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Pray the sun will rise

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“What is happening, Lord Varys?” Elia asked the man whom they called the spider. Rhaenys was clinging to her skirts in unease and Aegon was fussing in her arms. One could almost sense the tension that radiated in small waves, off of the royal family. 

“King Rhaegar was victorious at the Trident. He slayed Robert Baratheon valiantly and has pardoned Lord Stark, who has sworn to not take up arms against the crown, forevermore.” King? What is the meaning of that? Aerys must have perished, then, but by whose hands?

“King?” Elia warily asked. Varys gave her a secretive smile that somehow, unsettled her further.

“King Aerys was slain by Ser Jaime Lannister, making Prince Rhaegar a king.” Relief embraced her body. Thank the gods, he is dead. Elia felt so alleviated that she thought she might weep. We are safe, yet a nagging voice at the back of her head spited her. For now. 

“That also makes you his Queen,” Varys told her in a soft voice. “You need not fear anymore, sweetling. The war is done and overwith,” he finished. 

The new queen turned to look at her companion. She knew he was fickle, all that was needed in a master of spies but he had shown her kindness, comfort and helped her. Lord Varys, who was not a lord truly, had taken hold of her beige arm a fortnight ago and told her of an elaborate scheme. A plot to save a prince, but not a princess. 

***

“When the time comes, we must switch Aegon with another infant. You must be ready and allow for it to happen,” he told her, surprisingly blunt for such a man of ambiguous words. 

“Why?” she asked, cradling her son closer to her chest and kissing the soft, silver curls that lay atop his head. Rhaegar’s hair. Varys gave her a queer look, then. It was full of sympathy, of pain, almost. As if the princess was a child, who was to be told some horrible news.

“The birds have been singing their songs, for some time now and none of it sounds sweet. I fear for Prince Aegon’s safety as heir to the throne, after his father.” A dread washed over Elia, chilling her to the very bones. They cannot mean to harm my son, he has done no wrong. Yet Princess Elia was very much aware, deep within her body, that if it came to it, men in war would do anything. They turn into beasts. 

“And you do not fear for my daughter’s?” Steel laced her voice and Lord Varys reached a powdered hand out, to stroke her cheek, gently. As a father would his daughter, if she was in pain. 

“Princess Rhaenys is recognisable to all of the court. Her disappearance would be duly noted, should any sort of mishap fall upon Prince Rhaegar at the Trident. You cannot afford any more of King Aerys’s ire, nor anyone else’s.” She took his meaning plainly. There would be nothing to do for her sweet Rhae, nor Elia herself. All he can do is try to save my son, if the time comes. Tears brimmed behind her dark eyes and spilled from her eyes. How can one ask this of a mother? To give one of my children to life, and the other to death. 

“No, Varys. There must be another way,” she pleaded brokenly. The eunuch beheld a troubled look in his pale, blue eyes. 

“I am afraid there is not, princess. You must remain strong, allow us to reassure the safety of your son, a paramount piece in the search for the good of the-” 

“-The realm be damned! You are asking me to look upon my daughter each day, knowing that I have sentenced her to death!” In that moment, one would have said that Princess Elia had finally gained her fangs, that she was the female reincarnation of her brother, Prince Oberyn. 

“This is not a certainty, Princess. Prince Rhaegar may be victorious, mayhaps all that the words I am being sung, are exactly that; songs. Yet we do not know and there is no time to falter. Save your tears and turn them into dedication, ensure the life of your sweet babe,” he told her with a quiet resolve. One babe, she thought bitterly. Not two. In the end, Elia nodded, unable to speak the words, to give her consent to such a heartbreaking action. Still, this was war and Elia was no child. Not any longer. 

The plump man looked as if he wished to embrace her, to comfort her in her grief, but she slithered away from his outreached hand. There is no one left for me here, now. Varys was kind but she knew that he did not belong to her and neither would he risk his safety for her.

“Begone with you, Lord Varys. I must grieve my daughter while she is still with me. Begone,” she whispered as tears trickled down her cheeks, steadily. The man nodded and took his leave, the slippers padding softly across the marble floors.

***

“Ser Jaime, where is he?” Elia inquired, sharply. The young man had been forced to tail her good-father like a shadow but Rhaenys was fond of him and Elia, as well. He had spent time guarding them, before the war started. She knew the man little but did not think he deserved to rot in the black cells, for freeing them all from Aerys’s tyranny. I owe him, Elia thought. She would make sure he knew. 

“In the dungeons. He is to remain there until Prince Rhaegar is returned, to convict him.” 

“I wish to see him, to speak with him,” Elia commanded. She was a queen now and would behave as such. I will not let them see any more weakness in me. Yet she was weary and tired from all the steps. Moons had passed but still, the Dornish princess had not recovered from the birth of her second child. My final child. Was this not why Rhaegar left me? Because I could bear him no more heirs and he needed his damned third head. What a price they all had to pay, for that. Queen Elia was wroth, enraged, even and she would make sure that King Rhaegar knew. It is never too late to grow thorns and I hope mine prick him until he bleeds. 

“As you command, My Queen. I will have arrangements made.” Then the spider slithered away, padding softly. As if he had never been. 

Elia was left standing in the throne room, a guard on each side but never had she felt so alone, so vulnerable. This is empty power, she realised. It is empty faith. 

“Mama, I want Papa to return,” Rhaenys whimpered, wiping her teary, lavender eyes on the red sleeve of her dress. Aegon had settled in Elia’s arms and was woozy, on the brink of falling into a deep slumber. They are tired. We all are. Queen Elia bent down, kissing her daughter’s cheek that was stained with the remnants of tears.

“I know my sweet. He will be here soon.” Elia did not know how she was feeling of Rhaegar’s impending return. First he runs away with the wolf girl, then he returns long enough to go to war and demands all Kingsguard protect his new paramour. Even her brave and valiant Ser Arthur, had left her. The only one who remained was Ser Jaime. 

Elia had seen the girl once or twice. Such a young woman, half a child, still. The Princess of Dorne never understood what drew Rhaegar to Lyanna Stark. She was fierce, untamed and had a wild beauty to her, but not a comeliness that songs could be sung about. Yet the thought struck the newly-made queen that Rhaegar had been blathering on about his prophecies ever since they wed, especially of ice and fire. Is this what he meant, what he needed? To fuck a girl with ice in her veins? There was anger in the Dornishwoman’s heart. Black and putrid, weeping with sorrow. 

The iron throne glared back at Elia, menacing and malevolently. The things it does to people, how it drives them mad-- it’s awful. Now her husband would take his cruel father’s place atop that throne. Would Rhaegar rule justly, benevolently? Or would he yet again; be swayed by prophecies? Elia had no answers for that. There was no trust left within her heart for him, for anyone, save the Queen Rhaella and Elia’s own kin. The things she had witnessed would turn a weaker woman mad. I am frail, yes, but not of heart. If she had been, then she would have fainted the first time Aerys forced her to be present, for the burning of a man. Elia had not flinched, nor shown him any sort of reaction but a blank facade. Nonetheless, when she had  reached her chamber, she retched and prayed to the gods that she would forget the smell of burning flesh. 

“Mama,” Rhaenys asked and Elia snapped out of her daze. The iron throne lost the attention of the Dornish princess who instead, turned toward her daughter. 

“Yes, sweetling?” Princess Rhaenys pointed toward a knight who stood waiting, patiently. Elia brushed imaginary dirt off of her gown and rose, dignitantly. 

“I beg your pardon, My Queen, but you wished to speak with the prisoner, Ser Jaime?” The man had a coarse beard, as black as night, with green eyes and pox-scars on his cheeks. 

“I do,” Elia allowed, staring at him with unflinching, brown eyes. 

“Allow me to escort you but I fear the children will have to remain-” 

“No,” she snapped, tugging Rhaenys closer to her and grasping Aegon more fiercely, to her breast. The queen refused to leave them, even for a second. All it takes is a swift blade and the heirs will be a fleeting memory. My children, my dragons, I will let naught happen to them. 

“I am sorr-” the man began.

“My children remain with me. I am the queen,” she reminded him and he looked as if he wished to argue but instead, relented and beckoned her to follow him. 

The dungeons were dark and wet, smelling of death and regret. There was some putrid smell that she did not recognise. It burned through her nostrils like sulfur and the queen found herself frowning. Rhaenys liked it even less, clinging fiercely to Elia’s arm that was not cradling baby Aegon. There was so many cells and some contained faces she did not know. Why should I know them? They are not down here for being honest men. The prisoners shouted for her, to give them bread, to save them, for their innocence. The queen had long closed her ears to such pleas, or she would not have survived King Aerys. 

Finally they reached a cell where she spotted a glint of golden hair and a long, white cloak. 

“Ser Jaime,” Elia whispered so quietly that no one heard her. The young Lannister looked rugged and wary but otherwise, relatively well, considering the circumstances. He had been stripped of his weapon and anything that could prove a hazard. He is glorious with a sword in hand, of course they did, it is customary. 

“We are here, My Queen,” the knight bowed and Elia nodded. 

“You may retreat, my good Ser. I wish to speak with Ser Jaime privily.” The man looked at her and the young Lannister, with wary eyes.

“Forgive me, My Queen but if the king hears that any harm has been-”

“-No harm will come to me. Ser Jaime is sworn to protect all belonging to the royal family,” she smiled ruefully. 

“A vow he forsaked and spit upon,” the man snapped, looking toward the young knight of the kingsguard, in utter disgust. 

“I was not asking, I was commanding you. Leave us be and wait for me to call upon you,” Elia replied with a voice like sleeting ice. Finally, the knight did leave her be. 

“How are you, Ser?” Elia asked softly, treading carefully. Jaime’s eyes looked hauntingly empty when he gazed upon her. 

“Well,” he replied tersely. The queen moved to speak but her willful daughter beat her to it. 

“Ser Jaime,” Rhaenys squealed and reached her hand between the bars, in attempt to greet the knight. The little princess grew wroth when her short, little arms would not reach. Jaime smiled for the first time and moved closer, touching Rhaenys’s hand with a gentleness, unparalleled. The sight brought tears to the queen’s eyes and made her heart clench, painfully. 

“My little princess. Where is Balerion?” he asked and Rhaenys smiled. 

“Sleeping, in father’s chambers.” The mention of Rhaegar stirred something in both Elia and Jaime, making them share a quiet, unsteady look. 

“He must be a ravenous beast, by now.” The comment made her daughter giggle and a softness appear in Jaime’s eyes. He was always fond of her. 

Standing grew uncomfortable for the queen, so she moved to sit down. 

“Here,” Jaime said and gave her his white cloak.

“It is soiled already.” The man was not speaking of filth. 

“It is yours to keep, Ser Jaime. Always. I have other gowns,” Elia replied and sat down atop the filthy and slightly damp concrete. Aegon was still sleeping soundly, gently cupping Elia’s neck with his tiny hands. Her daughter moved to sit in her lap, as well, laying her head against her brother’s. The sight made Jaime look at the queen queerly.

“What?” Elia asked with a smile.

“You love them. More than any mother could love her children.” 

“And you helped save them.” Elia knew that her children were King Aerys’s grandchildren but he never treated them as such. She feared he would come to harm them, had he lived. As a final bargain against Rhaegar, perhaps. How can one claim to know the mind of a madman? 

“I am nothing but a Kingslayer, now,” he smiled ruefully. 

“You are so much more, to all of us who suffered beneath Aerys, Ser Jaime. None of them will ever understand what it was like, truly,” Elia replied and wished for him to understand. 

“This place is not fit for a queen. You should not be here,” Jaime told her. “Especially not the children.” Elia frowned.

“I wanted to thank you,” she said, quietly. “You shall face no scorn from me or my children. I will speak with Rhaegar and plead for him to pardon you.” 

“You need not, My Quee-”

“But I will, Ser Jaime.” The young knight looked in awe of the queen. Of her strength and her perseverance, only paralleled by Dowager Queen Rhaella’s. Then she beckoned a sleepy Rhaenys to stand up and moved closer to the bars. 

The Lannister man observed her strangely. Elia’s slender arm reached out to touch Jaime’s hand, then she leaned forward and brought it toward her lips, kissing the top of his hand, softly. The cool sensation of the metal rods touching her forehead, calmed the burning headache that had plagued her for weeks. 

“Goodbye for now. We will meet again.” Then the queen rose and called for the knight, to escort her out. Elia failed to notice that Jaime Lannister’s emerald eyes had been brimming with unshed tears and that he had allowed one or two to slip past his cheeks. 

Supper was a calm affair, Elia had ordered that a simple meal of soup and a platter of fruits be delivered to her chambers. Aegon had been fed by the wet-nurse, for Elia lacked enough milk to properly sustain him. Rhaenys on the other hand, ate heartily, unaware of the uncertainty gnawing at her mother. The queen was glad that her daughter was unbeknown toward the future that seemed hazy with smoke, of the palpable tension that stood between Queen Elia and King Rhaegar. He left us here to die and the thought gnawed on her like nothing else.  

The sun laid low in the west and she could see the way the light glinted off of the dark green waves of Blackwater Bay. Balerion rested comfortably in Rhaenys’s lap, returned from his ventures into Rhaegar’s chambers. The black cat was a scrawny little thing, the runt of the kitchen cat’s litter, yet her gentle daughter loved him, nonetheless. The young princess was wont to pretend that he was the real black dread of old. Elia munched on a strawberry as she watched Rhaenys occasionally move to pat her brother’s head. Aegon was lucky to have such a loving sister and Elia felt blessed to have such lovely children. They were gentle, to their very core. 

After supper, Elia dressed Rhaenys and Aegon in their sleeping garb, no matter how exhausted she felt. Then she decided that she wished to keep them close, to know that they would be there when she woke, so she climbed into the bed and placed Aegon’s cot next to it. However, the babe fussed and gurgled for his mother and Elia could not find it in her heart to deny him, so she picked him up and placed him against her chest. 

Rhaenys laid beside her, curly brown hair in a thick braid, lavender eyes closed. Soon enough, the young princess was breathing deeply and her son had fallen asleep as well. Fear and uncertainty kept Queen Elia awake. What will the morrow bring? She found herself wondering. Her Prince would return, a king. He was never mine, was he? The fool has made that evident . She never claimed that Rhaegar was the love of her life, yet she had loved him, borne his children and cared for them, with every ounce of her being. King Rhaegar repaid her with this treachery and for that, she could not see herself forgiving him. At least we are safe now. At least I have my children. 

Finally, in the wee hours of the morn, Elia fell asleep. 

The previous night, she had been a princess. 

Now she was a Queen.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Mama, wake up,” Rhaenys pleaded, stroking Elia’s hair by the help of gentle, chubby hands. With her eyes still closed, Elia smiled, then she opened them, one brown eye at a time. 

“What is the matter, my dove? Can you not sleep?” The queen asked, frowning. Dawn had barely risen and the sky was a beautiful warm color whilst the sun was a mere orange speck, beyond the bay. 

“I want papa,” the girl said, so sadly that it tugged at Elia’s soul. No mother wishes to see their child in pain and that is why the queen opened her arms, for Rhaenys to snuggle into. The last thing I ever wish to see is those lavender eyes brimming with tears. Aegon was still snuggled against her chest. It is a wonder that he slept through the night, Elia thought. Yet I should not indulge this behavior, he must needs learn how to sleep in his own crib. It would only be for another night or two, the queen thought it did not matter very much. 

“I love you, my gentle dragon,” Elia whispered, drowsy with sleep and leaning down to kiss the top of Rhaenys’s head, adorned with hair the same shade as her own was. Her daughter’s response was to tighten the tiny hold she had on her mother. The thought struck Elia, after the conversation she had shared with Ser Jaime, that Rhaenys and Aegon could have been their babes. In a time long ago, her mother had requested a betrothal between Elia and the Lannister knight. Lord Tywin had refused though, stating that Elia could wed the imp when he came of age. The ruling Princess of Dorne had not taken that slight lightly. 

I did not have anything against little Tyrion. He was just a babe, like my Aegon is. Neither of them, nor any other children deserve the cruel fate of death, simply for being born a certain way. The thought of losing her children was unimaginable, yet that was what she had prepared herself for. To never see her daughter grow up into a maid lovelier than spring, or her little prince learning to walk and speak. Elia knew that if her children were to die, then so would she. Never would I go on, knowing that they would be gone. 

Rhaegar would be arriving that day, yet the queen knew naught of when. Bitterness bloomed within her, like a seed that was constantly watered. Rhaegar almost robbed me of my children and them of their lives, that have not yet been lived. How could he? No answer would ever be enough, no amount of reasoning. We were going to die, I had prepared myself for death, for Rhaenys’s death. Aegon’s, even... Never would Queen Elia wish that upon a mother. To look upon your child and see them, still as a statue, pale with graveworms crawling out of them, eyes as blank as the summer seas and faces that would never again smile or laugh or tell you that they love you. 

I hope he sends for Rhaella, it is lonely without her here. Lonelier than it was before. The Dowager Queen had always treated Elia with kindness and shared her pains. It was not easy for her, with Aerys. The way he would… The thoughts were too horrible to even fathom. Her good-mother was with child, last Elia heard of her. May the Seven Hells haunt Aerys for this, for the manner in which he got her with child. For all those sins he committed in the midst of his insanity. 

Poor Viserys, as well. The Dowager Queen Rhaella had tried to shield her son as best she could, from his father’s madness. The prince was a sweet boy, a bit coddled and spoiled but he had a good heart and was deeply fond of Elia. He would call me Aunt Elia and hold my hand. Of course not when his father saw, for even the young prince knew of King Aerys’s distaste toward the Dornishwoman and no one wished to be the receiver or the king’s ire. 

It began to rain, Elia knew by the sounds it made against the windows and the sky’s darknening with the sun being eclipsed by the clouds. An ominous foreboding, yet I never put much stock in those sorts of things. Soon enough, the queen found herself lulled by the rapt noises and the thought of how a stroll through the courtyard would be lovely, later during the day. With the smell of morning dew in our noses and puddles for Rhaenys to play in. 

The next time she was awoken, it was by Aegon’s soft weeping. 

“Oh, hush my sweet,” Elia soothed as she kissed his chubby cheeks and sat up to rock him against her chest. Her son turned to gaze at her, dark, purple eyes, brimming with tears as a new wail threatened to escape his lips. 

“Now such pretty eyes were not made for tears, were they?” she asked her son, gently and he let out one last sob, before quieting against in her arms. 

“It is time to wake, my sweet,” Elia called for her Rhaenys to wake up, running a hand through the brown curls of her daughter. Rhaenys stirred and groaned, making her mother laugh, for she was sure that Aegon’s weeping should have woken his sister. My Rhae is a heavy sleeper, perhaps she was trapped in a lovely dream. I wish that for her, to escape this wretched reality that we must face. 

A weary tiredness still plagued the queen, yet she doubted it would be one that would succumb to sleep. Nonetheless, the Dornishwoman rose and splashed cooling, rosewater on both her and Rhaenys’s faces. Aegon, she contented with dabbing a little on his face, lest he begin weeping again. Then it was time to break their fast, as the sun had risen in the sky, bright and yellow, full of promises that were meant to be broken. 

“Eat your oatmeal, it is your favorite,” Elia told her daughter, who was too nervous to eat.

“When is papa coming?” The little girl asked, once again, almost bursting with an unabridged excitement. 

“Soon, my sweet. However, it will only take longer if you do not finish your meal,” Elia replied with a raised eyebrow and her daughter began scarfing down the oatmeal so quickly, that the queen had to put a calming hand on the princess’s shoulder.

“Calm down, my sweet,” the Dornishwoman said, giggling at her child’s antics. 

The wet-nurse had taken Aegon to the nursery but promised to return him when he was done feeding. Parting from her children still made the queen nervous but she had come to somewhat trust the kind wet-nurse. That did not mean that she was not wary, still. I trusted Rhaegar and look where it got me, look where it got Rhaenys and Aegon. We were on the brink of our graves, as he was too busy starting wars and fucking northerners with betrotheds.  

A quiet knock on the wooden door startled Elia. 

“You may enter,” she called and in walked the wet-nurse, with a sleepy Aegon in tow.

“This one ate heartily, m’queen,” the woman laughed and it calmed the queen. 

“It is good that he has a large appetite.” A smile covered the Dornishwoman’s lips as she was given her son, once again. 

“And those eyes,” the woman tut-tutted.  “He will break many a hearts with those, i’d wager.” At least now, he will be alive to do it. Such certainties had not been known, weeks ago. 

“He has too much of a gentle spirit to do such,” Elia smiled.

“That’ll make the ladies flock to him all’emore.” It had been long since the queen felt the tiniest carefree, she relished in the moment. It is not often that I converse with anyone but the spider and the guards. It is nice to have a change of scenery. 

“Would you like to have some fruit and bread?” she asked the woman, whose blue eyes almost bulged at the request. 

“I’d love to.” “Ain’t often one gets offered ter’ break bread with a queen,” the wet-nurse said, in awe. I should get to know my people, that is my duty, as a queen. But were these her people, truly? Elia always fashioned Dorne to be her home, yet so much time away had made its power diminish in her memory. The queen was not quite sure of her place in the world, any longer. 

“What is your name?” Elia asked, rising to put a sleeping Aegon back in his cot, smoothing out his silver-gold curls with her beige hand, as well. 

“Melissa but most call me Melly.” A pretty name, the queen thought. It sounds sweet, like a song. 

“Melly it is, then.” 

“How old are you?” Melly looked young, almost younger than Elia herself. The fear must surely have taken its toll on me, now, though. 

“Two-and-twenty, m’queen.” She is younger than me. 

“How many children do you have?” The woman laughed.

“Oh I have two little ones, a boy and a girl, m’queen. Troublemakers, the lot’o’em.” 

“The same as I,” Elia smiled. 

“Me boy is no larger than that son o’yours. Benn is his name, after his father. Then Missy is almost two.” 

“Do tell me when her nameday is. I shall have a gift commissioned,” the queen smiled. Many would think it a clever ploy, to get into the good graces of the common folk and have them spread the word of the benevolent queen, with a giving heart. It was not like that for Elia, however. She simply enjoyed the company of the woman and a small gift for Melly’s daughter would not even put a dent in her riches. It is good to give back, once in a while. It keeps oneself grounded. 

“M’queen is too kind,” the woman gasped, her blue eyes as big as saucers. Elia reached out to touch Melly’s hands, gently. 

“It is the least I can do. You help feed my son, allowing him to grow big and strong.” Melly blushed as if she was a maiden newly flowered, then. 

After more conversation and small-talk, Melly the wet-nurse took her leave and Elia suggested to Rhaenys, that they take a stroll in the yards. 

“You can jump in the puddles,” Elia whispered mischievously. “Let us just choose a gown that shan’t be missed,” she added. The little princess squealed in delight toward the prospect of playing in the puddles of rain-water. She deserves the mirth and joy. I will not allow anyone to steal her girlhood from her. 

***

“Mama look!” Rhaenys giggled as she jumped into a big pool of water. Elia looked on encouragingly, singing softly to Aegon as she swayed amongst the fresh flowers. Her son smiled and giggled in her arms.

“Just be careful, my dove,” Elia called, as Rhaenys ran further along the cobblestones. The queen continued singing to her son but after a few moments, she noticed that she could no longer hear her daughter’s fervent giggles and a panic bloomed within her chest. 

“Rhaenys?” She called wildly, looking around for the mop of brown curls or skirts in a dull, green color. 

“Here, mama!” Rhaenys shouted from a distance and Elia turned around to see Ser Arthur Dayne holding her daughter. This must mean that they are returned...

“Athu is back.” The tall man with the silvery hair and purple eyes smiled at the young princess. Elia’s heart simply clenched, in anger, misery, pain and a lost childhood love that was only ever doomed to be a memory.

“Ser Arthur,” Elia greeted and did not mean for it to sound so cold and infinitely distant. It was as if there was truly a world between them. His violet eyes were apologetic.

“Elia-” he began and moved to cup her cheek but she shied away, her brown eyes brimming with tears.

“Don’t,” the queen begged. 

“Where were you?” Elia asked, tearfully. Rhaenys was silently toying with the Sword Of The Morning’s beautiful strands of silver-gold hair.

“Dorne,” he replied, somberly. What?

“Why were you in my home?” she asked, sounding as if she was as young as Rhaenys.

“We were protecting Q- Lady Lyanna. I am sworn to speak no more of it, not until the king tells you of the news, himself.” 

“Why did he force you all to go?” she asked, distress apparent in her words. 

Her lost love turned to her with pity in his eyes. A way she never wanted to be looked at, ever again. 

“We… He- Rh- King Rhaegar did not force us to. We did it of our own accord, he only asked.” 

“So it was fully within your rights to decline?” The queen despised how feeble she sounded, as weak as they all said that I was. 

“Yes,” he looked down and she saw the dark lashes, she had once loved, spill over his cheeks. 

“No one even thought about what would become of us, here,” she whispered, almost to herself. “You left us here, with a madman!” Aegon began squalling in her arms but she could not think of that, not now. 

“Elia, calm down,” Arthur pleaded, his violet eyes as concerned as Rhaegar’s was when he was told that she could bear no more children. 

“You left us here, to die! We were going to die!” she cried, tears running down her cheeks. Aegon was fussing and Rhaenys looked frightened. 

“Don’t cry, mama,” her daughter begged, reaching her tiny arms out and squirming in Ser Arthur’s grasp. He let the princess down and she ran to her mother, who was all but collapsing on the ground. All the pain, all the stress, all the fear just burst from within her body. There had been no time for it when they she was fearing for their lives, but now… It chooses now to appear, of all times.

“Do you know want to know why I know, what a man roasting alive smells like?” she asked, haughtily. “They were going to smuggle Aegon out. He told us that Rhaenys and I would have to die, if the time came. To prepare for it! That there would be no protecting us, and you willingly shelter a wanton, spoiled girl who needs it not?” Her raised voice had begun attracting the attention of the other guards and some lords and ladies of the court. Those that remain of them, the queen thought bitterly. 

Furiously, Elia wiped at her tears, willing herself to be strong for her children. They need me. 

“I hope you had a pleasant time,” Elia laughed bitterly. “I suppose you did not want King Aerys barking down at you, analyzing your every move and threatening you, for any mishaps that occur. “ The severity of Elia’s situation had just begun making sense to her, how they had been so close to the arms of the stranger. She could almost taste it, the stale air, the cold corpses and the tears of sorrow. It was by the Mother’s mercy, that we were spared. 

“I am sorry, Elia,” Arthur said and tried to touch her but she moved away from him, violently. 

“Our blood would have been on your hands. On all of yours! Damn you,” the queen whimpered, all the rage being replaced by exhaustion and melancholy.

“If I could take it back, I would,” he replied, a tear sliding down his cheeks. 

Then, the Sword of The Morning embraced her, the whining Aegon and gentle Rhaenys, as well. I do not have the strength to push him away. Elia allowed herself the comfort of his touch, of the warm embrace. It was something she had lacked, something she had desperately yearned for. Only a few more moments, she told the gods or anyone who would listen. Then it was time to let go.

“But you can’t,” Elia of Dorne whispered and departed, leaving a bewildered and remorseful Arthur, in her wake. 

Elia moved haughtily back to her chambers, with Aegon in one arm and Rhaenys in the other.

“What did uncle Athu do?” Rhaenys asked quietly. Elia would not have heard her, would it not have been for the girl speaking almost directly into the queen’s ear. 

“It is what he did not do, my sweet,” Elia replied, trying to remain calm and collected, when her heart was bleeding and her spirit, broken. 

Finally inside, the queen sat Rhaenys down on the bed and laid Aegon in his cot. He is not tired but some rest and play will do him good. She left him a toy dragon that Rhaegar had commissioned, so long ago, when he first heard of her pregnancy. Poor Queen Elia was on the brink of collapse, physically and mentally. All the strain that had been put on her, was not healthy, even a blind man could see how it affected her. 

Then she removed Rhaenys’s wet clothing and gave both of them a bath. Her children were not averse to the heat, but rather they enjoyed it, very much so. Just like most Targaryens, Elia found herself thinking. It seemed that even Aegon could sense his mother’s unease, for he clung to her and was giving her his most charming, toothless smiles. Her daughter was ever attentive, listening to her mother’s instructions and giving no complaints. 

None of the children liked being brought out of the tub but Elia bribed them with kisses and cuddles, which they gladly accepted and soon their discontent was a mere memory. 

“My beautiful children,” Elia smiled as she gazed at them both, newly dried with damp hair and sparkling, purple eyes. Aegon’s is darker than his sister’s. Rhaenys boasts the most lovely shade of purple I have ever seen. How did I make such beautiful and good-natured babes?   Rhaegar had helped, of course but then he had almost unmade them, so Elia did not feel like giving the king more credit than him spilling his seed inside of her. 

“My Queen?” A voice was heard from beyond the door. It was The White Bull, Ser Gerold Hightower. She recognised his powerful voice. 

“You may enter,” Elia called, even though it was the last thing she wished for. I do not want to see Rhaegar. I do not have the strength for it, to face him and his lies. The oaken door opened as she finished tying the laces for Rhaenys’s purple gown. She wants to look pretty for her papa. 

“The king wishes to have a private audience with you, My Queen. Then he asks to see the children.” 

“Wishes or commands?” Elia asked, snidely. The White Bull was unworthy of her scorn, yet it seems I am giving it to whomever has played even the littlest of parts in this mummery.  

“I am afraid it is the latter, My Queen.” Ser Gerold had the audacity to look even the slightest bit ashamed. 

“Then I shan’t keep him waiting,” she sighed wearily and called for a maid, to take the children to their nursery.

“Have them brought to King Rhaegar’s chamber, when Ser Gerold comes to retrieve them.” Both the maid and Ser Gerold nodded. 

The walk was almost unbearably long and The White Bull seemed uneasy in her presence. Is it because he knows what they did? What the cost of their lies and foolery almost turned out to be? Did he look upon my children and see their graves? Their small, cold little bodies-- unmoving? Elia had no wish to converse with him and therefore, she remained silent as all those who watched Aerys burn his prisoners. 

Ser Gerold opened the door for her but she gave him no thanks, only a curt nod in his direction. The White Bull looked as if he wished to speak, to say something before she entered, yet he did not. The queen smoothed out her red skirts, embroidered with tiny, orange suns and straightened her back. Queen they say I am, but I donn no crown. 

Immediately, Elia moved to sit down in the chair that was closest to the hearth. Rhaegar was not there yet and his tardiness left a bitter taste in her mouth. An agitation began creeping over her skin, however, making it itch and crawl. I have not seen him for moons and even then, it had only been for a few moments . It was almost as if the flower of Dorne was expecting a monster, a twisted man, maimed by war. He did not feel like he would be the same, even though she knew that he most likely would be. 

Approaching footsteps made the queen raise her head. 

“Elia,” a good-natured voice called, one she thought she loved, once. The silver-gold hair was loose but adorned with two braids. He looks… the queen did not know what to say or think. His eyes were still the same somber indigo, never far from their melancholy. The nose was still the same and his lips, just as full. All the Princess of Dorne could do, was look at him. She was angry, hurt and sad… yet no words willed themselves to escape from her lips. 

King Rhaegar moved toward her and bent down to embrace her. He felt warm and soothing yet there was something different. He does not smell like himself... The prince who was now a king, smelled of pine-leaves and something foreign. It unnerved her how he was so close but so far away. The queen remained stiff in his arms. Still, her heart ached for closeness, a kind of comfort, to be given from someone who had not betrayed her. Elia would not mold herself after his touch, not any longer. I am the sun and I will burn him. Even dragons bow before the sun. 

Brown eyes met indigo, cold against warm, anger against softness. 

“I worried for you,” he said with a quiet relief. As if he had taken what would become of them, into account, before he left to fuck a girl who was barely a woman when he was a man, wedded and bedded with children of his own. 

“Did you?” she replied and could not contain the sneer that formed on her face. 

“Ser Jaime stayed. To keep you safe.” It made Elia laugh, a horrendous, dry sound that was learned in the most horrible forms of pain. 

“From your father? The one he was sworn to protect? Ser Jaime could do naught for your mother as she was screaming, in the throes of her pain caused by the king. He is sworn to protect us, yes. But not from kings.” Rhaegar cringed at her harsh words.

“I would never have allowed any harm to come to you,” The king replied, with sincere, indigo eyes. They once made her heart swoon with adoration, now she only saw the remains of an ugly truth. 

“How would you have prevented it, pray tell? You left us, with no protection and no loyalty, to run away with a child. When the time came, you would be able to do nothing but look upon our corpses and whisper your cursed goodbyes-- knowing it was you, who put us there.” Elia did not think she would ever have it in her, to be so cruel. It seems the Targaryens are not the only ones who boast dragons within.   Hers were woken now and would not return to its slumber. I am the mother of dragons, so I will have to be their fire when they have none, yet.  

“Nothing happened to you, Elia!” her husband finally snapped. 

“Nothing?” The queen scoffed and felt her palm itch to slap him. “Your wretched father forced me to watch as he burned men alive. Do you know what it smells like? Not unlike a pork roast, except the pigs scream less, do they not? They don’t plead and soil themselves. Your father barricaded us within Maegor’s holdfast and forbade us to leave. He also threatened the lives of Rhaenys and Aegon when a minor mishap occurred with Dorne.” The Dornishwoman leaned closer, to whisper in her husband’s ear. “He said I could watch them burn and maybe they would turn into dragons.” Rhaegar looked horrified. Yes, that does not sound like nothing, now does it? 

Her husband moved to speak, yet it looked like he had no words to say it. 

“Oh, I am not done yet,” she snapped. “Lord Varys told me of a plan, to switch Aegon with another infant, should the time come. It did not look as if you would remain victorious, I fear. There was naught to do for Rhaenys and I, however. See, I had to mourn my daughter and my son, whilst they were both still alive and in my arms. I pray you never come close to such a hopelessness, yet still, I would love for you, to have a taste of it. To have to visualize them in their graves, with the sweet scent of death, filling the room.” 

“I am sor-” King Rhaegar began, his voice choked with an unuttered sob. 

“-Spare me your false words of comfort. Nothing could soothe such a pain.” 

“It was for the prophecy, there needed to be a third head to the dragon… I thought it was right, that I was-” Elia felt as if she was going to faint with pure rage.

“-One more word about those wretched prophecies and I will not hesitate to strike you, I care not if you have a crown!”

“I am sorry Elia, more than you could ever know and-” A knock disturbed the king, preventing him from finishing his sentence. Elia cared not to hear it. 

“Not now!” Rhaegar barked out, absentmindedly stroking Elia’s hand as he remained crouched in front of her. She wanted to snatch it away, but could not find it in her, to be so cruel. He deserves it, a corner of her mind whispered. The other side of the door remained as quiet as death but Elia could see the twisting of the doorknob. Who would dare spite the king? She wondered. Elia dared but she was also a queen and had taken too many of his slights, to remain silent. 

“I though-” the woman stopped dead in her tracks, when she saw the King crouched in front of Elia of Dorne. A babe lay squalling in her arms … Aegon? The queen wondered until she saw the hair, a dark color, darker than Elia’s soft shade of brown. Rhaegar looked distressed as he gazed warily at the both of them. That was when realisation struck the Dornish Princess. This is Lyanna Stark, is it not? It was, the long face, dark hair and grey eyes bore testament toward the assumption. That means…. He received his third head. The child bore a child. The entire situation was so morbidly amusing, that the queen would have laughed if she had not been so wroth. 

“I thought you were alone,” the girl whispered and looked almost frightened of Elia. That is the least you can be, if not sorry, The Princess of Dorne found herself thinking, cruelly. 

“Elia, meet-” Rhaegar began.

“Lyanna of House Stark,” the queen finished, coldly. The she-wolf smiled shyly and looked as young as the first day Elia laid her eyes upon her. What was she? A girl of five-and-ten?   

"You brought your paramour and bastard to court?” Elia asked and Rhaegar shook his head. 

“Lyanna is my Queen and Aemon is my trueborn son, born within the bounds of marriage.” Rhaegar had risen, then, moving toward his young queen and Elia felt all the air escape the room. Queen? She thought, erratically. But that means...For him to wed another woman… Rhaenys and Aegon--bastards? She could not breathe.

“You bastardised your own children? The ones you so desperately craved, the ones I almost died to give you?” her voice was a shrill, crazed scream. She had allowed many things but this, this… she could not take. 

“No, no-” he began but was silenced by the Dornishwoman. 

“How dare you?” she fumed. The wolf-girl remained as still as a weirwood tree, clutching her babe tightly. 

“You misunderstand me, Elia!” Rhaegar raised his voice, silencing her anger. She eyed him with angry, dark eyes. 

“Lyanna is my queen and so are you. All of our children remain trueborn.” The revelation stunned her into silence. 

“That is against the Andal laws,” Elia found herself saying, after a few moments. 

“We are not Andals. Lyanna is of the First Men, you are Rhoynar and I am Valyrian. Aegon took both his sisters to wife. It is not for men to judge.” 

“We are not your sisters,” Elia snapped.

“No you are not.” The words hung heavy between them. Neither of us would be standing here, were he to have had sisters. 

“Will you set aside Aegon for this babe? To take his rightful claim?” Elia asked, sharply.

“What? No. Aegon is in line to the throne, he has always been. I would never dream of robbing him of his birthright.” Rhaegar sounded incredulous in regard to her questions but she needed to know. To know if she should have her brothers rally Dorne, for Aegon’s cause.

“You almost robbed both of them, of their lives. Forgive me for not trusting you, any longer.” After that, she rose dignitantly and moved toward Rhaegar. 

“Make no mistake. Rhaenys is for Aegon and I will be damned if you betrothe my daughter to this pup.” She regretted the words as soon as she spoke them. It hurt the mother within her, to scorn a babe in arms, who looked to barely be a fortnight old. Elia did not allow the way Lyanna’s eyes narrowed and the room’s temperature turning ever colder, to go unnoticed. 

“Alright,” Rhaegar allowed, quietly. In the beginning, the queen had been disgusted by the Targaryens habits to wed brother to sister. After sometime, however, she accepted that it was just a way of their life. None of her words or pleas would make it go away, so she made peace with it, in her heart. They are more gods than men, she comforted herself. 

“I also wish to travel for Dorne,” Elia said, suddenly. To be completely honest, the Dornishwoman had not thought of travelling to her home, until this very moment. 

“There is something you need to be made aware of, Elia,” Rhaegar replied, gently, ignoring her request. The Dornishwoman laughed a harsh laugh. “What can that possibly be? I feel as if I have been enlightened by the gods, all in this very room.” Her words were as scornful as she felt. 

“Your uncle, Prince Lewyn,” Rhaegar began and Elia stilled. No, not him. Not my kind uncle. Tears burned beneath her dark eyelashes and threatened to spill, for she knew what her husband was to say, before he said it. 

“He fought valiantly but was slain in the battle at the Trident.” 

“The one you made possible,” Elia sneered, tearfully. “He would still be here, were it not for you. And her!” Elia pointed toward the Northern girl with shaking hands. 

“I can never apologise enough for the pain I have caused you, Elia.” 

“On that much, we both agree.” All the anger, the rage and sorrow had taken its toll on the Dornishwoman, she yearned for rest. To forget all of this horrid reality. 

“I wish to go to Dorne,” the oldest queen spoke, once again. 

“We will speak of this matter later, Elia.” Rhaegar sounded as weary as he looked. 

“Alright but promise me one thing.”  Rhaegar’s eyes lit up. 

“Anything.” 

“Pardon Ser Jaime.” The king frowned and stroked his clean-shaven chin. 

“I was thinking of allowing him to take the black.” 

“No.” Elia’s voice was Valyrian steel. “He is a young, promising man and he saved your childrens’ lives. My life.” 

“I know, Elia but I cannot allow such a crime to go unpunished. It will reflect badly on me, as king. People might conspire.” 

“They always conspire. If you need sentence a Lannister, then where was Lord Tywin? What part did he play in all of this? I am sure Lord Varys has answers. Leave Jaime be. Rhaenys is fond of him and so am I.” 

“Are you now?” Rhaegar asked, queerly. 

“Do not give me that look. Not after you shamed and scorned me, you have no right,” her voice broke at the ends and Rhaegar nodded, somberly. Even throughout all his actions, Rhaegar remained fond of his first wife, one may even say that he loved her, in his own special way. Nonetheless, it hurt him to see her in pain, the pain he caused her. 

“Make him Rhaenys’s sworn shield,” Elia found herself saying. “Say that he can be our daughter’s shield and may return to serve in the Kingsguard, in a decade. Let him keep the cloak but call it a suspension, until further notice. That is a sort of punishment, is it not?” the Dornish Queen asked. Her husband mulled over her words for a while, until finally nodding.

“Alright.” Rhaegar replied. “It is the least I can do.” 

“The very least.”

On her way out of the chamber, she passed the wolf girl who was still, mercifully silent. Out of sheer curiosity, Elia turned to look at the babe, who was gazing at her queerly. It made her smile. 

“So you are Aemon?” she asked the babe. “A beautiful name,” she finished and noted that he had the grey eyes of his mother, as well. An unwelcome, spiteful happiness bloomed in her chest, she willed it to go away but it remained. The babe looks like him, not. Rhaenys has the purple eyes and Aegon is purely a Targaryen, through and through. I managed to give him, what this girl failed. She knew that the thought should not bring her pleasure but in some horrible way, it did. 

Lyanna stark smiled but it looked worried. As if the Dornishwoman’s unpredictability was gnawing on her, frightening her a little. 

“I would never harm you or yours, child,” Elia found herself telling the girl. “We do not hurt little girls or children, in Dorne.” A willfulness appeared in the northern queen’s grey eyes.

“I am not a girl.” 

“Oh yes but you are,” the older queen sighed, sadly. “At heart,” “No woman would do this,” she shook her head sorrowfully.

Then Elia murmured for Rhaegar to bring the children to her, before they retire to bed. I wish to kiss them goodnight but I must be alone, now. To grieve, to rage, to hurt. That is exactly what the Dornishwoman did, once she reached her chambers. She wept for her uncle, who was too young to die. For his children in Dorne and his paramour. Then she raged and tore at the sheets, threw books from their shelves and cried angry tears, all because of Rhaegar’s despicable actions. After her tears had ran their course, only the hurt remained and thankfully, it only plagued her for a short while, until an exhausted, dreamless sleep claimed her. 

She woke when the sun was almost setting in the west. I slept too long, she thought and hoped that her children had not retired to their beds yet. Rhaegar would wake me, he would, if they were to. Yet… did she truly know the man anymore? How he would act? I never thought he would leave the children and I, or father a second son with another woman. Her husband was different, it was in his eyes. The way he carried himself, so powerfully, so righteously as if he had suffered for this. Maybe he did, but no more than anyone else did. The wolf-girl and King Rhaegar had gotten off lightly. Easier than Rhaella did, easier than I and all those other corpses, whose names have receded and I cannot quite recall. 

 

Her stomach craved food but she could not fathom herself to eat, not this night. Instead, she removed the constricting gown that she had fallen asleep in and donned a flowing, red robe, made of Myrish silk and Lysene satin. It clashed so beautifully with her warm skin but she only chose it for comfort, as she would have a bath, later in the eve. After Rhaegar bring Aegon and Rhaenys. Elia decided to read, to busy her mind, lest she thinks of her uncle Lewyn and all those who died but deserved to live. 

It would not take long, for her husband to arrive with her children in tow. 

“Elia,” she heard her husband call softly, from behind the wooden door. Rising, she returned the volume of Aegon’s Conquest to its rightful place, in the intricately carved bookshelf.

“Mama!” Her daughter squealed and jumped into the queen’s arms, as soon as Elia had opened the door. Rhaegar laughed lightly and kissed Aegon atop his head with a father’s love. There was no doubt in her mind that her husband loved his children dearly. But he loved his prophecies more, she thought in dismay. 

“Are you off to bed now, my girl?” Elia asked, embracing Rhaenys tightly. Her daughter turned to her with watery, lavender eyes. 

“I want to stay with you and papa,” she whimpered. It hurt Elia, to have to wean her children off of her, but she knew that it was necessary. 

“You are a big girl now, my sweet. Balerion will warm you and I shall see you in the morn. Are you not a fierce dragon?” Her daughter nodded fervently and kissed Elia’s cheeks, then burying her head, in the crook of her mother’s neck. The action warmed the Dornishwoman’s heart. 

Aegon was gazing at his mother, reaching his chubby little arms toward her. 

“Come here, my boy,” Elia whispered sweetly and Rhaegar handed her their son, ever so gently. Her son giggled as the queen peppered kisses all over his face and then she turned to look at Rhaegar. There was something in his eyes, a tenderness, the ever-present melancholy, hidden beneath a layer of guilt. They shared a soft smile, not of forgiveness or affection, but of a parent’s undying love. We created this and for that, I shall be ever grateful. 

“I wish to speak with you, after we hand the children to the nurse.” Elia pursed her lips. Do I have the strength for more conversation? For new, poisonous surprises. The queen needed time to process his revelations. Time to mull over his second marriage, how to dissuade Oberyn from killing him and to come to terms with it, myself. 

“As you wish, My King.” A hopelessness touched his eyes. The one that was never far away from hers, anymore.

“You needn’t call me that, when we are alone. I am your equal.” Was I your equal when you left me with your madman of a father, as well? When you decided to fuck a northern girl and beget a  child on her, before deciding to make her queen, as well? 

Melly walked toward them, from the other side of the hall. 

“M’queen, m’king,” the amiable woman greeted. 

“Melly,” Elia responded with a smile. 

“M’here to take the children to the nursery.” Elia gently released Rhaenys to the ground and handed a fussing Aegon to the wet-nurse’s warm embrace.

“Be good,” the queen told her daughter, who nodded. 

“Let us depart, princess,” Melly told the young Rhaenys, grabbing her hand. “Balerion’s waitin’ for ya’.” That garnered a smile from Elia’s daughter. 

Rhaegar stood waiting, anxiously beside her. He looked taller than she remembered, dwarfing her with his presence, the Dornish princess barely reached her husband’s shoulders and he was large in body, as well. Lean and muscled, with an easy grace. Once she had loved that about him, his vigor and dedication, the way he would love her so tenderly. Now it brought her unease, to know he had bedded a girl ten years Elia’s junior. He has eight years on her, she is still half a child. How his slender fingers and lips had touched the Stark girl’s skin, as well. 

Standing aside, Elia waited for Rhaegar to enter. Ser Arthur was there by the door, as well, in his white cloak. There was sadness in his eyes, as he looked at her. Good, it is only a speck of what I felt. However, the want in his violet eyes, did not fall unnoticed by the Dornish queen either. Once it would have made her blush. When we were younger and in Dorne. Now it did nothing, it was as if some part of her heart had been torn to pieces, never to be whole again. Elia was tired of men, weary to the core. 

The hearth was burning, the wood crackling comfortingly and warming the room. Rhaegar sat down on one of the plush chairs in front of it, beckoning Elia to do the same. She obeyed with a queenly grace and crossed her legs, her shapely calves on display. It was not done on purpose but still, it garnered a look from her husband. 

“You look beautiful,” he said, quietly. The truth was, that she did. With her long, dark hair flowing down her back and shoulders, in soft curls, the same as Princess Rhaenys’s. 

“Thank you, My King,” Elia replied, courteously. She heard him sigh and then he rubbed his face, wearily. 

“Please, just call me Rhaegar,” he begged the Dornishwoman. As if her saying his name would diminish his guilt, in some way. 

“I wish to return to Dorne,” she spoke, instead, ignoring his pleas. “You have a queen remaining here, you need me not.” Her husband reached out to touch her hand but she snatched it away, as if he was fire, coming for her blood. He has the audacity to look wounded.

“Of course I need you, Elia. You are just as much my queen, as Lyanna is.” 

“Oh, am I?” she asked scornfully, pleading with her heart to calm itself. 

“Yes.” 

“It is too early to travel to Dorne, you must understand. My throne still rests upon quicksand, I must show the kingdoms, that I am not my father. To do so, I will need a strong and united front. With both my queens and all of my children.” 

“They know already, Rhaegar,” she spoke softly. Please, I need this. To get out of this viper’s nest. For Queen Elia to be free, she needed to leave. 

“Not now, My Queen. Perhaps when we make the royal progress.” 

“Aegon and Rhaenys will need to meet their family,” the queen replied, sharply. 

“They have family here, Elia. Rhaenys dotes on Aemon, as she does Aegon.” 

“Is that supposed to endear me?” the Dornishwoman scoffed, even though her gentle heart warmed at the thought. 

“I must needs calm Oberyn’s rash heart. Doran may be wroth, as well.” 

Rhaegar frowned at that. 

“Your younger brother does have a temper,” he replied, rubbing his forehead in a tired manner. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Shall wear the crown, he is not yet crowned. 

“Yes, which is why I need to leave, when the time is ripe.” 

“No. If you leave then it will have to be after the coronation. At least a moon’s turn after.” Elia frowned but she was desperate and would accept any bargain. 

The Dornishwoman was about to reply when Rhaegar spoke again.

“On one condition.” 

“What?” she asked, feverishly. Anything to leave, anything! 

“The children remain here.” Her heart sank in her chest. No, I will not leave them. They are as much Dornish as they are Valyrian. 

“Why?” Elia inquired, steel lacing the edges of her words. 

“I do not trust you,” he admitted and rage began bubbling within her.

“You do not trust me with my own children?” Rhaegar’s eyes widened then and he hurried to speak. 

“I do, you are one of the finest mothers I have ever known, my gentle Elia. However, you are angry and hurt. It grieves me to say it, but it was done by my own hand. I can never apologise enough to make it alright, I am aware.” His voice was sad now, almost like when he sings. 

“Yet... there is no guarantee that you will bring them back. You are gentle and warm but I fear that your rage will make you commit a folly.”

“Like you did? Because of your damned prophecies?” 

“I deserved that,” he smiled, so sadly. 

“This realm does not need to be torn apart by another war. It is time to rebuild, to seal weeping wounds.” What about my wounds? Will they lay and fester until an infection claims them? 

“I would never use my children as pawns, in a game of Cyvasse,” Elia let out, furiously. He thinks this little of me? 

“I know in my heart that you would not. Yet people may whisper in your ear, especially Prince Oberyn. As king, I simply cannot take the risk. Their visit to Dorne will have to wait until we can join you, as well.” 

“You would bring the wolf-girl to my home? Have you not scorned me enough? By taking her to my place of birth, safe and swollen with child. As I was here, in a foreign land with two babes at my arms and a madman peering down at me, from a throne of lies and blood.” 

“I cannot ask for your forgiveness-”

“Good. You do not have it.” Her words were spoken softly and quietly, full of a raw pain. I never wished it to be like this. You willed it so, I am afraid, Rhaegar. This rift between us is courtesy of you. The girl played her part, as well. 

“We will visit Dorne, My Queen. In due time, I will never deny you that.” A tear escaped his eyes. She almost wished to comfort him. Almost. Where was he when Lord Varys visited me? When Aerys threatened me and I had no ally but my children.

“When will Ser Jaime be pardoned?” Elia found herself asking. 

“On the morrow, when the first of the lords will emerge, to swear fealty to me. I will absolve him of his crimes and make him Rhaenys’s sworn shield. I promised you that.” 

“Good,” Elia found herself smiling, the littlest of bit. After that, there was silence until Rhaegar broke it.

“You are a great mother to our children, Elia. I thank the gods each day, that they have you.” The compliment warmed her heart, which was covered in a sheet of ice.

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children.” 

“They are our children, Elia,” her husband said, looking plagued with melancholy. 

“They stopped being your children, when you left them to die,” The queen replied quietly. Her words were haunting but there was a strength to them, a perseverance. I made it, and so did they. 

“Please, that is enough, Elia.” 

“It will never be enough,” she began. “Not for the pain you caused. The girl is young but that does not absolve her of any guilt, either.” Suddenly Rhaegar stood up and moved toward her, then he crouched down and put his head in her lap. He is weeping, the Dornish queen realised. 

“None of my words will ever be enough,” he choked out and she saw the tears, glistening and wet on his cheeks. She despised the way her weak heart wished to hold him, to comfort him-- to stroke that silver-gold hair, the way she did Aegon and Rhaenys’s. 

“I will do everything I can, for you to understand how sorry I am. It was not supposed to turn out like this.”

“No,” Elia began. “Alas it was an Aemon, not a Visenya. What does your prophecies say of that?” Her husband quieted and looked toward her with gleaming, indigo eyes.

“I do not know where it all went wrong,” he whispered, so brokenly. “I thought I had it all right. The comet, the bleeding star.”

“It all went amiss when you began trusting these fickle prophecies of salt and smoke, sacrificing not only your life, but others’, as well, to please it.” Finally, she relented, stroking his hair softly as he clambered on to her, as a dying man would, life. 

“I will stay with you but I simply cannot forgive you,” Elia whispered. “I fear I shall never be the same again.” 

“What did I ever do to deserve you?” her husband asked himself. He felt so unworthy, and justly so. That she was not cursing him, having her brothers rally their armies or stealing away in the midst of the night with their children, was a miracle. King Rhaegar was in awe of her strength, how she had persevered through it all. There were moments when the Dornishwoman broke down, when it had all been too much to take. He took her ire, with no complaints. The king knew that he had earned it, after all. All Rhaegar wished for, was that she would be able to forgive him, in the future. For his queens to get along and be amiable, for their children to live in harmony. What a long way they had left, to go. 

Then, the king moved to kiss her and Elia Martell stiffened. His lips were still as soft, the groan at the back of his throat, still the same. He was so similar, yet so different. It felt pleasant, the queen was not going to lie. His hands on her, gently caressing, the hot breaths tickling her neck. How he utterly embraced her, with his entire being.

However, when she opened her eyes, all she saw was her children. Wounded and bleeding crimson. Their shrill voices called for her. Save us, help us! Then they stilled and were brought in front of the throne, bruised and bloodied. It was too much to take. 

“Stop,” she gasped. “Stop!” the woman repeated, again. “Stop.” Tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. 

“What is wrong?” Rhaegar asked, alarmed. Oh, there is so much wrong. How could I allow this? I promised myself that I would not bend in his arms. It was not that she necessarily craved Rhaegar or that her heart bled with love for him. I loved him once, but now? Where is my heart in all of this? Queen Elia was lonely. She craved love, affection. To have someone else hold the reins and simply allow her to be. 

“I cannot,” she whispered. The beautiful man frowned.

“Why?”  Oh, there are so many reasons why.

“Because all I see when I look at you, is our children. Dead and bloodied and bruised, in front of that cursed throne-- wrapped in those gods-forsaken cloaks, with another king glaring down at them. I hear them screaming, Rhaegar. I hear their pleading and whimpering. It was all so close to happening.” The queen was almost sobbing, the image tearing at her soul, shredding her being into pieces. 

Even Rhaegar was silently weeping. Crystal-like tears, slipping past a pale cheek and then the other. The king rose, silently and sniffled before clearing his throat. 

“It has been an eventful day, My Queen. I hope sleep brings you more comfort than I am able.” Then he moved to depart, his silvery hair glistening in the light of the moon that had risen, high up in the night-sky. 

“I will always be here for you, Elia. Know that, please. Whatever you need,” Rhaegar said quietly before she heard the door close. It was time to bathe, yet she could barely bring herself to do it. The queen called for a servant and for a tub to be filled with water. I hope I do not fall asleep in the bath, that would be most unfortunate. 

The queen did not fall asleep but she was close to, once or twice. The warm water soothed her aching muscles and brought her a sense of peace, of serenity. Elia felt weightless, almost trouble-free, for those fleeting moments. She washed her hair quickly along with her body, then she rose and dried herself. 

Her bed seemed colder now, without anyone in it. There was no Aegon for her to hold in her arms, no Rhaenys to embrace Elia tightly. No man to hug her as if she was the most precious item in the known world. Or woman, for that matter. Elia was never picky. Feeling wanted and loved does not have to entail sex and seduction, it is time people learned. 

At least Rhaenys will have Jaime back. He is a young man and does not deserve to pay for his act of heroism, she found herself thinking.  Yet what made him come to that decision? What did Aerys wish to do? 

Perhaps she’d come to know. 

Queen Elia Martell fell asleep, dreading what things would come to be. 

 




 









Chapter Text

 

 

 

Elia was quietly watching her daughter sing to a sleepy Aegon, when she heard a knock upon the door. I am not dressed for visitors, Elia found herself thinking. Then the Dornish queen wondered who stood behind the wooden door, as she had claimed an indisposition because she did not want to attend King Rhaegar and Queen Lyanna, this day. He is pardoning the lords today and the thought was unsettling. 

The truth of the matter is that Elia was not ill. She simply could not and would not stand there, to look upon the faces of all those who had doomed them to die. Their fighting would not only have cost the lives of  Queen Elia and her children, but most like Dowager Queen Rhaella and the remaining Targaryens’, as well. Poor Viserys who had not yet lived, the babe growing within his mother. They will not lose any sleep over it, I am sure. They’ll receive their pardon from the oh, so benevolent king and be on their merry way. Home to their wives and children whose lives were never in any peril. A hostage or two will be given to the crown, some lands and titles stripped but that is all they will pay for the cost of their betrayal.  

The thought of having to act amiable with Rhaegar and his young queen in front of court, did not sit well with Elia, either. He denied her request to travel to Dorne. I know why he did it, yet I still wish he had not. Queen Elia of all, was weary of the war, the bloodshed, the casualties and the fear. Angry, she was, but not angry enough to start another war, to steal her children away from their father. I suppose this is what it takes to be king, to rule. The Dornishwoman earnestly hoped that her king of a husband would keep his promise, that in due time, they would travel to Sunspear. Oberyn will not take kindly to the northern girl, I am sure, but he will have to choke on his tongue, this once, I fear. She would do all in her power, to dissuade Rhaegar from bringing Lyanna. The people of Dorne will spit upon her, as she passes them by. They do not forget. 

The knock was heard again and brought Elia out of her raging thoughts. 

“Yes, enter,” she called absentmindedly, as she wrapped her orange robe tighter around her body. Rhaenys had begun prodding at her brother, almost waking him from his slumber.

“No, Rhaenys, let him sleep. The gods know it took him long enough to enter it, in the first place,” Elia whispered. Princess Rhaenys pouted but moved away from her brother’s cot, duly. 

A sound of clinking armor made the queen avert her eyes from the Princess and look upward, instead. 

“Ser Jaime,” she breathed and stood up to greet him, offering her hand. The knight kissed it dutifully and smiled but it looked empty, somehow. Rhaenys was a blur of brown and blue, as she ran to clamber atop the Lannister’s legs. 

“My Queen, My little Princess,” he greeted with soft eyes, of the purest emerald. Then, Ser Jaime picked Princess Rhaenys up and placed her in his arms. The girl clung onto his neck and buried her face in his golden curls, mumbling of how she had missed him. 

“I have missed you, as well, princess,” Jaime murmured, stroking her daughter’s back, comfortingly. Some would have been unnerved, by the familiarity which Ser Jaime greeted the Targaryen princess, how it was almost akin to an uncle’s gentleness, or even a father’s. Elia was not fazed, however. It is good that she has someone other than Rhaegar. Prince Viserys was on Dragonstone, Aegon too little to take on the role of brotherly protectiveness. Oberyn is not here, so Jaime will do just as well.  

“What occurred betwixt you and the king?” Elia found herself asking. He turned his cat-like eyes upon her and spoke. 

“The King offered me two choices. To take the black or swear allegiance to the crown, once again, renew my vows and pledge myself to serve as Princess Rhaenys’s shield until he deems me worthy of joining the Kingsguard on active duty. He said Kingsguard serve for life, after all.” 

“I trust you made the correct choice?” Elia asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Else, I would not be standing here, My Queen. I would most like be on a mule, on the way to freeze my arse off, in the cold and dismal north. Alas, it was not a prospect my arse or I, would be inclined toward engaging in.” Ser Jaime covered Rhaenys’s ears before he swore and winked at Elia. The princess simply giggled. “And I have a fondness for the princess. I trust she shall be a benevolent liege, will you not?” he smiled as he loudly whispered into the little girl’s ears. 

“Yes,” The girl giggled. 

“I assume I will feel Balerion’s hot fires, if I am not satisfactory enough?” 

“Balerion!” the girl squealed, squirming in Jaime’s grasp, for him to let her down.

“Mama, can I look for Balerion?” Her doe, lavender eyes were pleading and Elia could not resist. 

“Only if Melly is free to join you. I will not have you wandering the keep alone and I must needs exchange a few words with Ser Jaime.” the knight looked at her questioningly. 

The wet-nurse had just finished a feeding and was more than obliged to join Princess Rhaenys, in her quest to find Balerion, the kitten who was no longer quite a kitten. Aegon was still resting in his cot, too young to understand the words that were to be spoken. It is a kindness, for him to have been an infant at the time of this tragedy and horror. Elia beckoned Ser Jaime to sit down and he obeyed with a cat-like grace. 

“You may remove your breastplate, if it is a discomfort to you,” The Dornishwoman said with a soft frown. 

“How would I protect you then, My Queen? They should simply poke me full of holes,” the man said with a teasing smile. 

“Alright then,” she said and clasped her hands together, not quite sure on what she wished to say. My mind is full of words but why won’t any of them come out? 

“I hope the court is not treating you too horribly,” Elia allowed. 

“They are but sheep,” he waved off, so indifferently. However, she saw something in his eyes, an emptiness swirling around. A thought of how he was destined for greatness, yet ultimately doomed to always be known as the Kingslayer, hereafter. The queen could restore honors and titles, with the help of her husband but she could not sway the minds of men, who had already fashioned their opinions. None of them will ever know what it was truly like, so how come they are allowed to pass judgement? 

“Why did you do it?” her voice was quiet, searching. It seemed almost forbidden to ask. Ser Jaime took long moments to reply, turning ever more melancholy as the moments passed. 

“They all look at me, you know. They spit out the words ‘Kingslayer’ as if a curse. The ones who do not speak, say it with their eyes.” his powerful words resonated with her, on some queer level. The way Aerys would complain of Rhaenys smelling Dornish, how some lords and ladies would look at me, as if I was less than them. Elia nodded a beckoning for him to continue. 

“The whole realm knew he was mad, yet now they pretend he wasn’t. After I killed him. They knew not of his ploys, his twisted mind and what he would do to his own queen. A dragon he was, aye, the most horrid and cruelest of them all. No man would commit such gruesome acts unless he was indeed a beast, within.” The young man’s hand was trembling against his lap, as he recalled the things he had seen, what he failed to stop. Comfortingly, Elia placed her hand atop his, to calm their erratic movements. Green eyes glanced upward and this time, she noted that they were brimming with tears. 

“Burn them all, he chanted. He would not stop. King Aerys thought Rhaegar to be dead, for some queer reason and ordered that Prince Viserys be crowned king, on Dragonstone. Rossart was discussing the substance, how it had been placed in caches, all over King’s Landing.” Elia gasped, putting a hand on her heart, to steady her breath. 

“He was going to kill us all?” Ser Jaime nodded, still glancing at the tiles of marble that graced the floor. 

“Man, woman or child. Let Robert be the king of ashes and charred bones, he said. You see, he believed that through the flames, he would be reborn as a dragon, to breathe his fire atop all those rebels and traitors. I could not allow it. Princess Rhaenys was a girl of three, Prince Aegon barely more than a babe in arms. You, a wronged woman who had no part in this treachery. Then I thought that there were thousands upon thousands more, of you. In their little holdfasts, blissfully unaware of their impending deaths. I may despise this sty of a city but I could not leave it to burn.” His eyes looked cloudy with the fog of remembrance, of pain and a little bit of fear. 

“I did not wish to die either,” Ser Jaime finished, truthfully. Queen Elia had tears running down her cheeks. He sent Rhaella and Viserys to life, but doomed his own son’s children and their mother, to burn? 

“So you killed him?” 

“Stabbed him in the back and slit his throat. Dragon, knight, wolf or boar, they all bleed the same well of crimson. They submit to the sharp edge of a blade, all the same.” Jaime sounded so haunted by it all, so distraught. He is a man of seven-and-ten, is he not? Too young to have witnessed this horror, to have partaken in it. 

“You saved us all,” she replied tearfully, squeezing his hand. 

“Not all share that sentiment, My Queen,” Ser Jaime smiled ruefully. As if it was all some sick and twisted jest. 

“Nothing I say could change the scorn you will face but know this; Each time you look upon Rhaenys, Aegon or I, know that we are here, in thanks to you. Hear her laughter, rejoice in it. Be there as my children grow into adults, knowing you willed it so. Watch me turn into an old crone and find comfort in that you allowed me to.” Her words were burning, sincere and heartfelt, all at the same time. Jaime Lannister found himself wondering how someone could be so selfless. After all, he had only ever bothered to know Cersei and no one could describe her as a humble lady. 

“You are young, still, My Queen,” Jaime smiled. “It will be long before you are a crone.”

“Oh but I am old,” she laughed and tried to have the earlier thoughts of Aerys, death and doom, begone from her mind. It was clear that Jaime did not wish to further speak on it. 

“Not in spirit and neither in body,” the knight said, with a frightening intensity. 

“Oh you flatter me, Ser Jaime, the ever gallant knight.” A darkness appeared in his eyes, then. People must make jests of him, using such words. It had not been the Dornishwoman’s intent to slight. She meant it, even as light-hearted banter. He is more gallant than Arthur was, protecting the she-wolf. The look was gone in an instance, however, as if it never was.

Then, Ser Jaime eyed her with wariness. It looked as if he wished to speak, but was afraid that it might not be his place. He was a knight, after all and in the presence of a queen. 

“You may speak plainly, Ser Jaime,” Elia smiled encouragingly. He smiled nervously and seemed to be gathering his words, searching for a way to formulate it. 

“I am sorry,” he said, finally. 

“Why?” she asked, confused as to the sudden outburst. “You have not wronged me, Ser.” 

“For... For King Rhaegar’s actions, along with Queen Lyanna’s.” 

“Oh.” She did not quite know how to respond. Of course he knows, everyone knows.

“I needn’t your sympathy, Ser Jaime,” Elia said, not unkindly. Her hand was still on his and none of them had moved to retract either. 

“It is not sympathy, My Queen, it is empathy. You are a strong woman, a viper of Dorne, you need no one’s tainted sympathies and false words of comfort.” A soft smile graced Elia’s features, then. 

“It is life, we must needs make due with it.” 

“I trust you had some choice words to offer the king and queen,” Ser Jaime spoke with an easy grace and then he remembered that he was with a queen, not some gossiping ladies. 

“Forgive me, I overst-” 

“It is quite alright, Ser Jaime,” she laughed. “I did.” Both of them shared a secretive smile, full of mischief. 

As if one of them had not slain a king and the other, almost perished. 

A soft cry brought them back to their realities.

“Shall we inquire on my Rhaenys and Balerion, now that Aegon has woken?” 

“I think we should.” 

Unbeknownst to Queen Elia and Ser Jaime, a sort of kindred bond had begun to take root, deep within them both.

***

The days leading up to Rhaegar’s coronation passed surprisingly quickly. Elia had committed to a routine, of sorts. Firstly, she would have her children brought to her, so that they could break their fast together. Once or twice, Rhaegar joined as well but he never brought the wolf-girl. The King knew that it would pour salt into Elia’s wounds, to see the living proof of what shook their lives from its holdfasts and almost succeeded in bringing upon their doom. Rhaegar was not blind toward his wife’s pains but knew that there was no comfort that he could bring her, no sweet or kind words for him to offer. 

The queen remained amiable during these encounters, for she did not wish Rhaenys to begin harboring resentment for her father. Children may be at the cusp of youth, far from understanding the intricacies of life-- yet if I continually scorn Rhaegar, she will learn to do so, as well. The princess was ever her father’s daughter, though that didn’t mean that she would not come to her mother’s defence, should she suspect Elia of being hurt or sad. There was such a humility in her daughter, an ever giving spirit-- not unlike her namesake of old. 

After all Rhaegar had done to her, the slights, the betrayal, the scorn and general unthoughtfulness as to what would become of them, in his chase for those shadows he called prophecies; Elia could not rob her children of their father. Other women would have tried to make their children scorn such a man, to offer them nothing but the potion of hatred and an ugly truth. The Dornishwoman would do no such thing. As long as he treats them according to their worth and love them with all of his wretched heart, he shall face no obstacles from me. She was kinder than that, her heart was not fashioned to hate. 

After the breaking of their fasts, she would take her children out on a stroll. Ser Jaime would accompany them and they would speak about matters of little importance. Then, Elia would have Melly take the children to the nursery and  make her appearance in court, converse with some of the ladies and uphold all that was required of her, as queen. Thereafter, the time for supper came and then she retired to her cold and lonely bed. Of course, some variations occurred, in-between her days. 

Today is the day, I am to be queen. Crowned alongside Rhaegar and that girl. She did not know how to feel, regarding that prospect. In truth, Elia had not felt very different. The only thing worth noting, is that they’ve stopped calling me princess. The work is heavier and more exhausting, yet I welcome these distractions. It helped her to take her mind off all that had passed and her foreign surroundings, of Arthur’s small glances in her direction, Rhaegar’s somber eyes that begged forgiveness, Lyanna and her babe, strolling around the keep. 

I have nothing against Aegon and Rhaenys getting to know their brother. The boy was Rhaegar’s seed and not a threat to his older brother’s crown. It is all I asked for my son, his birthright. That child had not committed any grave a crime, no more than Tyrion the young boy had, or her Aegon and Rhaenys. It is not our fault, what we are born, or who we are born. We are thrown into the world, for better or for worse. With a good name or a bad one, a good body, or a strange one.  

Elia had not forgotten that she was born prematurely, frail and weak. It haunted her life. Sometimes in the dark, lonely nights; she would curse her body. For not being strong enough to bear him another child and spare them all of this trouble. See, Queen Elia knew what it was like to be stared at, to be mocked, humiliated and slighted. She would not wish it upon anyone, even less; a newly born babe. The Dornishwoman treated Lyanna with a cool courtesy, never would she be openly vindictive or strive for quarrels. I am too old and battle-worn for childish squabbles, as long as she does not plot or whisper menacingly in Rhaegar’s ear, I shall stay out of her way. 

For the ceremony, Elia had chosen a gown of lavender, which brought out the warm notes of her skin in a lovely way. It also reminded the queen of Rhaenys’s eyes, the color of a field with lavender flowers. A golden necklace, adorned with rubies graced her neck, alongside a bracelet of obsidian-colored pearls. The gown clung to her body and gave it an almost youthful glow. It reminded her of Ashara. I miss her, the queen thought, sadly. 

Bearing two children had taken its toll on the Dornishwoman’s body. Yet not entirely in the negative manner that one would expect. Her hips had been small before, almost girlish, now they were wider and gave her an hourglass-like shape. She had never had a large bosom but neither was it small and she was quite satisfied with the fact that it had not changed much, either. 

However, stripes of white and red marked the inside of her thighs, the sides of her belly and the gods only knew, where else. Elia’s figure had been frail, almost gaunt before. Now, it was more filled out. Her stomach had remained flat, yet there was still an incessant outward leaning that bothered her. Grand Maester Pycelle had told her that it was normal, the muscles in her belly expanded to birth a child and they would never return to their truest form. The then-princess had taken it with resignation. After all, Rhaegar had been wont to take his pleasure in the dark and had never spoken of it. It almost made her laugh, now. I do not care, it matters not, Rhaegar has the northern girl to content himself with. He needs me not. 

Rhaegar still glanced at her body, even she noticed. Though few and less knew of that side to him. The realm saw King Rhaegar as melancholic, such a beautiful yet solemn man. He was not known to frequent brothels, nor to have bedded many a women-- he was too engrossed in his prophecies to do so. Yet after their wedding, the King soon found that he liked taking his pleasure, as much as the next man. Elia had not disappointed either, nor complained, for that matter. One could argue that the most sane aspect to their complex relationship, had been in the throes of their passion, the midst of their marriage-bed. 

He was a skilled man, she could not deny and those somber, indigo eyes could bring any maid to their knees. It still seemed as if he craved her, last week’s incident bore proof of that. A bitter thought gave its way into her head, however. Mayhaps that was simply because the girl has recently borne a child and needed time to recover, so he searched to me for a carnal release. It made her frown and her heart grow heavy. She did not know what to think of anyone, any longer. It seemed everyone had hidden intentions, reasons for acting certain ways around her. Elia was not naive, it was the way of King’s Landing, yet it seemed there were more viper’s in this nest, now-- some with a familiar face. It gives me a headache. 

A sudden twinge of insecurity hit her, as Ser Jaime brought a newly-bathed and dressed Rhaenys to Elia’s chambers. 

“Mama looks pretty,” Rhaenys squealed to her white knight who nodded. Elia gazed at her own reflection, who seemed a stranger, almost. 

“Beautiful enough for a queen? I am sure the wolf-girl will surpass me. Age is only kind toward the young,” she sighed

Ser Jaime picked a fussing Aegon up from his cot and moved to hand him to Elia.

“You nee-” I was going to fetch him, myself. The knight handed Elia her son, tenderly.

“-You look perfect, a true queen, not a girl playing dress-up. Do not even ask that question here.” Sincerity burned in those emerald eyes. A blush heated her cheeks. It had been so long since anyone had paid her a compliment that was solely for her, it almost made her feel half a girl, again. 

“You are too kind to say so, Ser Jaime.” He only smiled, one would think it as arrogant, if she had not seen the softness that his eyes conveyed. 

“I assume the crown shall be bestowed upon me there.” I hope that Rhaegar had it made accordingly, for it to fit my heritage. If not, she would not deign herself to wear it. Call it childish, rebellious or unbecoming, there were things she simply needed. For him to take her into account, for once. 

“That sounds apt and I believe that the king said so, himself.” 

“You spoke with Rhaegar?” 

“When Princess Rhaenys wished to see him, before our venture here.” 

At the mention of her daughter, Elia looked around the room for the mop of familiar, brown curls. That darned cat that she loves so well.

“Rhaenys, you will get hair on your dress, sweetling. Leave Balerion to his rest.” The sight did put a warm, radiant smile on the Dornishwoman’s face. 

“Come along, Princess. I, your noble steed is waiting.” Elia laughed and the princess giggled so fiercely, skipping to her white knight with glee. Ser Jaime bent down, his golden hair flickering in the light of the sun and her daughter climbed atop his back. 

“Let us depart, then,” Elia allowed, opening the chambers for the Lannister, as he was too preoccupied making sure that Rhaenys was steady and secure. A familiar sight greeted her, yet it was not welcome. Not now. 

“My Queen,” Ser Arthur said. “King Rhaegar has sent me to accompany you to the carriage. The King and Queen are waiting.” Displeasure graced the Dornish queen’s features and she frowned deeply. 

“Ser Jaime will do just fine.” “And I shall be riding in my own carriage alongside my children.” 

“It is the King’s order-”

“And I am queen.” Her words silenced him and he looked wary, unsure on what to do henceforth. Jaime stood awkwardly, still boasting the young princess on his back. Elia swore that she could almost witness Ser Arthur’s eyes narrowing, the slightest of bits. You all knew Aerys was mad. Ser Jaime had more of a backbone than all of you, who stood by and allowed him to do what he did. Do not dare scorn him. 

“There is surely an available carriage outside. Let us depart to check,” Ser Arthur finally spoke.

“We shall not be needing your services, Ser Arthur. Go protect Queen Lyanna instead, you did such a valiant job of it last time, I would not want to be a hindrance.” The Dornishwoman’s words were almost mocking, they burned him, she could see. The way her lost love looked so hopeless, so utterly sad. 

“The king commanded me to see you safely to the Sept Of Baelor,” Arthur said quietly. 

“Ser-” Elia began but Arthur interrupted her. If I had been any crueler a queen, I could have ordered his tongue for the insolence. Yet she was not cruel and Arthur knew. 

“-If you would simply allow me to do my duty, My Queen.” He sounded strained, almost vulnerable. The queen nodded, not wanting to argue any longer. 

Together, with Aegon in her arms, Rhaenys atop Ser Jaime’s back and Ser Arthur in front of them, they left for the exit of the Red Keep, where several carriages would await them. The young princess blathered on in her knight’s ear, unbeknownst toward the tension surrounding them all. Oh, to be as naive and innocent as a child, again. Aegon would from time-to-time turn his purple eyes upon her brown ones and smile. It warmed her heart and gave her the strength to continue. 

Soon enough, they were outside with the blaring sun upon them and too many carriages to count. King Rhaegar’s was plain to spot. His was the only one who boasted only white horses, with ruby encrusted reins. A bit too grandiose, wouldn’t you think? Elia murmured silently. It seemed like Ser Jaime had heard her, for he smiled the tiniest of fraction upon hearing the remark. 

King Rhaegar was standing by his carriage, speaking with the coachman in his lovely tunes. Queen Elia assumed that the Stark girl was inside with her babe. 

“Find us a carriage, Ser Arthur,” Elia spoke, her words as bland as unsweetened porridge. Rhaegar turned when he heard her voice and moved to greet her. 

“Elia, finally,” he smiled but she did not return it. 

“Papa!” Rhaenys squealed and her knight bent down, so the young princess could run into her father’s arms. 

“It was not so long ago that I saw you, my little dragon,” Rhaegar laughed melodically, as his daughter jumped into his arms. It was beautiful, the Dornishwoman had to admit. The bond they shared, the love he bore for his daughter. The first of all his children. None could parallel it, yet... He left her here… to die. The unwelcome thought soured her mood, with the bitter taste of truth. Where was Rhaenys in his mind, when he ran away with a girl who was old enough to have been her sister? There was no answers for that question, she was afraid. 

“Ser Arthur left to find us a carriage,” Elia told him, devoid of any feeling. 

“You ride with us, My Queen,” Rhaegar said, a smile still on his face as he spun around with Princess Rhaenys in his arms. 

“No. We ride alone, with Ser Jaime.” Her husband frowned, then. 

“There is more than enough room in our carriage, it would seem better if we all arrived together, a united front.” 

“I care not about fronts or unification. It is suffocating, to be so many.” King Rhaegar unearthed the hidden truth, beneath her lie. A sadness descended upon him, then. King, he could be, yet he could never force happiness and joy upon his family. He allowed Queen Elia to fret, lest her bitter wounds tear open and bleed afresh. 

“If that is your wish,” he allowed, somberly. 

“It is.” 

“Ser Arthur still rides with you.” 

“Why?” Elia asked. 

“Because I said so.” He was becoming slightly impatient. The struggles of a king, may he feel them all. Oh, it will never get easier,  husband. You have a long road from here. Your war may be won but now the long struggle will begin. The Dornishwoman would not intentionally make his life more strenuous, yet she would not bow beneath him, either. Once, I molded to his touch. I submitted. No more. If he is king, then I am queen. She would do whatever it was that queens did. Rule, seal weeping wounds, forge alliances and betrothals.

“I found one, My Queen. The coachman is readying the horses, come,” Ser Arthur offered his arm but Elia declined, walking beside him, instead. The hurt on his face almost made guilt bloom within her. 

“Rhaenys, come along,” Elia called and the princess ran forth, taking a hold of her white knight’s arm. Ser Jaime smiled and grasped the tiny hand tenderly. Somewhere amidst the bustling crowd of people, Rhaegar called his goodbyes. The queen did not reply. 

Once they were inside the coach, she sighed, wearily. The day has yet to begin but I am already done with it.

“Oh, my sweet, hush now,” she whispered, swaying the weeping bundle in her arms, gently. The inside of the coach was dressed in rich, red velvet, with gold undertones. It was comfortable and Elia leaned against the warm body to her right, closing her eyes and allowing Aegon to play with her loose locks, as it always succeeded in calming him. 

The queen opened her eyes again, when the coach had begun moving, the horses trotting calmly. Inquisitive as to who was at her side, she turned and was met by violet eyes. Oh, no, Elia found herself thinking. Ser Arthur Dayne was glancing at his queen most curiously. Her hair was not done in any intricate, southern styles. It confused him, for his Elia had always been worried that she would not fit in at court, so she tried to behave southern, adopting the styles and customs. Now here she was, with the long curls flowing down her back, braids adorned with precious gems, the way she used to, in Dorne. 

A man sworn to celibacy, Arthur could claim naught but his hand and think of a woman with long, brown hair and dark eyes. Yet the knight still found himself craving her, after all these years. Her beauty was subtle, unconventional. It did not need to be displayed, to be felt--in order to be seen. It was in the way she moved, how she spoke so eloquently and beautifully, the glint of her eyes. When Arthur would catch her off that guard she put up, to keep her safe. Like now, when moments earlier, she had laid content, the dark eyelashes of hers, fanning out across her slightly flushed cheeks, the full lips, slightly parted. 

He still thought of her, in the dark of night as he lay in his bed. How he had loved her but thrown it all away. To serve under a mad king. Arthur still remembered how her hair had smelled sweet of flowers, not too heavy like other maidens would. It was just right, for him. Those soft giggles of hers could have turned winter into summer. Arthur’s fingers twitched as he recalled how her skin had felt soft and supple beneath them, as soft as samite. 

Those moments were lost now but the memories were enough to have his blood run hot through his veins, at the mere thought. It broke the knight’s heart to know that he may never have her forgiveness but felt worthy of the penalty. All the Dayne did, was because he believed in Rhaegar, in his best friend and liege. How it all ended up so horribly wrong, he could not say. All Arthur Dayne, the Sword Of The Morning knew, was that if he could, he would take it all back. He would stay with Elia and protect her, the way he promised all those years ago, in Dorne. 

Rhaegar suspected that things may have occurred betwixt his best friend and wife. Kisses and songs, poems sweetly told-- nothing more, he had promised himself. Elia had given her maidenhead to her horse, years earlier. Those fierce sand steeds were known for their silky mane and sure-footed hooves. It had made sense to him at the time, yet his wife had always been fragile, delicate of health. She lacked the wild nature of Lyanna’s, how could she ride a horse so fiercely that she lost her maidenhead to it? King Rhaegar never dwelled on it too much, it had been recorded, after all. Ever the dutiful daughter, Elia had notified her parents the second it had happened, through terrified screams as she bled onto the pale saddle. The Dornish Princess had been a girl of twelve. 

Neither Elia nor Arthur, Rhaegar’s most loyal friend had given him any intricate words regarding the matter. Ser Arthur told his best friend that he had been fond of the princess but naught else. Queen Elia had relied to her husband that she had given Arthur one or two of her kisses, that they had been close, as Ashara was her closest friend and Oberyn, Arthur’s. King Rhaegar had believed them both, yet was beginning to doubt. He noticed the way his closest friend would eye his wife, the sorry look in his eyes, like a puppy scorned. Ser Arthur having protected Lyanna in that wretched tower, had seemed a more personal affront to the queen. As if it was worse, coming from her old friend.

The coach was still trotting on and Elia’s eyes had not left Arthur’s. She would not look away, she hoped that her eyes haunted him, that they would burn so fiercely that he found no other option, but to look away. Those beautiful eyes had once been her sun, the very line to her life. How sweet it had all been, ten years past. An unwelcome memory found its way to her mind, no matter how pleasant it had made her feel. 


 

“Who let you in?” Elia asked, horrified that her mother would find out. Father will not care but mother will surely flay me, if she hears that I had a man, alone in my chambers. 

“Prince Oberyn,” Arthur smiled and it looked blinding. The princess felt faint, of course Oberyn would do this, she thought, pursing her lips. He knows how fond I am of Arthur. 

“Did he now?” she forced herself to look unbothered, toying with the hem of her nightgown. 

Arthur Dayne looked beautiful in the light of the moon. That silver-gold hair of his glistened ethereally and his eyes seemed more vivid, more purple than she had ever seen them. They always left her breathless, both him and Ashara. How they could have been blessed with such beauty was almost unfair, almost cruel to people like Elia. The Dornish princess never fashioned herself to be very beautiful. She was small and thin, with a delicate health that forbade her to truly enjoy life. 

The curves that Ashara boasted would sometimes bring tears to the Dornishwoman’s eyes. She is tall, as well, with that long hair of pure onyx and those haunting, violet eyes. Ashara could bring men to their knees, with only a quiet gaze. Elia was able to boast no such thing. Doran, mother and father always called me pretty but pretty is not beautiful, now is it? Her younger brother, Oberyn often told her to not invalidate herself, so. 

“A sweet flower is better than one with thorns, sister. Half of the women in Dorne have naught on your clever wit and gentle heart. Look at yourself and see your beauty, it is always shining so bright.” 

“You look lovely, My Princess,” Arthur said, almost stiffly. He was never as quick with honeyed words and compliments as her brother was. Elia had never wished to be more beautiful, than she did in that moment. Both of them were young, Elia a girl of six-and-ten, Arthur, a man of seven-and-ten. Summer was still raging, hot and humid, burying all their sins with it.

“Would you like a cup of wine?” She asked, sweetly and her visitor nodded, grateful to the distraction. 

Elia was suddenly aware of the flimsy shift she was donning, it could almost be seen through and only slid past her upper thighs, with a deep neckline. It is not like there is much to be seen, anyway, she thought sadly. With deft fingers, the Dornish Princess poured her knight a cup and he accepted it with a soft smile and sat down on the edge of her bed. She wished to touch his cheek, to run her hands through his straight, unworldly hair. To feel his skin beneath her hand. Is it too much to ask? 

They had spent hours in each other’s company but now it all felt clumsy, as if they were dancing around each other, not daring to tread too close. Never had he seen her like this and it was all so secretive that it brought a certain thrill to her, she had to confess. It is not often that I defy mother or break the rules. Let it be with Arthur, if it was to ever be. 

“You look handsome, Arthur,” she said softly, casting her eyes downward. The Dayne knight was dressed in a silken tunic and beige breeches, the princess could almost see the outline of his muscles. The raw strength that he possessed. 

“Come here,” he beckoned and she did as she was told. The goblet of wine was stored away on the nightstand. Her gallant knight was tall and lean, muscled but not burly. If Arthur was ever to be a god, then surely he belongs to those of Old Valyria. Elia’s movements were shy but when she reached him, he pulled her into his arms and embraced her, breathing in deeply. 

“I missed you today.” his breaths felt hot against her skin, hotter than the humidity of the eve. 

“Mother forced me to attend her during her duties for the day. She told me Oberyn was a bad influence and that I must needs learn how to do without him.” The princess and her brother were ever close, Oberyn would never treat her as if she was feeble and weak. He brought out a side to her that was rarely seen, otherwise. Everyone danced on a thin line around her, even Arthur, but less so than the others. Oberyn never did any such thing. 

“That is a shame,” he said and kissed her neck. 

Elia had given Arthur her first kiss, a few months past. It seemed only fitting that she give the rest of her, as well. He wishes to wed me. We can have beautiful children of our own and live happily ever after. A childish fancy, the princess must have known, deep inside. Yet sometimes, we refuse to see what will hurt us. She giggled when his teeth tickled the crook of her neck. 

“I love you,” Elia said earnestly, turning her head toward to meet his sparkling eyes. 

“As I do, you, My Princess.” 

“Show me,” she pleaded, unlacing his tunic, revealing the slightly tanned chest beneath. It made her smile. He arrived here, pale as a ghost but now he has garnered some color. It was thanks to Oberyn, she wagered. They would spar in the courtyard, almost daily. Elia would watch Arthur, how his damp hair would glisten as the sun touched it, the sweat gracing his bare chest and back. Her knight would always send coy, almost teasing smiles in her direction as she felt her breath grow short and her body tingle. He is mine, she would think-- and what greater gift could there ever be, than to be loved by a man who was half a god?

There was something so innocent and beautiful about the scene in that chamber. Of a young woman in love, the affections between two people who could never be, but they refused to believe it-- that the world could be so cruel to tear them asunder. They were inexperienced, in mind and soul. The world would harden them, make no mistake. But for now, they were young and would do what they craved. 

“Are you sure?” her knight breathed against her lips, ever so gently. 

“Yes,” she replied, grasping his hair so fiercely. Then a sudden worry took hold of her. Has he done this before? What if I am not like the others? What If I disappoint? All she wanted to do, was to please him. To have his love and devotion. Princess Elia already had it, the knight was completely and utterly besotted with her. 

“Have you done this before?” Arthur looked at her, those pools of pure violet, warming her heart. 

“I have,” he replied and of course he had. Arthur Dayne was beautiful, as comely as a man could be and he had a good heart, a chivalrous nature. It did not surprise her that he was not new to the art of bedding. This is Dorne, someone would have thrown themselves at him, sooner or later. 

“And have you lost your maidenhead?” her love asked but there was no disgust or snideness to his words. The man simply wished to know. The heat of the moment had left the princess feeling playful, almost bold. 

“Yes, I have.” Ser Arthur rose a silvery eyebrow. 

“Oberyn would kill the man,” he replied, amusedly. 

“Alas, it was no man.” That caught his undivided attention. Men, Elia laughed. 

“Who, then?” Elia was to reply but Arthur began kissing her neck, inching downard with his cruel, tantalizing lips. She felt him smile against her skin, no doubt pleased with her reaction. 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” she asked and felt him stand up to place her on the bed, tenderly. 

“I would,” he began, pulling her shift upward and kissing down her stomach, restraining her hands. His lips on her body felt warm as spring, more scorching than summer. But winter comes in the end, for all of us. 

“Was it these?” he asked with his thumbs caressing each of her hands. 

“No,” she shook her head and felt him trail lower, his lips barely brushing over the jut of her hip bone. 

“A woman?” he breathed and she giggled, for he sounded so unsure but not averse toward it, at all.  “I do not know which of those I would be most enticed toward, they are both very rousing prospects” he continued, so perversely that it made her breath catch in her throat. She had never known this side to him, the one full of passion and sin. S ummer and scorching nights bring out the hidden depths of us, she pondered. 

“It was nothing so depraved, Arthur,” Elia said, her words barely more than a whine when she felt his lips kiss dangerously close to her womanhood, and his hands reaching upward to caress the sides of her stomach, leaving shivers in their wake. 

“I was twelve and gave it to my saddle and perhaps by extension, the sandsteed. It was not what anyone would call wanton or rebellious. I was horrified, Arthur,” she laughed, recalling how she had wept to her mother and father. The man chuckled, himself. 

Suddenly, the Dornish princess sat up and Arthur turned to her confusedly. Mutely, the small woman stood up, barely reaching his shoulders as he too, moved to stand. She put her hands on his chest, trailing downward as his muscles heaved up and down. Then, she gently pushed him down on the bed, moving to straddle his waist. He smiled as she leaned down to capture his lips, her long hair tickling his face pleasantly. 

“Who was yours?” Elia asked after breaking the kiss. 

“The first?” he asked and the princess nodded, trailing patterns on his chest. 

“Ashara’s handmaid,” he said, almost shamefully. She kissed his cheeks that had turned a flaming scarlet. 

“What did Ashara have to say on the matter?” The Lady Dayne was no woman to be scorned, even as a girl of four-and-ten. 

“My sweet sister was young, on the cusp of turning one-and-ten. The handmaiden had expressed interest in wedding me. Ashara, young as she was, knew that it could not be. So, my sister dismissed her and told me to not make whores of her attendees.” It does sound like something my Ashara would say. 

“Will you turn me into a woman, Arthur?” Elia whispered into his ear as she leaned down, kissing his jaw tenderly. His hands gripped her waist tightly and he groaned in regards to her ministrations. 

“Only if you wish it so, My Princess,” he began. “I would not want to spoil your virtue. There are other ways to feel pleasant, Oberyn shares too many of them, for me to not learn a trick or two.” Elia shook her head. I want it to be you, my future husband. He was her Warrior and she would be his maiden, it was only right. Not even the gods can deny me this. 

“I want you.” With that said, she removed her shift and saw his eyes widen. 

“Is it so horrible?” Elia felt almost defeated, she wished to be beautiful, with tantalizing curves that could make a man go mad. Instead she was thin, too thin and could not boast a very large bosom or hips. It always gnawed on her and made her wonder why Arthur loved her so. Why he cared for her the way he did. The knight shook his head, reaching out to stroke her cheek with the utmost love pouring through his eyes. 

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever had the pleasure of loving.” Men, they always know the right things to say. 

Then he bedded her and the night was filled with the sweetness of youth, the innocent love of summer. Arthur was tender and sweet but so passionate that he brought tears to her eyes and by the time it was all said and done, she was gasping in his arms, quivering as her heart bled with the utmost love for this man. The man she thought that she would be spending the rest of her life with. That his face would be the last she saw at night and the first in the morn. A lovely dream, it truly was. 

“You are the keeper of my heart, Princess,” Arthur whispered drowsily as he kissed her cheek and fell into the arms of sleep, resting his head against her chest. The princess was too ecstatic to fall asleep, so she contented herself by playing with his hair and cradling him against her, cursing anything, be it man or god, who sought to tear them apart. 

A year later, he joined the Kingsguard. 

A few years after that, she would wed the son, to the king he was guarding. 

Too much pleasure is always pain. They should have known. 


 

“My Queen?” Jaime called, breaking the secret that she and Arthur shared, their bittersweet recollection, in a time forgotten. Those people are dead now, she thought. 

“Yes, Ser Jaime?” Elia asked, turning her head toward the young knight. 

“We have arrived.” Aegon began weeping again, perhaps because of the abrupt stop or the cheering of the crazed crowd, all gathered to see their king crowned, alongside his queens. 

“Oh no,” Elia sighed, trying to shush her babe. “Not now, my love, please not now,” she whispered and Arthur leaned out to put a calming hand on her palm, freezing as he saw how she turned away. It would have broken anyone’s heart, even a knight of the kingsguard. 

“I shall be out in a few moments, Ser Jaime. Bring Rhaenys to her father and tell him we will be there, shortly. When Aegon has calmed down.”  Jaime eyed them both warily but agreed and left, taking the princess with him.

“You can wait outside, Ser Arthur.” 

“The king ordered me to stay by your side, My Queen.” 

“That never stopped you from leaving before, did it?” Aegon’s foul mood was getting to her, as well. She was so tired and wished the ceremony would be quick and easy, with no hindrances. I have no energy to deal with anything else. 

She felt Ser Arthur touch her arm, beckoning her to give him her attention. 

“I could have your hand for that.” She leaned down to kiss Aegon on his forehead, murmuring comforts as he wailed. 

“You won’t,” Ser Arthur began. “I will never have your forgiveness, nor Ashara’s or my own. I did what I thought was right, to serve my liege. If I had known that you would be forced to King’s Landing as a hostage, never would I ever have left you. ”

“He was not your king.” 

“Not yet but he would be.” 

“You betrayed me once and I forgave you. I cannot this time.” Her voice was soft, close to the tears that her son was exuding. 

“I will never forgive myself. I wish it could all have been different.” 

“But it is not, Ser Arthur.” her son had begun settling but not enough to be thrown out in front of the cheering crowds. 

“You need to be careful, Elia. Jaime is a knight of the kingsguard and your daughter’s sworn shield but he is still a Lannister. I have heard whispers of what Lord Tywin had plan-” 

“Planned for us? The ones you left here, to receive the ire of the king and those plans? Ser Jaime has proved more loyal than any of you lot.” She did not wish to be wroth, not now. 

“He broke his vows,” Arthur’s voice was hard as stone.

“You all did!” she raised her voice. “The only one who seems to have kept them, is Ser Barristan.” 

“I am simply warning you, My Queen. Be wary of him, until he is proven to be of the utmost loyalty to the king and yours.” 

“No one warned me of your betrayals, nor Rhaegar’s,” she bit back and the sadness returned to the knight. 

“Who are you, Ser Arthur? Who are you really, anymore?” he always loved the way she said his name, it used to be spoken so softly. Now, there was nothing to her words but sorrow.

“I am still the same man you loved, all those years ago.” he stroked the side of her arm, tenderly and looked toward her son. It could have been his child. Alas, it was never to be. 

The Dornishwoman shook her head sadly, as she rocked Aegon. “None of us will ever be the same.” Tears brimmed in Ser Arthur’s eyes at the bitter truth. Not even Rhaegar knew what the two had shared. Their secrets and forgotten love would die with them. Trust him when he says that he wished it would have been different. The man would have given his sword-arm, to be her husband, to hold and love her at night, to see her swell with his children and be there as age turned them into crones but their love remained an undying force. 

After a few more silent moments, her son finally quieted down. 

“Come along, Ser Arthur,” she sighed and the knight opened the door to the carriage. The stink of King’s Landing assaulted her nose and the chaos of it all, unnerved her. She could see a silver-haired man walking toward her, with her daughter in his arms. The wolf-girl was trailing behind him, as if scared to poke a viper of Dorne, even further. Even though Princess Elia had come without thorns, she had become a little prickly to the touch. It was only to be expected, after all that she had suffered through. Such events harden a person, turning their soft heart, harder with walls that are difficult to break down. It would prove even more difficult, if you were part of the reason as to why she had to put the walls up, in the first place. 

“Are you alright, Elia?” Rhaegar asked, eyeing her and Arthur with a strange curiosity. 

“Aegon was fussing.” Elia looked down toward her son, as she said it, stroking his hair softly.

“The wet-nurse could have taken him,” Rhaegar said, amiably.

“Her name is Melly and I will not part with him, in such a large crowd. I for one, wish to know that my children are with me and safe.” 

“Melly. I shall remember that,” he allowed, softly in his somber voice. His indigo eyes sparkled in the light, making them not blue but not quite purple. 

“It would do you good.” 

Then, they entered the sept. Elia had been raised with the notion that one should pray to the gods, for guidance, for help, for pity, for redemption. The Princess did, but she never truly felt their presence in her heart. Where was the Mother, when she almost died in the birthing bed, or when her children were almost put to the sword? Where was the Warrior, to keep us safe? Where were they? She wished deeply, to know. Yet, Elia still said her prayers, more out of duty and obligation but a part of her knew that she must. It was a miracle that we survived and I will treat it as such. 

The statues of the gods loomed in the entrance, large and almost terrifying, in some queer way. The High Septon greeted them all, even the wolf-girl who stood shyly in the corner. 

“These are not my gods,” she heard the girl whisper to the king. 

“And this is not your home, you must needs make due with it, as everyone else has. Go plead forgiveness to your gods in the weirwood later, but now I fear you must commit a little apostasy, for the good of the realm,” Elia told Lyanna Stark, who eyed the Dornish queen with a morbid curiosity. It had been the first time that Elia addressed and spoke to her directly, ever since she had come to King’s Landing. 

“You are right, My Queen. I shall speak no more of it.” Rhaegar smiled nervously at the High Septon, who looked confused. 

“It has been long since the realm saw two queens,” The High Septon began, in a quivering voice. 

“Now, the time has come,” Rhaegar said, smiling so beautifully that even the gods were put to shame. 

“Indeed, My King. Let us begin.” So it was, that Rhaegar was anointed by the High Septon and proclaimed King, in front of all King’s Landing. What a sight he was, standing tall with the crown of rubies on his head. It will turn heavy, before long, Elia found herself thinking as her son toyed with her hair and Rhaenys looked toward the scene in awe, clutching both her mother and Ser Jaime’s hand. 

Then it was Elia’s turn to have the crown placed atop her Dornish head. She bowed in front of Rhaegar gracefully, her purple skirts touching the floor, making her seem as if she had risen from the underworld, and did her duty. She did not have time to see the crown, I will simply ask Ser Jaime what it looks like, later.

“You may rise, Queen Elia of House Martell,” Rhaegar beckoned her and she stood up. The crowd cheered almost as loudly as they had for her husband. A happy smile touched her lips, for the first time in so long, she had felt as if the people may love her, as well. It was not Dorne, but gods, did it come close. 

Lyanna was dressed in an embroidered, silvery dress with black detailing, her skin devoid of any jewelry or gems. When Rhaegar called upon her, it seemed as if the world was holding its breath. It had almost not seemed real to Elia, or the people of King’s Landing, until Lyanna stood bowed before her husband, ready to be proclaimed queen. The Dornish queen recognised that Lyanna’s queen seemed to be of silver, with ornate leaves of weirwood, circling around it. It is a beauty, Elia confessed. 

It might have been made of ornate blue roses, had they not been the symbol of his first wife’s scorn, as he had crowned Lyanna the Queen Of Love And Beauty. King Rhaegar, as naive and unknowing he may be, would not do that to Elia. She would surely have left him, then. The Dornishwoman noted that the crowd did not cheer as loudly, for their northern queen. Strangely, the act did not bring pleasure to Elia, she nearly felt bad for the girl.

There would be a great feast to celebrate the coronation and Elia did not wish to attend, yet it was required of her, as queen. She would offer them her prettiest and most false smiles, to pretend that she was happy and content . They never want to see that which is underneath, anyway. The court of King’s Landing was ever the viper’s nest, full of lies and falsehoods, she would not stand out by acting against herself. It is only an eve, then I will be free of the largest mummer’s farce, at the least. 

This time, she was forced to sit beside Rhaegar and his young wife, as they were displayed, riding through the cheering crowds, to the Red Keep, where the feast was awaiting. Elia did her part, what was asked of her. She smiled at the commons, beckoned Rhaenys to wave and proudly displayed her son, allowing the people to take part in his childish giggles, full of mirth and joy. Queen Elia, they shouted. King Rhaegar! King, King King, Queen, Queen, Queen, Prince, Princess! Their cheering seemed endless but she knew it was not true, that it was fickle. The commons cheer for rain, for endless summers and true love. It is all a lie, an illusion. But let them have their comforts, if it warms them at night.  

***

Elia was saying goodnight to her daughter, when Ser Jaime mustered up the courage to speak. 

“My Queen,” he began. Elia turned her dark, liquid eyes of the earth onto his emerald ones. 

“Yes, Ser Jaime?” Elia inquired as Rhaenys clung to the Dornishwoman, like a gown in the fiercest heat. 

“Do you wish me to… to speak with Ser Arthur? Sometimes it seems as if h-” 

“-You may return and we shall speak of this privily.” Rhaenys was a young girl but some things should not be spoken about, in the presence of a child. They pick up on more than we give them credit for. Let her be free of my sorrow, troubles and pain, let it be my gift to her. Ser Jaime nodded. 

“Goodnight now, my sweet. Balerion is waiting and you know how much Aegon fusses, when you are not there to comfort him.” Rhaenys nodded dutifully, letting go of her mother and taking Ser Jaime’s arm. 

“Love you,” she heard her daughter’s voice echo throughout the halls. 

“As I do, you,” Elia called and almost thought she heard Jaime laugh good-naturedly, at the little princess and her queen of a mother. 

The queen busied herself by combing her hair until the knight returned. She felt that she owed him an explanation, even though she knew that she didn’t. The young knight seemed worried for her and she would do her best to quiet them, lest he get the wrong impression of Elia and Ser Arthur. The muscles in her back was aching, her neck felt stiff from wearing the crown. The crown! She realised that she hadn’t peeked at it all day, nor asked anyone what it looked like. 

Carefully, she removed it from its nest atop her head. It took the breath away, it truly did. The crown was wrought in yellow gold and adored with little flares that contained rubies within each. It looked similar to Rhaegar’s, except he wore the Valyrian steel circlet of Aegon the conqueror. Elia realised that the flares and rubies reminded her of the sigil that House Martell boasted and somehow… the thought that Rhaegar had actually cared to put her origins into the crown, warmed her heart, a little. He did the same for the wolf-girl, you are not so special as you think, a snide voice inside of her chided. Ser Jaime’s knock brought her out of her impending melancholy. 

“Enter, Ser,” Elia said and watched as the door opened. She grabbed the pitcher of wine and poured two goblets of the Arbor Gold. Jaime eyed her with a strange intensity as he drank.

“Now what was it you were wondering?” The young knight gulped a little, as if his words were hard to express. 

“Do you wish me to speak with Ser Arthur? For him to stop acting as if he has the right to touch, defy or interrupt you, My Queen?” She admired his courage, she really did. It takes a lot to defy the very man who knighted you, the one who brought you into greatness. 

"Oh, Jaime,” Elia sighed, softly, forgetting about courtesies and such for now. His eyes looked large and unknowing, near the innocent ones of a child. He forfeited his life so young, why? It broke her heart to see and think of all he had to suffer through. Aerys’s snide remarks and scorn, to hear of the plans he had to burn King’s Landing. To look upon my daughter and son’s faces, knowing we’d all meet the same gruesome end. It was tragic, truly. He is but a boy who was forced to harden into a man, far too young. 

“Do you?” the Lannister inquired.

“No, sweet Jaime. You do not have to.” He eyed her questioningly. 

“Ser Arthur and I have a history,” she explained. “We knew each other in Dorne and were close friends but he betrayed me, he left us here. I simply cannot trust him.” 

“Then why do you allow him to treat you with such familiarity?” “My Queen,” he added. 

“Because he is familiar, Ser Jaime. No matter how much I would try to hate him, I simply would not be able to,” she began. “My heart still bears love for him, yet sometimes, not even love is enough to quench certain betrayals. There comes a time when it is not easy, when we must choose. Stay or leave. Love or hate, plead or refuse. Free or condemn.” Jaime gazed at her whilst he nodded.

“You make fair points, My Queen. Rational, as always.” 

“This court would have torn me to pieces, if I was not able to think rationally, Ser.” 

“Doesn’t it hurt?” he asked her, suddenly. As if her words had brought out something within him that had been hidden but found its way to clamber to the surface. 

“It does.” “However, sometimes, we have to let go of the things we cherished in the past because they are not what we know, any longer.” Jaime seemed disquieted by that, as if he had ghosts of his own to deal with. 

“I thank you for your wisdom, My Queen.” Elia laughed a sweet sound. It almost reminded the knight of his sister’s sweet giggles and laughs.

“You make me sound like an old crone.” 

“I can assure you that no crone would be so lovely.” Jaime smiled but it looked empty, somehow. As if he was far away, in his own mind. 

“I bid you good eve, Ser Jaime. I trust I will be seeing you in the morn?” The knight nodded.

“Goodnight, My Queen.” Then he left, leaving her to the empty, eerie chamber of hers. 

It was not long before another visitor would emerge, however. As the Dornish queen had donned her shift and was ready to depart into a restless slumber, she heard a soft knock on her door. Elia donned a robe and opened the door, she was met with Lord Varys’s powdered face. 

“Lord Varys,” Elia greeted and he tittered so sweetly. 

“My Queen,” he replied, softly. 

“To what do I owe this visit?” Elia asked the eunuch, not unkindly.

“Perhaps we should speak more privily, My Queen.” Elia looked to the guards outside her door and nodded, allowing the eunuch passage in. 

She closed the door with a creek. 

“Would you like a goblet of wine?” Elia asked out of courtesy, knowing he’d deny. 

“Oh no, I must say that wine does not agree with me, during the late eves.” 

“We all have our quirks, Lord Varys,” she replied with a soft smile. She was quite fond of the eunuch, if only they had met during better circumstances.  

“How does it feel to be a Queen? Crowned and worshipped?” he asked her. 

“Not very different from being a princess, I fear.” The eunuch giggled softly at that. 

“Perhaps you were already a queen, simply with a princess’s title.” 

“Oh, I do not know about that,” Elia replied, humbly. 

“Please sit, Varys.” Kindness would get one far in the world, if it was used in the right way. Elia had no wish to make an enemy of the eunuch, he was ever ambiguous in his leanings but she hoped that he was in her favor. To will it so, she would have to appear as good as possible. It was not hard for the princess, it was her nature. 

“How are you faring with Queen Lyanna and her little pup?” Varys asked. 

“You must surely have known that they were arriving,” Elia countered with a raised eyebrow. 

“Oh my little birds whispered, they did. They sang of a girl with a babe, trailing after King Rhaegar and his army, yet I was told naught of her name or status.” His pale, blue eyes, so common for the Lyseni, glimmered as he spoke. 

“Interesting,” Elia allowed.

“What do you mean to do now, My Queen?” 

“In regards to what?” she smiled. 

“The king and queen, the new heir, and all these changes.” My dear spider, I wish you could be my confidant, yet you are loyal to no one but the realm. If I go against the realm, then you will go against me. How will I ever know what is right and wrong, when you whisper so sweetly in my ear one moment and conspire against me, in the next? Her heart did wish to trust him but her mind knew better. I am not planning anything. I will live, for my children, for me. So long as they are content, then so am I. 

“Lord Varys,” Elia began and he hummed. “I respect you and you shall have my eternal gratitude, for coming to aid my son, aiding me with information and helping us. Words cannot express how grateful I am.”

“You flatter me, My Queen,” Varys said and she suspected he would even have given her a blush, if his face had not been covered in the powder. 

“But all my secrets cannot be yours to keep,” her voice was smooth as honey. “If I tell you, then who will you tell?” 

Varys nodded efficiently, smiling at her words. 

“You are an admirable woman, Elia of House Martell. You will make a fine queen,” the spider spoke, softly.

“Now who is flattering who? You will make me blush, Varys.” Elia smiled sweetly at the eunuch. They were speaking as if she had not been weeping in front of him, a week past, having to come to terms with not only the loss of her life but her daughter’s, as well. 

“Well, now I shall bid you goodnight, My Queen and allow you to rest. Lord Stark will arrive within the week, to swear fealty to your husband.” He will? 

“I thank you for the notification, Lord Varys. There is always room for you in my heart.” it was her way of telling him; so long as you help me, then I can help you, too. 

“You are too kind to say so. Farewell, My Queen.” 

“Goodbye, Lord Varys.” 

After the eunuch left, Elia meant to sleep, she truly did. An idea festered within her, however and would not relieve its grip of her. She sat down by her desk and lit one of the candles, grabbing parchment, a quill and some ink. 

 

“I hope this letter finds you well, brother. Much has happened and I long to see your face again, to be reminded of something akin to home. Rhaenys and Aegon will need to meet their family and what better way, than you travelling here? 

 

Do bring your paramour, I have a wish to meet her. We have much to discuss, Dorne must surely be different from when I left it. 

 

Do not forget to give Doran my greetings and Arianne all of my kisses.

 

Your devoted sister, 

Elia. 

 

She sealed it with their sigil, the burning sun and spear of House Martell. Oberyn has a keen eye, he will read between the lines. Much has happened and there is much to discuss. He can also not ignore a queen’s summons, even if he did not wish to come. When Elia heard that her brother had taken a paramour, she was not shocked. Oberyn was never the sort to tie himself down. The queen was truthful when she said that she wished to meet the woman who ensnared her brother’s unruly heart.

Rhaegar will surely not be pleased, for he knows Oberyn will be wroth. Perhaps that was why she was inviting her brother. After all, the wolf-girl’s brother was coming to the capital, why not hers? If I am to be surrounded by strangers and vipers, may it at least be one I know and trust. May I at least have one that is loyal to me. 

If Rhaegar would not bring her to Dorne, then she would bring Dorne to them,

in all of its great glory.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“What is the meaning of this?” Rhaegar demanded angrily, after having burst into her chamber, unannounced. Elia may have casually let slip to Ser Oswell that she had invited her brother, Prince Oberyn to court. I knew he would turn to his master, loyal as can be and notify him of this. How Ser Oswell had brilliantly fallen for her ploy brought her a certain amount of childish glee. 

“Of what?” Elia asked, as if she did not know. 

Rhaegar was fuming, his skin had turned flushed and he was biting his bottom lip with a fierce intensity, a bad habit of his. However, it did nothing to dull his loveliness. Though what is beauty truly worth, when it comes down to it?

“You invited your brother here, without my leave!” Rhaegar gritted out, running a hand through his silvery hair, almost pulling on it. It is intriguing to see that he can still display other traits and feelings than melancholy and treachery. 

“I thought i’d notified you of that, husband,” Elia frowned, feigning ignorance. 

“Do not play those games with me, I am your king! You knew very well what you were doing.” Do not dare turn this on me, as if I am the villain of this cursed story. 

“Tell me, My  King,” Elia spit. “Did you notify me before you shamed me at Harrenhal? Did you tell me that you were going to run away with little more than a child, as I was recovering from birthing you a son, which nearly killed me?” If he wants to act as if I slighted him, then he shall have a taste of my ire, as well. 

“That is not the topic of discussion! I have apologised, I can do little more. You had my word, we were going to travel to Dorne. Once my throne was secure and the realm; stable.” Rhaegar sounded defeated, as he oft did when she brought the topic of his betrayals up-- Though iron still laced his words.

“You were going to bring her .” The final word hung between them like a dark shadow. 

“She is my queen, as well.” indigo eyes burned into her as he spoke his sentence, almost sheepish regarding it. No, you will stand for what you did. 

“By your doing.” 

“Why did you have to do this, Elia? Was it to scorn me, to show me a sliver of your anger?” Oh, you have not seen anything yet, Rhaegar. Be glad that I am sparing you of that. 

“Everything is not about you, Rhaegar, believe it or not. I miss my family, of being surrounded by people who care for and love me, my children excluded.” 

“They are our children and damn it, I care for you! Why will you not see?” 

“Because you left us to die!” She relished in the argument, that he gave her more than his sad and pitiful glances. By being angry, he shows me that he is human, at the least. 

“I did not know you would be harmed!” 

“How could you be so naive?” Elia sneered. “For a supposedly clever man, you really are thick on the occasion.”

“I was blinded by-”

“-Faith,” Elia spit out the word as if a curse, “By your precious she-wolf, by your cock inside of her-- it matters not!” Elia was sure that both Ser Jaime and Ser Arthur that were guarding the door, heard their exact words. We are not exactly discrete but they are sworn to secrecy, bound by vows. It matters not, let them hear me rage and scream, I have earned it. 

“Prince Oberyn has a way of making friends out of enemies, I hope you know what it is you are doing.” Rhaegar was warning her, she realised. He is telling me that no mercy will be bestowed upon Oberyn, if he misbehaves. 

“Oberyn knows better than to conspire against you, he would gain nothing.” 

“He would gain justice for you, for his niece and nephew. The man is a viper if I ever saw one and he is waiting to strike, Elia.” 

“Which was why I asked to travel to Dorne, to calm his mind!” she paused to collect her breath. “Not for you,” she spit. “But for our children’s prosperity, for peace in the realm. I saw this war firsthand, whilst you were fucking a girl in a tower, that need I remind you, was located in my homeland!” The words stung him, she could see. Based on the way he winced as she swore. That is what you were doing, fucking, as we were dying. 

“I never forbade you to go, I simply stated that the children remain here!” Elia stalked up to the tall man, clad in her red robe, as vivid as her rage.

“How could I ever leave my children again, after what you put me through? I had to dig their graves whilst they were still alive! Do not pretend as if they crossed your mind.” Her voice broke at the ends and Rhaegar moved to touch her but she winced, as if he was going to strike her. 

“You think so lowly of me?” he asked, aghast. His indigo eyes burned fiercer, in the dim light of her chamber. The Dornishwoman averted her eyes away from her husband, onto the floor.

“I do not know what to think of you anymore, Rhaegar.” 

“I would never strike you, it is unbecoming of both man and king.” she wanted to believe him but she had seen the remnants of Aerys’s inflictions upon Rhaella. 

“That never stopped your father,” she whispered and Rhaegar turned sad. 

“No. it did not.” 

“You ruined our lives,” she said, evenly, no longer yelling but the rage was still within her, ready to emerge at any given moment. 

“What life did we lead? Hiding from my father on Dragonstone? Fearing his ire and longing for his departure.” Rhaegar would never openly say that he had wished his father dead but there had been moments… She had seen the way her husband’s eyes had grown dark and cold as they presented the mad king with their daughter. He said she smelled Dornish and I could have sworn that I saw Rhaegar touch the hilt of his sword. 

“A life that was not plagued by war or pain, death and the fear of it. We may not have had the best life but it was pleasant and comfortable, it was enough!” Elia hissed at the silver-haired man that stood so righteously in front of her. 

“Oh, but forgive me,” she laughed, a bitter, dry and horrible sound that he never again wished to bear witness to. The utter contempt and sadness in it, sliced through King Rhaegar’s heart, tearing into his soul. “It was not enough for you, Rhaegar of House Targaryen, the man burdened with such a glorious purpose!” 

“None of my words will ever be enough for you, so why must you keep incessantly bringing it up?” he demanded, his smooth voice loud enough for anyone down the hall to hear. 

“Because even though you have such pretty eyes, you still do not SEE!” her chest was heaving and she was breathing hard. Elia saw something change in his eyes and it frightened her, for she could not interpret it. Nonetheless, she continued. “Your pretty words and poetic slurs will not excuse what you did. If you do not comprehend the severity of your actions, then none of your pleas for pardon could ever be sincere!” 

Elia moved to the door, ready to ask him to leave.

“I think it is-” suddenly she was pinned against the wall, with a fuming Rhaegar in front of her. The queen almost wished to spit in his face, to retaliate and show him that she would never bend. Instead, she gasped and felt his lips on hers. A strange idea festered within her. Fine! fine, she thought feverishly. If you will not SEE, then I shall show you. I will show you. 

His kiss was bruising, full of an unexpressed rage and fervent drive. Their teeth clashed but it mattered not, it made her feel. To not focus on anything other than what was happening within her body. The Dornishwoman felt him bite her lip, almost painfully but it turned sweet with pleasure as he ran his tongue along it, soothingly. Rhaegar’s hands were elsewhere, underneath the silk of her robe, running his hands along her body, burning hot like a raging fire.

Somewhere along those lines, Rhaegar moved on from her lips, trailing beneath her jaw and down her neck, grazing his teeth along her skin, making her shiver. The situation was so horribly wrong but that did not mean that it didn’t feel good. Elia was almost ashamed that she was enjoying it, to be touched by a man after so long. A part of her wished to abandon that clever notion of hers, in search for a carnal release but she needed him to see, to understand. Her anger was greater than her lust. The betrayal she felt was stronger than the want. 

He was sucking harshly and biting at her neck, leaving little bruises and light marks as he went. The feeling was intoxicating, somehow and Elia could not help but mewl a sound of pleasure.

“Gods, I missed you,” Rhaegar breathed, yet it sounded almost like a growl. Whatever you say, husband. Me, or my body? What name was she supposed to call? Rhaegar who betrayed and shamed her? Arthur who betrayed her less severely but twice, nonetheless? Or someone else, someone she knew naught of yet? A comely stranger with hair like the Dragonlords of old? None of it mattered now. 

Elia pulled at her husband’s hair so fiercely that he growled and she smiled, he proceeded to place tantalizing kisses that had travelled down to the swell of her breasts. Suddenly, Rhaegar picked her up and placed her on the great wooden bed, with the red canopy and intricate, wooden carvings. The commotion that they were making, along with the depraved sounds was simply absurd. 

With furious fingers, Rhaegar unlaced his tunic as Elia worked on his breeches. When that was off, her husband turned to her with eyes intoxicated by sin.

“Your turn.” Then, pale fingers all but ripped the robe apart, unveiling nothing but skin beneath. The king sucked in a sharp breath and then kissed her with a furious kind of passion as his fingers toyed with her curls that laid like a veil of darkness atop the crimson pillow. 

Deciding she’d had enough of his antics, she turned him around so that she was straddling his waist. His indigo eyes burned more clearly than ever before yet they were almost masked by large, black pupils that made him look unworldly in the candlelight. Elia ran her hand along his muscled stomach, earning a hiss or two and a sharp grip around her waist, as she used her nails, almost drawing blood. Rhaegar always liked pain with his pleasure. He said it was the greatest way to truly feel. She wondered if the wolf-girl knew. The Dornishwoman leaned down to kiss his neck, leaving a scarlet crimson mark. A badge of both their sins. Queen Elia shared the replicas. 

Concluding that they had enough of the tantalizing play, she sank down onto him and the feeling made her oddly reminiscent of their happier times, on Dragonstone. It had been so long.

“Elia,” she heard Rhaegar hiss as she began moving. It felt good, almost as if she was whole again, in some perverse way. It was not in thanks to Rhaegar, because she suspected it would have felt the same, even if a man such as Arthur or Ser Jonothor had been beneath her. 

“Am I pleasing my king?” Elia asked with a steadying hand to his glistening chest. She decided to move slowly, to make him truly yearn for release.

“Please,” he begged with those eyes of both purple and blue. Rhaegar does look enticing when he pleads so prettily, like a Lyseni whore in a brothel. The king’s eyes almost rolled into the back of his skull and he dropped his head onto the pillows with a loud groan of utter bliss, as Elia moved gracefully, like a water-dancer on top of him. 

“Does that feel good, Rhaegar?” she asked, her words thick with lust and honeyed with passion. Her husband nodded fervently with closed eyes, biting his lower lip until it turned scarlet and glistening with the indents of his teeth.

“Don’t stop,” he begged, holding her hips with his large hands and meeting her every thrust, with one of his own. They do say that lust is poison. A slightly cruel smile touched her lips as she tried to stifle a moan. I have a surprise, you will see in due time. 

Rhaegar’s hands wandered from her hips, to her stomach and up to her breasts. The king was looking as if he had been blessed by the very gods, as if he had found his salvation in that wooden bed. Has it truly been that long for him?

“That feels pleasant doesn’t it?” Rhaegar nodded and by the sounds of his more frequent groans, was nearing his release. Elia was not far from hers, either. But sacrifices have to be made, when one is proving a point. 

“Now you know how I felt,” she breathed. “Our life was pleasant, like this,” the queen explained, rolling her hips. “But then you had to take it all away.” Rhaegar snapped his eyes open at that, mere seconds away from a mind-numbing release. 

“It was a shame, really,” Elia let out softly, but then, as gracefully as she’d climbed on top of him, she departed just as he was to spend, leaving him close screaming and even nearer a fit of rage. 

She hoped he would not touch himself to completion. That would ruin this entire point that I whored myself out for, in order to make. Yet that was not her husband’s way and she knew. 

“What the fuck, Elia?” he raged and looked quite like Aegon when her son was denied a sweet. Do not look so petulant, make due with it. Like I did. 

“All my words fell on deaf ears. I decided to show you,” she smiled sinfully. “All that rage, the confusion, the sadness, the longing and heartache, is but a poor representation of what I had to suffer--have to.” 

“You are my wife, how can you be so cruel?” Rhaegar asked, breathing hard as he gazed at his wife. She had not moved to don her robe yet and was leaning against the vanity, her long hair a curly mess and swollen lips--  with light teeth and red marks on her neck and shoulder. Rhaegar fared no better, with thin stripes of scarlet dripping down his chest and stomach, harsh, purple and red marks on his throat that clashed with his pale skin. 

“No,” Elia shook her head. “How could you be so cruel?” her husband simply stared at her, almost shaking with anger and confusion and longing. Good, Elia smiled. Finally you know how it feels, you did not yet see, but you felt.

With an angry grace, her husband moved to don his clothing but left his tunic unlaced. He seems more burdened, though, as if this really made him think. Then he walked toward her and spoke quietly, yet the words were strange, both ice and fire. 

“I have allowed you time to fret and am not indifferent or blind to your pains and struggles. I care for you deeply, Elia. I hope that one day you can forgive me, but I will understand if you don’t.” His hands brushed some hair away from the nape of her neck, softly touching the marks and bruises that their sins left behind. “You will not openly defy me or scorn me,” he said as his other hand brushed against the swell of her breasts, making shivers erupt on her body. The Dornishwoman hated it, the way he was able to garner such a reaction from her body, with only a touch, the merest hint of a caress. 

“It is one thing behind closed doors and away from prying eyes. I can stand for that but I will not allow you to make a fool of me, in front of the court. My rule rests upon quicksand, still, we need to put up a strong facade for all the doubters. Can you do that for me?” His last words were a wicked whisper, his scalding lips barely brushing against the lobe of her ear. Elia did not respond. Her husband’s hand travelled down to the inside of her thigh, gently caressing. 

“I have never cast doubt upon your presence openly, I am not so foolish.” Rhaegar almost smiled. 

“To some extent, you have. I allowed it, for you were hurting and I was the one who had caused it. Now, I am a crowned king and there is no time for such mummery. The open refusals to do what I ordered will have to stop, Elia. If I say ride with Lyanna, Aemon and I, you will do so, without scorning my Kingsguard for obeying my commands.” He spoke with the voice of a king. The Dornish queen could not recall when it was that she lost her gentle and sweet-spoken Rhaegar, to this strange new version of him. Perhaps I never had him, to begin with. 

“That girl is the face of our pain, the very embodiment of our struggles. What ran through your mind as you wed her? Surely not us, your family. Was it that she was sweet and fresh? A wild flower, ready to be plucked? Did she fuck you like a Lyseni courtesan, was that it? I can not for the life of me, figure out how she managed to ensnare you like this.” Elia’s voice was taunting and she felt his grip on her thigh tighten, as the other continued to wander on her neck. 

“Don’t,” her husband warned and there was fire swirling in those indigo eyes, there was. 

“Or did you think that I would be pleased? That I would embrace her with open arms? The child is blameless, but neither you or that wolf-girl are.” The queen dragged a finger along the parts of his exposed chest, watching as it reddened beneath her nail. “Perhaps you thought that because I am Dornish,” she hissed, “That I would enjoy it, that you could have to queens to share your bed. The prophecy never demanded that you wed her.” 

“It wasn-” 

“-You would like that, wouldn’t you?” she asked, scornfully as she moved her hand downard and felt that he was still hard. “To watch one wife with the other one’s head beneath her thighs, knowing that both belonged to you?” Men, highborn or low, kings or peasants, they all think with their cocks, she bitterly thought as she pursed her lips.

Rhaegar looked down, pouting, as if ashamed because he knew that her words held meaning. “You are still a man, no matter how many think you a god.” 

“It is not like that, Elia,” he whispered, sounding weary and defeated. The Dornishwoman laughed dryly. 

“Oh but it is, Rhaegar. It is.” 

“I love you,” he said, leaning down to kiss her jaw. 

“If you did, then why did you leave us?” Her question did not require an answer. 

“Begone, Rhaegar.” Elia slid away from his grasp and found herself missing the warmth.

“Return to that child you call your bride.” she swallowed and donned her robe, sloppily tying it around her waist, leaving too much of her bosom on display, for her own liking. I can’t be bothered to care, not at this hour. “I am sure that she is patiently awaiting you.” Her husband looked equal parts sad, scorned and angry, however that may look like. He gave no reply, but simply strode toward the door. 

Suddenly, he froze and turned around, his silvery hair swaying gently. 

“Tell your brother to behave. Prince Oberyn will not be spared a sentence on the account that he is your blood, make sure that he is aware,” Rhaegar said in a quiet voice. 

“But you will pardon the wolf-girl’s brother,” Elia sneered.

“He is the last grown branch of House Stark that remains, thanks to my father. The young Benjen has joined the Night's Watch and Lord Eddard’s son is still a babe in arms. They’ve paid for this war.” 

“So have we,” Elia replied, angrily. “10,000 spears, was that all I was worth? My uncle died for this war that you caused. I blame you for it, and her.” 

“I know,” Rhaegar began. “But it will not excuse Oberyn if he commits a folly, make sure that he knows.” She wanted to slap him, she did. 

“Think back to this night, husband,” Elia spit. “Recall your emotions, for that is how I felt after you ruined us. No words can ever excuse that.” 

“And mayhaps have your wolf-girl deal with that. They do breed them wild, in the north, do they not?” she pointed toward the bulge in his breeches. It was cruel, she knew but she was angry, so very angry at all the injustice.

“Goodnight, Elia. I will see you in the morn,” he sighed and opened the door. Elia moved toward it as well, ready to close it behind him. Her husband gave her a disapproving look when he saw that both Ser Arthur and Ser Jaime glanced at her exposed skin, however quickly it was, before averting their eyes forward. Arthur rose the barest hint of an eyebrow when he saw what state the king was in, and then at Elia’s cruel smile. 

“Good eve, husband.” Rhaegar did not reply, he merely nodded without looking at her. 

“Come Arthur,” he snapped and Elia had to stifle a giggle. 

“Yes, My King.” 

Ser Jaime turned to Elia with a shocked expression and a youthful look in his eyes, as if he wished to laugh. 

“What did you do?” the Lannister whispered, almost to himself, for he knew that he had no right to ask such questions. He was merely there to guard her through the night. 

“I unburdened my heart,” she smiled as she watched Ser Arthur and Rhaegar’s departing bodies, a blur of silver and armor. 

“It must have been one hell of an unburdening, from what I heard,” Jaime allowed with sparkling eyes. “I thought Ser Arthur’s vein would pop in his forehead and the King looked to have fared no better.” 

“Make your assumptions, good ser,” she smiled. “But know that you cannot share them with anyone, or I fear the price will be your life. And I have grown rather fond of your presence, Rhaenys would miss you even more, i’d wager.” The knight nodded, chuckling softly. 

“I heard nothing, nor did I see anything but you should perhaps tie your robe tighter next time, My Queen. Or I fear Ser Arthur will faint like a maiden in distress.” Elia giggled, even though she knew that she shouldn’t laugh. It feels nice to be carefree, if only for a few moments. 

“Good night, my good Ser. I shall see you in the morn.” The Dornishwoman moved to close her door.

“Good night, My Queen,” Jaime said with a gentle smile. 

***

When Lord Stark arrived, Elia was feeding Aegon some mashed bananas, which he duly enjoyed, based on his wide, purple eyes and frequent smiles. 

“Your presence is required in the throne room, this day, My Queen,” Ser Oswell said, after having been sent to fetch her by the king. 

“Why?” Elia asked, frowning softly. “I was there for yesterday’s pardons.” 

“The king commands it, it is not for me to question,” he smiled apologetically.

“Very well then,” Elia said smoothly, lifting Aegon up to hold him against her chest. The knight looked at her and the babe with apprehension.

“Forgive me, My Queen, but is it wise to bring the prince?” Truly? Perhaps not, yet it might do the treasonous lords good, to see what the cost of their betrayal might have been. 

“Let us hope the throne doesn’t slice me for my insolence,” she said darkly and saw humor glint in his blue eyes. 

Princess Rhaenys was not with her mother, for she had lessons with her septa in the art of courtesy and Ser Jaime was present with the young girl. She is too young for all this nonsense, when I was her age, I was playing in the water gardens with Oberyn. When my health permitted it, at least.   The princess was a precocious young girl, however, already reading (in a fashion) and blathering on about things too philosophical for her age. Just like her father, Elia thought and did not know whether to smile or feel melancholy. She is his, through and through, all she does is look like me, with added beauty and strength. 

“How did you find Dorne, Ser Oswell?” Elia asked as they were walking in the hallway. Aegon was toying with her hair and the arms of her blue gown. The knight seemed to falter for a second, as if he had forgotten that he forsake his duty to watch over a child with child. 

“Hot, My Queen.” 

“Oh, yes,” Elia smiled. “The climate is not kind to strangers. Especially those that have no business being there in the first place.” She allowed him to make what he would, of her cryptic words. 

“A worthy observation, My Queen.” He sounded gruff when he spoke the words, as if the mere reminder of his betrayal still stung. It should. 

Rhaegar looked every inch a king as he sat atop the iron throne, with that crown of rubies and regal grace. The wolf-girl stood by the foot of the throne, to his left. She was dressed in a surprisingly humble gown of grey wool and there was no babe at her breast. She looks so young, Elia observed. The glow of youth was still upon her. Ser Oswell announced Queen Elia’s presence to court and she garnered a relieved smile from Rhaegar. The queen willed herself to smile back. Put on a show, he said. That is what I will do. 

Elia took her place to the right of the throne, not far from Lyanna. She offered the other queen a smile out of courtesy and proceeded to look forward. It was dull, truly and she did not know why Rhaegar had summoned her there. Thankfully, her son was calm and almost fell asleep to her gentle, swaying motions with his head in the crook of her neck. Elia hugged her son tighter and stroked his tuft of silver-gold curls. She was too busy to notice how both her husband and sister-wife briefly glanced at her with warmth. Did any mother ever love her children more?

The queen was busy hymning a song to her sleepy son, when she heard her husband address the new lord. 

“Lord Stark,” Rhaegar greeted and Elia’s eyes snapped toward the wolf-girl’s brother. He arrived? Was he not supposed to arrive in the morn? Queen Elia did not know much about the younger Stark son. They call him the quiet wolf and Ashara was fond of him, very much so. 

So this is the man, she thought. The one whom Robert Baratheon called his closest friend. The one who fought against my husband and within that, my children and I. 

“My King,” Lord Eddard replied solemnly, bowing deeply. 

“Arise, My Lord of Stark,” Rhaegar said and Lord Eddard did. 

“You stand accused on the account of treason in the highest degree, how do you answer these charges, Lord Eddard of House Stark?” The introducer’s voice echoed in the large throne room and Elia found herself intrigued as to what he would say. She turned to Lyanna and saw that the girl was pale as a sheet, her grey eyes sparkling with tears. Of shame, for what she did? Of sadness, for what it may cost her brother?   The Dornishwoman was aware that the Stark siblings had lost both a father and a brother, all in thanks to Lyanna and Rhaegar’s mummer’s farce.

“I am guilty, My King. I fought and bled beside the rebellious traitor, Lord Robert Baratheon.” It was not what the Dornish queen expected of him. I thought he would offer soothing, honeyed words of how he was coerced into it, of how he regrets it and begs mercy. This was it? He would just lay down and allow himself to be kicked? The northern queen eyed her brother sharply, as if begging him to plead for forgiveness, for his life. 

“Do you have anything else to add, My Lord?” Rhaegar asked, wearily.

“I beg your mercy, My King. I have a son and a young wife to care for. I am also the last male of age left in my house, as my brother Benjen joined the Night’s Watch and my son is no more than a babe in arms.” 

Rhaegar pondered for a few moments. Well… he pretends to ponder. This is all a farce to appease the court, to pretend that justice has been done. His judgement has already been passed. She had been told that Lord Stark would arrive to swear fealty, which means he was to be pardoned, all along. Elia could not help but feel bitter, for some reason unbeknownst to her. It wasn’t that the queen ill-wished this lord, he seems kind and honorable but he fought against the crown. Is he pardoned for justice, or on the account of being the wolf-girl’s brother?

“I am a man of mercy, as you will see, Lord Eddard. We all make mistakes, some more grievous than others,” the king began and Elia had to hold back a snort because it all sounded so horribly ironic and rich, coming from a man such as him. “I will not rob House Stark of a true leader, not after all your tragic losses. I will pardon you on the basis of a few conditions.” 

Lord Stark nodded grimly, his grey eyes seeming dulled after having experienced the spoils of war. 

“You will swear fealty to the crown and I, as king. You will also swear upon a Weirwood tree that you shall never take up arms against House Targaryen or the crown, for all of eternity. We will strip you Moat Cailin and give it to a lord of proven loyalty. The last is that your second-born child is to be sent to court when they reach the age of ten.” It all seemed far too lenient, if you asked the Dornish queen. Who in the gods’ names would want Moat Cailin?

“They are all reasonable demands, My King. I agree.” He was not a man of many words, Elia came to notice. His second child had not yet been born and even though no one would speak the words, it would be the crown’s hostage. For betrayals committed in a time of war and to prevent new ones. Then, Lord Eddard got on his knees, unsheathed his sword and raised it above his head, swearing his life to the crown and promising to never take up arms against them, ever again. The ripples of Ice almost blinded Elia, the beauty of that sword. Valyrian, like Rhaegar. Forged in the fires of a lost freehold. 

“Arise, Lord Eddard,” her husband repeated with a smile and the man did. 

“Ned!” Lyanna squealed, sounding younger than Rhaenys and running to embrace her brother.

“Sister,” he greeted but there was steel behind his words, an unspoken tension that seemed to breed uncertainty in the wolf-girl’s heart. 

Somehow, Elia felt sick when Rhaegar tried to smile at her. Oberyn did nothing wrong but Rhaegar will spare him no mercy if he misacts. She looked toward the young Lyanna, talking animatedly with her brother who nodded. This man committed treason and is given a mock-sentence. Is this the king’s justice? She hoped that Rhaegar wouldn’t dare tell her that he was not indulging his queen in this. Speak the truth, instead of honeyed lies, she thought, bitterly. 

Elia walked around in court for a while, conversing with the ladies and lords, donning her false smiles. She allowed them to take part in Aegon’s sweet giggles and to see that he was as pure a Targaryen as could be. The little babe charmed the court, not unlike how his sister would. They will have all sorts of ladies and lordlings clambering for their attention, once they grow older. The thought of her daughter being hounded by lordlings almost brought Elia into giggles, for the girl was adamant that she cared for no boys but her brother and her cat. The Dornishwoman had told her daughter that Balerion was not her brother but Princess Rhaenys had simply pretended she hadn’t heard.

“My Queen,” a voice said behind her. Courteously, Elia turned around and was greeted by the solemn face of Eddard Stark. 

“Lord Eddard,” she smiled and offered her hand, for him to kiss. He did so, dutifully. 

“I wished to pay my respects upon you… and my apologies.” 

“I do not recall that you have wronged me, My Lord,” Elia replied softly, holding Aegon’s wandering hands still, with her own. 

“Whether it was by my own hand or my sister’s, you did not deserve the horror that was inflicted upon you during this war. I apologise for your uncle’s death, as well. He was a great man,” Eddard allowed, solemnly and the concern warmed her heart, in a way. An incessant voice told her that it was not real, however, that it was only out of courtesy. How deeply the Dornish queen wished to be able to trust people, to believe that there were no hidden motives. 

“I thank you for your concern, My Lord. My sympathies are with you as well, you lost both a father and a brother to this rebellion.” 

“My brother was always a little too hot-headed than was necessary.” A rueful smile touched the northener’s lips. She had laid eyes upon Lord Brandon once. His brother is not uncomely, Brandon was simply surpassingly comely. Yet this one has a good head on his shoulders. The queen meant that both literally and metaphorically. 

“My husband is not his father,” Elia felt forced to say. Rhaegar is a good man, even though he has done me many wrongs, he will be a good king. Perhaps even a great one. Then my son will rule and I will teach him to be good, he already has it in him. 

“That is a kindness to us all, My Queen. Lyanna seems taken with him and has promised to show me their son, later in the eve.” Elia looked down at her own son, his fair skin and the unworldly hair. 

“Yes that seems splendid,” she smiled. “Prince Aemon looks every inch his mother.” what was conveyed there, was that the babe looked nothing like her husband and Ned seemed to understand. 

“Forgive me for breaching but I do hope you and my sister get along. I cannot begin to imagine or understand how you felt, but Lyanna is young and has a good heart, albeit a bit too willful for her own good. I am not happy with her actions and what brought us here, but I love her. She is all I have left of my siblings and parents, except for Benjen.”

“We have not had the time to talk properly yet. A queen’s duties are almost as heavy as a king’s it seems,” Elia replied, trying to avoid how her heart sympathised with the man. 

“I know my sister and she will want to make amends. Lyanna knows that being young is not an excuse for this. I told her. All I ask is that when the time comes, you listen to her before coming to a judgement.” Elia smiled. 

“Lighten up, Lord Eddard. It is too pleasant a day for brooding on matters we cannot change.” The man smiled shyly and Aegon giggled at the stranger. 

“This one likes you, it seems, Lord Eddard.” The Dornishwoman was almost glowing in the presence of her son and the light that he brought. 

“I am glad that I could offer you relief, My Prince,” Lord Stark said and stroked her son’s cheek, making the babe erupt in even more giggles. “And you may call me Ned, if you wish it, My Queen. We are family now, after all.” 

“Alright, Ned,” she smiled. 

They had some polite conversation and then the lord asked her a suspicious question.

“How fares the Lady Ashara? Your lady-in-waiting, if I recall?” 

“Last I heard, she gave birth to a daughter whom she named Naella,” The Dornishwoman began but then she frowned. “I hear there was trouble with the babe, though. She would have perished, were it not for the maester’s valiant efforts to keep her with us.” Relief seemed to cloud Ned Stark’s features, then. 

“The child, it is a bastard, then?” That word sounds so horribly crude, I care not for it. It is a child, leave it at that. Elia nodded but pleaded with her eyes, for him to understand. 

“They are not so great a shame in Dorne. Naella will have a pleasant life and Ashara will be a wondrous mother.” 

“That is good,” he smiled but it looked nervous, as if something was gnawing on him. Ashara never told me who the father to her babe was… The Dornishwoman made a note to ask Oberyn if he’d heard anything, when he arrived in King’s Landing. From behind Ned, Elia could see Rhaegar walking toward them, the wolf-queen in tow. 

“Elia,” her husband greeted, kissing her forehead softly. She was pleased to see the faintest outline of red on his throat, even though it had been many days since that crazed ordeal. 

“Husband,” Elia curtsied lightly with Aegon fussing in her arms. “Queen Lyanna,” she also forced herself to say with a practiced smile. I pray none of them will ever be able to tell which ones are real and false, that could prove to be my ruin. 

“Queen Elia,” the wolf-girl began with a shy smile. “I see you have made the acquaintance of my brother,” she finished, eyeing the Dornish queen with a strange flicker in her grey eyes. 

“Yes, Ned has been a delight to converse with.” Elia wondered what Lyanna had thought, when her husband returned to her chambers, sporting carnal marks and a foul mood. Did he even offer an explanation? The Dornishwoman would have given all the gold of Casterly Rock, to find out what became of that. 

“You humble me, My Queen,” he said, smiling as softly as his face would let him. 

As if the gods had answered her prayers, Aegon began to grow impatient in her arms, moving, fussing and  letting out occasional wails. 

“Forgive me, but I think that the little prince is hungry. I will take him to the wet-nurse and see to it that he grows sated.” Rhaegar looked as if he wished to argue but nodded.

“Please return, if you find the time, My Queen.”

“Of course, husband,” she smiled, even though they both knew that it was a lie. 

“I will be seeing you around the Red Keep, then, Ned?” 

“Yes, My Queen. I shall be lingering for perhaps a fortnight.” 

“That sounds splendid,” she began and turned to Lyanna. 

“Good day.” Lyanna smiled but it did not quite reach her grey eyes.

“Good day.” 

“Elia,” Rhaegar called before she left.

“Yes?” she asked gently. 

“Ser Arthur will accompany you.” That made the Dornishwoman confused, for she thought that Rhaegar knew of how she disliked it. Perhaps this is his way of getting back at me, for my cruel jape. 

“Alright,” she smiled, not wanting to create a fuss in front of court and she felt strange.

When she was out of earshot, accompanied by a surprisingly solemn Arthur, she stopped. They were close to her chambers, but far from the nursery. Elia leaned against the pale, cool wall and sighed. Aegon was still fussing and she felt faint. The day had been very taxing, it was not easy to stand for so long. 

“Are you well?” Ser Arthur asked her, concern swirling in those violet eyes. 

“Yes, just give me a moment,” she breathed.

“Here,” Arthur said and offered his arms, to take Aegon and unburden her. She allowed him to. I just need to rest.

“Thank you,” she said, quietly and watched as the tall man embraced her son and swayed slightly. 

“Do not cry, My Prince. Your beautiful mother needs a well-deserved pause. We shall give it to her,” the man said comfortingly to her son, kissing his forehead. The sight broke something inside of her, something she thought did not exist. 

“He is hungry,” Elia said, closing her eyes as she felt a powerful headache emerge. 

“Then we shall get him fed, My Queen.” 

“I have not the strength to walk to the nursery, he will must needs make due with me.” She had never produced enough milk to sate her children’s growing appetites but she was sure that she had enough for a feeding. It’s fine, she told herself. 

“Your chamber is not far from here, come along, Elia,” Arthur whispered, holding one hand out, to help her get up. She grasped his hand and he pulled her up with ease. 

“It is alright to need help, once in a while. It does not make you weak,” the man told her gently, pulling her to his side. “You may lean on me.” The Dornish queen did not have the strength to argue. Together they walked, Arthur with Aegon in arm and Elia leaning against the other. The hallway was empty, most were likely present at the feast in the great hall.

There were no servants waiting in her quarters, for she had dismissed them earlier, saying that she had no need of them for the day. I felt so strong this morning, what happened? Arthur opened the door with one hand and beckoned her to enter. The room was dim, with a hearth burning slowly and a few candles lit. A wave of nausea hit the queen but she sat down on the chair, breathing hard.

“Tell me what to do, Elia, shall I call for someone?” Ser Arthur asked, nervously.

“No. It will pass.” He nodded and swayed with Aegon, singing a Dornish hymn for her son. 

“The Dornishman’s wife?” she asked him wryly and would have laughed, were it not for her fatigue. 

“Her kisses were warmer than spring,” Arthur sang to her son who stared at the man intently. 

“You have a lovely voice, you always had,” Elia admitted, sighing, and even though her heart still bore the scars he left, she could not fathom it in her, to scorn him this day. Not now. Do not mistake her kindness for weakness or forgiveness, it was not. Sometimes we have to prove amiable, even with the ones we are no longer close, for perhaps we loved them once. Who they were, not necessarily what they became. 

“If I was not a knight, then I would have been a singer,” Arthur said in a soft voice. If you had been a singer and I hadn’t been a princess, then we could have wed. We could have moved to Lys, Tyrosh or Volantis. Far away from here. 

“Give him here,” Elia beckoned the man and he obliged, handing a wailing Aegon to her.

“Hush, my sweet, I know,” she sighed and tried to feed him but her gown was too tightly laced at the back and would not budge. 

“Arthur?” she finally asked after he had watched her struggle for moments.

“Yes, My Queen?” he replied, looking down.

“Can you unlace the back of my gown?” Even in the dim light of the room, she saw his cheeks redden. 

“Yes, your grace.” Elia turned around and focused on comforting her son, as she felt the warm fingers on her back, unlacing the gown, tenderly. She patiently waited for him to finish and sighed when she felt him stroke her back in a manner that felt very pleasant, undoing the knots that plagued her. 

“That is enough,” she said and his fingers moved away, only leaving the faintest hint of their presence.

She began feeding Aegon, who latched on without a fuss, as he must have been starving.

“Oh, you were famished, my sweet. I am sorry we stayed so long,” she whispered, stroking his silvery tufts of hair. The Dornish queen could not bring herself to care if Arthur watched. It is nothing he hasn’t seen before. 

“How is Oberyn?” Arthur asked her, suddenly. Perhaps the silence as he watched her nurse her child, was too much. 

“Oberyn is most certainly wroth,” Elia replied, dazedly. The world seemed a blur and she wished to sleep, to lay down and fall into the comforting arms of slumber. She almost succumbed, until Aegon tugged too harshly and she was startled awake. Arthur moved to her side and touched her forehead.

“You do not seem well, Elia.” 

“It will pass. It happens on the occasion.” The knight nodded, but sat down next to her and stayed by her side, to assist her in holding Aegon. 

“You smell of home,” she noted as she laid her feverish head in the crook of his neck.

“I do?” he asked her and she opened her bleary eyes, to be met by violet ones, staring into the empty parts of her.

“Yes. Of the fresh sea-air, the peach trees and that spicy, musky scent that Oberyn boasts, as well. It makes for a pleasant combination,” she admitted. 

“I miss that man and his japes,” Arthur laughed and patted Aegon’s back as he swallowed too fast and began coughing lightly. 

“He will be more inclined to kill you than hug you, I fear.” Ser Arthur smiled and kissed her cheek as her eyes were closed. No, you should not have done that, she wanted to scold but no words escaped her tired body. 

“Well what does it matter? For all men must die and i’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife.” 

“Don’t get cheeky,” she warned but there was a warmth in her words. Arthur had not known how desperately he’d missed it, until it was there again. 

“You should change it to the Valyrian’s wife,” she sighed. 

“I should, shouldn’t I?” he asked but there was only hopelessness lacing his words. What a mess they made of things.

When Aegon was done feeding, she burped him and then he was content, falling asleep almost instantly as he was placed in the cot.

“Goodnight, my love. This eve, you will have to sleep with me, it seems.”  “But you love that luxury, do you not?” she smiled. Arthur helped her unlace that wretched corset and was there if she needed aid with her nightgown, as well. 

“You are quite the woman,” Arthur mused with a sweet smile. 

“I am nothing out of the ordinary.” Her voice was tired and soft.

“But you are,” Ser Arthur began. “No one else would dare do what you did to the King that eve.” Elia almost giggled. 

“Was he very wroth?” she asked and Arthur chuckled, stroking her arm as she sat down next to him on the bed.

“He kept muttering on about women and how he knew that it was too good to be true for nothing real feels that pleasant.” 

“It could,” Elia replied and sensed that the knight knew what she was speaking of.

“Yes, it could.” 

“Then he turned sad and quiet. As if something tore at him, too fierce to be explained by words. A burden too heavy to be borne.” Elia could not find it in her to forge a witty reply, let Rhaegar hurt if he wishes. He deserves to, for all the tragedy he caused.

“You could be executed for this, you know?” she asked quietly.

“For what?” the knight asked.

“For telling me of the king’s private matters. For kissing my cheek and touching me, as if you have the right to.” 

“But you will  not tell.” He was correct in that. 

“No. I won’t, yet it needs to stop, Ser Arthur.” Her mind was a mess but she needed to say this.

“I still care for you,” he whispered. “I miss you.” 

“You betrayed me twice, Arthur. Nothing between us will ever be the same. We were spoilt from the start.”

“I still think about you,” he offered quietly, the words suffocating them both.

“And that is all you will ever be able to. I am the king’s wife and you are his sworn guard. That is all we were ever destined to be.” 

She tiredly turned toward him and allowed herself to stroke his cheek-- in a weak attempt to quiet her bleeding heart. Elia did not like the way it hurt, to see his violet eyes brimming with tears.

 “We danced too close on the line of pleasure, it would never have amounted to anything other than pain. We were young and foolish, but sometimes even that is no excuse.” the white knight nodded and allowed a tear or two to slip past his cheeks.

“I will never forgive myself.” Elia did not quite know what to say to that.

“I will die for you.”

“You almost died for the wolf-girl, what do I do with those words? Will they unmake the fear and the sleepless nights? The pain of looking upon your child, knowing that they are doomed to die?”

“No they won’t, yet I will never betray you again. The thought of falling upon my sword is more appealing than that.” 

“You will,” she sighed. “If Rhaegar commands it so.” 

“No. I will die, then, but not before making sure that you and the children are safe.” 

“Words are wind, Ser Arthur,” Elia replied, softly.

“They are as true as my love for you.” The Dornishwoman felt too ill to reply. 

They remained like that, quietly leaning on each other until Elia was half-asleep.

“Let us get you to bed, My Queen.” She had  no quarrels with that. When all was said and done, she climbed underneath the warm covers and breathed a sigh of relief. Sleep will wash this away, I hope. 

“Thank you, Arthur,” she mumbled, for a lady could never forget her courtesies, much less a princess or a queen. Loreza Martell had drilled that into young Elia’s head. The knight sat down next to her, stroking her hair like he used to.

“It was of no consequence. You overexert yourself too much,” he scolded, gently. 

“I am a mother and a queen, it comes with the titles.” 

“For now, you can simply be Elia. I will be here until you fall asleep. Rest now, my flower.” The queen did not know if she wished him to stay but his fingers felt so soothing in her hair and his voice was so lulling. It is fine, she told herself. Right now I am not a queen and he is not a knight of the kingsguard who betrayed me. Dawn will wash away our memories and leave them little more than a fever dream. 

No one touched her like this, no one comforted her like this. Sometimes I just wish to let go, but there’s never anyone there to catch me when I fall. Some people remain far too strong for their own good. It tears at a person, just like it did the young Elia, who lived for her duties, her daughter and her son. Never for herself. 

It takes its toll in the end, it does. 

Elia fell asleep, dreaming of the things that would be. 

She was too far gone to notice how a knight of the kingsguard softly kissed her goodbye, before he left. 

Or how it broke Arthur Dayne’s heart to look into the cot where her son slept, knowing his actions could have impacted the child who had not yet lived, severely. 

The gods had much in store for Queen Elia of House Martell but she knew naught of it yet.

Chapter Text

 

 

When Prince Oberyn arrived, Queen Elia waited in the courtyard to greet him, alongside her children, King Rhaegar, Queen Lyanna and the babe, Aemon. There were guards present, of course, with Ser Arthur, Ser Jonothor, Ser Oswell and Ser Jaime standing, not too far away from the royal family. I do not know why this is necessary, Elia thought in dismay. Only the King’s presence had truly been needed, not Lyanna or her babe’s. Oberyn will be irked to just see their faces. She knew her brother and he would not take it lightly. This is spitting in his face, Rhaegar should know better than to poke a viper of Dorne. 

“Mama, I am tired,” Rhaenys complained, raising her little arms in a wish to be carried. I am sorry, my sweet. My arms are full with Aegon. Rhaegar moved to speak but Elia beat him to it. 

“Ser Jaime,” she called softly. “Would you mind carrying Rhaenys? I do not wish to coddle her but she is weary of standing, which we have been doing for quite some time.” Oberyn does not believe in being late, he always said that everyone else was early. The Lannister knight nodded and picked up a smiling Rhaenys. Jaime kissed the young princess’s forehead softly, when she laid her head in the crook of his neck. Everyone is weak for those lavender eyes. 

“I could have held her,” Rhaegar said quietly, staring straight ahead with  annoyance lacing his words. 

“Now you needn’t,” the Dornishwoman replied, cooly. 

The day was hot and humid, so Elia had chosen to wear a lighter gown, made of red silk, instead of the traditional woolen and heavily corseted ones. Her hair was done in one long braid and the crown rested atop her dainty head, weighing it down with its burden. The Dornishwoman had dressed in that fashion mostly to seem as if she still was of Dorne, no matter how many years she had spent in the south. I wonder what Oberyn will look like … It had been years since she’d last seen his face.

King Rhaegar was dressed impeccably, boasting a handsome doublet of red and black, alongside black breeches and his crown. His long, silvery hair rested in smooth waves, down his shoulders, giving only the tiniest reflection of gold. The wolf-girl, however, was dressed in another one of those woolen dresses that she loved so well. It was the color of a deep crimson and the Dornish Queen did not like the way it made them look similar. The pale king and his dark queens, Elia thought wryly. 

When the Dornishwoman glanced at the bundle in Lyanna’s arms, she found it strange how the boy’s eyes seemed so wary of his surroundings, even as a babe of only two moons or so. He is so quiet, quieter than Aegon and Rhaenys ever was. It seemed that Prince Aemon had inherited his father’s nature, to Elia. Rhaegar was never the people-pleaser, or the grim brooder. He was mysterious, shrouded by intrigue and adored by almost everyone he met. His beauty helps, people are always inclined to love what is comely more than what is not, she thought grimly. The Queen suspected that what drew ladies and lords alike to Rhaegar, was that he was so hopelessly sad, so hauntingly lovely. Everyone wished to mend his hurt, to unmake the sorrow in his voice as he sung and played upon his silvery harp. 

Galloping horses brought Elia out of her thoughts and she felt her heart race in her chest. He is here! He is finally here, she thought and tried to suppress her utter glee. She turned Aegon around in her arms and whispered softly to her son.

“There is your uncle, my sweet. He has longed to see you.” The young crown-prince seemed taken by the scene of at least a dozen sand-steeds, all with silken black manes and dressed in the colors of House Martell. Elia turned toward Jaime and the young Rhaenys with a cheerful smile. She did notice that Ser Arthur looked a little nervous. We’ve not truly spoken anything but courtesies since that night, seven days ago.

“Are you excited to see your uncle Oberyn?” Elia asked her daughter who nodded shyly. 

The horses stopped a few yards in front of them and the riders dismounted. She spied a tall man in the distance, helping a woman dressed in a provocative, orange gown, down her horse. Is that Oberyn, truly? He looks so… different. The man she had left behind was young and still glowed with youth. Now he glows with a certain danger, not to Elia, of course, but the sharp way in which he carried himself was eerily hypnotizing, like a dancing snake. The woman and the man began walking toward them, their entourage in tow. 

“Elia!” the dark-haired man called and she felt her breath catch in her throat, as tears of joy brimmed in her eyes. Oberyn, I am here, I am here! The queen turned to her husband, her face glowing with happiness and he returned it, looking pleased to see her truly smile, after so long. She wanted to run to her brother, to embrace him and tell him to never let her go. However that was a girl’s fancy, a queen can do no such thing. 

“Oberyn,” she whispered and felt Aegon tug on the loose strands of hair that framed her face. 

A man walked in front of the two strangers, reaching the king and queens first. He had the look of a Lyseni upon him, with pale, flaxen hair and icy blue eyes. He is comely, Elia found herself thinking. Not as comely as Rhaegar or Arthur, but a worthy carrier of the famed Lyseni beauty. 

“My King, My Queens, “ the man began with a deep bow, his accent a mix of a heavy Lyseni drawl with a tinge of the spicy Dornish. It sounded poetic, almost like a song or when Rhaegar spoke in Valyrian, so softly. “I give you Prince Oberyn Martell and his paramour, Ellaria Sand.” Rhaegar almost choked at the words and tried to disguise it as a cough. Lyanna seemed aghast. Do not look so horrified, sweetling. That is what you were before Rhaegar wed you in a hasty ceremony, most like in front of a drunken, poor septon, somewhere in the woods. 

The Lyseni man rose and rose the slightest hint of an eyebrow, at the king and northern queen’s reactions. Elia offered him a warm smile, before turning to Oberyn and Ellaria who had reached them by now. 

“My sweet Elia, is that truly you?” her brother asked and she felt the strange wish to cry, to throw herself into his arms and weep like a babe, newly born. Instead, she smiled and nodded. The tall prince, who looked every inch a Dornishman moved to stand in front of her, his eyes never leaving hers. 

“My Queen,” he said thickly and got down on one knee, bowing his head low, looking onto the ground. Elia blushed, the title of queen still making her uncomfortable. 

“Rise, Oberyn,” she told him softly. He obeyed and moved to embrace and  kiss her cheek, holding her fiercely. 

“I’ve missed you, sister,” he whispered and his smell was just the same. Home. 

As Oberyn stepped away from her, she noticed that young paramour of his. She is pretty, with those full lips and high cheekbones. The eyes are a calm green and she has a kind glow about her. 

“You must be Ellaria,” Elia Martell smiled and the woman returned it, yet got on one knee and bowed as low as her brother had, if not even more. 

“My Queen,” she repeated and Aegon giggled in his mother’s arms. 

“You may rise, my dove.” The woman did and looked to Aegon with longing. 

“Such a beautiful babe, My Queen.” 

“Would you wish to hold him?” Rhaegar eyed Elia warily at that but she paid no heed and offered her son to the natural daughter of Lord Uller. Ellaria Sand accepted the princeling with a mother’s tenderness, kissing his cheek and cooing softly to him. 

“Beware, he likes to charm,” the Dornish queen laughed. 

“Like his uncle,” Ellaria said with a smirk toward Oberyn. 

Her viper of a brother turned toward the King and northern queen, his entire demeanor changing. 

“My King,” he greeted, stiffly bowing (if one could even call it that), not bothering to get on his knees and looking straight into Rhaegar’s eyes. Elia’s husband swallowed nervously and nodded, donning a false smile. 

“Prince Oberyn. It has been long since we saw you in the capital.” 

“Yes, the last time was at your wedding, to my sister. I see you’ve grown rather fond of marital ceremonies.” Prince Oberyn eyed Lyanna Stark cooly. 

“And you have not,” Rhaegar smiled but it had been the wrong thing to say, even Elia knew. Rhaegar brought Oberyn’s retort upon himself, I am just glad to witness it. 

“No but I do not need vows to remain faithful to my paramour,” the Red Viper smiled venomously. “And I consort her before we bring others into our bed. In Dorne, we believe in equality between both man and woman.” Rhaegar lost his smile quickly upon hearing that and cleared his throat. 

“Oh, I almost forgot to greet you, My Queen. It is not often that any realm knows two of them.” 

“It is quite alright,” Lyanna Stark smiled nervously. Oberyn moved to her with a panther-like grace, taking hold of her hand and kissing the top of it with soft lips. The northern queen blushed scarlet and Elia was pleased to see that Rhaegar’s eyes darkened in dismay. Are you afraid that Oberyn will charm your pretty little queen out of her smallclothes?

“Rhaenys, greet your uncle,” Queen Elia said but her daughter buried her head into her sworn shield’s glistening, golden curls. 

“Now is that Princess Rhaenys?” Oberyn turned toward the Lannister holding his niece. “I thought she was half a cat,” The Viper of Dorne said in mock-confusion. Elia’s daughter giggled and shook her head, making even Jaime smile. “Is that not true? I thought some cruel beast you call Balerion was part of you.” 

“Balerion is no beast,” her daughter screeched. “Egg loves him and Ae, too!” 

“Will you show him to us later, My Princess?” Ellaria asked smoothly and the young Rhaenys turned her head, with those smiling lavender eyes and dimpled cheeks, nodding furiously.

“He likes to hide in the kitchens or in mama’s chambers.” 

“Then we will surely happen upon him, now will you not give your uncle Oberyn a hug?” “I brought you a gift from Dorne,” he whispered mischievously and the princess began squirming in her white knight’s grasp, desperate to get to her uncle. 

“There you are,” Oberyn laughed as he picked the small girl up, twirling her around in the air, her giggles lighting up the strange tension in the air. 

“That is enough,” Rhaegar told Oberyn who stopped immediately, turning to the king with Rhaenys on his hip.

“But it was fun, papa, do it again, uncle!” Oberyn rose an eyebrow at the king who seemed strangely uneasy with the man holding his daughter. Do you think he would harm his own blood? Have you forgotten that you were the one who left us here to die, not Oberyn. 

“I think that we should get inside. You must be weary from travel, we will allow you to rest before supper this eve.” Rhaegar sounded every inch a king and it almost ruined the joy in Elia’s heart. Why must he sour this moment? 

“Perhaps. It would be pleasant to wash the stink of King’s Landing off of us, wouldn't you think, Ellaria?” the woman nodded. “And you, Lyro?” Oberyn’s smile was simply depraved as he stared upon the Lyseni introducer. 

“I agree,” Lyro replied with a handsome smile, a lone dimple gracing his cheek. 

“I am sure that the inn the entourage will be staying at can arrange for baths,” Lyanna spoke, trying to seem queenly. Oberyn turned to her with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. 

“Lyro will be staying with Ellaria and I, in our chambers.” Both the wolf-queen and King Rhaegar seemed to choke on their tongues then, the scene so hilariously amusing that Elia found herself giggling a little. It was no secret that Prince Oberyn preferred the company of men, as well as women. My brother is not the sort to be ashamed of his cravings, he takes what he wishes and rue the one who tries to stop him. She admired that in him, she did. He is strong, stronger than i’ll ever be. 

“Very well then,” Elia said with a beaming smile. “A tub will be brought to you.” Ellaria sand returned Aegon to the Queen with a soft look in her calm, green eyes. 

“You are lucky to have such a pleasant son. He is the sweetest boy I have come across in all my years.” “And that smile,” the woman tut-tutted. “He will be doted upon by lords and ladies alike.” Something changed in Rhaegar’s eyes then. Was it disgust simmering in those pools of indigo? You have no right, Elia thought angrily. You have no right!

With Rhaenys still in the prince’s arms, they all walked through the courtyard, entering the Red Keep.

“Papa and Jaime have longer hair,” Rhaenys told her uncle who laughed.

“Your papa and I have many things differing us from each other, hair is not the only thing, My Princess.” The red viper’s tone was taunting, almost and Rhaegar gave Elia a warning glance. 

Suddenly, Oberyn turned around when they were at the entrance.

“Ser Arthur,” he said in false glee. “I am glad to see that you are back in one piece.” Oberyn patted the knight on the back, harshly. Arthur briefly glanced at Elia with worry in his eyes. “It must have been perilous, guarding a girl in a tower,” her brother smiled, cruelly. Lyanna looked uneasy and Rhaegar seemed distant toward the entire ordeal.

“It is good to see you, My Prince,” Ser Arthur replied, chivalrous as always. 

“Oh, I almost forgot.” Prince Oberyn handed Princess Rhaenys back to Ser Jaime and turned back to Arthur, leaning in to whisper, slowly and hauntingly. “Ashara told me to tell you that she will haunt you throughout the seven hells, if it is the last thing she does. You have earned nothing but her ire through your heroic actions, it seems.” The white knight turned sad then, she saw. 

“Ser Arthur is a knight of the kingsguard, no longer a Dayne.” Rhaegar’s voice was hard.

“And does that make my sister any less a Martell? Or your young queen, any less a Stark?” Oberyn asked, teasingly. “No one ever fully lets go, My King. If they tell you any different, then they are naught but dirty little liars, I fear.” 

“That is your opinion, Prince Oberyn.” 

“No, that is a fact. Ask anyone and you will hear, Your Grace.” Oberyn Martell turned to his sister and the babe in her arms with a fixed gaze. “Family will always remain family. No matter how hard you try to take it away.” Her husband simply nodded and changed the subject.

“The servants will show you up to your chambers Prince Oberyn,” Rhaegar began. “I have some matters to tend to and Rhaenys will resume her lessons with Septa Myranda.” Elia wanted to argue, to allow her brother time to get to know her oldest daughter. Oberyn will stay for a while, it is fine. He will have time to bond with my children, she tried to comfort herself by thinking. 

“I hope you do not mind if my sister accompanies us along the way, Your Grace?” 

“Not at all,” Rhaegar smiled but she could discern the warning in his eyes. He wants me to tell Oberyn to behave. 

“Be good for Ser Jaime and Septa Myranda, Rhaenys,” Elia told her her daughter sternly. 

“Yes mama.” How she had birthed such an obedient child was beyond the Dornish queen. Her heart is gentle and her wits are sharper than most children her age. 

“Will you show me Balerion later, princess?” Oberyn asked her daughter, who nodded furiously in Ser Jaime’s arms. 

“Very well then,” Elia smiled, readjusting Aegon in her arms. “Let us depart.”

“My King, Queen Lyanna,” Oberyn said, barely sparing the northern girl a glance as he turned around. Ellaria said her courtesies as well, colder than even Oberyn’s. The servants led the way to her brother’s chambers, with Ser Jonothor of the Kingsguard trailing behind them. 

“How is Doran?” Elia found herself asking. Has his illness gotten any worse? 

“He is well. The sickness still afflicts him but he is doing his best to persevere, Arianne said she missed her aunt Elia and great-uncle Lewyn.” That made the queen feel sick with heartache. She is only a girl, poor thing. 

“And Quentyn?” 

“The boy is gentle, albeit a little too arrogant for his own good.” 

“Said the raven to the crow,” Elia laughed and even Ellaria joined in. 

“I am not arrogant,” Oberyn said, pretending to be offended. 

“Then the sky is not blue, brother.” 

“Am I arrogant, Ellaria?” The woman smiled and turned to Lyro.

“Is he arrogant, Lyro?” 

“Will I fall from grace for speaking my mind?” The Lyseni asked with a pretty smile. 

“That depends,” Oberyn replied with a predatory smile. 

Elia got on her toes to gently slap her tall brother in the back of the head. 

“Behave,” she scolded and her brother yelped. 

“Damn, woman, I have not even been in your company for one hour and you already chastise me.” His eyes remained fond, though, sparkling with affection for his sister, whom he thought would lose her life, not long ago.

“Well, I am still your elder. I have that right,” Elia’s voice was almost snobbish but the look on Oberyn’s face made her facade crumble into sweet giggles. 

“Only by a year,” her little brother frowned.

Her son giggled in her arms, as well, perhaps pleased to see his mother happy. 

“That boy has the look of his father but his nature is all yours, sister.” 

“Your daughter has the prettiest of eyes, My Queen,” Ellaria said in awe. “Like lavender skies.” 

“She gets those from her father, as well,” Elia replied evenly. “They are dragons, aye, but of the sun.” 

Suddenly, the servants stopped and curtsied. 

“It seems we have reached your chambers, Oberyn.” 

“I thank you for that observation, My Queen,” her brother snorted. 

“Do you want a clout in the ear? Like mother gave you when you told her of your first child?” Prince Oberyn winced. 

“No, i’d rather not. If I think hard enough, the pain appears all the same.” 

“The maesters call it phantom pains.” 

“That, they do.” 

Elia turned and saw Ser Jonothor waiting for her. 

“I shall see you at supper, then?” 

“We would not miss it, sister.” Oberyn’s smile was softer than his sharp features. 

“Perhaps we could talk after?” Elia asked, almost nervously, for she knew that Ser Jonothor would report to the king, so she did not wish to say too much. “It has been so long and I wish to hear of all your excursions and such.” The Dornish prince was no fool and took her meaning plainly. 

“Of course, as My Queen commands, I will tell you all about it.” 

With her goodbyes said, Queen Elia turned around and began making the walk toward her chambers, where she would rest and then be made ready for supper this eve. She did not speak to Ser Jonothor but was aware of his presence behind her, the clinking of his armor and the feeling of being a caged bird. I just want to be set free, to spread my wings and fly away. Yet the Dornishwoman did not know if she still could fly, it has been too long and the restraints were set too fiercely. Now she felt but a bird, with broken wings.

“Are you tired, sweetling?” Elia gently asked her son, who was moving and frowning, a wail threatening to escape from his trembling lips. “You were fed not long ago, Aegon. We must not be gluttonous,” she smiled at her babe, whose purple eyes seemed too large and innocent for this cruel world. The Dornish queen placed the prince in his cot and stroked his chubby cheek. 

“Melly will take you to the nursery when you wake, to be fed. Alright?” The Targaryen princeling fussed and huffed for his mother’s gentle embrace but in the end, he settled down and fell asleep, exhausted. 

Elia herself removed the silken dress that she had worn and instead chose a simple shift to sleep in. She placed her lovely crown on the table beside her, rejoicing in how a weight was lifted from her shoulders. A weary sigh escaped her lips, only to be replaced with a tender smile. Oberyn is here and the thought brought a comfort. Her brother always knew how to make her feel safe, how to calm her heart and offer a consoling that she could accept. He never made me feel weak, even when we shared our worst quarrels. Prince Oberyn would never cross that line, to belittle and invalidate her in such a manner. Everyone needs a brother like Oberyn and one like Doran. The rash and the calm. Yet some need a sister like Elia, as well. The one who danced on the line in the middle, never quite crossing over to either. 

Queen Elia fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow. Slumber brought her a peace that was rarely felt these days. 

***

“He is late,” Rhaegar said stonily, eyeing the entrance to the hall. Lyanna looked uncomfortable with the arrangement of her being seated with the Viper Of Dorne in front of her. The children were not present and this was meant to be an intimate dinner, free from disruptive, prying ears and reaching lords. 

“Oberyn lacks a concept of time and place. It’s a shared trait of yours,” Elia said, evenly and earned a fiery look from her husband. 

The table was lavishly decorated with an embroidered quilt in cloth-of-gold and silver. An array of hot dishes such as stuffed mutton, honeyed lamb and various arrays of stews and vegetables, were resting atop the table, waiting to be dug into. To be honest, the Dornish queen was not feeling particularly hungry but she would eat, nonetheless. Otherwise Rhaegar will surely fall into his sympathetic ways and telling me that I must eat, or I will fall ill. 

The Dornishwoman was dressed in a flowing gown of emerald, her skin bare of any jewelry, save for the crown atop her head. She allowed her dark locks to fall freely beneath her back and truly looked a Dornish beauty. The wolf-girl wore a gown of pale pink and was donning her crown, as well, alongside an ornate direwolf necklace. For once she is not wearing those horrid woolen gowns that makes one swelter in this heat. 

After a few more minutes, her brother entered, alongside his paramour. I forgot to tell him not to bring Lyro, but it seems he had enough sense to discern that, himself. 

“Please excuse our tardiness, My King,” Oberyn began, looking handsome in his embroidered, red doublet. “We were occupied otherwise.” 

“It is of no consequence, Oberyn,” Elia said and swore she could see Rhaegar’s left eye twitch. 

“Please be seated, My Prince,” the king allowed and Oberyn nodded, pulling out a chair in front of Elia, which would be Ellaria’s seat. The bastard of Hellholt looked lovely, with her dark hair in two braids and a flowing gown of sunset orange, clinging to every curve of her body. 

“Ellaria,” Elia greeted and the woman smiled shyly. 

“My Queen,” she replied and then turned to Rhaegar and Lyanna. “My King, Queen Lyanna.” Rhaegar acknowledged it with a curt nod. 

“My Lady,” Lyanna said stiffly and Oberyn laughed. 

“Ellaria is no lady, My Queen,” he said, sitting down. “But she lives better than most ladies could ever dream, wouldn’t you agree, my love?” the paramour nodded.

“Oh,” was all queen Lyanna said. 

“Yet if it is so easy to make queens, then the making of ladies should prove far easier, do you not think, My King?” Oberyn asked dangerously. 

“All things demand their processes, Prince Oberyn.” 

“Ah yes, they do, don’t they?” “But who pays for that, in the end? We on the top seem to take and take, leaving the unfortunate ones on the bottom to clean up our mess. It makes for a pleasant life, yes. But what is the cost of lies and betrayal?” her brother helped himself to a grape that was on a platter of arranged fruits. Rhaegar moved to speak but Elia moved to calm the impending storm, to minimize the casualties.

“A worthy question, Oberyn. Perhaps we should ask the maesters.” 

“Those dried up cunts never have anything but ambiguities to speak,” Oberyn said, his accent tickling the words. Queen Lyanna almost choked on her wine and was blushing a beet-red, by the time that Rhaegar asked if she was alright. 

“We shared a girl from the north once, did we not?” Elia’s brother asked his paramour, frowning softly. No, Oberyn, keep your tongue in check, please. This is not Dorne.

“Dalla,” the woman confirmed. 

“Ah yes, that was her name. She was a bit frigid though, I must say.” 

“How so?” Rhaegar asked indifferently, catching on to Oberyn’s ploy like a fish on a hook. 

“Well you see, My King,” Oberyn began with a leer. “In Dorne, our women are warm. They dazzle with only a touch. I must confess that I prefer that, to a cold, pale body that will lay as if dead, beneath me.” The Dornish queen thought she heard Ser Jaime snort at the Red Viper’s remark, but he cleverly disguised it as a cough. 

“Everyone has their preferences,” Rhaegar replied, eyeing the Dornish prince cooly. 

“Yes, but why settle for the moon, when you already have the sun?” Her brother turned to give his paramour a gentle kiss to the side of her neck, which made her giggle and shy away from him. 

“To keep things balanced, I'd assume.” Elia gave Rhaegar a look that could make flowers wilt, even the northern queen looked almost abashed at her husband’s comment. Is that all we are to him? Pretty things that he can have in his possession? The thought was unjust, she knew, for Rhaegar loved his family but it did not make his betrayals or crude analogies sting any less. 

“And you were alright with it?” Lyanna suddenly asked Ellaria who shrugged. 

“Oberyn is a man that has the decency to consult me, before making decisions that could impact our lives. He also listens, values and takes my thoughts on the matter into account, even though we are not lawfully wedded. Some are not so benevolent.” Her green eyes glittered in the low-lighting and made her look like a tantalizing seductress. 

“What a clever analysis, Ellaria,” Elia said evenly, taking a sip of her wine and avoiding the feeling of her husband’s eyes on the side of her head.  “Perhaps it would do many a men good, to follow that counsel,” she continued. 

The setting for the entire supper had been hostile and full of not-so-hidden jabs, rude and occasionally, crude comments. Most of them came from her dear, sweet brother who seemed to be seething on the inside. He hates Rhaegar, she realised but hadn’t she always had an inkling? And my husband knows. Elia did not know what Oberyn thought of the wolf-girl, but surely he cannot hold her in very high respects, considering. I just hope he is not planning anything reckless… Oberyn was always more rash than he was rational, if any mishap occurs, he will be the first suspect and not even I will be able to save him. 

Toward the end of the supper, Oberyn had drunk far too much of the wine, for Elia’s taste, or perhaps he was simply pretending to be drunk, to excuse his poorly hidden jabs.  

“I do not know how your white cloaks do it, My King,” Oberyn said, laughing as he took another sip of wine. “Pleasure, lust and love are the greatest indulgences that one can engage in, during this cursed life of men.” 

“They swear holy vows, Prince Oberyn. A godly oath matters more than a fleeting carnal release. It gives them strength, for the gods are with them.” Elia almost snorted into her goblet, did you not swear a vow to me? In front of gods and men. 

Both Elia and Lyanna remained quiet, intrigued as to what the Red Viper would say henceforth. He has that look in his eyes, the one that always means mischief.  

“Oh, but I do find a woman’s love more endearing than any of the gods. If fucking was part of worship, would we all not be holier for it?” Elia kicked her brother under the table and glanced at the she-wolf. 

“Pardon my crude words, My Queen...s” Oberyn said in a false apology, not knowing whether to address Elia as well. I’ve heard worse during a calm eve with him, this is nothing. 

“It was of no offence, Prince Oberyn,” Lyanna said with a queenly grace. Oberyn looked as if he wished to gag.  

“No doubt you heard worse in the north, My Queen. Your people are quite the bawdy bunch, and not very friendly to strangers, might I add.” 

“Some people are simply like that,” her husband said, rising to his young queen’s defence. 

“You are quite right, My King. Yet I must confess that I only ever truly happened upon such in the north. Perhaps it was all in my head.” Oberyn’s smile was simply vicious. 

“Brandon used to tell me that he preferred a coarse truth to honeyed lies and empty flattery.” Ah, the winter rose has thorns, Elia thought. But the viper has fangs. Venomous ones, at that. 

“I never had the pleasure of meeting your brother. He was killed here in the capital, was he not? As he came calling for King Rhaegar to come out and die, after your supposed kidnapping.” Oberyn paused and took a swig of the Dornish red “Such a shame, truly a waste of a promising man. If only he had known that it was not the king’s way to abduct, why he has every maiden in the realm wet and willing for him,” Oberyn continued with the indifference that only he could boast. “You have my deepest sympathies.” There was no sympathy or empathy in her brother’s words, he wished to twist the knife already placed in Lyanna’s gut. 

The willful look in Queen Lyanna’s eyes disappeared and they seemed to be sparkling with unshed tears. Elia almost felt sorry for the girl but then she felt the bitterness, all over again. Would she have wept those tears, upon witnessing my murdered daughter’s corpse? Would she weep for Aegon as if he was her own? Or would she be happy, that her son would be the next king and that the dragon prince’s first family was but a tragic memory? It was unfair to think such of a person she barely knew, yet what was she meant to think? The Dornish queen knew that Lyanna had lost, but those losses she had brought upon herself. Her and Rhaegar. 

“I think I might retire to bed, if I have your leave, My King?” Elia felt the wine get to her head and her words sounded mocking. She eyed Oberyn, as if pleading with him to announce the same, so they could speak privily. Without all these incessant facades. 

“Of course, My love,” Rhaegar said, so soft and brokenly that she almost felt her heart clench painfully. It was that voice he used, when she would wake up in his arms and the world was not yet a mess and her heart did not bear all these complex feelings, that she could not quite name or understand.

“We should retire, as well. By your leave, My King,” Oberyn said and Elia was surprised by how it nearly sounded polite. 

“Yes,” Rhaegar nodded tersely. “It is late and we are all in need of a good slumber.” 

“I was not planning on sleeping,” her brother whispered loudly into his paramour’s ear. Ellaria blushed prettily and curtsied to the king. Then they all went their separate ways. Elia, to her chambers and the king with his girl of a queen, to theirs. Oberyn would pay a visit to hers, not long after. I suppose Rhaegar will find out one way or another. 

***

Ser Oswell barely had the time to announce her brother’s presence before Prince Oberyn sauntered into Elia’s chamber with an easy grace. 

“Brother,” Elia greeted, smiling big and wide. She had been waiting for him to arrive, it had been almost two turns of the clock since their dinner. 

“Forgive my lateness, sister. I was held back.” her brother kissed her cheek and embraced her firmly.

“It’s quite alright, Oberyn. You are a most wanted man, after all.” 

“I apologise that you could not spend more time with Rhaenys and Aegon, but tomorrow is another day, is it not?” her voice was soft, almost sheepish and she eyed her brother with a tenderness. He had grown taller and more like a man, since she last saw him. He is grown now, the light of youth has left him but he is still the same. Still my Oberyn. 

“It is and I look forward to it.” The Prince Of Dorne sat down on one of the plush chairs and gazed at the fire with a strange intensity. Elia moved to sit next to him. 

“What is on your mind, Oberyn?” she asked gently.

“How dare he bring that girl to sup with us, does he have no shame?” Oberyn spit. “She is little better than an adulterous harlot!” 

“Calm yourself,” Elia pleaded, aware that the knights outside did not belong to her, and would report every single thing heard, to their liege, the king. “You must not speak treasonous words.” then she leaned closer and her words became a mere whisper.

“In such a loud tone of voice.” 

Nodding, Oberyn took a deep breath and spoke again, quieter this time. 

“Uncle Lewyn is dead, 10,000 Dornishmen are dead, for this silver-haired cunt to claim the throne when he was the one who started the war, by fornicating with that northern bitch.” “I thought I would lose you, and the children, as well,” the Dornishman said, with tears glimmering like crystals in his dark eyes. “I would have killed him myself if anything happened to you. Neither gods nor men could have stopped me.” 

Elia took his large hands in her dainty ones and looked straight into his eyes. “I am here, Oberyn. We made it.” The words were not supposed to sound so haughty, so dreadfully sorrowful but they were said with almost a morbid weariness. Suddenly her eyes were brimming with tears as she thought of gentle and clever Rhaenys, bruised and bloodied. Of her sweetest Aegon, with the kind nature and charming smile, gone forever, dead or alive. Nothing was ever guaranteed, she thought as her eyes glazed over. 

A calloused thumb wiping away her tears, brought her out of her horrid thoughts. 

“I’ll cut his cock off with a dull blade, if you so wish it. He does not deserve your tears, sweet Elia.” She laughed tearfully at that but there was no joy to the sound.

“Let him keep it, so long as I get to keep you.” Oberyn smiled but it looked empty. 

“We will be staying for a moon’s turn, sweet sister. After that, I will need to return to Dorne, to my daughters and Doran. His gout has grown to be more severe than we anticipated.” 

Frowning, Elia replied. “Is there no stopping it?” Oberyn shook his head, his black curls glistening in the candlelight. 

“The maesters can soothe his pain, but naught else. The rich man’s disease, they call it.” 

“I miss him,” she whispered, even though Doran and Elia had never been particularly close, he took over as a protective figure, when they lost their father. 

“Doran has never frightened me before, but when he heard of your imprisonment and Rhaegar’s folly, I thought he would travel to the trident, to kill the silver bitch once and for all. Our calm brother said he would rally all of Dorne and bring destruction upon those who had a part in your harm, were you to have perished or been injured.” 

“Doran would never willingly go to war,” she shook her head with a soft smile, still holding his hand and stroking them absent-mindedly. 

“He would have. We would have. If not directly after, then when the time would be ripe. Dorne does not forget, these southron cunts should take note of that.” 

“These southerners are a nasty bunch, are they not?” she giggled. 

“When we were in Dorne,” her brother began wistfully. “You walked among vipers yet none would bite you.” The smile vanished from his face and was replaced with a bleakness. “This is a different kind of snake’s nest, Elia. It’s infested with dragons, lions and griffins and monsters. Every single person in King’s Landing would betray you, if it earned them the slightest of favor. Trust no one but those whose heart is already yours.” The Dornish queen nodded. Her brother leaned in, to whisper in her ear. 

“I will kill anyone who harms you. I could have him gone, you know. All you need is ask.” 

“What will that accomplish? Yours would be the first head on the pike an-” 

“-Death is not so great a cost to pay for you.” Oberyn was full of a grim determination.

“He is a good man at heart and he will be a just king,” she whispered, leaning her forehead against her brother’s and cupping his cheeks. She felt tears escape her Dornish eyes and slide down her cheeks. “He loves our children and even though he caused all of this horrid reality, I could never wish him dead. I won’t forgive him and I am still angry and hurt but I cannot lose you, as well. Do not leave me all alone.” Her last words were feverish pleas. 

Then she started weeping and Oberyn embraced her soothingly, with a tenderness that only a brother could harbor for their sister who had suffered so much. 

“I won’t,” he promised and stroked her hair as she wept in his arms. 

“Come back with us, it is time that Dorne saw their dragons and their gentle sun.” 

“I can’t,” she blubbered. “I begged him but he says the realm needs to stabilize first. He said I could go but without the children and I cannot leave them behind, Oberyn. I cannot.” 

“Fuck the realm and his cursed throne. He brought this upon himself, his crimes are not yours to pay.”

“I do not want to be here, in this haunted castle full of ghosts. I want to rest, Oberyn. I am so tired.” He stroked her back and kissed the side of her head. 

“I will push for him to allow a journey to Dorne. He needs to indulge me here, or risk the wrath of Dorne.” 

“He will come and he will bring her . It is a slight to our people, they’ll call me weak for allowing it, the dragon’s frail bitch.” she could be weak with Oberyn, she could weep and fear and complain, he was her brother and most of all; he understood.

“They will do no such thing. You are beloved all around Dorne, Elia. They burn for you.” 

“He will not pass Aegon and Rhaenys along in the line of succession, will he?” Oberyn asked, danger lacing his words. “Dorne will go to war if he does, we will fight for our heirs. No pups of that northern bitch shall take what's rightfully my niece and nephew’s.” 

“He will not,” she soothed her brother. “I would not have stood for it. If he had, we would have declared war, then and there. Even if the price was my head.” 

“They are good, Aegon and Rhaenys. You have not failed them, Elia.” 

“I could not protect them.” the tears returned again, more powerful than before. 

“We were going to die, Lord Varys told me to prepare for it. There was nothing he could do for us, save try to smuggle Aegon out.” Oberyn’s entire body stiffened. 

“I had to look upon Rhaenys for a fortnight, knowing her and my time was coming to an end. I had to hold my son in my arms, knowing it was almost for the last time. That I would not live to see them become adults or have children of their own, that they would never grow to claim their birthrights.” 

“He was fucking a girl in a tower, shamed you publicly and begot a child on her, a son. How dare he even touch you, or be in your vicinity? What fucking king weds his whore? Even Aegon the unworthy had more honor than that.” The Viper Of Dorne’s words were silent and deadly, filled with so much hatred and bitterness that it could wilt even the most prosperous of flowers. “How do you know she won’t conspire to put her northern pup atop the throne?” 

“Rhaegar prom-” 

“He promised to honor you, to love you in front of gods and men. He promised to protect you and beautiful, noble  Rhaegar Targaryen lied and left his wife, for a girl who is barely a woman.” Oberyn’s caresses were tender but his words stung, with the bitter taste of truth. 

“If she even tries, then we will rally all great lords to Aegon’s cause. Aemon is third in line, no lord who values the succession that rules even their lives, would support it.” 

“What if they prefer a Northman to a Dornishman atop the iron throne?” Oberyn asked. 

“They will prefer a Targaryen. My children look the part, her son does not.” Elia’s brother thought for long moments, absentmindedly stroking her hair, like he used to, when we were children and not playing at being queens and princes in this wretched game of thrones where no one truly wins and all must lose some. 

“That, they do. Be wary of her, Elia. There is something in her eyes, I like it not.” 

“Ice?” 

“Cold.” 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

During Oberyn’s third day in the capital, it was Lord Eddard’s last day. Both her brother and Lord Stark had remained quite separate from each other, with cool courtesy being used in the event that their paths crossed in the Red Keep. Elia had told her dear brother to be cordial with the young Stark, for he had showed her kindness and Lyanna’s crimes weren’t his to pay. 

“You are my brother, Oberyn. As Ned is Lyanna’s.”

“I know,” The Red Viper grumbled, casting his eyes downward. 

“If I had done what she did, would you scorn me for it? Would you hate me and treat me cruelly? Would the affection you harbor for me, dwindle and grow into bitterness?” 

“No. I love you.” 

“As he does, her,” Elia said, softly, stroking her brother’s arm as he turned his dark gaze on her. “You would berate me and tell me of all the consequences of my actions, I am sure, but I fear that would be all. If our heart bears a fierce love for something, then it is hard to befoul it with hate and scorn, however much we’d like to,” she continued. 

“And him. Do you hate him?” Oberyn asked quietly. The Dornish queen felt her throat tighten at the question. Did she? What she felt these days was blurred on the grey lines betwixt white and black. 

“No. However much I tried, I cannot. When the rage and anger ran its course of me… I do not know what remained and I have been too frightened to look. I must needs turn my attention toward my children who need me.” The fragility in the words of Queen Elia was palpable. “Rhaegar and… Th-he is a different matter, an exhausting one. I will put it on hold for as long as I can.” 

“I see,” Oberyn said, his brown eyes softening. “I will still kill him, if he ever hurts you again.” She laughed brokenly at that. 

“Oh I do not know, Oberyn,” Elia sighed as her brother ran his hands through her hair. “I am so angry, relieved, sad and happy at the same time, and i’m still trying to find out how that can be.”

“It is natural, Elia. I only wish that there was something that I could do, to relieve you of it.” 

“It will run its course,” she promised him. “And you are here. It is all the relief I need, it was years since I last saw your face.” Her brother smirked. 

“It is hard to forget such a handsome face,” he said arrogantly. It was just to make his sister giggle and Elia knew. She was thankful. 

“Don’t flatter yourself,” The queen scoffed.

During the morn, Elia decided to seek Lord Eddard out, to speak words of farewell. Rhaenys and Aegon were with their wet-nurse and nursemaid, Melly, which was where Ser Jaime was, as well. The duty to shadow the Dornish queen fell to Ser Oswell Whent of the Kingsguard. Elia did not really have any quarrels with it, for the knight always treated her respectfully and had a witty sense of humor. However, she had been notably cool toward him after he returned from her homeland. Oswell knows why, he does. I hope he feels shame for it, it is the least he can do. 

“Ned,” Elia called with a smile as she saw the Northman breaking his fast in the great hall, alongside Howland Reed, the small crannogman who seemed an inch or so shorter than the Dornish Queen herself. “Howland,” she added softly and he smiled shyly and mumbled a courtesy. 

“Queen Elia,” Lord Stark greeted her, his grim face lighting up. “The sun of King’s Landing.” That made her laugh. “Oh, I do not know about that.” 

“You are leaving today, I take it?” she asked the Northerner and he nodded.

“Yes, I must return to my wife and son, and Winterfell needs its lord.” 

“How dutiful of you,” Elia mused. “Has your stay in the capital reached your expectations?”

“It has been lovely, My Queen,” Lord Stark said humbly. “My sister seems... alright, considering the circumstances and that is all one could ask, for their family.” Yes, Elia thought. Especially when that family-member commits treason and is the cause for a rebellion to break out. Your sister has just as much blood on her hands as my husband does, I fear. 

She acknowledged his statement with a curt nod. I know it was not his intent to slight me or such, but the words taste bitter when they’re fed to me. If the wolf-girl was truly happy here, then it would have irked me, enraged me, even. For after the consequences of her actions, happiness should not seek her out. The Dornishwoman had not forgotten that she, Rhaenys and Aegon had been on the brink of death, all thanks to Lyanna of House Stark. And Rhaegar of House Targaryen. 

“I do wish you the best for your journey north. And you must write to me and tell me all of the little lordling that awaits you there.” The babe Robb was not much younger than her own Aegon, though her son’s first nameday was approaching quickly. 

“I will, in fact; my Lady-wife would most like wish for a mother to correspond with, herself, as she is young and values experience. I would have suggested Lyanna but she is so young and you have been a mother for longer.” Yes. I pray that your sister never has to look upon her son and see him dead in front of the cursed throne. That she never has to live with the knowledge that one of her children are doomed to die, whilst the other one’s fate is uncertain. 

“I am sure arrangements could be made for that, dear Ned. However motherhood is an ever-learning experience and it never ceases to surprise. I would not say that I have mastered it by any means, I am simply bending to its will,” she smiled kindly. 

“Judging by the young prince and princess, you have done an excellent job and should be proud. The Princess Rhaenys has a clever mind and gentle heart, Prince Aegon is charming and sweet, you and the king are very blessed to have such endearing children.” At least Rhaegar did not fail me in that, the Dornishwoman thought. He gave me two wonderful babes and for that, I am ever grateful. 

“You are too kind, Ned. I hope that one day our children will meet.” 

“I do, as well, My Queen.” Then, their time was out and Lord Eddard had to prepare for the journey, and Elia wished to see her children. 

Oberyn had taken the day to show Lyro and Ellaria around the city, with an experienced guide, of course, so he would not be back until supper that eve. A troubling thought made its way to Elia’s mind. Rhaegar had a minor feast prepared, which entailed that all of the Royal family needed to be present. I cannot indispose myself, for he will know that I am not ill. The warning still burned fresh in her mind. He will not stand for any public insolence, he told me as much. 

Somehow, Oberyn and Ellaria had managed to see as little of the silver king and his Northern queen, those days after the intimate supper. Elia had pondered that perhaps it was to give them space, because Rhaegar and Lyanna were actively avoiding the Dornishmen, or Rhaegar had duties to tend to and the wolf-girl hid elsewhere. Now, it was going to change and the Dornishwoman was nervous to see what the night would bring. Surely sun, dragon and wolf would quarrel, beneath cool courtesies and false talk. It was tiring work, to keep up the incessant facades and read beneath, to find the hidden meaning of words spoken so pleasantly. 

“Ser Jaime,” Elia said pleasantly, eyeing the Lannister knight who stood guard outside the nursery, alongside a soldier of lesser rank. 

“My Queen,” he replied, with an easy smile that seemed to make his green eyes sparkle like the purest of emeralds. 

“I hope my daughter has behaved.” It was empty conversation, but she felt as if she needed to say something else. 

“Ah, yes,” the knight replied, fondly. “She read to me earlier, an excerpt of the conquest. The princess is blessed to be able to read so well, for a girl of three.” 

“She takes after her father, no doubt. Some used to jest that Queen Rhaella must’ve swallowed some books during her pregnancy, for Rhaegar came out so bookish.” The knight’s smile faltered a little. 

“I am pleased for her. I was plagued with an ailment that prohibited me from properly reading until I was much older. The letters jumped out of place and such,” he explained. 

“Oh,” the queen frowned. “How did you cure it, did you ever?” A sort of melancholy seemed to take over Ser Jaime, then.

“My father he… he forced me to read until I could,” the knight faltered. 

“I hope he was not too harsh on you, Ser. There are plenty of lords who cannot read well, and a knight of the Kinsguard need barely be learned as a maester,” she said, unsurely. I do not wish to offend him. 

“He did what he thought was right. What upheld the Lannister legacy properly.” The statement did not bring her ease. 

“Well then it is great that you have a princess of your own to read to you, and that your father is not here and…” Elia did not know if she should continue. What was left unsaid between them was; and that you are no longer a Lannister, so upholding legacy matters not. 

“It is, My Queen,” Ser Jaime replied curtly and the Dornishwoman entered the nursery, hearing her daughter’s sweet voice. 

Rhaenys was reading to her little brothers, when Elia arrived. Aemon was placed in their nursery, at Rhaegar’s behest, for the children to bond and the Dornish queen did not mind. He is their brother, may they bond strongly, so that we will not have another Daemon Blackfyre on our hands. The energetic Balerion was there as well, resting comfortably in his princess’s lap. 

The cat was a curious thing, the runt of one of the kitchen cat’s litter but he charmed the princess nonetheless. He had a temper, though and was wont to scratch and hiss at anyone who was not to his liking. Fortunately, he seemed fond of Elia and the princelings, as well. Prince Oberyn was yet to make the cat’s acquaintance, for Balerion was always somewhere else, when the prince came to see his niece and nephew in their nursery. 

“Melly,” the Dornish queen greeted with a smile. “How are the children?” 

“The princess is-” The nursemaid faltered when she heard Elia laugh good-naturedly.

“-I meant your own children, all of mine seem well to me.” Realisation dawned upon the woman’s face then and she blushed a pale pink. 

“Oh, they are well, m’queen. A bit tempestuous sometimes, but they’re children, y’know?” 

“Ah, yes,” the queen smiled. “My brother has not outgrown his tempestuous nature, though.” That made the woman laugh. 

“Prince Oberyn is quite the peculiar man.” 

“I should like to hear you say that to his face, It would keep me amused for at least a fortnight.” Elia’s eyes were sparkling and she felt almost young again. 

Melly moved to speak but Princess Rhaenys’s voice echoed through the room.

“Mama, look, Ae is smiling,” the young girl said with glee in her lavender eyes. Queen Elia turned to look at the babe in the cot, and sure enough, the babe was glancing at his sister with mirth clouding his features. It was the first time she saw Prince Aemon without those wary eyes and uncertain nature. Well, he is a babe. One always needs to expect the unexpected with those. 

“He is,” Elia allowed warmly, walking to his crib and reaching a finger out to stroke his chubby cheek. The princeling turned his eyes upon the Dornish Queen then and she wondered how anyone could ever look upon such a being with hate in their hearts. He is but a babe, and does not deserve to suffer for the actions of those who came before him. 

“You are hard to charm, but are you not the sweetest little thing, once one sees behind those walls?” she whispered to the prince and found herself stretching an arm out to pick him up, but stopping at the last moment. He is not mine to embrace, she thought. Lyanna would not touch my children unless I allowed it so, therefore I shall not act as if I have the privilege to do so, to hers. Grey eyes met her brown ones and she felt tears brimming, forcing herself to look away. 

“He seems hungry,” she told the wet-nurse, quietly. Melly seemed to understand that something had transpired within the queen, even if she did not know what. 

“They always are at this age,” the woman smiled kindly. 

***

Ellaria Sand made a surprising visit to Elia a few hours before the feast.

“I thought I should come and visit the closest thing I have to a good-sister,” the woman said with a soft Dornish drawl. Those words warmed the Dornish queen’s heart in a way. Ashara is not here, and I never had a sister. 

“Where is Oberyn and Lyro?” Elia enquired gently. 

“Oberyn said he wished to show Lyro the sept and the Godswood, they do not have it in Lys.” 

“Ah, no doubt Oberyn will find some way to defile it,” the queen laughed. 

“I would not put it past him, he never ceases to surprise,” the bastard of Hellholt replied with a wry smile.

“Tell me of Dorne,” The former princess murmured softly, leaning back into her armchair as she heard the fire crackle on merrily. 

“Dorne never forgot you, My Queen. You were their princess long before you became the Dragon King’s Queen.” 

“Sometimes I do not know what I am,” Elia Martell sighed. “Nor my place. I do not quite belong in Dorne anymore, no more than I do here.”

The young paramour moved closer to Elia, softly caressing her arm. 

“Dorne is your home and the sun never abandons one of his children.” “One day you will return, I promise. You will meet Arianne, Doran, Tyene, Nymeria, Obara and Sarella. That, I promise you,” Ellaria continued fervently. 

“Oberyn is a year my junior, yet he boasts double the amount of children that I have. Rhaenys and Aegon will not lack any cousins, at least,” she smiled. 

She felt a cool hand touch her forehead and lightly run through her dark hair. 

“It is time that you had your soft and sweet ending. You have been so good and it is your right,” Oberyn’s paramour said, frowning. 

“The Gods may not agree with you. All they do is bring me more grief, it seems.” 

“One day you will find your peace.” 

“Let us hope,” Elia said even though she did not believe the words. 

After that, they spoke of lighter topics. Ellaria told her of the beauty that was the Water Gardens, of the first time she saw Oberyn and when they met Lyro, in Lys. Elia listened intently, relishing in the soft-spoken and sometimes fervent words. She saw the happiness light up the woman’s green eyes, when she spoke of Oberyn and even his bastard daughters. Obara was the warrior, Tyene more lovely than the sun, Nymeria fierce and Qartheen on her mother’s side. Sarella was of the Summer Isle’s, with a fair face and the loveliest complexion. Ellaria seemed happy with her brother, and shared that she did not worship the faith of the seven, but a Lyseni love goddess that Lyro had told her of. 

“The greatest form of worship is love,” Ellaria breathed and Elia could do naught but agree. 

“It is tragic that not all know of it.” 

“Indeed, My Queen.” Soft, green eyes looked at her with a strange sadness. It is not pity, Elia knew, though the bastard of Hellholt surely boasted some for the queen. 

“I experienced the purity of an innocent love, once. It was enough,” Elia tried to comfort her companion by saying, so softly. 

“You of all, deserve more.” The Dornish queen did not know what to say to that. 

Once in her youth, she had dreamed of a life with Arthur Dayne. We would flee to Lys, abandoning all duties and obligations. He would no longer be a knight, and she would no longer be a princess. How they would make coin or live, the young Elia never planned. Though, the image she concocted had been beautiful. They would live humbly, but beautifully, and each morn, they’d wake in each other’s arms, feeling the sun on their skin and the breeze of the leaves on the swaying trees. Westeros was to become a mere memory for them. How young she had been, then, and Arthur as well. They most often indulged that ludicrous dream when they had been in each other’s arms. 

“We’ll fuck and love and live,” Arthur whispered into her ear, his arm around her, both naked as their namedays, skin against skin-- whole. 

“My Queen?” a voice called, bringing her back to shore, when she had been floating on the waters of forgotten dreams and lost childhoods. 

“Please, call me Elia,” the Dornishwoman replied with a smile, focusing on her brother’s lover’s face. Ellaria’s face was not the sort of beautiful that Westeros valued, or that songs were sung of, yet it was not a bad face and sure, she looked more enticing than gorgeous, but it was her , that made her beautiful. 

“Your lips and eyes are painted,” Elia Martell noted and almost thought she saw the woman flush. “Do not mistake my meaning, I meant to compliment it. You look lovely.” 

“Thank you,” Ellaria replied, shyly. The very opposite of my brother. Where he is loud, she is quiet, where he is obnoxious, she is shy. “I could paint your face, if you’d like?” the woman asked and Elia smiled.

“It has been long, since I participated in such.” 

“We do not ha-”

“-I’d love to, there is a feast tonight, after all,” The Dornish Queen winked and Ellaria was off to get her utensils as Elia was dressed by her handmaidens. 

The handmaids were lacing the back of Elia’s gown when the bastard of Hellholt returned, clutching jars of different substances and brushes of different kinds. 

“You seem almost an alchemist,” she jested, earning a laugh and a reply from the paramour.

“Every queen needs their own,” she winked. The last sharp lace made Elia suck in a deep breath. To be beautiful, all must suffer a little, Loreza Martell told her daughter once. The words appeared in that moment and she found herself missing her mother, who died a year after Elia wed Rhaegar. 

“You are dismissed,” she told her handmaids and moved to sit down by her vanity.

“But your hair, m’queen,” one of them stammered like a little mouse.

“Ellaria shall tend to it, will you not?” 

“Yes, your grace.” Duly, the maids left, as if they had never been. 

“What’s that?” she asked as the woman unfolded a jar of a dark substance, preparing to paint it on Elia with a brush.

“A mixture of coal and some other minor substances. It looks splendid on the eyes.” 

“Ah.” 

“Close your eyes,” Ellaria smiled and Elia did as she was bid. When the bastard of Hellholt was done, Elia tried to sneak a peak in the mirror.

“No peeking,” the bastard scolded the queen and Elia giggled.

“Alright then.” 

“Open your mouth slightly.” A creamy mixture touched her lips and felt queer, until it settled and the Dornish Queen was bid to close her mouth. After a few more strokes of Ellaria’s brush, and a little powder applied to her cheeks, Elia was good to go.

“Now, only my hair remains. I trust that you will find something to do with it.” Green eyes met brown and the queen noticed that they had been holed up in her quarters for almost half the day. A knight of the Kingsguard will surely arrive to fetch me, soon. I hope it is Jaime and that he brought Rhaenys. The little Aegon was still too young to be present for such rowdy things, so he was to remain in the nursery with Prince Aemon. 

In the end, the Dornish paramour allowed Elia’s soft hair to flow freely down her back, adorned with three braids, one at the crown of her head and one for each side. 

“I saw a depiction of a Valyrian princess with hair like that, once,” the woman confessed as her inspiration. 

“It must be lovely, then,” Elia replied, smiling tenderly at Ellaria Sand. She had not seen herself in the mirror yet and hoped that she looked somewhat beautiful. The gods know that I haven’t felt that for years. 

“Stand up,” Ellaria bid her and she did, the red Myrish lace of her gown, flowing easily with her movements. Suddenly, the woman gasped, and her green eyes turned dazed, almost. 

“What is it?” Elia asked, nervously, feeling her heart race in her chest. This was a foolish child’s fancy, I am a woman not a girl, why should I dress up, they’ll think i’m ugly.   “Do I look that horrendous?” Insecurity gnawed on the queen.

“No, no,” Ellaria shook her head vigorously. “You look unworldly,” she breathed “… You look so very beautiful, My Queen.” 

When Elia Martell looked in the mirror that adorned her vanity, she did not recognise herself. A different woman met her reflection. Her gown showed a generous amount of cleavage, but not so much that it would be deemed inappropriate. Her hair glistened in the evening sun, like burnished copper. Her eyes were gracefully lined and smoked out with the black substance, which gave her a mysterious but intriguing aura and the lips were a bloody red. 

“You’re radiant.” Ellaria’s soft, accented voice reached her and Elia felt beautiful for the first time in so very long. 

Tears brimmed in her eyes but she forced herself to not weep.

“Thank you,” she whispered and suddenly slender arms were around her, holding her tenderly. They stayed like that for the longest of time, until a knock on Elia’s door brought them back to their realities. Suddenly, the night and prospect of the feast, did not feel so bleak.

“This is no time for tears, My Queen. You look a goddess and you should feel like one, as well. No girl nor woman will look half so lovely as you do tonight. You are the sun.”  The Dornishwoman hugged her brother’s paramour tighter at that and only untangled herself from the embrace, when the knock was heard, again. 

Ellaria moved to open the door and it was Ser Arthur, Elia recognised the voice. 

“I am here to escort the queen to the feast.” 

“Mama,” she heard Rhaenys’s voice squeal, which made the Dornish queen walk toward the door, where she was met with the queer gazes of both Ser Jaime and Ser Arthur. 

“Sers,” Elia greeted politely and turned to her daughter, who was in her sworn shield’s arms. 

“Don’t you look beautiful tonight, my sweet?” Princess Rhaenys was dressed in a gown of lavender, the same shade as her eyes, and her hair was free and flowing, the same color as her mother’s. Her daughter smiled a toothy smile and reached a small hand out, to touch her mother’s cheek. 

“Mama is pretty,” the princess directed at her sworn shield. 

“She is. Very pretty.” His emerald eyes looked warm and friendly but there was something else swirling in them, something she could not quite discern.

“I could not look half as lovely as you do, my child,” Elia told her daughter, stroking her cheek and hair. 

She turned to Ser Arthur who was gazing at her queerly. His violet eyes were vivid and burning as they assessed her face, then she saw them briefly turn down toward her chest and it made her feel strangely shy and fidgety. 

“Shall we?” she asked and that seemed to snap the knight out of his daze. 

“Uh, yes, My Queen” he cleared his throat and she moved to his side. 

“Wait, you forgot,” Ellaria breathed, departing from Elia’s chambers with her crown.

“It will make it all complete.” The crown was placed on her head, and for the first time, Elia truly felt that she was a queen, and not only in name. After that, the Dornish paramour moved to Ser Arthur’s other side, glancing briefly at him, with a distaste that could be discerned by anyone. Oberyn surely told her of Arthur’s betrayals. 

***

Elia was seated next to Rhaegar on the high-table, with Oberyn next to her and Ellaria, next to him. Rhaegar tried making conversation with Elia, after his staring at her ceased but the Dornish Queen only gave him curt answers and turned to speak with her brother and his paramour, instead. Oberyn indulged her for the evening, for he saw that she had no wish to converse with her husband, or the other queen. 

The wolf-girl was dressed in an embroidered dress of blue silk. It looked pretty, making her pale skin seem paler, her hair darker and her grey eyes, more blue. Rhaegar wore a black doublet, with the Targaryen sigil on his chest, the sleeves embroidered with red threading. His silver hair boasted a few braids and his skin turned slightly flushed, the more he drank of the wine. Thankfully, both the Northern queen and her Targaryen husband did not bother Elia when she was busy conversing with her brother and the other ladies.

Rhaenys sat on Oberyn’s lap, giggling and smiling as her uncle jested and tickled her. 

“I thought dragons had claws,” her brother told Princess Rhaenys, who nodded, her wide eyes filled with mirth.

“Balerion has claws!” 

“He does, but you are not only a dragon, are you?” Oberyn asked her daughter. 

“Nope,” the girl said, popping the p. 

“No, no,” the Red Viper began loudly and dangerously, drawing the attention of both Rhaegar and Lyanna. “You are a dragon, aye, but you are also the sun.” Her brother ignored Elia’s vivid pleas, through her face, for him to not do something he would regret. Instead, the Dornish prince turned to the king and Northern queen with a strangely sinister smile, sickly-sweet in a dark way and spoke. 

“And even dragons and griffins and wolves alike; must bow before the sun.” An uneasy tension creeped in between the people present at the table, upon hearing that. 

“I think it is time for Rhaenys to sleep, do you not, Elia?” her husband asked with an air of indifference, and regular conversation resumed around the tables. 

“It is not so late,” The Dornish queen frowned. 

“She has her lessons tomorrow,” Rhaegar reminded his wife, with an edge to his words. It seems Oberyn bit the dragon, but her refuses to let it show. Poison only grows stronger, however, especially if one lets it simmer. 

“Alright then,” Elia said, begrudgingly. 

“Rhaenys, my sweet,” she told her daughter who was sitting in her uncle’s lap, calmly, with her head in the crook of his neck as he caressed her back, absentmindedly and she stroked the back of his neck. It was a beautiful sight, so tender and warm that it filled the Dornish queen with a deep, burning love.

“Mm,” the princess replied, dazedly.

“Are you tired, love?” The princess shook her head fervently. 

“No.” That made Rhaenys’s uncle laugh and hug her, giving her a kiss to the top of her head.

“It is time for you to sleep, sweet niece. We have tomorrow and all the days after that, as well.” Rhaenys fussed and whined a little, but Elia beckoned her brother to hand her the princess. Rhaenys settled and rested her head against her mother’s neck. 

“Melly will take you to sleep now, your father called for her.” The Dornish Queen turned to Rhaegar, who nodded. 

“No,” the princess complained weakly but Elia laughed and kissed her daughter’s cheek. 

“You’ve had enough of your uncle for one day.” The princess shook her head and Elia saw her brother smirk.

By the time Melly arrived, Princess Rhaenys was near sleeping in her mother’s safe embrace. 

“Say good eve to your father, my child,” Elia whispered, handing Rhaenys to a smiling Rhaegar. 

“Be good for your nursemaid, now, will you?” Her name is Melly. Melly, Melly, Melly. Is it so hard to recall? 

“Mm,” the princess replied. The king kissed his daughter on the cheek and forehead, embracing her tightly, before handing her toward the nursemaid. There was no doubt in Elia’s mind that her husband loved his children, dearly. She would never rob him of them, not like he had almost (unknowingly) done to her. Does it matter if it was by his will or not? It was still done and cannot be undone. 

The people were getting more bawdy and unruly as time went on, many lords complimented Elia on her appearance, and some men simply shouted words that could barely be deciphered, in the throes of their drunken stupors. The attention emboldened her, yet it also made her feel strange. She was used to not being given much notice but as soon as she paints her eyes and lips, she is suddenly the subject of attention. It unnerved her in a way, but she knew what beauty could do to people. This world does not belong to everyone, it belongs to those who wield power, and those who are young and beautiful. 

Ellaria and Oberyn seemed lost in each other’s touches and Elia did not wish to disturb them or cling to her brother, like a babe at its mother’s skirts. I am a queen, she thought. I must be strong, for the gods only know what will happen, when i’m not. King’s Landing would surely have ravaged her like a pack of deadly wolves, she was certain. She saw Ser Arthur standing in the back, as she analyzed her surroundings. Their eyes met and it was so strange, he looked so sad and uncertain, almost broken. He hid it well, behind his stoic masks, but Elia had known him since she was a child. The Dornish queen could see through the cracks and his facades, like a breeze in the air. 

“Elia,” she felt a voice say, lips barely touching the base of her ear. The Dornish queen turned around and was met by her husband, his indigo eyes shining bright in the light of the eve. 

“Yes?” she asked.

“My mother wrote to me, I meant to tell you, earlier.” Oh , she frowned. I hope Rhaella is well. “She will be returning to King’s Landing from Dragonstone, with Viserys.” Viserys, Elia thought fondly. She had dearly missed the clever little boy and his mother. 

“When?” Elia breathed, desperate to know. Rhaegar smiled a little. 

“Soon, within the week if the gods are good and the sea is not too rough.” When are the gods ever good? The Dornishwoman found herself pondering. 

“Those are joyous tidings, husband,” she replied and found a genuine smile taking over her face. Rhaella had been friends with her mother, and taken on a sort of parental role to Elia, as well. The Dowager queen never deserved all the things she had to suffer. She was good and kind to me, more than her crazed fool of a husband ever was.  Rhaegar looked at her strangely. 

“Yes, they are.” 

***

Elia was undoing the braids that Ellaria fashioned her and rejoicing in the quiet solitude that being alone sometimes gave her. There was a fire burning in the hearth, giving off a radiant heat that warmed her body. This day has not been so hard, she found herself thinking. It was the first time that she had felt so genuinely… like a queen. And for the first time since her days with Arthur in Dorne, she’d felt beautiful and desired. Of course Rhaegar had shown that he desired her but it was never in that unconditional sort of way. Never truly in the way she’d craved. His desire was comfortable, it stemmed from her being his wife, not a woman he’d been wildly in love with. She doubted that her husband would ever feel that sort of way, I do not think he has it in him to. Let the singers sing of how Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna. 

The truth is never half so romantic. 

Elia was just to wash her face clear of the paint, with the rosewater in the marble basin, when she heard the door to her chambers open. Frowning, she moved to find out who this person was, visiting in the late hours of the night. Her feet padded softly from her washing room, through the hall and into the sitting room. 

“Rhaegar,” she tried to stifle her surprise at his visit. “I would’ve thought you’d be sound asleep with the young wolf-girl in your arms, by now.” 

“Elia,” he said with dark, indigo eyes fixed on her. She was suddenly aware that she was dressed in a flimsy, orange shift made out of satin and that made her feel too exposed, even in front of her husband. Her hair was flowing freely down her shoulders and back in ringlets, whilst her face remained painted, although the black around the eyes had smudged slightly. It gave her a haughty look, as if she was a dark seductress that would lure you into her den, shrouded with mystery and intrigue. 

“Is there a reason for your… late visit?” she asked, nervously touching her arms. She wanted to go fetch one of her robes but this did not feel like the time to do such things. The light made his silvery hair glisten and one could not deny his beauty. Not even Elia. How is it that he can look so handsome, even when disheveled? Even after several cups of wine. It is not fair, not to anyone. Least of all, Queen Elia.

“Yes,” he said, walking toward her in long strides. 

She looked down when he reached her, for reasons unbeknownst to her. Then, warm fingers touched the bottom of her chin and turned her face upward, to meet his burning gaze. Her husband still did not speak. A slender finger stroked down her cheek to her neck and onto her collarbone. Queen Elia peered at him through dark lashes, confusion clouding her features. He is acting strange.  

“You looked beautiful today,” he whispered and she furrowed her brows. 

“Thank you, My King.” 

“But…” he began and seemed on edge. “You are a queen and those are supposed to be graceful creatures,” he breathed. Do I not behave gracefully? The statement confuzzled her.

“I do not take your meaning.” He was making her wary. 

“You are the wife of a king, not a harlot, Elia. You should not paint yourself and dress in such a way that only makes you the subject of  attraction and lust.” What? She slapped his hand off of her body as if scalded. Tears brimmed in her eyes. The queen had felt so beautiful but now it all felt the most horrible of mummer’s farces. 

“What?” she asked sharply. “Are you saying that I am a whore because I took care of my appearance, once? That it is my fault that you men only think with your cocks?” she spit out, feeling a heavy weight of defeat loom over her, as if a dark, rainy cloud. 

“There is no need to grow upset, Elia,” Rhaegar pleaded. “I am only telling you.”

“What? Do you think yourself merciful, that you are a king who asks first, before he commands? Go fuck yourself, Rhaegar!” The Dornishwoman felt fiercely angry but so horribly sad at the same time. I will not give him the satisfaction of seeing me weep like a newborn babe in arms. 

“Stop it,” he told her when she tried to push him away. Instead, he moved to embrace her, putting his strong arms around her and keeping them there, no matter how much she squirmed like a weasel in his grasp, trying to get away. He felt constricting and she wanted him to leave. 

Why do I think it’ll last, every time I feel good?

“Shh,” he stroked the back of her hair and spoke with his lips against her ear. “I am not saying that you did not look enticing, because gods, you did. But you are a queen, not a seductress. I will not have filthy lords fucking their wives, whores or themselves, with you on their mind.” 

“Do not act so fucking chivalrous, Rhaegar,” she spit. “Do you not think every girl old enough to feel desire, wets their smallclothes at the thought of you, or every lady and every widow? Oh, the handsome dragon-king, oh, the beautiful Rhaegar, oh, fuck me please, your grace-- spare me the false concern.” His grip on her tightened. 

“I do not ask for it,” he told her sharply. 

“Do you think I do?” she countered, still trying to wriggle out of his arms, seeing if he would budge. 

“What was your meaning of dressing and painting your face like that, if it was not to gain attention?” Because I felt beautiful, she wanted to scream. Because for once, I did not feel like a waste of space or a ghost in these cursed halls. I felt alive. It would do no good to tell him that, she knew. 

“Every man’s eyes were on you, even my Kingsguard could barely stray.” Her husband sounded vexed, which only further fueled her anger.

“Perhaps they admired my jewelry,” she grumbled harshly. 

“I will not play games with you, Elia.”

“So what if they were? You once told me that a queen belongs to the realm.” She was tired and weary and wanted him to cease this incessant plathering, that would lead nowhere in the end. Leave me be, she thought. I just want to be alone. 

“First, she belongs to the king and you are mine. Not any of those drunken lords’ or fat merchants’.” His voice was like pure granite. Queen Elia Martell almost wished to laugh.

“How can I be yours, if you were never mine?”

“I am yours.” 

“And the wolf-girl’s, and the court’s, and the realm’s,” she continued spitefully.

“I am a king.” 

“Oh, I know. Believe me, I know,” she grumbled harshly and tried to push him away but each time she tried, he only held her harder. 

“I love you, but I will not have you undermine me by going against my commands.”

“So now it is a command?” Rhaegar ignored her. 

“I would love to see you in such attire, but only for my eyes. Never would I hinder that, but in public, my reputation rests upon yours. People will doubt and call me a feeble king, if I cannot control my wayward wife.” Wayward? I have been nothing but dutiful to you, she thought as she felt a tear escape her eyes. It is your damned other wife who is wayward and willful, the one who refused to do her duty. 

“You want me to be the king’s little whore?” she asked bitterly, a sneer clouding her features. “For you it is alright, then? The king wishes me to look beautiful as I take his cock like a dutiful whore, right?” Men, she thought in disgust.

“Do not twist my words, Elia!” her husband said, frustration lacing every word. “You know that is not how I meant it.” Her breathing quickened and she wanted to be free of him, and quickly. Get away, get away, get away!

“I do not know how you mean anything, anymore, Rhaegar,” she spit out venomously. “You are not capable of loving a woman and all you do is disappoint and ruin, now LEAVE!” she raged, wrenching free and pushing him away as bitter tears escaped her eyes. Stop weeping, you stupid little girl, you are a woman. Harden your heart, do not let them see you hurt. Elia wanted to, but it was so very hard.

The heart was never meant to be hardened. It was meant to love. 

“Leave!” she screamed, not caring if anyone heard, flinging the closest thing she could find at him, which was a book. “LEAVE!” she repeated brokenly. Her husband looked torn between wanting to comfort and stop her from potentially killing him, and simply doing as she bid, for the queen seemed very unreliable at that moment. Angry, sorrowful tears streamed down her face, leaving gray imprints from the paint. 

“You fucking hypocrite, I told you to GET OUT!” she flung a pillow at him, this time, he dodged it with his hands, but the heavy book had done a number on his wrist.

In the end, he did get out. 

Elia followed the silver-haired man to the door, wanting to slam it in his face. When the door opened, Ser Arthur looked at her briefly, and then turned his gaze downward. Was it because of shame? Elia would never know.

“Arthur,” Rhaegar sighed and kept on walking, away from his wife’s chambers, away from her. The knight followed, dutifully. Ser Jaime remained on the other side of the door, with a heaviness in his emerald eyes. 

Defeated, Elia moved to close the door, but at the last instance, a hand stopped it. She looked at Ser Jaime haughtily. In that moment, one would’ve described Queen Elia as tragically beautiful, with that dark paint streaming down her cheek and the smudged red around her lips. 

“I thought you looked beautiful today, every inch a queen,” he said with a burning sincerity. “For whatever it’s worth,” the knight added, after Elia looked at him for a few moments, in a stunned silence. 

“Thank you, Jaime,” the Dornish Queen replied softly, trying to smile but she feared it did not come out as such. 

The knight nodded and she closed the door. When she’d done that, she leaned back against the cool wood and slowly fell apart, into a sobbing heap on the floor. 

She wept herself to sleep that night, but then again,

Doesn’t everyone?

***

“What did he do to you?” Oberyn asked the next day with danger in his viper’s eyes. 

“Nothing worth mentioning, considering the severity of some of his actions,” Elia replied, desperately wanting to forget the previous eve and her husband’s crude words. They were in the great hall, breaking fast together. It was early and the sun had only just risen, so it was only Lyro, Oberyn, Ellaria and Elia present. 

“Severe enough to make you cry,” Oberyn mumbled quietly, eyeing her with a strange intensity. Oh, no, she thought. Is it so obvious? Her brother seemed to sense her conflict and placed his hand atop hers on the table. 

“I am your brother, I see what these fat lords and lickspittles do not. There is sadness in your eyes, the kind you try so desperately to hide.”

“It comes with queenship.” 

“No, it comes with the dragons.” “Pretentious cunts,” he continued and Elia giggled a little but looked around warily, after.

“You must not say such things…” “Openly,” she whispered. “Promise me.” 

“Only for you, my sister,” he drawled. “The gods know that he deserves more than words.” The Dornish queen rose an eyebrow.

Elia turned to look at Ellaria and Lyro, who were immersed in a deep conversation, stopping only after they noticed her eyes on them. 

“My Queen,” they both said in courtesy and she laughed. “You may call me Elia, I told you.”

“Elia it is, then,” Lyro said, his musical accent tickling the words. The flaxen hair gracing his head was short, but not cropped, by any means. His jaw was sharp, and he boasted the aquiline nose of the Valyrians, with full, pink lips and pale, blue eyes. A true Lyseni beauty, she thought, and far comelier than half of the men in this court. Yet Lyro also boasted a charming nature, and jested well and often, with wry, dry humor to accompany it. The queen had grown quite endeared toward him, during the little time they’d spent with each other. Yet his origins remained vague and unbeknown to her. 

“Lyro, you originate from Lys, do you not? I always wanted to go there.” 

“I do,” the man smiled. “It is a lovely land, to be sure, filled with all the pleasures that life has to offer, if one has the coin to pay for it.” 

“I hear it is a tropical paradise,” she mused and he nodded. 

“I would be glad to take you there sometime, My Queen,” the man said and somehow, she knew that he was sincere. 

“There would be no finer guide for me,” the Dornishwoman smiled and he returned it, pale blue eyes, glowing like icy stars. 

“How about we have the children join us for a day in the courtyard? The sun is out and it would do Rhaenys well to be a girl again, playing in the mud.”

“We would play in the Water Gardens,” her brother said quietly and Elia nodded.

“One day, she will as well. For now, I cannot wait until Prince Viserys joins us, he will make a good companion to her.” 

“More Targaryens.” 

“My children are Targaryens, as well,” she told her brother. 

“Good ones,” he agreed. 

“Viserys and Rhaella are, as well.” Even Rhaegar is. There is no evil in his heart, only mystery, shrouded by the fog of prophecies. He learned his lesson, I hope. Even though she was still fiercely wroth with her husband, hate never came easy to a woman as gentle of heart as the Dornish queen was. 

***

She managed to avoid Rhaegar for the entire day, as he was busy with trying to mend the weeping sores of the realm. The ones he fashioned, himself and the ones left behind by his mad father . Oberyn was a delight with Rhaenys, running around with the princess and indulging her whims until she was content. He spoils her too much, the queen had thought with a fond smile. But isn’t that what uncles should do, especially those that do not meet their kin often. 

Ellaria told the queen of her experience in Lys, until she moved to join Oberyn and Rhaenys. Elia had remained, with the princeling in her knee, who was in great spirits, giggling and smiling for all to see. Ser Jaime stood nearby, guarding them and the precious princess. Lyro sat next to her, watching the scenery in front of them avidly. Sometimes he would look at her son with a softness in his pale eyes, stroke Prince Aegon’s cheeks or make a mock of himself, for the giggles of the young babe. Elia asked him if he ever thought of having children and a sadness had descended upon him, then. 

“Men like me do not father children.”  

The Queen had thought it prudent to change the matter of discussion then, and the Lyseni had gladly indulged her. The man spoke of poetry, songs and the arts. 

“You must sing or recite poetry for me, some time,” she told him, in awe. The man blushed a little. 

“I do not enjoy doing so in front of crowds, My Queen,” Lyro mumbled, casting his eyes downward in shyness. 

“Then you can do so in my chambers, away from prying eyes and ears.” 

"Gladly,” he replied, eyes shining bright in the light of the yellow sun. 

“How does this eve sound? After we’ve had supper and I bring the children back to their nursery.” 

“If I should be able to escape your brother,” the Lyseni smirked. “It won’t be hard. He loves her.” Elia turned to gaze upon her brother, playing with Rhaenys alongside his paramour in the yards, mirroring the soft look on Lyro’s face. 

“He does.” But the unspoken question was; do you?

She did not sup with Rhaegar and Lyanna, but instead with her children, brother, Lyro and Ellaria, in her chambers. The meal was a simple stew of mutton, alongside steamed vegetables and fried bread. Pleasant conversation was made whilst they supped, but the excursion in the courtyard had left them all feeling pleasantly dazed and a wave of calm washed upon each of them. 

“Shall we return to your nursery, my sweets?” Elia asked her children when all were finished supping, but only Rhaenys deigned herself to reply, for Aegon was still too young to understand such intricacies. 

“Is Melly there?” The Dornish queen smiled. 

“No, sweetling. She is with her own children but the other nursemaids will see you to bed.”

“I hope it’s Lysa,” the princess muttered under her breath, making Oberyn bark out a laughter. 

“This one knows what she wants. Dorne runs in her blood.” 

“It does,” Elia allowed and offered her son for Ellaria, Lyro and Oberyn to kiss goodnight. 

“Rhaenys, bid your uncle, Ellaria and Lyro a good eve.” The girl ran into her uncle’s arms, delighting as he spun her around a few times and then kissed the top of her head. The paramour bent down to embrace the little princess and kissed her cheek. When it came to Lyro, the Lyseni looked as if he did not know what to do. 

“Goo-” he began but was interrupted by young Rhaenys’s demanding little arms. She outreached them, wishing to be picked up. He indulged her and the princess wrapped her arms around the tall man’s neck and whispered a “Goodnight, Lyro.” In which Elia noticed how his pale eyes seemed to be brimming with tears. Unknowingly, she walked toward the Lyseni and put a comforting arm on his shoulder, he looked at her with a gentle smile. 

Then, she departed her chambers, to the nursery alongside Ser Jaime. 

“How are you faring, Ser?” Elia asked, trying to make pleasant conversation. He turned, peering at her through dark lashes that clashed with his golden hair. 

“Well, My Queen.” 

“I hope no one is giving you any grief, you must needs tell me if they do, and I shall put a stop to it.” He smiled emptily, then.

“I thank you, but none of your words can erase the thoughts of men. I’d rather face harsh comments, than for them to tell me i’m hiding behind the queen’s skirts. Rumors would follow you, as well, nasty stories, no doubt.” 

“I’d never do that to you,” he continued softly.

“You are more considerate than mine own husband, then,” she mumbled and saw the knight looking at her sadly. They remained quiet for the rest of the walk to the nursery, Elia nodding at the Lannister knight before entering. The chamber was dimly lit and Elia could spot a shape by Prince Jaehaerys’s crib, and a mane of flowing, dark hair. 

Lyanna, she thought. In the time that the wolf-girl spent in the capital, they’d never encountered each other in the nursery. Perhaps she has been too frightened to visit, the Dornishwoman pondered. Or perhaps she preferred the babe sleeping with her, as the Prince Aemon was missing from his crib, on the occasional day and night. An unsettling thought brewed within Elia, then. Mayhaps she thought I would poison him or such. What woman would do that to an innocent babe? It would have made the Dornishwoman’s rage a sight to behold, if that had indeed been the case, for she despised the way King’s Landing and the south treated the Dornishmen with prejudice. 

“Shall we head for your bath, princess?” one of the nursemaids asked. Realisation struck the queen. A h, yes, of course she will bathe, she did play in the mud and grassy plains of the courtyard earlier. 

“Follow your nursemaid, and Ser Jaime will accompany you on the way.” Elia gently untangled her daughter from her skirts and pushed her toward Ser Jaime, all the while being aware of the wolf-girl’s eyes on her. 

“I will see you in the morn, my love,” she called to her daughter, before the left the nursery. Now there was only Lyanna, Aemon, Aegon and Elia left in the room. The guards remained posted outside. 

Mutely, the Dornish queen walked to her son’s cot and placed a sleepy Prince Aegon in it. He fussed a little when being lowered, for he’d almost fallen asleep in his mother’s arms, but a soothing stroke to his head and cheek from Elia, and he quieted down, only gazing at her with those big, purple eyes. 

“You are growing too fast,” she chided her son with a smile. “Soon enough you will be a man grown, and I, a crone.” the princeling made no reply to that, he only closed his eyes contently. 

Bending down into the cot, she kissed the top of her son’s head, stroking a few silver curls with her index finger. 

“I love you.” Then, she stood up and turned to the other queen.

Lyanna was rocking her son, in arms that looked frail. Elia knew that she, herself had been sickly most of her life and been bestowed an emaciated, frail look because of it, but motherhood had placed more meat on her bones, giving her a healthier look. From what she knew, the wolf-girl had never been a sickly babe, nor born early. What brought upon this gaunt look, then? 

“Your son is beautiful,” the Northern girl breathed, suddenly. Perhaps the thick silence was too much to take. The Dornishwoman rose an eyebrow. Have you not gazed upon our husband? 

“He is blessed with the dragon’s blood and his father’s beauty and colors.” 

“He has you in him, as well,” the girl said, with grey eyes that looked too large for her face. A heaviness settled in Elia’s chest as she looked upon Lyanna Stark. She is still a child, no matter how much you try to make her into a woman. The glow of youth still glares upon her and it is no mercy. No mercy at all, when one lives in this viper’s nest. 

“Rhaenys takes after me, more.” 

“She will grow into one of the comeliest ladies in the realm. Songs will be sung of her beauty and those eyes.” The wolf-girl sounded as if something was gnawing on her, the words felt like pleas. What is she searching for, here? Forgiveness? Absolvement? For me to tell her that I do not hate her? 

“Beauty is not everything. My daughter is as sharp-witted as her parents, willful and demanding like her uncle. She will not be a dull woman, only good for clinging to her husband’s arm. My son and daughter will rule together like Alysanne and Jaehaerys. I know it.” 

“I wish that for them. Love and prosperity.” 

“Do you?” Elia asked, sharply. “Do you, truly?” The girl nodded, swaying gently with her son in her arms.

“Then why did you almost bring upon their deaths?” Lyanna simply stared at her with a haunted look in her eyes. 

“What?” she asked weakly. 

“Surely my husband told you and you heard me curse him for it, not long ago.” 

“I’d never… if i’d known that,” she stammered. 

“Are you really this naive? What did you expect would happen, pray tell? That you and Rhaegar would live happily ever after, that all would be merry and well because he was crown-prince and heir to the throne, that his honeyed words and lips between your thighs would solve everything?” She asked, fervently. “That is a child’s dream, and we are no children.” Elia’s voice was hard as granite. “Not any longer, we cannot afford to be, you cannot afford to be,” Elia continued.

“I love him,” the wolf-girl stammered, cold tears sliding down her cheeks. 

“You loved the idea of him, a childish infatuation is what it was. The handsome dragon prince, wanting you. It must have been lovely, being crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty, to feel the softness of his lips and his tender declarations of love and prophecies. Alas, it does not last and the ugliness of reality shows its head. In this case, it was too late.” 

“I will never forgive myself for what happened here, what I caused, your pain and…” She could not say it, the words were too horrible for her Northern tongue. 

“The inevitable death of my children. The ones you see smile so sweetly in the halls. Rhaenys’s pure laugher, Aegon’s charming giggles, their utter lust for life and living. It must be hard to look upon them, knowing that you unwillingly almost put them in their graves. Little children who’d barely lived.”

“And you,” the girl wept. “And you,” she repeated in a whisper. 

“My life matters not. I would have gladly died for my children. I am the mother of dragons and you almost robbed me of them, you and their father. I do not absolve you of any guilt on the account that you were half-a-child. Younger girls than you have showed far more wisdom. You knew what you were doing, yet you turned a blind eye to it.” 

“I never imagined it would-” the girl began but Elia stopped her. 

“Do you imagine that you would be the first woman forced to wed a man she did not love or want? A man who drinks and whores?” 

“I-”

“-Do you? What made you think that you were so special, that you did not deserve that bland and bitter fate? From what I hear, you would’ve had a comfortable life. The man loved you, he rose in rebellion when he thought my husband stole you away, like some wildling savage.” 

The girl who was barely a woman lowered her gaze. 

“Robert loved my face but not what laid beneath. He would never have changed his nature.” 

“Do you think Rhaegar loved you blindly?” Elia scoffed and saw as tears spilled down Lyanna’s cheeks. “He might have enjoyed your willful nature and wild beauty but Rhaegar is not a man who can truly love. You’ve noticed, haven’t you?” Elia enquired. “Was he not disappointed when he found out your son was not a Visenya, but an Aemon?” The girl let out a broken sob, then. Oh, how you spoiled things for yourself, girl. 

“Give him to me,” the Dornishwoman told the young woman, when her shaking grew more severe and began to interrupt the sleeping babe in her arms. Lyanna Stark did not argue, but handed her son over to the woman she called her sister-wife. A small bundle, he was, with tiny, pale limbs and chubby cheeks. He looks a little like Aegon, now that I think of it. Gently, Elia began to sway, shushing the fussing babe in her arms. 

“My words are the truth, girl. I will not tell you sweet lies, the death of your brother and father laid on your hands, and Rhaegar’s for staring this mummer’s farce. My death and that of my children’s, would have been on your hands, as well. You are young, yes, but not any longer and even so, the world does not spare the young. Think of all the husbands who did not return home, all the poor boys forced to fight in a war they had no part in. You sent them to their deaths, you and my husband.” 

“I’m sorry,” the girl repeated brokenly, slowly descending into a heap on the floor.

“Do not tell me, tell their ghosts,” Elia began. I do not wish to tear her to shreds but she has not truly learned the severity of her actions. It is time she did. “Tell the innocent, young men, forcefully sent out to war. To die and bleed and be forgotten, beneath the earth and dirt, they lay rotten.” 

“Get up,” the Dornishwoman told Lyanna. “Get up,” she repeated, softer this time and offered an arm to help, which Lyanna accepted. Her hand is cold, so very cold. 

“We could have avoided all of this tragedy if you and my husband had not been so foolish, if he and you had not been so rash.” Grey eyes found her gaze and the Dornishwoman realised that the Northerner had not let go of her hand, but was grasping it fiercely, as if an anchor. 

“Wake up, girl. Robert would have been a better husband to you than an old man who stank of sour wine and raised his hand to you. He was handsome and young, and he loved you.” Elia did not say the words unkindly, but almost soothingly. 

Suddenly she found the girl had wrapped her slim arms around her, weeping into the crook of Elia’s neck. 

“I don’t think he loves me any longer and… we caused all this pain and for what? I’m sorry, so sorry, you have no idea,” she sobbed and sounded her age. 

“That my husband is incapable of fully loving is not your fault, but the blood of this war rests upon both his and your hands. It is done and cannot be undone. You must needs live with it, as I did.” Feeling uncomfortable with the girl weeping in her neck, and the babe in her arms, Elia gently scooted the girl away. 

“Make your peace with it, or forever feel the pain.” Lyanna’s tear-stained face met her calm and composed one. 

“He is a beautiful child, girl or not. If our husband dares say otherwise, I will accompany you in gelding him.” That statement almost garnered a smile from the wolf-girl. 

“Can you forgive me?” she whispered. 

“No,” Elia replied, handing Aemon back to her. 

“Not ever?” the Northern queen asked, her tone so full of hopelessness and sadness. 

“I do not know the future. All I know is today.” 

“I do not deserve your forgiveness.” 

“That does not stop you from seeking it, now does it?” Lyanna shook her head. 

“I bear you no ill-will, or your son.” the chatter of her daughter filled Queen Elia’s ears and she wondered how much time had passed inside the nursery. 

“I know,” the girl whispered, returning Aemon to his cot. “He seems fond of you.” 

“He is not so bad himself,” the Dornishwoman smiled. 

“I deserve your brother’s ire, I do. But please know that I would never plot or scheme to put my son on the throne. It is Aegon’s, I would never interfere with such.” 

“Good,” was all Queen Elia said. Rhaegar already assured her, but as she knew, sometimes all the king’s words were, was wind. I would have killed you myself, if otherwise, Elia left unsaid. 

***

Ser Arthur announced Lyro’s presence at the door and Elia moved to open it, bidding Lyro to sit down wherever he pleased. She moved to close it but Ser Arthur’s large hands stopped her. 

“Is there something you need, Ser?” Elia asked, frowning softly. 

“I do not know if the king would be pleased that you had a male visitor so late in the evening. It may cause suspicion to arise.” 

“Let it rise, Ser Arthur,” she said. “My husband has displeased me plenty of times and Lyro is my brother’s, I am not the sort to take the scraps of my kin,” Elia continued, staring into the Dayne’s violet eyes. 

“I am sorry for what he said, you did not deserve it. You looked like a goddess,” the knight whispered, looking around before he placed his hand atop hers on the edge of the door. It made the queen sigh and her heart ache. Arthur belonged to her past, Rhaegar to her present. However it seems time stands still, when it comes to the heart. Elia barely knew her own, anymore. It was so strange, she felt it yearn for Arthur but perhaps what he was and not what he is. It was cruel, to feel like this. We are done, a closed chapter of a dusty volume that none will read. Yet it does not make what could never be, hurt any less. 

“We are all sorry, Arthur,” Elia said so sadly and allowed her the comfort of his hand for one second longer, until she took it away and closed the door, willing herself to forget how is eyes were the very personification of grief and guilt. 

“Lyro,” Elia said, donning a false smile that she was sure he of all, could see beyond. “What will you sing for me?” His pale eyes lit up. 

“Whatever you wish, your grace.” 

So it was that Lyro, the unofficial paramour of Prince Oberyn sang a great deal of songs, and recited his fair share of poetry to Queen Elia. The Dornishwoman marvelled in it all, the soft, baritone notes and light tilt to his words. Time seemed to stand still as he sat there, singing and reciting ancient passages, not knowing how much the distraction truly meant to the queen. Or how much it reminded her of the early days in her marriage to Rhaegar Targaryen. On Dragonstone, when things were not at all so bad. 

After he was done singing and speaking, he told Elia of how the Lyseni women would perfume their hair and braid it so intricately that it seemed almost art. She asked him if he had mastered the skill and he smiled shyly and told her that he could do it, but not as greatly as some. The Dornishwoman asked him to try, on her, fetching a brush and some perfumed oils. Together, she sat with the Lyseni as he braided her hair and they spoke of several matters. 

“Were you a nobleman, in Lys?” Smooth fingers ran through her hair, deciding on which sections to use and leave. 

“No,” the man replied, quietly. “I was the son of a whore, born for one purpose only.” 

“What?” Elia asked, confused. 

“To be a whore.” She wanted to turn to him, to look into his eyes, to see if they told of that sorrowful tale. 

“I’m sorry,” she said instead. His hand squeezed her shoulder. 

“It is quite alright.” Then things remained quiet for sometime, until he spoke again. 

“In Lys, they believe in mating beauty with beauty, to create even more beauty,” he explained. “Such children were to be trained in the arts of pleasure, sent to work in the pillow houses when they were of an age… or before,” the man said and she could feel his shudder. 

“I was one of those children. I barely knew my mother, all I can recall is a woman with golden hair, singing to me. Sentiment is weakness, they said, so as soon as I was weaned, I was ripped off of my mother’s chest and never saw her again.” 

His hand continued braiding her hair and she found herself honored that he shared that tale with her, however sad it may be. It is a part of him and I am thankful that he found me worthy enough to be made aware of it. 

“Does Oberyn and Ellaria know?” 

“They found me in the pillow house where I was assigned. Yet they do not know all of my story, and I wish for it to remain like that. Not everyone has a sad story behind them, and even if they do, it is no excuse. I refuse for it to be.”

“I find that admirable, Lyro. I do,” she told him sincerely. 

“I decided to join your brother and Ellaria when he offered. Lys is beautiful, but only for those who can afford for it to be. I was a whore but I wished to be more. “

“I am glad you came,” Elia said warmly, putting a hand on his knee. 

“Me too.” The Lyseni was almost done braiding her hair, only continuing for a little while, until wrapping it with a ribbon. 

“All done,” he smiled and Elia looked at herself in the mirror. 

“It looks wonderful,” she said in awe. There were several braids along the crown of her head, joining into one, with strands falling loose at the sides, like little waterfalls. 

“I am glad it is to your taste,” the man replied shyly. The Dornishwoman turned to Lyro with an infectious smile, wrapping her arms around him, in a fierce embrace. 

He hugged her back, so tightly that it felt as if they were finding comfort in each other, after so long of being broken. 

“Thank you,” she mumbled into the top of his chest and his response was to kiss the top of her head. They remained like that for an unknown amount of time. He smelled of lavender, grassy plains and something she could not quite name. It calmed her, like Oberyn would. 

Elia was the first to speak. 

“Is that why you said that men like you cannot have children?” The statement had saddened her. If he wishes to know the joy of a child, then naught should stop him. 

“No child wants a whore for a father. The things that were done to me… I would be scared to fail them,” he relied. 

“There are no easy roads when it comes to parenting a child, but love, respect and kindness goes a long way. From what i’ve seen of you and the way you are with my children, you will be a great father, someday, Lyro. Do not doubt it.” She raised her head and saw tears brimming in his pale eyes. One fell and she wiped it away, tenderly. 

“For now, I shall enjoy my time with your brother and Ellaria. Who knows where the roads will lead, after that.” 

“Oberyn will make sure that you will be alright, I promise. And if he doesn’t, then I will pull him by the ear and make sure of it, myself.” 

“I love them and it frightens me,” Lyro whispered.

“That is how you know it is real.” 

***

The week passed in a blur. Elia was busy spending time with her brother and her children, tending to court and holding it, that she completely forgot about Dowager Queen Rhaella and Viserys’s impending arrivals. She was busy speaking with Oberyn in his chambers, when Rhaegar’s summon came. 

“Another Targaryen?” Oberyn asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Two,” Elia said nonchalantly. “Two beloved ones and a third on the way.” Then she followed Ser Jonothor to the King’s quarters. 

“Elia,” Rhaegar greeted her when she arrived and she returned it with a cold gaze, his words from the previous week, still not forgotten.

“Lyanna,” Elia said, instead and earned a hopeful smile from the Northerner. Rhaegar looked at them both with a perplexed expression, which meant that Lyanna had not confided the words spoken in the nursery, the week before, to him. Somehow, that impressed the Dornishwoman. 

After a certain time, and strained silence, whilst staring at the flames, the door was finally opened, with Ser Willem announcing the Dowager Queen’s arrival. 

“Viserys can remain outside for a few moments,” Rhaella told the knight and he nodded. She was dressed in a black travelling cloak, wet from the rain of the night, yet her purple eyes warmed Elia when they looked to her. 

Queen Rhaella shrugged her cloak off, discarding it to one of the armchairs, and it was then that she saw her good-mother’s swollen belly. Long, silver-gold hair trailed to the midst of her back and the former queen’s face remained beautiful, albeit haunted. Elia wondered if hers mirrored it. War is easy upon no one.

“My sweet Elia,” the Dowager Queen said, walking to her good-daughter and embracing her. The smell of rain and faint flowers made Elia feel half a girl and safe again, as if nothing could harm her. “I missed you dearly, and the children,” the silver-haired beauty continued. 

Soon, they departed from the hug and her good-mother turned to Lyanna with a strange look. It was neither cold nor warm, but simply apprehensive and full of mistrust. Nonchalantly, the woman turned away from the Northerner and began taking even, measured steps toward her son. Rhaegar smiled at his mother but Rhaella kept walking until she was inches away from him. Perplexion struck Elia, but not as hard as it would strike Rhaegar. 

Rhaella looked at her son for a few moments, before she closed her eyes, took a loud deep breath, her hands outstretched, daring her son to speak. Then, after exhaling loudly, she slapped him with an intense fervor, the crack echoing across the silent chamber. Lyanna gasped and It felt so absurd that Elia felt the urge to laugh. King he may be, but here he is, a man grown, getting chastised by his mother, in front of his two wives. 

“Did having Aerys for a father teach you nothing?” Dowager Queen Rhaella told her son, after he turned to her with a confused expression, clutching his ever-reddening cheek. The Dornishwoman could not really sympathize with her husband in that moment. 

“Do you wish to have some tea, good-mother?” Elia asked nonchalantly. “I hear it is good for those with child.”




Chapter Text

 

 

 

“We never struck you as a child, nor did we put your whipping boy to much use. Perhaps now, a few good strikes here and there would have made you see clearer, as you became a man grown,” Dowager Queen Rhaella told her son, ice lacing her words. Rhaegar was still clutching his cheek, which had turned an angry scarlet, clashing with his pale skin. It seemed as if the king was at a loss for words, he surely did not expect that, Elia thought. None of us did. 

“Moth-” he began but Rhaella closed her eyes, inhaled sharply again and raised her hand into the air, showing that she did not want his words at that very moment. 

“No words could ever undo the havoc you unleashed upon us, nothing you say could ever resonate enough to make it alright. How could you leave your wife as she lay recovering, in her bed of blood, after giving you a son? How could you leave your daughter, to run away with a girl old enough to be her sister? To put them in this danger...” 

“The prophecy dem-” Elia’s husband began but his mother would not have it. 

“Oh, for the Gods’ sakes, Rhaegar!” she exclaimed. “Are you a little kitten? Must we splash you with water each time you tread upon your prophecies, to make sure that you realise they are ambiguous, uncertain things at best, and should not be followed blindly?” King Rhaegar swallowed loudly at that, his other cheek turning flushed from being scolded by his mother. He is embarrassed, the Dornishwoman realised and it was amusing, she had to confess. 

“And you,” Rhaella told Lyanna with a raised eyebrow, who seemed to cower in the corner. “Running off with a wedded man who has children of his own, when you have a betrothed is foolish behavior, you are six-and-ten, are you not? A young woman, but still not a child any longer. I was four-and-ten when I birthed Rhaegar, married for an entire year! I did my duty even though I did not bear my brother any romantic love.” The young Lyanna looked absolutely stricken and distressed. “Do you not think I loved a man as well, in my youth? One before my wedding to Aerys?” I think she told me his name was Bonifer, Elia thought.

“What?” Rhaegar asked but his mother turned to him with a glare. 

“Do not act so surprised, Rhaegar,” she began. “Yet even though he crowned me his Queen of Love and Beauty, I did NOT run away with him, even though I wished to. I was three years younger than your little queen is. Even I could see sense as a girl of three-and-ten. I’ve done my duty all of my life, only for men like you to undermine my thoughts, feelings and cast me aside. Elia gave you two healthy and strong children, at the cost of her health. She loved you as best she could and you repay her with THIS! You repay your family with THIS!” The Queen-mother grew ever more flushed and fervent as she spoke, it unsettled Elia. Please calm down, good-mother. It is not healthy for the child. Though the Dornishwoman’s heart warmed at Rhaella’s fierce defense of her and that Rhaegar’s mother was wroth with her son, as well. 

“Please sit down, good-mother,” Elia told Rhaella gently as she moved to her, lightly steering the pregnant Dowager Queen to an armchair. 

“Oh, Elia,” the woman sighed. “Still as good-natured and kind, even after all the scorn you faced at the hands of my husband and son,” Rhaella spoke, eyeing her son coldly. “You did not deserve what has been done to you, my sweet.” 

“Neither did you,” the Dornishwoman whispered, and the Queen-mother knew of which her good-daughter was speaking of. 

“It is a man’s world,” Rhaella said, so sadly. “All we do is live in it.” 

“How we should ever repair the harm you two have caused, gives me a headache to even think of. Yet it will be your headache to bear, Rhaegar, my foolish son. For you caused all of this— alongside her, the willing participant,” the woman murmured as Elia crouched beside her, stroking the hair of silver-gold in a comforting manner. 

“I took your father’s beatings, his rapes and violations of my body, in hopes that one day, we would be rid of him and you would claim the crown-- To mend what he broke. Instead, you unleashed more chaos than he did, even in the maddest of his years.” When Elia looked upon her husband, she saw that a tear had escaped his eyes. It hurts him to think of his mother in pain, all that she suffered for the prosperity of her children and house-- because she was mindful of her duty. But she also wagered that it hurt, for him to be compared to his father.

 “Do you love him?” the older woman asked, suddenly. Her purple eyes seemed to burn through Lyanna’s grey, unveiling all which was hidden beneath. The wolf-girl nodded, looking apprehensive. 

“That was cruel of you, Rhaegar,” Rhaella said, looking stricken. “Taking advantage of a young woman’s love, for her to do your bidding, like that. But she wished to escape her betrothal just as much as you wished for a Visenya--did you not, girl?” Lyanna frowned and looked down in shame. “Did this come up to par?” the woman asked the wolf-girl. “Was this the adventure you sought, the true romance? No, no. I fear all you received was a bleeding kingdom and a realm full of unquiet ghosts,” Rhaella shook her head, closing her eyes, as if in agony. 

“I love both of my wives,” The King said, so fiercely that Elia almost believed him. 

“I never said you didn’t. However, you loved your prophecies more.” The Dowager Queen’s words were gloomy and only proved to be gloomier as she continued. “Let us not jest, my son. I do not doubt that there is love in your heart for each of these women, but no one will ever have all of you, even if they give you every single piece of themselves, until they are torn and bleeding.”

“I did not ask to be like this,” he told his mother quietly and somehow it felt like the most sincere thing he’d told anyone, ever since he returned from the battle at the Trident. Rhaella beckoned her son forward with a gesture of her hand and he obliged, kneeling in front of her, seeming more like a lost boy, than a king. 

“Oh, my child. I know you did not,” she sighed and looked at her firstborn, reaching out to touch his reddening cheek, where a bruise would surely lay in the morn. 

“What a mess you made of things, Rhaegar. What an utter mess.” 

“I know, mother,” he told her, laying his head in her lap and somehow the scene felt too intimate for Elia and Lyanna to bear witness to. For Rhaegar and Rhaella, it seemed like his queens were not present at all. Her husband looked as if all he wanted to do, was be held and soothed by his mother. A son looking for guidance, not a king. “I will never forgive myself.” 

“I fear nothing can atone for these grievous sins, my son. But there is time to redeem, to seal weeping wounds and flourish. To make sure that such a thing never happens again.” 

“Will you help me, mother?” Rhaella looked to the son in her lap and stroked the silver-gold hair, beneath his crown. 

“For as long as I am able. Yet you are a king now, you must let go of the naive boy within you because the world will eat you alive, if you do not. Great-uncle Aemon told our grandfather to kill the boy within him and let the man be born, for the realm needed an Aegon, not an Egg. This realm needs King Rhaegar, not the silver-prince who plays so beautifully on his harp. Be just and merciful-- rule righteously and be gracious yet stern, do not let them mistake your kindness for weakness.” Elia’s husband nodded, holding onto his mother. 

“You are not Aerys, thank the Gods for that,  and you will never be, but remember his mistakes, his wrongdoings and faults. Aspire to be great, and you will be.” Queen-mother Rhaella eyed her son’s crown with apprehension.

“Your father was mad, but prophecies are madder. Leave them behind you, Rhaegar. There is no time for it now, no time at all.” 

“I’m sorry, mother,” he whispered and Elia decided that perhaps it was time for her and Lyanna to leave. He needs to be alone with his mother and she needs to be with her son. 

“I will tend to Viserys, good-mother. I shall place him with Rhaenys, Aegon and Aemon in their nursery, for now. We will let you have your privacy,” she told Rhaegar’s mother with a kiss to her cool temple, then eyeing Lyanna who nodded. The Dowager Queen smiled. 

“You are too kind, Elia, my gentle flower. Your mother would have been proud of you, I hope you know.” The Dornishwoman simply smiled and put a light hand on her good-mother’s shoulder, rising to leave. Rhaegar stood up, moving to Lyanna and kissing her cheek. 

“Goodnight,” he told her and somehow the sight tore at something within Elia. I am cursed to never be fully loved, it seems. Always the second choice, the one who is never quite enough-- The one who only manages. She turned around and opened the door, leaving it ajar, when she heard a breathless voice call for her. 

“Elia.” Rhaegar’s indigo eyes met her and they were the kind of sorrowful that made a person even more beautiful, somehow. People always seem to look lovelier in the midst of their personal pain, why the Gods made it so, I do not know. 

He tried smiling at her but she simply stared. Then he touched her cheek and she found herself closing her eyes and sighing. In one fluid motion, his arms were around her, soft and tender, not at all constricting like the previous week. She found herself wroth, that her body molded into his like that, even though he had hurt her time upon time. 

“I am sorry,” he whispered, kissing the top of her head. 

“I know. You always are,” When it is too late, was all she said before heading outside, not looking back. If I do, then all I shall see is those sad, indigo eyes and I can’t, not now. 

“Elia!” she heard a voice squeal from the hall and suddenly, she was embraced by a mop of silver-gold and black, clinging to her skirts. The Dornishwoman let out a sweet laugh and was met by lilac eyes, bright with youth. 

“Viserys, my love. You are returned to me,” she smiled, bending down so that she could be of a height with him. 

“I missed you,” the boy said warmly, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling his face into the crook of her neck. A sudden burst of emotion took hold of the Dornish queen and she almost found herself weeping with relief. 

“Not a day went by that I did not think of you, my sweet,” she whispered and the young prince clung to her tightly. “Rhaenys has missed you, as well.” 

“Mother says papa is gone,” he mumbled into her hair. 

“Your father was ill, Viserys. He is with the Gods now, his true home.” The Dowager Queen Rhaella had protected her young son from the worst of his father’s madness, and Elia thought it a mercy. That he did not know what an utter monster his father was. In due time he shall find out, but for now, let him be young and have the fond memories to hold at night. 

“I am glad that you are not gone, Elia.” That made her kiss the top of his head, then she disembarked from his embrace, looking into his eyes. She hoped her eyes conveyed the love she bore for her good-brother. 

After she kissed his cheek softly, she found his lilac eyes brimming with tears. 

“Do not weep, my love. You are home and your niece and nephews will be delighted to see you, I assure you.” 

“Mother says that Rhaegar had another child with a woman. Is it a bastard?” he asked curiously. 

“No, Prince Aemon is trueborn, Viserys. Rhaegar took Queen Lyanna as a second wife.” 

“I heard mother talk to Ser Willem of that, she was most wroth. Is Queen Lyanna the reason for the war, then?” 

“Many are to blame for this war, it does no good to dwell on it now. It is done and overwith, now we must only rebuild.” The prince nodded, taking Elia’s hand as she stood up. 

“My brother won’t leave you, will he?” the boy asked, sounding nervous. “He won’t make you leave us?” 

The question made Elia frown. “Why would he do that?” 

“He went and fetched himself another wife and a new son,” Viserys answered. 

“Rhaenys, Aegon and I are not going anywhere yet, Viserys.” 

“ I won’t let him take you from us,” the young prince said, fiercely. “I’ll protect you,” he swore and the statement brought a fond smile to her lips. My fierce little dragon.

“It will not come to that, sweetling, so do not dwell on it.” 

“Do you promise?” his lilac eyes grew larger than life itself, as she gazed into them. 

“I do, Viserys.” 

“I drew Balerion for Rhae,”  he said, shyly. That made the Dornishwoman smile. 

“Did you now? How charming of you, she will be absolutely delighted.” Prince Viserys’s cheeks grew red, then and it endeared Elia. Oh, to be young and full of innocent love again. 

“Is Aegon big now?” he asked as they were close to the nursery, Ser Willem trailing behind them. The Prince had only briefly met his nephew, for Aegon was born on Dragonstone and Elia was too sick to travel to King’s Landing to present him. They’d decreed that the babe should remain with his mother, for perhaps he’d give her strength to go on. When they arrived in King’s Landing, Aerys kept Elia and her children in Maegor’s holdfast, and the prince separate from them. 

“Bigger, yet he is still a babe in arms, shy of his first nameday.” The Dornish queen nodded at Ser Jaime when they arrived outside of the nursery. “He looks a bit like you, I’d say,” she told the prince and earned a hopeful smile. “He does,” she assured him. “With the purple eyes and silver-gold hair.” 

“Will you let me hold him?” 

“Of course, Viserys, he is your nephew. But it will have to be in the morn, for they are all sound asleep by now.” 

They entered the nursery with quiet steps, Rhaenys laid asleep in her bed, breathing softly and the babes were in their cots, asleep as well. Elia helped Viserys dress into his sleeping garments and then found that there was no other bed in the nursery. Rhaenys’s bed is large enough, the queen pondered, it is only for a night.

“Viserys,” she whispered and his lilac eyes turned to her. “You will have to sleep beside Rhaenys in her bed for this night, as there is no other bed here. Is that alright?” Her good-brother turned to his niece with a soft look in his eyes. 

“Yes.” 

With that said, Elia gently scooted her daughter inwards, for more space to be made available for the older Prince. The girl barely made a sound. This one can sleep through a siege. He stood by the edge of the bed for a few moments and Elia watched him with a fascination, wondering what he would do next. His pale hand reached out to stroke his niece’s brown curls softly, with a tender smile on his face. Then, he climbed underneath the covers snuggled next to the princess, resting his arm atop her small frame. 

“Goodnight, Viserys,” Elia said, bending down to kiss his forehead. 

“Night, Elia,” he mumbled. “I love you.” She felt her throat tighten at that, and her heart brim with love. 

“I love you too, sweetling.” 

***

Elia woke the next day, to her daughter and brother’s voices. 

“Tell her,” Rhaenys whispered to her uncle. 

“No, you wished to go here, you have to wake her,” Oberyn hissed back at the girl. 

“You do!”

“No, you!” The Dornish Queen was half-awake by then, wondering who was in her chambers and why they sounded like her family. Realisation struck rather quickly and with her eyes still closed, she frowned. 

“Oberyn?” Elia asked, rubbing her eyes and sitting up. 

“Elia,” he greeted loudly. “See,” he told Princess Rhaenys, “In due time.” When the Dornishwoman looked at her brother, she saw that he held the princess against his hip and that both she and Prince Oberyn were dressed. 

“Did I sleep so long?” Oberyn laughed and looked to his niece. 

“No, this one simply woke horribly early and decided to sneak out of the nursery, with the help of her loyal, sworn shield, to steal into my chambers and wake me from a peaceful slumber.” Ser Jaime helped the little princess escape her shackles, how chivalrous, she thought, a smile taking over her features.

“Did not!” the girl hissed but the Viper of Dorne rose an eyebrow. “Exactly...” the girl continued, tripping over her words as she was still young. Where did she hear that word from? The Dornishwoman thought in amusement.

“Then how come I am here, and everyone else is asleep?” The way they bickered amongst themselves made Elia laugh heartily. Until she mulled over her brother’s words.

“Hold on, she stole into your chambers?” The Prince of a different realm nodded. 

“I do hope that you were clothed and decent when this happened,” she eyed him with raised eyebrows. “I would not wish to have my children traumatized so early, at the hands of you.” Her brother gasped as if he took offense from her words and put his free hand atop his chest.

“How dare you insinuate that I was doing aught else than sleeping peacefully?” 

“Oh I do not know,” Elia drawled. “Perhaps your ever-growing number of children fueled that insinuation,” she continued innocently. 

“It seems we’ve reached an impasse, sister,” he said. “Well played.” 

“I learned from the best,” she smirked, rising out of bed, into the adjacent bathing room. Oberyn and the princess followed. 

“Mama!” Rhaenys said suddenly, as if a thought just struck her. 

“Yes, my child?” Elia asked as she washed her face with the rosewater in her basin, reaching a hand out, beckoning her brother to hand her a towel. 

“I am not your servant,” he grumbled. 

“I am your liege, as queen, and a year older,” she said, sweetly. “Do not forget.”

“How could I? You never allow me to.” Their fresh banter made the queen’s spirits for the day soar into the skies above.

“Mama,” her daughter said again, annoyed at being ignored. 

“Oh do not give me that petulant look, my sweet,” Queen Elia replied, moving to stroke her daughter’s cheek, looking into those joyful, lavender eyes. 

“Mama, I dreamed of Viserys and he was there when I woke,” the girl said, eyes shining bright. “I missed him,” she continued. That warmed Elia’s heart to the brim.

“Was he awake when you left?” The Dornishwoman inquired and her daughter shook her head, brown locks swaying gently from the action.

“Shall we go greet him? I am sure he would love the company.” Rhaenys squealed and nodded. Oberyn looked strangely apprehensive but nodded, nonetheless. 

“We will wait in the sitting room, for you to dress.” 

“Alright,” she replied and then Oberyn was gone, without any noise. Elia hurried, selecting a flowy gown of pale blue, it reminded her of Lyro’s eyes and clashed so prettily with her beige skin. Then, a handmaid combed her hair and braided it, finally placing the crown atop her head. The Dornish Queen thanked and dismissed the handmaid whose name she could not quite recall. She must be new. Yet I miss Ashara. 

“Hurry!” the Princess was heard urging from the sitting room, making her mother laugh sweetly. “Yes, please do,” Oberyn replied snottily, which earned a scoff from Elia. 

“I am here,” she announced and her brother sighed dramatically. 

“Finally!” he exclaimed, offering the arm that was not holding his niece in place.

“To the nursery we head,” Elia said evenly and Ser Jaime joined them when they were beyond the wooden door.  

The walk proved to be quite quick, mayhaps because time passed faster when one was enjoying themselves. All joined in, speaking of different topics and such. Jaime and Oberyn spoke of adventure, his travels and the knight’s prowess. The Lannister still remembered the Dornish prince vividly from their visit, years past and slyly offered to duel with the prince, if he so wished. Oberyn smirked and said that he would uphold the knight to that offer. 

“You look happy,” Oberyn mused to his sister. “It becomes you.” 

“I agree,” the young knight said with sparkling, emerald eyes and Elia found herself feeling slightly shy. 

“Thank you,” she replied with a blinding smile directed at both men. “I am.”

“We’re here!” Princess Rhaenys exclaimed. “Maybe Balerion woke him,” she continued, in a ponder. Oh, my clever little daughter. 

“You will have to tell Balerion to behave.” that made the princess frown. 

“He loves uncle Viserys, he slept between us,” she said, lavender eyes bright. 

“Did he now?” Oberyn asked. “What an odd creature.” 

“You haven’t even met the beast,” Elia scoffed. “Balerion is sweet when he wants to be, is he not, Ser Jaime?” 

“Oh, yes indeed. He has not scratched me as of yet, which I view as an accomplishment of the highest order.” 

“See?” The Dornishwoman smirked at her brother. 

“I will never step within the vicinity of the beast, if he injures me,” Oberyn grumbled. 

“Do not be so dramatic, brother. It would only be a scratch.” 

“Can you fault me? I only enjoy pain when it is accompanied by immediate pleasure.” That made Ser Jaime snort and Elia roll her eyes. 

“How I have missed you, Oberyn,” the Dornishwoman sighed, smiling. 

“How could you not?” the man replied with arrogance. 

“And now you ruined our moment.” 

“Would you have it any other way?” Elia shook her head and opened the door to the nursery, whereupon she noticed that Viserys was not in the bed. 

Searching around the room, she found the boy standing by Aegon’s crib, gazing at the sleeping babe. Lilac eyes turned toward them upon their entrance and he smiled, shyly. 

“Viserys,” Elia greeted him and he began moving toward her, when Rhaenys squirmed in Oberyn’s hold until he let her down, gently. The boy was already dressed, courtesy of himself, in the previous night’s black tunic and breeches.

“Viserys!” the princess squealed, running into her uncle’s arms, almost causing him to fall backwards. Her r’s sounded more like j’s, for even though she was far exceeding the mental capabilities of a girl her age, she could not as of yet, roll her r’s. It sounds adorable, though, all agree. 

“Rhae,” the boy greeted softly, holding onto her and closing his eyes in bliss. The sight was pure and sweet, even Oberyn seemed touched by it.

“Has Aegon woken?” Elia asked Prince Viserys, when Rhaenys let go of him. He nodded and shyly asked if he could hold the babe, now. 

“Of course,” she smiled, leaning down to kiss her good-brother’s head as she passed him, to get to her son’s cot. Aemon is not in his, she noted. Perhaps Rhaegar showed him to Rhaella last eve. 

Her son let out a tiny noise as his mother picked him up, bleary purple eyes meeting her brown. It is time to meet your other uncle, my sweet. 

“Here,” she told Viserys, who embraced the babe gently in his arms. “Do not forget to support his head.” The babe cooed and babbled in his uncle’s arms, and the young prince eyed his nephew with soft eyes. 

“He looks like you,” the boy began, smiling at Elia. “But with Rhaegar’s colors. The mouth and shape of his eyes are all yours.” 

“I think I agree with the prince on this matter, sister,” Oberyn told her. I hope they can bond. My brother could teach Viserys much and more. 

Viserys looked at Oberyn and there seemed to be fear, apprehension and awe, all at the same time, swirling in his eyes. He must be intimidated, she realised. Oberyn has that effect on people, and his father’s stories and scorn about Dornishmen surely must have taken root somewhere. The Dornish queen decided that she would speak with Viserys later and try to calm his worries, if he had any. Then, she would talk to Oberyn of perhaps taking the princeling under his wings. Rhaegar is busy and his brother needs someone, at this sensitive stage of his life. 

“Shall we all break fast together?” Elia turned to her brother. “You can fetch Ellaria and Lyro. Ser Jaime, you are free to join us.” Both Oberyn and the knight nodded. 

“I will accompany you, but I fear I have already eaten. Nonetheless, I shall wait outside.” Then, Ser Jaime left. The Prince of Dorne moved to do the same, when Rhaenys exclaimed that she found Balerion. 

“Here he is, uncle!” she said, grabbing the cat with both her arms. It looked a little painful and Elia could not say that she wished to be the cat in that moment, but Balerion made no protests toward his master. 

Oberyn looked at the black cat with wariness but the young princess would have none of it.

“Arms,” she demanded and her uncle bent down and outreached them, almost wincing as the cat was plopped into his grasp. Viserys and Elia looked at each other amusedly and burst into giggles. The viper of Dorne, frightened of a kitchen cat. Her brother simply rolled his eyes at their laughter.

“He is quite fat,” Oberyn mused, barely moving his arms. Balerion’s golden eyes stared at the stranger intently, until the Dornishman dared to pet him behind the ears. 

Purring, the cat stretched comfortably in Oberyn’s arms. During the same time, Viserys returned Aegon to Elia with a murmur of thanks, for being allowed to hold him. She simply stroked his cheek and stared at her good-brother with affection. 

“Balerion is not fat!” Rhaenys pouted and Viserys instead  moved to his niece’s side, bending down and stroking her cheek. 

“I drew Balerion for you,” he said so sweetly and Rhaenys’s lavender eyes grew big and unworldly in the dim lighting. 

“Did you?” she gasped and the princeling nodded. 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she exclaimed, almost jumping into her uncle’s arms, and wrapping her small arms around the boy’s neck. Prince Viserys laughed softly and stroked her back. 

“Anything for you.” Queen Elia sighed at the remark. My sweet little girl has everyone wrapped around her little finger. Yet she did not count it as a bad thing. Rhaenys was simply the darling of everyone she met, with her kind, clever, sweet yet demanding and willful nature. A true ruler, Elia mused. 

“I shall go and fetch Ellaria and Lyro. No doubt they are having very much fun without me.” 

“Do not doubt it, brother,” Elia teased and Oberyn rolled his eyes. Gently, Oberyn released a content Balerion atop one of the pillows and departed. 

“We should get going as well, sweetlings.” Rhaenys and Viserys nodded, grabbing each other’s hands and together, they all, along with Ser Jaime, departed toward the great hall. 

“Perhaps we should ask if your mother would like to join us, as well, Viserys?” The thought struck the Dornishwoman just as they were outside the great hall. Viserys turned to her. 

“Yes,” he began with somewhat melancholy eyes, “I think she should like that.” 

“Ser Jaime, would you be so kind as to order a servant to bring our invite for the Queen-mother?” The golden-haired knight smiled and nodded. “Oh, but tell them to leave her be, if she is asleep. I would not wish to bother her, it was a long day, last eve.” she said, right before he left. 

“As you bid, Your Grace,” he said. “I shall be right back.” Elia nodded.

“We will be by one of the tables, no doubt.” she winked at the knight, “Perhaps it would prove a fun game for you to spot us.” 

“No doubt,” the man smirked. Together with the young princes and princesses, they found a seat by the benches in the front. Some lords and ladies were already breaking their fast, and Elia greeted them all with smiles and courtesies, as did Viserys and Rhaenys. 

“I want fried bread and eggs,” Viserys told the servants and Elia eyed him with an expectant expression. “Please,” the boy continued, his cheeks flushing. 

“Me too, please,” Rhaenys smiled, her lavender eyes enchanting everyone who gazed into them. 

“We mustn’t forget our courtesies, children,” Elia told them gently and Viserys, still blushing, nodded and mumbled an apology. 

“We shall have some porridge sweetened with honey, shall we not, Aegon?” she asked her son, softly before turning to the servant with a smile. 

“Alright m’queen,” the maid said and scurried away. 

“Look who it is,” the Dornishwoman told the prince and princess, tittering lightly at their eager expressions. Oberyn was walking in, alongside Ellaria, dressed in a beautiful red gown, with a deep neckline and her dark hair, loose about her shoulders. Lyro was donning a blue tunic and black breeches, his flaxen hair delightfully mussed. 

“Lyro, Ellaria,” she greeted, standing up and smiling happily. The bastard of Hellholt kissed her upon the cheek and stroked the soft tufts of Aegon’s silvery hair.

“Elia,” she said, green eyes sparkling. 

Lyro turned to her with a handsome smile and embraced her.

“Good morning,” he whispered into her ear, pulling back to kiss her cheek. Then he turned his gaze toward the baby Aegon, who was eyeing the man curiously. 

“Are you not the sweetest thing?” the Lyseni man asked the babe, stroking his cheek tenderly. 

“You should see him when he is displeased, the boy has a pair of healthy lungs,” she laughed and he joined in as well. 

“I am glad to see you smiling, Elia,” he told her quietly and she looked at him adoringly. 

“I am happy,” she confessed. “My good-mother and good-brother arrived, my brother is here and so are you and Ellaria. I am safe, my children are safe.” 

“Let us eat, I am famished,” Oberyn cut in just as Lyro was to respond. She turned to her brother with an amused glare. 

“You are rudely interrupting our conversation.” 

“One of the benefits of having the status as a prince, is that I can, sister,” the Dornish prince replied, lazily. 

“One of the privileges as a queen is that I can have you thrown in the black cells if you displease me,” she told her brother who scoffed. 

“And who would be there to amuse and annoy you, then? Lyro sings and recites beautifully, Ellaria has a way with words, but clearly I am the superior when it comes to irking and making you laugh.” beaming, Elia rolled her eyes. I do love him.   Oberyn, Ellaria and Lyro ordered what they wished to eat and then they all spoke merrily with each other, waiting for their food to be brought to them. 

“How old are you, Prince Viserys?” Oberyn asked curiously and the princeling seemed to choke on his tongue when being spoken to by the Viper of Dorne. 

“It is alright, Viserys,” Elia soothed him and finally, he replied. 

“Eight, I had my nameday on Dragonstone.” 

“Ah,” Oberyn began. “Do you wish to be a knight, then?” Prince Viserys pondered for a few moments. 

“I suppose,” the boy said, his clear lilac eyes meeting Oberyn’s dark ones. “Rhaegar is,” he shrugged. 

“Your brother is a lot of things that you are not,” the Red Viper replied darkly and Viserys seemed to sense that his brother was not high in Oberyn’s esteem. 

“Oberyn is simply being difficult,” the Dornishwoman told her good-brother. “Did you not tell me that you wished to learn how to fight with a spear, before you left for Dragonstone, Viserys?” The prince nodded eagerly. 

“Well Oberyn here is famed for his prowess with it. He can teach you, I am sure.” 

“Will you?” the boy gasped, a smile clouding his features. Queen Elia eyed her brother expectantly. He cannot deny Viserys this, and it would bring him a sadistic sort of relief to grow closer with my good-brother, he knows it’ll irk Rhaegar to have his brother consort with his wife’s brother, instead of himself. Yet she wouldn’t allow Oberyn to blatantly use Viserys like a piece in a game of Cyvasse. If her brother was to teach the prince, then she would not allow for it to be out of spite. My good-brother is quick and light on his feet, like my brother. I am sure that Oberyn will grow fond of him. 

“Perhaps,” the man grumbled. 

“He will,” Elia smiled, reassuring Viserys. 

“Thank you,” the princeling said, looking straight into Oberyn’s eyes. 

“It is hard work, soon you will regret thanking me for it,” the Red Viper smiled. 

The food arrived rather quickly, steaming bowls of porridge, bacon, fried bread and eggs. It all smelled wonderful and they ate, rejoicing in each other’s company. The children finished first and Elia allowed Aegon to eat his fill of the porridge. Soon he was dazed and content in her arms, his fingers occasionally running through the locks of her hair, a gesture that both seemed to find comforting. As Queen Elia gazed upon the people surrounding the table, her heart brimmed with love and adoration for them. We are complete, at last, yet there was still something missing in her heart. Something she could not quite name. 

“Melly is here to bring you all to your baths,” Elia told the children when she spotted the happy face of the wet-and-nursery maid. 

“Can Viserys join me for my lessons?” Rhaenys asked, her eyes pleading. “Please, mama?” Viserys nodded fervently and the Dornishwoman could not bring herself to separate them quite yet. 

“Alright. Melly, will you notify the septa of that?” 

“Yes, m’queen.” Then Elia handed a dozing Aegon to the woman and the children were off on their way, only Lyro, Elia, Oberyn and Ellaria remaining at the table. 

“I am so happy that you are all here,” Elia told the people at the table, feeling a burst of sentimentality. Oberyn who was seated next to her, kissed her cheek and eyed her with a delicate look in his eyes. 

“Too bad we cannot stay longer,” he sighed. “I will try to make arrangements for you and the children to travel to Dorne. Mayhaps it will not be now, but I promise you that it will happen.” That made the Dornish queen smile. 

“I know, Oberyn,” she told him softly. “One day.” 

“You must needs write to us,” Ellaria cut it gently. 

“Yes,” Lyro agreed. 

“I would not want to be a bother,” Elia told them unsurely. The Dornishwoman was a woman prone to insecurity in others’ company. The south was not kind to her when she arrived and everywhere, people hid behind false smiles and courtesies, always wanting something in return. She knew this was not the case with Lyro and Ellaria but the thought of someone loving her for being just her, was foreign after so long without it. 

Ellaria scoffed and Lyro eyed Elia incredulously. 

“How could you ever be a bother?” he asked and Ellaria placed a soft hand atop Elia’s.

“We love you and Dorne loves their Queen. Do not doubt it, please,” she pleaded, her green eyes warm and fluid. Tears began to well in the Dornishwoman’s eyes but she forced them to retreat. Not now. These are happy times for me. 

“Let us not think of such matters yet. You still have more than a fortnight left in the capital.” 

“We do,” Oberyn said, smiling. “Plenty of time for me to irk you.” 

“Elia, dear,” she heard a woman say from behind her. 

“Rhaella,” she exclaimed, standing up when she saw her good-mother, moving to embrace the taller queen. 

“Please sit down,” she beckoned the woman after they departed from their embrace. 

“I forgot what a pain it is to be with child,” the woman laughed, her beauty lighting up the room. I hope this babe will thrive in its mother’s womb, Elia found herself  thinking. She of all, deserves it. 

“Would you like some porridge?” Elia asked and Rhaella, who nodded kindly.

“Prince Oberyn,” the Dowager Queen greeted. “It has been years since I last saw you.” 

“Your husband was not exactly inviting,” Oberyn replied, quick as a snake. 

“Lack of hospitality was not his only fault, sadly. We are well rid of him,” she sighed. Whatever Oberyn had expected the Queen-mother to say, that was not it. He seems baffled, almost. Yet the Viper of Dorne quickly concealed his surprise with an air of indifference. 

“Your son has not been particularly endeared toward Dorne either, considering 10,000 men and our uncle died for his cause.” In the war he started, her brother left unsaid. Elia observed the interaction warily, yet the queen mother merely sighed. 

“My son was a bumbling fool,” she admitted. “Yet he is now aware of his faults and is working to mend them. He earns no sympathies for his actions from me, yet I am his mother and a mother must love her child.” Elia put a comforting, warm hand on her good-mother’s pale one. 

“Is it not treason to call the king a fool?” Oberyn asked, amusement shining in his eyes.

“During my brother’s late reign, yes. However, if it was, would I not be greeted with you as my companion in the black cells below? You do not cover your disdain easily, My Prince and you’ve never struck me as the man who keeps silent when something displeases you,” she smiled, having trapped the Red Viper. “And we have displeased you, greatly. There is no doubt in my mind-- Dorne deserved better and in time, I hope we can mend these grievous wounds. We are family, now. Martell and Targaryen entwined.” 

“Your husband was never too pleased by that,” Oberyn said, breezily and Elia wished he could give it a rest. Aerys’s sins are not Rhaella’s to atone for. 

“My husband was a mad fool, good for nothing but disappointment and fear. Weak men should never be king and though I loathed him by the end, our start was promising,” she replied, her voice misty with recollection. “They thought he would become another Jaehaerys the wise, yet some madness took hold of him in the end and he was lost. Ser Jaime may have put an end to the monster that was Aerys Targaryen, but my brother died long before.” 

“You have twice the strength your Aerys had. In Dorne, you would have ruled, had you been born first.” 

“Alas this is the south and we are not so advanced as you are in Dorne.” Rhaella smiled sadly as she said it.

The Dowager queen had made an impression on her brother. Elia saw it in the impressed glint of his eyes, the way he listened so intently to her words, the way he smiled, smirked and laughed at her dry and wry jests. It eased Elia’s heavy heart to see that Oberyn got along well with Rhaella and Viserys, at the least. He has no personal affronts with them. When it came to Rhaegar and Lyanna, their actions personally impacted the Dornish prince’s family, which is why Elia understood that he would never amount to be anything but civil at most, with them. Oberyn, would never blame a son for the crimes of his father, or the wife for the sins of her husband. He was wary, she understood, but he has received his confirmation that Viserys and Rhaella are no threats. 

“Do you think it is a boy or a girl?” Elia asked her good-mother as discussions between Oberyn and Lyro broke out, regarding who sang better. It amused both Elia, Rhaella and Ellaria to listen to. However, when asked the question, her good-mother looked uncertain. 

“I hope it is a child. A living one. That is all I can ask for.” 

“It will be,” Elia promised. “I can sense it. We will be alright, good-mother.” Rhaella smiled and met Elia’s gaze with purple eyes that had seen too much grief in their short time. 

***

Elia told her brother and his paramours that they were free to enjoy themselves for the day, without feeling obligated to spend time with her. They assured her that they loved doing so, but she felt as if they deserved time for themselves, as well. The Dornish queen decided that she would spend the remainder of the day with her good-mother Rhaella, in the Dowager Queen’s chambers. She asked the servants to bring them some tea and cakes. 

The rain was spattering against the windows comfortably as the fire burned in the hearth. It filled the sitting room with a comforting calm and Queen-mother Rhaella seemed to find the most solace in it, of all. Elia chose the velvety armchair to sit down in, whilst her good-mother chose the one in front of the Dornishwoman. There was a table separating them, a small oval thing, only good for placing a tray of tea and cakes upon. Perfect, she thought as the flames from the fire warmed her. 

“These are not the chambers you shared with Aerys,” the Dornishwoman noted and earned a short, harsh laugh from the woman. 

“No and thank the Gods for that. I do not think my child or I would feel content with his unquiet ghost, haunting us in the night.” 

“I am sorry for all you had to suffer at his hands,” she told the silver-haired queen, frowning softly. 

“You suffered as well, child. All in hopes that one day it would cease, which it did, but not in the way anyone would have wished.” The Queen-mother had eyes of true purple, not indigo or lilac, but that deep and haunting shade. 

“We lived to tell the tale at the least.” 

“Barely,” Rhaella scoffed. “How my son could leave you in the hands of my mad husband and then through the chaos of when he finally perished. It was cruel and unseemly and I know it plagues Rhaegar still, yet it does not excuse him.” The old queen rubbed her temple with delicate hands. “I should have put a stop to these foul prophecies before he fell victim to these grand illusions. That damned Prince That Was Promised was the ruin of my family. The reason I was forced to wed Aerys.” 

“You could not have known,” Elia soothed. 

“I am his mother, I should have seen,” she exclaimed heatedly. “I told him it was destructive behavior that would ruin him one day, and foolishly thought he would heed my counsel.”

“Do not blame yourself, good-mother. The fault lies not with you and all that you went through is a testament of your strength.” 

“We are both women who did our duty, and look where it got us,” the Queen-mother sighed and Elia shook her head, moving to place her palm atop Rhaella’s hand. 

“I will not say that I was not angry, for I still am. I nearly lost my children as he was fucking that girl in a tower that laid in my homeland. I have not forgotten, nor forgiven them. Yet… I cannot bring myself to hate him either. I loved him once and an incessant part of me clings to it, still, even through it all.” Rhaella gazed at her with sad, empathetic eyes. 

“Oh, child,” Rhaella said embracing her. “You are gentle to the bones. If Rhaenys and Aegon have even the slightest bit of your nature, then they will be the greatest ruler this realm ever saw. How I wish things could have been different… for all of us.” 

“It does not do good to dwell on the things we cannot change. I did and it only brought me further grief. We have gorged on enough suffering, we need not more.” 

“My son did this realm a great injustice, let us hope that he can try to remedy that. He does not deserve your forgiveness, nor will I ever ask you to give it. He is sorry, yes, but there is only so much that one can do and apologise for until it starts to lose its meaning. He grieves, yes, but more than us? I cannot answer that, I fear.” From the Queen-mother’s words, Rhaegar seemed to be suffering more than Elia realised in the beginning. I hope he does hurt for what he did to us. It is only right.

“No one can claim to know the mind of Rhaegar,” Elia said. “It will only give us a headache to try.”

“My sweet, sad son. Plagued by the ghosts of Summerhal and the imaginary burden of a glorious purpose. I do not know how he was made this way, yet it is only for the Gods to know and not for me to question.” Rhaella’s mouth was set in a sad line. “He is not evil, Elia, you must know that. Aerys does not nest within him but he always feared he’d be like his father.” 

“I know,” she said staring into her good-mother’s eyes, their arms still around each other. It brings us both a comfort. 

“Now let us speak of happier things,” Rhaella exclaimed, disembarking from the embrace, wiping her eyes and resuming the position on her armchair. Sadness still haunted her eyes, yet the Queen-mother seemed to force herself to stuff it down, deep and dark and underneath. “I was planning to visit my grandchildren later in the eve and I hear Viserys slept beside Rhaenys last eve. His chamber is not yet completed, would it be alright for another night?” 

“Of course,” Elia said. “And I have been thinking…” The thought struck the Dornishwoman that Rhaenys might not enjoy sharing a nursery with her brothers, for they would wake up squalling in the midst of the night, on the occasion. She has not mentioned anything of it, but then again, she is a supremely heavy sleeper. Now that Viserys was returned and closer to her age, Elia thought that mayhaps they could share a chamber, since Rhaenys was too young for one of her own. 

“What?” Rhaella asked kindly. 

“That perhaps Rhaenys and Viserys should share a chamber. Aegon and Aemon are young, still in their infancy, whilst she and Viserys are closer in age. My daughter is too old for the nursery and too young to have chambers of her own.” The Queen-mother pondered it for a few moments and then nodded. 

“You are quite correct, Elia,” she mused. “If Rhaegar allows it, then I see no issues with it, and it would only be for two or three years. Besides, Viserys is so fond of his little niece. He never quite quit speaking of how he longed to meet his niece and nephew again.” 

“Such a kind and sweet boy, he is.” 

“Your brother told me of how Viserys wishes to learn how to fight with a spear,” the Dowager queen relied, smiling softly. 

“When?” Elia asked. 

“When you were speaking to the Lyseni of a Valyrian poem, I reckon.” 

“Oh,” Elia said, smiling. “He did and Oberyn is quite skilled in that department.”

“I do not doubt it,” Rhaella said. “If anyone is up to par, it is the Red Viper, to be sure. I will make the arrangements.” 

“What if Rhaegar does not agree?” Elia wondered how her husband would react toward it. Queen-mother Rhaella snorted as if it the question amused her to no end.

“Viserys was my son before he became the king’s brother. Rhaegar will have to make due with it, as we have been forced to make due with all of his mummery. 

“I suppose,” the Dornishwoman said, grinning. Her good-mother was too good for this world. She was. 

***

She was close to falling asleep when a commotion outside disrupted her, irritating the woman deeply. It is in the midst of the night, for the Gods’ sakes.  

“No, Arthur, I dem-demand to see my wife,” a voice hiccupped. Rhaegar? Elia wondered, frowning as she threw the silken covers off, rubbing her tired eyes with her hands. She heard a voice bickering with what she assumed was her husband. 

Elia moved closer toward her door, feeling gooseprickles form on her bare arms and legs. I must feed the fire, she thought in dismay, for moments earlier she had laid content in her bed, underneath the warming covers. Suddenly, the door swung open and the king stumbled in drunkenly. At first, the Dornishwoman was surprised. What is the meaning of this? In the years of her marriage, she’d never seen her husband truly become drunk. He always managed himself so well, wine never spoke to him in the way it does certain men. 

After the confusion faded, however, she found anger taking its place. Closing her eyes, she inhaled and exhaled deeply, counting to the number ten, like her old maester told her to do when trying times visited her, for lashing out was unladylike. I was never much of a lady, anyway, she thought wryly. Though the habit stuck, for some reason. 

“Elia!” King Rhaegar exclaimed with boyish delight, inching closer to her. From the corner of her eye, she saw Arthur standing and watching the situation with hopeless eyes. 

“Rhaegar,” she gritted out, gazing at him coldly. “What is the meaning of this?” He seemed unbothered by her cold and angry attitude, instead stumbling into her arms, unaware of his much heavier body. Elia stumbled backwards, trying to stabilize them both with a drunk Rhaegar clinging to her. 

“I missed you,” he mumbled and she made the mistake of inhaling, her nose immediately assaulted by the smell of wine and sweat. 

“What the fuck, Rhaegar?” she asked him harshly. Ironically, this was the happiest and most carefree she had ever seen her husband. Too bad he needs to drink himself into a stupor to become a normal man. Yet the thought struck her that none of them were quite normal, nor would they ever be. Her husband didn’t reply directly, but started mumbling incoherencies, of stars and cold, fires and nights that would never end. Then he spoke of how it was all a lie, never responding when she asked what. 

Finally, she had enough of him acting like a spoiled toddler. 

“Your daughter of three years behaves more eloquently than you,” Elia seethed, pushing him to the bed, for him to finally let go of her. Stupidly, he fell backwards atop the silken sheets and surprised even himself. Then he raised his head, looking at her with deep, indigo eyes. 

“You’re pretty when you’re angry,” he slurred. “I just want to put you in a little pouch and walk around.” Elia tried counting to ten again but it didn’t work. 

“Leave,” the Dornishwoman gritted out, “Before I actually geld or kill you, once and for all,” she hissed. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, one, two, three-

“You cannot geld or kill a king, Elia,” he laughed as if it was all a funny jest, then he fell silent. His sudden quietness unnerved her.

“I can do both,” she offered coldly. “Leave,” she repeated but garnered no response from him. Gods, please do not make him retch in my bed, I will throttle him if he does, king or not. 

“Rhaegar?” she called, shaking his leg to no avail. “Rhaegar,” she repeated, more sternly. Do I have two children or three? She asked the Gods. You all love to play your games with me. When the king did not move, Elia sighed and looked at him, passed out like some common drunkard in her bed. What drove him to this? She wondered. All she knew was that the man reeked of wine and that a scandal would surely emerge if he was seen being carried out of her chamber in the midst of the night. They’ll most like say the viper wench poisoned him. The thought made the Dornish queen snort. 

Instead, she walked toward the oaken door that Ser Arthur or the knight he shared his duty with must’ve closed, in the midst of her quarrel with Rhaegar. With a weary sigh, she opened it and was met with Ser Arthur and Ser Gerold. 

“You,” she said, pointing at Ser Gerold. “Fetch me a tankard of water.” Then she turned toward Ser Arthur. “And you, have the maids fetch a tub, but do so discreetly. I do not want anyone hearing of this mummer’s farce,” she grumbled. “If Queen Lyanna wonders where her drunkard of a husband went, tell her that he’ll tell the tale himself.” Still stricken with anger, she scolded both of the knights.

“How you imbeciles allowed him to go through with this farce is beyond me.”

“He is the king,” Ser Gerold said. “His commands are our duty.” 

“Are you not supposed to prevent others from harming him?” she inquired sharply. 

“We are-”

“-And pray tell, does the same rules not apply when it is him putting himself in danger?”

“Not explic-” Ser Gerold began but was shushed by Elia. 

“Oh, forgive me, Sers. Perhaps it was simply common sense. Now fetch me that tub and water.” Ser Gerold left and just as Elia was about to re-enter her chambers, Ser Arthur took hold of her arm, gently. 

“If he hurts you, then notify me and I will take care of him.” You should have taken care of him before he got here , she thought bitterly. 

“Look at him,” she sneered, pointing at the unconscious man in the bed. “Does he look in a fit state to move, or hurt anyone for that matter?” Ser Arthur shook his head. 

“But if he-” 

“I can deal with my husband,” she replied coolly, “It is Rhaegar we are speaking of, not some fat, obnoxious and loud drunkard who drinks with his left hand and strikes with the right.” In all of their years together, at least the Dornishwoman could boast that she’d never been frightened of Rhaegar striking her. He is not the kind. 

Arthur nodded, his eyes lingering on her for a few moments before leaving to notify the maids to fetch and fill a tub. Ser Gerold returned with a tankard of water right as his companion left. 

“Thank you,” she murmured and closed the door, placing the tankard atop the table and filling a goblet with the clear liquid. 

Then she moved toward Rhaegar and shook him, yet he would not wake. An idea struck the queen, perhaps it was somewhat sadistic in nature but he did wake her and she was not pleased with him strolling into her chambers, reeking of wine, barely able to speak. He was heavy, but somehow she managed to drag him down to the floor, wincing when she dropped his head a little too hard on the ground. Sighing, she tried to inspect if there was any great damage done. He’ll most like have a bruise there, come the morrow. I’ll let him believe that he was the one who caused it. 

“What you do not know, will not hurt you,” she said, fetching the goblet with cooling water. 

Standing above him, she slowly tipped the goblet over and the ray of water struck him right in the face. At least that gained a reaction, the Dornishwoman thought when he began coughing and sputtering. The sight did amuse her, she was not going to lie. The way his silver-gold hair clung to his forehead and how he looked utterly confused. 

“Elia,” he groaned, wiping his face. “What the fuck?” 

“You would not wake, My King,” she almost spat the last words out as if they were ash upon her tongue.

“Where am I?” he asked and Elia felt the urge to either throttle him or laugh. 

“In my chambers, you fool.” 

“Oh,” he leaned back down to the floor and she saw he was almost losing his consciousness again. No, no, no you don’t, she thought . 

“Get up,” she hissed, trying to drag him to his feet. The man obliged but almost toppled over as he stood. 

“Wine,” he mumbled, spotting the tankard of water. Deciding to play along, for there was no way in the seven hells that she would grant him more wine, she filled the goblet and handed it to him. He drank deeply, seeming more confused, the more he consumed.

“That’s not very potent,” he frowned, stumbling and having to lean on Elia to remain upright.

“It is a vintage from the Arbor,” she lied easily, finding it quite amusing, nonetheless. Rhaegar shrugged his shoulders and finished the entire goblet. “Fair enough,” he slurred, refilling it again. 

“You are such an idiot, Rhaegar,” she murmured and he seemed to turn sadder, then. 

“I kn-know,” he stuttered, rapidly consuming the water he believed was wine, from the goblet. Then, he wiped his lips and leaned down, putting his head in the crook of her neck. “Mother was right,” he hiccupped, “Mother was right, you were right, everyone was right, but I.” That perplexed the Dornishwoman and she was just about to question him, when she felt him breathe in deeply in the crook of her neck. She stiffened and frowned in confusion. 

“You smell good,” his lips breathed against her neck and she wished the maids could hurry, so their strange interaction could cease. “I’ve missed the way you smell--it always brought me solace, a sense of peace.” You ruined our peace, she thought. 

“And you reek, Rhaegar, of wine, sweat and regret,” she replied, carefully placing some of his silver-locks behind his ear, for they seemed to cling to his face uncomfortably. 

“I think,” he began, speaking to her neck rather than the Dornishwoman herself. “I think I drank too much,” the king finished and Elia rolled her eyes. 

“Do you now?” she asked, wryly. “What gave you that inclination?” 

“Tha-” he began, but the door opened and in scurried three maids, carrying a tub, scarcely daring to look upon Elia or Rhaegar. I wonder what Arthur told them, she mused. 

Finally, after several turns of filling the tub with warm, almost scalding water, the maids departed, as if they’d never been in the first place. Elia pushed a suddenly quiet and melancholy Rhaegar down onto the bed and he plopped straight down, once again, to her frustration. 

“Please sit up, Rhaegar,” she told him. 

“Oh, right,” he frowned and clumsily sat up, touching her face with his hands as she worked on unlacing his red tunic. 

“You’re always so good to me,” he whispered, looking sad. “I do not deserve it.” 

“We may agree upon that, Rhaegar,” she replied. “Arms up.” He obliged, hiccupping, and then his naked chest was revealed. What a sight he was, drunk and fumbling like a boy of six-and-ten and not a king. But so beautiful, the very incarnation of a Valyrian warrior… An intoxicated and stumbling one at that.

“Now you can lay down,” Elia told her husband, moving to unlace his breeches

“That feels pleasant,” he remarked as her hands were undoing the top of his laces and then dragging his breeches down his legs. The Dornishwoman snorted. 

“I am sure it does.” 

“Come on, now,” Elia mumbled, allowing a naked Rhaegar to lean on her as they made their way to the bathing room. She could see the steam rising from the water. Yet the Targaryens burn hotter than regular men and he always liked his baths scalding. At this point, the Dornish queen could not bring herself to care if the water burned him or not. 

“In you go,” she told him and helped him clumsily climb into the tub, accidentally slipping  slightly, which resulted in her being splashed with scalding water. Her husband did not notice but his wife sure did. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, one, two, three-

“Mm,” Rhaegar moaned as the soothing water surrounded him like the warmest quilt. 

“At least one of us is enjoying themselves,” the Dornishwoman grumbled irritatedly. 

“You cannot fall asleep!” she exclaimed when she saw the way his head was tilted back and his indigo eyes, closed. 

“I-I-I’m not asleep,” he mumbled and she shook her head, sighing. 

“I will be back,” she told him, wanting to fetch a chair from the sitting room, as it hurt her to stand for long amount of times and she could not bathe her husband whilst standing. I should not have to bathe him, he is a man grown, not a babe in arms. A crueler woman would have refused but Elia Martell was not cruel and her heart did not allow her to simply throw him away like dirt. Why? She did not know. He never considered me when he crowned Lyanna the Queen of Love and Beauty, nor when he ran away with her, as I was on death’s doorstep. 

“Don’t leave me,” he said, so quietly, utter raw emotion seeping into the words, giving them a sorrowful life, all of their own. His wet arm grasped hers, gently anchoring her to him. ”Please.” His voice was pleading now, and she suspected that he was thinking of more than her simply walking into the adjacent room. Yet who claims to know the mind of a drunk?

“I’m retrieving a chair, Rhaegar.” her husband calmed at that, releasing her and leaning back. The oaken chair was quite heavy, but not too much for the Dornish queen. Finally, she reached the bathing room again and placed it by the edge of the tub, where the king’s back was to her front. 

“Let us wash this stink off of you,” Elia Martell murmured, reaching for one of the soaps that smelled of flowers. She poured some into her palm and began massaging it into her husband’s scalp, not caring anymore that his head was in her lap, wetting her silky shift. I have others. Let us just get this overwith. 

“I’m sorry,” he hiccupped, the wine still in his system. “I always hurt you. I try to love you but it ends up all wrong.” Rhaegar Targaryen sounded cross with himself, so angry and distressed. Elia knew naught of what to respond, so she remained silent. 

She heard him sniffle and for some reason it tore at her, for she was ever soft of nature. I wish that I’d been born strong, as fervent and willful as befit a true Dornish princess. Prince Oberyn oft said that his sister was a flower who came without thorns, now she pondered if it was not more of a curse. 

“Quiet now,” she told him as gently as she would soothe their children, washing the soap out of his silvery hair. 

“You are too good to me. You always were and I betrayed you. I betrayed our family.” 

“I will not lie and say that you didn’t Rhaegar. If you wish me to absolve you of this guilt, then you’ve come to the wrong person.” 

“N-n-no, I know,” he stuttered, tears streaming down his face, visible even in the water. “This is a guilt I’ll carry to my grave.” We all have our scars to hold. The Dornishwoman did not reply, but simply took hold of a cloth and poured some of the scented soap on it. 

“Lean back,” she beckoned him softly her and he did, his glazed eyes gazing upon her as his head laid in her lap. With deft hands, she began stroking down his neck and chest, Rhaegar closing his eyes as if for those brief moments, he was content. She continued her ministrations until her husband stopped her hands by his chest and held it there, breathing softly.

“It soothes me. You calm me but I do not deserve to be calm, do I?” He asked through closed eyes and full lips.

“No king does,” she replied. “That is the price that the heavy crown demands. And the one you must pay.”

“The Gods know I deserve it,” he whispered, his face contorting into something akin to pain. 

Her fingers itched to stroke his cheek, to drag her fingers across the side of his jaw, ever so softly. No one wishes to see a fellow being in pain, especially if your cursed heart still bears affection for them . Yet she did not do it, for however much her heart bled, there was an inkling of pride that prevented her from finding solace in his arms. A part of her that could not bend or break for the Dragon-King. She was so close, so very close to doing so, though. The Dornishwoman told her heart to stop its incessant pleading, but the mind and heart are two different things that rarely work in tandem with each other. Her anger still brewed beneath the surface, yet her need to be touched and to feel the comfort of a man, seemed to clash with it. He was all she had, unlike him; she could not take a paramour or a second husband, unless she wished to pay the price with her head. 

“You look beautiful,” the silver-haired man muttered and Elia met his indigo eyes that seemed to be burning, with pain, with anguish, with love and burdens. She could not quite put her finger on what it was. “You always do and I ruin it. All I seem to do is make you sad and angry and I don’t mean to.” Something about having a king drunkenly ramble apologies, as he was being bathed by his wife, was morbidly amusing to the queen, yet so horribly sad. A quiet and solemn man, she knew that Rhaegar found it hard to express such matters sober and he always seemed to say the wrong things to his Dornish wife. 

“If I was so beautiful and lovely as you say, then why did you cause all this strife, grief and pain? Westeros is full of ghosts now, some kind and some sad. Some angry and some vindictive. We were going to die, Rhaegar. Possibly Aegon, then Rhaenys and I--  and for that, I cannot ever forgive you.” The words seemed to pour out of Elia by default, though they were safe now, no one can even begin to fathom the pain of giving one child to death, and the other to life. Or the horror of a madman threatening your children and keeping you hostage for the loyalty of a family, that you had not laid eyes upon in years. A foggy cloud seemed to cloud his eyes, then.

“Because I was a madman trailing after prophecies of salt and smoke,” he whispered, ever so gently. “And now I do not know what to do.” How child-like the king sounded in that moment, as if he was a young boy who had overreached, overdone himself and now needed help, to fathom what in the Gods’ names that he was to do. 

“Your mother told me that she said you were destructive.” Rhaegar nodded, seeming to recall slivers of the moment. “And that it would lead to your ruin, one day.”

“It did,” he smiled, ever so sadly. “But I am afraid that it was not only my ruin and for that, I shall forever feel the guilt and shame.” Elia nodded and realised that his water had turned lukewarm somewhere in the midst. Thusly, she rose to fetch him the towel laid out by the maids, of black and red cotton. He seems to have sobered up, slightly at the least. Enough to walk back to his chambers, she mused. 

“Let us get you dry,” the Dornish queen murmured to her husband who had sat up in the tub. Mutely, he rose, droplets of water dripping down his pale skin like beads of the purest crystal. The silver-gold hair tumbled beneath his broad shoulders and she was close enough to see the strands of silver-gold that were sparsely covering his chest. Elia reached a hand out to help him disembark from the tub and had to stand on her toes to place the large towel around his neck. 

“Sit down,” she beckoned him, pointing at the chair as she fetched the smaller towel for his hair. 

In the light of the bathing room, the king’s eyes looked more purple than blue and as guileless as she had ever seen them. Elia dried his hair gently, feeling the soft, silky texture beneath her fingers, on the occasion. At first his eyes were on hers, but then when she was almost done, the queen looked at him and saw that he was staring straight ahead with unfocused eyes, which happened to be where her bosom was. Had I been two years younger, I might have blushed but I am too tired and too old for such childish antics, that girl within me perished long ago. Queen Elia sighed but her husband seemed too lost within himself, or her cleavage to hear it. Men will remain men, she thought. Unless you cut off their cocks. 

She continued to pat him, moving down his body until she deemed him dry enough. 

“Rhaegar,” Elia softly spoke and gained the attention of her husband, who looked up with large eyes, waiting for her command. “Follow me into the bedchamber, we must needs dress you.” He nodded, the towel still around him and they began to walk into the adjacent chamber. Halfway there, she felt something large and warm embrace her hand and noticed it was Rhaegar’s hand. Elia did not remove it, but let it stay and warm her. 

She sniffed his linen shirt and wrinkled her nose, deciding that it needed a washing and discarded it onto the floor. 

“You breeches will have to do,” she told him, handing them to him and gazing expectantly. Sheepishly, Rhaegar began to don the black garment, yet his fumbling fingers that could not quite stop shaking, prohibited him from properly lacing them. Elia sighed, and removed his hands, deftly lacing them as he leaned back on the bed, silver-hair spilling atop the cushions, clashing vividly betwixt the red, orange and black. 

She clapped his thigh gently to regain his attention. 

“It is time for you to leave,” she told him. That caused the king to frown. 

“No,” the man shook his head, “I do not want to,” he continued, mumbling into a pillow that he was embracing, “Please, I wish to stay… I miss you.” 

You should have thought of that before you caused all this tragedy. “No, Rhaegar. You must leave,” she repeated, trying to drag him to his feet but he was like an oaken tree and she was no match for him. After he utterly refused to depart, she sighed and moved to the tankard of wine on the table, herself. To calm myself, she argued and finished the goblet of Arbor Gold in two gulps. 

“Get off the covers, not all of us are Targaryens who burn hotter than a brazier.” That made her husband giggle drunkenly, but he did as she bid and Elia climbed underneath the covers, Rhaegar turned toward her, his bare chest and hair seeming ever paler in the light of the moon. 

“Why did you drink so much?” she asked, frowning sadly. Her husband turned even sadder then, if it was even possible.

“Because I am sticky with shame and guilt, because I was wrong and now I do not know what to do,” he whispered, closing his eyes as if in pain. “Because I love her but she was not meant to be a queen-- Because I love you and you were meant for it. Because sometimes I look upon Aegon and Rhaenys and wish to fall upon my own sword, for ever putting them in harm’s way.” King Rhaegar frowned harder. “I made such a mess of things, and now we are all torn and bleeding.” He reached out and stroked her cheek with a gentle hand. 

“You did it and there is no undoing it, all you can do is live with it.” The Dornishwoman’s voice was strangely even for someone whose heart is contradictory at best and cannot make up its mind. 

The Dornish queen stared at her husband, suddenly aware of his face that was mere inches from hers. Rhaegar is no monster, she found herself thinking. It would have been so much simpler to despise him, if he’d been. 

“I will try to fix this,” he vowed and she shook her head, sadly. 

“First you must mend yourself,” Elia began. “And it will not happen through drinking yourself into a stupor. The man nodded drunkenly. 

“I hurt you again.” Rhaegar brushed a few stray, brown locks away from her eyes, staring intently at her. 

“You did,” she sighed. For the man had, on numerous occasions. He peered at her through his lashes and slowly inched closer to her face with his own. Elia only realised he was to kiss her, when his soft lips were on hers. She wished to stop it, she truly did but mayhaps it was the wine, perhaps it was her aching heart, but the Dornishwoman found herself responding to his tender kiss-- Even reaching out to cup his face with one of her hands. He still tasted the same, the way he always had. 

There was no urgency to his lips on hers, it was delicate and sweet in the most absurd way. The way his groan stayed in the back of his throat, her soft sighs and mewls. His tongue moved lazily and the Dornishwoman found herself enjoying the slow pace, the way he was just Rhaegar again, in that moment. He is just Rhaegar, not Rhaegar who betrayed me, not Rhaegar who left us, not the king-- he just is. And to be is to be. Gently, the Dornish queen bit his lip and he smiled, deepening the kiss further, none of them stopping until they were out of breath, and more importantly; this was no time for weary words. She just wanted to feel again and wagered he wished to do the same. 

His soft lips moved from her mouth, to the side of her jaw, down her neck and Elia moved closer to him, grasping his soft, supple hair in her hand, feeling Rhaegar move to lay on top of her. 

“No,” she gasped, feeling his lips reach down her neck, to the swell of her breasts. “We shouldn’t,” she whimpered but who was the Dornishwoman trying to convince? My mind or my body?

“I hurt you, so many times,” he murmured between kisses. “Let me love you, this once.” His indigo eyes burned through her as she gazed into them. “I am yours.” Only for the night, she thought. You won’t ever be mine, but do continue telling your sweet lies. If I was as old and gullible as that wolf-girl is, I may even have believed them. 

“You deserve to be loved,” Rhaegar mumbled, each word filled with equal parts of melancholy and warmth, desperation and longing, even. However, Elia was no fool. King Rhaegar’s love was fleeting, always moving like a beautiful butterfly that none could capture. It never failed to make her feel wonderful, yet oh, so defeated when it inevitably departed. He did not belong to her and she would never forgive him for the pain and grief he caused her… yet if she numbed her mind and thought of his lips on her body, the warmth in his tender touch, then none of the horrid reality could touch them. He could simply be a comely man in her bed, with hair like the Dragonlords of old. He will not remember this in the morning, she comforted herself by thinking, offering it to her mind as reasoning. For now she would let her body feel, after so long of desolation and despair. Desire is a wicked thing and it waits for no one, all it does is crave and crave.

Sloppily, the king kissed down her body, hiking her shift up higher, caressing and kissing the skin he exposed. Yet somehow it was endearing, the kind of fumbling that one expected in their youth, when all was brighter and summers raged on forever. When kisses were sweet as the ripest peach and life was not yet so complicated. Elia grasped his silvery hair fiercely as he reached her thighs and left his scorching kisses, whilst his delicate fingers played her more elegantly than the harp. Her cries of ecstasy only seemed to urge her king on further, until she was naught but whimpering mess trying to catch her breath. Elia thought his name but she did not speak it, for speaking would breathe whatever happened between them into reality and existence and she was not quite ready for that. Reality is cruel, at the best of times. 

A shyness seemed to cover the king when he moved to lay on his side, beside her. 

“Did it please you?” he asked and she felt a hopelessness cling to her. 

“Too much,” she exhaled, thinking of how she should not have allowed for that to happen. The pleasurable high was soon met by a crushing low. This was foolish of me-- Of us. Rhaegar seemed unaware of her internal strife and kissed her temple sweetly, unfurling the sad frown that claimed it, previously. Her husband then placed the silken cover atop them and moved to embrace his wife, turning her around and dragging her close to him, placing his leg over her hip. He is enticed, she noted, but he made no move to bed or ask for her to reciprocate his touches. 

Elia sighed and breathed in deeply when she felt his hand hiking up her thin shift and reaching underneath to stroke the bare skin on her belly, gently inching upward to fondle her breasts. His breaths were hot on her neck and his caresses did not cease until he fell asleep, the breathing evening and his hand falling limp underneath her shift. The consequences would have to wait until the next day, for now she was tired and spent. I can be Queen Elia in the morn, but now; I was simply a woman and he was only a man--  Just as the Gods fashioned us to be. Some would surely have berated the queen for allowing her husband’s touches but the heart is an ever delicate thing, and all men crave love. As Elia craved the comfort it brought upon. 

Dawn will wash away these sins, she thought before falling asleep. Or the remnants of this eve, whatever one would choose to call it.

It must. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The sun was barely up in the sky, when Elia woke. At first, she felt the pleasant daze of a calm sleep and stretched her body with a feline grace. The feeling of the released tension almost made her groan but then she noted that there was something warm around her and felt hot breaths tickle the back of her neck. That caused the Dornishwoman to frown, opening her eyes and gently turning around, simply to be faced by her husband’s sleeping form. 

She was so close that she could notice the flecks of gold and silver in his eyebrows, able to count his individual, long and dark lashes that spilled across the top of his pale cheeks. Well, one of the cheeks were slightly discolored, all courtesy of the Dowager Queen. Suddenly, the memories of the night washed over her, unwelcome and so vivid that they caused her to close her eyes, as if in pain. How foolish could he have been? How foolish could I have been? 

What in the Gods’ names do I do now? Last night was one long and big drunken mistake, mostly on Rhaegar’s part but I indulged his behavior and it was wrong of me. Could anyone fault the Dornishwoman? She was a nurturer and soft of nature, of course she was angry but something inside forbade her from tossing him aside to be someone else’s burden. The Gods know I would have been happier for it. His silvery hair was tousled and his pink lips looked to be pouting, there was a strange glow about him. He looks younger and less troubled, innocent, almost. 

He’d rambled his sweet apologies the previous night, proclaimed his love for her and the deep regret that he harbored for his actions. He said that Lyanna was not meant to be a queen, she remembered, then why did he make her one? Elia knew that Rhaegar was grieving, she could see it in his eyes, the melancholic demeanor of his body, yet Queen-mother Rhaella’s words came to her, like a tide. Does he hurt more than us? Does he grieve more than us? 

Something brought him to drink himself into oblivion. Was it his mother’s harsh words, the truth and consequences of his rash actions, did it finally make him see? Yet, Elia would not deign herself to murmur sweet words and try to alleviate his pain. That part of me burned away. She was sure that the Queen Lyanna would murmur false excuses for their actions, when it hurt to much to see the results of them. The crow telling the raven that they are not black. 

Elia gazed at King Rhaegar, thinking of what to do. What was there for her to say? He will most like deny his words, like all men do, and say that it was the wine speaking. Yet does not ale and wine bring out the truths in us? The secrets we wish to hide, deep and dark and underneath, in a place where they cannot hurt us any longer. And selfishly… The Dornish queen did not feel like acknowledging the sins of the night, those which dawn washed away, until they became little more than sweat and regret. 

For if she did stay until he woke, then he would surely take in her appearance beside him, in her bed, their limbs entwined and puzzle together the pieces that she had stayed and cared for him. I do not want him to think that my foolish, weak heart was forgiveness. That it would mean that I would be something akin to his again… The Queen wanted to avoid the confrontation that would come with acknowledging the previous night-- There is no coming back from this otherwise. 

Carefully, she moved to rise, for she did not wish to be there when he woke. Rhaegar made a soft sound and moved to stretch his long, pale body. That made the Dornishwoman wince and mutter a prayer for him to please, not wake up, under her breath. The silken cover slipped from his body slightly and she could see the jut of his hip and the smooth, flawless skin below, where his breeches hung low. Elia was not a saint, nor a god--  she was human and with those, come flaws. I’d be lying if I said the sight was not enticing. Yet her unwillingness to confront and explain last eve, to a man who frankly, did not deserve it, prevented her from acting on her sinful urges. That and her pride. Deep in her heart, the anger still remained, ready to appear at any instance it deemed apt. 

Quickly, Elia grabbed a long, orange robe of satin, hanging atop one of the chairs in the sitting room and quickly moved into the washing room. The maids were here to remove the tub, she noted and hastily moved to wash her face in the basin of rosewater, also running a brush through her long, dark hair. When she deemed it to be the most presentable that she could appear for the morn, she patted her face dry with one of the towels, donned a pair of slippers and promptly, got the hell out of her chambers before the dragon would wake. A dragon in pain, she thought with wry amusement. Consuming so much wine never goes unpunished. 

After quietly opening the door to her chamber, wincing as it made a creek, she snuck out to the side beyond that heavy, wooden door and was met by Ser Arthur. There was no doubt in her mind that the reason he was alone, was because no one needed to be by his side. He is the most skilled and deadly out of all the kingsguard. That reminded Elia of a wry comment Ser Jaime once spoke. He said that Arthur could battle half a dozen men with his left hand, all the while taking a piss with the right-- And they still would be no match for him. The knight looked at her apprehensively, raising a silvery brow when he noted her secretive moves. 

“Ser Arthur,” she greeted, his incompetence for last night, still fresh on her mind. 

“My Queen,” he replied softly, gazing at her with liquid pools of violet, framed by dark lashes. His look turned queer after a few moments, however and it unsettled her in a way. He’s not looked at me that way since we were children playing at being grown. 

“What?” she asked, wariness lacing her tone. His eyes lingered on the parts of her shoulder that the robe left bare, before clearing his throat and turning back to her eyes, seeming more melancholy then. Gods, she thought angrily, feeling drained. Is everyone just sad now? All the time? Why do I make all of you so weary, it’s tiring, give it a rest! Ser Arthur did not respond, so she took it upon herself to look at where his eyes were last, herself. Do I have something on my shoulder? She wondered idly, turning her head to get a better view, that’s when she noticed it. 

The mark was red, tinged with purple and the shame of the night before. Oh no, she thought, muttering a curse at the gods. 

“Fuck,” she grumbled, wrapping the robe fully around her and tying it with the sash and moving parts of her hair to her front, in an attempt to shield whatever skin remained on show. When Queen Elia turned her eyes upon her childhood lover, she noted that he looked like a dog who’d been kicked by its master. Stop it, she thought. We were done and overwith long ago, when you decided to take duty for a wife and I was handed the Dragon-Prince. 

“Were there more?” she asked, anxiously wondering how she was going to dress to cover them. The knight nodded, looking around before he reached an arm out to trace what she assumed was the marks left behind, by Rhaegar, with a queer look in his eyes. His touch was soft and there was something so hopeless about it. 

“He did not… He did not hurt me like that , Arthur,” she mumbled, peering at him through her dark lashes, for the thought struck her that mayhaps he thought he was seeing Aerys in the marks. That is not the case, even the Dornishwoman could admit. 

“That used to be me,” he said, ever so softly, almost as if he was speaking to himself. Now it is your dearest friend, how things have changed. But you willed them so, spare me the hurt-- I do not want to feel the guilt for your choices, anymore. 

“Not any longer, Arthur,” she replied. “Not for years.” 

“I know. That does not mean that I ever stopped thinking of it.” 

“Do not look at me like that,” she told him, her voice hoarse. “It was you who joined the kingsguard, it was you who ruined whatever we had. All that remains is a dusty volume of what we were and could have been.” 

“Your mother would never have let us wed,” the knight replied dejectedly. “She aspired far more for her princess. The second son of a vassal house would never have been enough for Loreza Martell’s daughter, no matter if he wielded Dawn or not.” 

“It would have been enough for me, for the girl I was .” Elia swallowed and continued. “We dreamt of fleeing to Lys, Tyrosh or Volantis. Oberyn would have helped us. Foolish dreams, yes, but the girl I was, would have done it in a heartbeat. For you, her precious knight.” His finger trailed down her collarbone, making shivers erupt on her bare arms. 

“It does sound wonderful looking back,” he replied wistfully. “Perhaps we would have been happier for it.” Yes, but it was what could have been, not what came to be. Reality is cruel and we were playing at the game of love and duty, like a drunkard rolling dice. 

It was more than early, which meant that no one was wandering the halls, be they servants, lord or ladies. The way which Ser Arthur stood in front of Elia, shielded her from onlookers, as he was taller and larger than her. It allowed for his treasonous touches to remain unseen. 

“You joined the kingsguard, Arthur. You made your choice,” she said, shaking her head sadly and wishing for these incessant feelings she harbored for those paramount men in her life, could go away. It is not that the queen was in love with either, but she had loved them once and the remnants of that affection would never truly leave her-- Pieces of that love would never take its leave. Maybe I am cursed, she thought, dejectedly. 

“I joined because father was making arrangements for my betrothal and I had no wish to be wed to anyone but you. Only the fucking Maiden could have replaced you, in my eyes, Elia-- so I vowed to not know another woman, to only feel the cold weight of duty next to me in bed whose kisses would leave me bleeding, yet never coming close to making me feel the way that you did,” he whispered, closing his eyes and frowning. “I will never forgive myself for letting you go.” 

“And falling into the arms of your closest friend,” the Dornishwoman said, her voice surprisingly even. “There is naught left for you and I to do, we are a closed chapter now.” 

“Me being a knight of the kingsguard never meant that I stopped loving you.” His large hand was on her shoulder, his thumb dangerously close to the swell of her breast, softly moving in half-circles. Oh, my sweet, lost boy. Why don’t you see? Why do neither of you SEE? 

“And would you break your vows for that love? The way you did for the wolf-girl?” she breathed and he grew rigid, but nodded nonetheless. “Would you fuck me, fast and hard with my drunk husband snoring in the bed behind us? Your dearest friend,” she challenged and sensed his internal strife, the longing in his eyes palpable. It was cruel, Elia knew.

“Of course you would not.” The Dornishwoman turned to gaze at him with pity in her eyes. “He remains your friend, as I remain a figment of your past-- An ode to help you sleep.” A sort of clarity seemed to wash upon him then. 

“I would do anything you ordered me to.” His statement angered her in a way. Y ou did everything for Rhaegar, and here you stand; essentially saying that you would betray yet another vow, that you would fuck me-- But only if I ordered you to.

“You would fuck me, if I ordered you to?” she hissed and the man seemed to realise what it was, that he had said.  “Doesn’t that just warm the heart?” she sneered.

“I-” he began but she cut him off, whispering harshly. 

“First of all; that would have meant both of our heads and I am not wanton, young or stupid enough for such foolery.” The Dornishwoman moved to stand on her toes, and grabbing the knight’s cock through the fabric, speaking savagely into his ear. It was those incessant things that had gotten them into this entire mess, in the first place, anyway. Ser Arthur’s entire demeanor grew rigid and he let out a shaky breath as she squeezed harshly. “You and my husband are both full of apologies, of sweet words and vows to protect and rebuild. I will believe it when I see it.” 

“H-” Arthur grunted but she shushed him. 

“Lastly, I do not care if you think of me during the cold nights in your bed, if you fuck yourself to the image of me on top of you. Allow the memories to warm you, for the Gods know that I never will, ever again. These incessant pleas and wounded looks will have to stop, Arthur,” she whispered and her last words were spoken almost soothingly, in contrast to the harsh sounds of the earlier ones. It hurt her to do this, in some strange way. It was as if she was killing a part of herself that may hurt in the moment, to save her life in the end. We were never to be, if I shall ever be free, then both of us must let go- If one clings to it, then so does the other. 

“It hurts,” he sighed. “I love you.” His hand was still on her shoulder and he was hard in her grasp, but she let go and exhaled shakily. 

“Oh, Arthur,” she said, ever so sadly. “You loved what I was but it is not who I am . The Princess of Dorne is dead. She died the day you helped her prince of a husband escape with a girl, barely old enough to be a woman. Bury her, for all that remains is her sad ghost.” He looked wounded and it tore at Elia but she knew that this had to be done. 

The Dornish queen idly wondered how long they had been standing there. It feels like forever. As if time decided to stand still and haunt us with her never-ending presence. 

“Please, Arthur, for me. For us.” A tear escaped those violet eyes, then but Elia wiped it away, as she would do for her young daughter. She would have wished to weep, as well, but she knew that she could not. I have to be strong for the both of us. To not allow him doubts.

“Tell me that you do not hate me,” he whispered brokenly, “Just tell me. I do not care if it’s a lie.” He thinks I despise him? No, my sweet boy, I don’t. 

“I do not hate you, Arthur,” Elia said truthfully. “I could never.” 

“I will still be here for you,” he murmured, craning his head down to look at her, his violet eyes hauntingly clear. “Whenever you need. For whatever you need.” 

“I know,” she said. 

“Can I just…?” he asked, not being able to finish the words. “Just one last time,” Ser Arthur mumbled, his face the epitome of anguish. She knew what he was asking. A kiss of goodbye, a soft remainder of what we shared but have to kill. It is not like i’m fucking him, the way Rhaegar did Lyanna, the way he does, Lyanna. She needed to lay this incessant ghost to rest, to bury it beneath the earth and dirt. To allow it peace, or it would never set them free. 

Elia looked around, trying to spot anyone in the hall. If Varys has his birds out and hears of this, then we are both lost. She spotted the door to an empty chamber, ajar. The one originally meant for Prince Oberyn, yet it was discovered that some tapestry had rotted, which had to be immediately fixed. Her brother would not have cared, but Rhaegar had decreed that Prince Oberyn was to be treated most lavishly during his stay, and could not spend his nights within a room full of rotted wallpaper. 

“Ser Arthur,” she said, loudly, hoping she would not wake Rhaegar, yet there was small chance of that, for he was a heavy sleeper and Elia wished that the oaken door would shield them, somewhat. “I think I misplaced my necklace in that chamber. It would be a pity if it was to be lost, will you help find it? It will be quicker if two are searching.” The knight seemed confused for a few moments, but when he saw her wary eyes, the man nodded. 

“Of course, My Queen.” Quickly, they walked into the chamber, Arthur gently closing it behind them. 

“Lord Varys,” she murmured. “Though I assume to be in his good graces, one mistep can bring upon catastrophe.” Arthur nodded. 

“You were always cleverer than me.” 

“If one does not learn the rules of the game, then they are forever doomed to lose.” Arthur agreed but the sadness in his eyes remained. This will be a mercy for the both of us. To let go. One day, you will understand. One day, we will be grateful.  

She touched his face, the tanned skin, so similar to hers and looked at him for a few moments, his tongue darting out to lick the bottom of his lip, before biting it softly. 

“One last time,” she told him. “A goodbye, not a start of something new.” The violet pools brimmed with tears, shining like purple crystals. 

“One last time,” he concurred. Our first kiss in almost a decade. The beginning of an immediate end. 

The Dornishwoman cupped his cheeks and stood on her toes, leaning in, to kiss the ghost of her past. His lips were soft, molding against hers and it felt so perfect that it almost seemed like a fever dream. When she felt him against her, she gasped and felt his tongue invade her mouth. He does not sound like Rhaegar, she found herself thinking. He sounds like he used to, as if he’s found his salvation. Suddenly, the kiss seemed to turn more passionate and fervent, and the knight took hold of her thighs, pushing her against the wall-- making Elia wrap her legs around his waist. 

His hands were everywhere, but so were hers.She felt the hilt of Dawn chafe beneath her thigh but could not bring herself to care. They were a mess of tangled limbs and sorrow, Elia even thought she could feel the salty taste of his tears against her lips. His fingers touched her behind, as the lips moved onto her neck, she knew she needed to stop, but it felt so good. However, when she felt him cup her breasts through her shift, she knew that the show was over and needed its finale. 

“Arthur, stop,” she whispered, his silver-gold head, still in the crook of her neck. “It is time.” The knight heard her and seized immediately, gently lowering her to the floor. 

“Anything you order me to, I was not lying.” At least he held true to that. I told him to cease, and he did. Elia looked at his face, to see if anything hinted at something more happened as they were inside that chamber. His cheeks are flushed, she noted and his lips are redder. The Dornish queen looked down and touched him, noting that he was still hard but his garments would cover that until it subsided. 

Elia smoothed out her shift, once again tying the robe around her and tried to tame her hair. 

“What happened here, Arthur?” she asked, reaching out to smooth his hair out, as well. 

“Nothing. I helped you search for a necklace,” the knight replied and she smiled sadly.

“Yes, you did. But we could not find it and it is lost forever now. All I have are the memories of it.” She opened the door to the chamber and walked him back to his post. 

“Yes,” Ser Arthur replied dejectedly. “It is gone and I am sorry that I could not help you find it earlier.”

“It is life. We lose things and gain new ones, my choice to place it there, led to the loss of it. We must needs make due with it.” 

“As you say, My Queen.” He turned to her, smiling delicately. “It was a beautiful necklace, I saw it once.” 

“It was. Truly one of a kind,” she allowed. “But it is gone and I have to don my other ones, instead.” 

“I will be visiting my brother now,” Elia told the knight. “But you will not tell the king that,” she continued in a whisper. Arthur nodded, asking her what he should say, were he to be asked. 

“Tell him that I did not tell you, even if you asked.” The knight seemed uncomfortable with the act of putting the blame on the queen. “It is alright, Arthur. I know how to deal with my husband.” 

“Goodbye, Ser,” she told him, half-smiling. 

“Goodbye, My Queen,” he replied, bleakly but trying to smile. We did it, she thought. I did it. I set us free. 

The walk to Oberyn’s chambers felt dismal but also strangely light, as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders. We were an infectious wound, it would only have further damaged us in the end. When she arrived, she was met by two Dornishmen guarding the chambers. 

“My Queen,” they both said, their voices tinged with the Dornish drawl, giving her a sense of home. 

“I am here to see my brother,” Elia said, softly. 

“Should we call for him?” one of them asked the other, unsurely. The Dornishwoman waved their concerns aside. 

“There is no need,” she replied. “I can enter, myself.” They nodded and Queen Elia sent a half-prayer up to the gods, asking that her brother and his paramours please be dressed. 

They opened the door for her and she stepped in, the sun glaring more fiercely than it had when she woke up. She looked around and found that she was in the sitting room, so the Dornish queen decided to walk into the bedchamber, where they would surely be sleeping peacefully. I do not wish to bother them, she thought. I am being weak and annoying. Yet her heart felt young and she wished to be soothed by her brother. To sleep surrounded by people who had not betrayed nor condemned her. 

Softly, her feet padded across the oaken floor and she spotted the bed-- a large thing, made out of wood, with an orange canopy and three sleeping forms in it. Elia felt like a child again, walking into Doran or Oberyn’s chambers after a nightmare. They would always hold me and tell me it was alright, she reminisced fondly. They never sent me away, even Doran who was ten years older than I. Thankfully, she noted that all of the occupants of the great wooden bed were dressed. Ellaria was in a nightgown, not unlike Elia’s herself, but hers is a pale pink. She could distinguish Lyro’s flaxen hair and sharp jaw anywhere, and he was laying in cropped, blue pants of linen, whilst Oberyn donned red ones. 

The Dornish queen moved to her brother’s side, crouching down and touching his shoulder, gently. It did not take him long to wake, his reflexes were quick and the movements seemed to be almost innate. Brown eyes met hers, the same eyes. 

“Elia?” he asked, confusion lacing the word. His sister nodded, feeling the strange urge to weep. Can I stop being such an emotional, blathering cow? Perhaps last night and the morning’s events had taken more of a toll on the Dornishwoman, than she cared to confess. I just want to be someone’s sister, not the queen. I just want to rest for a little. 

“What is it?” he asked worriedly, sitting up and seeing the tears brimming in her eyes. She forced them down and tried to smile. 

“Nothing.” The Dornishwoman shook her head.  “Can I sleep with you?” she asked, instead. The Viper of Dorne’s eyes turned tender then and he reached a hand out to cup her cheek.

“Of course.” Then he kissed the top of her head and she climbed in beside him, with Ellaria next to her. The woman seemed to have stirred because of the commotion and opened her soft, green eyes. 

“Elia?” the bastard of Hellholt murmured. Oberyn stroked his sister’s hair and reached out to touch Ellaria’s shoulder. 

“It is fine. Let her sleep.” The woman nodded, embracing her paramour’s sister but Elia felt rude for stealing her brother away like that. Even though both would surely assure her that it was of no consequence and that Prince Oberyn hadn’t seen his sister in years, but saw Ellaria and Lyro each day. 

“We can exchange places if you wish to lay beside my brother.” Her voice was barely more than a hoarse whisper. 

“No,” Ellaria shook her head. “It is fine.” 

“I insist,” Elia replied, smiling softly. She envied her brother’s love that seemed so very uncomplicated. Ellaria gazed at the queen, searching for further confirmation, which the Dornish queen granted. Gracefully, the queen moved over Ellaria, to Lyro’s side, where he was sleeping, breathing evenly. His hair has light streaks of gold in it, now that she looked closely. 

Oberyn wrapped an arm around his paramour, but rested it on Elia’s shoulder, as if to show he was there if she needed. Ellaria’s arm was around Elia’s waist and she felt strangely content, wishing her slumber would wash away the aching thoughts in her mind. That was when the Lyseni seemed to wake and stared at her with confusion, through pale, blue eyes covered by brown eyelashes, a shade darker than his own hair. 

“Elia?” he asked and it almost made the Dornish queen giggle. It is the third time someone has asked me that, in the span of minutes. 

“Lyro,” she greeted in a whisper but he frowned. 

“What happened?” he asked, concerned and she shook her head. It seemed like Lyro simply understood her, where others failed. As if they shared some secret understanding, unbeknownst to anyone else. 

“Too much. A long story, for another time and place. Let us sleep, for now.” The man reached a hand out to stroke her cheek, his eyes trailing toward the slight exposed skin on her neck, bearing proof of her sins. Of Rhaegar’s sins. Of Arthur’s sins. 

“Alright,” the man said after some time, his eyes conveying a sort of gentle comprehension. The Lyseni saw but he understood and Elia knew that he would remain silent on the matter, unless explicitly given permission to broach it. We were both taught to be meek, she realised and it saddened her heart to no end. 

Then, Lyro moved closer to Elia, embracing her and kissing her cheek. 

“The storm will pass, I promise. So will the tears,” he whispered, his pale eyes soft. It was spoken so quietly that she almost did not hear him. The Dornishwoman smiled, closing her eyes and rejoicing in the relief that his arms around her brought. The way that it all seemed so calm. An illusion, she knew but a sweet one, nonetheless and what a comfort it brought upon.

Soon enough, his breaths evened out and she knew that he was asleep, the Dornish queen was on the cusp of slumber, as well, and it was only then she realised how fond she’d grown of both Ellaria and Lyro. They both understood her, but in different ways. Lyro knew what it was like to be uncertain, to doubt people’s love for you. It was why he resonated so much with the young queen, for they were so alike in some ways. He fears that my brother and Ellaria may one day decide they are finished with him, I know. Like I doubt every smiling face I see at court. The way I doubt Rhaegar’s heart. His past is complicated and so is mine, shrouded with tragedy that we both try to hide. Though she wagered that Lyro’s past was infinitely more troubled than her own and she would not compare the two, or minimize his suffering for her mummer’s farce of a life. 

The next time she woke, the Lyseni’s arms were still around her, but Oberyn and Ellaria were nowhere to be found. 

“They went to fetch the children,” Lyro mumbled sleepily, looking at her through his lashes. “I heard Oberyn say that they would bring you comfort. He sounded worried,” the man continued. That made her heart drop. I do not want to concern him, she thought, exasperated at herself. 

“He should not worry, it is nothing,” she replied but Lyro shook his head. 

“It is something and it is weighing you down. Oberyn is your brother, of course he worries.” 

“I did a bad thing,” she whispered and he smiled. 

“How bad of a thing can it be, coming from you? The gentle flower.” I’ve grown thorns since Rhaegar returned. Small, pitiful things but thorns, nonetheless. 

“You saw.” He did, but his eyes seemed to turn somber as he heard her words. Lightly, the Lyseni brushed some brown hair behind her ears and spoke. 

“No one has the right to judge you for that. It is not a crime to let go and simply feel.” 

“But it was wrong of me and weak,” she said, meeting his gaze with glazed eyes. 

“You are not weak, you are human. We were fashioned to love, be it a blessing or a curse.” 

“Nonetheless, it should not have happened,” she murmured, snuggling into his warm embrace.

“But it did, do not curse yourself for it. You deserve to feel good,” he whispered, holding her close and somehow she wished he could realise the same for himself. 

“You do as well, Lyro.” His only response was kissing her temple and embracing her tighter.

“You deserve more than what you deem yourself worthy of,” she continued. 

“I could say the same to you.” 

“It seems we’ve reached an impasse,” she smiled against his skin. He laughed, a warm and full sound. 

“It seems we have.”

It felt safe to be in his arms, as if nothing in the world could touch her. Just like when Oberyn holds me. 

“I said goodbye to one of my ghosts, this morn,” she confessed as the Lyseni stroked her hair tenderly. 

“You did?” he asked. “What kind of ghost?” 

“One from my past.” His hand continued to toy with her hair. 

“I see,” the man mused in his melodic accent. “And are we happy or sad about that?” 

“All that, with more than a tinge of relief. It was time I laid him to rest, or he would forever haunt me and that would have been no kindness to either of us-- However sweet of a ghost he may have been.” 

“Sometimes it is necessary because they will only hold us to the past. Time waits for no one, I am afraid.” 

“I do agree, Lyro.”

“I have ghosts of my own, as well,” the man relied. “But it does no good to dwell on such matters, for they are no longer haunting me.” 

“We are both free of our ghosts, it seems. We should toast, perhaps,” Elia smiled wryly.

“Mayhaps not. It is still a piece of us that we buried, sometimes the wounds are too fresh for us to celebrate the death of a part of us.” The Dornishwoman could not argue with that. 

“You are far wiser than I,” she said, closing her eyes and sighing. She felt his laugh vibrate through his chest. 

“I would not say that, My Queen.” 

They remained like that for some time, until Elia heard the happy voices of her children in the sitting room. Together with Lyro, she rose, tied her robe tightly and walked through the hall, to be greeted by not only her brother and his paramour, but with her children and Viserys. Aegon was in Ellaria’s arms, a little smile gracing his face as soon as he laid his eyes upon his mother. 

“Mama,” Rhaenys smiled, letting go of Viserys and Oberyn’s hands, to greet her mother. 

“My sweet girl,” Elia replied, bending down to embrace her daughter. 

Then, the Dornishwoman turned to Viserys, dressed in a black and red doublet, with the Targaryen sigil embroidered on his chest. He looks like a younger version of Rhaegar.

“Don’t you look handsome, Viserys?” she asked, embracing the boy and kissing his cheek. He held onto her longer than required. When she disembarked, she noted a slight blush covered the apples of his cheeks and stroked them tenderly with her hands. “An image of your brother.” That earned her a look from Oberyn but Elia only smiled. Rhaegar is handsome, only a fool would say otherwise. Simply because I have grief with him, does not make me blind.

“Thank you, mother picked it out,” the boy mumbled, shyness lacing his words. 

“Shall we break our fast?” The queen asked. “I can have the servants send us food.” All the people present nodded, so Elia called for food to be brought to them. 

After their fast was broken, Rhaenys and Viserys went to their lessons in the art of speaking High-Valyrian, history and geography. Aegon was taken away by Melly to be fed and bathed, whilst Oberyn, Ellaria, Elia and Lyro remained in Prince Oberyn’s chambers. Lyro and Ellaria moved into the other rooms, wishing  to play a game of Cyvasse but the Dornish queen knew that it was to give her and Oberyn time alone, to speak. 

“What had you so disturbed earlier, Elia?” Oberyn asked softly, gazing at her with his viper’s eyes, analyzing and assessing. 

“It was childish, Oberyn,” she shrugged, “Nothing you must needs be concerned with.” 

“It was him , was it not?” Her brother sounded dangerous as he spoke the words. 

“Isn’t it always?” she smiled ruefully but the Red Viper did not find the situation to be very amusing at all. 

“What did he do?” Prince Oberyn left no room for argument, so she indulged him. 

“He showed up drunk, to my chambers.” 

“If he did something to you, I will kill him. King or not,” Oberyn began, darkly. “Did he?” 

“Yes, but I allowed it,” Elia said, hopelessly. “If only I'd sent him away,” she whispered and felt her brother place his hand atop hers. 

“He bedded you?” the Red Viper of Dorne asked, not unkindly. There was no judgement or scorn to his words, it was simply a question posed. 

“Not per se,” she allowed, looking away in embarrassment. 

“I see,” her brother replied tersely. “Were you opposed to it?” 

“I wish I had been.” Her words were quiet and solemn. That was when Prince Oberyn took hold of her chin softly. 

“Look at me, Elia,” he began. “If that is the only damned thing that the Dragon-King can do for you, then do not lose any sleep over it. If we can’t enjoy the small pleasures, then what is life but grief, misery and pain?” 

“It should not have happened, Oberyn.” 

“He was drunk and you were lonely. Is that not how it usually happens?” Prince Oberyn snorted and the comment did make the Dornish queen smile. 

“Listen to me,” her brother beckoned. “Do not ever feel ashamed. It is he who should feel all the guilt, do not deign yourself to carry it for him.” Elia looked at her brother for a few moments before embracing him, murmuring a thanks. 

“I hope you did not reciprocate though, sister,” the Dornish prince grumbled and it made her laugh. 

“Rest assured, I did not,” she allowed and pulled away. Oberyn simply smirked. 

“You remind me of myself even more, each day that passes.” 

“Perhaps it is you who takes after me,” she replied snobbishly. 

“You wish,” the prince snorted. 

Then, they all took a trip to the court, with Elia holding it, as was her duty as queen. Mercifully, Rhaegar was absent and so was his Northern queen. The Dornishwoman suspected that it had something to do with the copious amount of wine he’d consumed the night before. She did not know how she felt about his silence, yet the queen had to remind herself that it was her who’d ran away, but the thought did strike her that perhaps he would’ve done the same, had he woken first.

***

The  summon came when she was in the nursery, with Queen Rhaella and her children, during the early hours of the eve. 

“King Rhaegar demands and audience with you in his chambers, as soon as you are able, m’queen,” the servant said nervously. Half-a-child, she is. Most like new, as well. 

“He demands?” Queen-mother Rhaella asked with a raised eyebrow. 

“W-wi-wishes, m’queen,” the servant stuttered after swallowing loudly. Elia smiled gently. 

“Thank you for the notification, you are dismissed, sweetling.” 

Elia had sparsely notified Rhaella of Rhaegar’s drunken stumbling into her chambers, the previous eve but she left it at that. His mother had frowned and shook her head, apologising to her good-daughter for her son’s foolish behavior. 

“I will tell him that such behavior is not okay and that it is shameful when it comes to a king,” the Dowager Queen said, her eyes cloudy. 

“Please do not,” Elia replied quietly. “I do not wish to fan a fire and I don’t believe it will happen again.” Rhaella stared at the Dornishwoman for a few minutes with glassy but clear eyes. 

“If that is what you wish, My Queen.” 

“Mother when will Rhae and I receive our chambers?” Viserys asked, as his rooms were not yet ready, having been delayed due to a few loose floorboards. 

“Soon, my son. They say it will only be a few more days, here in the nursery.” 

“Alright,” the silver-haired prince mumbled, stroking Rhaenys’s hair as she drew with her pencils on a piece of parchment. 

“It seems I will have to depart for now,” Elia replied, satisfied with having made Rhaegar wait a few extra moments. “Will you set them to bed, good-mother?” Rhaella nodded, fondly smiling at her son and the grandchild in her arms. Aemon had been fetched by his mother earlier, the recollection of that strained silence, enough to make Elia uncomfortable. 

“Of course,” the Dowager Queen replied, kissing Prince Aegon’s head. The Dornishwoman kissed the silver-haired woman on her cheek, before rising and saying her goodbyes to the children, as well. 

Rhaenys and Viserys both embraced her at the same time, which made both Rhaella and Elia laugh. 

“Soon you will be all grown, my sweets,” Elia murmured, kissing both Viserys and Rhaenys’s heads. “Stay young for me, will you not?” 

“We promise, mama,” Rhaenys replied, fiercely. The young prince simply nodded along. 

Aegon was almost asleep, but reached a hand out to touch his mother’s hair, a habit of his. The action made the Dornishwoman’s heart swell and she leaned down to place several kisses on his cheek and head, bringing little giggles out of the prince. Then, she was off on her way to the King’s chambers, equal parts giddy, anxious and dreading what was to come. Ser Jonothor was trailing behind her this time, a silent, white shadow. It did not take long for her to arrive outside Rhaegar’s door, her heart beating fast in her chest. Do not let it show. Keep your calm, she told herself. 

Of course, Ser Arthur stood guarding the door, but he kept his face blank as he greeted her blandly. 

“My Queen.” 

“Ser Arthur,” she countered and waited for her presence to be announced, so that she could enter the chambers. 

Rhaegar was looking into the fire, wearing a black tunic that clashed vividly with his pale skin and hair. Indigo eyes met hers as she entered, Ser Jonothor closing the door behind them. 

“Your queen is not here,” Elia noted evenly. 

“She is,” he replied, staring at her as if trying to solve a puzzle. 

“I meant the young one.” 

“Both are young, you judge yourself too harshly, Elia,” he said, almost smiling as the light from the flames flickered across his face. 

“Please sit,” he beckoned her, taking a seat on an armchair, himself. The Dornishwoman did as she was bid, straightening the hem of her gown that she’d borrowed from Ellaria. A silken scarf covered her neck. 

“What a nice scarf,” he complimented. “You do not usually wear them.” He was behaving queerly, as if he knew what laid behind the scarf, or perhaps more. The queen suddenly found herself anxious. Perhaps he heard whispers of Arthur from the eunuch, maybe we were not so discreet as I thought.

“I felt a chill,” she replied warily. 

“Understandable.” “Do you know why I called you here?” he asked and her heart began to beat faster and she felt gooseprickles cover her bare skin. 

“No,” she replied and earned an amused glance from the king.

“No?” he mused. “I wish to apologise for my behavior last eve.” Relief cascaded over her like the sweetest release. 

“Oh,” she said breathlessly, wondering if she swallowed too loudly, or her breathing was too fast. 

“It was not seemly of me and I even begin to tell you how sorry I am for putting you in such a position,” he moved to grasp her hands, staring at her with something she believed was sincerity. With Rhaegar, one never knows. “But I need to know what I said,” he said and Elia closed her eyes and counted to ten. 

“You want to know what you said?” she asked, almost sneering. “Ask the wine.” 

“I am asking you,” he replied calmly, his indigo eyes looking more cobalt than violet. 

“Please,” he  continued in a whisper. 

“Nothing you have not said before,” she replied cooly. “That you are sorry, that you hurt me again, that you made a mess of things and that you do not know what to do. That you love both me and her, but that she was not meant to be queen and that I was.” Rhaegar nodded, making little circles using the pad of his thumbs, on her wrists. 

“I am sorry for disturbing you like that,” he murmured, leaning down to kiss her hands. 

“You were not there when I woke.” 

“No.” Elia stared at him intensely, the sharp structure of his jaw, the strange and ethereal color of his eyes, the queer look that he harbored within them. 

“And you refused to tell Arthur where you went?” His tone held amusement now. 

“Perhaps,” she allowed, slightly smiling. 

“I have thought,” Rhaegar mused. “If I am to try to make amends, it must begin with you. The woman I hurt the most.” She was confused but nodded, nonetheless. Oh, Rhaegar. Nothing could ever atone for what you did, however my heart may want it to.

“We will travel to Dorne on a Royal Progress after my mother has recovered from birthing my sibling, so that she can act in my stead when we are gone.” Elia gasped, so soon? She was giddy with excitement, yet somehow she knew there was more to come. He would never simply give me this. No king would.

“And the catch?” she asked. 

“The catch?” her husband frowned. 

“There is always a catch, nothing good ever comes for free.” His smile turned sad, then. 

“It was King’s Landing and I, who did this to you.” The Dornishwoman did not reply. 

“We will begin our journey to the Stormlands, to visit the seat of Stannis Baratheon and his wife. Then we will journey into Dorne and lastly, we will finish with Winterfell.” It felt like a poisoned gift. He giveth with one hand and taketh with the other. 

“So you will allow me to travel to Dorne and then we shall visit your other wife’s dear family, as well?” Queen Elia almost rolled her eyes. “Was it because she asked so sweetly and you felt forced to give me the same, or earn Dorne’s wrath?” Her husband simply stared at her for a few moments, indigo eyes reflecting the dancing flames of the fire. He looks tired… Serves him right. 

“I thought you would be pleased,” Rhaegar said, moving to rub his temple.

“You will be bringing your new wife and child into a kingdom that you scorned. It is like spitting in each of their faces. I am not pleased, I am content. You owed me this.” 

“Please, Elia,” he begged. “I am trying the best I can. To please these lords, to please the smallfolk, to please my children, the realm and to please you.” 

“Do you wish me to comfort you? To stroke your hair and murmur sweet words of how you are doing so well? She asked. “I am not your young wolf-girl.” “Do you feel the weight?” she leaned in and asked in a sweet whisper. “That is the burden of the crown, the woe of ruling. It will never ease, so you might as well grow comfortable with it.” 

“You must promise me one thing, if we travel to Dorne,” Rhaegar said, looking straight into her eyes, his face inches from hers. 

“What?” she asked. Anything, anything at all! 

“Be honest with me. You will not plot or plan anything that could prove harmful while we are there? I know you will not but I need to hear it. I am aware of my slights to Dorne and will work to mend them. You do not know how sorry I am for the harm I have caused.” 

“You would not quit your incessant blathering of it, last eve,” she murmured. 

“Swear it, Elia,” he said and she felt anger course in her veins. 

“Do you not think that I, of all, am weary of wars?” the Dornishwoman gritted out. “Because it was me you left, to feel the full effect of them. Do not sit there and tell me not to start one, as if I would seek it out!” 

“Please,” he told her, calmly, his hands caressing her wrists. 

“Fine!” she hissed. “I promise that I will not do anything, so long as you treat our children gently, do not make any hindrances toward them and their birthrights and consult me before you make decisions that regard and impact their futures.”

“I would never take what is theirs. I love them,” he whispered. 

“You said that before you ran away with your wolf-girl, as well.” Rhaegar remained silent for some time, as if brooding on her words. Sensing that the discussion would do naught but bring upon old pains, she changed the subject and asked the question that had been gnawing on her, since the morn.

“You told me that Lyanna was not meant to be a queen, last night.” His indigo eyes snapped up at her, then, seeming apprehensive. 

“She wasn’t,” he confessed. “I stole her girlhood and forced her to make due with a life that is less than satisfactory here. She misses her home, and does not enjoy the queenly duties. I can only be there for her so much and it is not enough.”

“How touching, should I weep?” Elia asked. “You almost stole our lives and you expect me to feel sympathy for a girl who knew what she was doing? Everyone’s life is less than satisfactory and a queen’s duties are not easy. I made due with it, I’ve made due without your presence and love and so should she.” 

“She is not you, Elia and stop it. You have my love.” perhaps a tenth of it, she thought dryly.

“If you wish to set her free, then why do you not unmake her as queen?” Elia asked. I do not have any malicious intent behind the words. I am simply curious. 

“When the faith barely accepted our union in the first place? It is only because they do not have a great army nor any wish for more war, that they allowed it. Aemon would become a bastard, should I cast her aside and a war with the north might be imminent, if their prince is bastardised and their lady, scorned.”

“Lord Eddard swore-” she began but Rhaegar cut her off. 

“-Lord Eddard did, but not the rest of the north. They have a prince now and would be most wroth to see him put aside. So yes, Elia. I do love her but she was not meant to be a queen. Yet she will be, she has to be.” 

“What happens to your prophecies now?” she asked warily, shifting in her seat and feeling his eyes on her. “Now that they so obviously and pathetically failed.”

“I was chasing shadows. They lied to me,” he replied and sounded so defeated. “I am king now, I cannot fuss on such anymore. The boy within me must die, like mother said but it is hard.” 

“I will geld you the next time you begin speaking of your prophecies to me, or involve our children in the farces,” Elia said, and no one could tell if she was jesting or not, least of all King Rhaegar. 

“I do not doubt it.” Yet he made no promises to fully stop with them. 

“All I want is nothing more than for the realm to prosper, Elia. For us to thrive and be happy. I know I will never have your forgiveness, but know that I love you and our family.” The words felt bittersweet to the queen. You tell me, yes, but then you never seem to go through with it. She was torn between wrenching out of his grasp and jumping into it. It is so very hard, feeling like this. Could her heart not just make up its mind? Would I not be happier for it? 

“Whatever you say, Rhaegar.” 

“I made you this way and believe me when I say that nothing hurts me more,”  he began. Mayhaps your children dying before they even lived would hurt more. It did for me. “But we will rebuild and grow, as well.” Will we? She wondered, will we truly? Rhaegar sat up straight, then, abandoning her hands. 

“Did we.. did I…” he began, eyeing her strangely and clearing his throat. “Did I bed you last eve?” Well, there I have my answer. He does not recall. 

“No, you didn’t,” she replied, almost amused at his boyish reaction. 

“Ah,” he replied and neither knew quite what to say. 

“Would you have wished to?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. 

“Only ever if you’d want me to,” he began, staring at her intently. “I do not deserve anything else but to serve at your behest.” 

“It is not a duty, Rhaegar,” she replied tersely, the amusement forgotten, wanting to tear at her hair. Am I so undesirable? Does everyone have to think it is their duty to fuck me? 

“No I didn-” he began, rubbing his temples and frowning. “I only meant-” He seemed to be stumbling over his words. “I- of course I want you. It is not a duty but never would I force myself upon you, if you were not willing.” Oh, I am willing alright, but with every sweet moment we share, my mind feels the need to remind me what you did to us. What you did to our family, to my house and kingdom. He was all she had and many ladies would have counted themselves lucky. Until you must suffer what I suffered. 

Then you would understand why I feel no control of my body, nor any safety in his arms. 

“I fear that will take some time.”

“We have a surplus of it. I can wait.” There was a sadness to his words.

“Did your mother inform you of Rhaenys and Viserys’s sleeping arrangements?” Queen Elia asked, trying to get past their previous topic of discussion. 

“Yes,” Rhaegar smiled. “I do think it is quite a good idea. They are both fond of each other and Viserys will protect her dutifully.” 

“I will not have their childhood stolen from them. Let them be young, Rhaegar,” she said suddenly, reminiscent of her own youth. “Let us not plague them with more duties and obligations than necessary.” Her husband nodded, a gloomy smile on his face, perhaps thinking of his own youth that was lost to those prophecies and his father’s madness. 

“I do agree.” 

“Good,” she said, rising and her husband rose with her. “Do I have your leave?” the Dornishwoman asked, tucking a brown curl behind her ear. 

“Yes, of course,” he murmured softly, walking her to the door. His hand brushed against the small of her back, warm and pleasant. She was to open the door, when he placed a hand on it. Elia turned to her husband, eyeing the handsome man strangely. Why does he seem so nervous, she wondered, watching as he leaned down, closer to her face. 

“I may not recall the night before, or what happened during it, yet I am grateful that you did not send me away. However, I should never have put you in that position.” 

She was weary of that damned night, already. 

“Let us leave it behind us, Rhaegar. It will not happen again.” 

“No, it will not. I promise you that,” he breathed, his breath fanning across the side of her face, strangely pleasant. 

“However, I do recall waking to you sleeping in my embrace, noting those little marks around your neck, before falling right back asleep. What a sight you were, almost ethereal.” He seemed to have caught her in one of her little lies, yet it was not exactly a lie, was it? He did not bed me. 

“I did not hurt you, did I?” Rhaegar asked and his voice sounded small, as if he feared her answer. If I say yes, then he would most like think of what Aerys did to his mother. 

“No you did not, Rhaegar.” Did he deserve to be comforted, after all he’d done? No, but that did not stop her soft words. The heart is a mercurial thing and Elia Martell’s was no exception. Relief clouded the king’s features and he let out a shaky breath. 

“I only want to please you,” he began quietly. “One day, I hope you’ll let me.” 

“It is late, Rhaegar and I am tired. Goodnight,” she said, silencing her bleeding heart, as well. 

“Good eve, my love,” he whispered, leaning down, his lips barely brushing against hers. Then, he placed a tender kiss on them, cupping her face and finishing with a kiss to her temple. Elia simply nodded and opened the door, keeping her head held high and not looking back. Ser Jonothor followed her back to her chambers, standing guard for the night. 

The day had been almost as confusing as the night and all Elia could do was focus on their impending journey to Dorne. Oberyn will be most pleased, she thought with a smile. And I can meet Doran, Arianne, Quentyn and Oberyn’s children. My little dragons can meet their cousins and their home, they’ll know where they came from, besides the fire and the blood. 

Things were uncertain but Elia felt that she did not need to have all the answers, for once. 

She had her life, her children and her family. 

Rhaegar was a mess she could deal with after. 

For now, she would enjoy the moments she had with her beloveds, and not let it be befouled by bitterness or hate.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The time after her brother and his paramours left King’s Landing, Elia busied herself in the queenly duties, spending time with her children and advising Rhaegar on certain matters when it came to governing the realm. It made her feel as if she had a purpose and staunched the bleeding wound inside her gut, where she already dearly missed her family. The Dornishwoman would also spend time with her good-mother, who grew ever-larger with child, each day that passed. Both of them were quite lonely, which made it easy to find solace in each other’s company. 

She had to say her proper goodbyes in Prince Oberyn’s chamber, an hour before their departure, as it was not fit for a queen to weep or show undue affection so publicly. A fierce embrace or kiss to Lyro’s cheek in front of the court, would surely make rumors of infidelity and those wanton Dornishmen arise, which Elia neither had the time or patience for. If such gossip began spreading, then it would give everyone a headache involved and perhaps even the paternity of her children would have been questioned. They’d say that the queen was Dornish, after all. Such was her people’s nature.

“Ellaria,” Elia said softly, embracing the taller woman with the kind, green eyes. The Dornish queen thought she smelled of apples and sunrise. “I will miss you.” The paramour held the queen tighter at that and murmured of how it would not be the last time they met. After they disembarked, she moved on to Lyro, who looked as handsome as ever in his green tunic and sparkling, pale eyes. She was going to give the Lyseni a hug, but he grabbed her and spun her around, making Elia feel half a child again, and not so burdened. 

"Keep my brother in check, will you?” she whispered and he nodded. 

“It has truly been a privilege to come to know you, My Queen.” 

“And you will keep knowing me,” she replied with a pointed stare at Oberyn, who looked slightly confused. “We will travel to Dorne and I shall meet you all, once more.” The Lyseni did not respond and she earnestly wished that he would come to know his own worth. How someone so beautiful and talented could be so very sad, she did not know. But there are more beneath appearances, the Dornish queen knew that, most of all. 

With a tender kiss to the Lyseni’s cheek, she turned to Oberyn, who had a soft smile on his face, the one he only saved for those closest to him. 

“Sister,” he mused, embracing her the way he did when she was a young girl. There was something peculiar about it, something so magical about it. It never failed to soothe her and give her strength. “Dorne awaits their queen and her children,” the Dornish Prince mumbled. 

“I love you,” Elia replied, strangely close to tears, but she refused to let them fall. Oberyn kissed the top of her head and breathed in deeply. 

“And I love you. Dorne loves you. Never forget, my gentle flower. It is you they long for and your children. Not the Dragon-king, nor his northern wife or that pup.”

Rhaegar had not touched Elia carnally since his kiss, and  they’d developed some sort of routine. He would call for her and broach different subjects when it came to the realm, in the hope that her insight and thoughts on the matter, could help him decide what to do, if he was edging on a decision. Elia, who was keen of mind and had a clever wit, took to these tasks with glee. Often, she would stay until the late hours of the night, sprawled out on the furs in front of the hearth, mapping out certain solutions and considering if the benefits outweighed the disadvantages. 

Her husband would oft watch her with a smile on his face, offering wine or other refreshments as the hours ticked by. 

“You were made for this,” Rhaegar breathed, leaning against the armchair with a goblet of Arbor Gold in his hand and staring at his wife in awe. 

“You flatter me, My King,” Elia replied absentmindedly, looking at the piece of parchment in front of her and nibbling at the top of her quill, pondering what to do with the surplus of harvest that they’d received. 

At that, Rhaegar put his goblet aside and knelt before her, touching her chin softly, angling her face to meet his. Elia peered at her husband through dark lashes and noticed that his eyes were more blue in the dim light, yet turned closer to purple each time the flames flickered. What an ethereal shade it is, she found herself thinking. Queen Elia thought it enchanting, how such a color could shift and change like shadows that none could reach. 

“Are you aware of how utterly captivating of a woman that you are?” An answer laid on the top of her tongue, yet she did not wish to quarrel. Her husband found his prophecies more captivating than anything and it felt almost absurd that he should use that word to describe her, after all that had occurred. The Dornishwoman simply shrugged, not used to such compliments or how to receive them. After all, she knew only spite and scorn from the court during Aerys’s reign and now it was full of lickspittles, whose acquaintance she did not feel like making. Melly was one of the realest things about King’s Landing to Elia, and that said something in itself. 

"There is a fire within you, Elia. Burning bright, do not let anyone dull it.” She wanted to scream that King’s Landing already had, that he already had, that war already had. Instead, she nodded and turned back to the papers in front of her, idly wondering if she should take the children for a stroll in the courtyard, during the next morn. Queen-mother Rhaella loved those walks and Elia did not want to take that pleasure away from her good-mother, who’d suffered so much. All of them knew how the babe inside her womb came to be, yet the Dowager Queen seemed reborn with purpose because of that quickening. She had told her good-daughter that it was the only good thing that Aerys could’ve given her, no matter the circumstances of how it came to be. Rhaella had said that they were old wounds that did not bleed any longer. The Dornishwoman hoped it was the truth. 

This eve, two weeks had passed since the Dornishmen departed King’s Landing and the Dornishwoman was sleeping contently in her bed until a rapt knocking on the wooden door woke her. What in the Gods’ names? Elia groaned, moving to rise and donning a robe. The flames in the heart have died , she noted in dismay. Not bothering herself with that, she moved through the hall into the sitting room where the door to her chambers were. The closer she got, the more clearly she heard bickering voices and a soft sound, like a mewling kitten. 

“I do no-” she heard Ser Jaime begin to say, until she opened the door and stared at the people outside. Her eyes looked to the bundle clinging to Ser Jaime’s neck, it was Rhaenys. What? The sworn shield looked disheveled as well, as if he’d only just woke. His curly, golden hair was tousled and he was only in a white tunic, half-laced so she could clearly spot the smooth, tanned skin of his chest. A scabbard with his sword hung around his waist, yet the man was not armored beyond that. 

“What happened, Ser Jaime?” Elia asked, despair lacing her words. He moved to speak but Ser Jonothor cut the younger knight off. 

“I told Ser Jaime to return the princess to her chambers and return to the white tower, you should not have been disturbed, My Queen.” The queen was stunned, that is my daughter and she is distraught and you think I would not want to hear of it? 

“The princess wished for her mother,” Ser Jaime said through gritted teeth and the soft sniffling of Rhaenys grew louder. 

“Of course I would have wanted to be woken,” Elia hissed at Ser Jonothor. “She is my daughter.” 

“Here,” Ser Jaime said and untangled the mess of tiny limbs and dark hair, handing Rhaenys to her mother. 

“Mama,” Rhaenys whimpered, clutching Elia’s neck as the Dornishwoman swayed and hushed her daughter, soothingly. What happened? 

“Thank you, Ser,” Elia murmured, throwing a cold look at Ser Jonothor. The knight’s emerald eyes looked worried as he gazed upon the princess. 

“You are dismissed, Ser Jaime,” Ser Jonothor said and Elia turned to glare at him, moving to speak but the young Rhaenys beat her to it. 

“Jaime stay,” she whimpered, “Don’t leave.” 

“I would not want to keep you, Ser. You need your sleep,” Elia told the young knight but he shook his head. 

“I can stay if she wishes it so. I am bound to serve her.” 

“Alright,” Elia said, allowing the knight to step inside and handing him Rhaenys. 

“Take her into my bedchamber, I will not be long.” 

“Mama,” Rhaenys said again, staring with wide, lavender eyes. She kissed her daughter’s head and murmured of how she would be there soon. After Ser Jaime vanished into her bedchamber, Elia turned to Ser Jonothor. 

“I have the power to dismiss my subjects, not you, Ser,” she said sharply. “For future reference, I will not have my daughter sent away like a plague, simply because I am sleeping. You swore you vows but motherhood demands vows of its own. To love and protect my children, to keep them safe and be there, whenever and for whatever they may need. Do not ever presume to dismiss me or my children like that, ever again. You do not know what is in my heart, no more than I know what’s in yours. Have I made myself clear? The next time you presume to know what I wish, I will bring my grievances to the king himself.” The knight stared at her with wide, blue eyes. 

“Of course, My Queen,” he bowed. “Forgive me.” Elia simply nodded and shut the door to her chambers, moving to where her daughter and Ser Jaime were, instead. 

A heat enveloped her as she entered her bedchambers and the Dornishwoman noted that Ser Jaime was tending to a crackling fire, with Rhaenys in one arm and a metal rod in the other. 

“You lit the fire,” she said, idly wondering what time it was. 

“It was cold,” he murmured, the flames giving his eyes a greener glow. Elia discarded her robe, the heat being enough to warm her. Rhaenys was still silently sniffling in his arms and he kissed the top of her head, whispering sweet comforts. He does care for her. 

“What happened?” Elia asked, beckoning the knight to sit down next to her on the bed. Rhaenys was placed between them, clinging to the crook of both their arms. 

“I do not know,” the knight sighed. “Somehow she made it to the white tower and Ser Arthur found her, but she demanded to see me, so I was woken. After that, she would not speak, she only burst into tears in my arms and whispered of how she wanted you.” Elia stroked her daughter’s soft, brown hair and sighed. 

“What had you so scared, my sweet? And how did you escape the bedmaids and the guards?” 

“They were sleeping,” the princess sniffled. Elia frowned, stroking her daughter’s wet cheek, tenderly. Ser Jaime was eyeing the child hopelessly, looking distraught himself. 

“What happened, Rhaenys?” the Dornishwoman asked and regained the attention of her daughter. 

“They were coming to get me, mama. Grandpapa was a dragon and they were coming to get me,” the girl whimpered and dread washed over Elia, the past memories of Aerys and the wounds of their imminent deaths left behind, bled afresh. 

“It was only a frightening dream, sweetling. You are safe and no one can hurt you,” the Dornish queen whispered to her daughter, picking the little girl up in her arms and embracing her tightly. 

“You are safe now,” she repeated and looked at Ser Jaime severely. The young knight looked as if he’d seen a ghost, himself. The ghost of Aerys, the ghosts of this war, the weeping wounds that never quite seem to close. Her heart ached for Jaime, as well, for he looked so pale and the things he had to endure were horrible. Gently, the queen reached a hand out, placing it on the knight’s dormant one. It is warm, like Rhaegar’s and Arthur’s always are.  

“You were screaming and Aegon was crying,” the girl whined. “And I could not help you.” Tears slid down Elia’s cheeks as she gazed at Ser Jaime hopelessly, noting that his emerald eyes were brimming with tears. Somehow it did not seem like this was the only time that her daughter had dreamt of such. How blind could I be? To think that the wounds of this war did not affect her? 

“Is this the first time you’ve dreamt of such?” Elia asked, gently kissing her daughter’s head. Princess Rhaenys did not reply and that was all the answer the queen needed. 

“Does Viserys comfort you?” she wondered. He is tending to Rhaella this eve, which is why he was not with her. The girl pulled back and stared at her mother, with watery, lavender eyes, nodding.

“He has them too,” she whispered. Oh, no, Elia thought despairingly. 

“Why did you not ask your bedmaids to take you to me?” Elia knew the answer to that, herself, deep inside. They would send her back to bed. 

“Jaime listens,” Rhaenys said, turning to look at the knight. He tried to smile but it looked haunting, it looks empty. “Don’t be sad,” the girl told her white knight, reaching an arm out to touch his cheek and it made the Dornish queen’s heart clench in equal parts love and sadness. Here she sits, bidding others to not weep, when she is hurting the most. The princess Rhaenys had a caring, gentle heart, like her mother. No one could deny that. 

Ser Jaime simply took the child into his embrace, hugging her tightly, disguising a sob as a relieved laugh, when the princess grasped his neck equally as tight. It is alright, Ser, Elia thought. I will not tell. You can be human here. The Dornishwoman rubbed the knight’s thigh comfortingly and he looked at her gratefully. 

“I think she should sleep with me, for the remainder of the night. Elia looked to her daughter, a mess of brown curls in the crook of her white knight’s neck. “Would you like that, sweetling?” Rhaenys nodded and mumbled a ‘yes, mama’. 

“Alright, then. Let us tuck you in,” the Dornish queen mumbled, feeling weary. I must notify Rhaella of this. She thought of Rhaegar as well but it turned to ashes in her mouth, for it was one thing to do this to Elia, but now their child was suffering and it tears at a mother to see their child in pain, knowing they can do naught but whisper comforts and hope it will soothe enough. The queen slid back the covers and allowed Jaime to tuck Rhaenys in. He did so with a gentleness, leaning down to kiss her cheek as he whispered a goodnight. 

The princess stared into his emerald eyes as he leaned down and moved to stroke his cheek again. There was something so pure about the sight. An unbreakable bond, of sorts. The knight smiled and reached out to cup the tiny hand that was placed on his cheek. 

“Sleep now, princess. Tomorrow is another day.” Tiredly, the girl nodded and dropped her arm. 

“I will show Jaime out, Rhaenys. I’ll be back before you know it.” The princess nodded and seemed too grown for her years. They will speak of what a fierce and strong little thing she is, and say that she deals with herself just fine. Perhaps that she has no need of comfort. Yet we all need comfort, only the dead do not. The knight rose and mutely followed Elia through the hall and into the sitting room. 

“She does not deserve that,” the Lannister said suddenly, as fierce as the lion on his banners. 

“No one does, Jaime. I will speak with Rhaella, Rhaegar and the grand-maester in the morn, for what we can do to solve this,” she sighed, meeting his eyes. 

“I thought we were done with Aerys, done with the war.” his words were but mere whispers.

“So did I, yet it seems the remnants haunt all of us.” 

“Will they ever go away?” he asked and sounded like a young boy, begging for reassurance.

“I do not know, Jaime,” she sighed. “Sometimes the cut is too deep.” He nodded. 

“I know that you are hurting, Jaime. How could you not?” she asked. “And I know that the court names you a kingslayer, a traitor and that some refuse to treat you with the respect you deserve. Yet none of them know what we went through, not even your sworn brothers, most of which were blissfully unaware of this catastrophe and safe in my homeland. But I know, Jaime and never will I ever condemn you for what you did.” 

“Thank you,” he replied, quietly. 

“Weeping or showing your pain does not make you any less of a man. Not to me. I am here, shall you ever need a comforting hand upon your shoulder,” she whispered and stood on her toes, to kiss his cheek, embracing him softly. He exhaled shakily into her shoulder. He has no one here and it must hurt. To remain so strong until you have no choice but to crumble.  

When the knight left, Queen Elia moved into her chambers and noted that Rhaenys was still awake. She sighed, climbing into her bed and brushing some brown curls from her daughter’s face. My sweet child. 

“Why are you not sleeping?” Elia asked and Rhaenys turned those big, lavender eyes upon her mother. 

“You were not here,” she whispered and her mother moved to cuddle her daughter, kissing the princess’s temple soothingly. 

“I am here, now.” 

“Forever. Do you promise?” 

“I promise.” 

***

“Viserys and Rhaenys suffer night terrors,” Elia told her good-mother as they were in Dowager Queen Rhaella’s chambers, drinking tea. Her good-mother looked taken aback.

“What for?” Elia shrugged. 

“I do not know when it concerns Viserys, yet Rhaenys dreams of Aerys in dragon’s form, of things coming to get her. Aegon weeping and me screaming.” It hurt to speak the words, to breathe them into existence. 

“Oh, no,” Queen-mother Rhaella whispered, the cup in her hand, shaking. “But she is so young,” the woman continued, despairingly. 

“I know,” Elia said, so sadly, moving to take the cup from her good-mother’s hands. 

“I never knew Viserys… I thought I protected him.” 

“I thought I protected Rhaenys as well. It seems they see far more than we give them credit for,” the Dornishwoman replied, sorrowfully. “They comfort each other, yet he was not with her, last eve.” 

“They’re children,” Rhaella sounded close to weeping. “Aerys should not haunt them. They are children!” Queen Elia placed her hands on her good-mother’s, trying to cease their shaking.

“You must not put undue stress upon yourself or the child,” Elia pleaded.

“This is due stress!” Rhaella countered, tears brimming in those eyes of true purple. 

“I will speak to the grand-maester of what precautions we can take, I will also notify Rhaegar of it.” 

“My foolish son,” the queen sighed. “How foolish could we have been? To think the wounds left behind by the war spared them, because they were young?” The Dornishwoman had no answer for that. 

“I demand to accompany you, to the grand-maester’s. Viserys is my son and Rhaenys is my grandchild.” Rhaella looked pale and haunted by the ghosts that never left her. 

“Of course, good-mother,” Elia replied, stroking the woman’s pale wrists. 

“We have eyes but we did not see,” the Dowager Queen said with glazed orbs of purple. 

“Many do. We are not the only ones.” 

***

“What do you mean, night-terrors?” Rhaegar asked, when Elia had taken leave of her good-mother and appeared unannounced to her husband’s chambers, where he was frowning at a piece of paper. 

“I mean dreams of your father,” she hissed, “Dreams of the war, of us--hurt!” she waved her hands and Rhaegar seemed more confuzzled as time went on. 

“She is a girl of three, on the cusp of turning four.” 

“And we were foolish to think the repercussions of this war would leave the young unscathed! Our children are hurting, Rhaegar and we did not see,” Elia said, close to tears. Her husband stroked his clean-shaven jaw and frowned. 

“What can we do?” he asked with somber, indigo eyes. 

“We start with a visit to the grand-maester.” The king nodded, but then frowned, rubbing his temples. 

“Viserys, as well?” Rhaegar was biting his lip, like he always did when he was faced with a troublesome problem to solve. 

“Yes. They comfort each other, which is why we knew naught of it.” 

“I do not know whether I shall feel endeared to that notion or weep.” Somehow, the Dornishwoman agreed with her husband, in a way. The thought that the children were each other’s comfort, was sweet and beautiful, yet the thought of why they should need that comfort was sad beyond words. 

“Did you tell my mother?” he asked, rising from his chair, running a hand through his silvery hair. 

“I did, she is most distraught.” Elia eyed her husband with sharp and steady brown eyes. 

“We all are.” 

“Some, more than others,” she gritted out. 

“What do you mean by that?” he snapped, showing a speck of the Targaryen fire within. 

“I mean that they would not be like this, were it not for the war.” 

“You are correct, yet my father would still have lived and his madness would’ve increased further. The war may have been a catalyst, but Aerys spared no one,” Rhaegar hissed. “I feel fucking horrible, Elia but that will not unmake their terrors. Let us try to help them, instead of bickering amongst ourselves about who or what is to blame. I know that I am accountable, no one ever lets me forget it, least of all myself!” his voice cracked at the ends and he looked weary and tired. We are all weary and tired, our children are, as well. They see. They pick up. 

“Calm yourself,” she said, eyeing him with apprehension. I will not have the children subdue themselves because they believe us to be in bad spirits. “We will have to appear united. They need to trust us, to feel our love and compassion.” 

“I know,” he sighed and walked toward her, taking a hold of her arm, gently tugging her close to him. 

“We will fix this,” he promised, kissing the top of her head and breathing in deeply. “It is not too late for our children.” 

“But it’s too late for us,” she mused and he made no response, except to wrap his arms tighter around her, as if desperate to capture that fleeting moment, to pretend that they were not who they were, but simply a man and a woman. 

After that, they fetched Queen Rhaella and paid Grand-maester Pycelle a visit. Elia had never been too fond of the man. He was old, slow and strange. He disqueted her in ways that no one but Tywin Lannister’s disdainful glances had, when she was a younger woman and thought she was to wed a lion and not a dragon. 

Pycelle was pouring some murky substance into a glass when they arrived and he immediately began to bow and mutter his courtesies and greetings. It felt a bit overdone, if you asked Queen Elia.

“My King, my Queens,” he mused. “What may I do to serve?” Rhaegar stood tall next to his mother and wife, looking every bit the ruler that he was. I wonder if Aegon the Conqueror looked like him. They already think Rhaegar more god than man, and he has no dragons. 

“We come seeking counsel on a difficult matter,” Elia said and the man turned his gaze upon her, as if surprised that she spoke over her husband without leave.

“And what matter may this be?” Pycelle asked, but looked at the king. Rhaella turned to Elia with a raised eyebrow, then the Grand-maester, and spoke. 

“It was my good-daughter who spoke to you and it is her that you will address.” the wrinkled, old man seemed a bit lost and her husband spoke, then. 

“Did my mother stutter, Grand-maester?” Pycelle’s chins bobbled as he shook his head and the Dornishwoman found herself grateful that Rhaegar, despite his faults, was young and handsome, at the least. 

“Yes, yes, what may this problem be, My Queen?” Elia gazed at the man through sharp eyes.

“The Princess Rhaenys and Prince Viserys are having night terrors. What may be done to remedy this?” Of all the things the maester may have expected her to say, that was not it. Instead, he stroked his beard and hummed. 

“Night terrors are normal for children to experience as time drones on, I would suspect that they should grow out of it, Your Grace.” 

“You misunderstand me, maester,” Elia said, looking at the man with disdain. “These are not normal night terrors. They seem to occur frequently and the cause may be from underlying, traumatic events.” 

“The princess is a girl of three, though. Her mind is not near as expanded as the Prince Viserys, I do not see why she should have picked up on these, er… certain events.” She was so close to grabbing him by that ugly, wispy beard. Gods, please do not ever give Rhaegar the notion to grow a beard. 

“If you spent one hour with my daughter, then you would know that she is learned beyond her years. The mind is a delicate thing, especially in the young but she is no half-wit,” Rhaegar said, eyeing the man cooly. 

“Of course not, My King,” Pycelle sputtered. “I only meant that she seems far too young to experience these things and I have never seen such a case in a child that young.” 

“Prince Viserys experiences them as well, yet to what extent, we do not know.” the Dornishwoman patted her good-mother’s shoulder gently, as she spoke the words. 

“Ah, the prince is a boy of eight, is he not?” Rhaegar nodded and Pycelle stroked that ugly, white beard of his, again. “That does seem a cause for concern… However, I would be more able to give a response, if I were to know the nature of his terrors.” 

“Was looking upon Aerys not enough?” Rhaella spit, cradling her belly for comfort. 

“I did not mean to cause offence, Your Grace,” the old man bowed. 

“No you were ordered to give advice,” Rhaegar said, impatiently. “What do you suggest?”

Would he quit stroking that incessant beard? 

“Sweetsleep, Your Graces. It is a known remedy for terrors. It ensures a dreamless sleep.” Elia gasped. 

“That is poison, Rhaegar,” she told her husband, looking away from Pycelle. “I will not give the children poison .” 

“It is not poison per se, My Queen,” the grand-maester interrupted, staring at her with watery eyes. “If dosaged and administered responsibly, a pinch ensures a dreamless sleep and they will be free from their terrors, as you wish,” he continued and Elia scoffed. 

“These are recurring terrors, how many times shall we give them a pinch? Until they enter a sleep in which they will never wake from?” 

Queen Rhaella shook her head as well. “No, we will not give them any of that. It never leaves the system, I hear.” Both of the women turned to look upon the king, who was biting his lip and frowning. Finally, he spoke. 

“I agree with my mother and wife. No sweetsleep shall be administered, they are but children. I will not risk their health.”

“Is it better to let them suffer, Your Grace?” Pycelle asked pointedly and Rhaegar looked taken aback, but Elia hissed out a reply faster than he could. 

“Is it better to let them die?” 

“My Queen, I assure you that it would not kill them, I would not expect you to know the intricacies of such a potion.” Because I am a woman? The Queen scoffed. I am Prince Oberyn of Dorne’s sister.

“I know that a pinch for a grown man will ensure a deep and dreamless sleep. However, I also know that three pinches for a grown man will produce a sleep in which he will never wake from. Now do you have any good counsel to give, or are we finished here?” The Dornishwoman was close to seething. How can someone who is supposedly clever, be so foolish? The old man looked taken aback by her fast retort.

“I-er… Perhaps,” he mumbled, searching for the right words, “Speaking to them might resolve some trouble. To heed their words and offer sweet comforts-- allowing them to heal.” That was something Elia already knew at heart, yet she accepted it. That was the cleverest thing to escape his cracked lips since we entered. 

“Then we shall do that,” Queen-mother Rhaella said, gently stroking Elia’s back. Rhaegar nodded and thanked the grand-maester courteously. 

“I do not like that man,” Elia hissed, walking beside Rhaegar and Rhaella in a quick pace. 

“I concur with your wife, my son. He seems ill-suited to that chain and only ever seemed to say what my fool of a husband wished to hear. But then again, everyone did.” the Dowager Queen seemed sad as she spoke the last words . No one ever saved her, no more than they did, I. We were casualties by default. 

“He has been an able maester,” Rhaegar began, “Yet change is needed sometimes.” 

“Shall we visit Rhaenys and Viserys in their chambers?” The Dornishwoman asked. “They should be in bed by now.” How the clock had ticked by during the day. It is almost nightfall and I've not supped yet. However, the Dornish queen did not feel very famished. I will send for a fruit or something of the sort, later. 

“Let us do that,” her husband said and softly took hold of her hand. 

We will be strong for them. We must. 

Otherwise, who will be?

***

“That is Aegon with his sister-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya,” Viserys told a young Rhaenys who was seated in his lap, staring intently at the book in his hands. Neither of the children had noticed their arrivals and the sight was so pure that Elia wished to preserve it. To stick it in a jar and keep it close to my heart. She turned to Rhaella and Rhaegar, all of whom boasted similar, soft smiles as they gazed upon the innocence of youth. 

“Rhaenys, like me?” the girl asked, her lavender eyes big. Viserys turned to her with a smile. 

“Yes, you were named after her. She was said to be very beautiful and the only weakness of the conqueror’s. They say that Aegon wed Visenya out of duty, but Rhaenys out of love.” 

“She is pretty,” Rhaenys said, pointing at a picture in the book. Her uncle kissed her head. 

“You will be prettier,” he vowed. 

“Will I?” the little girl gasped.

“I promise you.” Elia felt as if her face would soon fall off, from the blinding smile that it decided to don. She felt a warm hand in the small of her waist and looked to her side, only to see her husband smiling back at her, adoration in his face. The Dornishwoman found herself mirroring the expression, wrapping a free arm around Rhaella, as well. It was as if to say; we made this. And what greater feeling could there ever be? Our children are good. 

Deciding to break the silence, she called for Viserys and the boy turned his head upward, a slight blush coloring his cheeks as he saw his family. 

“Mother, Elia, Rhaegar,” the young prince greeted, closing the book. 

“But I wanted to see more,” Rhaenys complained and earned a laugh from Rhaegar. 

“Later,” Viserys promised, stroking his niece’s arm.

“She takes after her demanding mother,” her husband said, barely able to contain his grin. 

“Or her bookish father,” Elia countered, raising an eyebrow. 

“We wished to speak with you,” Rhaella said, moving to sit beside her son, touching his silver-gold curls gently. 

“What is it, mother?” the young boy asked nervously, seeming to sense his mother’s internal strife. Rhaegar looked at Elia and together they walked to sit on the opposite side of Rhaella. 

“We are not angry, it is important that you know,” Rhaegar began, looking at his brother. 

“You’ve been having night terrors,” Elia said, looking at both of the children. Viserys frowned and wrapped his arms around Rhaenys that was in his lap. 

“We did not want to worry you,” the boy said hopelessly. 

“Oh, Viserys,” Rhaella said. Caressing her son’s shoulder, “If you were hurting, you should have come to us. We would have helped.” 

“But you are all busy. Elia cares and tries to be happy but she looks sad sometimes. I do not want to make her sadder,” the prince whispered. “And Rhaegar is king, he has greater concerns and you worry too much already, mother.” That caused the Dornishwoman’s heart to drop. He thinks I look sad? I thought I shielded them from my internal grief. All of those adults present would quickly come to learn that children notice more than they are given credit for. 

“What has you scared, Viserys? What ghosts haunt your dreams?” Elia asked tenderly, feeling Rhaegar’s arm on her shoulder as a way of comfort. 

“It is childish,” he shook his head. My sweet boy, you are still a child. “You are still young, sweetling. The burdens of a man will not touch you for years. You do not have to put up such a fierce pretense,” Elia said hopelessly. Is that what he was doing with Rhaenys? Was he trying to be strong for her? To protect her? That only leaves himself to be neglected. 

“You must tell us, Viserys, or we will not know how to help.” Rhaegar’s words were soft and full of brotherly love. 

“It is father,” the boy said quietly. “He’s hurting mother.” Rhaegar closed his eyes, looking stricken and Elia felt compelled to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Even Rhaegar Targaryen, for all the man he was, could not save his mother from his father. Rhaella’s eyes were brimming with tears upon hearing her son’s words. 

“Viserys,” she whispered, leaning her face against her son’s. “He is gone. Never will he hurt me again,” she promised in a whisper. 

“M’sorry,” Rhaenys suddenly whimpered. “I’m sorry, mama.” Her father reached out and pulled the girl into his arms, kissing the top of her head and cradling her to his chest. 

“You have nothing to be sorry for, my sweet.” Elia stroked her daughter’s shoulder and noticed that a tear escaped Rhaegar’s eyes, so she moved to wipe that away with her thumb, as well. Strong. We must remain strong. 

“You must tell us if they keep recurring, Viserys,” Elia told him. “We are never too busy for you.” The boy nodded, safely held in his mother’s arms. 

“I did not mean to make you sadder, Elia,” he said quietly. 

“I am not sad, Viserys,” she said but all those present, except the young princess mayhaps, knew that was a lie-- yet none would contradict it. “We are all healing,” she continued. “And we will be fine. All it takes is time.” Those lilac eyes burned into her and the young prince gently slid out of his mother’s embrace and padded over to Elia’s side. Soon enough, she felt his warm arms clinging on to her neck and she smiled, patting his back. 

“I love you,” the boy said. “I do not want you to hurt. I do not want any of you to hurt.” 

“No more than I do, you, sweetling. We will be happy, I swear it,” she whispered. 

After that, they put the children to bed and instructed the guards and bedmaids to send for them, were the children to have their terrors again. Rhaella kissed Elia and Rhaegar on their cheeks and said that she would depart to bed, for the day had been trying and she felt weary. When she departed, only Rhaegar and Elia remained outside the chambers, Ser Jaime standing guard alongside Ser Gerold for the night. 

“Sleep, Rhaegar,” she told her husband, not unkindly. “You are tired.” 

“I feel the weight,” he smiled sadly, referring to the words spoken betwixt them, almost a moon past. 

“We all do,” she murmured, pointing to her own crown. 

“What will you do now?” he asked, an unreadable expression on his face. 

“I will say goodnight to Aegon. I could bring him to you, if you’d like to, as well?” Rhaegar smiled. 

“I would love that,” he replied, eyeing her with a softness. Elia nodded and took her leave, heading to the nursery. What a day, she sighed. What a night. 

When she entered, she noticed that the northern girl was there as well, cooing to Aegon softly with Prince Aemon in her arms. Lyanna stopped, however, when she noticed the boy’s mother had entered. 

“Do not stop on my account,” Elia said, moving to her son’s cot, noticing the dazed smile on his face. “He seems to enjoy it, but then again, he enjoys all the ladies doting on him-- do you not, sweetling? Will you wrap Queen Lyanna around your finger, as well?” She asked her son, showering him with little kisses that made him giggle. 

“He has grown,” Lyanna said, looking at the crown-prince with a fond smile. 

“So has your boy and he looks ever the mirror-image of his mother.” The wolf-girl smiled gently at that. Rhaegar told me that she has not been overly fond of her duties as a queen and would rather close herself up in her chambers, with her son. Even Elia knew that such behavior would need to cease. 

“I hear that you’ve not been properly fraternising in court,” Elia said casually. “How come?” It is better to tread carefully. Harsh words will only prove to frighten and make her sad. 

“It is not my place,” the girl shrugged. “They are either lickspittles searching for favor, or hiding behind false courtesies and making jests at my expense.” The Dornishwoman almost rolled her eyes. She is still young, Elia reminded herself. So was I, when I arrived. She has much to learn. 

“Do you think it is my place?” Elia inquired. 

“You handle everything with grace,” the girl murmured. “I am clumsy and uncouth, no matter what I do.” 

“You made it your place when you agreed to wed my husband. You made it your place when he crowned you queen. There is no time for pity or sympathies, why will you not learn? This realm is torn and bleeding because of you and my husband. The least you can do is be part of mending it.” Elia’s words were neither spoken kindly or unkindly-- they were even and seemed to have the desired effect; making the girl think.

“We are not children. The court is as haughty to you as it was to me, when I arrived. I dealt with it. I do not like or care for those people any more than you, yet I don my crown and do what has to be done. I give them my smiles and words, when there is no room in my heart. There comes a time when we all must don our floppy ears. You are no exception, Lyanna.” That was the first time that Queen Elia had addressed the second queen by name. 

“I’ll never be like you,” she whispered. “It is you he needs, not I.” 

“He needs us both,” Elia said evenly. “We all need to rely on each other, or we will be ripped into pieces by those who hunger for power, for glory and those who seek to tear us apart.”

“I will try,” the girl said but Elia shook her head. 

“No, you will do . These are your duties as a queen, those you accepted alongside that pretty crown. I will not carry them for you.” The Dornishwoman leaned down to pick her son up, cradling him to her chest. He reached out with tiny hands to grasp a few loose curls.

Then, she turned back to Lyanna and noticed how the girl looked even thinner and paler than she’d seen her before. Her hair has lost its shine and her eyes look dull. Somehow, she felt a slight pang of sympathy for the girl, even though she knew that she shouldn’t. 

“How are you faring,” Elia asked warily and the girl looked defeated. 

“I am fine,” she whispered. 

“No, you are not. Neither of us are-- but we must deal with it.” 

“I am disappointing him,” the girl said. “I see it in the way he looks at me.” She was near tears. The Dornishwoman bit her lip, not knowing what to say. 

“Rhaegar is a peculiar man, no one can claim to know his mind.” 

“He lights up when he speaks of you. The way you manage your duties, how you help him govern the realm. I cannot do that.” She was silently weeping, cradling the child in her arms tighter. 

“Yet it was me he left, and you he took,” Elia replied smoothly. 

“I know he regrets it. It is all over his eyes,” Lyanna whispered. 

“It is done and cannot be undone. You must cease your tears and dry your eyes. Love is a game for children and it never seems to end up the way we wish. He is still your husband, content yourself with that. Pour your heart into your duties instead and you shan’t feel so lonely.” The Dornishwoman looked the Northern queen up and down. “And take care of yourself. We can’t have you turn into dust before our eyes, now can we?” 

“Alright.” Grey eyes met hers and it seemed they’d come to some sort of silent understanding. She needs to learn. This world does not give anyone a break, so why should she be offered one? “Thank you,” the girl cleared her throat. “For your words. You are kinder to me than I deserve.” Elia simply nodded.

After that, the Dornishwoman took Aegon to Rhaegar’s chambers, where he opened the door with a smile. 

“It is papa,” Elia smiled at her son, walking past Rhaegar, inside. “He is in a splendid mood this eve,” she relayed, plopping down in an armchair and grabbing a grape from the table. 

“Is he now?” Rhaegar asked, moving toward them and leaning down to pick up his son. 

There was something warming about the sight and it resonated with her heart, tearing at her soul. It was such a beautiful vision that it could not even be befouled by the tiny voice in her head, saying that it was the son he left here, to face the ire of his father and the Stranger’s eventual kiss. 

“Ouch,” her husband laughed as Aegon took a few strands of silver in his little grasp. 

“Now you have someone who shares your exact color’s hair to pull,” the Dornishwoman smiled, addressing her son, who looked drowsy.

“He grows fast,” Rhaegar commented, swaying slightly with a sleepy Aegon in his arms. 

“Looking at his father, I can see how that may be,” she replied dryly. 

“Are you calling me big?” the king asked, amusement shining clear in his indigo eyes. 

“I am merely stating that you are a giant amongst men, husband and it was not easy birthing either of your children.” His expression turned softer, then and he moved to sit beside her, their son carefully placed in his strong arms. 

“And I cannot thank you enough for it.” But it was not enough, was it? She found herself thinking by default, almost. She hated feeling this way, having every sweet gesture of his be befouled by a bitterness she just wanted to begone. Even though Elia knew that he deserved it. The Dornish queen simply smiled and hoped that he would not unearth the sadness beneath. Her husband gazed at her for a few moments, before leaning down to softly kiss her cheek. 

“We will build this kingdom up and our family until it is good as new,” he promised, Aegon gurgling and speaking nonsense in his arms. 

“ Maybe one day we will get around to the act of healing ourselves, too,” Queen Elia sighed. 





Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

The moons flew by in King’s Landing and the royal family was kept duly busy, most of all; Queen Elia. The Princess Rhaenys and Prince Aegon’s namedays were only separated by one moon, which meant that feasts and celebrations had to be prepared quite close together. Elia initially wished that they could have joined the celebrations, but after inquiring with her husband and good-mother, she put that thought aside. The lords would have seen it as niggardly to force a crown-prince to share his nameday celebration with his sister. Rhaegar had to appear just, open-handed to his loyal subjects, mindful of his duties as king and keep the love of the people. 

The preparations left Elia weary and exhausted each eve, but Queen Lyanna was adamant on offering whatever she could do to help relieve the Dornishwoman of part of her burdens. It seemed that the northern girl had taken their previous conversation to heart and had begun making more frequent appearances in court, though the sadness still haunted her features, as it did them all. Lyanna was far from healed, and though she was making more frequent debutations, the Dornish queen was still aware that she closed herself up in her chambers with her son, sometimes not rising at all, damning anyone who pulled away those blinds and offered her the sun’s harsh glare. 

"She is young,” Elia told Rhaegar who looked weary and confused. “She is still learning but it is not easy for either of us.” 

“I worry,” he sighed, running a hand through his silver-gold hair, his indigo eyes pleading for anything, for comfort, for advice, for compassion. “I brought her here.” 

“You brought me here, as well. She came of her own accord, there was room for her to refuse you, to return to the north and raise the babe as a bastard. Instead, she allowed herself to be crowned queen. It is something every young girl dreams of, but reality is cruel at the best of times and it spares no one.” 

Rhaegar Targaryen seemed mildly puzzled by her statement and was mulling it over, biting the bottom of his lip. 

“Then what am I to do?” 

“You allow her the comforts she needs, for now. Then, you wean her off of it, like a child off mother’s milk. She cannot stay a girl forever.” 

The namedays of her children came and went, and it was a prosperous time for all. Rhaenys was crowned the Queen Of Love and Beauty by Ser Arthur Dayne, after he had unhorsed Ser Barristan Selmy in the final tilt. Ser Barristan, though old, remained strong and fierce, having healed from the wounds he took at the Trident. The little princess refused to part with her laurel of pink, red and purple flowers for a fortnight, after that. Ser Jaime, alongside his sworn brothers would take to referring of the princess as their ‘little queen of love and beauty’ after that. Rhaenys raised no objections toward it. 

Viserys had wished to fight in the tourney, as well. To be the one to name his niece the Queen of Love and Beauty. Rhaegar had laughed good-naturedly, ruffled his brother’s silver-gold locks and told him that one day, when he was older-- he would. All the Queen-mother and Elia had done, was to smile softly at each other. The prince was a good and dutiful boy, all would agree. Sometimes, she would spy him in the halls, with Rhaenys atop his back, pretending to be her dragon and the sight would make her eyes brim with joyful tears. 

Aegon’s nameday came next, and he turned one. It was something that Elia had made due with not witnessing, those moons ago when the war was raging and their lives, uncertain. The day had made her weepy, but filled with such a joy that she could not help but smile through the tears. Her son and daughter wiped each away, when they noted them falling and Ser Jaime’s empathetic look made it known that he was aware of why they were falling. Rhaegar seemed to know, as well and it made his eyes turn sad. 

A smaller tourney was held for the crown-prince as well and it was the source of much mirth and happiness. That time, it was not the Princess Rhaenys who was crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty, it was Elia, herself. By none other than Ser Jaime of House Lannister. His green eyes had been sparkling as he placed the laurel of roses, donning all the colors of summer, in her lap. 

“It is only right that they go to a queen and Queen Elia shines brighter than the sun on this day.” Her heart was thumping in her chest, the cheering of the crowd vibrating through the air. The Dornishwoman could not help the smile that took over her features. 

“I am grateful that you find me worthy, kind Ser,” she replied, smiling at the man who had become something akin to a close friend, during the moons that they’d spent together, with him as her daughter’s sworn shield. 

“No one would be worthier,” he replied solemnly, all smiles and white teeth and golden curls. 

When she looked to her left, she saw Rhaegar with a thoughtful expression on his face, but Lyanna looked pleased for the Dornishwoman, offering a gentle smile her way. After a few moments that seemed like an eternity, but was perhaps only a few seconds, her husband smiled, took hold of his goblet and raised it into the air. 

“To Ser Jaime of the Kingsguard, the victorer of this tourney!” The crowd echoed his cheers, but the king continued. “And to my wife, the Queen of both the realm, along with love and beauty.” Rhaella, who was seated next to the Dornishwoman, kissed Elia’s cheek and murmured of how she deserved it.

Now, the Dowager Queen was great with child, only weeks or perhaps days from giving birth to her babe. Both Rhaegar and his mother seemed to grow more uneasy, the closer the time came for her to give birth. Elia knew the cause of their concern, it had never been easy for Rhaella to give birth or keep a babe, most of her pregnancies had ended in blood and death. The Dornishwoman prayed each morn to the Mother, for Rhaella to be blessed with a babe that lived. 

After the Dornish queen was finished breaking her fast, she decided to pay a visit upon her good-mother. Rhaella cherishes these times and so do I. There was something very comforting about being in each other’s presence. They had overcome so much and there were always topics to speak of. If not, then they would simply sit beside each other, in a quiet solidarity, resting to the gentle sound of the crackling and warming fire.

When she saw Rhaella, the beautiful woman was seated in her armchair, covered by a woolen quilt. The Dowager Queen looked strangely peaceful, yet she seemed paler and gaunter, somehow. Quickly, Elia reached her good-mother and gently touched her hand. 

“Good-mother,” she greeted uncertainly and those eyes of true purple met hers, and the Targaryen queen smiled softly. 

“Elia,” Rhaella greeted, dazedly. “How lovely to see your face.” The Dornishwoman returned the smile but gingerly reached a hand out to the pale woman’s forehead. She is warm, Elia noted, but not warm enough for a fever, I’d say. 

“You look a little tired, when did you last sleep?” Elia asked tenderly. 

“The babe keeps me up, kicking and moving. It is strong, I feel it.”

“How could it not be? With you for a mother?” Rhaella cupped her good-daughter’s cheek then and smiled.

“You are too kind of a woman, Elia. You always have been. Do not let anyone tear out your heart, the world is cruel. It is up to us, to be less so.” 

The armchair was quite large, so the Dornishwoman decided to snuggle up next to her good-mother, stroking the silver-gold hair softly. 

“What will you name it?” she asked carefully, thinking that perhaps Rhaella would not wish to think of such, would the babe be born dead or fail to thrive. The Dowager Queen smiled with her eyes closed and spoke. 

“Valerion, if it is a boy, I should think. Or perhaps Daeron, for both my uncles, who perished before their time. Rhaegar reminds me of Duncan, you know?” she asked and Elia felt strangely confused. All she knew of Prince Duncan was that he cast aside a crown to be with his love, Jenny of Oldstones . A peasant girl, but beautiful and strange, if the poems and songs are to be believed. 

“Because he ran away with his one true love, breaking his betrothal?” Elia could not hide the bitterness in which she said the words. Didn’t Rhaegar once play me a song, Jenny of Oldstones, it was called? 

“No. Because they were both promising young men, beautiful and dutiful, loved by the people. Yet somewhere along those lines, something happened and changed within them. With Rhaegar it was prophecies, dark shadows and nights that would never end. With Duncan, it was the strange, peasant girl who claimed to be of the First Men, noble of blood. A kind thing, she was, but it was as if she was not truly there. I think he liked that about her, the free spirit, the ease that he could have with her. She required neither jewels or fancy gestures to keep her. Only his love.” 

The parallels were there, even Elia could see it.

“He died, did he not? In the tragedy at Summerhal?” The question did much to sadden the even mood in the chambers, but Rhaella sighed and nodded, nonetheless. 

“Yes. I birthed Rhaegar as Summerhal was engulfed in flames, killing my family, lords, ladies and servants alike. Born in grief, he was. And it never truly left him.” 

“Did Jenny die, as well?” 

“I do not know, my sweet,” Rhaella began. “She simply disappeared. Did she perish alongside my uncle? I could not say. All I know is that it was cruel, for all those to die, when they’d barely lived. Prophecies did this to my grandfather, to my family,” Rhaella swallowed “Dragons and dreams, it never ends well.” The Dowager queen sounded choked, shrouded with anguish. She’s lost so much. All that remains of the Targaryens are her and her children-- with my children. Maester Aemon renounced that name when he took the black and he his thousands of leagues away, of no proper comfort to his great-niece. 

“I am so sorry,” was all Elia could whisper, kissing her good-mother’s cheek. 

“It is not your fault, child,” Rhaella shushed. “We Targaryens are our own ruin, it seems.” 

“Don’t say that, good-mother,” Elia pleaded. “Every human is their own ruin. We are our own worst enemy.” 

“You are quite correct, Elia. But what else could I expect from Loreza Martell’s daughter?”

“You flatter me,” the Dornishwoman beamed. “And what if it is a girl?” she decided to ask, weary of speaking about history and all men did because of the bits between their legs. 

“Naerys, I think,” the woman breathed. “The wife of the unworthy. A dutiful, beautiful woman who did not deserve the scorn she was faced with. Much like you, my sweet.” 

“Was she not in love with her brother, Aemon the Dragonknight?” The songs, poems and ballads of how Aemon the Dragonknight loved and defended his sister, for a love that could never be, were famed all across Westeros.

“So the songs would have us believe. I wish it to be the truth, as well. A little joy in a life of suffering would’ve been the least they deserved.” Elia loved the name, as well. If I’d had another daughter, then surely I would surely have named her that, Rhaegar be damned. It sounds so soft and beautiful. 

“It is a wonderful name, Good-mother,” Elia replied, staring into Dowager Queen Rhaella’s eyes of purple skies. 

“Yet I find myself endeared toward Daenerys, as well. Two Targaryen women were given that name and they were both most promising things.” 

“The daughter of the wise?” Elia asked. A precocious young thing she seemed to have been, if the history annals are to be believed. Clever, beautiful, promising and kind. And dead before her time. 

“Yes. And Queen Naerys’s own daughter. She was wed off to a Prince of Dorne… Maron, I think his name was. Your ancestor, the reason Aerys chose you for Rhaegar. Her blood courses through your veins, as well as mine. If I gave it, then it would be to honor you and your lineage, my flower. We Targaryens have done you so much harm.” Tears brimmed in the Dornishwoman’s eyes. She would do that? For me? 

“I suppose we will have to see when the babe comes,” Elia smiled kindly. “They do choose their own names, it seems.”

After some more conversing and resting, Elia took her leave, gently embracing her good-mother. For the remainder of the day, she would take the children out to play in the courtyards, something they’d not done together, for sometime. At least the Dornishwoman had not had the time to be with them for such, always busy tending to her duties, holding court and planning feasts and celebrations. It was hard work, but rewarding nonetheless. I always make sure I see the children for a few hours each day. 

She collected Viserys and Rhaenys from their lessons and fetched a fussy Aegon from the nursery.

“He is teething,” she sighed to Ser Jaime who asked if perhaps the princeling was unwell. “You should have seen Rhaenys,” the Dornish queen smirked. “The little thing refused to be put down for moons.” The knight glanced at the children behind them, Rhaenys skipping and babbling happily next to her uncle who could barely get a word in, between her sentences. 

“I can only imagine,” Jaime said, grinning as the young girl cut her uncle off, once again to speak of Balerion. If it irked Viserys, he hid it well, for he was all-smiles and fond expressions, looking at his niece. She is the only one close to an age with him, in his family. 

The day was hot, Elia noted when they stepped outside, yet there was a comfortable breeze blowing in the air, making the leaves on the trees sway gently. The Dornishwoman was dressed in a gown of green that left her shoulders and arms bare, instead wrapping around her neck and flowing elegantly, tied around her waist with a braided belt of black leather. It is nice to have something light and breezy in this heat. 

“Is it not hot, Ser Jaime?” she asked the knight, giggling softly. He was dressed in the long, woolen cloak of white and in gilded armor, from top to bottom. 

A true Lannister, she mused. Lean and hard and beautiful, no one could deny that Ser Jaime drew the eye of many a maidens at court, even though he was sworn to chastity as a knight of the Kingsguard. His father may have been cold and dismissive, cruel almost. His sister may have been frosty, vapid and narcissistic, yet compared to his family; Jaime was the son of the sun, dazzling for all to see. He has none of his father and much less of his sister. 

“I’m sweating my balls off,” the knight complained, earning a laugh from Queen Elia. 

“Good that you do not have much use of them anyway,” she quipped and earned an amused glare and a raised eyebrow, for her remark. 

“I have half a mind to spar with one of the stable-boys in the yards, just so that I can be rid of this armor,” he said, ignoring her comment. 

“And be the cause for the fainting spells of half the maidens who come to watch?” The queen asked, beaming. 

“The only ones who could make all of them faint, would be Ser Arthur or King Rhaegar,” the knight mused. “Half of the ladies in the court already wet their smallclothes at the slightest of smiles from those two.” And I’ve had them both… who would think? 

She was endeared toward this sort of light-hearted banter with the knight. He never treated her as if she was a fragile piece of glass, doomed to crack and break. Both of them had borne witness to each others’ darkest moments and spoken no word of it, to man nor maid. He is a knight of the Kingsguard, but also my friend. One of her only true friends, she wagered. Melly was another sweet relief, a good-hearted woman, rare to find in this sty of a city. Too bad she was not born a lady, then I could have made her my lady-in-waiting. Though, the queen would never put Ser Jaime in a position where he’d be forced to choose between her and the king. Some of her feelings and secrets could only be hers to keep. Trust blindly, and it will only prove fatal in the end. 

“A few more years and I wager that will be you, my good Ser,” she smiled and pointed toward one of the benches, marking that as their place to sit down. 

“How could a mere man as I, ever stand against the blood of old Valyria and the Rhoynar?” he asked, grinning. 

“With the blood of the Andals, I should think,” the Dornishwoman beamed, noting the way the sun hitting his golden curls made them seem as if molten gold. 

The children were waiting in front of them expectantly and it confuzzled Elia, but she realised they were waiting to be dismissed and allowed to run free and play. Such dutiful, courteous little things. 

“You may play, my sweets, but do not stray too far. Septa Myranda will be here shortly, to see to it that you behave,” Elia laughed, with a raised eyebrow at Rhaenys. She is the troublemaker of the two, Viserys only follows, for he always seems to wish to indulge her whims. 

“Okay, mama,” Rhaenys said, before dragging Viserys by his hand, toward the pond with the little fish and frogs. 

“Bye Elia,” her good-brother breathed before he allowed himself to be dragged. 

“Sit down, Jaime,” Elia told the knight who was still standing. Aegon was toying with the loose curls of her brown hair, trying to stuff them in his mouth. Oh, my sweet babe, I know it hurts. She tried her best to soothe the little prince, allowing him his comforts.

“What good am I, if I do that?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. 

“You can watch them just as well if you are seated, besides Septa Myranda will be here soon, to keep a closer eye on them.”

With that said, the Dornishwoman patted the seat next to hers and finally, the knight sat down. 

“I am a dead man if the Bull sees,” he moaned but relished in the sun stroking his face. 

“Then let me be a dead queen as well, for it was I, who gave you the order. If he has anything to say, refer him to me and I shall gladly speak of the importance of following orders. Something he did so well, when it came to my husband.”

Ser Jaime smiled with his eyes closed and sucked in a breath. 

“I would not want to be stung by you. What a small but ferocious thing you are, My Queen.” That made her laugh and slap his arm. 

“How dare you?” she asked and pretended to be cross. Jaime opened one eye and his expression softened.

“It is not a bad trait. A mother of dragons has to be.” Things remained silent for some moments after that, until the Dornishwoman spoke, having noticed how fluid Viserys seemed in his movements. 

“You could begin sparring with Viserys,” she mused. “He wishes to learn and has not stopped speaking of his lessons with Oberyn, however few they may have been.” The Lannister sat upright then and began to watch the children, who’d moved on from the pond, to the grass where they were laying down and looking at the sky. Rhaenys pointed at something and Viserys must’ve said something amusing, for the little girl began to giggle hysterically, barely able to stop. 

“He has good prerequisites. And it would give me a good excuse to remove this horridly warm tunic, cloak and chainmail.” 

“Ah yes,” the queen smiled and leaned back, crossing her legs and adjusting the princeling in her arms. “I do feel for you, Ser,” she said teasingly, knowing that as he was blistering in the heat, she was cool as water in her gown. “It seems hard, being a knight and a man, having to dress in such.” Jaime Lannister snorted and turned to look at her with his cat-like eyes. 

“That was cruel, My Queen. You look like a sweet little butterfly but your stings are sharper and harsher than those of bees. I admire that.” 

“This court taught me early on that kindness is weakness, Ser.” 

“But you are kind to your very bones,” he said. 

“We all must change who we are, in order to please others, sometimes. Or to save ourselves.” 

“We should not have to,” he replied, turning to gaze at the children in front of him, untouched by the cruelty of the court. Not yet corrupted by the vipers of King’s Landing. 

“You are right,” she allowed softly. “But when does that ever change things?” Better men than both of them had been right and seen the truths, yet died all the same, to be forgotten. 

“But let us speak of happier things,” she continued after a few moments of silence. “Viserys will be most pleased and I shall see to it with Rhaegar and Rhaella that arrangements are made.

“Ser Arthur is more skilled than I, though.” For a moment, she thought she saw a bit of insecurity in the man’s eyes. 

“But I did not ask him, Jaime. I asked you.” Her voice was gentle and the eyes were gentler. “Besides,” she smiled. “I wish to see you get thrown flat on your arse, at the hands of an eight year old. I do believe Viserys has it in him.” The thought was amusing, for the Lannister knight towered over the prince, being near as tall as Rhaegar and Arthur. Her comment earned a deep laugh from the knight. 

“Perhaps,” he allowed, green eyes sparkling. 

“I remember sparring with Ser Arthur, here in the yards-- years ago,” the knight reminisced. “It was shortly after sunrise, and only a few came to watch. Servants and kitchen-boys, a few ladies here and there. Though I cannot for the life of me fathom why anyone would choose to wake so early.” 

“And?” Elia inquired, absentmindedly watching as Septa Myranda scolded Rhaenys gently, for muddying her dress. It was an old one, anyway. Perfect for yardplay. 

“Well he threw me flat on my arse, as you say the young prince will, but it was still summer and the sun did not spare anyone. So we discarded our tunics and continued the spar. Can I just add that it hurts like the seven hells to be thrown onto the  ground, littered with gravel, bare-chested? Perhaps it was mine own fault for discarding my tunic. Yet each time I fell, Ser Arthur would give me his hand and pull me up, brushing the dirt off of my back and shoulders. Blood is the seal of our devotion, he’s told me more than once.” It certainly was the seal of our devotion, she thought wryly.

“How apt,” Elia said, ignoring how her heart hurt at the thought of Arthur and his chivalry. She left him behind, for she knew that he belonged to her past, rather than her future. Yet that does not make it hurt any less, to hear of his kind nature. 

If Jaime Lannister sensed her apprehensiveness, he made no comment of it. He only knows that things are strained between Arthur and I, that we have history. It is all he needs to know.  

“And we went at it for hours, but the Sword Of The Morning was everyone’s main focus. I was only a lean boy of five-and-ten, not near as strong as I am now, or as pleasing to look upon,” the knight winked and Elia scoffed but her eyes sparkled with joy. “And Arthur was the Warrior reborn, but there was this one girl that I could not help but notice. Perhaps she was a lady, maybe she was not,” he shrugged and turned to stare ahead. 

“And?” Elia breathed. “Here I was, thinking it would finally become interesting,” she teased and he laughed. 

“Impatient woman,” he murmured but the expression remained soft. “And I am always interesting,” he added arrogantly. Elia moved to reply but he shushed her. “You wished me to continue and I serve at your behest.” 

“Go on,” she murmured and he eyed her with a raised eyebrow. 

“Well, her eyes never left Arthur, or perhaps his body, even once. It was as if she was a woman possessed. I’ve never seen anyone gaze at a stranger with such an intensity, never-mind a lady. I half expected him to burst into flames.” He began snorting, laughing so hard that he could barely finish the story. Elia laughed alongside him, for he had such a peculiar laugh-- the one that was more entertaining than the jest itself. Even the little Aegon seemed to let out a little giggle, in-between his sullen looks. 

“And she-I-I vividly recall how her hands disappeared from my view and how her expression changed,” the knight continued, through breaths and Elia gasped, putting a hand on her heart, acting as if the words offended her. Really, she thought it hilarious.

“How scandalous,” she replied, snorting. 

“ I remember telling Ser Arthur of how I was finished with the spar. He seemed puzzled but nodded. Then I told him of what had occurred and the man turned as red as the Targaryen sigil, grumbling of how we should return to the white tower.” The Dornishwoman giggled but Ser Jaime was not done yet. 

“Oh, it did not end there, My Queen,” Ser Jaime said, running a hand through his glistening, golden curls. “She greeted us on the way back, with a pretty blush and flushed face, her blonde hair disheveled. I nearly died trying to keep my composure and Arthur fared little better, he refused to meet her eyes, mumbling a few courtesies and then, he just left me there , with her !” 

“What did you do?” Elia asked, thinking of how absurd a story that it was.

“I told her that I had matters to attend to and that Ser Arthur was feeling ill, which was why he left so abruptly. You would not believe the sullen glance that she gave me, as if I was to blame,” he exclaimed. “Well perhaps to some extent, I was, but don’t tell her that,” he added.

“You have my word,” The Dornishwoman chuckled. 

“When I returned to the white tower, I told our fellow brothers of what occurred and Gods, they refused to let him forget it for moons. They called him Arthur the arousing... I may or may not have been the creator of that.” Mischief swirled in those green orbs.

“I would not put it past you, Ser,” Elia replied evenly. 

“Do they still call him that?” she asked, smiling. 

“No,” he answered wistfully, and seemed to turn strangely melancholy. “It was a different time and we were different people.” Somehow, she did not need to hear more, she simply knew. 

“We cannot stay young forever, however much we’d like to, or how pleasant it feels.” She smiled tenderly at the knight and he returned it. Queen Elia wished to place a soothing hand on his arm or shoulder, but such could not be done publicly, in front of spiders, little birds and watching eyes. Undue affection shown between the queen and anyone who was not her husband or of the same sex, would make many whispers erupt and I do not have the urge to deal with any of them. So, she hoped that her eyes conveyed the comfort that her touch could not.

After that, things remained silent betwixt the white knight and the queen. They did not need to speak for it to be real. They simply watched the young Targaryens at their play, perhaps hoping that the world would be kinder to them, than it had been to their forebears. At least that is what Queen Elia wished for. Aegon would occasionally fuss or whine or stick his tiny fingers in his mouth, for some sort of relief toward the growing pains that the teething gave him. 

“It will not always feel like that,” she told her son and mayhaps those words served a double-meaning, as well. People evolve and change, feelings never remain the same. They are more like twisting shadows, tearing at us, loving us, destroying us-- yet what would life be without them? 

A sudden melancholy took over the queen, as the quiet gave her time to reminisce of her youth. 

“Did you ever crave someone, Jaime?” She asked the knight softly. “Before all of this.” He looked at her with those green orbs, analyzing, assessing, perhaps searching of a clue for how much he could really tell her. They were friends, yes, but he was still a knight. And she was still his queen. Jaime Lannister finally made a reply. 

“Yes. I think.” That is good, she found herself thinking. At least he loved before he dedicated his life to duty-- A colder wife than most. 

“Oh,” Elia began. He is so young, a man of eight-and-ten. “Did you love them?”  The question posed, took even Elia aback, the one who’d asked it. Once again, the knight took his time before replying. 

“I did… or I think I did. Yes, I did. But it does not matter now, she is far gone-- wedded and expecting children of her own.” That sounds tragic. The Dornishwoman wondered why the knight did not choose to love, instead of obeying. She chanced the question. 

“Why did you not wed her, yourself? If you do not mind me asking… You were the heir to Casterly Rock, a most eligible young lordling. Yet you chose this.” Ser Jaime’s eyes seemed to darken then, turning from clear emerald, to a murky jade. The sun reflected in the tips of his golden hair, giving them an ethereal glow. Just like it does when it touches Aegon’s silver-gold curls. 

“It… It was never to be. It could never be. She-Ce-She was already betrothed by that time and I was a young man, filled with the urge to be glorious.” He paused for a second, swallowing. Perhaps I struck a chord. I should not have asked him, if he was not ready to speak.

“You needn’t explain it to me, Ser. I have no right to know, my question was not a demand.” Her voice was a gentle murmur. As warm as the sun shining down upon them, kissing their skin and touching their hearts.

“No, it’s not that…” the knight began but faltered. “She was the reason I joined the Kingsguard, you know?” He chuckled a little but there was no mirth to the sound, as hollow as Aerys’s crown. 

“Was she?” Elia asked evenly, not urging him to speak, but not prohibiting him from sharing, either. 

“Yes,” he replied bitterly. “She was to be sent to court. So that we could still m-” he stopped himself, knowing that the next sentence was treason. Elia wanted to put a calming hand on his, to show him that it was okay. That I will not tell. 

“You need not speak the word, Ser. You are but a man, a young one at that. We were fashioned to make mistakes by the Gods, it seems. You are not the first knight of the kingsguard who has had doubts, nor will you be the last.” 

“Anyway,” he shrugged his shoulders. “She remained in Lannisport and I… I came here.” 

“Do you regret it?” Elia asked. 

“Yes and no, yes and no,” he replied, staring out into the distance. 

“I am sorry,” was all she could say. We are all so sorry, when does it end? To our pains there seems to be no cures. No easy remedies. The knight gave her a wolfish smile but it looked empty, as if it was only for show. 

“You and I were meant to be married once, is it not funny how the Gods work?” the knight asked, avoiding her gaze and toying with a golden plate of his armor. That was so long ago, almost a lifetime, it seems. 

“You were very young,” Elia noted, “I am seven years your elder, soon to be a crone,” she teased and he looked up, his brown lashes turning pure gold in the sunlight, almost touching his brows of the same color. 

“Lies,” the man scoffed. “If so, you are the most youthful and beautiful crone that I have ever laid my eyes upon, your skin is not even wrinkly,” Jaime continued with a wink. “And I was ten, turning eleven. You were a woman of six-and-ten. Newly turned, if I recall correctly. It was not so great a difference.” 

“Your father was most against the match. He told my mother I could’ve had Tyrion instead.” 

“And what did you think of that?” Jaime gazed at her intently, his cat-eyes vivid in the midday sun. 

“I thought it preposterous.” Something changed in his demeanor then.

“Oh.”  I should explain myself, she thought. 

“Not for the reasons you think, my good Ser.” Elia stroked her son’s soft tufts of silver hair, entwined with gold, before speaking again. “I would be six-and-ten years older, almost thirty by the time he would be old enough to consummate the marriage. My mother also aspired for me to wed an heir, young Tyrion was a second son, not set to inherit anything. And selfishly, I wished for a man and not a boy.” She hoped he would not hate her for saying so. Going from a man such as Arthur to Tyrion, did not sit well with my adolescent heart. I wished for more. Was that so wrong? 

“I understand, My Queen.” Her hand itched to take his, to show him that she truly meant no offense. But she couldn’t. Instead she turned to him with a soft expression. 

“Do you, Jaime?” The knight nodded slowly but his eyes had dimmed. He loved his brother, that was clear, however little I saw of him there. 

“There was and is nothing faulty with your brother. He only looks different from other men, the mind remains the same. I never understood how your sister could be so cruel to him, forgive my words.” Jaime turned thoughtful then. 

“No. Neither did I.” 

“And what if it was me? What did you think of having me?” Elia turned her gaze toward the horizon, a soft smile playing on her lips, like dancing waves. 

“You were courteous and kind, but you liked the arm of your sister and the dagger of my brother’s, more than you ever did me. I do not fault you, though. You were a young boy and girls are of little notice to young boys.” 

“I did, it seems, and where did it get me?” he murmured and the words sounded so sad. The Dornishwoman paused, sensing his gaze on the side of her head and spoke,“But that did not answer your question. I was not opposed to you, Jaime. You were a boy full of promise and you grew into a wonderful man.” Ser Jaime snorted.

“Wonderful is not the way many would choose to describe me.” Elia turned her brown eyes upon him, and they glimmered golden in the sun. 

“But it is the word that I choose.” 

“Imagine that,” Ser Jaime said wistfully, perhaps thinking of a future he knew could never be. 

“Yes, to think how things could have been different,” Queen Elia replied absentmindedly, watching Rhaenys playing in the yards, thinking of green eyes instead of lavender, of Aegon with golden hair, instead of silver-gold. Suddenly, the lost girl of the knight’s youth came to her mind, once more. 

“Maybe you will meet her again, one day.” 

“Who?” he asked. 

“The girl you loved.” He snorted then, as if it was amusing in a horrible way.

“Yes, I most likely will.” he turned sad, then. “She was a part of me. The only thing I ever loved besides fighting and swordplay… until,” he began but they were interrupted. 

“Mama!” Rhaenys squealed from the distance, beckoning her mother forward. Viserys looked excited as well but the septa seemed tired. 

“It seems we should see what they would like,” Elia murmured and both stood up, as if their talk had never been. As if time had stood still and reality did not exist. 

When they arrived, the little princess was grass-stained and mud-spattered, yet a wide smile graced her face. 

“Look at that star,” the girl said in awe, “It is so beautiful, mama. Like you.” 

“Yes,” Viserys concurred. “Like you, Elia.” That made the Dornishwoman’s heart squeeze almost painfully. My sweet, kind and gentle children. The star was in reality; the moon, overlarge and plain to see, even during the day. I remember the maester in Dorne telling me of such rare phenomenons, how they each have meaning. Make of that what you will, yet it is still a nice notion.

“It is very pretty, Rhaenys,” Elia agreed. “Don’t you think, Ser Jaime?” The knight nodded, his golden curls spilling across the side of his head in soft tresses. 

“The Maester in Dorne once told me that it signified rebirth.” 

“A clean slate, a new life?” Jaime asked. The Dornish queen smiled gently. 

“Something like that.” 

But storm clouds seemed to be brewing on the horizon. 

***

“We will stay at Storm’s End for a moon’s turn and then we will travel into Dorne from there,” Rhaegar said, pointing at the road which they will be travelling through, on the map with an elegant finger. Elia nodded, listening intently and tucking a brown curl behind her ear. 

“That sounds good,” she allowed. “And how long will we stay there?” Rhaegar turned to her with a smile.

“Impatient, are we?” he asked and Elia scoffed.

“Of course.” 

Rhaegar pointed to Sunspear on the map. 

“We will stay at Sunspear for a moon’s turn, as well, then we will travel through Dorne, into Starfall, the seat of House Dayne and remain there for a fortnight.” Elia gasped, feeling joy course through her veins. I will meet Ashara, and her babe? Noticing her glee, Rhaegar looked down and smiled shyly. 

“You miss her and Arthur misses his family as well. You deserve it, after all I put you through.” I know I do, she thought. Yet, she thanked him nonetheless.

The fire was burning merrily in the hearth. Crackling and hissing, filling the chambers with a dim light. Rhaegar was dressed in a black tunic and pants of linen, for sleeping. Elia was dressed in a nightgown and her robe, to remain modest for the lickspittles of King’s Landing, should anyone happen upon her, during the walk back to her chambers. 

“How long will we remain at Winterfell? Cold does not agree with me.” Rhaegar knew that Elia was uneasy about the road to Winterfell, since their children were so young and her health, ever delicate. But he also knows that I do not wish to be the object of sympathy and looks-- oh the scorned wife, what a pity. 

“It does not agree with me either, Elia. Targaryens are of the fire.” Rhaegar stopped to bite his lip. “A fortnight, maybe longer, though I would not count on it.” 

“Well,” she clasped her hands together, adjusting her legs on the soft pelt that she was sitting atop, the warmth of the fire licking at her exposed skin. “It seems we have our work cut out for us.” Rhaegar chuckled, his indigo eyes turning more purple in the firelight. 

“We really do,” he sighed. “But I suppose it will be worth it.” 

“It will,” Elia promised. “The people will see their king and his queens. They will know better than to try to tear us asunder. Stags, falcons and such are no match for dragons, suns and wolves." 

Rhaegar nodded, exhaling loudly and sitting down next to her on the floors, smiling with his eyes closed, as the heat embraced him. 

“Ruling has progressed nicely, in many thanks to you,” the king said, putting his arms around her, dragging the small Dornishwoman to his chest and kissing her hair, tenderly. Elia truly did not know how she felt regarding that. She would always love the man. He is the father to my children… but she was not in love with him, not any longer. His betrayals still stung, yet if she kept bringing up the past and writhing in it, there would be no hope for her future. Never will I forgive him, but I can live with him. I can rule alongside him. Love is for children and we are grown. There was little time for games of spite and cruelty, but if he initiated an argument, the Dornish queen would never bow or break beneath him. He would feel every bit of her ire, make no mistake. He has much to learn, but then again, so do I. 

Rhaegar had still not bedded her and it’d certainly been over eight moons since his return to the sty of a city, known as King’s Landing. It did not matter much to the Dornish queen, for carnal releases were fleeting and one could use their hands, more oft than not, if the need was great. I will not lie and say that I do not miss the closeness of a man, of waking up with warm arms around me and their head in the crook of my neck. The king and her had always been well-matched in their marriage bed, more compatible than most could boast. They both knew what they wanted… and if we didn't? Then we found it out. Perhaps that was how she was able to remain standing, after the court’s mockery of her, after Aerys’s snide comments and cruel remarks. Rhaegar would always be there, to kiss away the pain. To love her. Rhaella was not allowed to spend more time than necessary with the viper wench, for perhaps Elia’s Dornish ways would rub off on her. The Targaryen queen always managed to found loopholes when they were there, though. 

She had not had her moon’s blood since the birth of Aegon but it returned two or three moons ago, yet it was not quite the same. Her flow had oft been heavy and plagued her with cramps and aches, but this time, it was barely more than a speck or two and it came irregularly. The Dornish queen had visited the grand-maester, to ask him what the meaning of it was. Pycelle had been a blathering fool, as he oft was, but he did answer her questions. After a very uncomfortable examination. The old man’s wrinkled fingers prodding at her thighs and womanhood was not the way she’d intended to spend that midday, but alas, it was what occurred. 

“Ah… hmm… yes, I see,” the old man said and Elia simply wished to seep into the walls, rather than have an old, wrinkled maester say that, as you were laying on a table, with your legs spread in front of his face. 

“What do you see,” Elia asked, through gritted teeth, her hands clenching and unclenching on the table. 

“Dire news I fear, My Queen,” he said through his gravelly notes. “You may sit up,” he beckoned her, before turning to his basin and washing them with the water inside. Elia wished she could wash her body off of his touch but alas… 

When Pycelle returned, he looked at her through squinted eyes. No doubt it was meant to be sympathetic. 

“Though your moon’s blood seems to have returned, in a small variant, it is not a sign of fertility. It simply is a sign of your womanhood returning.” My what? She wanted to laugh at his absurdity. Elia wanted to ask if she’d grown a cock in the time after her son’s birth but refrained, for the wry comment would surely not be welcome and she was already weary of this old man. 

“And?” the Dornishwoman asked impatiently and for a moment, she saw something akin to contempt, disdain and annoyance in the grand-maester’s eyes, but it left as quickly as it came. 

“I had a look at your womb, Your Grace. It is too scarred to bear another child, I fear. My apologies,” he replied and bowed his head. The sight of his balding, white hair annoyed her further. 

“Oh,” Elia replied, trying to cover a smile. That was what Rhaegar left me for. Another child would have killed me, you said. It is not a surprise. “What a shame,” she added, with no sadness to her words. 

“Yes, for the king is in his prime years, most able to father many more children.” 

“Ah yes, and women are simply the broodmares, are we not?” she grumbled, cursing men and their cocks as well. 

“I did not quite catch that, My Queen,” Pycelle said, squinting and leaning closer to hear her words. 

“I was simply thanking you for your service,” Elia smiled sweetly. 

“Oh, it was of no consequence, My Queen.” No, of course it was not. You are here to serve, you bumbling chicken, she thought. 

“What are you thinking of?” Rhaegar asked, bringing her wayward thoughts, back to shore. His slender, large and pale hand was on her sunkissed thigh, gently caressing. He always did find it a comfort. 

“Nothing in particular,” she sighed, leaning back into his hard body. “That Pycelle hag saying that I cannot have more children.” The king’s hand kept touching her softly and murmuring of how the new maester was on his way. 

“That must have been unpleasant, the meeting of course,” Rhaegar said. The Dornishwoman knew that he wanted to avoid the topic of her infertility, for it would always come back to him leaving her, in search of a woman who could. The woman who could. 

“Yes, I never thought I’d have an old man’s fingers inside of me, prodding and poking,” she frowned. “But there we were.” For dramatization, she shivered in disgust and could feel Rhaegar’s chuckle reverberating through his body. 

“I can only imagine,” he wheezed through laughs and Elia joined in, but slapped his thigh. 

“Don’t laugh,” she chided but could not keep a straight face, herself. “I was mortified.” 

“Forgive me, My Queen. I would be, as well.” Though amusement still laced the king’s words. 

Elia simply smiled as she gazed at the fire. It was nice to feel like a girl again, unburdened and untroubled, however short the moments were and however far in-between they came to be. Suddenly, she felt Rhaegar smile against her neck, moving to whisper in her ear. 

“Of course it was not to your taste. You prefer lips,” he whispered wickedly and she snorted, pushing his head away with her hands, feeling his smooth, silvery curls betwixt her fingers and his laugh echo off the walls. 

“As do you,” she countered evilly, turning her head to gaze at him. 

“I enjoy a multitude of things, My Queen. I’ve never been picky,” he smirked but his eyes remained clear, showing that he enjoyed their little banter as much as she did. 

“Neither am I,” she replied with a raised eyebrow, intrigued to what he would say next. 

“You were always sure of what you wanted,” the king replied, raising his hand to toy with the strap to her nightgown. 

“A strong woman should be.” That made a fond smile play on the former prince’s lips, like dancing flames. 

“And you are the strongest I’ve ever known. Along with my mother.” 

“We have to be. It is a man’s world.” 

Rhaegar moved to speak but a rapt knock made both their attentions divert. 

“Yes?” Rhaegar asked, rising and giving Elia a hand, pulling her up on her feet. The person beyond the wooden door turned out to be Ser Arthur, when Rhaegar opened the door. The man’s violet eyes scanned her, before he willed them to turn blank. 

“The Dowager Queen is in labor and she wished for Queen Elia to be fetched.” Oh, Elia thought, The babe is coming. The king himself seemed to turn mute, his skin paling as if he’d seen a ghost. Elia knew what it meant. He is scared. He just got her back and now she may be taken from him, once more. Childbirth is a messy affair and it spares no one.  

“It will be alright,” Elia told her husband, placing a warm hand atop his forearm. Ser Arthur eyed the hand before Rhaegar nodded, dismissing him. 

“I will return with your sibling. It will be fine, you shall see.” Rhaegar nodded, his indigo eyes somewhere else. 

***

Several hours of labor to no avail, left the Dowager Queen pale and weak. 

“Shh,” Elia soothed her good-mother, wiping her forehead with a damp cloth. Rhaella’s purple eyes looked defeated, their usual shine gone, to be replaced with dullness. 

“I-I,” Rhaella began, breathing heavily, “Something is not right this time. I feel it,” she finished and sounded so very young and scared. The Queen-mother was not old, only eleven years Elia’s senior. She is only thirty-and-seven, Queen Elia told the gods. She is only thirty-and-seven. 

“Where is the damned maester?” Elia seethed. “Get me the maester!” Grand-maester Pycelle were all they had as of now, even though Rhaegar had sent for another one from the citadel. 

“Don’t leave, please,” Rhaella whispered through cracked lips and her forehead felt too hot when the Dornishwoman laid her hand upon it. “Don’t leave again, Loreza,” the Targaryen Queen mumbled again, before falling asleep.  

“I won’t,” Elia promised, kissing Rhaella’s forehead, tears streaming down her face. “You will be fine,” she promised. “You survived Aerys. You will be fine, do you hear me?” There was no reply but the chiming of the wind. There was a storm tonight. Heavy and wild. 

Pycelle stumbled in, an hour later. 

“Where were you?” Elia hissed at the old man, with his white, wispy beard and small eyes. 

“I was--I wa- ehm- tending to matters of great importance, Your Grace,” he stuttered through bobbling chins and it only earned him a sneer alongside a look of contempt. 

“The queen is the greatest matter of importance,” she spit, wanting to slap the incredulous look off Pycelle’s face, but before she could do so, Rhaella screamed. It was a horrible, agonizing sound, as if she was being torn in half. 

Elia Martell’s own births had been difficult and draining, but when the children came, they came fast. Something was wrong, Elia could feel it creeping over her soul. The babe would not come and it unnerved the Dornishwoman. 

“Is it time to push?” she asked Pycelle and he stared at her for a few moments. “Well go and check, you bumbling fool!” With that said, the Dornish queen turned to soothe her good-mother. The strands of silver-gold were matted with sweat and her face was lined with pain, the remnants of tears streaked her cheeks. 

“Oh no,” the maester mumbled and Elia turned her head sharply. 

“Come here,” she ordered the maester, as Rhaella was in the throes of her pain. She walked into a corner and asked what was amiss. “And do not say such things in her presence, you will only prove to frighten her,” the Dornishwoman added. 

“It seems the babe is turned the wrong way,” the grand-maester whispered. “Which is why it will not arrive. The further time it spends in such a condition, the less it is likely to live. And the mother… such exposure could kill her.” Elia closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing. You must be her strength when she lacks it. Do not falter. Be her dragon. 

“Then fix it,” Elia hissed. 

“It is not so easy,” Pycelle said in a voice that made it seem as if all Elia was, was a hysteric, foolish and emotional woman. “I could cut her open and try to save the babe, but make no mistake, she will die.” 

“She will not!” the Dornish queen felt the urge to sob. She will not. You will not have her. 

“Stay here and tend to her, but do I hear the slightest whisper that you even picked up a blade; I will have your hands removed, your cock cut off and fed to the pigs in the yards. Have I made myself clear?” Elia was full of equal parts fear, anger and sadness. She would turn her rage into drive. She would make sure that the Queen-mother lived, if it was the last thing she did. 

Once outside, she searched for Rhaegar who was not far away. He was sitting in the halls, with Viserys and Rhaenys in his arms. 

“Has the babe come yet?” he asked with hopeful eyes but Elia's gaze said what her mouth could not. For a few moments, all they could do was stare at each other, in horror and sadness. 

“What is wrong, Elia?” Viserys asked suddenly, looking alarmed. And then Rhaenys fumbled, asking if ‘grandmama is well’ 

“Everything will be alright, children. It is time you were sent to bed.” 

“But I want to wait until mother has the babe,” Viserys said, pouting. 

“Tomorrow,” Elia tried to smile. “Rhaenys will comfort you until then.” The frown remained on the princeling’s forehead, but Elia walked toward him, bending down and kissing it, watching it unfurl. 

“Will she be fine, Elia?” the boy asked quietly and she simply stared into his lilac eyes and nodded. 

With that, the Dornishwoman gestured for Melly to take them to their chambers, beckoning Rhaegar forward. 

“What is happening?” he asked nervously and Elia sighed, touching his shoulders. 

“The babe is turned the wrong way and all that old man says he can do, is cut her open. We need another maester and we need it quick. How far away is Maester Gerardys?” The king ran a hand through his silvery locks and frowned, rubbing his temple with his hands. 

“The last I heard; almost at the border.” Good, good, then there is still hope. “But there is a storm out,” he said, his voice cracking at the ends. “It has already ravaged Dragonstone.” 

“We must send your fastest rider to get him, Rhaegar. Perhaps he can do what Pycelle can’t. I will not have him kill her but there is no time. We cannot let him kill your mother,” she whispered, leaning her head against his chest, feeling his warm arms embrace her and his soft lips kiss the top of her head. Elia even heard him sniffle. 

“No we cannot,” he agreed, sounding so very broken. “I will get to it at once.” Then his arms were no longer around her. With a final kiss to her forehead, he left snapping at the Kingsguard to follow. 

After three hours of reassurance, of Pycelle’s fumbling movements, of hot beverages and blankets and quilts and broken spirits, the new maester entered, drenched in rain but otherwise alright. He is young, she noted, perhaps that is a better thing. The dreaded hour of the wolf had arrived and with it, came no comforts. 

“What seems to be the case?” Maester Gerardys asked, shrugging off his woolen coat to reveal two glimmering links beneath, hanging on a silvery chain. 

“Th-” grand-maester Pycelle began but Elia cut him off. 

“The babe is turned the wrong way,” she breathed. “It will not come. Please tell me that you can be of use, that you know something that he does not.” The young man’s eyes were a guileless blue but he nodded. 

“I must examine her,” he said and Elia nodded. 

“I have already ex-” 

“Shut up,” Elia snapped. “Take your leave somewhere close. We will call if you are needed.” 

“My quee-” Pycelle began, stuttering, “I only,” 

“Leave,” she told him again. “Before I make you and turn my threats into reality.” With his stooped back and fumbling ineptness, the old man took his leave. 

Rhaella was sweating and writhing, her matted hair clinging to her forehead. What songs can be sung of this? Elia wondered. Women die in this bloody bed but no one remembers them. Those killed by their husbands. Having a child was akin to gambling for a woman. No one was very certain of what the outcome would be, yet the bet was placed all the same. Not by our hands, but by their cocks. 

“It will be fine,” The Dornishwoman promised her good-mother tearfully. “Maester Gerardys is here now, see. He will fix this, I promise.” 

“What can you do?” Elia asked once she was at the maester’s side. He looks worried. Very worried. 

“The babe is indeed in the wrong position, Your Grace and I-I,” he began. 

“What can you do?” she asked again, more sharply. 

“The grand-maesters would have me cut it out, I am sure but… there is one method. It is highly controversial and only works in half the cases I’ve seen,” he whispered, looking aghast. 

“What is it?” Queen Elia asked, almost feverish in her way of asking. 

“I would need to push the child further in and try to turn it, by help of pressing against certain places of the stomach. There are no guarantees and the grand-maester Pycelle would have my head for even suggesting it.” The Dornish queen moved to speak but Rhaella beat her to it. 

“Do it,” she croaked. “Save my child. Whatever it takes.” 

“We will save you too,” Elia said fiercely. 

“It will hurt,” Maester Gerardys warned. “A lot. I would have administered milk of the poppy, but it would harm the babe.” 

“It is fine,” the Targaryen queen whispered, “Elia is with me.”

“I am,” she promised, moving to her good-mother’s side and crouching down by the bed, clasping Rhaella’s clammy, pale hand in her own and kissing the top of it. 

“Soon you will have your babe.” The Dowager Queen nodded and Elia gave Maester Gerardys the signal to begin. 

The screams were like nothing she had ever heard. They were excruciating, harrowing sounds that would haunt Elia in her dreams. Was this what I sounded like? 

“Lift the shift up,” the young man beckoned Elia and he moved to stand up, placing a hand at the top of her belly and pushing, twisting his other hand at the same time. 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Elia whispered with tears streaking her cheeks, clutching Rhaella’s hand and stroking the brittle hair out of her forehead. All she received was a painful wail, as the woman’s face contorted in pain, once again. 

“How long will it take?” Elia asked him desperately, her heart beating erratically. Let her live, let her live, let her live. How the Gods worked, she would never know. You let good men die and the bad ones live. Do not take her, I will not let you. She suffered so much, you will not rob her of her life and joy, you WON’T. The maester turned to look at her with glazed eyes.

“Soon, we are done soon, I promise, My Queens,” he replied, pushing against her belly. “We are nearly there.” There was barely any strength left in the Queen-mother. The parts of her that were not bone-white, were flushed crimson and the look in her eyes… Elia shivered. I do not ever want to see that look again. 

“Please,” Rhaella begged as she wailed, “Please.” 

“It will be over soon, good-mother.” Elia kissed Rhaella’s hand and winced as the woman screamed again, haunting even the ghosts in the castle. A gasp was heard but it was not from any of the women or maids. 

“I think…” the maester began, “I think I did it…” When he pulled his hand out of the queen, Elia noticed that it was covered in blood. Fuck, fuck, fuck. 

“You did or you did not?” she asked sharply and the maester swallowed, sighing in relief.

“I did,” he breathed in awe. “Push, you must push now, My Queen,” he told Rhaella and she shook her head dazedly. 

“I can’t,” she murmured, “I can’t.” 

“You can,” Elia told the woman fiercely. “Only a few more strokes of pain and you will have your babe. A sweet prince or princess to hold to your chest.” The Dowager Queen smiled dazedly, looking up into the ceiling. 

“I will,” she mumbled. 

“Yes, now sit up, I am right here. You may squeeze my hand as hard as you wish.” 

“Okay,” Rhaella breathed, her grip on Elia’s hand, never loosening. Then she pushed and huffed and puffed. 

“How is it going?” the Dornishwoman asked after a few minutes of Rhaella’s screaming. 

“The head is out,” he replied, “Only a few more.” Elia felt cold sweat trickle down her neck. 

“Push,” she told her good-mother, “Push.”

Rhaella obliged, pushing even harder, her face turning scarlet. 

“You are doing great,” the Dornish queen soothed. Suddenly, a loud, piercing wail was heard and relief coursed through Queen Elia’s veins. It is alive.

“You did it,” she told her good-mother in awe, stroking the matted, silver-gold hair. 

“What is it?” Queen Rhaella asked, for they had taken the babe away, to be cleaned. 

“I will find out.” She kissed Rhaella’s forehead. 

The nursemaid was cleaning the babe, wrapping a black quilt around it . A healthy size, she noted. It will thrive. I will make sure of it. 

“Is it a prince or a princess?” Elia asked the homely woman with brown hair. 

“A princess, My Queen,” the woman smiled, showing a few crooked teeth. The Dornishwoman mirrored the smile and opened her arms to embrace the babe. 

“What a beautiful thing you are,” she told the girl, who had a full head of silver-gold hair. The babe stared at her intently, with dark, purple eyes that would surely grow into a lovely violet color as she grew. Gently, she walked over to Rhaella who looked tired and weary, but smiled when she saw the babe. 

“It is a girl,” Elia relied and the Dowager Queen chuckled. 

“What a fuss you made to come into the world.” The sight was beautiful. The relief after all that pain. 

Maester Gerardys had already delivered the Targaryen Queen’s mother-cake, so the blood in the bed unnerved Elia even more. 

“Are you alright?” she asked, touching the pale woman’s forehead. It was blistering hot and made the Dornishwoman gasp. 

“I am just a little tired,” the Dowager Queen murmured, stroking her daughter’s cheek through half-lidded eyes. 

“That feels queer,” Rhaella said suddenly, frowning and Elia removed the sheets to find them soaking in blood. No, no, no, NO! 

“Maester Gerardys!” Elia screamed for the man and he came stumbling in. He paled when he saw the blood. 

“Oh Gods no,” he murmured. The princess began weeping in her mother’s embrace. Rhaella was pale as death, almost asleep. The expression on her face was eerily at peace. 

“Take her,” the maester ordered and Elia gently took the child from the Queen-mother’s arms. The woman barely moved but as the Dornishwoman stood, Rhaella grabbed her arm. 

“Daenerys,” she whispered with crazed, purple eyes, “Please, Elia, Daenerys. Our little Daenerys.” Tearfully, the Dornish queen nodded. 

“You are not going to die,” she promised her good-mother, her voice choked with grief. “You will tell her yourself.” There was no reply from the woman in the bed. Only sad, purple eyes. 

“Leave, you must leave and I will tend to her.” 

When Elia made it outside that cursed wooden door, she saw Rhaegar sitting on the floor with his head in his hands. The king looked up as he saw his wife and his eyes grew large at the babe in her arms. He stood up and began walking toward his wife. Elia met his gaze and it said all those words that she couldn’t. The king looked horrified, his somber, indigo eyes filling with tears and then spilling  If I speak, I will only weep.

“Daenerys,” she murmured, looking down at the girl, the little bundle in her arms that met her brown gaze, with a purple one of her own. 

Healthy, 

Red-faced, 

A head full with silver-gold tufts of hair. 

Breathing,

Alive.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Grief is a peculiar thing, indeed. Perhaps it is even the sincerest form of love. For if you love something so fiercely, that your only response to it being taken from you prematurely, is to weep and thrash and plead for it to be returned, then how can anything else hold a single candle to such a pain? To such a love? Parting is one thing, when you know that it will still be where you left it, but to have it taken so abruptly, never to see the light of day again? That is simply cruel, and what are the Gods, if not that? 

But to grieve when something has not yet left you, is crueler. Because it is only a waiting game of counting down the hours and minutes until it’s gone, leaving only the memory of it-- the merest hint of a presence. Time might seal wounds, but some never truly close and bleed again, at the slightest of reminder of what was lost. Of what you once had. Elia was in pain, for her grieving was of the latter form. The Dowager Queen was not yet dead, but she might as well have been. 

A fortnight had passed since that dreadful, stormy eve full of misery, pain, sweat and perhaps a tinge of regret. Maester Gerardys said that he had done all he knew of for the queen and Elia believed him. He said the rest was up to the Gods and didn’t she have her quarrels with those cursed deities, who seemed to hurt more than they healed. Rhaella was on the cusp of life and death, that very thin line where no one quite knows what to call it. She had still not woken and was fed nectar and sugared water to keep her body functioning. The fever worked quickly and the room in that bedward had that sickly sweet smell. The scent of death. 

The Dornishwoman visited each day, and once or twice, she’d brought Aegon, Rhaenys and Viserys. I would not want her to perish without the children having been given the opportunity to show their love and devotion. Rhaenys always eyed her grandmother softly and refused to believe that the silver-haired queen wouldn’t recover. 

“It’s not her time yet, mama,” the little girl had said, stroking Queen Rhaella’s pale, limp hand. “I saw it in a dream.” The Dornish queen had thought it better to not mention that statement to Rhaegar, lest he unravels his prophecies, yet again, this time aiming them at his daughter. I will not let it happen. 

However, the Prince Viserys had been apprehensive and quiet, with glassy, lilac eyes. 

“I don’t want her to go,” he’d whispered to Elia after Aegon was taken to the nursery, “Please,” the prince begged his good-sister and it tore her heart apart, leaving it a bleeding pile of crimson in her chest. With kind, brown eyes, she’d stroked the pale haired boy’s cheek. Elia was about to answer, when suddenly her daughter’s arms were around him, a mess of tiny limbs and dark hair. 

“Don’t be sad, Vissy,” the girl mumbled and her uncle bent down, picking the princess up and holding her close, kissing the side of her head. 

The prince was not averse to his sister and both Elia and Rhaegar had made sure that Viserys knew it was not little Daenerys’s fault that his mother was ill. 

“Childbirth is akin to battle, brother. A different kind, yet not so different at all. Some do not live to tell the tales, yet our mother is strong. She will persevere,” Rhaegar said, his deep voice choked with grief and false comforts. 

“It is not your sister’s fault. No more than it was Aegon’s fault that I almost perished. Do you understand?” Elia asked the boy who was chewing on his bottom lip, a habit he’d no doubt picked up from his brother. 

"Yes,” he murmured with his eyes cast down. Elia bent down and tilted his chin upward, with a gentle finger, beckoning him to look into her eyes. 

“She is a sweet and gentle thing. You are her brother, be her brother, Viserys.” He nodded but Elia felt forced to continued. “Rhaenys adores having a girl, in this family of men. She already loves our Daenerys, so should you.” 

“I do,” Viserys said, with a quiet strength, “She is of mother.” 

This midday, the Dornish queen brought the infant with her, to visit Rhaella. Pycelle had advised her against it, moaning of how the sickness could transfer to the child and make her ill. Elia had told him that this was not the Shivers, it was childbed fever. I should be the maester, not that old fool. Daenerys was gurgling in her arms, making all those sounds that babes do. It reminded her of Aegon when he was younger, and she surely resembled her nephew, with the wispy tufts of silver-gold hair and purple eyes. Such delicate features, as well, she has Rhaegar in her lips and nose, Viserys in her smile and hair. The king’s hair was paler than both his siblings, an unusual color indeed, even for a Targaryen. 

“That is your mother,” she told the babe, turning it toward Rhaella, careful to support her neck, “You must give her the strength to stay with us. She deserves to know the joy of you.” The Dowager Queen looked pale and weak in that large, wooden bed. Was that what I looked like? As I was recovering from birthing Rhaenys? When I almost died to give my son life? Daenerys kept a steady gaze on the woman in the bed, with her large, unworldly eyes that contained an ocean of beauty. 

Elia wished that she could have been able to say that the visit with Princess Daenerys woke the queen from her slumber, that it breathed a new life into that room of death. But that is what happens in songs and poems. Reality is different and harsher. After an hour of mindless chatter, where the Dornishwoman told her good-mother of all the antics her son and grandchild got up to. Of how Balerion was growing ever fatter, but somehow also kinder toward strangers and how the cat had not bitten Rhaegar for quite some time now. Although it stilled hissed at the king on the occasion. 

“They miss you, though,” she told her good-mother, placing a warm hand atop Rhaella’s cold and clammy one. “You must come back to us. It is not your time. You of all, deserve your soft and sweet ending, one filled with light and warmth. You have been so good and it is your right, damn anyone who says otherwise.” 

After that, she kissed her good-mother’s temple and departed the bedward. Arthur stood guard outside, being chosen to accompany her for the better part of the day. 

“How is she?” he asked quietly as they were moving to the nursery, where Daenerys was to be fed. Elia turned to look at the silver-haired man, similar to her husband, yet so awfully different. He belongs in the depictions of the Valyrian Gods, perhaps he was one in an earlier life. 

“The same, I fear,” Elia sighed, looking at him with tired, brown eyes. She did not sleep much these days, always strangely afraid that she would wake up and be told of Rhaella’s passing. “I don’t want to lose hope but I am losing it, nonetheless.” For a second it seemed as if the knight was going to put an arm on her shoulder, perhaps stroke her cheek comfortingly, yet he seemed to decide against it. At least he respects our boundaries, that we must not fan, that which can grow to be a raging fire.

Part of her would always love him, as part of her would always love Rhaegar but time does not always heal wounds. It can close them, protecting them from festering but the scar will always remain there. Reminding you of what occurred. The girl she was loved Arthur Dayne, her gallant knight, the Sword Of The Morning. But that girl is dead and all that remains is her ghost. How the queen longed to be so carefree again, though. When we were not a mess, filled with these complicated feelings and having to tend to these grievous matters that kill us. 

“She survived Aerys. She will survive this.” He sounded so certain.

“None of you ever helped her, no more than you helped me.” Violet eyes turned to her, haunting and beautiful. 

“We are sworn to protect the king, to obey and serve, to never falter and ask no questions.” Arthur’s voice was haunting, as if it was all a rehearsed speech-- made for the sole reason of allowing him to sleep at night. To try to convince himself that he did the right thing. 

“You were sworn to protect her as well,” Elia said haughtily, adjusting Daenerys in her arms. 

“Yes,” he agreed, “But not from him, we weren’t.” 

“And what if she had been me?” Elia asked, knowing that it was cruel of her to do so. “What if Rhaegar had forced himself on me in such a crazed manner? What would you do then, knight of the Kingsguard as you are?” 

“El-” the knight began but she shook her head softly. 

“-Answer me.” They were close to the nursery, but Arthur remained silent for a few moments. Queen Elia feared he would not reply at all, and what would hurt more? Him saying it, or him not saying it? 

“Nothing, knight of the Kingsguard as I am,” he allowed through a deep voice and she felt something twist inside of her. Well… now that is cleared up. She tried to muster up a smile for the babe in her arms but it came out as a grimace. Suddenly, she noticed that the knight had stopped and turned to look at him with glassy, brown eyes. 

“Why did you stop?” she asked, trying to sound indifferent. 

“And everything,” he continued with burning, violet eyes, “Friend of you, as I am. Loyal to you, as I am. I would kill him, no doubt. Even if it took my head, as well.” 

“How chivalrous,” she replied, casting her eyes downward to meet Daenerys’s violet orbs, “If only one of you had been so devoted to my good-mother.” 

“Yes,” the knight sighed, “If only.” Then, they resumed walking. “I failed you twice, already. I will not do it again.” 

“Even if I hurt you? Even if I step on your heart until all that remains, is a bloody mess of pain and anger and grief?” 

“Even if you do all of that.” 

“How I wish I could believe you, Arthur. How I genuinely do.” 

“You are the sun. I would die without your light, and I will settle for a few specks of your rays, however few and far in-between that they are.” 

“Beautiful words,” she murmured, looking at Daenerys and her violet eyes, “Poetic and lovely. But we are not poets. We are knights and queens and this is not like the songs.” He made no reply, for what could he say to that?

“Thank you, Ser,” Elia breathed before entering the nursery and saw her lost love nod, in the corner of her eyes. The chamber was dim but she made out Lyanna’s form, sitting in one of the chairs, rocking her son softly in her arms. The wolf-girl’s head turned to meet Elia’s and she greeted the fellow queen with a smile. 

“I have not  seen you for some time,” the Dornishwoman murmured, placing the Targaryen Princess in her cot. 

“I am trying,” the girl said so quietly. 

“You will have to try harder,” Queen Elia sighed, “This is no easy time for either of us but we still have our duties and must tend to them. There is little time for children’s games, I fear.” 

“I held court this morning,” the Northern girl said hopefully, as if she was a child begging for reassurance and praise. 

“It is a most dreadful affair,” Elia cracked a slight, wry smile. “How was it?” 

“They did not make japes to my face and I only heard two or three ladies giggling and snickering, so I suppose that I should count myself lucky.” 

“It will get easier as time goes on. Command with your presence, do not serve and they will bow before you.” 

“You always have the greatest advice to give,” the girl smiled.

“How is the Dowager Queen?” Lyanna asked, frowning softly. She looks more content, still frail and delicate but the dark shadows underneath her eyes are gone and she has begun filling out her gowns more. 

“The same,” Queen Elia said, so sadly, “I do not know what I will do, should she fail to recover.” 

“We must have faith in her strength and the Gods will allow her to stay amongst us,” the young queen said and Elia wished to laugh at the naivety of the young. 

“The Gods are cunts,” The Dornishwoman said bluntly. “If they were just, they would not have made Rhaegar commit his follies. If they were good, they would not force me to look upon my daughter and son and see them dead. If they were kind, they would not have made me delicate of health, unable to bear my husband a third child. And if they had the slightest shred of decency, they would not do this to Rhaella, a woman who has suffered so much-- All because she was mindful of her duty.” Lyanna looked  as if she was too nervous to speak, so she did not say anything at all, but remained quiet for a few moments. 

“She is a good woman,” the Northerner said, finally, “And a good mother. Fuck any God, be they old or new, if they decide to take her.” 

“That’s the spirit,” Elia smirked, “Turn your feelings into drive and you will thrive, do not doubt it.” 

“Thank you,” the girl murmured, looking down at the son in her arms, “Most women would plot to harm me or my child, but not you. Not you.” 

“Those are childish games of spite, cruelty and scorn. The past has been written, the ink is already dry. What can I do to change it? Why should I aspire to cause more strife and grief and pain? I want to rest,” she sighed, “I want to watch my children grow in harmony, for them to receive everything they want out of their life. Sometimes I feel as young as Daenerys and as old as the castle itself. There is no strength in me for such acts, nor do I harbor such a hatred in my heart.” 

“You are better than most, then.” Grey eyes met her brown ones and they looked so young and uncertain. Elia was reminded yet again, that this girl was barely a woman. 

“I’d say I aspire to be decent. You won’t find much of it in this court, I fear.” 

“I have you… It is enough.” Oh, child. Do you now? The Dornish queen sighed sadly. Lyanna looked happier, but as if something was gnawing on her. Perhaps things between Rhaegar and her have grown furthermore strained.

Elia sat down on the empty chair beside Lyanna, reaching out a tanned hand to stroke the pale prince’s cheek. 

“You’ve not visited Rhaella.” It was not a question but more of a statement. 

“No,” the girl confessed. “What good would my presence do there?” 

“You could bring Aemon. He is her grandchild and she loves him, just as well as Aegon and Rhaenys. She must needs be surrounded by people who love her. We were all starved of it, for so long. Love should be a right, but it is little more than a privilege for the few, in this world.”

“Alright,” the Northern queen said after mulling it over, “I shall.” 

“Good,” Elia smiled and it was sincere. 

***

“The progress will have to be delayed until further notice,” Rhaegar told her, not looking up from his papers. The king looked tired and weary, and behaved as if he was not truly there. The Dornishwoman had seen this behavior before, when he was obsessed with his prophecies, but she knew that this was not it, yet it did not fail to unnerve her. 

“I know.” She spoke the words ever so softly, “I put a halt on the arrangements after…” Elia swallowed loudly, unable to say the words. Of course it was to be put on hold, I would never leave, knowing that she may die. His indigo eyes snapped up and met hers, yet they seemed so dull and lifeless. 

“Was there anything else, Elia?” he sighed, “I fear I am not in the spirits for company, just now.” She’d barely been able to catch glimpses of her husband in the fortnight since Rhaella’s further decline. The servants said that he most often refused meals and refused company. I wonder if he scorns his young wife, as well. 

“No you haven’t been for weeks now and you cannot hide in these chambers forever, Rhaegar,” the Dornish queen told him, not unkindly. He is losing his hope. He had it in the beginning, we all had, but now…

“I am not hiding in these chambers,” her husband said through gritted teeth. 

“You haven’t been attending your small council meetings, you do not hold court nor mingle with your subjects. You are hiding,” she hissed back, the stress of everything simply spilling from her in waves, crashing down upon who was unlucky enough to be in the center of it.

“I am still ruling,” he snapped, running a hand through his hair. 

“The people will not understand that unless they see you. Or they will like as not begin calling you the hidden king.” 

“I do not care what the people think,” he spit, “Let them think.” 

“That is childish petulance and you are not a child, Rhaegar. You are a king, act like one! Your mother is ill, and we are all hurting but it does not absolve us of our duties!” The king rose, his face flushed with anger. “I cannot even talk to you when you are like this!” she flailed her arms in incredulance. 

“And what would you have me do? How would you have me act? As if nothing is wrong?” he shouted in his deep voice, causing her to wince. “My mother is dying!” 

“So is my brother!” she spit, “Slowly, but he is dying nonetheless and suffering. What can we do? I have children, I cannot grieve for the rest of my life. We must accept the things we cannot change and allow it to give us the strength to move forward.” Rhaegar eyed her wildly, twenty flares inside those indigo eyes. 

“He is dead,” Rhaegar said angrily, his words almost a growl as he banged his fist against the wooden table, causing an empty goblet to fall onto the carpeted floors, “But he is killing her. He is still hurting her.” Both of them knew who he was speaking of, they needn’t have named him to understand the hopelessness of the king’s words. 

“Yes,” Elia agreed weakly, for what else could she do? 

“I wish to be alone now,” he spoke, eyeing her sharply. That husband of hers did not look like a king in that moment, he simply looked like a boy who wanted his mother, one who yearned for the comfort of a parent. All of ours are dead. His eyes were brimming with unshed tears and he was biting his lip, most like to stop himself from weeping or sobbing.

“Rhae-” she began but he stopped her. 

“-Leave,” he said and retreated into his chambers, leaving a dumbfounded Elia in the sitting room. 

“Fuck,” she muttered, feeling an overwhelming urge to weep wash over her like the tide. A few tears trickled down her cheeks and she prayed for this nightmare to end, for Rhaella to recover and things to return to whatever semblance of normal that they’d been previously. After a few moments to herself, she departed her husband’s chambers for her own. Elia could not bring herself to care whether her cheeks were stained with tears or not, for her heart was already weeping, what were eyes to that? Eyes can stop leaking, but it is much harder to will your heart to cease bleeding. 

The Dornish queen was met by Ser Jaime standing guard outside her chambers and he eyed her strangely with those emerald eyes, yet refrained from speaking anything other than a courtesy. It is most like because Arthur is here. Not minding that, she thanked both men and entered her chambers, not meeting any of their eyes. Once she was safely inside, she headed for her bedchamber and laid down, not bothering to remove her gown. 

Painful tears burned behind her eyelids and a painful sob was lodged in her throat. Everything is just so wrong, it turned out so wrong. It was not supposed to be like this . In the end, she fell asleep, exhausted and weary of the days to come. Live, live, live, live, was repeated as a mantra in her head. As if thinking the words might make them come true. 

When she woke again, it was early morning, the sun had barely risen in the sky and the castle was quiet. Elia rejoiced in this, there were no distractions or any reactions. Silence was the quiet deep she wished that she could keep. For silence just is, and to be is to be. Her handmaids would arrive later on to dress her, but the Dornish queen managed that just as well. I am not a child, why I need to be dressed by servants and handmaids, is beyond me. 

That day, she decided to don a simple dress of red cotton, adorned by embroidered flowers along the sides and sleeves. To accompany it, she chose a golden necklace with amethysts enameled into it. Rhaella gifted this to me after the birth of Rhaenys. The thought of her good-mother darkened her already dark spirits. The Dornishwoman did not know what she would do, were Rhaella to pass. She is my guiding star, what would life be without her? What could life be without her in it? 

Ser Jaime and Arthur were still there, guarding her door. 

“Sers,” Elia greeted kindly and was met by two soft smiles. “I wish to take a stroll in the yards, Ser Jaime, would you be so kind as to accompany me?” The man nodded, looking to his liege for reassurance and Arthur gave it. 

“I will be here until you return, My Queen,” her lost love murmured and Elia nodded, beginning to walk. I want to get out of here. The air inside the keep was suffocating for some reason, she just wanted to soar and be free, even if only for a few moments. 

Once outside, Elia smiled at the crisp and slightly cool wind of dawn. King’s Landing is a sty of a city and it stinks worse than any other, but it is not without its charms. They walked for a few moments in silence, until her friend spoke. 

“Are you well, My Queen?” Elia turned to him with liquid brown eyes and half-a-smile. 

“We are not in court, Jaime. There is no one around but us. You may call me Elia, it does not make me feel so… inhuman.” The golden-haired man returned her smile and cleared his throat, yet the concern remained, swivelling in those orbs of emerald. 

“Are you well, Elia?” he repeated and she sighed, leaning down to smell the roses. 

“No,” she admitted, “But who truly is?” she rose again. 

“I fear you are overexerting yourself,” he whispered, as if his worries were crawling off of him, all at once. “You’re always with the children, then you are in council meetings, then you hold court and you mingle with the people. It is not for me to judge, I am bound to serve but where are the other queen and king to share your burdens?” His last sentence was barely more than the swaying of the wind.

I would not have heard it, would he not have stood so close. The Dornishwoman was aware that Ser Jaime knew that it was treason to question the other queen, especially the king-- which was why he spoke the treasonous words so quietly. He is young, he will learn to guard his tongue better, but he trusts me. And somehow, that lightened her heart, the slightest of bits. 

“I will do my duty without qualms, that was the price that the realm demanded when I accepted that pretty crown atop my head. Just like you did, when you accepted that cloak. It is not easy but what other choice do I have? I will not leave the realm a mess for my children. It is hard for all of us and we are mourning what we have not yet lost. Rhaegar continues his duties to himself and the wolf-girl has begun doing her part as well. I wish it could be more, I do-- but one must tread carefully and sometimes we have to let things run their course. Once my good-mother recovers, and she must,” Elia paused tearfully, trying to believe her words, willing them into existence, “Then things will change for the better and I will give Rhaegar a good clout in the ear for behaving like a child, but then again; he never got to be one. His mother was all he had, so unlike me and Lyanna. Just like you had your sister and Tyrion, even though you lost your mother and with her; the shreds of a father.” 

Ser Jaime listened to her words in a soft silence and she thought she might have seen tears brimming in his eyes, at the mention of his family; but it was gone as quickly as it came. 

“I just…” he began, swallowing loudly and seeming slightly nervous, “I want you to be well. You are too good for this wretched world, so dutiful, even though you’ve been wronged so many times-- By the very ones who were supposed to love and protect you. Even a man such as me does not deserve your friendship.” The Dornish queen turned her eyes upon his green ones and wished to take his hand comfortingly, but even though no one was out, she could not truly risk it. 

“No one is without sin, Jaime, least of all I. Your friendship honors me and I do not care for what you were. It is what you are that I see.” 

“And what do you see?” he asked, sounding like a little boy in a man’s body, as if he had no right to be cared for. There is something so hopeless about this. 

“I see a good man with a kind heart-- even though you do not recognise it yourself. “ Ser Jaime smiled at that but it did not look sincere. 

“You are too gracious and compassionate, Elia, even to people who don’t deserve it.” 

“It is not for you to decide whether you deserve it or not. That right is entirely mine,” she winked and he chuckled lightly. 

They kept on walking around the mud-spattered courtyard, from last night’s rain and the air was felt with a sweetness from the morning dew. 

“What do you think of travelling to Dorne?” she asked him, her words like honey. Jaime shrugged but it turned into a slight smile. 

“I am not looking forward to suffering the sweltering heat in this armor, but I’ve always liked to go there. When I was a child, I would beg my father and mother to travel to the Water Gardens. My mother said that we would but then…. Then she died.” 

“My mother always spoke kindly of yours. She said that Joanna was a good woman, with a quick wit and a gentle heart.” 

“Mine spoke highly of yours as well, I recall her saying that no one shone as bright as Loreza Martell but I think that she was wrong. There is another.” That made the Dornishwoman intrigued.

“Oh, who?” 

“You,” he said, ever so softly, “You do and I don’t know how there can be people who cannot see that. What are their eyes good for, if they still remain blind?” 

“You have the tongue of a poet, Jaime,” she smiled, “Perhaps you should be one. You make my dull colors seem somewhat vibrant.” 

“They are vibrant, and you cannot change my opinion,” he stuck his tongue out teasingly and it caused her to giggle. 

“You are one strange lion, Jaime, I will give you that.” That earned her a cheeky grin. 

“Mayhaps I am, Your Grace, but would you have me any other way?” 

“No, good Ser, I do not think I would,” she beamed. 

After that, she broke her fast with the children and as per usual, they went to visit the Queen-mother. Rhaella had still not woken and there was no change in her behavior or status. Elia told the children to keep their hope, knowing that it would warm them at night. ‘Rhaella is strong ’ she’d told them, ‘She’ll persevere.’ 

Somehow it felt like empty promises. 

The kind one makes when avoiding the truth. 

Because above all; truth hurts. 

But lies can hurt more. 

***

The routine of Elia’s kept going steady for a few more days and she did see Lyanna in court once or twice, which made her feel slightly hopeful and the Northern queen helped share Elia’s duties, unburdening the Dornishwoman slightly. However, she saw nothing of Rhaegar, except once when he’d visited the nursery briefly. It did make her slightly wroth that he did not see the children more. They need him. Especially Viserys and Rhaenys. 

Yet one night, she heard a frantic knock at her door. Elia was sitting in her armchair before the fire, reading a volume of Septon Barth’s. She frowned, made a note of how far along she’d gotten and rose to open the door. 

“Lyanna?” Elia began unsurely as the young woman walked in, distress apparent on her face. 

“I don’t know,” she began, “Whatever I do, he will not leave his chambers, he has not left for days, nor has he eaten anything.” The girl was close to tears and she looked disheveled as well, as if she’d been tearing at her hair, tossing and turning and weeping. “What do I do?” the girl asked and Elia thought of how young she was. Seven-and-ten. Eight years has passed I was that young and I did not boast any children, either. Hells, I was not even wed. 

“What are you speaking of”? Elia questioned her, “Sit down, take a deep breath and tell your tale,” she bid Lyanna Stark, pointing to the armchair. Perhaps I should give her a cup of Arbor Gold, to calm her nerves. After Lyanna sat down, the Dornishwoman quickly poured a cup of wine and handed it to her. 

“Thank you,” Lyanna murmured with clear, grey eyes. 

“Now what has you so worried? Is Rhaegar not leaving his chambers?” 

“He won’t even leave his bedchamber. He’s locked the door and I’ve tried everything, but he just shuts me out. Ser Arthur scolded him once but all Rhaegar did was tell him that he wished to be left alone.” Fucking hells, Rhaegar. “It frightens me, Elia. I’ve never seen him like this,” the girl whispered, “It’s as if he is not even there.” I have seen him like this but never to this extent. Oh, Rhaegar what are you doing? 

“If he will not answer to you or his dearest friend, then what can I do?” she asked the young woman, not unkindly. 

“He listens to you,” the wolf-girl began, “He is different with you, he never acts that way with me. It’s like he worships you.” Elia scoffed. 

“Girl, if he worshipped me, you would not be here today but here we are. Rhaegar is a peculiar man and he’s never worshipped anything but those prophecies of his.” 

“Please,” Lyanna whimpered, “He will listen to you. I know he will.” He did not a few days past, why would he now? “If we lose him now, I fear we’ll never get him back.” There was raw desperation in the young woman’s voice. Young love leaves everyone bleeding. 

“Fine,” Elia sighed, annoyed yet somehow understanding of her husband’s behavior. Rhaella was all he had when Aerys delved further into his insanity. She was the one who loved and cared for him. The only Targaryen who is older than him, except for Maester Aemon, who is thousands of leagues away. His entire family is gone, except for his brother, sister and children. Lyanna has her brothers, I have my brothers but Viserys is too young to be of an immediate comfort to Rhaegar. He was sheltered from the worst of Aerys, Rhaegar had to see it all. “Let us depart and force our incessant husband out of his lair.” Lyanna nodded and stood up, but as she began walking, she felt two hands grasp her arm and the girl was almost leaning on her. Elia would’ve snorted in amusement, if she had not been so worried, for the sight must’ve been comical-- as Lyanna was taller than the Dornishwoman by a few solid inches. I do not have the strength or cruelty to push her away. 

When they arrived, Elia immediately entered and bade Lyanna to remain in the sitting room. 

“It won’t be pretty,” she told the young dark brown-haired girl with a sigh as she went into the hall, to reach the barred bedchamber. The Dornishwoman had no patience left for the evening, so she knocked harshly to no avail. 

“Rhaegar,” she hissed, “Open the fucking door and quit these incessant games.” He made no reply from beyond the wooden door, nor were any movements heard. Angrily, she pounded harder but it did nothing. He refused to open it. 

It seems as if I will have to outsmart him, then. Walking back to the sitting room with her skirts swirling vividly, she addressed Lyanna. 

“Bid Ser Gerold to enter.” The woman nodded and soon enough, they were joined by the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. 

“What may I do for you, Your Graces,” he asked with a bow. 

“Give me the keys,” she ordered him bluntly, with no room for arguments. 

“What keys?” the man asked and the Dornishwoman rolled her eyes. 

“I know you have them, Ser Gerold and my patience is running this thin,” she seethed, pausing to show her thumb and index finger almost touching, but for a thin slit of air between them. “So fetch them. That is an order from your queen.” The Lord Commander seemed torn on what to do, wondering if he should obey the king he had not seen for days, or the angry queen in front of him. “Did I stutter, Ser Gerold? You followed my husband’s orders when he was Crown-prince so dutifully, now follow mine because I am no longer a princess!” After a few silent moments, he nodded stiffly and receded, to gather the keys that she knew that he had. It is tiresome, being one of the only ones with a shred of common sense in this castle, she thought with wry amusement. 

As they waited for Ser Gerold to return, Elia and Lyanna sat in a thoughtful silence. The waves of fear and confusion radiating off of the wolf girl were palpable, so vivid that the Dornishwoman could almost touch them. 

“It will be alright,” The Dornish queen broke the silence gently, as if she was soothing one of her own children. “You are young. It may feel as if your world is ending. It is not.” Grey eyes met hers and they looked so very guile and vulnerable. Nonetheless, she nodded. 

The Lord Commander made his entrance just then, carrying a circlet with at least two dozen keys on it. He picked one out and gave it to Elia who nodded. 

“Fetch whatever is available from the kitchens and have a tub brought and filled. I have a feeling he will wish to bathe.” Let us hope the burden does not fall on me. Lyanna rose in action, most likely going to the kitchens and Ser Gerold nodded and departed, joining the Northern queen. Now comes the confrontation, why must it always be I? She wondered dryly. 

With deft fingers, she unlocked the door and took a deep breath to calm her nerves. It was completely dark, but for the fire burning in the hearth, giving the room an ominous feeling. Rhaegar was shirtless, sitting on the furs and looking into the fire. She saw the outline of his pale back and his matted, silver-gold hair. 

“Rhaegar,” she called but he did not reply, it was as if he had not heard her in the first place. “Rhaegar,” she called again, louder and more impatient than earlier. 

Indigo eyes turned to her but it was not her husband she saw. It was not her husband. She dropped the key to the floor, where it clinked loudly but the Dornishwoman barely heard it. She could almost smell the roasting flesh, the screaming men, the threats and insults. Her breathing quickened and her heart raged wildly against her chest. Stop, he is dead, she told herself but it was as if her body still thought Aerys Targaryen lived. 

Elia tried to steady herself with a hand to her chest but her eyes would not leave his burning indigo that seemed more purple now, than they’d ever been. 

“I do not want company, I told you. I told all of you!” Thank the Gods, she thought because his voice was still the same, albeit slightly raspier. Aerys’s was never more than a growl full of contempt and disdain. His eyes looked wild and a beard had begun growing, covering his cheek and chin in strands of silver-gold, darker than his hair. Somehow, Elia felt all her fear turn into anger. 

She moved to him purposefully. 

“Get up,” she hissed, “Get the fuck up now!” He would not budge so she pushed him with her hands on his back, urging him to stand. When he refused, she felt hot tears trickle down her cheeks, full of both fear and anger. So, she slapped him hard across the cheeks, just like his mother had, so many moons ago. The crack echoed like the crackling fire in the hearth and for a moment, she really thought that perhaps Aerys was not dead after all. Jaime killed him, Jaime killed him, Jaime killed him, breathe, she told herself. Breathe. This is Rhaegar, he plays on his harp and sings sad songs. 

Rhaegar grabbed her wrist harshly, grasping it so tightly that it was beginning to hurt, feeling as if her wrist was bending. He is not himself, he is not himself. 

“Snap out of it!” she begged him, no screamed at him. “You are hurting me,” she wrenched her hand out of his and was crying now, rubbing her wrist with her other hand. With her distress and weeping, something seemed to click within him and his eyes met hers, but they were not crazed and devoid of humanity any longer. Perhaps the king saw Rhaella in his wife, how she would beg and plead for her husband to stop. He never did stop, though. 

Her husband looked horrified with himself and stood, taking several paces away from her as he watched her steady influx of tears. He looked at his hands and then back at his wife, indigo eyes shining like blue-purple crystals in the fire. 

“Oh fuck, Elia,” he croaked weakly as he saw the way she clutched her wrist, the frightened look in her eyes. Rhaegar moved toward her, perhaps intending to soothe her, but her body had a mind of its own, backing away instantaneously, shaking as the tears refused to take their leave of her. The Dornishwoman closed her eyes and balled her hands into little fists at her side, breathing loudly and trying to forget the screams echoing in her head. 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I am so sorry, Elia,” he begged her and she jerked, wincing as warm arms took hold of her gently and pulled her to his chest. The Dornishwoman was still shaking as he hushed her, his hand on the back of her head, holding as if she were his lifeline. 

“I’m so sorry,” he kept repeating tearfully, as if he had no other words to say it. His wife remained limp in his grasp, still as a statue of marble. It is only Rhaegar, she told herself. Aerys is dead, Aerys is dead. It is only Rhaegar, it is only Rhaegar. He would not hurt you, he would not hurt you. Not in that way.  

After a few more moments in his desperate embrace, her husband disembarked and they simply stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity. Elia stopped crying somewhere in the midst and her body calmed, but she was still wary. He looks so haunted, she noted, and he has lost weight. The king looked thinner, although he was still surpassingly light and strong, the muscles on his stomach heaving up and down as both wrestled with the ghost of their past-- The shadow between them. 

“I look like him,” Rhaegar began brokenly, his eyes defeated. “I am him,” he continued, tears running down his cheeks. Elia knew that it was his worst nightmare to be like his father or to remind people of Aerys Targaryen. 

“You are not,” she replied fiercely. He is not. He is not his father, he could never be. He is not, he is not, he is not. 

“I frighten you. I hurt you. I don’t want to frighten or hurt you, please believe me, please,” he begged. 

“Stop this madness, then,” she told him, putting a hand on his heart. “You are Rhaegar Targaryen. I know, do you?” 

“I want my mother, I do not want to look like him. I just want things to go back to the way they were a few moons ago. We were content, on the way to being…” her husband faltered.

“We can shave your beard. You needn’t share that with him and you take after your mother more,” she told him warily. 

“Elia,” she heard a voice call from behind her. With a final steady gaze at her husband, she turned around to be met by the she-wolf of Winterfell. The young woman held a tray of fruits and bread. 

“Please put it on the table,” the Dornishwoman beckoned her sister-wife and Lyanna abided. For a moment, the wolf-girl looked at her husband and something akin to hurt was swirling in those grey eyes, Rhaegar simply looked down, unable to meet the woman’s eyes. Softly, Elia of Dorne padded over to the young woman and patted her arm. 

“Perhaps you should go to sleep, dove. I do not think he is ready to face you, or anyone for that matter.” 

“He faced you,” she whispered and looked sad. We both share that common ghost, it is easier when someone understands. 

“I know Rhaegar in a different way. There is a ghost between us, cruel and mad and he takes no prisoners. Be grateful that you are spared of that grief and knowledge.” She saw Aerys once and never personally. We had to live with him, Lyanna is to count herself fortunate that she needn’t ever have witnessed that horror. 

“Ser Gerold bade the servants to place the tub in the bathing room. It should be filled by now, I will retire to my own chambers, then.” Lyanna did not meet Elia’s eyes and moved to leave, before turning back and placing a docile kiss on her sister-wife’s cheek. 

“Thank you.”

“Sleep well, Lyanna.” 

“What a mess you keep making of things, Rhaegar,” the Dornishwoman sighed, “Now come along.” He obeyed and followed her into the bathing room where the tub of porcelain ivory was placed. She could see the steam rising off of the fragrant water. 

“In,” she beckoned him, “I will ask Ser Gerold to fetch a blade, so I can shave that for you.” Mutely, Rhaegar nodded and she went to ask the Lord Commander for a shaving blade. The Bull was quick and returned mere moments after with the foam, little towel and blade required. 

“Do you need assistance with that, My Queen?” he asked but she shook her head. 

“I have two brothers, I grew up helping them shave.” With that said, she returned to the bathing room which smelled of flowers and something else that she could not quite place. 

Her husband was in the water, staring at the pale marble walls, adorned with gold. Knowing that she would not be able to get a good angle, if she was not directly in front of him, she stripped out of her gown and placed the foam, little towel and blade on the little stool that they’d left beside the tub, where soaps also laid, of different kinds. Rhaegar seemed slightly shocked when she entered the tub, but made no comment on it. Deftly, Elia moved close, straddling him and began coating his cheeks, neck, upper lip and chin with the foam and grabbing the blade. 

“Don’t worry,” she said absentmindedly as she tilted his face upward and began dragging the blade across his neck, “I will not kill you just yet.” That wry comment garnered the slightest hint of a smile from her husband. 

The Dornishwoman worked in an efficient silence, making sure that she got every nook and cranny, it was as much for Rhaegar as it was for herself. I could not stand looking at him and seeing his father like that again. 

“Do not ever grow a beard,” she whispered, looking straight into his eyes of both blue and purple. “Promise me.” 

“I will not.” 

“Good.” 

“Let’s wash your hair,” she murmured, grabbing the vial of lavender soap and pouring it into her hands. His hands were on her waist, holding her steady as she distributed the liquid evenly into his hair, marvelling at how it sparkled like spun silver and gold. 

“You have Rhaella’s hair,” Elia mumbled, feeling the silky tips grace her fingers. 

“Thank you,” he replied because both of them knew what she was insinuating. Aerys’s hair was more gold than it was silver. 

The Dornishwoman bade him to close his eyes as she rinsed his hair with the cup, his hair sticking to his face in an ethereal manner. A Valyrian God, through and through, she mused, but a broken one, a fallen one. They surely must’ve had one of those. After that, she washed his body and her own. The maids will have to do my hair, it takes an awful long time for it to dry properly and I have no wish to go to bed wet. 

When that was done, she moved to rise but her husband seemed reluctant, keeping his grip firm but gentle on her waist. 

“Can you just lay here with me, for a while? We can forget everything and just be. For a few moments, no matter if it is a lie.” Elia indulged him. I just want him to get better, for the Gods to let Rhaella live and our family heal. It is time. With that said, Rhaegar turned her around and held her, kissing the top of her head as it lay in the crook of his neck. 

“This is the last time I ever want to see you like this, Rhaegar,” she told him sternly. “You must come to the council meetings and show yourself. Show everyone who is king, or they will begin whispering that the hand is, just like they did your father.” 

“They were correct that time, though,” he spoke, ever quietly. 

“Do not let them be, this time.” 

“Okay,” he whispered. 

“I will join you, Lyanna will join you. There is support to be found, you must only reach for it. We are all hurting, your mother is my family and I love her too. This is not easy but we must believe that things will be alright.”

She felt Rhaegar nod and he was tracing little circles with the pads of his thumbs on the sides of her hips. A sudden tiredness enveloped her, even though it felt soothing to be in the bath. 

“I think it’s time to let go,” she told him, “We both need sleep and tomorrow the small council convenes. I might actually slay you, would I not find you there.” 

“I will be there,” he promised, kissing her cheek, resting the side of his face against hers. 

“And visit your mother. Visit Daenerys, your brother and your children. Speak to them, they miss you gravely.” 

“I promise.” Rhaegar paused for a few moments. “I am sorry that I hurt you. I can-” she shushed him. 

“I am fine now. Do not let it happen again or you will find yourself short of a hand, heart… or a cock, depending on my mood for that day.” It was not a time to make japes, but there needed to be some light in their dark and gloomy situation. 

“I would not stop you.” Those words made her sad, in some queer way. He hates himself, or something of the sort, she realised. She knew that perhaps he did deserve the self-loathing but still… it did not bring her the satisfaction that it would for many. 

With that, she rose and wrapped one of the towels around her, fetching one for Rhaegar as well. He was not far behind, Elia only needed to turn around in order to give it to him. Mutely, her husband accepted it and quickly ran it over his chest and shoulders, before enclosing it around his hips. 

“Your gown,” the king murmured, bending down to pick it up from where she’d discarded it. 

“Thank you,” Elia said evenly, accepting the piece of cloth from his hands. 

Next, they headed into his bedchamber, where Elia quickly dried herself and donned the dress. At least my hair is not wet, except for the ends but that will dry soon enough. Rhaegar dried and dressed as well, in the new tunic and pants of linen that she had picked out for him. Whilst he was doing that, she put more wood in the fire, delighting in how the flames seemed to lick at her skin. The fire was lulling, it almost set her to sleep in some way.  

As the Dornishwoman watched the flames dance high and low, burning orange and yellow, she felt arms wrap around her and something about it made her heart so heavy. I want to let go and not bother with anything, but I cannot. I can’t collapse into his arms because he feels no more control of his body, than I do my own. And what language can we share but grief? For some reason, Rhaegar had always been the epitome of strength to her, a man who knew it all-- almost a God. But he does not and there are secrets and feelings that he keeps only for himself, until they eat away at him from inside and force him to crumble. 

“You cannot close yourself off until all that remains is a shell of who you are,” Elia mumbled, touching the arms he had around her. “It is nothing but lethal and it may seem to you as if it’s the right thing-- as if you are protecting us. But you are not, Rhaegar. We hurt as much as you and no man thrives by isolating themselves in events such as these.” 

“I lose hope each day that passes,” her husband whispered, “And she was all I had. My father wasn’t always mad, but she was there with me, suffered it with me and it makes me so mad,” his voice cracked, “That he is killing her from beyond the grave. It is no secret how my sister came to be and sometimes… I wish I had been the one to kill him. For hurting her like that.” 

“I understand,” Elia replied softly, because she did. To watch your mother suffer like that and be powerless to stop it… she could not even imagine. Kinslaying and Kingslaying are the worst sins one can commit, the septons are fond of saying, but who stops the men from hurting their wives? Who stops kin from hurting kin? Why is it only when someone dies, that the damned Gods begin to care? 

“I can’t lose her, Elia. No more than I could stomach losing you.” Or Lyanna, a bitter voice in her head spit, spitefully. “She always guided me back home.” 

“We will not lose her, Rhaegar.” All the Dornish queen could hope was for the words to be the truth. 

“You must also convene with your young wolf, more often,” Elia muttered quietly, perhaps as a way of changing the subject from death to a lighter one. “Do not forget that you wed and brought her here, into a pit of vipers and strange people who are not what they seem. She is lonely and you are all she has. If she is to thrive, then you must guide her, do not neglect her. Bitterness and anger grows from such, when the hurt runs its course. We do not need another Blackfyre on our hands.” 

“Lyanna would nev-” he began but Elia shushed him. 

“-No, not now. But anger, hurt and bitterness does queer things to people and it changes them. Do not let it change her.” 

“Sometimes I wonder if it was worth it,” Rhaegar relied vulnerably, “All the hurt we caused, the strife and grief. It tore Westeros apart and left far too many unquiet ghosts. She warned of it, Jenny warned me.” Jenny? Who does he mean? 

“It was not worth it, but you did it nonetheless and you must needs live with the consequences.” Rhaegar sighed sadly but Elia felled compelled to ask, “Jenny?” 

“A tale for another time.”

Suddenly, his arms were no longer around her and she turned to face him. There was a soft look in his eyes, the kind that never existed for Aerys. Rhaegar the silver prince, the one who plays so sadly on his harp. That was the person he was now, not a king, not a monster or a betrayer. He was the Rhaegar she thought had belonged to her, so long ago on Dragonstone. 

“You are tired and I kept you too long,” he murmured, “I will allow you the rest you need now.” 

“I will wake you bright and early for that small council meeting,” she smiled slightly and he returned it but there was something broken about  it. 

“I would never expect less from you.” With that said, he stroked her cheek and leaned down to kiss her cheek, his large hand at the small of her back. Rhaegar’s lips ended up touching the side of her lips and her mouth parted the slightest of bits. Her husband peered at her through his dark lashes that glimmered with gold in the dim light of the chamber. His eyes burned bright and she could not quite name the color, it was purple and blue and purple and blue-- such a vivid combination that made everyone who gazed into them breathless. All the flares and intricacies made her awestruck. Our children have his eyes and what greater glory could there be? To look like half a God. 

His gaze lingered on her eyes for a few moments, as time stood still and then he leaned down to place a soft, chaste kiss on her lips, gently trailing down her chin before releasing her. The air between them had been palpable, the action felt so intimate for some strange reason, when it really hadn’t been. 

“Good eve, Rhaegar,” the Dornishwoman allowed, trying to remain indifferent. As if what occurred did not impact her. Her husband smiled softly, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear. 

“Good eve, Elia.” 

****

A week later,

When she was all alone in her chambers, preparing for another night of a restless, disturbed sleep;

The news came. 

Chapter Text

 

 

 


The fire was burning merrily in the hearth, basking Elia in warmth. The day had been exhausting and Rhaella had still not woken. It was difficult to maintain hope when the future seemed so dismal and futile. Even the children had begun to give up, with Viserys withdrawing himself to read and draw, barely ever speaking anything but the courtesies that were due of him. He seemed like a different boy entirely. One plagued by sadness in the way that Rhaegar never was. Melancholy was a part of her husband, she refused for it to be the same with Viserys. He is a happy boy, it is tragedy that plagues him but he was not born in it, nor haunted by its ghosts. Even Rhaenys seemed withdrawn is some sort of way, so unlike the happy and carefree young girl that she was. 

Only the youngest seemed to be spared of the gloomy nature of their elders. Daenerys was a happy babe, beautiful and gentle, loving the act of being held and cuddled. However, she seemed to be most content with her youngest brother, and whenever she was placed next to Aegon in his cot. Those times that Viserys would spend time with his sister were a magic of their own. The Dornish queen had witnessed it once. 

“You look like mother,” Viserys told the child in his arms, reaching a tender finger out to stroke the soft tufts of silver-gold hair that adorned Daenerys’s head. Elia was watching the scene, leaning against the frame of the door. It was almost as if the prince was unaware of her presence, even though they had entered together. “But she is not here for you to see it.” 

The girl in his arms made no reply except that delightful gurgling sound that babes often make. The young prince’s curtain of silver-gold hair acted as a veil between Daenerys and Elia, as he was craning his head down to look upon the child. 

“In truth, you are not so bad and I love you. But mother should be here and I love her too. This was not how it was meant to be,” Viserys whispered and sounded far too wise for his eight years. Far too learned in the matters of a weeping heart. 

The boy remained silent for a few moments, before stroking his sister’s cheek and sighing. 

“You are tired and rightfully so. I have taken far too much of your precious day that includes sleeping and eating and being doted upon.” There was almost a sort of wry humor to the prince’s words. “I will see you another day,” Prince Viserys finished and kissed the top of Daenerys’s head gently, holding her close to his chest for a short while, before placing her in one of the cots. 

Seven days had passed since that fateful day with Rhaegar and things had shaped up for the better. Lyanna was actively taking to her duties, trying to manage on her own and only turning to Elia for guidance when it was of utmost necessity. She wants to prove her worth to this court, she wishes to be seen as the woman she has been forced to become, instead of the frightened child that she was. However, the Dornishwoman knew that in order for that to happen; the wolf-girl had to die. Lady Lyanna the wild and willful girl will need to die alongside all those who perished in the war; in order for Queen Lyanna to take her place. A difficult thing, it truly is. Elia still remembered the princess she once was; the one who had never been to King’s Landing, who’d loved a knight instead of a prince and contented herself with that. 

Rhaegar seemed to have taken on the notion that if he worked hard enough and surrounded himself with duties, their children and his wives, that the darkness would somehow spare him. That if he kept busy enough, then the loneliness would not eat him alive as it had previously, since he would no longer be alone with just his thoughts to hold. For his sake, Elia hoped it did bring him a semblance of comfort and would give him the strength to persevere, should the worst come to be. He knows that he is a king but sometimes he forgets that he is also a man. 

Wrapping her blue robe tighter around her, she rose and stared into the flames. Some speak of seeing the future or the past in them, perhaps even the present -- yet Elia had only ever seen flames, glowing like tendrils of blue, orange, yellow and copper. Fire is beautiful, in its own way but also terribly destructive. What a power it has and what utter havoc it can wreak, if used wrongly. Targaryen had fought Targaryen during the Dance Of The Dragons and that in turn had marked the end of the inhuman power that the Targaryens had wielded, and they only continued to decline. 

What a world it must have been, when one could see a dragon in the sky and think nothing of it. Maybe the Targaryens never truly appreciated what they had, until it was gone. The Dornishwoman was aware that it must be true, for why else did they attempt to hatch them again, so very many times? Yet it never worked, not for the purest of Targaryens or the ones with diluted blood. Of course the line of truly pure Targaryens died out with Prince Daemon and his children, she wagered. His blood had been pure since Aegon the Conqueror’s along with his niece’s, except for that Arryn Princess Daella wed. 

Queen Elia did think that Rhaenyra should have been allowed to claim her birthright. It was that spoilt, white knight who whispered into her brother’s ear, if Septon Eustace’s claims are true, those and his mother. The Princess had the better claim and was raised to rule. Her brother was nothing but a fat drunkard who liked women as well as he liked his wine; free and flowing. Though the Princess’s children had been bastards and borne the surname Velaryon instead of Targaryen, but they were half-Valyrian on their mother’s side, to wed their great-uncle’s daughters. Oh, how their world would have been different, had Rhaenyra been allowed to claim her crown. Perhaps Dragons would even have lived this day. But that had not been the case, and what good does it do to dwell on matters that never came to be? 

The sound of the door to her chambers opening, disrupted the Dornishwoman from her thoughts. She wondered whom it may be, and why they were not announced. Yet all those questions were answered as she was met by the familiar silver-gold hair of her husband’s, However, he was smiling and for the first time since the day his sister was born, it looked to be true. 

“Rhaegar,” she greeted, standing up and noticing that his cheeks were flushed pleasantly as well. 

“Elia,” He replied smoothly, walking toward her and taking her in his arms, spinning around and laughing in relief. “She woke!” he exclaimed, “Maester Gerardys told me that she woke.” The Dornishwoman gasped and pulled away, to meet his sparkling, indigo eyes. 

“You speak true?” she asked, but the chided herself. Of course he does. 

“Yes,” he nodded, tears welling up in his eyes, “I do.” 

“Then what are we waiting for? Let us greet her,” Queen Elia grinned, feeling the heavy darkness lift from her chest. There is hope yet. For Viserys and Daenerys to have a mother, for Rhaenys, Aemon and Aegon to have a grandmother. Yet Rhaegar only smiled and stroked her cheek, showing his white teeth and infectious spirit. 

“I thought the same, but Maester Gerardys bid me to wait until the morn, where she will surely be stronger. He says that the fever has broken and she looks to be on the road to recovery, yet we must not overexert or overwhelm her. Small visits with few at a time.” 

“Yes, not all the children at once. Daenerys and Viserys will have to be first. Let us hope it mends your brother’s aching heart, he is too young to be in such pain.”

Elia felt strangely light, as if she was feeling the pleasant buzz after a few goblets of Arbor Gold. The flames of the fire touched Rhaegar’s face with their light and made him seem more God than man. 

“Yes. This is good news, Elia. She will live and we will be alright, I promise. I will take care of us, for I have put too many burdens on you when I acted more like a child than a man grown.”  I cannot argue with that. “Once my mother recovers truly, we will go on our progress, as I promised.” 

“Good,” she smiled and he simply gazed at her with a peculiar softness, dragging her toward him in a tender embrace, kissing the top of her head. 

“I could not be there for you, even when I tried and I know that I have wronged you far too much. It shames me, but shame will not erase it. Never would I presume to have your forgiveness for any of it, but know that there has always been love for you in my heart, and it will always be there.” Oh, Rhaegar, she thought sadly. A tenth perhaps, I do not doubt it but like the seasons change, our love has turned lukewarm. Or was it always like that from the start? She pondered. Princess Elia Martell, like many others had fallen in love with the melancholy silver-prince, the beautiful Rhaegar Targaryen, who was every inch a Valyrian God. Perhaps we were always suited better as companions who desired each other and were like-minded. 

She pulled back and gazed at him for a few moments. 

“You are not a monster, Rhaegar. I never said that you were but you were a foolish man who committed absurd acts that tore us all apart, from root to stem. And I hate you, for ever putting our children in danger, as you were chasing your shadows. For leaving us with your madman of a father, to be at his mercy.” Her husband looked serious, his hand remained on her waist, warm and comforting. “But still, you are the father of my beautiful children-- How did we make such good children?” she asked before waving it off, “And you are not a bad man. You did bad things, but are not your father and will never be. Understand that. Lay his ghost to rest, do not let him haunt you.” 

“My actions will haunt me for the rest of my life, Elia. And I will never forgive myself for it, so I do not expect yours.” 

“Such a tortured soul, you always were,” she murmured, stroking the side of his face. “Almost like a martyr and it ruined us.” He did not respond immediately, but only reached his hand out to cup the one she had on his cheek. Perhaps it was as a way of anchoring the moment, to keep it within his grasp for a few more minutes, in order to remind himself that he was not alone. It was always one of your biggest flaws; thinking that you were alone in your burdens, when so many of us shared them. Wanting to move away from the topic of grief and past faults-- for writhing in the past too much would leave no hope for the future, she of all knew that it would only make it hurt something fiercer, once you thought all the wounds had closed; she changed the subject. 

“This is a time to be happy, Rhaegar. Your mother is on the way to recovery, such a strong woman she is. I do not think Westeros has ever seen her like.” He opened his indigo eyes and peered at her through his dark lashes. 

“You come very close,” he mumbled and she was suddenly aware of his face, inches away from hers and his hand on the small of her back, dangerously low. The Dornishwoman found that her breath hitched in her throat and that she was not averse to it, quite the contrary; she wanted it. Oberyn’s words, so many moons ago rang clear in her mind, so when her husband’s lips touched hers, she found herself mimicking the movements, sighing softly against his mouth . 

A fire seemed to be burning within him as he kissed her, hands in her hair until he decided to lower her down onto the furs in front of the fires. Elia grabbed one of the laces to his tunic, dragging his face down to hers for their lips to meet once again, both breathing delicately. Rhaegar chuckled and smiled against her mouth, resulting in her biting down on his lower lip, earning a hiss, before he broke it, to unlace his white tunic. The Dornishwoman helped him pull it over his head, delighting in the way it tousled his hair. 

“You look like a God,” she groaned, “It is truly unfair.” 

Laughing, Rhaegar reached out an arm and she took it, sitting up. 

“If I am a God, then you are a Goddess. Such are the rules of the game,” he winked, pulling the robe down her shoulders, moving on to her pale shift, deliberately dragging each strap down slowly. 

“Patience is a virtue,” Rhaegar whispered, his lips on her neck, grazing the skin with the top of his teeth. 

“It was never ours,” she breathed and felt his smile on her skin, his pale hands on her shoulder and lower back. Taking the moment into use, Elia straddled the king and cupped his face, leaning down to kiss him harshly. Her husband groaned and hiked up her shift as he continued to move his lips on hers, breaking it only to pull the pale, silky fabric atop her head, unveiling the warm, beige skin below. 

For a moment, she felt conscious of her naked body. The Dornishwoman had borne two children and her body bore the marks, the white as well as the tanned and red ones. Though Elia remained slim, her stomach never truly flattened back to its original shape, and the lower part still had that incessant outward leaning, from the muscles stretching and not retracting to the way they were before. In my gowns and corsets, I am a queen. Naked, I am only human. Some would say the Dornish queen was too critical of herself, for no one can be perfect and childbirth had filled out her once delicate constitution, widening her hips and softening her previous harsh curves. As her husband could not boast the bearing of any children, he remained lean and hard and beautiful, like only the Valyrians could be. 

Perhaps sensing her sudden apprehension, Rhaegar leaned in all the while pressing her until she was flush against him. 

“You are fucking beautiful,” he whispered in her ear, leaving searing kisses as he moved down her neck to her shoulders. “You’ve always been.” Have I? She thought, almost sadly but this was no time for sadness. Instead of replying, she worked on unlacing his breeches. There’s too many fucking laces on everything.

It felt strange, at first-- After so long. It is almost like he is the prince I thought he was, and I; the princess of a different kingdom-- together on Dragonstone. Rhaegar still made those little noises, the barest hint of a groan in his sighs. 

“Gods,” Rhaegar exclaimed before cupping her face and kissing her lips as she moved but it was too sweet, too slow, too gentle. It was as if the king wished to savor their moment but his queen wanted something entirely different. It has been so long and I am not a young girl, filled with delusions of how love is soft and beautiful. The sweetest pleasure goes hand in hand with pain, we always agreed upon that. He was never shy about it before; so why now? 

“Fuck me like you mean it,” Elia breathed through feverish kisses and hands in his silvery, soft hair-- feeling the grip on her waist tighten. His lips trailed down her jaw to her neck, where he grazed the skin with his teeth. 

“So you wish to wake the dragon?” Her husband asked, his voice surprisingly even. 

“Enough with the dragons, Rhaegar, or I might make you bed it yourself,” the Dornishwoman almost laughed but it came out eerily like a whine and turned into a soft sound as he moved to bite the lobe of her ear.  

There was something so rousing about his hot breath against the side of her face and his steady hands, moving so deftly. I know that it is wrong, that some would call me weak for giving into his touches but what else do I have? He is my husband, and if the least I can get from him is a good fuck, then why should I deny it? Who is anyone to judge? Live my life and then, only then; may you pass your verdict.

Rhaegar withdrew suddenly and lowered her down, flat on her back onto the furs, smiling sinfully when he saw the slight frown that she boasted, which then turned into a raised eyebrow. 

“Take off your breeches, you look like the court fool with them barely above your thighs.” Her husband’s eyes were sparkling with mirth and he gave her an amused smile but did as she bid. Some sort of magic had taken hold of them both, relieving them of the tension, unwanted feelings of doom and general melancholy that called their minds home. 

“I’ve missed this,” he breathed as his lips latched on to her throat and his large hands were cupping the sides of her face as he kissed down her stomach, to her thighs. Try not being fucked properly for two years, it is you who boasts two wives, I do not have another husband. Her pride and anger had prevented her from giving into his tragic eyes and wounded heart, but a year had almost passed since his return and however much she tried; she could not hate them. All I want is to rebuild our lives, to make the realm prosper for my children. That means Rhaegar, Lyanna and I have to stand united, for apart we will only be torn to pieces. It does not mean true acceptance, nor forgiveness. It means that I am wise enough to not cause my children an undue headache, once the crowns inevitably passes to their heads.

Elia was weary of hate and anger and scorn and pity. None of it will change what he did, for the past is already written and the ink is dry. But the future remained malleable and if she schemed and plotted; what good would it make? What would it achieve? Justice, vengeance? She was a queen. It would most certainly feel pleasant for a fleeting moment, yet it can only end in Fire And Blood, and I have no more wishes for war. Her husband would not steal their children’s birthrights, he had set his prophecies to rest (or so she hoped, for otherwise she might actually kill him). Lyanna posed as no threat and if she suddenly did; then the Dornishwoman would do whatever secured her children best, be it taking lessons in the art of poisoning with Oberyn, or via some other way. I am not above dirtying my hands, to secure my own blood. People may mistake my kindness for weakness, but I am still a viper of Dorne and it will sting when I make them bleed.

Did she still love him? Love is a concept for mummers and singers. We are kings and queens, it has no part in our duties. When she looked at him… sometimes, if only for a fleeting moment, the Dornish queen saw the prince he had been. Soft spoken Rhaegar, with the gentle eyes and tender hands, who would wipe my tears away when it all became too much. The rebellion left them both different. It seemed like a fire had rebirthed the Dornishwoman, burned away at her weaknesses and the princess she had once been; in order to become the Queen of Westeros.

 Her heart still bore love for him, most of all cherishing the past being that he’d been, but by no means enough for another betrayal. We could live as equals, side by side-- yet we will only be companions who crave each other. Our marriage may have been a failure; but who can truly call theirs, a success? I will rule alongside him, and perhaps the wolf-girl, if she chooses to take a more active part in governing the realm-- but he will not dull me. She would not allow for him to. Rhaenys will not gaze upon me and think that she must be a meek and complacent queen, only good for looking beautiful next to her king. My daughter is just as much a dragon as her brother, and she is the elder, curse the one who would think to stomp upon her. They will rule together, there is no other way. None at all and we must set the example. Damn Westeros, it is time for change. 

“How endearing, you’re making me blush, My King,” Elia replied dryly and gasped when she felt him bite the inside of her thigh, blowing cool air on it when she yelped. However, the Dornish Queen leaned back, breathing hard with a euphoric smile on her face. 

“Now that is more like it,” the Dornishwoman inhaled. “You don’t have to pretend here, be who you are. Restraint does not become you, it never did and it will not now.” We’d never have been in this mess if you’d restrained yourself in the first place. Rhaegar left a final few kisses before moving to her flushed face, kissing her lips harshly. 

“I never knew you to be this demanding,” he murmured wickedly as Elia tugged on his silvery hair that reflected with gold in the light of the dancing flames. Their eyes met, striking indigo against a brown that seemed strangely red. 

“I have earned it,” she breathed, “Besides, you always enjoyed it.” 

“Oh, I still do,” the king smirked and then his face was in the crook of her neck, Elia’s legs wrapped around his waist and what a rush it was, to feel that high again. 

He was almost manic in the way he moved, but there was something so precious about it. 

“Elia,” he groaned but she barely heard it, mewling softly in response. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” the king repeated each time he pushed, yet all the Dornishwoman could think of was; yes, yes, there, exactly there. Then, he captured her lips in a passionate kiss, full of clashing teeth and sounds too scandalous to even begin repeating. She was never one for romantic exclamations during carnal relations, it did not truly fit into that aspect of things, unless it was intended that way from the start. Love is of the heart, fucking is of the flesh. Maybe King Rhaegar did not think of it in that unique perspective and perhaps his lines were more blurred. However, the Dornishwoman did. Maybe one day I’ll change my mind but that is not today. 

She spent with a soft moan against Rhaegar’s lips, digging her nails into his back and clenching her legs around his waist before allowing them to fall onto the furs below them. Her husband was not done yet and began kissing down her jaw as he pushed, faster and faster until she felt that oddly familiar feeling between her thighs… almost like an old friend coming to visit. 

“You’re burning up,” she breathed, feeling his warm skin around her, clammy like hers but hot like a fever. 

“Really?” the king mumbled against her neck, not seeming too bothered with it. “Targaryens d-” 

“-Do burn hotter than regular men. I am aware of the expression,” she replied lightly, running a hand down his back, feeling something stick to it. 

When the Dornishwoman lifted it to her gaze, she saw her beige skin tinted rose with blood. 

“It seems I made you bleed.” 

“Did you now?” he asked indifferently, “How scandalous… some would certainly advocate the loss of your hands, for mutilating one of the blood.” Elia chuckled at the jest despite herself, feeling eerily light. 

“I’ll fetch a quilt for you, we do not want you catching the chill, do we?” You are fire reborn, how can I be cold? And then he was gone from her and the pleasant heat was exchanged with the draught of the chamber, making gooseprickles appear on her naked skin. 

“Here,” Rhaegar spoke softly when returned, placing a red quilt atop her and handing his queen a pillow, placing one next to her, as well. Then, he laid down, placing some of the fabric over his waist. 

Elia turned and stared at him for a few moments, which in turn led to the king returning her unflinching gaze. 

“I love you like this,” he murmured, reaching a slender finger out to stroke her cheek, tucking some loose, brown curls behind her ear. 

“At your mercy?” Elia asked and chewed on her bottom lip. 

“No,” Rhaegar shook his head and smiled, indigo eyes both light and dark-- making the Dornishwoman wonder how that can be. “Untroubled. Real and raw and beautiful.” 

“Your mother will live and we will resume plans for our progress to Dorne. The children are happy and your girl of a wife is finally taking up her duties and becoming a woman. Many of my troubles remain, yet the largest have been lifted.” 

“Things are shaping up, yes, and I am still sorry, for most of your troubles are due to me letting you down. It has been hard but I will never put you in those positions again.” 

“I am weary of everyone being so sorry, Rhaegar. You have the skilled tongue of a poet and your words are smooth like honey-- Do not apologise, redeem yourself. Show me and the realm that you are worthy of the crown that rests upon your pretty hair-- the one so many died for. The one your children and I almost died for.” 

“I will, you will see,” the man promised and the Dornishwoman sighed. For your sake, I hope so. I truly do hope so. 

“I want to attend your small council meetings from here on. As a regular attendee, not your queen filling out for the king or simply to indulge me on the occasion. Your council is made up of men, yet half your kingdoms are made up of women. They deserve a voice, for you men never seem to take us into very much account.” 

“Would it please you?” Rhaegar asked softly, his hand tracing down the side of her jaw, to the swell of her breasts. 

“Otherwise I would not voice it.” 

“They will not be happy, but I do not see why not.” Your fellow advisors can shove a sword up their arses, for all I care about their happiness.

“Good,” the Dornishwoman began, “No doubt you will be a good king, then. I trust you have put your fooleries to rest?” Her husband frowned but nodded after a while. 

“I gave them half of my life and they in turn, repaid me with blood and grief and a realm full of unquiet ghosts. This war taught me that I was but a green boy, thinking I was grown. Aemon taught me that I was wrong, and gazing upon you, my mother and our children each day, shows me what it almost cost. The cost of these lies, fickle matters and falsehoods. ” 

“There is no future in them. Whatever will be, shall be and no one should meddle in such matters. We cannot decide our fates, they simply occur.”

“You are a great queen, Elia. More than I could ever have wished for and I do not know what I would’ve done, were you not to be by my side. I’ve my faults and am aware of how foolish I have acted toward you on the occasion.” His indigo eyes seemed aflame and the Dornish queen nodded, rejoicing in his deft fingers tracing patterns on her exposed skin. 

“I know that in your head, you do everything right but that is not how the world sees it, Rhaegar. It is not what actually occurs. If one thinks they are doing everything right, then they’ve surely committed a few faults that they remain blind to. Know your flaws, use them like that armor you wore to the Trident. Do not ever let them be used to hurt you, for that is when our most foolish acts occur the most.”

“You are far too wise for your years,” he smiled sadly, “And I think that I am to blame for that.” King’s Landing is to blame for that, not only you, husband. Yet you are to blame for many other things, rest assured. 

“I am an old crone at heart,” Elia half-smiled, “They get to say everything that comes to their mind, and their kin will blame it on their age and wandering wits.” 

“I would wish for you to be carefree on the occasion, if even for a few moments. Your happiness is pivotal to me.” How I wish I could believe you, Rhaegar, I truly do.

“Then what would you call this, husband?” The Dornishwoman rose an eyebrow, “If not a lapse of good judgement.” 

“You feel that way, for true?” Rhaegar asked, seeming slightly wounded and she almost regretted her words. “I thought…” the silver-haired man faltered, “That perhaps we could begin mending our relations. That the lack of aversion meant you were willing, as well.” 

“Rhaegar,” Elia sighed, stroking his cheek, “Sometimes you truly do sound your age. Showing a speck of the youth you never allowed yourself to live.” Then, she continued, gazing into his eyes. “Our marriage died and withered when you crowned your wolf-queen at Harrenhal. I know that it was for your fickle prophecies, for what you deemed was right, but it does not revive the boundless love that I bore for you. The Greyjoys are fond of boasting that what is dead may never die, but those are not the Targaryen words, are they? Part of me will never cease to love you, yet the Princess of Dorne is dead, it is time you bury her. I am not what I once was.” 

“I wish I could take it back, yet I cannot.” 

“You are quite right, Rhaegar. We were always better suited as companions, anyway, I should think. Equals. Ours was never the story of Prince Aemon the Dragonknight and Queen Naerys, nor that of Florian and Jonquil.” 

“I still love you,” he murmured, moving closer to her, unil their noses were almost touching.

“Did you not hear me, Rhaegar? I loved you and still do, but what we were is gone and can never be recovered. Let us instead rule side by side. For our children, for the realm.” 

“Was this a means of parting, then? One last fuck before you shut me out forever?” Elia Martell could not pin-point if it was anger she sensed in his voice, or simply hurt. Is it? She pondered. No. Simply because we will never be what we were, does not mean that we cannot be amiable with each other, that we cannot share moments like these.  

“No, Rhaegar. I enjoyed this, just as much as I wager you did. But fucking and friendship does not make a marriage, and it would be foolish if we tried to make it so.” Elia paused for a few moments before continuing. “This is not what it was and you are blinded by the thought of what we were , yet it is like staring at the sun. It will blind you, in the end.” 

“Then what do you suggest we do?” he asked so hopelessly and the Dornishwoman reached a slender hand out, to stroke the side of his face. 

“We rule. You need to deal with your wolf-girl, mayhaps there is still hope to mend your seemingly fragile relations. Your relationship was forged on lust, the fog and haze of prophecies. I know you, not as well as I’d like but I know you, nonetheless and had years to do so. Your quirks, the ways to soothe and please and read you. Lyanna does not, so teach her to. The rest we shall take as it comes, I am weary of trying to carry everything on my shoulders.” 

“You should not have to,” he kissed her lips tenderly before withdrawing and once again, gazing into her eyes. “But I am at a loss when it comes to her, it is all so different now.” 

“You brought her here, into a foreign land with no prerequisites that she could boast. Lyanna is barely a woman and yet she is queen. How do you think it feels for her, when you shut her out and turn to me? It makes her angry and resentful at first, I should think, then I would wager it makes her sad. For she does not truly know you and all she has here, is time. Time to think of her dead brother and father-- lost because of her. Time to think of the son she gave you and the daughter that she failed to. Teach her, Rhaegar, or another Queen Alicent may be on our hands. Thankfully there are no longer any dragons.” 

“You make fair points,” the king sighed, “But Lyanna is no Alicent.” 

“Any woman can become an Alicent and if you do not think so, more the fool you,” Elia told him pointedly, then her voice turned mournful, “But maybe she is a Helaena.” That made Rhaegar’s eyes turn sadder, for he was aware of the story that surrounded Queen Helaena and her troubled life. Tragedy formed her. By all accounts; the princess had been a happy and good-natured girl. 

“I always thought you were Rhaenys, yet now I think you are Visenya, as well.” 

“That is the thing, Rhaegar. We are not Rhaenys or Visenya. No more than you are Aegon. So let us not compare to such,” Elia murmured, “Do you love her? More than you ever loved me?” 

“I do not know,” the king who was once a prince replied honestly. “The strength and willfulness drew me to her. The ice in her blood, the prophecy urging me on. Now, she is but a shell of what she was and there seems to be no way that I can help her.” Another piece in the wretched game you decided to play as a child. 

“Do not let her wallow in that self-pity. It will ruin her. Try to build something on your barren shores, or we will suffer-- she will suffer. A kind word, soothing hand or tender kiss can do much to lighten someone’s heart.” 

“She thinks of me as the valiant silver-prince, the gentle Rhaegar Targaryen who loved her so sweetly. We will never have what you and I do, you understand me where everyone else fails... The way I need certain things.” 

“You do not need to replicate what we had or have to a degree-- it will only make it false. Create something of your own, otherwise she will see through it and it hurts, Rhaegar. It hurts.” It hurts like loving and carrying two children for someone who left you for dead. Even if he did not intend to, it was what happened and it will haunt both him and I, until the day we die.

“I will try, I promise,” he mumbled. 

“Let us sleep now, I am tired and cannot wait until the morn. Rhaella will live, Rhaegar. Daenerys will know her mother and our children, their grandmother. The horizon is not so hopeless any longer.” A smile took over the king’s features and Elia found herself mirroring it. Then, Rhaegar pulled her closer to his chest and kissed her forehead gently. 

“It will be a long day, I'll wager… and the happiest for many moons.” 

His soft breathing lulled her to sleep.

The fire must’ve gone out sometime in the midst of the night and although it was summer, Elia woke up shivering, when the sun was not yet out. There was naught but ashes and embers left in the hearth and she sighed, rising to move to her bedchamber, picking up and donning the discarded shift. Rhaegar was still sleeping, breathing softly and looking more like a prince than a king in that moment. Those worry-lines etched in his forehead so often, were smooth and his silvery hair was delightfully tousled. I do not wish to wake him, the Dornish queen thought as she tried to tread carefully, yet stumbling slightly on the end of the quilt that was around Rhaegar’s waist. 

“Fuck,” she cursed and looked back, yet the king remained still as a weirwood tree. Strange… he is usually such a light sleeper. When the Dornishwoman was halfway to her warm bed, she heard a deep voice mumble. 

“Elia?” 

“Yes?” she asked and padded back to the sitting room, where her husband had sat up, rubbing his temple. 

“I thought you left again,” he whispered and his wife shook her head, brown curls following the movement. 

“I was retiring to my bed. It is cold.” 

“Would you mind if I joined you?” 

“No, not so long as you sleep,” she raised an eyebrow, watching as half a smile took over his fair face. 

“You are in luck; I am still tired.” 

“That makes two of us.” Rhaegar rose and took her hand. Together, they walked into her bedchamber and climbed into bed. 

For a second time, Elia fell asleep and could not help but enjoy the feeling of those warm arms around her, yet this time she dreamt. It was a strange dream, beginning with her husband conversing with her, but she only managed to hear snippets of it.

“Illusions however, are much more indulging, no matter how false they may be, or what treacheries they come to breed.” Caution, a voice advised her urgently. Be careful with the game you play, it is perilous. Rhaegar was full of shifting shadows and colors, not quite staying the same; Violet, gold, silver and emerald, red, black, orange and red. Who are you, who are you, who are you? A voice echoed within, yet her mouth would not open, to form the words to ask the question. 

The sun was out when Elia Martell woke, turning to see Rhaegar dressing himself. 

“You looked so at peace. I had no wish to disturb it,” he murmured sheepishly. The Dornishwoman sat up and yawned, pulling the covers off and pondering what to wear for the day. 

“Do you think it will be hot out today?” she asked him, “It is summer, after all.” The king had stopped dressing and was staring at her with half his tunic unlaced. 

“What?” Elia wondered, “Do I have something on my face?” 

“No,” Rhaegar shook his head, leaning forward to place a kiss on her shoulder, “I am simply admiring you.” 

“Were I ten years younger, you may have gotten a blush out of me, My King,” the Dornish queen teased, brown eyes glowing with mirth. I cannot wait to see Rhaella. 

“You are only two years my elder, not even seven-and-twenty yet-- Do not act as if you have seen a thousand years,” the king bit his lip whilst smiling. 

“Perhaps I am, at heart. War ages you,” she mumbled and could almost feel the pleasant mood in the chamber change to something else entirely-- to the one thing that would always stand betwixt them. Wanting the day to be a happy and joyful one, she quickly spoke again. “What gown do you think is best for the day ahead? I was thinking perhaps the blue, yet the laces are a drag and I’ve no wish to be fussed over by half a dozen handmaids.” 

The king walked over to the dresser where the blue gown hung, running his fingers across the blue bodice, embedded with silver crystals, the sleeves made of a see-through silk of the same color. 

“It is lovely,” he mused, “No doubt you will look magnificent… it reminds me a bit of your companion, Lady Ashara. Did she not wear something similar, once?” 

“Yes,” Elia smiled, “But hers was purple. I loved it so well that she offered to commission me one in blue. I’ve only worn it once or twice before, in fear of ruining it, or worse; not doing it justice.” 

“You will do it plenty of justice, My Queen. The color goes well with your dark hair and beautiful complexion. It shall pay compliment to your eyes, as well.” 

“The other I was thinking of, is the red one over there,” she pointed to the lighter one, made of Myrish silk and embroidered with lace at the sleeves.

“I think the blue,” Rhaegar confessed, “It will make you look as lovely as the moon, a queen with starlight in her hair,” he smiled, walking back to her, “And I can help you with the laces. I used to do it for mother when I was younger… But that is a different story… somewhat sad yet precious in nature.” 

“Then let us get on with it, shall we?” Elia rose, “I will only go to wash my face and brush my hair.” 

“And I shall finish dressing.” When she returned, he was looking impeccable, in a red doublet that one of his knights must’ve fetched him, alongside black breeches and a Targaryen brooch of silver, the dragons boasting red rubies for eyes, fastened to his chest. The Dornishwoman gave him a nod and turned immediately for the gown, feeling the smooth fabric in her hands. 

Without a word, she discarded her shift, left only in smallclothes and stepped into the gown, pulling her arms through the sleeves gently and waiting for Rhaegar to lace it. At once, his warm hands were on her skin, deftly beginning to lace it from the small of her back. 

“Do not take too many liberties,” she jested, “I am a woman wedded, you should know.” The king laughed at that, brushing dark hair away from the nape of her neck, putting his lips on her smooth shoulder. 

“I do hope he is treating you well,” Rhaegar mused, lips brushing against her skin. 

“At the moment he is doing a poor job of tying my laces, so perhaps he should get to it. We have places to be.” 

“Is that how it is?” he asked and for some reason, Elia could not stop the giggle that escaped her lips. 

“That is how it is.” 

After a few more minutes of lacing and her husband was nearly finished. 

“This might hurt,” he warned, “You should lean against that vanity.” Corsets were never much fun, but mayhaps the end-results would be worth it. What was it mother used to say? Elia wondered, barely being able to recall it. Ah, yes; an ounce of pain can give birth to a world of beauty.

“I am a woman, Rhaegar. This is a pain that I’ve been used to, ever since I was a girl in Dorne.” With that said, she still did as he bid

“It never gets more comfortable,” the Dornishwoman winced and sucked in a sharp breath as he tightened the laces. 

“I do feel for you, My Queen.” 

“I suppose we all must suffer a little, all in the name of what men deem beautiful.” Her husband made no reply to that, but instead quickly finished, his fingers working like they would on strings and she was a harp.

When he was done, she gazed into the long mirror and could barely believe the reflection that was shown. The bodice was sparkling and twinkling, catching and reflecting whatever light it was given. Her dark hair fell in waves to the small of her back and for once; Elia thought she might have a chance next to the beauty of Ashara Dayne. The posture was different as well; she stood with a spine as straight as a Dornish spear-- a true queen, she thought herself to be in that moment. 

“I could braid your hair as well, only if you’d like.” Why not? The Dornish queen thought. It seems I am indulging myself today. Nodding, she sat down on the plush chair and Rhaegar’s fingers were in her hand, gently collecting strokes of her hair and making a long, yet small braid down the middle of her head, as a sort of continuance to her crown. 

“That feels soothing,” Elia murmured and saw Rhaegar smile through the mirror. 

“I used to braid mother’s hair. She liked it best after she lost my siblings. Told me it made her forget, if only for a few moments.” 

“That sounds-” 

“-Sad, yes it was. But today is not a day for grief. It is a day for joy and you look like both the sun and the moon-- Glowing with life.” The words reminded her of how she’d been born sickly, lived sickly and would always remain delicate of health. It has gotten better of late, the children give me strength. My purpose gives me strength. 

“Maybe your mother will wish you to braid her hair?” 

“Perhaps, or maybe she would like you to do it.” 

“I suppose we will find out,” the Dornishwoman replied softly and saw her husband nod. 

“Yes. All done.” Elia stood up and gazed at herself. I look presentable enough. 

“Why are you sure that you’d not like to be my handmaiden, My King? You seem to do a better job than any of them and somehow… your hands are gentler.” Lady Lorena is always so rough with my hair, pulling and dragging it. She always makes it pretty, though and she has a pleasant voice to listen to. 

“Would my duties allow it, then there would be no greater glory, My Queen. I am overjoyed to have been of service.” The Dornishwoman could hear the mirth in his voice and decided that she liked it better than when he was with his melancholy… or worse; those damned prophecies. 

“Do not be a lickspittle,” she laughed and he rolled his eyes. 

“Only for you, My Queen.” 

“Shall we depart now? To visit your mother?” 

“It is still early but I think she will have woken.” 

“Then let us head out,” the Dornishwoman spoke gently. 

“Yes,” Rhaegar replied with a quiet strength, offering her his arm, which she took. 

Please, please, please let her be well and thrive, Elia pleaded with the Gods. Rhaella deserves it, after all this grief she has been dealt in life. Take her, and fear my ire. 

***

Pale was one word to describe the Dowager queen, fragile was another and delicate was a third. The once luminescent and lovely silver-gold hair looked matted and brittle, and Rhaella’s skin boasted a sickly pale tone, instead of the refined alabaster of most Targaryens. Yet she is still smiling and there is strength in her purple eyes. 

“Rhaella,” Elia murmured, swiftly walking toward the woman who looked too small for the large wooden bed and putting her arms around her. “I was so worried.” The Dornishwoman did not know that she was weeping, until the Queen-mother’s cold hands were wiping each away. 

“Do not weep, my girl, I am here still,” Rhaella soothed, gazing into Elia’s brown eyes with a quiet resolve. 

“How are you?” the Dornish queen began hurriedly, “Is there anything you need? Name it and I will see it done.” 

“I would wish for you to tell me of what passed, as I was indisposed. And to see the children, yet I do not know if I have the strength to face them all, this day.”

“Of course.” 

Then, the Dowager queen’s eyes focused on the man who stood a few paces away from Elia.

“Mother,” Rhaegar began, almost nervously. 

“Come,” Rhaella beckoned, ever so softly and the king did as he was bid. The Dornishwoman moved out of the way, for mother and son to reunite. 

Once in his mother’s embrace, the king let out a shaky breath, sitting by the side of the bed.

“I thought we were going to lose you.” 

“I would have told the Stranger to begone, for I have unfinished business upon this dreadful world, his kiss would have to wait.” 

“Please do not overexert yourself, mother. I know these white walls and faded smells are dull and not prone to inspiring courage, but we need you well. Daenerys and Viserys need you healthy, once more.” 

“I always thought white walls and faded smells were more welcome than crazed purple eyes and burning men,” the Targaryen queen replied with a haunted look in her eyes. 

“I-” Rhaegar began but was disrupted by Ser Gerold entering the chambers. 

“Your Graces,” he bowed and turned to Rhaegar, “Forgive me, My King but the Lord Hand Tyrell has required an audience with you, claiming it is an urgent matter.” 

“Can’t he w-”

“It is fine, My son,” Rhaella interjected, “Elia will stay, won’t you, my dove? And tell me of all that has passed.” 

“I wished we could have more time,” the king sighed but nodded, nonetheless.

“We do. I am not much for company at the moment, anyhow.”

“Alright then,” Rhaegar moved to kiss his mother on the cheek, before turning and doing the same with Elia “I will visit later in the day.” 

“I will be here,” Rhaella murmured softly. 

When Rhaegar had taken his leave, Elia decided to place an armchair next to her good-mother’s bed, duly sat down and placed her hands atop one of Rhaella’s. 

“You do not know how much it means to see you healthy, after that terrifying ordeal. I was so scared, we all were.” The Dowager queen looked at the young Dornishwoman tenderly.

“Your concern endears me, Elia. I only wish that it did not cause you so much pain and uncertainty.” 

“I lost my mother without being there for her, without even knowing it. I would be damned if the same occurred with you.” 

“It was cruel of Aerys to deny you that visit. But he was cruel.” Elia stroked her good-mother’s hand with the pad of her thumb, looking down so that Rhaella would not see the tears shining like little crystals in her eyes. I never got to say goodbye, she never held Rhaenys in her arms, no more than she did Aegon. 

“It was not your fault,” Elia murmured.

Things remained silent for a while, for no words needed to be exchanged. Whilst Elia thought of the mother taken too soon; Rhaella thought of the brother that was bestolen of her, the one she had grown alongside. It was a comfortable unity, one could say of it-- sharing their grief and coming to terms with it. Nothing can make this undone, and only through closing this dreadful chapter; shall we be strengthened. 

“How are the children?” Rhaella asked quietly, “They have suffered so much already, it is cruel that this came upon us.” 

“You had no more control over it than we did, good-mother,” Elia replied, staring into those haunted orbs of purple that spoke of too much pain and suffering, in such a short life. “Viserys took it the hardest and began hiding away, more preferring to read in the libraries, than interact with us… or anyone else for that matter. ” The Dornishwoman paused for a breath and noticed how the Dowager queen’s eyes were sparkling with little crystals, waiting to drop. “Rhaenys is young, yet she seems strangely withdrawn and however much I try…” Elia faltered and cleared her throat, “I only hope that your prospering will heal their aching hearts.” 

“Oh, Viserys,” the pale woman whispered, “He clings to me, because I never allowed him to cling to Aerys. He deserved a father and I tried to give him one, a kind and loving and sane one-- to shield him from Aerys’s changes of mood and depraved mind. This son shall not be like his father, no more than I would allow Rhaegar to.” What a strength she has, the Dornish queen marveled, not the kind Westeros values, but the one that women must have, when they marry and have children. When their husbands raise hands and insults to them-- when no one ever helps you and you must be your own closest confidant. It was a woman’s strength. A mother’s strength. To keep on going, because who else will?  

“Rhaegar lost himself, when no improvement was shown. He crumbled.” 

“What do you mean?” Rhaella asked gently and the words seemed to catch in Elia’s throat. It felt strangely like when she tattled on a boy to his mother, long ago in Dorne. If you ask me whom it was, I could not say. It was a different life entirely. 

“He took to ruling from the closed doors of his chambers, boasting a foul mood and fouler thoughts, I suspect-- Barely ever visiting me, nor the children. Once, he scared his young queen so fiercely that she fetched me, in hopes that I could calm him.” The Dowager queen’s grip tightened and her eyes turned hard. 

“And when I looked at him,” the Dornishwoman swallowed, feeling her throat constrict with emotion, “I saw Aerys.” Rhaella closed her eyes as if in pain and took a deep breath. 

“Did he hurt her? Did he hurt you?” It seemed as if she told the Queen-mother yes, that it would shatter her heart. 

“No.” And it was not a lie per se, “No more than I did him.” A slight relief washed over the delicate Targaryen then. 

“He is a man,” Rhaella began, “Who never allowed himself to be a child.” “He is a king, who was never a boy, and that can be a dangerous thing when it comes to loss. The fault lies with both Aerys and I. Yet… Somehow I think that I am to blame, the most. I should have stopped it-- this foolery with prophecies, but perhaps grief corded me too tightly. For my children who never got to be.” 

“He has himself to blame for all of this,” Elia said, because her husband did. 

“And I do not think he will ever forget it. However, men lose mothers each day, husbands lose wives-- childbirth is a gamble at best and Rhaegar is aware of that. He is both man and child and it does no service to this kingdom, nor you or the children. It is hard to kill your youthfulness, to only be mindful of your duty, but it is necessary. Should I die, he can grieve but needs to realise that he is still amongst the living and live-- not leave everything in shambles.” 

“You make worthy points, good-mother,” the Dornishwoman murmured, gazing at Rhaella who looked worried and weary. 

“I will make sure he is aware,” the Targaryen queen vowed, “No Aerys shall be made of him. Another madman will not sit the throne.” 

“Careful,” Elia fussed, “You must not overexert yourself.” 

“Sweet and gentle Elia,” Rhaella shook her head, “My son does not deserve you.” 

“Aerys did not deserve you.” 

“It is a man’s world, my mother told me once, as I once told you. All we do is live in it.” 

“You’ve not asked about Daenerys.” Some color seemed to go into her good-mother’s cheeks then, a flicker of light-- a lust for life. 

“I questioned Maester Gerardys sharply when I woke last eve. He even had the wet-nurse fetch her for me to hold and she is the sweetest of things. Her eyes remind me of Rhaenys, but Daenerys’s are a darker shade.” 

“The princess is ever of your nature and adores being held and cuddles, most of all by Viserys.” 

“He is kind to her, is he not?” Rhaella asked worriedly, “What if he blames her for my illness? I could not bear it if one of my children harbored contempt for their sibling.” 

“Viserys loves her, even though he is hurting. She is his sister and of you; he said as much.” 

“Yes, that is good. He will be good, he must be,” the Dowager queen whispered and it seemed that Aerys’s ghost would not quit hanging over her. Will she ever be free of him? Elia wondered. Though her good-mother looked even more tired now, than she had when the Dornishwoman entered. 

“Sleep now. The world will be here when you wake and your grandchildren long to see you, as well as your own children.” 

“Could you sit here by my side? I do not want to be an inconvenience, but it feels so very lonely sometimes, I’ve noticed and you bring warmth wherever you go, my gentle flower.”

“Of course, good-mother.” 

***

Elia was not present for Viserys’s reunion with his mother, for she wished to give the boy space and time alone with Rhaella. There are things that need only be shared betwixt the people it directly concerns. However, she did bring Rhaenys, Daenerys and Aegon along the day after that. It truly seemed like they gave the Dowager queen strength, a wish to go on-- that she had something to live for, but that did not make recovery easy by any means. 

Rhaella could not walk as of yet and eating proved difficult after being fed on fluids for so long-- the Targaryen queen was but skin and bones, with most muscles refusing to bend under her will. The struggles of trying to walk and eat would reduce her good-mother to angry tears, yet Elia tried to remain with her during these times, to be of a comfort and support-- for Rhaella to know that she was not alone. The Dornishwoman had experienced it all before, and understood her good-mother’s pain where others failed. It is maddening to be left to your own devices for so long, for others to go on whilst you are stuck and the night hours are the longest, most dreadful and silent periods of the day. 

Once, a few days after Rhaella’s awakening, Lyanna appeared at the door, with Prince Aemon in her arms, ever the image of his Northern mother. Elia had asked permission to bring the prince along, a day or two prior, for the Targaryen queen had been inquiring on him, and proved to be delighted when the Dornishwoman turned up with the pale princeling in her arms after the request. I was pleased that Lyanna took initiative and that I did not need to actively propose for her to do it. I have two children, she cannot be another, no more than Rhaegar can be. 

The interaction between Rhaegar’s mother and his young wife remained slight and awkward at the best of times, with neither being sure on what to say. Lyanna is a relic of the war, a reminder to both Rhaella and I, of the cost of foolery. She understood why the Dowager queen could not truly warm to her new good-daughter. Rhaella did her duty all her life. When they told her to wed Aerys, she did it, even though she loved another. When her husband took mistresses, she accepted it, for that is what wives do. When Aerys began raping and violating her, she suffered through it, because duty demanded it. 

That was why the Dornishwoman understood the inner turmoil that her good-mother had within. It hurts to have suffered through all of that; to see a girl, not even twenty years of age, refuse to do her duty to a kinder man than most husbands and start a war, all because he could not keep his cock in his breeches. Rhaella blamed Rhaegar as well, if not more, Elia knew-- but he was her son and Lyanna was a stranger, who thousands died for. 

However, there was no doubt in the Dornishwoman’s mind that the Targaryen queen loved Prince Aemon, just as much as she loved his half-siblings. He is her grandchild, and she is not Aerys. This one will not complain that her grandson smells Northern. The sight of Rhaella with quiet Aemon staring up at her, softly clutching clumps of the silver-gold hair had been heartwarming and even Lyanna had gazed at it with softness. After the visit was done, Elia gave her fellow queen a curt nod of approval, along with a wry smile and words of how there might still be hope for the Northern queen. Lyanna had laughed softly and taken her leave, seeming almost happy for a moment. 

A new routine formed in Elia’s life, where she would do her duties, see the children, perhaps bring them to Rhaella for a visit and then she would sit with the Targaryen queen and speak of her day, perhaps her earlier life in Dorne and everything in-between. It seemed to help her good-mother feel connected, in a way, because the days were surely dull and there was not much to do, other than wallow in all the things one could not do, when sitting in that bland chamber, as blank as your heart.

In the beginning, the Dowager queen only listened with a soft smile on her face and occasional comments, but more often, Rhaella had taken to telling her own tale, as well, which was as harrowing and mournful as it was beautiful. It endeared Elia, that her good-mother seemed to be coming out of the thick shell that she had fashioned so long ago-- the walls she made, purely to keep her safe. How else could anyone suffer Aerys and live? If they did not make themselves half-a-person?

"Aerys was not always the monster you knew. The shell that he became,” Rhaella began, her voice drowned in something Elia could not quite put her finger on. Was it reminiscence? The pain of recollection? “He was not a bad brother, but siblings were all we were to each other. Ours was not the story of the rebellious love that my father and mother had. There was no such romance in our hearts, yet a wood’s witch that my uncle’s wife brought to court, poisoned my father’s ears with those damned  prophecies. Salt and smoke, bleeding stars, the same as what ensnared my son.” 

"Jenny of Oldstones?” Elia asked quietly, stroking Rhaella’s pale hand that was no longer as thin or as bony as it was a fortnight ago, when she had first woken.

“The very same. A kind woman she was, but the day my father announced Aerys and I’s betrothal, I wept myself to sleep, cursing both her and that wood’s witch for forcing me to do so.” 

“What did you mother think of it?” Was she a follower of the prophecies, as well? Elia wondered. 

“My mother recognised my pain but did not speak against the marriage. She came into my apartments once, began brushing my hair and telling me that I must be mindful of my duty. Because duty is what held the realm together, what kept our family in power. She told me that father and her hadn’t realised the importance of it, when they wed and that a large war almost broke out, because of their foolishness. A wound that had to be mended by the use of their little sister’s hand, Princess Rhaelle. The one who paid for all my uncles’ sins. ‘Be mindful of your duty, sweet Rhae. We named you in honor of our dutiful sister, the youngest but most compliant of us all.’ I can still hear my mother murmuring the words, as silent tears ran down my cheeks.” 

“Then, at the age of three-and-ten, I wed Aerys but neither of us bore any love for each other. We were children, years from being grown. Yet, he was kind to me and treated me well. Nine moons later, I birthed Rhaegar as we were losing it all.” 

“I am so sorry,” Elia spoke, for what else could she say?

“It was a sorry time. Then I began losing child upon child,” Rhaella swallowed, haunting, purple eyes filling with tears, “And he comforted me at first. He held my hair as I wept and sang to me, Aerys always had a beautiful voice. I always envied him for it.” 

“Then?” the Dornishwoman asked quietly, gripped by the sorrowful tale, plagued by the wish of knowing more. Perhaps to understand where it all had gone so horribly wrong for her good-father. Not an excuse for his actions, but perhaps an understanding of his youth. 

“Then his doubt began creeping in and he blamed me, screaming that the children had been bastards, which was why the Gods stole them from us. Somewhere along those lines, I lost him and Rhaegar lost his father.” Frustrated with her tears, Rhaella hurriedly wiped them away, “It has been years. I thought the wounds had closed but it seems now, that the simplest touch causes them to bleed afresh. Perhaps they never healed properly from the start.” 

“You do not have to continue,” Elia murmured, stroking the woman’s cheek and purple eyes turned to her, full of a quiet resolve.

“I do, if not, then how shall I ever be free?” Rhaella cleared her throat and continued. “It was if he pushed right through me, the man he was, scattered to the winds. On the occasion, his eyes were so dark that I wondered how he was even able to see. I began seeing him in colors. Red and cruel, calming as lilac, gentle like orange and simply had to adapt to what he was that day. But sometimes…” the Targaryen queen faltered, her eyes turning cloudy, foggy with a certain mist. 

“What?” The Dornish queen asked. 

“Sometimes he was blue and almost kind.” 

She continued advising Rhaegar and taking an active role in intricacies of ruling, yet the burden did not feel as heavy as it once had. Her fellow queen held court when it was required, however cold and haughty they were to Lyanna, and Elia was pleased that the girl was finally, after almost a year, taking to her duties instead of complaining about them. The Dornishwoman cared even less for the pit of vipers that was the court, than she imagined Lyanna did but she had always held and mingled with it, because it was required. 

It is interesting to not how the ladies and lords all flock to me and scorn Lyanna because they think me more favorable and influential than her. They did not think so when I was merely a Dornish princess, and scorned me worse than the wolf-girl. All because of Aerys’s distaste. Elia laughed with them, she jested and spoke, listened to poetry being recited but never confided in, nor let any of them (whose names she could barely bring herself to recall), grow close to her.  It is like having a pet viper, it may slither so kindly around your hand, yet one day it will bite you, causing you to rue the day it ever entered your life.

Kingship kept her husband busy but he seemed different after a few visits to his mother’s bedward. In what way, she could not quite say, it was a minor difference, one that could not truly be named. However, the Dornishwoman had no complaints, for if Rhaegar had been an attentive father earlier, it did not compare to this. He would put their children to bed, read to Rhaenys and Viserys-- sing to Daenerys, Aegon and Aemon-- all who rejoiced in the tunes. It is good that he spends more time with his children, but most of all; Daenerys and Viserys. They need him as well. 

Rhaegar would sporadically visit her at night, sometimes it would be every eve, or in-between days, to claim his husbandly rights. She allowed him to because it was an arrangement that greatly benefitted the both of them. If one denies themselves the pleasures that life has to offer, then it quickly grows very dull. Perhaps they even would have named me the celibate queen. The thought amused the Dornish queen, for the court and commons alike, would surely have cheered her pious nature and called her a leading example. Only to find out that it would not even have been by choice and if I never wanted to be fucked again, or loved the Gods so well, then I would have become a damned Septa. 

Ser Jaime had proved a great comfort to Elia, in the Viper’s pit that King’s Landing was. He kept her grounded, somehow, when it was so easy to lose your footing. The knight would jest and laugh and act the way that young men do, so sincerely that the Dornishwoman would forget that she was a queen, and he was a man of nine-and-ten, recently having had his nameday-- with his entire life sworn away to duty and service. 

Rhaenys loved her white knight, but since Prince Viserys’s return to King’s Landing, she would often run away and play with her uncle, leaving Elia and Jaime to their own devices, following the children whilst making conversation and speaking of anything that came to their mind. Of course not everything, but most things that she judged him worthy of knowing.

This day marked a moon’s passing, since the Dowager queen Rhaella had woken up from her difficult predicament. She had learned how to take small steps, but could not as of yet walk without aid or a heavy, instant fatigue. Yet she is growing stronger each day and once she is well, we shall go on our progress. Elia was seated in a chair, embroidering a flower for Rhaenys, as Rhaella was sitting up in her bed and doing the same, placing even stitches into what looked like a sun. 

“Can you tell me about him?” The Dornishwoman asked suddenly and purple eyes turned to her, bearing slight confusion.

“Who?” Rhaella asked. 

“Your knight. The one you loved.” 

“Love,” the Targaryen queen seemed to ponder the word, “I do not think I loved him, I was so young, after all, but I was infatuated, yes. Like only a girl can be.” 

“Bonifer was his name?” a fond smile full of reminiscence tugged at the corner of the Dowager queen’s lips. 

“Yes. Bonifer Hasty,” Rhaella said and then paused, laughing softly, “A knight too much like those in the songs for his own good.” 

“Would you have wished to wed him?” The Dowager queen scoffed.

“My foolish young heart thought that I stood a chance of wedding him. I wished to do what my uncle had done with Jenny, renounce my claim and live with Bonifer for the rest of my days. Beautiful dreams, they were, to wed and have silver-haired daughters with his green eyes, or brown-haired sons with purple. My mother and father quickly disabused those notions, as he was of too low a birth to even be considered as a possible match. Mayhaps it could have been, were I to have been a fourth-born princess or something of the sort. Alas, I was the only Targaryen princess in Westeros, in the world and such a girl could not wed a man who was no better than a hedge-knight.” 

“Did he love you too?” Elia asked, her heart clenching with sympathy for her good-mother who deserved so much, but received so little. 

“I cannot claim to know what was in his heart but he did name me his Queen Of Love And Beauty. Once or twice, I even snuck past my septa, to sit by his tent and hear him sing. He said that my hair was as fair as moonglow entwined with starlight and my eyes as deep and haunting as purple seas.” 

“That sounds lovely,” the Dornishwoman murmured, reaching out a beige hand to place it comfortingly atop Rhaella’s, “and he seems like he was a kind man.” 

“He was,” Rhaella nodded, “Handsome as well, with a sweet voice and gentle nature.” 

“How old was he?” 

“Young. No more than seven-and-ten, I should think. I had recently turned three-and-ten.” 

“Do you know what happened to him?” Maybe they have a chance at reconciliation, for her to have a friendly face in these halls of ghosts. 

“No. After I wed Aerys, I did not hear of him again and never dared to seek him out.” the Targaryen queen swallowed, “Especially after Aerys had me accused of adultery. Only men can have female companions in this world and have it be alright.” 

“Aerys is here no longer and you are a widow. Mayhaps I could have Rhaegar try to find him, wherever he would be and bring him here, to you. I am sure the king would agree, for he wishes nothing more than your happiness.” 

“That is a kind thing to offer, Elia,” Rhaella smiled, “But I do not think he even recalls me. This was five-and-twenty years ago, in the midst of tourneys and weddings. Maybe I should let this ghost rest and remember it for what it was, maybe he is not what I think and leaves a taint on the fond memories I bear?” 

“You will not know if you do not try,” the Dornish queen shrugged her shoulders, “I would have wanted to know what became of him.”

“Maybe he is wedded with children of his own,” Rhaella said nervously, “Who am I to root him out of his holdings and force him here, to bring me comfort?” 

“If that is so, and you still wish to see him, then there is room at court for his family to stay, and I suspect that they would enjoy meeting kings and queens.”

“I do want to see him but I am not who I was at three-and-ten. That girl is gone and the woman I’ve become is a mother of three, widowed and maimed by childbirth.” 

“You are much more than that and you know it,” Elia whispered, “Besides, nothing is writ in stone yet. Do what you wish, the Gods know that you deserve it.” The Queen-mother turned thoughtful for a few moments and the Dornish queen continued stitching. 

“Yes,” Rhaella said suddenly, “Why the hells not?” 

“I shall duly bring the matter to the king’s ears, then.” 

****

“Ser Bonifer Hasty?” Rhaegar asked, tracing her collarbone as they laid in the bed, wrapped in crimson sheets and comforting pillows. 

“Yes. He named her his Queen Of Love And Beauty once, shortly before she wed your father. They were dearly fond of each other and even wished to wed, yet he was of too low birth.” Rhaegar frowned slightly and tucked a stray lock of brown hair behind her ear.

“And my mother has expressed interest in knowing what happened to him?” 

“I offered to bring the matter to you, perhaps you could seek him out and offer that he come to King’s Landing. She was not opposed toward the prospect and I think it would make her happy, Rhaegar.” Her husband smiled but his eyes were ever the shade they were when they danced with their melancholy. 

“I will do anything it takes to make her happy. She suffered beneath my father so much and all I could do… All I did was watch. If it means seeking this knight up and having him come here, then it is not so great a cost for even a speck of her bliss.” 

“Good,” Elia smiled, showing her teeth, “The Gods know that she deserves it.”

Chapter Text

 

 

 


A moon after the Dowager Queen awoke from her slumber of death, he arrived unannounced. In the cover of night during a summer storm that left thunder and lightning to howl in the sky, illuminating the darkness with a divine sort of light. Neither Queen Elia, King Rhaegar or the Dowager Queen herself were aware of this, as the man had decided to wait until the morn to announce himself, lest he cause a disturbance.


 

Elia was awoken by a heavy crack of lightning flashing across the dark and silent chamber, accompanied by a roaring boom of thunder-- so loud that it seemed to shake the very castle. An arm was around her waist and another was tracing soft circles on her shoulder. With a slight sigh, she turned around to meet a liquid indigo, more blue than purple in the darkness. 

“You should be sleeping, Your Grace. Kingship is tiring work.” Her dark eyes held a teasing glint and it caused Rhaegar to smile softly, before leaning in and kissing her forehead softly. 

“The storm is keeping me conscious.” He always enjoyed storms, their destructive grace intrigues him-- The utter beauty of chaos. 

“It is a loud one,” she agreed, “But it will pass and you should sleep, lest you fall asleep during our small council meeting, bright and early in the morn.” 

The king groaned and his pale hair glimmered like silvery seafoam and starlight.

“Yes, what a delightful way to start my day-- hearing the Lord Treasurer speak of some tourney we must hold to appease the lords and commons alike, along with the devastating cost of it,” he said dryly, “I truly cannot wait.” Elia chuckled, playing along to the mummer’s play and donning a false look of sympathy.

“Well then you must rest, My King, to be alert and sharp when the time comes-- Otherwise you will surely not be able to comprehend and make worthy verdicts.” 

“I suppose,” Rhaegar bit his lip and caressed her cheek with gentle fingers and drew her in for a chaste kiss, the other hand stroking down the side of her body from underneath her shift, leaving delightful tingles in the wake of his touch. Another roar of thunder hit suddenly, making Elia squeal, for it took her unawares. 

“Frightened of a little thunder, My Queen?” her husband asked, amusement lacing his words. 

“No,” she rolled her eyes but allowed him to drag her close, holding her in place. 

“Well, good that I am here, to shield you from the beast of thunder.” Until you leave again, a corner of her mind whispered. You will always leave. From Lyanna to me, from me to Lyanna. Rhaegar Targaryen would never truly be hers and she doubted that he’d ever been, no more than he is Lyanna’s either. It was simply not in the king’s nature.

Elia’s leg was propped up over his hip and her head underneath his chin. 

“Good eve,” she murmured and her husband’s only response was to kiss the top of her head. Soon enough, the Dornish queen was asleep, lulled by his even breathing and strangely comforting hold on her. 

***

“The progress will be costly,” Lord Mace Tyrell said with pursed lips, the golden pin of the hand fastened to his doublet, “Perhaps it is better to wait until our coffers become more plentiful with coin.” I have waited long enough and we will not travel for moons, not until my good-mother grows healthier. Lord Mace’s whining proved to annoy the Dornishwoman and she eyed him sharply.

“It needn’t be large nor extravagant. We shall take some knights and servants with us, no more, no less. The realm needs to see their king, to know that he is stronger and better than his father was. It is to inspire loyalty and courage, not to indulge any selfish whims.” Well… it did indulge her whim, but if one is playing the game, they need to play it well. 

Their master of ships, the ruling Lord of Velaryon’s face betrayed him and showed a speck of surprise and perchance a bit of awe. All from the simple act of  speaking like the true queen she was. Most of the lords on the small council had been wary of having the queen on it, thought that the king was simply indulging his wife and would have her play no grave part in it, which led to them undermining her. However, she was Elia Martell of Dorne and none of them would dull her. 

“For whatever it is worth, I agree with the queen, “ Lord Monford Velaryon shrugged and a smile played on the Dornishwoman’s lips. Maybe I have an ally in him, she pondered. 

“You are the master of ships, what would you know of garnering the love of people or how to win affection?” Lord Symond Staunton asked tersely. One or two of the lords who sat in Rhaegar’s small council had sat in his father’s as well, Lord Symond being one of them. 

The silver-haired Velaryon smiled but his eyes displayed no emotion, “I have a bastard brother to keep me humble, My Lord, I have met my own people-- the ones I rule for,” he began, staring at the old man coldly, “And I do not sweeten my words to curry the favor of mad men, by feeding into their conspiracies,” Lord Monford finished with a slight shake of his head. It is known that Lord Symond fed my good-father’s vanities and delusions, letting their fires rage on. He will not do the same to Rhaegar, she vowed, not so long as I draw breath. 

A red flush began creeping up the grey-haired lord’s face and anger clouded his homely features, “How dare-” 

“Mayhaps we should move on to matters of greater importance?” Grand-Maester Pycelle cut in and Elia found herself greatly annoyed by his gravelly voice. The beard that had once made him look so wise to her, only proved to further fuel her disgust. He was so obviously… weak and feeble, hiding under the guise of a learned, old man. And there was something about his falsely comforting notes, something that screamed and raged insincerity. He always seemed to run around, indulging Tywin Lannister’s every whim. It unsettled the Dornish queen. We must replace him soon, but not soon enough for him to feel slighted.

“Yes,” Rhaegar cleared his throat, “Are there any news, Lord Varys? Have your birds been singing songs worth of any note?” The pale lord, who was not a true lord smiled behind his powdered face. 

“Lord Stannis Baratheon’s Lady-wife is with child, they tell me. Nine-and-ten, she is and he is only two years her elder.” 

“They wed rather quickly,” Lord Mace grumbled, earning a soft sigh from the spider. 

“For a strong alliance I would assume… After all, the war has devastated house Baratheon.” 

“Should we have the child be made a ward? To be raised in King’s Landing alongside Lord Eddard’s, when they are born and come of a certain age?” Elia asked warily, straightening the hem of her azure gown, “What if he decides to avenge his brother, to reclaim the former glory of his house?” 

“They were never close, Queen Lyanna has told me,” Rhaegar shared, “But treading on the side of caution is necessary, nonetheless-- whether it should be the young Renly or Lord Stannis’s unborn child.” 

“A son proves a greater threat than a brother,” Jon Connington pointed out. The king had absolved the Lord of Griffin’s Roost of his exile and reinstated him to the small council, as the Master of Coin and Master of laws. 

Elia had never disliked the man, a dear companion to her husband but there was something about Lord Jon. He is cold and calculating, though I do not doubt where his loyalties reside, they are not with house Targaryen, but with my husband. Jon Connington was kind and courteous enough to her but there was a certain glint in his eyes when he looked at Rhaegar-- as if he would move skies and seas just to please his king. It would always evaporate and turn into something cooler when he gazed at her, and swirl with something akin to distaste. If there was something gnawing on Lord Jon in regards to his Dornish Queen, he surely never voiced it. But looks can do more to inflame hearts than words, on the occasion. 

Sensing the red-head’s eyes on her, she straightened her spine like a spear and spoke.

“We must bind them to the crown. To seal their devotion in blood, there is no other way.” But who would they wed? Renly could have a daughter with lineage proven to be in favor to house Targaryen-- but it is the child of Stannis’s that matters. 

“I have a daughter,” Lord Monford shared casually, “House Velaryon will always stand by house Targaryen and the crown.” Elia gazed at the man, who looked so like, yet unlike her husband. His hair is pure silver, but it does not dazzle like starlight entwined with precious metals, like Rhaegar’s does. And Monford’s eyes are more plum than indigo or violet, his face more narrow and less striking. There was no denying the man was comely, but the beauty of the dragons was far more renowned. 

“And there is Targaryen blood in every Velaryon,” she said, lips tilting into a lopsided smile, plum eyes meeting brown ones. Meeting her unflinching gaze, Lord Monford mirrored her expression and nodded.

“Distant, but enough for Renly to know where his loyalties need lay.” 

“I have a newly born daughter as well, Margaery is her name,” Lord Tyrell said and when the Dornishwoman looked upon him, she noted that he was boasting a nasty shade of red, “A marriage to the hand’s daughter seems better placed than that of a… a master of ships.” 

“They need blood-ties,” Lord Monford explained, “However distant they are because if Stannis does not succeed in siring a son, Renly is the spare who suddenly became a true heir and the time is ripe to strike with a betrothal. Otherwise Lord Stannis may receive the notion of betrothing his daughter to his brother.” 

“That seems strangely close,”The Dornishwoman wrinkled her nose,  “for Andals, that is.” 

“Desperate men do desperate things,” Varys sighed and they shared an all-too knowing look. 

“How old is your daughter, My Lord?” Elia asked.

“She is almost on her third nameday, My Queen. Laena is her name.” That surprised her. He cannot be more than twenty years of age. Yet far younger men and women have children, so it should not come as a shock to me. Rhaegar was twenty when we had Rhaenys. 

“And Renly is a boy of six? Seven?” She wondered, earning a nod from Varys, “Then I think we should choose the young Laena, who is only three or so years younger. It would take longer for your Lady Margaery to wed and birth children, time that we may not have, My Lord,” Elia spoke apologetically to Lord Mace. He needs to think that if Margaery had been older, she would have reigned supreme over Laena. A scorned lord is a dangerous one. The hand nodded gruffly and she decided it was enough, turning back to Lord Monford with a twinkling smile. 

“Then it is decided and arrangements shall be made. I do not think that Lord Stannis will deny the match, it is a rich one, far greater than many third sons can aspire to have. House Velaryon is a strong and ancient one.” 

“You flatter me, My Queen,” the silver-haired lord smiled, his plum eyes vibrant as he looked at her, “And a very clever woman.” If I had been foolish, I would not be alive, My Lord. King’s Landing would have eaten me alive. Robust and physically strong, I may never be but with my mind, I can be everything and more. 

“Yes, but then there is the matter of the unborn child,” Rhaegar chimed in, his voice strangely steely as he looked at the Lord of Driftmark and then back to his wife. 

“Mayhaps we leave that for when the babe is born. After all, it may be a girl and all this fuss will have been made for naught,” Lord Varys murmured softly. 

“I should say you have the truth of it,” Elia smiled at the eunuch, so softly and innocently that one may even have believed she was a simpering maiden, unbeknown to all the woes of the world and not a viper of Dorne. 

“Should we call this meeting adjourned, then?” Lord Tyrell asked, seeming impatient but not slighted. The king rose and nodded. 

“You all have my leave.” Whilst Lord Mace left rather quickly, the rest stayed and mingled slightly. Rhaegar began speaking with Lord Connington as Elia was met with Lord Monford. 

“I thought the vein in the hand’s forehead would burst, from how red he became,” the Velaryon chuckled, full lips tilting into a smirk. 

“I do not know what you are speaking of,” she smiled innocently, “But you should guard your tongue a little better. Some may not have my appreciation for deprecating jests.” 

“But they should, should they not? I always though life becomes far more interesting when you can jape about it. Otherwise it is so dreadfully dull.” 

“My brother most like shares that sentiment,” she shook her head, still smiling, “For all the good it does him.” 

“I happened upon your brother in a very unfortunate place when he was visiting the city last.” 

“Oh, did you?” she asked wryly, “A brothel, was it?” You men can never keep to your own beds, it seems. The lord rose an eyebrow.

“Mayhaps, but I was meeting a timber salesman to discuss business and simply happened upon Prince Oberyn. Such a charismatic and intriguing man. I can’t claim to have ever seen his like.” 

The Dornishwoman chuckled, “I think that the world can only handle one Oberyn at a time.” 

“Rightly spoken, My Queen.” Then, an arm were on her shoulder and she turned her head, greeted by the sight of Rhaegar.

“Elia, Lord Monford,” he greeted with those somber, indigo eyes.

“My King,” the lord bowed, “How fare you?” A sort of awkwardness seemed to have crept upon them and would not take its leave. 

“I am quite well, and you?” Rhaegar’s voice held that steely note, still and she wondered why. Mayhaps Lord Connington gave him grievous news of some kind. 

“Quite the same, My King. I was only just now speaking of when I was fortunate enough to meet your good-brother.” Elia almost laughed when she saw the slight wince that flashed across her husband’s face for a short second, at the mention of Oberyn. 

“Ah yes, quite the character.” 

“Indeed, My King.” 

“Your wife and child are not with you, here in King’s Landing?” Elia knew the answer but wished for a confirmation. Does it not get lonely? She was aware that whores existed for men that deemed themselves lonely, even with wives, but she was referring more to his child. I could never part from Rhaenys and Aegon for and indefinite amount of time. 

“No, sadly,” he shook his head, one or two silver strands framing his face, “But I had the thought of sending for them. I dearly miss and yearn for their company.” 

“You should,” Elia encouraged, “And I think that Rhaenys would value a closer companion, almost of her own age. Right?” she turned to Rhaegar and he nodded, seeming thoughtful. 

“Yes, it will give Viserys a few moments of peace as well, for she is always clinging to his arms and ordering him around with that demanding nature. But it is still a sweet sight.” 

“Your daughter is a most precious thing. I came upon her a few days ago, with her nursemaid, septa and kitten. She proudly proclaimed that I looked like her brother, uncle and father and then demanded I put her on my shoulders, so that she could be taller than the septa.” The tale made Queen Elia chuckle and even Rhaegar could not help a fond smile transforming his features. 

“That does sound like Rhaenys.” 

“I fear I shall take my leave now. Letters are to be written, betrothals formed. Such tedious work but I assume it shall be rewarding in the end.” 

“I apologise for keeping you,” Elia frowned, feeling slightly guilty.

“Oh, it was of no consequence, My Queen,” he smiled, showing gleaming, white teeth, “You are a most captivating woman and it has been a true delight.” Then, he took her hand gently and brought it to his lips, leaving a kiss and all she could think of was how soft his lips were, almost like Rhaegar’s when-

“My King,” Lord Velaryon bowed and Rhaegar gave him a tight smile. When he was gone, only Elia and Rhaegar remained in the solar.

“Be careful around him,” Rhaegar said thoughtfully, chewing on his bottom lip. I am careful around everyone. Even you, husband. However, she was confused as to why Rhaegar warned her about Lord Monford and not any of the rest. They’re all slithering snakes, reaching for their own agendas but Lord Velaryon seems less so.

“Why?” Rhaegar looked at her incredulously, as if it was obvious. 

“Because he wants you,” the king said slowly, his fingers drumming on the table erratically.

“Oh, please,” she scoffed, “Every man with whom I converse with does not ‘want me’” 

“I am a man and it is not hard to read most,” Rhaegar inhaled sharply, “If he does anything, you must tell me.” 

“Stop it, he has a wife and I am a woman wedded.” I was wed when I kissed Arthur and let him touch me, but you were wed as well, when you stuck your cock in Lyanna. So I think we are rather fair. 

Her husband was a Targaryen, and though many would think him more mellow and less fiery than most-- He was still a man and there was fire in his blood, coursing hot and scalding anyone who dare draw a drop of it. She was his wife and he still loved her in his peculiar way-- Of course he’d never remain indifferent if lords began paying special attention upon her. Rhaegar never liked anyone playing with his toys. No man does. Yet women must share theirs all the time and earn no thanks in return. 

“That does not stop most men, especially if they think their advances are reciprocated.” 

“And are his advances reciprocated?” she sneered, eyeing him sharply and he seemed to realise his mistake, as he took hold of her hands and shook his head. 

“No, I only meant that sometimes men think certain things when the truth is... different,” the king frowned. 

“Sometimes,” she looked at him sharply, “You must truly think before you speak.” Her husband moved to speak but she shushed him. Most men would have struck their wife for having the insolence to cut them off, especially if they were kings. But that was not Rhaegar’s way and he knew that Elia would have gelded him in his sleep, were it to have been. 

“And if you apologise once more, I may take your tongue for it. I am tired of apologies, you know this. He is a kind man but I am no Shiera Seastar, Rhaegar. I do not ensnare men with a single gaze or well-placed laugh.” 

The king looked at her for a few moments, frowning as if what he saw was sad. 

“You do not see,” he shook his head, “You are beautiful and clever, with a great sense for jests and is so irrevocably strong. You do not see what the world sees, when you smile or laugh or frown softly and bite your lip. It is maddening, ” he breathed, indigo eyes alight, “How you can be so lovely but so unaware of it.” You always thought your prophecies were lovelier. Arthur thought his duty and the glory was lovelier. All the men I’ve loved have chosen things above me. Is it so surprising that there comes a time when you simply acknowledge the fact that you will always be the second choice? The one left behind. 

“Poetic,” she murmured, looking down at her hands and not truly believing his words because it is so hard for a woman to. Men always say what they think a woman wishes to hear, to fuel their own agendas. We always have to remain critical, because one misstep can lead to a terrible fall. And we aren’t awarded falls in this world, we cannot afford to.

“It wasn’t meant to be poetic,” he said, cupping her face with warm hands, “It was meant to be the truth.” And then his lips were on hers, soft and tender-- molding against her own. Rhaegar gasped when her teeth grazed his bottom lip, lightly pulling and she idly wondered whether they should be so bold as to consecrate the solar. It would give her a malicious sort of pleasure to know that, each time she gazed upon the withered old lords who thought that men were supreme on the sole basis of having a cock between their legs. 

A knock disrupted the action and a voice belonging to Ser Gerold filled the solar. 

“My King, may I have a word with you?” Rhaegar sighed and placed a gentle kiss on her shoulder, pulling away.

“Yes, you may enter.” The old knight twisted the knob and opened the oaken door, murmuring a courtesy to them both. 

“A knight announced himself to the guards of the gate, this morn. He showed them a parchment with the King’s seal on it and said that he has been invited to court, to serve as a companion to the Dowager Queen. Bonifer Hasty is his name.” That caused Rhaegar to frown.

“I was not expecting him,” he murmured, almost to himself, “When I received no reply, I simply thought he did not wish to come or that he may have perished in the war.” 

“What should we do with him, Your Grace?” The white bull asked.

“Where is he now?” Elia chimed in, brushing out her soft, brown curls with her fingers.

“He was soaking from the storm last eve, so we took him to the kitchens for hot soup, bread and ale,” the bull began, “He said that he had arrived last eve but did not wish to disturb, so he simply waited by a stonebench. All through the stormy night.” 

“Gods,” Rhaegar mumbled, “That can’t have been very pleasant.” 

“No, it can’t have been, Your Grace.” 

“Give him access to a chamber of his own and have them ready a tub for him to bathe, lest he catches the chill,” Elia told her husband gently.

“Yes, and in the meantime, I shall go notify mother of his arrival and she may prepare to greet him.” Rhaella was still weak from childbirth and by no means recovered, but she was gaining strength each day and there was a certain glow about her. An utter lust for life. Daenerys gave the Dowager Queen a daughter of her own to dote upon, and Viserys was ever the dutiful son. There was not much of Aerys in any of the children and Elia wagered that her good-mother was pleased about that. 

“I can do it, Rhaegar,” the Dornishwoman murmured, placing a hand on his chest, “There are some things that women need hear from women.” The king mulled over her words and nodded.

“I can speak with Ser Bonifer instead and accompany him to my mother’s chambers, whilst you do the same for mine.” 

“Yes,” Elia smiled and felt her heart squeeze with excitement and happiness for her good-mother, who’d suffered far too much. 

*** 

“He’s here?” Rhaella said with Daenerys in her arms, almost breathless, “For true?”

“Yes,” Elia smiled and nodded, stroking the infant’s cheek before placing a comforting hand on Rhaella’s shoulder. 

“Alone, at that. Your fears for a family seem unfounded. They say he waited out in the storm all night, simply because he did not wish to be a disturbance.” 

The pale woman snorted and garnered some color in her cheeks, “What a daft man.” 

“Indeed,” Queen Elia agreed, giggling slightly, “But what are men, if not daft?” 

“True, true,” Rhaella murmured, kissing the soft tufts of silver-gold hair atop Daenerys’s head. 

“She is such a sweet and strong babe,” Elia praised, smiling when violet orbs met her brown ones. 

“She is, isn’t she? So good and gentle. No matter how horrible the circumstances of her conception, it was all worth it for her. For my little princess.” “Do  you think he’ll be the same?” Rhaella asked, almost shyly. No, good-mother. No one ever remains the same. The years do their number on all of us.

“No,” she shook her head, moving the chair closer to the bed, “No one ever is, yet that does not have to be a bad thing.” 

“I am so different now, what if it’s not to his liking? What if he craves the young and innocent girl that I was? She died at Summerhal and there is nothing left to bear any resemblance to her.” 

“You are a force to be reckoned with, Rhaella. You are strong, kind and good-- if he loved you then, he will love you even more now. If not, then I shall personally kick him in the arse.” That earned a laugh from the Targaryen queen and for a moment, she looked so young, as if the ghosts of her past had quit haunting her. 

“I cannot recall the last time I was this nervous,” the Queen-mother mumbled, “Tis as if I’m a blushing maiden, all over again.” 

“It is because you are human, flesh and blood like the rest of us. You’ve waited decades for this and if you so wish, I will stay here until you feel secure enough to send me away.”

“Thank you, Elia,” Rhaella smiled with tears glistening like dark, dark crystals in her haunting eyes, “I never thought I’d have this, you know? I thought that one day, I’d simply die giving birth to a child that would not survive me, or that Aerys would find some reason to get rid of my being. He seemed almost immortal and all was without hope.” 

“Oh, Rhaella,” Elia sighed, tears welling up in her eyes as well.

“And it was horrible because even after all the gruesome things he did to me, how he raped and violated my body… a part of me still loved him and the brother I had. Whenever he had his good days, or showed me a speck of kindness-- the man he’d been, I’d be filled with hope. I thought that maybe he’d be okay. But then he wasn’t, yet I still could not bring myself to end his pathetic existence. We shared the same mother and father, the same space. We were cut from the same cloth, no matter how much I wish we hadn’t been. No one understands, it is so hard,” the Targaryen rasped, tears trickling down her face.

“I understand,” Queen Elia whispered, “Not to the same extent, but I understand. What it is like to hate someone for what they did to you, to curse them to the Gods for ever doing what they did. And then to have a part of you love them, still-- Because they were not always like that. I understand.” She was weeping now as well and Rhaella leaned toward her, to embrace the small Dornishwoman. 

“My sweet flower,” Rhaella soothed, as Daenerys cooed betwixt them, “It is so hard being a princess, but even more so; A queen.” 

In the arms of her good-mother, Elia felt safe and it was a good feeling. It truly was. 

An hour after that, Rhaegar knocked on the door and Elia bid him to enter. A tall man stood next to him, neither thin nor burly; but lean, with dark hair and shockingly green eyes. They are more pale, not as intricate or deep as Jaime’s, but like pale grass on a summer field. A beautiful color. He was handsome as well, with a strong jaw and kind face. 

“Mother, Elia,” Rhaegar greeted, walking toward them, to place a kiss on both their cheeks. 

“My Queens,” the man spoke solemnly and got down to one knee, bowing. 

“You may rise,” Rhaella bid him softly with a smile and he rose, gazing at the pale woman as if he could not believe his eyes, as if he could not believe that he was truly there. It was Rhaegar who broke the silence. 

“I fear I must tend to the prickly hand and will therefore take my leave,” he smiled, “I will see you later, mother, and you, Elia.” I do not think he has a matter with Lord Tyrell, it seems like he simply wishes to give his mother space, to deal with her own ghosts. Before the king left, he clapped Ser Bonifer on the shoulder, “It was good to meet you Ser, and I daresay that we will be crossing paths again.” 

“Yes, My King,” the knight nodded reverently. 

When Rhaegar left, Elia turned to the knight, “Would you like to sit, Ser?” she pointed to a chair next to the bad where Rhaella was sitting upright in, her back leaning against the headboard, silver-gold hair sprawled out along delicate shoulders-- Daenerys in her arms. She looks like an angel, so beautifully damned. Gratefully, the knight nodded and sat down, seeming unsure on what to do next.

“It-”

“-Bon-” They both began at the same time and Elia would have chuckled, were she not to have manners. Instead, the knight and the Dowager Queen laughed lightly at each other.

“You first, My Queen,” he nodded for her to continue.

“Bonifer… It has been so very long,” Rhaella sighed, her smile looking broken. 

The black-haired knight leaned forward, clasping her free hand in his, “Five-and-twenty years, to be precise,” he smiled and she laughed, the sound bordering on a sob and relief.

“Yes, we are both old now.” 

“I don’t know about that,” he shook his head, “You look even more beautiful today than you did all those years ago. Time does not seem to touch you.” Elia had seated herself in the back, continuing on an embroiderment and watching the scene unfold before her with a tenderness. It was as if they’d forgotten she was even there, they were simply lost in each other and it was utterly beautiful to witness. 

“You look wiser and just as handsome, if not more,” Rhaella told the knight sincerely, seeming to clutch his hand harder. 

“I thought of you. Always,” he murmured, turning his gaze to the child in her arms. 

“Daenerys,” the Targaryen queen shared, seeming almost nervous, “Her name is Daenerys.” Ser Bonifer reached out a finger, to stroke the infant’s cheek. From across the room, Elia heard Daenerys’s sweet giggles and could imagine the child was smiling. 

“She is just as lovely as her mother,” he said, “May I hold her?” 

“Of course,” Rhaella nodded several times, reaching forward to hand him the princess, but hissing as a wave of pain hit her. Elia rose, ready to help her good-mother, but the knight beat her to it-- Standing up and gently helping the Dowager Queen lean back again.

“It is fine. I’ve got you,” he mumbled, putting a comforting hand on the silver-haired beauty’s shoulder. 

“I’m sorry,” Rhaella blurted out sheepishly, ashamed of her weakness. 

“You’ve nothing to be sorry about, My Queen.” Then, he loosed his scabbard and placed it on the chair, moving to sit on the bed next to the former queen. 

“Do you have children of your own?” Rhaella asked as she tenderly handed him her only daughter, whom he embraced with a father’s gentleness. 

“No I do not,” the man said, eyeing Princess Daenerys who reached out small hands to touch his face, making him smile. 

“How about a wife?” Elia could hear the insecurity lacing the words. She does not wish him to be wed, but will make due if he is. 

“No.” 

“Why not?” the Queen-mother asked carefully, watching the man whom she most likely wished would have been the father of the child he was holding.

“Because no woman could ever hold a candle to Rhaella of House Targaryen. Only the Maiden would have replaced you in my eyes.” The sincerity of the knight’s words made Elia’s eyes water. He would never have left her defenseless, with a mad king, to help her husband escape with a woman no more than a girl. The Dornishwoman could just tell, from the sharp line of his jaw, the way his eyes softened as he looked at the Targaryen queen. That is true love. A pure form that will never fade, however many years that pass. 

“You are too kind,” Rhaella murmured, “Do you still joust? There was such a raw talent within you.” 

“I do not,” Ser Bonifer confessed, “I put away my lance the day you wed. With you gone, it lost its charm and seemed more an empty vanity.” 

“Oh, Bonifer,” the Queen-mother spoke mournfully.

“No,” he stopped her, “It was my choice not to wed or father children or keep on jousting. It all led me here and I regret nothing.” 

“I am not the girl I was, Bonifer,” Rhaella whispered, “She’s gone and something darker and more haunting has taken her place.” 

“I am not the young knight I was, either-- Why should I expect the same of you? We were young but are no longer. It is only natural that we’ve changed but the hardships you’ve had to endure,” he faltered, swallowing before continuing, “I would not have wished it upon anyone. Were I to have been there…” 

“I know,” the Dowager Queen Rhaella breathed, leaning her forehead against his, “I know.” 

Elia decided that it was time to allow them both their privacy. 

***

“What was he like?” Jaime asked, as they were walking to the nursery with Rhaenys and Aegon in tow. The princess was asleep in Ser Jaime’s embrace, clinging to his neck with her delicate limbs. Aegon was in his mother’s arms, drowsy with sleep.

“He seems like a kind man, with a good heart,” she replied, kissing a sluggish Aegon’s head. 

“She deserves a kind man with a good heart,” Ser Jaime said quietly, meeting her brown eyes with liquid pools of emerald. His hair has grown out, she noted. It reached slightly past his ear, in neat, golden curls that could put most women to shame.

“She really does,” Elia agreed softly, “I am simply happy that she is prospering.” 

“You are as well,” the knight said, looking straight ahead. They were only a few paces from the nursery where she would lay Aegon to rest. Then they would visit Viserys and Rhaenys’s shared chambers, to put her to bed too. 

“Am I?” she asked, smiling wryly. 

“Yes,” he said with a peculiar look in his green eyes, framed by dark lashes, “Queenship becomes you. It’s like…” Jaime faltered, trying to put his thoughts to words, “You’re shining-- glowing, radiating and it’s noticeable. You fill people with light after only a touch and it makes you even more beautiful, somehow. There was such a sadness to you before, it would hurt to look upon you and see all the pain there, I only wanted to mend it-- to right the wrongs.” The words were spoken softly, but they sounded so heartfelt that her chest tightened. You think I am beautiful, Jaime? Somehow it was different to when Arthur or Rhaegar said it. 

“I-I onl-” Ser Jaime began, his cheeks reddening as he noticed what he’d said.

“-Thank you, Jaime. Your words mean a lot to me, I hope you know. So does your friendship,” Elia murmured quietly, seeing his flushed cheeks and glimmering eyes, wanting to reach a hand out to stroke the side of his face. But she knew that she couldn’t. I cannot. 

“I hold this friendship high in my esteem as well. You are always a welcome relief, My Queen.”

They were by the nursery now and she gave Jaime a gentle nod. 

“I will be back shortly. I shall only put him to sleep in his cot.” 

“Take your time. I will be here-- We will be here.” Thusly, she entered and headed straight for the ivory cot, kissing her son’s cheek and earning a half-hearted whine, as he was practically asleep.

Elia would cherish these moments with her son, just like she did with Rhaenys. There was something precious about having the love of an infant, to be their protector and carer. For you to be able to hold them to your chest and promise that nothing will ever hurt them, that you will keep them safe. Of course, real life is not like the songs and most often, the monsters win. But they did not this time. They did not succeed in taking my children and I have Jaime to thank for that. And perhaps Rhaegar… For winning the war that he bloody started. 

“Goodnight, my love. Sleep gently,” she told her son after lowering and tucking him into the cot. A fussing sound was heard, but it did not come from her son and Daenerys was still with Rhaella. Softly, Elia padded over to the cot where another prince was moving, near tears. She turned around and saw Melly half-asleep and didn’t have the heart to wake her. She must care for her own children in the night and come back here, to feed and watch mine. She deserves to rest when they do too. 

“Don’t cry, little prince,” Elia pleaded with the child, leaning to pick him up, before freezing. Would that be alright? Would I allow Lyanna to do the same for Aegon? After collecting her thoughts, she realised that yes, yes she would. The wolf-girl would never hurt my son, no more than I would hers. Queen Elia did not think that Queen Lyanna would mind. I cannot leave him here to weep and thrash, it feels cruel. “Come here, sweetling,” she mumbled, taking the bundle into her arms. Grey eyes met hers and she stroked the soft tufts of dark hair atop his head. 

“You will be a year old, soon. Only a few moons left,” the Dornishwoman whispered, swaying gently. The quiet child simply began touching her hair, like Aegon was fond of, all the while blinking slowly. He has Rhaenys’s lips, she noticed and Aegon’s nose. Both attributes being given to the children via their father. A sweet babe, Aemon was and she could not help but feel love toward him, too. 

“You played no part in this, I know,” she murmured, “And I will never hold it against you, sweetling.” No one asks to be born, nor for the circumstances or the different statuses. It simply happens and we cannot change it. 

After a few minutes of gentle swaying, she placed him back in his cot and he looked to fall asleep immediately. Her hand seemed to reach out and stroke a tuft of dark-brown hair away from his face, of its own accord and Elia wondered when it was that she had begun caring for the youngest prince so. It may simply be because I am a mother. What mother can scorn a defenseless babe, whose only act was being born? 

With a final look at Melly and the sleeping children, she exited and saw Ser Jaime moving side-to-side, one hand on Rhaenys’s upper legs, holding the girl in place and the other on the back of her head-- moving the Dornishwoman’s heart.

“To their chambers, then?” she asked the knight softly and he smiled. 

“Yes.” And together, they walked, Elia a little too close to Jaime than would be deemed proper, yet he was a knight of the Kingsguard, holding her daughter. The court would find it granted that she’d be so near, yet there was no one in the halls. It is late, it would be strange if people were bustling around. 

“She was tired,” Ser Jaime murmured, placing a kiss on her daughter’s head, covered in brown curls, the same color as her own. For a second, Elia wondered what it would look like, were they to have been golden. 

“Rhaenys must learn not to overexert herself so,” Queen Elia sighed, eyeing her princess with affection.

“She is but a child, it is in their nature.” 

“Yes, I suppose.” The Dornishwoman turned her head to glance at the knight, “You are good at handling her, did you help with your brother Tyrion when he was a babe?” 

Something sad flashed across Ser Jaime’s eyes then and he frowned slightly, “Not as much as I should have… My father, Cers-” he cleared his throat, “They weren’t as fond of him as I was and I regret not having done more for him. It’s never been easy for my brother and it is not even his fault.” 

“The golden twins,” Elia murmured but Jaime finished it for her grimly, “And the imp.” 

“You will see him again, I am sure of it,” she murmured as they reached the door to Viserys and Rhaenys’s chambers. 

“Yes,” Jaime sighed, “Or so I should like to hope.” Then, one of the guards opened the door, allowing Elia and Jaime to walk inside. The lighting was dim and when they entered the bedchamber, she noted that Viserys was still awake, crouching over a book that looked to be about the Dance Of The Dragons. 

“Viserys?” she asked and lilac eyes turned to her, large and beautiful in the candlelight. 

“Elia, Ser Jaime,” he greeted, closing the book, standing up and moving to hug her gently. 

“You are getting taller by the minute,” she chided with a gentle laugh, “A few more years and you will have surpassed me.” That made the prince smile and Ser Jaime snort. 

“Anything you would like to add to the conversation, Ser?” she asked with a raised eyebrow and amusement lacing her words.

“It is not exactly difficult, is it?” he mumbled, smiling, “You are a small woman.”  

“Maybe,” she sighed dramatically, “It is simply the men around me that are too large.” 

“Maybe,” Viserys agreed, grinning. 

“But you’ll stay on my level for a few more years, right, My Prince?” she asked, leaning down to kiss the top of his head. Viserys’s grip tightened on her waist as he nodded.

“I promise, Elia.” 

“That is good, sweetling. I truly do appreciate it.” Jaime seemed to take that as his cue to tuck the princess into her own bed, opposite from Viserys’s. Rhaenys barely made more than a whine when the knight untangled her from him and seemed to enter a deep slumber as soon as her body touched the featherbed. 

“Now let us tuck you in, as well,” Queen Elia told the prince with curly, silver-gold hair. 

“I am too old to be tucked in,” the prince grumbled. 

“Does that mean you are declining?” she asked airily and the boy took hold of her wrist.

“No,” he mumbled sheepishly. 

“There is no shame in it, Viserys. Be a boy while you still can. Manhood comes with its own trials and there is no need to wish for it prematurely. One day, you will look upon these memories of your youth with a reminiscent fondness. I promise you,” the Dornishwoman told her good-brother in a motherly voice. 

“She’s right, lad,” Jaime reassured the prince and Viserys nodded, moving to his bed and allowing Elia to tenderly wrap the covers around him. 

“Mother is with that knight,” he whispered and Elia reached out to place her hands on his, “Is he to be Dany and I’s new father?” the prince asked warily. Shaking her head, the Dornish queen replied.

“He is here to bring your mother comfort, Viserys. They knew each other when they were young and he gives your mother strength. It is good to have a companion, my sweet.”

“He treats her better than father did?” Elia nodded, stroking the boy’s soft curls.

“Yes, Viserys. He does.” 

“Then I am pleased. I want mother to be happy again and smile. Like when she held Rhaenys for the first time and then Aegon.” 

“She will be, all it takes is time.” 

“And I want you to be happy, Elia,” the boy murmured, yawning, “You seem happier. Are you happy?” 

“You are far too young to worry about such matters, My Prince,” the Dornishwoman said, kissing the boy’s forehead and stroking his cheek. 

“But are you?” His lilac eyes burned as bright as Jaime’s had earlier, like Rhaegar’s on the occasion too. 

“Yes, I should think that I am.” Elia didn’t know if that was a lie or the truth. Sometimes the lines are very blurred betwixt those two. 

“Good,” Prince Viserys smiled and closed his eyes, “Goodnight.” 

“Goodnight.” 

“He is a gentle soul and will grow into a fine man,” Ser Jaime said once they were outside and he began escorting her to her own chambers.

“Yes,” she smiled fondly, “No one is born cruel or a monster. The world makes them so. It hardens their hearts until all that remains are feverish dreams and sleeting ice with thundering storms.” 

“What if they did not mean to be a monster, but it only happened?” the knight asked and looked slightly nervous, enclasping the bottom of his lip with the front row of his teeth. 

“I suppose it depends on what depraved act they committed and if they truly did not mean to or knew that it was wrong. Being lulled under a false spell is not monstrosity.” 

“You make intriguing points,” he muttered as her skirts swept across the marble floor. One more flight of stairs and we shall be by my chambers. She was tired and the day had taken much of her strength, leaving the Dornishwoman slightly fatigued. 

“You are no monster, Jaime,” Elia said suddenly, as they were close to her door. She could see Ser Oswell and Ser Jonothor outside, standing guard for the night, “You could never be.” 

“You do not know what I’ve done.” 

“No more than you know what I have,” she began, “I do not need to. I know you for what you are.” The knight nodded but kept his gaze on the floor.

“Good eve, My Queen,” he bid her and she smiled, wishing to embrace and tell him to rid his heart of that melancholy, for she had one of Rhaegar and did not need another. 

“Good eve, Ser Jaime.” Then, Elia greeted both knights outside her door curtly and entered, not bothering to remove her gown before throwing herself on the soft featherbed with a vigor. 

Elia fell asleep that night, dreaming of suns and stars, golden dragons and purple skies. 

***

The coming month after Ser Bonifer Hasty’s arrival marked the third moon since Princess Daenerys’s birth and a minor celebration for the king’s sister was thrown. Rhaella had taken to going on walks with her knight and they would speak softly to each other, perhaps reminiscing of their youth or what they would have liked their lives to become. Elia would sometimes spot the Queen-mother and her lost knight on these promenades, be it from a balcony or a window and the sight always filled her with hope. Because with Bonifer by her side, Rhaella quickly grew stronger and those sorrowful lines of her face dulled-- letting the beauty of her shine through. 

Rhaegar and Elia would make plans for the progress and Lyanna even took to helping them, planning how many horses and comforts they would need. It was quite an uneventful time, except Aegon had taken his first steps, making Elia glow with pride and happiness. Rhaenys grew ever bolder and fiery with age, but retained such a sweet nature that everyone was lost in her charms. The Dornishwoman could not believe, that came a year’s turn and her little princess would be a girl of five. 

Prince Aemon grew larger each day that passed too, and Lyanna would often wonder if Elia had a few moments of her day to spare, for their children to play, whilst their mothers drank tea and nibbled on fruitcakes from the kitchens. Lyanna was an insecure woman, still and would strive to emulate Elia and ask for advice-- since the Dornishwoman seemed to be doing so well and the Northern queen wanted to do her duty, for once. Queen Elia had no quarrels with offering advice or a companionship of sorts, because otherwise Lyanna would drown in her loneliness. And loneliness breeds bitterness, bitterness breeds anger, and anger breeds danger. 

Besides, having somewhat good relations with the other queen would strike down those who sought to crawl betwixt the king and his queens, trying to tear them apart from within. A strong foundation ensures that the castle does not crumble and fall. Neither of them could afford a fall because Westeros was still bleeding and they needed to mend it-- to close the gaping wounds

Rhaella would accompany them on the occasion, yet relations between Lyanna and Rhaella were strained and all knew why. Elia had even told Lyanna why she should never strive for more than a courteous kinship with the Queen-mother and the woman, for however young and naive that she was, seemed to understand. When one has suffered to the extent that Rhaella Targaryen has, then it is hard to look upon those who barely have, throw everything away and leave the world burning, all because they thought they had it unfairly. Though Elia assured the wolf-queen that Dowager Queen Rhaella loved Prince Aemon just as well as she loved the others. 

Elia was all but counting down the days until they left for the progress. Of course, they would head to Storm’s End first, but then they would visit Dorne and stay for longer than they would in the Stormlands and North combined. However, she was adamant on that they should wait until Rhaella was truly strong enough, before leaving. Rhaegar agreed and Lyanna did too. She wasn’t all too keen on meeting Lord Stannis Baratheon, for by all accounts; he was a sour and prickly man with little patience for anything but duties are duties. And we kings and queens, lords and ladies must perform them. 

Lord Monford Velaryon did bring his wife and daughter to court, little more than a moon after that small council meeting. A woman of house Celtigar of Claw Isle, whom Elia knew were of Valyrian stock as well. Not to the extent of the Velaryons and Targaryens, but of the old freehold, nonetheless. The woman’s name was Cella and though she had hair more honey than gold or silver, her eyes were the color of a pale ocean, a shade that many Valyrians and natives in Lys boast. 

Their daughter, the Lady Laena was a blur of sunshine and plum, having inherited her father’s eyes but her mother’s straight hair, the color of honeycombs. Rhaenys quickly took to the girl and both of them were a terror to behold for their septas-- Always running around and dirtying their dresses after play in the yards, or being mischievous like only children of that age can be. 

The Dornishwoman quickly grew fond of Cella, who had a clever wit but also a kind and giving nature. It seems like those raised away from King’s Landing, the Game Of Thrones and complete power are greater than those who were raised with agendas and goals in mind. Of course Elia was still wary, but it was nice to have a companion at court, with whom she actually enjoyed spending her time with and didn’t feel forced to mingle with because duty demanded she be a good and open-armed queen. 

Lord Monford was not bad either, always having an easy smile to give or a well-timed jest. Lady Cella seemed fond of her husband and Queen Elia was not blind as to why. He was tall and handsome, intriguing and humorous, but also a rich and capable lord. He is young, not many ladies can count themselves fortunate as to wed a man like that. She began inviting them to sup with her, Rhaegar and their family. Though the king still seemed wary of how Lord Velaryon could make the Dornishwoman laugh and glow like the morning sun, he trusted his wife and soon began to relent-- Discarding the eerily formal attitude and enjoying the company served. 

It turned out that Lord Monford and King Rhaegar had a great deal of similar interests. Lord Velaryon enjoyed singing, although he could not play the harp and boasted a deep, lovely voice that would reverberate through the halls when Elia begged him to sing. Besides a shared affinity for musical arts, Monford had a keen, sharp mind and would advise Rhaegar on how to handle some of the lords, being a great observer of people’s nature. 

As the days turned into weeks, the progress grew even closer and by the fourth moon after Daenerys’s birth, they’d set a date. The King, his brother, their children and his queens would set out a fortnight after that, travelling to Storm’s End with a company of no more than a hundred knights, including servants and other people of necessity. Rhaella had grown strong enough by then and she was a lovely sight to behold, filling the halls with light, instead of a ghostly presence, haunting the corridors with enough sorrow to make the Gods weep. 

Dowager Queen Rhaella was a capable woman and would be a capable ruler in Rhaegar’s stead. The king had seen what happened when one left governing to the lords of the small council during his father’s reign and wished to have someone he could fully trust instead. There was none better than his own mother, who was aware of the intricacies, having stood by and learned for so long. 

Ser Bonifer was almost always seen by her side and he was a good man, clever and kind. The sort of man the songs would speak of-- honorable and dutiful. The knight would join the royal family for supper and their meals, always with a smile on his face. He seemed to be enjoying being returned to Rhaella, just as much as she did him. The little princess Daenerys was fond of the Stormlander as well and he would dote upon the girl like a father, holding and indulging her every whim. 

The knight promised Viserys that one day, he would teach the prince how to joust and when Rhaenys grew wroth, stating that she also wished to learn how to, he spoke to her with the gentleness of a grandfather. She deserves one. 

“You are much too young, princess. Perhaps when you are older.” And that had seemed to be a confirmation that he would stay as long as Rhaella wished him to. 

The day that they would leave for their progress arrived quickly and Elia felt giddy with nerves as she stood by Lyanna and Rhaegar, ready to say her goodbyes to their family and companions. It was bittersweet in a way, for they would be gone for many moons and she would dearly miss Rhaella, Bonifer and Daenerys, alongside Lady Cella and Lord Monford. However, Viserys was joining them too, for he did not wish to part with his niece and wanted to see Westeros. Something he had been denied because of his father’s fears. 

“I will miss you,” Elia mumbled into Rhaella’s ear as she embraced the older woman, standing on her toes. The Queen-mother tightened her grip on the Dornishwoman and placed a kiss on Elia’s cheek when they departed.

“And I will miss you dearly too, my sweet flower. You must give my regards to your brothers and tell Prince Oberyn that I shall gladly beat him on that game of Cyvasse we discussed all those moons ago.” Chuckling, Elia told the silver-haired beauty that she would. 

Queen Elia could spot Rhaegar smiling and speaking his goodbyes to Lord Connington and Lord Velaryon from the corner of her eye, so she turned to Lady Cella who stood trying to soothe a crying Laena, who held onto Rhaenys. 

“You will see each other soon, sweetlings,” Lady Cella comforted her daughter softly, bending down to untangle the blonde blur from Princess Rhaenys who was also weeping, but not to the extent that Lady Laena was. 

“Yes and when we return, we will bring gifts from all over Westeros for you. Wouldn’t you like that, little dove?” Elia bent down and asked the girl with the watery, plum eyes. 

“Yes, M’queen,” the girl nodded and it made Elia smile. A girl of three and she remembers her courtesies far better than I did at her age. 

“Will you give me a hug before I depart, too?” the Dornishwoman asked the little girl who nodded, shyly wrapping tiny limbs around the Dornish queen’s neck. Elia held onto the girl and stood up, handing her to Lady Cella. 

“I shall dearly miss your witty remarks, Lady Cella. You do know how to brighten someone’s day,” Elia sighed and was awarded a dazzling grin from the woman. 

“And life will be tremendously dull without your presence, Your Grace. My Lord-husband has taken to telling the same jests all over again. I fear his wits are wandering,” she said loudly with a smirk directed at Lord Monford who gasped, trying to retain a chuckle.

“How dare you, woman?” came his reply, “If anyone’s wits are wandering, it is yours.” As the couple began light-heartedly bickering, she turned to Ser Bonifer. 

“I leave my good-mother in your hands, from what I’ve seen, they are very capable and I trust that you will take good care of her.” Pale, green eyes looked at her with a tenderness and a soft smile adorned his lips. 

“Always, Your Grace.” 

“Good,” Elia beamed, “Your company shall be duly sought after when we are on the progress, I daresay Rhaenys and Viserys will fuss the most.” That made the knight laugh richly and he moved to kiss her cheek. 

“I will pray to the Gods for your well-being and happiness, in the moons that you will be away.” 

“Thank you, good Ser.” 

After that, she spoke a witty goodbye to Lord Monford, who kissed both her hand and cheek, speaking of how she must have Oberyn pay another visit to the capital, in which she replied that she would. Then, Elia was met with Lord Connington and his strangely cold and withdrawn eyes. 

“Goodbye, My Lord,” was all the Dornishwoman said because she had no more to offer. 

“I wish you good fortune,” Lord Jon bowed but it did not really sound as if he meant the words. 

Rhaegar would ride alongside his Kingsguard companions for the day, leaving Lyanna, Elia, Viserys, Aegon, Aemon and Rhaenys in the wheelcarriage with a nursemaid and a septa. It was a very large carriage and had room for a cot that the youngest could share. As the trip droned on and the babes grew drowsier, Lyanna and Elia put them to bed and Viserys decided to tell Rhaenys of the Dance Of The Dragons and the adults listened intently-- Even though the story was nothing new to them. 

“And the king had a daughter with his first wife, Lady Aemma, whom they named Rhaenyra,” Viserys told the brown-haired toddler as she sat in his lap.

“It sounds like my name,” the girl frowned thoughtfully, “It’s pretty,” she decided. 

“It is very pretty, just like your own name,” her uncle murmured, kissing the princess’s cheek and making her giggle. 

“She was dubbed the realm’s delight by the singers and commons-- a renowned beauty whom all of court paid courtesy upon. King Viserys loved her dearly.” 

“Viserys, like you?” the girl asked in awe, making the prince and the queens chuckle at her eagerness. 

“Yes, one of my namesakes. Just like your namesakes include the conqueror’s wife and King Viserys’s cousin, Princess Rhaenys. The queen who never was.” 

“Why was she never queen?” Rhaenys asked, pouting, “Mother says I am to be queen.” 

“You are,” Lyanna chimed in, smiling gently at the child and the act somewhat soothed Elia’s heart. My daughter will be queen, and my son will be king. Yes

“King Jaehaerys chose to name his second son, Prince Baelon as the Prince of Dragonstone instead. He was the father of King Viserys, although he died before he could be king.” 

“That’s sad,” the girl mumbled, lavender eyes filling with tears. My sweet little girl, Queen Elia sighed, wanting to take her daughter into her arms and kiss away the tears. 

“Yes,” Viserys allowed, kissing the top of his niece’s head and holding her tight, “But this was hundreds of years ago, Rhae.” 

“It’s still sad,” the girl murmured, pouting. 

“When we visit Dragonstone,” Viserys began softly, “We can pay a visit upon his grave, should your Queen-mother allow it and we can leave a pretty flower. The prince was given to the fire, as every Targaryen is but his place of rest is still marked. They always save part of the ashes to do so.” 

“Can we, mama?” Princess Rhaenys asked with wide eyes and Elia could not say no.

“That sounds like a fine idea, Viserys. They are our ancestors, after all.” 

“Lyanna and Ae can come too?” the girl wondered and the Dornishwoman nodded.

“Yes, should they so wish.” 

“We would love to, Princess,” Lyanna smiled and it looked like there was color in her cheeks. 

They arrived at Storm’s End during the black of night, greeted by Lord Stannis and his Lady-wife, who was with a child that could prove to be a threat. Or not.