Hours became days and days became a week and soon two weeks had passed since that fateful day they had burned Jon’s body and set out on their journey. The days had begun to blur together like ink on a wet parchment. The landscape had changed gradually as they approached the Wall. Finally, they entered the wooded area where the evergreens lived.
Dany’s already small frame continued to wither with each passing day. Her eyes began to bulge, and her cheeks sunk cutting sharp angles around her face. She did not want to imagine what she must look like. But as she shrunk, her little one began to grow. At least in that, she could be grateful.
Their march had slowed since the wild dog had attacked them. Ghost was keeping an even closer eye on them; making sure to check their surrounding thoroughly every time they stopped, alert to any predators that might be lurking in the shadows.
They walked down a ridge when Dany spotted in the horizon a wide frozen lake. Its surface was as clear as crystal, shimmering with the reflection of the sun. A stary sky in daylight She remembered looking down at it when she had flown pass it with Jon.
Her memory was starting to come back to her, slowly. She could remember images and sounds of battles and conversations, but it all blended together in her mind until it became just colors and sounds. Whenever she tried to remember the moment of her death it became, even more, obscured, as if she was running through a forest in the middle of a thick fog. Though she wished to remember, Dany did not want to dwell too much on the past. Her immediate focus had to be in finding food and shelter for her and Aella.
As she breathed in the cool winter air, she caught a whiff of pine, hemlock, and blue spruce. She had never smelled this scent of these trees before coming to Westeros, but Jon had thought her which trees were which in the Godswoods of Winterfell.
“Do you know what type of tree that is?” said Jon as he saw Dany starring at a particularly large pine tree.
“No, I’ve never seen a tree like this before.” she took off her glove and touched the rough bark of the trunk. She lifted her arm and grabbed a brand to have a closer look at its needle-like leaves. She had never seen leaves such as these before - they were waxy, hard, and sharp. Each individual branch carrying dozens if not hundreds of the sharp pointed leaves.
Dany leaned up to take in the scent of the tree. It smelled of the woods but intensified twice fold. It was a clean and crisp smell. Strong, but without being too pungent. This was no flowery scent, yet it was still pleasant.
“Lovely,” she said moving away from the tree and closer to Jon.
“I’ve always liked the smell of them too,” said Jon. He turned his head to the side looking at the distance suddenly lost in thought. “When we were young,” he finally said “we used to run through these woods playing all manner of games. I liked it when we played as knights. I always wanted to be Aemon the Dragonknight,” Jon said, with a small but sad laugh.
She looked at him trying to decipher his thoughts. “He was a great knight,” she finally said trying to cheer him up.
Jon looked at her intently for a moment. The memory had reminded him of better times but it had also reminded him of Robb, who was now gone. “He was,” Jon finally answered
“We should head back to the castle, there’s still much to do,” Dany said grabbing Jon’s hand trying to lead the way back to the gate. He pulled her hand, stopping her in her tracks. “I know a different way back. Follow me,” he said as he pulled her in the opposite direction.
On their way back to the castle, Jon pointed out the other kinds of trees in the woods, stopping every so often to show her the differences in needles and barks and smells. He would also tell her stories of games he had played with his brothers and sisters. A part of Dany felt guilty for she felt some jealousy at the opportunity Jon had of growing up around people who loved him. But on the other hand, she was glad that he had enjoyed the love of his siblings, she knew well that his status as a bastard had been a painful burden for him to carry. She could not imagine how hard it must have been for him to carry it as a child.
She was relishing this moment with Jon, the two of them taking a walk in the woods as any young lovers would. But she knew well this moment could not last. They both had too many responsibilities to attend to.
When they finally arrived in front of a small gate entrance Dany had not yet seen, Jon pulled her to the corner and kissed her fiercely. His lips were soft and warm and his kiss hungry. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back just as hungrily as he did. When at last they had come apart, Jon looked down at her, desire clearly reflected in his eyes. “I suppose we should get back to work.” Both looked at each other this time with regret.
Dusk was beginning to fall as they neared the lake. “We should make camp here for the night,” Dany said to Ghost. She had taken to talking to him as if he were a real person. She had the sneaking suspicion that he understood most of what she said. Other suspicions about Ghost had begun to cross her mind, but she was afraid the solitude she found herself in was beginning to play tricks on her. She shook her head in an effort to set those strange thoughts aside.
She had found it comforting that Ghost seemed to understand her so well, but it had surprised her at first. Had it been this way with Jon? She wondered. Had the bond she shared with her dragons been similar to the bond Jon had shared with Ghost? But she did not share that bond with Ghost, yet how come now the direwolf understood her so well?
With the dragons, it had been a merging of the minds. They had understood her moods, even shared them with her, especially Drogon, whom she had the strongest bond with. They knew her mind without her having to say anything. She and Drogon had acted as one when she flew him, it was as if they had shared a spirit, her goals were his and they achieved it as one. She had to utter very few words in order to command them. But the way Jon had explained warging to her, they were indeed one. Jon had been the mind and the wolf the body.
Suddenly, Dany felt Aella stir underneath her furs bringing Dany back from the past. Her throat felt tight and she began to swallow quickly. Thinking about her dragons was painful to her, she was afraid she would never be able to think of them without feeling the pain of their loss, as if their loss was still an open sore, unwilling to close.
Her stomach growled, the familiar burning sensation of hunger clawing at her. It seemed it was not just her daughter that was in need of a meal. Dany saw that there was an exposed patch of land beneath a spruce tree and headed that way. It would be nice not to sleep atop the cold snow for once. Although the land was cold and hard, perhaps once she laid upon it, it would warm up. Dany set down her things, unbelting Longclaw from her back and setting her daughter on the ground, while she quickly gathered whatever branches she could find to start a fire.
The night was bright, a full moon lighting up the sky, stars glittering all around. She sat staring at the fire while Aella finished her meal. Dany had eaten the last of a squirrel Ghost had caught two days ago. It had been dry, leathery, and old but it was a meal. Ghost had sniffed and searched all around them making sure that there was no danger. He had also searched for food but had been unsuccessful. “Tomorrow we’ll be luckier, you’ll see. We’ll find something to eat,” she told him as he sat opposite from her across the fire. Although at times she despaired, she could not lose her hope, to do so would be to give up and she would not do that to Aella, she would not do that to Jon.
Sitting there across from Ghost, she could remember a time when it had been Jon who was sitting across the fire from her. As they sat there, she told him of what her life had been like growing up in Essos.
Her childhood had been one of chaos moving from city after city. “It is a very different life than this.” She had told Jon waving her hand around the wilderness that surrounded them.
In order to find shelter her brother would try to secure the favor of rich merchants but when they had been unable to, they would rent rooms in cheap hostels. At night you would hear all the sounds of the city, merchants selling their goods, the whores moaning their pleasures along with the gentlemen they pleasured, children playing and screaming. A cacophony of sound and smell would follow them no matter which city the lived in.
With the Dothraki it had been different the Dothraki sea was not desert but it was a flat land hot and dry. With them, it was a sort of mobile city but the sound of the night were different. Drums playing, horse riding, gambling, and drinking games. The community they formed was so different from the one they had known in the free cities.
As she continued to describe the places she had lived in, Jon sat there quietly across from her listening intently to her every word. That night it had been her turn to talk of the past, other nights it was her who sat quietly listening to Jon’s story, his time at Winterfell or with the Night’s Watch or with the Wildlings…
Coming back from her reminiscing Dany looked across the fire again, but Jon was no longer there, only Ghost. She gave him a small smile as she gathered her furs and laid down to sleep.
The following day they headed down to cross the lake. It shone silver blue in the morning light. Like a polished mirror, it reflected the golden orb of the sun and the frozen trees that adorned its borders. The distance from shore to shore was wide but manageable, yet the surface of the lake was slick and icy. Though frozen solid, the warmth of the returning sun had begun to melt the top layer, but the coolness of the night had frozen it again, enough to make it very slippery.
Ghost was leading the way; he was a lot more sure-footed than she was and she could follow in his tracks. She had grabbed a sturdy branch to serve her as a walking stick to keep her balance. Aella was wrapped tightly around her, warm beneath her furs. Dany kept a hand beneath the babe at all times, just in case. Little by little, they began to cross the lake.
Each step was a fight for balance, Dany’s foot slipping a few times, but she managed to right herself every time. However, this had made it so that she walked even slower, carefully taking each step. Even with the slower pace, they had made it more than halfway across the lake by mid-morning, with Ghost kept looking back often, making sure she was okay. When they were almost to the other end of the lake, Dany’s foot suddenly came out from under her and she began to lose her balance. She threw herself backward so she would land on her backside trying to prevent Aella from being hurt. She could feel the thud of her fall in her teeth as a piercing ache ran up her spine and a throbbing pain burned near her ankle. The fall or Dany’s scream had scared the babe and she began to cry. Ghost was quickly by Dany’s side.
Dany’s vision began to blur from the pain as she tried to slow her breathing, she took deep longer breathes to calm her racing heart. She tried to sit up, but the pain was too much, so she laid on her back. She could hear Ghost wheezing next to her. “I’m alright, I’ll be alright. Just give me a moment.” Taking another deep breath, she managed to pull herself into a sitting position and groaned with the pain of the effort. She tried planting both her feet on the lake, but it hurt too much. She rotated her right foot gently and was able to move it. Although it hurt a great deal, she knew her ankle wasn’t broken.
She thought about trying to get up again, but she was afraid she’d risk falling again if she tried to get up. She sat there for a moment calming Aella. Once the babe had quieted, she turned around and got on her knees and began to crawl. The other side of the lake was not too far, and she could get there on her hands and knees. Slowly, she made it to the shore and sat back down. “I think you’ll need to help me get back on my feet” she said to Ghost who had walked beside her as she crawled. He lowered his face to her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. As he pulled his head up, Dany pulled herself up with him. She had one foot planted firmly on the snow and the other one barely touching it. With her walking stick in one hand and her other around Ghost she dragged herself painfully up the shore.
She found a fallen tree and sat down slowly with her back to it. “I think this is all the progress we’re going to make for today,” she said to Ghost. Once she had time to settle, she was able to remove her boot with no small measure of grunting and cursing from the pain. The ankle was sprained, that was plain to see but she had been right in that at least she had not broken it. She tore at her undershirt and cut strips of fabric to tie around it. Putting her grimy socks back on she laid her food atop the cold snow. It was too swollen at the moment to try and squeeze it back into her boot but perhaps the cool snow would help with the swelling.
As she laid there a sound came from beyond the woods to her right. She looked at Ghost. He looked back at her and dashed through the woods quietly, gracefully and with agility. He could not run like that with her, with her daughter in her arms, and now with her ankle swollen, she could barely walk. The sounds began to get clearer and it sounded like talking.
Could it be? Had they been found? Or where these foes? They had not encountered anyone in throughout their journey. The Wildlings had all crossed the Wall when the Night King and his army marched south. But perhaps some had stayed behind.
Dany held her breath, her mind raced from excitement to fearfulness. She waited there quietly, not knowing if she should be joyful or afraid. She wanted to hope they had been found but knew that being seen by the wrong people… no, she would not think of that right now.
Ghost was gone for what seemed like an eternity. Dany kept looking towards where he had disappeared when finally, she was able to spot him, and he was not alone. A man was walking next to him, Dany could not see who, but it must have been an ally, Ghost would not be so calm if he didn’t know who it was. As they got closer, Dany could see what the man was wearing; it was a uniform. An Unsullied uniform.
“It can’t be! Grey Worm!?’ she yelled in question. Not entirely being able to believe her eyes.
“Your Grace,” he said as he raced towards her. He bent down, “Is her Grace alright?” he looked her up and down finally landing on her foot.
“I fell and have sprained my ankle. But it’s no matter, you are here and that is all that matters right now,” she said and she pulled him into a hug. Although stiff at first, surprised by her gesture, he relaxed and hugged her back.
“Where is his Grace,” Grey Worm said pulling away. Dany looked at him quietly for a moment and finally said, “His Grace is gone, he died saving my life and that of our daughter,” Dany lifted her furs to expose the baby lying atop her chest.
“I am sorry to hear that. He was a good man. I am glad that his death was not in vain.” At these words, he bowed his head at Aella. Behind him, the rest of his men began to arrive. It was a group of about twenty, with a handful of the men of the Night’s Watch on horseback.
“We will set camp here for today, while Your Grace recovers,” he bowed his head towards Dany and headed towards his men giving orders to set up camp.
Ghost was standing in front of her now, starring at her. Dany looked up at him and smiled “Did I not tell you we’d be lucky today?”