Elia was only half watching the joust between her husband and Lord Yohn Royce that took place below her. Indeed, the majority of her attention was devoted to the news that the maester had given her prior to their departure from Dragonstone.
I am to be a mother again, she thought with a thrill of triumph.
Rhaeyns' birth had been a difficult one that had left her ability to bear future children in question. During the long weeks of recovery, there had been ample whispers questioning her suitability as the next queen. They had called her barren as the queen herself. They had mocked her foreign strangeness and, by all accounts, considered her a far lowlier option than the woman her husband had been meant to marry—Cersei Lannister.
Elia had met Cersei Lannister when the latter had been a child. Elia recalled Cersei Lannister as having been arrogant and more than a little cruel to her youngest brother. The way that she had jealously guarded her twin's company and led him away anytime that Elia had engaged him in conversation also indicated a need for attention that ran deep. All in all, Elia did not think that she would have made a very good queen at all.
Drifting from thoughts of the past to ones of the future, her fingers drifted towards her stomach and lightly brushed over her burgundy dress. There had not been enough time for evidence of her second child to appear, but she liked to think that she could feel the little one all the same.
A prince this time, she thought with a certainty that left no room for doubt, a child that will one day sit on the iron throne.
Her husband had been the only one pleased when their first child had been a daughter rather than a son. Despite her good-father's sneering and condemnation, Rhaegar had simply smiled and told her that of course Rhaeyns was to be born first. He had gone on to promise that there would be an Aegon and Visenya to follow in due time.
It was the cheering of the crowd that brought her attention back to the men before her. It seemed that Royce had broken yet another lance against her husband's shield, for he was gathering up a new one from his squire. Unless she had lost count in her preoccupation, this would mark the fifth one.
Rhaegar looked truly resplendent on the black horse he rode. Black as night and of as fine a stock as Oberyn could find. A wedding gift, her brother had said. From the stallion a bloodline could be produced to service the royal family for generations. Her brother had always been particular about his horses and no doubt disliked the notion of his future nieces and nephews on inferior animals.
As the two men neared contact, she watched as Rhaegar glanced up and to his left. Towards the section of the stands given to the houses of the North. That fleeting distraction was all it took. A moment later her husband was flying from his horse to land awkwardly and twitching in the dirt. Precious seconds passed as the crowd waited for the prince to rise. There had been harder falls throughout the tournament, after all. Then she happened to catch sight of Royce's empty hand.
Rhaella Targaryen seemed the first to come to the obvious conclusion, for she let loose a cry of such devastation that Elia knew it would haunt her for the rest of her life. The queen's grief seemed to break the spell that had kept them all seated, for there was a sudden rush to reach the competitors below. Elia's heart thundered within her chest with every step.
It was Ser Barristan who made it to her husband's side first. And it was Ser Barristan who bore witness to Rhaegar Targaryen's dying moments. For his remaining eye was already glazed with death by the time Elia arrived. His face didn't even look particularly disfigured. Not with the lance holding back all but a small trickle of blood from the wound. A strange madness seized her then, and she nearly demanded that they pull it out. That her husband would be fine once they did.
The queen brushed past her with a whisper of fabric and Elia recalled herself. Nothing would save Rhaegar. He was already beyond anyone's reach. She watched as Rhaella collapsed beside her son as if her legs had been cut out from under her. In all of the time Elia had known her good-mother she had never cried. Not when Aerys humiliated her. Not when she emerged from her bedchamber covered in bruises. This was the first time Elia had seen her tears, and it seemed that they were never-ending.
Elia turned away from the sight. If she let herself, she knew she would be swallowed by the pit that yawned at the edges of her mind. Her new line of sight brought Ser Barristan into view. The knight of the kingsguard had moved away so as to give the royal family privacy. Elia joined him, for she had to know. The burning questions had to be satisfied.
"What-," she said. There was a brief pause as she struggled to force the words from a throat that suddenly seemed too narrow.
You are a Martell, she reminded herself furiously, unbent, unbowed, unbroken. She could not be weak. She was a Martell and she had been born to rule. Rulers did not have the luxury of falling apart during a crisis. Not when others would look to her example.
Raising her chin ever so slightly, Elia forced her words not to waver, "What did he say to you? At the end."
The knight met her gaze with his own. In his eyes, Elia saw confusion and an almost unbearable empathy.
"He told me that he could not die. Not until the dragon had three heads. Not until he had played his part in the song of ice and fire." Ser Barristan said quietly. "Simply the incomprehensible murmurings of a dying man, my princess."
Elia nodded. What could she say? Her husband's obsession with prophecy had occupied his mind until the last, but there was no use bringing it up now. Anything further that Ser Barristan may have said was lost as every eye was drawn to the king. Aerys, who had been silent beside his sobbing sister-wife up until that point in time, raised a bony finger in Royce's direction.
"Murder. Treason." he said.
Although he had not raised his voice, the words seemed to echo all the same. His wild purple eyes swept over her briefly before settling on her companion. "Selmy! I command you to arrest my son's murderer."
Barristan Selmy hesitated to move, his sense of justice at war with his sense of duty.
"Your grace, it appeared to be an accident. I doubt that—"
"You deny your duty? You question your king?" Aerys' voice took on a darker edge.
Elia looked to the Aerys' left. As had become the norm, the spider lingered at the king's side. She didn't know what to make of his expression, but she did know that the master of whispers had yet to speak up in favor of reason.
"No, your grace." Ser Barristan said at last.
His every movement spoke of regret, but he moved to do his king's bidding all the same.
Honor and duty, she thought with more than a trace of disgust, funny how they rarely seem involved in the same action of late.
"Your grace!" Yohn Royce had finally found his voice. The man, who had up until that moment been in something of a stricken haze, stumbled forward. "You cannot believe that I would ever intentionally harm Price Rhaegar."
No you would not, Elia agreed within the confines of her own mind, not when your liege lord was plotting with him. Not when Jon Arryn had likely come to the tourney for the sole purpose of hearing her husband's plan. But her good-father had never been one to consider anything but the absolute worst of possible intentions. Not since Duskendale.
"Lies!" Aerys said. His lips had twitched upwards into something halfway between a sneer and a smile. "I know you've been plotting treason. Plotting to steal my throne. But you couldn't reach me, so you took my heir instead."
"I would never plot to steal the iron throne, your grace." Royce said. But his words lacked something of his earlier conviction.
Spare me the lies of honest men, Elia silently despaired.
It was only now that Varys seemed inclined to intervene, and he did so with a whisper in his king's ear. Aerys nodded and his sudden calm was more chilling than his wild anger had been.
"A trial. Yes, Lord Royce will be delivered to King's Landing to face justice for his crimes against the crown."