moment it seemed as though they must surely smash up against the stones beneath his legs. Flanked by his Kingsguard at the prow, Rhaegar could taste salt where the spray had touched his face. He had to look straight up to see the Titan's head.

Rhaegar put his hand to the hilt of his sword as they slipped between his legs. More arrow slits dotted the insides of those great stone thighs, and when Rhaegar craned his neck around to watch the crow's nest slip through with a good ten yards to spare, he spied murder holes beneath the Titan's armored skirts, and pale faces staring down at them from behind the iron bars.

And then they were past.

The shadow lifted, the pine-clad ridges fell away to either side, the winds dwindled, and they found themselves moving through a great lagoon. Ahead rose another sea mount, a knob of rock that pushed up from the water like a spiked fist, its stony battlements bristling with scorpions, spitfires, and trebuchets. "The Arsenal of Braavos," Denyo named it, as proud as if he'd built it. "They can build a war galley there in a day. Maybe we could even join both our fleets together and rule the seas together. You see King Rhaegar when two huge forces combine the third one will overcome both the others." Rhaegar could see dozens of galleys tied up at quays and perched on launching slips. The painted prows of others poked from innumerable wooden sheds along the stony shores, like hounds in a kennel, lean and mean and hungry, waiting for a hunter's horn to call them forth. He tried to count them, but there were too many, certainly more than what his own royal fleet numbered and more docks and sheds and quays where the shoreline curved away.

Two galleys had come out to meet them. They seemed to skim upon the water like dragonflies, their pale oars flashing. Rhaegar heard Denyo and the captains of the Braavosi ship he had brought as the honor guard shouting to them and their own captains shouting back, but he did not understand the words. A great horn sounded. The galleys passed to either side of them, so close that he could hear the muffled sound of drums from within their purple hulls, bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom, like the beat of living hearts.

Then the galleys were behind them, and the Arsenal as well. Ahead stretched a broad expanse of pea-green water rippled like a sheet of colored glass. From its wet heart arose the city proper, a great sprawl of domes and towers and bridges, grey and gold and red. The hundred isles of Braavos in the sea.

It was a flat city, he could see that even from afar, not like King's Landing on its three high hills. The only hills here were the ones that men had raised of brick and granite, bronze and marble. Something else was missing as well, though it took him a few moments to realize what it was. The city has no walls. Not that it needed one. The Braavosi depended on their ships for everything. Trade, war, food, drinks, wealth . . . name anything their ships were connected with it. Unlike the castles in Westeros the walls of Braavos were made of wood and painted purple. Their galleys were their walls. A strong fleet like the Braavosi fleet would protect a lagoon city like Braavos better than any other wall would.

The deck creaked behind them. Rhaegar turned to find the captain of Balerion looming over them in his long captain's coat of purple wool. Tradesman turned Captain Ternesio Terys wore no whiskers and kept his grey hair cut short and neat, framing his square, windburnt face. The Braavosi captain was a man born and grown to man a ship. He was a proven sailor who'd lead his own trading galleas and the Iron Bank's war galleys. A man with a great skill and vast experience worthy enough to be the captain of Balerion, the pride of the royal Targaryen fleet. "Your Grace we are here," he told Rhaegar. "We make for the Chequy Port, where the Sealord's customs officers will come aboard to inspect our holds. They will be half a day at it, they always are, but there is no need for you to wait upon their pleasure. I shall lower the boats, Your Grace, for you and the men. The crew will take you ashore to save the time of your journey."

Rhaegar nodded. He turned to Ser Gerold beside him. "Are the men ready, Lord Commander?" he asked the Lord Commander of his Kingsguard. 

The White Bull stepped forward. "The men have already sent to the positions as you've commanded, Your Grace." 

"Good," Rhaegar told him. "Nothing should go wrong." 

The Lord Commander bowed his head. Rhaegar turned to his ship's captain. "Captain Terys, lower the boats."

His men were already loading the boats when he came to the deck. His boat was already made ready with two men from Balerion's crew at the oars. Rhaegar climbed on the boat and his kingsguard followed him. The boat he was on set forth first and the others with his men followed it.

Balerion dwindled in their wake, while the city grew larger with every stroke of the boat's oars. A harbor was visible off to his right, a tangle of piers and quays crowded with big-bellied whalers out of Ibben, swan ships from the Summer Isles, and more galleys than he could count. Another harbor, more distant, was off to his left, beyond a sinking point of land where the tops of half-drowned buildings thrust themselves above the water. Rhaegar had never seen so many big buildings all together in one place. King's Landing had the Red Keep and the Great Sept of Baelor and the Dragonpit, but Braavos seemed to boast a score of temples and towers and palaces that were as large or even larger.

The city had seemed like one big island from where the Titan stood, but as the men rowed them closer he saw that it was many small islands close together, linked by arched stone bridges that spanned innumerable canals. Beyond the harbor he glimpsed streets of grey stone houses, built so close they leaned one upon the other. To Rhaegar's eyes they were queer-looking, four and five stories tall and very skinny, with sharp-peaked tile roofs like pointed hats. He saw no thatch, and only a few timbered houses of the sort he knew in Westeros. They have no trees, he realized. Braavos is all stone, a grey city in a green sea.

Terys' crewmen swung them north of the docks and down the gullet of a great canal, a broad green waterway that ran straight into the heart of the city. They passed under the arches of a carved stone bridge, decorated with half a hundred kinds of fish and crabs and squids. A second bridge appeared ahead, this one carved in lacy leafy vines, and beyond that a third, gazing down on them from a thousand painted eyes. The mouths of lesser canals opened to either side, and others still smaller off of those. Some of the houses were built above the waterways, he saw, turning the canals into a sort of tunnel. Slender boats slid in and out among them, wrought in the shapes of water serpents with painted heads and upraised tails. Those were not rowed but poled, he saw, by men who stood at their sterns in cloaks of grey and brown and deep moss green. He saw huge flat-bottomed barges too, heaped high with crates and barrels and pushed along by twenty polemen to a side, and fancy floating houses with lanterns of colored glass, velvet drapes, and brazen figureheads. Off in the far distance, looming above canals and houses both, was a massive grey stone roadway of some kind, supported by three tiers of mighty arches marching away south into the haze. "What's that?" Rhaegar asked Denyo, pointing. 

"The sweetwater river," the Braavosi told him. "It brings fresh water from the mainland, across the mudflats and the briny shallows. Good sweet water for the fountains."

When he looked behind him, the harbor and lagoon were lost to sight. A small canal ran through the big harbor and their boat streamed through it, cleaving through the collection of ships, galleys, whaler, barges and floating vessels of other kinds. There the oarsmen swung them right. They passed through a tunnel and out again into the light. More shrines loomed up to either side.

They went around a bend and beneath another bridge. On their left appeared a wooden dock covered with half a dozen colored clothes tied to poles which were sunk into the sea ground. Rhaegar wondered how long the poles originally were and how deep they were in the water. Beneath the canopy of colored clothes stood men of all ranges, from tall to short, from fat to lean, from old to young . . . all clothed in rich clothes of hundred colors which shamed the colored roof over their heads.

The oarsmen backed the oars, and the boat bumped gently against stone pilings. They grasped an iron ring set to hold them for a moment. Ser Gerold and Ser Oswell climbed out of the boat onto the wooden dock. Rhaegar stepped onto the wooden dock and his other two kingsguard flanked him. 

A large old man in a red satin robe lined with rubies, opals, pearls, sapphires, onyx and other gemstones stepped forward with the others trailing behind him. From the way he was walking it seemed that it was hard for him to even walk with that cloth he was wearing. Rhaegar was sure that the old man would fall down even before he reached him but somehow he managed to walk to him without falling down. 

"King Rhaegar," the old man said when he reached him, "I am Ferrego Antaryon, the Sealord of Braavos." 

Rhaegar stepped forward. He nodded to the Sealord. There were more people than he had expected. Men of high status covered in their colored clothes, their guards whose weapons were as much different as their masters' dresses. He even saw a dothraki with a curved arakh and a long braid with ringing bells. Even the common folk gathered together in the higher grounds though it was still dark with only the faintest light of the dawn keeping the world alive. 

"King Rhaegar," Tycho Nestoris followed the Sealord of Braavos with a grey man with a long beard reaching his neck beside him. "Welcome to Braavos. I hope you'll enjoy your stay here."

Rhaegar smiled at him. "I will."

 

Chapter Text

Andrew

The last night fell black and moonless, but for once the sky was clear. The grey fogs had given way to endless pits of dark which filled the world.

So many stars, he thought as he watched up the sky from the window of the forsaken wooden cabin. His mother had taught him his stars as a boy in Winterfell; he had learned the names of the twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each; he could find the seven wanderers sacred to the Faith; he was old friends with the Ice Dragon, the Shadowcat, the Moonmaid, and the Sword of the Morning. All those he shared with the Braavosi, but not some of the others. We look up at the same stars, and see such different things. The King's Crown was the Cradle, to hear the Moonsingers tell it; the Stallion was the Horned Lord; the red wanderer that septons preached was sacred to their Smith up here was called the Red Lord. And when the Red Lord was in the Cradle, that was a propitious time to overcome all the evil, dark and terror that wanders this world, the red priests of R'hllor insisted. Is that true? he wondered. The world had never really been truly kind to him. For all he knew evil and terror always ruled this world whether the Red Lord was bright in the Cradle or not. Even if it had been true it was for them, not for me. He never truly belonged with them, never belonged here.

Though there were too many stars in the black night sky there was no mistaking his family, his father and mother. He found them just as easily as he could find the moon on a starry night and the sun on a cloudy day. There to the north, low and deep in the western horizon lived his family, the three stars twinkling in a straight line, lightly slanting to one side in the sky. His father was in the bottom end, big and steady looking as strong as always. His mother was at the top, bright and lively as always. Never has he seen someone or something brighter or lovelier than her. And there between them was little Andrew, a small blue star between the big star and the bright star, his father and his mother. He remembered a night sitting with his mother and father in the godswood of Winterfell looking at the stars. His mother was telling him about the stars. Andrew had been so afraid of being lonely that day after venturing into the cold crypts of Winterfell all alone. "Mama, you won't leave me alone will you?" He asked his mother. His mother held him close to her and pressed kisses to his cheeks. "Never," she had said pressing kisses all over his face. "If you ever felt lonely, Andrew, look up at them." She pointed at the three stars. "There is Mama," she pointed at mother. "And there is Papa," she pointed at father. "And there between us you are. My little Star-Lord." she pointed at little Andrew. "We will always be with you, Andrew. We will always be looking after you." His mother kissed his nose then making him laugh. He could almost feel how warm her kisses had been, how warm she had been. A mother's warmth. Andrew would gladly spend a cold night in the arms of his mother rather than warming up in the hot springs of Winterfell's godswood. There was no warmth for him now. My little Star-Lord, Lady Ashara Dayne had liked to call him. I am not even her little boy anymore. He had been three when his mother told him about his family. Eleven years have passed and little Andrew stayed little while he grew. 

"Are you looking at me now mother?" Andrew asked his mother. He turned to his father. "You father? Are you looking at me now?" He got no answers. "Look at me now," he told them, "Look at me kill him." 

Andrew moved back from the windows and his parents. He had fastened the shutters back so as to keep a clear eye in everything happening outside. He had waited eight years to make this happen and didn't want to miss it now that the opportunity has fallen into his hands. But there was nothing happening outside the window of Andrew's little room, only a wall of shifting grey fog. The air had grown chilly... and a good thing, else he might have fallen asleep. It would be just like Andrew to sleep through his own chance for justice. Killing Viserys had been an easy job to do. Instead of Andrew doing most of the works the Mad Dragon himself gave all the chances he had wanted and paid for it with his life. He knew that hunting down Rhaegar won't be as easy as Viserys. If the man was anything better than Viserys he would keep his guards close, and finish his work without any delay and return back to the safety of his castle. 

Andrew had never wanted to take any chances to let him slip past his hands. Ballos had informed him about the King's visit to Braavos and ever since he was troubling over it. He sat against the wall and buried his head in his hands. Why am I so angry? he asked himself, but it was a stupid question. He is your family's killer. He killed your father, your mother, your uncle and a hundred other innocent men. You have every right to be angry at him.

On the day he had dealt with Viserys, his family had been with him. His mother, his father, uncle Arthur, uncle Aaron. Today it was not Lord Eddard's face he saw floating before him, or Lady Ashara's or Ser Arthur Dayne, though; it was Rhaegar's face. With his deep purple eyes and a meloncholic smile, he looked a bit like a good, kind man. A mask, he thought, he is naught but wearing a mask. He was looking at him the way he had looked at him at Starfall, when he had murdered his family. You are next? that look had always seemed to say. After them, it's your time. 

Illola and her daughters were looking after the inn after Andrew had left them yestermorn. He knew that Rhaegar would never give him much of a chance like Viserys and he chose to use every chance he could get. He knew that the Sea Lord and the other nobles of the free city of Braavos would personally come to meet with the King of the Seven Kingdoms and that would give him a chance. It might be hard to get near him but Andrew hoped to end him during the pleasantries. He had made his lair in a little room at the top of a leaning three-storeyed building overlooking the Purple Harbor. He had a good vantage point and a good view of the colored platform made to welcome the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Across the cobbled stone street than ran beneath his building he could see the green water of the little canal below, two arches of the mossy bridges. On other days Braavos would be lost in fogs but that day it seemed clear enough to see the far end of the bridge through the greyness, and of the vague lights of the buildings across the canal. 

Andrew leaned against the wall and took up his longbow, bending the smooth thick Dornish yew to slip a bowstring through the notches. He had got the longbow from a sellsword who had just made his way back from Westeros. During his time in the foghouse, the man used to sing songs of how lovely and deadly his bow was. He also talked of how lucky the bow was to save him many times in war, once in Tyrosh where he fought for the Lyseni and once in Lys where he fought for the Tyroshi. He even vowed that he wouldn't give up his bow even if he was offered the entire gold of Casterly Rock. Yet all his vows and talks did nothing when Andrew showed him a single gold dragon and the man practically threw him the bow as if it was no more than an empty cup. He even gave him the three arrows he had with the bow. With dark shafts and grey fletching, he couldn't find more decent arrows and didn't want to waste any of it. Andrew was a decent archer but his marksmanship was not as half as good as his swordsmanship. From his room high above the colored platform put up by the Braavosi to receive Rhaegar, he was sure that he could make the shot even there was a good seventy five yard distance between them. 

He heard distant shouts and saw the guards and common folk from the lower docks to the upper stone way. Too many people. He hoped that they won't be a trouble for him or his plan.

The world was moonlight and shadow, and time became an endless round of sharpening Frost, the arrows and pulling the arrow string back to check its strength. He heard a soft splash as a serpent boat emerged beneath the bridge's central arch. "Oi, what hour?" Andrew called down to the man who stood by the snake's uplifted tail, pushing her onward with his pole.

The waterman gazed up, searching for the voice. "Four, by the Titan's roar." His words echoed hollowly off the swirling green waters and the walls of unseen buildings.

The stars and the moon gave way for the sun. More people came filling in, nobles of colored clothes and common people alike as the sun came up. 

The sun came and went up and up in the sky, with still no sign of the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Andrew heard footsteps on the cobbled stone street beneath his building, though, and saw an old man walking to the harbor with a lantern to light his way. Andrew envied his light. His own lantern was on the verge of dying, the oil draining out.

As Dawn broke out, the world turned to the shade of a gloomy fire and the early morning sky was clear again. No clouds, thought Andrew. That was good. Rain or fog could doom him and everything he had waited for.

His eyes grew heavy with sleep and the eyelids drooped. Andrew opened them fast, faster than he had closed them. I should've slept more, he thought rubbing the sleep away from his eyes. There was no water to wash his face. The canal ran beneath but Andrew didn't want to go down and risk some clear shot. He never knew when he dozed next but he did. Suddenly somewhere to the south a warhorn blew waking him up from the sleep. It was no warhorn, Andrew knew. The Titan's roar. He is here. Andrew stood up and crossed the room and took his bow and arrows. 

Motionless, Andrew Stark stood near the window looking down to the Purple Harbor. The air was full of mist and shouts. And Andrew waited for him. Waited in his little room with his bow and arrows.

Downstream to the Purple Harbor the path was blocked for commoners and highborn captains alike so as to make a clear way for Rhaegar Targaryen. At times the streams would be filled with rafts and carracks and ferries and rowboats borne on the current of the bigger canal but today they seemed abandoned.

The main canal from the purple harbor looked empty and Andrew stood near his window, waiting. . . watching. . . It felt like years waiting for Rhaegar in the room. The sight of a boat caught his eyes, or else the cloaks of the men on the boat. White cloaks streaming from the boats as flags would do from the tall masts of the ship. Uncle Arthur, Andrew thought. His bright sword, his bright armor and his bright smile. He desperately wished for his uncle to be with him now. Four, there were four white cloaks in the boat . . . and another dark cloak amidst them. The Kingsguard and their King.

A dozen other boats followed the first one but none of that was Andrew's concern. He never gave them a second look but for the first boat. The boats reached the colored dock and Andrew saw him when he climbed onto the dock. His long silver hair was in contrast to his dark clothing, and an eerily beautiful grace clung onto him like perfume. Andrew can't see his face clearly but he was sure that Rhaegar Targaryen was wearing his mask. And he was, there was the same easy smile plastered on his face when the pleasantries were over and he turned for Andrew to see him. 

Let's see how pretty your face looks when I put an arrow through it, Andrew notched an arrow to the string, raised his bow and drew. Rhaegar Targaryen was still well far away from him, so he led him waiting, waiting. . .

Andrew pulled the goose feather back to his ear, aimed, and waited, waited for the right time to loose. The crowd of people made it difficult for him to even see his target. There were more targets for him now with Rhaegar's guards and the Braavosi noblemen and commoners alike. For a heartbeat, he missed Rhaegar in the crowd and lowered his bow to search for him. He found him or rather his hair, flanked by the Kingsguard, and the Kingsguard flanked by black cloaked Targaryen guardsmen. He got a clear shot at Rhaegar, but before he could take it some other bald man took the place of the silver head. Andrew sighed again and raised his bow again. Again and again, he got a clean shot at Rhaegar Targaryen, only for some common folk get in the way before he could take his shot. 

Give me one clean shot at Rhaegar, he prayed to his father's gods and his mother's. It would take only one arrow for this to end. Give me Rhaegar. 

His fingers were growing stiff and his thumb was bleeding, but still, Andrew notched and drew but never loosed. Rhaegar was getting away from him, slowly and gradually. Andrew was tempted to take the risk and loose an arrow with luck. If he was lucky enough the arrow might find itself lodged on to Rhaegar or else it may give away his spot and thwart all of his plans.

Rage filled within him with the thought of Rhaegar slipping from his hands. He never knew that he possessed this kind of rage. He should die, a voice inside him said. He killed your family, he should die. Andrew threw the bow down and took Frost from the ground. He vaulted out of the window and landed on the roof of the next building. Braavos was a crooked city. The buildings were built crooked but crowded. 

Andrew moved over the stone roof, balanced lightly on the slanting roof, listening to the flutter of his heart, breathing slow deep breaths. A fall from here was a good twenty feet to ground. It may even cost his life. But something deep in him urged him to move on.

He ran halfway across the roof of the building and vaulted onto the next one near it, before jumping down the the inner bailey and running through the wooden planks, down the serpentine stone steps, past the small kitchen of some inn and jumping over a canal of four feet wide before climbing onto another building, stepping onto the crates, before jumping onto the kitchen roof and then to the main, coming down from the roof of a small house built right of over a canal running underneath it. He crossed a lichen covered bridge and ran along the canal wall and up more steps and back, and then down again and through a gate and passing through in and out of strange buildings until Andrew reached the crowd which was formed by Rhaegar Targaryen's arrival.

He passed through the crowd keeping Frost tight in his hand. Through the center, Rhaegar Targaryen walked amidst his Kingsguard and his endless guards. Andrew bowled past, shoving people aside, pushing them away, slamming into anyone in his way. When he came out from the crowd, he could see Rhaegar amidst his men. When he drew Frost from the sheath, he had no time to think after that. Two men in Targaryen cloaks moved to him. "Back now, lad," one of them said. Andrew cut off his extended arm and buried Frost deep into the other guard's throat even before he could draw his longsword from his scabbard. He moved so fast that everyone saw him only when the maimed guard's scream shrieked through the calm morning air. The madness sprung at once when the commoners all shrieked alike in fear and pushed and pulled over one another trying to get away from the place. 

A warhorn blew to alert the men. Haroooooooooooooooooooooooo, it cried, its voice as long and low and chilling as a cold wind from the north. Rhaegar was surrounded by his Kingsguard and his other guardsmen and the guards of the Braavosi rushed to their masters. 

Rhaegar's guards formed a circle around him, moving back to their ranks as soon as the warning horn blew. The sellswords and the other guards of the Braavosi nobles weren't so wise or disciplined as the men of Westeros. They charged at him and Andrew moved against them his white jacket streaming in the wind. Andrew held his ground against four men swinging and slashing Frost all around him. He saw more men coming at him from the corner of his eyes and getting cornered would mean death. Andrew found the opening with a man with a blue beard and caught him alongside his head, taking off half his head. A Dothraki came next to take the place of blue beard and took his place in death as well. Andrew ducked down a savage slash of his arakh and cut open his belly, spilling up his insides. He never stopped with the Dothraki but brought Frost in a deadly arc gutting two more men before getting back to his feet. He opened a Targaryen spearman from shoulder to armpit before severing off the leg of a dark summer islander and ending his torture by lopping off his head.

His sword sheared off limbs, cracked heads, broke shields asunder. With the everyone reaching to him falling down mortally injured or dead the other guards sought out to take their masters to safety. The Braavosi with their multiple guardsmen ran for their life while the Westerosi moved as a unit with their king safe amidst them.

Frost was light as a feather in his fist as he wielded the valyrian steel sword all around him. A handful still fought him, the rest dead or fled. He had to take a breathe to get those men as well. Andrew lodged Frost deep into the armpit of a man before slashing the throat of another one behind him. He took a small breath using the break he got and pressed on the attack before the others begin. Frost cut through leather and flesh as if it was butter and Andrew heard anguished screams and shrieks around him. One sword managed to scrape at his arm before flying off to almost fifteen feet away from him and he thrust Frost right through the heart of the wielder. 

In the commotion the people caused it was hard for Rhaegar's guard to move their king over, unlike the individual Braavosi. Andrew charged at them. He cut a bloody path through the guards in order to get to Rhaegar. He slashed opened a man's throat, cracking another one's skull soon after it, severing a man's hand which fell at halfway trying to hack at his head. Frost stuck once while he drove it through the eye of the another. He left it there and leaned back when the man to his left slashed at him overhead trying to split him in half from head to groin. Andrew caught his hand when the man missed his slash at him wildly and pulled the man to him, driving his elbow against his nose and yanking the blade away from him. He mislaid the stolen blade in someone else's throat but had an opening to retrieve Frost from the dead man's eye. 

Men were crawling all around him, men butchered and bleeding, coughing up blood, staggering, most dying. He moved further for Rhaegar, delivering quicker cleaner deaths to those strong enough to stand.

His white jacket and the white shirt inside it were covered in blood, more of his enemies' blood than his. The battle fever. He had never thought to experience it himself, though Syrio told him of it often enough during his training. How time seemed to blur and slow and even stop, how the past and the future vanished until there was nothing but the instant, how fear fled, and thought fled, and even your body. "You don't feel your wounds then, or the ache in your back and your shoulders from the weight of your sword, or the sweat running down into your eyes. You stop feeling, you stop thinking, you stop being you, there is only the fight, the foe, this man and then the next and the next and the next, and you know they are afraid and tired but you're not, you're alive, and death is all around you but their swords move so slowly, you can dance through them laughing." Battle fever. Let this fever end in justice. Justice with Rhaegar Targaryen's death.

The Targaryen guards tried again. Another spearman ran at him. Andrew stepped away from the head of his spear, and cut his hand, then his arm, moving around him in a circle. Another man, wielding a dirk, thrust at him, holding it as if it were a knife. All Andrew needed was to stay away from him and let Frost do the work. The valyrian steel reached the man easy enough, cutting through to his chest easy as a knife slices off a cake.

A man-at-arms tried to thrust at Andrew's face with his sword. He knocked the blade aside and buried Frost in the nape of the man's neck. He could almost see Rhaegar now, safe between his kingsguard. Andrew reached for him with Frost only to be stopped by a golden sword of a kingsguard knight. When Andrew pressed his attack at him his brother came to his side with a spear making him back to defend himself. You should've stood for my uncle. He was your brother too. His rage followed him after that and Andrew pressed forward to meet them. 

He raised his sword and drove at them, Frost alive in his hands. The white knight with his golden sword jumped back, parrying, but he followed, pressing the attack. No sooner did he turn one cut of the golden sword than the thrust from the spear was upon him. Frost kissed the golden sword and sprang apart and kissed the spearhead. Andrew felt tired. He was fighting tired, with death balanced on every stroke. Frost felt heavy as lead in his hands which forced him to use a two-handed grip. It wouldn't take much. Two more songs and this dance is over. 

High, low, overhand, he rained down steel upon the white brothers. Left, right, backslash, swinging so hard that sparks flew when the swords came together, upswing, sideslash, overhand, always attacking, moving into them, step and slide, strike and step, step and strike, hacking, slashing, faster, faster, faster . . . 

. . . until, breathless, he stepped back for a moment of respite. The kingsguard knights had their strength though. The edge of the golden sword found its way to slash his clothes and skin alike. The spearhead almost succeeded in piercing him, hadn't he moved in time half of the weirwood shaft would have come through his back. 

Andrew took a slow deep breath. He whirled the blade back up above his head and flew at them again. 

Andrew could not have said how long he pressed the attack. It might have been minutes or it might have been hours; time slept when swords woke.

One of the slashes from the golden sword raked across his brow, and blood ran down into his right eye. He cursed and moved for them again using his skill and speed. Frost scraped past the parry of the golden sword and bit into the kingsguard's upper thigh. A red flower blossomed in the white cloth and before Andrew could end him the weirwood spear stopped him. He turned away from the savage thrust and caught the white shaft at halfway. One slash across it and the weirwood broke in half with a loud crack. Andrew thrust the spearhead at the white knight and lodged it between shoulder and breastplate, the blow clattering off the white armor. The knight went down. By then his brother came back at him, limping. 

The wound Andrew gave him seemed to fester and rot his skill. He was not swinging his golden sword as quickly as he'd done earlier, nor raising it as high. Andrew soon found the opening when the kingsguard knight lunged forward trying to stab at his throat. Too close, Andrew thought as he turned the blade away before driving Frost right through the knight's ribs in one fluidic motion. Blood gushed out in a scarlet fountain, drenching the long white sleeve of his jacket and his arm. The lifeless body of the knight fell to the ground when he pulled Frost free from him with the clang of his golden sword following his corpse. 

The rush of the people hadn't stopped even after he had come all this way from the start. He wondered how many people had been here before everything set loose. Andrew saw the other knight on his feet again with a sword in his hand in place of the weirwood spear. He was about to move for him when he felt a throbbing ache in his right thigh. When he looked down, he was surprised to see an arrow jutting out the back of it. When did that happen? Before he could find the answer for it another blow in the chest pushed him back. Andrew looked at the way of the arrows and found them. There were dark shapes in the high stone buildings across the platform, slipping out from the dark, facing the windows, backs against the stone with bows in their hands. He was late to move when another arrow sunk in his waist just above the hipbone.

He saw Rhaegar, still safe behind his kingsguard. He saw his other guards now circling around him as if he was a wounded animal. Andrew cut down the first man as he stepped closer, shoved past a second, slashed at a third. Through the madness he heard someone yell, but whether it was directed at him or the archers he could not say. He caught the spear of a guard from his right and directed the iron tip to another guard at his right. Andrew caught the arm of the spearman and twisted it behind his back. Keeping the guard to the front he moved for the canals as another flight of arrows took to air. He heard the soft sound of arrows plunging into meat followed by the dying shriek of the man. One arrow crossed both of them and plunged against the hard packed ground between the cobblestones. Andrew stepped past it, walking as fast as his legs could take him. His wounded leg buckled under him, and he had to swallow a scream. The man-shield was heavy in his arms and every step felt harder than the one before. Arrows rained again, falling all around him. He saw the green water of the canal and jumped into the cold water with the dead man.

He heard a short sharp woof, as if someone had blown in his ear. Green water smashed him across the face, filling his nose and mouth. He was choking, drowning. Unsure which way was up, Andrew wrestled the river in blind panic until suddenly he broke the surface. He spat out water, sucked in air and submerged again under the water when he saw men searching for him. 

The current had him in its teeth by then, spinning him around and around. He kicked and tried to keep away from the land. Upstream, Andrew thought, if they searched for him they would go downstream to the harbor. There was only a little chance for a man wounded so terribly as him to have the strength to swim upstream against the current.

But Andrew was a strong swimmer. Years of swimming in the hot springs of Winterfell and then in the canals of Braavos made him a better swimmer than most men.

He sucked in a great gulp of air and dove, kicking for the bottom of the river. His only hope was to stay underwater and to swim hard away from the guards as far as he can. Andrew held onto Frost tightly as he knifed through the green murk. He swam past a wooden plank and a wooden crate, kicking with all the strength left in his legs, pushing himself up against the current, the water filling his eyes. Deeper he went, and deeper, and deeper still. With every stroke it grew harder to hold his breath. He remembered seeing the bottom, soft and dim, as a stream of bubbles burst from his lips. Something touched his leg . . . a snag or a fish or some arrow Rhaegar's guards had loosed at him, he could not tell. 

He needed air by then, but he was not sure about coming to the surface. He twisted in the water to look up, but there was nothing to see but green darkness and then he spun too far and suddenly he could no longer tell up from down. Panic took hold of him. His hands flailed against the bottom of the river and sent up a cloud of mud that blinded him. His chest was growing tighter by the instant. He clawed at the water, kicking, pushing himself, turning, his lungs screaming for air, kicking, kicking, lost now in the river murk, kicking, kicking, kicking until he could kick no longer.

When he came back to the surface, Andrew flailed for something to grab on to, knowing that once he went down he was not like to come back up. Somehow his hand found the stone edge of the canal. Clutching it tight as a desperate lover, he shinnied up foot by foot. His eyes were full of water, his arms and clothes were full of blood, and his entire head and body throbbed horribly. Gods give me strength to reach the ground . . . He prayed to his gods, both his father's and mother's.

He pulled at the stone edge with all his might. Finally, he rolled over the side and lay breathless and exhausted, flat on his back. He looked to his sides and found everything empty aside for some old buildings and the rush of water.

How did I swim all this way with a sword in one hand? That was another question he could not answer.

Andrew put Frost down beside him and looked down at the arrow in his leg. He grabbed hold of the shaft on his thigh and gave it a tug, but the arrowhead was sunk deep in the meat of his leg, and the pain when he pulled on it was excruciating. He tried to think back on the madness he passed, but all he could remember was the arrows and the pain.

This is going to be agony. The arrow had to come out, though, and nothing good could come of waiting. Andrew curled his hand around the fletching, took a deep breath, and shoved the arrow forward. He grunted, then cursed. It hurt so much he had to stop. I am bleeding like a butchered pig, he thought, but there was nothing to be done for it until the arrow was out. He grimaced and tried again . . . and soon stopped again, trembling. Once more. This time he screamed, but when he was done the arrowhead was poking through the back of his thigh. Andrew pushed back his bloody breeches to get a better grip, grimaced, and slowly drew the shaft through his leg. 

He lay on the ground afterward, clutching his prize and bleeding quietly, too weak to move. He knew that he was like to bleed to death. He looked up at the sky and found his father and mother peering down at him. All he needed to do was nothing. A few moments more, and he would be with his family now. "Look, I'm coming to you mama," he said to his mother, chuckling and wincing at the pain. "I'll see you soon papa," gritting his teeth he told his father.

He turned his head and waited. The sun came closer to him as he waited. That makes no sense, thought Andrew. The sun never shone brightly in Braavos. This is death, he thought. If this is death, it is beautiful.

Chapter Text

Rhaegar

The palace was a stony island in a sea of grey. 

It took Rhaegar half his strength to climb up. By the time he reached up he was gasping for air. His muscles ached, and he felt as if he had the beginnings of a fever. That day, he remembered. Everything had started with that day. The rocks had scraped his hands raw when he had stayed safe against them. They are better than they were, though, he decided as he picked at a broken blister. 

The palace loomed larger from up here. The Braavosi had taken to calling it Dragonstone, after the ancient citadel which was the ancestral seat of the Targaryens. The building looked nothing like Dragonstone, but the people called it so after all this was the first time the Braavosi were seeing a dragon. Smoothened stones and brushed marbles formed the building; stones and slabs of marbles higher than any normal man. All throughout the sides gilded panes were set making the walls glimmer in the light. Though it was called Dragonstone, the palace never felt home. 

Each morning, from the western ramparts, the king would count the sails on the grey-green waters of the Braavosi lagoon where the narrow sea and the Shivering sea met.

Today he counted five-and-twenty, though some were far away and moving, so it was hard to be certain. Sometimes he missed one, or counted one twice. What does it matter? A man only needs ten fingers to strangle the life out of one. All trade in Braavos had stopped, and the fisherfolk did not dare put out into the bay. The boldest still dropped a few lines through the grey-green rivers of Braavos, though even that was hazardous with a killer on the loose; more of the ships and cogs and others of the kind remained tied up in the Purple Harbor and the Ragman Harbor.

From his castle he could see water everywhere all running throughout Braavos like the nerves would to a man. Beneath his palace, a slender thread glittered briefly against the light of the rising. A stream. Small, but it would lead to a larger stream, and that stream would flow into some little river, and that little river would join itself to a canal and all the canals in this city of Braavos would lead to the Long Canal, the broadest of all the waterways in Braavos. Once he found the Long Canal he need only follow it downstream to the Purple Harbor. And there he would find the whoreson who had tried to kill him the very first day he entered Braavos. Or rather that's what everyone told him except they never did anything of what they told. Rhaegar had been too occupied with everything that was happening around him and was too stupid to hear their words. He should've called back his men and send them upstream the Long Canal and dispatched them off to every canal which broke off it in search for him. If the man was half as clever as the warrior he was he would've gone upstream that way he could've turned their search a hundred times harder and could've wasted most of their time with the endless branch canals of the Long Canal. In the end he did just that, fooling all of them. 

All the while they were searching in the downstream for him the son of a bitch had managed to sneak his way upstream and then up through some canal and then to a river and then to a stream and hence he might have ended up at some end of this endless city. And now they might want to sweep off this entire city in order to find him. And searched him they did but they could not find him.

Two days have already past and still, there was no word about the assassin. His archers promised him that their shots had been sure and there was no way a man could escape from that. Still, Rhaegar did not see or hear about a corpse strewn with arrows. He had asked the Lord Commander of his Kingsguard to sent men to all the maesters in Braavos. Even if the arrows hadn't managed to kill the assassin it would surely bleed him to death or fester the wound further into infection unless he finds a right maester to mend it. There was no desired outcome in that part as well. No one came to the maesters with an arrow shot. Still, the King kept his faith that someone would bring him the butchered body of the bastard.

Once again Janos Slynt's words had proved worse than useless. "No one is said to have seen a corpse struck down by arrows," Slynt said. "The only corpses my men could find were five terribly disfigured, the bodies of the people who were trampled to death in the commotion caused by the assassin. And of course a good number of our men and the Braavosi guards and sellswords but none was found struck down by arrows." 

Rhaegar had seen the bloody corpses of course. He had terribly wanted for one of them to be the assassin. But they were only some unfortunate smallfolk who were stepped to death by the people gathered there. Three men, two too old to be the assassin and one too young, some boy of nine or ten and a woman with her child, none of them bore a wound of arrow shot. 

"I never asked you to count the assassin's kill, Janos," Rhaegar said. "You are the commander of the city watch, are you not?"  "Commander of the city watch of King's Landing, Your Grace." 

"King's Landing, Braavos, what difference does it make?" Rhaegar looked at the frog-faced man. "If you cannot follow the king's orders, Janos, perhaps the CityWatch should be commanded by someone who can." 

Stout, jowly Janos Slynt puffed himself up like an angry frog, his bald pate reddening. "Half my men died to the assassin's blade and the other half is missing. I've put up a ragged band from the remnants of our men in the search party, men who are hurt, harmed and frightened. I need more men." 

"Get all the men you want from Braavosi. They are involving themselves in this search as well." 

"Most of the Braavosi nobles shut themselves in their palaces with men all around them. The sea lord himself has isolated himself in his palace and barred his doors. And the reports of their finding is no less than a jape. They accuse us of disturbing their peace, that before Your Grace and Prince Viserys arrived here they were all fine and good. They even claim that this is the Dragons' Doom, the same one which doomed Valyria now returned back to claim its last line." 

Their bitterness dismayed him, so much so that Rhaegar found himself wondering if the Braavosi smallfolk themselves is hiding this assassin to kill him. At least the nobles were with him. He's been hearing from the Braavosi as well but their reports too were no much better than Slynt's. "Join your men with the Braavosi and work together. Now, Leave." 

"As you say, Your Grace." Slynt said bowing.  When the commander had taken his leave, Rhaegar Targaryen turned to his kingsguard. Four had come with him but only three stood beside him now, Ser Gerold, Ser Barristan and Ser Lewyn who was injured. Ser Jaime Lannister was returning to Lannisport covered in his white cloak to rest with his forefathers in Casterly Rock. Rhaegar knew that Tywin Lannister would blame him for his death just like he had blamed his father for naming his precious heir in the Kingsguard. That's one on his head too now, calming the Lion of the west. Though Ser Jaime Lannister did his duty as the kingsguard and gave his life to protect his king, his father would claim otherwise as if Rhaegar himself took Ser Jaime in this journey to kill him. Damn him. Damn the assassin. Damn them all. He turned to Ser Gerold "How well do we fare here, Ser Gerold?" 

The White Bull had a plain look about his face. Though he never tried to show it Rhaegar could see it on the knight's face. They mourn for their brother, just like they had done to Arthur. "The guards have been doubled throughout the palace, Your Grace," Ser Gerold said. "There are men at every entrance and archers at every high end." 

I had men around me on that day as well, for all that it is worth. The assassin had almost managed to get his hands on him if not for the archers he had sent to provide overwatch. Ser Gerold and Ser Barristan had been his last line of defence. His front lines were falling steadily to one man. He remembered seeing white jacket streaming in the cold morning air, black hair, dark as midnight and a blue sword twirling and slashing, waking blood all along the way it turned.

That much he could recall, though much of what happened was a haze. So many people, screaming and shoving. He remembered Ser Jaime fall, Ser Lewyn falling and arrows punching, a food cart spilling melons as it overturned, a splash of water. From above arrows came flying, followed by a flight of crossbow bolts from the men on the ground. All vanished beneath the green waters of the Long Canal with a pop. He remembered the men twisting around him, dying and screaming, as he stayed behind his men in safety. Men were loosing bolts in the water trying to get another hit. None dared to enter the canal, whether they were afraid of the assassin or the green waters of the Braavosi canal he couldn't say. When Rhaegar came away from the safety of his men, he saw men whirling, twisting in agony. Most had lost their limbs and the others mortally injured. A woman in a green gown reached for a weeping child, pulling him down into her arms to shield him from the fight. Rhaegar saw the color vividly, but not the woman's face. People were stepping on her as they lay tangled on the cobbled stone. Dozens of men died that day both his and the Braavosi and their sellswords and guards of other kinds, along with a kingsguard. 

Above all he remembered seeing a pair of cold grey eyes, so much like the ones he had once seen before. No. No, it can't be. Rhaegar quickly pushed the thought away.

"What do you think about all of this, Ser?" 

"Your Grace," Ser Gerold raised his eyebrow. "It is not my place to counsel you." 

Rhaegar smiled at him. "Well speak freely, Ser. You are the lord commander of the kingsguard and you have a place in my small council. So tell us, Ser Gerold, what should we make of this situation?" 

The old knight stood stiff. "If truth be told, Your Grace, the assassin might as well be lying dead in the bottom of some canal. He was shot thrice, one in the leg and twice in his upper body. Without a maester the man will either die of blood loss or of a mortified wound." 

"One can know how to fix wounds, though." The day might come soon when he would have to see this dead man again. "Maybe he could've known how to patch himself up."  

"Maybe, Your Grace," Ser Gerold admitted. 

"And if he does will he come again?" 

"He may come again, Your Grace." 

"And what do you suggest we should do then?" Rhaegar asked.

"Let me speak frankly, Your Grace," Ser Gerold paused waiting for his approval. He continued when he nodded. "Don't overstay your welcome here like your brother did, Your Grace. Finish your work here and leave as soon as you can."

"You'd have me run?" Rhaegar asked him. "Run from some assassin filth who killed my brother?" 

"I'm not telling you to run away from him, Your Grace," Ser Gerold replied. "Only that you leave this city. This is a hidden city, Your Grace. Even the Dragonlords of Old Valyria could not see this city from atop their dragons. You don't know what this city has for you and that's the strength of the assassin who knows this city very well. We never knew he was there until he was upon us with a sword. Leave this city and if somehow the assassin came back for you, let him come back to King's Landing."

King's Landing, Rhaegar stayed over that thought for some time. Yes, Yes... Let him come to King's Landing.

Chapter Text

Daenerys

She was breaking her fast on a bowl of cold shrimp-and-persimmon soup when her seamstress brought her a ornate gown, an airy confection of ivory samite patterned with seed pearls. "Take it away," Dany said. "The dining table is no place for lady's finery." 

The dress was made for the upcoming marriage of her nephew to Arianne Martell and Dany would do her part as a royal princess. When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and soft leather sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a smooth linen gown of deep blue, and  her vest was secured by her ruby studded belt. Her handmaidens had braided her hair in an intricate fashion with three separate braids overlapping from the sides to join into a single one in the back of her head. Her kingly brother would disagree her choice of dress though. "You're a princess of House Targaryen, the blood of Aegon the Dragon and you should look like one," her brother would say whenever he finds her as such and Dany didn't wanted to make any scene in her nephew's wedding.

With all that was going on with her nephew's marriage, Dany could only imagine how her own marriage would be. Willas Tyrell seemed to be a sweet guy for a cripple. He courted her gently, always being sweet with her with only a merest brush of his lips on the back of her hand or her cheek. He had an unrequited love for animals, horses, dogs, cats and other birds which followed to her dragons as well. He always seemed happy to see Drogon as well. Dany thought that he would not be so bad a husband to have. Moreover the Tyrells had the largest army and are the richest house in Westeros second only to the Lannisters. Dany was only a little girl but even she knew that an alliance with the Reach would mean much for them if another rebellion was to occur. After all you could only burn the castles and cities with dragons but an army is needed to take and hold them. 

Dany mounted her silver mare with Ser Jorah and the bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters beside her. The newly made Master of Ships had offered her to show her the newly made ships in replacement for the ones drowned in the recent storm after Viserys death. The storm had been the worse, worser even than the one during her birth. It had claimed a good part of the royal Targaryen fleet along with Vhagar and Meraxes, the huge war galleys which formed the central piece of the Targaryen arsenal in the sea along with their sister, Balerion. Only Balerion remained now and the storm had really left them in a bad way.

They left the high red walls of the Red Keep behind and made their way through a poorer part of the city where modest brick houses turned blind walls to the street. There were fewer horses and nobles to be seen, and a dearth of palanquins, but the streets teemed with children, beggars, and rats the color of dusk. Pale skinny men in dusty linen tunic stood beneath arched doorways to watch them pass. They know who I am, and they do not love me. Dany could tell from the way they looked at her. 

Ser Jorah would sooner have tucked her inside her palanquin, safely hidden behind silken curtains, but she refused him. She had reclined too long on satin cushions, letting horses bear her hither and yon. At least when she rode she felt as though she was getting somewhere. Though eventually Ser Jorah agreed with her, it was only half-heartedly. Dany had took him into her service when she'd turned fourteen. He had come back from his exile in Essos after hearing Eddard Stark's demise in the hands of her brother. The Usurper had wanted his head after some trifling affront. He had sold some poachers to a Tyroshi slaver instead of giving them to the Night's Watch. Absurd law, Dany thought. A man should be able to do as he likes with his own chattel. If her brother had ruled the north then, he would never have troubled Ser Jorah for it. When Ser Jorah came to her last year he was an older man, past forty and balding, but still strong and fit. He was different in the southern court. Instead of silks and cottons like the southron lords, he wore wool and leather. She had asked him to accompany her to the harbor today. Despite the heat of the day, Ser Jorah wore his green wool surcoat over chainmail, the black bear of Mormont sewn on his chest. 

The sound of some hubbub in the street intruded on her worries. Dany peered out cautiously to her right. They were passing through Cobbler's Square, where a sizable crowd had gathered beneath the leather awnings to listen to the rantings of a prophet. A robe of undyed wool belted with a hempen rope marked him for one of the begging brothers. 

"Corruption!" the man cried shrilly. "There is the warning! Behold the Father's scourge!" He pointed at the fuzzy red wound in the sky. From this vantage, the distant castle on Aegon's High Hill was directly behind him, with the comet hanging forebodingly over its towers. A clever choice of stage, Dany reflected. "We have become swollen, bloated, foul. Foul lizards kill Kings under their roof, and murders babies in their mothers' arms. Whores who steal married men from their wives are called as Queens. And the festered things fornicates over the blood and brains of innocent children which still wets their cursed bed! Even the High Septon has forgotten the gods! He bathes in scented waters and grows fat on lark and lamprey while his people starve! Pride comes before prayer, maggots rule our castles, and gold is all . . . but no more! The Rotten Summer is at an end, and the Mad Prince is brought low! When the assassin did broke him, a great stench rose to heaven and his skin and brain soaked the earth and his blood flows as a river, as red and corrupted as his tainted blood!" He jabbed his bony finger back at comet and castle. "There comes the Harbinger! Cleanse yourselves, the gods cry out, lest ye be cleansed! Bathe in the wine of righteousness, or you shall be bathed in fires of hell! Hell!" 

"Hell!" other voices echoed, but the hoots of derision almost drowned them out. Dany took solace from that. She gave the command to continue, and they moved through the erupted crowd like a ship on a rough sea as her guards cleared a path. Foul Lizards indeed. The wretch did have a point about the High Septon, to be sure. What was it that Moon Boy had said of him the other day? A pious man who worships the Seven so fervently that he eats a meal for each of them whenever he sits to table. The memory of the fool's jape made Dany smile. 

Scores of tales and rumors had come up with the rise of the comet, the Bleeding Star. The old men muttered that it omened ill, but Daenerys Targaryen had seen it first on a night a few days after her visit to the House of Undying. Thousands of tales revolved around the comet. Commoners believed that it marked the end of House Targaryen and the dragons. Another tale said that it is the justification of Viserys' death by the gods while some others claimed that the gods were mourning her brother. While some bold men declared that the bleeding star was the tears of the Queen Ashara Dayne, the shining star of Westeros and the Queen in the North. They said of how great the greif of Queen Ashara's was for her husband, her son and her brother before she died and it was her tears which turned into a blasting comet coming down to doom them. 

She has heard the stories before, of King Eddard, the King in the North and his Queen, Ashara Dayne. Dany had only been a babe at her wetnurse's breast when Eddard Stark declared his northern kingdom independent and turned traitor to her brother, Stark's rightful king. The Usurper dog hid well in his northern castle afraid to face her brother. In the end Rhaegar delivered justice for the Usurper and his family and punished them for their betrayal. Dany was only a little girl when Eddard Stark, Ashara Dayne and their son were executed for plotting against their rightful king. Almost eight years have passed since the deed was done but still there were hushed talks about it among the people. 

Dany never heard of women's tears turning magic. There was a waterfall in the high mountains of the Eyrie called as Alyssa's Tears. A strange thought passed her of what if the comet was Ashara Dayne's tears. Even if it was true the Queen in the North was long dead with her husband and son, surely her tears wouldn't have waited this many years to doom them. Her tears would've dried to her bones by now. 

The streets grew emptier as they passed through the narrow, curving Hook after their descend from Aegon's High Hill. The curved pathway which would take them straight to the River Gate. Her guards went before her and behind, leaving Ser Jorah Mormont and Aurane Waters at her side. Her mare's hooves clicked against the ground softly, and Dany found her thoughts returning to the Palace of Dust once more, as the tongue returns to a space left by a missing tooth.

Child of three, they had called her, daughter of death, mother of dragons, child of storm. So many threes. Three fires, three mounts to ride, three treasons. "The dragon has three heads," she sighed. "Do you know what that means, Jorah?" 

"My princess? The sigil of House Targaryen is a three-headed dragon, red on black." 

"I know that. But there are no three-headed dragons." 

"The three heads were Aegon and his sisters." 

"Visenya and Rhaenys," she recalled. "I am descended from Aegon and Rhaenys through their son Aenys and their grandson Jaehaerys." 

"Blue lips speak only lies, isn't that what Maester Pylos told you? Why do you care what the warlocks whispered? All they wanted was to suck the life from you, you know that now." 

"Perhaps," she said reluctantly. "Yet the things I saw . . . " 

"A blue star dying off in fire and blood, a king with a frozen crown, a pair of cold grey eyes . . . what does any of it mean, Princess? gods' son and mummer's hero, you said. Who is this gods' son and this mummer's hero, pray?" 

"Just a hero in name," Dany explained. "Mummers use their likes in their follies, making up things just to give the heroes something to fight. I don't know about this gods' son though." 

Ser Jorah frowned. 

Dany could not let it go. "His is the song of ice and fire, my brother said. I'm certain it was my brother. Not Viserys, Rhaegar. He had a harp with silver strings." 

Ser Jorah's frown deepened until his eyebrows came together. "Prince Rhaegar played such a harp once," he conceded. "You saw him in the House of Undying?" 

She nodded. "There was a woman in a bed with a babe at her breast, not my brother's wife though or Aegon. My brother said the babe was the prince that was promised and told her to name him Aegon, same as my nephew." 

"Prince Aegon was Rhaegar's heir by Elia of Dorne," Ser Jorah said. "But if he was this prince that was promised, the promise was burnt along with him when your fa-, when he died with your father in King's Landing." 

"I remember," Dany said sadly. "Rhaegar's daughter died as well, the little princess. Rhaenys, she was named, like Aegon's sister. There was no Visenya, but my brother says the dragon has three heads. He says that it is Aegon, Jaeherys and me but we are not like Aegon, Rhaenys and Visenya, are we? Is it true what he says about the song of ice and fire?" 

"It's no song I've ever heard." 

"I went to the warlocks hoping for answers, but instead they've left me with a hundred new questions."

By the time they reached Fishmonger Square there were people in the streets once more. "Make way," her guards shouted, holding back the crowd with the shafts of their spears. The unshaven and the unwashed stared at the riders with dull resentment from behind the line of spears. They passed through a riot of stalls and curses and groups of people. A mummer on stilts was striding through the throngs like some great insect, with a horde of barefoot children trailing behind him, hooting. Elsewhere, two ragged boys no older than seven were dueling with sticks, to the loud encouragement of some and the furious curses of others. An old woman ended the contest by leaning out of her window and emptying a bucket of slops on the heads of the combatants. In the shadow of the wall, farmers stood beside their wagons, bellowing out, "Apples, the best apples, cheap at twice the price," and "Blood melons, sweet as honey," and "Turnips, onions, roots, here you go here, here you go, turnips, onions, roots, here you go here." 

They passed through the market square beside the River Gate, as it was named on maps, or the Mud Gate, as it was commonly called. 

Winesinks, warehouses, and small houses lined the streets, cheek by jowl with cheap brothels and the stalls of street vendors. Cutpurses, cutthroats, spellsellers, and moneychangers mingled with every crowd. Fishmonger Square was one great marketplace where the buying and selling went on all day and all night, and goods might be had for a fraction of what they cost at other places, if a man did not ask where they came from. Wizened old women sat with their wooden planks of fish, clams, oysters and other sea food negotiating prices with the buyers. Seamen from half a hundred nations wandered amongst the stalls, drinking spiced liquors and trading jokes in queer-sounding tongues. The air smelled of salt and frying fish, of hot tar and honey, of dirt and stench and oil and smoke. 

Aurane Waters gave an urchin a copper for a skewer of honey-roasted quail and nibbled it as he rode. When he saw her staring at him he gave a wink which made her blush despite herself. They saw beautiful bronze daggers for sale, dried squids and carved onyx, different kinds of fruits and freshly stewed broths and soups.

The Mud Gate was open, and a squad of City Watchmen stood under the portcullis in their golden cloaks, leaning on spears. Across the Mud Gate the long stone quays were filled with the ships from the Summer Islands, Westeros and the Nine Free Cities. She saw chests of saffron, frankincense, and pepper being off-loaded from a ornate ship named Vermillion Kiss. Beside her, casks of wine were being settled down upon the docks from a wine cog. The banners floating from her masts proclaimed that the cog had just arrived from Arbor, an island located off the southwestern part of Westeros. A burgundy grape cluster on blue marked the cog to be one from Lord Paxter Redwyne's fleet. Wine from Arbor, Dany knew, they were considered to be the best wine in Westeros. Farther along, a dozen crates and pallets were trundled up the gangplank onto a carrack, to sail on the evening tide. 

As they made their way toward the harbor, Ser Jorah rode closer to her and laid a hand against the small of her back. "My Princess. You are being followed. No, do not turn." He guided her gently toward a brass-seller's booth. They dismounted from their horses and reached the booth where the shop keeper was shouting to them. 

"This is a noble work, my princess," he proclaimed loudly, lifting a large platter for her inspection. "See how it shines in the sun?" 

The brass was polished to a high sheen. Dany could see her face in it . . . and when Ser Jorah angled it to the right, she could see behind her. "I see a small pale sickly child." 

"That is the one," Ser Jorah said. "She has been following us since we entered the square." 

The ripples in the brass stretched the stranger child queerly, making the child seem long and gaunt than she already was. "A most excellent brass, great lady," the merchant exclaimed. "Bright as the sun! And for the Mother of Dragons, only thirty copper stars." 

The platter was worth no more than three. "Where are my guards?" Dany declared. "This man is trying to rob me!" For Jorah, she lowered her voice and spoke in the Common Tongue. "She may not mean me ill. Maybe she just wants to see her princess, perhaps it is no more than that." 

The brass-seller ignored their whispers. "Thirty? Did I say thirty? Such a fool I am. The price is twenty honors." 

"All the brass in this booth is not worth twenty honors," Dany told him as she studied the reflections. The pale girl had the look of the Quartheen about her. Viserys had been killed by an unnamed assassin, has he come to get me too in some disguise. Or could she be creature of the warlocks, meant to take me unawares? 

"Ten, Princess, because you are so lovely. Use it for a looking glass. Only brass this fine could capture such beauty." 

"It might serve to carry nightsoil. If you threw it away, I might pick it up, so long as I did not need to stoop. But pay for it?" Dany shoved the platter back into his hands. "Worms have crawled up your nose and eaten your wits." 

"Eight coppers," he cried. "My wives will beat me and call me fool, but I am a helpless child in your hands. Come, eight, that is less than it is worth." 

"What do I need with dull brass when I feed off plates of gold in the Red Keep?" As she turned to walk off, Dany let her glance sweep over the stranger. The pale girl was near as lean as she'd looked in the platter, with unwashed brown hair atop her head falling over her shoulders. She wore a tunic dyed green which had gone dirty and had a yellow cloth as a waistband. 

Only fools would stare so openly if she meant me harm. All the same, it might be prudent to head back toward her guards. "The child does not wear a blade," she said to Jorah in the Common Tongue as she drew him away. 

The brass merchant came hopping after them. "Five coppers, for five it is yours, it was meant for you." 

Ser Jorah said, "A child that age and size could hide daggers all over her body and still roam around innocently." 

"Four! I know you want it!" He danced in front of them, scampering backward as he thrust the platter at their faces.  "Does she follow?" 

"Lift that up a little higher," the knight told the merchant. "Yes. The child pretends to linger at a stall but she has eyes only for you." 

"Two coppers! Two! Two!" The merchant was panting heavily from the effort of running backward. 

"Pay him before he kills himself," Dany told Ser Jorah, wondering what she was going to do with a huge brass platter. She turned back as he reached for his coins, intending to put an end to this mummer's farce. The blood of the dragon would not be herded through the market by a small child. 

The Qartheen girl stepped into her path. "Mother of Dragons, for you." She thrust a jewel box into her face. 

Dany took it almost by reflex. She gave the little girl a smile. The box was a sphere of carved wood, its mother-of-pearl lid inlaid with jasper and chalcedony. "You are too generous." She opened the box when the girl asked her to open it. Within was a glittering green scarab carved from onyx and emerald. Beautiful, she thought. As she reached inside the box, the scarab unfolded with a hiss. 

Dany caught a glimpse of a malign black face, almost human, and an arched tail dripping venom . . . and then the box flew from her hand in pieces, rolling over to a good few feet away from her. Dany stumbled to the ground, losing her footing trying to get away from it. As she fell down, the brass merchant let out a shriek, a woman screamed, and suddenly the people were shouting and pushing each other aside. Ser Jorah slammed past the people trying to reach her, but was having a hard time with the crowd. She heard the hiss again. She turned to see the manticore racing at her, hissing. Dany never took her eyes off it and suddenly she heard the click of a dagger and another hiss. The manticore had stopped in its track as a dagger was driven through it. It's curved tail pricked the hard steel twice for no avail before hanging limp from the dagger. Ser Jorah and her guards came with longswords drawn in their hands. 

"My princess," Aurane Waters held his dagger out to her with the dead manticore as if a offering, grinning his tricksy smirk and winking his right eye at her.

 

Chapter Text

Aegon

A horse whickered impatiently behind him, from amidst the ranks of gold cloaks drawn up across the road. Aegon could hear the flapping of Rhaegal's wings from somewhere above as well. He had not wanted to keep his dragon away, especially now, but Lord Jon felt the Dornish might take it ill and a threat if the prince came out to escort them across the Blackwater with his dragon. 

My father should have met the Dornishmen himself, he reflected as he sat waiting, he would do this better than me, no doubt. Of late he heard nothing from the king from Braavos. No raven or word came from Braavos which made his mother sick with worry. It worried Aegon too, but nothing like how it worried his mother. Lyanna Stark has always been a strong woman, tough to the bone and hard to crack, but now she seemed lost, confused and awry. Ever since his uncle Viserys' death she had acted as a different women than the one he'd known his entire life. Where once were the grins, only grimaces could be seen now, her wild eyes always had a wary look about them, more often than not she spent her times in the godswood when she would spend time with her family in the past. And the absence of his father only made this worse. She kept herself locked in her rooms and when she wasn't locked in her rooms, she was in the godswood. He had hoped that she would at least come to welcome the dornishmen to King's Landing but she refused. Aegon didn't know what Prince Oberyn or any of the others in the Dornish party would take of that, an insult or arrogance? He never knew. 

He knew that his father was married to a Dornish princess before his mother, the sister to the ruling prince of Dorne. She had died in the war with his grandfather, apart from that he knew nothing of her. Though it was her own family coming here now, to the place where once she lived and now occupied by another in her place. 

He could see their banners flying as the riders emerged from the green of the living wood in a long dusty column. From here to the river, the kingswood stretched either side of them. Aegon faintly remembered the stories of the Kingswood brotherhood his father would tell him when he was a boy. Of the Sword of the Morning, Ser Arthur Dayne, of the Smiling Knight, of Simon Toyne, of Wenda the White Fawn, of Oswyn Longneck who was hanged thrice, of Big Belly Ben, of Fletcher Dick, the greatest archer ever to set foot on earth and of Ulmer. He remembered them all, he even remembered their song from the stories. His father would sing it sometimes when he told him the story. That boy who heard those stories had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead. Or else he chose to become the Smiling Knight because Arthur Dayne was an outlaw worse than the Smiling Knight, a traitor who was loyal to his outlaw uncle.

Too many banners, he thought sourly, as he watched the dirt kick up under the hooves of the approaching horses. The Martells brought half the lords of Dorne, by the look of it. He tried to think of some good that might come of that, and failed.   

Aegon straightened in his saddle, trying to see the banners flowing in the wind. 

The royal standard was to either side beside him, the great three-headed dragon on black, swaying gently in the wind. He looked very much the prince today, in his black armor with the ruby three-headed dragon coiling on the breastplate. It was expected of him as the crown prince and he had wanted to look his best when he welcomes his betrothed and her family. 

It was the orange banners he saw first. The sun and spear of House Martell of Sunspear. The Prince of Dorne. 

House Dalt of Lemonwood was next. Purple field strewn with lemons. 

He could see the vulture of Blackmont with a baby grasped in its talons as well. Though with the banner flapping in the wind the baby in its talons seemed nothing more than a white lump. 

The Manwoodys of Kingsgrave was in the party as well. The bone and gold crowned skull on black field was the indication for that. 

There was the three black scorpions among them as well. House Qorgyle of Sandstone.

Aegon's horse grew unrest and moved back as he saw the flames of Hellholt. Whether the animal itself felt the chill upon seeing the banner of House Uller or was it bored he never knew. But he knew about the Ullers and their impulsive and unpredictable nature. Even in Dorne there was a saying that "Half of the Ullers are half-mad and the other half was worse." 

Even the dragons were not safe from them. During the First Dornish war Queen Rhaenys and her dragon Meraxes were both lost at Hellholt never to be seen again. The Queen's body was never recovered and some said that she was tortured so bad that she was taken to the gates of hell by the Ullers before killing her. 

The golden hand of House Allyrion of Godsgrace was at the end of one of the poles as well. 

The banners of the Gargalens of Salt Shore was with them as well. The red cockatrice standing proudly with a black snake in its beak. 

The golden quill of the Jordaynes of the Tor were the last one he could see, on the checkered dark and light green field. 

Prince Doran Martell brings some formidable companions, it would seem. Not one of the houses he had seen was small or insignificant. Nine of the greatest lords of Dorne were coming up the kingsroad, them or their heirs, and somehow Aegon did not think they had come all this way just to see the marriage of their princess. There was a message here. And not one I like. He wondered if his father had made a mistake to leave King's Landing at this time. 

"My prince," Lord Jon said, a looking straight at the Dornish party, "there's no litter." 

Aegon turned his head sharply. He was right.

"Doran Martell always travels in a litter," Jon Connington said. "A carved litter with silk hangings, and suns on the drapes." 

Aegon had known that on his visit to Sunspear. Prince Doran was past fifty, and gouty. He may have wanted to make faster time, he told himself. He may have feared his litter would make too tempting a target for brigands, or that it would prove too cumbersome in the high passes of the Boneway. Perhaps his gout is better. 

So why did he have such a bad feeling about this? 

This waiting was intolerable. "Banners forward," he snapped. "We'll meet them." He kicked his horse. Jon Connington and the rest followed. When the Dornishmen saw them coming, they spurred their own mounts, banners rippling as they rode. From their ornate saddles were slung the round metal shields they favored, and many carried bundles of short throwing spears, or the double-curved Dornish bows they used so well from horseback. 

There were three sorts of Dornishmen, the first King Daeron had observed. There were the salty Dornishmen who lived along the coasts, the sandy Dornishmen of the deserts and long river valleys, and the stony Dornishmen who made their fastnesses in the passes and heights of the Red Mountains. The salty Dornishmen had the most Rhoynish blood, the stony Dornishmen the least. 

All three sorts seemed well represented in his future goodfather's retinue. The salty Dornishmen were lithe and dark, with smooth olive skin and long black hair streaming in the wind. The sandy Dornishmen were even darker, their faces burned brown by the hot Dornish sun. They wound long bright scarfs around their helms to ward off sunstroke. The stony Dornishmen were biggest and fairest, sons of the Andals and the First Men, brown-haired or blond, with faces that freckled or burned in the sun instead of browning. 

The lords wore silk and satin robes with jeweled belts and flowing sleeves. Their armor was heavily enameled and inlaid with burnished copper, shining silver, and soft red gold. They came astride red horses and golden ones and a few as pale as snow, all slim and swift, with long necks and narrow beautiful heads. The fabled sand steeds of Dorne were smaller than proper warhorses and could not bear such weight of armor, but it was said that they could run for a day and night and another day, and never tire. 

The Dornish leader forked a stallion black as sin with a mane and tail the color of fire. He sat his saddle as if he'd been born there, tall, slim, graceful. A cloak of pale red silk fluttered from his shoulders, and his shirt was armored with overlapping rows of copper disks that glittered like a thousand bright new pennies as he rode. His high gilded helm displayed a copper sun on its brow, and the round shield slung behind him bore the sun-and-spear of House Martell on its polished metal surface. 

A Martell sun, but ten years too young, Aegon thought as he reined up, too fit as well, and far too fierce. He knew what he must deal with by then. How many Dornishmen does it take to start a war? he asked himself. Only one. Yet he had no choice but to smile. "Well met, my lords. We had word of your approach, and I've ride out with Lord Jon Connington, the King's Hand to welcome you in my father's name. My mother, the queen sends her greetings as well." He feigned an amiable confusion. "Where is Prince Doran?" 

"My brother's health requires he remain at Sunspear." The prince removed his helm. Beneath, his face was lined and saturnine, with thin arched brows above large eyes as black and shiny as pools of coal oil. Only a few streaks of silver marred the lustrous black hair that receded from his brow in a widow's peak as sharply pointed as his nose. A salty Dornishman for certain. "As you've already seen my brother's health does not bode well with travels. Prince Doran has sent me to act in his stead, as it please His Grace." 

"His Grace will be most honored to have the counsel of a warrior as renowned as Prince Oberyn of Dorne," said Jon Connington. "And your noble companions are most welcome as well." 

"Permit me to acquaint you with them, my lord Hand. Ser Deziel Dalt, of Lemonwood. Lord Tremond Gargalen. Lord Harmen Uller and his brother Ser Ulwyck. Ser Ryon Allyrion and his natural son Ser Daemon Sand, the Bastard of Godsgrace. Lord Dagos Manwoody, his brother Ser Myles, his sons Mors and Dickon. Ser Arron Qorgyle. And never let it be thought that I would neglect the ladies. Myria Jordayne, heir to the Tor. Lady Larra Blackmont, her daughter Jynessa, her son Perros." He raised a slender hand toward a black-haired woman to the rear, beckoning her forward. "And this is Ellaria Sand, mine own paramour." 

Aegon swallowed a groan. His paramour, and bastard-born, this is going to cause unnecessary quarrels at the wedding. If they consigned the woman to some dark corner below the salt, they would risk the Red Viper's wrath. Seat her beside him at the high table, and every other lady on the dais was like to take offense. His betrothed came after Ellaria Sand. 

Arianne Martell stepped out from behind Ellaria Sand. An ornate snake coiled around her right forearm, its copper and gold scales glimmering when she moved. He saw her shining in the sunlight and he seemed to lose the power of speech. His throat felt as dry as the Dornish sands.

Princess Arianne strode to him on snakeskin sandals laced up to her thighs. Her hair was a mane of jet-black ringlets that fell to the small of her back, and around her brow was a band of copper suns. Unlike her cousins, she was only a little thing though. Where the Sand Snakes were tall, Arianne took after her mother, and stood but five foot two. Yet beneath her jeweled girdle and loose layers of flowing purple silk and yellow samite she had a woman's body, lush and roundly curved.

Aegon took her hand in his and pressed his lips to her smooth skin. When he raised his head from her hand he saw her flanked by her cousins, the eldest three of Prince Oberyn's daughters. Obara, Nymeria and Tyene, the Sand Snakes. Did Prince Doran mean to provoke a quarrel? Looking at Prince Oberyn's pretty, but deadly daughters he could only agree with the thought. 

"Princess Arianne, my ladies, welcome to King's Landing." He welcomed them formally. 

The Sand Snakes approved his welcome in their own different ways. Obara the eldest Sand Snake, a big-boned woman near to thirty, with the close-set eyes and rat-brown hair of her mother gave a stern nod. 

The second Sand Snake was mounted on a golden sand steed with a mane like fine white silk. Even ahorse, the Lady Nym looked graceful like her father, dressed all in shimmering lilac robes and a great silk cape of cream and copper that lifted at every gust of wind, and made her look as if she might take flight. Even the nod she gave him was filled with certain grace. Nymeria Sand was five-and-twenty, and slender as a willow. Her straight black hair, worn in a long braid bound up with red-gold wire, made a widow's peak above her dark eyes, just as her father's had. With her high cheekbones, full lips, and milk-pale skin, she had all the beauty that her elder sister lacked . . . but Obara's mother had been an Oldtown whore, whilst Nym was born from the noblest blood of old Volantis.

The third sister was the one he was the most wary of. Tyene Sand was dressed in a clinging gown of pale blue samite with sleeves of Myrish lace that made her look as innocent as the Maid herself. Her hair was gold and her eyes were deep blue pools . . . and yet somehow they reminded the prince of her father's eyes, though Prince Oberyn's had been as black as night. All of Prince Oberyn's daughters have his viper eyes, Aegon realized suddenly. The color does not matter. 

She was the first one to reply him with words. "Thank you my prince" Lady Tyene's voice was gentle, and she looked as sweet as summer strawberries. Her mother had been a septa, and Tyene had an air of almost otherworldy innocence about her. She inhaled the air sweetly. "The city of King's Landing is as pure and clean as it was during the time of Baelor the Blessed. All credits to his grace, King Rhaegar."

Aegon mounted his horse getting away from any close contact with Tyene. Like her father the third Sand Snake was quite skilled with poisons and venom and he had no idea of getting pricked by her fangs.

When his own party had come up on them, the Hand of the King Jon Connington named the names. It didn't took too much time. The names had a nice ringing sound as Jon reeled them off, but the bearers were nowhere near as distinguished nor formidable a company as those who accompanied Prince Oberyn, as both of them knew full well. 

"My prince," said Lady Blackmont, "we have come a long dusty way, and rest and refreshment would be most welcome. Might we continue on to the city?" 

"At once, my lady." Aegon turned his horse's head, and called to Allar Deem, the acting commander of the Gold cloaks after lord commander Janos Slynt had gone with his father to Braavos. The mounted gold cloaks who formed the greatest part of his honor guard turned their horses crisply at Deem's command, and the column set off for the river and the Red Keep beyond.

Jon left to entertain the other Dornishmen and it fell to Aegon to keep their leader company. Oberyn Nymeros Martell, Aegon muttered under his breath as he fell in beside the man. The Red Viper of Dorne. 

He had seen him before but knew the man only by reputation, to be sure . . . but the reputation was fearsome. When he was no more than sixteen, Prince Oberyn had been found abed with the paramour of old Lord Yronwood, a huge man of fierce repute and short temper. A duel ensued, though in view of the prince's youth and high birth, it was only to first blood. Both men took cuts, and honor was satisfied. Yet Prince Oberyn soon recovered, while Lord Yronwood's wounds festered and killed him. Afterward men whispered that Oberyn had fought with a poisoned sword, and ever thereafter friends and foes alike called him the Red Viper. 

That was many years ago, before Aegon had been born. The boy of sixteen was a man past forty now, and his legend had grown a deal darker. He had traveled in the Free Cities, learning the poisoner's trade and perhaps arts darker still, if rumors could be believed. He had studied at the Citadel, going so far as to forge six links of a maester's chain before he grew bored. He had soldiered in the Disputed Lands across the narrow sea, riding with the Second Sons for a time before forming his own company. His tourneys, his battles, his duels, his horses, his carnality . . . it was said that he bedded men and women both, and had begotten bastard girls all over Dorne. So far as Tyrion had heard, Prince Oberyn had never fathered a son. 

And of course, he had crippled the heir to Highgarden. 

Aegon's head throbbed badly with the thoughts of the Tyrell party already in the castle. To send Prince Oberyn to King's Landing while the city still hosted Lord Mace Tyrell, two of his sons, and hundreds of their men-at-arms was a provocation as dangerous as Prince Oberyn himself. A wrong word, an ill-timed jest, a look, that's all it will take, and our noble allies will be at one another's throats. 

"I came here once before," the Dornish prince said lightly to Aegon as they rode side by side along the kingsroad, past green fields and the stretch of trees. "Though another King ruled from the Iron Throne then and it was another marriage I came to attend." 

There was a dark edge to his voice that Aegon misliked, but he was not about to let the Dornishman threaten him. "When was this, my lord?" he asked in tones of polite interest. 

"Oh, many and many a year ago, when your grandfather, the Mad King ruled the Seven Kingdoms and it was your father's marriage I was attending to." 

Not this, thought Aegon. Not again. 

"It was when your father married my sister Elia. I had no mind to be there mind you but Elia insisted. And I've never refused my sister anything. Anything but justice."

The sun was shining bright above them, and the day was pleasantly warm, but Aegon Targaryen went cold all over when he heard that. 

"Justice." Yes, that is why he's here, I should have seen that at once. "You were close to your sister?" 

"As children Elia and I were inseparable." 

Gods, I hope my father was here. "Wars and weddings have kept us well occupied, Prince Oberyn. I fear no one has yet had the time to look into murders seventeen years stale, dreadful as they were. We shall, of course, just as soon as my father returns from Braavos. Any help that Dorne might be able to provide to hold the king's peace would only hasten the beginning of my royal father's inquiry—" 

"Boy," said the Red Viper, in a tone grown markedly less cordial, "spare me your foul lies. My brother is not a bloodthirsty man, but neither has he been asleep for seventeen years. People talk, they always do and you can be sure that a hundred did in this matter. I did not come for some mummer's show of an inquiry. I came for justice for Elia and her children, and I will have it. Starting with this mad red priest you father calls his friend, Bezzaro . . . but not, I think, ending there. Before he dies, the Mad Burner will tell me whence came his orders, please assure your royal father of that." He smiled. "An old septon once claimed I was living proof of the goodness of the gods. Do you know why that is?" 

"No," Aegon admitted warily. 

"Why, if the gods were cruel, they would have made me my mother's firstborn, and Doran her third. I am a bloodthirsty man, you see. And it is me you must contend with now, not my patient, prudent, and gouty brother." 

Aegon could see the sun shining on the Blackwater Rush half a mile ahead, and on the walls and towers and hills of King's Landing beyond. He glanced over his shoulder, at the glittering column following them up the kingsroad and somehow he felt that he never belonged there. 

Prince Oberyn gave a snort getting his attention back. "In Dorne of old before we married Daeron, it was said that all creatures, beings and flowers bow before the sun. Should the dragons seek to trouble me I'll burn them. Should the roses seek to hinder me I'll gladly trample them underfoot." He took hold of his stallion's reins and looked at him with black eyes shining and raging. "You see, I'm no Eddard Stark and you will see that soon." 

With that Oberyn Martell spurred his horse forward, the stallion's mane flowing like fire in the wind, much like Martell's blazing eyes.

Chapter Text

Samwell

The rising sun sent fingers of light through the pale white mists of dawn. A wide plain spread out beneath them, bare and brown, its flatness here and there relieved by long, low hummocks. Samwell Tarly knew these lands from his books. The barrows of the First Men. 

A sharp pang twisted in Sam's heart at the thought of riding through a graveyard. He wanted to cry, to scream, to leave, most importantly he wanted to go home, to his mother and sisters. But his father's words frightened him more than the graves did. "on the morrow we shall have a hunt, and somewhere in these woods your horse will stumble, and you will be thrown from the saddle to die . . ." 

Sam wiped his tears away at the thoughts of the past but the tears were unending. Like the snowfall in the north it seemed as if his tears would never end. He had never seen snows before. Samwell Tarly had been born south in the lands of the Reach as the firstborn son of Lord Randyll Tarly of Horn Hill and his lady wife Lady Melessa Florent. 

There were no snows in the south and no cold, yet he never found warmth at Horn Hill. His thoughts went back to the old life he had left back, mostly his mother. He cried again at the thought of his mother. Sweet mother who used to call him Sam. But it was not his mother's face he could see now but the hard and brittle face of his father. "You will be thrown from the saddle..." his voice ringed in his ears. 

His breath steamed in the cold air and with every passing moment the land became cooler. Sam hated the cold. It had been warmer in Horn Hill, though Sam hated it there seeing the cold of the north he certainly missed the southern lands of his father. He had never seen snow until last week.

They had been entering the barrowlands two days before, Sam and the men his father had sent to see him north, when the white stuff began to fall, like a soft rain. At first he had thought it to be so beautiful, like feathers drifting from the sky, but the snowfall kept on and on, until he was frozen to the bone. Before him his father's men had crusts of snow in their beards and more on their shoulders, and still it kept coming. Looking up at the snowflakes drifting down he thought that it was not going to end and the thought frightened him.

He ought to be unafraid of them. He might be seeing the snows and feeling the bite of the cold for the rest of his life. It may be even colder in the Wall, the place where he was going to spend the rest of his life in. Sam knew of the Wall as everyone in Westeros did. The looming structure made of ice, and he was afraid of it. He knew that he was a craven and a coward and he also knew that the Night's Watch was no place for a coward. Yet he had very little choice in that matter. His eyes grew wet again when he thought about his last nameday. 

The Tarlys were a family old in honor, bannermen to Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden and Warden of the South. Being the eldest son of Lord Randyll Tarly, Samwell was born heir to rich lands, a strong keep, and a storied two-handed greatsword named Heartsbane, forged of Valyrian steel and passed down from father to son near five hundred years. 

Whatever pride his lord father might have felt at his birth vanished as he grew up plump, soft, and awkward. Sam loved to listen to music and make his own songs, to wear soft velvets, to play in the castle kitchen beside the cooks, drinking in the rich smells as he snitched lemon cakes and blueberry tarts. His passions were books and kittens and dancing, though he was clumsy in it. But he grew ill at the sight of blood. He even wept to see even a chicken slaughtered. A dozen masters-at-arms came and went at Horn Hill, trying to turn him into the knight his father had wanted him to be. He was cursed and caned, slapped and starved. One man had him sleep in his chainmail to make him more martial. Another dressed him in his mother's clothing and paraded him through the bailey to shame him into valor. He only grew fatter and more frightened, until Lord Randyll's disappointment turned to anger and then to loathing. One time two men came to the castle, warlocks from Qarth. He remembered them, with white skin and blue lips they had scared him to death. The Warlocks slaughtered a bull aurochs and made him bathe in the hot blood, but it didn't made him brave as they'd promised. He just got sick and retched. And his father had them scourged. 

Finally, after three girls in as many years, Lady Tarly gave her lord husband a second son. From that day, Lord Randyll ignored Sam, devoting all his time to his younger brother, a fierce, robust child more to his lord father's liking. Samwell had known several years of sweet peace with his music and his books. 

Until the dawn of his seventeenth name day, when he had been awakened to find his horse saddled and ready. Three men-at-arms had escorted him into a wood near Horn Hill, where his father was skinning a deer. "You are almost a man grown now, and my heir," Lord Randyll Tarly had told him, his long knife laying bare the carcass as he spoke. "You have given me no cause to disown you, but neither will I allow you to inherit the land and title that should be Dickon's. Heartsbane must go to a man strong enough to wield her, and you are not worthy to touch her hilt. So I have decided that you shall this day announce that you wish to take the black. You will forsake all claim to your brother's inheritance and start north before evenfall.

 "If you do not, then on the morrow we shall have a hunt, and somewhere in these woods your horse will stumble, and you will be thrown from the saddle to die . . . or so I will tell your mother. She has a woman's heart and finds it in her to cherish even you, and I have no wish to cause her pain. Please do not imagine that it will truly be that easy, should you think to defy me. Nothing would please me more than to hunt you down like the pig you are." His arms were red to the elbow as he laid the skinning knife aside. "So. There is your choice. The Night's Watch"—he reached inside the deer, ripped out its heart, and held it in his fist, red and dripping—"or this." 

Sam shook in his saddle as he thought of the heart dripping with blood in his father's blade. If it was something that had happened to someone else, he would have wept but there was no one to weep for him. And strangely, even his own tears had betrayed him. He did not weep when he thought about it, not even once.

He rode in his saddle quietly listening to the winds. His legs ached and he wanted nothing more than to rest for a while. He would ask his father's guards for it but they would only tie him up and put him across his saddle to rest. Even they wanted this to end quickly and their duty would end when this journey would come to its end. And his journey along the kingsroad would come to an end with Castle Black where he would swear his life to the Night's Watch. 

Sam had not wanted this, he hadn't wanted the north, he hadn't wanted the Wall, he hadn't wanted to join the Night's Watch. All he wanted was to go study in the Citadel and wear the maester's chain but Lord Randyll Tarly would have nothing of it. There were so many books in the Citadel that no man can hope to read them all. He could have very well become a master as he had once dreamed to.

Now the word made him flinch. No, Father, please, I won't speak of it again, I swear it by the Seven. Let me out, please let me out. He tried to brush the memory away as soon as it entered his mind but he couldn't.

"The life of a maester is a life of servitude." Lord Randyll had told him when he told his father about his wish to become a maester. "No son of House Tarly will ever wear a chain. The men of Horn Hill do not bow and scrape to petty lords. If it is chains you want, come with me." Sam put a hand to his throat. He could almost feel the chain there, choking him. They make you wear a chain about your neck. If it is chains you want, come with me. For three days and three nights Sam had sobbed himself to sleep, manacled hand and foot to a wall. The chain around his throat was so tight it broke the skin, and whenever he rolled the wrong way in his sleep it would cut off his breath. He had never used the word maester in his father's presence thereafter. 

The north went on forever he saw as their ride continued for days. They rode most of the day and there were rides even during the night much to Sam's chagrin. Most time he would lag behind his guards and even then they would drag him for a faster pace. 

By the end of the second week, Samwell's thighs were raw from hard riding, his legs were cramping badly, and he was chilled to the bone. He did not complain knowing full and well that his companions won't even bother to hear him. They rode hard and fast as the days passed and Sam tried hard to keep up with his father's men.

They reached Winterfell, the ancient stronghold of House Stark, now occupied by the Targaryens, sooner than he had thought to thanks to their quicker pace. Though Sam was not thankful for it though. His father's men wanted nothing more than to put him in Castle Black as quick as possible and Sam wanted nothing more than to at least enjoy the last few days he had before taking his vows as the brother of Night's Watch. 

He had thought they would stay in Winterfell for the night but his companions kept on riding. Sam had wanted to visit the castle of course. Once Winterfell had been the capital of the North, when the north had been an independent kingdom. When the King in the North, Eddard Stark still ruled the kingdom with his queen, Queen Ashara. Those days would have been the days of glory for the north. 

Sam had heard those stories when he was a boy in Horn Hill. Stories of the Outlaw King in the North. He'd been only three or four when Eddard Stark declared his northern kingdom independent. King Rhaegar Targaryen declared King Eddard a rebel and declared war against the Northern king. Thrice the Targaryen army attacked the north and thrice the north threw them back. There were singers who still sang about the Battle of Wolfswood, the third and final battle fought between the Starks and the Targaryens, where King Eddard smashed the Targaryen forces under King Rhaegar and chased them from the edge of the Wolfswood to the Sea Dragon point through where they had entered the north unseen.  

For three years there had been no war after the bitter defeat in the north. King Rhaegar declared King Eddard an Outlaw to his realm and the northerners claimed their absolute independence from the Iron Throne until King Eddard, Queen Ashara and their little son Prince Andrew's demise in the hands of the Rhaegar Targaryen through treachery. There is no crime worse than murder at a host's dinner table Sam had heard his father tell his mother when he heard about the Starks' massacre at Starfall. There are no gods to hear our prayers, Sam thought as he remembered the Starks. The Seven had never answered him and the Heart Trees the northmen worshipped did nothing about the crimes done to the Starks. 

He looked to the tall grey towers capped white with snow and deeply wished that Eddard Stark was still alive. Maybe he could've saved him from his fate. No one dared to enter the north from the south whilst he was still alive and maybe the King in the North could've given Sam a chance. Sam knew that King Eddard was an honorable man and his queen, Queen Ashara was a kind woman. He could've even befriended the prince. 

As they neared the castle Sam could see that their was nothing cheerful with the sight. The grey walls seemed alone and bleak and the black and red dragon banners of the Targaryens looked out of place. It was as quiet as a grave with no indication of people there. Though the castle stood strong it seemed as if it was just a burnt ruin. As they crossed the castle Sam thought of his wish. Looking up at the black banners flowing from the snow covered towers of Winterfell Sam sadly thought the fact that none of his wishes ever came true. 

He left his lost wish with Winterfell in the swirling snows and passed the castle. He looked back at the castle as he moved away from it. He could still see it, standing alone and grim in the cover of snow and cold much like his unanswered prayers.

Chapter Text

Tyrion

The paper sat rolled up in Lord Jon's hands, his eyes wondering up and down the words written upon them. Robert Baratheon, Hoster Tully, Brynden Tully and his sister all gathered round him. They looked to Tyrion as he entered and Tyrion found neither warmth nor calm in their eyes. Robert cared not a whit about him as always, Lord Tully's eyes looked at him with a mute appeal and so was his mouth, Ser Brynden followed him with his blue eyes in silence. Edmure Tully for his part nodded at him. But it was Cersei's eyes which made him intrigued. Her green eyes were wild and raging like wildfire and her mouth pressed in a tight line. But Tyrion could have sworn that she was fuming at him in her heart for some reason. 

Tyrion walked the length of Hoster Tully's solar and claimed his place next to his sister, propped up by cushions so he could gaze down the length of the table. As always, Hoster Tully was at the head of the table, behind him Tyrion could see the Tumblestone rushing down. Though he was not seated in the high seat, the council surrounded Jon Arryn and the letter in his hand. Lord Arryn kept his foster son to his right while Hoster Tully was to his left. Lord Tully's brother and son occupied his side and Cersei sat at her husband's side. 

He was late as always. The game they had been playing had commenced already while he lay sleeping in his bed. 

"Look who decided to show up," Robert Baratheon said in a jolly tone as Tyrion sat in his chair. Despite the cheerfulness of his sister's husband, the room looked glum with gloomy faces. 

"Hope you had a good night, Dwarf. We've got some grave tidings in the cover of the night." 

Grave tidings, that was not going to be good. "I did have a good night, my lord. Thank you." He did have a good night indeed, with some hot food in his belly accompanied some good sweet wine and a whore in his bed, he had slept surprising peaceful under Hoster Tully's roof. They have broken his good night, it seems. Looking at Cersei, he could definitely tell that they had spoiled his night. She had such ruthlessness etched in her emerald eyes, directed at him. 

Jon Arryn rolled the paper in his fist and kept it there, hidden. Tyrion had wanted to see it. If they saw it fit to rush him off his bed to some cushioned chair he better see it first. 

There was no smile nor comfort in the Lord of the Eyrie's face. "We have news from Braavos." Tyrion moved forward in his chair eager to learn about how his plan had worked out. "It looks as though your plan has worked well, Lord Tyrion. Your anonymous killer came out to face Rhaegar Targaryen and his men. Losses were heavy on Rhaegar's side, but in the end he prevailed and your killer lays dead in the gutter of Braavos."

That was disappointing. He'd had high hopes for the man or boy or whatever he was. If he had dealt with Rhaegar in Braavos they could've very well used the unrest in the kingdom for their sake. Now he had died. It had been a good gamble with him. Either way, he would have won. If he had succeeded in killing Rhaegar, then they could've very well used it for their advantage but now even though he failed to do that there were no losses in Tyrion's side. All he has to do now was to find another plan to shake out the Targaryen dynasty. 

"That's not all," said Jon Arryn bringing his attention back to him. "Your brother was killed in the fight. He fought valiantly and gave his life for the king, it is written here." 

Jaime is dead? He felt something hard within his heart. Something he had not felt ever since Tysha. He had loved his brother, as he loved his life. During all the terrible long years of his childhood, only Jaime had ever shown him the smallest measure of affection or respect, and for that Tyrion was willing to forgive him most anything. Him and uncle Gerion. Both are gone now, uncle Gery lost in the seas and Jaime lost in his vows. Oh, brother... Why did you have to stick to your vows so seriously? After killing the Mad King his brother had chosen to stay in the kingsguard even after Rhaegar Targaryen gave him the choice to leave the white cloak and be Lord Tywin's heir. A gesture of his goodwill to Tywin Lannister but Tyrion had always suspected it to be more likely as to not have a kingslayer in his kingsguard. His brother had chosen to stay in the kingsguard and right his wrongs in Rhaegar's rule. 

"I need to clean off the stain in my cloak," Jaime had said when Tyrion asked him about it. 

Have you cleaned your cloak now brother? Giving your life for your king. Would they call you a great knight who gave his life for his king? Would they sing songs for you now?

"So much for following Rhaegar and his band of cronies," Robert said. "What could you ever expect from following some mad man?"

 "What do we know of Rhaegar's plans and movements?" asked Brynden Tully, ever blunt and to the point. 

"He is coming back to Westeros," announced Lord Jon. "It seems as if Braavos does not suit him." 

"Are you certain he is coming back?" Lord Hoster asked. "Even with the contract of the Iron Bank unfinished?" 

Brynden Tully spoke up. "Is there anything as pointless as to earn some coins to pay for your death? No, it's plain, Rhaegar must abandon Braavos if he wishes to live. Who is to say that it was just one man who wanted him dead? He is well away from his kingdom with only a handful of guards around him. Others can pounce upon him from the shadows as well." 

Tyrion listened to their arguments in silence. The news of his brother's death had left a bad taste in his mouth. 

"We ought to write Mace Tyrell a letter," Hoster Tully was saying. "He wouldn't be so thrilled to have a Dornish girl as the queen over his daughter." 

Jon Arryn cleared his throat. "As regards to marriage . . . We've been invited to attend the wedding of Aegon Targaryen. Hoster received a letter today. They know that we all are here in Riverrun." 

"What does it matter?" snapped Cersei. "We just came here for the children's marriage." 

Tyrion looked up to his sister and wondered what made her such a stupid to say that. Was it Jaime's death? She turned away from Jaime once he chose the white cloak over her. Though the presence of Joffrey said otherwise. Green eyes and blonde hair, Joffrey was as much as Jaime's son as Cersei's. She had done up a good work to cover him up under Gendry and Argella, but Tyrion was not so stupid like the others to miss that. Cersei likes to think herself as Lord Tywin with teats, but she was not. She has no patience and thinks herself to be composed but is angry. She can be cunning, but the anger makes her stupid. 

"Quiet woman," Robert said to Cersei. "Do you think Connington would be fed up with that lie. Lord Melon might believe it as the stupid he is but not Connington."

"And should we accept this request?" inquired Lord Hoster Tully. "Should we go to King's Landing?" 

"Perhaps we should," Robert said. "And we should take some good sharp steel as our wedding gifts." 

Lord Jon gave a disapproving look at his foster son. "How many times should I've to tell you Robert, it is not-" 

"Honorable," Robert Baratheon finished with a scoff. "What do the damn dragon know about honor? What they did to Rickard and Brandon Stark was honorable? What they did to Ned and his family was honorable?" His voice had grown so loud when he mentioned Eddard Stark and his family. "I will kill every Targaryen I can get my hands on. I'll kill them along with their dragons and then, only then I'll pay my respects to Ned."

Lord Jon's face grew soft at that. "You will have your time, Robert. But for now, be patient." 

Though Robert looked as he was going to argue, he dropped his gaze down and sat still in his seat. 

"We shall not go to the wedding and dishonor ourselves in the presence of those murderers," Jon Arryn said at last. "We shall isolate ourselves from them and let them try all they can. I'll not let another one of my family suffer in the hands of the Targaryens. We shall remain quiet until Rhaegar comes back from Braavos." 

"And let this thing go on?" Robert raised his eyebrows. "Leave this be and I promise you, Jon, there will be more dragonspawns to plague us."

The marriage won't go any further until Rhaegar comes back from Braavos, Robert," Jon Arryn announced. "And Aegon's marriage means that his brother Jaehaerys will go south to attend it. We need the north on our side. When he leaves the north unchecked, we could take back Winterfell and give the northerners a chance to fight for Ned and his family like Tyrion here said us to. They were well loved in the north that the northern lords wouldn't have forgotten what happened to them." 

Tyrion kept quiet throughout the conversation. More likely with the sting of the brother's loss still in his heart. This changed things, in a huge manner. Tyrion could only wonder how his father would react to the loss of his heir. Though he has not lost the real heir yet. He could only wonder. 

When the meeting was finally over, he left the solar for Riverrun's hall. He was definitely hungry and the taste of food and wine might do good, especially now.

Outside, Tyrion swallowed a lungful of the cold morning air and began his laborious descent of the steep stone steps that corkscrewed around the exterior of the gatehouse tower. The rising sun had not yet claimed its place in the sky, but the men were already hard at it in the yard below. Sandor Clegane's rasping voice drifted up to him. "Your father has given strict orders as to not let you beyond the walls." 

Tyrion glanced down and saw the Hound standing with young Joffrey as squires swarmed around them. "My brother does that everyday day," the lordling replied. "Morning and evening he leaves this stupid castle with that girl of his and father has nothing to say about it neither do you Clegane. Is it because my brother has his warhammer across his back or that he is married? I could swing Lion's Tooth as well as my brother could do with his warhammer." 

Tyrion couldn't help but chuckle at that. The day when Joffrey fights half as good as Gendry does will be the day the Wall melts. Gendry had acquired his love and skill for battle from his father which unfortunately Joffrey hasn't managed to acquire from Jaime. All the things he ever acquired from his parents was Cersei's stupidity and her pretty blond hair and emerald eyes. 

Clegane cast a long shadow across the hard-packed earth as he cradled the black helm in his hand. "You could ask your mother," he said to Joffrey. Behind him, the yard rang to the clangor of steel on steel in the cold morning air.

The notion does not seemed to delight the boy. "I am not a child!" he exclaimed. "I don't have to follow my mother's words everywhere." 

"Whom are you trying to fool Joff?" Argella came to her brother, her skirts of red silk and satin swirling behind her in the morning air as if she was on blazing fire. "You're a child. Don't try to be a man yet."

Even as girl it was clear as summer that Argella was a born for greatness just like her older brother. She had all of her mother's beauty and none of her nature. The truth was Argella was more fit to hold a greater legacy than the boy Joffery. She was braver and brighter and more confident as well. Her wits were quicker, her courtesies more polished. Nothing daunted her, not even Joffrey's monstrosity which would send grown men to cover.

"No one asked you," Joffrey seethed. "You're a woman. You're supposed to be inside this boring castle and sing your stupid songs." 

"Does everything have to be boring for you brother?" Argella asked. "If you so much desire so, perhaps I could ask mother or father to let you go."

"I don't need your help," Joffrey screamed. "I can go out myself." 

Tyrion hopped off the last step onto the yard. "I beg to differ, nephew," he said. "Your father has planned to leave so soon and you are expected to get your things and say your farewells."

"Uncle Tyrion," Ella smiled and knelt to hug him when she saw him. 

Joffrey sneered down at him, his green eyes raging much like his mother's. 

"A voice from nowhere," Sandor said. He peered to the thin air befor him, looking this way and that. "Spirits of the air!" 

"That's not fair," Argella hissed at the Hound. 

His nephew laughed, as he always laughed when his bodyguard did this mummer's farce. Tyrion was used to it. "Down here." 

The tall man peered down at the ground, and pretended to notice him. "The little lord Tyrion," he said. "My pardons. I did not see you standing there." 

"I am in no mood for your insolence today." Tyrion turned to his nephew. "Joffrey, it is past time you called on Lord Hoster and the household of Riverrun, to offer them your courtesies for hosting you gracefully." 

Joffrey looked as petulant as only a boy lordling can look. "What good will my courtesies do them?" He pointed to Argella beside him and said, "That's her job, offering her courtesies like the girl she is."

"Oh, Ella has made her presence known well better than anyone here," Tyrion said. "It is expected of you too. Your absence has been noted. Have you forgotten that your good sister is Lord Hoster's granddaughter?" 

"My brother's wife is nothing to me," Joffrey said. Tyrion Lannister reached up and slapped his nephew hard across the face. The boy's cheek began to redden. 

"One word," Tyrion said, "and I will hit you again." 

"I'm going to tell Mother!" Joffrey exclaimed. 

Tyrion hit him again. Now both cheeks flamed. 

"You tell your mother," Tyrion told him. "But first you get yourself to Lord Hoster, tell him how thankful you are for his treatment to you then go to Lady Alyssa and you fall to your knees in front of her, and you tell her how grateful you're for having her as your goodsister and future lady. Do you understand? Do you?" 

The boy looked as though he was going to cry. Instead, he managed a weak nod. Then he turned and fled headlong from the yard, holding his cheek. Tyrion watched him run.

A shadow fell across his face. He turned to find Clegane looming overhead like a cliff. His soot-dark armor seemed to blot out the sun. He had put on his helmet and lowered the visor on his helm. It was fashioned in the likeness of a snarling black hound, fearsome to behold, but Tyrion had always thought it a great improvement over Clegane's hideously burned face. 

"The lordling will remember that, little lord," the Hound warned him. The helm turned his laugh into a hollow rumble. 

"I pray he does," Tyrion Lannister replied. "If he forgets, be a good dog and remind him." He glanced around for Argella. "Come sweet niece, hitting your brother had made uncle Tyrion hungry." He extended his arm. "Shall we?" he asked with a smirk. Argella smiled at him and took his hand. 

"Ah, the lords of Westeros would die for the honor you've graced me with," Tyrion said making Ella giggle. He gave Sandor Clegane a perfunctory nod and walked away with his niece as briskly as his stunted legs would carry him, whistling. He pitied the first knight to try the Hound today. The man did have a temper. 

"Mother is going to be angry at you uncle," Argella said as they walked to the hall. Tyrion smirked. 

"When wasn't she?" Tyrion replied making his neice laugh, brightening up the gloomy morning. 

A cold, cheerless meal had been laid out in the hall of Riverrun. Cersei sat at the table with her eldest son and his wife, whispering in Gendry's ears. No one occupied the hall other than them. Robert, Jon Arryn, Hoster Tully, Brynden Tully, Lysa Tully and all the other lords were not there. Some of the guards sat in the lower benches, deep in their talks and laugh. 

Cersei gave a sweet smile when she saw her daughter. "Argella sweetling, where have you been? I searched for you," she asked her daughter. Her smile curdled like sour milk when she looked at him. His sister peered at him with the same expression of faint distaste she had worn since the day he was born. "Where did you take her to?" 

"I was at the library mother," Argella said to Cersei. "I met with uncle Tyrion just now." She put her hands around her brother and kissed his cheek. "Not waiting for your little sister now brother? Eager to have some time alone with your wife?" Argella asked with an easy smile. 

"You wound me, sweet sister," Gendry pressed a kiss to his sister's cheek. "How could I ever forget you?" 

"You better don't," Argella replied and took her seat beside her mother, offering her goodsister a smile. 

A servant approached. "Bread," Tyrion told him, "and two of those little fish, and a mug of that good dark beer to wash them down. Oh, and some bacon. Burn it until it turns black. Make it two, one for my lovely niece here." The man bowed and moved off. Tyrion turned back to his family. Cersei and her pride, a lion and a lioness. Gods help me, how would Joffrey ever hope to fit in with them. But then again he himself never fit with his siblings. The golden twins of Tywin Lannister, male and female, the proud of the Lion of West. What was he compared to them? He almost felt sorry for Joffrey. 

Cersei looked very much her part this morning. He had missed her beauty early on. She had chosen a deep green that matched her eyes. Her blond curls were a fashionable tumble, and gold ornaments shone at her wrists and fingers and throat. 

Argella spoke up. "Will you come to Storm's End, Uncle?" 

"You should come, Uncle," Gendry said. "It will be good to have you there." 

"As much as I like to accompany you to Storm's End, my father will likely have me walk my way through the Seven Kingdoms hereafter if he hears that I've disobeyed his orders," Tyrion said. "You see I have no problem walking around Westeros but my legs might object though, small as they are." 

Alyssa Arryn chuckled at that. 

"Lady Alyssa, I hope you're happy with my nephew?" Tyrion said. The servant brought his plate. He ripped off a chunk of black bread. 

Alyssa Baratheon looked at her husband with a gentle smile. "Of course I am, my lord." 

Tyrion gave her a crooked smile. "Good. He once cried to me for he was so upset that he did not inherited my charms." He took a sip of beer. Gendry chuckled with the beer in his mouth while his wife gave a happy laugh. "You are truly handsome, Uncle," Argella said with a piece of bread in her mouth. 

"Will you return straight to father?" Cersei asked. 

The bacon crunched when he bit into it. Tyrion chewed thoughtfully for a moment and said, "I think so." He chewed some more bread. "I have a mind to take a ship and go see this Wall we have all heard so much of. I might not get this chance again." 

She frowned. "I hope you're not thinking of taking the black." 

Tyrion laughed. "What, me, celibate? The whores would go begging from Dorne to Casterly Rock. No, I just want to stand on top of the Wall and piss off the edge of the world." 

Cersei stood abruptly. "The children don't need to hear this filth. Argella, come." She strode briskly from the morning room, her daughter trailing behind her.

After breaking his fast, he was pleased to reach his chambers without further incident. As he climbed the steps to his chambers, Tyrion felt a deal more hopeful than he had at dawn. Time, that's all I truly need, time to piece it all together. He might even work on something to bring down the dragons . . . He opened the door to his solar. 

Cersei was waiting for him near the window. She turned when she heard the door open, skirts swirling around her slender hips. "How dare you?" 

"How dare I what?" Tyrion was not amused. He swung the door shut behind him. "If I've given you offense, I would know how." 

"What a disgusting little worm you are. You killed him!" Cersei screeched. "You killed him conspiring with your assassin friend. You killed him just so you could get Casterly Rock." 

Jaime, he thought. She thinks that I conspired with someone to kill Jaime. "I would never," Tyrion said strongly. "I loved him as much as you do." 

"Did you now?" Cersei paced away from him, restless as a lioness, skirts swirling. You are the one talked about leaving Rhaegar to Braavos, you're the one to talk about that filth in the first place. You knew him." 

Tyrion shook his head and sighed. "All I knew about him was that he killed Viserys and I thought that he would kill Rhaegar." Tyrion found his anger rising up in him. "It is not on my head that Jaime chose to fight him rather than leaving Rhaegar to do his dirty work. Or have you forgotten the manner of his death, he died fighting for his king, not for you." 

And Cersei began to cry.

Tyrion Lannister could not have been more astonished if Aegon the Conqueror himself had burst into the room, riding on a dragon and juggling lemon pies. He had not seen his sister weep since they were children together at Casterly Rock. Awkwardly, he took a step toward her. When your sister cries, you were supposed to comfort her . . . but this was Cersei! He reached a tentative hand for her shoulder. 

"Don't touch me," she said, wrenching away. It should not have hurt, yet it did, more than any slap. Red-faced, as angry as she was grief-stricken, Cersei struggled for breath. "Don't look at me, not . . . not like this . . . not you." 

Politely, Tyrion turned his back. "I did not mean to upset you." 

"First, you took mother away from me and now Jaime. Whom do you plan on taking from me next? My children?" 

After all these years, she still blames him for their mother's death. "I promise you, nothing shall happen to your children. All I want is to protect them." 

"Liar," she said behind him. "I'm not a child, to be soothed with empty promises. You told me you would protect Jaime too. Well, where is he? " 

In one of the seven heavens, he thought. "I might have failed in that but this I will not. A Lannister always pays his debts and I still have a debt to pay."

Chapter Text

Andrew

He dreamed of a cracked stone ceiling and the smells of blood and food and burnt flesh. The air was full of the smell of blood and smoke. Men were groaning and whimpering all around him, and from time to time a scream would pierce the air, thick with pain. When he tried to move, he found himself in the boat unable to move. He saw his mother glowing brightly in the dark that she made him cover his eyes. When he tried to climb out of the boat and move to her, a sharp pain coursed through his body searing through his soul. He hurt so much. Too weak to groan, he lay where he was and shut his eyes. Nearby he could still see the sun he had seen when he was dying. He looked to the golden light and wondered if he was still dying and not dead yet. After a time the room faded. 

He found himself outside the room and into the city, walking through a world without color. Ravens soared through a grey sky on wide black wing, while carrion crows rose from their feasts in furious clouds wherever he set his steps. White maggots burrowed through black corruption. The grey stone streets of the city were red now, and the novices of the House of Black and White grey as fogs; together with the crows they stripped the flesh from the fallen and took their faces. There were corpses strewn all over the streets. The sun was a hot white penny, shining down upon the grey river as it rushed around the swollen corpses of drowned men. From the pyres of the dead rose black columns of smoke and white-hot ashes. My work, thought Andrew Stark. He turned to look back the way he'd come and it was filled with men who had lost limbs, legs, head, face, eye, guts and everything one could lose from their body. 

At first there was no sound in the world, but after a time he began to hear the voices of the dead, soft and terrible. They wept and moaned, they begged for an end to pain, they cried for help and wanted their mothers. Andrew wanted his mother too. He wanted Ashara Dayne, but she was not there. He walked alone amidst grey shadows, trying to remember . . . 

The novices of the faceless men were stripping the dead men of their armor and clothes. All the bright dyes had leached out from the surcoats of the slain; they were garbed in shades of white and grey, and their blood was black and crusty. He watched their naked bodies lifted by arm and leg, to be carried swinging to the pyres to join their fellows. Metal and cloth were thrown in the back of a white wooden wagon, pulled by two tall black horses. 

So many dead, so very many. Their corpses hung limply, their faces slack or stiff or swollen with gas, unrecognizable, hardly human. The garments the novices took from them were decorated with pale red fire and ghostly dragons. Their armor was all dented and gashed, the chainmail riven, broken, slashed. Why did I kill them all? He had never known any of them, none but one and somehow he had missed the one he had known. 

He began to run. The city was not far. He would be safe inside the city, away from all these dead. He did not belong with the dead. He was still a living man. They all were lying dead and deaf and blind but he was alive and well. He ran away from them. He ran and ran and ran until he saw a white tree far away. He ran towards it, faster, as fast as his wounded leg would allow. 

He saw them beneath the tree, curled up together as one as he had seen them once long ago. His father sat leaning against the Heart Tree, though it had grey leaves instead of red and black blood flowing from the carved face's eyes and mouth. His mother sat with her back pressed against his father's chest his arms cradling her against him. They looked so happy, as they had always been together. "Mother," he shouted at them but they did not hear him. "Father," he tried again, this time moving close to them. His father was laughing at something his mother had said but he did not hear him.

"Mother," he shouted louder. "Father." He moved closer to the tree shouting for his parents as he went. They saw him only when he reached them. 

His mother was the first one to see him. She was quick to embrace him tightly. The fragrance of the roses she loved filled his nose and she felt real, real and alive standing before him, hugging him tightly like she had done when he was a boy. "Oh, Andrew, sweetheart, what have they done to you?" 

When he looked down he saw that he was covered in blood, both his and the ones he had killed. Luckily the blood did not pass onto his mother. 

"Why won't you remember what I told you, sweetling?" She placed her palm against his cheek and her touch was cold against his skin. Her touch had always been warm, not now it was not. 

"I remember," Andrew told her. "I remember everything. I killed Viserys and I tried to kill Rhaegar. I tried to get justice." 

"Oh, sweetheart." 

"Let him go, Ash," his father told his mother. A crown of mist sat upon his head where once another one made of metal had sat. "He needs to learn this on his own."

Andrew looked to his father. "What are you talking about?" he told him. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be with you and mother." 

His father smiled at him, a smile filled with warmth. "You don't belong here, son," he said and placed his hand on his head to ruffle his hair. His father used to ruffle his hair back at Winterfell everytime he told him stories of the Age of Heroes and the children of the forest. Andrew had missed it so much.

His father took his hand from his head and placed it around his mother. "Come, Ash. We should go." 

"No, father," Andrew said, afraid that he is going to lose them again. "Please don't leave me." He turned to his mother. "Mother, please." His mother would not leave him alone. Not her, his sweet mother.

"We'll always be with you sweetheart," Ashara Dayne said. When she took her husband's hand they both vanished before him like the crown of mist on his father's head. 

It was dark when he woke again. At first he could see nothing, but after a time the vague outlines of a room appeared around him. The roof was cracked lightly, there was a candle burning, he could see only the flickering yellow light, and then he saw the sun again, the golden glow brighter than the candle light. Under him was the hard rough surface of a makeshift bed, but the pillow beneath his head was so yielding soft. This is not my bed, I am not in my room. 

It was warm inside the room, under the great heap of furs and blankets that covered him. He was sweating. Fever, he thought groggily. He felt so weak, and the pain stabbed through him when he struggled to lift his hand. He gave up the effort. His felt so weak to even raise his head from the pillow and look around. His body he could scarcely feel at all. How did I come here? He tried to remember. The fight came back in fits and flashes. The fight along the river, the white knights with their white cloaks blowing in the wind, the arrows . . . 

Rhaegar. He saw the dark indigo eyes, the crowd around him, the shining white enamel plates of the kingsguard. Fear swept over him in a cold rush. Alone in the dark, he fell back into his sleep again.

This time he dreamed he was at a feast, a familiar feast in some great hall. He had a high seat on the dais, and was sitting on his mother's lap, smiling at his father. Rhaegar was there too, with his wife and kingsguard. His uncle threw him in the air making him laugh before catching him again. Everyone was smiling for a time. When the song was over, he was alone amongst the butchered men. Rhaegar was standing against him, only him.

He woke up before he got to him. His breath was heavy in his chest and the room was now filled with vague light. He saw the golden glow again and when it came near him he saw that it was not the sun but a woman with golden hair gleaming in the candle light. She watched him intently and when he tried to move she reached for him. She put her arms around his shoulder and helped him to sit straight on the bed. Andrew groaned at the pain in his body and settled against the headboard of the bed. When he looked down he was clothed in a fresh white tunic and red breeches. He brought a hand to his leg where the injury was the worst, his every movement pained and fumbling. His fingers found stiff cloth where they should have found flesh and skin. Linen. His upper body was bandaged tightly as well, from his chest to his waist. 

He looked up at the woman who had saved him. "Where am I?" he muttered gritting his teeth at the pain. 

She looked at him with soft eyes. "Still in Braavos," she said and brought a cup to his mouth. "Here drink this, it will help ease the pain." Inside the cup the drink was some murky liquid. Atleast he could drink it without fearing for poison, if she had wanted him dead he would not have lived this long. Andrew took a sip of it and it tasted bitter. It was a slow process to drink it down but he managed with the pain somehow.

"Thank you," he sighed. "For saving me." Even the small effort left him dizzied. "Where, are we? What, what place?" It hurt to talk, but Andrew had been too long in silence. 

 "You are in my room. A place near the Drowned Town. You were too injured to move you back to your place and I don't know where you lived." 

Drowned Town. Did I swim all the way here past the Ragman's Harbor? "Thank you," Andrew said again. 

The woman smiled and him and moved over to the fire burning in the fireplace nearby. An iron stew pot was hanging over the fireplace suspended from an iron rod. She used a cloth and took the pot away from the fire. Inside, the water was steaming hot, Andrew knew that from the steams coming from the vessel. The woman pressed a piece of linen in the hot water and moved over to him. She folded the cloth once and placed it on his forehead. 

He must have been truly fortunate to have her find him first that day. He wondered how long he had stayed asleep. It doesn't matter anyway, Rhaegar was gone, alive and Andrew had missed his chance for justice. He wondered if that was why the gods had let him live. Andrew remembered his dream and his parents. "You don't belong here son," his father had said. Perhaps I don't belong there until I've killed Rhaegar. 

When she was done with the cloth in his forehead she helped him out of his tunic. "Be still now, I must wash your wound," the woman said in a voice soft as a kiss. She discarded the bandages, still crusty with potion. After a moment he felt cool air on his skin. There was pain as well, but he did his best to ignore that. Her touch was gentle, the water warm and soothing. The wound, Andrew thought, remembering the sudden punches of arrows. "This is like to sting some but it'll help you heal faster," the woman warned as she wet a cloth with wine that smelled of crushed herbs. It did more than sting. It traced a line of fire all the way across Andrew's body, and twisted a burning poker up his chest right to his heart. His fingers clawed the bedclothes and he sucked in his breath, but somehow he managed not to scream. "It is wise to leave the bandages in place until the wound is completely healed. I'll bind you up." 

She left him only to return with some soft clothes and fresh linens for bandages. Andrew looked at her as she sat working. She was only a girl, no more than thirteen or fourteen. One look was all it took for him to identify her as a girl from Westeros. She smelled clean and of flowers which indicated as highborn. 

"You're from Westeros aren't you?" Andrew asked her as she wrapped the linen around his chest. 

The girl blinked at him. "No," she said and continued her work. 

"Don't lie to me, my lady. I know a Westerosi when I see one." 

She raised her eyebrow at him. "And how'd you know that?" 

Andrew chuckled lightly, hurting himself in the process. "I am from Westeros and I have seen them." 

"I'm sorry," she said, "But you're wrong this time, I'm not from Westeros." 

"Yeah, right," he had to chuckle. His body was stiff and sore, as if he had been working and honing his skills for several days continuously. He looked at her once more and he knew half of what he had wanted to know about her. "Your sweet voice even makes a lie sound like a melody, my lady. But I know better. Green eyes, golden hair and a face that would make kings give up their kingdoms for a single look. You're a Lannister, aren't you?" 

The girl stopped her work and Andrew could see her face flushed. She is a Lannister. He had known them of course, seen them when he was in Westeros. His father was always wary around the Lannisters and held none of them in good regard. What is a Lannister doing so far away from home? 

The girl was not yet ready to admit it. "I'm not a Lannister," she said again and went on with binding up his wounds. She was really a sweet girl, Andrew thought as he saw her. Anyone else in her place would've thrown him out of the room and leave him to die for what he did now. "I would fall for your lie but the truth is etched clearly in your face," he said when she moved down to his waist. She never looked at him but continued with her clothes and linen. "Too much beauty is always dangerous, my lady." When she looked at him, startled he continued, "Don't worry, my lady. Your secret is safe with me." 

She worked in silence. Only when she moved to his knee did she spoke up. "I'm not a Lannister," she said as she cleaned the bloodied linens. "I'm Joy Hill, bastard daughter of Gerion Lannister." 

So a half Lannister but her looks said otherwise. Andrew was glad that she trusted him enough to say her name. Joy had no reason to trust him. He came to her as a half-dead killer, she had no reason to help him as well. By bringing him into her house she had put herself in danger. She must've been really good and sweet to do this to him. 

"Well, thank you, Lady Joy," he said with a smile. "I'm Andrew Snow." 

Joy smiled at him and washed his knee with warm water before wrapping it up with clean linen. She stood up gathering the bloodied linens and cotton. "They're still searching for you," Joy said looking down at him. "If you want you can stay here until you could walk properly." 

Without waiting for a reply Joy walked away from him. Andrew watched her for a long time. He had forgotten that there was goodness in the world, looking at Joy he could only admit that there was still goodness left in the world.

 

Chapter Text

Rhaegar

Across the still blue water came the slow steady beat of drums and the soft swish of oars from the nearby galleys. The great warship groaned louder than them, its heavy oars splashing the waters on either side. Balerion's sails billowed in the wind from the masts. There were only fewer men in the ships now than when they had first sailed from King's Landing. Yet even so, as he stood upon the forecastle watching a cloudless blue sky, Rhaegar Targaryen was happy to return home to his wife, children and sister. 

On the day the three ships had lifted anchor at Braavos, he had no reason to be happy about leaving for Westeros. His kingsguard was dead, half of the men he had taken to Braavos was dead. Even the Iron bank was not happy with the mess and his sudden leaving. Only when he got away from the waters of Braavos did he felt happy for the first time in the entire journey. The Iron bank can go to hell when he can return to his family alive unlike all the other unlucky men who had died in Braavos never to see their families back in Westeros again. He has other friends in Essos, great magisters and maesters with their armies of highly trained Unsullied and other sellsword companies. If he had any need of an army he could very well get the Unsullied and the sellsword companies to the shores of Westeros. 

No army could stand against them. The highly trained army in the world with their spiked bronze hats. Rhaegar had seen Unsullied guards in the Free Cities, posted at the gates of magisters, archons, and dynasts. Most of them had been household guards. But the real army and the best of the Unsullied were in Astapor. Raised only to stand and fight the Unsullied of Astapor were the pride of the city he had heard his Magister friends from Astapor say. They have even told him the tale of the Three Thousand of Qohor. 

It was some four hundred years ago or more, he couldn't remember it correctly. But it was when the Dothraki first rode out of the east, sacking and burning every town and city in their path. The Khal who had led them was some horselord named Temmo. His khalasar was big, if not huge. He had forgotten the numbers they had told him but fifty thousand riders rode with him in his khalasar, at the least. Half of them braided warriors with bells ringing in their hair, veteran warriors who had never lost any fight. 

Somehow the Qohorik knew that the khal was coming for them. They strengthened their walls, doubled the size of their own guard, and had hired two free companies besides, the Bright Banners and the Second Sons. And almost as an afterthought, they had sent a man to Astapor to buy three thousand Unsullied. It was a long march back to Qohor, however, and as they approached they saw the smoke and dust and heard the distant din of battle. 

By the time the Unsullied reached the city the sun had set. Crows and wolves were feasting beneath the walls on what remained of the Qohorik heavy horse. The Bright Banners and Second Sons had fled, as sellswords are wont to do in the face of hopeless odds. When the dark came, the Dothraki had retired to their own camps to drink and dance and feast, but none doubted that they would return on the morrow to smash the city gates, storm the walls, and rape, loot, and slave as they pleased. 

But when dawn broke and Temmo and his bloodriders led their khalasar out of camp, they found three thousand Unsullied drawn up before the gates with the Black Goat standard flying over their heads. So small a force could easily have been flanked, but the Dothraki knew nothing of that, nothing of battle strategies and war lessons. All they knew was to charge at their enemy and cleave them with their sharp, curved arakh. The Unsullied were men on foot, and for the Dothraki men on foot were fit only to be ridden down. 

The Dothraki charged. The Unsullied locked their shields, lowered their spears, and stood firm. Against twenty thousand screamers with bells in their hair, they stood firm. 

Eighteen times the Dothraki charged, and broke themselves on those shields and spears like waves on a rocky shore. Thrice Temmo sent his archers wheeling past and arrows fell like rain upon the Three Thousand, but the Unsullied merely lifted their shields above their heads until the squall had passed. In the end only six hundred of them remained . . . but more than twelve thousand Dothraki had laid dead upon that field, including Khal Temmo, his bloodriders, his kos, and all his sons. On the morning of the fourth day, the new khal had led the survivors past the city gates in a stately procession. One by one, each man had cut off his braid and threw it down before the feet of the Three Thousand. 

Since that day, the city guard of Qohor has been made up solely of Unsullied, every one of whom carries a tall spear from which hangs a braid of human hair.

If he brings an army of Unsullied to Westeros he could very well sleep in his bed without fearing for a knife over his throat while he sleeps. They will make songs about it in the Seven Kingdoms. Rhaegar's Unsullied they'll call it. Though what good it'll ever do. They sang songs of him now, how great a warrior and a king he is. A great warrior who hid behind his army while a single man scattered them all around. A great king who stood by and watched his people getting killed by some nameless boy with grey eyes. 

He remembered another pair of grey eyes and another battle he had once faced. A battle amidst the woods of the wolves... He turned away from the water shaking away his thoughts. It would do no good to dwell in the past or to think either of them. 

Quiet as a shadow the red priest appeared at his elbow. "Would that this Balerion could soar as her namesake did, Your Grace," he said in bastard Valyrian heavily flavored with accents of Asshai. "Then we should not need to row, nor tow, nor pray for wind." 

"Just so, my lord," Rhaegar answered with a smile. He was pleased to have Bezzaro with him. The red priest had been with him ever since his first son had born. His robes were red, his hair red with a red beard reaching his chest. There were no lines on his face to indicate his forty two years of age, his skin as smooth and clear as a child's. Bezzaro knew things, he knew about things which would help in the Great War. The war between R'hllor the Lord of Light against the Great Other as Bezzaro likes to call it. The clash of Ice and Fire, evil and good. Bezzaro was convinced that he along with his sons and sister will defeat the great other and save the world. Rhaegar believed him. He had seen things Bezzaro can do what others cannot, he had seen this Red god he talks of. Perhaps he should have kept Bezzaro with him that day in Braavos. He could have saved all of them who died, even Jaime Lannister. The red priest had left him at once they reached Braavos to visit the Temple of the Lord of Light and he had stayed there for their entire stay in Braavos. 

"The Lord of the Light smiles upon our journey, Your Grace," Bezzaro said in a deep voice, deep as if it was from the depths of the seven hells. "The wind is in our favor."

Rhaegar could not have denied that. For the last six days and six nights, the wind had failed them and they had been becalmed. And only by Bezzaro's prayers on the sixth night the red god had given them the wind to move faster and a fresh breath of air to fill their sails.

 "Tell me Bezzaro, If you know everything that is going to happen why didn't you warn me about Braavos?" 

"You get me wrong, your Grace," Bezzaro told him. "I can only see what the Lord of the Light allows me to see." 

Rhaegar found the anger getting better of him. "They why did your Lord of the Light didn't let you see that." He turned to look at the priest. "I took my men straight to the jaws of death, same as I had once done eleven years before. Does that mean your red god wanted them dead?" 

"R'hllor is our god, my king, not just mine," Bezzaro answered. "There is only him and the Great Other. R'hllor the Lord of the Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow and The Great Other, whose name must not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror. They are locked in an eternal struggle over the fate of the world; a struggle that will only end when Azor Ahoi, the warrior of light returns wielding Lightbringer, the red sword of heroes."

Rhaegar frowned. He had heard him say that more than a hundred times. That was not he wanted to hear. "That does not answer my question." 

"The Lord of the Light only grant me the visions he wishes me to see, my king." The red priest looked to the horizon where the sun had started to set. "If the Lord of the Light wishes for that to happen no one could stop that." 

"What good comes from these visions if we can't learn from them and change them?" Rhaegar snorted. 

"Come, Your Grace," Bezzaro said turning away from the sea. "Night is settling. We should go inside for the night is dark and full of terrors."

The sea had turned black as ink and the swollen sun tinted the sky a deep and bloody red. Frowning Rhaegar followed him back to the red priest's cabin. As always there was a fire burning in the brazier and the cabin was so bright that every corner and end of it was filled with the light of the fire. 

"You worry over nothing, Your Grace," Bezzaro said working in the fire of the brazier. "These petty wars you fought in the north will mean nothing before your final one. You are destined for greatness. It is with your help the three heads of the dragon will defeat the Great Other and bring back dawn." 

"With my help?" Rhaegar chuckled. "Those petty wars you mentioned, I lost them. How am I going to win the great war?" 

Bezzaro turned to face him. "It is not just a legacy you're seeking for, your grace. You seek the higher truth." He pointed to the fires in the brazier. "Come, my king. Come see the truth."

Hesitant and wary Rhaegar moved forward to the brazier. 

Bezzaro grasped his hand in his. "Let me show you the truth, Your Grace. Look into the fire."

Rhaegar opened his eyes wide and looked into the brazier to face the fire. 

Visions danced before him, gold and scarlet, flickering, forming and melting and dissolving into one another, shapes strange and terrifying and seductive. He saw a great star burning with fire red as blood. From a broken tower by a great castle, a winged beast came down falling dead to the ground. He saw towers by the sea, crumbling as the dark tide came sweeping over them, rising from the depths. He saw a great winged shadow taking flight from a white tower crowned with flame. Through curtains of fire he saw dragons wheeling against a hard blue sky though there were more, not just the three his sister had brought to this world.

"Did you see the truth, my king?" Bezzaro asked when he turned away from the fires. 

"I saw visions," Rhaegar replied.

"You saw what the Lord of the Light wanted you to see," the red priest said and moved over to tend to the fire. 

"I saw a red star, like the one which appeared on the day I was attacked," Rhaegar told him. "Does that mean it will happen again?"

"Maybe."

Then I should keep my sword ready, Rhaegar thought. But there were other things which troubled him more than that. The winged shadow from the white tower with flames. He tried to think hard about it, to make it more clear. The Hightower sigil was a white tower with flames burning on its top. Can the Hightowers be working against him? Was Ser Gerold betraying him like Arthur Dayne had done? 

Lord Leyton Hightower was Arthur and Ashara Dayne's grandfather on their mother's side. Alysanne Hightower was Leyton's favorite child and Arthur had once told him that Ashara Dayne was Lady Alysanne's favorite. Are they trying to get revenge for what happened to Ashara and her family? The last he heard of Lord Leyton is that he has locked himself atop his tower with his daughter the Mad Maid Malora, consulting books of spells. The smallfolk whispered that he is trying to raise an army from the deeps. Can the Hightowers be plotting against him from the shadows? Is that what the winged shadow meant? If they were indeed plotting against him he would happily send them to be together with the Daynes and the Starks. 

And then there was the fiery dance of dragons. 

"I saw dragons," Rhaegar said to the red priest. "There was more, not just the three my sister brought forth with your help." 

Bezzaro gave him a surprised look. 

"There were two more," Rhaegar continued of his vision. "One as bright gold as the sun and the other silver as the moon. They were fighting with the other three." 

Bezzaro looked confused at that. The surprise from his face had turned to confusion. 

"They were fighting?"

Rhaegar nodded. 

"Do you think these three dragons are enough for us to fight the Night King?" He asked after a moment of silence. 

"You can never know what the Great Other can do, Your Grace," Bezzaro said. 

"Can we raise more dragons from stones?" 

"Of course, we can, my king," the red priest said with a wicked smile. "But you know the price."

Chapter Text

Daenerys

The red comet had started to fade as an old would in the sky. No one knew when it had appeared and it was fading from the sky as it had appeared. Though it was fading, Dany could see it clearly against the bloodshot sky of the evening from her balcony in the Red Keep. Can this comet mean something about her visions from her House of the Undying? Dany remembered all the things she had heard and seen there that day but none included a red comet. She would want to ask her brother about it when he returns. 

The peasants said a thousand things about it. Fool's talk was what Ser Jorah had told her when she asked him about it. But Dany was not so convinced with any of it. She believed that it was sent for a reason by the Gods. 

"What do you think about the comet, ser?" Dany asked him. 

"I don't have much knowledge about stars, Princess," Ser Jorah replied from beside her. "It means different thing to different people. And that is because no one knows the true story behind it. Ask a Septon he would say it is the sword of the Warrior, the glory of the Seven, ask a Maester he would say it marks the end of the season, ask a peasant he would say a dozen stories about it at a single time, ask another one he would have another tale to tell. Ask a wise man about it, he would tell you to pay no mind to it as you would do with the other stars in the night sky." 

Dany laughed. "So you tend to be a wise man, Ser Jorah?" 

"I tend to be no one, Princess," said her knight. "But it is wise to leave it away from your thoughts and get on with your work. It does no good to dwell on it." 

The Master of the Ships Aurane Waters chuckled from the other side of the balcony at that. Dany had misliked the Bastard of Driftmark at first but she had taken a quick liking to his mischievous smirks and hidden grins for her and his japes for Jorah after he saved her from the Qartheen Manticore and the warlock assassin. 

Dany turned to face him. "Do you know something about the comet, my lord?" 

"I'll not make any claims that I know about it, Princess," Aurane Waters said. "But I've heard some interesting things about it." 

"Go on," Dany asked him to continue. 

"You see, princess, people see that comet above and talk about only one thing," Aurane leaned onto the balcony and looked to the comet. "The Born King. They say that the gods have sent the comet to herald the return of the Born King." 

Ser Jorah frowned beside her. "Another one of the fool's talk." 

Aurane gave him a quick smile. "Easy for you to say, Ser. But I suppose your family in the north will be thinking of it in the same way." 

"Who is the Born King?" Dany asked.

The look both Aurane and Ser Jorah was of a surprised one. 

"You haven't heard of it?" Aurane asked. 

Dany shook her head. 

"It's nothing but a peasant tale, Princess," Ser Jorah said. "An old legend from the north while your brother took the kingdom from Eddard Stark. It had stayed dead for some years now but the comet has given life to it again." 

"The Outlaw is dead though," Dany said. She had heard those stories many times when she was a little girl. "What is this legend anyway?" 

"It's about Stark's son," Ser Jorah said. "He is dead, killed along with his father and mother. Though there are some commonfolk who believe that he is still alive and would return." 

Dany thought about the House of the Undying. She had not heard or seen anything about this Born King they told her of. Perhaps, he could be one of those who would betray her. The warlocks had promised that she would know three treasons, one for blood, one for gold and one for love. Can this Born King be one of them? And Quathie had warned about other enemies and dangers as well. Was he one of it? But Quaithe had said nothing about this Born King though. Anyway, she would want to keep Drogon close. She looked up at the evening sky but she could not find her black dragon anywhere.

"I cannot see Drogon," Dany told them. "Has he gone again?" 

Of late Drogon has gone restless. He never stayed in one place. One day he was in King's Landing and the next people saw him in Dragonstone. He flew all around Westeros and other places as well much to Dany's chagrin. He was flying around the Red Keep only a moment before and now he had disappeared again. She had heard that her dragon had made his lair in Dragonstone. Maybe he had gone there again. Of late Drogon spent most of his days away from her and King's Landing that Dany was in mind to lock him in the Dragonpit. "I think I should lock him up in the Dragonpit. But my brother says that it will affect his growth. Do you know how big a dragon can grow?" 

"In the singer's songs, there are tales of dragons who grew so huge that they could pluck giant krakens from the seas," Ser Jorah said. 

Dany giggled. Drogon was already large enough to hunt whales from the seas. But he needs to grow more if he is to pull krakens from the seas. "That would be a wondrous sight to see." 

"It is only a tale, Princess," said her exile knight. "They talk of wise old dragons living a thousand years as well." 

"Well, how long does a dragon live?" She looked up searching for Drogon but she could not find him. 

Ser Jorah shrugged. "A dragon's natural span of days is many times as long as a man's, or so the songs would have us believe . . . but the dragons the Seven Kingdoms knew best were those of House Targaryen. They were bred for war, and in war they died. It is no easy thing to slay a dragon, but it can be done." 

Aurane Waters walked beside them and said, "Balerion the Black Dread was two hundred years old when he died during the reign of Jaehaerys the Conciliator. He was so large he could swallow an aurochs whole. A dragon never stops growing, Princess, so long as he has food and freedom." 

"Freedom?" asked Dany, curious. "What do you mean?" 

"Your brother is right, Princess." He pointed to the distant dragonpit standing atop on the Hill of Rhaenys. It had been ruin at first but her brother had returned it to its former glory so that they could house their dragons if it was needed. "Your ancestors raised that immense domed castle for their dragons. The Dragonpit. That is where the royal dragons dwelt in days of yore, and a cavernous dwelling it is, with iron doors so wide that thirty knights could ride through them abreast. Yet even so, it was noted that none of the pit dragons ever reached the size of their ancestors. The maesters say it was because of the walls around them, and the great dome above their heads." 

"If walls could keep us small, peasants would all be tiny and kings as large as giants," said Ser Jorah. "I've seen huge men born in hovels, and dwarfs who dwell in castles." 

"Men are men," Aurane replied with a wink at her, making her blush. "Dragons are dragons." 

Ser Jorah snorted his disdain. "How profound." The northman had no love for the Master of Ships, he'd made that plain from the first. "What do you know of dragons, anyway?" 

"Little enough that I've seen them with my own eyes," Aurane Waters said. "And I've read books you can't read." 

Dany giggled at that. Ser Jorah frowned and Aurane continued. "You see the dragon skulls in the Throne room Princess, the skulls near the Iron Throne belongs to Balerion and Vhagar." 

"I know of that," said Dany. "The dragons from Aegon's conquest. They were the largest of the Targaryen dragons." 

"Exactly," Aurane said pushing his silver hair away from his face. He looked so much a Targaryen then. "That's what happens to dragons who have freedom, Princess. Your ancestors had other dragons as well. You can see their skulls too. Fierce dragons like Caraxes, Vermithor, Meleys... but none could match the might of Balerion or Vhagar. Because Balerion and Vhagar grew up in the open world while the others were raised in the Dragonpit." 

"So no Dragonpit for Drogon then?" Dany asked smiling. 

Aurane moved near her and placed his hand above hers. "No Dragonpit for Drogon." 

When Dany turned to see him he had a smile on his lips. Dany could feel the blood rising up to her cheeks. She turned away from him but did not pull her hand from his.

 

Chapter Text

Samwell

The courtyard rang to the song of swords. If there was one song that Samwell Tarly hated more than anything is that the song of swords and the clang of swords and steel. It frightened him and shook him to the core. 

Under the fur-trimmed surcoat, sweat trickled icily down Sam's chest even though he had not even entered the spar. They had not even given the time for him to rest or to even change his clothes and Sam walked clumsily to the yard in his finest clothes, A fur-trimmed surcoat of green velvet with the striding huntsman of House Tarly worked in scarlet thread upon the breast. Two of the old recruits were hacking at each other. Looking at them alone made Sam tremble from head to heel. Yet he still walked forth to join them in the yard where Castle Black's knight master was training the other recruits who had arrived here before him. 

Sam himself was the last one to reach Castle Black but for him, the long journey from Horn Hill to the Wall was a quick one. His father's men wasted no time as they brought him to Castle Black. Once they brought him in they left him in the new place all on his own and spurred their horses back eager to return home. And here he was in his new home, a place he never knew, a place where he knows no one and that frightened him even more. 

The recruits were hacking and slashing at each other in the yard as he neared them. Will they ask me to do that as well? Sam thought. He will definitely put down his sword and cry the next moment they put him against someone. The recruits broke off as the one facing him saw him approaching them. He opened his visor and turned to the one he was sparring against. "Would you look at that, Edd?" 

The other one turned to look at him and the other recruits fell in beside them. Sam brought himself in front of them afraid of what they might say about him. His breath was heavy in his chest, result of the quick walk to the yard. "I am Samwell Tarly of Horn Hill," he managed to say. "I've come to take the black." 

"Come to take the black pudding," one of the recruits said. The other recruits laughed at that. 

"Enough!" The master at arms had a voice with an edge like Valyrian steel. He strode toward him, crisp black leathers whispering faintly as he moved. He was a compact man of fifty years, spare and hard, with grey in his black hair and eyes like chips of onyx. He looked him up and down and said, "It would seem they have run short of poachers and thieves down south. Now they send us pigs to man the Wall. Is fur and velvet your notion of armor, my Lord of Ham?"

"I have brought my own armor," Sam replied, voice shaking.

"Go dress in your armor then, Ser Piggy," the master-at-arms of Castle Black said. "That would keep off the swords from slicing off your meat." 

Breathless Sam hurried back to the room where he had kept his clothes and other things. He took his armor to the Master-at-arms; a padded doublet, boiled leather, mail and plate and helm. Sam took his shield as well, a great wood-and-leather shield blazoned with the striding huntsman.

When the knight saw his colored clothing he chuckled. "The Wall is no place for your colored finery, Ser Piggy. You shall have all of it dyed black. For now get to the armory and get a new set of armor."

Afraid of the man Sam hurried away to the armory, half walking and half running. 

The armorer inspected at his armor when he showed it to him. "That is a fine armor you've got there," the armorer said. "But the colors should have to go out. Leave it here, you shall have it once I dye it black." 

Sam placed his armor on the table. He had no problem in leaving the armor and shield. He would've gladly given them away since it was of no use to him or rather he was of no use to an armor as his father had liked to tell him. 

The armorer gave the briefest of glances to him and turned over to look at his tables and the stone wall behind him from where a dozen set of armors and swords hung from hooks. "Looks like we've got nothing to match you, boy." 

Sam felt a sudden relief at that. No armor meant that he did not have to fight. He sat heavily on the long wooden bench and allowed himself a moment to savor the relief. But it didn't last long though as the armorer collected some different pieces of different armors and put them on the table to work on it.

"It'll take sometime boy," the armorer said as he cut some leather straps. "Thorne can go to hell." 

It took half the morning for the armorer to fix a set of armor for him. His girth required the armorer to take apart a mail hauberk and refit it with leather panels at the sides. To get a helm over his head the armorer had to detach the visor. His leathers bound so tightly around his legs and under his arms that he could scarcely move.

"Let us hope you are not as inept as you look," the master-at-arms said when he saw him dressed in the armor. "Rast, see what Ser Piggy can do."

Next thing he knew, Sam found himself facing a short and stout boy who was dressed up in a black armor as well. 

Afraid, Sam raised his blunted sword against the other recruit. The recruit named Rast knocked his sword away from his hand with a savage blow, the shock of impact running up his arm as the swords crashed together. Another blow to his covered belly had him on the hard-packed ground of the yard.

"I yield," he shrilled. "No more, I yield, don't hit me."

Even then, the master-at-arms would not call an end. "On your feet, Ser Piggy," he called. "Pick up your sword." When he continued to cling to the ground, the master-at-arms sounded again. "Hit him with the flat of your blade until he finds his feet." Rast delivered a tentative smack to his back. "You can hit harder than that," the master-at-arms said to his foe again. The boy Rast brought his sword down so hard the blow split leather, even on the flat and found his flesh. Sam screeched in pain. His whole body shook as blood leaked through his shattered helm and between his fingers.

"On your feet," the master-at-arms repeated. Sam struggled to rise. His palms and fingers were so sweaty that he slipped, and fell heavily again. "Ser Piggy is starting to grasp the notion," the master-at-arms observed. "Again."

Sam was waiting for another blow to fall when he heard the sound.  "That's, enough." 

Sam looked for the voice. Three of the recruits had backed him up. 

"I remind you that I am the master-at-arms here, Tollet." The master-at-arms said in that sharp, cold voice of his. 

"He yielded," the one named Tollet urged, ignoring the master-at-arms as best he could. "There's no honor in beating a fallen foe." He knelt beside him and helped to his feet. 

Rast lowered his sword. "He yielded," he echoed. 

The master-at-arms' onyx eyes were fixed on him. If he was not angry before he was now. Sam could see it clearly. The master-at-arms smiled. "Dolorous Edd wishes to defend his lady love, so we shall make an exercise of it. Stone Head, Pimple, help our Rat here." Two of the other recruits moved to join his foe. And another two joined to help Tollet. 

Sam saw the fight from the side opposite to the master-at-arms. The recruits on the side of his foe were big men but the recruits who had helped him stood their ground. One by one the recruits who had helped him knocked the other recruits' swords away. 

The master-at-arms surveyed the scene with disgust. "The mummer's farce has gone on long enough for today." He walked away. Sam knew the session was at an end. 

When he was gone, Sam moved over to the recruits who helped him. "Let me," he told. Sam unfastened helm from gorget and lifted it off gently. "Did he hurt you?" 

"I've been bruised before." Tollet touched his shoulder and winced. The yard was emptying around them. 

Blood matted Sam's hair where Rast had split his helm asunder. "My name is Samwell Tarly. I . . . if you want, you can call me Sam. My mother calls me Sam."

"You can call him Dolorous Edd," Pyp said as he came up to join them. "You don't want to know what his mother calls him." 

"These two are Grenn and Pypar," Edd said. He was a thin boy, sour and grey haired. 

"Grenn's the ugly one," Pyp said. 

Grenn scowled. "You're uglier than me. At least I don't have ears like a bat." 

"My thanks to all of you," Sam told them. 

"Why didn't you get up and fight?" Grenn demanded. "I wanted to, truly. I just . . . I couldn't. I didn't want him to hit me anymore." He looked at the ground. "I . . . I fear I'm a coward. My lord father always said so." 

The recruits looked thunderstruck. No one had a word to say. Sam knew this would happen. No one likes to be with a coward. "I . . . I'm sorry," he said. "I don't mean to . . . to be like I am." He walked heavily toward the armory. 

He took off the armor and hanged it on the hook. He was so tired. Sam sat on the bench for some time. Tears filled his eyes as he sat there. He left for his room afraid that someone would see him cry. He stayed in his room and sobbed in the solitude of his room until it was nightfall.

When the tears finally stopped, Sam was hungry. He walked to the common hall where they will be serving the night's food. The wind was rising, and he could hear the old wooden buildings creaking around him, and in the distance a heavy shutter banging, over and over, forgotten. Once there was a muffled thump as a blanket of snow slid from a roof and landed near him. 

It took some good time before he finally reached it. He walked past half other cells and reached the great timbered common hall. Inside, the hall was immense and drafty, even with a fire roaring in its great hearth. Crows nested in the timbers of its lofty ceiling. Sam heard their cries overhead as he accepted a bowl of stew and a pork pie from the day's cooks. Edd, Pyp, Grenn and some of the other recruits were seated at the bench nearest the warmth, laughing and cursing each other in rough voices. Sam eyed them thoughtfully for a moment. Then he chose a spot at the far end of the hall, well away from the other diners.

Sam sat in the bench, alone. He pulled off his gloves and warmed his hands in the steam rising from the bowl. The smell made his mouth water. The stew was hot with barley, onion, carrot and turnip floating in it. 

A group of the black brothers were dicing over mulled wine near the fire. The high officers of the Night's Watch sat together on the raised dais. Sam's bench was far from the others and he knew that he would be forever alone in this bench. He was finishing the last of the pork pie they had served for supper when a voice called out to him. 

"So you're the new boy," a black brother said as he seated himself across from him with a tankard in his hand. "Thorne had something to say about you."

Sam widened his eyes and saw the man. He was a gaunt and strong man with blue-grey eyes, dressed all in black. "Th... Thorne?"

"Ser Alliser Thorne," the man said. "The master-at-arms." 

Yes, Sam remembered now. How could he ever forget that man.  "Wha... What did he say?"

The black brother must've realized his fears. He gave a quick look at him and then to Ser Alliser on the bench on the other end of the hall. "As usual as you could ever expect from him." 

Sam was so frightened to even look at Ser Alliser so he kept his eyes down at the stew. 

"You're Samwell Tarly, no?" the black brother asked. 

Sam wondered how the man came to know about him. Someone must've told him of how he had cried in the yard. By now everyone would've known about him, of Sam the Craven. He nodded lightly.

"I'm Benjen Stark, the First Ranger of the Night's Watch." 

Sam looked up from the stew to look at the man. Benjen Stark, the First Ranger of the Night's Watch. He had been a brother of both a king and a queen, though both ruled different kingdoms. He had no reason to sit with Sam the Craven. 

Benjen Stark must have known what he was thinking about. "How do you like the Wall, Sam?" he asked. 

Sam looked at him still surprised to speak. "I... I... It's too cold."

"Yes. Cold and hard and mean, that's the Wall, and the men who walk it," Ben Stark said. "But they will be your brothers soon and you'll do no good by being alone." 

"I don't want to be alone," Sam admitted. He looked to the bench where the other recruits were sitting, enjoying their time together. He wanted to join them but something inside stopped him from doing so. He looked back to Benjen Stark. "But they won't want me there." 

"You don't know that until you try it." 

"Is that how it was for you?" Sam asked hesitantly. "So... So easy?" 

"Easy?" Ben Stark snorted. "I had a brother once. You must've known about him." 

Sam knew him of course. Benjen Stark was the brother of Eddard Stark, the King in the North. 

"I loved him as much as a man could love his brother," Ben Stark continued. "Even now he has a place in my heart and he will have it for the rest of my days. I loved my goodsister too, as much as I loved my brother. And their little son... I loved him as if he was my own son. They were my family once and when I learnt about their death all I wanted was to go south and squeeze the lives out of all the people who had played a part in their death. But I understood it better than that. We put aside our old families when we swear our vows. My brother and his wife and son will always have a special place in my heart, but these are my brothers now." He gestured with his forefinger at the men around them, all the hard cold men in black. 

"They are my family now. So tell me Samwell Tarly, do you want a family or do you want to be alone?"

Sam looked at all the men in the hall. Horn Hill was never a home for him maybe he could change Castle Black as his home. He could make them as his family. "I'd love to have a family." 

"Good," said the First Ranger. "So next time I won't see you alone Samwell Tarly." With that the First Ranger of Castle Black left him to join with his brothers. 

That night Sam stayed awake on his bed for a long time thinking about what Benjen Stark had said. As the First Ranger had said in the next few days Sam found himself comfortable with the place. Edd had some good talks with him. He encouraged him to join the others at the bench and Sam was hesitant about it at first. A few nights later, at Edd's urging, he joined them for the evening meal, taking a place on the bench beside Halder. It was another fortnight before he found the nerve to join their talk, but in time he was laughing at Pyp's faces and teasing Grenn with the best of them.

As he stayed in bed that day, his heart so much lighter than it had been in years Samwell Tarly thought how true Benjen Stark had been in his talk with him.  

Chapter Text

Andrew

The stars began to fade in the eastern sky and Braavos was filled in the morning mist. Outside the world was grey of fogs and pink in the first light of dawn. Andrew watched them all from his bed. Watching was all he did for the past few days. He woke up, stayed in the bed, watching the canals ran beneath the room on top of a stone building half submerged under water, watching Joy taking care of her household, watching the day rises with the sun and ends with the rising of stars and then slept again. He was too weak to do anything else. His bad leg ached when he moved it or when he tried to walk. More than half a dozen time he tried to get up from the bed and get away but no sooner did he placed his legs on the floor and took a step his leg bucked under him and he ended up on the floor. 

As he tried again and again to walk it seemed more like starting it all from the first again. He felt like a child who has troubles making his steps and walking his way. He remembered the time when he learned to walk for the first time in Winterfell. He had started it in the godswood with his parents both of them there with him to watch him walk. Andrew had used the Old Gods of the north as a support when he first stood on his two feet. He had leaned against the white bark of the weirwood, getting up further and further until he found his feet. He remembered how he swayed and struggled on the moss covered floor of the godswood and before he could fall his mother had reached him gathering him safe in her arms. Only now, Ashara Dayne is not here to help him nor is Eddard Stark. 

Joy helped him back to the bed now every time he found himself down. She helped him to his feet every time with a certain softness gracing from her. "You shouldn't walk until I ask you to," the girl would say every time as she eases him back on the bed. He would stay in the bed hearing her words until it would bore him again and he would walk and fall again. 

Andrew sat up against the headboard and watched Joy as she went on about doing her morning chores. Everyday she would've been already awake by the time he woke up. He would glance her by the fires cooking something, or going on about his medicines or bandages. Somedays he would see her sewing or saying her prayers. Everyday they would talk and the more they talked he came to know more about her. 

Joy had come to Braavos with her father when she was five. Her mother was a Braavosi and Gerion Lannister had brought her to Braavos so she could see the home of her mother. Her father had left her here with a promise and a kiss and continued his voyage to Valyria to find the long lost valyrian steel sword of the Lannisters, Brightroar. Gerion Lannister had promised her to take her back to Casterly Rock when he comes back from his voyage. An empty promise, Andrew thought sadly. No one enters Valyria and comes back alive to tell the tale of it. Darker stuff and remnants of the blood magic still reigned heavily in the ruined city and the air was filled with the use of dark arts. Even the Smoking Sea around the ruined city was dangerous as the land itself. Filled with volcanoes and smoking stacks of rock, it is said to boil in places and to be haunted by demons. Andrew had known many a men who had boasted of braving the Smoking Sea to enter the ruined city and get the treasures that might have survived the Doom of Valyria. But none of them did very much neared even the Smoking Sea. They would return back defeated and empty-handed. 

Joy had faith in her father though. Even after all these years she still prayed for her father to come back. She still believed that her father would come back. Andrew felt sad for her. She was a sweet girl. She had hope that her father would return and he had no mind to break her hope just like that. He might even want to thank Gerion Lannister for briging her here. If it wasn't for her he would've been dead already. 

After her father had left Joy lived with her mother, Briony. When Gerion Lannister did not return as he told he would, it broke Joy's mother. After her mother's death Joy made her life on her own here in Braavos waiting for her father. And it was then she found him almost dead on the streets one day. Her mother had been a healer and Joy had learnt the arts of healing from her mother. It was with those arts she saved him and took care of him. 

He watched her as she went on to put a kettle over the fire. It has been long since Andrew had seen a sight so lovely as her. Joy may be a Hill but her looks proclaimed her as a Lannister. Everything about her screamed of the Lannisters of Casterly Rock and she was the utmost peak of the fabled Lannister beauty. Even in the gloomy fogs of Braavos she glowed so bright like the sun. Her golden hair caught even the faintest of the light and gleamed as if it was of molten gold. Her glittering emerald eyes were always kind and even in her simple gowns she was so beautiful and graceful as a queen. 

She took the kettle and came to him with the kettle of steaming hot water and fresh new linens. "We need to change your bandages," she said. 

When Andrew sat in a comfortable position she started her work. 

 "Are they still searching for me?" Andrew asked her, as Joy ran a blade up the linens of his chest, slicing the thin white cloth, crusty with old blood and sodden with new. 

Joy gave a barest of her glances to his bandages. "Yes. They are likely to continue it for some more time. Highborn and their pride... They would want the man dead who had sent them running for their life." 

"Rhaegar," Andrew winced as the girl's finger explored his wound, poking and prodding. "Is he here too—aaaaah, that hurts." He clenched his teeth. "Where are the men of Westeros?" 

"They have left with their survivors." Joy's words hurt a hundred times worse than her fingers. Andrew remembered the dragon as last he'd seen him, standing behind his army with his men surrounding all around him. He has gone? Andrew had missed the chance for his justice. 

"They left the place all of a sudden. They were searching for you as well and one day they just left. There were many men reported to be death and some disappeared too. " 

Search for them in the canals and they would find their bones in the bottom. He knew he had killed many men that day but all he had wanted was to get to Rhaegar but the others put themselves between him and Rhaegar.

"Why did you saved me?" Andrew asked Joy as she patched up the wound on his chest. "You have put yourself at danger by helping me. Why did you helped me?" 

Joy looked at him with her green eyes shining in the candlelight. "I don't know," she said as she applied some paste on the wound at his waist. "I brought you to my room at once I saw you. When I knew that it was you who killed all those men I just wanted to leave you away to your death." She looked up at him as she took the fresh linen in her hand. 

Wrapping the linen around him she continued. "But when I saw you just lying on the bed it felt as if you wanted to live," Joy said. She wrapped it around him twice more and cut the linen and bound it. "All of them were dead but you were alive. The gods let you live for some reason." 

Aye, they let me live to doom Rhaegar and his family. A stab of pain reminded him of his own woes. Joy squeezed his hand. "You are not yet properly healed. Sudden movements will not help you heal. Here drink this." 

Andrew tried to rise. "I don't need—" 

"You do," Joy said firmly. "This will hurt." Joy took a green flask and a rounded stone cup in her hand and poured it full. "Drink this." 

Andrew had bitten his lip in his struggles. He could taste blood mingled with the thick, chalky potion. It was all he could do not to retch it back up. He coughed, trying desperately to keep the liquid down. "What was that?" 

"Milk of the poppy," Joy said as she dabbed a cotton cloth in a basin of warm water, and washed the wound on his thigh. Gentle as she was, even the lightest touch made Andrew twitch his leg. It was his leg which took the worst of it. The arrow had pierced his leg from front to right through the back of his leg.

"Why did you killed them all?" Joy asked. "Did you came for the king? Did someone wanted the king dead?" 

I wanted him dead, Andrew would've said. That and much more if it wasn't for the pain on his leg.

"You can say it like that," Andrew told her. 

"One of the men you killed was my cousin," Joy said. "He was a kingsguard and a good man." 

So the dead kingsguard was her cousin then. Andrew shrugged. "Never knew him," he told her. His thoughts went more and more to his uncle Arthur. Noble, honorable and fun-loving uncle. "My uncle was a kingsguard once. When I was a little boy in Westeros I've looked at the kingsguard as if they were some kind of heroes. I even wanted to join them. But as I grew up I came to understand that they are the worst of them all."

Joy paused, washcloth in her hand. "Will you go again to kill him?"

He never knew the answer for that. He didn't know how he would kill Rhaegar again. He might've burrowed beneath the walls of his castle for safety now and scaling a unknown castle and getting inside to kill him will be a difficult thing. 

"I don't know," Andrew admitted. 

Joy finished bandaging his thigh and stood up with the ruined linen and clothes. She looked down at him. Her green eyes were still soft as summer grass. "If you got injured then good luck finding someone to help you."

Chapter Text

Tyrion

The rainfall was continuous that Tyrion rode in wet clothes everyday. Three days ride from Riverrun they found upon the first fall of the summer rain and it had never stopped after that. Tyrion huddled himself in a hooded bearskin cloak and rode through the rain without complaint. But the rain was not the best of his concern. As they came away from the domains of Riverrun there were talks of raw bandits harassing the small folk on the lands, hiding away from the eyes of the river lords. The more they rode away from the stronghold the more the talks of raids they heard. 

They were attacked for the first time when they were spending a night in the woods east to the Hills of the Golden Tooth away from Pinkmaiden. The bandits were a small party consisting of five men but was enough to overwhelm Tyrion's party of three, him and the two guards who had accompanied him from Casterly Rock, Jyck and Morrec. Suddenly the bandits had come thundering out of the dark blanket of the night. Though they were outnumbered Tyrion's party had managed to get away alive from it with Jyck dead. He had put on a bold show and rode bareback to charge at the bandits and got cut from behind while he sliced open at a man on his front. Jyck had been the good sword of the three and it was a bad blow for Tyrion to lose him. 

The second attack came two days after that in the break of dawn. This time Tyrion lost Morrec to a festered wound but he found himself alive with the help of a sellsword named Bronn. The sellsword had come out of nowhere and fought the bandits cutting them left and right. Tyrion never knew why the sellsword bothered helping him but he could see that the man thought to earn some gold from him assuming him as a lord by seeing his clothes. And paid him Tyrion did with the little gold he had and with promises of more. After all, A Lannister always pays his debts. Bronn stuck with him afterwards, getting the smell of gold as any sellsword would do. Tyrion had no problems with it though, Bronn was almost as good as his brother Jaime with a sword in hand and the way to Casterly Rock was so long. He might need his help again. 

As dusk came creeping in from the west, Tyrion stopped his horse. The rain had finally stopped and the trees were so thick and close that it made a natural shelter from the rain if it was to come again. Tyrion knew that the next time he would have a roof above his will be when they reach Golden Tooth, the stronghold of the Leffords but until then he wanted to make use of everything to keep him away from getting wet. 

Bronn had no complaints to say about his decision and he took both the horses to graze them beneath the nearby trees. The sellsword acquired Morrec's horse after he had no use for it and he sat it deftly. He had pulled off Morrec's boots as well. They were good boots, as befit one of Lord Tywin's men; heavy leather, oiled and supple, much finer than what Bronn had been wearing.

They took shelter beneath a copse of aspens. Tyrion was gathering deadwood while their horses took water from a nearby stream. He stooped to pick up a splintered branch and examined it critically. "Will this do? I am not practiced at starting fires. Morrec did that for me." 

"A fire?" Bronn said, spitting. "Are you so hungry to die, dwarf? Or have you taken leave of your senses? A fire will bring some other bandits down on us from miles around. I mean to survive this journey, Lannister." 

"And how do you hope to do that?" Tyrion asked. He tucked the branch under his arm and poked around through the sparse undergrowth, looking for more. His back ached from the effort of bending; they had been riding since daybreak as the sun came peeking out of the east sky. 

"We have no chance of fighting our way back if more of the bandits came," Bronn said, "but two can cover more ground than ten, and attract less notice. Ride hard and fast, I say." 

Tyrion Lannister sighed. "A splendid plan, Bronn. Try it, as you like . . . and forgive me if I do not linger to bury you." 

"You think to outlive me, dwarf?" The sellsword grinned. He had a dark gap in his smile where his tooth broke in half during the fight. 

Tyrion shrugged. "Riding hard and fast by night is a sure way to run your horse into a hole and break it's leg. If our mounts die under us we'll have a hard time reaching Casterly Rock. We need a fire. The nights are cold up here with the rain, and hot food will warm our bellies and lift our spirits. Speaking of food we might need to find some since the supplies I've brought from Riverrun has run out." 

"I can find meat." Beneath a fall of black hair, Bronn's dark eyes regarded Tyrion suspiciously. "I should leave you here with your fool's fire. If I took your horse, I'd have twice the chance to make it through. What would you do then, dwarf?" 

"Die, most like." Tyrion stooped to get another stick. 

"You don't think I'd do it?" 

"You'd do it in an instant, if it meant your life. But do that and you'll never get your gold." 

Bronn eyed him warily. "Make no mistake, dwarf," he said. "I fought for you, but I do not love you."

"It was your blade I needed," Tyrion said, "not your love." He dumped his armful of wood on the ground. 

Bronn grinned. "You're bold as any sellsword, I'll give you that." 

Tyrion squatted awkwardly on his stunted legs to build the fire. "Do you have a flint?" 

Bronn slid two fingers into the pouch at his belt and tossed down a flint. Tyrion caught it in the air.  

"Thank you, lowborn scum," he said. Tyrion struck the flint against his dagger, trying for a spark. Nothing. 

Bronn snorted. "You have a bold tongue, little man. One day someone is like to cut it out and make you eat it." 

If it ever happened, it will more likely be Cersei. Tyrion had said much and more that day at Riverrun to her and Cersei will remember them. He glanced up at the sellsword. "Did I offend you? My pardons . . . but you are scum, Bronn, make no mistake. Duty, honor, friendship, what's that to you? No, don't trouble yourself, we both know the answer. Still, you're not stupid. You helped me just because I was in rich clothes so that I would reward you. The one thing the Lannisters have never lacked for is gold. You need your gold and I have need of your sword so why not help each other." He slammed stone and steel together again, fruitlessly. 

"Here," said Bronn, squatting, "I'll do it." He took the knife and flint from Tyrion's hands and struck sparks on his first try. A curl of bark began to smolder. 

"Well done," Tyrion said. "Scum you may be, but you're undeniably useful, and with a sword in your hand you're almost as good as my brother Jaime. What do you want, Bronn? Gold? Land? Women? Keep me alive, and you'll have it." 

Bronn blew gently on the fire, and the flames leapt up higher. "And if you die?" 

"Why then, I'll have one mourner whose grief is sincere," Tyrion said, grinning. "The gold ends when I do." 

The fire was blazing up nicely. Bronn stood, tucked the flint back into his pouch, and tossed Tyrion his dagger. "Fair enough," he said. "My sword's yours, then . . . but don't go looking for me to bend the knee and m'lord you every time you take a shit. I'm not your toady nor your friend." 

"Though I would treasure your friendship, I'm mainly interested in your facility with murder." Tyrion said. "If the day ever comes when you're tempted to sell me out, remember this, whatever their price I'll beat it. I like living. And now, do you think you could do something about finding us some supper?" 

"Take care of the horses," Bronn said, unsheathing the long dirk he wore at his hip. He strode into the trees.

An hour later the horses had been rubbed down and fed, the fire was crackling away merrily, and a haunch of a young goat was turning above the flames, spitting and hissing. "All we lack now is some good wine to wash down our kid," Tyrion said. 

"That, a woman, and another dozen swords," Bronn said. He sat cross-legged beside the fire, honing the edge of his longsword with an oilstone. There was something strangely reassuring about the rasping sound it made when he drew it down the steel. "It will be full dark soon," the sellsword pointed out. "I'll take first watch . . . for all the good it will do us. It might be kinder to let them kill us in our sleep." 

Tyrion thought maybe the sellsword had a point. He should've got an escort when he left Riverrun. Robert had offered Tyrion a twenty good men from his own guards. "Take the men, imp," he had said when Tyrion refused him. "It will not be a good news to your father to hear about your death too." 

Oh, there will be no better news for Lord Tywin than learning the death of his younger son. He might even be fuming about the fact that Jaime died instead of him. He will be terribly wishing that it was Tyrion who had died in Jaime's place. But Tyrion had other plans. He would return back to his father as complete as his father had sent him to Riverrun that too with only the escort Lord Tywin had given him. He had refused Robert's men and now he wondered how big a mistake was it to refuse the men. 

The smell of the roasting meat made Tyrion's mouth water.  

He leaned over the fire and sawed a thin slice of meat from the kid. "Ahhhh," he sighed happily as he chewed. Grease ran down his chin. "A bit tougher than I'd like, and in want of spicing, but I'll not complain too loudly. I am content with it." 

Bronn yanked out his dirk and pulled the meat from the fire. He began to carve thick chunks of charred meat off the bone as Tyrion hollowed out two heels of stale bread to serve as trenchers. "If we do reach Casterly Rock, what will you do then?" the sellsword asked as he cut. 

"Oh, a whore and a featherbed and a flagon of wine, for a start." Tyrion held out his trencher, and Bronn filled it with meat. "And then I'll meet my lord father. I have some important things to do with him." 

By the time their bellies were full, the stars had come out and a halfmoon was rising over the mountains. Tyrion spread his bearskin cloak on the ground and stretched out with his saddle for a pillow. "Our friends are taking their sweet time." 

"If I were them, I'd fear a trap," Bronn said. "Why else would we be so open, if not to lure them in?" 

Tyrion chuckled. "Then we ought to sing and send them fleeing in terror." He began to whistle a tune. 

"You're mad, dwarf," Bronn said as he cleaned the grease out from under his nails with his dirk. 

"Where's your love of music, Bronn?" 

"If it was music you wanted, you should have gotten yourself a singer to guard you." 

Tyrion grinned. "That would have been amusing." He resumed his whistling. "Do you know this song?" he asked. 

"You hear it here and there, in inns and whorehouses." 

"Myrish. ‘The Seasons of My Love.' Sweet and sad, if you understand the words. The first girl I ever bedded used to sing it, and I've never been able to put it out of my head." Tyrion gazed up at the sky. It was a clear cold night and the stars shone down upon the mountains as bright and merciless as truth. "I met her on a night like this," he heard himself saying. "Jaime and I were riding back from Lannisport when we heard a scream, and she came running out into the road with two men dogging her heels, shouting threats. My brother unsheathed his sword and went after them, while I dismounted to protect the girl. She was scarcely a year older than I was, dark-haired, slender, with a face that would break your heart. It certainly broke mine. Lowborn, half-starved, unwashed . . . yet lovely. They'd torn the rags she was wearing half off her back, so I wrapped her in my cloak while Jaime chased the men into the woods. By the time he came trotting back, I'd gotten a name out of her, and a story. She was a crofter's child, orphaned when her father died of fever, on her way to . . . well, nowhere, really. 

"Jaime was all in a lather to hunt down the men. It was not often outlaws dared prey on travelers so near to Casterly Rock, and he took it as an insult. The girl was too frightened to send off by herself, though, so I offered to take her to the closest inn and feed her while my brother rode back to the Rock for help. 

"She was hungrier than I would have believed. We finished two whole chickens and part of a third, and drank a flagon of wine, talking. I was only thirteen, and the wine went to my head, I fear. The next thing I knew, I was sharing her bed. If she was shy, I was shyer. I'll never know where I found the courage. When I broke her maidenhead, she wept, but afterward she kissed me and sang her little song, and by morning I was in love."  

"You?" Bronn's voice was amused. 

"Absurd, isn't it?" Tyrion began to whistle the song again. "I married her," he finally admitted. 

"A Lannister of Casterly Rock wed to a crofter's daughter," Bronn said. "How did you manage that?"

"Oh, you'd be astonished at what a boy can make of a few lies, fifty pieces of silver, and a drunken septon. I dared not bring my bride home to Casterly Rock, so I set her up in a cottage of her own, and for a fortnight we played at being man and wife. And then the septon sobered and confessed all to my lord father." Tyrion was surprised at how desolate it made him feel to say it, even after all these years. Perhaps he was just tired. "That was the end of my marriage." He sat up and stared at the dying fire, blinking at the light. 

"He sent the girl away?"

"He did better than that," Tyrion said. "First he made my brother tell me the truth. The girl was a whore, you see. Jaime arranged the whole affair, the road, the outlaws, all of it. He thought it was time I had a woman. He paid double for a maiden, knowing it would be my first time. 

"After Jaime had made his confession, to drive home the lesson, Lord Tywin brought my wife in and gave her to his guards. They paid her fair enough. A silver for each man, how many whores command that high a price? He sat me down in the corner of the barracks and made me watch, and at the end she had so many silvers the coins were slipping through her fingers and rolling on the floor, she . . . " The smoke was stinging his eyes. Tyrion cleared his throat and turned away from the fire, to gaze out into darkness. "Lord Tywin had me go last," he said in a quiet voice. "And he gave me a gold coin to pay her, because I was a Lannister, and worth more." 

After a time he heard the noise again, the rasp of steel on stone as Bronn sharpened his sword. "Thirteen or thirty or three, I would have killed the man who did that to me." 

Tyrion swung around to face him. "You may get that chance one day. Remember what I told you. A Lannister always pays his debts." He yawned. "I think I will try and sleep. Wake me if we're about to die." 

He rolled himself up in the bearskin and shut his eyes. The ground was stony and cold, but after a time Tyrion Lannister did sleep. As he slept he dreamed of a better place, a snug little cottage by the sunset sea.

 

Chapter Text

Rhaegar

Balerion brought them to the port of King's Landing at first light. Only when Bezzaro finished his prayer did the king stepped down from the war galley.  There was already a good party of escort waiting for him. Aegon was at their head, dressed in black and grey, the colors of both his parents. He had not thought to see his son here. Aegon was always aware of his duty and what was needed of him. And he was needed at the Red Keep in his absence. If he was here then he must have reasons to be here. 

The men all went to one knee when he stepped onto the ground and the sight was almost pleasing. When people fear you it is the most intoxicating sensation a man can possess. He had learned that long ago. A move of his fingers had them all on their feet again. 

"Aegon," Rhaegar said walking to his son. He pulled him in for a tight embrace. He had missed his son. He still remembered the day he had put him over his dragon for the first time. He missed the old times. 

"Father," Aegon greeted him back with a melancholic smile. The boy had got his brooding, melancholic face from him. 

"My prince," Bezzaro followed him. 

Aegon greeted him with a simple word. His son never liked the red priest much. He shouted some orders to prepare for their ride back to the Red Keep on Aegon's Hill. A boy brought two horses for him and Bezzaro. Rhaegar mounted his ride and the column fell in behind him after his kingsguard. Aegon rode to his left while Bezzaro stayed in his right flanked by the three remaining Kingsguard.

They rode from the port at once accompanied by a dozen citywatch guards in their gold cloaks and gold enameled halfhelms. As they passed beneath the river gate, his son came beside him. Looking at him Rhaegar could say that something was troubling him. “Father,” he called, “What happened in Braavos?” 

Rhaegar grew hesitant. “Its nothing to worry about,” he managed himself to say. "Someone has paid to see me dead. But no worries, the killer lays dead in the gutter."  

“But who was that?" Aegon asked. "Who wants you dead? You should've tried to catch him alive. We could've got the answer from him.” 

That is if I had managed to catch him in the first place. The bastard had slipped through his hands, escaping by using the canals. Rhaegar prayed to the gods to keep him alive just so he could take his filthy life away from him. 

“You don't have to worry over it. It would've been either one of Stark's friend.” But he knew that was not the truth. Robert would never send an assassin to do the work for him. Jon Arryn, too honorable to do it. He would put his money on Tywin Lannister. When he heard of Viserys' death Rhaegar had been so sure that it was not the work of Tywin but now with the thing happened to him he doubted no one more. But the lion was a cunning one. Tywin wouldn't have allowed Jaime to accompany if he had already planned this. 

“You don't have to trouble over it son. I'm planning to deal with them soon.” Rhaegar put his heels into his horse and trotted away, leaving the gold cloaks to follow as best they could. 

He had intended to take the measure of the city when he was in Braavos. Rhaegar Targaryen was not pleased by much of what he saw. The streets of King’s Landing had always been teeming and raucous and noisy, but now they reeked of danger in a way that he did not recall from past visits. The streets were filled with poor fellows eying them covetously with pale eyes and hollow cheeks. Watchmen were much in evidence, moving in pairs through the alleys in their gold cloaks and shirts of black ringmail, iron cudgels never far from their hands. The markets were crowded with ragged men selling their household goods for any price they could get… and conspicuously empty of farmers selling food. What little produce he did see was three times as costly as it had been a year ago. One peddler was hawking rats roasted on a skewer. “Fresh rats,” he cried loudly, “fresh rats.” Doubtless fresh rats were to be preferred to old stale rotten rats. The frightening thing was, the rats looked more appetizing than most of what the butchers were selling. On the Street of Flour, Tyrion saw guards at every other shop door. When times grew lean, even bakers found sellswords cheaper than bread, he reflected. 

“There is no food coming in, is there?” he said to Aegon. 

“Little enough,” his son admitted. “I've asked Lord Mace Tyrell to send a raven to Highgarden and bring in more food. But without the riverlands it is twice as hard to find food for the entire city.” 

“And what have you done about keeping the peace?” Rhaegar asked as he saw a naked corpse in the gutter being torn apart by some dogs. 

“I've been taking steps to restore the king’s peace,” Aegon assured him. “I've tripled the size of the City Watch and put it under the command of Ser Jacelyn Bywater, and Daenerys has put a thousand craftsmen to work on our defenses. We lost Vhagar and Meraxes in a storm but the new Master of Ships, Aurane Waters has started to build others to replace them. The stonemasons are strengthening the walls, carpenters are building scorpions and catapults by the hundred, fletchers are making arrows, the smiths are forging blades, and our dragons stay strong.” 

Rhaegar shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. He was pleased that his son had not been idle. They might need all of them so soon. “I have not finalised the deal with the Iron Bank though. We might want to make sure to every coin from the royal coffers wisely.” 

“We might want to talk to Littlefinger about that. But I don't like him, father.” 

“You don't have to like the man,” Rhaegar said. "You just have to like his work. He is a skilled man. Ask him to raise the taxes by three times than the old. It should put some gold in our coffers." 

Aegon looked at him wide-eyed and surprised. "It's cruel. The people can't manage to pay it." It's Cruel, yes, but Clever. Clever and cruel. They had an ample amount of gold in the royal coffers but restoring the city and strengthening it will take more coin. The increasing of taxes would fill the royal coffers again. 

"I never said to increase it today," Rhaegar told him. "Get the food from the Tyrells and feed them. When they sing songs about you for your generosity raise the taxes. They'll have to pay because they can't eat gold." 

"And what about Varys?" Aegon asked. "You said that you'll take care of him once you came back." 

Rhaegar sighed. "Varys has his flaws," he admitted. "But he has proven useful in more than one occasion. Especially in the thing with the Outlaw, Eddard Stark. Him and Baelish. I said I'll change them in due time and I shall. Now, all we have to worry about is your marriage."

"Speaking of marriage," Aegon started, "there is something you need to know."

"What is it?"

"The Martells are here," Aegon said. "With Prince Oberyn Martell." 

Oberyn... He is here. Rhaegar has not spoken with Oberyn ever since Harrenhal. The Red Viper of Dorne had stayed away from him after that. He wondered if Elia had something to do with it. Now he has seen it fit to face him after seventeen years. He wondered what kind of troubles Oberyn is going to bring. It was not a secret that Oberyn blamed him for Elia and their children's death. Of all the people he had known, Oberyn was the most dangerous. No one knows when the viper strikes and no one knows why the viper strikes. 

"When did he arrived?" Rhaegar asked his son. 

"A moon ago." 

"And Doran Martell?" 

"Prince Doran never came. His health is not so good as to make the journey," Aegon answered. 

That's not good. If someone can talk some sense into Oberyn Martell it was Doran. 

"Where is Lyanna?" 

Aegon looked back at him hesitantly. "In the Godswood," he said at last. "I don't know what is wrong with her. She has been like this ever since you left for Braavos. I have never seen her like that." 

He might want to talk to her too. Gods be damned. He had thought that getting back home would help him to get away from the things happened in Braavos. He would have gladly chosen to stay in Braavos if it had known that he had so much waiting for him here. 

They took the short route to Aegon's Hill and soon came to the Red Keep. As he had predicted Oberyn was waiting for him in the yard, dressed in flowing robes of striped orange, yellow, and scarlet.

The others in the yard knelt at once when Rhaegar dismounted but Oberyn never did. He just stood there on the ground as if he owned it. 

"Prince Oberyn," Rhaegar greeted him. 

"Your Grace," Oberyn said tilting his head lightly in a nod. 

"I'm pleased to know that you came to welcome me," Rhaegar said. 

"The pleasure was mine," Oberyn said, dark eyes shining. "I should welcome the King and his trusted advisor." He eyed Bezzaro with black eyes darkening with rage. 

Rhaegar was not ready for the Red Viper's plays right now. "I'm sorry, Prince Oberyn. The long journey has left me exhausted," Rhaegar told him as politely as he could. "So if you'll excuse me, we'll talk again after."

"Why, we shall have the talk on the way," Oberyn said. "I shall not take much of your time."

After sending Aegon away to Lyanna, Rhaegar joined Prince Oberyn and walked with him to the castle. Bezzaro followed him with the kingsguard trailing behind. There was a certain wickedness in Oberyn's smirk that Rhaegar hated. "Are you finding King's Landing to you like, Prince Oberyn?" 

"Oh, I like it," The Red Viper said with a chuckle. "It is certainly more kind to me than it was to another Martell once. 

"I am glad that you find it kind to you," Rhaegar held his head high. He would not give into the viper's pushing. "Most don't." 

"And that is why I've come here. To make it more hospitable." 

Will he ever grow tired of this talk? He knew the answer to it. This is the Red Viper of Dorne. He knows how to use his tongue as well as he knows how to use his fangs.

"Seems like you've got a new advisor now," Oberyn said cocking his head at Bezzaro. "As a replacement to Arthur Dayne?" 

"Take it what you will." 

"Your father had an advisor as well," Oberyn said, his voice growing as dark as his eyes. "One who burns people." 

"Do you take me for my father?" Rhaegar asked him coldly. "If I was my father you would have lost your tongue by now. You should be glad that I'm not my father. I'm a dragon but not my father." 

By way of answer Prince Oberyn gave a smirk, and said, "When the Young Dragon conquered Dorne so long ago, he left the Lord of Highgarden to rule us after the Submission of Sunspear. This Tyrell moved with his tail from keep to keep, chasing rebels and making certain that our knees stayed bent. He would arrive in force, take a castle for his own, stay a moon's turn, and ride on to the next castle. It was his custom to turn the lords out of their own chambers and take their beds for himself. One night he found himself beneath a heavy velvet canopy. A sash hung down near the pillows, should he wish to summon a wench. He had a taste for Dornish women, this Lord Tyrell, and who can blame him? So he pulled upon the sash, and when he did the canopy above him split open, and a hundred red scorpions fell down upon his head. His death lit a fire that soon swept across Dorne, undoing all the Young Dragon's victories in a fortnight. The kneeling men stood up, and we were free again." 

"Is that a threat?" asked Rhaegar. "You would need more than a hundred scorpions to kill a dragon." 

"If I find the need to threat you, I'll do it to your face." 

"We don't have any problem between us, Oberyn," Rhaegar tried to reason. "What happened to Elia was an injustice. I have brought my father low for it. Make no mistake I have not forgotten her no more than I forget our children." 

"Oh, do you?" The prince's eyes were dark with amusement. "Tell me, what you have not forgotten, Elia and your children's deaths or the man who burned them?" 

"You see, Your Grace," Oberyn said, softly. "I have found a certain guard who saw you bring your father low. He sings songs of your great victory that day and I've heard his songs and like you, I have not forgotten those songs as well."

With that the Red Viper never even waited for a reply from him and all he saw was the man walking away from him danger dripping from his every step. 

Chapter Text

Andrew

Joy was dressed in a forest green gown and had a heavy cloak around her shoulders. Looking at her he could say that she was going out. 

"Where are you going?" Andrew asked as she went to fix a brooch to pin her cloak. 

"Outside," Joy said. "I need to go get some things." 

Andrew sat up on the bed. "Give me some time," he told her. "I'll come with you." 

He had stayed in the bed for too long. Staying here won't do any good for him. He needed to go out and see the world with his own eyes. He needed to walk, needed to find another way to get his justice. The pain was still there in his injured leg but Andrew thought he could manage to walk. 

"Help me up," he said, struggling with the bedclothes. "It's time I saw the outside world, and past time I let myself be seen again." He thought about Illola and the girls, they would be worried for me right now, especially Illola. Illola had known where he had left that day when the king of Westeros came to Braavos. With all the talks surrounding him and that day she would be worried sick for him. 

Joy rushed to him at once but not to help him. "No," she said at once, easing him back to lie on the bed. "Just because you could walk you can't come that long way with me." 

She was sweet but can be stubborn when she wanted. He has never known someone so stubborn as her. There were times where he wondered whether someone could be more stubborn than her. "But I can't just sit here on this bed for all day. I need some fresh air." 

"No," She said again. "You can't walk the distance. You'll not make it." 

"I won't know that until I try." Andrew could see that she was still not convinced. 

"It is so dangerous. They are still searching for you." 

"They can go to hell," Andrew said. "I can't just stay here on this bed everyday. I need to know that I can still use my legs. I need to walk." In truth he needed more than that. He needed a plan and another chance to kill Rhaegar. He could learn something about him from the mouth of a passing sailer or a drunken sellsword. But saying that to Joy will make sure that he never stepped away from the bed. 

His words made Joy to think about it if not his thoughts. Joy was a healer and she knew that he would want to walk sooner rather than later. He was glad that he told her about it. 

"Alright," she gave in at last. "But when we're outside you do as I ask you to do. You follow me." 

Andrew chuckled. "As you say, my lady." He got that pretty glare he always got when he called her that. He slid from the bed to the floor. His legs felt strong beneath him, though not as strong as they had been once. He would get his strength back though, Joy said that much. He was healing faster and his health improved quickly. Once he was back to normal he would go for Rhaegar again. He had missed Rhaegar once, missed but not lost. Joy grasped his arm to help him find his footing. She left him once when he had no troubles standing without the support. 

She came back with his clothes, a bundle of white and brown. 

"Here," she said as she gave the clothes to him. "I've washed and mend your clothes. I have no clothes for men other than my father's but rich clothes will attract too many eyes." 

She had done a good job at washing and mending his clothes. His white shirt and jacket had been covered in blood that day. Though most of the blood would have been washed away when he had jumped into the canal. It would've been still a hard thing to return the garments to its original color but Joy had somehow managed to get it back. She was pretty good at sewing too. He could see that by how fine she had managed to stitch to make the cloth back to its shape. 

It took both of them to clothe him. Joy was careful with his wounds as she had no mind to make it worse. It was the arrows which had made the worst of the wounds. The swords never managed to get him other than the golden sword of Joy's cousin. Even it was a small cut near his eyebrow and the others were all scrapes which will not even leave a scar. 

Joy brought a cloak to him as he was lacing his boots. "Wear this," she said handing it to him. "It was my father's. It would serve to keep your face hidden." 

The cloak was a hooded one, roughspun with lambswool and so dark that it would not be visible in the night. Only when she was okay with his look did she finally brought him out.

Outside the day was pleasantly warm for Braavos. Andrew took off his cloak. He was getting outside for the first time in what felt like years and he wanted to feel the cool air against his face, the warmth of the sun on his skin. 

Joy immediately found it as complaint. 

"A hooded man on a pleasant day will attract unwanted attention as well," Andrew tried to reason and his reasoning worked. She agreed to it on a condition that he cloak himself if they were to come upon any guards. 

They walked through the street away from the sinking point of land where the tops of half-drowned buildings thrust themselves above the water. There were so many big buildings all together in one place. He had seen a good number of great castles in Westeros, Winterfell was definitely large, Storm's End larger and Starfall was the tallest castle he had ever seen. All of them had been at different places. Winterfell in the North, Storm's End in the Stormlands and Starfall in Dorne, but Braavos seemed to boast a score of temples and towers and palaces that were as large if not larger all in the same place. 

When they reached the main canal, they took the way from the north of the docks and down the stone pathway along a great canal, a broad green waterway that ran straight into the heart of the city through which Andrew had escaped from death. The mouths of lesser canals opened to either side, and others still smaller off of those. A fancy floating house with lanterns of colored glass, covered with velvet drapes was making its way along the main canal. A brazen figurehead in the likeness of a snake was placed on one end. 

They cut through a massive grey stone roadway supported by three tiers of mighty arches marching away south into the haze. The sweetwater river ran quietly, bringing fresh water from the mainland, across the mudflats and the briny shallows. Good sweet water for the fountains. He could see The Isle of the Gods from here. Six bridges down, on the right bank the Temple of the Moonsingers stood, a mighty mass of snow-white marble topped by a huge silvered dome whose milk glass windows showed all the phases of the moon. A pair of marble maidens flanked its gates, supporting a crescent-shaped lintel. 

Beyond it stood the temple of the Lord of Light, a red stone edifice as stern as any fortress. Atop its great square tower a fire blazed in an iron brazier twenty feet across, whilst smaller fires flanked its brazen doors. The red priests loved their fires. One could always see fires in the temple of R'hllor. 

The Holy Refuge came next, a huge brick structure festooned with lichen. More shrines loomed up to either side of the canal.

The road by the Long Canal took them beneath the green copper domes of the Palace of Truth and the tall square towers of the Prestayns and Antaryons and passed through the immense grey arches of the sweetwater river to the district known as Silty Town, where the buildings were smaller and less grand. The canal was choked with serpent boats and barges, but the road was almost free for them. 

Joy took him first to the market in the Purple Harbor, it was swarming with sailors and shopkeepers and innkeppers and drunkards. Herring sellers and cod wives, oystermen, clam diggers, stewards, cooks, smallwives, and sailors off the galleys, all haggling loudly with one another as they inspected the things they wanted, some inspected fish, some flour, others bread and wine and some were interested in the courtesans. There were a couple of guards from the city watch, standing near a whorehouse with a cup of wine in one hand and a woman on the other. They were so occupied with their wine and women that they never even spared a look at him. 

The harbor was always a busy place. He saw sailors on the prowl for whores, and whores on the prowl for sailors. A pair of bravos passed in rumpled finery, leaning on each other as they staggered drunkenly past the docks, their blades rattling at their sides. A red priest swept past, his scarlet and crimson robes snapping in the wind. 

Joy went on about to buy all the things she needed and Andrew followed her closely. As she moved from one shop to another she always went on to give some coins to the beggars nearby. Once she bought some sweets and gave it to the children running around. Looking at her with the children around her, Andrew remembered the day he visited the smallfolk in the north near to Winterfell with his mother. He had been a little child himself, about five years old, younger than all the children around Joy. That was the first time he had ridden out with his mother to meet the people of the north. The people had looked at them and received them happily. Everyone had smiles for them and they were so happy to see his mother. They even knew her name. "Queen Ashara" they had called her as she passed by. 

They visited all the people. His mother bought apples and cakes for the children. They had surrounded her like the children who were surrounding Joy now and all of them had been so happy and had big smiles in their faces. They had dined in an inn there, where a woman with rose colored hair had given him strawberries. The memory put a smile on his face. He never knew how he remembered all of them but looking at Joy smiling with the children, he could almost see his mother smiling with the children in Winter Town.

Joy then went to a baker and got some freshly baked bread and a bag of raw flour. It was well past midday when she bought all the things. They munched on bread on their way back home. Andrew insisted they take the long route because it felt good to walk after the long bedrest. Joy obliged without any complaint and they took the long route back home. He had a mind to go see Illola and the girls but he was already tired. 

The sun was already down when they reached Joy's building. The mists of evening had begun to rise, sending grey fingers up the walls of the buildings that lined the old canal. He could see three men leaning against the door of Joy's room. Two of them had lanterns with them. The fire made their faces visible amidst the fogs. Joy stopped at once when she saw them. 

"Do you know them?" Andrew asked. 

Joy nodded slowly. He could see that something was wrong. Andrew followed her up the steps. The one who had no lantern came up to block the way when Joy stepped up to the door. 

"I came to see you," he said. He was tall and thin, dressed in rich clothes of a heavy cloak of plush brown velvet trimmed with fur and a brown leather belt ornamented with silver moons and stars.

"I never asked you to come," Joy walked past him and opened the door to enter the room. The three men followed her inside and Andrew got in after them. 

"You wound me, sweet lady," the thin man said. "Just the sight of you makes my cock so hard that it aches for you." 

When he saw Andrew he turned to him. "Who are you?" He turned to Joy then. "Is he your lover now? Have you fallen for that pretty face?" His companions laughed at that. "I bet he is nothing compared to me down there. And you're always welcome to see it." 

With that he grabbed Joy and pressed her against the wall. She struggled in his grasp trying to get away from him but the man had his strength over her. Andrew moved forward and turned the man to him. 

"Let her go, mate," he told the man. "She doesn't want you here."

"Leave us alone, whoreson. You can have her when I'm finished with her." 

He made to turn to Joy but Andrew caught him by the shoulder and turned the man to him. He punched him right on the nose. A sickening crunch was heard as his closed fist connected with the man's nose. His two companions came for him. The one on his left swung the lantern at him. Andrew ducked under his arm and punched at his ribs and then brought his right hand to punch at his eye. He caught the hand of the third one, a big, bald man and punched his face again and again till he dropped down. 

The companions ran away leaving the man alone with him. He covered his broken nose with his left hand and drew a dagger from the belt in his right hand. 

"You'll pay for it," he muffled. "My father is Syro Irrirah, he'll make you pay for this." 

Syro Irrirah. He has heard the name before. Yes, the old man Gyllaro Dynar and his story. He had seen Viserys that day and had forgotten completely about the old man. Andrew felt ashamed at that, he had made a promise to him and forgot it once he met Viserys. 

Syro's son rushed at him and slashed the dagger wildly at him. Andrew caught his hand and punched his broken nose again. He caught him by his velvet robes and pushed the man out of the door. "There is a man named Gyllaro Dynar whom your father once betrayed," Andrew told him. "Ask your father to find him and right all the wrongs your father ever did to him. Do that and don't make me come looking for you. Get out of here." He pushed the man down the steps and closed the door. 

Joy was sitting against the wall, looking at him with wide eyes. Andrew walked to her. "Are you alright?" 

The girl nodded. There was a bruise on her shoulder. 

"You would want to look at that," Andrew pointed to her bruise. He helped her to her bed and brought the paste she asked for from her place. Joy got the paste from him. She tried to apply the cream on her bruise but it was hard for her to reach it. 

"Here," Andrew offered. "Let me." 

He got the paste from her and dipped a finger into the jar and got some of the cream on the tip of his finger. He applied the paste on the bruise and rubbed it for sometime.  

"Why did you punch him?" Joy asked as he applied some more of the paste on her bruise. "You didn't have to do that."

Andrew looked down at her. "He was hurting you. What am I supposed to do? Stand and watch." 

Joy was unimpressed. "Why do you always have to punch someone?" she asked him. "Were you always like this? Where is your family?"

My family. "I was not always like this," he admitted after a moment of silence. Andrew felt lightheaded. His wounds throbbed painfully as the old memories came back to him. He eased himself down on the bed and sat beside her. "I had a family once. A small one but a happy one. The happiest one could ever hope to have."

"Where are they?" Her voice sounded far off, faint. 

He floated in memory. "Someone ripped it off away from me. My father. My mother. My uncles. All dead in the hands of a madman. A madman who burned my family to ashes, a madman who filled my home with blood, a madman who pushed me to some unknown gutter. We were there for the feast prepared for him. I saw him kill innocent people just because he found it as a rightful act, I saw my father and uncle rushing off to meet death. I heard something that no son should hear about his mother. I saw things that no child should see, heard things that no child should hear."

"Who are you?" Joy asked. "Who did this to you?"

He never knew why he said that but he did. "I'm Andrew Stark, son of King Eddard Stark and Queen Ashara Dayne."

Joy looked at him as if she had seen a ghost. "You're the Born King." Her voice was filled with surprise. 

"Don't call me that," he said at once. "It was that name which got my parents killed." 

"But how did you. . . Everyone thinks you to be dead." 

"My mother saved me," Andrew told her. "She sacrificed herself to save me." 

"So that's why you tried to kill Rhaegar Targaryen?" 

"He took my family away from me. Him and his family," Andrew mumbled, voice thick with tears. "They enjoyed killing them. They drunk and danced in merry all the while I grew up without my parents. There was no one to hold my hand whilst I walked, no one to hold me tight while I was afraid, no one to comfort me while I cried. For years I cried myself to sleep hoping that everything happened was a bad dream and I'll be with my parents in the morning. None of it happened though and as I grew up I brought myself to live against all that. 

"And then I saw Viserys after many years, walking before me as if he had done nothing wrong in this world. But I know what he was truly and I couldn't let him get away. He killed my mother and the gods only know whatever tortured he inflicted upon her. So I started with him. I broke his mouth, his nose his bloody face and hung him from the brothel." 

"Andrew," Joy said, "Your mother was not killed by the Targaryens. She threw herself into the sea from atop a cliff."

"No she wouldn't," Andrew said uncertainly. He had never known a woman stronger than his mother. As much as she was kind she was equally strong. She would never bring herself to jump to her death.

The look on Joy's face said otherwise. "I'm sorry, Andrew." Joy placed her hand on his. "She jumped into the sea in grief for your father and your uncle."

"It doesn't matter," Andrew said after a moment of silence. "They killed her anyway. And I'll not stop until I get justice for them. I missed Rhaegar once but I shall not miss him again. I'll kill him and everyone who comes in my way especially the Kingsguard. When I was little I've always looked up to my uncle as if he was some sort of hero. That every Kingsguard is some sort of hero. I loved my uncle's stories about them and I loved them so much that I even wanted to join the order when I had no reason to do so. And that day I saw that they are no better than the madmen they were serving. They stood by and watched their king kill my uncle, their own brother. I'll kill all of them, no matter what."

"Is that what your mother asked you to do whe she saved you?" Joy asked. 

A sharp quietness clung to the air. His mother had asked him to remember. And he remembered everything. 

"Tell me, Andrew," said Joy. "Will your mother and father want this life for you?"

He knew the answer. It was No. Both of them would never have wanted a life like this for him. But they would still be happy that he is alive. 

"You will kill anyone and everyone who comes between you and Rhaegar," Joy said. "Do that and what is the difference between you and the Targaryens? You would kill a man who doesn't even has an idea about you or what happened to you. You would kill a man just because he was in the wrong place in the wrong time? You would kill a man just because he is doing his duty."

She put her arms around him and embraced him tightly. She was warm and soft like his mother had been. "I'm so sorry for what happened to you, Andrew," Joy said. "But this is not life. There is much more to life than all this. You are not alone, you have me. I'm with you." 

He never brought himself away from her. Her presence had been a welcoming one. It has been long since Andrew Stark felt something like that but in her arms he felt like he was home.

 

Chapter Text

Samwell

You are as hopeless as any boys I have ever trained," Ser Alliser Thorne announced when they had all assembled in the yard. "Your hands were made for manure shovels, not for swords, and if it were up to me, the lot of you would be set to herding swine. But last night I was told that Gueren is marching five new boys up the kingsroad. One or two may even be worth the price of piss. To make room for them, I have decided to pass eight of you on to the Lord Commander to do with as he will. " He called out the names one by one. "Toad. Stone Head. Aurochs. Lover. Pimple. Monkey. Ser Loon. " Last, he looked at Edd next to him. "And Sour Edd. " 

Pyp let fly a whoop and thrust his sword into the air. Ser Alliser fixed him with a reptile stare. "They will call you men of Night's Watch now, but you are bigger fools than the Mummer's Monkey here if you believe that. You are boys still, green and stinking of summer, and when the winter comes you will die like flies." And with that, Ser Alliser Thorne took his leave of them. 

The other boys gathered round the eight who had been named, laughing and cursing and offering congratulations. Halder smacked Toad on the butt with the flat of his sword and shouted, "Toad, of the Night's Watch!" Yelling that a black brother needed a horse, Pyp leapt onto Grenn's shoulders, and they tumbled to the ground, rolling and punching and hooting. Dareon dashed inside the armory and returned with a skin of sour red. As they passed the wine from hand to hand, grinning like fools, Samwell Tarly walked away from them to stand by himself beneath a bare dead tree in the corner of the yard and watched the boys play. When Edd saw him from amidst the other boys he walked to him. He offered him the skin. "A swallow of wine?" 

Sam shook his head. "No thank you, Edd. " 

"Are you well?" asked Edd.  

"Very well, truly," He lied. He was not well truly. "I am so happy for you all. " His face quivered as he forced a smile. "You will be a Ranger someday. " 

"Piss on that," Edd said. "I want to live for sometime." Before he could say more, Halder cried, "Here, you planning to drink that all yourself?" Pyp snatched the skin from his hand and danced away, laughing. While Grenn seized his arm, Pyp gave the skin a squeeze, and a thin stream of red squirted Edd in the face. Halder howled in protest at the waste of good wine. Edd sputtered and struggled. Matthar and Jeren climbed the wall and began pelting them all with snowballs.

Sam was frightened, again. They were leaving him. His friends. He remembered the day he had left Horn Hill, all the bittersweet farewells; atleast to his mother and sisters. Now it was his friends who would say the farewells to him. Once his friends say their words, they'll all have duties to attend to and no time to spend with the recruit Samwell Tarly. Some of them would be sent away, to Eastwatch or the Shadow Tower. But Sam will remain in training, with Rast and Cuger and these new boys who are coming up the kingsroad. Gods only know what they'll be like, but he can see it clear as sunset that Ser Alliser will send them against him, first chance he gets. 

Looking at them happily playing with each other, Sam left the ecstatic boys to their snowball fight.   

A deep restlessness was on him as he went back to his cell. He had no destination in mind. He wanted only to get away from there. He followed the way back to his cell, listening to the howling of the winds. The kingsroad would be just away from him, narrow and stony and pocked with weeds, a road of no particular promise. Yet the thought of it filled Samwell Tarly with a vast longing. Winterfell was down that road, cold and gloomy and beyond it Riverrun and King's Landing and the Eyrie and so many other places; Casterly Rock, the Isle of Faces, the red mountains of Dorne, the hundred islands of Braavos in the sea, the smoking ruins of old Valyria and most importantly, the Citadel. All the places that Sam would never see. The world was down that road . . . and he was here, away from family and now away from friends too. 

Once they swore their vow, his friends would be assigned to their posts as the men of the Night's Watch. Rangers, builders, stewards, they would be assigned accordingly. Every man who wore the black walked the Wall, and every man was expected to take up steel in its defense, but the rangers were the true fighting heart of the Night's Watch. It was they who dared ride beyond the Wall, sweeping through the haunted forest and the icy mountain heights west of the Shadow Tower, fighting wildlings and giants and monstrous snow bears. 

The order of builders provided the masons and carpenters to repair keeps and towers, the miners to dig tunnels and crush stone for roads and footpaths, the woodsmen to clear away new growth wherever the forest pressed too close to the Wall. Once, it was said, they had quarried immense blocks of ice from frozen lakes deep in the haunted forest, dragging them south on sledges so the Wall might be raised ever higher. Those days were centuries gone, however; now, it was all they could do to ride the Wall from Eastwatch to the Shadow Tower, watching for cracks or signs of melt and making what repairs they could.

Sam would've given anything to join them. He would be content with any post but no he would get no post. He had no hope to pass on the training under the eyes of Ser Alliser. He would stay a recruit until he was old as Maester Aemon. 

Sam left straight for his cell and stayed there until nightfall. He never went to the common hall for the feast Three-finger Hobb would've made for the passing recruits. His belly showed its complaint but Sam was strong in his decision as to not cry in front of all those men. He saw the distant glow of lamplight from the Lord Commander's Tower and wondered if Lord Commander Mormont could help him in any way but he knew the answer already. The recruits were given under the command of Ser Alliser Thorne and it was his word which matters the most.

He was about to go to sleep when a knock came. Sam rubbed the tears off his eyes and opened the door. "Edd?" Sam asked, surprised to see him there. 

"Come, Sam," Edd turned and walked away from him. 

"Where are we going?" Sam asked. 

Edd turned and looked at him over his shoulder. "To an outside stroll." He didn't wait for a reply and continued in his path. Sam scurried off behind him. Sam continued to ask him questions but Edd kept quiet all the way. Edd brought him to the rookery. Sam understood at once where he had brought him.

Maester Aemon's apartments were in a stout wooden keep below the rookery. Aged and frail, the maester shared his chambers with two of the younger stewards, who tended to his needs and helped him in his duties. The brothers joked that he had been given the two ugliest men in the Night's Watch; being blind, he was spared having to look at them. Clydas was short, bald, and chinless, with small pink eyes like a mole. Chett had a wen on his neck the size of a pigeon's egg, and a face red with boils and pimples. Perhaps that was why he always seemed so angry. 

It was Chett who answered Edd's knock. "I need to speak to Maester Aemon," Edd told him. 

Chett eyed him and Edd. "The maester is abed, as you should be. Come back on the morrow and maybe he'll see you." 

He began to shut the door. Edd jammed it open with his boot. "I need to speak to him now. The morning will be too late." 

Chett scowled. "The maester is not accustomed to being woken in the night. Do you know how old he is?" 

"Old enough to treat visitors with more courtesy than you," Edd said. "Give him my pardons. I would not disturb his rest if it were not important." 

"And if I refuse?" 

Edd had his boot wedged solidly in the door. "I can stand here all night if I must." 

The black brother made a disgusted noise and opened the door to admit them. "Wait in the library. There's wood. Start a fire. I won't have the maester catching a chill on account of you two." 

Sam and Edd had the logs crackling merrily by the time Chett led in Maester Aemon. The old man was clad in his bed robe, but around his throat was the chain collar of his order. A maester did not remove it even to sleep. "The chair beside the fire would be pleasant," he said when he felt the warmth on his face. When he was settled comfortably, Chett covered his legs with a fur and went to stand by the door. 

"I am sorry to have woken you, Maester," Edd said. 

"You did not wake me," Maester Aemon replied. "I find I need less sleep as I grow older, and I am grown very old. I often spend half the night with ghosts, remembering times fifty years past as if they were yesterday. The mystery of a midnight visitor is a welcome persion. So tell me, Tollet, why have you come calling at this strange hour?" 

"To ask that Samwell Tarly be taken from training and accepted as a brother of the Night's Watch." 

Sam looked at Edd eyes wide with surprise. He never knew why Edd had brought him to the Maester but he sure as hell never thought that he had brought him to get the approval of the maester. 

"This is no concern of Maester Aemon," Chett complained. 

"Our Lord Commander has given the training of recruits into the hands of Ser Alliser Thorne," the maester said gently. "Only he may say when a boy is ready to swear his vow, as you surely know. Why then come to me?" 

Sam had known that would be his answer. He had known that much and why wouldn't Maester Aemon know that. He thought that it was just a waste of time and was ready to get away from there but Edd was not ready to give up just yet. 

"The Lord Commander listens to you," Edd told him. "And the wounded and the sick of the Night's Watch are in your charge." 

"And is your friend Samwell wounded or sick?" the old Maester turned his head slowly to face Sam. How he did it without the sight, Sam never knew but the old man seemed to know his presence. "Are you wounded, Samwell?" 

"He will be," Edd spoke up for him, "unless you help."

Edd told them all about him, right from Ser Alliser's training to Rast's promises. Maester Aemon listened silently, blind eyes fixed on the fire, but Chett's face darkened with each word. "Without us to keep him safe, Sam will have no chance," Edd finished. "If Ser Alliser makes him fight, it's only a matter of time before he's hurt or killed." 

"The Wall is no place for the weak," Chett said looking at him, his face red with anger. "Let him train until he is ready, no matter how many years that takes. Ser Alliser shall make a man of him or kill him, as the gods will."

Sam grew afraid once again. It was not going in any way he had thought it to go. As time passed by he was losing hope more and more. But it seemed as if Edd has not given his hope. 

"That's stupid," he said. 

Sam took a deep breath to steady his breath. His heart was beating wildly in his chest now. He was so nervous that it made his palms sweaty.

"The Night's Watch needs all sorts of people. Why else have rangers and stewards and builders? Lord Randyll couldn't make Sam a warrior, and Ser Alliser won't either. You can't hammer tin into iron, no matter how hard you beat it, but that doesn't mean tin is useless. Why shouldn't Sam be a steward?" 

Chett gave an angry scowl. "I'm a steward. You think it's easy work, fit for cowards? The order of stewards keeps the Watch alive. We hunt and farm, tend the horses, milk the cows, gather firewood, cook the meals. Who do you think makes your clothing? Who brings up supplies from the south? The stewards." 

Maester Aemon was gentler. "Are you a hunter, Samwell?" 

Sam's lips quivered at the mention of hunting. He had never liked hunting, never wanted to hunt. "A disgrace to House Tarly. Not fit to wear even my arms." his lord father had always said. The striding huntsman was the arms of house Tarly and Sam hated hunting. "I hate hunting," he had to admit. 

"Can you plow a field?" the maester asked. "Can you drive a wagon or sail a ship? Could you butcher a cow?" 

Sam could do none of the things Maester Aemon said. He couldn't even lift a tool to plow a field, he couldn't even ride properly, he was even afraid to see a chicken die. "No." He said at last. 

Chett gave a nasty laugh. "I've seen what happens to soft lordlings when they're put to work. Set them to churning butter and their hands blister and bleed. Give them an axe to split logs, and they cut off their own foot." 

His hopes had gone shattered with it and he could feel tears clouding his eyes but Sam would not bring himself to weep infront of them. 

"I know one thing Sam could do better than anyone," Edd said at last. Sam looked at him eagerly waiting to hear what he did better than anyone. 

"Yes?" Maester Aemon prompted. 

Edd glanced warily at Chett, standing beside the door, his boils red and angry. "He could help you," he said quickly. "He can do sums, and he knows how to read and write. I know Chett can't read, and Clydas has weak eyes. Sam has read every book in his father's library. He'd be good with the ravens too. There's a lot he could do, besides fighting. The Night's Watch needs every man. Why kill one, to no end? Make use of him instead." 

Maester Aemon closed his eyes, and for a brief moment Sam was afraid that he had gone to sleep. He was his last hope. He knew he wouldn't survive without the help of his friends. Finally Maester Aemon said, "I shall think on what you have said. And now, I believe I am ready to sleep. Chett, show our young brothers to the door."

When they came out of the Maester's chambers, Sam turned to look at Edd. "I don't know why you did it," he told him, "but thank you. I've never had a friend before." 

Edd smiled at him. "We're not friends," he said. He put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "We're brothers."

Chapter Text

Tyrion

Distant watchers peered down from tall red towers of Casterly Rock's gatehouse as Tyrion and his sellsword Bronn ascended through the hilly pathway which led to the looming castle atop the great rock. Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister and the Casterlys before them stood proud atop its hill overlooking the Summer Sea. Legend says that Casterly Rock was named for the family that ruled it in the Age of Heroes, the Casterlys, who no longer exist. His ancestor, Lann the Clever had outwitted them to get the Rock for himself. Casterly Rock itself was carved out of the great stone hill colossal rock Tyrion was climbing, beside the Sunset Sea. It is popularly believed to resemble a lion in repose at sunset. But all Tyrion could see was a stretch of some shape and a big structure facing the sea. But in the golden light of the setting sun he could admit that it almost looked like a lion. The Casterlys of antiquity had built a ringfort on the peak, and as millenia have passed its natural defenses have been expanded with walls, gates, and watchtowers. The base of the Rock contains large sea-carved caverns, made by the unyielding waves of the Summer Sea. Hundreds of mineshafts were littered in the depths of the Rock from where gold and stones has been mined for thousands of years, as well as yet untouched gold veins. 

The climb itself proved hard for Tyrion. He had made the climb half a hundred times before but it felt so different as if it was his first time now with the death of his brother still hurting him. They had left Lannisport at first light after his short stay in his mother's home. Lady Joanna had been a Lannister of Lannisport before she became the Lady of the Rock. His uncle Ser Stafford Lannister brought him in and gave him and Bronn a day's rest and fresh mounts for the journey to Casterly Rock. They had left Lannisport first light and kept a fast pace. They had been climbing up the rock for almost a day now. He wondered how it would be to reach the top of the Wall. The Rock has been measured at three times the height of the Wall or the Hightower of Oldtown. Though it was still not so high as the Wall it still made a hard time for him to reach the top. 

Tyrion could see the torches lit up on The Lion's Mouth. The Lion's Mouth was the main entrance to Casterly Rock, an enormous natural cavern reaching two hundred feet high. Its steps were wide enough for twenty riders to ride abreast. The port beneath it had docks, wharves, and shipyards and it is accessible by longships and cogs. Torches were burning, placed on the iron sconces set up on the wall above every step. Tyrion made the ascend carefully. He had no idea to rush and fall down to his death. 

The moon was high up in the sky when they reached the castle. Casterly Rock was a huge settlement. It was almost two leagues long from west to east, and contains of tunnels, dungeons, storerooms, barracks, halls, stables, stairways, courtyards, balconies, and gardens. In the bowels of the Rock were rooms where caged lions were once kept, and cells for the worst prisoners. 

The opening to the castle was flanked by two watchtowers with their base shaped in the form of lions, manned by pikemen and archers. It was so quiet and different from the time he had last seen it before he left for Riverrun. A few men could be seen and the guards at their posts were all the others he could see. Casterly Rock was in deep mourning for his brother. Tyrion wondered if they will ever mourn for him when he dies. 

A party of Lannister guardsmen in red cloaks and lion crested helms came forward to meet him and Bronn as they entered through the gate. The captain of guards led them. Tyrion walked up to greet him. "Vylarr." 

Vylarr looked down at him with his helmet in the crook of his arm. "My lord, Tyrion," he said in astonishment. "We all feared you dead since you took a long time to return back, or lost . . . " He looked at Bronn beside him uncertainly. "This . . . companion of yours . . . " 

"A friend of mine," Tyrion said. "Where will I find my lord father?" 

"In his solar." 

That should do. But Tyrion wanted to go see his brother first. "My brother?" he asked. 

Vylarr grew visibly troubled at that. "My lord, I thought . . ." 

"I know what happened, Vylarr," Tyrion said annoyed. "Where is he now?" 

Vylarr turned to look back at the men and then faced him. "Your father ordered us to rest him in the Hall of Heroes." 

So he has not even waited for me to come back and see my brother for the last time. Tyrion left them and made to walk to the castle. Vylarr stopped Bronn when the sellsword tried to follow him. "He is with me," Tyrion said and the captain of guards stood aside at once.

He got into the castle and walked straight for the Hall of Heroes. It was in the Hall of Heroes where the Lannisters and their close kin who died valiantly were interred. The Hall was in the lower levels of the Rock. Tyrion could hear thunder beneath him, where the sea came in to smash against the land. He made it quick to the Hall of Heroes with Bronn. 

"Is this where they bury your family," Bronn smirked looking at the entrance. "It is so dark that someone else will die while trying to bring the dead ones here." 

Tyrion eyed him coolly. "It is where the Lannisters rest for ages after their deaths." 

The sellsword grinned again. "Well, when you die don't expect me to bring you here." 

Tyrion entered the hall alone with a torch in his arm. The Hall of Heroes was a dark place as it was one of the Rock's lower levels. Thousands of tombs crowded the place and that is only as far as Tyrion could see in the light within the place. He knew that there were others and more deeper levels to it. There were armors displayed along the wall of the hall. Armors, gilded and gone rust, the armors of the Lannisters of the old. His brother was the one near to the entrance. He stayed there sometime in silence letting all the feelings and worries wash over him. When he was finished and came out from the Hall, a certain courage took hold of him. Bronn was leaning against the wall and picking the dirt out from his nails with his dagger. 

"It is done?" the sellsword raising his eyebrow. 

"It is," Tyrion said.

He then took the stairs to the upper levels of Casterly Rock where the Lord of Casterly Rock had his chambers and solar. A pair of house guards in crimson cloaks and lion-crested helms stood guard at his father's solar, on either side of the door. "My father?" Tyrion asked them. 

"Inside, my lord."

Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West, was in his middle fifties, yet hard as a man of twenty. Even seated, he was tall, with long legs, broad shoulders, a flat stomach. His thin arms were corded with muscle. When his once-thick golden hair had begun to recede, he had commanded his barber to make his hair cropped short; Lord Tywin did not believe in half measures. He razored his lip and chin as well, but kept his beard cropped short, a short stubble of wiry golden hair that covered most of his cheeks from ear to jaw. His eyes were a pale green, flecked with gold. A fool more foolish than most had once jested that even Lord Tywin's shit was flecked with gold. Some said the man was still alive, deep in the bowels of Casterly Rock. 

Ser Kevan Lannister, his father's only surviving brother, was sharing a flagon of ale with Lord Tywin when Tyrion entered his father's solar. His uncle was portly and balding, with a close-cropped yellow beard that followed the line of his massive jaw. Ser Kevan saw him first. "Tyrion," he said in surprise. 

"Uncle," Tyrion said, bowing. "And my lord father. What a pleasure to find you here." Lord Tywin did not stir from his chair, but he did give his dwarf son a long, searching look. If he was mourning he did not show it a bit. "I see that the rumors of your demise were unfounded." 

"Sorry to disappoint you, Father," Tyrion said. "No need to leap up and embrace me, I wouldn't want you to strain yourself." He crossed the room to their table, acutely conscious of the way his stunted legs made him waddle with every step. Whenever his father's eyes were on him, he became uncomfortably aware of all his deformities and shortcomings. "It was in fact a hard road for me but I survived with the help of my companion here," he pointed to Bronn as he climbed into a chair and helped himself to a cup of his father's ale. "Though I'm glad to know that you were worried for me." 

"The Honor of our house was at stake," Lord Tywin said. "No one shall shed the Lannister blood with impunity." 

"Hear Me Roar," Tyrion said, grinning. The Lannister words. "Truth be told, none of my blood was actually shed, although it was a close thing once or twice. Morrec and Jyck were killed." 

"I suppose you will be wanting some new men." 

"Don't trouble yourself, Father, I've acquired my own." He tried a swallow of the ale. It was very fine ale, in truth. 

"Who might you be?" Lord Tywin asked Bronn beside him, cool as snow.

"Father, this is Bronn," Tyrion said to his father. "He accompanied me here." To Bronn he said, "May I present my lord father, Tywin son of Tytos of House Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West, Shield of Lannisport." 

Lord Tywin looked up from what he was doing. "You shall have all my son promised you, and more," Lord Tywin told him. He looked back to his brother and gave a parchment to him. "Kevan please take our. . . honored guest with you. Give him meat and mead of our table." 

Tyrion looked at the letter his uncle had in his hand. Ser Kevan never gave up anything in his face and kept the letter secure. Tyrion gave a nod to Bronn and the sellsword followed his uncle out of the room.

"So I see that you've not forgotten the Lannister blood shed in Braavos too?" Tyrion asked.

Lord Tywin ignored the sally. If he felt anything he never showed it. “So what are they saying about it?” 

“They have agreed to wait up.” Tyrion told his father. “But I see that you're not waiting for anyone?”

“Did you come here just to make your lame japes? I have important letters to finish.” 

“Important letters like the one you gave to Uncle Kevan. To be sure.”

“Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens. Spare me these coy reproaches, Tyrion. He steepled his fingers under his chin. "Say what you want and take yourself back to your chambers to get some rest."

“What do I want, you ask? I’ll tell you what I want. I want what is mine by rights. I want Casterly Rock.” 

His father’s mouth grew hard. “Your brother’s birthright?” 

“The knights of the Kingsguard are forbidden to marry, to father children, and to hold land, you know that as well as I. And Jaime can't rule Casterly Rock from the Hall of Heroes now, can he? It’s past time. I want you to stand up before the realm and proclaim that I am your son and your lawful heir.” 

Lord Tywin’s eyes were a pale green flecked with gold, as luminous as they were merciless. “Casterly Rock,” he declared in a flat cold dead tone. And then, “Never.” 

The word hung between them, huge, sharp, poisoned. I knew the answer before I asked, Tyrion said. Nineteen years since Jaime joined the Kingsguard, and I never once raised the issue. I must have known. I must always have known. “Why?” he made himself ask, though he knew he would rue the question. 

“You ask that? You, who killed your mother to come into the world? You are an ill-made, devious, disobedient, spiteful little creature full of envy, lust, and low cunning. Men’s laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colors, since I cannot prove that you are not mine. To teach me humility, the gods have condemned me to watch you waddle about wearing that proud lion that was my father’s sigil and his father’s before him. But neither gods nor men shall ever compel me to let you turn Casterly Rock into your whorehouse.” 

“My whorehouse?” 

“Yes," his father said. "Even without Jaime, I still have two grandsons to take up my line. And my granddaughter, I will choose Argella over you anytime to take my place after me.”

Lord Tywin rose abruptly, to tower over his dwarf son. “Go back to your room, Tyrion, and speak to me no more of your rights to Casterly Rock. You shall have your reward for your duty to me, but it shall be one I deem appropriate to your service and station. And you'll leave for King's Landing to attend the Prince's marriage in my stead. And you will not bring shame onto House Lannister there. You are done with whores. You'll not bring your whores to King's Landing.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Andrew

There was no sun outside when they came out of their little room, only a wall of shifting grey fog. The air had grown chill and Joy cursed her lady's finery, a red silk gown with ornate embroidery over the bodice, the line of the collar and the cuff around her dainty wrist. The gown was so fine and it fitted Joy perfectly. She was so beautiful in it but the cloth did nothing to keep her warm from the cold. 

"I'm cold," Joy said as they climbed down the steps from their room on the top. 

Andrew knew that the gown will not save her from the cold but he had thought for a better weather. Unfortunately the cold had risen that day. He moved over to Joy and took off his jacket. "Here, wear it," he said and draped the jacket over her shoulders. Joy held the jacket tighter around her and looked up at him. Her cheeks were already flushed pink in the cold and it only made her more beautiful in his eyes. Her glossy golden hair, so thick and wavy, caught the light from the lantern and shone like beaten gold. 

"Aren't you cold?" Joy asked him, huddling beneath his jacket. 

Andrew took her hand and walked to the canal where the boat he had got for them was chained. "I've been in conditions worse than this," he said. Her hand was warm and soft and he liked holding it. 

"Is Winterfell colder than Braavos?" Joy asked brushing closer against him. 

Andrew chuckled lightly and looked down at her. "Winterfell is hot, as hot as any castle in the south. There are pipes in the walls through which hot water is passed all throughout the castle. I've barely seen my mother using furs to keep her warm when she is in the castle. But the north is cold. The lands are cold and hard but they are beautiful." 

The lantern in his hand showed its light for some two feet before them. The mists seemed to part before him and close up again as they passed. The cobblestones were wet and slick under his feet. He heard a cat yowl plaintively. Braavos was a good city for cats, and they roamed everywhere, especially at night. In the fog all cats are grey, Andrew thought. In the fog all men are killers.

Braavos was lost in fog. He could see the green water of the little canal and the cobbled stone street that ran on the other side of the canal, two arches of the mossy bridge... but the far end of the bridge vanished in greyness, and of the buildings across the canal only a few vague lights remained. 

He heard a softsplash as their boat slowly swayed in the water of the canal. Andrew gave the lantern to Joy and knelt down to unwound the bindings of the boat. When he freed the boat he climbed onto it carefully. He got the latern back from Joy and hung it on the side of the boat. Andrew offered his hand to her and Joy took it with a smile. She climbed onto the boat gingerly using his hand for support. Andrew took the oars and pushed the boat away from the land.

The sounds of the oars splashing in the waters echoed hollowly off the swirling green waters and the walls of unseen buildings. It was easy to row a boat without his jacket on. His white shirt gave enough freedom and the cold was welcoming. It almost reminded him of the north, his home. He had always wished to go back there, to Winterfell. It was just as easy. All he wanted was to keep going in the north and he would be in the shores of it on his own. He wondered what it would be like if he ever reached Winterfell. He had known everyone in Winterfell and everyone had known and loved him in turn. They had always been good and kind to him perhaps they would still be good to him. They would not even remember you, a voice inside him said. You would've been buried in the crypts with your father and mother beside your grandfather and uncle. There were different paths before him but Andrew was not sure about which to take. Right now all he knew was to take Joy to the place as he had promised her to.

They had never been away from each other since the day he told her about him and his family. Andrew followed her everywhere and they spent their time together. She took him to all the places she went, to meet some people, or sick children and he went along with her. He enjoyed her company and was happy to be with her. She made him realize the things he'd been doing and the mistakes he had done in the past and helped him to change that. For days Joy has asked him about it and he had wanted to bring her to the place and he got the chance now.

He had taken Frost with him. Joy had kept the sword away from him and only gave it back two days before. It took a good deal of talks to get his sword back and he knew that he might need to use it again. 

He had never seen a thicker fog than this one. On the largercanals, the watermen would be running their serpent boats into one another, unable to make out any more than dim lights from the buildings to either side of them. Andrew was glad that he had to follow the smaller canals. He need to be careful enough when he gets to the larger canals. 

The street was so gloomy on either side that he could scarcely see them but their dim lights. He rowed them through the predawn gloom, wending down a confusion of small canals. Braavos only had three kinds of weather; fog was bad, rain was worse, and freezing rain was worst. But every so often would come a morning when the dawn broke pink and blue and the air was sharp and salty. Those were the days that Andrew loved best.

When they reached the broad straight waterway that was the Long Canal, he turned south for the port. Joy sat with his jacket wrapped tight around her looking at the fogs. She gave a smile when she saw him looking at her. Andrew smiled to himself and kept on with the oars. 

The Long Canal took their boat beneath the green copper domes the the Palace of Truth and the tall square towers of the Prestayns and Antaryons before passing under the immense grey arches of the sweetwater river to the district known as Silty Town, where the buildings were smaller and less grand. Later in the day the canal would be choked with serpent boats and barges, but in the predawn darkness they had the waterway almost to themselves. Andrew liked to reach the port just as the Titan roared to herald the coming of the sun. The sound would boom across the lagoon, faint with distance but still loud enough to wake the sleeping city.

He swung them south to the docks and down the gullet of a great canal, a broad green waterway that ran straight from the port into the heart of the city.

They passed through the channel where a row of mighty statues stood along both sides of the channel, solemn stone men in long bronze robes, spattered with the droppings of the seabirds. Some held books, some daggers, some hammers. One clutched a golden star in his upraised hand. Another was upending a stone flagon to send an endless stream of water splashing down into the canal. The Sealords of Braavos, Andrew knew them. He'd seen these statues many times over.

The harbor and lagoon soon came to his sight. The sun was already up by the time they came up to the lagoon. The Titan roared to indicate the day break. They still had a long way before them. The isle was at the far end of Braavos away and isolated from the eyes of most men. The sun would be high up in the sky by the time they reach it. 

The fogs gave out as they moved further and the sun rose higher. The color returned to the world and the cold was reducing gradually. By the time they hit the open sea Joy saw it fit to give back his jacket seeing there was no use for it without the cold. Andrew put it beside him and rowed the boat. 

As he had thought it was near to midday by the time they reached the isle. The shores were filled with huge rocks and big stones as he'd seen them before but what was interesting about the isle was the main land. There were no trees in Braavos except for this island alone. He could see the trees, the leaves and feel the gentle breeze from them. Joy was entirely surprised to see it. 

"It's so beautiful," she said never taking her eyes off of the island. 

"It is," Andrew said and brought them to the shore. He hopped down from the boat and pushed it on to the beach. Joy jumped down from the boat and ran straight to the woods. Andrew laughed and took up Frost before following after her. 

The smell of trees and leaves and earth was so strong and he found himself wondering how much he had missed the smell. The air was rich and fresh without even a hint of salt in it. Joy's laughter echoed off the glades of trees and he followed it. He found her near a stream and she left it as soon as he found her. Half the trees had brown leaves which indicated the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. 

Joy enjoyed every bit of her time in the isle. She ran through the little streams splashing the waters. She laid on the forest floor covered with leaves. She covered herself with the leaves and came bursting out of the leaves, laughing. Andrew stood aside and watched her doing all her things. Looking at her so happy made him smile. Somehow he felt happy just looking at her. He went about and collected a dozen leaves from different trees. Green, yellow, gold, red, brown, the color varied with the leaves and so did the shapes and size of the leaves. He left her to her play and sat beneath the tree and started to wove the leaves into a crown. He had seen his father gift a crown of roses to his mother once, roses violet and beautiful as the stars in the twilight sky. His mother had put away her royal crown in favor for the floral crown that day. She had spent the entire day with the crown of roses on her head and she was very beautiful with the crown of roses upon her head. There was no roses to be had here but the leaves might be pretty too once it was set perfectly. One by one he put the leaves and bound them with grass. The first few times he had no success. Every time he put up the fourth leaf the grass binding would give out and his crown came crumbling down to a scatter of leaves. He tried again and again, at last the binding stood and his crown came up layer by layer. 

When the crown was done, Andrew held it at his arm's length and tilted it to the sides to examine it. It has come out perfectly and more fine than he had initially thought it to come. He took Frost in one hand and the crown in the other and went back to Joy. She was collecting the leaves too. A cluster of them was in her hands, green and red and yellow and gold and every other colors the trees offered. 

She smiled at him when she saw him there. "This place is amazing," she said as she picked up another leaf from the ground. "I'm collecting them as a keepsake."

"Well, to that," Andrew said, "I made something for you." He slowly brought the crown from the back and showed it to her. "I hope you like it."

Joy let the leaves in her hands drop and took the crown from his hand. She looked at the crown intently and then looked up at him with a smile. "It is so beautiful." 

"Do you like it?" Andrew asked her. 

She laughed at that. "I like it," she said laughing. "I like it very much. Thank you." She put her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. 

Andrew put his arms around her hesitantly and returned the embrace. He could swear that he was blushing hard right now and was thankful that Joy cannot see him now. 

Joy got away from him and put the crown on her head. "So how do I look?" 

Andrew looked at her and she was painfully gorgeous. The leaves matched with her gown and they stood out with her golden hair. He took a breath to calm himself and get his words. "You... You're beautiful." 

They stayed there until the west sky turned to the color of bruise purple. They washed themselves up in the cold clear water of the stream. 

"How do you know this place," Joy asked from behind as he washed up his hands. 

Andrew turned back to look at her. Joy was washing her face but the crown he gave her was still on her head. "I would come here with Syrio to train. It was so peaceful and quiet and I learnt most of my skills from here." 

"It's good that he brought you here," Joy said running her hand through her locks of golden hair. "Else I wouldn't have gotten to see it. Thank you." 

"We might come here again," he said. "If you want." 

"Oh, I would love to come here again." 

The journey back to their building continued in the same way they came. Joy had not taken her crown down. Andrew lightened the lantern and continued to row the boat. 

The rainfall came when they cut from the Long Canal to the smaller one which would take them back to their building. Andrew gave his jacket to Joy and asked her to cover her head with it. He hoped that it would not turn into the freezing rain. They were very well likely to be doomed to get caught in the freezing rain in an open place. He rowed as fast as he can to get away from the rain. 

They were completely soaked by the time they reached their place. Joy had his jacket over her head to keep the rain away. Andrew took Frost and the lantern and they ran to their room. They climbed up the stairs in hurry, laughing and Joy opened the door. He hung up the lantern and placed Frost on the table and turned to Joy. 

She was shivering and rubbing her hands together trying to warm herself up. "I can't feel my fingers," she said holding her hands out for him to see. "I can't feel them."

Andrew took her hands in his and kissed her fingers. Her hands were so cold and Andrew blew his breath over her fingers and kissed them again and again to warm her up. When he looked at her, his grey eyes met with her green ones. He leaned in forward to kiss her lips and Joy met him at halfway. Her lips were warm and so was her tongue and mouth. He took up the forest crown he had given her from her head and placed it neatly on the table all the while kissing her. 

His hands were so eager to get the clothes off of her and her hands likewise did to him. His shirt went first followed by her gown until they both were naked as their nameday. She was so beautiful, her ample breasts and delicate curves and beautiful face made his heart race. Andrew kissed her again walking her to the bed. Joy pulled him with her to the bed and put her hands around him and kissed him harder. 

Andrew kissed her mouth and trailed his lips down her neck, pressing kisses over her slim white neck. Joy moaned with his kisses on her neck and tilted her head back. He pressed hot open-mouthed kisses on her neck and trailed lower. He kissed both her breasts and returned back to her mouth. 

Andrew kissed her mouth as he entered her. Joy gasped when he broke through her maidenhead. Andrew stilled above her giving her time to get used to the feeling of him inside her. When Joy nodded he thrust himself inside her again. He kissed her mouth, her eyes, her ears, her cheeks and all her face as he moved inside her. Joy moaned into his mouth and hugged him tighter to her. He kissed her again, kissed her neck, her throat, her breasts and her nipples as he made love to her. 

Her skin was smooth beneath his fingers, as warm to the touch as the walls of Winterfell. Her hair was wet and thick and smelled of rain and leaves, a dark and earthy smell that made him move faster into her. He drove into her, again and again and again and soon, Joy made a whimpering sound and arched her back beneath him. Andrew thrust twice more into her and spent his seed within her.

He stayed on her for a dozen heartbeats, catching his breath back. He rolled off of her to sprawl staring at the ceiling. When Joy's hand found his cheek he turned to face her. He never knew what to say to her at that time but he knew one thing clearly. Andrew kissed her lips again and said, "I love you." 

Joy smiled at him and leaned up to kiss him. Andrew kissed her back and held her close to him. It had been long since Andrew Stark got a good night's sleep without his dreams but that night he slept peacefully with Joy in his arms.

 

Chapter Text

Samwell

It has been long since Samwell Tarly had been happy, truly happy. He couldn't remember a time when he was so happy like he was now. They had said the news to him sometime before and Sam couldn't contain his overwhelming joy after hearing it. He was selected into the Night's Watch. He is going to be a brother of the Night's Watch now. With Edd and Pyp and Grenn and all the others. Edd had worked for it more than he had so he must be the first one to know it and Sam was searching for his friend to say about the good news.

He found him in the common hall. Edd was breaking his fast on applecakes and blood sausage. Sam Tarly plopped himself down on the bench beside him. "I've been summoned to the yard," he whispered excitedly. "They're passing me out of training. I'm to be made a brother with the rest of you. Can you believe it?"

"No, truly?" Edd cocked his eyebrows at him. 

"Truly. I'm to assist Maester Aemon with the library and the birds. He needs someone who can read and write letters."

"You'll do well at that," Edd said with a smile.

Sam smiled back at him. "Thank you," he said to Edd. "If it wasn't for you I don't think I'd be here."

Edd patted on his back. "We're brothers remember," Edd told him. "And brothers are supposed to take care of each other."

Samwell Tarly nodded. He briefly wondered what his brother Dickon was doing now, probably spending his time in the yard. Sam loved his brother as much as any man could love his brother but he remembered Benjen Stark's words again. He looked at Edd, he is his brother now. Him and all the others of the Night's Watch, even Ser Alliser Thorne. 

He glanced around the room anxiously. None of the other recruits who had passed the trained was there except the two of them. "Is it time to go?" he asked Edd. "I shouldn't be late, they might change their minds."

"I think we should go then," Edd chuckled and they left the hall.

Sam was fairly bouncing as they crossed the weed-strewn courtyard. He felt the urge to dance in joy but then thought against it. Men of the Night's Watch don't dance. The day was warm and sunny. Rivulets of water trickled down the sides of the Wall, so the ice seemed to sparkle and shine.

In the yard, the training dummies and the arrow marks had been taken away to make place for the benches where the other recruits who'd passed the training sat. Pyp's mouth dropped open when he caught sight of Sam, and Toad poked Grenn in the ribs, but no one dared say a word. A raised wooden alter was made up for the high officers of the Night's Watch. 

The high officers arrived in a body; Maester Aemon leaning on Clydas, Ser Alliser cold-eyed and grim, Lord Commander Mormont resplendent in a black wool doublet with silvered bearclaw fastenings. Behind them came the senior members of the three orders: red-faced Bowen Marsh the Lord Steward, First Builder Othell Yarwyck, and lastly came the First ranger, Benjen Stark.

Mormont stood on the wooden altar, the a fringe of white hair covering his broad receeding head. "You came to us outlaws," he began, "poachers, rapers, debtors, killers, and thieves. You came to us children. You came to us alone, in chains, with neither friends nor honor. You came to us rich, and you came to us poor. Some of you bear the names of proud houses. Others have only bastards' names, or no names at all. It makes no matter. All that is past now. On the Wall, we are all one house.

"At evenfall, as the sun sets and we face the gathering night, you shall take your vows. From that moment, you will be a Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch. Your crimes will be washed away, your debts forgiven. So too you must wash away your former loyalties, put aside your grudges, forget old wrongs and old loves alike. Here you begin anew.

"A man of the Night's Watch lives his life for the realm. Not for a king, nor a lord, nor the honor of this house or that house, neither for gold nor glory nor a woman's love, but for the realm, and all the people in it. A man of the Night's Watch takes no wife and fathers no sons. Our wife is duty. Our mistress is honor. And you are the only sons we shall ever know.

"You have learned the words of the vow. Think carefully before you say them, for once you have taken the black, there is no turning back. The penalty for desertion is death." The Old Bear paused for a moment before he said, "Are there any among you who wish to leave our company? If so, go now, and no one shall think the less of you."

No one moved.

"Well and good," said Mormont. "You may take your vows in the sept at evenfall, before Septon Celladar and the first of your order. Do any of you keep to the old gods?"

None stood. Sam had nothing to do with the Old Gods. He had been named in the light of the Seven at the sept on Horn Hill, as his father was, and his father before him, and all the Tarlys for a thousand years.

"Good then," Mormont said. Sam looked to Edd as he waited for the next part eagerly. "We have placed each of you in an order, as befits our need and your own strengths and skills." Bowen Marsh stepped forward and handed him a paper. The Lord Commander unrolled it and began to read. "Halder, to the builders," he began. Halder gave a stiff nod of approval. "Grenn, to the rangers." Grenn shared a smile with Edd as he left the bench. "Albett, to the builders. Pypar, to the rangers. Samwell, to the stewards." Sam sagged with relief, mopping at his brow with, the back of his hands. He had been named at last, there is no turning back now. "Matthar, to the rangers. Dareon, to the stewards. Todder, to the rangers. And Eddison Tollet, to the stewards."

The stewards? For a moment Sam could not believe what he had heard. Lord Commander Mormont must have read it wrong. Edd was the best swordsman and the best rider they'd got. It made no sense to make him as steward. But Edd had taken it so calmly. He stayed there in his place unmoving and if he was surprised or sad or angry he never showed it on his face.

The Old Bear rolled up the paper. "Your firsts will instruct you in your duties. May all the gods preserve you, brothers." The Lord Commander favored them with a half bow, and took his leave. Ser Alliser went with him.

"Rangers with me," Benjen Stark called when they were gone. Pyp and Grenn were staring at Edd as he got slowly to his feet. Matt and Toad fell in beside them, and they followed Benjen Stark from the yard.

"Builders," announced lantern-jawed Othell Yarwyck. Halder and Albett trailed out after him.

Maester Aemon's blind eyes were raised toward the sun he could not see. Only Edd and Dareon remained on the benches with him.

Lord Steward Bowen Marsh rubbed his plump hands together. "Samwell, you will assist Maester Aemon in the rookery and library. Chett is going to the kennels, to help with the hounds. You shall have his cell, so as to be close to the maester night and day. I trust you will take good care of him. He is very old and very precious to us.

"Dareon, I am told that you sang at many a high lord's table and shared their meat and mead. We are sending you to Eastwatch. It may be your palate will be some help to Cotter Pyke when merchant galleys come trading. We are paying too dear for salt beef and pickled fish, and the quality of the olive oil we're getting has been frightful, Present yourself to Borcas when you arrive, he will keep you busy between ships."

Marsh turned his smile on Edd then. "Lord Commander Mormont has requested you for his personal steward, Tollet. You'll sleep in a cell beneath his chambers, in the Lord Commander's tower."

"Alright," Edd said with a hint of humor. "I think I should serve the Lord Commander's meals, help him fasten his clothes, fetch hot water for his bath then."

"Certainly." Marsh looked at Edd. "And you will run his messages, keep a fire burning in his chambers, change his sheets and blankets daily, and do all else that the Lord Commander might require of you."

When Edd left the yard, Dareon and Sam went with him. The Wall shining in the sun, the melting ice creeping down its side in a hundred thin fingers. He wanted to make sure that Edd is alright about it. Edd had been there for him whenever he needed and it is right for him to be with him now. He moved to Edd. 

"Edd," he said excitedly, trying to lift up the mood. "Wait. Don't you see what they're doing?"

"I know what they're doing," Edd said as he walked. "I'm being assigned as a steward."

Dareon gave him a look. "The stewards are fine for the likes of you and me, Sam, but not for him."

"It's not like that Dareon," Edd said never stopping. He continued on his way and Sam desperately tried to keep up with him. 

"There is no shame in being a steward," Sam said.

"You are the personal steward of the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch," Sam reminded him. "You'll be with him day and night. Yes, you'll pour his wine and see that his bed linen is fresh, but you'll also take his letters, attend him at meetings, squire for him in battle. You'll be as close to him as his shadow. You'll know everything, be a part of everything . . . and the Lord Steward said Mormont asked for you himself!

"When I was little, my father used to insist that I attend him in the audience chamber whenever he held court. When he rode to Highgarden to bend his knee to Lord Tyrell, he made me come. Later, though, he started to take Dickon and leave me at home, and he no longer cared whether I sat through his audiences, so long as Dickon was there. He wanted his heir at his side, don't you see? To watch and listen and learn from all he did. I'll wager that's why Lord Mormont requested you. What else could it be? He wants to groom you for command!"

There was a faint surprise in Edd's face now and a smile graced his lips too.
"Thank you, Sam," he said at last.

"We're brothers remember," Sam reminded him. "And brothers take care of each other."

They said their vows in the Sept before the Seven at evenfall, when the sun was down. Everyone in Castle Black had come to witness them become as the men of the Night's Watch. Lord Commander Mormont, Benjen Stark, Maester Aemon, Bowen Marsh, Othell Yarwyck, the armorer Donal Noye and all the others were there. Septon Celladar was swinging a censer, filling the air with fragrant incense that reminded Sam of the sept in Horn Hill.For once the septon seemed sober. All of them knelt before the altar of the Seven. 

They said the words together, as the last light faded in the west and grey day became black night.

"Hear my words, and bear witness to my vow," they recited, their voices filling the candle lit sept. "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

The sept fell silent. "You knelt as boys," Lord Commander Mormont intoned solemnly. "Rise now as men of the Night's Watch."

Sam took Edd's hand and came back to his feet. The other brothers gathered round to offer smiles and congratulations. And Samwell Tarly joined himself with the House of Night's Watch with all those men as his brothers.