She wore armor under her leather coat, and the blade her lover used glanced off it.
For a long moment they just froze, their lips touching. Her eyes opened slowly, like a sleeper knowing the real world waited beyond her lids, and desperately stealing a final second of peace. But the dream ended all too soon, and Daenerys dipped her face down to confirm the damning evidence with her own eyes, taking in a small breath when she saw the dagger clutched in his fist. She looked back up, the emotions playing across her face. Shock. Horror. Denial. Grief.
All in a single heartbeat, before her gaze frosted.
She stuck like lightening, thrusting her own small danger—her guilt-ridden insurance—into his side. Jon dropped his own blade and staggered back, equal parts shocked and pained as he looked down at the hilt protruding from his flesh.
He had enough time to look up at her still form, his expression twisted in grief, before the dragon’s roar split the silence. Drogon landed with a massive thud, the downdraft thrusting ash into the air and staining their skin and hair. The beast swung his massive head between Jon and his mother, his intelligent eyes taking in the scene, and roared again. The dragon lurched forward, charging towards the would-be assassin, his vicious teeth on full display.
Daenerys thrust out her arm and gave a sharp command, expression never changing, and the dragon came to a halt at her side, his eyes burning at Jon. The man was breathing hard, fearing having bleached his face, and his hand pressing down at the wound.
“Thank you, Jon Snow,” said the Mother of Dragons, nearly forlorn. “For teaching me this lesson.”
Daenerys gave another sharp command, and within seconds the Unsullied spilled into the hall, surrounding Jon. Grey Worm appeared, an unholy fury in his eyes, and forced Jon to his knees. The prisoner’s head was jerked back by his hair, and the tip of the Master of War’s came to rest against his jugular.
Daenerys came closer, her expression ice cold. “Do you know that I’ve only gotten one good piece of advice on this continent? ‘Be a dragon,’ the late Lady Olenna told me. Ignore the petty men that sought to control me. I should have named her my Hand right them, rather than surrounded myself with a council of incompetent moralists, who damned me for not listening, yet destroyed me when I did. They shamed me and muzzled me and forced me to feel guilt for my achievements in Essos, calling me a tyrant and plotting my downfall as soon as it fed their own interests.”
She gave a sharp, bitter laugh. “But today, I finally realized why they were so quick to turn on me: my moral advisors love their game of thrones, and when they finally realized what it meant to break the wheel, they grew terrified. Your power is useless if there is no game, but none of you can let go of it. None of you can accept that this system of family dominion and blood ties and Houses is the true evil. You think it good, natural, the norm even, and when someone wants to tear it down—you call her mad! So thank you, Jon Snow, for reminding me of my mission.”
“Dany, please,” he gasped, grunting as a bead of blood fell from his neck. Daenerys stared, dispassionate, fully donning the mask of a mad queen. “It’s not too late. I’ve seen your gentle heart—I know who you are. Please—remember who you are. Remember the queen you wanted to be.”
“Oh, but I have remembered—finally. And realize that I nearly made the same mistake here as I did in Astapor, and Yunkai, and Meereen. I let some of the masters live and tried to compromise with them. I let them keep their blood-soaked power and tried to work within their corrupt system. My gentle heart did that, my desire for peace—but what I should done was finish what I started and crushed them all. I will not make that same mistake: this time I’ll paint the new world order with fire and blood—even if I have to sacrifice my gentle heart. Tyranny in the present for peace in the future.”
“Peace? Dany, do you hear yourself? You killed innocent people!” he shouted, grunting when his head was pulled back harder. “You butchered children, Dany. You can’t believe that was about peace. You didn’t care about anyone!”
“I don’t care?” she mused, lips twisting in a bitter imitation of a smile. “You’re right, Jon. I don’t care for these hostages. I don’t care for these men and women and children that are so enslaved, that they can’t even seen their chains. But I can see them. And I will free them—because a mother loves her children, even if they’re on the wrong path. Sometimes, a mother must be cruel to be kind—even if it makes a monster of me.”
He stared at her as if she were a demon, something that didn’t belong in this world, something his mind couldn’t comprehend.
She turned her back to him, and Drogon stirred. She trailed her hand over his snout as she passed by, making her way back to the Iron Thron. She paused for a long, silence moment, a queen amongst the ashes of her kingdom. Then she turned towards, meeting her lover’s gaze, and finally claimed her throne. Daenerys Targaryen placed her hands on the arms, and lowered herself until her back was cushioned by the unyielding metal. With a breath she raised her chin, a claimant no longer.
All hail Daenerys of House Targaryen. All hail The Protector of the Realm.
All hail the Queen of the Ashes.
Daenerys allowed herself a single moment of silence, a moment of peace to absorb the legacy of her House, to use its strength and harden her soul. The Iron Throne she’d so dreamed of, finally at her mercy.
Then she stood and walked down the steps, making her way through the rubble. The room was silent as she walked towards her prisoner. She knelt and placed a hand on his stubbled cheek, but he turned his face away, rejecting her touch.
The Queen’s hand lingered for a moment, before she dropped it.
“You’re too good a man for this world, Jon. Too kind to do what must be done. And too foolish to see why it must be done. So, I will walk this path alone, as was my destiny, and perhaps one day you’ll see the truth.”
She pushed to her feet and turned to face the throne, to face the ultimate symbol of this game. Her body blocked his line of sight, and for a moment Jon gripped the small dagger that was still imbedded in his flesh, and considering using it. Considered trying, even if it cost him his life.
She’ll kill them…she’ll kill my family…I have to...have to...!
But every time he recalled the blinding relief he’d felt when his dagger failed to penetrate, he knew he wasn’t strong enough to do it again. Trying had felt wrong…and failing right. He was as monstrous as she.
A bastard in spirit now, if not in name.
And so all he could do was kneel there, his tears dripping into his beard, self-disgust mixing with relief. He tried to rationalize that he'd never get close, that his guards would kill him the second he moved. But that didn't change the fact that he didn't even want to try. The true heir to the Iron Throne had given up his power the second he went for her heart, and being so powerless was both horrifying and freeing.
Jon was tired of carrying the hard choices.
“Drogon,” commanded the Dragon Queen, true anger in her voice. “Dracarys!”
The Iron Throne was bathed in light, and every man turned his face away. Jon raised his head, protected by her shadow, and was nearly sick with shock when he realized what she’d done.
“I will burn the sporks one by one,” the dragon queen declared as her family’s throne melted to nothing. “And if being alone is the price I must pay, then I will do so gladly. I choose madness.”
Jon, kneeling in her shadow, looked up at the queen of the seven kingdoms, and thought that at that moment, he understood why she was called The Unburnt. A goddess.
The queen gave Jon her profile and gazed up into the burning eyes of her child. Drogon threw his head back and screeched into the heavens, his cry heralding a new age. One of blood and war and revolution.
One of change.
"A forest needs to burn every once in a while," Maester Luwin had once told a distressed little boy after a spear of lightning had set the Wolfswood ablaze. "It burns away infestations and disease, and the ash becomes nourishment for the dormant seeds. What grows in its place is not like the old, but it grows all the same."
Daenerys Targaryen's eyes reflected the flames as she watched her mythical child rejoice.