The dark towers of Dragonstone stood out against the sky like two black candles of ink. As always, a cold gust of wind was blowing from the east washing over the beach and the stormy sea.
Dragonstone was always cold and damp. There was hardly a day that the sun managed to banish away the stormy clouds dotting the sky.
And yet his dragon Silver seemed to like this castle much better than the Dragonpit with its many worm ways and the seven dragonkeepers his father had chosen to guard them. They were like the Kingsguard, though not sworn to protect the King, but the first three dragons that had been born in more than a century.
As a child, he had never thought much about the implications of having a dragon. Silver had been a constant companion, not much different than his siblings or his Aunt and Uncle, but as he had grown older he had come to see them in a slightly different light. They were no pets, but dangerous beasts.
Training them was hard and several of his father’s lords still eyed the return of the dragons with great mistrust, though it were the Maesters his father mistrusted the most.
The Maesters never liked dragons, his father had told him once. Because they are associated with magic and other truths they like to deny as superstitions.
And while Aemon didn’t share his father’s dislike for the Maesters he couldn’t fault the lords for fearing the dragons. He had read enough history to know what a deadly weapon they could pose and he had been a witness to their wrath when Rhaenys’ dragon Shadowing had torn apart Dickon Tarly after he and two of his foolish companions had dared to enter the Dragonpit. The Dragonkeepers found nothing more of the boy other than a burnt carcass of ash and bones. Dickon Tarly’s companions had found a similar fate, though it had been Silver and Aegon’s dragon Ānogar who had burned them to two to small crisps of flesh, smaller than the remains of a babe.
Both Aegon and Aemon had shuddered at the sight and Rhaenys had wept openly, going as far as to ask Aegon and Aemon to travel with her to Hornhill to ask for Lord Tarly’s forgiveness. Sadly, Lord Tarly had shown them nothing more than cold politeness, though his wife and daughters had thanked Rhaenys for coming. Yet even Rhaenys’ idea hadn’t been able to mend the damage between House Tarly and House Targaryen. A moon after their visit, Randyll Tarly had resigned from his position on the small council and had decided to retire to Hornhill…
“Silver is getting impatient,” an amused and beloved voice remarked, snapping him out of his deep thoughts. “You shouldn’t let him wait too long, brother.”
It was his sister Alyssa, born barely a year after him, who was following after him like a faithful shadow. Unlike Aemon, she had the coloring of a Targaryen, though her hair was more like a tangle of gold rather than the clear silver hair so common in his family.
“Then let him wait,” Aemon replied and cast his gaze to the sky. Silver was a willful beast and he had yet to fully submit to his commands, but they were getting there, ever so slowly. “He needs to learn patience.”
“So, must you, grandson,” his grandmother Rhaella added teasingly, her voice dimmed by the howling mind. “You are both lacking in this virtue.”
It was a truth Aemon would have liked to deny, but hearing such sweet chidings from his grandmother mouth could never be enough to stir resentment in his heart.
“I shall,” he promised instead and kicked his horse in a faster trot, leading it down the sand dune. Alyssa and Daenerys followed closely and not far behind them rode his grandmother, flanked by the castle guards.
“It’s unfair that I can’t go with you,” his Aunt Daenerys complained sourly, her silver hair flapping around her face like the silver wings of his dragon. “I want to see the Wall and visit our Grand-Uncle Aemon.”
Silver, was the name a six-year-old Daenerys had suggested for his dragon and which Aemon had kept, both out of habit and his affection for his Aunt.
Leaving her and his home was not something he relished, but then he was nearly ten and two. Aegon had been eight when he had been sent to Dorne and his father and mother were insistent that Aemon would get to know his family in the North. And while he would have liked to take Daenerys with him he also understood that his grandmother wanted to keep her close to her heart. Viserys’ exile to Lys had broken her heart, but then his father had little choice in the matter. Aemon had felt great sympathy for his Uncle, but he had acted against the King’s command. His father could have chosen to send his Uncle to the Night’s Watch or to Oldtown, but instead he had exiled him to Lys where he could live a life of pleasures and peace.
“It’s only for a few years,” Aemon replied, trying to console her. “And I heard you are going to visit Highgarden. I heard it is a beautiful place. I am sure you are going to like it there.”
“Aemon speaks true,” his grandmother added. “And I heard Lady Margaery Tyrell is a delightful young girl. She will be pleased to have you and Alyssa as her companions.”
“She wants Aegon’s company not ours, grandmother,” Alyssa replied bluntly. She was only eleven and liked playing the adult, but what she liked best was to make fun of the ladies at court. “And recent rumors suggest Lord Mace is praying every day that the High Septon is going to refuse the match between Rhaenys and Aegon, because he yearns to see his pretty flower wed to Aegon.”
“That’s utter nonsense, child,” Aemon heard his grandmother’s heavy voice. “The High Septon gave his approval upon their betrothal six years ago. You ought to consult better sources.”
“Grandmother speaks true,” Aemon agreed and climbed from his saddle, his gaze fixed on Silver.
Seeing their approach, his ever-trusted childhood companion dipped from the sky, his silver wings glittering in the fading sunlight.
A roar filled Aemon’s ears as Silver landed on the beach, his wings spread wide and a cloud of whirled-up dust hovering over his body.
“Careful,” he whispered to the dragon in High Valyrian. “We are not alone.”
Silver ignored him and sent a plume of smoke into the air, before angling his head towards him, his ruby eyes meeting Aemon’s grey ones.
“Good boy,” Aemon said in a calming tone and patted his jaw. Then, he turned around and jerked his head Daenerys, Alyssa and his grandmother. “Look, we have company.”
This time his dragon seemed to understand him, because he gave another roar and cocked his head to look at Daenerys and Alyssa.
Both girls were familiar to him, though at times Aemon feared he might forget about this fact. Silver might have liked their attentions when he was a fresh hatchling but now he was a fearsome beast that could tear them apart limps and bones.
“Stay with me, girls,” he heard his grandmother’s fearful voice.
“Silver won’t harm me,” Alyssa complained and was about to step closer, but Daenerys held her back.
“Don’t be foolish,” she chided his sister. “Silver is no longer a pet.”
“Daenerys is right, sister,” Aemon confirmed and leaned closer to whisper a command to Silver. Promptly, his dragon moved away and lay down on a nearby dune of sand, his spiky tale wrapped around his body. “Silver is no longer the pet you used to play with.”
Alyssa frown, but didn’t refuse his embrace or the kiss he placed on her brow.
“Take good care of mother and yourself…,” he whispered to her and received a playful hit on the shoulder.
“I know how to take care of myself,” she grumbled. “It is you I am worried about. The North is no place for dragons.”
“I shall be fine, sister,” Aemon assured her, though he felt a hint of fear when he thought of meeting his Uncle and the proud Northmen.
“Of course, you will,” his grandmother confirmed and placed a kiss on each of his cheeks. Then, she took his face between her hands and smiled at him. “And I have no doubt that you will conduct yourself with honor.”
“I hope I do not disappoint you, grandmother,” Aemon whispered, doubt nagging at the back of his mind.
“You could never disappoint me,” his grandmother replied and chuckled.
At last came Daenerys, who kept on frowning as he drew closer. She was garbed in a velvet dress, her silver hair disheveled and wild.
“Stop that frowning,” he told her and stepped closer, unsure whether a hug would be welcome or not. “That’s not how I want to remember our parting.”
“Me either,” she admitted, her violet eyes softening. “I am not angry with you, but my brother.”
“He is our King,” Aemon reminded her teasingly and leaned closer to embrace her. “And next time we see each other you might have a dragon of your own.”
She gave him a stunned look, her eyes widening in disbelief.
“Does that mean…,” she began, but Aemon silenced her with a smile and a shake of his head.
“Silver laid an egg,” he whispered into her ear and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “This one shall be yours..”
Daenerys gasped in surprise and tightened her grip on his arm.
“Truly,” he whispered, her warm breath tickling her cheek.
“I thank you,” she replied with heartfelt gratitude and smiled. “Thank you.”
“It is nothing,” he japed and let go of her shoulder. “See it as a belated nameday gift.”
Memorizing her smile, he turned around and called for Silver.
He was sure that the memory would warm him on his long travel north.