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A Dance of Shadows

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When had the snow stopped falling? She wondered. Beyond the window, where her gaze had wandered, spring seemed to take possession of the land. She remembered her beginning, as a little girl full of dreams, the green grass that always seemed so dull compared to what she could imagine, the houses that were always so small, so rustic, and their walls grey from smoke and dust. And the people, austere and quiet, with few smiles, when her mind wanted colors, vibration and euphoria.

But spring was not in her heart this morning. And the color of the grass was now much less shiny than what it had been, and the houses now were immaculate due to their recent repair. The people were now hers, more than she ever thought it was possible. Yesterday, that comparison would have offended her, but now she felt it. She felt the ice in her veins, just as them, just as the cold wind that were straying in such a quiet morning.

Where did the North and her end, exactly? She wasn’t quite sure anymore. She was the North, and the North was her. When it suffered, she could feel it as if it was her own wound. Of her body, she couldn’t really feel anything now. Hunger perhaps. Anger too. But no pleasure. No, it wasn’t for her anymore. She could still feel unwanted touches on her skin, unwanted presence behind her, tormenting her, ordering her again and again to break.

But not again. No, she would not break this time. Her skin has changed from porcelain, to ivory, to steel. And even her tormenter had doubted it. He shouldn’t have underestimated her. His loss, her win.

‘Your Grace?”

Sansa blinked and turned her head away from the window, towards the man that interrupted her thoughts. She couldn’t remember his name, but she knew his face. A warrior, ill-suited for his task as a messenger. From the emblem, he must be from House Hornwood. Righteous at wrath.

Seven gods, she did not fear his wrath. Where was his lord?

“I beg your pardon, your Grace,” he said. “We c-come here today to ask for… prot… protection. As I said, there’s been people who… slaughtered… at the village of Pealsnow and…”

She interrupted him.

“Who?”

He lowered his head, as if frightened.

Was she that terrifying? She wondered.

He bowed, looked around at the men around him, and seemed to find some courage, finally.

“Wildlings, men said, your Grace. There’s unrest in the villages. People fighting over chicken and crops, and babes being stolen in the night.”

His speech was followed with quiet but firm “Aye”, and nodding.

She was tempted to laugh.

“Wildlings, you say?” She wondered. “Are you entirely sure of yourself? They are children of Winter, they don’t like the life on this side of the Wall. They all decided to move out as soon as the Great War ended. You’ve seen them as much as I did.”

He seemed a bit ill-at-ease.

“Well, I… I did, such as you. B-but…”

“Do you have any proof of what you said?”

The Hornwood man shook his head nervously. She almost thought he would piss on himself if she would continue staring at him.

“No? That’s disappointing. Then I will ask you, ser, to bring me one, in the name of your lord.”

“Your Grace, I… I will. B-but… we hadn’t thought… We thought… Well, now it’s done…”

Could he be any less articulate? Sansa bit back a remark. She was supposed to be good, to make them talk. She sighed instead.

“We thank you for your information, ser. I dare hope your lord would join us soon for the festivities next week”

He seemed to shrink a little.

“He… did not survive, your Grace. Me and my men… we are the survivors of the attack. We couldn’t… We had to flee, if we stayed… ”

She raised one of her eyebrows.

“So you let him be slaughtered?” She raised her voice, cold as snow. “You broke your vow to protect your given lord?”

He shook, looked around him for support, and continued, with more precipitation.

“But… there were no chances… You have to understand, your Grace, we were outnumbered.”

“And I believe you remember, ser, that you swore your life to protect your lord, and that your desertion means that this oath was broken. Plus, you come here, asking for protection, when you hadn’t even stayed for your lord. And my men said that you stole pigs and threatened their owners in one of our nearby farms. My lord Cerwyn”, she asked, turning to the lord in question. “It seems that I have trouble to remember. Could you remind me what law recommend for men who have done such deeds?”

Lord Cerwyn smiled. He had been friends, she knew, with the young lord Hornwood, and when he learned of his demise, he had almost come for the man, he knew. She had heard it when his hand clang to his sword.

“Death,” he said with a snarky smile.

The leader of the Hornwood men began to shake, but he could not say a word. Nor his men for now.

She nodded, deeply in thought.

“My father used to say the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.”

She raised from her throne.

“I am no man, ser.” She continued “And your hand is important for the North.”

The man raised his head, relief on his face.

“Oh, your Grace…”

Once again, she cut him short before he would fool himself more.

“I’m not finished. You will, as an example, be led to the Night’s Watch,” she turned her head toward Lord Cerwyn, who nodded. “Here, you could see by yourself if any wildling crossed the Wall. Some of my men will escort you, with others that decided to take the black. But not now. Not before you've seen what happened to your lord. In my name, I will ask one of your men to take the mission I asked of you. Then, when the mission is finished and you realize your failure, you will go."

He stopped, petrified, but then nodded, broken.

“Yes, your G-grace. As you… said.”

She overlooked the rest of his men. Most of them did not dare to cross her eyes as she wondered which one could replace their leader. None of them had defended him. They all seemed to act as one in their cowardice. But then, her gaze stopped on one man. He was shaking, as the others. But not from fear, she gathered from the way his fists were tight. The top of his head was clumsily wrapped in thin bandages, but she could still see blood on it. A scar was drawn from his left cheek to one side of the bandage, and she wondered how long it was. His clear green eyes were staring back at her, with anger and sadness. Not an anger directed at her. More like a thirst to revenge.

He was slighter than the other men. Maybe a bit older than her. But it didn’t matter. Age and built, she had learned, were not signs of competence.

“You.” She asked him. “Who are you?”

“Your Grace…” the leader said. “He’s no one. N-not even a ser… Just one of the playmates of my lord, bastard to one of my… Not someone with any importance.”

“I haven’t asked you” She glared at him, and then asked again for the young man. “Who are you?”

“Malwyn Snow, your Grace.”

“And where were you, when your lord died?”

He lowered his head, seemingly in order to gather his thoughts. One of the men answered in his stead.

“Don’t be too hard on him, your Grace. The lad tried to defend one of the families, but then… some of the enemies knocked him down. He’s a good lad, your Grace, I’ve known his father. We found him near a fountain, barely alive.”

“Aye” said others.

The leader glared at them. They shut their mouths. Visibly, he did not like the young man.

Good, at least some people seemed to respect him.

“And you say it was wildlings”

“I say they were dressed as wildlings.” The young man replied.

She raised her eyebrows.

“Oh.” She said. “So you seem to have some doubts.”

He raised his head, suddenly nervous, seemingly aware of the whispers of his group.

“I wouldn’t presume…”

“Your presumptions are what interests me at the moment. Humor your queen, Malwyn Snow.”

He fidgeted a little, then continued. “I’ve seen Wildlings, your Grace. Some of them took my mother away when I was a little boy. That was not wildlings, your Grace. They were far more disciplined to be only that.”

She pondered the question.

“Then, Malwyn Snow, I guess we have found an arrangement. You will lead the men for your investigation.”

She could see the plead In his eyes. That was not a easy task she was asking of him, given his status.

“But… I’m not…”

“You will gain the rank of a knight if you succeed, and you will have revenge for your fallen lord and friend.” She continued. “And if I ever hear of any mutiny against you, let it be known that I will take the offence personally.”

He looked at her with surprise, while the others stared at her with awe.

“You can’t!” the leader said one last time.

She turned back to her chair and glared at him.

“This is my decision. You can take your leave, now, and rest. Food will be brought to you. As for you, ser, I believe lord Cerwyn can show you the rooms prepared for the ones who have the honor to take the black. ”

With hesitation, the Hornwood men bowed to her. The former leader bowed a bit more reluctantly, but she saw that he had no will to fight more. She would have to look at him a bit more closely, maybe. Weak men like him could be easily manipulated.

Lord Cerwyn joined her when he was done.

“An admirable decision, your Grace,” said lord Cerwyn. “You were just and kind, when others would have killed him…. I would have.”

She nodded, waiting for the next report. “I know, my lord. But I would certainly need your wrath elsewhere, I believe. It is the third time this week. Something is going on, and we’d better be prepared.”

“My arm is yours, your Grace.” He bowed to her.

She was their Queen. Ice flowed in her veins. They were her men : Hornwood, Cerwyn, Manderly… They all had already fought for her. Fought for Jon in the wars that came.

Not the Karstark or the Umber, not anymore. And now, of Hornwood… Who was really left of it?

Queen Sansa the Wise, they had called her. They certainly would not have called her that if she stayed silent and bent the knee, if she hadn’t done what they wished she would. She would have preferred the Red Wolf, honestly.

She was known to be smart and pragmatic. Still, it seemed like the only ones who wanted to claim her hand saw her as a price to be won with a pretty face, a girl who had always pleaded to get what she wanted: an army for Jon, the independence of the North. These persons saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath. Not the she-wolf underneath. A she-wolf who wanted to bite anyone who threatened her pack…

A pack who was now gone. Jon farther North, Bran South. And Arya… Who knew where she was at the moment? She was not one to write letters, and Sansa had not awaited it. But she was still alive, that she could feel it.

Poor lord Gendry Baratheon had waited the first month since her departure, in Winterfell in order to have some news of her. All this month he had been pestering Sansa, as if she was concealing him her location. He would certainly have stayed a lot more, had he not had his own house to rebuild at Storm’s End.

Sansa sighted.

It was love, it seemed. Once upon a time, she dreamt of a love like this, of a lord coming to Winterfell to sweep her off her feet. But then, love in her family seemed to go the wrong way. Duty was to be observed. It was what was necessary for the security of the realm.

An image came to her, haunting her. Jon, with his silver queen, eyes locked as if they were the only ones in the place. Voices that came, but that didn’t break it. A bit of jealousy and envy in her heart, feelings she thought she would never experience anymore.

That was another day, another dream. A fool’s dream.

She hadn’t wanted to be right. She just wanted to be safe. Jon could procure that safety. ’He’d understand’ she thought at the time. But did he? She saw the glimpse in his eye, the uncertainty. He loved her, as a true brother would, she thought. Or cousin, maybe. Time had troubled that assumption. But trust her? No, she didn’t want his trust. If there was something she had learned from Littlefinger, it was that she couldn’t trust men. Nor women. Life wasn’t a song where knights would save distressed maiden from dragons and tyrants.

She wasn’t a maiden anymore. And dragons and tyrants were not her problems anymore. Both were gone. She did the right thing. Or, more like, she pushed one button, and the others followed, as she planned it.

But now, here she was, alone in a world of men that thought they could one day tame her, make her theirs, somehow. She could see the lust in their eyes, as much as the admiration. Many of them had travelled in the year to ask for her hand, some just sent letters. Sometimes, she had been tempted to say yes, for the North to have more allies. But then, her blood turned cold when she met them. She could always see straight through them.

She was always a key to the North for them. If she let them, they would want to take her away, to sent her in the bedchamber, where she would be just a womb.

It was her duty, she learned when she was young. But now, there was other things she’d learned. And being entirely passive wasn’t one of them. It she had to step back, it had to be for the North to gain a powerful ally, one that she could make listen. One that wouldn’t want her or her people to bend the knee.

So here she stayed. And the more she waited, the more they were waiting at her door. But none worthy for her to consider it.

She had never thought she could feel lonely when being so admired.

Queen, she was now. But to what price?

Her fingers danced lightly on the arms of her throne as she counted all the losses and gains. All the faces that she would never see again. All the faces she would see day after day. And faces that belonged to another past, one where Such as that one, who was now standing in front of her, waiting for her command.

She motioned him to talk. The man smiled, bowed and stood back to let another step forwards.

“There’s someone who I would like you to meet, your Grace.” The first man said.

She raised her eyes.

“Who?”

“Ser Harrold Hardyng”

Harrold Hardyng. Also named Harry the heir, for his claim on the Eyries. If Robert Arryn were to die, such were suspected these days as he had been taken ill since the last tournament of Harrenhal two months ago, he could become a strong ally.

If rumors were true, he already had two bastard daughters.

But then what the rumors said of her, again? She wondered, seeing the well-built sandy-haired man in front of her, his deep blue eyes staring at her with confidence.

The perfect image of the knight in shining armor.

Well, she would have to wait and see, she decided.

Chapter Text

DESCRIPTION DE L’IMAGE
A big thank you for the lovely and talented @ditto-moon on tumblr, for this picture of Arya that I commissioned. This is beautiful! Feel free to check the other amazing art on her blog (https://ditto-moon.tumblr.com/) :)
That being said, good reading!
....

“On the count of three… One… Two…”

She set down her card. Queen of hearts. Against seven of spades. She won. The man’s face in front of her fell, as his eyes were fixed on the beautiful lady drawn on her card. An image quite similar to that of Sansa, in a way, with her red hair and her classic beauty. His mouth was agape. He couldn’t believe it.

Because in fact, this card wasn’t hers. It was the one that he hid on his handle, intended to trick her.

He was going to murder her in her sleep after that. Or at least, he will try, Arya thought with an amused smile. If he swung the dagger with the same acuity as he played, she would have time to end his life ten times before that.

“Another time, Larry,” She said, taking the money that was bet on this game before he could protest.

She reached the counter, thirsty for another beer. The innkeeper stared at her, a smile on his face, as he poured down the liquid on the goblet.

“Y’ know you mad’ an en’my out o’a born k’lla and he’s not gonna let you g’t away with it, right, lass?”

Her smile grew larger.

“He will try. If he can catch me”

He laughed loudly.

“Ya’ve got sp’rit, my lass, I like it!” He said. “I’d be that sorry when I’d see ya body in b’d cover’d in blo’d next m’rning.”

“Not mine, I believe. But I will be sorry for you, having to clean that up.” Arya replied, putting a gold coin on the counter and taking her goblet with her.

His laugh deepened, and she thought he was going to throw up by the strength of it. She drank, feeling the cold liquid ran through the inside of her body. She felt refreshed, and a bit hazy by the alcohol.

But not enough for her to be THAT hazy. She could still murder all of them in their sleep. And they wouldn’t even feel a thing, if she wanted.

She looked around her, taking the atmosphere of the inn. Dust and rancid drinks on the tables. Mostly men drinking both. Some women, lightly dressed, visibly here to be the company of men who would only see the roundness of their breasts and of their butt.

The city where she was now was called Mukhtar. City of silk merchants and prostitutes, but also of games and drinks. A city of pleasure for some, of murders for others. Excesses, everywhere. For men, of course. But her status as stranger seemed to make her in the eyes of these people either sexless, either a conquest. Some tried to abuse her just to prove the last point.

These ones did not have eyes anymore. She was the one coming in this strange country, willingly. She wasn’t going to be their sex-slave.

Only in this inn, she felt in known country. Such atmosphere, she had also seen it at Westeros. And maybe it was because her travels had led her actually back nearer. She had seen in these lands moralities, stories, that made her feel like home, but still, each word seemingly unaware of the other.

What’s west of Westeros? She had asked her brothers and sister. She had seen things she never knew existed. People, smells, flavors, textures. Everything was different and exciting. But everything was also strange and dangerous, and it couldn’t fill the void she felt inside.

Sansa must be married now, she thought. Or would she? When she was young, that was all she would talk about, how one day, she would be swept away by a brave knight who would treat her like a queen and how their children would be the most magnificent ones the world had ever seen.

But that wasn’t Sansa anymore. She was a queen of her own right now. Nor was she the same Arya from her beginning. She remembered the raised eyebrows of her father, amused by the mud on her robe. She remembered her mother’s disapproving frown and her attempts to keep her hair tamed.

They both saw who she really was, what she really wanted. But that didn’t mean they were totally accepting. They treated it like fantasies, Father maybe with more fondness, but fantasies nonetheless.

“You will marry a high lord and rule his castle.” Father said. “And your sons shall be knights and princes and lords.”

But Father was gone. And, at the end, he understood. That wasn’t her. She wasn’t born to be anyone’s obedient little wife. Now, here she was, with all the eyes she closed, eyes that she would see sometimes in vulnerable nights.

“Be with me. Be the lady of Storm’s End”

She shook her head. Why would she think of him now? That wasn’t what she wanted at the moment, and it still wasn’t what she wanted now. She wasn’t a lady. She wasn’t her sister. She was Arya Stark, she had killed the Night King, she had fought against oceans and seas. She didn’t need a man. Nor anyone else to be happy with what she was. She was enough.

She sighed. No, she would not think of THAT night again, she thought. She would not remember of touches on her skin, of blue eyes staring back at her and…

First time wasn’t even that good.

But the other ones.…

She closed her eyes, then looked back. She decided to get back to her room at the inn. When she closed the door behind her, she sighed and fall on her bed, thinking.

The man who lost to her at cards would certainly try to make a move. To kill her or fuck her. Or both. But seeing him that engaged in a discussion now, it might take a while.

Thirteen minutes, maybe. In these thirteen minutes, she could do a lot of things. She could even get away, and no one would even find her again.

But then, it wouldn’t satisfy her.

But maybe something could, for a while. She looked from right to left (an habitude she had took each time it happened, private rooms weren’t always THAT private), then put her hands under her pants.

Like this, she could almost imagine he was there, with her. Gendry Baratheon. Gendry Waters.

She had had other men. Three, maybe, in the year that came. Women had needs too, she thought with a lazy smile, and he made her discover that. She had known other things. She never attached herself to them. She never had really the feeling to.

But what was it in that man that even one year after, she was still thinking of his touch?

His hands must be soft now, she thought. A lord’s hands, now used to “nobler” tasks than forging blades and swinging hammer. She guessed that these hands must be on someone else now. A soft-spoken lady perhaps, skilled with a needle and singing all day for her knight. Not a ruthless warrior as she was.

Three women, he had before her. She remembered.

She closed her eyes, bit her lips. Three women who had known him like that, who had felt his hard cock inside them, taking pleasure after pleasure, again and again…

She moaned, her fingers having found just the right spot. With her eyes shut, she could almost believe it was his fingers, who were on her, pleasuring her like that.

Then came the loud bang on her door. A bang so loud she thought it would break it;

She cursed and raised up. Eleven minutes. That guy was actually less sharp than she thought. She thought he would actually manage to get inside the room, so she could kill him more discretely.

Running to the door, she opened it and caught the man by the collar, raising her dagger to meet his throat.

“You’re going to regret interrupting me” She snarled, all fangs shown and fever in her eyes from her previous pleasure.

“Interrupting what?” said a familiar voice.

She let the man go, as if touching him had burned her.

“Gendry?”

Here he was, the same as when she left him, and he had a smug smile on his face. And blue eyes staring at her with sparks that she refused to give signification to, and which just made her fuzzier inside.

Damn that man, entering her life like that, with a hammer on his hand.

“Hello Arya” He said. “Did you miss me?”

Her heart missed a beat, and she almost lost it.

“Damn it!” She turned back, frustration on her tone. “I almost killed you!”

“I’ve seen.” He replied. “Wouldn’t be the first time. But I’ve seen you more cold-blooded, before.”

She looked at him, disbelieving.

He chuckled, and looked behind him. That’s when she noticed it. The corpse of the man she had prepared herself to kill tonight. Now with a scrambled face, due certainly to an attack with a hammer.

Hammer that still was in Gendry’s hand.

This man had had the same timing she had thought. But then, both of them hadn’t expected the former blacksmith to come.

The nerve of him. She wanted to see that death. He just robbed her of it.

“I knew there would be tons of men at your door, “ Gendry said, irony on his tone, “but I hadn’t expect them to actually try to stab you before I do.”

“Oh, because you think you could?” she replied.

He chuckled.

But she had to think of the practicalities.

“That body should be hidden. Else, people will see it.” She said, beginning to take it by the feet to lead it to the room.

If people saw it, there would be screaming. And she wouldn’t get any sleep. That wasn’t like what she planned.

He looked at her, flabbergasted.

“Seriously?” He said. “I just came here and that’s the first thing you do? No hello Gendry? I missed you too?”

She ignored him. The body was almost inside.

“Arya.”

Almost.

“Arya.”

The feet were in, now. She just had to close the door and ignore the warmth that was revived on her belly.

Gendry took her arm, making her focus on him. His eyes were positively burning.

“I don’t care if it alerts some fool who will cry murder.” He shouted, and she remembered the motto of his house. It excited her, more than she would admit right now. “Do you know how hard it was to find you?”

“Apparently not hard enough.” She said him, trying to put her hand on his mouth so that his loud and deep voice wouldn’t attract other people.

He kissed her. She was tempted to respond to it, succumbing to the nostalgia that was making her blood boiling in her veins.

Yes, nostalgia.

But then, nostalgia was a bit too much for such a reaction. She pushed him a bit.

“Why did you come here?” She asked him, trying to regain her calm.

“To take you away from here.” He tried to steal a kiss. “What does it look like?”

He was persistent, she had to give him that. Last time she saw him, it was before she even sailed. She had left him in bed, not telling him it was the last time.

“You can’t take me. Don’t you have other ladies to see?”

“I don’t like ladies.” He said between her lips. “They tend to disappoint me.”

“Oh” A flare of jealousy ran through her body. “How many?”

He raised an eyebrow, pushing her away a little.

“Does it matter?” He replied with an amused smile.

She took his lips once again with hers. “No”

And it didn’t. He was here, that matters.

A least, she added with an afterthought, for the need she had at the moment. The need she had built without knowing he would be at her disposal to finish it. She had been prepared to finish it herself.

Well, now that he was here….

She closed the door behind them and raised her eyes towards him. He profited that moment to push her against it, raising her hips to meet his, and wrapping her legs around him.

++++ Beware, slight smut ++++++++

He kissed her again, and she let his tongue in, meeting it with her own, needing, taking, but wanting always more. He groaned, and she smiled.

The need tickled her everywhere, from her sex that she felt warmer and wetter against the breeches. She took off her shirt at the same time as him, between kisses that felt more like battles than tender love such as was presented by Sansa’s romances. But she liked it nonetheless.

“What were you doing, actually, before I even came here?” He asked, fever on his eyes, reflecting her own.

Unwillingly, she lowered her eyes on her fist that was on his chest now, the one that had been pleasuring her earlier.

His eyes widened in recognition. He took her hand in his, licked her fingers and eyed her crotch, the cloth having been slightly opened to let her do what she wanted. She bit her lip, refusing to let out any cry.

“You naughty girl” He said with a voice that sent shivers on her skin. “For who exactly were you preparing yourself, exactly?”

She smirked.

“For myself, actually”

“… Why doesn’t It surprise me?”

She raised an eyebrow, pushed him off her and walked towards the bed.

“No, no, don’t take it the wrong way,” he protested. “Damn, you’re so… stubborn. And independent. And beautiful. And…”

She took her breeches off, turned towards him and smirked.

“Shut up and take your bloody pants off”

He smiled, his eyes full of mirth and lust and joined her.

“Geez. You’re always so commanding.” He said with his deep voice. “As you wish, my la-“

She kissed him before he could finish his sentence and pushed him until he was falling on the bed. She touched him, He touched her. It seemed as if they were trying to find where his body ended and where hers began.

When his cock entered her, it seemed as easy as if he just put gloves on his hands. She felt every inch of his, fitting every part of her, and then pushing her, just like she was pushing him till she felt open and warm in every pore of her skin. She felt dizzy, exhilarating. She couldn’t think clearly, time after time leading to another wave of sensation, of pleasure that was surpassing the rest.

And when he came, she cried with him, feeling the ecstasy take control.

++++++ END of Smut +++++++++++

He looked at her, heavy breath making his large chest raise and it felt a little bit like she belonged.

“How I missed you,” He said, wrapping his arms around her.

She almost said the same. Almost.

Her arms around him, she let herself believe that it would be enough. She would have to be out before he woke up, she thought. If she were any longer, she would almost be tempted to stay. And that, exactly, terrified her.

Why that, she couldn’t figure it out. She didn’t want to think of it now.

She counted his breaths according to the beatings of his heart. Warmth surrounded her. She let herself getting lost in his scent and closed her eyes.

……

She ran wild, a she-wolf hunting. On her tongue, she could still feel the taste of blood and ashes. It stuck at her lips, ran down from it to her chest. It smelt delicious, and she was wanting more of it.

The night was clear and snow was falling, building a white bed on . She was almost tempted to stop a little. But then, her prey wouldn’t stop.

Far away, her brother cried at the moon, and she cried with him. She tried to reach him. She could almost see him. Then she stopped. Her paw had touched a sharp thing, hurting her.

She looked at it, fangs out.

Here lay a long sword, almost buried by the snow, the hilt decorated with a white wolf’s head.

She realized. Her eyes opened. Her brother cried once again, and she cried with him, smelling the ash and the blood in the air.

“JON!”

Chapter Text

He woke up at dawn, as usual, straw sticking on his clothes, and on his bandage. Ringing in his ears disturbed him, such as the images that were stuck in his mind of the recent massacre, mixed with the event of the Great War. Darkness and chaos, screams in the night that diminished little by little to let a terrific silence in. Faces with fear in their eyes, their mouths. Blood running through skin, dripping on the floor.

He had been in Winterfell, then, with the other men. Men he had known all his life. Edwin, great archer, who had taught him to play with the bow and the arrow. Jan who he had been running errands with when he was a young fool (well, younger than he was now). Finn, with always a joke in mind and playing the lute like no one else. Rickard, who always said aye to everything, without really thinking about it. Denys, who couldn’t hold a feather properly without breaking it but who could swing the lance expertly. Eddy, who was always whoring around as if it was some sport. Reagan, a distant shadow, always looking at him and his mother with hostility. Darren, who could sometimes stop to bring his mother some flowers, pat him on the head when he saw him behind her skirt, and bring him pastries when he was a boy. As if a boy couldn’t comprehend such things.

And then, there was Larence. Larence Hornwood, born Snow as him, but who was chosen by the King in The North, when he had been named, to take back the lands of his father. Wise, kind Larence Hornwood. Brave when needed, always attentive to the need of the people. And his closest friend too. They discussed every plan and trusted each other to have the other’s back, like brothers would.

Larence had been so alike the King, in fact.

The King in the North, born a bastard as himself, who raised and raised, until he was at the top. Spited in the Night Watch as steward, then named Lord Commander after having disappeared mysteriously. Who then let Wildlings in to protect them against the White Walkers.

A contestable choice, but Malwyn, despite his hatred of one Wildling in particular, couldn’t blame it on them. In fact, it made him respect the man even more. A man who cared so desperately about the livings that he welcomed wildlings on the other side of the Wall and inspired them to fight for him, at the Battle of Bastards, then at the Great War.

Larence and Malwyn admired him, revered him. He was the hope that they did not have to stay only bastards all their lives. In him, they found confidence in their destiny. He wouldn’t be only the “poor young Malwyn Snow”, whose mother died in front of him, and who was raised by soldiers who did not understand a child’s needs.

But then, the King was no longer King. He had bent the knee to her. The mad Queen.

Good ones never seemed to stay good too long, he thought.

An image of the woman came in his mind. Her beautiful silver hair floating lightly behind her despite its thick and intricated braids. And eyes, deep purple eyes, with such a spark of melancholia in them. A mouth that opened only a little, but with a strong albeit soft voice. As the others, he had looked at her with suspicion and hostility, that foreign queen coming with her armies of strangers and criminals. And dragons. Two ferocious monsters that breathed fire and ate tremendous food that the North needed.

How could the King bend the knee to that terrific woman? He had asked himself the question.

He couldn’t understand at the time, having never loved.

But then the monsters defended them against the dead, and he couldn’t have been more thankful.

Then came Reina, a dream in the aftermath of the fight, dancing in the snow as if yesterday had just been another day under the sunshine.

Hair the color of honey and tender brown eyes that followed him with such a love. Born a nobody, like him, but raised as queen. She was loved, admired by all. And when she sang, his heart would beat fast. And boy, she could laugh. She was saucy and could break any man.

She did not break him. But she stole him. And after that, he had never wanted to leave her side.

He had almost forgot, then. About the man who killed his mother. The man he saw again then, in Winterfell, when the Great War began. The man with flaming hair and blue eyes, and furs enveloping him as if it was a second skin. He was the same as he saw
him last time, as a little boy. As if ten years hadn’t taken their hold on him.

He could not kill him that time. Not yet.

He had promised himself to Reina that night, before leaving to King’s Landing. He had said he would bend the knee ten times over if only he could have her in his arms. She had laughed at him then, telling him to stop. That it was impossible.

And it was. After this Great War came another and he had to follow the others.

He shouldn’t have, for all it had been worth it. The queen that he had begun to admire turned mad, leaving a burning city and corpses behind her and his hero was dishonored and exiled.

And because when he and Larence returned, only their friends’ sorry faces were waiting for them.

Reina had been married in the South, he learned. Some knight serving the Mad Queen, and who now was loyal to king Bran.

Some unknown knight that still lived, and who took her away from him.

“You’ll get over it, boy” they all said. And, to his own surprise, he almost did.

Women, he had had some after Reina. But he never really forgot. She was here, somewhere. Maybe waiting for him, who knew. She swore she would never think of a man the same as she did him. Even if she was forced to marry, she said. She swore.

Now, there was only Jan, bitter as an old man. Rickard was still a fool, but a weak fool. Denys had lost his fighting hand. Eddy had added drinking to whoring, and it seemed sometimes he couldn’t think clearly. And Darren, who still saw him as a boy, and couldn’t help but defend him, as if he was a puppy. He was no dog, nor wolf.

There was also Reagan, of course. But Reagan never seemed to warm up to him. Not that he cared. Since he was a boy, that man was always looking at him with spite and hatred, as if him being born was an insult to the world.

After whole months at trying to rebuild Hornwood, feeding and motivating the men, women and children that had survived the late Ramsey Bolton and his men, and then the Great War, Larence had found it was time to renew their allegiance to the Queen. He believed in her, Malwyn had seen it. He saw his eyes sparkled when they put the crown on her head.

And then, Larence was left alone to fight and die. And he couldn’t fight alongside him. He couldn’t even protect the ones he wanted to save. He could still hear their scream in his head.

How was he still alive? Why did they let him?

That question remained unanswered and made him uneasy.

He had almost believed in it.

But then his closest friend died, and so his plans with him.

He had no one else to look up to.

Sansa Stark may be the queen in the north, he thought. But he did not recognize any king or queen anymore. He was a bastard, a Snow. His lord was dead, and so was his vow of fealty. No more would he care for the realm, or the ones that pretend to be its
master.

No one deserved it.

Especially not that man. Ser Harrold Hardyng.

He was up to no good, he thought. His gallantries to the queen were sickly to watch. At least to him. He could see some girls swoon, and he could also see the gaze of this man on them.

Sansa Stark did not seem to care that much. She responded to his advances quietly, her mouth only opening slightly. Sometimes, her remarks would provoke a roar of laughter on Harrold Hardyng.

They seemed to be a match made in heaven. The Queen and her Knight. Both seemingly representing the very pictures of these concepts.

He couldn’t tell the feelings of that young queen. At least, they seemed to get along, Malwyn thought. At least, they seemed to have objectives in common.

He prepared his horse, added his bag to the charge. He would have to leave that damn city soon, he thought. They had alerted that queen, now that duty ended.

He could hear swords clinging to one another, and gasps of the trainees. In another time, it had been him, with Larence, or Jan.

“You seem pensive, Malwyn Snow” said a clear voice behind him.

The queen.

He bowed, but said nothing. He couldn’t. How could he tell that queen that he never knew, who he only saw three times before Larence’s death, what he was thinking about?

The first when he managed to sneak around, with Larence, at a great fest organized by her father Eddard Stark. She was a pretty thing then, with a sweet smile. She did not look at him once.

The second time, she was older, and she was with her half brother the king – former king, mind - , asking for help to win back Winterfell.

The third time, they actually stayed in that castle, during the longest night he had ever known.

He hadn’t been at the coronation. He couldn’t at the time. But Larence told him. And it had been obvious from the start that his lord was really enamored with her.

“Talk to your queen, boy,” Harrold Hardyng snarled, behind her.

Malwyn looked up at him. He was taller than him. Taller than even the queen. But still, he couldn’t inspire him respect.

“Oh but maybe Malwyn SNOW had had his tongue cut this morning.” She replied with cold gallantry.

“No, your Grace,” he said reluctantly. “My tongue is fine. I’m leaving at the instant.”

Harry the heir took a few steps forwards, his face turning red and his eyes glaring.

“The insolent!” he snarled.

His hand almost reached his sword, fury rushing through his veins, but then Sansa Stark stopped him.

“I thank you, ser, for your chivalry.” She said with an even voice. “But he is one of my people. I believe I can handle, even the lowest ones.”

Harrold grinded his teeth, but he bowed nonetheless. Malwyn couldn’t help the rage growling at his stomach.

‘Lowest’. He had been called worse. But that did not mean it did not sting the less.

But it seemed that Harrold was satisfied with it. He left them, but the queen’s guards didn’t.

As Malwyn was about to go, Sansa Stark took his arm.

“I remember you fought with us at the Great War.” She said. You were brave.”

No she didn’t. He could see that. How could she? He had been a man among the others. But he was a bit awed to see that she would condescend to talk to him. In another life, it would have been enough for him to swear his fealty to her.

But that life was over.

“Aye.” Brave he was. Fool too.

“You have been a friend of lord Larence Hornwood, as I recall.” She said.

He froze, then nodded.

“I did not know Larence Hornwood very well, but I was very sorry for his loss.” She said. “He was a brave man. He will be sorely missed.”

His throat felt like somebody was strangling him.

“He was.” He managed to answer. “He will.”

She took a step closer to him.

“Now, you will have the opportunity to avenge him. Your lord, your friend.”

Pretty words. But pretty words wouldn’t bring all that had been lost. And it wasn’t only Larence. She did not know what he wanted.

“I’m still a bastard.” He said. “Title or no.”

She blinked a little, but continued. A hint of sadness glinted through her eyelashes.

“Yes you are,” She said. “My… the former king in the North, was too. In the end, does it really matter, when it comes to honor?”

She left him with that question unanswered.

He looked as she left.

She was beautiful, that queen, with her red hair and clear blue eyes. But she was so cold. Her gaze could freeze him and made him think she could read through him, like some book.

But she couldn’t. He was no book for her to read.

As for her voice, how unlike Reina’s it was. If Reason had a voice, he thought, it would be hers. Cold, hard and clear. He had heard that when she was young, she could sing pretty songs, and that she was exactly what was expected of a fair maiden. Polite,
gracious and courteous.

He had not seen that, bastard as he was. And he did not really care. Reina’s was joy and sunshine all the same, tender even at its edges, but teasing him like the flipping candle he used as he tried to read at nights in his room. She always wanted him to catch
her…

If only he could find her, he thought. She was certainly the only light in this world, now.

He met the other men at the gate, and silently, they rode the road towards Hornwood. But when they arrived at crossroads, and they turned left, he turned his horse right.

They almost did not remark it. He had been behind, as he had always been. And until then, he had always followed them.

But then, they remarked it.

“Boy, aren’t we supposed to investigate what happened at Pearlsnow?” Darren said, with a tired voice.

“I don’t care what you bloody do.” Malwyn retorted. “Too many of us are dead now. I believed the time for bravery has passed with Larence.”

Darren shut his mouth. But Jan rode back towards him, fury in his eyes. He managed to catch his arms, and Malwyn had no choice but to look at him.

“At least, go to the village, Mal’.” Jan insisted. “For Larence’s memory”

He didn’t want to. He couldn’t. Tears almost threatened to fall from his eyes at the thought.

What would he find in there? Only chaos and desolation. And the body of his friend, butchered by savages he did not really know.

“Do you think he would like it?” Jan hissed. “Everyone parting on their own way, his body rotting, his legacy being brought to nothing because nobody cared enough for it?”

Malwyn glared. But then guilt reached him, and it wouldn’t let him go.

“Fine. But once it’s done, I’m gone.”

He would just go to Pealsnow, near that damn White Knife. He would look, bury his friend and leave. He had enough of all this snow. Of all these traitors. If he stayed longer, he believed, he would become exactly like them.

He went left, and the other men sighed with relief. But that relief, who made their two-days journey a rather peaceful one, turned to crisps by the time they saw the village.

Smoke had enveloped it, but it couldn’t hide the blood that was tainting the walls. And the lifeless bodies, men, women, children. Butchered all the same. It hadn’t been a fair fight. It had been a massacre.

But whose massacre, Malwyn Snow wondered. Was it really Wildlings?

A doubt settled in his mind. He had been sure, then.

But as he saw the burned houses, the bodies with blood all around them, he was reminded of other images, and it left him breathless, almost as powerless as the little boy he had been then.

Silent surrounded them now, as it always did after a battle. But this was no battle.

He remembered the last minutes. Laurence telling him to get to the house, and set the children that were screaming in there free. He would go to the maester’s house and save him so that he could help heal them all.

Guess he did not made it to that house. Malwyn, with an hesitant step, came towards it and entered it.

He stopped.

He had imagined it all nights, what he would see. But that wasn’t it.

Because what he found was Larence’s sword. Blood on the blade, but not on the handle.

And the maester at the end of it.

There was no body. Nothing. When others, warriors or small folks had all been left to rot.

Could it be?

But why?

He couldn’t help but hope. But doubt was the bitterest thing.

Larence wouldn’t have done that. But where was he? Where was his body?

Damn it, he thought. He’d have to take that mission, after all.

Maybe it would lead him to discover what really happened to his friend.

Chapter Text

The wind was cold today, but it brought a delicious smell of the sea and salt, and Yara found herself dreaming. She longed for the sensation of waves rocking her ship and seagulls crying at her ears. Of the delicious sting of the salt, burning on her eyes. And the sun, above them, caressing them vigorously, rubbing the grains of salt against her skin, drying the sensation of the sea from her.

Damn, she could touch herself right now at the thought. She missed the sea, as much as she would a very skilled lover.

Maybe Arik was available. Or maybe Kiara. She could be up for a little love once in a while, between two boring duties. And the night was still fresh…

But then, something stopped her. A feeling. Images. And the coin that she had received recently, from a surprising ally.

Her father killed by her uncle. Her uncle killed during the burning of his fleet. The other dying a nobody in foreign lands. And her brother….

She closed her eyes firmly, not wanting the tears to fall. They had never fallen once. Now was not the time to begin.

Her family was still defeated, her house nearly on the brink of extinction.

Once again, the Iron Islands were vanquished, this time without even one battle. They were at their eyes now just some lands among others, led this time by a crippled boy, not even able to run for his life. A boy who wouldn’t even have survived in the Islands, and who certainly knew nothing of its culture and of its people.

People who had now to pay the gold price for it.

The shame. Her ancestors must be rolling in their graves.

The Iron Islands had only her, now. But maybe it was enough. She could rebuild it, brick by brick. She already had begun. But her people were weak now, without a cause to defend.

At least, not for now.

She looked at the coin in her hand, with the face of her enemy on it. The boy she was supposed to call king. The boy who now had asked even more of her people recently.

Not a very lookalike picture, but still, it made her imagine what she would do to the real face, as her nail hit repeatedly the coin.

She threw it in the fire. It would not melt entirely. But it would be enough for her not to look at it for the night. She waited a little, consciously ignoring the fidgeting of the little man in front of her, then looked at him with a spark in her eyes that her feigned annoyance could not hide.

“Urion,” she said. “It looks like you’re about to piss yourself if you wait more. What’s going on?”

He smirked with that crooked mouth of his and green eyes glinting at her, and curtseyed comically.

“News from your inconsistent Majesty, “your Grace”” He bowed once more.

She froze a little, then laughed loudly.

“If I didn’t have you, I would be bored to death right now.” She said to her fool. “Well, let’s hope it’s actually worth that pile of papers I’ve been working on all day.”

“Well, at least one of the two, I gather, may bring a smile to your face. “

She raised one eyebrow.

“If it’s another of these letters from Tristifer, you better let it rot under the farthest rock, where they belong. Seagulls won’t even want it, I gather. I’m not in the mood for his whining.”

“Well, I doubt the prose will be as poetic as that young sire, m’lady, but I’m sure you will find it more useful.”

She smiled at him, but gestured him to go. Now was not the time for his jokes.

He smiled back and left the letters in the table near her. And then he left, with the same agile grace as would have a cat.

She watched him leave with a smile on her face.

She had hesitated in hiring a fool. Only fancy folks would do that, she thought. But then time went on and on, waiting for something that did not seem to happen, and without one foot on ship, she felt herself deflate. Her men were loyal, sympathetic, but no one was in the mood for jokes these last few months.

That one was discrete and with an insolence that really pleased her. He wasn’t beautiful to see, with his crooked teeth and pointed nose. But he was clever, and could give good advices. She had actually known him since she was a child, and had always lived in the Islands. He almost drown when they put him in the sea. Weak, her men had called him. But still, he managed to be useful, even if he could not fight. And he had been loyal to a fault until that, without even she named him her fool.

That title was just a joke by itself. He was certainly one of the cleverest people she knew.

Would he one day betray her? She wondered. That man was clearly in love with her. But love was not really something that could stop betrayal.

She thought about the former queen, who accepted to support her claim. She had loved, and burned for it. She payed the iron price, and Yara would have died to see that damn city collapse in flames, and these faces who had mocked her, humiliated her, be disfigured from fear.

Jon Snow should have died, that day. It was only justice. And if she had seen that bastard’s face at that moment, she would have cut his manhood and both his hands, before letting the others do the rest.

He had no honor nor loyalty.

He had betrayed his queen, plunged a dagger through her heart. He had watched as she bled to her death, disbelieving that the one she loved could defeat her so.

Had he cried for it? He better had.

What was his family’s way, again? That the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword?

Or maybe such rules did not apply for a bastard, she thought. Or maybe it only applied when it was Starks who applied that sentence. Damn hypocrites, all of them. Always blaming, but never acting if that action did not serve them at the end.

Her queen had been true to her goals, and she had fought. She had paid blood for blood, as a true Iron-born would have. She had helped them, the Starks, to the end, had led her armies to the North, lost half of it for them, for loyalty.

All for nothing. For a reluctant help, then to an even reluctant treason.

Yara had no such allies anymore. Only people with whom she had arrangements, but who would betray her if they could see their interest in it.

Well, not for now.

But soon, hopefully.

She took the first paper on the table and read it.

King Bran was ill, it seemed. The boy-king that her brother had had to protect until his last breath was one step from the grave. His spirit had been gone a long time, but now it seemed his body was not long to follow.

Good. That was a good surprise, actually.

She took the second and then smiled.

Just one of the news she was actually waiting for.

The day couldn’t be any better, she thought as she raised from her throne and left the place. She dressed herself in black and took her best man-in-arm with her.

Rain was beginning to fall, and storm will be coming shortly. Good. She felt it too, in her veins, in her mind. During her walk, she forced herself to think of all the things that had been forced on her, and one thing in particular.

Her brother had died for the Starks. But what had the Stark done for him?

They had stolen him, taken his true identity several times, turned him over. They had placed him in the way of danger and diminished him.

And then they did not even send her his bones. He had been burned, his ashes buried in a coffin as a Northerner, traitor to his own country till the last breath. What an insult to his Fatherland.

She had allowed him to go back. But it was for him to come back. To leave that past behind.

He had to let the Theon owned by the Starks, owned by Ramsay Bolton, die.

But he didn’t have to actually die himself.

Men could be disappointing when it came to loyalty.

Now, bitterness filled her heart, and she had enough of it. She would not stay isolated with her men, following another’s orders no longer. Not if she had a way out of it. She would not be tricked once again. She would not plead for independence, as it would not be given to her anyway. The Starks had played her, and they got everything and more than what would have been possible to imagine.

‘Why do you think I came all this way?” the boy had said.

These words sickened her.

Well, no more now.

They wanted crowns, and still thought they did it for honor and the sake of the people.

They would keep these crowns. But soon, they would melt with it.

She continued to feed these thoughts until a strange satisfaction came burning in her belly.

She may die at the end of it, she thought, but then, it would not be for nothing. Trouble was already brooding in Westeros, but with what was going to happen, there would be no going back, no issue for her enemies.

She looked at the sky, expectant. But nothing but seagulls flying in the night met her gaze. Her shoulders were lowered, but soon she relaxed.

She should have known. It wouldn’t have been very discrete.

But then, it would have been much more impressive.

Wind came caressing her face and she closed her eyes a little, a smile on her face. Then, with a resolute look, she headed towards the creek the message was referring to.

Here, a woman with black hair was waiting for her. She was beautiful, and the red of her dress came beautifully with the cream of her skin. Strange from someone coming from Essos, she thought.

Behind her, there was a little boat, with a dark hooded silhouette in it, four blind men with daggers in their hands surrounding it.

Yara’s breath caught in her throat. The woman smiled and bowed to her.

“My name is Kinvarra.” She said. “And there is someone, I believe, who would like to see you.”

Yara smirked and prepared herself.

She had been waiting months for it to happen. She had almost thought somebody would find one letter. One letter would have been her undoing. And so much more.

Until that moment, she had no allies, no true friend, aside her people. She had forced herself to stay on land, waiting and waiting for it to happen. Her men had been impatient, had asked her to act as if it was a true rebellion. They had called her a fool, not to seize the opportunity to reclaim independence for the Iron Islands, as the young queen in the north had.

As if it would have been accepted.

She had had to tell them to wait. To wait for chaos that would be brooding soon in Westeros.

Chaos was here now. And as surely as salt could melt snow, no winter would settle in this storm.

Well now, she thought, looking at a familiar face under the hood, with that determinate look on purple eyes, things were about to get interesting.

The Starks, both that little queen and her crippled brother, will never survive this wave.

Not this time.

Chapter Text

The wave was hard, this year, Tyrion thought with an amused smile.

Colors, everywhere. Crimson red, vivid green, bright blue, golden orange and soft pink. Purple, also. Flashing on the ceiling, on the floor, on the walls. Fabrics of silks from Lys, moving graciously, carrying these colors triumphally, giving them life and flow. A chaos of colors to make people forget about the holes that were still showing on the walls.

No grey, surprisingly. The king hadn’t wanted it, despite Tyrion’s protests about the utility to remember people of his family. The color seemed to displease him now, somehow.

Well, actually, grey wasn’t such a happy color. Tyrion hadn’t really liked it, but still diplomacy would have been better with it. With these Northerners who somehow found their way to the party and were sulking in a corner, ignoring the joy and lust radiating from every pore of the newly repaired castle. They were almost as broody as the only two members of the faith that deigned to join it. It had been difficult to convince them, but they did anyway. These stubborn men who were quite offended by their king’s choice of faith.

Dornishmen were the absentee of the feast, sadly. And that absence quite unnerved Tyrion. At least, they were some Dornishwomen… if it could appease him (surprisingly, it didn’t).

What could they be plotting? He wondered. News were hard to get, these days, and the king’s attentions were more in the north than in the south.

Still, wine was flowing from fountains. Boys were jumping in it, while some men chose to bath instead.

Girls giggled, euphoric from all the festivities. Women dancing, with their nipples bouncing as they moved. No ladies, these ones, no. But entertainers. Some whores. And the ladies, with a bit more clothes, judging them from afar as their husbands goggled them.

What a sight he liked to have in the afternoon.

Yes, today was a good day, Tyrion thought. Today was a day he prepared himself. A day to make illusions, and perhaps miracles.

“Cunts. Cunts everywhere.” Said a rough voice on his right.

Tyrion smiled, inhalating the smell of wine warmed by the sun, sweat and spices.

“Without it, there wouldn’t be any man. It’s a pleasant spectacle to behold.”

Bronn shrugged, a nonchalant smirk on his lips.

“Well, I can get used to it.”

“Don’t you have a lady wife to contend?”

“She said she didn’t want to go. She had other affairs to contend,” Bronn said. “That makes more for me.”

Tyrion smirked.

“Beware of them, my friend,” he said. “Some of them may be more dangerous than you think.”

“That makes the matter more exciting, don’t you think?” Bronn retorted with a smirk, leaving to take one glass of wine.

And maybe one other person as he came too, Tyrion supposed.

Where was the king now? In his chambers? He wondered.

People needed to see him. People needed to hear him. The most important person in the realm could not stay in his chambers with his eyes returned without people wondering if he was still fit to rule.

Tyrion hoped he was present enough. Words would soon spread about him dying.

He looked for the king with worried eyes, and moved, until his sight greeted him.

He was here, on his wheelchair, listening to a minstrel’s songs, just near the entrance.

Good, that was good, he thought.

Aerand Flowers. According to him, son of a long-lost princess and a wildling gone too far south. His features were as delicate as those of a woman, and his eyes as soft as a doe. His hair was blond and shiny, and somehow it made him remember young Lancel Lannister when he was only a little squire at Robert’s orders.

And now, he was singing and playing about the events of one year ago with a soft voice, as if telling a secret to those who cared to listen. And that damn bastard could very much do that! Young girls were already on their knees, staring at him adoringly as he continued his song.

 

… White as snow his fur was

But no true Wolf he was

With blood tears fate was settled

With fire all was meddled

He only heard the dragon’s roars

And its folly made his heart soar

O pray, O Mother

For his cry to reach its armor

 

“This song is inexact.” The king said, with suddenly a melancholic voice. “Northerners pray the old gods. Not the news.”

“You don’t seem to include yourself in it, your Majesty.” Tyrion remarked.

“I do not. Not anymore. I cannot really include in anything, now.”

“You are the King.”

“I am a lot of things.” He said. “That doesn’t mean I’m in anything.”

 

… For when barbarians rode to the city

Mothers could not keep their babies

And the dragon laughed, and laughed,

As his fire burned all their bodies

Wolfs could not prevent it to spread

Neither could lions and krakens

Till it left only fear and dread

Joy for the queen who listens

 

Young Bran chuckled a bit. A surprising sound from someone with so few expressions these days, Tyrion thought.

But then, another thought came to him, frightening.

“What about Drogon?”

The king said nothing, just smiled lightly. But not with the eyes. Never with the eyes.

 

… And the she-wolf, she howled, and howled,

To the moon and back they followed her lead

In the North she would remain until she was old

And in the South, he would reign with ease

Such was the pact with other animals they made

For no dragon would come to miss

And no winter would make it cease

As one, but far from each other they would reign

Such were set the fates of these sovereigns.

 

“Sansa always loved songs. But I don’t think she would like this one.” Bran the Broken said.

“Why?” Tyrion mused. “Is it because of the ‘howling’ thing?”

“It would remind her of what she lost.”

“But also what she gained in return.”

Smile, wanted to say Tyrion. Show me something. Anything.

You’re human, aren’t you?

Bran Stark smiled a little, but it did not reach his eyes.

“You remember the girl she was. But not the woman she is now.”

“Perhaps.”

Was there any songs at little Queen Sansa’s court? He wondered.

Well, she was not THAT little. She was a woman grown. With full breasts, although slender silhouette. Eyes like ice, but mouth like a button of rose. And rich auburn hair, like the colors of a weirwood tree in winter.

He had almost loved her, once. Not that she would ever had him. Even with a kiss on her hand, he could not have a blush out of her.

No, Sansa Stark was no woman for him, even if sometimes, he could imagine it.

“Ironic, doesn’t it seem?” The king continued. “That such a song would sing things that in fact are flitting and feeble.’

“I don’t know, your Grace.”

He had no answers for that. At least, no answer that would satisfy him.

“There are things that allude me.” The young King said, suddenly tense. “I must try to see this.”

Tyrion’s eyes widened even more as he looked from right to left.

Everyone. Almost everyone had their eyes on them. On the power in place.

If it failed, they would be screwed. It could lead to civil war.

“Do not leave us yet, young King,” He pleaded.

Do not leave me with those memories, he wanted to say. Do not leave me with them.

“I’m not young.” The king answered, with his monotone voice. “I have no age.”

Tyrion had grown attached to that boy. At least, to the body of this boy, and the stories that lived in him. Even now, it still fascinated him in the darkest of nights, when after a rough day, both King and Hand could talk more freely.

The man inside it, he wasn’t quite sure he would ever totally know him. He was a conundrum, a mystery. And yet, Tyrion almost feared what he would find behind all of this.

As should be every great monarch, he began to think.

But then, he remembered, and he took another goblet of wine.

“I’m South. Sansa is North. Arya is West. But who is east?” The young king mused.

“Jon Snow is north too, your Grace.” Tyrion added. “He is your family.”

He smiled.

“Jon is gone.”

Gone? What could he mean by that?

“Gone?” “Is he….”

“Kill the boy,” Bran suddenly said. “Kill the boy, and let the man be born”

Tyrion didn’t say anything, for he knew it would be useless. The shock had already dulled his senses. The answer to his questions would come in time anyway. But it won’t always erase the feeling of strangeness that came each time the young king spoke without context explaining it. Nobody could see what he saw. And this fact made him a terrific mystery.

“This is what Aemon Targaryen, from the Night’s Watch, said to Jon Snow,” Bran the Broken uttered, staring at the feast ahead them. “But he didn’t. I did. And Brandon Stark is no more, now.”

“You are Bran Stark. You are the king.”

He smiled, but said no more. Silence came once again between them. Until the song was heard once again, this time talking about a prophecy, and a sacrifice made with love and fire.

Tyrion wanted to laugh bitterly at the irony.

“They are talking about kings and queens.” He said, just to fill the void. “And heroes. I’ve never been one. And it seems to me we’re all out of heroes, now.”

This world doesn’t need them anymore, he thought.

“Heroes aren’t necessarily fighters.” The king uttered at last. “They are people who follow their destiny”

That speech reminded him of someone.

Someone prettier, someone real.

Someone dead.

“You’re thinking of her, right?”

Tyrion lowered his head, but he couldn’t say anything. He was no little boy, though how little he was.

“You’re always thinking of her when there is a party.”

“She’s gone.”

“I know.”

And she was a tyrant, he wanted to add. She was a criminal, a madwoman. She destroyed King’s Landing, mass-murdered half of its inhabitants

And yet, he couldn’t help but miss her. To miss the girl he met. That girl who made miracles happen. That girl who wanted a better world.

‘Ask me again in ten years,” he said to Jon Snow. If he had the opportunity, he would do it again. He would betray her once again, for the death of the innocent ones. And for the death of his siblings. He could still see in his mind their bodies, intertwined in agony under all the ruins they made.

She didn’t kill them herself, the bricks did. Cersei died, trapped in that castle as she had always been, where only one truly loved her, and was loved by her. Jaime died, trying to save her, even if he already knew she was beyond saving. A true fool.

And yet… When he saw their bodies, it was like a cloud of ashes had enveloped his heart. Rage, full rage consumed him as he hit the floor on and on with that stone he had found. Only dust came of it, and his despair consumed his soul, ripped it apart, until it left a dark hole on his chest, a shadow of his former self.

Cersei, the sister who had always hated him, always glared at him. Her eyes could not open up now.

Jaime. Jaime. Just by thinking of his name, pain still took its hold on him. Who would share his delusions now? With who could laugh with him? Who would fight for him? Save him? Bronn was good company. He could laugh with him. He could almost consider him as a friend. But still, Bronn had the heart of a mercenary: gold could sway him.

Jaime… Their bonds had been almost unbreakable: the golden lion and his brother the crippled cub.

But then, he remembered what he swore himself to forget as he said his last goodbye to him. An image, that he had forced himself each night to forget, for remembering would taint even more the memories he had of his brother.

Brown hair and green eyes, with sparkles of gold around the pupil. A warm smile…

A smile that was disfigured in a painful rictus when he took her, after so many others…

“You keep being distracted, Hand.”

“I’m sorry, your Grace, I…”

“Where do whores go?” Bran suddenly said. “You never found out the answer to that question.”

Tyrion froze. What? How could he know about it?

“What was her name, again?”

“Tysha”, Tyrion said, almost in a whisper.

No… just the ghost of her name on his lips was enough. He could not crumble now. Now after surviving so much…

“I believe I can.” Bran said, gesturing for his guard to come closer. “But do you really want the answer that will be coming?”

Drink. It was all he could do, now. Drink to forget. Drink to laugh, play, and drink some more.

Then, when he looked back at his king, he was already gone. His eyes were white as a sheet of paper, and that void distressed him. What if people saw?

But then, just as it started, it stopped. The king was here with him at last. And demanding to speak, ordering his guards just by the look in his eyes to silence

“The Iron Islands broke their fealty treaty.” He said with a clear and strong voice. “I believe we are in for a war, now.”

Then, he left, and Tyrion found himself alone in that room full of strangers with familiar faces. And the impression that a pot of wildfire had been dropped in the room.

How could he know that?

Oh, yeah. He was the three-eyed raven.

People looked at him, shock in their eyes. Discussion stopped, music rang one last note as silence filled slowly the room.

This king was not a leader with inspiring speech, at the right place, at the right moment. Truth was his speech, but truth was not always what people wanted to hear. Especially in a feast which celebrated his first year into kingship.

News were bad. With Dorne’s uncertainty and now this, it would never be the same.

So much for a good day.

The king was slowly losing consciousness of this reality. People had certainly seen it now. People will spread the word.

No pretty songs could ever hide it.

He could only pray for it not to become one in the following days.

Chapter Text

Snow. Cold, hard snow. Slipping through his fingers, through his hair. Biting his cheeks, making him sick.

How he hated that white powder. It seemed to have followed him all his life, like some sword ready to fall on his head. Snow like the place he was born, snow like the name they gave him. The name of the dishonor of one man and one woman, fornicating without care of property. He was the child of that dishonor, a tainted child. He had learned to think as much. He had learned to live with the blood of lord and one of some unknown woman, some woman whose identity he was desperate to know, as if it would change anything. As if knowing who she was could change what he was, could change his destiny.

They told him a bastard had no destiny. Look at the Blackfyres, they said. See what happened when their father the King legitimized them. Look at the chaos they made.

He had only few ways to be anything else, people told him. Either to go to the Night’s Watch. Or to serve as one soldier, hoping to elevate himself in the great wars that would be coming. In both ways, he could die without name, no one would really care.

Unexpectedly, he had raised.

But everything he did brought him where he was now. In this white hell, far away from the place where he was raised. Far away from the place where he thought everything was possible.

Where was he now? He did not know anymore. All he knew as that there had been fire, there had been death. Deaths by him, deaths by others. And a warning. ‘Fire and Blood’. It rang back in his head like a prophecy and stayed stuck on it since. He had run then, run until he reached sea. And when he reached it, he stole the first boat and rowed, rowed, as if the Others themselves were running after him.

He had fought them once. Yet, he still felt the cold on his neck, and the smell of rotting bodies in the snow in his nostrils. He had felt strong then. Strong and with a purpose. At that time, that kept him going, even when it was thought that all was lost. It couldn’t. He would have been ready to jump into a dragon’s mouth just to prove this point. It couldn’t end like this.

That was why he forced himself not to feel fear. To keep that hope alive, like a fire that needed feeding.

The Others were not what he feared, no. It was the hunger, and the oblivion that came slowly with it.

He was waiting quite a long time, now. One hour? Maybe two? He couldn’t really figure this out, the hunger and the cold progressively numbing his mind and body. It did not matter, for at the moment, he could only think of survival.

A boy was roasting a fish near the cave where he had taken refuge, five feet before him. Maybe no more than eleven.

He waited, but no one came. Was this boy an orphan? He thought. It seemed that nobody was coming for him. He had the same clothes as the freefolks, and yet, could he be so sure now, after all that happened?

And that smell… That smell was a sweet torture in that cold and hard night.

He walked forwards, slowly, as if not to wake a babe on his mother’s arms.

The boy began singing. His song talked about heroes and kings, maiden and warriors.

Not for him. Not anymore.

People had thought he was brave. That he was kind, compassionate and just. People, who had treated him as a bastard, as a nuisance. This time, they were following his orders, and he felt like a king. The king he had always wanted to be. They had chosen him to lead. And lead, he was prepared to.

Once upon a time, he had tried to do just that. To be the man people wanted him to be, a man that will be remembered. A man alike the one who had raised him. He had almost believed he could be like that, like the heroes he looked up to. The heroes he found in books, and the ones who appeared in his life later on.

This was what led him here. That vision, though pretty, was deceiving.

Heroes were no more. And now, he wouldn’t try to be one. It had already cost him so much.

He looked one more time at the boy, at his terrified eyes.

Kill the boy, a voice in his mind said. A stranger’s voice, tempting him so.

Would heroes do that? He wondered as he succeeded on getting behind him.

He slashed the boy’s throat and watched him bleed silently to death. He did not even feel anything as his eyes went from afraid to empty, and never left his face, with a unanswered question on his lips.

He pushed him back and looked no more. It was done.

He ate the fish, savoring every bite of it. The flesh was juicy and tasty, and it seemed to him that it was the best meal he ever had. And he had been invited in many castles… The bones clicked on his teeth pleasantly, and he used the bigger one to seek out the pieces that were stuck in between his teeth.

His meal eaten, he buried the boy in the snow, and suddenly, guilt assailed him.

In this cold tomb lied his childhood, he thought. In this cold tomb rested his dreams of chivalry, of songs and glory.

What had they lead him to?

‘Fire and Blood’

He knew what that meant, now. He knew the price. He had learned it begrudgingly, at first, but now. It was like it was imprinted in all of his being.

He was now reborn again. New blood in his veins, and a heart that was better-kept now. And eyes more acute now.

He was not the same anymore. He was someone else entirely. Someone new. Someone dangerous.

Someone who would stay alive. No matter the cost, no matter the losses. No matter the pain in his heart, in his mind and in his bones. He would survive, if only to see…

He heard a horn. People were coming. He had to go, and quick. He stepped up, took his last belongings and ran as quietly as he could.

He had to go farther north, he remembered. Farther north was the answer to his last questions. He had to find someone, something.

What? He wondered. He did not know clearly. Just that it was here, waiting for him. And that if he looked back now, they would find him instead.

He heard a woman’s cry. But he did not look back.

Let her cry, he thought. It was only mercy. That boy would never feel hunger again. Never feel again. Never lose himself to delusions.

In the sky, he saw two crows flying. He ran faster. But he could not go faster than them. He stopped, when he was sure that nobody had followed him. That nobody could see him.

Crows were dangerous. They were intelligent, sneaky birds. Who knew what information they could transmit? What secrets they could divulge?

Who knew who could look through their eyes?

He took his bow and arrows and aimed.

One, two. He breathed. Then let the arrow take its course.

He heard the little noise of the two crows falling. Good. That was good. Only with one arrow. In another life, he would have been euphoric. He ran towards them, then froze.

One of them was alive. The arrow had only touched its left wing.

It croaked back at him. He looked at it in its small eyes, and felt rage boiling inside him.

Die, he wanted to shout. Die.

He took a stone and hit the bird with it. It struggled quite some time, blow after blow. But then, it was no more. Only blood, brain and a few feathers. And a message, with two words on it.

‘Jon Snow”. A name from the past.

It could be of any use, he thought, as he slipped it into his pocket.

He stood back, ready to run again.

He tripped on something and cursed. But his curse was cut short when he reached the damn object that had made him fall.

He saw the sword, and the handle with the characteristic wolf on it. It felt like years ago, like some other life entirely. One where he almost found a home, love and glory. One where he belonged.

He was afraid to touch it. As if touching it would mark him as unworthy of his previous owners.

Would he dare try? His hands were shaking almost with anticipation, almost from the frost who had bitten his fingertips.

He heard a slight crack in the snow. Too light to be a human’s step. Maybe some snow lion.

Maybe a wolf. He raised his head, looking out for the culprit. He would not show fear. Not this time. Not once.

Fear was for the past.

He saw red eyes following him, but he couldn’t make sense of it. He almost thought it was a hallucination. White fur, like snow.

Once again that damn snow. He glared at the beast, preparing himself to fight to the death.

But then recognition ignited his eyes and he looked down.

It was gone, now. He was all alone. All alone with his thoughts.

What a terrifying thing, he realized. Because it made him remember what had been. Everything that brought him here. All his hopes and dreams. And then, the battlefield, the ruins of what had been once the most important thing for him.

He had betrayed his queen.

He had loved her. But that love was murder. It killed him inside, eating away all his hopes and dreams, until it became the one and only. The only thing he could live for. The only thing he could die for.

And no one had ever noticed, he thought with a bitter smile. Why would they notice that he was becoming a shell of his former self?

He had betrayed her. But he loved her still. And, maybe, she didn’t even know this.

The image of her beloved face came to his mind, he cried. He could still smell her perfume, full of summer and lemons, and the fire that surrounded her. He could still feel her eyes on him when he met her. When he bent the knee, and she smiled at him.

Did she feel the fire in his heart too? He had thought at the moment.

Now she would never know, he thought. She would never know how much he cared. How the sight of her with a crown thrilled him secretly as much as it pained him. How he felt the distance growing stronger, so much that he felt he had no chance of reaching her anymore. Of reaching that slight and grand silhouette that carried with her all the burdens of his country. How much he regretted what had happened. How the memory of her voice kept him going. How he remembered the precise way she would laugh.

Now, she would laugh no more, no. Not after everything that happened. After the chaos that prevailed now.

Would she even care if he tried?

Would she even recognize him?

The traitorous thought stopped him. He shook his head, trying to let go of it. No, he couldn’t even think of it.

Would she forgive him for weakness?

He could’ve been by her side, by now. If only he hadn’t…

He shook his head. Now was not the time to regret any more.

But maybe, now, with this sword, he could be stronger. He could find a way to go back in time. To find a place, a moment where he could be with her. He relished in this thought. He LIVED for this thought. Hope blossomed in his heart just as it left him when all fire and arms destroyed it all.

One day, he would find her again. One way or another. With magic if he had to. He would find her, and she would be his.

And this time, no one would ever stand on his way.

Chapter Text

“Sansa…”

“My queen…”

Whispers in the night kept her awake. Mostly men, but sometimes women. Each of them creeping towards her bed. Some she had known. Some she knew. Some she will know.

Here, the golden lion, slim and beautiful. But without any heart, without any soul. And the spirit of a child, who had never had enough.

“Mine” he said.

Joffrey.

“No, mine” said the men of King’s Landing, as they ripped her dress, lust and folly in their eyes.

She wanted to scream, but she could not.

“Your most powerful weapon is between your legs, little dove.” She could hear Cersei Lannister say as she looked at her as she struggled against these men. And smiled, always smiled, before taking a sip of wine.

Then, somebody snatched her of them.

“Sing me a song, little bird.”

The Hound. Still here, in front of her. Close enough so she could feel his breath on her face. Close enough to kiss her… She almost closed her eyes and leaned in, tempted to let him. But then he disappeared in the night, like dust flying because of the wind.

Then blood covered her hands and she looked at it fearfully, with tears in her eyes and sorrow emptying her from inside. In her dress, hidden in her cleavage, there was the letter she wrote to Robb, and who now was bleeding as well, covering her breasts with their blood. She wanted to wash it out, but she couldn’t. The more she wiped, the more it spread.

“The key to the north.” Came a strong voice. The voice of a man who looked at her, but without seeing her. She looked ahead, terrified.

Cersei. The Imp. Everyone, looking at her with these eyes, lusting after her, devouring her.

Margaery.

“We’ll be like sisters.”

Mine, mine, mine.

“Mine.” Said an intelligent voice, with a hint sarcasm in its tone.

Littlefinger. Coming towards her, his hand directed at her.

“A picture of me in the Iron Throne… With you by my side.”

He smiled.

“My queen.”

 

And all the eyes and voices said “mine, mine, mine…” all the same.

She could not go back.

And then, the words went out of his throat, choking him with blood. He fell back, with a hand on it, as if to prevent them to flow that easily.

Then, all disappeared and she was all alone. She screamed for someone. Anyone.

There was a shadow in a corner calling for her. ‘My queen,” he said to her. But she did not look at it. If she looked, she would be lost.

And then, she saw him. Jon.

“She is my queen,” he said with eyes that screamed of love and sorrow.

Love, love, love.

But not for her, no. Why? Why?

“You’ll have to promise not to tell another soul.” He said as she saw the dragon coming back at her.

It would burn her, she was sure of it.

No, no, no.

What was love, exactly? Was that lust? Possession?

“Mine”, said a voice she did not recognize. “My queen.”

“Mine.” Said another, stronger, much more vicious.

She turned back, fear gripping her insides painfully.

Ramsay…

“My beloved wife.” He called her with a smile, showing her the flayed body of the woman who tried to help her.

“Not so much a wolf, now….” He said, as he took her again and again. Always hurting her, harassing her. Locking her. Making her feel she was nothing but a hole he could fill. “You’re mine.” He said.

“Do you know what he intend to do to you, once he has a child out of you?” Myranda had said, with a snarky smile.

No, no, no, no…

“You are a bitch all the same” he had said to her

No. The hounds had devoured him. Bite by bite, until the only things that were left were bones and ripped leather.

Then, they had began to kill each others, to eat each others.

There was no loyalty among hounds, she discovered. No loyalty when survival was in order.

And now, she could see his skeleton smiling at her.

“I’m part of you, now.”

… part of you, now…

… you, now…”

“My queen…”

“Sansa…”

She screamed. Sweat made her thin shift stick to her skin. She felt sick and cold. But still her head was hot from the pictures of her nightmare that were still rolling in her mind. Her eyes were unfocused as she tried to calm the beatings of her heart.

She breathed slowly. One. Two. Three.

“Is it alright, your Grace?”

She jumped, her insides freezing with dread.

Damn her handmaiden, she thought as she calmed down.

She would not yell at her, no. She was not that kind of queen, shouting at people just because they saw them vulnerable.

But still, it did not mean she hadn’t wanted to.

She shook her head. Just a nightmare. These ghosts were gone, now. But still, they haunted her, coming in her dreams when she thought she had forgotten. When she thought she was not afraid anymore, they came crawling in her sleep, these monsters in her head.

“Yes, yes, Alys… I’m alright.

Alys frowned, visibly worried.

“But you screamed in the night, your Grace”

Sansa glared at her.

“It’s alright,” she said with an icy voice. “I would need a bath.”

Coldness was the answer. Coldness could freeze them all over with dread. Coldness would make them go back to their place. Like this, they would not get closer. Like this, they couldn’t hurt her.

“Yes, M’am!” the young girl said hurriedly, without even remarking her lack of etiquette.

Once alone, Sansa sighed. It was hard, to keep it going. But it was for the best. Friends got killed so easily. She couldn’t bear it, if she lost once again someone.

Arya was gone in her islands. Was she dead? Sansa didn’t know. She could only hope for her little sister to be safe, for she knew better. She had survived all of this. She was the killer of the Night King. What could a few savages do to her? And still, annoying as she was, why would anyone ever bother to try to attempt something? That thought, though futile, comforted her somehow. It made her feel like she was really home, with Father and Mother, and with only her stitching lessons to occupy her. Innocence, and dreams. The one things she lacked now.

She shook her head. That girl was dead. People killed her. They took away her innocence, thrown her on and on until she was nearly broken.

Now only stayed the queen. Unattainable, cold. A dream by herself. So why dream? She could live through the eyes of her people. These dreams were enough, she thought as she slipped in the bath the girl had prepared as she thought. She closed her eyes, pleased by the quiet warmth that filled her as she let out another sigh. Here, she could almost forget her scars and all that was lost. No scar on her body, no. These ones only lived in memory. But scars on her heart.

She plunged her head in the water and counted. One. Two. Three.

Enough. Once again, she felt it. The will to live, unbroken still. And that kept her prepared for what would happen for the day.

She got herself dressed up, the handmaiden fussing over her. Her eyes almost rolled irritably at it, but she let it slide.

And, as any other day, she came to the throne room and sat in, inclining her head towards those who bowed to her, to show them she had noticed.

This was a man’s world, and she was the one to rule it. And she intended to keep it that way. And men tended to get petty when they weren’t noticed.

“How are the preparations of the festivities going, Lord Cerwyn?” She began, her stature regal and her voice clear and loud.

Festivities. In a time where there was still so much to do.

It was necessary, she thought. To keep her people happy. To give them rewards, after all that happened. After all the efforts she asked of them. Burden after burden, they were beginning to be fidgety. And fidgety people was no good for the realm.

They all had accepted the invitation. Good. It was important that they saw that their queen thought of them, cared to entertain them.

But still, it was really expansive.

Silly little Sansa would have loved every minute of it. The choice of the dresses, of the activities… All of it. Now, she couldn’t find joy in it.

“Good your Grace,” he said with a smile. “Everything will be ready for next week.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “You’ll thank your wife for the making of the banners. They are really fitting.”

His smile widened and he bowed.

“Thank you, your Grace. She will be honoured.”

Of course. But it wasn’t enough.

She raised.

“Next month will be a great time for celebrations. Winter had been hard for all of us. We lost people, we thought we lost our home. But we have survived. And look” She opened her arms, as if to embrace them all. ”Here we are. Our home is even grander!”

They all nodded, some more fervently than others.

“We have proved to those who underestimated us our value, that we still rise, again and again!”

“Aye” they cried for her, with joy in their eyes.

“Now is our time. And I’ll drink with every one of you, my lords, for my heart is with you, now and always.”

They raised their glasses at her and cheered.

The Queen in the North, the Queen in the North.

What a pretty song.

Yes. She had conquered them for the weeks to come. And it wasn’t even noon. With a smile, she turned toward one of them.

“Lord Manderly,” She called. “I heard you went to my brother the King’s feast recently. I hope the delicacies of the South would not prevent you to enjoy what we’ll have.”

He bowed.

“Nothing can compare to home, your Grace.”

She smiled. “You’re right.”

But then, he was fidgeting, she felt uneasy. Was something wrong?

Easy how just one thing could make her worry and forget what she just did.

“But then… My queen… There are sayings…”

“What sayings, my lord?” She asked.

Please don’t be dead, she thought.

“That the King in the South is ill, your Grace… That he is not himself these days.”

She raised one eyebrow. Her brother had not been himself since he returned. So these last words meant nothing to her.

“The King in the South is a Stark, my lord, a man from the North. He’s made of a sterner material than that.” She said, sitting back on her throne. And then, more softly. “You will talk to me about it this later.”

“Yes, your Grace.”

He bowed and joined the other. Then, another one came, holding a letter.

An ambassador, as he had presented himself. She did not know him.

“Come,” She said, extending her hand in his direction.

He bowed and smiled proudly. Young boy. Maybe his first mission.

“What is it?” She said.

“An offer of marriage, your Grace”

She raised an eyebrow. But took the letter anyway.

She read it. But she feared her eyes were deceiving her.

How could it be? The name mentioned was one from a very distant past. The name of a dead one or maybe…

Her heart skipped a beat a little.

No, it couldn’t be from him… She thought. Why would he…? Did he…? Why now, all the sudden?

Why that name, that cursed name?

She shook her head. That couldn’t be. Then turned towards one of the representatives of the Night’s Watch.

“Still no news from Jon Snow?” She asked with a strangled voice.

“No, your Grace.” The man said “The crow did not come back.”

It’s been months, now.

Last time she had news from him, he had been at Hardhome. She did not know the place exactly, but she heard it was dangerous and hard. Few people survived out there.

She was worried, always. Just by the thought of it, and the content of the letter, she could feel her heart beating and her knees weakening.

Oh no. She was back at it.

When would men stop to make her weak like this?

The mood was gone, now.

“Right,” she said with a calmer voice. “So I believe it is time now to settle on our daily routine. Any other thing?”

They looked at each others, questions in their eyes.

Nothing. Good.

“I’m going to take a walk.” She said, raising. “I wish you a good day, my lords.”

They let her and bowed, respect in their eyes.

Good.

As she left the place and went outside, her sight was greeted by something she hadn’t seen in a long time. Lemon cakes.

On a silver plate. With Harrold Hardyng holding it with a smug face.

She raised her eyes towards the man.

“Lemon cakes. How sweet.”

“Your favorite, I know.” He said. “A sweet treat for a sweet lady.”

How in the seven hells did he know that?

“Ladies might like it,” she said non-committedly as she walked past him. “But I’m a queen. Don’t forget it.”

He followed her.

“I wouldn’t dare”, he said, bowing lightly. But that bow felt like a joke, with that smile on his face. “But queens can also like sweet things, your Highness.”

She was almost tempted to smile. Flirting and joking with Harrold Hardyng were easy things to do. The man seemed to try to win her over at any cost. But it was dangerous all the same, and she wasn’t for the moment convinced to let it go farther.

People saw him courting her. She was a woman about to be taken. She had hoped that letting him would led the other pretenders away. She could handle one at home. But not so many that came crawling at her door since they put a crown on her.

It did not seem to be the case, with the letter she received this morning, and which didn’t make sense for her (at least, that’s what you want people to think, a snarky voice said in her head.)

But still, it was quite enjoyable.

“Beware, my lord. Lemons can be bitter.”

“Oh, I believe I can add some sugar to make it good.”

She stopped, then looked at him, unimpressed.

“Can you?”

He nodded, took her hand and kissed it.

“Oh, I believe that when we’ll wed, it will be as sweet as these treats.”

Her eyebrows rose, and she was almost tempted to laugh at him. Or to hit him.

The audacity of that man!

“What makes you think my hand will be yours?”

At this, a spark lighted up in his eyes.

A spark that meant conquest.

“Who else would it be?” He stepped closer to her, so much that she could smell his breath, fresh with a hint of mint leaves. “You need a man by your side, queen or not.”

She put a hand on his chest to stop him.

“You are quite presumptuous, my lord.” She said as she took a cake from the plate and began to eat it.

It was as savory as she remembered. She felt giddy just by one bite of it.

There was a smirk on his face now. He was not one used to be refused, she realized.

“Am I?” He replied with a voice that screamed self-confidence.

“Beware, my lord. I am no merchant’s daughter for you to take,” she warned him. “I’ll be the one taking, no one else.”

His laugh was loud and masculine in her ears.

“Then take all you want,” He said. “But with me, there’ll be so much to take.”

And so much more for you, she was tempted to say. If Robert were to die, he would be the heir of the Vale. And with her by his side, he could join the two kingdoms. If he didn’t decide he would be enough with her gone, actually.

“It’s been weeks, now,” he said. “Weeks of me courting you. Trying to please you, love you. Yet, you do not seem to incline yourself more to me.”

Love was such a easy word for him to throw, she saw. He could say it to any woman. Love for him was fickle and flitting.

“I’m no base lady swooning at your sight, my lord,” she said with as cold a voice she could.

She couldn’t displease him too much. Displeased men were hard to handle, and could be quite unpredictable.

Would her bannermen let him overthrow her? Would they kneel for him? How long after she was put down? She wondered. Men didn’t like women in power. Just the idea was a threat to them, and it had taken a lot for them to accept. It had taken their disappointment over Jon’s bending of the knee. “Perhaps we should have chosen you”, they said at the new.

Perhaps, perhaps. They always played with “perhaps”. But the reality of it was harder to swallow. Even after she proved on and on her abilities. Some could see a mother in her. A mother that would tend their bruises, that would comfort them in the darkest of nights. But a mother without a father… Could they even have this thought? This world was for men to take, they had been told, and they continue to tell. A woman among them, doing things that a man should do, was a terrifying thing for them. For it made them reconsider their place. Their place in a world that was already too complex for them to comprehend.

A world she knew, actually. Better than the likes of them. She had been placed under any man’s boots. An object, a prize to be gained. The key to the North.

A key can open doors. But who would turn it?

“Tell me,” Harrold Hardyng said with a charming smile. “Tell me how I could please you, my queen. Tell me and I’ll do it.”

She stared at that beautiful man’s face. Saw the dimples on his cheeks as he smiled. Charming, as so many were when they asked for her hand.

I can take you, she wanted to say. I can take you and every of these men combined. And still, it wouldn’t be enough to ease the pain in my heart. Throw me any courtesies my way, I would respond you in kind. Try to take me down, and I will rip you apart.

She had seen the way he treated his squires. The way he almost harassed Malwyn Snow.

She remembered green eyes looking at her defiantly.

Here, there were blue eyes, devouring her with that look.

Two persons.

One wanted her, body and power, and so much more. The other loathed her without daring to say the words.

Why? She wondered. She did not know him. She had done all she could for the North, and him… He dared to look at her like that?

“… promise not to tell another soul.”

She shook her head. No, that wasn’t it.

Both were here to serve nonetheless.

Then came the idea.

“Malwyn Snow still hasn’t returned from his quest. It’s been three weeks now, and without any news. Bring him back to me. He will answer to his queen.”

“I will do it, your Grace,” He said, looking very much the valiant knight she had in her dreams as a girl. “I will do it for you.”

She nodded, he smiled.

Her heart pounded in her chest. It felt like a dream, like a song come true.

Beware, she said to herself. You’re not a little bird.

Here, she would have time to figure it out. To make her decision, without her heart misleading her, as it has always been when she listened to it.

“Mine,” still whispered the voices in her head.

No, she wasn’t anyone’s. And the one who would dare to say that, she would tear their heart out with her fangs.

She was the she-wolf of Winterfell. She was no longer tame and polite, as they had wanted her to be. She was no little bird to be locked down in a golden cage. She would run her territory, protect her pack, however divided it was. No matter the cost.

Chapter Text

The storm was only beginning. The wind was howling in the night, coming with the grey rain.

Everything was grey in this country. Grey the earth, grey the sea. Grey again the stones of their castle, each piece barely recognizable from the others. No true color could be seen. No red, yellow and blue. Not like it was when she was home. She had once been joyous by nature, always seeing the good in people, the world in general. Now, so much older and so much wiser, she still had to say that such a gloomy atmosphere wasn’t to her taste.

Kinvara shook her head from the seat she had taken near the window. She was the Flame of Truth, the Light of Wisdom. She had to go wherever the Lord told her to go. Wherever His chosen one had decided her to go.

“Why isn’t she answering?”

The voice of Aegon Targaryen came thundering across the walls of the old castle of Pyke. The bricks did not break from it, but still, it was a monstrous thing to see, Kinvara thought as he hit the table with his fists closed and began to pace nervously around it.

“Does she think I’m a fool?” He continued, shaking his head with frustration.

“She thinks you’re dead, your Grace,” intervened Yara Greyjoy with a bored tone as she looked at her nails on one of the corner. “As we all thought.”

“Well here I am, now.” He said, glowering. “And I’m not here to wait for one foolish girl to make her decision. Nor for the usurper to finally notice me.”

If he hadn’t already, the High Priestess thought. And the sooner, the better.

“I’ve known hunger. I’ve known fear. Now, I will take what is mine.” He continued triumphally like some mummer reciting verses.

As he had. Since his childhood, they all had been there to make him learn what he had to do, what he had to say. But then, even the best education could not hide nor temperate such a temper.

She rolled her eyes.

He had blood of the dragon, alright. But it had been so diluted that this fire was only talk, no courage.

But still, he was important and she had to guide him. To shape him into the form of a true dragon.

“We have an ally at Winterfell, your Grace” Yara intervened.

“Good. Good. “ He said angrily, with a hint of nervousness in his voice. “who is he? Why didn’t he bring her to me?”

‘Maybe because he doesn’t work for you, your Arseness’ She could almost hear Yara Greyjoy reply in her head. ‘That man only works for his interest, which could change at any moment.’

Harrold Hardyng was an interesting piece in the game that was about to be played. A wild card, easily swayed but never tamed. And with him and the other things that were setting into place, so many drama could come… All the possibilities were mesmerizing.

She was not Quaithe, but still, there were things she could guess. Things she could see.

Like the shadow of a man coming from the North, growing with love, hate and despair. Coming for one woman. Bringing chaos with him. A shadow she only knew too well, for she had seen him in her dreams.

Like snakes fighting each other under two suns of Dorne, all fangs out till their venoms tainted the sand.

And a hero, uniting them for the last fight.

A hero… or maybe…

But there were still things to settle before that, she thought. So many things… One man remained to be found, in all this misery… But was he ready to be found?

The voice of Aegon interrupted her thoughts.

“Must I really marry her?” He said, like a petulant child, though he appeared like a grown man. “I’m tainting my lady mother’s memory with a bitch, and she still didn’t answer!”

“Sansa Stark is a clever girl”, Yara replied, her hands linked on the small of her back. “She won’t engage herself and her country until she sees what could be gained for it.”

This seemed to make the young King-to-be even more in fury.

“Gained? I am the rightful heir to the Iron Throne!”

“Which had been burned. Now her brother rules.”

She was going to wake the dragon, Kinvara thought. One, two…

“I will burn that bitch’s hellhole if she doesn’t answer back!” He swore. “Usurpers, all of them.”

“But you need her, your Grace.”

“Why didn’t we contact the prince of Dorne? Dorne had always been our natural ally. Dorne was my lady mother’s home. Jon had always said…”

“Ser Jon Connington is dead, your Grace.” Yara cut him.

“May the lord of Light guards him.” Kinvara added.

A good man, though maybe misguided by a passion that he never had power to fulfill.

“Jon honored the Seven Gods.” Aegon’s head was bowed, as if too heavy from the memory of his former guardian.

“But you do not, my king. Not any more.” The priestess said, raising from her chair and stepping closer to Aegon Targaryen.

He stopped suddenly, looking at her, transfixed. His eyes didn’t stop at her face though, they were attracted to the curves that were undulating under her red dress.

He wanted her. That was easy to see. A small fire was always attracted to a stronger one. And she knew how to use it to get what she wanted.

He was an easy boy, but a boy nonetheless.

He looked elsewhere, faltered by her interruption. But then he continued, pressing on the table in front of which he had turned. He did not dare to look back, for she could burn him. The way a naïve man looking for adventures could burn for a woman.

“My lord father had dishonored my lady mother by running off with a Stark bitch. Must I really lower myself to that point with another?”

“You’re not your father, my King” Kinvara said, caressing his hair with a tender smile. “And she’s not just any Stark.”

Aegon didn’t reply, but she could she he was not happy. His nails carved circles on the table, and blood was beginning to stain it.

Such a waste of a good blood, she thought.

“Go to sleep, my King,” She said to him softly in his ear. “You’ll find more relief, I believe, in what is waiting for you between your sheets…”

He turned to her, suddenly, with hope in his eyes.

“Will you come too?”

She looked briefly at these lips who didn’t really tempt her. He was indeed pretty, that little dragon, with his silver hair and purple eyes. But this wasn’t actually what she was after…

“… Later, my king,” she said. “Later.”

He sighed, then went away, maybe trying to appear more dignified than a kicked puppy. Which seemed an objective hard to achieve.

When he left, Yara sat abruptly on the main chair, and this time, it was a sigh of annoyance that came through her lips.

“Your pretty boy is all fire,” She said. But I have to admit that I expected something else, from our previous correspondences.”

Kinvara could only agree with that, for she had spent whole months with him, after he’d been found in a tavern, lamenting that he could have had the Golden Company’s Support had the Mad Queen, Cersei Lannister, not taken it from him with her damn gold. Jon Connington had been there at that time, trying to shut him up, for who knew who could report such thing?

“He’s still in training.” She said without batting an eyelash. “You expected Daenerys Targaryen, chosen of Rh’llor“

Yara shrugged, leaning on the chair.

“Well, he is supposed to be her nephew.”

Kinvara smiled with humor, as if what had been said was a funny joke to her.

Yara sighed.

“If the Spider was alive,” she said. “He would have crowned him right away. Such a foolish boy.”

“The Spider knew. And he let him rot once he saw that there was a more powerful and faster option.”

Yara sneered.

“Loyalty for the little people, my ass.”

“But he’s still powerful.” Kinvara only said, looking at the storm that was still brooding. “We still talk about him.”

“Then let’s do not.”

One minute of silence passed, then two. Until Kinvara saw that Yara could not hold it any longer.

“Where is she?”

She looked away, toward the storm. She smiled once again, more lightly. More determinate.

“Somewhere where she can find her strength. Somewhere where she can serve justice.”

That was not the answer that her friend needed. But that was the only one she could make, with that little raven still out there.

“Ten months. Ten long months waiting, making curtsies at this little king while gathering ingredients for rebellion, all of that?”

Yara sighed, then settled more deeply into her chair.

“I thought this would lead to something. I wasn’t expecting looking after a boy who’s never had enough hair on his chest to be shaved.” Then, after a period of silence, she added, sorrow piercing finally in her tone. “I feel like I’m stuck in here. Waiting. Waiting for something that might never came. Waiting, waiting, always waiting. “

“Be patient, my friend,” She said to appease her. “Our time will come”

Yara only sent her a wary look.

“I heard Jon Snow was brought back by one of you, old witch.”

“When Jon Snow was brought back his soul was not ready to leave.” Kinvara said calmly “When the dragon arrived, she had already decided to leave. It’s difficult to bring back somebody who wants to leave.”

“Why wouldn’t she?” Yara protested. “She had everything! She had won the throne!”

“But she lost her heart in the way,” replied simply the priestess.

Angrily, Yara kicked lightly one foot of the nearest chair. She could not understand, Kinvara realized. She had never truly given her heart to anyone.

“Damn bastard. Then why bring her back at all?” She continued, irritation on her tone.

Kinvara looked straight at the ruler of the Iron Islands.

“Because her destiny has not been fulfilled yet.”

Like so many. But the Lord of Light had decided. And she was really glad it happened here, in her old temple of Volantis. That she would get to see the rebirth of the chosen of R’hllor… What a great honor it was.

Yara sighed, exasperated.

“What is she doing, now? Roaming through the kingdom on a dragon’s back, as a damn fucking ghost?”

“Some debts must be paid. And the ones that are filled with love and hate are the hardest to collect.”

“But the most satisfying, I gather.”

Kinvara said nothing, for she knew too much. An air of melancholia came to her. Oh, all the difficulties that were to come… But her queen had chosen. And the price for fire and life had to be paid.

But would she be strong enough to do it? Broken heart for broken heart, death for death. All for the creation of a myth. Death may have brought her a new strength, but on the matter of a heart, nothing could be truly presumed.

However, she trusted R’hllor to guide her decision. And that faith was what brought her here now, after so many days trying to appease that baby dragon, to coax him to find Daenerys’ Targaryen former allies, when all he wanted to do was to invade King’s Landing.

That proposal to that little queen was only a beginning, and would soon meet with a quiet refusal. But then, when trouble will come, how could she refuse?

She had seen it in the flames. A paper signed by an elegant hand. Blue eyes meeting purple eyes as fire surrounded all.

Yes, only the beginning.

And no pretender hiding in a raven could change that, she reflected as she saw it looking at her with grey eyes before leaving.

She said nothing to Yara, but she only smiled. Now he knew. Now he could fear. If such a man could feel anything. And fear would lead him to find Jon Snow. And then… every piece will come in place.

“Are you sure about it?” Yara said. “That it would work?”

Kinvara nodded.

“And pretty boy?”

“He’s only a piece,” she said. “In a game he can’t comprehend.”

“And… Sansa Stark”

The priestess smiled, the image of a man wandering in the snow coming to her mind.

“She has a role to play.” She said, sipping her wine. “And after that…”

After that… There was so many things that could happen. Who knew? Heart for heart, betrayal for betrayal. The circle never ended, the wheel never was broken.

Well, for the moment, she thought.

Yara continued.

“Did he see her?”

“He saw what he wanted to see.” Kinvara replied. “he saw the dragon and heard her voice telling him he was the rightful heir, and that she gave up her claim for him.”

Yara laughed loudly. “He had actually believed it, had he?”

The high priestess only smiled. But Yara wasn’t finished.

“So, what do we do now, with him?”

Her fingers danced on the hard and cold stone of the window sills, as she saw the storm becoming more intense. Then, she turned back and got closer to the fire.

Such a beautiful fire, big and strong, with only few blue shades. A deadly fire, she could easily make hers, and that could destroy everything on that island.

“We wait.” She finally said. “For trouble to actually become chaos.”

Yara stood up, seeming finally revigorated.

“Can’t we add some troubles in the way?”

The high priestess smiled amusingly.

“Like you already have, my friend.”

“I had a few terrible months,” Yara replied nonchalantly.

Kinvara nodded, then looked once again at the fire, that was, little by little, forming the shape of a woman. The shape of a princess seeking justice and recognition. She wondered what she could do now, that little princess of sand and snakes.

Then an image of her queen came to her, her expectant look turned toward an iced waterfall, as a man came from it.

That did not happened yet. But soon…

“He’ll do the right thing at the end.” She said, as if to reassure herself. “And so will she.”

Yara intervened.

“Does he know? Pretty boy? ”

Kinvara smirked.

“She was the one to tell him to go.”

Yara’s eyes lightened up as understanding came to her.

“Then it means she has a plan.”

The priestess looked at the fire until it hurt, eyes sparkling with expectations and extasy.

“A storm is coming, my friend,.” She said. “and the fire goes with it.”

Yara smirked.

“And the sea. Don’t forget the sea.”

Kinvara only smiled more softly. Then laughed, truly, for the first time in months.

“We serve the same Queen.”

Yara smirked. “That, we do”

For the night was dark and full of terrors.

How true was that, she thought as her hands got closer to the flames. At least, she had the fire to be their light.

Chapter Text

The wind was as soft and warm as a paramour’s caress, this night, Arianne Martell, princess of Dorne, thought. She could feel it touch her skin from her cheek to her breasts tenderly, delicately, as if discovering it for the first time. It wasn’t always that way though, for it could be violent and sharp as a snake, and just as lethal.

She was no delicate lady though, waiting to be touched, to be kissed, but too afraid of her own desires. She welcomed it all the same. This dry, thick, warm air was hers since the moment she was born, and instead of cutting her, she felt its pleasures like a true Dornishwoman would. It was in her blood. However, it was like an over-eager lover: either too gentle, either too pressing. Now, it was just good.

The princess closed her eyes and sighed.

Every day was just like the other. Waiting. Drinking. Loving. Playing Cyvasse. Bathing. Waiting. Drinking. Loving…

Waiting was not really what bothered Arianne generally. In waiting, she found pleasure in imagining what could happen. What would happen, actually. Certainty came to her the more the time passed.

But that kind of waiting, so near the release, was suffocating and numbing, and did not bring any certainty. Only doubts.

She stretched herself like a cat, trying to get rid of the numbness spreading in her members. Her dress stuck to her like a second skin, and the dampness of it made her shiver.

She had bathed today. She had decided it suddenly, surprising Ser Daemon Sand when she took off her clothes and jumped in the water. She asked him to join her with a sneaky smile. The sun had been so hot, and the water so fresh. He refused, saying he’d rather look at a snake than play with it.

That man seemed so satisfied with himself she almost evoked the memory of her uncle Oberyn, for it seemed THAT snake surely hadn’t bothered him. But then it all came back to her and she went silent, turning away from him.

He could laugh all he wanted. She did not care. Not anymore. It was all just a game, wild and sensual, fangs against fangs. A battle of teasing and desiring, but never daring.

She did not need that in her life. She could have any man she wanted with a blink of an eye. Her lovers always came back to her, one way or another. This one will surely, she thought. Sooner or later.

Well, all except one now. Arys Oakheart… her sweet knight had died because of her. Or maybe thanks to her, she didn’t really know. She was still a little bit convinced that he charged Areo Hotah in the hope to escape her. Men were fools when it came to love and honor. And, from the pretty songs that had been written after Daenerys Targaryen’s murder by her lover, it was still a subject that poets found solace in.

Love, lust, power and betrayal. All the ingredients of a catastrophe, but also of a good story. In any other day, she would have loved to hear it. But that story had taken such a strong hold on her own that she couldn’t bear to listen to it anymore. She had seen enough of the different parts that composed it, and now, she was determinate to make her own way, and to let go of these ghosts of the past.

Some of them being in her own family.

Each night, she recited their names in her mind, as if afraid to forget.

Ellaria, Obara, Nymeria, Tyene… She had done everything to set them free when they were confined in the Spear Tower of Sunspear. And they had betrayed her, by leaving her here, all alone, an unofficial prisoner in the Water Gardens, carefully watched day and night while they killed her father.

She had loved Tyene as a sister. But she still left her. She still betrayed her.

Arianne couldn’t really blame her. She had followed her mother, as she always did. It stung, nonetheless. And it stung even more when she learned of her death, and the cruel way her body had been treated.

But then, Obara, Nymeria… it was them who killed Trystane, her little brother. Arianne missed Trystane the most. Young, hopeful Trystane, always playing it easy for his princess to catch on.

And Myrcella… Arianne had been fond of her, of that naïve, though clever little girl who claimed herself in love with her betrothed. That girl was full of dreams and songs. She would have deserved to be queen, and if Arianne had had her way, she would have been.

Had Queen Cersei Lannister been one day like that? Arianne wondered. Mother and daughter had been apart for so long, and now, it seemed death only brought them together. Would they still get along? The mad Queen and the little girl with flowers and sunlight in her hair?

No, Myrcella hadn’t deserved it, for what happened to her was entirely against what Dorne swore to its people. No harm could come to little girls here, for Dorne knew the real cost of daughters.

But now ? Where were they now ?

Only Ellaria remained, still stuck in her cells at King’s Landing, and, if the rumors were true, still staring at her daughter’s rotting body. Young King Bran didn’t even have the decency, once in power, to bury her. Or maybe he did not really care actually. But he still held her hostage, for killing her would be killing one of the last memories of Oberyn Martell, memories that were still cherished all over Dorne. And keeping her was the surest way to keep the Sand Snakes at bay.

But not her. Not Arianne Martell, daughter of the sun.

Ellaria was alive. Good for her. But not for long.

Arianne had no regrets now. The woman her uncle loved, the one who hated revenge, had died with him. Now she was only the shadow of a bitter woman. A powerless shadow forced to see again and again the consequences of her actions.

There were now only five sand snakes then. Sarella, Elia, Obella, Dorea and Loreza. Only three of them, the oldest ones, could fight now, and knew their own mind. Dorea and Loreza were both still too young, though their skills seemed promising. She could still remember little Loreza trying to catch a snake with her own hands and managing to extract its poison without even getting bitten. And Dorea, that little minx, agile as a monkey, able to steal from even the most careful of guards. Both girls were now kept carefully by her brother’s side. If only she could reach them…

That was all that was left.

At least, sand snakes that were known. Oberyn had never really known how to take count of all of his bastards.

It was said, she learned, that some snakes could eat other ones of their species, even the ones who had birthed them. What better revenge, she thought, but to turn these little snakes against the one who called herself their mother?

The idea was terrifying, but she also found it quite captivating.

But not for now, no. This would be for another time. Now, she had a birthright to claim.

Elia’s answer was not here though. Elia, the one she had to save so many times for her careless behaviors. Little Elia she had cared for like a mother. Would she choose to be with her? Or will she choose her real mother?

Obella, though younger, was much more ruthless than she was. And she had already chosen, though Arianne would have preferred it to be her way. She would fight her own battles and preferred to go directly in King’s Landing, in hopes of saving Ellaria. Dorne’s affairs did not concern her, she said. Not anymore.

Well, she would find it more of her concern when she returned, Arianne thought.

She tasted the chicken, which had been seasoned with lemons and honey. The flesh was tasty, with a little bit of bitterness. As a child, she had always been fond of sweet things. But not anymore. And the bitterness agreed with her. She took one of the grilled almonds that accompanied it and put it in her mouth slowly, letting her tongue caress one side of the dried fruit as she closed her eyes in bliss. The fruit was crunchy under her teeth and added a lovely taste of smoke to the plate. She licked her fingers with greed.

Daemon Sand’s eyes were on her, but she couldn’t read what were in them. Was that desire? Irritation? Longing? She did not know anymore. All that she knew now was that he was her shield and that he had taken her maidenhead once. She wouldn’t mind if he did that again. She even asked him again, but he refused.

His loss, she thought as she looked at Feather, who was presenting her with cold drinks.

She had once prevented Elia from amusing herself too much with him. But then… Who was preventing HER, now?

The night had only just begun, after all.

She played the cyvasse once with him, and then with Daemon. The first was easily won. But the second… It was more stimulating, for sure. However, it was too long for her taste, as she was impatient tonight.

“You’re distracted, princess,” Daemon remarked.

She did not answer, only rolled her eyes as she put the Spearman in front of his Elephant. Her Dragon was still unused, at the back, like his. It was like the two creatures were staring defiantly at each other, daring the other to make the first move.

She put her chin in her hands, waiting for him as she reflected on what was left to her. What was left of her family.

Her lady mother was long sick now, since the day her father died. It was said she wouldn’t survive long, especially when she heard of her daughter’s imprisonment in the Water Gardens, and her sons ‘ fates.

About her brother Quentyn, though… She knew that he had once longed for something he called destiny. And that destiny was intertwined closely with a Targaryen queen. He tried to reach for her, but as he went closer to the Dragon’s bay and lost himself in it, she was already gone, fighting her own wars.

All he had when he returned was a crushed dream and the sight of the dragon queen’s silhouette in her ship as he landed, her silver hair flowing with the wind, towards him. If only he had been there just ten minutes before, he had said. He could have met her half way. If only the captain had accepted to chase her, and not to wait the next morning.

Then, it was too late, and their father had asked him to go back to him, for another queen was gathering her troops. To ally oneself now with the dragon queen was too risky.

What a fool, she had thought at the time. He had worried her, for, even if he had wed the little queen, would she have been nice to him? Arianne had already heard people saying she disposed of her brother to have a better claim on the Iron Throne. And then, after all that happened to King’s Landing…

But it did not matter anymore. When Quentyn returned, their father was dead, and she was a prisoner in her own home, caged like a wild animal.

Quentyn had not done anything then. He had fled, like the rest of them. And he had sat in her father’s place when it was sure for him to do so. Her little brother, the one she had known so little but cared so much, had not even deigned to look at her in the eyes at that moment. Only in front of him, as if something was waiting for him at the horizon. But what? She didn’t know.

One piece was moved. Then another. The dragons were still in place, staring.

Now, her little brother was in the seat where she was supposed to be, and he kept her locked in the Water Gardens like a bird in a golden cage.

She was no bird, though, singing for him as it pleased him. She had seen how he tried to give support to Daenerys Targaryen when she was away. She had tried to tell him once not to interfere, because nothing was sure. Nothing was certain, with the Targaryen. You just had to look at what happened to poor princess Elia, her aunt. Their father would have been ashamed, for him to jump so carelessly into such scheme, without even knowing what it could cost. Prince Doran was everything but careful in his alliances. He would have wanted the little queen to come to him, to ask for him. After all, Quentyn had already come to Meeren, and for no result whatsoever.

But her brother tried to anyway. He had begged and begged, eagerly proclaimed he wanted to see her himself. To see that little queen he wanted to marry, like the fool he was. As if life was like these pretty songs minstrels used to seduce young maiden. And when she died, that dream died too. He had bowed like the rest of them, and then let a foreigner, some unknown Northern child rule them, jeopardizing Dorne’s independence in hopes to fulfill another dream, one she could only guess of the content.

But now, here she had been, with the hope of another Targaryen coming to help her. What an irony.

She had waited for that dragon’s help, fake as he may be, when days became weeks, and then months. But he never came. He disappeared as if he had been nothing but a cloud of dust in the night.

Now, she could only count on herself, and few ones.

At least, for these few ones, there was still a need for confirmation.

And this one may be contained in the little paper one of the serving girls left her this morning. She dared not look at it at the moment, afraid of what she might find in it. Afraid of another disappointment.

But now, as the moon was full and the wind soothing… And as she set her dragon in the place of Daemon’s King, she felt fierce and victorious. She saw him staring at it and she relaxed more on the soft cushions. She let out a little sigh of satisfaction and threw her head back.

Ilayna Sand, she was named. Ten years old, daughter of some squire and a whore. She had found her bathing in one of the pool one day, without the guards knowing, and decided to hire her, despite them. Trusting her was another story, and it had taken time and a few trials for Arianne to decide to use her.

She was at first hesitant, for it came against what she had learned. Innocence was something that should be protected. But when Myrcella died, she realized she could not stay with that reasoning. Little girls were exploited everywhere. But they would not be killed in Dorne, she decided. Not without weapon, at least.

The little girl was fierce and loyal, and she could get her way anywhere without getting noticed. And she certainly had skills with knives. She had become her shadow, and then much more. Her eyes and ears.

This one would be safe. She had promised it to her. And she intended to keep that promise this time.

She took the little paper the girl gave her and smiled. It was not what she had expected, but she welcomed it nonetheless. It was signed ‘A. S.’. An ‘S’ that almost looked like an ‘F’, which made her wonder what kind of name the one sending this to her took, after all.

The young king was ill, or so it seemed. Words had been spread (or rather sung, as she corrected herself), just as she wanted it to. Good. It was a pretty thing to hear, she thought bemusedly. A smile danced on her lips, opening them to show her little white teeth.

The bastard of Godsgrace’s eyes were still on her, unreadable.

“What are you staring at me for, now?” She said, with annoyance in her tone as she disregarded the paper to glare at him.

“You’re playing with fire.”

She smiled and rolled her eyes.

“As if you never tasted it.”

She raised up and took her glass. Daemon Sand caught her wrist as she was about to leave and forced her to sit down and look at him in the eyes.

His hand on her cheek was hard, but surprisingly soft.

“Are you sure you want to do it?” He said.

She raised one eyebrow.

“Will you try to stop me?”

He leaned in, his eyes sparkling in the night. In the dark, they almost seemed black, and she could barely see his irises.

“You know I won’t.”

The bells rang, loud and clear, and she found herself counting. The noise, surprising them, had just as much set them apart.

Daemon stayed still, looking at her. His hand was on the hilt of his swords. He was on guard. But even he, she knew, could not hear anything beside the bells.

He had not to fear though. Not if he stayed by her side. Not if all worked according to plan.

The cyvasse stayed that way, with her dragon taking his king. And at that time, she realized. Why hadn’t he used his?

She stared at him with that question in mind, then waited for the inevitable to arrive.

When, after some time, they finally appeared, she found relief beyond compare. She did not raise up, only took another sip of wine to regain her composure.

“I’ve been waiting.” She said.

Sarella Sand nodded with a smirk, drops of blood still apparent on her tunic. Blood of their enemies.

“We’ve been delayed,”

She was free now. The realization by it was exhilarating.

Elia was here too. She dropped her weapon on the floor, near Arianne’s knees. Her eyes were downcast, but her jaws were squeezed determinately.

She would be with them.

There was no Areo Hotah to stop her now.

They would learn that dragons weren’t the only ones who could burn.

Arianne smirked.

“So now it truly begins.”

Chapter Text

There was blood on his hands, today. More than yesterday, maybe. Hot, sticky to the fingers. Reassuring in a way. Not his. But those of the meat he had eaten. Raw, juicy, sticky and warm on his touch.

He was fond of birds, these days. Black specifically. He couldn’t afford to cook it, for setting a fire might alert others. But he found that he didn’t mind, actually. The more he stayed out there, the more he found himself lose everything that once defined him, little by little, like a fire consuming wood until there’s only ashes left.

Ashes… He remembered the ruin of King’s Landing. How they were falling like snow on the city, each petal of it flying away and recovering everything with white sheets of dust and destruction.

He had almost forgot about the blood, then. About the burned corpses, how they smelled when he passed right next to them. And the survivors, screaming in agony, waiting for release.

He had almost forgot about these soldiers in line, waiting for their queen to come out the ruins, and cheering for her as she talked.

He had understood nothing then. Nothing but the smells of the blood and ashes that were here.

His purpose had been meaningless, he had learned as he looked at his companions that day.

Except for one thing. One image. The image of his queen, of the memory of her perfume, warm and fruity, flowing right at him, and then, suddenly, piercing his heart with its sweetness and beauty. He could see her anywhere, looking at him with blue ice in her eyes. Could they not be warm again? Why that color was following him that way, as well with the snow that stuck to his skin?

So he returned and he saw her one last time before going home and rebuilding all that had been lost. But still, there was this hope to meet her again.

If he needed to survive, it was to see her again. And for that, he was ready to do anything. Forsake every vow, every law. ‘Arise, my lord’ she had said once to him. And he had every intention of obeying that order. But this time, being a lord wasn’t enough.

He would be her savior. He would keep her safe from harm…

Like you kept these villagers safe, the voice, the stronger one in his head said, cold, hard.

He shivered, then fell on his knees, taking his head with his hands as if to take the pain away. And to shut this voice, always harassing him since he went far north. Since he met beasts and monsters on his way.

Sometimes, it had the accent of a man he knew and admired. Sometimes it was like his beloved’s voice. Other times though, it was one of a stranger.

For him, it was still one, taking different forms. And even if it wasn’t, the thought was too much terrifying for him to comprehend. It was his. Until that point.

But it was when these voices were fighting each other that he wondered if he was wrong the whole time. Chaos reigned in his head, and he could only scream at the insanity of him.

That’s not me, he wanted to shoot. It’s someone else, someone stronger. Someone stranger.

“Leave me alone,” he whispered. This was not his objective. This was not his destiny. They all told him about what had been done. Not about what he wanted to do.

The voices were stronger since he fled the battlefield. But then, what could he have done?

‘Fight with your friend’ One of the voices said, coldly. ‘Die with your friends’

He shook his head.

No, no. That was not that.

“ Get out. GET OUT!”

His own voice was coming louder from his mouth now, and then it all stopped. And he felt eyes, cold eyes on him. He raised his head and met them, frightened.

This wolf. This big dire wolf, white as snow, with an ear half eaten by war and frost.

It was always following him, relentlessly, like some kind of shadow. The silent white shadow of a past he had desperately wanted to forget, for it brought back memories of fights and icy blue eyes staring at him.

But it was also a memory of greatness. Of brave men leading them all, one man in particular. Giving them courage and strength to go on and on.

“Go!” he said. “GO!”

But the dire wolf stayed still, and did not even blink. It was looking at him with judgement in its bloody eyes.

Could such beast have feeling? He wondered. Could that beast think?

It was strange. Sometimes, he thought it had red eyes. Sometimes, it was grey eyes that were staring at him. And sometimes, it was a mix of the two.

He lowered his hand, putting it in his pockets, his eyes never leaving the wolf.

The knife must be there, somewhere. He felt its pointy head in his finger, and caught it. And waited. Waited. For the right moment.

If he could kill this beast, certainly he could go anywhere. If he killed that beast, he would be free. He could do everything.

But when he raised to do so, his hand leaving his pocket and showing that blank steel, the monster did not move, nor blink its eyes. And he felt his body froze, literally. The presences in him were stronger now.

Panic filled him.

‘Don’t fight it’ the voice said, the stronger one. ‘It’s the only way you can be of any good, now. Oath breaker.’

He struggled. Tried to move. But no way. He was standing, but slowly something, someone was taking control of him.

He shook, opened his mouth to scream. But no voice left it. And he was left afraid and powerless as the presence made herself at home in his own life, in his own body.

He felt himself taking his things and going away. And his soul getting number and weaker by the minute. And by his side, always, this white shadow, this ghost of a former life.

Sleep, he needed sleep. Desperately.

And something to hold on to. He needed to be stronger.

Long minutes, perhaps hours passed, and finally he stopped, and fell on his knees once more. Relief filled him, because somehow, something, his body was given back to him gradually.

He looked at the water in front of him and saw the hollow shell of the man he once was, with lifeless eyes and dulled brown hair. His beard had grown quite a bit, almost reaching his collar bones.

He opened the tiny paper and read the words that were on it, written by a hand he loved. Dear words, with a pretty calligraphy. Words of caring, of love, of hope. Words that enveloped his heart like a warm blanket.

Words not for you, a deep and strong voice came in his head.

But he did not care to listen to it.

“J-jon Snow,” he said aloud, as if to convince himself. “I am Jon Snow.”

His voice was shaking, weak and feeble, like an old man.

At least that’s what he wanted to be. That’s what the voices in his head told him he should be.

Be him, he said aloud, with his voice shattering at its edges. Be him and they will love you. And she will love you.

It wasn’t all about being like him anymore. It was a question of survival.

“I am Jon Snow,” he said more determinately.

His voice was not shaking now. But it was not yet the voice of a king.

The white dire wolf still looked at him curiously, and here he thought its eyes were not red like blood, but rather grey as steel, and with judgement in it. It looked so familiar, but he couldn’t put a name on this. He wondered why. He wondered how. Then shook his head. This beast was almost unnoticeable, laying in the snow like that, like it was its own blanket. It felt just like another big mountain of snow next to him.

That must be his own eyes, he told himself. Cold must have affected his sight.

He looked once again at his own reflection, then saw some wrinkles on the surface of the water. Dread filled him suddenly, freezing his insides. He stopped, listening, but never daring to look up.

He raised his eyes and froze once again. And once again, he thought it deceived him. For it couldn’t be. It shouldn’t be.

Next to him, on the same side of the river where he stopped, there was a black and red form glaring at him, huge, threatening. He blinked. And when his eyes opened once again, he saw its details, filling this form with scales, members and bloody eyes.

And next to it, there was a woman, clad in white fur, with silver locks flying with the winter wind.

Daenerys Targaryen…

The Dragon Queen… Here, near the lake, filling her flask like some random wench. She wasn’t even looking at him. And he hated her so much for doing so.

He thought her dead. He thought her body was rotting in the Seven Hells. But here she was, as if time had never affected her in any way.

But when she finally raised her head, stood up and looked at him, his heart skipped a beat.

Or was it his?

Silence was between them now, and the dragon’s tail moved nervously. Threateningly.

“You…” She whispered, abashed.

He stayed still.

‘What kind of monster are you?’ He wanted to yell.

But in the end, it was her who asked the question. Like always.

“Who are you?”

He felt a force fighting within him, trying to take control. And he almost let it once again, for its hold was suffocating and its plead was desperate and heartbreaking.

Like his own. He shook his head, confused.

“Jon… Jon Snow.” He mumbled.

She didn’t say anything at the beginning, and he did not look at her. But then her voice broke the silence.

“Jon… Snow.” she said, disbelieving.

At the sound of her voice, something broke in him. Or was it him? He wasn’t really sure. He was only sure of one thing at the moment.

If she went closer, he could touch her. If she went closer, he could kill her.

No, don’t, said the voice in his head.

She looked at him with disdain.

“No, you’re not.”

Her voice was filled with contempt.

“Where did you find that sword?” She asked.

He looked at it briefly. He had not dared to use it yet, but maybe, with her…

No, she did not deserve such fine weapon, he thought. He raised his head defiantly.

She went closer.

Come, he wanted to say. Come closer. That knife is ready for you. His hand was now bloody gripping it.

“Tell me, thief!”

He said nothing, for he knew nothing. Only stayed with the reassuring sensation of the blade in his hand.

Soon, he thought. Soon.

‘You’ll fail. As you always do.’ Replied the stronger voice in him.

“TELL ME!” She screamed at him with her commanding voice. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO HIM?”

He had never seen her angry. He had seen her eyes flaring, but he never saw something that terrifying.

She’s beautiful, he heard a voice in his head say.

He shook his head, confused. Where did that come from? he thought.

“He’s dead, is he?”

Now her voice was broken, and he revered this for a while, until pain attacked him unaware and despair filled him.

But he couldn’t answer, though one voice was screaming in his head. The stronger one.

‘NO!’ it said. ‘Look at me!’

“His life is mine,” she said finally. “Not yours to take.”

Her voice was soft, yet deadly. And her eyes were alight with a cold fire that made him shiver.

Yours, always, yours… he heard, with a tone that screamed of longing and sadness.

No, no, no, no.

That wasn’t him. That wasn’t…

“Jon… Jon Snow.”

He saw her shake her head, visibly distraught. As if he cared.

“Don’t say his name.”

“Jon Snow,” he said, this time, taking pleasure in her pain.

She looked at him, but didn’t come closer. She blinked, then shook her head.

“You’re a fool” She said. “And you’ll die like a fool.’

She sighed, and then turned her back on him. She touched the beast’s snout,and leaned on it.

“A death by fire…” He heard her whisper. “No, you don’t deserve it.”

The dragon huffed, then turned its little eyes, embers on fire, towards him.

“Drogon… Shh… my son, we’re leaving now” She said softly, caressing him in the space between its eyes. “He’s not here. We have to go.”

A whine was heard, and she froze in place, suddenly.

The dire wolf. It had finally made itself noticed, after all.

The wolf looked at her with eyes wide open, as if it couldn’t believe what it was looking at. The man himself couldn’t believe his eyes. Especially when, after some time, it came, slowly, almost gracefully, with more determination in each step, towards the Targaryen woman. It went passed him like he was nothing, and he felt suddenly all will to live leave him. She blinked, all eyes on it, and lowered herself, her knees touching the snow though she did not seem to have noticed.

“Ghost…” She whispered.

Her eyes were sad, filled with doubts.

He had thought it would bite her, and that would serve her right.

‘Attack’ He wanted to shoot, with gruesome euphoria filling him. ‘Kill her. Eat her.’

But it didn’t. It stood frozen in front of her, and then, softly, it went to her and sniffed her. A moan escaped its lips.

She put her hand hesitantly behind the wolf’s ear and patted him, while the white beast closed his eyes and leaned in even more. She chuckled with relief at this, and he could almost see a falling tear near her eye.

He never saw her cry. He always saw her fierce, determinate. Unbreakable. But here she was, the dragon queen, petting a wolf and crying like a maiden. Then she stopped, closed her eyes as if to gather some strength left in her.

“Why is your master not with you?”

Not master. No one could own it. He wanted to tell her so. Somehow, he needed to. He wondered why.

“What happened to your eyes?” She asked, then.

What happened to you? What happened to us? Asked the voice in his head, deep and broken.

The man shook, broken with the ring of it, echoing in his mind. He put his hands on his head

It shouldn’t be, he realized. No, it couldn’t.

Monsters, he thought. Both the wolf and that woman. He wished they could just die. Die and leave him in peace. Die so that he could run back to his love.

As that woman, that terrible woman was busy with the dire wolf, he felt the force that was stopping him, driving him mad, release him little by little once more. And he began to think.

If he had her head, if he could put his knife in that hollow chest of hers, maybe… maybe he could come back. Maybe she would forgive him.

He had to try.

“W… W-wait!” he cried.

He ran toward her, while the wolf howled at him, all fangs out.

He could succeed it. Become anyone’s hero. Become him. She was here, in front of him, mouth agape, vulnerable and very killable in his eyes.

Yes, he could return. He could be forgiven. And he will be a hero, saving her from the tyrant that had threatened her…

“Don’t!” He heard the woman scream.

He didn’t care to listen. She wouldn’t survive this time. Not with what would be left of her.

He was almost there, and soon he could touch her. Put that knife into her.

He could see his love right now, telling him sweetly “Kill her, my lord. My knight. My love.”

Soon, love, soon, he whispered. Soon, you’ll tell me that you love me as I do.

In all of his turmoil and ecstasy, he forgot one thing. One important thing, that should have been very obvious from the beginning.

It was the dragon’s head that he met instead. And then there was not escape.

It was too late. Its burning breath had already reached him. He closed his eyes, falling to darkness, without even a sound. His skin was on flame, and he felt slowly his consciousness leaving him He heard the dire wolf howl at him.

‘Fool. Bloody fool.’ It said.

I must find her, he thought one last time. She’s in danger. He had to protect her. He saw her once again in front of him as darkness began to fill him. He moaned her name.

His queen with fire in her hair and ice in her eyes…

Chapter Text

Fire burned the flesh as surely as it would have done wood. Delicately, progressively, every layer of skin cowering itself as the juice and the blood came out and fed the flame. Some black marks soon would adorn the meat, adding a bitter taste to it. The taste of ashes and death. But it needed to wait a little time again, for the warmth had not reached its heart. It was a matter of seconds, perhaps a few minutes. Already, the smell was delicious.

This was no castle food. There was no butter, no honey nor salt to season it, only a few leaves of mint they somehow found near a tree, where Rickard had pissed. It was a fancy the man had laughed of at the time, and threatened to soil for true this time, but it was also something that made them feel like home, with the memory of old Ianna roasting them meat after the long trainings.

She never told them the recipe, for she said there were secrets women ought to keep. They could only remember there was mint in it. Poor old woman died and took that one secret in her grave. She died, bearing no child of her own, having no husband of her own, but mother to all. A discreet, accessible feminine presence in a world led by men. Mother even to those who found themselves forgotten. Malwyn had been one of them when his mother died, and a little before the men took him in. But before he even knew of her care, there was Larence. Perfect, friendly Larence, always ahead of the others. Always strong, always brave. A true hero, without knowing it.

“We need to be strong, Malwyn,” he would say. “Strong like the king. And soon we’ll rise and rise, and no one would ever harm us.”

And young Malwyn would only look at him with big eyes, admiring the braveness of it.

“Sweet, gentle Larence”, Old Ianna would call him. “With ideas too big for your head. One day, this head of yours will explode from the strength of it!”

At that, he would only smile absently, as if that last part had been lost on him. The only moment he ever snapped was when people called him Snow, but even with that, it seemed that he was managing very well to control the violence that each man had in his heart.

Malwyn lowered his head. He was no boy now, he thought. Long gone were the dreams of heroism and knighthood. They had been frozen, then burned until all that remained was ashes and haunted memories.

He removed the meat from the fire, and let it cool down a little. The night was fresh, yes, but it still had the hint of spring in its air. It was not like the cold there had been, not so long ago. The gripping cold that made you want to end your life as any of your tears froze in place. Now that they were nearer the Wall, it was colder, yes, but not the same. And surprisingly, that was the most disturbing thing to Malwyn.

Jan and Eddy were singing now. Softly, firmly. Jan’s tune was maybe a little too rough, but Eddy had a pretty voice, though maybe not as great as Finn’s had once been. But it was a song to warm the heart when all hopes seemed doomed. A song for love and for life.

“… for she was his secret treasure

She was his shame and his bliss

And a chain and a keep are nothing

Compared to a woman’s kiss

For hands of gold are always cold

But a woman’s hands are warm…”

They were passing the meat to each other now. Each took one bite, but neither dared to take more. Hunger may have been one of their problems before. But now, it was fatigue that turned their stomachs. Fatigue after all the fights, and the long peace that came after. Fatigue after all delusions, and all hopes going to the flames. Fatigue was just another word to hide the grief that settled in their hearts.

The Age of Heroes was long gone. It would not come back.

They had once again come to a village, assaulted by the same savages as Pearlsnow. Few survivors were left, but all talked of beasts ravaging them in the night, of men covered in furs burning their home and raping their women. No traces of any man fitting the description of Larence. At least the Larence they knew, as he had been.

Malwyn shook his head. These ideas came to him more often than not now, and he was quite saddened by this turn. How could he doubt so easily of his friend? After everything? He couldn’t. He had no right to do it. Not when he might once more be proved wrong.

But still… there had always been moments with Larence that had intrigued him, and made him doubt he really knew him as much as he thought. Malwyn closed his eyes. Try to look in his memories for signs. For something. A scene. Few words exchanged, just before the attack on Pearlsnow.

“Sometimes I envy you,” Larence had said that one time. “Sometimes I just want to run away and forget it all. Be myself. Be someone else. But then I remember…”

Malwyn had then asked what. What could possibly make him stay? What did these words even mean?

“There is someone I have to protect.” Larence had answered.

“Would you tell me now who she is?” he had asked.

His friend had smiled. Larence had never said who it was, but Malwyn had his guesses. He had seen him looking to that special someone with eyes of love, eyes of want.

“My very own Jonquil.”

“That makes you Florian the Fool, then.”

He had wanted to tease him about it. Teasing was easy. Teasing did not require for him to think of his own lost hopes.

But then Larence had answered, his expression closed and serious.

“All geniuses are fools in their love. But all fools die for it anyway.”

The song stopped, and then only silence prevailed. At least for a time. Malwyn shook his head, trying to return to his own reality. The one he was in, with these men he grew up with, friends and enemies alike. Life must go on, he thought. But Larence needed still to be found.

Women, gold, and meat were subjects of predilection for these times in between. Sometimes it was soft and discreet, just as a fair maiden talk. Sometimes it was rambunctious and playful, as it was now. Most of the time, he contributed largely in this. But now, Malwyn did not pay attention. His thoughts were still troubled.

Some people had dreams of high standard. But these dreams did not last. He could understand though. He could really understand it, for he had seen that beauty. But then it was her eyes that froze him.

Ideas too big for his head. Yes, he could very much understand. But Malwyn, for his own sake, preferred to feel the warmth of a true, concrete woman, than to dream on a possible impossibility.

Reina had been more than concrete. He had felt the warmth of her skin against his, and the softness of her light brown hair slipping through his fingers. She had smiled for him, and when he kissed her, she tasted like honey and cloves.

He had not taken her maidenhead then. But maybe he should have. Maybe it would have changed everything. He could have married her near a heart tree then. Damn the consequences. She would have been his, forever.

He had been a fool then…

“… sure, Reina’s hands must have been really warm, but…”

“What’s his name, again?” Reagan’s voice was heard. “A bastard once again, I believe, turned noble. Some Velar-…”

His blood ran cold.

“Shut up both of you.” Malwyn growled.

Thinking about her was pain by itself. Hearing about her was agony. He supposed that if he could see her once again, he would die by the suffering of it. Or the great pleasure, maybe.

Oh, if only she loved him still. Maybe they could run away, leave all the mess behind.

Maybe. That word haunted him still, unsettling by its uncertainty. Maybe all of this was vain. But he could only hope. Maybe was the last word she ever said to him. But he had thought then it was a promise. A promise of happiness and peace.

A promise that was not for him.

He raised up, ignoring the worried looks of Darren and Jan, and left silently.

There was a river, with only a few minutes from the camp. It was a discrete haven, calm and solemn with its weirwood tree with clear, pure water, making its way between the roots and digging the dark soil by the strength of its streams. Once it had been frozen, and now here it was. And here he was. Cold, but trying to find his way. He wasn’t sure yet where it would lead, but there was no turning back now. Not until he had answers.

He put his hand in the liquid, and rubbed them. It was fresh and pleasing. He drank from it and then washed his face, closing his eyes.

He had to think. Now. Before he became too overwhelmed by grief to do so clearly. Grief was dangerous. Grief could kill.

Where could Larence be?

He had once been taken by the Greyjoys because of his status as the next heir of Lord Hornwood. Malwyn knew he had been tortured, almost starved to death. But he never gave up. He fought and fought, until he found his way out of it.

Then he had come back to Hornwood, like a hero, on his own. Some thought him dead before he came back. Malwyn, after torturous months when he wanted to go save him, had given up then, listening to the others’ advices. But, as he saw his friend’s silhouette appearing at the entrance, everything came back to him. The times when Larence gave him hope, encouraged him. The time when they learned to fight together.

First came joy. Then came guilt.

Larence had laughed at him then. A rough laugh, unlike the one he had had once. But who knew what happened to him during that time of captivity. He had said he had escaped them and survived, and Malwyn instantly believed him, wanting to put the past behind him, and all thoughts about what could have been if he had tried to save his friend despite what had been told to him.

This time, it had been his friends who urged him to take that mission. To find Larence once again.

But this time, he was seriously doubting it all.

They had followed his traces. From here, they could see the Wall, and the scars on it, only fragments of what had been the Great War, the war for the dawn. But then, no traces. Nothing. A few footsteps, then nothing. Not even a drop of blood, or the hint of a fingertip.

Malwyn sighed and looked ahead, on the great weirwood tree, and its leaves that seemed to be about to fall by each caprice of the wind. The shape of it was a glory by itself, but it was the color that attracted his attention. Red like blood on the snow. Red like the hair of one woman, with ice in her eyes. Or the sky, maybe.

He shook his head. This was not his thoughts, it was someone else’s. Why was he still parasite with it? What could that aspect bring to him?

Oh yes. Larence loved his queen. That was for sure. His was a love built on dreams and chivalry. His was a love built on despair and hopes.

He had written letters to the queen to talk about his journey. But alas, if he had one answer to his first, the others stayed unanswered. He had wondered at the unfeminine writing of that answer, but then shrugged. Maybe it was just a lady’s fancy, to let a maester write letters to a simple bastard. Or maybe she couldn’t write. Who knew. Few could do so, after all. Even rich ones.

“Hey, bastard,” Reagan called.

“What?” Malwyn snapped.

“If you want to lead this mission, you better toughen up. Not look like a craven.”

“I’m not…”

“You bloody hell are, boy. You bloody hell are. They all feel it.”

“And what about you? What about your little act in front of Sansa Stark?”

“Tsk, boy. You never understood a god damn thing, do you? The girl is a queen. She has the power to make our lives miserable. She has the power to order our execution, to exile us. She doesn’t fight with us, she sends us. If you don’t fear a queen, you die. But you… You’re not Larence, young lad. Larence was always bloody certain of everything. You, you’ve always been full of uncertainty. No, don’t deny it, boy. I know you since you were a babe. You’ve got some sparks of foolish courage, but in the end, you’re always overthinking this. And if you’re uncertain yourself, you die. And us with you.”

Anger filled Malwyn at that. He glared.

“Then why are you still with us? What’s keeping you? The queen?”

He did not answer, but Malwyn saw something in his eyes. Pain. Grief.

What did that mean?

“You better let it go, lad. This quest is not for you.”

“You once told me not to go.”

“I told you the truth, lad.” He said. “You’re not fit to be a hero.”

“And you are?”

The elder man laughed.

“No. But I once knew someone who would have been.”

He stayed silent a long time. Wind was blowing on the leaves, making some fall on the surface of the water. Reagan was about to leave, when suddenly he turned back one more time, with a pained look.

“You have his eyes, you know?” He said. “Your father’s eyes. Don’t taint them with doubts, you’re insulting his memory.”

The young man gaped, baffled. But before he could even answer, ask even, the moment was gone. Reagan was gone.

This was certainly the kindest thing Reagan had ever said to him. And he never talked about his father either.

Why now?

He groaned. Was he destined to ever wonder about the true meaning of what people said?

Larence’s sword was still in his belt, near his own. He had tried to clean it, but it seemed that blood had already tainted the steel.

His eyes went to the sky, searching. Counting the stars, giving them names until it hurt. Imagining the shapes of it, and their links to the moon.

Until a clear and familiar shape detached itself from it. A terrific and terrifying shape, yet one he had dreamed of a lot of times, not always in a bad way.

He blinked. The vision was gone as surely as it had come. Maybe it was just an effect of fatigue. Maybe it was just memories haunting him once again.

The last dragon was gone, leaving with his dead queen in its claws. It couldn’t be.

But still, his heart beat quickly in the night, and he came back to his friends, who were already sleeping. He looked at each face and asked himself if he was truly fit for leading that mission. He cared not for that knighthood the little queen had promised. He cared for his friends. He had listened to them, to Jan specifically.

He sighed. Reagan was right. He was clearly overthinking this.

Tomorrow, they would reach another village, at a few distances from Eastwatch-by-the sea. Icestone, they had called it. Its inhabitants were mostly fishermen, that had returned after the War for the Dawn, and seen their houses being recovered in a thick layer of ice. This ice had not melted yet despite their efforts, so the name stuck to it. They didn’t want to move. Not again. So they learned to deal with it. Malwyn closed his eyes.

When the sun came out, they continued their journey. They did not dare to speak, not yet. But glances were exchanged, nods. They knew each other too well to be truly angry.

They came to a tavern, where they ate silently the meat stew the owner had cooked, and then began their investigations, each on their own.

And when they reunited once again for dinner, Denys was the one with a hint of an answer.

He had talked with one of the fishermen in the tavern, who said a man had stolen his boat. It was, he said, a tall, lanky man covered in bruises and blood, with brown hair that stuck to his skull, and when he looked at him with his crazy grey eyes, the fisherman knew it. He had met with a maleficent spirit of the sea.

But what was interesting was that in his haste, he let go of a helmet, on which the black moose of the Hornwoods had been carved.

Hope began to blossom in their hearts. Larence was alive, and they were about to go investigate this when a strong voice called them.

They turned back, and Malwyn groaned.

Ser Harrold Hardyng, with a group of armed men with his colors, smirking at them, glowing in a newly-made silver armor.

“Malwyn Snow,” he proclaimed solemnly. “In the name of Queen Sansa of House Stark, protectress and Keeper of the North, you are urged to return back to Winterfell, in order to be interrogated.”

“Interrogated? Me and my companions are on a mission.” He said, bewildered. “It was she who ordered us to go.”

“And now she demands you come back to her.”

“I’d sooner believe she wanted to get rid of you,” he mumbled through his teeth.

Fury sparkled in Harrold’s eyes.

“What did you say?”

Malwyn glared at him and stood his ground. They couldn’t leave now. Not this close to one hint of the mystery that had befallen their friend and lord.

“We’re here at the request of Queen Sansa Stark,” He repeated clearly and stubbornly. ”who asked us not to return until we found out what happened to our lord, Larence of House Hornwood…”

“Your damn bastard lord is dead!” Harrold interrupted. “Get over it! The queen already did.”

“The queen can do as she pleases. But we’re not letting him go now!”

Harrold took the dagger from his belt and pointed it swiftly on Malwyn’s cheek. He blinked from the sharping pain of it, but then his glare hardened on the knight in front of him. It would bleed certainly.

“Take care, bastard,” He hissed. “Others than you lost their lives for less than that.”

Malwyn only smirked. For his own dagger was now pointing at Harrold’s crotch, and the elder knight began to feel it, all color leaving little by little his face.

But then, the horns were heard, following by the cries of panic of the villagers, running away hazardously on the streets while Malwyn and Harrold could only stare at then, bewildered. The men were already on fighting stance.

And then they saw them. Men, clad in furs, shooting at them with theirs weapons in their hands. Some had already caught villagers who hadn’t been fast enough to escape them. Some were already raping and sacking, throwing aflame torches on the houses.

Malwyn let out the sword that was on his belt and prepared himself for the inevitable clash.

Most were dispersed, wild. The murders were sloppy and cruel, and they seemed to revere in it. Yet some seemed more ill-at-ease with their weapons, couldn’t help but notice Malwyn. As if it was the first time they were carrying it. And some of them were in groups, in what seemed a defensive stance.

But the young man had no time to ponder it. Leading them, there was a red-haired man, with a great beard, shooting with his rough and loud voice. Malwyn saw red, and let anger blind him through the slaughter. His friends and the others were following him, fighting and killing their way too. Blade against blade, clinking until it cut through the clothes to meet the skin. He heard Eddy yelped in pain, but then Denys put his sword through his attacker’s back.

The horns were still being blown, their sound in their ears screaming danger, screaming to kill.

Malwyn was fighting shoulder to shoulder to Jan, each parrying the blows that were thrown at them. But then, they lost themselves in the chaos, and suddenly the young man was all alone in the crowd, with screams in his ears, screams in his mind. Screams that looked like the ones his mother did when they took her.

At this point, all reason left him. He shouted in fury and lost himself in the fights. He couldn’t hear. He couldn’t feel. He could only react, the sword in his hand swinging, cutting, killing.

And then suddenly, here he was. The fights had somehow calmed down, or maybe it was only his fixation on that man now, the man that was in front of him.

The red-haired wildling glared at him and screamed in anger. But Malwyn was faster than him. He hit and hit, until it broke, and then kicked. And then, with a final shout, he found a break in his enemy’s defense, and put his weapon through it.

The man fell without a sound, his brown eyes staring at him until the life went out of it.

Then he looked at what he had done.

It was not the one he wanted to kill. Yet, it was a close one, it seemed. His breath was ragged, wild, and his eyes looked down, to the blade that had become a part of his arm for this fight. Then he realized.

It was Larence’s sword he had in hand. Not his. He blinked.

And that was nearly his downfall. For, as his attention slipped away, someone screamed at him in rage, his dagger in his hand, ready to attack. And too close to stop in time.

Malwyn closed his eyes, preparing himself for the blow he felt defenseless to stop. But which never came.

He opened them, bewildered, his blood that was boiling only minutes before freezing now in his veins. He wanted to throw up.

The other man was laying down at his side now. And it was Harrold Hardyng that was carrying the blade that saved him.

Malwyn fell on his knees, the enormity of what happened suddenly coming to him.

The fights were over. And smoke had replaced the fire.

“Wildlings,” he mumbled with a shaking voice. “It truly was wildlings…”

Or was it? Said the treasonous voice in his head.

How could he doubt it now? How could he shake that feeling of danger, the same he had when his mother was killed?

His heart had not stopped beating. He felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Come, boy,” Harrold declared with a calm voice. “Your queen awaits you.”

“No.” He managed to say. “I can’t.”

Malwyn raised his eyes towards the man. His hand was shaking.

“You may kill me now if you want. I have a debt towards you now. You’ve saved my life, and for that I’m grateful. I’ll do whatever you ask of me. But not now. I can’t let it go now.”

“You fool!” That was Reagan, trying to go to him, his fist closed and his face red with anger. “That’s not only…”

But Darren stopped him and looked at him in the eyes. Then he turned toward Malwyn and nodded.

“So can’t I.”

“And I.” Jan added.

“And I.” That was Eddy.

“… Aye.” Was heard reluctantly. Rickard.

The knight gazed at him a long time, as if calculating something. Then he looked at his companions and sighted. He nodded towards one of his soldiers, shrugged and smirked.

“You bloody fool!” Reagan snapped. “I can’t believe it. I have enough of it! I’m going home!”

“And you’re welcome to it!” Harrold said jovially. “We have no need for old men like you.”

He reached out towards Malwyn.

Hesitantly, the young man reciprocated. The hands were shaken briefly, but firmly.

“You’ll… help us?” Malwyn was bewildered by this turn of events.

Harry’s smile was amused now.

“You don’t seem so sure of your little adventure now, bastard,” he answered with mischief in his eyes, before turning his back on him, leading the way. “Let’s go where you bloody want to go. Then you’ll see I’ve been right all along.”

A true mummer’s show, Malwyn thought.

He shook his head. No. The man had proved himself that he could protect people, even with disagreements opposing them. And now, he was offering to help them. Alliances should not be tainted by suspicion.

At least, until proven otherwise… he couldn’t help but add nonetheless.

Chapter Text

Sun just came out, rising from the bushes where she had been resting. She felt its beams on her fur, like a balm to her bruises. She yawned, for her travel had been a long one, and her paws were still painful from the snow and the rocks. She was no pup now, but still, even the thickest horn on them couldn’t protect her enough.

Where was her pack? She had lost them once she went on the other side. They had howled at her to come back, but she heard the lonely wolf’s cry and suddenly, nothing else was important. She was not just a wolf. She was a girl. She was a sister. She was human.

Where was her brother?

She had followed his traces beyond the big wall of ice, had sniffed his scent east, until she came to the river. There had been a fresh hole in the snow, she remembered. She smelled it. Blood and sulfur. And the scent of a man, unknown to her. A man that smelled like burned flesh. But no body.

Nothing but one tuft of white hair with fresh blood on it. She must have missed them, but not that long.

She had then proceeded to follow her brother’s track until it ran out, until she went back to the other side of the wall. Men ran away from her, and tried to attack her. But she fought back. The taste of their blood was still on her tongue, but somehow, it repulsed her now. She wondered why.

She went west, following the falling sun, hoping to find something. Someone. A hint. She never rested, until that day where she slept, exhausted and hungry.

Now, here she was, laying on the grass, hidden in the bushes, on a hill with the sun and the wind above her.

She shook herself, trying to get rid of the morning’s drops of water. Her fangs still carried the marks of her last prey. She tried to lick it, eager for the taste of it. Then she stilled.

She heard his howl, but it seemed it came from the sky. She looked up.

A dragon was hiding the sun. But it was undeniable. Her brother was in the sky with it.

She howled at him, begging him to come back. To leave that fearful creature. He only howled in return.

And this howl meant farewell.

She screamed, letting grief overcoming her.

Arya opened her eyes. Her breathing was ragged, broken, and she took long deep breaths of air. Strong arms embraced her closer, as if feeling her trouble. She closed her eyes, trying to calm down the beating of her heart. His smell was all on her now, all around them. That smell of leather and embers she came to get used to, and who reassured her more than she would want.

Once again, she was in a bed, with him. Once again, she did not want to leave. Her body responded to his presence, and his scent drew her in. She closed her eyes, feeling it surrounding her like a warm blanket.

But if she stayed… What then? What would that make her? What would that make them?

She shook her head and swiftly detangled herself from him. She put her clothes on, that were dispersed all in the room, once again a proof of their relationship. Once again a proof she couldn’t resist him.

They even smelt of him now. She sniffed it, her heart squeezing up from the memories of last night.

This is the last time, she tried to tell herself. Today, it will stop. Today, I’m on my own.

She quietly closed the door behind herself, taking care not to wake him, taking care not to look at him. She could feel every move in that room anyway.

Just like the other times, she tried to ignore the fact that her heart was still beating, screaming at her to come back. Just like the other times, she was cold.

The cold is not what I fear, she told herself. I’ve known winter. I’ve known death. I am in the North now. And the North is my home.

She went down the stairs, feeling like a thief with the swiftness of her steps. No, she wouldn’t look back.

People looked at her when she came to the common room of the inn, and she tried to ignore them. But it was just another reminder of who she was, and of what had been done.

She left and did not look back.

It was market day in that little village where she stopped. In two or three days she would be in Winterfell. She would see her sister, and the place where her family laid.

But not Jon, now. Jon couldn’t come back. Not now, not ever.

She went down the alleys, trying to ignore the pain in her chest, like salted water on an aflame scar. Instead, she focused on the people, who did not even remark her in the crowd. It was a nice change, for now she could imagine.

If she was still a little girl, she would talk to them. She would be their friends.

And they would use her.

She shook her head and continued.

She bought an orange and discussed a bit with the old woman at her stand. It made her remember of Old Nan and her stories. And of Bran listening to them, with eyes widened, fascinated, and mouth agape. How he loved them, these scary stories. It would always keep him awake at bed.

Now he was the keeper of these stories. And he certainly had more of them now.

She was about to continue her way when she heard the discussion of two merchants that made her stop on her tracks.

“… Her Majesty lil’ Sansa Stark said so.”

She went closer, taking care not to be noticed, and observed them.

They wore rich, colorful, foreign clothes that were not adapted for the North. The first one was so big his belt seemed always about to burst. He was talking with a loud, greasy voice, that tended to skip some vowels. But his eyes were shining with a cruel intelligence that made Arya think of a cat chasing its prey. The other was the total opposite, as he was thin and fragile. But his voice was controlled, ironic. Seemingly someone who wanted to appear more cultivated than he was, from the accent that sometimes escaped from his mouth.

Cat and Mouse it would be.

On any other day, she would have laughed at that caricature. But now, she couldn’t.

These men came from Essos, that for sure. But she was also convinced to have seen one of them before.

So she listened. Maybe then she would learn things that could help her in her search, she rationalized.

“I’d say, it’s about time it comes, since they had talked to us so much about it.” Mouse said.

“Yah, ‘t’must be the feast of the century.”

“Do you know who’s invited?

“All dam’ pageantry of the North,” Cat said, laughing. “An’ lot of d’ncers and sing’rs as well.”

“Oh yeah, like who? I’m fond of pretty songs.”

“I h’ard there’s this bast’rd. Nam’d Aerand Sand. Or Flowers, ‘don’t know.”

Cat laughed, as if he knew something more than his partner.

“Flowers, I’d say.” Mouse answered. “’Heard he takes bath in roses, like a prude maiden.”

“Wouln’t surpr’se meh much.” Cat said. “’All bast’rds’re the sam’. Heard he’d been paid mor’ than a thous’nd to play for th’t feast the little queen is throwin’.”

“He must have a good singing voice,” The other replied. “Or maybe his talents are more of the private kind.”

At the implication, she saw red. Her blood rushed in fury in her veins. The audacity of these men…

“Ye mean in the bedr’om?” He snickered, and balanced himself to make his point clear.

“Tsk. Ain’t no natural,” he continued. “A woman without a man.”

“Oh, but mebbe it ain’t so!” “Mebbe she IS…”

He did not even had the time to finish his sentence. Arya was on them now, and her dagger was out of its sheath. She glared at them.

“That’s my sister you’re talking about, you pigs.”

Their laughter died in an instant. They looked at her with big, afraid eyes.

“Continue like that,” She said fiercely. “And I shall cut your tongues.”

“That’s not very diplomatic, isn’t it, your Highness?” interrupted a teasing, pleasing voice.

Gendry had found her again.

She huffed and turned back.

“These men insulted my sister,” she said, as if to justify herself.

“Men insult women every day,” He remarked. “And women do to.”

“Well, it shouldn’t be,” She groaned in reply.

She looked back. The men had already left. She shrugged and put the dagger back in the sheath. Then she continued her way, trying to ignore that nagging presence following her, a smug smirk on his pretty face.

“You know,” He said after a moment of delicious silence. “That’s the seventh time this week you leave my bed, you little Alys Westhill.”

She sighed, irritated.

“And that’s the seventh time this week you seek me out,” she remarked matter-of-factly. “Don’t you have enough?”

He only chuckled at this.

“Never,” he replied with that cheeky grin of his. “By the way… You bite even in your sleep, my lady.”

She glared at him.

“I’m still not a lady.”

“No,” He said with a fond smile. “You’re a princess, actually… Did you steal any dragon eggs on your way, your Highness?”

She rolled her eyes, and turned back, continuing her way.

“Tsk”

But he still continued to follow her, and she could guess from the eagerness of his step that he was enjoying it.

Damn bastard.

“Why deny it?”

“Shut up.”

He laughed.

“You lost your bite, my…”

Having had enough, she turned towards him suddenly and placated him against a wall. Her dagger was on his throat to prove her point.

“If you finish that sentence, I swear, I will cut you…” She snarled.

“… Do.”

His blue eyes were shining with desire. She could feel the heat coming from him, inviting her to join. She considered it, looking at his slightly parted lips, that had been so tender and soft the night before…She shuddered by the memory of it on her skin.

Then she turned back.

He laughed. But still followed back.

It exasperated her, that tenacity of his. Especially when he made it so difficult to resist him.

“If you’re that eager to follow me, why aren’t you offering me dinner?”

He smirked.

“You are so demanding.”

But still, he took her to the inn and paid for the meal.

She sighed. She was back to it, after all.

The people in it looked at him in wonder, that young lord that did not even try to hide it. But then, their eyes went to her, and they widened considerably. Some whispered, others even retreated back, closer to the entrance.

She looked at them, thoughtful as she installed herself.

“People, now. They see me as a monster.”

“You seem quite sentimental, for a person who told me again and again that she didn’t care what people would think,” Gendry remarked nonchalantly, settling on his chair. “They see you as a hero. The one who killed the Night King.”

“Sometimes I wonder if there’s a true difference between the two.”

He looked at her a long time, and lowered his eyes to his ale. He opened, then closed his mouth.

Then he looked away.

“Sometimes I wonder…”

He sighed.

“What?” She asked, curious, and a bit exasperated that he interrupted himself that way.

As if he couldn’t trust her enough to listen about what he would say. As if she wouldn’t support him.

Well, it depended on the thing he wanted to say, she wondered in afterthought.

He looked at her in the eyes and she shivered at the intensity of it.

“What if we had been wrong from the start?”

She blinked.

“What do you mean?”

“What if everything was not what it seemed?” He continued. “What if we made her the monster we thought she was?”

“Her? The mad queen? What in seven hells is she doing in this conversation?”

“I’m just thinking, that’s all. You’re asking yourself if people see you as a monster, and what that makes you… But I wonder. Could Daenerys Targaryen have felt the same way too, when she came?”

Her eyes widened. Then she huffed, folding her arms.

He did not have any right to question her. Not now, when he dared to follow her around, begging her to come back.

But isn’t it what you want? A treasonous thought came to her.

She shook her head. No. That wasn’t the problem.

“You say only that because she made you a lord.”

He shook his head, chuckling.

“I’ve never known what being a lord meant. I still don’t know why she did it.”

“To use you, certainly.”

At least, that’s what Sansa had thought.

But since when are you taking everything Sansa say for granted? Continued the voice in her head. You’re still Arya Horseface, after all. You still want to be like her, like that perfect little lady, pleasing everyone. You still want to be loved by all.

She glared, angry at herself for questioning herself now. And for thinking such absurdities.

Why now??

Was it because of him? Was it because he made her feel things she had thought lost on her forevermore?

This needed to stop now. She couldn’t afford to be vulnerable. Not now. Not ever. And certainly not to him.

“Maybe” He admitted after a time. “But don’t everyone use other people at one point of their life for something?”

She raised her eyes to him, having nearly forgotten the conversation, conflicted as she was. But then, she found strength to answer.

“Not everyone.”

He stared at her. His eyes were hard, and the intensity of it was strong, as if it was grapping her possessively back to him.

She needed to go, now.

“You did, Arya.”

Her eyes widened. She couldn’t believe the reality of what he’d said.

“What?”

How could…?

How dared…?

“You’ve used me,” He looked away, his left hand thrown slightly in a gesture of nonchalance. “You’ve used me and took what you wanted from me. Of course, at the time, I let you, because I wanted you, and it felt right.” His eyes were right back on her now. “But then you left me in the dark for some adventures at sea.”

She looked at him, agape, her eyes seeking the lie in his face. But his expression was closed.

Was it really what he believed?

“Is that how you see it?” She asked him, almost disbelievingly. “Don’t you think I didn’t have any other reason at all?”

Anger gripped her. She wanted to hit him. To slap that pretty face of his.

And his eyes seemed to be daring her to do so.

“Not that you told me, at least.” He continued, trying once again to affect an air of indifference. “You only told me you didn’t want to marry me. That you didn’t want to be a lady…”

“I still don’t want to.”

“But what do you think a lady is, Arya? What should a lady do?” He raised his voice, throwing his hands towards the sky in irritation. “Do you think I care about it? Ladies only deigned to look at me once I got that title, when before all of that, they just would ignore me, touch me as if I was propriety, or use me as some kind of toy.”

She felt frozen. Then suddenly hot.

People were watching them now, with that outburst.

He stopped one moment, lowered his head in his hands, massaging his temples. Then he looked at her, with tiredness and disillusion in his eyes.

“Is that what I was to you?” He asked softly, weary. “A toy?”

She turned back. She couldn’t face his gaze now. It was too hard for her. And it made her remember things she wanted to forget.

“You don’t understand.”

“Then explain it to me.”

His voice was insistent. But now, it was caressing, pressing her softly to give in to him…

“Explain to me, Arya,” He said. “Open yourself to me. Please…”

She could see his hand coming towards hers.

He was close, too close for sanity.

“Please…”

She couldn’t resist him. Deep down, she knew it. And she hated it.

“I WAS AFRAID!” She snapped in defense. “Is that what you want to hear?”

He raised one eyebrow. His hand stilled, and it somehow saddened her. She had begun to expect the warmth of it on her own.

“Afraid? It’s alright to be afraid. We all are, you never were alone in this,” He answered. “You don’t have to be strong all the time…”

He sounded disappointed. But why would he be? She hadn’t promised anything to him, had she?

His mouth opened once again, closed. His eyes were shining with conflicted emotions. Pain. Compassion. Anger. Sadness. Love? No, it couldn’t be. “I once knew a girl that was fierce, a girl that didn’t care who people were, if they were deserving. A girl who told me once she could be my family,” He continued, his hand caressing her, his thumb slowly drawing circles on her. “What made her change?”

She gave in, weary to contain herself any longer.

She wanted to fight it. But now, she felt powerless to stop it.

She sighed.

“That girl tried to go home,” She said. “Tried to do what is right, tried to find her family. But she lost herself in the way.”

She felt the tears threatening to come out of her eyes. She almost chuckled by the irony of it.

“You know, I used to like these tales about dragons,” She said. “Full of adventures. Of powerful women riding them, conquering countries. I wanted to be like them. But then…”

“What then?”

“I don’t know. Wars happened. Deaths happened. And so quickly, I couldn’t…” She stopped a bit, feeling the fear she had felt then, but tried to conceal it. Until that time. “I wanted to go back. And when I saw Sansa, I had hoped… It wasn’t easy, at first, but we were together. And Jon would come back and everything would be alright. But then… But then I felt it. I felt fear, her fear, and it echoed with something in me. I don’t know how. I had to protect her. I had to protect myself. And when I’ve seen how she affected people… All the fire, the blood. I’ve seen a mother trying to save her daughter, and I couldn’t even help them. I couldn’t save her, like I couldn’t save my… I could only run and try to survive.”

It had been easy to be Arya the Faceless. That person did not have to feel, did not have to think. It was a mask she could use to hide when bad times were coming.

Why had she just poured her heart’s worries to him? But why was it coming off now?

Why was she tempted to continue? Why couldn’t this stop?

She had opened the valves, and she didn’t quite know now how to close them. Especially when she kept them close for so long, and that the images were coming back to her so clearly.

She shook her head.

“I wanted to leave it all. All of this.” “I wanted people to see me as Arya. Only Arya. Not just like that person who killed a monster.”

I wanted to have a family, was she tempted to say. To live a normal life, without looking to ghosts of the past…

But did she? Could she?

No…

She felt his hand on her own, soothing and caressing.

“But I saw you.”

She raised her eyes to his. She let her fingers intertwin with his.

“Did you?”

He looked away, irritated. His hand came back to his side.

“You didn’t even let me time to show you.”

She blinked. Her eyes looked at his, trying to find a lie in it. But no, she couldn’t find it.

She found herself wanting to believe…

Then the bells rang out, loud and clear. She felt her heart pounding in her chest, threatening to burst it. Images came to her, of fire running wild on cities. Of people running, screaming, pleading. She could smell their agony.

She jumped from her seat and left the inn.

Gendry was following her.

There was chaos in the streets. People screaming and running, tables being turned back in hurry. And fire torches, thrown at the roofs. So much fire… So much panic... She was in King’s Landing all over again. And once again, she felt it. Fear.

But this time, men in furs attacked them. She blinked, shook her head. She needed to calm down and focus.

She joined the fight. And with the sound of it, she could hear that Gendry had followed her too, and was already beating opponents with his hammer.

She would not fight side by side with him, no. She was a lone fighter. She shook that idea off her head and continued, jumping, kicking, cutting, sliding, slashing. She did not feel anything then. She could only hear the sound of the slicing of their flesh, and their screams as she did it. She revered in it. She was strong, fierce. She did not need anyone.

That’s when Gendry saved her from her attack from behind. Her eyes widened, their looks met. But she continued, nodding at him. They were back to back now. Fighting together in this mess.

At first it seemed easy. The opponents, though numerous, seemed quite unexperimented. But then, she saw the leader, yelling at them.

If she killed him, it would stop. If she killed him, it would be over.

She left Gendry, who screamed at her to come back. But she was already too far gone.

And when she managed to get in front of him, he was already prepared to fight back. She narrowly escaped the hissing tip of his blade, her dagger aiming at his belly. But he kicked her. She fell back, but raised once more, groaning like a wolf. She was showing her fangs now, as he screamed at her with rage.

That thought disturbed her somehow, but it was not enough to break her stance. Their blades clicked. She parried, blocked, hit, and so did he.

This dance, she only knew too well, she realized.

On the other side, she could see the battlefield was clearing now. The guards had arrived to help, and some opponents were already fleeing.

But she had no time to think about it more, for the man was coming back for more.

She pushed back his sword with her own and forced him to retreat.

There, she had found it. The weakness in his stance.

With one last battle cry, she ended it.

She took long breathes, trying to calm the beating of her heart.

It was finished, and she was almost tempted to laugh. She smiled at Gendry, safe by her side. He was looking at her softly, but intensely and this time, she was not tempted to look away. She was feeling it too. It was he who broke the gaze first, and she looked down, trying to focus on any other thing.

Then, she saw it. The weapons of her dead opponents. She took one in her hand, minutely examining it.

“No, it can’t be…” she gasped.

“What?” Gendry asked, coming closer to her.

She looked at him, agape, her eyes questioning. Her dagger was still in her hand, glistening with the blood that had been spilled.

“These can’t be Wildlings…” She began.

Blood rushed through her veins, cold as ice. There was something terribly wrong that was coming. She could just feel it.

“These are no Northern weapons…” She said, louder.

“So what?”

“Did you forget who you were before?” She turned towards Gendry, with a sarcastic smile. “These are new weapons, fresh from the forges. Cheap ones, but still recognizable.”

She raised her head and looked at all the bodies slowly, wanting to remember each of them. Her eyes were determinate.

There was one man she needed to see. And that man was several hundred miles from here.

Chapter Text

Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. What a terrible name. Such was the name of a conqueror. Such was a name of a queen. Or of a tyrant, maybe.

But not today, no. Today, she was only a girl. And a mother too, she added with a smile.

She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of the scales caressing her skin, and the wind blowing on her hair. She felt free, without worry. Without the weight of that name. She leant in more, almost one with her son. Two bodies, one soul. That’s what it felt like.

She screamed in ecstasy, relishing on the feeling. She heard a howl responding to her and smiled. She closed her eyes, remembering her strange adventure.

She remembered the way Ghost had looked at her. How he had come to her, like a promise that should be kept. She felt his plead. She had wanted to ignore it at first, but there was no way. He wouldn’t let her.

As she had tried to leave the North behind on Drogon’s back, the dire wolf had run towards them and jumped. The first trial had been a failure, but the second, he managed to catch Drogon’s tail. Her son had growled, wanting to get rid of the intruder. He had slowed down and shaken his tail. Ghost had slipped with a desperate howl. But then he had risen again and jumped once again. Daenerys had then asked her son to stop.

“You can’t hang on to it,” She had tried to tell the dire wolf. “Leave. Leave me. Find your master. Go to him. Your place is not with me.”

Save him. Save him from me… She wanted to say. If I find him again…

Tears had come to her eyes.

But the dire wolf wouldn’t. It seemed even more encouraged by these words. His paws were attempting to find a breach on the scales to hang on to. And Drogon was not liking it.

“You are determinate.” She had said then. “But don’t be angry if the scales hurt you.”

She had jumped off the dragon and helped him out, tying him by the paws with the ropeshe had already used, and which were linked with her own. She had placed him behind her, on the area that was less slippery, flatter.

“It will be uncomfortable,” she had said. “But at least you’ll have… less chances to fall, let’s say. Don’t move”

He had looked at her then with wide eyes, and she had almost shivered by the feelings in it. He had licked her cheek, and she had shaken her head, amused.

She had then commanded Drogon to fly. After a few hours, they had stopped to rest a bit. She had once again asked him to leave, but he had only shaken himself, as if he did not hear her. She had shivered, and her gaze had been directed with worry at her second intruder, who did not seem to wake up despite the care she had put to him.

That man who had gaped at her like a fool, and acted like a fool as well. That man who thought he could get closer to a dragon. His face was a blurry mess now, as it had been touched by Drogon’s breath. She had had to command her son not to burn him. But he was alive. He still needed to be taken care of. He would not be another one in her conscience, she had decided.

Slowly, silently, the dire wolf had enveloped her in his warmth, and she had found herself leaning back. And it made her feel like she had nothing to worry.

They had stopped several times in the way. And each time, she couldn’t help but rely more and more on that presence of another time, that did not want to leave her. And then, nearly in the end of their journey, she had almost fallen asleep on Drogon. Almost fallen to her death once again. But he had put her back in, his fangs digging at her furs.

She shook her head. He would be by her side. At least, until she found his master….

And now, here she was. She had returned.

“Thank you, my son,” She whispered softly as he landed. “You may go when I detached everyone. Enjoy yourself”

Drogon looked at her closely, then nodded. She felt his worry, but the pull to freedom was also strong. She reassured him and watched him fly.

Her companions already were here to greet her. She cut the ropes. Ghost jumped off the dragon and shook himself.

“What’s that beast doing here?” Yara scowled.

Daenerys smiled.

“He’s a friend.”

“He’s a mongrel.”

Daenerys was tempted to laugh. Ghost was growling, but she caressed the soft fur on his head, and he seemed to calm down.

Then the Kraken’s daughter turned to her.

“It was careless of you,” Yara reproached. “You were seen.”

“Of course she was.” Kinvara said, a smile on her face. “That was the point.”

They greeted each other, taking each other’s hands on their own.

“You are Daenerys Stormborn, fire made flesh.” Kinvara declared. “Fire cannot be hidden for so long. Nor contained.”

She smiled. But suddenly, the high priestess’ eyes jumped back to Drogon, where a body still layed. She glared at him.

“You’ve brought another burden on your way, your Grace,” She said. “You should burn him. He won’t serve you that much.”

Daenerys shook her head.

“Too many had died because of dragon’s fire. It needs to stop.”

“Too many will die nonetheless.” The priestess replied stoically. “And death by fire is the purest of all.”

“Not by my doing. “ She said. “Not anymore. And this one…”

She felt her heart ache by seeing his face disfigured by the dragon’s breath that burned him.

It’s my fault, she said. Just like the rest of them. Just like Hazzea, whose name I had almost forgotten. And just like for the rest of them, I will carry the burden of that sin until the end.

“This one will live.” She continued with a strong voice. “This is my command.”

“As you wish, your Grace.”

She turned back to Drogon, and managed to cut the last bit of rope. She sighed in relief. He was awakening. Yara helped her put the man on the floor. Then, noticing something, she smirked. The man opened his eyes.

“Well, well, look who it is.” She said with a mocking voice. “Larence Hornwood, fresh from the snow. You’re on a bad shape. I almost didn’t recognize you. But that mark I left you on the shoulder is still there, as I see. “

The man looked at her, frightened. His mouth opened, as if he wanted to scream.

Daenerys widened her eyes. So this was what he was, she realized.

“You’ve been a very bad guy, uh?” The kraken’s daughter continued to mock him, a smug smile on her face.

He only crawled back. She turned towards Daenerys .

“You know people may come for him.”

Let them come, she wanted to say.

She was the blood of the dragon. And the dragon did ask. And did not fear.

“So be it,” She said, nodding. “Let it be known also that he has been welcomed and well-treated.” She smirked, then continued. “At least in a much… warmer way than the North is capable to provide.”

Before leaving, she turned toward them lightly and nodded at Drogon to leave.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to refresh myself,” She said. “The travel back had been long and torturous. Tomorrow, we will reunite.”

Kinvara bowed in reply, and Yara smirked.

When she arrived in her rooms, that’s when she turned back towards the intruder.

“You’re never going to leave me alone, are you?” She whispered, amused.

The dire wolf opened his mouth, and it looked like a smirk.

“Very well,” she said as she took off her clothes.

The bath was ready for her, hot as it should be. She entered it, letting a sigh of content escape her lips.

The dire wolf was looking at her intensely. She noticed his eyes were darker, and somehow, it made her remember…

She shook her head. Now, she shouldn’t think that.

She stared back and raised one eyebrow.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

But nothing answered her question. Of course.

She sighed. But somehow, her heart was still beating, beneath the scar that tickled her each time she dared to think of him.

She took a long breath and plunged her head in the water. That’s when she remembered it all. All the love, all the hopes… And all the fears.

Fear, she had seen in several eyes since she took a step towards the North. Fear was in Tyrion’s eyes as he went to see her after Missandei’s death.

Be it, it said. Be the monster people think you are. Let them rejoice, they had been right. But let them also choke in their rightness.

She had tried to ignore it. To overcome her grief. But it was fear she saw in her lover’s eyes. Which fear, she took no time to ponder. But she still saw it nonetheless.

And when she landed with Drogon, having destroyed the iron fleet, the same who killed her dear child, and opening a way for her men to come in… When she heard the bells ringing at her ears… That’s when she noticed it. That’s when she saw red. Red like blood. Red like the doors freshly painted glistening in the sun.

But this is no home, she realized, choking. This is not what I’ve been waiting for. That’s only mockery. Mockery of her dreams, of her goals.

She could feel the fury and the grief coming from Drogon, mingling with her own feelings, adding to it strength and fire. She remembered Rhaego, Drogo, Ser Barristan, Jorah, and her dearest Viserion, their faces coming at her as she looked ahead, seeing the woman staring from her window. In her mind, she saw her smirking with a glass of wine. In her mind she still saw the blood of Missandei in her hands. And Missandei, her confident and dearest friend, screaming at her to burn them. Her only friend, who died in chains, when she had promised her she would never know it anymore.

She had failed her. But she could fulfill her last wish.

You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you? She remembered hearing her brother’s voice in her ear.

The question was still ringing in her head at the same time as the bells, painful and restless.

Be it, they seemed to say. Be the monster everyone think you are. Do it. Destroy that world that wants to destroy you, that wants to destroy your dreams.

That’s when she shut down all emotions and closed her eyes. That’s when she let the dragon free.

When she opened her eyes that time, it was too late. It had been done. She tried to rationalize it. Aegon the Conqueror burned cities to assure his reign. People needed to fear before loving. This needed to be an example.

But the screams of the innocents came back ringing at her ears, deafening. No. That wasn’t her. That was Cersei. Cersei did that.

She almost believed it.

She closed her eyes and let the tears go free.

To touch the light, you must pass beneath the shadow. That’s what Quaithe had told her once.

But, in the end, there was no light. Only darkness. Men were all the same. Greedy. Revengeful. Prejudiced. They all fought each other until the world bled.

She had once thought she could escape it. She could build a new world. But it was never enough. What she wanted was never enough. She had to prove over and over her value, and be lessened by self-proclaimed “better men”.

No, it would never be enough. They did not deserve a benevolent queen. They needed a villain.

So a villain she would be, she decided. She would take everything from them. If only it was what it took to make them think, to make them realize.

Feeling the life begging her to come out and breathe, she raised up from the water, taking a long and shaky breath of air.

Ghost was looking at her curiously, his paws on the edge of the tub, and his tail shaking furiously. It was almost as if he was worried.

She shook her head, rubbed her skin until it was red and went out of the bath, pressing the water out of her hair. Then she enveloped herself in a robe, crossing her arms over her breasts.

Be the monster everyone think you are, she thought. That’s what they truly want. That’s what makes them sleep at night when they trample on each other, trying to take dominance over them.

At least it offered them a common goal.

Funny how hatred and prejudice could unite people as much as they could separate them.

She never would have thought the dagger would come from the one she loved, though. She never would have thought it would cost her everything, even the one thing she thought she could never have.

She shook her head. She still had it, as a remember of that lesson. Don’t trust. Don’t love.

And above all, don’t lose yourself.

There was no need to contain her feelings now. There was only the urge to live. And the urge to die.

There, on her desk, there was the weapon that sealed her fate, carefully put in a box carved in dragonglass. She had ordered it specially for that reminder. She caressed one moment the inscriptions of the last words she heard.

“Now and always.” A promise of eternity and love. How deceitful.

Never again would she feel desire, she had realized. Desire was lost after everything she went through. Hatred was what had kept her alive, she decided. Hatred and thirst for revenge.

She opened the box and took the dagger in her hands.

A life for a life, that was the price. She knew that much now.

She pressed the steel lightly on her chest, just where her scar lay and closed her eyes. A tear escaped her, but she let it be.

Soon, she told herself, putting back the blade that went through her heart. Soon.

For her, for him. For both. Only time would say. She was prepared for both.

Ghost was at her side, and his snout nudged her softly. She patted his head, smiling softly.

This was not a world of mercy, she had learned. But it was not for mercy that she had been killed. She had seen it. The world that this new king was trying to build was a world of reason. A world that could not be contested because there always seemed to be a logic to justify it.

A cold, hard world. A world without feeling. Such world shouldn’t be, she thought. Feelings opened doors. But reason, cruel as it was, closed them. Feelings had no place in it. Nor was mercy.

A light tap on her door, with the sound of silk rubbing against skin. Kinvara. She raised her head, acknowledging her, then turned back.

“My queen.”

She sighed, looking at her. The High priestess was slowly making her way to her.

“It never ends,” She said.

“Never.”

“Then a better, universal world is a lost one. Everyone wants to build their better worlds. But each world collide and crash, until none of them is left.”

“There’s only one world worth living,” The Flame of Truth replied. “The world the Lord of Light gives us. And you are his queen. That’s what you live for.”

Daenerys said nothing. There was no need to lie. She looked away.

“I sense some trouble in you.” The priestess began. “You may fool the others, but you don’t fool me. “You’re not ready, your Grace.”

“Is anyone truly ready?” Daenerys replied, tired.

The one who gave her life again only smiled. The dragon’s daughter turned toward the priestess, looking at her in the eyes.

“And you, what do you live for?”

Kinvara smiled softly.

“I live to serve, your Grace.”

Daenerys rolled her eyes, but her lips betrayed a smile too.

“Your heart, does it beat to serve too?”

The priestess chuckled.

“In a different kind of way, your Grace”

Then her gaze turned to the dagger in the box, and Daenerys’ fingers still caressing it. It seemed she didn’t notice it at all.

“That blade carries such a burden,” She remarked calmly. “You should get rid of it, your Grace.”

“No,” Daenerys answered. “I need to remember it all.”

“Your heart is still tender, my queen”

The dragon’s daughter said nothing. She nodded, then changed subjects.

“Are your priests ready?”

“They are, your Grace.”

She tapped her fingers lightly on the rail.

“Aegon is weak, irrational and petty,” She said. “And by the time he sits in the throne, he will be exactly what the people need to rise up.”

They observed quietly the sky. No comet for this night, no sign of destiny. Only the darkness, slowly swallowing the moon.

“Then we let it be.”

“Then we let it be,” she repeated. “For now.”

Drogon was flying freely now, enjoying himself in the darkness. She wished she could be with him, and feel the wind in her hair.

“You should go to him, your Grace. He is waiting for you.”

Daenerys sighed.

“I know.”

She turned towards the dire wolf.

“Ghost,” she said. “Please stay here.”

Then she left, leaving him with the priestess. She did not care to change. Her robe was enough, even if it clinged to her skin. The fool wouldn’t dare. Not while Drogon was here.

When she went to Aegon’s door, she hesitated. Then she opened the door, putting a mask of indifference on her face.

He was here, looking at the sky, an aura of aggressivity surrounding him.

“Aegon,” she called him softly.

He looked at her as if she was the sun raising.

“Daenerys!”

He embraced her like a long-lost lover, but she did not do it back. She couldn’t. He did not seem to care for it though, for a few minutes after, he was already pacing furiously.

“Did you know of it?”

She only nodded, keeping her face expressionless.

That was just another of his tantrums. It may explode, she thought, but it was easily contained.

“Must I really come to that?” He declared, his face red with indignation. “Marrying… her? Of all people?”

“You must,” She replied calmly. “She has an army and strong links to the other kingdoms. With that, your rules will be secure.”

“Aegon Targaryen married his two sisters, not…”

“Another time, nephew,” She said. “And Aegon Targaryen had three dragons.”

And so did I, she thought. Once. Three sons, powerful, fearless, loyal. Now only one.

“You are my aunt. We are Targaryen. Why don’t we…”

“Enough, nephew,” She cut him. “My name isn’t loved here. I wouldn’t want to taint your reign with what I’ve done.”

“Your name is feared,” he insisted. “That’s what should be. WE are meant to be.”

She looked at him intensely.

“Fear killed me,” She said. “Men that are afraid aren’t loyal.”

“What if I rode Drogon?”

“Drogon doesn’t accept you.”

“What if you forced him to…”

“YOU CANNOT…” She snapped. “… force a dragon.”

On the other side, she could see a white snout stick out from the door frame.

Damn that dire wolf.

“It’s your heart, isn’t it?” Aegon reproached, not having noticed. “You say you don’t want to taint my reign, but maybe it’s something else. Maybe you’re still…”

“Don’t presume to know anything about my heart,” She stated coldly.

Curse that man, she thought. Short-sighted and egocentric.

She needed him though.

She touched his cheek lightly, and he leant to it.

“You are Aegon Targaryen. Rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms.” She said with a clear and caressing voice. “You need to show them what it means. You need to avenge your family.”

She wanted to laugh at the irony.

The true Aegon Targaryen, son of Elia Martell and Rhaegar, her gallant brother, was dead. She had no doubts about that. But this one had been so well-trained that he didn’t even recognize stories and reality.

He drank every word of her like a thirsty man deprived of water in a desert.

She smiled, almost loving the feeling of her power on him.

Then she left him, closing the door behind him. Once it was done, she turned towards the furry intruder, who was growling at her.

“You really are a strange guardian,” She said with a smile.

He seemed to glare at her, his fangs out for her to see. Then he turned back, and went away.

She chuckled as she saw him heading back to her room. And when she entered it, he was already laying on her bed, waiting for her.

She shook her head, amused. The dragon’s daughter and the wolf.

This day was decidedly a day for small ironies.

She still went to bed though. The night was cold and unforgiving. And she needed all the warmth possible to continue.

Once again, she dreamed of fire. But this time, she couldn’t touch it. It seemed to want to avoid her touch, like a stranger. There was not this calling she once had.

Had the fire in her left her entirely? She wondered, blinking away the tears. She ran towards it and jumped in it, eager for its warmth.

But when fire finally embraced her, it was cold. Cold as snow.

She opened her eyes, breathless. Her hands were gripping Ghost’s fur, who had put his snout in her hair and was whining softly to her. She closed her eyes, embracing him farther, then raised up towards her balcony.

A new day was beginning. And now the rays of sunshine were slowly breaking through the dawn.

She looked back to the wolf, who had joined her.

In this light, his eyes seemed almost grey. Like the other time. She blinked.

No, she thought. His eyes are red. Like now. I must be going crazy. That’s my heart, my treacherous heart, that’s in fault.

She put on her clothes silently.

Once, Missandei would have been here and helped her braid her hair. But now, there was only her ghost following her.

How she missed her friend.

She heard once again a tap on her door. Yara, coming to lead her to the council room.

“Shall we go, your Grace?” She said, a smirk on her face. “The others are waiting…”

She smiled back and went with her.

“I heard some strange sayings when I travelled,” Daenerys stated on the way towards Yara. “What did you do, my friend?”

“Me? Nothing,” Yara said nonchalantly, a smirk adorning her features. “I can’t say anything about my friend, though.”

“Are you sure about that man?”

“One can never be too sure, with a man.” She shrugged. “But that one is a fool. Soon, someone will find out. And when it’s done, that little wolf queen would have no choice.”

Daenerys sighed.

“Good.”

The Kraken’s daughter stared closely at her, thoughtfully.

“Are you certain about this?” She asked. “That it will work?”

She nodded, an ironic smile on her face.

“Sansa Stark will make mistakes,” She declared, confident. “We all do. And when she does, it will be her downfall.”

Yara smirked.

“What would you do to her then?”

Daenerys looked ahead. Her eyes were determinate.

“I don’t want her to die. I want her to live with the consequences of all the choices she made, and all the choices she will make.”

“And… him?”

Jon, she wanted to say. Say his name. I want to hear it. I want to hear it was real, and that it wasn’t a dream.

She closed her eyes, as if pondering the question. His face came in mind, staring at her with loving eyes. Once she would have done anything for him to keep looking at her like that.

“Jon Snow will get what he deserves in time.”

Her voice was cold, and so was her heart. Her heart that had been pierced by his dagger as he slowly kissed her hopes away.

She opened the door and entered, letting the others take their places around the table.

She smiled at the image in front of her, so familiar.

“Shall we begin?”

Aegon was not here yet. Certainly oversleeping, as always, in the arms of some whore. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“It happened today, your Grace,” Kinvara said, holding a letter towards her.

She saw Yara widening her eyes. It was destined for her, after all, as the keeper of the Iron Islands.

Daenerys looked at her briefly, and her friend smiled. There was recognition in her eyes.

She took it carefully and opened it.

It was an order to step back. To surrender. If not, an army was already on the way.

No mention of her. The magic still worked. For now.

She closed the letter and gave it to Yara.

They were on agreement.

No need to run away.

Kinvara smiled. “It is time, my queen.”

Daenerys Targaryen stared a long time at the red priestess and nodded.

“Send the ravens,” She ordered the hooded silhouette on the corner.

She saw him nod and leaved. Then she smirked.

“The enemy is on the way.” She said. “Us women need to welcome him as it should.”