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Return To Me

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From the Ashes

A piercing light shattered the fog in her mind, her closed eyes struggling against the brilliant rays. What could be so bright, she wondered. It was much too bright to be a torch. Dany took a deep breath to clear her mind; the air tasted sweet; it was cold and dry, burning the back of her throat. She felt the wind howling all around her; its freezing bite stung her cheeks. Far away she heard the faint cries of a small child, but how could that be? Who was crying? It sounded like a babe. She turned her head slightly to the right, but a sharp pain ran down her back, stopping her from moving any further. She had to open her eyes and search for the babe. In this frigid cold, it would freeze to death.

Dany couldn’t remember where she was; she began to feel warm. Her body ached all over, and there was a burning pain between her legs. Once again, she heard the cries of a babe. She began to take long deep breaths, trying to muster all her energy. She took another deep breath, and with all her might she summoned the strength to finally open one eye and then the other, only to be blinded by a dazzling light — so intense it could only come from the sun. The sun! When was the last time she had seen the sun? Dany could not remember. The sun which had hidden itself for more than a year had finally found its way home, up above in the sky.

Dany groaned as she gently turned towards the source of the crying; which had not come from far at all, but right next to her. There, cradled in the crook of her left arm and wrapped in furs, was a babe. Whose babe was this? She thought as she closed her eyes and racked her brain trying to remember.

The ache between her legs pulsed and Dany remembered. It was her babe! Of course, thought Dany, how could she have forgotten. The pains in her body suddenly felt duller, and even as the cold raged outside she felt a fire light inside of her and smiled. With a strength she did not have a moment ago, she sat up and cradled the babe between her arms rocking her gently. “My babe, my beautiful little girl.” She said as she placed a gentle kiss upon her child’s forehead.

She set her babe down on her lap and looked at her full-on for the first time in daylight. Her little girl was so beautiful: she had Jon’s dark hair and her own amethyst eyes – they were large and curious – her nose was small, and she had the sweetest pouty lips. Her cheeks were rosy from the cold. She was truly something to behold, thought Dany, still smiling and hugging her to her chest.

Opening her fur coat, Dany lifted her shirt enough to slide her daughter onto her breast so that she could eat. It was a sweet pain to feel, to finally have a living babe suckling upon her breast. The babe suckled eagerly, clearly hungry and happy to finally have her meal.

Dany looked towards her left and saw Jon lying there next to her, asleep with Ghost at his side. In the excitement of being with her daughter, she hadn’t even noticed him. She began to shake Jon, "Jon! Jon, wake up!" She said as she shook him, but he was not responding. Something wasn't right; the warmth she had felt a moment ago started to seep out of her, and a cold dread began to rise inside instead. Why wasn’t he waking up, why wasn’t he moving?

“No,” the word came out barely a whisper. Dany’s hands clenched into fists as she tried to cover her mouth – while a cry of anguish made its way up her throat. Tears began to spill freely from her eyes, warm against her cold cheeks.

She hugged her babe closer to her and began to rock with her whole body back and forth. She clenched her jaw to keep the screams that were threatening to come up. She wanted to throw up, but there was nothing in her stomach.

Finally, unable to stop herself she began to scream his name. "Jon!"

Then more desperately "Jon, wake up! Please!”

“Please, wake up, Jon!” she moaned, but he was immobile, cold… gone.

She began to pray to the old gods and the new, hoping one of them would hear her pleas. But alas, there was no one to hear her and Jon remained there next to her, cold and quiet. An agony unlike anything she had ever felt erupted like a volcano, leaving a crater where her heart resided. From her lips burst a cry in a voice she barely recognized as her own. Her daughter began to cry again, her cries matching Dany’s own. She rocked her babe gently once again singing her a lullaby she had heard while living in Tyrosh. The child finally calmed herself and latched onto her mother’s breast once again and continued to feed.

Dany began searching all around her, looking for somebody, anybody who could help. But all she saw was a winter wasteland. It was flat all around her, far in the distance she could see snow covered mountains and to the other side, the great Wall of Westeros. Trees were scattered throughout, cold and lifeless. She had to squint against the brightness of the snow on the ground; she looked up, the sun looked far away, its warmth barely reaching her. She was surrounded by a vast emptiness; fitting she thought, it matched the void inside of her.

A gust of cold wind blew in her face, and she suddenly recalled her dragons. My children she thought, what had happened to them? She closed her eyes and touched her temple trying to remember where they were.

They were gone, she knew, as surely as she knew Jon was gone. Her children, the only children she thought she’d have. She had called herself their mother, and to them she was. But alas, like everything else, they were gone as well. The thought of them just brought more pain and emptiness. She raked her brain, forcing the fog that had settled there to move aside and show her the truth.

There had been a great fire; she could see it now. Viserion, Rhaegal, and Drogon had perished in it. Poor Viserion, the Night’s King had stolen him but, in the end, he returned to his mother, he remembered who she was. A sweet moment that had turned bitter when the great fire had turned her dragons back to stone — a strange and fitting end. Now, they stood as statutes in what used to be the heart of winter.

The raging wind had finally died down allowing her a reprieve from its frosty touch. But the reprieve only served to remind her of her pain, winter had been a ruthless enemy. It had not been satisfied with taking her dragons; it had also taken Jon too. A small cry left her throat and tears began to spill once again. Her daughter had fallen asleep in her arms, so Dany gave in to her sorrow.

“Why?” she cried “Why did you have to take him away too? It’s not fair.” She continued to cry quietly losing herself in her pain. Her breath started to come in quick and shallow bursts and she began to panic. How was she going to survive this without Jon? What was she going to do? How was she going to hunt? She had no answers for these, but she knew she could not give into despair.

After a while, she found herself staring mindlessly at the landscape around her, finally settling on a pair of red eyes that had been staring at her the whole time.

“Ghost,” she said surprised and slightly embarrassed that she had forgotten him in her despair. She got up to walk towards him as he slowly inched towards her until they stood face to face; he was taller than Dany, but not by much, she barely had to look up to meet his eyes. Dany laid her forehead upon his and began to caress him gently.

“Oh, Ghost, what are we going to do?” she took a step back and looked upon his bright red eyes once again. Jon used to say that he was of the old gods with his fur as white as the bark of a Weirwood tree and eyes as red as its leaves. As she continued to look into his eyes, she noticed how intently Ghost looked at her. Dany could imagine he understood her grief; after all, he too had lost Jon. She looked away for a moment to try and regain her composure, but Ghost just stood there staring at her.

His stare was piercing, insistent – his eyes were searching, almost pleading. Dany would have thought it strange, but she knew him to be a perceptive creature. She walked closer to him and laid her head on his neck, caressing his fur. “It’s alright” she continued to caress him “I know you are suffering too.”

Dany sat down again; she needed to calm her thoughts and remember what happened. But her memories became blurrier as she tried to recall what had happened. She looked down at her lap, her coat had opened slightly, and she saw there were blood stains in her breeches. She opened the rest of her coat, and to her horror, she saw she had bled throughout her upper tights. The blood drained from her face as she looked at the now dried blood; she could tell there was too much of it. Oh, gods…

Her mind began to race, trying to find an answer. But deep down she already knew what had happened. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath; this time she smelled the blood.

She must have bled out and died, thought Dany horrified. But how could she be alive now? It was impossible, there was just too much blood.

She remembered suddenly the story Jon had one told her about his scars, and how he had survived them…

Had Jon given her the kiss Melisandre had once given him? It was the only explanation Dany could think of. Why did you give your life for mine? Oh, Jon, why? But as her child stirred, she had her answer; if she died, their child would die too. Jon would never let his child die, not if there was a way to save them both. And now she was here in the middle of nowhere, alone save for her babe and a wolf.

She lamented once again. How much more would they take from me? Had they not taken enough already? They had her mother, her brothers, her son, Rhaego, and her beloved dragons. It wasn't fair! Dany thought bitterly.

But she had learned that lesson long ago. The gods were as fickle as any man had ever been.

Dany turned towards where the fire had been. Jon had taught her many things on the journey there and how to light a fire was one of them. Once lit, Dany laid down next to Jon's frozen body to settle for the night. The tears had come flowing freely then, unstoppable like a waterfall after a storm, and just as quickly as they fell, they froze upon her cheeks. She had cried herself to sleep. Her daughter had cried too, but her tears had been from hunger not the pain of loss. The sorrow Dany felt was so deep that she could not see an end to it. She hoped her daughter would never know such pain.

The next morning, she awoke cold and stiff, she had only managed to sleep a few hours. Her head was pounding, and her bones ached. Dany knew she could not stay where she was much longer; she had to make her way back to Eastwatch and from there to Winterfell. However long it took her, her daughter needed her to be strong, even when she felt like she could barely breathe.

She began to collect dried frozen twigs and arranged them around Jon, the Long Night might be over, but she could not take her chances, her daughter depended on her. Ghost had helped her, picking them up in his mouth and dropping them next to the body of the man that had once been his master. She wondered what Ghost could be thinking, how sad this must be for him. Dany could barely stand to look at Jon’s dead body, but she made herself do it anyway. These would be the last moments she would lay eyes on him; the last time she would be next to the man she loved.

I have no more tears to shed; she thought as she stared at his handsome face. “I will never be loved by you again.” She turned around and continued her grim task.

When she had gathered enough twigs, Dany set her daughter on the ground, making sure to cover her well, she would have to think of a name for her, but that would have to wait. It took her a few tries as her hands were shaking uncontrollably, she couldn’t make a spark. She leaned back on her haunches and took a deep breath and tried again. Finally, she got the fire going, and after a few minutes it took hold of Jon’s clothes and began to grow until it engulfed him in flames.

Dany grabbed Jon’s sword Longclaw, she looked at it thinking how she thought of it almost like an extension of him, after a moment she placed it across her back then she gathered her daughter into her arms and tucked her underneath her furs. As she stared into the pyre, she thought back to the other pyre she had set for a man she had thought she loved, in what seemed like a lifetime ago. She had risen from the ashes of that pyre with her dragons and her people who followed her across the vast Red Sea.

Now, she stood in this vast sea of snow, but instead of three dragons she only had one — that was worth a million dragons; she was worth everything. She had gained something far more valuable than anything she’d ever had. Dany looked down at the little one stirring around, searching for her next meal, and she smiled. Perhaps the gods had taken so much from her because that was the prize she had to pay for her babe.

As Dany stared one last time at the fire that slowly consumed Jon’s body, she felt a wet nuzzling on her neck; she turned to her side to see Ghost looking at her with such sadness, that had she not had already cried all her tears, she would have begun to cry again.

“Don’t worry. We have survived far worse, but at least we are still together." She said caressing the fur on his neck.

There was nothing to be done, she thought, and all her tears and all her sorrow would not get her any closer to Winterfell or get her daughter to a warm and safe place. It would not be an easy journey; they had walked far past the Wall in search of the tree the Children of the Forest had used the create the first Other.

Now, she would have to make her way back, alone save for her daughter and the white wolf that had once been Jon’s.

She swallowed deeply before she turned around one last time to stare at Jon’s pyre “We can’t be with each other as we once were, but I believe we’ll be together again, in the starry sky or wherever dragons go when they die.” With that, she turned around with her daughter in her arms and her great white wolf in tow and made her way to salvation.

Chapter Text

The Journey

 

Beneath her bare feet, she could feel warm ash, the sensation of it was familiar. Soft as the finest sand and yet it became hardened as she continued to walk. She could not see her surroundings, but as she took another step forward, she was suddenly walking atop grass; her feet became wet from the dew that covered it. As she continued to walk, her surroundings became clearer; it was night, a cool breeze kissed her face, she looked above to the sky and frowned.

She had expected to see the midnight blue of the night sky, but instead, the sky had taken an almost violet hue. As she stared, she suddenly gasped as a huge falling star descended into the horizon. She took another step and found herself face to face with a white wolf. His face was so familiar to her that she smiled. The wolf lifted its head and howled at the non-existent moon. Dany looked up, but all she could see was snow. 

Dany awoke with a start; her face buried in the snow, numb, she turned it towards the sun to warm it and her face began to tingle. For a moment, she forgot where she was, but her daughter soon reminded her when she began to cry–she needed her breakfast. As Dany fed her, she surveyed her surroundings; they had walked quite a distance, but the road back to Eastwatch could take them more than a month if they didn’t find someone along the way to help them. Dany prayed that her people, those she had left behind at Eastwatch, had set out with the men of the Night’s Watch to look for her and Jon.

Jon, she thought and that piercing ache she felt every time she thought of him, crushed her heart. She looked over at Ghost who was sniffing around searching for food. She stared at him as he blended into the landscape; he had the perfect coat for winter. Silent and swift, like a white shadow. She thought back at the first time she had met him.

They had arrived at Winterfell together. Jon had introduced her to his family; it had been an interesting mix of welcomes. His sister, Sansa, had been cold and reserved, Arya had been forward and friendly, Bran had been detached. Jon had taken her to the Godswood to show her the massive Weirwood tree that resided there. She was staring in awe at the tree when suddenly she came face to face with an enormous beast. She had never seen a wolf so large in her whole life. She stood still as a statue while the wolf stared into her eyes. She looked into his – bright red; they reminded her of the time she had come face to face with Drogon in Daznak’s Pit. She knew then not to blink; she could not show the wild dragon fear or else he would have eaten her.

Now, staring into the eyes of this beautiful beast whose fur was as white as snow, she knew she had to show him no fear. The wolf took a small step forward, his snout almost touching her nose. He opened his mouth, and Dany inhaled. He stuck his tongue out and licked her left cheek. His raspy tongue licked her from chin to forehead. “Ah!” said Dany, not expecting the wolf to do that, but rather him bite her. She could hear Jon laughing, “Well, that’s a first.” Dany joined him in laughter. It certainly was a first for her as well. She breathed a sigh of relief

Dany began to stretch her legs and soon regretted it as a tremor ran through her body. Everything hurt, from the top of her head to her toes. She supposed she should be grateful that she could still feel all her limbs. But she knew she could not dwell on her pain and soreness; they could not stop their journey; they must not stop. Her daughter needed her to be strong, and she would not fail her babe. Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen was, after all, a dragon, even if she didn't feel much like one at the moment. 

Ghost appeared in front of her and dropped something at her feet. She stared at it for a moment. Whatever it was, its fur had once been snowy white, but now it was stained with blood. She leaned down and took a closer look – a rabbit. She quickly scooped it up.

“Thank you,” said Dany, relieved that he had managed to find something for them to eat today. This was the second time they ate since they had set out, Ghost caught the first rabbit two days prior.  The winter had consumed almost everything in its path, like a ravenous beast. But as the sun finally rose, those small animals who had managed to hide and burrow underneath the earth had begun to make their way back to the surface, but it was not easy. 

Dany got up while she held her suckling babe to her chest, moaning from the effort, and walked over towards the pile of twigs and branches she and Ghost had collected the day before.  Once her little one finished eating, she set her down gently, tucking her tightly in Jon’s furs.  She tried skinning the rabbit the way Jon had done, but he had been a master, and she was still very much an apprentice. She managed to remove most of the skin, although, nowhere near as cleanly as Jon had done.  Ghost ate the discarded piece as Dany roasted the meat over the fire. She cooked the rabbit and took half of it, ate half of that and put the rest away for later. She gave the other half to Ghost.

When they had finished with their meal, Dany strapped Longclaw across her chest, grabbed her babe and the few belongings she had and once again began her long march back to Eastwatch and then Winterfell.

To their home, thought Dany.  It seemed such a strange thing to her that she had found a place she could call home. In the midst of war and the Long Night looming over them, she had managed to find a place to belong and someone to share it with. Although some of the Starks had been skeptical of her at first, they soon welcomed her into their fold. It warmed her heart knowing that there were people out there who she could go home to.

 

***

 

After the seventh day, however, despair began to creep into her heart. They had barely found anything to eat for the last three days, and although she was still producing milk, she was afraid it would dry up if she could not find more food. Ghost was never far from her side, but he began to roam further and further in hopes of finding something for them to eat.

Her stomach burned with hunger. She knew the feeling all too well. As a child, she had felt it often as they roamed the Free Cities searching for a wealthy merchant to take her and her bother Viserys in. She remembered feeling it in the Red Waste, and again when she was lost in the Dothraki sea.

Ghost, who was usually solitary, had been so attentive towards her and even the babe. Although he had liked Dany from the start, he still kept his distance, he was no pup to be playing around with. But now when he was not hunting, he was always close by, and at night he slept next to her, keeping them warm. A small smile appeared at the corner of her mouth. Perhaps he felt responsible for them, now that Jon was gone. 

She was foraging beneath the few trees they had come across. Trying to find any acorns or fungi they might be able to eat. Her muscles ached from digging. The lack of food and feeding her child sucked away the little strength Dany had. Her body had grown even thinner than it already was. She was hard all over, skin and bones. As she dug the last tree and found nothing, she sat down upon a rock, defeated.

Dany tilted her face toward the sun trying to inhale its warmth. Every day that passed made the biting cold winds of winter a little less fierce, but there was still a-ways to go. She kept her face tilted a little longer; they had gone so long without the sun, she never wanted to take it for granted again. At least in this, she was grateful.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Ghost making his way towards them. She looked down at her babe who was sound asleep, thank the old gods and the new. Dany smirked to herself, she really should choose a name for their daughter, but none of the ones she had thought of seemed to fit. It would come to her eventually. She looked upon her sweet face, so peaceful at the moment. Yet, as quickly as a flash of lightning, her pretty little face would pinch itself up, turn red, and she’d wail as loud as a herald at a tourney.

Her flash of humor quickly dissipated as she thought of the reasons why her babe cried; she was hungry. She would do anything for her little one, but in this she was powerless. She was at the mercy of nature, and nature had not been their friend. She had wanted to give her child all the comforts she herself had lacked but at the moment that could not be.

As Ghost got closer, she could see that there was something caught between his teeth but could not tell what it was. Once he was near enough, she could see that whatever he had found was not very large. Finally, he stood in front of her and laid his catch at her feet; it was a rat.

“Well,” said Dany “I’ve eaten worse while I was in Meereen.”

It would have to do; she needed the meat and the energy to keep moving and to produce enough milk to feed the babe. Ghost was looking at her with such sadness in his red eyes. She thought of the dream she’d had a few days ago his piercing eyes burrowing into her — such a strange dream.

She touched his soft fur with her gloved hand, and she set her daughter on the ground and got to work cooking her skinny rat.

 

***

 

The farther they marched towards Eastwatch, the more they found themselves surrounded by trees, although, still dry and leafless, birds had started to return, and she could hear them from time to time signing their lonely songs. She could also see patches of dirt here and there.

As she sat down, she removed Longclaw from her back and set it down next to her. Ghost went in search of their next meal. She was looking at the patches of dirt and thinking that maybe she could dig for something edible, when she heard a noise coming from the wooded area in front of her.

Ghost had headed in the opposite direction, so she quickly looked around for a sturdy stick. She thought for a moment to grab the sword, but it was too heavy for her to wield. She found a thick branch and set it across her lap. She had spent enough time with Jon beyond the Wall to know not to trust any noise she heard.

She quickly turned to her side and saw Ghost searching the outskirts of the wooded area behind them. She had half a mind to call him when suddenly out of nowhere a dark shadow jumped at her. She reflexively swung her stick at the animal with one hand while she held her daughter with the other. The animal was barking fiercely, mad with hunger, its yellow teeth were sharp and pointed. 

“Ghost!!!” She screamed at the top of her lungs. The crazed animal, a wild dog, lunged towards her again and she swung her stick at it, this time catching it on the side of its head. The dog growled at her, clearly hurt, but no less deterred from fighting for its meal. Its eyes were bulging, and saliva ran down his snout. In this wasteland it was a miracle that this dog had managed to survive for so long. It must not have been easy, that was plain enough to see, its coat was faded and patches of it had fallen off. Dany could see scars where it had been attacked by other animals, yet clearly it had survived.

“Stay away from my babe!” she roared and her little one began crying loudly, clearly frightened by her mother’s screams and her erratic movements as she tried to stay away from the hungry dog. Dany’s heart began to pound so loudly in her ears that she could barely hear anything else. Her hands were perspiring, and she was afraid of losing her grip on the stick. She clenched her hand more tightly around it. She did not look anywhere else but at the dog, afraid that if she searched for Ghost the animal would take the opportunity to bite her.

When the animal tried to launch once more at Dany, she lifted her arm to strike the dog again but a giant white shadow jumped in front of her and clamped his massive jaws around the dog’s neck snapping it instantly.

Dany fell to her knees trembling, dropping the stick on the ground. She began to gulp air as best as she could, she had been breathing so quickly that she felt lightheaded. Her arms were aching from carrying the babe and wielding the stick. She looked up at Ghost, her eyes were moist “I was so afraid the dog would knock me down before you got to it.” 

Ghost released the dog’s neck and walked towards Dany; clearly distressed, he began to nuzzle her neck and lick her face. Though the wolf was mute Dany could hear a low wheezing sound coming from its throat, clearly indicating his distress.

“It’s alright. I knew you would save us. You wouldn’t let anything happen to us.” She caressed his fur gently, finding comfort in his warmth and strength.  

That evening they had their best meal since they’d set out on their journey. For a skinny dog, the beast had a surprising amount of meat. It was the first proper meal Ghost had had, and he enjoyed himself. 

Later that night, while she laid curled up with her daughter in her arms and Ghost behind her, she thought once again what she would name her daughter when it finally came to her. “I will name you Aella, in honor of my mother who gave her life to bring me into this world,” she told her sleeping daughter, “and Sona, the Valyrian word for Snow to honor your father, who gave his life to keep you in this world.” She lowered her head and gently placed a kiss upon Aella Sōna Targaryen’s forehead.

Chapter Text

 

Evergreen

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?” 

Chapter Text

 

A Burden on Sight

 

Dany stayed in bed, still exhausted from her journey. She looked around her at the room she had once shared with Jon. The morning light filtered softly through the glass window of her bedroom, illuminating the dust moats that floated about, creating a thousand dancing stars all around her. 

Dany turned to her side and inhaled deeply, taking in the leathery smell on the black tunic that laid next to her, it was Jon's. She had retrieved the tunic from his chest the night before and laid on the side of the bed where he had slept. The smell had brought a rush of memories to Dany from the time she and Jon had spent at Winterfell. It had been almost overwhelming, but she had managed not to cry. She wondered if the smell of Jon had sparked the strange dream she'd had that night. 

She dreamed that she was sitting atop a throne; it was a simple thing, a chair made of ebony and weirwood adorned with intricate carvings of war and peace. The throne room was large and hexagon-shaped with tall floor to ceiling windows that allowed the light to bleed freely, creating a bright and airy ambiance. Next to her sat Ghost, where Jon would have sat, had he lived. He laid on the floor, and her right hand lightly caressing his fur. She looked down at him; his snowy white coat was clean and crisp. His eyes, so familiar to her, were that perfect shade of smoky grey so dark they almost looked black. How strange? Thought Dany, were not his eyes red? 

A small cry coming from the crib next to her bed broke her away from her revelry. Her daughter had awakened, and she was hungry. Dany sighed deeply and finally got up and walked to the crib gingerly, being careful not to put too much pressure on her still-healing foot. Ghost, who had been lounging by the fire, got up at the same time and walked towards the babe's crib. There they both stood looking down at Aella.

Dany looked at the large white wolf and knew Jon was there, inside of him. The dream had all but confirmed it. She had so many questions, but they'd have to wait, now her daughter required all her attention. 

Her little one had grown a great deal; it was incredible how quickly children grew. Dany knew this was a normal part of childhood, yet still, she felt a sense of pride at how well Aella was thriving. Like a flower bud in bloom, it was a common sight yet no less wondrous. Bending down, she grabbed her babe and walked slowly back towards her bed.

While the babe gulped hungrily, Dany stretched her legs looking down at her foot, no longer swollen but still wrapped in linen to keep it stable. Maester Wolkan had insisted that she keep it this way so that it would heal quickly. She was not about to argue with him on that score; she was eager for it to be completely healed. 

Almost three weeks had passed since they had arrived at Winterfell. The time had been used well by all three of them; they had been able to rest and had almost fully recovered from their journey. Even by horseback and ship, it had taken over a moon to reach the castle. Dany, who was no stranger to sleeping in tents and atop furs and palettes, did not mind, but with Aella, she wanted her to have the protection of a castle and the comfort of a soft mattress. 

Her arrival at the Winterfell had been bittersweet. It had stirred a storm of emotions for all of them. Jon's brother Bran and his sisters Sansa and Arya had been there to welcome her along with her Hand Sir Barristan, her little scribe Missandei and Jon's friend Edd, a former member of the Night's Watch. They had been so happy to see her and overjoyed at meeting Aella, but she could see that they had known that Jon was gone, Bran would have told them, and the sorrow they felt at his loss was etched deeply in their expressions. They had been separated for so long and their coming together, right before Dany and Jon had headed on the quest beyond the Wall, had been much too short. The unfairness of it all was a bitter tonic to swallow. 

Arya was the first to approach her.

"Daenerys…" she said, and before she could say anything else, Ghost appeared at her side. Arya walked towards him and put a tentative hand on the wolf's white mane giving him a gentle caress. At that moment, her babe decided to make her presence known, which made Arya look up and turn towards her, a soft smile spreading across her face as she laid eyes on her niece for the very first time.

"May I," she said, and Dany handed Aella to her aunt Arya.

She stared at her with such intensity, as if she were searching for something reminiscent of Jon in the small babe's features. Finally, raising her face to Dany, she said, somewhat hoarsely, "She looks like Jon. Except for her eye, those she got those from you." 

By now, the others had approached them. Sansa came over to hug Dany and then turned towards Arya and scooped the baby from her.

"Oy!" said Arya, but she did not fight her sister.

"She does look like Jon," Sansa said as she walked towards Bran to show off their new niece. Arya followed and Ghost right behind her as they joined their brother and sister.

Now that Dany stood alone, Sir Barristan, Missandei, and Edd took this opportunity to greet her. Sir Barristan took her hands in his engulfing her small hands with his much larger ones.

"I am truly sorry, your grace. When Lord Bran told us what happened I could not believe it. What must have you suffered? And with a newly born babe to care for. It is a miracle you were all able to survive for so long. But if someone could survive, it would be you, your grace." He looked at her with that same gentle smile he gave her when he was both in awe of her yet tinged with sadden at what she had suffered. 

"Jon would have been proud of you," Edd chimed in. "It's no small feat to survive on the other side of the Wall, and I should know." He said, giving her a side smile. 

"I didn't know his grace as well as I would have liked, but his loss is a great one, especially for those who loved and admired him. Rest assured, your grace, that we will keep his memory alive and honor his sacrifice by protecting you and your child."

"Thank you," said Dany, and with that, Sir Barristan, who had still been holding her hands, let them go. She walked over towards Edd and hugged him, startling him. She told him how sorry she was for the loss of his friend. He nodded once and looked down before looking back up at her again. 

Her little scribe, Missandei, stood quietly to the side. Dany walked towards her, and they embraced holding each other tightly as if their lives depended upon it. They didn't have to say anything, at least not yet; they knew each other so well. No words were needed.

Finally, Dany let go and walked towards Bran, who was seated on his wheeled chair. "Thank you; you saved our lives, if Grey Warm had not arrived when he did, I fear what would have happened to us."

"I'm sorry I couldn't do more. What I see is not always clear, especially when it has not happened yet," said Bran, his voice quiet but not as detached as it once was. He might no longer be the little boy Jon once loved, but the time he had spent with his family at Winterfell had helped him recover a small part of himself.

Suddenly, Dany felt someone pull on her hair, and she was brought back to the present where she laid in her chamber with her daughter in her arms. Aella did not appreciate being ignored.

She had grown so much Dany could hardly believe it. She was observant, looking and staring at everyone and everything. She had a curious mind; Maester Wolkan had said that a curious mind breeds a keen insight. 

Each day she looked more like her father, Dany, though, but her eyes those Valyrian violet eyes were an indisputable sign of her Targaryen heritage. They were almost the exact shape and shade as hers. It gave her an otherworldly look. If ever she were to be queen, Dany thought, she would be the First of Her Name, one of a kind. She might not look like a Valyrian, but she was one, through in through. Well, with a good dash of First Man blood. Dany thought, smiling at that.

Queen, thought Dany wryly, but of what kingdom? There is no telling what the land would be like when her daughter inherited it. Right now, the land was in disarray, desolate, and barely holding on from the winter that almost destroyed them all. Its people were scattered throughout the land with the strong preying upon the weak as it had been for much too long, like vultures circling over the dying and the weak, ready to strike at any moment. Some things never changed. Not even their experience with the Others had dissuaded them from their hunger for power and processions.

The experience had tempered that roaring fire that had once lived inside of Dany, but she did not know what she wanted anymore. However, she knew she could not turn a blind eye to the plight of others, and she also knew that she'd protect and care for Aella with all her might, with Fire and Blood, if she must.

 

***

 

She had just finished feeding Aella when she heard a soft knock on the door. The great white wolf that was sitting by her side as he always did, perked his ears towards the source of the sound but did not move. He had obviously determined that there was no threat on the other side of the door, Dany thought with a smile. 

"Come in," she said as a young maid walked tentatively into her room. Dany had not seen her before; she must be one of the new refugees who had made their way to the castle. 

'Your Grace, I beg your pardon, but Lord Bran would like to see you.'

'Oh,' said Dany, 'Where is he?'

'He is down in the crypts your grace," said the young maid looking as frightening as a rabbit and just as confused as she continued, lowering her voice as if to speak in confidence "I hear he likes to spend his time down there. Near where the roots from the Heart Tree can be found.' The young girl didn't understand why Bran liked it there but kept whatever question she might have had to herself.

"What is your name," asked Dany 

"Delia, your grace."

"Thank you, Delia. Send word to him that I'll be there soon. I need to put Aella to bed. Also, could you please send for Missandei.'

'Yes, your grace, I'll let Lord Bran and the Lady Missandei know.' And with that, Delia curtsied and walked out of the room.

Dany began to sing to Aella as she rocked her gently to sleep. There was a soft knock at the door as Missandei let herself in.

"Would you please watch Aella while I visit Bran in the crypts?" said Dany.

"Of course," said Missandei, eager to hold the babe. They had grown quite fond of one another in the last few weeks. Missandei saw her like a little sister and took great pride in caring for and protecting her.  iThis delighted Dany to no end.

"Thank you." She said to Missandei. 

"Will you be joining me?" Dany said to the wolf or to Jon, whatever the case may be. He looked her straight in the eye and walked past her leading the way to the crypts. 

Like it had been in the wasteland beyond the Wall, the wolf had not left her side nor Aella's since they had arrived at Winterfell. Dany was surprised he was joining her to meet with Bran as he usually preferred to stay with Aella whenever Dany had to leave her. She wondered if he was as curious as she was about what Bran had to say.

She continued to follow the wolf as they walked through the castle and out towards the crypts. He knew the castle better than Dany ever could. She had lived here for only a few weeks before they set out on their mission, but it was such a large castle she had barely had time to explore it. She had mostly been confined to the main keep. 

They found themselves at the mouth of the crypts, and Ghost began to descend with Dany closely behind him. One level after another, they went lower into the crypts until Dany lost track of how far down they had gone. The crypts became colder and darker. There were hot spring below Winterfell, and some of the water had seeped through the walls of the crypts. The dank smell of age and decay became more intensified the further down they went. The scent reminded Dany of catacombs she had once visited when she had lived in Lys. As they continued to descend, Dany thought that there must be hundreds of generations of Starks buried down here. 

Finally, they had reached the lowest level of the crypts; the wolf was still leading the way towards where Bran was. Dany couldn't have imagined navigating her way down here on her own; without the wolf's superior sight and sense of smell, she would have been lost like a needle in a stack of hay. They had lit torches all along the dark hallways. Dany could see the statues of the old Kings of Winter with their disintegrating iron swords sitting across their laps and their direwolves sitting still by their side, forever keeping them company. 

Ghost continued to guide her as if he knew exactly where they were headed, his heightened wolf senses clearly telling him where Bran was to be found. Dany knew Jon had never gone down to the last level, he had told her, that as children, they had been too afraid to go all the way down. By the time he had been old enough not to be scared, Robb and he had found other things to be interested in. 

After walking through what seemed like a labyrinth of stone tombs, Dany came face to face with Bram; he was sitting atop enormous and ancient roots as if sitting atop a throne.

"Your grace, it is good to see you again."

"Is this where you like to hide?" she said with a bit of amusement.

"Yes," Bran answered he answered plainly

"Please, call me Daenerys. You and I are we'll pass titles by now. Besides, we are family, are we not?" Such formalities were wholly unnecessary.

"Forgive me, sometimes I forget," he said with that faraway gaze in his eyes, the alertness she had seen in his eyes when she had arrived was now gone. 

Dany decided to take advantage of their time along and asked him the burning questions she had held inside for far too long. "Why didn't you warn us? Warn me? Why didn't you tell me what would happen to Jon? Maybe I could have saved him; I could have done things differently?" Her words came out much sharper than she had intended them too. She did not blame Bran, not really, but how could he see so much and yet see so little.  

"Do you not think I would have wanted to save my brother?" he said quietly.

His words made Dany feel embarrassed by her outburst. "Of course, I'm sorry."

"There was nothing I could do. What I see, it's not like a story, the images are scattered, and I have to put them together, like a puzzle. After you left, I saw an image of you, walking alone by a lake carrying a babe and Ghost by your side. If the dragons had lived, you would not be walking, and if Jon were still alive, you would not be alone. I understood what would happen, that's why I sent word to Grey Worm at Eastwatch to search for you, but I also knew it would be too late to save Jon. This ability of mine, it's an awful burden."

Dany was quiet for a long time. She could not imagine the kind of impotence he must have felt at being able to see so much and to be able to do so little to change what was to happen. She also understood that meddling could bring more harm than good. Too much information could be just as catastrophic as too little. Yet the hollowness and pain she felt could not be pushed away. 

"I know, I'm sorry." She said again. Dany had had a complicated relationship with her brother Viserys, and even so, she missed him. She could not imagine what it would feel like to lose a brother you loved and who had loved you just as much in return. 

"I don't understand why him. He did everything right; he didn't deserve this. He deserved to be here with his family."

Bran looked at her thoughtfully as if he was considering something of great importance. "He has not left us; has not left you. Not really. He sits there by your side. You must know it, feel that Jon is now inside of Ghost."

"I've suspected as much, but I've not dared to believe that Jon was still here, I've not dared to give myself such hope. But if he's in there, will he not eventually lose himself? Each day he begins to fade until one day there will be no more of him, and I would have lost him all over again." The thought of that filled her with such sorrow that she thought she would down in it, and at that, the tears she tried so hard to hold in began to flow freely down her cheeks.

"You won't," said Bran, not quite looking at her.

'What?' asked Dany, confused.

"You won't lose Jon, I saw a vision of you and him, standing side by side with Aella standing between you."

Dany took in a shuttering deep breath "that's not possible." she said, her voice barely a whisper. "I burned his body beyond the Wall. Jon is gone, and he's not coming back, not as he was. Him inside of Ghost is all we have left."

"Perhaps." He said almost with a shrug, "But as I've told you, the images I get are incomplete, just puzzle pieces. I do know you will not lose him." He had that detached voice he sometimes used when his mind was far beyond this realm.

"It's only a matter of time before he's no longer himself. He cannot stay long within the wolf without losing a little of himself each day." She repeated as she took another deep breath to calm her raging emotions. Hope and despair danced around her like macabre ghost, enticing her to dance along. She was trying to be patient and understanding. It could not be easy for Bran to see all that he saw. Nonetheless, his words hurt her because she knew that any hope would lead to more sorrow.

Bran spoke again, "There might be a way for him not to lose himself to the wolf. Jon is a strong warg; he will not let go of himself easily, and I can help him."

Dany snapped her head up, piecing Bran with an intense stair. Even as she tried futile to crush it, a seed of hope sought to bloom in her heart. She didn't want to believe, she had suffered too much heartbreak and sorrow to last a thousand lifetimes, but she had never been one to give in to despair. Would Bran give her false hope? No, he could not be so cruel? Could he?

"How?" she said hoarsely, pushing the words out against her better judgment.

"We need to eliminate the animal within. We need to free Jon of that temptation to give in to the wolf." The words trailing aways as he spoke them. 

"No!" the word burst out of Dany like an arrow. "You meant to kill Ghost, kill his consciousness? Jon would never allow that. Ghost was a part of him. We cannot do that to him."

"Jon understands what needs to be done. Don't you, Jon?" Bran said and turned his gaze toward the wolf, who was staring intently by her side.

'Jon?" said Dany almost in a whisper, turning to him.

The wolf was staring intently at Bran, and then slowly and deliberately, it turned its gaze to stare at her; there was sadness in his eyes, but there was also determination and defiance. Jon loved deeply, but he had always been a practical man, it was one of the things Dany had loved most about him. He would do whatever needed to be done. He turned his head slowly to look back at Bran; and raised his head prepared to do what was necessary. 

"Are you sure?" she had to force herself to ask, trying to assuage her guilt at wanting to have Jon with her for as long as she could. "We cannot take it back. You would lose Ghost forever." The wolf continued to stare a Bran determinately, unwaveringly. 

Dany looked once again at Bran, 'When will this happen?'

"It has begun", said Bran as he closed his eyes.